A/N: There's just something about Soundwave and the Cassette-cons that I can't help but love – I therefore treat everyone to another outpouring.
Disclaimer: Just to make it clear, I own nothing; Takara and Hasbro own everything Transformers-related.
Also, because a few people pointed this out – I know Laserbeak's tech-specs say that he's male, but I'm choosing to write said birdie as a female. I pick up more of a feminine vibe from Laserbeak; it might just be me, but meh.
Key: Italics denote telepathy
Even among the more masochistic elements of the Decepticon army, this had to qualify as some sort of health violation,
Of course it wasn't bad enough that they were stuck on this miserable little backwater mud-ball of a planet. It wasn't enough that the planet had a weather system, oooh no.
This planet had seasons, all very distinct. And winter, Ravage had quickly discovered to his chagrin, had frag-all to recommend it.
Rain that could easily rust his casing.
Hailstones which were big enough to cause unpleasant dents.
Winds that felt like a breath of freezing diseased air straight from the exhausts of the Chaos-Bringer Himself.
The worst one however…
White, pure, still blinding in the light of the rapidly setting sun; it stretched over the tundra and mountains in a shining blanket up to the base of Mt McKinley. It lay underfoot as it crunched unpleasantly between his claws and froze the lubricant to his joints.
Ravage hated snow.
The mechanoid feline directed his thoughts into the minds of his fellow Cassettes as he trudged behind Soundwave and the twins, Laserbeak soaring overhead in lazy circles.
Cold. Cold. Cold. Cold. Freezing. Arctic. Numb. Hurt. Cold. Miserable. Hate. Soundwave. Hate. Soundwave…
Frenzy's patience was starting to wear thin. 'Aw, put a bung in it, kittykat!'
A snowball walloped him in his left flank, courtesy of Rumble.
'Nice shot bro.'
The blue Cassette flexed his arm proudly. 'I aim to please.'
His twin groaned and rolled his optics skyward. 'OK, that was just painful.'
'Hey, I just call 'em as I see 'em. Or throw 'em in this case.'
Ravage glared. In that case, I can throw you both into the Pit from which you were spawned if you try that again.
'All of you will cease your bickering immediately. Lord Megatron desires additional knowledge of this meteorological condition and we will perform this duty to the best of our combined abilities.'
The trio flanking the Communications officer immediately muted their vocal units, one out of a fervent wish to just get everything over and done with and head back to the Nemesis for a saucer of warm energon, and the other two out of an equally fervent wish to prolong their game of 'annoy the slag out of the cat-bot.'
A most curious phenomenon, snow.
Such minute formations of ice crystals, seemingly so fragile, but en masse they were cold and dangerous enough to destroy flesh and metal alike. Not that the snowfall in this part of the country was heavy enough to damage a Transformer's exostructure.
Soundwave held one giant hand out in front of his body and studied the tiny crystals of frozen water as they fell from the skies above.
He and his charges had first witnessed the humans' reaction to the winter snowstorms almost a week ago, during a scouting mission to the Alaskan oil reserves. Among the elder humans, there were displays of anxiety, even fear of the damage that the storms could do to their property and themselves.
The younger humans however, seemed to be excited at the prospect of snow within city limits; Laserbeak had overheard a number of children talking excitedly about the possibility of making 'snowmen', racing each other on sleds…
On further reflection, his first mistake had been letting Rumble and Frenzy listen to the recordings.
The Cassette twins were now determined to see what exactly the humans enjoyed about snow; if it happened to annoy the Pit out of Ravage…well, that seemed to be a bonus to them.
Laserbeak and Buzzsaw seemed more ambivalent about the weather; the red condor was content to fly for short periods of time, but preferred to retreat as often as possible to the warmth of her creator's tape deck. Buzzsaw refused to fly unless he was forcibly ejected by both his sibling and Soundwave.
Ratbat, conversely, was in the middle of throwing a massive sulk at Soundwave for refusing point-blank to let him fly or play in the snow without proper precautions.
The tape-deck 'Con refused to say exactly what these precautions were, but the little bat knew, with all the certainty of a spoiled sparkling, that his creator was just doing it to stop him having any fun.
Soundwave flicked his fingers clear of freezing water, the snowflakes having melted in his palm, and turned his gaze to his snow-covered creations.
And immediately wished he hadn't bothered.
Laserbeak was circling a spot on the ground with glee, and watching as Ravage and Frenzy tried to pitch each other into a nearby snowdrift. Rumble had taken advantage of the eruption of hostilities and was making a rapidly growing heap of snowballs while sniggering with glee.
Within the relative safety of the tape deck, Buzzsaw was snickering quietly to himself while Ratbat was pressed up against the clear plastic window, watching the scene with massive scarlet optics and sending a few pleading whimpers into his creator's mind.
While he would never admit it out loud, Soundwave did care intensely for all of his creations. And yes, being a creator was an impressive and rewarding responsibility, and he would rather rip out his own spark and serve it on a platter to the Great Un-Maker himself than let anyone bring harm to his 'family'…
But he did wonder at times exactly what had possessed him to create six of the little fraggers.
With movement born of far too many years experience, the Communications officer grabbed Ravage and Frenzy by the scruffs of their necks and wrenched them apart, glaring at them when they tried to swipe at each other from the confinement of their creator's hands.
The red Cassette folded his arms and glared up at Soundwave. 'What'd I do?'
Ravage resembled an overgrown kitten as he hung limply from his scruff. You started it.
'Didn't times infinity!'
Did times infinity plus one!
Frenzy paused for a second and looked confused. Rumble stared up at his brother and smirked.
'You gotta admit bro, he got ya there.'
'Oh thanks traitor.'
'Traitor? You wound me oh dearest twin.'
'Hey, I coulda called ya Starscream. Look at it that way.'
'Good point, well made.'
Soundwave rolled his optics and sent a quiet prayer to Primus for the strength to deal with twins and recalcitrant creations.
The twins quickly zipped their lips and Ravage stopped making snarling noises through his vents as the trio stared up at their creator. Laserbeak swooped down to perch on Soundwave's shoulder and looked smug.
'I do not care who started the brawl. But if you attempt to start any more during this mission, you will all be confined to base for three weeks. Am I making myself clear to you?'
Rumble twisted his hands behind his back and prodded a snowball with his foot. 'Yeah…sorry.'
Frenzy tried to look suitably abashed as he tilted his optics at the ground. 'Ditto.'
Ravage just shuttered his optics and wished he was somewhere else.
Soundwave levelled his best glare at the three Cassettes and gently set Ravage and Frenzy back on the snow-covered grass. 'Acceptable.'
Inside the tape-deck, Buzzsaw sighed and shifted further into the depths of his creator's chest. Ratbat pressed himself to the plastic partition and scratched pitifully at it.
The yellow condor stared at his youngest sibling.
Why on Cybertron do you actually want to go out there? It's cold, the snow gets in your joints, and you know the twins'll just make you the target of whichever one's in pelting range.
The little bat chirruped and resumed staring out of the partition.
It looks like fun, and I don't mind the cold.
You're quite, quite mad.
Ratbat somehow managed to pout while in alt-mode.
I'd rather be mad than bored. Soundwave…please can I go out? I'll be good?
The answer came back in speech. 'No. I apologise Ratbat, but the cold would be dangerous to your health.'
The little bat sniffled.
I'm just as tough as them. And I wanna go out. You never let me do anything fun.
'You may indeed be strong, but your Earth-form is sensitive to extreme cold, and I will not risk your health and well-being simply so that you may amuse yourself.'
But I wanna play in the snooooooooooow!!
'Not without my permission.'
Ratbat started to cry pathetically. But I wanna!!
Soundwave glanced down at Frenzy, trying to ignore his youngest creation's temper tantrum.
'S'just a thought, but um…if Squeaky had cold weather gear, y'know, thermals and stuff, you reckon he'd be OK to be outside?'
Inside the tape deck, Ratbat's wails decreased in volume as he listened to his older sibling.
'It is conceivable. Are you asking this hypothetically?'
'Ummm…well…I kinda figured you'd say yeah, so I…made a pit-stop before we headed out here…'
Ravage raised a well-groomed brow as he stared at Ratbat.
You do realise you look ridiculous?
Ratbat chittered in glee and managed to fly in a wobbly circle before perching on Soundwave's shoulder cannon.
Maybe, but at least I'm warm!
The little bat had a blue and red woollen scarf knotted around his neck, a matching woolly bobble hat stretched over his head, and two sets of black arctic-weight gloves adorned his paws and feet, all courtesy of Frenzy.
Soundwave carefully rubbed one finger under Ratbat's chin. 'If I detect one hint of a chill from your exostructure, you will return to storage and you will stay there. Do you understand?'
'Kay!! Can I go play now?
'Stay with the twins. That is my only request.'
Ratbat nodded frantically, hovered a few feet above the ground, and squealed in glee before dive-bombing into a snowdrift.
Rumble and Frenzy exchanged glances with each other, and then with Soundwave.
'He'll be fine, boss.'
Soundwave sighed and trod onwards.
Ravage glanced over at the wool and snow-covered bat, and then sidled over to the twins.
So…what else do you have in the Decepticon winter collection?
Ratbat flew in wobbly formation with Laserbeak and a deeply annoyed Buzzsaw as the group finally reached the foot of the mountain. Below the three winged Cassettes, Ravage, Rumble and Frenzy trotted along, all now considerably warmer.
The mechanoid feline was decked out with a black ski-cap, a grey thermal scarf, and two pairs of black ski-gloves. The twins, out of some sense of whimsy, had managed to find matching purple bobble hats and scarves. Laserbeak had, after a certain amount of persuasion, deigned to don a pair of pink fluffy earmuffs and matching scarf, while her unimpressed brother had been out and out forced to wear a similar set of earmuffs and a scarf in a lurid shade of orange.
As for Soundwave, he had opted not to ask where exactly Frenzy had managed to find an ushanka (1) and scarf for a mech his size.
He called up his GPS system and briefly studied the readouts. They were still heading south towards the edge of the Alaskan Interior, with enough distance between them and the city of Fairbanks to risk flying over the mountains. 01.30 hours at present - if they left by 03.00 hours at the latest, they would reach the Nemesis by 11.00 hours.
The Communications officer settled himself on an ice-covered boulder, activated his infra-red and watched his creations investigate their surroundings.
Ravage was scrambling from rock to rock as he played a game of keep-away with Rumble's bobble hat. The blue Cassette was trying and failing to keep up with the feline, and had quickly resorted to target practice with a hefty pile of snowballs.
Frenzy was engaged in building what he termed as a 'snow-mech', rolling a growing ball of snow to form the base of his creation. Laserbeak was on the ground rooting out sticks and stones for the snowmech's arms, nose, mouth and optics. Buzzsaw had disappeared, presumably to hunt a few lemmings he had spotted earlier.
Ratbat swooped down and perched awkwardly on Soundwave's shoulder with a contented chirrup.
'You are enjoying yourself?'
The little bat snuggled into his creator's neck and sighed happily. Definitely. I wish we had snow on Cybertron.
'The destruction of the atmosphere as a result of the Great Wars resulted in permanent damage to Cybertron's weather system. Snow shall never fall on our homeworld.'
Soundwave gently rubbed his youngest creation's head.
'I do not believe many mechs would enjoy this weather as you and the others do.'
Ratbat rolled over and stared up at the sky.
It's cold, but you can see all the stars when it gets cold.
Do you think we could see Cybertron from here?
'Perhaps. Do you wish to try and find it for yourself?'
The tiny Cassette blinked, and launched himself into the sky, twittering with excitement.
I'll be back!!
Frenzy proudly rested his hands on his hips as he studied his work. Laserbeak hovered next to his shoulder and cocked her head to the side as she squinted at the vaguely humanoid-shaped blob of snow, sticks jammed into its shoulders, stones taking the place of optics, the nose and mouth, and all topped with Frenzy's bobble hat.
It doesn't look much like a mech to me.
'Hey, I did the best I could. Anyway, it works for the squishies.'
The younger squishies, I point out.
'Oh, and of course you could do it better. No, wait, yeah, I forgot…you don't have any thumbs.'
Hmph. I don't make comments on your deficiencies.
'Like I have any deficiencies?'
There aren't many, but a muzzle and leash on your ego would probably help.
Frenzy went silent as his optics widened. Rumble managed to look up from his current task of pinning Ravage to the ground and grinned in amazement.
'Doth mine audios deceive me? Did our dear sister actually make a funny?'
The mechanoid feline, who was still trapped underneath the blue Cassette, returned the grin in kind.
I do believe she did. That means the Apocalypse should occur any moment now.
Laserbeak snootily raised her beak up and shuttered her optics. Go slag yourselves.
'Slag ourselves? Kinda difficult. Sled ourselves, now that's more like it…'
The red condor barely had time to squawk in protest as Frenzy grabbed her by the talons, threw himself onto his chest and tore down the foot of the mountain, keeping his sister firmly attached to his back.
Rumble and Ravage quietly studied the duo as they disappeared into the darkness, and winced simultaneously as they heard the crash and subsequent howls of apology from Frenzy as Laserbeak made her irritation clear.
The feline frowned contemplatively. So that's what the humans call sledding.
'Yep. Not bad, huh?'
Indeed, but clearly not if you're Laserbeak.
A brief silence descended over the mountain.
'Wanna try it?'
…If anyone asks, you bribed me. Clear?
Rumble beamed widely and snapped off a mocking salute. 'As crystal, kittykat.'
Soundwave shook his head in a rare display of fondness, feeling the ushanka slip down to cover his left audio receiver. He quickly readjusted the hat and resumed his study of the surrounding area.
The sub-arctic temperatures, he noted, were the result of the lack of cloud coverage caused by recent snowfall. And, as Ratbat had observed with wonder, that resulted in the impressive star-filled skies above.
He stared upwards, detailing the positions of the stars in his database and correlating the positions to the constellations the humans had designated.
There was Polaris, the North Star, fixed within Ursa Minor.
Sirius, the brightest star in the skies, resident within Canis Major.
The slender form of Orion and the glimmer of the Andromeda Galaxy, so far away even by Cybertronian standards.
It was peaceful, in a curious way. He had never been a mech for stargazing, and there was little of interest visible from Cybertron's skies. But this…
This was rather pleasant.
Until a chorus of squawks and hysterical chirrups completely destroyed the silence.
Soundwave bolted to his feet and scanned the sky for the source of the noise. At the base of the mountain, the twins, Ravage and Laserbeak had ceased their activities and were now crouched in battle formation.
They recognised those cries.
Buzzsaw and Ratbat.
The little bat was pelting across the sky with his avian brother close behind. Soundwave scanned the immediate vicinity and relaxed minutely when his threat-scan came up clear. Why on Cybertron had the two flyers…?
Ratbat hovered in midair with Buzzsaw tightly circling him.
SoundwaveSoundwaveSoundwave!! Looklooklooklooklookit!! Loooooook!!
The Communications officer frowned and glanced over to where Ratbat was excitedly gesturing…
And was infinitely thankful for his face-mask as he felt his jaw drop.
Frenzy had flown up to where his creator stood staring at the sky in wonder.
'Whazzup? What's Squeaky and Birdbrain seen…whoa.'
The other Cassettes were now all staring at the sky in similar states of amazement.
Soundwave smiled under his face-mask.
It had been too long since he had seen this, and he knew with absolute certainty that his charges had never seen one before.
With one brief gesture to follow his lead, he took off towards the summit of Mt McKinley, the Cassettes trailing close behind.
There were at least two former flagpoles squashed under Soundwave's aft as he sat cross-legged on the peak of Mt McKinley.
He ignored the discomfort and instead made sure that his creations were still comfortably positioned to watch the lightshow above.
Laserbeak and Buzzsaw huddled together on his shoulder cannon, optics bright with amazement. Rumble and Frenzy chose to stand, each holding tightly to his right kneecap while Ravage and Ratbat gazed upwards from the safety and warmth of his lap.
The sense of wonder emanating from his charges, combined with the dancing swirls of light and colour, was more than enough compensation for his now freezing aft.
Ratbat was the first to speak after an hour.
What is it?
'The aurora borealis; a common atmospheric occurrence near the northern pole of an orbiting planet.'
Why did we never see it on Cybertron?
'The aurora is the effect of solar winds striking and reacting with the upper atmosphere. It is widely accepted that the planet must be in orbit of a solar body for this phenomenon to occur.'
So it's because we don't have a sun any more?
Ratbat turned in a slow circle in Soundwave's lap as he watched the dancing lights above, his optics bright. A massive twist of radiant green and blue beams lit up the mountains with an almost unearthly glow, tinting the snow, rocks and the little group of Decepticons a luminescent turquoise.
Frenzy tightened his grip on both his creator's leg and his twin's free hand.
'Pretty bitchin' lightshow. Good find, Squeaky.'
Rumble tilted his head and leaned closer to his brother.
'Looks kinda like an energon crystal seam. Y'know, when it's raw and shiny and it's got all the colours goin' through it.'
Ravage turned to stare at his fellow Cassette, a wide smirk stretching across his face.
Oh, that sounded almost sentimental. Excuse me while I purge my tanks.
'Eh, get bent, kittykat.'
Soundwave shot a quick glance at Ravage before gently pressing the twins closer to his leg.
'We are required to leave this area by 03.00 hours to minimise the risk of human detection.'
Ratbat, Rumble and Frenzy whipped their heads away from the lightshow to stare at their creator in dismay. The little bat frowned.
Can…can we see the lights from the Nemesis?
'The aurora cannot be sighted that far south.'
Ratbat's gaze dropped downwards in disappointment. The twins traded looks, and Frenzy glanced up at Laserbeak and Buzzsaw.
'Hey…um…any chance of--?'
The red condor shuttered one optic in the equivalent of a wink and returned her gaze to the skies.
We're on it. Don't worry.
Buzzsaw didn't look down, his internal camera busy running at full power.
If it keeps Ratbat happy and you two silent, we'll do anything.
Frenzy smirked. 'Nice save.'
Ravage was not to be diverted however. So when do we leave?
'Optimum departure time is in three Earth minutes.'
Buzzsaw shut down his camera, and gently tolerated Laserbeak tugging at his scarf until it fitted more snugly around his neck. Ravage elegantly slid out of Soundwave's lap and stretched, his mouth opening in a massive yawn. Ratbat fluttered into the sky and hovered while the twins removed what looked like two thin steel beams from their subspace pockets and started attaching them to their feet.
Soundwave studied his oldest set of twins. 'Dare I ask what you are doing?'
Rumble's grin was bright enough to match the aurora. 'Snowboards!'
His creator raised an eyebrow at the unfamiliar word. Frenzy quickly took over.
'Humans call it extreme sports. You race down a mountain with a plank strapped to your feet and try not t' die.'
Soundwave treated both of them to a rare look of cynicism. 'If you lose any extremities in this pursuit, I will not help you retrieve them afterwards.'
'Works for us. C'mon Frenz', race ya to the bottom!'
The red and blue Cassettes launched themselves into the air with a shared whoop of joy and started to slide with a surprising amount of grace down the ice flows towards the base of the mountain.
Soundwave glanced over the edge, sighed, and tilted his head towards the slightly more responsible Cassette twins.
'Laserbeak. Buzzsaw. See to it that they reach the base alive if not complete.'
The red condor's optics were bright as she and her brother took off, their cries of excitement echoing across the mountains.
Only Ravage and Ratbat were left, both staring up at the skies. Soundwave gently scooped the feline up and held his hand up to his shoulder, letting the age-old spy clamber up and settle against his shoulder cannon.
Feeling it strangely appropriate, he activated his sound system and quietly scanned his databanks until he found the correct track.
The soft acoustic chords of 'Going Home' (2) began to play as he stood and reached a hand up to his youngest creation.
'Ratbat? It is time to leave.'
The little bat nodded, screwed his eyes up in concentration and pointed a glove-covered claw at the shimmering sky. I think I found it.
Ravage tilted his head at the sky in curiosity and then at his youngest sibling as he swooped down and snuggled in next to his brother.
What did you find?
The yellow and purple Cassette chirruped. Cybertron.
'Where did you see it?'
Ratbat looked up at the aurora with contented optics. You see where the lights become silver? There's a star behind it, not very bright, but it shines like metal. I think that's Cybertron.
The feline offered a purr of affection and straightened Ratbat's bobble hat with his teeth. As good a selection as any. More so because he found it himself.
Soundwave gently stroked a finger down the little bat's nose and activated the anti-grav boosters in his legs.
'Are you both ready to leave?'
Yeah, I guess so.
The Decepticon trio took to the air and left with the sound of electric guitars in their audios, and the lights of the aurora shining above.
(1) Traditional/stereotypical Russian fur hat. I couldn't really see Soundwave in a lil' blue bobble hat.
(2) The final song from the Local Hero soundtrack. Worth paying money just for this track alone.