Author's Note – Written for "tf_speedwriting" on LiveJournal. The prompt was "Setting: in a banned location".
Disclaimer – "Transformers" and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Hasbro, Takara, and any other related owners/distributors/producers. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.
Bumblebee looked down from their perch on the edge of the cliff to the ruins spread below them, shivering at the intangible sensations of warning skittering through his relays. "Tell me why we're here again? This crater's banned territory. Has been since, I don't know, before the war started."
Cliffjumper didn't even miss a beat. "Which is precisely why we're here."
Bumblebee gave his best friend a sidelong glance. "You know, you could fry Prowl's circuits in under a breem with logic like that."
"I have," the warrior replied with a smirk. Bumblebee groaned, and Cliffjumper clapped him on the shoulder. "C'mon, think about it, Bee! Why is this place banned? What's hidden here that's so terrible even Megatron won't come here, huh?"
"I really think I'd rather not find out!"
Cliffjumper looked at him. "Since when were you the cautious one?"
Bumblebee grimaced. "Since I realized you had brought me to the one place Optimus put the fear of Primus in everyone to stay away from."
"You're starting to sound like Gears."
"You're right, you're right. Huffer."
If Cliffjumper's comments were meant to shame – or annoy – Bumblebee into submission . . . they were working. The scout just snorted. "Shut up."
Cliffjumper grinned in victory. "C'mon." He jumped over the edge and started a controlled slide down the rocky cliff face. With a grunt, Bumblebee followed.
This was an area, almost three hundred megamiles north of Iacon, where the planet's surface was severely underdeveloped. Most of Cybertron was paved over with wide, metal motorways threaded between thick clusters of buildings, largely broken and abandoned now thanks to the war. In contrast, this crater showed the bare rock of the planet's core with only a handful of ruins like bolts from an upended supply box scattered around a gaping hole at the center to show that there was ever anyone here at all.
The two Minibots picked their way through the destroyed buildings of what Bumblebee guessed had once been a mining outpost. "It looks like there was some kind of battle here . . . but I don't see any sign of weapons fire."
Cliffjumper was frowning as he looked around. "Yeah . . . it's almost like whoever – or whatever – overcame this place did it before anyone could even raise a weapon. Or else they were just scared out of here." He paused and pointed at the tops of the buildings. "Look how they've been damaged. It's like they were attacked from above."
"Nah. There'd be six dozen scorch marks from laser fire all over the place. Only way a Seeker can actually hit a moving target is to pepper the ground with shots till they get lucky."
Bumblebee frowned, knowing full well that was hardly the case, but he'd give his friend the insult and decided not to comment.
Finally, the pair reached the edge of the cave mouth gaping like an abyss at their feet. Cliffjumper looked at Bumblebee. "Well?"
The little scout shrugged. "Might as well. We've come this far."
The wide tunnel didn't go straight down, thankfully, but rather stretched away into the ground at an angle. It was steep but not so much so that the two mechs feared tumbling off suddenly into the unknown. Cliffjumper pulled out a handheld searchlight once things got dim enough that even their nightvision couldn't make out their surroundings.
"Can you imagine what it would do for the war if we could find something here we could use against Megatron?" There was a hint of dark glee in Cliffjumper's voice.
Bumblebee wasn't going to hold too much hope to that. "Even if we did, I doubt Optimus Prime would allow it. He's the one who banned this area to begin with, remember?"
"Bah! I'll support Prime in his choices – "
"Except when it comes to forbidden craters," Bumblebee interjected with a chuckle.
Cliffjumper ignored him. " – but you know as well as I do that the war would have been over fifty-thousand vorns ago if Prime was willing to be more ruthless with the Decepticons."
The scout sighed. This was an argument they'd had before. It was one that many had had with the impetuous warrior. "That's not Prime's way, CJ. It's not the Autobot way. Find peaceful resolutions whenever feasible. Take the fewest lives possible. All life is sacred. We have to hold to that, even in battle, or we're no better than they are."
Cliffjumper growled. "Right . . . and our numbers keep dwindling as a result. We keep like we are, and there won't be enough of us left before too long to put up more than a token fight before we're killed or enslaved once and for all." Fierce, cold blue optics peered at Bumblebee through the pitch blackness. "If it comes to that, I'm taking Option Number One."
Bumblebee gazed back for a moment, finally setting a hand on his friend's arm. "Let's just hope it doesn't. It hasn't so far." The warrior only sounded a noncommittal grunt in response, and Bumblebee gave his arm a supportive squeeze before letting go.
The pair continued on in silence for almost a joor, picking their way carefully through the broken rock and puddles of gathered moisture and mineral deposits. Finally, they came to a yawning cavern, the space of which was largely eaten by the most bizarre mound of crystal formation either of the pair had ever seen.
"What in the Pit?" Cliffjumpers optics glowed brightly as he explored the shape and size of the formation with his searchlight. The light made the whole structure glow, throwing a multitude of refractions on the walls.
Bumblebee shook his head. "No idea . . . but can you feel it? My sensors are picking up some kind of resonance. There's . . . there's an energy source here! Coming from the crystal itself, I think."
"Huh." Cliffjumper stepped up to run a hand over the multi-faceted surface. "Wonder if we can figure out a way to tap into it. Here, hold this." He pushed the searchlight into Bumblebee's hands, then pulled out his pistol.
"What are you doing?"
"Gonna chip off a sample to take back to Perceptor and the others. Maybe they can make something of this."
A sense of warning twisted in Bumblebee's substructure. "Um, CJ, I don't think that's a good ide-"
The crack of laserfire interrupted him, and he was forced to shield his optics. The flash from the pistol had been captured and reflected over and over throughout the mass of crystal, blazing through the whole cavern for an instant. Bumblebee unshuttered his optics again only for them to dilate widely in shock as a low, rumbling growl filled the room. "W-wha-!"
The crystal formation shifted and seemed to split and rearrange itself to a horrible sound like grinding glass. A massive, elongated head swung around on a long neck from the other side to fix glowing green eyes on the pair, each orb nearly as big as one of the Minibots.
"SLAG!" the two yelped in unison, backpedaling fast from the creature.
"What the frag is-"
It didn't surprise Bumblebee that Cliffjumper didn't know. The warrior tended to dump any information he didn't deem directly pertinent to the war and the defeat of the Decepticons, and mythological creatures would hardly have made that cut. The scout clamped a hand on the warrior's wrist, hauling him off his feet as he bolted back into the tunnel. "RUN!"
As the crystalline monster uncoiled itself further, Cliffjumper obeyed, racing after his friend. "Bee! What. The. Frag. is that thing?" Try as he must have, he couldn't keep the note of shock and terror from his voice.
Bumblebee didn't slow his mad dash up the slope as he explained in clipped, hurried fragments. "No one knows how they're living, but they are. Territorial. And mean. Thankfully, they're only active in spurts, and recharge for some hundred vorns between feedings-"
"Trace metals and minerals in rock. They fuel on it, though they'll take a mech easily enough! Somehow, they smelt rock in their innards somewhere, drawing out the trace elements and then purging the leftover rock in a flow of magma . . . which they can also attack with!"
Cliffjumper spared a glance over his shoulder at that, optics overbright, no doubt half-expecting a gout of liquefied rock to follow them up the tunnel. As it was, they could hear continued growls, grinding glass, and the scrape of crystal on rock behind them over the sound of their own scrambling flight, but no attack came and the noises faded into the distance as the pair continued on.
Finally, the Minibots clambered over the edge onto the crater floor. Neither stopped until they were well into the ruins, finding a hiding spot behind the remains of a collapsed wall to themselves collapse in a heap until their heaving systems could calm back down. Bumblebee could feel the strain on his cooling fans to reduce the overheating of his substructure, and he didn't doubt that Cliffjumper was feeling the same. Both listened with strained audios for what felt like forever, but nothing happened.
Bumblebee looked at Cliffjumper. "That's it. Can we go home now?"
Cliffjumper looked as freaked as Bumblebee felt, though he was visibly trying to hide it. He nodded. "Best idea I've heard all day. Let's go."