Disclaimer: Not mine. Except for Clouddipper and if you really want to borrow her, I don't mind. She's clever enough to find her own way home once she wants to.

Disclaimer 1: This is fanfic. That means I do not own any of it. I just borrow it to play with for a little while and let people see the pathetic results if they really want to.

Disclaimer 2: I'm not making any money from it. It's just for fun.

Disclaimer 3: What isn't borrowed is all made up. None of this is real or most likely at all realistic. Please don't trust any of the information in here. Most likely you know more about whatever I'm writing about than I do.

Disclaimer 4: Attitudes, views and opinions expressed by the characters or in the story are not necessarily those of the author. Even when writing Science Fiction or Fantasy I do not tend to attempt to create perfect/better worlds in which everybody gets a happy end ... or whatever is best for them. Please accept that some characters will have a bad ending or be unhappy.

Disclaimer 5: I intend no insult to anyone. If I offend anyone I'm very sorry. Please understand that it was an accident as I tend to be very clumsy in these things.

Disclaimer 6: If my characters' conversations seem odd or they appear to be talking past each other the latter might occasionally be intentional, but most likely it is an accident and I'm not aware that they are. It's just my bad communication skills.

A/N: In answer to Wayward's female character writing challenge. I had Clouddipper flying around in my notes for another story I might write, so I decided to let her out and get some exercise.
This is a one-shot, no sequels or further chapters planned.

"What!" Clouddipper glared at the unfortunate secretary who ducked behind his computer console.

"You're assigned to wing three." he repeated. "Your new wingmates are Whisperwind and Iceflight."

"My wingmates are Starscream and Skywarp." Clouddipper growled. "Always have been, always will be."

"Starscream and Skywarp have been reassigned back to Cybertron." the secretary informed her. "They're flying with Thundercracker now."

"You're lying." Clouddipper hissed optics burning dark red with anger. "They wouldn't accept a reassignment, if it didn't include me. We've been together since the academy. We were trained to complement each other perfectly."

"You were thought dead at the time." the secretary reminded her. "And a chance like that might never have come again. They'll be among Megatron's personal troops."

Yes, this was the opportunity they'd been waiting for ever since they'd been assigned to this boring, out of the way moon base the Autobots never even bothered with. Especially Starscream had been extremely unhappy with their placement here. He had high ambitions and no fighting meant practically no chances at promotion. They'd been trained for battle, not boring patrol flights.

And then they'd finally gotten their longed for Autobot attack, even if it had been only by accident, and Clouddipper had been shot down. It had taken her several days to walk back to the base and get her wing and radio repaired.

She almost sighed out loud. What were the chances that another group of Autobot rebels ever accidentally attacked the wrong base again? There probably weren't many stupid enough to mistake this little station for the main Decepticon moon base.

"All in all thinking you were lost forever was probably lucky for them, if they really wouldn't have accepted, if they'd known they were leaving you behind." the secretary added. "You didn't expect them to ever accept a female into Megatron's elite, did you? I mean, you girls are programmed to raise children. You just don't have the same bite."

"No bite?" That was the final straw! "I'll show you no bite!"

Clouddipper reached out and caught the secretary by the neck. What a worthless little piece of scrap. Even a newly sparked seeker knew to duck fast enough to protect his neck from a simple swipe like that. She really hadn't expected to get anything better than his shoulder or wing.

She grinned. Oh well, maybe this would actually give her a chance to vent her frustration.

The secretary stared at her with fear obvious in his optics.

Clouddipper hauled him over the console not caring about the damage his flailing legs were doing to the rather delicate machine. She'd regret this once her new wing leader found out, but right now she needed something to hit.

"I'll tell you something you might have missed." she hissed right into the mech's right audio sensor. "Females might not be as strong as males, but we're more agile and enduring and for a seeker speed and agility are everything. I don't need to be able to lift a mech to shoot him from on high. All I need is firepower, good aim and the speed and agility to keep up with him."

That said she hauled the secretary over her head with both hands and threw him into the opposite wall just to make a point.

"Not, that I don't have the strength to lift a wimp like you."

Feeling better for the moment she stalked out in triumph, but the feeling didn't last long.

Her wingmates, her friends, were back on Cybertron and didn't even know she was alive. They even had Thundercracker for their wing leader now.

Even though Thundercracker had been only a few years above them at the academy he was already a legend among the Decepticon seekers, one of Megatron's best. It was an honour to fly with him.

Then again, Starscream probably wouldn't take the loss of his command position lightly. Thundercracker was in for a fight with him and Clouddipper suddenly remembered that her wingmates had flown with Thundercracker before. The story had caused some laughs during her first year at the academy.

Rumours about an impish little seeker called Starscream had been all over the academy within the first week. Thundercracker had been assigned to Starscream and Skywarp as their guide and allegedly got beaten up by Starscream for his first effort to introduce himself. By the end of the year Starscream had been firmly entrenched as the actual leader of that wing, or that's what the rumours had said. Clouddipper had only been added to the wing in her second year.

Whether the story was true or not, Starscream had never thought much of Thundercracker. She still was the preferred wingmate of her friends. All she had to do was find a way to get to Cybertron as well and let them know she was still alive.

"So you're Clouddipper, huh?" Iceflight sneered at her as she entered the quarters she now shared with her new wingmates. "You don't look like much."

Bastard! He'd been stationed here almost as long as she had. He knew her.

"Well, once we get her repainted ..." Whisperwind started.

"Forget it!" Clouddipper snapped. "I'm not wearing that colour."

The third wing had this disgusting tradition of wearing bright red paint. Autobot red Clouddipper called it. To be honest, in Clouddipper's opinion the colour of the Autobot symbol was less outrageously ugly, even though not by much.

"It's tradition!" Whisperwind complained.

"It's a way to demonstrate our belonging together and our pride in our wing." Iceflight coaxed.

"Well, I don't want to belong with you two red idiots and I'm definitely not proud of the assignment. I belong with Starscream and Skywarp and they never minded my being green." Clouddipper slammed her box of belongings on what she assumed was going to be her recharge bed and stomped out for some peace and quiet.

"Maybe we ought to give her some time to fully assimilate the change?" Iceflight suggested.

Whisperwind shrugged. He was probably the wrong person to ask. Psychology had never been his strong point.

"She'll change her mind once she gets to know us." Iceflight decided. "We simply should have been a little more welcoming."

Halfway up the northern defence tower was a window where Skywarp had liked to sit and look out into the night. Hardly anybody ever came here and Clouddipper had never understood what her friend liked about that boring spot, but now it seemed like the perfect place to sit and remember her friends. She'd probably spend a lot of time here from now on.

Time went by, but Clouddipper remained distant from her new wingmates. She had her goal and kept working towards it. Every time a position opened on Cybertron, she applied, but kept getting turned down.

Her spare time was mostly spent either training on her own or sulking in 'Skywarp's lookout' as she called that place by the window by now.

Thus she was usually the last to hear the gossip and news.

"Hey Clouddipper!" Iceflight called one evening as she returned to their quarters late as usual. "Did you apply for Air Commander?"

Whisperwind snickered. Of course she hadn't the slightest chance at a position like that, but it was a post on Cybertron and Clouddipper always applied for posts on Cybertron.

"Yes." she admitted secretly amused at their incredulous looks. "It looked like a good move to get the attention of the top brass."

"Well, you might like to know that it's gone then." Iceflight smirked. "Starscream got it."

Starscream! But would he ever learn that she had applied as well? Would he find out that she was still alive?

"Is he still flying with Skywarp?" she asked suddenly fearing that without her the wing might have broken up completely.

"Yep, with Skywarp and Thundercracker." Iceflight grinned. "Give it up, stupid. They've long forgotten all about you."

"Yeah and finally get your paint done." Whisperwind added.

"Never." Clouddipper declared. "I'm not staying."

But what if they were right? It had been an awfully long time and she'd never had a chance to contact either of her old friends while they'd been busy rising through the ranks and fighting real, big battles. What if they had forgotten her over all of that?

No, Starscream and Skywarp couldn't forget her any more than she could forget either of them. They were her wingmates! And now all she had to do was apply for a job under Starscream's command. He'd see her name and finally know that she was alive.

But soon after that Megatron chased after an Autobot spaceship and disappeared. And Starscream and Skywarp with him.

When Clouddipper finally got her transfer to Cybertron all it meant for her anymore was to get away from Iceflight and Whisperwind and a chance to say 'I told you so'. Despite the fact that she didn't have friends waiting for her on the planet anymore she had no wish to stay with the third wing.

Working under Shockwave's command turned out to be much more interesting than life on the moon base and Clouddipper finally gained the combat experience she'd always lacked. She got along all right with her new wingmates, though they never grew close and was doing reasonably well with her other colleagues and superiors as well. She soon gained a reputation of being excellent at adapting to new wingmates on short notice.

As time went by she even was recommended for a position as wing leader once or twice, but her reputation of being a bit of a loner kept her from getting the position. She never felt completely one with her wing and she openly admitted it to her commander.

"I was trained with Starscream and Skywarp." she explained. "We were meant to complement each other perfectly and we did. I've never felt that way with any other partners and until I do, I won't truly belong to any other wing."

Skydance sighed, shook his head at her and sent her back to her current wing one optic already focusing on the list of other candidates for the position.

Clouddipper didn't mind. She was content with her place. After all she was serving the Decepticon cause well and was allowed to be herself. What more could a seeker want?

A completely unexpected message from a tiny, out of the way, backwater planet called 'Earth' changed all that.

"Megatron lives!" Clawracer called out as he raced into the warriors' lounge one day.

Nobody paid him much attention at first, because Clawracer was known to be extremely excitable, and had never walked anywhere when he could run instead.

"He lives, lives, lives!" Clawracer also was never deterred by everybody's lack of attention and his yelling was getting annoying.

"All right, Clawracer," somebody finally called out. "What is it this time?"

"Megatron!" Clawracer announced happily.

"Megatron was destroyed ages ago." Darkwing, Clouddipper's current wing leader answered in a bored tone.

"No, he wasn't!" Clawracer yelled back. "His ship stranded on some weird primitive world and he and his crew were only just reactivated."

"Then they're coming back?" Clouddipper's fuel pump skipped a beat, then began hammering furiously as it usually only did in battle when she required enormous amounts of energy for her engines and lasers.

"No, they're setting up a base there." Clawracer reported. "To harvest that world's energy."

"Oh, what planet is it?" Darkwing asked.

"Some place called Earth." Clawracer answered. "Nobody's ever heard of it as far as I know."

"Are Starscream and Skywarp there?" Clouddipper demanded eagerly.

Clawracer shrugged. "I guess so. Megatron didn't send a crew list, I think."

"I have to get there." Clouddipper decided.

It wasn't easy, though. The troops already on Earth were among the very best the Decepticon army had and they weren't hiring. It seemed to take forever until there finally was a chance.

Finally Darkwing informed her that one of the Earth seekers wanted to return to Cybertron. He needed to be replaced before Megatron would allow him to leave, though.

"It's a wing leader position and in Megatron's elite." Darkwing warned her. "A lot of ambitious wing leaders will probably apply and you've never lead. Don't get your hopes up too high."

"I've been considered for a wing leader position, though." Clouddipper insisted. "And I almost got it. I'm in line for a promotion."

"The Earth troops are different, though. All of their leaders are experienced male officers, they won't want a green girl." Darkwing insisted.

"I'll repaint myself, if I have to." Clouddipper promised.

Starscream hated administrative work. That was the one drawback of command positions. You had to spend too much time in an office working on such dreary things as duty schedules, supply lists and job applications.

He really wanted to throw the whole stack of application disks out the window, but for two reasons it was impossible. The first was of rather obvious nature. The Earth base was set underwater and his window led right out into the ocean. Opening it would allow water to get in and Starscream didn't exactly like swimming.

Not that he was in any danger of drowning, or sustaining any other sort of water damage. He was even rust proof. However water was a much thicker medium than air and it slowed him down considerably. If there was one thing in the world Starscream truly hated, it was being slowed down.

The other reason was that Lightbeam was beginning to get on his nerves. The mech absolutely wanted to return home to Cybertron and he kept asking when his replacement would arrive every time he met Starscream, which was at least three times a day. The easiest way to get him to shut up was to finally tell him the date, which he needed to agree upon with the replacement's commanding officer, for which he needed to know who the replacement was going to be.

In other words Starscream needed to pick one of the applicants and that forced him to read the applications. No way around it.

The first disk looked rather promising, but why had he never heard of Highwind before they'd left Cybertron? Maybe the guy wasn't nearly as good as he claimed?

Melter definitely was out of the question. Whatever had given the old shuttle the idea to apply for a seeker's position?

Doeflight, Fardust, Lowglide, Clouddipper, Darkline, Mist...

Wait a minute! Clouddipper?

"Hey Screamer, how's it going?" Skywarp stuck his head through the door. "Are you done yet? There's a party up on ... Why're you looking so thunderstruck? Did I just miss Thundercracker?"

Without a word Starscream turned the monitor towards Skywarp.

Skywarp's optics narrowed at the sight of the picture of a green female seeker.

"Clouddipper? Oh, but I thought you were going to finally pick a replacement for Lightbeam and get it over with. This is a bad time for old pictures, Screamer."

"It's not." Starscream said uncharacteristically softly.

Now Skywarp got nervous. Was something seriously wrong with Starscream? Should he haul him off into repair bay?

"Not what?" he asked cautiously.

"Not old." Starscream said sounding a little more like himself.


"She's alive, Skywarp. She's alive and we left her. Just like ..." he broke off, but Skywarp could easily guess who he was thinking of.

"She was shot in our first battle. We saw her fall."

"But we never waited for confirmation of her death. Never considered she might simply be damaged." Starscream's wings quivered with nervous tension. If they'd been outside he'd probably already have transformed and blasted off into the sky. "Do you remember when we left the academy? We promised each other we'd always stay together."

"We didn't know she was alive." but Skywarp's voice held no conviction.

He too needed time to sort this out, but if he left Starscream with his guilt now, there was no telling what he might do. Starscream had a way of getting into the worst trouble imaginable whenever he was upset. For some reason he always seemed to consider killing Megatron to be the best possible solution to any problem.

"I'm going to get her back." Starscream announced suddenly and turned back to the computer. One distracted motion of his arm brushed all the unread files off his desk in the blink of an eye. "You go off to your party."

Skywarp didn't go to the party. He stepped behind Starscream and watched over his shoulder.

"Megatron won't like this." he commented.

"Screw Megatron."

"She's not qualified."

"Yes, she is. She's been recommended for a wing leader position before."

"But she's never held one. There have to be more experienced candidates in ... um ... there." Skywarp pointed at the files some of which had already been crushed under Starscream's feet.

"She's our friend, Skywarp. Our wingmate. Our ... our sister! Nobody can be more qualified than our sister. We have to get her back!"

"Sister?" Skywarp repeated incredulously. "Now you're getting overly dramatic. She's our friend, yes, and it'd be good to have her back, but ..."

"We promised." Starscream declared.

"Megatron will kill us."

"For that? Nah."

In a way Starscream had a point. Megatron hadn't killed him for several attempts at his life, so he was very unlikely to take such an extreme measure for a simple act of blatant favouritism.


"Starscream!" Megatron bellowed glancing up from his computer screen.

Thundercracker jumped in alarm and crashed into Skywarp, who had apparently anticipated Megatron's reaction.

"Any idea what that's about?" he whispered to his wingmate.

Skywarp nodded almost imperceptibly. "Nothing big." he mouthed.

Well, that was a relief.

Starscream took his time to saunter up to Megatron's throne.

"What?" he looked the picture of innocence and annoyance.

"Who the slag is Clouddipper?" Megatron demanded.

"The replacement for Lightbeam." Starscream said as if that should have been obvious.

"So it says in here." Megatron nodded at the computer screen.

"Oh, so you can read. Then what do you need me to tell you for?"

Thundercracker tensed waiting for the familiar crash of Megatron backhanding Starscream into the next wall.

"I need you to tell me why you think he's qualified when I've never even heard of him, much less seen him fly." Megatron seethed.

"Oh, she's qualified, trust me, I've seen her fly. She's excellent, right Skywarp?"

Megatron looked to Skywarp who nodded nervously.

"Wait a minute! She? You're hiring a female!"

Thundercracker cast a quick look towards the door. Was there any chance he could get over there and slip out unnoticed?

"What's wrong with that?" Starscream demanded.

"What's wrong with it?" Megatron roared. "She will be a distraction to all the males on the base!"

"She's quite capable of discouraging unwanted attention." Starcream insisted.

"Well, what if it isn't unwanted?" demanded Megatron.

"It is, trust me. I know her. We went to the academy together. She was our wingmate before Thundercracker." Starscream explained sounding almost pleading to Thundercracker.

Their wingmate before him? And she was coming here? He immediately knew that he was going to hate that Clouddipper girl. Starscream and Skywarp belonged to him. Nobody had the right to get between them. Especially not some little girl from out of nowhere.

"I thought your first wingmate died?" Megatron asked intrigued. He knew they'd been trained to form a perfect trio.

"So did we, but apparently we were wrong." Starscream confirmed. "She's been stationed on Cybertron all this time."

"Oh, very well then." Megatron allowed. "Lets have a look at that girl."

Starscream and Skywarp beamed.

Thundercracker frowned. This was not looking good. He couldn't allow that little upstart to take his place. He needed a plan.

Clouddipper almost couldn't believe this was really happening when she stepped out of the spacebridge and Starscream and Skywarp were there to greet her. At first they were all three talking a once, but by the time they arrived back at the base they had calmed down a little and started listening to each other, catching up and discussing Clouddipper's new position.

She was to be in charge of two complete strangers called Highfire and Nightglider from now on. She hadn't even thought about that before!

But before she had time to sort out her thoughts and deal with the situation she was introduced to Thundercracker. Skywarp was all excited about it claiming that the two of them would get along fabulously, but one look at the blue seeker sufficed to tell Clouddipper that was wishful thinking.

Thundercracker glared at her. She glared back.

"Well, that's all very nice and I'm happy to see my wingmates reunited with an old friend." Thundercracker finally said. "But I'm not sure she's what we need. Are you sure you're up to the job, Clouddipper?"

"Of course I'm sure." her smile was just a tiny bit insecure. She hoped the others didn't notice.

She didn't get to inspect her new quarters until late that evening, but she didn't mind that. She'd had a really nice day. If it hadn't been for Thundercracker constantly trudging along and shooting off his little disparaging remarks, it might even have been a perfect day.

Highfire and Nightglider were already expecting her and they didn't look any friendlier than Thundercracker.

Nightglider turned out to be the one in deep dark blue paint, a rather quiet type who probably always required some time to warm up to people. Clouddipper was confident that she'd get along with him in time.

Highfire was a different matter entirely. Clouddipper immediately decided that she disliked him when she saw his violently red and yellow paint. He clearly took the 'fire' in his name too seriously.

Highfire himself didn't seem to like her any better than she liked him.

"And you're supposed to be our new leader?" he sneered. "A weakly little girl like you? Ha!"

Clouddipper had taken just about as many disparaging remarks as she could bare today and she had command authority over this offender. In fact she needed to establish a certain respect. She lashed out expecting him to duck away and back out, but he only dove under her punch and threw himself at her.

Not good, she realised kicking out at him by reflex. He was a lot heavier than her and now he had her pinned to the floor. She had to roll out before he got a good grip. She probably couldn't win this one, but if she gave him a good fight ...

Nightglider attacked her before she could attempt to regain her feet. There was no chance that she could handle both of them.

What was even worse was that the noise was beginning to attract spectators. No doubt the story would be all over the base by tomorrow morning.

"What is going on here?" a sharp voice demanded and then Highfire's weight simply disappeared from on top of her.

A loud crash of metal on metal followed and before Clouddipper could reorient herself a strong hand grabbed her shoulder and pulled her up.

Megatron glared at the two surprised seekers dangling from his hands. Nightglider wasn't known for brawling, nor were females supposed to be overly aggressive. He turned towards the red and yellow mech he'd so carelessly thrown aside a moment ago.

Highfire didn't give any signs of getting up. Apparently his structure wasn't as resistant to impacts against walls as Starscream's. Normally that wouldn't bother Megatron, but his recharge had been disturbed and he wanted to know why.

His optics settled on the female again. She was supposed to be responsible for the other two, after all.

"Explain!" he demanded.

"Uh ... just trying to establish some authority." she attempted a shrug, but since he had grabbed her by the shoulder it wasn't successful.

"She attacked Highfire!" Nightglider accused.

"He was being insolent." she stated.

"He was? You ..."

Megatron dropped Nightglider. "Get Highfire into repair bay." he ordered without sparing him another glance. "And you," he set the female down on her feet. "Are coming with me."

Seekers! Megatron suppressed a sigh as he led the female to the next meeting room. They were one of his most important assets. Through them he controlled the skies. They were fast and agile with firepower and precision. A deadly weapon, especially if your opponents didn't have any, while you had enough to dispatch to several different locations at once.

But they were also a test of ones patience. They were unable to sit still for more than a few seconds and never ran out of energy for mischief. The ideas they came up with when they got bored! From throwing live grenades to each other in mid flight (something to do with explaining Baseball to Thundercracker), to dragging Rumble and Frenzy across the surface of the sea by their grappling hooks (called water skiing for unexplained reasons) or building a tower of energon cubes in the armoury and making bets on when it would collapse (Starscream had only shrugged when he'd asked about that one) ... or fighting in the corridors in the middle of the night.

He seriously hated seekers. ... Except, their constant squabbling and complaining and other antics kept him from getting bored.

He sealed the doors behind them locking out the spectators then turned around to regard her.

"So," he stated. "You're that female."

"Clouddipper, Sir. I arrived from Cybertron this morning."

"I do not like the idea of having a female on this planet." Megatron continued ignoring her. "Particularly a seeker. My soldiers are stuck in tight quarters most of the time and get distracted enough as it is. You are aware that seekers do not take well to being boxed in, I suppose. Do you realise what the sight of an attractive female will do to a bunch of frustrated mechs?"

"I'm not planning on dating anyone, Sir." Clouddipper stated. "I didn't back on Cybertron, so why should I start here?"

"They are already fighting because of you." Megatron hissed.

"Excuse me, Sir, but they were fighting with me, not over me. That would have happened to a mech as well."

"An incompetent mech." Megatron interrupted her. "You obviously don't know how to establish authority or keep discipline among your troops. You think they'll respect you for losing?"

"I didn't think Highfire would strike a superior." she admitted. "Or that Nightglider would join in."

"You think he'd let a female strike him?" Megatron snorted. "And of course Nightglider would assist his wingmate. They're a team."

That was another thing about seekers. They always came in threes. If you had only three, you got squabbling and occasional small fights between two of them. However the moment you had more than that you got group fights involving at least six, feuds, yelling, prank wars, backstabbing, energon cube fights ... incompetent wing leaders.

"It was a mistake." she admitted. "I'll know better next time."

"You have no command experience whatsoever." Megatron stated. "Whatever makes you think you're qualified for your post? What can you do?"

"I have worked with over twenty different wings." Clouddipper declared. "I'm a fast and agile flyer, very adaptable, experienced with all sorts of different types of missions and situations. I carry four long distance lasers and a special dart gun."

That caught Megatron's attention. "A dart gun? Darts?"

"They are special projectiles that break on impact." Clouddipper explained. "They are filled with different chemicals. Some of them explode, some are acidic, some burn and others freeze their target. With a little time to prepare and the right equipment, I can also create different ones especially for a particular mission and ..."

Megatron waved her off. "Leave that to Mixmaster."

He could well remember the last time he'd allowed a seeker to play in the chemical lab. Of course he'd always known Starscream wasn't save to keep around any lab, but he had not thought it was possible to create thirty meter tall monsters from little test tubes filled with allegedly harmless liquids.

"If you wish, Sir."

"Now get lost and don't bother me with your incompetence again!"

"Yes, Sir." There was something very satisfying about watching a cowed seeker slink out of ones office. Or some random meeting room for that matter.

The next weeks continued almost as badly as Clouddipper's first meeting with her wing had started out. Highfire was being deliberately difficult and Nightglider made it quite clear that he resented her as well, though he never went as far as to actually sabotage their missions.

Starscream and Skywarp always seemed to be busy elsewhere and she kept running into Thundercracker instead whenever she tried to visit them. The blue seeker seemed to get less friendly every time she met him. Still, she just couldn't give up. Her friends had to be in their quarters sometimes, right?

"You again." Thundercracker snarled in answer to another hopeful knock on their door. "Don't you have anything better to do?"

"I just want to see my friends." Clouddipper defended herself. "I'm off duty for the evening and I thought maybe they're too and we could go out."

"What for?" Thundercracker demanded. "Starscream and Skywarp are mine. Mine! Get that? The three of us have been a team for millions of years. There's no room for you here. Now leave us alone! Why don't you hang out with your own wingmates?"

"It's not the same with them." Clouddipper returned. "They're not my friends. They just work for me."

"Then maybe you're unfit to lead them." Thundercracker snapped and slammed the door shut in her face.

Clouddipper frowned. Oh, how she hated Thundercracker! She just couldn't believe that Skywarp had thought they'd like each other!

Could he be right? Had she really lost every right to her old friends when they'd become his wingmates? Was she intruding and causing friction among the group that would lessen their performance in battle? Should she try to avoid Starscream and Skywarp for the common good?

But she couldn't give up. After all that time and after already thinking them lost she was finally stationed at the same base as her friends again. Her persistence had been rewarded once and it would again. Sooner or later she would catch Starscream or Skywarp at home.

And if she couldn't be friends with them, what was she doing on this planet where she didn't have anybody else? Then she could just as well have staid with the third wing and painted herself red. It might even have been less lonely than she was now. She definitely had been less lonely during her time on Cybertron. At least there the other seekers had treated her as one of their own.

"The boss wants to see you." Nightglider informed her the moment she opened the door to their quarters.

"Starscream?" she asked unable to keep her hopes from rising.

"Megatron." Nightglider stated.

"Megatron? Why?" She'd barely seen him since that first night and he'd never spoken to her when she had.

Nightglider shrugged. "Definitely nothing good ... judging from the way he looked when he said it."

That pause indicated that he knew more than he was letting on, but Clouddipper knew better than to push it. It was a step forward in their relationship that he'd given an opinion at all. A first hint that he was beginning to see her as part of the wing at all.

"Never mind. I'll just go and find out." It couldn't be too bad, could it? In the few weeks she'd spent here Megatron had occasionally hit someone, but never caused them permanent damage.

To her surprise Soundwave told her that Megatron had returned to his private quarters after giving Nightglider his order. Why ever would he want her there?

She knocked on the door hesitantly. As far as she knew only Soundwave and maybe Starscream came here for casual visits. Everybody else seemed to give that corridor a respectful berth when walking by.

To her surprise it was Ravage who answered the door.

"Er ... Lord Megatron asked to see me?" she told Soundwave's creepy cat.

Ravage gave her a slightly exasperated look and growled.

The cat was incapable of forming words, but most of the people who dealt with him on a regular basis seemed to be able to roughly interpret his sounds and gestures even though his full intelligence only became obvious when Soundwave translated his mindspeak.

Clouddipper however had never had any direct contact with him before. To her growl and look could mean anything from 'Get lost you idiot.' to 'Come on in and have some energon.'.

"Yes, let her in." Megatron's voice came from somewhere inside.

Oh, so the growl hadn't been directed towards her at all! It was a question to Megatron!

Ravage turned around leaving the door open for her and Clouddipper followed him into Megatron's quarters ... and tensed.

The room was much smaller than she'd expected, less than a third of the one she shared with her wingmates. Too small! There was no room, no air above her. She was caught!

Of course Megatron didn't share the seekers' aversion to crowded spaces, but didn't the lack of space bother him at all?

He was sitting in front of a computer screen right next to the door, but Clouddipper couldn't see what he was actually doing. It probably wasn't any of her business anyway. She just stopped and stared at him stupidly while the door slid closed behind her.

Ravage gave her another look, then jumped onto the console beside Megatron where he stretched out comfortably.

"So, you finally decided to answer my summons after all." Megatron stated glaring at her angrily.

"I'm sorry." Clouddipper stuttered taken aback. "I wasn't in when Nightglider came home and he had no way to find me. And then I went to the command room as soon as I heard expecting to find you there."

Megatron waved his arm at her impatiently. "Not that. Why did you choose to ignore Thundercracker's message?"

"Thundercracker?" Clouddipper asked confused. She'd not expected Megatron to even care about that. "But why? What's so wrong about me visiting Starscream and Skywarp in our spare time? I only wanted to talk."

"Visiting Starscream and Skywarp?" Megatron repeated. "What do they have to do with my order to see me?"

Clouddipper blinked. "You told Thundercracker to send me to you? But I just saw him and all he said was to stay away from Skywarp and Starscream."

Megatron opened his mouth to speak, but apparently changed his mind and closed it again. "Seeker squabbling!" he hissed sounding slightly exasperated, but no longer as angry as before. "I see."

He leaned back in his chair relaxing slightly. "Very well, forget that part. Do you know why I summoned you?"

There were about a thousand different reasons Clouddipper could think of, but none seemed quite likely. Most could have been easily handled by Starscream without bothering the leader himself.

She cast a look around the room and then towards Ravage hoping for some sort of inspiration.

Ravage wasn't even looking at her at all, though. He gave Megatron's hand a demanding push and Megatron absentmindedly patted his head in return. Was Ravage a sort of pet to him? She'd always thought he belonged to Soundwave.

"No Sir." she admitted.

Megatron glared at her again and Ravage shook his head about her answer.

"Highfire complained about you." Megatron stated. "Didn't he inform you of that?"

"No Sir." Clouddipper repeated. "He didn't. And shouldn't something like that be handled by Starscream, Sir?"

Megatron nodded while scratching behind Ravage's left ear. "It should, but apparently Starscream has been ignoring Highfire's complaint for a while now. He does that sometimes."

"He ignores Highfire?" Clouddipper felt stupid again.

"He ignores complaints." Megatron explained. "He gets a lot of them and most are spur of the moment peeves that solve themselves. Highfire's problem with you appears to be more serious, though."

Clouddipper sighed. "Yes, Sir. We ... we started out on the wrong foot, but I think I'm beginning to regain some ground with Nightglider. I expect that Highfire will need some time to calm down."

"There's more to his complaint than just dislike." Megatron insisted. "On your last mission you ignored his warning and almost got the entire wing slaughtered by the Arialbots."

"A mistake, yes, Sir." Clouddipper agreed. "I was unaware of the Arialbot's existence until then. Back on Cybertron there were only few flight capable Autobots and none of them were serious adversaries in an air battle. When Highfire refused my order to attack he only made a vague statement about leaving us open to attack from the air. I didn't see any danger of such attack and mistook it for insubordination."

"You then went in on your own leaving your wing behind." Megatron continued. "You were lucky they covered your retreat when the Arialbots really did attack."

"I expected them to obey my order and follow me when I took off and the fact that they didn't abandon me gives me hope that we can work together, after all." Clouddipper argued.

"Can work together when?" Megatron thundered suddenly. "This is not a training unit, Clouddipper. It's a war. I don't have time to wait for you to learn how to lead a wing. I need every one of my troops at peak performance. If you can't guarantee your wing's functioning in a minor raid, how can I rely on it in an operation involving the entire fleet? I'm working on the plans for a mayor attack on the Autobot's home base right now." he nodded towards his computer. "A single mistake in its execution could get all of us killed. I cannot afford to have you bumbling around the way you have been any longer. Nor can I afford to leave an entire wing behind on the mission, but if you can't guarantee flawless performance by all three of you, then you'd better get me someone who can."

Clouddipper flinched away at the sudden shouting. A small part of her mind wondered at how Ravage only flicked his ears in slight annoyance, then continued to purr contentedly.

Guarantee Highfire's performance? How could she? She might risk making a promise about Nightglider. He'd probably understand the need for his obedience, if she explained the importance of the mission, but Highfire might just see it as the perfect chance to humiliate her even more.

And why was she even trying to hold on to this job so desperately? Megatron scared the wits out of her, Skywarp and Starscream didn't even care, Nightglider and Highfire were the worst wingmates she'd ever had, Thundercracker and the rest hated her and the look Ravage exchanged with Megatron probably meant they were laughing at her behind her back.

Give him somebody who had experience as a wing leader? She knew several. Darkwing for example had always been kind to her and he was very good at keeping discipline, even with hard cases like Highfire. Maybe he'd like a chance with the Earth troops?

She nodded at Megatron. "Please allow me some time to pack and arrange the exchange, Sir."

Ravage's head shot up at that and Megatron just stared at her for a moment.

"I didn't say you were fired." he stated finally.

"No, but you're not happy with me here and I was happier on Cybertron." she explained. "I absolutely wanted an Earth assignment and applied for the job without even considering whether it wasn't a bit over my head. I think it's best, if I return to what I know I do well."

"You are leaving your team to go into a big mission lead by a stranger." Megatron pointed out.

"A good stranger, if I can get the one I'm thinking of." Clouddipper returned and suddenly Megatron didn't seem all that scary anymore. "And I am still a stranger to them myself and might have always remained so. I don't get close to people easily and I don't fit into that team."

Megatron nodded. "Go then and maybe I will have a more suitable place for you someday."

She nodded. "Thank you, Sir, but I think my place is back on Cybertron with my friends."

Clouddipper reported in to Skydance a little over a cycle later. Darkwing had been unwilling to leave his wing, but he'd passed Clouddipper's offer on to one of his friends of who'd applied for the job in the first place. He had agreed right away and was already on his way to Earth.

Skydance welcomed her back kindly and Clouddipper felt so happy to see him again that she even considered hugging him in return, but it might have shocked him too much. After all she'd always acted very reserved around him until now.

"Now, about your placement." he drew her out of her thoughts.

What wing would she serve with this time? She had a few preferences, of course, but she did know them all, some better than others. She knew she'd be okay, no matter which one he picked.

"I suppose my place in Darkwing's wing's already taken?"

"It is." Skydance confirmed. "But I do have an open wing commander position now." He hinted smiling.

Clouddipper's happiness melted away. Did he consider her a leader now? Would all his offers from now on be like that?

"I can't lead, Skydance." she shook her head hoping to make him understand. "That's why I came back."


"Megatron's report says that you left, because of a personality clash with one of your wingmates." Skydance informed her. "He specifically added that the mech is notoriously difficult. I'm talking about leading a wing you've worked with before. There won't be any clashes there."

When Clouddipper had wanted to inform Starscream of her depart, she'd been told that he was off on a mission and there hadn't been time to wait for his return. Megatron had been kind enough to do the paperwork in his place, but Clouddipper had had no idea that he'd been this kind. After all the things he'd had to say about her performance, he'd actually made it appear like she wasn't even at fault for her failure.

"Highfire was the main problem." she told Skydance. "But a real leader would probably have been able to deal with him. I'd rather go back to just worrying about myself. I'm a flyer, Skydance, not a leader."

"Your replacement in Darkwing's wing is only a temporary assignment." Skydance offered looking just a little disappointed. "And Silverdove's down for repairs. You could take her place for a while."

Clouddipper beamed. "That'd be perfect."

A loud bang on his door startled Megatron out of his recharge, then there was a somewhat familiar hissing sound and his door slid half open.

Starscream burst in with smoking wings.

Oh right, null rays could be used to deactivate door closing mechanisms and Starscream did hate waiting for people to open doors. The rather sheepish and apologetic look with which Skywarp was peering through the mistreated door confirmed that story well enough for Megatron.

Skywarp too was showing traces of laser fire. This could be serious, if they hadn't even had time for the most necessary repairs.

"What happened?" Megatron demanded alarmed.

"What happened?" echoed Starscream.

Oh dear, he was in one of those moods!

"What happened?" the seeker threw his hands into the air and started pacing through Megatron's quarters. It was slightly amusing to see how casually he kicked at Megatron's furniture while Skywarp was apparently too shy, to even enter the room.

"Clouddipper!" Starscream railed. "You fired her! It was my place to decide. Highfire's a hothead. He'd have calmed down. He ..."

"I did not fire her." Megatron stated calmly. Sometimes staying calm and rational could quiet Starscream down. If Megatron could keep his temper in check, that was.

"Then why did she leave?" Starscream demanded stopping right in front of Megatron hands on his hips.

"She quit." Megatron stated.

"Why would she?" Starscream screeched. "She only just got here!"

"Apparently Highfire was making her job too uncomfortable for her." Megatron declared. "And you might want to have a word with Thundercracker as well. It appears he thought it funny to withhold information, maybe even misinform her."

"Thundercracker?" Skywarp gasped from outside then ducked when Megatron glanced his way.

"Will you just come in and close that door?" Megatron snarled at him.

Skywarp stepped inside and stopped again. "It's still dead."

"Just push it closed then, before Starscream wakes up the entire base."

"You could have convinced her to stay. Or at least told her to wait for my return. She's my friend and I hardly got to see her at all." Starscream pouted. "But you wanted her to leave. It's because you don't like females, isn't it? You wanted her to leave!"

"No and yes." Megatron decided to be honest about it. In a very weird way Starscream was one of his closest friends after all. "I did want her gone, but not because she's female. You were right in that respect. There never was a problem with her gender and if you want, you have my permission to hire another femme as long as you're sure she isn't a flirtatious troublemaker. The problem was her lack of experience."

"She's as experienced as I am!" Starscream yelled.

"Not as a wing leader." Megatron insisted. "She has no leadership experience at all. I could just as well have promoted Nightglider to wing leader and maybe even have gotten better results. I need experienced leaders, Starscream. I don't have the time or resources to train them myself."

"She's an excellent flyer. Better than Thundercracker at least."

"And if I'd had an opening for a simple flyer, I'd have had a use her." Megatron stated. "But I don't and she won't be fit as wing leader until she gains a few years of experience. It was the best for her to return to Cybertron to get that. ... And she kept calling me Sir and Lord all the time anyway."

"Well did you ever tell her not to?" Starscream asked almost reasonably.

Megatron decided not to acknowledge that. "Shockwave trains new leaders all the time. He'll know what to do with her and you can get her back once she's ready for the job, or maybe pick her up once we're rid of the Autobots and return to Cybertron. And now get out and let me sleep."

To his surprise Starscream did walk out quietly and even closed the door which was slowly beginning to show signs of electric activity again. Megatron wondered whether the two seekers guessed that Clouddipper had shown no interest in returning to them in the future. Whatever Thundercracker had done to break up their friendship seemed to have worked surprisingly well. He hadn't thought Thundercracker was clever enough for that.

Megatron decided that he had to keep a better eye on those seeker squabbles from now on. This time they'd only cost him a possibly talented flyer, but next time he might not be so lucky.

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