( part three )


She had been lucky up until now, managing to avoid being called on to fly or transform. Now Discard knew she couldn't do either, and he seemed angry about it. But he already thinks I'm crazy. Why would this be worse?

Because it's part of the name. Transformers transform. It's what they are. They just thought she was stupid when she didn't know how to work the computers or deactivate her pain receptors. But she wasn't just an alien robot, she was also a jet, and jets should know how to fly.

No. Transforming was out of the question. Darkstar was just about able to accept feeling her wings and her arm-guns and opening panels on herself, she knew she couldn't handle folding in ways the human body wasn't meant to fold. She could never actually be a Transformer, just someone who looked like one, and they were always going to think less of her for it.

But Decepticons could fly no matter what they turned into. She had to learn to fly - if not to fight, then to one day escape. Discard had mentioned that the next room had a trio of jets. Maybe they could help. It couldn't hurt to ask.

No, it could. These were Decepticons. Still, she would never figure it out on her own.

Darkstar went to the next door and pressed the call button. She pressed it two more times and was about to assume no one was in when someone inside called, "It's open!" Glad that no one had hit or shot at her, she stepped in.

There were two of the jet-people in the room. One seemed to be sleeping on the floor while the other sat on his stomach. They were surrounded by a dozen pots of paint.

The unconscious one had been painted the same purple-gray of the buildings, then covered with graffiti. The orange jet was crouched over him with an airbrush, mumbling to himself, delicately putting the finishing touches on the words Battletrap Is A Pervy Circuit-Fancier.

He didn't look up from his work. "Mph. I should have known it wasn't Flee. He knows he doesn't need to knock. Who're you?"

"I'm Darkstar. I'm with Discard's team."

"He must love that. I'm Haze, this is Gash, and Fleetwind is out. You'll forgive me if I don't bother to remember your name, given the rate of turnover in the No-Hopers."

Haze stood and turned around to face her. Except that he was orange, he looked like the other on the floor, and both looked quite a bit like Darkstar. The main difference was that they had nosecones on their heads as well as on their chests. Mindwipe said I looked 'common'. This is getting confusing ... "Why would Discard care?"

"He's got a thing for jets," said Haze. "He thinks that, somehow, a jet will always be superior to a groundbound. Ignore that two of the three highest-ranked Decepticons are guns. Ignore the number of nobody jets in the army. Why Discard never bribes the techs to put him in a Seeker-shell is beyond me ..."

Because he doesn't trust the medics and he doesn't like flying, thought Darkstar, but didn't say it out loud. Secret or not, it wasn't Darkstar's place to tell. But small-talk wouldn't get her anywhere. She decided to take the plunge. "I was wondering if ... if one of you would teach me how to fly."

Haze stared at Darkstar as if she had just grown a second head. "You can't fly?" He shook his head. "Well, I suppose it's not entirely unheard of in upgraded groundbounds, or maybe ..."

He trailed off until he was muttering to himself. Darkstar waited a few seconds before interrupting. "Um. I mean I can't fly in this form. I'm an experiment in minimal programming by Mindwipe," she added, since the excuse had worked before.

"Blazing stupid experiment," said Haze. "Here. We're close enough to the same model, unless you've got some invisible upgrades."

He held out his hand. Darkstar recognised the gesture by now, took his hand, and braced herself for the lightning-flash of information.

It hurt worse than it ever did with Discard giving her password updates. It felt like the lightning-bolt punched her in the brain. There was a voice in her head that sounded like her own and like the computer: File cannot be overwritten.

Haze staggered slightly and gasped, "Can't ... Ow ..."

"I ... I thought I didn't have the programming," said Darkstar. "Sorry."

Haze shook his head and waved her off. "So you've got the programming but don't know how to access it. That's step one, anyway."

"What's step two?"

"Off a building," said Haze.

Naturally, Darkstar had assumed he was joking. When he led her to the roof of one of the outbuildings, she clued in that he wasn't.

Darkstar looked down. It looked to be about three stories, though a little voice in the back of her mind was telling her that three stories here was several times higher than three stories on Earth and that a human wouldn't survive falling either distance. "You want me to jump?"

She had to repeat it before Haze noticed she had asked a question. He shrugged. "If you crash and get stuck in the ground, I'll pull you out."

"What if it kills me?"

"The only way a three-story fall can kill you is if there's a smelting pit at the bottom," said Haze.

Doubtfully, Darkstar looked down the side of the building again. She knew her body was strong, but it was also very heavy. She thought of Mindwipe's advice for using her body - you need to want it. Well, she didn't want to crash. And she'd be terrified. Mindwipe seemed to think that fear helped.

Holding her desires firmly in the front of her mind, Darkstar stepped off the edge of the building.

Eight seconds later, Haze landed lightly beside her. "At least," he said without a trace of sarcasm, "you've felt the feeling of speed and air rushing past you."

She felt like a pot that a toddler had just banged with another pot. Her entire body was rattled. "I hope I damaged the sidewalk," she sulked.

"If the sidewalk wasn't there, you would have fallen farther," Haze pointed out. "Though that might be a good idea. A longer distance would give you more time to recover ..."

"Let's just try it from the roof again."

Haze flew her back up to the roof, though Darkstar could feel him straining. She couldn't ask him to catch her, then. Darkstar jumped off the roof and crashed six more times, Haze patiently helping her up and giving advice, before Darkstar decided to call it a day. Besides, they had attracted a few spectators.

"What'd that sidewalk ever do to you?" heckled one. Darkstar had seen him out on the field before - he was half her size, looked sort of like he had a tape-deck for a chest, but he turned into a weird, dog-like monster.

Fed up, Darkstar staggered to her feet and stepped back into a fighting crouch. "You want to make something of it, bootleg?" she snarled. She thought it was a dumb insult, but the medics used it a lot.

He spread his arms in a universal 'bring it' gesture. "What're you going to do? Land on me?"

Darkstar flipped him off and stomped back into the barracks. She figured her meaning would be clear even if the gesture wasn't known on Cybertron. Behind her, the short Decepticon just laughed.

Everyone took pieces of the dead. These generally weren't very good pieces - the Autobots they fought were as badly off as the No-Hopers were. Once in a while a dead Autobot meant a minor upgrade for whoever looted him. Same for the fallen Decepticons. If someone was dead, he was fair game.

Darkstar caught on fairly quickly and hated herself for it. This was desecration of the dead, it wasn't right, but it raised her chances of survival. She didn't keep much for herself. Darkstar was leery of the idea of upgrading, but she did carry a laser pistol now. She couldn't aim it as well as the guns built into her arms, but at least she knew it would fire when she wanted it too. Generally when she took parts, she would give them to Discard or the medics. A little bribery could mean the difference between quick repairs and bleeding to death waiting someday.

In her case, it meant the difference between getting repairs and getting taken apart for scrap because she was such a terrible fighter.

That's all it is, she told herself, awkwardly carrying a dead Autobot that looked sort of like Clunker. But then, to her eyes, most of the Autobots looked like Clunker or Stopgap. Car-people. She found this one lying beside a crater. It's just taking apart broken machines. It's just parts.

Steelcast glanced up and snorted when Darkstar dropped the corpse on an empty table. "Today's 'rent', eh? Still can't hit anything?"

Darkstar had tried to be friendly to the medic, if only because she thought of Steelcast as a fellow female and figured they should stick together. "I don't see you out there."

"I earned the right to choose where I want to be. All you've proved is that you wouldn't even make a good empty. Empties scavenge better than you do."

She hit the table in frustration with the palm of her hand. "What do you want me to bring you, then?"

The medic's eyes flashed warmly and she tilted her head slightly - an expression that Darkstar had learned was a smile of surprise. Steelcast reached over and clapped her on the shoulder. "Ha! You know, if you asked anyone else, they'd yell at you, but they're dumb. Me, I like the idea of having a personal scrounge. Now then ..."

Steelcast thumped her toolbox down on the table. It fell open, and she took out something that looked like a cross between a crowbar and a machete. "Now, I'm just a poor little tech and these ones here you fight are even lower. Unless they got fancy sensor-panels, there's nothing in their heads worth keeping." With that, Steelcast lopped off the corpse's head. "You could take the optic crystals if you want. Some people collect them and sometimes you can sell them to artists. Me, I don't need them. Now ..."

Darkstar watched, too fascinated to be horrified, as Steelcast dissected the dead Autobot. Built-in weapons and tools had value. Always check the arms and hands for those. See if he's got a power chip rectifier - unlikely at this level, but a great find. Find this circuit and apply a mild current to empty his packet - he might be carrying something interesting in there. These kinds of wires were hard to come by in Porphuras, so take them. Take the fuel tank ...

Darkstar realised she must have said, "Yuck." Steelcast gave her a look of irritation. "What?"

"I've never been able to bring myself to drink someone else's fuel."

"It's life or death sometimes, Jet." Steelcast shrugged and returned her attention to the Autobot. "You don't want it, bring me the fuel tanks. We reprocess it."

"You ... what?"

"Ha. You've already been drinking recycled fuel, we just filter out the impurities before we put it in the main reservoir."

"That's ..." Darkstar frowned. "It can't be that much. The other warriors take most of it for their own stashes."

Steelcast chuckled and went back to pulling parts out of the dead Autobot.

She was finally getting used to her radio. Darkstar still couldn't use it herself, but she no longer jumped when she suddenly got somebody else's voice in her head - generally Windsweeper or Discard giving orders, once Clunker in trouble. Somehow she managed to run right to where Clunker was pinned, like following the sound of his voice.

Darkstar stopped counting the number of battles she had been in after the sixth one. It seemed like the Autobots made another try at claiming part of the city every few days. Time, she counted. She had been in the army for over two months.

Now she was using the tactic she had developed in her fourth battle - stick close to Smashup, shoot wildly, and claim to be cover fire.

Sometimes, back at the base, she wondered why it was her following him instead of Stopgap. They seemed to be partners, but they always split up on the battlefield - Smashup ran out to the front while Stopgap hung back and shot from cover. Darkstar sometimes thought that Stopgap had the right idea, but worried that if she tried, she was going to get labelled 'useless'. If she ran out with Smashup, she was at least showing willingness. It raised her chances of getting killed by Autobots, but lowered her chances of being killed by the technicians.

It was the little things like that that made being a Decepticon terrifying rather than exciting.

The air lit up again as it filled with laserfire. Smashup was hit, but he just grunted, transformed, and drove after the source. Darkstar made to follow him, and was hit by lights.

Darkstar screamed and collapsed. She knew that she wasn't really hurt all that badly, but being shot still terrified her. Any of the shots she'd taken would have incinerated her human body and she knew it. She also found it was a workable survival tactic - Autobots tended to ignore her if she was down and not moving. She had found her skill - Darkstar was good at playing dead.

So she held still, lying on her back, watching the sky, and waited for the noise around her to die down. And then an Autobot stepped into her field of vision.

This one was bright green and yellow, and looked like one of the car-people but without wheels. He had two long antennae on his helmet. Darkstar barely noticed. She was more focused on the still-smoking gun he was carrying. It wasn't pointed at her, but could be instantly. Darkstar tried to look dead, or at least too wounded to be any threat.

Sometimes they looked, but they always moved on. I'm dead. I'm not going to do anything. I'm just going to lie here. No need to waste any time on the broken jet-girl. Keep going.

The Autobot didn't keep going. He paused, frowning like he was confused. Then he stepped closer. When he was almost close enough to touch, Darkstar panicked. With a shriek, she brought up her arms, and twin streams of laserfire slammed into the Autobot.

She managed to roll to her feet as he collapsed, and brought her weapons in line again. A few seconds later, she realised she didn't need to. The Autobot's torso was one huge wound filled with cooling slag. As if to drive the point home, his paint faded to a dull gray. Darkstar stared at the body. I ... I did it.

And then, I just killed someone. Oh, dear God ...

Some time later, it was Smashup who found her, still standing over the body. "You got that one?"

"Y-yeah. It was an accident."

"Nice. Some accident."

"Hello?" Stopgap hailed as he picked his way across the debris of the battlefield. "I've been trying to radio you, but someone dropped a fuzz bomb. Did you find the secret entrance to the Magical Cavern of Hot Oil Baths, or what's over here that's so interesting that you two haven't started back yet?"

"The jet managed to kill something," said Smashup proudly, and the compliment from her teammate almost made Darkstar forget that she had committed murder.

Stopgap beamed. "Oh, good. Discard will be happy. Come on, let's take the shell back so we can gloat at the techs."

She had carried dead Autobots back to the base before, but she couldn't bring herself to touch this one. Touching him would make it real. "I ... I don't think I can ..."

The other two didn't comment, maybe seeing the burn marks on her and assuming she was too injured for heavy lifting. Stopgap gestured, and Smashup swung the shell over his left arm easily. "Clunker's probably still out wandering around, you know," he said.

"Well, Darkstar needs repairs anyway," said Stopgap. Then he turned to smile at her. "Lead on back, hero."

If there was sarcasm in the tone, Darkstar was in no mood to notice. She trusted her feet to bring her back to he base, letting her mind wander on its own paths.

He would have killed me if I didn't get him first, Darkstar told herself, trying to justify her actions. These Autobots we fight here are like us - they don't ask questions and they don't take prisoners. And it's not like he was a person. He was a robot. Just wires and things.

... Like me.

No, I'm different. I ... I have a soul? Right. Robots don't.

Then why do they have mystics? You don't believe that, anyway.

Look, it was him or me. It was self-defence, and he was a machine anyway. End of discussion.

She wasn't convinced, but she had run out of arguments. It wasn't so bad just coming across a dead Transformer, especially if he was still in vehicle-form. Those weren't a problem. Those were just broken machines. The green Autobot ...

Darkstar set her jaw. Somehow, she vowed, she would find out his name and who he was. They could make her kill, but they couldn't make her a cold-blooded murderer. She would have to ask Steelcast if there was any way to identify the bodies of the dead.

Somewhere behind her, Stopgap and Smashup were talking, too quietly to make out the words. Idly, she realised that if she concentrated, she could hear them better, but stopped herself. Whatever they were talking about, she probably wouldn't find it interesting. They weren't seeing any of this as traumatic. They were even proud of her.

It was so hard to hold a real conversation with the other Decep ... with the Decepticons, she corrected herself. She didn't want to consider herself one of them. In any case, they were hard to talk to. Their priorities weren't like hers. They weren't interested in the same things she was, she was only slowly picking up the slang, and they had no shared culture. What did she used to talk about with her friends? Movies - Darkstar didn't think they had any. Music - she had heard some Decepticon music, and it was awful. And none of them would have heard of any Earth bands anyway. Clothing - they didn't wear any. Boys - they were all boys, as far as she could tell, she just thought of some as girls because of their voices or build. Maybe they got together and gossiped about how hot helicopter-people were or something.

They didn't even have hobbies she could relate to. It seemed to Darkstar that every time she walked in on a Decepticon, he was doing something technical, like fixing his guns or doing research on a computer. Maybe they had video games. She'd have to ask about that.

Darkstar turned back to unnecessarily announce that they had arrived, but the words died with surprise. She had learned a lot about Decepticons in the last two months, but had never expected to see a pair of them walking like a human couple. Stopgap was tucked into the bend of Smashup's right arm, his own arm around the tank-person's waist. When Darkstar turned, he quickly stepped out of the half-embrace and flashed her a guilty smile. "I guess we're too close to the base anyway," Smashup mumbled.

So that was why they wanted her walking out in front. Maybe Decepticons weren't allowed to hug because it made them look soft or something. Except that she had seen plenty of other public-display-of-affection activity around the base, and nobody seemed embarrassed by it. Obviously these two were.

"I didn't see anything," Darkstar said quickly, then started off for the base again. Behind her, she heard Stopgap laugh softly, but the sound was one of relief, not mockery.

Once inside the base, they went straight to the repair bay. It was true that she needed repairs. And there was something else she might be able to find.

Steelcast glanced up from the computer screen she was reading. "You busy?" asked Darkstar. Somewhere behind her, Stopgap and Smashup were talking to another technician.

"Vaguely." The medic gave Darkstar a longer look. "You were damaged in the last battle. Why weren't you in here hours ago?"

"I, um ... it's not real bad, and I figured I'd just be in the way if I was hanging around down here?"

"Liar. All right, get over here."

Darkstar walked over and sat on the table so Steelcast could more easily reach the burns on her chest and wing. The medic prodded at the marks. "This doesn't look like much. I don't think it's gone deeper than your armour, but I guess I got nothing better to do."

Steelcast went to a cupboard and started fiddling with a jar and a thing that looked like a sprayer. Darkstar took a deep breath, or would have. "Steelcast ..."

"Yeah, Jet?"

Darkstar twisted her hands together, as well as she could. "Is there ... is there any way we can erase bits of our own memories?"

"Yeah, but it's a dumb thing to do."

"Well, if it wasn't for very long? Say, something that can make you just forget the last five minutes?"

"You don't want to start messing with your brain, okay?" Steelcast turned back with the thing that looked like an airbrush but bigger, and started spraying a fine mist on Darkstar's wing.

Whatever it was, it wasn't paint. The mist seemed to make her self-repair system work faster instead, causing the burns to fill in and turn her proper colours. Darkstar tried to bite her lip, but remembered she lacked teeth. "You're a non-combatant. Have you ... have you ever killed anybody, Steelcast?"

"Plenty," said Steelcast, in a tone that could have been discussing how many tools she owned. "I think only eight were counted officially, though. I haven't looked at my record in ages."

"And you don't mind?"

"Why should I? Serves those idiots right for poking around my projects." The medic's eyes glowed a bit brighter. "Is that what this is about? So that's why those two cross-wired pals of yours looked so smug when they brought that shell in. Jet, you're a warrior. You kill people, and it's about time, too."

"But I'd never done it before!" Darkstar protested.

"Then you oughta get used to it, shouldn't you?" Steelcast poked her in the stomach with her free hand. "We're in a war, dope. People die. Preferably more of them than of us."

Darkstar didn't say anything. "I remember my first kill," said Steelcast idly, taking her sprayer apart again. "I was on a project in the Tagon region, in a half-completed building. There was an Autobot poking around. I found out later he was a saboteur. If I hadn't killed him, he'd have killed a lot more people. Anyway, I was driving on a higher level, running a ditainium-4 shipment. Molten ditainium-4." Her eyes darkened in her masked equivalent of a smug smile. "I upended my crucible on him. Turned him into a very surprised and ugly statue. Ha, my supervisor at the time was an arty-type and bought him off me. That was neat."

It was meant to comfort. It didn't. "But why are we fighting the Autobots?" asked Darkstar.

Steelcast laid a hand on her shoulder. "Because," she intoned, and Darkstar waited for words of wisdom, "they're out-moded, overly optimistic dopes who think that sitting on their afts and fretting is a good way to run a planet. We're better than them. That's all."

Maybe if they didn't have video games, she could start up the video game industry on Cybertron and she'd never have to fight again.

Stopgap was at the target range, though up on the balcony that served as a gallery. It was easy enough to see what he was watching, even if she didn't suspect anything - Smashup was down on the range itself, taking out targets with his arm-cannon. Whenever he caused a particularly impressive explosion, he'd turn back and wave and yell to make sure Stopgap had seen it, and Stopgap would wave back to assure him that he had. Darkstar couldn't decide if it was cute or plain weird.

In between explosions, Darkstar asked, "Do you know if we have any video games on the computer?"

"It's tied into the Worldnet. You could call up any in the public archives," said Stopgap. "Discard will be upset if you get addicted, though."

So much for starting an entertainment revolution, then. At least she had something to look for next time she was on a computer.

Smashup missed a target. Stopgap quickly drew his gun, snapped off a shot and took it out, which caused Smashup to yell at him and Stopgap to laugh. Smashup returned to his target practice and Stopgap settled back against the wall, arms folded across his chest. "All strength and no skill," he murmured. "He'd never hit a thing if he didn't use such heavy ordnance. And he considers himself an artist!" There was another large explosion and a shout from the tank. "Well, a connoisseur."

"Of explosions?"

"No." Stopgap smiled. He did have a nice smile, sort of far-off and wistful. It helped that he had a more human face than most of the Transformers Darkstar had met. "I know it's stupid to change yourself just to try to attract someone, but it seemed like such a small price to pay."

He was looking at her, but it seemed almost more like he was talking to himself. But at least he actually wanted to talk. With the others, it always just felt like they were tolerating her questions. Well, maybe she'd learn something. Darkstar waited.

She didn't have to wait long. "I've been so lucky," said Stopgap. "Discard doesn't approve, no, but he doesn't get nasty about it. He even does my repairs. He even ... wait."

Stopgap sat down and fiddled with one of the rustier panels on his boots, then swung it open. "Here, look."

"I don't see ..." Then she did. There was a patch on the inside of his leg, behind where the rusted area was.

"So my armour is just as strong there as on the rest of my leg, even if it looks weakened from the outside," Stopgap agreed.

"That was nice of him."

The car-person laughed. "Nice? Discard just doesn't want me to die too easily. I'm the closest thing to a sharpshooter he's got in this crew, and when his subordinates die, it reflects badly on him. But not too badly - we're not expected to last all that long anyway. But think of it like your video games - as long as it doesn't interfere with us on the battlefield, we can do what we like."

"I don't understand why any of this is a bad thing," Darkstar admitted.

Stopgap smiled. "That's probably why I like you. You don't understand, so you're not disgusted. Mostly it's because I do it for him instead of for myself. Except that I am doing it for myself - it gets me Smashup. Do you see?"

"I ... I think so," said Darkstar, the part of her that was feminist warring with the part of her that was a teenage girl who would do anything to be accepted. "Like ... like if he would only date blue people, you'd change your paintjob. It doesn't hurt you, so you don't mind."

He nodded. "Exactly. It changes other people's perceptions of me, but it doesn't actually have any bearing on who I am. I would still be a low-level sharpshooter." Stopgap shook his head. "People just don't understand. They don't know Smashup like I do. He's more than just a ... a kink." He spat the final word out.

"So why did you have to alter yourself for him?"

Darkstar and Stopgap turned to find Clunker had snuck up on them, dropping down from the air. Stopgap glared. "Because it is part of him. It isn't all he is." Then, eyes bright, "And what do your mutilations bring you? You're just lucky that I like Discard, you ..."

Clunker made a rude noise at him, then transformed and drove away down the gallery.

It occurred to Darkstar that she still had no idea why Stopgap was supposed to be so horrible. Apparently it had to do with the rust, and the rust was ugly, but she didn't see why it made him a social outcast.

One day she found out where Clunker vanished to when he wasn't in the room. At least, where he was after battles.

Darkstar had hung behind after the last battle, scavenging from the fallen ahead of the clean-up team. She had eventually learned why the warriors from the base were referred to as 'garbage collectors' by the more elite Decepticons - Windsweeper, who ran the base, was tidy to the point of anal-retentive. Clean-up crews went out after every battle, taking away the corpses and clearing out damaged areas.

She recognised the orange figure, but found his movements strange. He wasn't scavenging or cleaning, just wandering around. Darkstar stuffed the parts she collected into her 'pocket' - Steelcast had rigged up a manual control for her when she realised Darkstar couldn't access it with her mind - and went over to ask what he was doing.

Clunker didn't look at her, instead watching his bleeding arm, but his voice was defiant. "I'm feeding the ghosts."

"Isn't that a waste of fuel?" she asked.

"Better I give it to them now than have them suck it out of my tank," said Clunker. "I have to feed them, otherwise they get angry and cause trouble for the living. If they're fed, they go off to the Allspark happy."

Darkstar watched him finish dripping on the ground and seal off his fuel line again. "Does it have to be you, specifically?"

"No, but it has to be a willing, living sacrifice," Clunker shrugged. "So I do it. Besides, when they come back, then they remember me a little more kindly."

They started the walk back to the barracks. "Oh, like reincarnation?"

"Yeah. Though since all the souls in the Allspark are one, they share their memories. That means they all know that I propitiate the ghosts." He punched her in the shoulder. "Come on, you should know this stuff if Mindwipe built you."

"He didn't tell me much about it. He wants me to learn everything on my own," Darkstar said. "The most mystical thing he showed me was throwing these coloured dice."

Clunker looked surprised. "Lithoastragalomancy?"

"Yeah, that sounds about right," said Darkstar. If the 'litho' meant gems and the 'astragalo' meant dice ... Finally, what trivia she picked up in her goth phase could be used for something. "They could have been made of gems. Maybe crystals or glass. I don't know. There were nine of them. Most had numbers and some had symbols."

"Oh, nine. That's all right."

"As different from what?"

"Well, four is really bad," he said. "Nine's good and solid, and more accurate than just three. Some fortune-teller cults use twelve. I hear the Devourists use thirteen, so that could get you in trouble."

They had numerology. They even had superstitions - and thirteen was an unlucky number, no less. Why they had them was another question. Darkstar was thrilled - she finally had a subject she could talk about to someone. "Mindwipe didn't tell me anything. What do the numbers mean?"

She started taking the memory-modules of the Autobots she killed, even though it made her queasy to open up their heads and dig the piece out. One day, maybe, she could find out their names and have a proper funeral for them, as an apology. It was also a way of remembering that she was human. The Decepticons didn't care about their victims - they just killed. Clunker might do his ghost-feeding, but even that was for himself.

Killing the Autobots got easier, a little, the more she did it. At least, she stopped panicking when she realised that she had just committed another murder.

Darkstar still slept for eight hours a day, out of habit, but she was glad that she couldn't dream.

Then, just when Darkstar thought she was getting used to all the death, Stopgap died.


On to Chapter Four
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