Bluewing was the first reporter allowed inside the Governmental Compound of Cybertron with open access. She was a Seeker journalist, based in New Vos, so Starscream had unwillingly developed a soft spot for her. She had a keen interest in the sciences and most of her works reported on scientific developments. Wheeljack knew that Starscream knew her designation long before she reached out to him.
She had propositioned the Council relentlessly during her time in Iacon for a chance to view the inner workings of Metroplex’s care. Starscream, in his defense, lasted three cycles of reading her requests – all needlessly verbose and reminiscent of his own roundabout way of speaking – before he caved and shoved them into Wheeljack’s servos.
“She’s your problem now,” Starscream said. His sudden appearance in Wheeljack’s lab was far from uncommon. He dropped the data-pad on Wheeljack’s table, alongside a cube of energon, and planted a kiss on Wheeljack’s nasal ridge and vanished before he could object.
Wheeljack pieced this all together from their one-sided conversations and absolutely no help from Starscream. Windblade found it all highly amusing and proved to be no help.
He responded to Bluewing’s latest request with a simple note letting her know he would meet her at the entrance to the compound and allow her to follow him through his daily routine. He didn’t actually expect her to respond, given the late notice, but his message hadn’t been unread for five kliks before she confirmed.
That night, Wheeljack said, “First journalist in the Science Division. That’s pretty big.”
Starscream waved a servo nonchalantly. “She’s your problem,” he repeated.
Wheeljack took the cube of energon Starscream handed to him. “It’s good,” he said, “to see you opening up.”
Starscream gave him a blank look. “I’m not,” he countered. “Allowing one journalist inside to dissipate the rumors that I’m smelting ex-Autobots alive in the basement of my government building is hardly opening up.”
“It’s progress,” Wheeljack insisted. “Windblade had to fight you tooth and nail for everything when she joined up. Can’t imagine you twenty vorns ago willingly letting anyone look at Metroplex’s care.”
“What would be the point?” Starscream replied. He crossed his arms over his cockpit. “I’m only doing this to get her off my wings about it.”
Wheeljack hummed noncommittally in response to that. “You have,” he noted. “Been more closed off about this place. Ever since…” He tilted his helm toward the closed berth-room door. The largest one, that had once been theirs before they switched to the smaller one.
Starscream’s expression hardened. “The last thing I need is a bunch of Autobots turning on my sparklings as well as myself.”
Wheeljack’s spark sank. As much as he trusted his old faction-members, more than a few carried a grudge against Starscream that would infect anything he was associated with, even sparklings. Wheeljack only ever said as much as was already known to the public – that Starscream had sparklings. Starscream never revealed designations or the sire. Wheeljack’s few real friends – Optimus, Ironhide – knew they were Wheeljack’s. Starscream didn’t plan on letting them anywhere near the public eye until they were old enough to understand the war and the repercussions that remained. Or, as Starscream put, until they were old enough to ‘gouge out the optics of anyone who spoke ill to them.’
Ironhide arrived late, almost dragged through the door of Wheeljack’s and Starscream’s apartment by an irate Chromia. “Blame him,” she said, crossing her arms. “He doesn’t know how to set an alarm.”
Ironhide rubbed the side of his helm. “I thought,” he said, pointedly, “that if I slipped into a coma, maybe I could avoid the hellions.”
“They’re not that bad,” Wheeljack said. He handed them a tray of energon cubes, topped with silver and copper slivers. “You can use these as bargaining chips for your life.”
Ironhide took the tray with a grimace. “Thanks, Jackie. Really.”
Starscream emerged from their berth-room, his wingtips twitched rapidly. “Windblade sent a comm,” he said, as he handed the cube Wheeljack had made him back to him. “There’s a collection of reporters gathered outside. Apparently, the senator from Tarn has decided to make a fool himself at some Primus-damned hour of the morning and—”
Starscream’s rambling vanished from audial-range as he swept out the door, still berating his coworkers.
Following the sound of the door sliding shut, there was an audial-piercing whine of a jet engine, followed by a curt exclamation to shut up. The sound of metal-hitting-metal ensued.
Wheeljack patted Ironhide on the shoulder. “Enjoy.”
He was gone – along with Chromia – before Ironhide could retort.
Wheeljack had arranged with Chromia to have Bluewing escorted down to his lab upon her arrival. He had done some quick cleaning, putting things together in some semblance of organization. He thought he had done a good job. Upon seeing it when Starscream swooped by to give him his forgotten good-morning kiss, he just smirked and said nothing.
When Bluewing finally arrived, Wheeljack immediately recognized the rapid fluttering of her wings as excitement. She almost flew over to him, sticking her servo out and capturing his in a greeting.
“Bluewing,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you. You are…?”
“Wheeljack,” he said. Behind the Seeker, Chromia silently slipped out of the lab. “I run repairs on Metroplex and do general maintenance for Iacon.”
Bluewing’s gaze flitted around the room, rapidly cycling and resetting as she analyzed the various parts scattered about. “Are these all for Metroplex?”
Wheeljack shrugged, as she stepped around him to get a better look. “Most of them,” Wheeljack said. “He went a long time without proper maintenance. Way longer than any ‘bot ought to go. It’s easier at this point to just take certain components out and remake them from scratch than try to repair them.”
Bluewing hummed noncommittally, picking up and inspecting a capillary fuel line from the back of Metroplex’s helm. “It looks like you do quite a lot of essential work for Metroplex. He must be grateful.”
Wheeljack’s fins lit up pink. He scratched at the side of his helm, trying to hide it, but Bluewing seemed fixated on his projects. “I guess. Big guy’s not that talkative, though.”
“His Speaker must have made her respect clear,” Bluewing said. She turned back around to face Wheeljack. “I imagine she must be eternally grateful for your help in repairing her Titan. It appears to be” – Bluewing gestured to the various tables, still laden with supplies – “quite a large task.”
“Windblade’s nice about it,” Wheeljack said. “She can get a little defensive on his behalf sometimes.” He quickly added, “Not that I blame her or anything, I get it.”
“Of course.” Bluewing’s wings fluttered. “You must work together a lot.”
“Pretty often,” Wheeljack admitted. “She and I—”
“And what about outside of work?” Bluewing asked, her tone inching.
Wheeljack cycled his optics. “We’re good friends,” he said. “I see her outside of the lab a lot. She and Starscream d—”
“I suppose she would be busy with Starscream most of the time,” Bluewing lamented. “Such a shame.”
Wheeljack, who had spent more than a few evenings alone thanks to Starscream and Windblade being busy screeching each other’s audials deaf, agreed. “A real shame.”
“I take it you spend most of your time here,” Bluewing said, to which Wheeljack just shrugged helplessly. She gave a sympathetic nod. “But it is essential work. Metroplex deserves care after all this time.”
“You and Windblade would get along fantastic,” Wheeljack said.
Bluewing laughed. “I guess you would know, right?”
Wheeljack liked to think he had played mediator between Windblade and Starscream long enough to judge her easily. “I guess,” he echoed.
“Something tells me,” Bluewing said, “you don’t keep up with the tabloids.”
“Not exactly time in my schedule.” Between Metroplex, Iacon, Starscream and Windblade, and the little trine who had taken over his flat, he didn’t have time for new interests. Not that he minded. During the war, he would have traded all his limbs for a chance to just read some old academic reports for the fun of it. But then again, during the war – and before it – he never really thought he’d get around to having a family. Sometimes he still couldn’t believe it.
Bluewing inspected a sheet of metal Wheeljack had yet to mold into parts. “There’s quite a rift right now, outside these walls. Rumors swirling here and there about you and Windblade and Starscream. It’s probably the most talked-about thing at the moment.”
Wheeljack was starting to think Bluewing might not have come for information about Metroplex. Information, certainly, but Metroplex? Ah, the big guy never did get the attention he deserved.
“I don’t like gossip all that much,” Wheeljack said.
“It seems to like you,” Bluewing replied.
Wheeljack crossed his arms over his chassis. “Look, I’m not sure what you think you’re gonna find here, but Windblade is a great Speaker, Starscream’s got the government functional, and they haven’t torn each other’s throat cables out yet. There’s no story around it.”
“You’re forgetting a variable,” Bluewing said, and tilted her helm towards Wheeljack.
“I’m just trying to do right by Metroplex,” he said.
Bluewing gave a slight nod. “Of course. That being said, you must spend a lot of time in close proximity to Windblade, even more so than Starscream and the work he gives you for Iacon.”
“Metroplex needs her,” Wheeljack said.
She hummed noncommittally. “And you, apparently. There have been some—”
Wheeljack knew he should have locked the lab door. Then again, he also thought he knew better than to trust Ironhide to watch the trine, but desperate times and all.
A black and grey blur shot through the room, jet engines roaring and vents whirring. Wheeljack never had a chance to grab Nightfall before she slid behind one of his tables. His optics cycled again, his processor stuck on a loop of ‘you have got to be kidding me right now, I’m going to offline him’.
Nightfall didn’t seem inclined to keep running, so Wheeljack took immediate advantage of her stillness and plucked her from behind the table by the aperture of her wings. She was barely higher than his knee, and there was still an easily-grabbable bar between her wings that made for easy moving.
She wriggled in his grip until he placed her back on the floor, but didn’t let her run away again. “Let me go!” she snapped. She managed to sound eerily like Starscream when she yelled. “She’s gonna find me!”
“She already caught Sunstorm!” Nightfall said. “He's a goner! I’ve gotta hide or we’ll lose! Again!”
Wheeljack glanced back at the door, but Ironhide was nowhere to be seen. “Where did your Uncle Ironhide go?”
“He gave up after the first joor,” Nightfall said. “I don’t think he likes this game. Slipstream is looking for us now instead.”
“Did you tell Ironhide you were going to play hide-and-seek before you vanished?”
Nightfall blinked up at him, blue optics all wide and innocent. “No. We thought it would obvious.”
Scratch that, maybe Ironhide was going to offline him. The old mech had probably had a spark-attack by now. “That was mean,” Wheeljack said.
Despite being barely three vorns old and a quarter of his height, Nightfall managed to perfectly replicate the way Starscream would look down his olfactory ridge at anyone who upset him. “He should be better at seeking, then,” she said.
There was a small burst of static from a vocalizer, and Wheeljack pushed the issue of Ironhide managing to lose his sparklings in less than two joors to the back of his processor. Bluewing was still standing there, her wings held high with curiosity. She looked at Nightfall, and Nightfall looked right back. There was a long moment of silence.
“You must be one of Starscream’s sparklings,” Bluewing finally said. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Nightfall’s gaze returned to Wheeljack. “Can’t you put me in the cabinet or something?”
“Slipstream can’t reach the cabinet.”
“Yes, that’s why you should put me there!”
What Wheeljack really wanted was to put her – and her siblings – back in their hab-suite and call a new security officer to keep an optic on them until they could invest in a security system. Chromia, he realized, was probably upset at Ironhide’s upset, and would likely be no help.
“Okay,” Wheeljack said. “I have a better idea.” He picked Nightfall up by the aperture of her wings – despite her protesting at being carried. Her frame was more than small enough to fit in the clear cabinet where Wheeljack displayed various miscellaneous projects in the works. She curled up beside part of a pipe almost as tall as she was. She smiled and nodded, and Wheeljack closed the glass door.
She honestly didn’t seem to notice anything wrong with hiding in a glass cabinet. Wheeljack took an image capture and made a note to send it to Starscream later on. Just in case they needed some blackmail material when Nightfall reached her adolescent upgrades.
Wheeljack turned back to Bluewing, now with Nightfall securely contained in his peripheral vision. “Sorry about that. Where were we?”
Bluewing had a lazy smile on her faceplates. “Starscream must really value you, with how good you are with his sparklings.” Amusement glinted in her optics as she added, “Windblade too. The femmes love a mech who’s good with sparklings.”
“Starscream and I are conjunxed. These are my sparklings as well.”
Bluewing’s optics cycled once, then twice. She opened her intake to speak, and then didn’t. When she finally got out an, “Oh,” her following words were cut off by the roar of a jet engine.
“Where is she?” Slipstream howled. Her pedes slid across the sleek lab floor as she all but crashed between Wheeljack and Bluewing.
Wheeljack took a step to the left, just enough to obscure Nightfall’s glass cabinet. “You lost your sister?” he asked, in a falsely aghast voice.
Slipstream straightened. “Of course I didn’t! What do you take me for?”
Eventually, the fact that two-thirds of their sparklings had somehow inherited Starscream’s personality would come back to bite them. Now, being threatened by a sparkling no taller than a human, it was highly amusing. Wheeljack learned a long time ago to hold back his laughter, back when Sideswipe still played pranks across the Ark and so much as a smile about it would get you put on Prowl’s blacklist.
Ironhide was already going to kill him, Wheeljack decided, so he said, “Have you checked Ironhide’s hab-suite? He told me he heard some strange pitter-patters.”
Slipstream, ever the excellent conversationalist, said nothing as she – and her brother, still held hostage – retreated from the lab at a breakneck speed.
Wheeljack looked back to Bluewing. “So, back on to Metroplex, then?”
She nodded mutely.
There was one last interruption, ten kliks later, as Wheeljack was explaining the science of Metroplex’s fuel pump to Bluewing.
“I hate you,” Ironhide said. His voice was partially obscured by Slipstream, yelling challenges to her absent sister in the background. “I hate you so, so much.”