nkfloofiepoof: (McDohl - 'Take care...')
[personal profile] nkfloofiepoof posting in [community profile] deceptikitty
Title: Hate the Ground (Hate the Dark's sequel - I finally came up with a mediocre title)
Arc: 'Til All Are One
Rating: G for now
Characters: Optimus Prime, Jazz, Blaster, Thundercracker, Eject, several others mentioned/cameos
Summary: Okay, after finishing this in January, getting it back from a beta, seeing that it needed an ASSLOAD of work done to make it not suck, graduate school kicking my ass, and my mother's surgery, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not going to be happy with this no matter what I do to it. Sorry for the stupidly long delay only for you to be given this drivel. Hoping to have a better idea of where I'm going with this by the time I finish chapter 3.

"Is he still transmitting?" Optimus Prime demanded over the chaos around Teletraan-II. Anyone with any experience in communications was gathered at the console or darting between displays, attempting to aid Blaster in his endeavors in any way. Blaster was seated at the main screen, large fingers flying over the keyboard as Wheeljack rushed to connect him more fully to Teletraan-II, dozens of wires already strung between Blaster and the computer.

"It's not a transmission, exactly," Wheeljack answered in Blaster's place so the larger mech would not have to break his concentration. "It's a recording. It apparently originated about two and a half cycles ago, and it's on repeat - we're getting the same message every three breems."

"The problem," Jazz interjected after helping hook another wire into Blaster, "is that there's some sort of interference - we're only gettin' about a third of the whole message, if that much."

"Can you clear it up?" Optimus asked hopefully.

"That's what Blaster's tryin' to do," Jazz answered. He opened his mouth to say something else when he was cut off by the distorted voice of Eject once again relaying his recorded message, the signal still repeating.

As stated, not much was intelligible; individual words were drowned out by a near-thunderous rumble which made Optimus' antennae ache, and what few words could be understood were riddled with static. However, no one needed to understand the message in order to hear the pain and exhaustion in Eject's voice.

When he heard that, Prime chanced a glance to Blaster. His expression was stony in concentration, but the way his jaw clenched upon hearing the pain in his cassette's voice was obvious. Optimus had never noticed it before the last few years, but compared to the almost familial relationship between Soundwave and his cassettes, the relationship between Blaster and his own was...strained. Optimus knew Blaster and Eject were not close and never had been. If Prime had to guess, he suspected that, of all of them, Blaster was closest to Rewind and Steeljaw, the latter of whom was currently pacing in tight circles around Blaster's feet, growling and hissing his own concern.

It was almost relieving to see Blaster react to Eject's voice. Optimus never pressed into matters which were clearly none of his business, but after witnessing the stark contrast between Blaster's and Soundwave's relationships with their offspring, it pained Prime to see how cold Blaster and Eject were to each other. He had no idea of the reasoning or cause behind it, but he greatly suspected he was one factor. Blaster had not been emotionally ready to split his spark and make his cassettes when Optimus asked him to nearly half a vorn past. Prime had not known at the time, or he never would have asked. He feared Blaster felt obligated to carry out orders he did not wish to in order to counter Soundwave's brood.

"I managed to clean up the coordinates," Hoist called over the din. "They're on the fifth planet in the system."

"The huge, organic one?" Wheeljack asked. At Hoist's confirmation, the engineer let out a noise of relief. "At least it wasn't near one of the gas giants - I don't think we'd ever get them out of there. Do you have an exact location?"

"No. Those coordinates are impossible to clean up, and it wouldn't do us much good, anyway, without an accurate map or model of the planet to assign them to, and that's one of the things they were there for in the first place."

"And you can't lock on to the transmission?"

Again, Hoist shook his head. "Not given the state it's in." He turned to call across the room, "Has anybody figured out what that interference is, yet?"

"Best I can figure," Grapple called back to him, "is it's probably space debris. The planet might have rings that are getting in the way, or it might be some asteroids, or there might even be another planet in the way by now. There's not much telling given the distance between Earth and the planet they're on."

"Well, keep tryin'," Jazz instructed unnecessarily before he turned back to Optimus. "This is obviously gonna take a while. I can come get 'ya when we know somethin'-"

"I'm staying," Optimus stated firmly, his tone leaving no room for argument even though he knew Jazz would not have tried. His second in command merely nodded and returned to helping Wheeljack with Blaster's connections. In an attempt to keep himself occupied while awaiting further information, Prime made his way to the other side of the room where the other mechs were working. "What do we know about this solar system?" he asked.

"Not much," Hoist sheepishly admitted. "Starscream and Skyfire were more acquainted with it than anyone else, and they apparently didn't think to share their information before departing. All we know is there are fourteen planets, four of which are gas giants."

Here, Grapple interjected, "The organic planets, for the most part, are about Earth's size, most a little smaller, but there's one that's easily three times bigger than Earth if not more. That's where they were headed."

"The sun is young, so the system must be too," Hoist spoke again. "Starscream said that was one reason why they targeted it - it's unlikely that the system is mature enough to harbor sentient life on any of the planets. I'm afraid that's all we know, sir."

"It's better than nothing," Optimus responded with a thankful nod.

"I've got it!" Blaster suddenly called over the din, immediately catching everyone's attention. Instantly, all present who could leave their stations were on their feet and surrounding Blaster's console with Optimus standing right behind him. The tension was stifling as Blaster added, "It's still broken up in spots, but I've got the majority," just before entering the key sequence needed, and Eject's pain-wracked voice came through the speakers once more. Though it was still laced with static, much thicker in some areas than others, his words still carried all the heaviness and dread they originally did.

< Eject calling Autobot City on all emergency frequencies. The away team has suffered tremendous losses - Skyfire and Astrotrain have both crashed, the mechs inside jettisoned before impact. All teams are now separated - no contact has been successfully made between those missing. Requesting immediate rescue. Known survivors: myself, Rewind, Skyfire, and Thundercracker. Status of others unknown - presumed deactivated. >


It was quite odd looking up through the dense foliage of monstrous trees and seeing a purple sky instead of the blue to which he was so accustomed. The clouds were wispy, beige things and reminded him of the tail of a squirrel rather than the majestic, white balls of puff which sometimes completely overtook the Earth sky. Even the sun was an odd color in the alien sky - more orange than yellow. At least the trees looked more or less the same: brown trunks and branches and green leaves. The main difference was their size. The trees dwarfed even Skyfire's enormous form, reaching so high into the sky, Eject could not lean back far enough to see the top.

Not that he wanted to try just yet - everything still hurt so much, it was all he could do simply to stay sitting upright on the ground. Slowly glancing around at the clearing - if it could even be called that - Eject found himself once again wondering if this was what an ant felt like: constantly surrounded by trees whose diameter he estimated to be at least half a mile if not more and blades of grass nearly as tall as a full-sized mech. He knew the planet they were targeting was enormous, but he had no idea the vegetation matched. It made the cassette worry about what the animal life on this planet might be like.

"I think I've almost got it," the gravelly voice of Thundercracker murmured from where he had his head stuck inside an access panel in Skyfire's side. Thankfully, the blue aerial mech had enough medical knowledge to see about repairing Skyfire, at least to a point. Apparently, all Decepticons were required to have basic knowledge of field repair during the war, something Eject wished had been required of Autobots as well. Of course, since the Decepticons never had a true medic like Ratchet, Eject supposed it was only natural, but he could still think of many times during the war when he would have definitely appreciated proper medical knowledge of his own.

"You're sure there's nothing I can do?" the blue cassette meekly offered, feeling very awkward just sitting on the ground awaiting a verdict on Skyfire's condition. It was at least the fourth time he had asked it, but he could not help himself. The silence was distressing. Sure, there were plenty of noises in the jungle - creatures chirping, crowing, and whistling, wind blowing through the trees, and somewhere in the distance, he could hear the sound of flowing water - but it was not the noise to which Eject was accustomed. The radio silence was absolutely maddening, and he could not think of anything he would not give right then to hear even the barest snip of a broadcast be it the score to the Padres/Orioles game he knew he was missing or even just a tiny sliver of music - anything to keep his mind occupied while he was benched. The whole team was in disarray, and for all he knew, those present were the only survivors. He needed to be on the playing field, not stuck in the dugout.

"Actually..." Thundercracker drawled after a brief klik's pause, not once removing his head from the access panel. "I think I see the problem, but my hand's too big to get to it."

Eject was instantly on his feet and darting to the much larger mech's heel. He had absolutely no medical knowledge, but he could follow instructions well, and he desperately wanted a distraction anyway. "I'm sure I can get to it," he offered. "Just tell me what to do."

Clearly, Thundercracker was not versed in the proper handling of cassettes, Eject realized as he was plucked up rather painfully by the back of his neck, and the grip only became more painful as he was lifted from the ground and felt the planet's intense gravity trying to draw him back down. Thankfully, however, the transfer from ground to panel was short, and Eject had a few astroseconds to rub his now tender neck and shoulders before Thundercracker spoke again.

"His transformation cog is out of place, so he can't get out of his shuttle mode," the large blue mech explained and pointed as best he could to the problem in question which was deeply buried in wires and cables. "But fixing that won't do him any good if the power cable there remains torn and disconnected. That's the primary cable carrying power from his spark to the rest of his body - the other torn one is one of the cables that redirects energon to his spark."

Eject glanced at the main problems as well as the additional needed repairs Thundercracker named, and at once, he felt overwhelmed. He would have been lying if he told Thundercracker he had the first clue what he was talking about. "I don't have any medical training," the blue cassette finally admitted meekly. "But if you just tell me what to do, I can do it." He knew it was not ideal, and the grunt Thundercracker gave in response indicated he knew it as well, but they also knew it was the best they were going to get.

"Most of it is just moving things around, but those tears in the cabling and piping will need a patch," Thundercracker responded. "Let me get back inside and see if I can find a medic kit that's still intact. If there is, there's bound to be something small enough in there for you to use."

Eject sighed when he was gone and sat inside the access panel to hug his knees. The position made his injuries ache further, but he knew he was not gravely injured - not like Skyfire, and at least he was still alive. That was more than he could say with any certainty for the other members of the team, and he still had no idea what went wrong in the first place.

Eject last transmitted an official checkpoint "all is well" message to Autobot City when the planet was well within sight and they were en route to enter the atmosphere. Having never seen another planet from the vantage point of space, not even Earth, Eject and Rewind were immediately enamored with the sight of the sea of green foliage from their position sitting on one of Skyfire's main consoles. It was the same console Rewind had practically been glued to as soon as they left Earth's orbit; the black cassette was absolutely fascinated with everything he saw. He had to be reminded several times not to use too much of his tape documenting the stars as the team was likely to need all of it once they reached their destination.

It was cramped with so many mechs inside Skyfire, but they managed, and amazingly, Eject only witnessed a few spats when the claustrophobic atmosphere became too much. Midway through the voyage, Perceptor, Bluestreak, and Hound temporarily transferred to Astrotrain simply to give the winged mechs a little more room to stretch out for a time. For the most part, however, they all stayed in Skyfire to leave Astrotrain with only the weight of their supplies, and the journey went as smoothly as could be expected - until they reached their destination.

Eject truly had no idea what happened - they began to break through the atmosphere to land, and everything went wrong. One klik, he was sitting with his brother, bantering with him about what kinds of life might be on the planet and arguing about how many rings the planet had, and the next klik, Eject glanced to the right side of the window to see Astrotrain drift down ahead of Skyfire. Suddenly, Astrotrain's frame was enveloped in cracks as if he was made of glass and about to shatter. Flame erupted from the cracks in a series of small explosions, and instantly, the shuttle mech's controlled descent careened into a downward spiral as his wings shredded from his frame as though they were made of paper.

It took mere astroseconds to happen and only a few more for Skyfire to suffer the same fate.

Truthfully, Eject was not fully clear on what happened after that. All he could recall was chaos - red lights and warning klaxons and fire and mechs all yelling at the same time, and suddenly, he was being grabbed by a large blue hand and rushed away from the main window just before it shattered. Someone else grabbed Rewind - Eject did not see who - and the next thing he knew, they were outside plummeting through the air. Everyone was falling, even those who should have been able to fly, their thrusters blazing in blinding flame and light but doing nothing to stop or even slow their descent. Had they hit the bare ground, Eject was sure none of them would have survived, but they were over a jungle. Slowly and painfully, they crashed through giant leaves, branches, and vines which apparently slowed their descent enough prevent it from being fatal - Eject was not certain about that detail. He was offline before he hit the ground and awoke alone and in agony at the base of an enormous tree, in too much pain to dare move. Thundercracker found him shortly afterwards and carried him through the trees to where they were now - the broken and scorched remains of Skyfire who was, somehow, still alive.

Eject buried his face in his knees. The last time he saw his brother was just before the window shattered, but Rewind had to be alive - he had to be. If he was not, surely Eject would know it through their bond as twins...right? What worried him most was the fact that he was not at all certain about that - he and Rewind were not close the way Eject always assumed twins should be. The vast majority of the journey through the galaxy was spent with the two cassette twins arguing, snapping, or otherwise just ignoring each other as was always the case when they could not have substantial time away from one another. Still, they did not hate each other - they just did not get along very well most of the time. Eject truly had no idea what he would do without his brother; surely he would know if Rewind was dead...

It was under that hopeful assumption that he transmitted the distress signal to Autobot City when he finally had the strength to get through whatever interference mocked him in the atmosphere. He worried, of course, that the signal would not make it, but all he could do now was hope.

It was not until after he transmitted that Thundercracker gave his hypothesis as to what went wrong - the planet's gravity was tremendous, easily five times that of Earth's. Eject knew nothing of the physics of gravity, but he knew high gravity would explain Thundercracker, Starscream, and Thrust's inability to fly once they evacuated Skyfire. The blue mech had no explanation for the damage Astrotrain and Skyfire sustained in-flight though.

"Here," Thundercracker's voice interrupted his distressed thoughts, and Eject forced his head back up to look to the larger mech. "I found a kit that was in good enough shape, and it has some stuff in it that should function as a temporary patch. It's about your size too." Eject could not help a weak laugh when he saw what Thundercracker brought - electrical tape. Perceptor and First Aid had both insisted on bringing a lot of it since it was good for patch jobs on frayed wiring. Starscream had not been so convinced that the clearly human invention would be useful in the least, but he had conceded defeat at First Aid's insistence and at the fact that it did not take up much room anyway. Had he known it would very likely save Skyfire's life, Eject doubted Starscream would have argued at all.

He held out his hands for the tape and stiffly worked his way through all the wiring and piping in his way as he struggled toward the first torn cable. Of course, the tear in the cable of a mech Skyfire's size dwarfed the human-sized electrical tape even if it was the largest roll Perceptor was able to barter out of the humans - about the size of a roll of duct tape. Still, it would have to do.

It took nearly half of the roll to finally patch the first tear, but Eject was thankful to see that it was the largest. "How do I know where these things go to move them back where they're supposed to be?" he called to Thundercracker.

"Just jiggle them around some. You'll know when it's right."

Gee, that's helpful. Eject sighed but wrapped his arms around the enormous cable and did as he was told. He let out a yip of surprise when he felt something snap, and instantly, the cable was warm as power began to flow through it properly once more. He took a brief klik to stare at it in wonder before he shook himself back into reality and sought the remaining repairs which needed to be completed. He only had to crawl back to Thundercracker for another roll of electrical tape once, and he saved the transformation cog for last. He had no idea what it looked like until he found it, but as it was the only cog jammed, Eject could only assume that was it. Behind him was a metal rod, and although he had no idea what it was or what its purpose was, he pressed his back against it, and he kicked with all the strength his weakened and pained body could muster. It took a good four kicks to finally get the cog back into proper alignment, and once it was finally fixed, Eject stiffly crawled back out of the enormous mech's body and let Thundercracker lower him back down to the ground.

Within a breem, Skyfire let out a terrible, agonized groan, and that was the only noise he made for another breem as he tried to get his bearings straight until he managed to groan once more and pitifully ask, "What...happened?"

"That's a very good question," Thundercracker rumbled. "We're not sure, ourselves." While Skyfire continued to run diagnostic checks over his mangled systems, Thundercracker and Eject explained to him what little they knew of the situation and what happened in the atmosphere. After a very slow and painful transformation, Skyfire sagged against the trunk of one of the many giant trees, and as the known details were recounted to him, Eject could not help but notice the naked frustration building in Skyfire's expression.

Once Thundercracker was finished, Skyfire let out a yell of anger which made Eject jump. "I don't remember any of that," Skyfire growled as he rubbed his forehead to quell the throbbing of his processor. "I vaguely remember Astrotrain starting to break up, but I didn't even have time to wonder what happened before I just...blacked out." Another frustrated growl was followed by a sigh and the sagging of the large mech's damaged wings. "But your theory about the gravity is probably correct. I can feel the planet pulling on me just sitting here, and the stress of the planet's gravity as we broke through the atmosphere and tried to stay aloft is probably what damaged me and Astrotrain."

"I've scavenged enough of the supplies that were inside you to keep us alive and at least somewhat functional for a while," Thundercracker continued. "There are two energon converters - one of which, thankfully, will convert solar energy - three medical kits, and a few scientific instruments I know are still functional, but when you've recovered some, you can look over the rest of it to see what else still works."

Skyfire nodded stiffly then moved his tired blue gaze to the much smaller mech as he asked, "You've already sent a distress signal, right?"

Eject nodded. "Yes," he answered, "but there's some interference in the atmosphere, plus the planet's rings are distorting it as well as all other frequencies I've tried in my attempts to get in contact with the other players. I strengthened the signal as best I could by myself. Even if it's garbled beyond recognition by the time the home field gets it, I don't doubt our communications team on Earth can clean it up enough to at least know we need help."

"And as far as we know, we're the only survivors," Thundercracker concluded gravely. "I've already covered a good ten square hic section of the surrounding terrain before I found you, and the only other sign of any of the team I found was Eject here."

"Rewind's alive," Eject said firmly. "I'd know if he wasn't. I can't get in contact with anyone, but I know Rewind's alive." The strength in his statement surprised him since he was still not at all sure of his claim. He only hoped it was convincing - whether or not he was certain, whether or not his brother was really dead and Eject just didn't feel it, he was determined to at least find proof. Even if all he could do was take a body back to Earth.

Skyfire nodded in acknowledgment before speaking again, "Then we need to find him. We'll refuel for the next few cycles and let our self-repairs do what they can. We'll figure things out from there." Other than pain making his words halting and shaky, Skyfire's voice remained level, in command, but Eject could tell he was just as distressed. He did not know the details, but he had heard that Skyfire and Starscream were friends. The thought that such an old friend as well as all of the accompanying Autobots in the team were likely dead was a very distressing thought, and Eject had to resist the urge to hug himself. Instead, he drew on the strength in Skyfire's voice, no matter how much of a front it might have been. Still...

Eject found his gaze trailing from Skyfire and following the trunk of the tree the large mech was leaning against up and up until Eject's sore joints flared in protest, and he could not look upward any further. The highest he could see of the enormous tree's trunk without putting himself in further pain had no branches - the branches did not start until much, much further along the trunk. Skyfire was a massive, enormous mech, but Eject had to suppress a shiver when he noticed just how...small Skyfire looked next to the tree.

The cassette shifted his gaze first to one side then the other, surveying the other trees surrounding them which were easily just as big as the one Skyfire was resting against, some even bigger. The rocks next to the trunks and boulders were probably really pebbles, and that splash of color deep in the foliage which looked like it was probably as big as Thundercracker...was that really a flower?

Eject could no longer resist the desire to hug himself, overwhelmed. If Rewind survived, surely some of the others did as well, Eject told himself, but everything on this planet was so big, and if it dwarfed even Skyfire, how in Primus' name were they supposed to find them?
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