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[personal profile] nkfloofiepoof posting in [community profile] deceptikitty
Title: (I need a title - seriously; you people wanted this stupid thing - help me name it! D: ) Hate the Ground
Arc: 'Til All Are One
Rating: G for now
Characters: Optimus Prime, Jazz (cameo), several others mentioned
Summary: Okay, you people wanted a real sequel to Hate the Dark - here's the beginning. And...most of it is just rambling tl;dr, I'm afraid. TT I honestly still have absolutely no idea where I'm going with this, so it's going to be slow while I (1) figure it out and (2) finish up my first two nightmarish graduate classes. I finally got into a graduate program, and it's kicking my ass, but I'm going to try to keep updates more frequent than once every six months. >> Just need a damned title.


Earth's weather was fascinating. Without a true atmosphere and with no stars close enough to function similarly to Earth's sun, Cybertron had no weather patterns. There were no solar winds because there was no sun, no rain because there were no clouds. The acid rain which only burned the planet's landscape every few portions of a vorn was caused only by the smog made by those who once lived on Cybertron's grounds, but it could not have been called true weather, not in the same sense as Earth's.

Earth was alive in a way Cybertron had never been. Aside from its lustrous colors ranging from the emeralds of forests and grasslands, the gold of deserts, and the lapis oceans, the organic planet seemed to breathe like the organic creatures which crawled its landscape - the wind was its breath and the shifting of the ground and sea its way of inhaling and exhaling like a content, sleeping animal.

A Cybertronian need not have been a scientist to fully appreciate all the beauty and wonder Earth had to offer, and that was a good thing since Earth was where they were stranded. Cybertron was gone forever, and with it would eventually fade the memories of their old home. Truthfully, there had not been much left of Cybertron's old glory due to the long-lived war which was killing the planet, but it was still their home, and no matter who won, Autobots or Decepticons, the victors were determined to restore it to its former glory until it was completely taken away from them by the planet eater who, for the most part, went nameless. No one liked to remember Cybertron's demise and hated even more to remember the one who destroyed it.

No, there was no use in dwelling on Cybertron or trying to compare it to Earth when there was nothing left to compare. Such thoughts only depressed, so it was, quite simply, better to just push it out of one's mind and focus instead on their new home and its natural beauty.

Optimus Prime preferred the night. The stars were hauntingly beautiful, and the moon cast a chilling, eerie glow on the landscape when it was full. Many nights, he simply stood quietly in his private quarters and stared out the large window overlooking the lush countryside. It was easy to lose track of time doing so even with his internal chronometer, and he could easily lose himself in the darkness and temporarily forget about his obligations and worries few though there were with the war ceased.

His favorite part was the moonlight. It made everything seem sharper when it cast its silver glow over the organic landscape, and his quarters were positioned perfectly for the luminescence to filter straight in through his window. It lit the whole room and worked its magic over his few fixtures - his desk shone, his chairs glowed, his view screens glittered, and his recharge station gleamed. However, it also seemed to rob everything of its color, leaving all surfaces varying shades of grey and silver. The effect could be either eerie or undeniably beautiful depending on a combination of Optimus' mood and exactly what the moonlight graced.

He found his gaze drifting from the window to his empty recharge station where moonlight cast shadows on its ridges and curves to make it look even emptier and quite uninviting, and that was why he was currently at the window, avoiding recharge. The loneliness of the recharge station only sought to remind him of just how long it had been since the moonlight had last graced the elegant curves of the only other mech who had occupied the station.

He felt petty for it, really. It had been his idea to begin with that a team be put together to scout out other planets and find their dwindled numbers a new home. Skyfire had been the one to suggest Starscream head the expedition, and Optimus could have declined, but, truthfully, he doubted Starscream would have wanted anything else. The years spent on Earth as not too much more than a mediator between the very few remaining Decepticons had rekindled his scientific curiosity, and he had often spent days on end in his laboratory in what remained of the Ark without recharging. What he did there, Optimus always failed to understand, and after his last glimpse into the laboratory where he witnessed the Decepticon leader watering a veritable forest of multi-colored palm trees, Optimus decided he rather liked not knowing.

The fact that he had endorsed and even helped preparing for the expedition, however, did not lessen Optimus' slight feeling of regret for letting Starscream go. The team had been off Earth for just over two-thirds of an Earth year now on their way to a specific segment of the galaxy. It had taken nearly half a year for Starscream and Skyfire to go through all of the star charts archived on the various ships and stations scattered over Earth - the Ark, the original Nemesis, the Nemesis II in the ocean, and Autobot City - but they had finally decided on a specific system to explore. From what Optimus understood, the sun was stable and still quite young for a star which would provide them with many thousands of vorns of solar energy, and there were fourteen planets in the system - five of them were worth a full investigation with another two or three possible, but the compatibility of those to the Cybertronians' needs was indeterminable until they were actually in the system.

After deciding on the system, it took nearly another half an Earth year to gather all of the supplies and equipment which would be necessary for the expedition to be a success. Thankfully, it took far less time for Optimus and Starscream to agree on who would be a part of the team - there were two divisions: the scientific division was the smaller of the two, supervised by Starscream and Skyfire and including Perceptor and First Aid, and the military division, consisting of Thundercracker, Bluestreak, Hound, and Thrust, was to be supervised by Ironhide and focus on keeping the scientific division safe during their studies. Along with Skyfire, Astrotrain was going to provide transport for the team as well as all of their supplies, and Blaster's cassettes, Eject and Rewind, were assigned as well. Eject was adept at communication and would easily be able to connect the team to Autobot City to report, and since his cassette tape was just as versatile as the hard drive of a computer, and since, due to his love for information and trivia, he had double the tape capacity of a normal cassette, Rewind would be far more useful to the scientists for data storage than having to carry around unwieldy recorders and computers more than necessary.

Thoughts of the expedition brought Optimus' gaze back to the window, to the sky as if he thought he could search for them among the endless sea of stars. They were fine, he knew - every month since their departure, Eject contacted Blaster to inform of their status. It was kept short to minimize energy usage - a simple "all is well" accompanied by the teams' current coordinates in the galaxy which Wheeljack used to map out their trajectory and estimated time of arrival in the solar system they were investigating. Still, such reports did little to set Optimus' mind at ease when worrying came so naturally.

A brief glance back to his quarters drew a weak, tired laugh from him when his gaze fell onto the recharging station where he imagined the elegant curves of the other leader reclining, dark face cupped in a blue hand Optimus knew would seem to have been drained of all its color by the moonlight. He could almost hear Starscream admonish him in that shrill, unique voice of his.

"You waste far too much time worrying about things you haven't the power to influence," Optimus knew he would say - it would not have been the first time, and Starscream would say it in such an absolutely bored tone of voice while tracing one finger of his free hand up the side of his thigh to distract the Prime from his troubled thoughts. It worked most of the time even though Starscream very rarely had occasion to stay the night in Optimus' quarters. Usually, they made their "visits" to one another then retreated back to the seclusion of their respective quarters to avoid the implications brought about by lingered contact. While not an expert in social interaction, Optimus still somehow knew that the prospect of more than a few cycles of simple pleasure was quite intimidating to the Decepticon leader though he could not understand why - most likely yet another of the many, many differences between Autobot and Decepticon culture which Prime was still learning. Relationships were weaknesses to them while Autobots cherished such things.

It was no secret what happened behind their closed doors, even when they stayed closed - either Optimus had the absolute worst memory, or Jazz overrode the lock every time he and Starscream were...engaged in his office. Knowing Jazz as well as he did, Prime would not have been the least micron surprised if it was the latter. Not that Starscream was any help - he was more and more amused every time Jazz walked in on them and, to Optimus' utter horror, one time asked Jazz to join them. Optimus only thanked Primus that Jazz had taken the blue glare sent his way seriously and declined.

If that was not humiliating enough, Frenzy never failed to interrupt in Starscream's quarters at what remained of the Ark, but the cassette was far less than amused, his expression each time stony and blank. Optimus had not yet found the courage to delve deeper into the matter, but he was still quite certain that Frenzy felt replaced, and no matter what Starscream said about Decepticons' attitudes toward relationships, the feeling of being replaced by someone or something else was painful, and it pained Optimus to know that he was responsible for Frenzy's pain.

Frenzy was not the only one with misgivings about the two leaders' relations though Ironhide and Ratchet were more concerned than hurt. Ironhide's prejudice against the Decepticons had vastly improved over their time attempting to work together, but he still did not trust Starscream at all and made no attempt to hide the fact. Thankfully, he was mature enough to admit that he was the best available to supervise the military division of the expedition and agreed to be counted amongst the Decepticons there without protest. However, between him, Ratchet, and a few other Autobots, Prime had nearly a dozen mechs continually attempting to talk him out of his repeated nights spent with Starscream, and Optimus had given up trying to convince them he was fine. So long as they still obeyed his orders as they were expected and did not give Starscream difficulties, they could say and believe whatever they liked.

Jazz and Skyfire were two of the few who encouraged him. Skyfire had worried Optimus at first since he knew they were partners and friends before the war, and Optimus had fully anticipated a repeat of the situation with Frenzy, but, thankfully, he learned that Skyfire was happy enough just being able to work with the Decepticon leader in the same capacity as before the war.

Of course, with Starscream off-planet, it was no longer an issue - Optimus had not heard a chirp about it from the more vocal protesters - Sunstreaker and Tracks in particular - since about a month after the team left Earth, and their silence made way for his worry. The universe was a violent and unforgiving place - anything could go wrong without a shred of warning. Still, he tried to find comfort in the fact that they had last heard from Eject just five orns past. The cassette informed them that the team was approaching the solar system then and that they would be contacted again as soon as they were set up on the first planet to survey.

Letting out a long-suffering sigh through his smokestacks, Optimus Prime begrudgingly admitted that recharging was not going to happen tonight. He finally fully turned away from the window and made his way to his table so he could find something to do other than stare at the sky and try to imagine the sleek, razor edges of a red and white jet bathed in the moonlight. Truthfully, there was not much work to be done in peacetime - with the expedition fully underway and off-planet, the only reports which had graced his desk in the last eight months were petty squabbles between Autobots or news reports regarding the humans, neither of which he felt like wading through currently, so he instead picked up a data pad Wheeljack had compiled for him a long time ago of many different novels written by humans. He could have simply downloaded them straight into his central processor, but Optimus preferred to spend the time actually reading them line by line. It was relaxing, and relaxing was just what he needed.

Reading was something he rarely had time to enjoy before the last few years - the war drained him of every last astrosecond of time and every last drop of energy. With their war ended, however, and peace finally attained, he could take out a few cycles every orn to spend as he liked - granted, most of the time, it was spent in the company of Starscream trying to coax the Decepticon leader into letting him stroke his fingers over his thrusters - that never ended well - but still. It was just a pity that peace had to come at the price of so many lives. They had been unable to find any more survivors amongst Cybertron's debris, and the few remaining Decepticons were...cooperating as best as could be expected, obeying Soundwave if not Starscream - all but one.

Prime's gaze lifted slowly from the data pad just two lines into the novel when that thought crossed his mind. The one Decepticon who greatly worried him was one of those on the expedition. Thrust not only lost both of his wing mates to the destruction of Cybertron, but he also made it abundantly clear that Starscream was not his leader. It was almost ironic, really - Starscream spent so long attempting to overthrow Megatron, and now that he was finally the leader of the Decepticons, he now had a mech attempting to overthrow him. Optimus had been an unfortunate spectator during one such attempt - Starscream had quite literally punched Thrust back into his place, almost as if carrying on a tradition passed to him by Megatron, but, also part of the "tradition", that did not stop Thrust. He refused to obey like the others, refused to acknowledge either Starscream or Soundwave as his superior anymore.

Why Starscream insisted on placing him in the team, Optimus had yet to understand. Optimus considered taking him to be adding an unnecessary additional risk to the expedition, but the Decepticon leader claimed he was more likely to keep Thrust in line than Soundwave.

The remaining Decepticons were, more or less, cooperative as best they could be in their varying levels of mental instability - the three remaining Constructicons, by Primus' blessing, were slowly beginning to stabilize, even Mixmaster who had been the most insane of their ranks even before the deaths of Hook, Long Haul, and Bonecrusher. The remaining Stunticons, lacking only Motormaster, were much more well off than the Constructicons but were more mischievous than truly chaotic, and the last of the Combaticons, Onslaught, had only been connected to the other Combaticons by programming and design, not by spark, so the loss of his combiner team was not detrimental to his functioning. Thankfully, he was also the most logical and, arguably, the calmest of the Combaticons, so he was placated and kept occupied with relative ease. Soundwave kept his remaining cassettes in line on his own, and Thundercracker kept Skywarp entertained. Thrust was truly the only one who posed a threat - how destructive could one mech be?

Prime shook his head and lowered his attention back to the data pad when Starscream's voice once again admonished him for fretting over things not within his capacity to control or aid currently. Besides which, Starscream was not alone in disciplining Thrust on the expedition. Optimus had instructed Ironhide specifically to keep watch over Thrust and to be prepared to deal with more than one outburst or confrontation. Mostly, Optimus wanted to avoid First Aid and Bluestreak's exposure to such violence as Starscream insisted was required to keep Thrust in line - First Aid was far too sensitive to sensitive to violence to react well to it, and Bluestreak certainly did not need anything of the kind to upset him and begin his nightmares anew, particularly since they had finally subsided after, first, countless vorns of being plagued with the memories of his home city being destroyed and then the nightmares of Cybertron's destruction. No, he did not need to witness Starscream and Thrust's power struggles.

A soft chime brought Optimus from his thoughts, and he briefly glanced to the door before he tapped his table to activate the controls wired into it which connected to Teletraan-II. The screen which appeared showed Jazz, so Optimus tapped another part of the screen then deactivated the display as he said, "Enter." He lowered his attention back to the data pad to finish the paragraph he had been reading as the door opened.

"Sir," Jazz spoke from the doorway, and that in itself was enough to make Optimus look up again - Jazz never called him "sir". "We received a signal from Eject."

Optimus shifted his chair to better face the doorway, and his spark seized in its chamber at the uncharacteristically serious expression on his second in command's face. For as long as he knew Jazz, Optimus had never seen him without a charming smile, a mischievous grin, a mysterious half-smile, or even simply a glint in his visor which suggested he was thinking of something more amusing or interesting than the task at hand. Never had Prime seen Jazz wearing the stern, concerned frown currently marring his features.

"And?" Optimus demanded warily as he rose to his feet. Jazz hesitated as if not sure of the right words for what he wanted to say - something else which Prime had never witnessed from Jazz. Finally, however, Jazz answered.

"Something's happened."
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