Fullbarrel hated his job.
It wasn't just that it was, for the most part, far duller than anything else he had ever done. Tending to the vast, semi-sentient power generators that fed Iacon City and her surrounding districts, and making sure that the temperamental machines did their job properly, was never going to be described as exciting, in and of itself. Sure, there was always the off-chance of a Decepticon attack; but there were far bigger, more tempting targets for the 'Cons to go for, and so excitement never really found it's way to the Axalon regional sub-station.
Fullbarrel couldn't even say that it was the company that was getting to him, or at least, not directly. On the night shift, when most of Iacon was in recharge, and power drain was at an absolute minimum, there were only ever minimal amounts of personnel at the sub-station. For the most part, the only time Fullbarrel ever saw the others was when they dropped into the control hub to pick up parts for repairs and maintenance, or when one of the workers decided to have their break at the hub rather than out wherever their current task had taken them. If anything, Fullbarrel quite enjoyed being his own boss, and having the peace and quiet.
What really got to him, the thing that he hated most, was that when something went wrong, it was almost always when no-one else was around to help. And it was never anything small, on those occasions. Oh, no, it was almost always something big, and difficult, and often quite dangerous. It didn't happen often, and yet it was often enough to grate on his nerves. And if the report sitting in front of him was anything to go by, tonight was going to be one of those nights.
He scanned the small data-pad in his hand once more, and fought to hold back an involuntary grimace. Cybertron had never been a world that suffered with what you could call 'weather', but when it did, it tended to be rather spectacular. One such event, a localised ion-storm that had been working its way across the northern hemisphere for a few days, was heading toward the sub-station with increasing speed. In ordinary circumstances, an ion-storm of this class wasn't a threat, little more than a solar-powered light show; when a set of older power generators were involved, though, it was an entirely different story. It would play havoc with the station's systems, and could even cause a dangerous power shift in the transfer lines. In short, it wasn't going to be fun.
Worryingly, the storm had actually changed direction, almost as though it was deliberately aiming for the power plant. That in itself had given Fullbarrel a bad feeling, like an ill omen. To make matters worse, his two companions for this shift had been called away, leaving Fullbarrel to deal with the rapidly approaching solar event on his own. The storm would reach the outskirts of the generator farm inside the next two hours, and if the lines and generators weren't checked, and the emergency circuit breakers primed, then all Pit could well break loose. With a sigh from deep within his vocaliser, Fullbarrel put down the pad, slipped a few tools into his subspace pockets, and left the control hub.
O o O o O
Fullbarrel had just finished checking over the transfer cables on the last generator when the storm hit. The Cybertronian sky had changed colour over the last twenty minutes, the deep, starlit black slowly being obscured by a poisonous green cloud-front. The swirling mass of ionised gases and pulsing electrons throbbed with potential, charged by the rays of the nearby sun, occasionally bursting out into violent clashes of purplish energon-lightning. Even before it reached him, the magnetic effects of the storm began to make Fullbarrel feel uneasy.
He watched the storm approach, mesmerised, taking in the vivid, nauseating vista. He knew that the storm posed little threat to him, other than messing about with a few of his lesser systems, so he could afford to take a moment to stare; he had never seen one of these up close, and morbid curiosity gripped him. As the energon in the atmosphere began to build, he began to feel the pressure build-up within his body. Warning lights lit up in his internal display, and he felt a familiar tingling sensation building in his extremities and along his spinal column. It was a little like standing in an unshielded power core chamber, he mused.
Fullbarrel was just about to transform and leave the area, convinced that he had done his job to the best of his ability, when he heard it. At first, he just assumed that he was hearing things. A quick local scan confirmed that he was alone; it should have been impossible for him to hear any sound other than the storm and his own movements. Thunder rumbled overhead, and lightning flashed, throwing the Autobot's surroundings into stark relief, and causing him to jump, startled. This convinced him that he was just imagining things, that it was just the storm affecting his audio systems.
Then he heard it again, and he couldn't deny it a second time. He had heard laughter on the steadily growing wind, high and faint against the storm. Fullbarrel span on the spot, searching for a source, but found none. It was growing dark, and the power plant's emergency lighting had begun to kick in, bathing the long corridors between the generators in sickly phosphorescent light, and adding to the eerie atmosphere.
"Hello?" Fullbarrel called, his voice echoing in the confined space. No-one replied. Fullbarrel walked slowly to a cross-over junction, and climbed the steps up to the gantry that let maintenance crews cross between ranks of generator turbines, without walking all the way to the end of the row. He reached out with his sensors, but could detect nothing. The fact that the storm was interfering with those same sensors did nothing to ease his nerves.
Slowly, cautiously, Fullbarrel walked down the gantry, looking left and right down the long alleyways between the generators. Around him, the thick, crackling clouds of the ion-storm slowly enveloped him, thick tendrils of greenish smoke clawing at him and his surroundings as though searching for something. Thoughts of running for cover, of finding a way out and heading for the safety of the office, warred with the desire to keep searching. If someone was here, they could be in danger. The thought that the intruder might be a threat crossed his mind, but Fullbarrel had served a little time in the military, and felt he could handle himself if necessary.
He was just about to give the whole thing up for a lost cause, when he heard the laughter again. It was closer this time, and clearer, despite the interference caused by the all-enclosing cloud mass. It was not a pleasant sound, but cold and piercing, hollow even. It spoke of pain, malice, and not a little insanity. Fullbarrel decided that he had never heard a more evil sound. It tore through his processor, sending chills through his systems. He started to turn slowly, optics attempting to see through the sickly miasma of the storm. Nothing, not a single living being could be seen, but that didn't mean a thing. He looked up again, turning to face his original direction. And found himself face to face with a nightmare.
A fanged, leering face was staring at him, formed out of the mist. The horrible visage faded an instant later, leaving nothing behind but faint laughter and a sensation of fear coursing through Fullbarrel's systems. Terrified, his nerve hitched up its skirts and ran, and a moment later Fullbarrel followed suit. He bolted for the nearest gantry exit, running down the stairs two at a time. In his haste to escape, he tripped, falling down the last few stairs and landing hard. He had a brief glimpse of the gantry from below, just in time for it to be lit from behind by a flash of lightning. He felt his spark leap in his chest as, for a brief instant, the energon flash highlighted the silhouette of a hunched figure standing on the walkway.
The image vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Fullbarrel was up on his feet in an instant, and running at full speed for the exit of the compound. The laughter came back, snapping at his heels and haunting his movements, echoing at awkward angles from the high, curved walls of the rust-orange turbine housings. As the end of the corridor came hazily into view, the storm flared into life once more, and to Fullbarrel's horror the harsh light of the lightning once more showed the shadowy form of his tormentor. Only this time, the shape came into view in front of him, not twenty metres distant.
"What are you?" He hissed, his voice shaking, then rising in panic as he scrambled to a halt. "What in Primus' name are you?"
The only answer was more laughter, mirthless and cruel. Fullbarrel began to back up slowly, as a vaguely humanoid shape began to coalesce out of the mist. It slid toward him, a wraith gliding silently through the clouds, and the voice behind the laughter changed. It became deeper, more vicious, cruel intent showing through every note. As it swept around him, circling like a predator would its prey, Fullbarrel backed away, until he felt his back come into contact with the wall of one of the turbines.
"What in the Pit are you? Answer me!" he yelled, panic flooding his voice, making it crack harshly.
The wraith stopped for a moment, a vague image of a winged Transformer briefly coiling from the smoke that formed the creature. The being smiled cruelly, sharp fangs showing within it's mouth, before the image became insubstantial once more. The storm-creature leered at him like this for long moments, slowly drifting toward him, silent as the grave. Fullbarrel pushed himself further back, beginning to curl in on himself, wishing furiously that this nightmare would end. When the creature had moved to just a few feet away from Fullbarrel, it spoke.
"Hello, little thing," the voice hissed, low and quiet. The ethereal face moved closer still, until it filled Fullbarrel's entire view. Petrified, he found he could no longer move.
"My name is Slipstream," it said. "And you, little morsel, are quite, quite, dead..."
Author's Notes: Well, here it is! Slipstream gets his own sequel at last. I can only hope that this works out as well as the original story. More coming soon...
Thanks very much for reading. Please review, I'd love to know what you all think. Also, if you haven't read Slipstream's first outing, Slipstream: Chronicles, go give it a look, if you have the time. It will help all of this to make a little more sense, I hope! Both this story and it's predecessor tie in with Savior, by Shockbox, one of my small collection of fanfic sisters, and a talented writer in her own right. Go take a look-see! Slipstream goes Beast Wars... need I say more?
Disclaimer: This will go for the whole story, to save me repeating myself. I do not own Transformers, or any of it's associated characters; I make no claim that I do, and I certainly don't earn anything (other than a sense of deep satisfaction) for writing this. Slipstream is all mine, for my sins. And his lines here were definitely inspired by Dan Abnett's character Cherubael, from his Eisenhorn trilogy. Also, any other characters that aren't recognisable as canon will most likely be mine, unless noted to the contrary. There, I think that just about covers it. On with the story!