One Of My Kind
If Dreadmoon had one admirable quality, Skyfire would be persuaded to say it was his ability to focus. Anything he did, he did one hundred percent, or at least tried to.
“You picked your own assignment. I merely arranged the schedule to give you maximum daylight.”
Unfortunately, this meant he was also capable of being quite frustrating when he put his mind to it.
Skyfire looked down at Dreadmoon, with some annoyance crossing his ordinarily placid features. On the outside the monitor seemed like the perfect assistant; quiet, intelligent, and deferential. The scientist was quickly coming to learn he also had a wide streak of contrariness. “You gave Starscream and I opposing schedules!”
“You work in opposing hemispheres,” said Dreadmoon reasonably. “Unless you’d rather work in the dark?” Skyfire scowled, and Dreadmoon, realising he’d crossed the line, switched from haughty to contrite: “Though I can probably rearrange his schedule to fit yours.” It had been two months since Skyfire’s arrival, and the two tended to avoid one another. When they did have to deal with each other, they tried to be polite, mostly because Starscream didn’t want them to fight.
Dreadmoon looked up at him. “You do realise he’s loving every minute of this, don’t you?”
“He enjoys being the centre of attention,” Skyfire agreed. Starscream was taking a kind of perverse pleasure from their unenviable position: They both loved him, and he in turn loved both of them. But, in the end, he couldn’t choose between them, and accepted them both as his bondmates. Which was all well and good, except he didn’t ask if they agreed to bind to each other.
They didn’t, but Starscream, in his usual impulsive way, went ahead and did it… leaving Dreadmoon and Skyfire with a partial bond and the task of sorting themselves out, one way or another…
It was at that moment that the object of their rivalry walked into Dreadmoon’s office, tapping at a compad. “Memory’s satellites have detected a planet in the Corridor. Go check it out.”
The monitor cocked his head to the side in an expression of mild confusion. “Both of us, Starscream? Wouldn’t another scientist be better suited to…”
“You’ve got a spacecraft-mode,” said Starscream. “Just keep Skyfire out of trouble.”
Skyfire snorted at that, but took the compad and left to find Memory. Dreadmoon folded his arms across his chest and frowned at Starscream. “This isn’t my function. You’re doing this on purpose.”
“I am indeed. Like you’ve never rearranged the schedule for your own benefit,” teased Starscream. “Now I’m rearranging the schedule for your benefit. Besides, I know you want an excuse to get out of the station, but can’t stand the rain.”
“Honestly, sometimes I wonder why I put up with you…”
Starscream caught Dreadmoon’s chin in his hand and grinned up at him. “You know why.”
“You are absolutely insufferable at times,” Dreadmoon told him, but smiled and settled his hands on Starscream’s shoulders.
The Seeker broke away anyway. “Then you’ll find Skyfire a refreshing contrast, hmm?”
“Astral cartography is Vapourtrail’s job,” said Dreadmoon, cruising lazily through the vacuum. “Starscream really should have sent her with you.”
Were it possible in either form, Skyfire would have rolled his eyes. “I think we both know why we’re out here.”
Dreadmoon radiated innocence. “So you can teach me how to do astral cartography?”
They managed to hold back their laughter for a little over five seconds. Skyfire recovered his voice first: “He’s trying to set us up and you know it. Starscream the matchmaker!”
“Of course I know it. He already did it, didn’t he?” finished Dreadmoon. “Strange. I don’t think I’ve heard you laugh before. I like it.”
Skyfire sighed. “Why are we fighting the bond?”
“We’re not suited to each other,” said Dreadmoon. “Besides, I don’t know you… well, except through Starscream, really.”
“And he’s biased,” Skyfire agreed, but noted Dreadmoon’s contradiction and filed it away for later examination. He wasn’t pleased with their situation either, but he knew there was nothing to be done about it, and had more-or-less resigned himself to the fact that he had gained a bondmate. And because he was stuck with him, Skyfire was determined to find something to like about the blue Decepticon.
Not that Dreadmoon made it easy. It helped slightly to know that the monitor was being a pain on purpose; it meant that he wasn’t aggravating by nature, and it left the chance open that Dreadmoon would tire of playing ‘I Am Decepticon, Dark and Superior’ and go back to being his usual, thoughtful self. It also helped to know his motives - the same as Skyfire’s, at least at first. Skyfire had done the cold-shoulder routine for a few weeks before deciding it was both futile and petty. Not that he had quite made up his mind yet on Dreadmoon. He needed to deal with the Decepticon himself, rather than his attitude.
Still, if Starscream - who was rarely objective about anything - was to be believed, Dreadmoon was an absolutely wonderful being. Skyfire let his senses flick over to the shuttle, the equivalent of peering out of the corner of his eye. To be fair, Starscream probably thinks the same of me, and Dreadmoon isn’t believing it, either, he added. He knew Dreadmoon had good qualities… Skyfire just wished he’d show them around him once in a while.
The small world had air but no sun, which meant the atmosphere and the heat that kept the atmosphere from freezing to the surface were artificially produced. This was nothing new to Dreadmoon and Skyfire. “I want to know why we never detected this planet before. We’ve been on the Stormworld for two years now,” said Dreadmoon, landing in his robot-mode.
“Radiation, perhaps, or this planet’s orbit takes it out of the Corridor, like the Stormworld’s does,” suggested Skyfire.
The planet was kin to Cybertron, all blue metal. However, unlike the Transformers’ world, it was in excellent repair. There was only one building on the otherwise flat landscape - it looked to be Cybertronian design, but was huge even by their standards. Above the massive doors was an inscription: Knowledge For Knowledge’s Sake. “A laboratory, perhaps?” ventured Skyfire.
Dreadmoon looked up at the inscription with a frown. “The words are in Cybertronian. If this is a Transformer-controlled planet, I’ve never heard of it. It could be a lost colony, but they’re obviously well-off enough that they should have been able to contact Cybertron at some point… unless Corridor radiation prevents that.” He paused, then, “Of course, if this place was established by neutrals or Autobots, they would have no reason to alert my people to their presence.”
“I’ll tell them you’re with me,” said Skyfire absently, inspecting the building. “There are no controls for this door. Why would they put up an inscription if it only opens from the ins…” He stopped then, because when he touched the door, it silently opened. He looked back at Dreadmoon. “Do we see if anyone’s home?”
“I don’t sense any living energy signatures - only the building,” Dreadmoon said. Then, with a bit more reluctance, “I suppose we should go in. There’s nothing more to do out here that I can see.”
Skyfire made to follow him in, then paused and pulled him back. “Put the rifle away, first.”
The monitor looked at the weapon, then put it back in his subspace storage pocket. “It’s just as well. I haven’t used it in ages, and it’s likely in terrible repair.”
“No guns. For goodness sakes, you’re determined to make a bad impression…”
“A bit of caution never hurt anyone except the person who planned to attack you,” replied Dreadmoon, who quickly ducked past the scientist and into the doorway. A moment later, he relaxed slightly as he recognised what type of building he was standing in. “This is a library. That’s convenient.”
A library to a Transformer meant something slightly different than it did to a human. The idea was the same, but there were no books - the information was stored in a great computer. There were shelves with datapads on them, but these simply tied into the computer’s memory-bank. The records were public access, rather than the full archives of the planet. While there were other public-access terminals in other places, a library was still a refuge of quiet, with no line-ups for the workstations. Not everyone had a base they could tap into the archives with, and private dwellings were a choice rather than necessity.
Skyfire smiled and immediately went to one of the shelves. “It’s been so long since I’ve been in a proper library. This is wonderful.”
“You have full access to Cybertron’s archives through the Stormworld base,” said Dreadmoon, with a faint echo of distaste. Starscream gave a reasonably high security clearance to Skyfire, a move that Dreadmoon still had problems with. He knew full well that Skyfire was trustworthy, but he was still a neutral, a former Autobot, and all of Dreadmoon’s training clamoured that Starscream had made a terrible mistake.
“It’s not the same thing,” Skyfire countered, choosing to ignore the monitor’s tone. “There’s the whole… ambiance. Stormworld is also geared towards science and learning, but it’s more… crowded. Crowded and directed. In a library, you’re there because you want to be, not always because you have a specific goal. I’ve wasted whole weeks in the library at the Science Academy…” He sighed wistfully, then, “Is it still there? Fourth Sector, Tetracon City…”
The Decepticon shook his head. “The Science Academy has moved four times since you were there. Currently it’s in the Seventh Sector.” Dreadmoon stopped and glanced back. “You could have looked that up yourself.”
“I know. Every time I try to sit down to check the old records, to find out what happened to the people and places I knew, I… can’t,” admitted Skyfire quietly. “It’s been so long and the time between so violent… It’s too likely that everyone I used to know have been destroyed. But if I don’t check the records, I at least have the uncertainty, and they could still be alive. I know I’m deluding myself, but…”
“When we return to base, would you like me to check the…”
“I am the Librarian. Do you require assistance?”
The tenuous camaraderie vanished as both Cybertronians turned to face the newcomer. It was a Transformer; apparently non-faction, as no emblem interrupted the bronze and gold of the Librarian’s carapace. The eyes were of a strange shade of yellow; one that to Dreadmoon’s annoyance unnerved him. The Librarian’s transform seemed to be some sort of flight-craft.
Skyfire suddenly felt startled, though he didn’t know why. He looked down at Dreadmoon and found the monitor was frowning again, though Skyfire wasn’t sure at what. He had also charged his weapons, but made no hostile move, so Skyfire let it pass. “We detected your planet,” he said. “We only wish to look around, if you’ll permit us.”
“Of course,” she nodded, then walked back the way she came.
Once he decided the Librarian was out of earshot, Dreadmoon murmured, “I don’t trust her.”
Biting back a noise of exasperation, Skyfire asked, “Why not?”
Dreadmoon glared at him, but his expression settled back to pensive. “There’s something… not right about her. This building, the whole planet… It all seems so wrong.”
“Keep watch, then, if it makes you feel better. I intend to explore,” said Skyfire.
“I can see why Starscream thinks you need a keeper,” grumbled Dreadmoon, too quietly for the other to hear, and responded to Skyfire’s questioning look with a sullen one. Turning away from the scientist, Dreadmoon reached out and cautiously touched one of the tables, then drew his hand back as if it encountered an electric shock. He scowled to himself, shook his head, and tried again - the table was just a table. Still, he didn’t allow his hand to linger on its surface; he had the irrational feeling that his fingers would sink into it.
He had never actually been inside a library before; he had no need to. Dreadmoon had spent most of his existence in the Sixth Sector’s watchtower, where the Cybertronian archives were at his fingertips. Still, Skyfire’s wistful memory of the Science Academy’s collection reached something inside of him. Not that he would let it make him lose perspective. “Just remember that we’re here on business, not to… Skyfire?” asked Dreadmoon, quickly looking around and realising he was alone. How did I lose track of someone that big?.. “Skyfire?”
The Library suddenly stopped seeming a familiar thing, again a place wholly and completely alien. Fighting the urge to run down the halls calling as if he were a lost child, Dreadmoon forced himself to keep his paces measured. Skyfire had to be around someplace. It was impossible to lose a nine-metre tall Transformer.
Skyfire wasn’t in the next aisle, or the next, or the next. Dreadmoon paused, scolding himself for a fool, and tried his radio.
Except that it didn’t work. Corridor radiation, perhaps, was the first thought, except that he and Skyfire used their radios until they landed. Something in the Library itself was jamming his communicator and damping his sensors.
I was right. I was right and this place is a trap, and now that idiot Skyfire is lost because I wasn’t paying attention, Dreadmoon silently cursed. There was room enough to fly, so Dreadmoon took to the air to begin his search.
Skyfire looked back and realised that he was alone. He shrugged inwardly; Dreadmoon was being a nuisance, and a short break from him suited the scientist fine.
Still… Dreadmoon had softened, at least a bit, when Skyfire admitted his reluctance to look up his old friends, for fear that they’d all terminated millennia ago. And the monitor had reacted, sympathetically, because he could be kind and because it was true. With the bond, Dreadmoon would know if Skyfire was actively trying to win him over… and would respond negatively.
The scientist sighed inwardly. There was nothing for it but to be himself, as himself as possible, and hope that Dreadmoon would open up and do the same. They might never love each other, but they could at least be friends.
Within half an hour, Dreadmoon was in a state of near-panic. I’ve been though the entire building twice, and I still can’t find him. I can’t locate him with my sensors. My radio is inoperative. Oh, Starscream, I didn’t mean to lose him…
The thought of Starscream brought another idea - Dreadmoon and Skyfire were partially bonded. So if I focus on the part of myself that is Skyfire, maybe I’ll be able to track him…
Turning his mind inward, Dreadmoon actively sought the bond between himself and the scientist. It was still there, flickering quietly… which meant that Skyfire was still functioning, at least. That was as much help as it was - he couldn’t sense Skyfire’s direction.
However… I didn’t see that corridor before. Not trusting it one bit, Dreadmoon checked his weapons before following the new hall.
He turned at the sound of his name. Dreadmoon flew to him, but stopped short of hugging the scientist with relief. “I’ve been searching everywhere for you.” Without thinking, he drew his wings a bit around himself. “I don’t trust this place, Skyfire. We should leave.”
“It’s only a library,” Skyfire said, skimming a finger along the cases. “Where’s the harm?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I simply… dislike this place. I searched the entire building twice for you. It is impossible that I missed you until now.”
“There is nothing here that can harm you,” said Skyfire, fighting the sudden impulse to draw him close and comfort him. He quelled the urge for two reasons: Dreadmoon wouldn’t appreciate it, and he wasn’t sure if they were his own emotions, anyway. Later he would examine them, to see if he had any genuine feelings for the monitor or if it was just emotional residue from Starscream - Starscream was emotional enough for both of them. Still, the Decepticon was honestly frightened, though about what, Skyfire couldn’t fathom, and his own compassionate nature insisted he do something…
Skyfire looked back at Dreadmoon. “Of course, if there is some unseen threat, your senses would be more accurate than mine. Perhaps we should stick together?..”
If Dreadmoon saw through his words, he made no sign. “Perhaps that would be best.” After a few minutes, he asked, “What have you found so far?”
“Not much. This is a historical library and nothing else. I looked for colony records, to see who began this world, but they’re not listed. The history is only of Cybertron, starting at the beginning of the wars.”
The monitor pulled a datapad from the wall and keyed into it. After a few moments, he said, “The records are up on current events, at least. The Stormworld project is mentioned, and Skywarp’s promotion to Air Commander in Starscream’s absence.” That was two years ago, but it was current to their kind. “It isn’t classified information, though I’m curious how these people found out about it. They could have detected the Stormworld, but…”
“Perhaps they pull their information directly from Cybertron’s archives.”
Dreadmoon frowned. “I like that theory less. The historical records might be free-access, but the builders of the Library are unregistered Transformers.”
“If there are any more,” said Skyfire. “The only person we’ve yet encountered is the Librarian herself.”
“There must be others. Or, at least, there had to have been others at some point,” Dreadmoon corrected. “One person can’t build a planet by herself.” He considered that. “There must be a way to get into the planet proper, or a way to tap into the full archives. Then perhaps we’ll get some answers.”
“Why didn’t you ask the Librarian when you had the chance?”
“She might lie. She has no reason to tell the truth, especially since she’s been hiding her existence from Cybertron… or, at least from the Decepticons. At the very least, there should be a colony record.”
Skyfire shot a glance at the monitor. “I don’t understand you, Dreadmoon. I know you can be kind. Why are you a Decepticon?”
“I was built one,” replied Dreadmoon simply, as if that explained everything.
It didn’t, not to Skyfire. “That’s terrible. You never had a choice?”
“What else would I choose? I am a Decepticon. My creator was the Monitor of the Sixth Sector before me,” said Dreadmoon. “Seaquake wanted an assistant, and instead of training someone established, decided he would rather design one himself. It was a time of peace, and such a luxury wasn’t uncommon.”
He fell silent for a moment, then continued: “I live to serve - it is my basic programming. However, I didn’t like Seaquake, and after a time I decided that if I must serve, I would choose my own master. I left Seaquake to join the fleet…”
Skyfire stopped Dreadmoon there. “Why a military occupation if your function is administration?”
Dreadmoon looked at him strangely. “I didn’t wish to remain a personal secretary forever, and the only way to advance my ranking was to join the military for a time.”
“You are barbarians.”
He didn’t intend for such a strong statement, but Dreadmoon shrugged it off. “No. Just sensible. To gain rank on Cybertron, one must first serve Cybertron. How much is the world worth to you if you won’t fight for it?”
“There are other ways.”
“Perhaps,” he said; not agreeing, merely acknowledging the viewpoint. “But it is our way, and it works.”
Skyfire wanted to counter the argument, but couldn’t think of one offhand. The Decepticons were doing something right; the fact that Cybertron had spent most of recorded history under Decepticon control attested to that. On the other hand, Skyfire didn’t have to like it. “I served the world, in my way,” he said eventually. “I was a teacher.” Then, with a bit of challenge in his voice, “And if training our people in the sciences - and on our unnatural world, people are our only true resource - wasn’t service, I don’t know what is.”
Dreadmoon smiled at that. “Ah, so it is entirely possible that Starscream intended for you to teach me astral cartography.”
“The innocent act doesn’t suit you, Dreadmoon,” the scientist retorted once he stopped snickering. “And it certainly doesn’t suit Starscream. It never did.” Skyfire sighed, enjoying the memory. “Starscream was very young when I met him, with not even five hundred years behind him. He was one of my students.” He shook his head, then, “Highly intelligent, endlessly curious… I soon gave up my other students to be his full-time mentor. And more.
“He found laboratory science tedious, and I had no wish to give up my function to be caught up in his adventures. So we compromised and became explorers. Things went well, for a while…” The white jet looked away. “And then I awakened on Earth and everything was different.”
After a minute of silence, Skyfire smiled faintly. “I know he doesn’t affect everyone the same, but I can guess how it was with you - he just appeared one day, and you suddenly realised that you can either go back to the way you were, or you could let yourself be swept along by his life, though your own would never be the same again.”
“Close,” agreed Dreadmoon. “He didn’t have the… innocence that you knew, but he still had his vibrancy and passion for life, despite his hurts.” He paused, then, “I know who he is - now - better than you do.” Despite the bond, neither had all of Starscream’s memories.
“I am willing to learn.”
“We must be inside the planet,” said Dreadmoon finally. “The Library was big, but it wasn’t this big.”
“No, we’re still at ground-level or higher,” said Skyfire, gesturing to a window. A black sky and stars showed through the transparency. “Though now that you mention it…”
Dreadmoon smiled unpleasantly, an expression meant to hide nervousness and failing. “We haven’t gone up or down any levels, and the floor is perfectly flat - no incline planes in place of stairs. Yet we’ve walked - straight - in this direction for two hours. Now do you believe me that something is wrong?”
“Strange, certainly,” Skyfire said. “Not ‘wrong’, not yet.” Despite the fact that all the datapads connected to the same source, the scientist picked one up and glanced through its contents. “This is interesting - It’s another history book, but it’s about some other race.”
Unable to look over Skyfire’s shoulder, Dreadmoon reached up and pulled the jet’s hand down so he could see the datapad. “‘Klenulshathu’,” he read, sounding out the word. “This is written in Cybertronian, but I’ve never heard of them.”
The remark caused Skyfire to look over in surprise. “You sound as if you should. How many races have you encountered?”
“Myself personally? One - the Whisperers. And I’ve been to Earth and have seen humans from a distance, and that was more than enough,” said Dreadmoon. “Though the Decepticon records list fifty-four sentient races… not including the assumed races, like the Builders or the… other ones.” Cybertron’s records on the Builders and their servants were blank, hence the term ‘assumed race’. Someone had to have built the first Transformer, and there was a rebellion… and everything else was only conjecture.
Skyfire looked disappointed. “In my time, no races outside our own were known. I have since met humans.” He sighed sadly. “Only fifty-four. In nine million years… Sentient life can rise and fall in that time.” He set the datapad back on the shelf, but left his hand on it, and spoke to himself: “What I would love to do is find a world with beings right on the cusp of sentience, and just stay there, watching them grow and develop… Perhaps even on Stormworld, if we wait long enough…”
After a moment, Skyfire returned his attention to Dreadmoon. “Stormworld’s Whisperers are race fifty-four, I assume?”
“They are. Don’t get too interested - they killed three of our crew, and decimated an earlier expedition.”
“Did you even try to communicate with them?”
Dreadmoon looked up at him, as if the idea was new and extremely bizarre. “We didn’t. Memory got a quick look at one’s mental pattern, and reported they were unintelligible. There’s no way to communicate with them - their minds are too different.” Anticipating the next idea, he added, “Don’t try it. If a Whisperer gets a hold on your mind, you’re finished. And Starscream wouldn’t like that.”
“It’s nice to know that you’re not actively trying to get rid of me.”
“I’m not doing it for you.”
The scientist sighed. “I try to be kind to you. The least you could do is treat me with the same courtesy.”
“I didn’t choose you.” Then, “I’m going outside, to see if I missed anything on the landscape,” Dreadmoon announced. Ordinarily not claustrophobic, something about the Library stifled him, which was making him irritable. Besides, he wanted to get away from Skyfire. “It’s impossible that this is the only building on the planet.”
Skyfire sadly watched the monitor stalk away. He understood why Dreadmoon was acting the way he was, but he wished he wouldn’t. Still, he had dealt with obstinate students in his time, and he knew in himself that Dreadmoon was deliberately being a twit to overcompensate for the bond…
He was halfway to the door before Dreadmoon’s shout reached him, feeling the monitor’s surprise and fear through their link. And, when he stepped outside, he could understand it perfectly. Instead of a blue, mechanical landscape, Skyfire found himself standing in a lush, green valley. “A park, perhaps?” he asked, knowing it wasn’t true.
“Test the air; this is a different world,” said Dreadmoon. “Besides, the Library planet had no sun. This world has two.” Both hung in the sky, in defiance to the stars the Transformers had seen through the Library windows.
The scientist looked back at the building they had just stepped out of. Instead of the expected blue metal, this one was made of stone, with some type of creeping vine growing on its sides. It was still a huge building, the doors were still large enough for him, and above them was engraved Knowledge For Knowledge’s Sake. The total effect was that the structure didn’t seem out of place. Looking back through the door, for an instant Skyfire saw wood panelling and paper-bound books, but the image reasserted itself in metal and datapads.
Dreadmoon carefully kept one hand on the rough stones, as if relinquishing contact would cause the building to disappear. “How is it possible we walked to another planet?”
“I don’t know.” Skyfire shifted to jet-mode then, hovering. “I’m going to go scout around.”
“What!? Skyfire, we have no idea where we are or how we got here…”
“We can’t solve the first question from here,” said Skyfire reasonably. “I’ll go orbital for a few minutes to see if I can recognise the stars.”
“Starscream told me to keep you out of trouble!”
There was a strange, strained quality to Dreadmoon’s voice, and curious, Skyfire shifted back to robot mode. The Decepticon was afraid of something, but Skyfire couldn’t decide what it was. Not that he could simply ask without an indignant denial in reply. “Can we at least walk a ways, just to the edge of the forest?” asked Skyfire. “If this world is new, we shouldn’t leave until we learn something about it.”
“If this world is new,” said Dreadmoon, “we should go back and return with a proper…”
“Exploration team?” Skyfire finished. “That’s me. Wait here, if you like.” With that, the scientist started away.
The monitor seemed about to protest, but let go of the building and followed, weapons ready. This time, Skyfire didn’t stop him. If the world did turn out to be dangerous, he’d be glad of the back-up.
He sensed the movement even as Dreadmoon hissed his name to draw his attention to it. There was life here, black eyes glittering from the shadows of the forest, peering past brown muzzles… The aliens were tiny things, perhaps two metres tall, and reminded Skyfire irresistibly of Earth kangaroos. “Dreadmoon, they’re sentient - they’re wearing vests and satchels and jewellery. This is incredible…”
“Stand back, Skyfire.”
Faster than he thought it possible for the larger robot to move, Skyfire smacked his hand so the laserfire cut into the ground, nearly searing the Decepticon’s foot. “What did you do that for!?”
“What are you thinking?” demanded Skyfire in return. “These creatures have done nothing to you!”
“They might be dangerous! We can’t take the chance!..” Dreadmoon insisted, trying to twist out of Skyfire’s grasp.
The scientist looked to the aliens, and back into Dreadmoon’s panicked optics. “They can’t possibly harm you. Why are you..? Oh. Oh, Dreadmoon, what did they program you with?..”
Skyfire suddenly understood - Good and evil couldn’t be coded, but… biases could be. When with other Cybertronians, Dreadmoon could be kind. But with other species… and to be built a Decepticon, constantly told that he was a member of the superior race, filled with vague warnings of possible invasion from outside, told that other species were either beneath notice or a threat…
In short, xenophobia was part of Dreadmoon’s programming.
To the long-lived Cybertronians, organic creatures were frightening. Not singly, not at any given point, but their sheer potential. Dreadmoon was older than, say, the human race, and far more intelligent than any of them. Knowledge that was basic to him wouldn’t be discovered by humans for thousands of years. But in seven million years, he never really did anything, while an organic race could go from chipped stones to atomic power. Organics were primitive, yes, but to Transformers, they were fast.
More gently, Skyfire caught Dreadmoon’s other hand, both as a gesture of comfort and to keep him from firing again. “You poor creature. This is the first time you’ve truly encountered another race, and you’re terrified.”
“I am not scared! I am a Decepticon!”
“That doesn’t mean you can’t be afraid,” said Skyfire quietly. “These aliens won’t harm you - Look, most have run away.” Though a few brave curiousity-seekers still hung back, carefully watching the two Transformers from a distance. Skyfire hoped they were a sufficiently advanced species not to be affected by the sudden appearance of giant robots on their world.
“They might… they might…” started Dreadmoon, optics fever-bright, unable to let go of seven million years of conditioning. “Perhaps… perhaps not these. What if the Library opens to other worlds, dangerous worlds..?”
On one hand, Dreadmoon had a point, but this was neither the time nor place to discuss it, even if Skyfire was interested in the topic. Despite wanting to explore this new planet, Skyfire’s first duty was to take care of Dreadmoon - whether he did it for Starscream’s sake or out of his own motives didn’t matter. Skyfire let go of Dreadmoon’s hands, but it was only to crouch down and gather the smaller robot to him. He didn’t know the monitor well enough to know if it would help, but Dreadmoon curled against him, trying to block the sight of the alien world.
Skyfire considered his options, then easily lifted the monitor to carry him back to the Library. That place set Dreadmoon on edge as well, but at least it looked Cybertronian and there were no aliens there.
Once inside, Skyfire waited for the door to close behind him before setting Dreadmoon down. “We’re inside the Library again. It’s all right.”
Dreadmoon, very carefully, very reluctantly, released his grasp on Skyfire, and allowed himself to look around. When he saw blue metal instead of green forest, he relaxed slightly, then drew his dignity back to himself. “I think, perhaps, we should bend our efforts to returning to the place we came in.”
“Of course. At the very least, Starscream will wonder what became of us.”
The Decepticon turned to start back, but paused and looked over his shoulder. “Thank you, for… helping me.”
Skyfire smiled faintly. “Any time.”
“Does this area seem familiar to you?”
They had been walking for some hours, trying to find the door that led back to the small metal planet in the Corridor. Unfortunately, they had lost track of the hallways when they left the building on the forest world, and couldn’t remember which direction they came by. And the Library was much bigger on the inside than it as on the outside.
“All the hallways look the same,” said Dreadmoon, picking up a datapad. After a second, he smiled. “Cybertronian history again! We’re in the right section!”
“Do you require assistance?”
Skyfire rested a hand on Dreadmoon’s wing, just to remind him that suddenly opening fire wasn’t an acceptable option, no matter how on edge one is feeling. The Librarian waited calmly; if she noticed any tension, she chose to ignore it. “We were looking for the door we came in,” said Skyfire.
“Yes, I noticed you got lost.”
And I notice you didn’t try to help us, added Dreadmoon mentally. However, it doesn’t seem as if you actively tried to hinder us, either. Then glaring at the Librarian, a thought fell into the monitor’s mind, so naturally that he didn’t question it: “You aren’t a Cybertronian. I think you’re a robot, but you’re nothing like us. You’re some kind of… adaptive being,” said Dreadmoon, uncertain of the word. “This is all illusion.”
She shook her head. “Oh, no - everything here is quite real.”
“She’s a chameleon… A being that can alter its outside appearance to camouflage itself,” Skyfire explained for Dreadmoon’s benefit. “We are Transformers, so you and the world appear to us as Cybertronian.”
“Transformation at the molecular level?” asked Dreadmoon, who took a step back before remembering that the entire building worked that way.
“We collect the knowledge of countless civilisations,” said the Librarian. “Sometimes one of my kind will only appear twice in the life of a race; at the height of its civilisation, and at its end to collect the broken pieces. For a long-lived species such as yourselves, we’ve come many times.”
“What do you do with the collected knowledge?”
“We store it in the Library,” she said, as if there were no other answer possible.
Skyfire gave the room a quick glance. “Here? It all fits in this little world?”
The Librarian didn’t reply. Her expression was still neutral, but a sudden spark of arrogance flickered behind her optics - You’ve come this far. Figure it out yourself. Skyfire was missing something, he knew; something simple, something important…
The scientist looked around the room again, willing himself to take it all in impartially. The illusions didn’t seem to affect Dreadmoon as strongly because he couldn’t trust the unexpected. Skyfire forced himself to see what was, rather than what he thought should be. The illusion fluctuated slightly, and that was enough to send his mind cringing back on itself. Not that what he saw was horrible, it was just… impossible to look at.
Dreadmoon had apparently been thinking along another tack: “Subspace,” he said suddenly. “The Library exists in subspace. The planet in the Corridor, the building on the forest world are just… extensions of it, gates from normal space.”
The Librarian waited. Dreadmoon drew a bit closer to Skyfire, his crimson gaze running over the shelves. “But there’s a trick to it. Any Transformer could walk in here and find anything he wanted pertaining to Cybertron history. It’s what he expects. But to someone who can see, who understands subspace… I could pick a corridor at random and find myself on another world in another galaxy.” Dreadmoon had thought the space-bridge an impressive device. Now he was standing in something akin to a permanent space-bridge, one with countless receivers that could be moved at will. The universe was only steps away…
Dreadmoon thought quickly: If the Decepticons could claim the Library, they could gain a foothold on unnumbered worlds, gain access to knowledge and ideas that they never dreamed existed. He considered the construction; there was probably a hub somewhere, a central relay that connected the gates into normal space. And there would they find the amassed knowledge of the Librarians, beings who had conquered subspace, who had mastered transformation?..
The Transformers had discovered hyperspatial mathematics, had invented the space-bridge; certainly, given time, they could master the technology of the Librarians. Forget the mucky little earth-planet, forget Stormworld, forget the galaxy - the Decepticons could conquer the universe itself.
Skyfire picked up on Dreadmoon’s train of thought easily. “Don’t even think about it.”
“I will think about whatever I please, Skyfire.”
Before the other could protest, Skyfire turned to look at the Librarian again. “I won’t allow this place to be used for any purpose but the accumulation of knowledge.”
The Librarian nodded, ignoring Dreadmoon completely. “You can see through the illusions. Few can. Few have the right combination of logic, imagination, and the intelligence to tie their perceptions together to do it.” She cocked her head slightly, the first movement she had made for several minutes. “And all who have that mentality understand our mission well enough that they are no threat to us. You love pure knowledge too much to see the Library used for the purpose of conquest.”
“I would never be able to take in all this information,” said Skyfire, regretfully, waving a hand at the endless corridors of the Library. “Not if I lived for another ten million years.”
The Librarian smiled. Her mouth barely moved, but it was there. “No one will ever see the entire Library; even I only know Cybertronian history. But the collection is our purpose. ‘Knowledge For Knowledge’s Sake.’” She showed them out the doors, back into the metal landscape.
“It’s enough that such a place exists,” said Skyfire, and meant it.
Skyfire landed on the bluff that housed the Stormworld station, shifting and standing in the eternal rain. Dreadmoon landed beside him. “Our reports will conflict, Skyfire,” said the monitor quietly. “And though this is a scientific mission, Starscream is a Decepticon warrior. He will take my recommendation to use the Librarians’ technology for ourselves.”
“Starscream,” rumbled Skyfire, “despite doing foolishly impulsive things at times, has a modicum of common sense, and will leave them alone.”
“Hasn’t it occurred to you that the Librarians themselves, with their ultimate weapon of the subspace bridge and knowledge of the worlds they touch, with their own transformation abilities, could be dangerous?” Dreadmoon made a noise of exasperation, pacing the wet grass. “Their technology is beyond ours - either they developed very quickly, or they are an even older race than the Transformers. Neither of these options is reassuring, and we should strike at them before they think to…”
The scientist crouched down, catching Dreadmoon by the shoulder. “The Decepticons may have had seven million years to fill you with paranoid propaganda, but I’m with you forever, whether we like it or not, and so help me I’m going to knock that nonsense out of your head.”
“‘Nonsense’ is thinking that others won’t attack because you’re nice to them,” growled Dreadmoon. “Don’t you understand? - These creatures are more powerful than we are!”
“I do realise that, but you don’t need to be afraid of them.”
“It isn’t fear, it’s realism. You were too busy shushing me and staring in awed wonder to even ask why the Librarian was there, why we hadn’t detected the blue planet before…”
Skyfire let him go with a sigh. “They aren’t preparing an invasion, Dreadmoon.”
“They might be,” corrected the Decepticon. “She was collecting the Stormworld project records.”
The rain picked up. Skyfire scowled at the clouds. “Believe me, no one in their right mind wants to take over the Stormworld.”
“Don’t change the subject.” Dreadmoon waved a hand at the sky. “Don’t you see - they created the Corridor. It’s unnatural; an early experiment in subspace travel… early for the Librarians, at least,” said Dreadmoon positively.
“I suppose that could be true,” agreed Skyfire. “What makes you so sure?”
That gave the monitor pause. “I… don’t know. I’m just certain of it, like I’m just remembering it… Oh!” Dreadmoon staggered back a step, holding his hands to his head. “I… I know these things. It’s impossible that I know them, but I do. I… Oh, no. No…” He hunched into himself, shaking. “Mourningstar. He told me he knew the secret of the Corridor, but he never said what it was. And now I have some of his memories…”
“Look at me,” Skyfire commanded quietly, catching a finger under his chin to reinforce the point. “Mourningstar didn’t bind himself to you. If he did, Starscream would have felt it, the way you felt my link with him. Starscream would know it… I would know it.”
The monitor stepped away from him. “How did I know about the Library, then? And the Corridor and what it means?” He snapped the words out, but he was shaking and his optics showed terror.
“Mourningstar was telepathic and left you with memories,” Skyfire said. “The contact worked a bit in reverse, perhaps. Or you picked up on a few of his memories when he tried to bind with you. Nothing more, Dreadmoon.” Then, “Can you remember anything else that may help us?”
Dreadmoon shook his head. “Only vague impressions. Mourningstar was there at least once, and he realised what the place was, but also knew he couldn’t do anything with it without a physical body. But… but he wouldn’t be able to reach the Library then. He only reached it the first time because his non-corporeal form could travel deeper…” He stopped, scowling. “This doesn’t even make any sense.”
“It does,” said Skyfire. “Why wasn’t this planet detected before today? If it was… deeper in subspace, perhaps, could your sensors detect it?”
“A discussion on whether subspace is layered would be better had with Shockwave, or someone else who understands it,” Dreadmoon grumbled. “Still, even if it just means the world was cloaked, Mourningstar had… unusual senses, and perhaps saw through it.” Then, more to himself, “At least, he understood the Library; I don’t have any memories of the Librarian from him. Hmm…”
Skyfire waited. After a minute, Dreadmoon asked, “Your memories of the Librarian - what are they?”
“She wasn’t a projection, I’m certain,” said Skyfire, curious as to what the monitor seemed to be lining up. “I have audio and visual records of her. She had mass.”
“And her energy pattern?”
The scientist scanned his memories. “Her pattern… matched… the…”
“Library,” finished Dreadmoon. “She was the Library.” At Skyfire’s expression, the Decepticon smiled. “You see now? A cybertronic being that can transform at the molecular level, affect our minds, travel subspace at will, the merest extension of which appears to us as a building, or even a planet… And that there’s a race of these beings…”
“You don’t know that. And in any case, they have technology we don’t…”
“You aren’t going to let that go, are you?”
“Certainly not. It’s important. And Starscream will agree with me.” With that, Dreadmoon stepped from the cliff, turning his fall into a graceful arc that set him at the mouth of the hangar. Skyfire sighed, shifted to jet-mode, and followed.
“Dreadmoon! Skyfire!” On-duty, Starscream remained seated at his station rather than giving into the more emotional greeting he would have preferred.
“And don’t trip over my feet,” snapped a voice from the floor. “My day has been lousy enough already.” Memory’s treaded legs were sticking out from underneath a console, with an assortment of tools scattered around.
Skyfire nodded slightly. “We would have returned sooner, but we had a minor… disagreement… about our recommendations as to what to do about the planet.”
“The question has become academic.”
Starscream sighed and waved a hand at the screen. “The planet vanished from our sensors four hours ago.”
“And he went into panic fits, hoping you two were on your way back,” grumbled Memory. “How romantic.”
There was a humourless chuckle from Dreadmoon. “Four hours… right after we left, I would say, gone to a deeper layer of subspace, or wherever. We’ll never find the Library again, not with our technology.”
“Lucky for them,” rumbled Skyfire.
Dreadmoon shot a quick glare at the scientist, then ignored him completely. “My report will be finished for the morning’s shift, Commander,” said Dreadmoon crisply, before turning on his heel and stalking out.
The Stormworld Commander slouched back in his seat, arms folded, and looked up accusingly at Skyfire. “You two had a fight, didn’t you?”
“A… difference in opinion,” said Skyfire. “I will submit my report as well, so that you can compare the two.”
“This shift ends in three hours,” Starscream grumbled, turning back to his console. “Rest assured I will track you down for a full account… not about the mission.”
Skyfire nodded and left. After the door closed behind him, there was a faint scrape of metal and a chuckle as Memory extracted herself from under the computer. “You, Commander, have only yourself to blame for this foolish situation.”
“And you, technician, should mind your own business.”
Dreadmoon looked over when he heard his office door open, then scowled and returned his attention to his work. “Go away.”
“No. We need to sort things out, and the sooner, the better.” Skyfire settled against the closed door, arms folded across his chest, with the obvious intention of waiting all day if he had to. He was also blocking the door.
“There’s nothing to sort out. We were tricked into this situation,” Dreadmoon said sullenly once he decided that there was no easy way past Skyfire. “When I’m with Starscream, everything is wonderful, but with you…”
“… You fight it, because the situation was forced, and because of that you don’t want it to be right, no matter how kind Starscream’s motives were,” finished Skyfire. “You liked me before he bonded us. We are no longer rivals; we should at least be on friendly terms.”
Dreadmoon shook his head. “I don’t want…”
“You didn’t get a say in things, so you automatically rebel,” said Skyfire, ignoring the interruption. “No matter what, we’re stuck with each other, and I want our time together to be pleasant. Stop trying to drive me away - you can’t. I’m not asking you to love me, Dreadmoon; I would never demand that. All I ask is that you… accept me.”
“I…” Dreadmoon set his shoulders. “Perhaps. For Starscream’s sake, I will try.”
Skyfire’s mouth twitched into a grin at the dutiful tone, knowing it was overcompensation rather than true distaste. “Good, because this attitude isn’t you. I know it isn’t, because Starscream knows. And if you look within yourself, you’ll know who I am. And I can wait.”