Where joy for ever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail,
Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell,
Receive thy new possessor--…
* * *
"'Promotion'!?" roared Megatron. "You're Second-In-Command of the whole blasted Empire, and you're not going to be first!"
Sometimes, Starscream would flinch, but not today. He'd worked himself into too foul a temper already to give ground. "That means nothing! For millennia I have been the Air Commander! I'm always second to you!"
"And you'll be first over my deactivated body," Megatron reminded him. "What do you want?"
"Want? Want?" mocked Starscream. "I want to cast my own shadow rather than living in yours. I might be second in the Empire, but what power do I have? You never let me have a true command position."
"Because you'd bungle it!"
Starscream's optics flashed. "Oh, I would, would I? You've just been… coddling me all these years, have you? You never gave me a chance! Even the wretched Insecticons have their own world!" The Seeker turned away, but it was only to pace. "Challenge me, Megatron. Lend me some warriors and I will prove that I can lead! Set any task you like." Starscream stopped and looked over his shoulder. "Unless, of course, you're scared that I might succeed?.."
The Decepticon High Commander leaned back in his chair. "I accept. I'll give you your people and a world. If you can conquer it, it's yours."
He wasn't so worked up that he was oblivious. "You answered quickly, Megatron. You have a planet in mind?"
* * *
"I'm reasonably sure that Megatron isn't trying to kill you."
Dreadmoon sighed, listening to Starscream pace behind him as he worked. "If he wanted you destroyed, he'd have done it himself long ago," he said reasonably, not adding, And if you really wanted him dead, you'd have done the same. But he stayed quiet. Dreadmoon was learning which topics weren't safe to bring up with Starscream.
"Oh, no, he can be subtle when he wants to be," said Starscream bitterly. "He just usually doesn't bother. And he likes irony."
The Seeker had relayed his conversation with Megatron pretty much to the letter, and Dreadmoon could see exactly where Starscream had stuck his foot in it: Starscream expected to be handed an inhabited world, to swoop in and conquer, to quell a rebellion… something that involved showing off his military prowess. Megatron turned that on its ear and handed him an extremely dangerous world where military skill would mean nothing and Starscream would have to use his scientific training: There was nothing to fight but the planet itself. But Starscream had made the challenge, Megatron had accepted it, and there was no way out of it now. And, again, best not to say it.
Starscream broke the silence after a few minutes. "What are you working on, anyway?"
"Instructions to my second. He'll be taking the watchtower when we leave."
The pronoun wasn't lost on Starscream. He stopped pacing. "No. I dug myself into this hole; I'm not pulling you in with me."
"You didn't pull; I signed up as soon as I heard about it – before you even showed up here today," replied Dreadmoon, still typing. "And I'm not letting you argue me out of it."
"You're insane!" There was more he could say, but it was nothing he wanted to admit to. "You're just a Monitor!"
This time, Dreadmoon did turn, swivelling his chair to look at the Seeker. "Correction: I was a Sector Monitor."
An outsider wouldn't understand the emphasis. There were certain rules concerning rank in the Decepticon hierarchy, certain classes of citizen. You could be a Decepticon and not part of the army, you could live quite comfortably, but you wouldn't get very far. If you wanted a better rank, you had to sign up for a certain amount of time. After your time was up, you could stay in the army or go back to what you were doing. But you had no more limits.
It wasn't so much a test of loyalty as a test of resolve: If you survived your time in the army, there was probably no stopping you anyway. The Autobots had a more democratic system, which the Decepticons found silly. Why should Cybertron do anything for you if you're not willing to do something for it?
The emphasis meant this: I wouldn't have my rank if I wasn't a survivor. I can take care of myself.
It was supposed to be reassuring, and Starscream carefully set his expression accordingly. He wasn't comforted, though; the last thing from it, in fact. Because it was pretty much exactly what Starscream himself would have said.
* * *
A-JX-522 was an almost sun-type star in the M31 Galaxy, about fifteen hundred light-years from Cybertron's original position. Which would otherwise be a ridiculously long journey between galaxies, if Starscream didn't know about the Corridor.
The Corridor was where normal space was thin and touched subspace. It's origins and length were currently unknown. All Starscream really knew was that it passed through both the M31 and Milky Way galaxies, and that travelling it, even he could travel the distance between Cybertron ( where it used to be ) and Earth. Unfortunately, due to the start of the Cybertronian Wars ( and the fact that, at the time, Starscream was the only one who knew of the Corridor's existence and had recently suffered a loss great enough to turn him away from science, not that he would mention that, ) the Corridor was forgotten.
Until Optimus Prime and his band stumbled across it accidentally as they left Cybertron all those years ago, with the Decepticon flagship in hot pursuit. Come to think of it, it would have been faster to have just flown between the galaxies, rather than take the shortcut and end up in a four million year hibernation… But, it couldn't have been predicted. And in any case, both sides would know about the Corridor by now; even if the Autobots hadn't realised what they wandered into, they had Skyfire to tell them about it…
Starscream pulled himself from his musings and glared at the purple Seeker at the helm. "What?"
To his credit, Shatterwing didn't flinch. "Why are you hissing?"
"I wasn't." And I dare you to say otherwise, he added silently. Still, he was annoyed at himself; it wouldn't do to seem too emotional. Keeping himself under tighter reign, Starscream returned to his thoughts.
The Corridor was about four light-years from Cybertron as it orbited Barnard's Star. That would be the longest part of the journey, a trip of several days. They were only on day three now. Once the subspace Corridor was reached, it would be only hours until they made it to Stormworld. As if that was anything to look forward to.
There would be nothing interesting happening until they reached the Corridor, so Starscream left the control room to return to his quarters. There wouldn't be anything interesting there, either, but at least he could brood in peace. Starscream flung himself into the chair, steepled his fingers in a meditative pose, and settled in for a good sulk. The only other pieces of furniture in the room were a table, a computer console, and a couple of shelves, almost entirely bare of personal items. He'd been a packrat once, but since becoming a warrior he tended to have the most Spartan quarters in the entire Decepticon army. Even back on Earth, he hadn't even bothered to paint over the steel gray walls, leaving him as the only bit of colour in the room. For someone who was determined to be the centre of attention in person, he didn't leave many signs of his existence.
If he noticed that a couple of small items had been moved around, he didn't bother to complain about it.
* * *
Starscream had to give Megatron some credit, albeit grudgingly. Good as his word, the entire project was under the Seeker's control. He hadn't even been given a 'To Do' list, merely a ship and a crew. Not that it was particularly difficult to come up with objectives: Convert the ship to a land-base, set up a power station for their own use, and re-establish communications with Cybertron. Radio signals had a hard time piercing the Stormworld atmosphere. If they were desperate, Dreadmoon or Vapourtrail could be sent orbital to relay a message, but they'd rather set up a satellite of some sort.
Which reminded him… "Vapourtrail," he said, turning to the green Decepticon at the science station. "Take a few readings on the system – the star type, where the other planets are, take a couple pictures of the sky… If the name of the planet is accurate, we won't be seeing it for a while."
"We're within visual contact range," said Razorshift from the helm. "Want me to call up the image?"
"Yes," said Starscream tersely. 'Want me to call up the image?' And he was the Captain of the First Sector Guard? I didn't weasel a command position out of Megatron so I could be addressed casually! Just because it wasn't a military assignment didn't mean formalities could be dropped.
The picture that appeared on the screen was somewhat less than reassuring. It was a world somewhat larger than Earth, shrouded in thick clouds in boiling purples, blacks, and blues. Two satellites orbited Stormworld; lumpy little things that were less moons than asteroids that got caught in the planet's gravitational pull.
Starscream sighed. "Make a slow orbit around the planet, Razorshift, then begin a landing approach." That should grant Vapourtrail sufficient time to complete her scans.
A little over two hours later, the ship circled lower, suddenly breaking the cloud barrier. Which would have been more impressive if there was actually something to look at. An emphatic voice behind Starscream said, "Yuck."
He turned. Apparently not currently needed by the other Insecticons, Sway was sitting near the back of the command deck, making a face at the screen. "When we get weather like this on Coleop, we just stay inside. And even then, our storms are nice to look at." Coleop was a planet of metal – it evolved that way. Watching the lightning light up the forests was an impressive sight. From indoors, of course.
"Poor thing," said Starscream, with a complete lack of sympathy. He didn't ask for Insecticons; they just appeared. Come to think of it, he hadn't asked for any of the others, either. Probably all people that Megatron wanted to get rid of for one reason or another. Tapping a few controls on the arm of his chair, Starscream took another look at the list: Dreadmoon, former Monitor of the Sixth Sector. Razorshift and Shatterwing, Seekers who had been part of the First Sector Cybertronian Guard. Vapourtrail, a scientist, barely three months out of the factory. Crowbar and Gadget, a technician and his assistant. Shrillcry, Sway, and Lightseeker, Insecticons of varying abilities. Starscream sighed.
Turning his attention to the science station, he said, "Vapourtrail, is there anywhere on this miserable planet that even pretends to be dry?"
The green shuttle tapped at her console. "There's patches of clear sky in places, but it doesn't look like that's a stable condition."
"Blast." Starscream was hoping that the planet's name was exaggerated. Apparently not. In any case, the ship would have to land eventually and a place had to be chosen. The low ground would be less prone to lightning strikes, but had a good chance of flooding. And high ground might make communications easier. High ground, then.
"There," said Starscream pointing, before remembering that Razorshift would be looking at the screen and not at him. "On the bluff, back at the tree-line." A lightning rod to keep the ship from getting blasted would be easy enough to install, and Starscream liked the idea of being able to survey his domain from on high… at least, if the weather ever cleared enough to see any real distance.
* * *
A few hours after the ship landed and everyone settled into their tasks, Starscream checked the energon inventory and scowled. They weren't running too low, but they had used more than expected. At first suspecting a stowaway, the Seeker quickly decided against that possibility; not enough had been taken, no one had noticed anyone out of place, and who would want to hitch-hike to Stormworld in the first place? Besides, every cube could be accounted for, spread throughout the crew. They'd just been using more energy lately, himself included. Probably just excitement. Still, it annoyed him.
He walked to the nearest stack and picked up three cubes. It should be sufficient for…
He dropped them and whirled, weapons at the ready. "All right, I don't…" And stopped, because there was no one there.
The Seeker carefully walked around the energon stack. He hadn't heard anything, true, but his sensors were very good at picking up unusual or unexpected energy signatures, and he had felt something behind him. And when he got feelings like that, he jumped, because those senses had saved him from damage or termination on more than one occasion.
No one. Nothing. Not a flicker. Still, Starscream trusted his own senses, even if no one else did despite the fact that he had a marked tendency to be right. Still wary, he activated his communicator and said, "Lightseeker, report to the energon inventory room for a moment."
The scientist appeared in minutes. "Yes, Commander?"
"Scan this room," said Starscream. "My sensors picked up some kind of energy reading. I want you to verify."
The moth wiggled her antennae a bit, face twisted in concentration. After a few minutes, she looked up and shrugged. "Nothing, sir. Only the power of the ship, the energon, my energy, and your own."
Starscream nodded. "Very well, then. As you were." Lightseeker nodded and left.
All right, Starscream told himself, I'm just on edge. Big new responsibilities and all. Still, he shot a wary glance around the room before he collected up the energon cubes and headed out.
* * *
He could have stayed on Cybertron. He was rather regretting not doing so, and he had only been on the planet for four hours.
Dreadmoon, once-Monitor of the Sixth Sector of Cybertron, pushed such thoughts aside. He volunteered for this job, and it was too late to back out now. Besides, deep within himself, he knew Starscream needed him. Starscream would probably deny it.
At the moment, he was following a couple steps behind as Starscream angrily pushed through the wet jungle. Flying would have been faster, but weather conditions prohibited it. The sky was a tempest, and of the whole group, only Starscream, Razorshift, and Shatterwing had any training in storm-flying.
The planet was Starscream's death sentence.
If Starscream was to be believed, anyway. Stormworld was a lovely planet… from orbit. The clouds swirled in grays and purples and blacks, glowing sporadically with lightning… It was a warm world, the fourth one out from its sun, covered almost completely by thick jungle and lacking entirely in any animal life larger than the usual allotment of bacteria. From the surface, it was terrible. The rain came down in buckets, high winds discouraged flight, and lightning was a constant danger.
Because of the very real risk of termination, Starscream's crew were all volunteers. Dreadmoon wasn't sure if this was a particularly good thing. He knew his own motives were pure enough, but why would any of the others sign up for what could very well be a suicide mission?
He took a quick look over his shoulder at the other two in the current expedition – directly behind him was the moth-like Insecticon female, Lightseeker. The thick flora wasn't as much of a problem for her as the others ( like most Insecticons, she was about half the size of an ordinary Decepticon ), but the rain was making her miserable. Ever since the Insecticons had become an official part of the Decepticon Empire, they wanted to be a part of everything. As soon as they heard of Starscream's expedition, they immediately pounced on it, sending three of their people.
Behind the moth, bringing up the rear, was Razorshift, formerly the Captain of the First Sector Guard. The jet-black Seeker could in theory shift himself slightly so the rain and foliage would phase right through him, but it wouldn't be worth the cost of the energy drain. Dreadmoon couldn't begin to guess why he'd given up a nice, high-profile job to join what was essentially a doomed scientific expedition. The others in the crew were all back at the ship they had arrived in, refitting it into a base of operations.
"I don't see why we're looking for the old place. We all read the reports." It was Razorshift's voice, filtered over the radio. The howling wind currently made ordinary conversation outside impossible, unless you wanted to shout.
Starscream's voice replied immediately: "The reports aren't complete. Maybe the ones in the original expedition's base will be."
It was a wild planet and had resisted taming before. Long ago, the Decepticons had tried to harness the sheer elemental forces of the Stormworld. The ship had landed, energon production had exceeded the most generous of expectations, and, three weeks later, it all stopped – shipments, communication, everything. Of course, signals couldn't pierce the raging skies and thus had to be done from orbit, and the space-bridge hadn't been invented yet, so it took Cybertron a while to get worried.
A team was eventually sent to find out what happened. They vanished, too.
"How are we supposed to find it in this mess of a jungle?" complained Razorshift. "Why can't I do some aerial reconnaissance? If I phase, the wind and lightning can't touch me."
The radio sighed. "It's been six million years," said Starscream shortly. "The building will be completely grown-over by now; you'll never see it from the air. Besides, I have the exact co-ordinates, and we're almost there."
A geological survey could have told the four Decepticons what they already knew; the hill before them was not a natural feature. It would have fooled anyone else; the lush jungle covered it as thickly as it did everywhere else. Starscream gestured to the moth: "Lightseeker, can your sensors locate a door?"
Her antennae, which usually hung down her back, flipped up and she opened a panel in her arm – revealing a small screen – to check her readings. "Probably." Choosing randomly, Lightseeker began walking left around the base of the hill. After about twenty metres, she stopped. "There's a hatch under here, under almost two metres of dirt."
Starscream cleared the main part of the earth away with his lasers, then stepped back to check his handiwork. A mudslide wouldn't happen; the trees grew too thickly for that. There was still the problem of opening the door, though. There couldn't be power in the base, not after all this time, but there had to be a manual override. Not on the outside, of course. "Razorshift, go inside and see if you can open the hatch."
The black Seeker seemed to blur around the edges, losing focus until he was only a shadow. The shadow stepped towards the door, then vanished through it. Phasing though something electrical tended to short it out temporarily, but power hadn't flowed through this place for millions of years. After a few minutes, he found the manual switch and opened the door.
The base was a tomb, certainly in the metaphorical sense, and it was a good bet that it would be in the literal sense, too. It was also pitch-black, so everyone had their lights on, which made the general ambience worse as the shadows moved. The base was silent except for the hollow tread of their footsteps… until the air was torn by a sickening crunch.
Dreadmoon whirled, for the sound came from behind him. His lights fell full-on the moth, who was wearing a guilty expression. A short pipe with a ragged end dangled from her hand. He didn't usually snap at people, but the place was giving him the creeps. "Must you do that?"
The Insecticon tried ineffectually to tuck the pipe behind her back. "Sorry. When I get nervous, I snack."
"Would you two knock it…" Starscream paused, as if sniffing the air, which was almost an accurate analogy. "I sense power here."
Lightseeker's antennae twitched. "So do I, very faint. Strange. It should have all leaked away by now."
"It's not impossible," said Dreadmoon. It was, however, very improbable.
"Dreadmoon, you and Razorshift will accomplish our initial objective – get the computer online again," said Starscream. "Lightseeker and I will track the energy readings." The Decepticons split up.
Despite their own lights, it wasn't easy navigating the unknown station. Lightseeker had shrieked when she tripped over a body in the dark, but pulled herself together quickly. As a Coleop Insecticon – a formerly organic being – death affected her worse than it did the non-organic Transformers.
After twenty minutes, the auxiliary lights in the ceiling flickered on. "It seems the others are faster than us," said Starscream. Dreadmoon had fed a few energon cubes into the generator, and would now be trying to download the station logs. Meanwhile, the going would be a lot easier for Starscream and Lightseeker.
Not that it took long now. Starscream forced a door and Lightseeker irrationally clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle another scream. The room was a computer laboratory of sorts, and seemed to be where several of the former crew met their ends. There were six shells sprawled throughout the room… well, five shells and one other.
Ignoring the empty carcasses, Starscream crossed the room to where a female Decepticon of rust and gold lay. "This is the one. She still functions."
Lightseeker crouched down by a deep gray jet, gasped, and backed away quickly. Most of his chest had been burned away, dried fluids still clinging to his carapace.
"You're a Decepticon," said Starscream, noticing the moth's discomfort. "One of a warrior-race. Get used to it." He easily lifted the unconscious Decepticon, and with Lightseeker trailing behind, went to find Dreadmoon and Razorshift.
* * *
"I don't see any damage," said Crowbar. "Let's give her a recharge and see what happens."
It was a few hours later, and Starscream's small team had returned to base. The female Decepticon from the buried station lay on the table in the repair bay. Her height and build were a little smaller than average, and treads on her legs showed her transform to be a ground vehicle of some kind. But strangest of all was her head, for instead on the usual helmet-type set-up, she had thick metal ropes that ended in tips that reminded Starscream uncomfortably of the Robo-Smasher.
The repair bay was nearly empty; just Starscream, Crowbar, and the survivor. The others – including Crowbar's little sidekick Gadget – were busy with the ship conversions. Dreadmoon was up in the control centre, trying to coax the other base's station logs to give him some useful information. The rust-coloured Decepticon on the table might be able to do better. "Charge her, then."
The black Decepticon nodded, then connected his patient to the ship's power supply. After a few minutes, her optics flickered with a yellow light, and Crowbar disconnected her from the feed-cable. She moved her head slightly to get a better look at her benefactors, causing her strange 'hair' to crawl unnervingly. "Where..?"
"Stormworld, in the repair bay of what had been a spacecraft, but is now a land-base. I am Starscream, commander of this little expedition," said Starscream. "Who are you and what is your function?"
"I am a computer… technician. I am… Memory."
"A useful name," said Starscream. Hopefully the female's memories could shed some light on the first expedition. He gestured to the black Decepticon. "This is Crowbar, our mechanic. He'll check you over, and later…"
The effect was instantaneous and completely unexpected. Memory rolled from the table, taking up a defensive crouch on the other side of the room. "Keep away from me!"
The comment was addressed to Crowbar, but Starscream answered. "Oh, for… What is your problem?"
Memory slowly straightened up. "I apologise. It has been a long time since I could… trust anyone." She considered that. "In any case, I am undamaged."
The other two looked at one another. Crowbar shrugged. Starscream looked back at Memory. "Very well. If you're in such great shape, you'll be able to answer a few questions."
* * *
They found Dreadmoon where Starscream had left him; in the control room, hunched over a computer console. Vapourtrail was working at another station. She didn't bother looking over when the door opened, but Dreadmoon did. He stood. "Starscream. I'm almost finished transferring the first expedition's logs to our system."
"Good," said Starscream. Noticing the unspoken question, he added, "Dreadmoon, this is the survivor from the other base – Memory. She might be of some use to us. What have you got so far?"
The monitor sighed, shaking his head. "Fragments. Not much more than we already know in terms of actual information. A month of standard reports, then it starts to get… strange."
Dreadmoon turned back to the console and summoned up the reports. "Strange," he nodded. "They weren't too worried at first when the communications first cut off, thinking it was just equipment failure. But it started to… get to them somehow, they got jittery and paranoid. Their first casualty was Steamer, their geologist. One of the engineers gunned him down, claiming he was some sort of monster. They terminated the engineer several hours later, judging him to be too dangerous to let live. The transcript of his trial reads like a horror novel."
The Seeker nudged him aside to look at the list of the perished for himself. "Great Cybertron, was it all like this?" Dreadmoon just nodded. Scientist Carbine, destroyed two others before being destroyed himself. Mission Commander Skyvortex, shot in the back by an unknown assailant. Mechanic Second Class Mistshard, shot herself to prevent 'them' from getting her. Engineer Nighthaunter, deliberately flew into the heart of a storm and was obliterated by lightning. The list went on. Starscream looked back at Memory. "Anything to add to this?"
She shook her head. "It all seems to be in order. I wasn't a very high rank, though; likely I have less information than the records."
Starscream nodded sympathetically. "You were lucky to have survived that nightmare at all." He turned to the scientist and called, "Vapourtrail, take a short break to assign quarters to our guest."
The two female Decepticons left. Dreadmoon waited for the door to close before asking, "You trust her?"
"Not a bit." Starscream sat down at another console. "See if you can find Memory's service record. I'll look up those five we found with her."
After a few minutes of searching he said, "Interesting."
Dreadmoon looked over. "Find them?"
"Yes." Starscream tapped a few keys at his computer. "Those five bodies we found in the room with Memory were the team sent to find the first expedition. Rather interesting how they didn't split up to search. And, checked against the time-logs, they arrived mere hours after Memory claims to have put herself in stasis-mode. Obviously, they never had a chance to try to wake her."
The last survivor was always the prime suspect. "Her record checks out, though – Memory, Computer Technician Third Class. Trained at the Cybertron Science Academy, graduated with a rather modest standing. Got drafted into the Stormworld project because it looked like an easy enough assignment for her. Spent her time fixing computer glitches and filing reports." Dreadmoon tapped the screen. "All in all, not impressive."
"Mm-hmm, so the easy answer is that she sabotaged communications, killed everyone else, and faked the records," said Starscream. "Which is a stupid theory because it's impossible. Skyvortex had a crew of over thirty; Memory simply could not have picked them all off."
The monitor spread his hands. "The other answer is that the records are true."
"That some sort of madness possessed the crew and drove them to destroy themselves. I don't like that, either," said Starscream. He stood, running his hands over his head. "Unfortunately, we haven't got time for the luxury of a proper investigation yet. Dreadmoon, finish with the records then help Vapourtrail with the communications satellite." He left.
* * *
Crowbar had drafted Razorshift and Shatterwing into helping him disassemble the ship's jets so he could use the parts to set up a refinery. Starscream was annoyed that he hadn't thought of it – without some way to process materials, they weren't going to be able to build or repair anything. He should have thought of it… but didn't let on that he didn't, of course.
Well, the ship would never fly again. In theory, once they re-established communications with Cybertron, they could get a space-bridge connection. If they made it that far.
In the heart of the ship, Starscream came to a door. It used to be the engine room, but it was now Insecticon Domain. This is where the three tended to hang out, partially because they were assigned to set up a generator, but mostly because it was the warmest room in the ship. Not that temperature affected them much, but they were all former coleop and were used to the heat of their homeworld. There were no chairs in the room, but there were perches.
Two of the perches were occupied; one by Lightseeker, another by the dragonfly-like warrior Sway, both in their insect-modes ( it seemed to be a rule that all Insecticons preferred them. ) Lightseeker was a bit above and behind the third Insecticon – Shrillcry – who was sketching something on a large sheet of paper. Shrillcry was in robot-mode, but it was obvious her transform was something akin to a praying mantis. She and the moth were arguing: "I don't think we could set up a converter on such a large scale."
"Just a thought, Shrill." The moth cocked her head slightly. "A lightning rod, maybe? Get some use out of this disgusting weather?"
"Hmm, maybe. Easy set up, unlimited power source… maybe a bit too unlimited…"
"Well, if we set up an overflow here…"
Starscream stepped up behind them. "An imperfect solution will buy us time to find a better one," he reminded them. Of course the Insecticons weren't worried that their energon supplies were running low; they could convert anything they ate into useable power. Maybe he should have set Vapourtrail or Crowbar on the energy problem, but they were needed where they were, and the Insecticons' records stated that they were more than competent.
"A temp job?" Shrillcry sounded offended.
"Yes, so get to it." Starscream turned and left. The Insecticons buzzed behind him.
"Rude being," muttered Shrillcry. "I don't see why we were told to help him."
Lightseeker preened her antennae. "Because we are the best Coleop has to offer."
There was a bitter snort from the dragonfly. "Hmm, maybe," grumbled Sway. "This planet has no threats but lousy weather; why send me, a warrior, hmm?"
"Because we come in threes," said Lightseeker. Turning back to Shrillcry's drawing, she said, "He wants a temp job, we give him a temp…" She stopped suddenly, turning with a guilty little jump. "I mean that with all possible respect, of course, Comm…" Again she stopped, but this time out of puzzlement.
Sway looked up from her brooding. "What's, hmm, wrong?"
The moth looked uncertain. "Nothing, I guess. I thought I heard Starscream come back in."
"Silly girl," chided Shrillcry. "Now, about your lightning rod idea…"
To be continued…