Warnings: Disturbing imagery
Author's Note: This is my submission for the TF-SecretSanta Halloween Trade for xDeadlyxxxDesirex. This is a Halloween story, so I tried for scary. It's not as lighthearted as my normal fics, although it has its humorous moments (I couldn't help myself). I pulled on two personal fears of mine when I wrote this, to try and add some real creepiness to it. I hope it works. Time conversions: Klik 1.2 minutes, Nanoklik approximately 1 second. Comm transmissions are marked with colons ::like this.::
The Rust Sea spread across Cybertron's equator, an immense red scar across its surface. Erratic pillars twisted into the sky. Corrosive gasses bled from the ground, slowly eating the land away, turning everything to an endless expanse of rust. Across the ground, miniature hills rose and fell, forming 'waves' that traveled as far as the optic could see.
Numerous Cybertronian artists tried to duplicate the Rust Sea in their works: holograms, sculptures and flat images. They flaunted its mysterious nature, or its inherent melancholy. Poets continuously churned out sonnets, striving to capture the breadth of emotions the rolling sea invoked. One moment majestic and awe-inspiring, the next empty and mournful. High born citizens purchased tours, coming from all corners of Cybertron to see its famous spires or valleys. In a world almost entirely made of metal, the Rust Sea was unique. It was intriguing, unnerving. It was beautiful.
Starscream hated it.
Everything here was dead and decaying. Just looking at this place was akin to having death gazing back at him. The scientist in him wondered what had lived here, that was now slowly withering away. What cities lay hidden under this rust-covered ground? How many thousands millions? of Cybertronians were forgotten here, their bodies mingling with each others, and blown away in the wind? How much death did it take to create this much rust?
Starscream planned to live forever. So far, he had done fairly well towards that end. But as he flew over the Rust Sea, an unbidden thought worried into his processor: how many of the dead that he now traveled over had also planned to live forever?
Part of his aversion to this place was undoubtedly due to Megatron's repeated threats to terminate him, and abandon his carcass here. The tyrant had done it to others who had displeased him. A key strategy in his 'living forever' plan was displeasing Megatron as little as possible. Or, at least, not getting caught.
Pleasing Megatron was why he was in this forsaken place to begin with. Damned Autobots.
Someone had boarded a Decepticon vessel on the Hydrax Plateau, stolen prototype plans of something no one seemed willing to share details of what was stolen with Starscream, probably on orders from Megatron and then left, all without being seen. The Autobots ranks included some amazing spies, but only one that could pull that off.
They discovered the theft within moments, and shut down the spaceport. Decepticon troops spread out, searching every possible area. Futilely, Starscream knew. Their quarry would have already fled the only way available: the Rust Sea, which surrounded Hydrax Plateau. Starscream began the grueling task of hunting a bot he couldn't see. One who had fled in an unknown direction.
Hopefully Mirage would forget to cover his tire tracks.
After an extensive search, which took him farther and farther away from Hydrax, his long-distance scanners detected a sudden variance in the sea's waves. Engaging his thrusters to full burn, he swung around for a better view. At the base of a rusted spire, a fresh trail broke through the waves, headed away from Hydrax. The spires in this area were close enough that a skilled grappler could maneuver from one to the other, and never touch the ground. Clever, Mirage. But he broke cover too soon. As Starscream began to pursue the spy, his comm sounded.
::Shockwave to Starscream.::
::Shockwave? What do you want?:: Starscream replied, surprised.
::You're approached a restricted area. Change your flight path to ::
::Negative.:: Starscream interrupted. ::I'm in pursuit of an Autobot spy. On Megatron's orders. I don't answer to you.::
::You must alter your
:: The rest of Shockwave's statement faded into static.
::Shockwave? I've lost your signal.:: Static answered Starscream. Not that he was complaining. He ran a quick diagnostic, but all systems came back operational. There was an unusual amount of radiation. Odd, but he shrugged it off. In case the other could still receive, he added, ::Continuing my pursuit.::
Still several kliks away, a low plateau rose from the red waves. Mirage's trail swerved to intersect with it. Noticing the plumes of rust drifting away, Starscream felt a thrill of excitement race through him. Soon. The trail dead-ended against the plateau's base, at a
door? There was a door out here? Scanning and enhancing the image, Starscream noted several symbols: the Decepticon Science and Research Division and numerous hazard warnings. Interesting. Shockwave headed Science and Research. Of more interest were the tire tracks that converted to footprints in front of the door's access panel. Tracks that led to the panel, but not away. Tracks with no owner. Even as he watched, the panel's face lifted off, wires disappearing then reappearing a moment later, rearranged. Checking the range, Starscream readied his weapons. Not having a visible enemy to target, he locked onto the access panel. Shockwave could replace it later.
As he entered range, the door opened. Starscream fired. His shots burst against the panel and the cliff face. One blast dispersed shortly before hitting the plateau, causing the air to ripple. For a brief moment, a blue and white mech appeared, before dashing into the doorway. The Autobot fired back at him from inside. Switching to missiles, Starscream launched his weapons at the entrance. The blasts should force Mirage farther in, and spare him from more incoming fire. The doorway vanished behind an explosion of fire and smoke. The Autobot stopped shooting.
Swinging to the side, Starscream transformed and landed next to the doorway. Inside, he heard an insistent alarm blaring. A dispassionate voice announced, " not authorized in this facility. Intruders will be destroyed."
The Seeker ignored the warning, raising his null-ray. He glanced inside. Beyond the door, a wide corridor headed straight into the plateau's interior. Dust clogged the entrance, limited his vision to almost nothing. He tried penetrating the obstruction with his sensors, but the strange radiation he noted earlier interfered, scrambling the signal. The Decepticon grimaced. He hated to go in blind, even knowing that Mirage was likely employing his invisibility anyway.
"Mirage," Starscream called out. "You're a cultured mech, I hear. Let's be civilized about this. All I want is what you stole from us. Then you can leave in peace." Silence answered him. He narrowed his optics. "Believe me when I say you do not wish to be in there when the security systems activate. I've seen the remains before. What little was left," he lied.
No answer. The Air Commander cursed to himself. Shaking his head, he entered the doorway, null-ray held ready. The smoke mostly blinded him, and the continuous alarm made his audio receptors useless.
As soon as he crossed the threshold, the computer voice intoned, "Additional intruder detected. Initiating security protocol A-5."
Starscream attempted to comm his security clearance to the facility's computer, but again static answered him. Damned interference. He had no intention of discovering what 'protocol A-5' was. Glancing at the barely visible interior security panel, he dismissed that option. Mirage might already have it targeted, expecting him to access it and just waiting for him to walk into the Autobot's trap. Instead, he lowered his vocals to a whisper, and hissed at the terminal, "This is Air Commander Starscream, vocal recognition code VRC02-AC01. Acknowledge and allow facility access."
"VRC02-AC01 acknowledged. Permission denied. You have not been approved access to this facility," the computer replied.
"What?" Starscream screeched at the security system, forgetting to keep his vocals lowered. "How can I not have access?"
The Seeker heard a quiet chuckle buried beneath the alarms wails. Growling, he aimed farther down the hall, blindly firing toward the low sound. Return laser blasts answered his attack. He threw himself to the floor, trying to trace the origin of the shots.
"Security protocol A-5 engaged," the infernal computer intoned.
The floor dropped out from under Starscream.
Free fall was a daily hazard for a Seeker and he did not fear it. Instinctively, he twisted his feet below him, igniting his thrusters. They failed. Starscream had just enough time to register his shock before he crashed into the ground. He heard another crash nearby, accompanied by a pain-filled shout. Mirage.
Starscream lay in a heap, accessing his damage. Pain registered from several injured locations, most notably his back. His optics were offline, and his proximity sensors could not focus, changing their readings from moment to moment. He could not receive an accurate scan on his current location, although he appeared to be in a large open area. The radiation interference had spiked, causing several of his systems to fluctuate wildly. He ran a diagnostic. Many of his them, including his thrusters, were inhibited or crippled. He grimaced. His null-ray was weakened to near uselessness. The only system still functioning correctly were his audio receptors. He paused, listening.
Nearby, someone groaned and cursed softly. Mirage, undoubtedly. His scanners could not lock on to the Autobot's exact location. The only other sound was a constant, but erratic, soft metallic trickling noise, like tiny bearings falling on metal.
Starscream sat up, suppressing his own groan. He was hurt, but his unreliable sensors couldn't reveal the extent of the injuries. The radiation caused his sensors to malfunction. They kept sending phantom images, small shapes moving in random patterns across the floor. Even over him. Re-routing his optics, he found a working circuit and brought them online.
Everything was pitch black.
Snapping his mouth shut, Starscream bit back a curse. There was no light here. And his other sensors were malfunctioning. Perfect. He could turn on his portable light assuming it worked, that is but that would reveal his location. And his weapon system was crippled. He had no idea if the radiation had affected Mirage's weapons as well.
Attempting to move silent, the Air Commander shifted into a crouch. Blind, he scraped his leg across the ground. He winced. Pausing, he listened to Mirage, seeing if the Autobot would react to his sudden sound. The other grunted softly, then fell silent.
"What in Primus!" Mirage suddenly screamed. "Get off! Off! Offoffoffoff!"
Starscream jumped at the sudden outburst. Weak blasts from Mirage's gun lit the chamber in choatic bursts, as he shot at the ground. In the flashes, the Seeker noticed tiny somethings crawling across the ground. The shapes skittered about randomly
like the 'phantom images' his external sensors had detected.
'Phantoms' that he had also detected on himself.
Heedless of Mirage, the Air Commander snapped on his light, illuminating a cone in front of him. He froze. Scampering over him were dozens of tiny, insectoid machines. Each possessed six long, delicate limbs, which connected to a central body. A large bulbous abdomen bobbed behind. Energon seeped from his several minor cuts, and the crawling things swarmed over those leaks. Several buried their heads in the energon flow. The abdomens of those were noticeably larger than others. As he watched, another opened its miniature mandibles and bit into an exposed wire. It gnawed and pulled off a chunk of metal.
Leaping to his feet, he stumbled backwards, slapping at the crawling things that infested him. They clung at him. His swipes burst as many of them as he knocked off. Still more scampered up his legs. Forgetting his earlier failure, Starscream ignited his thrusters again. The jets flared briefly, then died, not lifting him. The insectoids altered course and swarmed his feet. Specifically, his thrusters. They crawled in, and the Air Commander attempted to reignite the jets. Perhaps he could burn the creatures. The turbines whined briefly, but did not light. After the brief engine surge, the creatures became frantic. They skittered madly across his legs and feet. He stomped them, shouting curses at the horde, as he tried to shake them off of him.
Starscream brought his null-ray to bear on his own legs something he never have thought he'd do and fired. The crippled weapon still stung, but caused him no permanent damage. The bugs he hit wobbled and fell to the ground. Only to be replaced a nanoklik later. The damned things paused, then surged towards his null-ray.
"Energy! They like the energy!" Mirage yelled out.
Starscream spared the Autobot a glance. He had abandoned his blaster, and threw an energon cube on the ground. The insectoids around him swarmed the spilled liquid. Starscream nodded. Great idea, but he didn't have any energon.
He removed his null-ray, trying to ignore the dozens of bugs crawling over it and his hands, and set it to overload. It began to hum, building up energy. He quickly dropped it. Scores of bugs abandoned him to followed the doomed null-ray. Damaged as it was, he doubted it would explode. But he could hope.
"Door! There! Door!" Mirage called out, sprinting past.
"Where's it go?" Starscream yelled after him.
"Works for me." He hurried to catch up, swatting more insectoids off.
Rust covered the exterior of the tall building and the door, making details almost impossible to make out. Large windows, on each side of the entrance, stared at the two. Mirage fumbled around the door frame for an access panel.
"Open it!" Starscream hissed.
"Really? I dunno, I was kinda enjoying myself out here. Shut up." Mirage found a simple pressure release switch, and pressed it. Nothing happened. He tried again, then again, cursing at it, each syllable accented by jabbing the switch, "Open. Up. You. Piece. Of. Slag
The door unlatched with a click. Leveraging their weight against it, the two Cybertronians pushed the stubborn portal open. They rushed inside and pushed it shut again. They spent the next moments swatting and stomping the last remaining bugs.
They were in the front room of the building house, Starscream guessed, looking at the what little of the layout he could see from here. The entryway extended out to include one set of windows on either side of the door, and farther back several doorways and a spiral staircase. Dust covered everything, but there was little rust inside.
Starscream paused. "I can't feel anything."
"That's a good thing. Unless you liked those bugs crawling on you."
"No, you don't understand," the Air Commander growled out. "I can't feel anything. My tactile sensors are offline. I don't feel the ground beneath my feet." He put his hand on the wall. "I can't feel this wall. It's like it's not there. Do you get it?" He paused. "I could have a hundred of those things on me, and I'd never know."
Mirage looked at him for a moment, then shrugged. "Well, if we get eaten alive, at least you won't feel it."
"Thank you. That was helpful." Starscream glared at him.
"You're welcome." Mirage crossed his arms. He tilted his head to the side and said, "I think we should call a temporary ceasefire. Neither one of us is at our best, and we seem to have larger concerns right now."
Starscream sighed. "Agreed. Any thoughts on getting out of here?"
"Well," Mirage rubbed his chin, looking thoughtful, "I was thinking how helpful it might be if we knew someone high up in the Decepticon chain of command. Like, oh, say the Second in Command? Seeing as this is a Decepticon facility, surely said mech could help us get out of here?" Mirage snapped his fingers and pointed at the glaring Starscream. "Hey, wait, aren't you the Second in Command?"
"Shut. Up." Starscream clenched his fists, turning away from the Autobot. If he got out of here, he was going to offline Shockwave.
"First thing, we should learn the layout of this place. Outside and in here. So far, I don't see those things in here, but that may not last," Mirage said. He pointed to the steelglass windows. "Let's get a look outside first."
"My scanners aren't functioning well. I'm barely reading this room. And even then, they keep cutting out," Starscream muttered.
"See what you can with your optics then."
The Seeker glared at Mirage for a moment, then approached a window. The Autobot took the opposite one. Rust layered the outside of the steelglass. It was hard to see anything. Starscream brought his light closer. And leaped back as a bug skittered across the outside surface. He glanced over, making sure the spy hadn't seen him jump. Looking back at the window, he noticed more insectoids crawling on the other side. They gathered more where his light landed on the steelglass.
"They're attracted to the light," he observed.
"Good. Keep them over there. It's hard enough looking out this thing without bugs in the way," Mirage replied.
Starscream's lip curled with disgust as more and more insectoids swarmed the window. They were so thick all he could see were tiny bodies and legs. Unease grew in his tanks. He backed away from the steelglass.
"They're attracted to the light," he repeated.
"Which is attached to my helm."
"Which is attached to my head."
"If this window breaks, or somehow they find a way in, it's reasonable to assume they'll go after their current object of fixation: the light. Which is attached to my helm. Which is attached to my head. Am I the only one who has a problem with that progression?"
Mirage paused, then replied, "Do you want an honest answer?"
"Let's try an answer that won't get you shot in the back," Starscream growled back.
"In that case, I'm terribly worried. It's my number one concern." Mirage put a hand over his spark chamber and shook his head sadly. He opened his mouth to say more, then pointed to Starscream's window. "What are they doing?"
Starscream looked where the spy pointed. "Uh, they're eating the steelglass. Time to go."
They jogged away from the door, pausing to consider the several doors and the staircase. Mirage pointed to the stairs.
"Up will only take us so far before we run out of 'up.' Those things will cut off our escape," Starscream pointed out.
"The exit is up."
"You saw a way out?"
"No. But we fell down from there. There has to be a way out up there
somewhere." Mirage shrugged.
"That is a brilliant plan. Truly."
Behind them, they heard a rending sound as the steelglass began to give.
"Up!" Mirage shouted and sprinted for the stairs. "And turn off that light! Unless you like the thought of them swarming your face."
Cursing, Starscream followed. He snapped off his light. Without his tactile sensors working, unable to feel the steps under him, he stumbled on almost each step. His scanners projected the surroundings to him, but they kept going in and out of focus. They reached the top, entering a hallway. The Seeker assumed there were doors, but his muddled sensors couldn't see them. His scanners shut off completely, blinding him. Stopping, Starscream leaned against a wall he couldn't feel.
"We need to find access to the roof," Mirage said. Starscream heard him move away. "C'mon, we don't have time to just stand around."
"My scanners are offline. Give them a second. Why aren't yours having problems?"
"You're scanners offlined?"
"It's this damned radiation. It's been messing up my systems," Starscream growled.
"Yeah, it's caused mine problems too, but it hasn't offlined anything."
"Aren't you lucky."
"That doesn't make sense. Our systems are basically the same. If it affects you one way, it should affect me the same way too. Are you injured?" Mirage asked.
"Not that I can feel," the Air Commander replied sardonically.
"We should check," the spy replied. "I can't see any real details with just scans. We need light."
Mirage snapped on his lights. Expecting a swarm of insectoids to descend on them, Starscream glanced around. The hall remained clear of bugs, although he could hear the ever present tinkling of their feet echoing in the distance. Still nervous, he flicked on his own light. Glancing down at himself, the Seeker began accessing his visible injuries. Nothing major.
"You're still bleeding." Mirage pointed to the ground at Starscream's feet.
"What? From where?" A small pool of energon gathered at the Air Commander's feet. He spun around, trying to find its source.
"Hold still." Mirage grabbed Starscream's shoulder, halting him. "It's on you back, under your wing. Nothing huge, but we should check it out." The spy glanced back towards the stairs. "This may be why they haven't followed us yet. Since they eat energon. Depending on how much you bled down there, they may be, well, you know
"What a pleasant thought." The Seeker's lip curled with disgust. "It also means I've left a wonderful, yummy trail for them to follow us with." He turned to Mirage. "I can't see it, much less reach it. Can you seal the wound?"
"I'm no medic, but I think so. Turn around, and lift your right wing. Yeah, like that. There's a pretty nasty gash here. Surprised it's not leaking more, actually. Okay, let's just take Primus save us!"
Starscream jumped, bringing his weapon arm which usually carried his null-ray but currently was empty to bear. He scanned both ends of the hall. It was empty. His eyes jerked to the ceiling. Empty. Then the floor, checking every corner. Nothing. He spun back to Mirage.
"What is your problem? Don't
" his voice trailed off. The spy looked horrified. And he was staring at Starscream. "What's wrong?"
"You don't feel that?"
"I haven't felt anything since we were attacked by those damned " Starscream cut the words off. He shook his head. "No. Please, no. One's in me, isn't it?"
Mirage ran his hand over his face. "Uh, at least two. They, uh, they look kinda, well, bloated. Um. Yeah."
"Get them out!" The Seeker looked over his shoulder towards his right wing with a mixture of fear and revulsion.
"Okay! Okay, I can do this." Mirage nodded, rubbing his hands. "No problem. Nothing to it. I got this." He stayed where he was. "Just a couple bugs. Simple."
"Stop talking about it, and just do it!" Starscream screeched. He used his left hand to push down his shoulder, and craned his head back, trying to see.
"Stop yelling at me! I got it." Mirage approached the Seeker, face contorted with disgust. "Okay, hold still." He groaned. "Ah, this is nasty. They're, uh, really swollen. Okay, I'm grabbing one and pul slaggit!"
"What?!" Starscream yelled, jumping again.
"Nasty," Mirage said, flicking energon off his hand.
"Stop. Screaming. In. My. Audios," Starscream bit out each word. "What happened?"
"Well, that was disgusting. They're gorged and I pulled on one. It wouldn't come out, so I pulled harder. It, uh, well, it popped."
"Please tell me that didn't really happen," the Air Commander muttered, wincing.
"Sure, okay." Mirage glanced at the energon still dripping off his hand. "If that makes you happy. It didn't pop."
"I hate you." Starscream shuddered. "Get the other one out. Without popping it, if that's not too much trouble."
"Since you asked so nicely," the spy muttered. He bent to examine the anxious Seeker's back again. After a few tense moments, he grunted. "Uh, problem."
"I think I know why your sensors are shorting out. That thing's on a junction box. Well, not so much 'on,' as 'chewing,' that is." With his clean hand, Mirage rubbed his chin.
"Wonderful. Now would be an excellent time to remove it, don't you agree?" Starscream hissed over his shoulder.
"Uh, that's the problem. It's really dug in. I'm no medic. If I yank it out, I could do more damage than good. I don't know what wires and connections'll get severed if I do that. I think we should leave it in."
Starscream turned to regard the Autobot, his face expressionless. "Mirage, it's eating me. Take it out. Please."
The spy considered him, then nodded slowly. "Alright. No guarantee what'll happen, though."
Mirage resumed working on the Seeker's back, muttering quietly. After a few moments, he maneuvered his fingers around the remaining insectoid. Warning Starscream, he gently pried the wriggling thing loose. With a growl, he tossed it aside. Both mechs tried to ignore its wet splat as it impacted the wall. Mirage looked expectantly at Starscream.
"My proximity sensors are offline. So are the scanners. Again. Sonar's gone. And internal scanners are offline. I can't run a diagnostic. Outstanding." Starscream opened his mouth to say more, but paused. He cocked his head. "Do you hear that?"
"It's their feet. That's been going on since we came in." Mirage glanced back to the stairs. He straightened. "Um, does it sound louder to you?"
"Yes, it does," the Seeker replied, backing up. "Roof, you said? Let's make a hole."
He extended his remaining weapon and opened fire on the ceiling. Moments later Mirage added his own fire. Both weapons were severely drained from the interference. It took multiple shots to break through. Once they'd opened a hole, the two mechs resorted to physical force to tear it wider. Starscream pointed to the stairs, crying out.
"We have company!"
A few bugs skittered forward, then stopped at the trail of spilled energon. More appeared. Some stopped at the fuel, while others immediately focused on the lights and rushed forward. Mirage snapped off his lights.
"Hey! That makes me the target!" Starscream squawked, unable to shut off his own light without blinding himself. The insectoids altered their course straight toward him.
They both scrambled up and onto the wide, flat roof. Old rust particles covered everything like a fine-grained sand. Mirage directed the Seeker away from the hole, hoping not to draw the bugs out from below with the light.
"They like light, right? Detach one of yours, turn it on and toss it down there," Starscream suggested.
"They'll destroy it pretty fast, but it'll distract them for a bit." Mirage rigged his light, then threw it below. The illumination was almost instantly swallowed, as the bugs swarmed it. Mirage watched a moment, then backed away, shaking his head. "Creepy." He turned his attention upwards, straining his weakened sensors. "Where's the slaggin' trap door? Oh, wait, is that it?" He pointed.
"I don't know. I can't see that far," Starscream said, frowning at the dark expanse above them.
"I'm picking up some kind of mechanism. Looks like a release clamp, and some pressure seal. Maybe. My scanners aren't working great. If we take the seal out, the door should drop open. I got it." Mirage readied his missile launcher. Taking the best aim he could, he fired the missile. Streaking fire and smoke, the projectile flew away. Moments later, the guidance failed. The missile spun wildly, then crashed to the ground. An explosion ripped through the chamber. Both mechs flinched.
"That went well," Starscream muttered. He considered the unseen ceiling above. "How's your aim?"
"Under normal circumstances, exemplary. These are hardly normal circumstances however. Why?"
"Here," the Air Commander said, pulling out a cluster bomb bundle. He separated one explosive, examining it. It fit in his palm. Popping open the casing, he fiddled with the chemicals inside. He resealed it and held it out to Mirage.
"A small explosive. I've destablized it, so it'll detonate on impact. No trigger required. Don't drop it." Starscream nodded upward. "Can you hit the seal with these?"
"Yeah. I think so. Maybe." Mirage stared up. He shook his head. "It would be easier if my scanners would stay focused."
"I'll rig some more. You start throwing."
As Starscream crouched over his cluster bombs, tinkering, Mirage took aim at the distant trap door. He loosed the projectile. It arced through the air, fell short and tumbled back down. An explosion burst against a building opposite of theirs as it impacted. Lips compressed, he took another modified bomb. It flew wide to the right. Another and another launched into the air. Both missed, detonating below.
"You know," Starscream muttered, "if I wanted to throw my bombs away, there are easier ways to do it."
"Just shut up. I'd like to see you try." Mirage threw another bomb, this one almost reaching its mark, before gravity claimed it.
Starscream glanced over the edge of the roof. Below, several small chemical fires flared. Blue flames shimmered off hordes of tiny, six-legged bodies that raced across the ground. The bugs swarmed the fires, several charging to their fiery death.
"They're attracted to the light
" the Air Commander muttered. He grabbed several of the bombs, tossing them near the base of their building. Soon, numerous fires burned nearby.
"We need those to get out of here," Mirage reminded him.
"Relax. I have more," Starscream replied. "What's the matter, jealous that I can hit what I aim for?"
"Oh, yes, congratulations. You can throw something and hit the ground. You should be commended."
"Shut up. At least I'm accomplishing something."
The two mechs glared at each other for several moments. Mirage grabbed another bomb and deliberately turned away from the Decepticon. Putting all his frustration into his arm, he hurled it into the air. The projectile impacted with the trap door. With a screech of metal, one side of the trap door dropped open slightly.
"Finally!" Starscream exclaimed, ignoring the glare Mirage threw his way. A distant light shone through the opening, allowing the Air Commander to see it for the first time. He paused, noting the distance between them and the trap door. "I can't fly right now. How are we getting up there?"
Mirage pulled out his grapple gun and jiggled it. "Who needs flight?"
"I do." The Seeker considered the grapple. "But that will work for now. It's still functioning?"
"I don't know. Time to find out." Mirage took aim and fired. The grapple launched into the air, and attached itself into the edge of the trap door. The spy yanked the cord several times. It held. He nodded to the Decepticon. "The cord can't support both of us at once. You anchor it, and I'll climb up. Then I pull you up."
Starscream regarded the spy doubtfully. "And I just trust that you'll pull me up? How about I go up first?"
Mirage laughed. "I'm not stupid. Of our two factions, which one's named from the word 'deception?' My grapple, I go up first. And, in case you're thinking of knocking me off this rope somehow, remember I know the verbal command to release the grapple. Good luck finding another way to that door."
Starscream frowned at the other mech. "I'm insulted. The idea never crossed my mind," he lied. He took the grapple gun, securing the cord several times around his arm. "Just don't forget about me down here."
Mirage smirked. "I'm insulted. The idea never crossed my mind," he mimicked. Ignoring the Decepticon's scowl, he scaled up the rope. In moments, he reached the opening. He examined it. He called down, "It's a tight fit, but we should both make it through. You might scratch those fancy wings of yours." He pulled his head up through the trap door. "Uh, problem. The main door's closed."
The spy scrambled up and, bracing himself, grasped the top of the cord. Heaving, he hauled Starscream up. The Seeker, grumbling and impatient at this indignant mode of transportation, climbed as Mirage pulled. Together, they got him to the trap door and wriggled through. They surveyed the hallway half its floor sloping down to the opening and the door they had entered not so long ago.
"It's closed." Mirage gestured at the way out. "You're the Second in Command. You can open this, right?"
Remembering his failure with the facility's computer earlier, Starscream didn't reply. He approached the access panel next to the door. Blocking Mirage's view, he inputted his security clearance. The screen cycled through several verification processes. He frowned. Ridiculous amount of security for someone already inside the center.
"Identification confirmed, Air Commander. Please state the password for access," the computer intoned.
"Password? What password?" Starscream exclaimed. "Open the door!"
"Incorrect password. State the correct password, or this terminal will initiate security protocol A-5."
"No!" both mech shouted in unison. Mirage gestured frantically from the Seeker to the panel. Starscream shrugged, shaking his head. The Autobot whispered, "Say something!"
"Incorrect password. State the corr "
"No! That wasn't even me, idiot computer!" Starscream shrieked at it.
"Incorrect password. Initiating security protocol A-5. Error. Malfunction detected."
"Just open this door!"
"Incorrect password. State the correct password."
"Shockwave, I swear I will rip off all your limbs, dismantle your innards piece by piece, and wear your one optic as a necklace!" the Seeker yelled in frustration.
The words 'REMOTE ACCESS' flashed across the terminal. On it's own, it cycled through more security screens. With the hiss of pressurized air, the door opened.
The two mechs looked at each other. Mirage stated, "That was not the password."
"Move!" Starscream shoved the other Cybertronian toward the door.
They rushed out. Turning back, they watched the door snap shut behind them. Gears turned, locking the entrance again. They shared a look. Mirage shrugged. "So, do we fight now?"
Starscream considered the Autobot. The interference hampered the spy's weapons, but his own were almost non-functioning. Megatron would be furious with the loss of whatever Mirage had stolen, but he was hardly in any condition to try to take it back. The Seeker glanced back at the Science & Reseach facility. He could always claim it was destroyed in there.
"No, I'm done," Starscream muttered. "You should go. Someone accessed that station remotely. They monitored my access and opened the doors. They may send someone. You don't want to be here when they arrive."
Mirage nodded. He turned to go, then paused. "Next time we go sight-seeing, I choose the destination."
Starscream smirked. "Technically, you choose this time."
"True. Then may I suggest next time we visit an Autobot tourist trap?"
"Strangely enough, I try to avoid places with the words 'Autobot' and 'trap' in their descriptions."
"They can't be worse than this place," Mirage pointed out.
Starscream glanced back at the sealed door, grimacing. "Agreed."