This is the start of a new series for me. I wanted to get more creative writing in and given my level of free time figured the best way was a series of short character-centric stories. The plan is to do one of these for each member of the Ark crew, focusing on how they came to be on the ship and their last days on Cybertron before the launch. So here's the first "Last Days Long Past" Last Days Long Past: Huffer Consciousness returns like a switch being thrown. Huh. But not understanding. First, alone in the dark. Then, questions. Where? What? What happened? Memory calls like a distant voice across the silvered plains of home. The Ark. Decepticons! The sickening massive blue-green rock spiraling up at us. Scrap in a tar bucket! She’s damaged. Clearly. How much I can’t tell. Internal diagnostics also offline. Optics down. Motor control negligible. Wonderful morning, as usual. It’s ok though. I don’t worry. She'’ll come through. She'’ll repair me and the others. I know it. I built her that way. Memory…... Standing on a control gantry in the secret dry dock, deep below the domes of Iacon. Great mechanized arms maneuver the first golden-orange beams into place in the construction frame and begin to weld. To one side of me stands Wheeljack, the erratic “genius” behind her engines and weapon systems. Across the way the lauded architectural artist Grapple watches the shapes and contours he traced begin to take form. Anyone watching from the viewing gallery below must wonder who the little nobody is, and why he rates a place “on stage.” I couldn'’t begin to compete with their honors and fame. I’m just an engineer. I’m not here to break the laws of physics or inspire a new era… my job is simply to make sure the slagging ship works. More titanic beams are moved in and set in place. All of the metal is gleaming gold. Somewhere inside I still can’t believe even Prime managed that. As an engineer I had stressed to him the value of starting with the right materials...… but living, energon infused Cybertonium alloy was nearly as rare as hydrogen-dioxide these days. Once, our whole world had been golden like this ship will be, now it had all faded to silver and tarnished dead grey. We haven'’t treated our home well. Slag, we’ve beat her into the scrapheap most days… but I love her as much, if not more, for her wounds. It’s the engineer in me again. Can’t resist a fixer upper. I wonder, for the first time, which I love more: beautiful nurturing Cybertron or this new ship, brought to life under my guidance… that will carry the Autobots far away from her… I am jolted from memory by the distant sensation of half my body being torn away and discarded. That’s always a good sign. Sensors are still mostly down. Pain circuits blessedly offline. I feel new parts log in and begin to integrate where the old were lost. She is repairing me. I try to remember the process as scripted in her control commands. 1) Stabilize patient. 2) Identify and excise ruined systems. 3) If planet-berthed, launch sky spy probe and identify concealment options 4) Repair and restore to new trans-format I linger for a moment on the unspoken barbs that lie hidden in each step. 1) If too far gone, place in permanent stasis lock. If dead -– stockpile. 2) Identify systems that can be stripped and cannibalized from stasis locked and deceased units to repair others. 3) Permanently alter their bodies to match possible hostile alien monsters. I stop my litany when a thought occurs... a thought worse than all of the above. It is one of those crystal clear revelations that you can only have once it’s too late to fix the critical system flaw… The Decepticons had boarded the Ark. That’s why we crashed. But we... I... had never built any friend or foe distinction into the emergency repair processes. Yes, the Ark was putting me back together right now, but it could be doing the exact same thing to Megatron... perhaps it already had. My mistake... Memory... Prime walking with me in the dim light of morning. Both of us are armored carrier vehicles when we transform but we couldn’t be more different. He is tall and majestic and powerful and optimistic. No pun intended. I am small and walk in his shadow. I need you on the Ark crew, he says. I shake my head. Cybertron is my home. It may be half scrap now but that was all the more reason for me to stay. She would need engineers to recover and rebuild. If I was lost with the Ark... (Why did I think that, even then? If I was lost with the Ark? Premonition or pessimism. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.) The Ark is too new, too untested, he tells me. If her mission fails, if Megatron wins, Cybertron will be doomed regardless. All our hopes rest on her, and she needs her chief engineer. I can’t argue. I want to, but I can’t. She needs her chief engineer. She’s my child, my ship, and I can’t send her into the dark alone. And I have to trust her... because I trust myself... to bring me home again. I look up at the great hero of our world and nod resignedly. Now. I feel a last few parts click into place. I feel my main systems begin to reboot. Even before my optics come online I lean forward, kneel, and get to my feet. I ready myself for a moment. Alright. Optics open. Let’s see what we’ve got to work with. Some system I’m forgetting will have blocked repair of the Decepticons. I designed her to survive anything. A few quick patches and I’m sure my girl will be flying again in no time. Winging me, winging us all, back home... --------------------------------------- -ZacWilliam, quite happy with this focus on a character I've really never given much thought before. Looking forward to doing the rest. Comments and thoughts much appreciated.