Well, hey, partner. What are you doin' out here?

Used to come up here often, huh? Reckon I can see why - it's a good spot.

Aw, y'all ain't botherin' me none; come on back. I don't bite. Well, sometimes, but I don't feel like it right now.

What? Can't a 'bot be on break?

Fine. You just sit there and sulk. I wasn't lookin' for company, anyhow.

We'll just sit here and ignore each other, then.


Oh, stop starin' at the lava. You see lava every day. Not always you get a good, clear night like this. All them stars... And boss-bot thinks they should all belong to him.

Oh, so y'all can laugh. Good; I was starting to wonder.

Anyway, long as you're up here, I might as well talk to you. You've been here longer'n I have; what've I all missed so far?

You don't wanna say. You don't talk much, do you? Fine by me. How are y'all at listening?

Heh. You do sound a bit eager, though, and what's that look mean?..

Of course I don't think you're going to go tell everything I say to Megatron! You seem a bit lonesome, sure, but you ain't no spy. Sheesh. Still, if'n I hear that you repeat any of this...

Yeah, well I wanna talk and who else is there? The boss ain't the type to listen, Inferno and 'Ranty are crazy, Rampage don't seem exactly sociable, if you know what I mean...

Well, duh. Who wouldn't rather have Blackarachnia instead of you as company? Easier on the optics, anyway. 'Sides, she's havin' her fun playing coy. She'll come around.

Aw, 'zzpthibbit' yourself. If'n I wanted advice, I wouldn't ask you.

Anyway, it was her that got me wondering. Well, sort of her. See, you know that the boss-bot stuck a listening device on her when you and her went looking for Rampage's pod earlier today...

Okay, you didn't know because you spent most of the day draggin' yourself back to base for repairs. Sheesh, I never met a more accident-prone 'bot than you, 'least as far as I can recall... No, I'm gettin' ahead of m'self. Anyway, so Blackarachnia had a bug on her. Meant we could listen in on her conversations, and she ended up with fuzz-n-feathers...

Yes, I mean Silverbolt. Stop interruptin' me. Anyway, she was stickin' with him because she was damaged and Tarantulas was after her. And fur-face spent the whole time trying to convince her of her inner Maximal goodness; that she was nasty because she'd been reprogrammed that way. Which got me wondering...

... Does it really matter?

I mean, how much of you is programming and how much is other stuff? What about folks like Dinobot? He didn't get reprogrammed by the Maximals, did he? But he's working with them, so does that make him a Maximal, or just a Predacon working for the Maximals? Or Silverbolt? Pit, he was just tricked into thinkin' he was a Pred, then he up and left on his own...

See, the furball just thought he was a Pred, because he was told that he was. He weren't reprogrammed like Blackarachnia and Inferno were, but he thought he was. And as far as the Maxis know, he's right. They're wrong, though. Silverbolt was awake before Megatron got there.

Yeah, I'm goin' somewhere with this. Keep your wings on.

Y'know, sometimes people... they just don't see the obvious. It's sittin' there, starin' them in the face, and it just don't click... I'm sure boss-bot knows - he's smart like that. But it just ain't occurred to anyone else...

I'm not a Predacon.

... Well, I mean I am, sure, but I weren't supposed to be, if you follow. I was with Silverbolt, remember? - I never got the Pred reprogramming. By all rights, I oughta be working for the monkey.

'Cept... I don't want to.

Thing is, I like being a Predacon. I like the back-stabbing, the treachery, the danger. My coding is Maximal, but I'm not. Inner Maximal goodness? It don't exist. I am what I am 'cause I want to be. Stop me if I'm gettin' to complicated for you, bug-eyes.

Oh, fine, you heard it all before from someone who was supposed to be one thing, but didn't want to be, so he stopped and became something else.

Only he weren't very good at it.

Yeah? Maybe I'm just stronger than him is all.

No, my programming was not scrambled - I still got all my skills, don't I? I just lost my personal memory. And even if my coding was messed up, then it still wasn't my coding guiding me, you see? In the end, it's your spark that guides you, not what someone put in your head. All the programming in the world can't change you.

Okay, so programming does have an effect. I'm just saying that it isn't everything and I dang well know you're agreein' with me on that point, so stop quibblin' the details! Sheesh.

So if my programming is Maximal, but my spark is Predacon, what does that make ol' Quickstrike?

Very funny, and I'll thank you to shut up. Anyway, I'm thinkin' it makes me Predacon - a real Predacon, not just someone who was forced to be one. I feel I belong here. Exploration party stuck tryin' to bring a bunch of outlaws to justice? You can keep that. The outlaws have more fun.

Okay, so you don't think so. Who cares what you think?

Oh, no, don't you go get huffy-like and fly off on me, now. You just sit your stripy keister down and let me finish.

That's better. Now where was I?

Yeah. I been doing some thinking lately... Yeah, you laugh if you want; I'll just whup you later if you do. Anyway, I've been thinking. You know, I don't have any memory before climbin' out of that stasis pod in the wasteland. None. Not even dreams. I got skills and stuff, sure, but no memory. I'm told I must have been someone else before, but, y'know, I just can't believe that, despite everything. I'm Quickstrike; it's who I've always been, ever since the wasteland. Far as I know, you lot just made Cybertron up...

Yeah? It's a nice, clear night, bug-bot. Point it out to me.

So it's too far away to see from here? You would say that...

Fine, fine, we'll play it your way. So there's a Cybertron. And I was there before I was here. So who was I, before the wasteland? I think I must have always been a fighting-type. That's the skills I found I had when I woke up, after all...

... The Pit you mean I must have been an explorer. Look, bug-eyes, them Maxis would have been going to new planets that might have been dangerous. They would have wanted a few tough types like me in case they ran into anything nasty-like. I ain't no pansy scientist. End of discussion.

Do I want to know who I was? Does it matter? Reckon I must be pretty different now - none of the Maxis seem to recognise me, or whoever I was. Ain't none of them walkin' up to me and sayin', "Hey, Quickstrike! Remember that time back on Cybertron? That proves you ain't supposed to be with them Preds. C'mon back with us."

Very funny. I think I liked you better when you were quiet. How about you just shut up and let me do all the talkin'?

Good. Anyway, I think I must have been someone before. I don't think I'm a new construct - everything feels so... like I done it before. Like when I'm fighting, it's not new to me. I still got experience up here, even if I don't actually recall any of it.

Y'know, things only feel real when I'm fighting. Like everything else is a dream, and I'm only really awake when I'm...

You've got that look again. Stop that.

That's better. Y'know, y'all ain't a bad sort, even if you're a bit on the weird side...

Tarnation, bug-eyes, all I did was hit you in the arm! I didn't mean nothing by it! No call for you to look so dang betrayed!

Oh, for... speak up! You're hard enough to understand at normal volume.

Forget it. Get lost. Who needs you, anyway?

Predacons don't need anyone.

The End.


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