Title: To Be Sparked
Universe: G1 cartoon.
Pairing: Omega Supreme/Skyfire with reference to possible Skyfire/Starscream. It's always good to learn new things!
Author's Notes: Possibly offensive use of the inanimate pronoun for a Cybertronian.
50605100 words (with beta from OkamiChan). Entry for the August 2008 Learn Something New challenge at Mecha_Erotica. Banner by Verjiraziel.
The Omega Supreme pursued its quarry with single-minded purpose. It was compelled to catch and deactivate the six (seven? one?) robots it had recently thought of as allies. Is Devastator a seventh foe?, the Omega Supreme deliberated within its own processors, or do the six who betrayed the Omega Supreme remain six when they join? Do the six only represent parts of a whole now, such that only Devastator flees?
After the encounter with the Robo-Smasher, the Omega Supreme did not think through ideas in imagery or word-forms: it formed thoughts as fleeting data bits, ones and zeroes only. It knew the other robots, those who created it, those whom it served, whose beautiful city it had been set to guard, prided themselves on thinking "real" thoughts and feeling "real" feelings, but the Omega Supreme was no longer sure what that meant. It did not perceive this as a lack within itself when it left Cybertron in pursuit of the Constructicons. The Omega Supreme regarded itself as a robot, made of metal and wire, thinking thoughts only in its computers, neither feeling nor thinking nor alive in the way those whom it served and those whom it pursued were.
After thousands of stellar cycles of the chase, of endless hatred and the constant sense of betrayal, the Omega Supreme was tired of those impulses. It would have deactivated itself to escape them, but then the Omega Supreme's failure to perform its task at Crystal City would have gone unresolved. Its programming would not permit that. So the Omega Supreme kept up with Devastator, never catching up, but never losing the trail.
The Omega Supreme was weary and lonely, lacking any real contact with another self-aware entity for eons. It replayed in its processors the last interaction it had with the Constructicons. It replayed in its processors the few meetings it had experienced with intelligent beings as it chased Devastator: uniformly small mechanoids mining an asteroid belt who had defended themselves from the pillaging of the larger Cybertronians by setting off an explosion the Omega Supreme had detected from beyond their solar system; moderately technologically-capable biologicals whose planet hid Devastator for a stellar cycle; and the few surviving psychic entities left on a Dyson Sphere world after the Constructicons used the physical forms of most of their species for energy to fuel a new vehicle and keep running.
One of those frightened beings had mistaken the Omega Supreme for another marauding mechanoid and attacked in an attempt to defend himself and his remaining family.
The Omega Supreme could find no reason for the psychic being to notice its purely artificial intelligence, but recorded that bizarre encounter and reviewed it, too, in the long, cold transits following Devastator. It was a puzzle to the Omega Supreme, something to occupy processor time.
Earthside, with the faction who still called themselves Autobots, the Omega Supreme was often confused, often aware of a seeming lack of processor time when it was most needed. In pursuit of the Constructicons, it had a mission, and plenty of time to handle the data relevant to that mission. Now, it had a cyclic duty, shared with others, and fought alongside the Autobots when called upon to do so. Sentry duty required the same watchfulness as the chase, but decisions had to be made much more quickly, and battles shifted at the speed of processors, faster than its. The leader, Optimus Prime, regularly came out of the base to speak with the Omega Supreme, treating it as a sounding board, calling it "friend" and "soldier". The Omega Supreme even told Optimus Prime about the chase, and about the events that led it to pursue the Constructicons through space. The Prime listened patiently to the Omega Supreme, treating it as an entity as worthy as any of the others in his command, treating it as an autonomous individual. "Freedom," the Prime told it solemnly once, "is the right of all sentient beings," and he made it clear that he included the Omega Supreme in that group.
The Omega Supreme did not know what to make of that thought, and tried not to think it again.
Then another Cybertronian who was too large to join the Autobots inside their wrecked ship came among them. His name was Skyfire, and he was very conscious of feeling marginalized; inexplicably, he told the Omega Supreme about it. He told the Omega Supreme about it at great length. At first, the Omega Supreme wished Skyfire would leave it alone and go enjoy the comforts of the hangar bay the Autobots constructed for him in the other side of the mountain. The Omega Supreme listened silently to Skyfire with no care for what he said, processing the words automatically since there was painfully little going on in the biological world around it to occupy the processor time between crises. Over the months, however, it started to count the ticks between Skyfire's visits, and even to seek out his company on occasion, going to meet him when he returned from missions.
Present or absent, Skyfire occupied the spare processor time.
Skyfire spent time with his new friend, Omega Supreme, whenever they were both at the base. Omega's taciturn manner did not bother Skyfire until one day Skyfire found himself thinking more about the private time - a few hours, if he forced himself to use the local language and time measurements - he and Starscream spent together while he wore the Decepticon badge.
"The first time I was thawed out here, Starscream did not give me all the information when he introduced me to his leader," Skyfire complained to Omega. "It seemed like only earlier that orn when I'd last seen him, yet he told me hundreds of thousands of stellar cycles had passed, and there was another war, and I should become a fighter and assist his army in defeating the evil ones, the Autobots he hates." The former Guardian was a very good listener, letting little mechanical sounds stand for responses and looking at Skyfire directly whenever he paused, as if encouraging him to continue. "But standing watch for Megatron I encountered that enemy, and tried to assist the biological beings who had been with them. The two humans were clearly in danger for their lives, not only from the Cybertronian fighters but from being too cold and wet. Their core temperatures were falling quickly, Omega - may I call you Omega?" Skyfire paused for a response.
The huge mech turned his head once again from his survey of the surroundings and looked squarely at Skyfire for a moment before replying. "Question immaterial: Omega clear abbreviation of Omega Supreme."
Skyfire laughed, perceiving a wry joke in that response. "That isn't what I asked you at all! May I call you Omega? May I behave so familiarly with you?" In Cybertronian, Skyfire stressed his use of the informal, friendly form of the second-person pronoun and verb form there, trying to make it perfectly clear that he meant to relax, and meant Omega to be relaxed in his company. "I think of you as my friend, someone I can easily relate to here on this strange world among the Autobots."
Omega Supreme processed that for a few cycles, so long that Skyfire almost thought he might have offended him. "Yes. Use abbreviation. Behave familiarly."
Skyfire was relieved that Omega used the verb form for the informal pronoun, if not the pronoun itself. He started to tell his friend about his last argument with Starscream, but something in the larger mech's demeanor made him stop.
He lapsed into silence. Omega looked at him as he always did when he stopped talking, and Skyfire looked away. They sat that way for a few breems. Skyfire imagined that his friend was perfectly comfortable with silence, listening to the cycles of the planet around them. If he turned the gain up on his audio sensors, he could hear not only the sounds of the biological life and atmosphere of Earth, past the small mechanical sounds of both their bodies, to the activity of some of the Autobots inside the base and around the entrance on the other side of the mountain. It was fascinating. Someone was cleaning the exposed part of the original ship, a common penance for minor infractions within the Ark.
Thoughts of Starscream intruded in his deductive musings and he found he still wanted to tell Omega about that part of his life. Starscream's behavior troubled Skyfire, and Omega Supreme was solidly his closest and most personal friend at the Ark. He did come down to meet me when I returned from my last mission, he thought, but, Maybe he was curious, and not there specifically to greet me. He normally serves as a sentry, anyway. Watching the giant covertly, he began to wonder if Omega cared one way or the other for his company, and quickly convinced himself that all the encouraging sounds he thought Omega made when they talked were really autonomic, nearly constant, and not indicative of any interest in what he had to say. Wishful thinking on my part, he concluded. In their silence, which stopped feeling companionable to Skyfire and started to feel oppressive, he replayed his memories of the time he'd spent with Omega: their conversations were uniformly one-sided.
Is he a hostage to my rambling, out here, with no fuel to spare for joy-flights and no one else who cares to talk to him? That was an uncomfortable thought. Does he tolerate me because he sees nothing better to do?
Uncomfortable thoughts in uncomfortable silence he could have alone in his hangar. He stood to go. He ignored the mechanical sounds of movement from his friend - his colleague? - no, his acquaintance's position.
At a surprisingly low volume, Omega's big voice rolled along the ground, "Skyfire: please stay. Talk."
It didn't sound like a question or an order, just words. Skyfire stopped and turned back to find Omega Supreme looking at him with an unreadable expression on his faceplates. Somehow, the big bot's body language read differently, even though he was still seated as usual, back against the only outcropping wider than he was. Unreadable, not because there was no expression, but because it was the most expression Skyfire remembered seeing on the Guardian.
"Are you sure, Omega? My thoughts were running to some things you might find distasteful, and I realized that you rarely say much at all. I don't know what you might find distasteful; I talk too much. You probably don't like that, but are too polite to ask me to stop."
"No," Omega said with a decidedly open look, "program Omega Supreme. Stay. Talk?" That last clearly had a question in it.
Skyfire returned to the position he found comfortable, a few meters from ... his friend.
He tried something new. "What would you like to talk about?"
Omega looked slightly puzzled and turned away, surveying the area in his characteristic way.
Skyfire thought he wasn't going to answer. He wondered how the former Guardian robot could possibly find his pseudo-scientific and often randomly personal ramblings interesting.
"The Omega Supreme, lonely. Understand only incompletely. Listen, process fully."
Skyfire watched the other as he spoke, curious to see if Omega wore an appropriate expression. Omega's gaze returned to him, from a visage displaying a modicum of confusion. "What that we- well, that I talk about do you not understand? The scientific principles behind my studies?" Omega's face was blank; Skyfire could tell he was thinking - processing, as he insisted on saying of himself, as if his mind were merely a computer program at work with no spark enlivening it.
The Omega Supreme was confused. It wanted Skyfire to stay and talk, but could find no protocol for it in its programming. Its processor spun, covering old data but making no new connections or extrapolations. "Science- logical," it spoke in answer to Skyfire's question. "Your interaction with Decepticons is factual; your actions were reasonable. Many details are outside Omega Supreme's experience." That was as clear as it could be, given the Omega Supreme's limited understanding of the language of relationship. As a Guardian Robot, its programming did not include interaction beyond duty, receiving orders and exchanging basic data necessary to perform its functions as an anti-siege engine, a defender of organization and function and beauty.
Failure screamed once again through the Omega Supreme. Its faceplates contracted as they always did when the bits of memory of Crystal City's destruction were even incidentally accessed.
Skyfire noticed. Concerned for his friend, he stepped closer and touched the Omega Supreme's elbow gently. "Omega?" he asked, "are you in difficulty? What's wrong?"
Even after all the time spent in Skyfire's company, and knowing Skyfire's habits well enough to have seen that coming, the Omega Supreme was not used to being touched by another robot outside of fighting or repairs after fighting. It drew that arm closer to its body, such that Skyfire's fingers hovered a centimeter from its plating. When Skyfire did not remove his hand, but followed the elbow, the Omega Supreme stopped. Its processors raced, all of them, including the seldom-used auxiliary system, the flight management system, and the launch platform system. Making optic contact with the little mechanoid at its side, the Omega Supreme answered, "Difficulty encountered: understanding limited, vocabulary limited."
"Why do you insist on being cryptic?" Skyfire felt exasperation build, but schooled himself to remain level-voiced and calm. "Can you speak clearly? I might teach you about something, but I have never programmed you at all."
Omega responded evenly, "What did Omega Supreme vocalize unclearly? You program with every interaction: voice, radio," he paused a moment, then admitted at a low decibel, "touch."
Skyfire almost didn't catch the last word, but he triggered his auto-record function in time to replay the end of the statement in his CPU: voice, radio, touch, Omega had said.
"You seem to understand well enough," Skyfire began slowly, "most of the words I use, anyway. Basic vocabulary, sheer number of words, is most easily expanded through direct data transfer. I suppose that is programming, at its base. If you want, I would share my basic datastore with you. The process is simple, if you don't mind-," Skyfire began to question himself, because transfer of that much data would most efficiently and reliably be done via hard-line connection, requiring one of them to be plugged into the other, a very intimate process by any Cybertronian's standard. Out with it: "If you want my help to organize it in your data storage, you'll have to plug into me, or, if you don't, then I can plug into you and you can copy it over and file it yourself." It was offered.
He didn't know if Omega understood the significance of what he was suggesting, though. It surprised him, even, that he had no qualms about plugging into the Guardian robot: despite Omega's simplistic, cryptic speech habits and avoidance of language that would distinguish him from a lifeless drone, Skyfire trusted him. If I am honest with myself, he thought, I'm offering this because I'm attracted to him. Everything that Starscream isn't, he caught Omega's optics as the huge mech looked down at him, "Everything that Starscream never was, you are." Why did I say that?
Omega's face scrunched up again, proving that he was really thinking about what Skyfire said to him.
The Omega Supreme understood every word from Skyfire as he offered to transfer his dictionary to it. Something about the idea of direct connection to a sentient being's systems was discouraging, but logically there was no harm to be done: Skyfire would not delete anything or damage the Omega Supreme's other programming. Part of what he said did not match its memory, so it asked, "Why not help organize, if use your connector?" The comment about Starscream was completely non-sequitur: "What was Starscream?"
Skyfire continued to look at the Omega Supreme's optical sensors, as if he expected there to be something there besides reflectors and light-gathering sensors. Haltingly, he explained, "In the most clinical terms," he began, "to make one's processors peripheral to another mech's-" Skyfire stopped. He looked away, then back at the Omega Supreme's optics. "That is, to open oneself up for all manner of harm. I trust you, Omega, or I would never offer it: if I plug into you, I make myself available, from the most obscure data packet to the most necessary. Plugged into you, I do not have access to place anything in your processor, you have access to take, to copy, even to rearrange or erase. Similarly, assuming you are configured like every other mech from Cybertron, if you plug into me, you give me that access, to place in your databanks the files as we have agreed, or as you approve when I offer them." He stepped even closer to the Omega Supreme.
"No," it countered, not argumentative but seeing a flaw in Skyfire's deductions.
Before it could explain its statement, Skyfire interrupted. "I- can ask Wheeljack to copy them to a bit of media-"
Uncharacteristically, the Omega Supreme spoke over Skyfire, explaining where it knew Skyfire was making a poor assumption. "You do not understand. Omega Supreme is no mech, not like Skyfire, like Starscream or Prime. Guardian, robot only."
Skyfire did stop vocalizing to listen. He frowned, but the Omega Supreme read it as thought, not displeasure. "No mech? Femme?" he paused, then, "Whatever you are, you need the data and I'll happily give it. I like you, I trust you, and, I-" a longer pause as Skyfire looked away, "am interested in you." He looked down at the ground on which the Omega Supreme sat, and stepped around its knee, so that he stood at the Omega Supreme's shoulder, very close to vocalize at a low decibel, optic-to-optic. "Do you understand?"
The Omega Supreme turned its face from Skyfire, staring straight ahead into the distance. It felt Skyfire rest a hand on its shoulder plating. "Understand. You are confused, see more in it than it is."
"You really think so little of yourself? Or of me?"
Not having the word to describe it did not stop the Omega Supreme from feeling exasperation. It answered the questions in the order presented: "Yes. No. The Omega Supreme does not 'think' as mechs do. The Omega Supreme processes, records data. Reacts to stimuli. Follows orders."
Skyfire's hands passed gently over the plating of that shoulder to its neck. It turned minutely, and caught both of them in its own clawed one. "You do not understand," it reiterated. The Omega Supreme found Skyfire's optics intensely focused on its own, frown still in place.
Skyfire leaned close to its face: "Show me."
"You must plug in here to transfer data," it directed, drawing Skyfire around to its other side, "one port only, no plug." Standing under its left arm, the Omega Supreme could shift its plating and show Skyfire its only remaining data port, normally protected by the plasma blaster of its left hand, or the alt-mode laser cannon. It held its blaster-hand up, then rested it on a cleft in the rock at its side, a configuration it could hold indefinitely.
Skyfire extricated his right hand from the claw easily, and the Omega Supreme was confounded by the grip Skyfire retained on one of its claws with his left hand.
"Just like that?" Skyfire asked, gently touching the exposed data port. He looked up again at the Omega Supreme.
"You see more than it is," it answered.
You are nothing but consistent, Skyfire thought. "Perhaps I do," he said, "but I hope you understand that I count myself your friend, and I trust you as mine, or I wouldn't plug into you. This is not something I can take lightly." He paused, "Will you ... be able to enjoy it?" Omega's insistence that it was not significant unnerved him a bit.
"Friend." Omega agreed. "Trustworthy. No reason to fear connection. Transfer, please, then help organize shared data. There is- nothing to enjoy."
Skyfire found himself wavering: he was prepared to offer his processors to this mech, but, Do I know you as well as I think I do? he thought, Why do you insist that you're a drone?
Omega must have misread his hesitation. He released Skyfire's hand, letting his clawed arm fall to his enormous lap, and shifting slightly away from Skyfire.
Skyfire closed the remaining distance to him, and reached up with both hands to the huge face. "I will never tell anyone what you share with me. Whatever secrets you have, are yours."
From too close, Omega trained his impressive blue optics on Skyfire. There are Minibots whose heads aren't as big as his eyes. The air around him hummed with tension, but Skyfire couldn't pinpoint why. He opened his own interface port, and dropped his right hand to it, to uncoil his cable and free his plug. He had to drop his left hand from Omega's face and rest it on the broad chest to steady himself, his port-side wing nearly flush with Omega's chestplates, flank to flank, to allow his cable to reach the Guardian's jack. He rested his forehead against his friend's shoulder, optics off. A processor cycle before he made the connection, he felt the claws rake his back gently: that had to be Omega's attempt at a comforting stroke.
His plug slipped into place. A long moment later - I wonder what causes the lag? - data flowed over the link, to him from Omega's main processor. Skyfire's consciousness was drawn into a confusion of binary code. Sensor data flowed, but was only partially perceived, processed, put to use. Memories drifted in loose packets. Actions taken and not, thoughts said and unsaid, cycled past erratically.
As if shouting into a maelstrom, Skyfire sought the mind of his friend, sending query after query. He was surprised that he found himself free to do so: nominally, plugging in made one peripheral, unable to drive access, only to be accessed by one's partner. Omega! he sent, and found himself able to independently navigate Omega's processors, identifying data storage, executable files, archives, the limits of Omega's CPU, flight manager, launch computer and auxiliary system. In none of them did his surface scans or first-level gentle probing turn up the path to Omega's spark, his mind. There's always a data link to the spark, he thought, within himself and in all their processors. I shouldn't have access like this, without him plugged into me.
Distantly, as if separated by a dream, he received Omega's rebuttal of that: Not him, it.
Like slag! Skyfire allowed himself curses only rarely, even inside his processor, but took that liberty with Omega. He was able to find the true source of that comment, following a trail now from his own mind to Omega's spark. You have spark! You're no drone. Let me show you...
Skyfire found it all, and organized it and found joy in doing it for his friend. Together, they discovered the past as Omega lived it, but had lost - been forced to misplace - after the encounter with the Robo-Smasher and Devastator. It was hidden here, within your own archives! Skyfire sent happily through their systems. Built as a drone Guardian Robot, Omega Supreme acquired a weak spark by virtue of experience. Primus noticed you, Skyfire offered, or you passed before Vector Sigma. After vorns only marginally self-aware on Cybertron, Omega started to think and to feel, rooted in that spark, nurturing it without effort or understanding.
Because you came to be sparked, you were able to make friends, to care, Skyfire explained gently. That's why it hurt so much when Hook and the others betrayed you. Because you are alive. You are sparked, you think without processors and you feel without sensors. They only allow you to interact with your surroundings. You are a he, Omega, not an it.
Skyfire himself was a loving individual, normally reserved, but capable of intense feeling. Over the months recovering his humor, talking to the taciturn Guardian, thinking about his solemnity and silences, he had built quite a fantasy around the grim warrior. Everything he could never be, he meant Starscream, and allowed Omega to know all he did about his former partner, you are: straight-forward, brave, reliable, devoted, stoic, and self-sacrificing. You would give your life in defense of the Autobots. You would give your entire existence if it meant the end of the war. In many ways, you are what I must become, to be a fighter but retain my self, he resolved, with a surge of identification and respect, care and hope.
They identified the source of the degradation of Omega’s personality, the virus planted by the Robo-Smasher as a fail-safe should its modifications be interrupted, as they were with him. It was chillingly subtle, and pervasive: finding the biggest self-doubt and exploiting it, evolving within its victim such that only an outsider could tell where it ended and the host entity began. Skyfire reversed all of its work that he could find, where it had reintegrated Omega Supreme’s origin as a drone, fragmented his joyful memories of living on Cybertron and denied the personal connections he had started to make on Earth.
Omega Supreme accepted all that Skyfire had to offer, grateful to recognize his own spark, his feelings that were not merely response to stimuli, thoughts that did not originate in a subroutine. Together, they reorganized his data banks, incorporating vocabulary new to him.
Skyfire realized he had done more for his friend than had been agreed in advance and made to withdraw before he wore out his welcome. Perhaps later-.
Surprising him, Omega mentally held him tightly, experimenting with concepts it - he - had never known before. Desire, that was not desperate but joyful, was new to him, as was Affection. Finally, "Love," he tried the unfamiliar word as he associated it with the emotion Skyfire stirred within them both, that incorporated all the other concepts Skyfire was introducing to his experience. It was both a request and a realization, a declaration. Even at low power, his vocalizer output registered in their plating as well as their audios. Skyfire shuddered against his side and Omega bent both arms to hug him, careful of his splayed wings.
No longer worried he might be taking advantage or driving Omega against his will, Skyfire gently guided the bigger mech's adjustments, and read in long-lost parts of Omega's memory what he could do for him. Omega's tastes were simple, and only vaguely established before he lost them for vorns due to the Robo-Smasher's meddling.
"Thank Primus it only partially had its way with you," Skyfire said aloud, in Omega's nearest audio. Skyfire sent carefully controlled current through their skins, disturbing their fields, stirring all their systems. His arms were long enough that he could easily reach around Omega's neck to allow him to touch panels that never even felt wind over them, causing tremors through the giant's frame.
Accepting the attention, the affection, and a newly-regained sense of self, Omega responded. He increased power to his field, and to Skyfire's, bringing them into sync. He bent to rest his forehead against Skyfire's, creating by that contact a focal point for the building energy between them. Electricity crackled over their plating, and all the animals in the area that could flee, fled, as if sensing a lightning storm. The air around the two huge beings snapped with static.
Without willing it so, the scientist at the core of Skyfire's being made note of Omega's impressive ability to control EM fields. It warrants focused study, flitted through their processors.
Omega laughed lightly at that. Single-minded as always, his own actions registered for Omega only in relation to Skyfire's responses. Delicate bodily movements were not in his repertoire, but for Skyfire, Omega Supreme tried. Able to read Skyfire's memories of past intimate encounters, he made an effort to touch deliberately lightly, with only a tiny percentage of his full strength. Leaning into the smaller mech, he embraced him. Without fingers, he still exerted pressure, creating a sense of being caressed by manipulating the electromagnetic signature of the tips of his claws in close proximity to Skyfire's back and wings.
"Field stimulation-," Skyfire started to comment, but shuddered and lost track of the thought before he could finish it, too far gone in what Omega did to make further astute observations for later.
Omega also found the resonant vibration that was Skyfire's favorite basic sensation, modulating the frequency of his vocalizer output until it added to the energy building between them.
Their lightning bolt did strike, crackling out from Omega's long-unrecognized spark through his frame to Skyfire and out into the earth under them. It made a sound like thunder, like his rocket igniting, like Skyfire burning for orbit. The side of Mount Hilary shook; a few rocks rolled down and bounced harmlessly off Omega's back unnoticed.
"We caused the planet to quake," Skyfire said appreciatively to Omega, before his own field flared out of him, expending energy he hadn't realized he'd pent-up in the months since his second revival. It drove a current back through Omega Supreme, temporarily interrupting the tenuous new connection of his spark to his processors. Plugged into the Guardian, Skyfire found enough energy to reestablish that link for him, and reinforce it, before falling off-line, stabilized by the unprecedentedly large arms holding him.
Back in full connection to his own spark, Omega Supreme tenderly disconnected Skyfire from his port, finding himself perfectly capable of driving the more articulate body's movements even after the connection was broken: he was capable of intensely strong field manipulation. Skyfire wants to understand that, too, he thought. Omega Supreme still knew he - it - was not built a mech like the other Autobots on Earth, but was grateful now for the differences. Skyfire loves the Omega Supreme, loves me, it thought, it felt, and knew, without storing data in memory files. Skyfire is joy.
The Omega Supreme still suspected it possessed merely an artificial intelligence, not sentience, thinking thoughts in a system of computers supported by mechanisms and electronics, and purely reacting to the environment. But when Skyfire on-lined his optics to look at it, spoke to it, and touched it affectionately, it began to believe it might truly be alive, that somehow it had come to be sparked.