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Nothing Set in Stone (part 1)

A/N: Grumpy bike is grumpy.

Just the start of something I've been batting about for a few months. I posted a few scraps a while ago, this is the proper start. Not sure I'm going to bother posting it to AO3 / ff.net, though.

Set some time after "Future Tense", although I'm not sure precisely when. (In my later notes, Seem is behaving remarkably civilly towards Skywarp so I'm thinking it's probably after "Remember Me", even.)

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Argh. Fragging… Skywarp! Useless, underclocked… slag-sucking… glitch!

…Pulsar’s orn wasn’t going well.

She wasn’t even supposed to be here, in this dusty, over-hot, Primus-forsaken sandpit.

Secondly, she was getting flashbacks of Egypt – and Siphon, that half-smelted bunch of purge-pipes.

Thirdly, whirling windblown orange sand had blasted off half her topcoat gloss, and she really didn’t have the time to waste on going to the paint shop again.

And now, she was frustrated and furious, into the bargain – dragged out here to the aft-end of fragging nowhere, forced to slog her own way back to the space bridge, through miles and miles and fragging miles of sand, and all under false pretences!

Skywarp. Ugh.

Why hadn’t she just punched him somewhere delicate, and gone home?

Oh yeah; she had.

Or at least had attempted it. He was just too tall for her to be able to reach anything interesting, and the spacebridge too far away. At least stomping her way back to the bridge site, hands fisted at her sides and features set in the blackest of scowls, was helping her channel a little of her frustration into something other than fantasising about an all-out bodily assault of someone much bigger than she was.

Then her feet sank in the soft sand at the bottom of the wadi, and for what felt like the quadrillionth time, momentum toppled her face-first into a dune.

Ugh.

“This. Is. Ridiculous,” she told the sand, without even lifting her face from it. For a few seconds, she just lay there, lacking the energy or desire to bother getting up, idly wondering how long it’d take for the shifting dunes to cover her completely.

“Some days, you make me wonder at my sanity, Skywarp. What the slag do I even see in you, anyway.”

But she’d never found a good answer to that question, and her psyche refused to come up with the goods now, either.

Finally, she extracted herself from the heap, vibrated her plating to get as much of the hated dust off as possible, and resumed the long trudge home. All this walking was fragging her off, too. Using her vehicular mode should have been quicker, but her gravity emitters had sucked up so much loose material, it had scoured the lenses. Her frequent nosedives were increasingly spectacular.

“…and I hate this pitfragged sand! How did you ever persuade me to come here? Next time, I’m not even going to fall for it.”

Except she knew she would, because she usually did. She kicked out at a rock and sent it clattering against the canyon walls; it swiftly vanished in the haze, and the wind stole even the echoes of its bounces.

“This planet is horrible, anyway. I wouldn’t come here to live even if you paid me, Starscream.”

As the civil war and its warmongers faded deeper into the planet’s past, and lost and abandoned machines began to find their way home, a new truth started to become apparent on Cybertron.

They were running out of habitable space.

However hard Cybertron’s residents worked to make their world safe again, people were returning faster than they could provide space for them. With huge tracts of their small planet remaining uninhabitable – the land unstable, toxic, riddled with unexploded munitions – temporary measures had to be taken, in the form of colonies.

Always up for the scientific challenge (and the kudos that came with success), Starscream had found some likely candidate worlds – cool, dry, rocky worlds, plenty of ore, plenty of sunlight, easily reachable by spacebridge and some not even too far for the flight-capable to reach under their own power, to boot.

Each of the likely candidates needed to be physically checked as well, though. Starscream had hand-picked a small team to help out, including both his trinemates. Thundercracker, appreciating the change of pace, had happily gone to join the geologist surveying for ore samples on the coast.

Skywarp was busy shirking his jobs with all the enthusiasm he could muster.

Not that she blamed him, all that much. This world was turning out to be a poor choice – not particularly comfortable, with a small ecosystem of indigenous wildlife, a biting wind and sand, Primus the sand. Not to mention, the highly ferromagnetic rocks interfered with communications.

The infuriated bike snarling her way home wasn’t on Starscream’s specially hand-picked exploratory team. She wasn’t supposed to be here at all! She wasn’t strong, she couldn’t fly, she had no specialised sensors. She was a marksbot, generally unimaginative and boring, not some, some… intrepid explorer. She knew the scarlet jet would be torqued about it for orns, if he found out she’d come along.

Ugh. Skywarp.

When he’d appeared through the spacebridge, Pulsar at first assumed something had gone wrong. Then the mech had turned on the charm, and persuaded her it was a good idea to join him. (Well, if you defined ‘charmed’ as ‘come on, it’ll be fun, we can sneak off and get some nookie in when Screamer’s not watching.’ Huh. They really were the bunch of uncultured yobs Starscream insisted, weren’t they?)

She was such a gullible idiot. Dragging her off to Primus-only-knew-where under false pretences and then expecting her to help out with the list of slag he was trying to get out of doing when she had her own work to be doing back home, and-… argh!

She clenched her hands into fists and booted another boulder, telling herself she was angry, not embarrassed. She hadn’t really only gone along with it because he’d promised a good fragging, and she wasn’t even slightly annoyed she wasn’t going to get it. That was a ridiculous idea. She wasn’t that shallow.

She vented hot, dusty air and wiped her face with one hand. Yes she was that shallow. And she was angry that she was now stumbling through a sandstorm for no fragging reason.

Pitfragged glitch. Never agreeing to help you again.

She felt a little nonverbal questioning ping bounce off her firewalls, distorted by magnetic interference. –??– No words, no concern, no how are you or are you all right? Just a couple of question marks.

Pulsar ignored it. Useless fragger.

At least it felt like the wind was finally dropping. Her visual range had definitely begun to increase. Perhaps the dust would soon settle as well, and she could cough some of the dune out of her vents.

She rounded a small, scrubby bush, and promptly tripped over the remains of a wall.

A wall. Not some weather-worn cliff, or a yardang, or any other wind-scoured rock, an actual genuine honest-to-Primus wall. She could still make out the individual blocks. They stretched out into the distance, lots of small boxes, until they vanished under the haze.

For several seconds, she froze, alarmed, all her defence protocols spontaneously coming online. The planet was already inhabited? Frag. Why hadn’t anyone told her?

But nothing moved in the dwindling dust. Maybe she hadn’t been seen, yet? Or maybe-… She glanced around herself, cautiously optimistic, and looked a little closer at her discovery. She wasn’t entirely sure how to judge the age of buildings built by biological organisms, but these crumbling, weather-worn structures couldn’t be very recent. The blocks had begun to tumble apart, roofs had collapsed, plants grew in the spaces that had once outlined rooms. Sand built in dunes against the walls.

She inched her way into a street choked with more small thornbushes, automatically drawing her sidearm. Perhaps – hopefully – whoever had built these structures had abandoned them. But the idea the planet wasn’t quite as uninhabited at Starscream had thought made her twitchy, and it probably didn’t matter whether the builders were still here or not – if they were here, it was bad, and if they weren’t, well. What could have made them abandon an entire city?

Maybe it had only been the sand. Hopefully it had only been the sand.

She hesitated with her back against a wall and had another good look around herself, anyway. Still nothing.

…now how in Pit was she meant to tell Screamer about this, without him giving her a hard time in the process? She covered her face with her hand and made a little frustrated noise. Perhaps she should try and convince him this was Skywarp’s discovery, or something.

She pinged Skywarp -found something. got a second?- but got no reply. Typical. Now she actually wanted to talk to him, she couldn’t.

Ugh. Skywarp!

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If I get anywhere further with writing this, it does progress beyond a certain femme griping about her partner...

Edit: Edited the unfinished junk masterpost to add a couple of new titles, as I started bouncing "Keeping It" around a few days ago. We'll see if that goes anywhere.

This entry was originally posted at http://keaalu.dreamwidth.org/32778.html.

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