Writing challenge 24 - A conflict apart from good and bad
okkkkay
Here's a plot for a tragedy, read, things will go bad and people will make bad decisions. But hey, they tried.

Anne is a teenage horse lower. She meets a rescue horse that's rather agressive due to a horrible past. Hearing the current owner gave up on him, she decides to persuade her trainer to let her try calm down the horse.

Soon, she develops a strong bond with the horse, but he remains unpredictable with her, and predictably dangerous to everyone around him. The trainer and the horse owner start to persuade Anne to accept the imevitable and let the horse be eutanized before he would kill anybody.

There's a lot of arguing whether one can threaten the lives of other people, and her own, by keeping the horse.

The current wowner, not wanting further responsibility, gifts Anne the horse, which the parents and trainers view as giving an unfair namount of responsibility on her shoulders. Also, now that the owner is out of the picture, apparently nobody is trying to be rational anymore. Some people hate the horse for being agressive and ungrateful, others view his behavior as a consequence of bad horsemanship and praise Anne for her patience and devotion.

Finally, they hear of a horse tamer somewhere very far away, and Anne persuades her family to give this one last try. She'd let go of the horse if the tamer fails.

As they are preparing to move the horse, a shaman-like seer comes and reveals "people will die before this horse does". However, other people have heard about miracles this tamer achieved, and they have faith in him. The family gets the horse in the trailer, and off they drive into the sunset.

Discuss: who is right? The girl for taking every chance she hcan find? Or those telling her not to risk humans for a horse? Is the owner a positive or negative character? Is there anything you would have done otherwise?

The tragedy I mentioned:
It is a long drive, some of it on crooked, foresty hill roads. On the way to the tamer, the family has a horrible car accident, and Anne dies along with at least one parent. The trailer also turns over, the horse breaks at least one leg, and is eutanized -not because of his behavior problems and mental wounds, but rather for the physical ones.

Note, this ending is only so that I avoid answering the questions I brought up.

(Challenge 17 - declarative sentences, take two)
okkkkay
These lines are about main character from Rosiant. If you want to read it, please be warned of spoilers.

  1. Sain Effor's birth name is known to few.

  2. 'Effor' was the given name of his maternal grandfather, suggested as an alias by a teacher at the age of 15.

  3. He was born a rich man's second son. His father gave him off to the military at the age of 7 so that the family business would stay in one hand and not splitted up.

  4. His mother only got married for the money. No one knows if she'd ever been in love her entire life.

  5. He was a junior champion of Kraken, a stochastic strategy boardgame that simulates a sea battle.

  6. Even at the age of 51, he keeps his teenhood Kraken trophies on display in his office.

  7. He was 21 when he was transferred to officer training at the International Army.

  8. Only a few weeks into that, he offered his financial support to a young thief who was stealing from the training center regularly. The thefts were unsolved and the thief has no crime record. Only Effor and some of his very close friends know details of this story.

  9. Effor is straight. And most likely, a virgin.

  10. He was promoted to the rank of d at the age of 41 and he'd been assigned to be the base commander of Celua two months later.

  11. He has about 1600 people under his command.

  12. He has brown hair (graying)

  13. He can ride a horse, a camel and an elephant. He never owned any of those animals.

  14. He can drive most army vehicles but he isn't fond of driving.

  15. He's definitely not fond of piloting a jet or a combined-copter, either.

  16. Before being promoted to d, he'd been a tactician for many International Army battles. He also keeps photos of each of his victories on his wall (opposite to the Kraken trophies)

  17. His tactics were often based on simple but overlooked details instead of the use of sheer force.

  18. Despite that, he always makes sure to have the best available technology at hand. Or at least he tries.

  19. He kept his Deeplander citizenship when he'd received his first promotion. That is a choice only few officers make.

  20. As he was born in a desert country, he adapted to heat during the day and freezing temperature at night. However, he feels unwell when those are switched (cold plus daylight or warmth in the dark.)

  21. He is a rational monotheist, 'ratie' for short. Ratieism is considered populist and people are often puzzled why he didn't pick a more sophisticated religion. Then he'd patiently explain he would leave unreliable sources to tactical work and he keeps a clear line between work and religion.

  22. Despite being a rational MONOtheist, he would often refer to gods in plural. Because, while there is evidence of SOME supernatural activity, he accepts no scientific evidence for all that being the work of the same divine person.

  23. As a ratie, he views any sort of religious radicalism unacceptably illogical.

  24. As a ratie, he also views any sort of religious conscience-triggering as stupid. There is no 'good' or 'bad' for him, only logical and illogical.

  25. He likes cheese.

  26. He doesn't like liquid milk.

  27. On Celua, he keeps all the rules that apply to any file-and-rank soldier. That includes the rule of no food in the living quarters.

  28. He has never in his life been overweight.

  29. He was once underweight, when the tactical center near a warfield had been bombed and his jaw was broken. Among with several other bones, but only the jaw is specified in his non-medical record.

  30. He still doesn't mind being only a few miles away from the action. That's a risk he would take in exchange for reliable communication.

  31. He has a good sense for people and finding the value of an individual.

  32. He often does a SWAT analysis of people (acronym means strength, weakness, advantage, threat) - friend and foe alike.

  33. When facing a problem, you'll first see him trying some purely rational solution (negotiation, finding another way around the problem, etc.)

  34. He views violence as a next step when rational doesn't work.

  35. He's sure people in general tend to be irrational on occasion.

  36. Unlike people, camels and horses are usually rational for him.

  37. He carries one visible gun and two hidden revolvers all the time. It's part of his uniform.

  38. He wears a wrist communicator that's standard in the International Army but his device has an expanded memory.

  39. This expanded memory he uses to keep record of certain events, like, mistakes and intentional faults of his superiors.

  40. He isn't fond of music.


(Challenge 12 - songfic without lyrics)
okkkkay
Much to learn

1,
There was something strange about this Autobot. Not his rank, nor his courage. It was more like an ability: an unexplainable talent to remain cheerful and jaunty throughout the many-million-years-long war, half of which he’d spent as the Third in Command, and as the Head of Special Operations. He had wounds, on his chassis and in his spark, but he had been able to get through all that damage.

Not for the first time, Top Surprise noted he’d have to learn how to live that way, from his daddy and those around him. Optimus Prime had surrounded himself with mechs who could keep good morale up. Empirically, that had compensated for the Decepticons’ strength in strategic value and in more advanced military engineering. Keeping an army together by fear didn’t work on the long term; he’d seen far too many cases of that philosophy gone wrong. Now the young mech was eager to learn how to do it right.

Negotiations with his own father went smoothly, but they had too many points to agree on. As Megatron’s appointed heir, he was meant to lead the Decepticons to victory, even if he’d never agreed to that role. Tarn had been preparing Top Surprise for this ever since the DJD had entered the dying Soundwave’s cell. But what is victory? Possession of some barren land that nobody would want to inhabit? Eliminating his enemies before they would eliminate him? Or was it the ability to enjoy life like this strange mech under the Prime’s command did, unbroken despite all that slag that had happened to him in the past?

Over the holographic chart that displayed Autobot, Decepticon, and Third Party territories on Cybertron’s surface, the Teeker’s attention wandered off to the mostly-white Autobot. He didn’t need scientific knowledge anymore, nor power plants, nor a fleet of Warworlds. He needed to know where the strength of a mech like Jazz would come from.
He looked into Optimus Prime’s blue optics.

“It will take time for both our armies to retreat from all the mutual borderlines,” he pointed out. “It will take even more to build a new network that would be able to face the Third Party effectively. I don’t see the point of continuing this negotiation until that is completed.”

“I agree.” Optimus Prime leaned back in his chair. His stance was still formal, as he forcefully reminded himself that he was talking to the Decepticons’ new leader, not only to his son whom he had met for the first time. Top Surprise also kept a rather formal distance from the mech who had kept him alive in his first weeks of existence, but that cold behavior was a lot more natural from Soundwave’s descendant.

The Prime’s optics turned brighter when Top Surprise met the older mech’s gaze. Soundwave’s traits or not, the speed of withdrawal from the Autobot-Decepticon borderlines was just his excuse to catch a break from the negotiations. “I could show you around Higher Iacon before we continue,” Optimus offered.

“That would be a pleasure, sir. Not even the best intelligence is a match to personal experience.” The Teeker didn’t smile, didn’t radiate eagerness. If he had any detectable emotion, the deflector on his right shoulder prevented anybot from noticing. He only pinged Buzzsaw for his whereabouts, and the tiny birdformer replied that the area was safe. Everything else the telepath needed, he could reach from the hacked Iacon surveillance network, or from the minds of the Autobots in the city.

Even if he didn’t feel safe in enemy territory, he concealed his fears well.

First, they walked in silence. The corridors were too crowded to roll through, but once they were out of the Towers, Top Surprise transformed. His father dropped to his wheels as well, and took the lead.

Iacon was still too crowded and hot, compared to the barren snowfields on Messatine. There, were Autobots here, as far as the optic could see. Out of his four cassettes, one was dead, one was mauled, and one chose to stay with the DJD on the long term. He’d lost Sixshot. Tesarus died in a way no mech ever should. Tarn was on Messatine, patched up by a beginner medic candidate. Last time the Teeker got news from Ambulon, it read ‘Delphi is safe for now.’ The Keys, the squad he’d picked literally from the death row, had been decimated by the Third Party. As for the ships, Frenzy had parked the Peaceful Tyranny in one of the abandoned shafts where only Megatron would know to look. The Well-Concealed Heroism was halfway home from Earth, its eponymic cloaking device broken. His closest normal-size soldier was Gorelock, waiting outside of Iacon, probably overseeing the preparation for the next clash with the Third Party and plotting his vengeance on those who had landed him in prison a while back.

Top Surprise pointed his antenna toward the nearest interplanetary satellite. Accessing Delphi’s logs took him five astroseconds, downloading Laserbeak’s and Tarn’s files took another five. Apparently, both these patients had been assigned to his dad.

At least he didn’t have to worry about anyone on the nucleon-rich, snowy planet. They wouldn’t kill each other in the near future. He could deal with his closer family.

::Daddy:: he radioed the Prime, still on the secret frequency he had discovered in Jetfire’s communicator. ::Thank you. For everything::

::You’re welcome, Top Surprise. And I thank you for giving the Autobots a second chance. We will reach the plato over Sherma’s Valley in a klik, there we can talk freely::

::I’m really looking forward to it::

::I cannot feel anything:: Optimus admitted. ::None of your emotions come through::

::That is how I don’t jam my own sensor:: Top Surprise replied. ::I would be deaf and blind if I were too easy to teek:: However, in the next moment, the Prime could feel amazement and awe flood the younger mech’s spark as he took the last turn to the lookout high-ground.

In front of them, right under their tires, lay the great polity of Iacon.

It was colorful, pulsing with life. Like a spark. But behind it, dark and barren, was the wasteland of wrecks and bomb craters. The Teeker detected the sense of duty of an ancient Guardian taking off with a squad of soldiers, although it happened so far away he couldn’t see him.

::Will we win the war against the Third Party?:: he timidly asked, still on his wheels.

“It depends on us, Top,” the Prime replied as he rose to robot mode. “They show a united front. Our people spent the past million years fighting each other. But if Cybertron survived that, there’s a chance it’ll survive the Third Party as well.”

Next to him, the Teeker transformed. “I told Gorelock to make sure the ‘Cons on the mutual line are compatible with the ‘Bot on your side. Kick-Off with the Terrorcons, Defensor with the Predacons.” Top Surprise spoke up, then shook his head. “Tarn never understood why I encouraged fraternizing. Not even Tesarus did.”

This was the second time Optimus could pick up an emotion from his son. It was deep, quickly suppressed grief. But even when that happened, the kid’s posture and facial expression didn’t change the slightest. He just went quiet for a while.
After a long consideration and several swallowed-back words of comfort, the Prime broke the silence. “Remembering someone you’ve lost is not a weakness. In fact, their memory can be a source of strength.”

“I don’t need you to translate your Autobot truth to a badly spoken Decepticon language.” There was a smile, if hardly visible, on Top Surprise’s faceplates. But that smile was bitter.

“I wonder if a mech can bore himself to death in the Pit,” the young mech continued. “That’s impossible, right?”

“I believe in no Pit. All sparks, regardless of how good or bad the mech may have been, return to Primus through the Well. Your friend Tesarus might be now welcomed back to his source. Consider Primus to be looking up at us, at you, through his optics.”

“Visor. He had a custom-made visor. The attempt at comfort is noted, daddy.” Then, remembering his thoughts from the negotiations, he asked, “You have all been through a lot of losses, haven’t you? How do you deal with that? I have seen Tarn trying to turn his grief into vengeance, which he would then store deep in his spark. I’ve been witness to what this method has done to him. Sixshot honestly doesn’t care, but then, he never worries about his own self either.”

Optimus was torn between taking a step back, and rushing to hold the young mech tight in his embrace. He did neither. This was a quiet place for a private talk, but it would still look awkward if the Autobot leader threw his arms around Megatron’s offspring and appointed heir. Even if it was his offspring, too.

“Maybe the difference is that we do care. At least, some of us. We help each other through,” Optimus Prime explained. His subconscious programming was screaming at him that this was all bad. A few-months-old sparkling should not need guidance on how to get over grief, nor any other war damage. But Top Surprise had already lost one mentor, and had seen more damage than what he could possibly comprehend.

“I noticed your spec ops commander is one of those keeping their spirits up.”

“Jazz? Absolutely. Do you want to meet him before the battle for Lower Altihex?”

“Yes! Please!”

Eagerness. Optimus started to understand how he could read Top Surprise. The mech was not without emotions, but he let them show only for brief moments.

“Daddy? I think we should go back. The Third Party won’t wait to give us time to prepare ourselves.”

“I agree,” Optimus Prime said as he transformed. ::But I hope you didn’t think this visit was a waste::

::Far from it, daddy::

Top Surprise pointed his antenna at the interplanetary communication satellite again, and checked for any change in the status reports from Delphi. He had to make sure the mechs there still hadn’t torn each other apart.



2,
Jazz was reading through the reports from his subordinates. Once it would have taken a joor to do. Now, he was done in five breems. There were so many agents who would never give a report again...

In front of him, on the other side of the blue visor and unaware of the text on his HUD, the official talk between the Prime and the Decepticon leader-to-be continued. It was more about discussing details and comparing notes, instead of what opposing party leaders were normally supposed to do. Was it a distraction attempt from  the young ‘Con communication officer? Unlikely. Neither had he come to Iacon to spy on anybot, nor to assassinate anyone.

Despite that, Jazz kept alert, and so did Ironhide. Just because Optimus had voluntarily allowed his spark be tainted by Megatron to let this sparkling live, the white mech had no right to be given an opportunity to kill an Autobot. And why wouldn’t he? He was raised by the DJD...

::It’s not like I couldn’t kill you right now, if I really wanted to:: The message came without warning, without invocation, without a byte of signature. As Jazz tracked it back, the signal led back to a camera drone that was floating around elegant hall. Unlike others of its kind, it had a sharp antenna aimed at a gap in Jazz’s armor. ::As you just pointed out, I’ve been raised by fine mechs. I am not aligned to either faction, but my training is that of a Decepticon::

Jazz scanned his surroundings. Nobot seemed to have noticed the verbal/mental exchange. Perhaps their attention had simply got deflected.

::I’ll keep an optic on you during the next break:: he messaged back.

::I’m looking forward to it!::

Was that a flash of eagerness? Just one, tiny wave, but impressive and unmistakeable?

::Count on me to be there!::

This time, it was the Prime who initiated a few-breem-long escape from the negotiations. The Decepticons’ leader-to-be nodded formally. As Optimus left the room through the main entrance, the young almost-a-Decepticon took a step towards the mostly-white Autobot.

He teeked into the many Autobot sparks around him. All of the mechs here were content with their present. They were proud and happy. They were at home.

“Autobot Jazz. I heard much appreciation of your skills in music. If your offer still stands, I would be honored by your company.”

“The honor is mine.”

After just a moment of awkward silence, the Autobots around them continued chatting with each other, exchanging pings and datapacks. Comparing observations with their partners.

“This way, please. There’s a soundproof room on jus’ the floor below. Nobot wou’ mind a little loud music there!”

Top Surprise took a step back. Coming to enemy headquarters was one thing; walking into an isolated room was entirely different.

“No. I’m not walking into anything trap-like.”

Jazz made a sad grimace. “Aww, mech. I fo’got you’ve been raised by Decepti-slags.”

Top Surprise replied on the personal radio frequency, but those witness to the exchange of words and the expression on the mech’s face could easily guess at the message. After a similarly encrypted reply was sent, Top’s expression turned darker. “I want you to apologize just as publicly.”

“But I...”

“Now.” To give weight to that single word, Top Surprise took a combat-ready pose. Hooks replaced his hands and his feet.
The Autobots around them formed a circle, keeping a respectable distance from them. The background communication, however, didn’t stop. The Teeker could read their minds so clearly that he could tell what move Jazz would try before the Spec Ops mech himself. He was at an advantage.

But the Autobot was fast.

Knowing that letting the opponent land the first blow would be suicide, Jazz attacked. He grabbed his weapons from subspace when he was already in the air, not giving the Decepticon-raised mech a chance to identify them.

So Top Surprise blocked the first hit without identifying them.

Jazz immediately jumped back, before the deadly hooks could grab his frame.

But Top Surprise followed him. With the tenacity the DJD was famous for. The floor quietly frizzled under the tips of his yellow-glowing foot hooks.

Jazz was not intimidated, but he realized his options were more limited than in a normal fight. This was a negotiator he had insulted, worse than that: this was Optimus Prime’s lost sparkling, so causing him any serious damage was out of question. No tearing his head off. No breaking his spark casing.

Jazz just managed to block the two hand-hooks before they took off a visor and maybe half of his face along with it. He caught the pair of deadly orange blades in the loops of his blue electro-chains.

From this close, Top Surprise had a good view on the pair of weapons Jazz was using. They looked identical, glowing in the same shade of blue as the Autobot’s visor. Each consisted of two heavy batons, and a chain holding them together, about as long as the width of Jazz’s wheels. The chains weren’t bladed like those he’d been trained to grab, and he’d soon learned why: as Jazz initiated the next attack, he’d gripped the links faster than he’d have never been able to do with razor-sharp blades. In their next clash, Jazz swung the two batons around his wrist, maintaining momentum and confusing the opponent. The Teeker grudgingly admitted that it worked.

Jazz had clearly received different training than what Tarn could offer. He was volatile and cheerful, nowhere near as serious as the old Decepticon. Not careless, but care-free.

There, he had it. Jazz was buoyant. Delighted, and delightful. Perhaps consciously, he maintained a jovial view of his surroundings, a feat Tarn completely failed at. Even when four sharp hooks were out to tear into him, Jazz was more light-sparked than Tarn had been in the friendliest of their mock-fights.

Top Surprise retreated to let Jazz attack him again, then he stepped aside before the Autobot would have reached him. The batons swung in the air, and Top Surprise had the impression this was at least partially intentional. In return he also missed Jazz’s visor with his right leg hook the next time he kicked the mech in the face.

Tarn had so often told him not to rush, not to end a fight too soon. To show the opponent that he could drag it out as long as he wanted to. Well, Tarn had said ‘enemy’ which is not the same, but the youngling had learned not to take everything at face value. To him, enemy was the Third Party. Jazz was an opponent.

A peculiar, agile, and creative one. Dangerous, too: the moment the Teeker’s attention wandered off, one of the electric-blue things hit him, too close to the left hand-hook’s field generator. That hook lost its orange-yellow glow as the protecting energon layer deactivated. But it was still sharp, and it could still straighten an armor plate where it was supposed to be bent.

Jazz kicked Top Surprise’s hook out of his plating and assumed battle stance again. Their next clash had only caused damage to few work-tables and a holoprojector. The two mechs were so engaged, they didn’t even notice.

The bystanders had formed a loud and enthusiastic audience around the two fighting mechs, cheering them on to continue whenever they took a nanosecond off. But this was not the blood-thirst one could expect from the Decepticons. These Autobots were interested in the show, in the big clashes and well-timed blocks. As the fight progressed, their reactions were less and less helpful to the Teeker, until they became more of a distraction than a source of warnings.
Besides, Top Surprise’s thermal regulation had adapted to the cold of Messatine, and even on his home planet, most of the training fights took place in the open. Cybertron, even an arctic city like Iacon, was a lot warmer than that, and they’ve been in a room which had been heated by ex-vents of dozens of mechs. The Teeker realized that if he couldn’t win the fight very soon, he’d be losing it.

Until now, he hadn’t been attacking with quite the rage Tarn would have expected of him. It had been more of an evaluation. He wanted to learn from Jazz, learn his attitude and his movements. Even without teeking, he could tell Jazz had been doing the same: evaluating him and taking the opportunity to learn.

::We should call it a draw before it escalates:: he messaged on a private frequency. His signal was weaker than what an average spectator could pick up in the background noise. ::This is supposed to be a negotiation::

Just as swiftly as the fight started, it stopped. The two mechs were standing motionless. Only Jazz’s louder and Top Surprise’s weaker vents were audible.

“Draw?” Jazz asked.

“Draw.” The Teeker nodded.

Despite the intensity of the fight, there were only minor scratches on the Autobot and minor dents on the guest. Both white frames were radiating heat, and both mechs were grinning contentedly.

::I still want you to apologize. Now, when our audience is still paying attention::

Jazz rubbed the side of his helm, and loudly announced that Top Surprise had been trained by skilled, worthy, and dedicated warriors.

But he said that in Primal Vernacular, a language most Autobots had trouble understanding. The Teeker gave him an angry look, but didn’t comment with a single beep.

A draw was a draw.



((Part 2’s music can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfNKZt1I8jA )

Challenge 11 - anonymous character
okkkkay
Singing echo
A scene from the still-nowhere-written sequel of Not quite Paradise

Tesarus was skilled in many ways of causing a processor meltdown, but he’d never caused so much annoyance to anyone by simply pacing from wall to wall.
“Quit that,” Tarn had finally told him.
But even now, with Tesarus gritting his belly-blades instead of pacing the control room, the tension around both large mechs was palpable. Tarn’s index finger was curled right above the emergency button, his gaze fixed on the monitors.
“Are you sure Top will be all right? He’s our responsibility, even when he’s troublesome.”
“‘Troublesome’, you say. He just let the entire crew of this place go, claiming that deserting their post was ‘understandable’. He chose a traitor as his attending medic. A good portion of his spark is from Optimus Prime and the Matrix of his kind. You call this ‘troublesome’.” He summed up. But even as he spit these words, he kept that finger right on the button that would get Top Surprise out of the heat, if needed.
“I just hope you know what you’re doing,” Rumble said, shifting in his seat next to the thermal displays. “You’ve locked him up in there two kliks ago. The incinerator’s been on for almost one klik.”
-.-
Top Surprise was enjoying the panorama, the magnificient view of Grindcore one would, in theory, only get to see if he climbed up to the outer walls of the main building, up to the heat outlets. He had done almost exactly that. Almost, as in he hadn’t climbed the outer walls of Grindcore, but he’d detached a piece of the incinerator’s intricate floor, and used it as a ladder until he’d reached the heat outlet - from the inside.
“Hi, Buzzsaw.”
Of course his most loyal Cassette found him first. The small spy landed near the outlet, visibly enjoying the warm air. Top Surprise patted him on the head.
“I know I should adapt to heat. Eventually. Cybertron is way hotter than Messatine.”
The black and golden birdformer gave an accusing look. How long would his young carrier delay everything important? They should go home. To Cybertron, ideally, so that he could continue monitoring Autobot science. Top Surprise, however, just laughed. He liked the present.
“If Tarn wants to know whether I’m still down there or not, he can check the timestamp on the loop in the cameras. But let’s not just sit here. Have you ever been to Grindcore before?”
-.-
“He’s been in there for over two kliks now. His spark could start faltering.”
“There’s no sign of it. He’s still trying to hack that door open. Which is impossible from the inside, but he’s not given up yet.”
The large red cross-visor gave Tarn a very sharp look, but Tesarus didn’t say a word.
-.-
“This doesn’t look like a place I would abandon,” Top Surprise mused aloud as he climbed down from his perch on the outside. This was the first time he’d been to the famous Grindcore prison, a Decepticon fortress that had been emptied before he had been born. The guards had figured they would take the remaining prisoners as hostage to ensure the Autobots didn’t slam them up like they did to almost everyone else. That hadn’t worked exactly by the plan, there had been shooting, the cargo ship’s crash, prisoners breaking loose, other prisoners turning on their own faction-mates.... Tarn had recently trapped them on a small colony the disgraced Decepticons had formed. Top Surprise had had fun tracking them, blocking their communication way before they would have realized who had been on their heels. Laserbeak showed him how to filter incoming data so that the target didn’t realize there was no outgoing feed anymore.
The guards should have been wiser. But instead of immediately re-establishing contact with Cybertron, they went to search for the robots who had colonized the area millennia before. That was how the DJD had found them. But worst of all, the cowards had been willing to trade their prisoners to organics. That was an abhorrent idea by anyone’s book.
So all of them, captive and former captor alike, had been dropped from the spaceship’s hold in deep space. With only one Autobot being capable of space travel. And several of them had been mauled enough to offline with time, so it wasn’t like he’d just let them all go, like Tarn had seemed to believe. The young telepath merely gave them a chance to survive. One small chance.
The white mech was looking at the horizon and at the other birdformer flying his way.
“Hi, Laserbeak. Did Rumble figure out the loop I put into the observation cams? I was wondering if...”
Then he fell. He couldn’t even tell where he was falling.
-.-
“Three kliks. I’m starting to get worried,” Frenzy admitted.
“I think he got to the thermal regulator somehow,” Tesarus replied. “At least he doesn’t appear to be melting. Wise kid.”
Rumble grimaced at the large one. “By now he’s already figured out something, or he’s dead, so there’s no reason to worry, is there?”
Sarcasm. Painful, piercing sarcasm was the only recognizable feeling in the small mech’s voice.
-.-
It was dark. And narrow.
He had fallen into a tube or a channel that ran vertically towards bottomless depths. He hit something, more like a bench than an actual floor. He pressed against the solid walls, determined not to fall deeper.
What a horrible smell greeted him! If this place was reeking like a semi-decomposed organic corpse, how could he not detect it while he was still on the surface? Well, he was staring at the horizon and Laserbeak in the distance, not watching where he stepped. Here was the result.
He took a deep in-vent to calm and steady himself, but the odor forced him to regret doing so. So he just harrumphed at himself in irritation, and activated the hooks he’d inherited from that previous Vos who had died years ago. The sky was nothing but a small circle of light, high above his head. He was about to start to climb when he realized that the waves of fear he had been detecting were not echoes of his own fright.
“Anyone here?” He asked, his voice trembling. If he fell into a pit of dwellers or oilworms, he was in more trouble than when he had been locked up in an incinerator. Which he had escaped a breem ago.
Again, he detected the wave of panic, but couldn’t tell if it was just the echo of his own.
He wished he had built-in lights like most vehicleformers had, to see the enemy in this dark pit. But until now, he had relied on stealth and his knowledge of the area. He could navigate in Messatine’s mines based off the echo of the winds. Here the echo only told him one thing: confinement.
He started to climb.
As the tiny circle of light above his head slowly grew larger, his fear subsided. So did the fear he’d been picking up. Echo, or not an echo?
He let out a small beep.
The vertical tube replied. ‘Echo’.
Another beep. Faster, sharper than the first. The echo gave him details.
He was in a vertical tube, the second echo explained to him. There was a larger cavity just a few meters under him, that was where he had landed. A faint reverberation told him about a second vertical tube under the cavity.
But he picked up something else, too. The soft cracking that would be heard when a joint is first moved after a long period of time. After orns; weeks, maybe. He wouldn’t have detected it if the cavity’s walls hadn’t amplified it.
“Anyone?”
There was no reply, only a shiver running through the echoing walls.
“I know you’re down here. Can you at least beep?”
No reply.
“In that case, I’m leaving.” Top Surprise climbed higher, until the waves of fear subsided. Whoever he had found, truly didn’t want to communicate with him.
He repeated his statement in primal vernacular, but afterwards he only sensed curiosity. He might be talking to his own echoes, after all.
He climbed higher again.
A new beep’s reverbs informed him of the heights above him, and of the depth below.
He kept climbing.
-.-
“Now here’s the crazy thing,” Frenzy noted. “Whenever he goes back to examining the door, the temperature inside the incinerator drops by several degrees. When he’s back to trying to hack the observation equipment, it rises again. Odd.”
“He didn’t want us to see,” Rumble added, much more irritated than his spark-twin.
“The little fragger must have put a loop into the cam AND the heat sensors!” Tesarus exclaimed. “Tarn, how long since we got an ACTUAL reading from that incinerator?”
-.-
He climbed until the echo told him he was halfway out.
Yet another beep’s reverbs told him there was no movement below or above him. If Buzzsaw or Laserbeak were still on the surface, they were too far to be heard.
But, by now, Top Surprise was certain there was a creature down in the cavity. A creature, who was emitting the same electromagnetic emotion-signals as any Cybertronian. A creature who was, in a way, speaking the same spark-language as he.
A creature who refused to communicate by sound.
Top Surprise didn’t settle for a single beep now. He let out a trill, a small melody, the ending beats of a song he had once heard.
Emotions replied, and an echo. Recognition.
He played another line of the song.
-.-
“For the record: you don’t have to tell me it was a bad idea,” Tarn admitted to Tesarus as they both ran down from the control room to the incinerator. The twin cassettes had stayed up there, trying to bypass the patch in the observation system. They couldn’t have helped, anyway.
“No way could you know in advance that the kid would loop the thermal feed too,” Tesarus replied.
-.-
Now that he was out of anyone’s reach, Top Surprise relaxed. He was still too deep underground to be detected with a superficial scan, nor could the thing from the cavity reach him.
He let out another trill. The echo repeated it; the one-mech audience (if it was a mech and not an oilworm) gave no sign of recognition this time. Of course not; it was from a new song Top Surprise had improvised the orn before, when he had been playing with the intensive care unit’s diagnostic and monitoring tools. Now, instead of the makeshift but well equipped concert room, Top Surprise only had his vocal modules and the reverbs of the vertical tube.
He looked up at the darkening sky, wondering what his next melody should be. He had plenty of recordings from previous visits to Delphi’s care room, and he wished he could organize those into an actual new song. He had the lyrics already: when his father had been a simple miner on what Top Surprise had considered his home world, he wrote a hymn to the distant stars that the workers would look up to before their shift. Then the day would start, too bright for the stars to be seen, too dark for the miners deep in the shafts. After shift, star-sight and miner would reunite. Pre-dawn, the miner would look up at the sky again, before descending for yet another shift...
That hymn to the distant hope would be the first poem he wrote music to.
-.-
Tarn was taken aback by the heat as he keyed the incinerator’s thick door open. The inside temperature was enough to smelt even the sturdiest-built mechs. Top Surprise’s strength were his telepathy and his quick thinking. He was trained in various forms of combat. He adapted to Messatine’s cold weather, and an occasional loss of a limb.
None of these traits would help him survive the inferno Tarn was staring at.
Tesarus stepped inside, scanning the large room for a shadow of a crumbling mech, a faint signal of a still-pulsing spark.
All he found was a pool of molten metal where the otherwise heat-proof floor had been torn off the structure underneath.
“This can’t be,” Tarn breathed next to him. He crouched down to the glowing-red floor, ignoring the still-radiating heat. “This can’t be...” He would have fallen on his knees, had Tesarus not grabbed him before he hit the smelter-hot metal. “Leave me, Tess!”
“I think the kid made it out somehow. This heat is bad for thinking,” Tesarus reasoned, “but he would be displeased if he heard I let you slowly melt offline in here.”
Tarn would have fought the lower-ranking mech, but this time he felt as if all his strength had abandoned him.
Then the heatproof door slammed shut in front of them.
-.-
“I hope at least you like this song!” Top Surprise joyfully said as he finished the second verse. “Not bad, eh? My father wrote the lyrics.”
The cavity’s inhabitant mirrored his joy, although it was timid and moderate.
“Third and fourth verses would fit for a choir!”
He replayed fragments of what he had recorded orns before, with some modulation and a barely noticeable change in tonality. He went back to the original form, then altered it again. Returned, altered. Moved on to new verses, continued with the same process. The vertical tube he’d fallen into had proven to be a decent studio with perfect acoustic attributes and no distracting voices. He still felt uncertain whether he had found a mechanical lifeform, or were the joy, approval, eagerness and hope all his own spark’s reflections. He would climb back, he decided. He would climb back down and see. Was there a forgotten survivor of the post-evacuation chaos? Maybe he fell into the hole just as carelessly as the young composer had had? Was he too damaged to speak, or was he too frightened?
He played the song again, and this time, he sang along with the lyrics. He stopped here and there to edit his work; to make sure every note was in its place, every echo was perfectly timed. Tarn had once told him about the importance of prosody: the beat of the music had to match the beat of the spoken words. Prosody was the key to touching another’s spark: if anyone, Tarn would be an adequate source of that information.
Realization hit him like a shot in the cogs: he had completely ignored his inner chrono’s readings.
“Sorry, my echo. I must go, I don’t want Tarn to get anxious.”
The name triggered renewed fear from the depth of the cavity below. So much about it being an echo, then.
Top Surprise took a dose of medical-grade energon he had saved the night before, and dropped it to the floor of the cavity. He recorded as much of the fallen mech’s silhouette as he could perceive, then he sent the video feed to an Autobot signal transmitter, highlighting the coordinates to make sure the cavity’s inhabitant would be found.
Then he climbed out of the resonant oubliette, and went to find Tarn before the older mech went crazy over his disappearance.
-.-
Rumble’s gaze fell on the view of the incinerator’s inside cam, which was still showing Top Surprise to be hacking the observation system in a moderately heated room. Next to him, Frenzy wondered when (if...) Top Surprise would let the two larger mechs out of there after they had their fair share of their own medicine. Perhaps it’ll be sooner than what Tarn would have deserved for locking the kid up in the incinerator just to teach him a lesson. The smelter was offline, but the walls were still radiating enough heat to convey the message.
-.-
Top Surprise followed the noise of panicked banging on the wall to the incinerator’s remotely locked door. He hacked it open with ease, and let his mentors out before their processors suffered permanent damage.
“Let me guess. You went in to see if I’m inside? Why didn’t you just use the radio?”
 

(Challenge 10 - Contrast)
okkkkay
The Autobot Matrix of Leadership.

Source of eternal wisdom and ever-reliable guidance. Fused to Optimus Prime's spark and only death could undo this bond.

The symbol of strength and the embodiment of Autobot ideals, of life, of peace, of the Golden Age that in theory all robots in their faction are fighting for. Ultimate weapon and ultimate trophy.

The beacon of hope in darkness of fuel shortage and in times of defeat. Source of light. Source of wisdom. Embodiment of power.

Burden under which the bearer transforms from mortal robot to undying hero, leader, idol and role model.


Elita One sighed miserably. The Autobot Matrix of Leadership was her rival she could never beat.

(Challenge 8 - Architecture given)
okkkkay
Megatron entered the large hall that had just re-opened after five million years. He wondered if he was, as he had once hoped, the first tankformer to roll through the wrought steel main entrance. Most likely, he wasn’t. The Medical Academy had been invaded and leveled along with the rest of Iacon, so why would have tanks stayed out of its most prominent buildings? Perhaps even he had been here before. Hard to tell one ruin from another.

There were no ruins now, only grey steel structures and sheets of Praxian crystals as far as the optic could see. As he walked to the center, Cybertron’s sun was shining from behind his left shoulder, and simple refraction made it appear like he had a thousand colorful sparks right in front of him. Yes, he had been here once: he recalled the feeling of very similar crystals shattering under his tank treads. He had been a triumphant warlord back then. Now he was returning as a prisoner on parole, not marching but stumbling, seeking not glory but a second chance.

He looked up at the intricate structure. Fragility was an illusion: here the building stood once again in its original splendor, belittling the former victor who once brought it down and now returned as a puny, defeated mechanism.  Word had it, there was a writing somewhere on the wrought steel structure. ‘Enter with pride, learn humility, and leave with pride again.’ Since it had been addressed at the students only, it had to be somewhere near the pathway to the dormitory tower, Megatron figured. A part of him yearned to find it.

But would it be still there? Of course not. The dormitory tower didn’t exist anymore. It wasn’t on the priority list, as the Medical Academy only had one, very belated student at the moment. He had wanted to be a medic when he was a young miner. The ruling caste hadn’t allowed that; their rigid refusal had provoked a war. The once-aspiring mech had become a tyrant instead of a healer. Life and death depended on him in an entirely different manner.


Now defeat of his faction had put him back to the starting point. He would now either prove to have been right when he had put all the blame on the Functionists, and started the war against them... Or he would prove himself wrong and the entire Decepticon movement to have been based on wrong assumptions.

He was the only trainee on the planet, for now. There were very few newlings: new sparkfields were impossible to find. The cold storages had been emptied by Autobot and Decepticon mechbuilders when made-to-order soldiers had been created. Perhaps some of those would choose to follow his path, now that the time of open battles was over. One cannot remain a soldier for his entire life, unless he’s killed too early.

Well, that was the problem. Most of those made-to-order troops were dead, just like those of any origin. Cybertron’s population had been decimated several times over. They were no longer an expanding nation, but a rather finite one.  Each spark still in existence mattered. Each spark brought to life after the defeat was a ray of hope... like the colorful patterns on the crystal glass in front of him.

He was scanning the higher parts of the wrought structure for the alleged writing, but the first glyphs he’d spotted had been carved into the glass floor. He had to turn, facing the sun, to read them.

Names. Thousands of names he had found, medics who had graduated at any medical academy of the once glorious Cybertron. If they were written here in order of taking their degree, Ratchet must have been even older than Megatron had initially assumed. He’d never seen Ratchet’s creation docs, of course. Not the authentic ones.

As he walked the columns of designations, he noticed small Autobot marks here and there. As he presumably reached the point where the war started, symbol-less names became significantly rare. Initially, he remembered, there were medics who stuck to neutrality. They usually hadn’t lasted long as such.

In the colorful light Megatron strode under the elegant steel vault. He’d almost reached the archway to the library where the column of names ended. He counted roughly five times more Autobot medics than Decepticons. As he looked up, the rainbow-like beam of light fragmented on his silver plates. His brightly glowing red optics appeared to be a volatile game of optical illusions, like any other color in the large central hall.

This wasn’t going to be easy.

Nobot ever told him otherwise.

He paced back along the list to the start of the war, looking for a certain, familiar name. But there was another that caught his attention first. ‘Ambulon’. Autobot symbol.

He couldn’t tell why that designation sounded familiar to him. He re-checked the insignia. Autobot, doubtlessly. Not like he had ever mistaken one symbol for another. But then, why did he feel he’d heard that name just recently?

Just a few steps away, he found the word he was looking for. ‘Glit’. Decepticon.

Megatron carefully lowered himself to one knee, so that he could place his palm on the carved name in a gesture of respect and gratitude. This mech had taught him a very important lesson.

When he straightened up, he no longer felt out of place in the freshly renovated hall. The bright colors of the rainbow reflected on his silver armor. And the words he was looking for on the ceiling? They might have not been there currently. After all the steel was still emanating welding-smell, it was just out of the forge. A student might have to re-write the same line when nobot was watching.

It could even be the first student under these renovated steel arches. Or one who would follow him.

(Challenge 7d - after third beta)
okkkkay
Much thanks to FHC Lynn.



“Greetings, Bumblebee. Ratchet. I am here to interrogate the Decepticon prisoner.”

“Yeah, Jazz called ahead,” the medic replied. “Just so that you know: I found an extra layer of cyberium in his cargo hold, which confirms your information about him carrying an unstable and dangerous substance. Layers of that are peeling off in very thin pieces on the inner side, much like human slough after lengthy exposure to radiation. From what I have seen, it may have been in contact with the living metal twice: loading and unloading. See if you can get him talk about his symptoms, it would give us a clue about the nature of the material.”

“We couldn’t find the destination of the cargo, either.” Bumblebee continued. “Normally, the flight logs would be readable through the cervical port. Only, that was broken by Sunstreaker so medical override will give Ratch no access there...”

“I am working on a replacement, but it will take time.” Ratchet explained. “I won’t have proper source materials for two more days, because we used all the electrum for the catching net. Crafting it will take two more days, installing and calibration yet another. We might not have that much time. But we have the shuttle mode’s wingtop refuelling controls. It’s a small-bandwidth connection to his central operating system. Catch is, the dataflow from the logs to the wingtop port cannot bypass the firewalls or the emotional filters. We cannot deactivate said barriers, either. You will have to make him allow you access to the flight logs.”

Mirage only nodded. With his distruptor off, he found it much harder to hide his emotions. But his shock, anger, confusion, pride or disappointment went all unnoticed. Or so he hoped.

“You mentioned a possible time limit, Ratchet.”

The medic nodded. “Whatever substance he was carrying, the Decepticons didn’t send it to any world just so that there would be more fuel for the thirsty. Considering what damage I have found on the cyberium cargo box, that material could disintegrate an entire planet, given time.”

“I see.”

Bumblebee checked the monitors again, then turned back to Ratchet.

“Maybe you should tell him the other option.”

“Maybe not,” came Ratchet’s curt reply.

“Maybe yes.” Mirage insisted. “I have to know what it is and why you want me to get my hands dirty in this.”

Ratchet sighed.

“The other option would be to open a new direct port to him, directly through the helm. Because I have no electrum for the delicate connections, it would be practically a pair of pincers trying not to damage his processors. Of course, it would require him to be online for the entire process. The flight logs are not stored on the backup memory panels, they can only be accessed with the central processors in use.”

“It would severely violate the standing POW treatment accord.” Bumblebee finished. “On a level not even Decepticons have done. But if that is the only option to save an inhabited planet, it is doable.”

“Optimus would never allow that!” Mirage gaped.

Ratchet nodded in agreement.            

“That is why he had called you, Raj.”

Note(s) to self
okkkkay
I need to keep an optic on the following link(s)

http://tfanonkink.livejournal.com/13772.html?thread=14959308#t14959308
Optimus harem fic

(Challenge 7c - after second beta)
okkkkay
So thanks to Rizobact I'm one more step further.
And "thanks" to LJ it could have been more, but in deleting the inbox message about the comment, it deleted the actual reply. So if I forgot anything (which is likely) please let me know.
As you can see I'm still having issues with periods and quotation marks. I's just too different from my first language.
I'm not sure about the timeline, so I can't tell if they've been to Earth already or not. Thanks for pointing that out.


“Greetings, Bumblebee. Ratchet. I am here to interrogate the Decepticon prisoner.”
“Yeah, Jazz called ahead,” the medic replied. “Just so that you know: I found an extra layer of cyberium in his cargo hold, which confirms your information about him carrying  unstable and dangerous substance. Layers of that are peeling off in very thin pieces on the inner side, much like human slough after lengthy exposure to radiation. Of what I have seen, it may have been in contact with the living metal twice: loading and unloading. See if you can get him talk about his symptoms, it would give us a clue about the nature of the material.”
“We couldn’t find the destination of the cargo, either.” Bumblebee continued. “Normally, the flight logs would be readable through the cervical port. Only, that was broken by Sunstreaker so medical override will give Ratch no access there...”
“I am working on a replacement, but it will take time” Ratchet explained. “I won’t have proper source materials for two more days, because we used all the electrum for the catching net. Crafting it will take two more days, installing and calibration yet another. We might not have that much time. But we have the shuttle mode’s wingtop refuelling controls. It’s a small-brandwith connection to his central operating system. Catch is, the dataflow from the logs to the wingtop port cannot bypass the firewalls or the emotional filters. We cannot deactivate said barriers, either. You will have to make him allow you access to the flight logs.”
Mirage only nodded. With his distruptor off, he found it much harder to hide his emotions. But even if he had displayed shock, anger, confusion, pride or disappointment, the other two didn’t seem to have noticed. Maybe they were just playing along.
“You mentioned a possible time limit, Ratchet.”
The medic nodded. “Whatever substance he was carrying, the Decepticons didn’t send it to any world just so that there would be more fuel for the thirsty. Considering what damage I have found on the cyberium cargo box, that material could disintegrate an entire planet, given time.”
“I see.”
Bumblebee checked the monitors again, then turned back to Ratchet.
“Maybe you should tell him the other option.”
“Maybe not,” came Ratchet’s curt reply.
“Maybe yes.” Mirage insisted. “I have to know what it is and why you want me to get my hands dirty in this.”
Ratchet sighed.
“The other option would be to open a new direct port to him, directly through the helm. Because I have no electrum for the delicate connections, it would be practically a pair of pincers trying not to burn out his processors. Of course, it would require him to be online for the entire process. The flight logs are not stored on the backup memory panels, they can only be accessed with the central processors in use.”
“It would severely violate the standing POW treatment accord.” Bumblebee finished. “On a level not even Decepticons have done. But if that is the only option to save an inhabited planet, it is doable.”
“Optimus would never allow that” Mirage gaped.
Ratchet nodded in agreement.            
“That is why he had called you, Raj.”
 

(Challenge 7b - first edits)
okkkkay
Thank you, Freda!

As she pointed out, I forgot to mention important details.
This is from a fic 12drakon and I started last summer. We chose Mirage as the main character and the Autobots' problem is that they have set up a giant butterfly net and caught Blast Off - but not on his way to an endangered (and unknown) world, but on his way back.
Fredatron also helped me clean up the grammar - sorry if I left something out.
Now with more enters hit! :)
Technoblabla ideas are still welcome!

(For the record. The version under this line is actually the double-betaed, final one, after edits suggested by Freda and Riz too. )



“Greetings, Bumblebee. Ratchet. I am here to interrogate the Decepticon prisoner.”
“Yeah, Jazz called ahead,” the medic replied. “Just so that you know: I found an extra layer of cyberium in his cargo hold, which confirms your information about him carrying an unstable and dangerous substance. Layers of that are peeling off in very thin pieces on the inner side, much like human slough after lengthy exposure to radiation. Of what I have seen, it may have been in contact with the living metal twice: loading and unloading. See if you can get him talk about his symptoms, it would give us a clue about the nature of the material.”
“We couldn’t find the destination of the cargo, either.” Bumblebee continued. “Normally, the flight logs would be readable through the cervical port. Only, that was broken by Sunstreaker so medical override will give Ratch no access there...”
“I am working on a replacement, but it will take time” Ratchet explained. “I won’t have proper source materials for two more days, because we used all the electrum for the catching net. Crafting it will take two more days, installing and calibration yet another. We might not have that much time. But we have the shuttle mode’s wingtop refuelling controls. It’s a small-bandwidth connection to his central operating system. Catch is, the dataflow from the logs to the wingtop port cannot bypass the firewalls or the emotional filters. We cannot deactivate said barriers, either. You will have to make him allow you access to the flight logs.”
Mirage only nodded. With his distruptor off, he found it much harder to hide his emotions. But even if he had displayed shock, anger, confusion, pride or disappointment, the other two didn’t seem to have noticed. Maybe they were just playing along.
“You mentioned a possible time limit, Ratchet.”
The medic nodded. “Whatever substance he was carrying, the Decepticons didn’t send it to any world just so that there would be more fuel for the thirsty. Considering what damage I have found on the cyberium cargo box, that material could disintegrate an entire planet, given time.”
“I see.”
Bumblebee checked the monitors again, then turned back to Ratchet.
“Maybe you should tell him the other option.”
“Maybe not,” came Ratchet’s curt reply.
“Maybe yes.” Mirage insisted. “I have to know what it is and why you want me to get my hands dirty in this.”
Ratchet sighed.
“The other option would be to open a new direct port to him, directly through the helm. Because I have no electrum for the delicate connections, it would be practically a pair of pincers trying not to burn out his processors. Of course, it would require him to be online for the entire process. The flight logs are not stored on the backup memory panels, they can only be accessed with the central processors in use.”
“It would severely violate the standing POW treatment accord.” Bumblebee finished. “On a level not even Decepticons have done. But if that is the only option to save an inhabited planet, it is doable.”
“Optimus would never allow that” Mirage gaped.
Ratchet nodded in agreement.            
“That is why he had called you, Raj.”

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