A Mind Not To Be Changed
…--one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven…
“Still raining, Commander?”
Starscream didn’t bother to look over. Vapourtrail giggled nervously and continued, “Sorry. The crew has a fairly basic sense of humour.” A typical exchange ran thus: “How’s the weather out there?” “Awful, thanks.” In two days, the constant rain had become a running gag.
Perhaps the others could laugh at it, but Starscream took it personally. It was his own little punishment, after all. He was sitting at the mouth of the hangar, legs dangling over the edge, glaring balefully at the sky. “We used to look forward to weather like this, back on Earth,” he said.
“We came up with a game called storm-tag,” Starscream continued, as if to himself. “Fairly silly game, really, diving through the clouds and trying to be the last one knocked to the ground.” He jackknifed his left leg up and rested his arms on his knee. “Megatron always yelled at us for playing it, of course. Especially after the time Skywarp got hit one too many times and started hallucinating.”
Vapourtrail looked out to the sky, then back to her commander. “You could teach us. Several of us are fast enough to keep up, I think.”
The Seeker shook his head. “Too dangerous. There’s so few of us. I can’t afford to let any of you risk yourselves for silly reasons.”
“Flying above the clouds isn’t always an option and we can’t make you do all the recon work,” Vapourtrail persisted. “We’re not used to this kind of weather. Teaching it as a game, maybe minus the trying to get your comrades fried…”
Without allowing herself a second thought - even a first thought might have stopped her, - Vapourtrail shifted and dived over the bluff calling: “You’ll have to teach me, at least!”
Starscream bit back an oath and followed. Storm-flying wasn’t a forgiving activity, and he didn’t trust any of the others to be able to do it yet. Razorshift had done cloud-seeding before on Cybertron, but he stayed above the clouds. Dreadmoon and Shatterwing were used to deep space and clear skies respectively. Sway was an Insecticon, too light for high winds. And Vapourtrail… at least the others were warriors, used to thinking on the fly. “You little fool! You’re going to get yourself killed!” he howled.
“I… I can’t see!” It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but she hit a cloudbank and instantly reconsidered. All she could see was gray… gray… and Vapourtrail was tossed by the wind and shook by the thunder and wasn’t even sure which way was up…
“Use your optics and your radar, but trust neither completely!” Starscream ordered. “Level off… no, it doesn’t matter which way is up yet, just stop twisting around. Once you stabilize, check your gyros and adjust accordingly.”
Terrified, Vapourtrail did as she was told. She fixed her starboard list and slightly downward course, and levelled off. “All… all right. I’ve got it.” Well, as level as possible given the wind.
Her commander was waiting above the clouds, back in his robot-mode. “Good. Fly up until you break the cloud barrier. You’ll be able to see, then.” And he would be there to give her the yelling-at of her existence, the stupid girl.
On his radio, she began to say, “Yes, sir,” but then static and her own scream cut it off. Starscream knew the sound; she had been struck by lightning. “Vapourtrail!” shouted Starscream, shifting as he dove. “Vapourtrail, activate your homing beacon and transform! Do it!” A grapple could never hold her sleek shuttle-form.
Within a second, he felt the beacon, and adjusted his course. Sight was useless, radar was useless, all he could go by was Vapourtrail’s homing beacon and his altimeter. When his senses told him he was close enough, Starscream released his grappling hook, and felt it catch some solid object. He reeled in a bit, then tore back to base, where he dropped Vapourtrail in a tangled pile on the hangar floor.
Starscream landed, shifted, and stormed back. “You little idiot! I ought to use you for spare parts!”
“I’m sorry. I thought…”
“‘Thought’? If you had thought, you wouldn’t have done that!” yelled Starscream. “Megatron wants me to fail; this is all some big joke for him, stranding me on this wretched planet with a lunatic crew… Well, I won’t let him win! I will tame this planet! I will…” Suddenly remembering that he wasn’t alone, Starscream cut off in mid-rant and turned away. “Go to the repair bay. Never pull a stunt like that again.”
“Yes, sir.” Vapourtrail turned and ran from the hangar.
Starscream’s voice stopped her at the door. “And, Vapourtrail? To dodge lightning, you wait for a slight tingle through your entire chassis, then jump forward.”
For a being who prided himself on stealth, Starscream was one of the noisiest people Dreadmoon had ever met. When he was in a bad mood, everyone knew it. Currently a chair knew it, and had it not been bolted down, would have hit the control room’s opposite wall. Memory jumped slightly at the noise, Dreadmoon didn’t even bother looking over. He was getting used to the Seeker’s mood swings. “You all right?”
“I’m fine, my crew is nuts,” growled Starscream, annoyed that he’d caused his foot more damage than he did to the chair.
Starscream sat down heavily in the abused chair. “Vapourtrail decided she had something to prove and took off storm-flying. She was struck, didn’t know how to handle it, and would have crashed if I hadn’t caught her.” He sighed. “She’s a scientist, and therefore, in theory, fairly bright.”
“She’s inexperienced,” Dreadmoon countered. Aside from the Insecticons, Vapourtrail was the only recently-built Decepticon in the crew. She was programmed to be highly intelligent, but as a sparked Transformer, her intelligence had no real context yet. You couldn’t program life experience. “Of course, none of us have any real experience with storm-flying…”
“Don’t you start.”
The monitor didn’t have a chance. Memory interjected, “The maps made by my team were incomplete. The planet must eventually be explored. You could do it yourself, but even with your skills, it isn’t safe to travel alone.”
Dreadmoon stepped back into the conversation. “Crowbar and the Insecticons have the refinery running, so even if everyone gets torn up while practicing, at least we have the materials for repairs.”
“And the Seekers are getting jittery,” Dreadmoon steamrolled. “They weren’t so bad during the space flight, but just two days of being cooped up in the base here has them on edge. The Insecticons complain that Razorshift’s new hobby is bothering them.”
Resting his face in his hand, Starscream peered though his fingers. “What is his hobby?”
“Bothering the Insecticons.” At his commander’s sigh, Dreadmoon continued, “It would do him at least a world of good to get blasted a few times, just to remind him that he’s not as hot as he thinks he is. The rest of us…” - the monitor shrugged - “We just need to get out for a little while.”
“Cabin fever,” muttered Starscream. “I give up.”
“… and when in doubt, land and walk,” finished Starscream. “Anything else you’ll have to pick up by experience. Fortunately, one lightning strike won’t cause any appreciable damage, though it may knock your gyros out. If you are hit, land, or at least crash gently.”
While all Decepticons could fly, not all had specific flight transforms, thus only Razorshift, Shatterwing, Dreadmoon, Vapourtrail, and Sway stood in a loose semi-circle on the bluffs, listening to him. Not that all were paying attention; Razorshift looked obviously bored and Shatterwing seemed mesmerized by the storm. Starscream favoured the other Seekers with a nasty smile. “But since you obviously know what you’re doing, perhaps you’d like to demonstrate?”
“I did cloud-seeding on Cybertron a few times,” said Razorshift, folding into his pyramid-jet form. “Acid rain. Nastier stuff than this weather.”
The black jet took off silently, then did a couple loops simply because he knew he was being watched. The high winds made fancy flying difficult, but he wasn’t going to let himself get blown off-course in front of the others. Thunder rolled…
“He phased,” said Dreadmoon, after the lightning faded. “Doesn’t that rather skip the entire point of this little exercise?”
“Not at all,” Starscream retorted, watching the black Seeker’s outlines re-establish themselves. “The point is not to be struck. It doesn’t matter how he dodges, so long as he does. If it were an actual game of storm-tag, he’d have been disqualified, though.” Probably by a warning shot across his nosecone, or up it, depending on who noticed the transgression.
He turned back to the others. “All right, the rest of you, get in the air. All forms, powers, and skills are fair game. I’ll be right there to yell at you if you’re doing something wrong.”
“Hmm, so comforting,” muttered Sway. Being only half the size of the rest of them, the Insecticon would have the hardest time in the storm. Not that she was going to back out of it. She shifted to her dragonfly-mode and followed the others into the sky.
Dreadmoon’s shuttle-mode was his faster form, but right now he wanted manoeuvrability, so he stayed in robot shape. He preferred flying in his humanoid form, anyway; his transform was more like a hovercraft than a jet, so his wings were lost when they folded around him to form his hull. In robot-mode, he could stretch his wings to the sky, catch the wind, and feel the rain pound against him. He arced through the air, pulling up alongside the leisurely cruising jet-form of his commander. “This is interesting. Sloughing through the jungle was pretty awful, but up here, the rain doesn’t seem nearly so bad.”
“Psychosomatic,” said Starscream. “Things are always better from the air.”
“You know, I don’t actually remember weather on Cybertron. Cloud-seeding, yes, but not real weather.”
“How old are you?”
“Seven-point-one-one-eight million years.”
Had he been in robot-mode, Starscream would have nodded. “That explains it. Most of the liquid water had vanished from Cybertron nearly eight million years ago. It might have been natural, it might have been some side-effect of the war. I don’t know. Either way, without free water, you’re not going to have rain.”
“Strange.” Dreadmoon looked up. “What’s that?”
Starscream directed his attention in the same direction at the boiling mass of black clouds in the distance. “The heart of the storm. Just avoid it.”
“One of the Seekers is flying straight for it.”
“What? Which one?” demanded Starscream, though all either could see was the pyramid silhouette. “It doesn’t matter; I’m going to drag him back by his stupid wings.” The silver Seeker shot forward, though his voice filtered back over Dreadmoon’s radio, “And don’t follow me! Don’t argue, either; you can’t handle this type of flying yet.”
It took only a couple minutes for Starscream to close the gap between himself and the other Seeker; the other may have had a head start, but no one was faster than Starscream. As the distance narrowed, he could finally get a good look at the other. Purple. Shatterwing.
He tried radioing, but got no answer. What is that idiot trying to prove? He can’t survive a maelstrom like that!
Come to think of it, I probably can’t, either. There was an easy way to get Shatterwing away from the heart of the storm. Starscream shifted back to his robot-mode, and opened fire with his null-ray. The other noticed and tried to evade, but Starscream’s fourth shot got him.
Back by the bluffs, Razorshift flew a tight loop around Sway, using his own jet stream to throw the small Decepticon off balance. Fed up, the dragonfly shifted back to her humanoid form, standing on the air. “Razorshift! Hmm, your cowardice and stupidity are evident.”
The back Seeker shifted to robot-mode to face her. “Reeeally?”
“It’s, hmm, abundantly obvious that you can’t pick on someone your own size,” said Sway archly. “That, and, you made the mistake of, hmm, bothering the greatest of the Insecticon warrior caste.”
“The greatest Insecticon warrior?” laughed Razorshift. “I’m shaking.”
Almost faster than the eye could follow, Sway removed the blade from her left gauntlet, extended the handle, and threw it, skewering Razorshift’s wing. He phased automatically to rid himself of the weapon - he could only shift himself, not outside objects - and the dragonfly dove to catch it.
Arcing back up to hover in front of the Seeker, Sway said, “That’s, hmm, my challenge, guardsman. Unless you’re, mm, afraid to be bested by an Insecticon?”
“I wasn’t going to hurt you,” snarled Razorshift, glancing at the hole in his wing, “but I think I will now. Prepare to be squashed, insect.”
“Mm, are you going to fight or are you going to pose?”
Razorshift attacked, shifting to his pyramid-jet form as he dove at the dragonfly. She sidestepped, swinging her blade, but it passed harmlessly through the Seeker’s intangible form. The black Seeker swung around for another pass, this time firing his guns. Quick, but not quick enough to dodge laserfire, Sway’s right wings were scorched.
They kept the pattern up for several minutes; Razorshift would attack, and Sway would dodge. He stuck to his lasers; crashing through her while phased would short her systems and win the fight, but holding the shift took too much energy to do it for long. A faint hum could be heard now, if one listened carefully though the ambient noises of storm and engines.
The Seeker started to make mistakes, slowing at crucial moments or coming too close to the Insecticon’s now-flashing blade. Sway was toying with him now, not causing any real damage, just scoring shallow lines across his black hull. Which made Razorshift angry. Which also made him more reckless.
This time, he abandoned any pretence of a fancy attack, merely dove at her - if the two crashed, he would take very little damage. Unfortunately, she moved out of the way again…
… dug her claws into his hull…
… pulled herself around to his aft section…
… and drove one of her spears straight into his left thruster.
Sway jumped clear as the pyramid-jet began to tailspin, shifting in his fall back to his robot-mode. Dreadmoon dove and caught him, carrying him to the edge of the bluffs. The other Decepticons followed at their own speeds. Starscream caught up to the group and touched down between the two combatants, dragging Shatterwing behind him. “If you two have quite got that out of your systems..?”
“I think he’s, hmm, learned his lesson.” She preened a bit. “I am called ‘Sway’ for a reason. Since he used his powers, I used mine.”
The black Seeker scowled. “Subsonics. You rattled me, you crawly little…”
“Stop it!” hollered Starscream. “The entire blasted planet is putting a concentrated effort into killing us, and you two would rather waste resources with your pointless infighting!” He stepped back and glared, optics blazing. “From now on, such behaviour will be classified as sabotage.” With that, Starscream threw himself from the cliff, shifting, and vanished into the storm.
Dreadmoon sighed and turned back to the others. “I think the lesson’s over.”
“Why are we here?” Crowbar repeated Dreadmoon’s question, turning it over in his mind.
For his part, after dealing with Razorshift and Sway’s insolence, Dreadmoon was thoroughly fed up with the crew. The problem was that Starscream had no idea how to deal with it. Back on Earth, Starscream could blast some sense into his people, knowing that they could be repaired easily enough. On Stormworld, physical damage only served to distract the techs from their more important tasks. And if Starscream couldn’t keep his troops in line on Earth, Megatron could easily step in and quell any rebellion.
On Stormworld, options were much more limited. They were short-staffed as it was, which put physical violence and banishment out of the question. Things would have to be done psychologically, and Dreadmoon couldn’t know where to begin until he knew why they were there in the first place. Personnel files could only tell so much, and he was in a foul enough mood that he could walk up to people and ask.
Gadget peeked down from a vent. “I’m here because Crow’s here,” she piped before vanishing back into the system.
The monitor turned back to the black Decepticon. Crowbar shrugged. “The Stormworld project’s different. Challenging. I never had to deal with rain on Cybertron.”
“I heard about the fight outside,” said Crowbar, picking up an arc-welder and crouching down by a bulkhead. “So the warriors are jerks; most people are sometimes. Thing is, we’re all stuck here together. Soon as they remember that, they’ll smarten up.”
A clatter from the ducts announced Gadget’s return. “Hey, Crow, I got the vents hooked up.” There was a bit more scuffling, then, “Did you swipe my rivet-gun?.. Oh, here it is. What now, boss?”
Crowbar turned his attention to his assistant. Apparently, the interview was over. Dreadmoon left.
“Why? Is this a survey?” yawned Razorshift.
The monitor glared at him. “We won’t get off this planet alive if we spend our whole time fighting with each other, so you might as well confess why you’re here exactly. At the very least, I want to calculate my own chances for survival, just for curiousity.”
The black Seeker shrugged. “You really want to know?” He settled back in his chair, folding his arms behind his head and settling his feet on the table. “I’m here because I got goaded into it by a little purple troublemaker who accused me of going soft. I made the mistake of letting her remarks get to me, and was in a bad enough mood when I heard of Stormworld to sign up. Once this nonsense is over with, I’m going to go back to Cybertron and put a few dents in that pretty little chassis of hers.”
Dreadmoon sighed. Of course; machismo. Why else would a warrior join a scientific expedition? He looked over at Shatterwing. “Right. And what do you intend to do once you get out of here?”
He instantly regretted the question when Shatterwing glanced up with a far-away look in his optics and said, “I don’t.”
The Insecticons snickered when Dreadmoon put his question to them. From her perch, the moth fluttered her wings. “Now that’s a story.”
The mantis dropped from her place near the ceiling, unfolding into her robot-mode before she hit the floor. Shrillcry grinned up at the shuttle. “Don’t worry; we have Starscream’s best interests at heart.”
“Hmm, if we had hearts.”
“At central processor,” corrected Shrillcry primly. “And we used to have hearts. Stop being so gloomy, Sway. Anyway, Shrapnel wants us Insecticons to take part in the affairs of the Empire, which includes this project. The prosperity of the Empire affects the prosperity of Coleop, after all.”
Lightseeker giggled again. “Except that Shrapnel and the others don’t particularly like Starscream, and were considering sending a team to sabotage things.”
“Only that they heard that the Stormworld project came as a result of a bet between Starscream and Megatron, and our leaders like Megatron even less,” finished Shrillcry happily. “So we are the best that Coleop has to offer, and we are perfectly loyal to Starscream and the project.”
“Until they, hmm, change their minds.”
“Stuff it, Sway.”
The dragonfly made an angry buzzing noise. “You might be happy to be here, but I’m not!” she snapped, completely forgetting about Dreadmoon’s existence. “I am a warrior! The greatest, hmm, warrior on Coleop! This planet has nothing for me! He sent me here to get rid of me!”
“Shrapnel?” asked Dreadmoon, confused.
“Kickback,” said Shrillcry, with a glare at Sway. “He’s in charge of the warriors.” Insecticon hierarchy was somewhat different from ordinary Decepticon hierarchy. Shrapnel, Kickback, and Bombshell only led because they had more experience than the Coleop-born Insecticons. Of those, Shrapnel was only in charge because he had his vision of the Insecticon future. If the others had any bright ideas, they would take over and no one would worry. If you wanted to get more specific, Kickback trained the warriors, Bombshell oversaw the workers and those with technical skill, and Shrapnel took care of everything else. In the Hive, everyone had their function and didn’t see why it should be any other way.
The monitor didn’t know this, and being a Decepticon, wouldn’t understand such a loose hierarchy. He asked, “What? You were the better fighter and he felt threatened?”
“Hrmm, probably afraid I’d bite his head off. Moron.”
Dreadmoon felt he was missing something, and decided he didn’t really want to know. He made his excuses and left.
“How’s it coming?”
Vapourtrail looked up at the sound of Dreadmoon’s voice. “Pretty good,” she said, waving a hand over the tangle of parts on the lab’s table. “The easy part is establishing communications between the satellite and Cybertron. The hard part will be hooking our computers into the satellite through all the atmospheric interference.”
“Sounds like you have your work cut out for you,” said Dreadmoon. He would have offered to help, but being used to Cybertron, he had no experience with recalcitrant atmospheres. “Starscream might be able to assist you; Earth had fairly nasty weather sometimes.”
“Actually, Memory’s helping me out,” Vapourtrail admitted. “I know she’s not a proper member of the crew, but she has experience with the Stormworld and wants to be useful.”
Personally, Dreadmoon didn’t quite trust Memory yet. But then, how much harm could she cause? Anything she did with the satellite would be checked over by Vapourtrail, if not others, and keeping her busy would give her less time to cause trouble if she actually was untrustworthy. Besides, the sooner they could set up the communications system, the better he would feel.
He settled against the table and asked, “Why are you here, Vapourtrail? On Stormworld?”
The green Decepticon shrugged. “Promotional opportunities. I’m not a warrior, Dreadmoon; I wasn’t built for it. But unless time is served in the army, advancement is impossible. This project is run by the heir apparent to the Empire; hopefully it will be high-profile enough that I’ll be able to move on to better things despite my lack of military experience.”
Dreadmoon sighed. They were a pack of mercenaries; but what could you expect from volunteers? Vapourtrail noticed his expression and added, “I might stay, though, even after the initial objectives are completed. Scientific conquest of a world this wild would be a great personal achievement, even if it never gets me anywhere.”
The monitor nodded and turned to leave, when he thought of something else. “I didn’t have a chance to ask before; why did you throw yourself into the storm when you knew you couldn’t handle it?”
Vapourtrail went back to the table and began picking at the satellite circuitry. “He was depressed. Starscream, I mean. I thought that by giving him a problem that only he could solve, I could pull him out of himself.”
If the scientist expected a reprimand, she didn’t get it. Dreadmoon chuckled. “I think I see. Logical, but not very sensible.” If he had anything else to add, it was cut off by the opening of the lab door and the arrival of Memory.
The technician nodded to Dreadmoon, then turned her attention to Vapourtrail. “I believe I have a solution,” she said, setting down a medium-sized device. “Something in the atmosphere blocks our usual subspace and radio communication techniques. If it is impossible to sidestep the interference, we will instead work with it.”
“Explain,” said Vapourtrail. This wasn’t his task, so Dreadmoon left.
As the door closed behind him, he heard, “Everything has a frequency. If we find the frequency of Stormworld’s environment, our signals may be able to ride…”
Starscream was extremely unpredictable if you didn’t know him inside out. Which meant that Dreadmoon was caught by surprise when the Seeker read and subsequently threw the compad across the room. Managing to look unruffled, Dreadmoon said, “I thought you would be interested in the motives of the crew.”
“I already knew they were a bunch of loonies,” snapped Starscream. “I do note that your own objectives were absent from the report.”
“I’m here because you need me.”
He had expected denial, though not in quite that word. “You can’t defeat Stormworld by yourself…”
“I am in charge here,” Starscream reminded him. “I am perfectly capable of handling my crew.”
Dreadmoon bit back a sigh. Starscream could be exasperating to deal with, and had to be handled carefully. There was no use trying to wait for him to be in a better mood - the stress would just keep piling up. Things had to be defused now. “I don’t doubt your abilities. You have, however, been pushing yourself for almost a week. Certainly your responsibilities are serious, but at this rate, you’ll burn yourself out.”
“You’re saying I can’t do my job.”
It wasn’t a question. Dreadmoon gave up trying to be nice. “I’m saying no one could!”
“He sent you, didn’t he?”
The monitor didn’t have to ask who ‘he’ was. “Starscream, I came of my own decision…”
Starscream stood. “He sent you to watch, to make sure I wouldn’t… bungle it. Nine million years of service and he still doesn’t trust me to run my own missions…”
“Great Cybertron, I know you took this whole assignment personally…”
The Seeker turned. “It is personal.”
“Look, I don’t know the details between you and Megatron, but if this project is a specific conspiracy to kill you, don’t you think he knows you well enough to know you’d wear yourself out trying to prove him wrong?” Dreadmoon had been a Sector Monitor long enough to know how to play people against each other.
Unfortunately, Starscream took it the exact wrong way. “What’s your advice, then, Dreadmoon? Relinquish my hold, perhaps, since I’m unfit for duty?”
“If you think I want to take over, you’re crazier than everyone else seems to think you are!” snapped Dreadmoon. Softening his voice, he said, “Just don’t push yourself so hard. We haven’t got a deadline or any other reason to hurry the project. You don’t need to burn out just to prove your point.”
For a second, Dreadmoon thought that Starscream was going to shout at him, but if the Seeker considered it, he didn’t act on it. He knew how to deal with traitors and usurpers, but wasn’t used to people who were genuinely concerned. Dreadmoon pushed his advantage, catching his commander by the upper arm and steering him out of the control room. “When was the last time you recharged?”
“Seventeen hours ago.”
Dreadmoon sighed. “Come on.”
Vapourtrail found herself hanging the equivalent of upside-down by the communications satellite, almost a kilometre above the upper reaches of Stormworld’s atmosphere. Not everyone could enjoy this position, but Vapourtrail did. She was a shuttle by build, and found that she missed the stars and the wide, clean void of space. Compared to the crispness of vacuum, Stormworld was just plain messy. Of course, this wasn’t a pleasure cruise; Vapourtrail was setting up the satellite.
From the ground, the main problem about setting up the satellite was that there was no way of knowing when exactly Vapourtrail got it into position; their own communicators couldn’t pierce the atmosphere. If it worked, Vapourtrail could use the satellite to tell them how things stood. If not; if something happened to her or if she only thought the satellite was functional, they would have no way of knowing.
Fortunately, the radio in the computer lab crackled to life: “… hear me?.. ready…”
Dreadmoon answered the hail: “We’re receiving here, Vapourtrail, but your signal is weak.”
“We’re not synchronized,” said Memory. Starscream, the last person in the control room, nodded as he looked over a display. The tech continued, “Leave your channel open, Vapourtrail; I will attempt to bring the frequencies into alignment from here.”
After a few minutes, Starscream said, “It’s not working. There’s too much frequency variation. If we could design a modulator capable of automatically adjusting to rate-shifts…”
“Can’t… from here… I’ll have… bring… down…” said Vapourtrail, annoyed, over the radio.
“Perhaps not,” replied Memory, tapping at her computer. “The base’s computer is much more powerful than the one onboard the satellite, and is therefore more capable to track the frequency shifts. I’ll enter the program here, then tie it to the satellite. The transfer will be bad at first because of the interference, but as it uploads it will clear itself.”
Slowly, Memory’s prediction came true. After twenty minutes, the static had almost completely vanished. This time, when Vapourtrail reported, it was fully understandable: “How’s it going down there?”
“Still raining,” said Dreadmoon automatically.
“The static is almost fully cleared,” said Starscream. “Remain where you are, though, in case further repairs are required. I’m going to try to contact Cybertron.” The Seeker tapped the frequency into the console and said, “Stormworld calling Cybertron. Come in, Shockwave.”
Static hummed for a few seconds, then, “Starscream?”
“Don’t sound so happy to hear from me,” Starscream replied, without any real annoyance. Shockwave never sounded happy to hear from anyone. “You may regretfully inform Megatron that I’m not dead yet later. Right now I need the schematics for a space-bridge receiver and the calculations to attach it to Cybertron.”
Shockwave scowled, but the expression was lost behind what few features he used as his face. Not that Starscream would care; the Seeker seemed to think that he, Shockwave, had nothing better to do than jump at his every whim. Not that the request was unexpected; it made sense to connect the two worlds, especially if Stormworld was indeed the energy paradise it was supposed to be. A space-bridge transmitter was already being set up in the Third Sector’s watchtower for the Stormworld. Still, Starscream’s tone annoyed him. “I will get to it when I have a minute,” said Shockwave shortly, cutting the connection. In fact, he had the information ready the day after Starscream left, but he never really liked the Seeker. Besides, things were much quieter without him around.
“Good old Shockwave,” chuckled Dreadmoon. “He sounds almost happy now that Cybertron is awake and he’s stuck running everything.”
“Impressive work on fixing the satellite,” Starscream said, turning to Memory.
“I strive to be useful. It helps that the technology has improved since my time with the first expedition,” she said with her usual lack of emotion. “I have work to do in the control room.” With that, she left.
Tweaking the base’s computers was Memory’s pet-project. They were in perfectly good working order, but could be improved, and besides, she liked working with computers. It was her function, after all. She pulled the front panel from the main sensor controls, glanced around to ascertain that she was alone, and set to work.
Telepathy was an uncommon skill amongst the Decepticons, and Memory didn’t technically have it. The ability to interface with non-sentient computers to control or transfer information with was reasonably common. As a computer technician, Memory had it. She just had it to a much greater degree than her tech specs said she did. Which could possibly be explained to the satisfaction of Starscream and his crew, but she’d already done too much.
Memory looked along the scarlet cable that currently tied her to the base’s system. ‘Contact telepathy’, she called it; not true telepathy, but once plugged into a system, she might as well have the ability. Once the hardware was in place, Memory could bend the software to fit it. Adjusting the communications satellite had been easy.
Too easy. She shouldn’t have done it, should have let Vapourtrail bring it back down and let the others figure something out. She shouldn’t have helped with the satellite at all. But Memory couldn’t help it; problem solving was too deeply ingrained into her programming for her to stand back and let others do the work.
The problem was that she needed these people. The generator at Skyvortex’s base was too damaged to function, and she didn’t know how to fix it. Stasis wasn’t a real option, either; even stasis took some amount of power, and in time, the drain would terminate her. Fortunately, it seemed as if Starscream and his crew would be here for, if not permanently, hopefully long enough for Memory to come up with a better solution.
Going to Cybertron wasn’t an option. She would be recognised and destroyed.
For better or for worse, Stormworld was her home. Until a better option presented itself, Memory would continue to make herself useful to the expedition. Perhaps then they could overlook her… hang-ups. Of course, if they ever managed to get a look inside her exoskeleton, she was doomed.
To be continued ...