First attempt at a fic, been sitting on my hard-drive for ages unsure whether to continue or not. The planet has cooled, the Cyber-forming has completed and the Autobot "volunteer workforce" has moved on or have been used to build street signs . Yet the demands of war mean that the latest conquered world of the Decepticon empire isn't ready to be garrisoned, but you can't just leave a planet unoccupied after conquering it. Enter the Decepticon Empirical Administration Division (D.E.A.D.). Don't let the name fool you, they're essentially the Health and Safety inspectors of newly conquered worlds. Their job is to flick the switches, polish the furniture, and kick the tires until they move on to the next world and do it all over again. Glorified janitors really. Join a bunch of Decepticons who even the Scavengers would deem wastes of energon, and find out what happens when the orders stop coming. Chapter 1: Bureaucrats and Infodumps. "Recharge cycle complete. Your shift begins now. The D.E.A.D. thank you for your continued diligence and hope you have a productive day," piped the P.A. system, it's dulcet tones just asking to be punched. Slag, thought Flakstorm as his systems came back online after his recharge. I swear to Primus I just powered down. He rose from his slab and his diagnostics confirmed that while the contamination was almost purged from his system, he was going to have one Pit of a headache for a while yet. Three glasses of Mood Whiplash would do that to you, especially if they had been preceded by a full case of Engex with a Nucleon chaser. Still he didn’t regret it, his team had done really well getting the planet ready ahead of schedule, and today was the final inspection day. He walked over to his rooms mirror and checked his optics, and was glad to see that while he felt like warmed over rust, he at least looked Cybertronian, he slid his faceplate back to check his mouth pistons, found them a little rusty, and applied the de-oxide paste. As he scrubbed he reflected on his teams achievement. Planet Charr was still warm to the touch when his team, their construction partners, and the “volunteer” workforce had set down. By the time the fighting had stopped, it resembled its name, the black surface cracking as the survey performed their initial inspections. Flakstorm had to admit, say what you want about the Phase Sixer (at least out of earshot), but you could never accuse Sixshot or not being thorough. He’d even wiped out the single celled organisms at a molecular level. He noticed an Engex stain on his chest mounted Decepticon badge, and polished it until it gleamed. He quietly reflected on his role in the Decepticon empire. Sure it wasn’t glamorous, making sure that a newly cyber-formed planet was up the the Decepticon Empire Administration Division’s (D.E.A.D.) health and safety standards, but it was necessary. Some mechs may think it odd that the Decepticons had health and safety standards, but just because 90% of his race was engaged in battles against the entirety of creation, didn’t mean Megatron wanted them to die, at least not by tripping over a stray power cord, or because nobody had fitted a safety rail over the smelting pit. Glamorous? No. Necessary? Yes. Safe? More so than going up against Grimlock in a close quarters battle. None of his crew were adept soldiers, aside from maybe Riot and possibly Lock-on if he could ever put his mind to it, but they had all seen action, but they’d been spirited away after the Infiltration Protocol had been enacted and assigned to this role. And it worked. Everyone was perfectly happy in their roles. Himself being D.E.A.D. Head Administrator, making sure everything was done, inspecting everyone’s work and doing his own survey and geological studies in his Anti-Air tank mode. A loud thumping on his hab suite’s door knocked him out of his contemplative state, with the added bonus of reminding him of his massive headache. “Yes Riot?” he asked as he fumbled for his data-slate and a packet of avastacetamol pain chips, he was gonna need these to get through the morning at least. “…How did you know it was me?” the gravelly tones of the team’s security chief asked. “Because it’s ALWAYS you Riot, every day at this exact time,” Flakstorm replied as he opened his door and exited into the habitation quarters corridor and looked up. “You always come with yesterday’s security notes at this time. Scrap, it’s so regular that if you didn’t come knocking on my door, I’d KNOW there was something wrong! Is there something wrong?” he asked the massive bot, not for the first time wondering how someone big enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Lugnut and Blackout could be so worried about anything short of the Wreckers arriving in orbit. “Well no, but I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I didn’t hand over my report as soon as possible. I need to be working at 100%, especially today!” Riot responded, transmitting his report to Flakstorm’s slate. “Yeah I know mate, and it does you credit believe me. By the way…HOW are you at 100%, I feel liked half-melted clinkers, and you had at least 3 times as much as anyone else did.” “Big bot, big fuels tanks, powerful fuel scrubbers,” Riot replied. “Though I did stumble over a rock this morning, if it helps.” “It doesn’t but thanks for trying big bot,” Flakstorm replied, smiling behind his faceplate. “Seriously though, anything important in your report?” “Not really, all quiet in the skies and on the ground, still if it’s OK with you I better start on my rounds. Don’t want anything to go wrong today.” “You linked up with Skycam’s surveillance equipment?” Flakstorm asked. With Riot pounding the ground, and Skycam keeping his audio receptors pointed to the skies and his surveillance drones scanning everywhere else, they could keep the planet monitored 24 hours a day. That was especially important today, though in 67 planetary conversions, the Autobots had never launched an attack at this late stage. “Yep, resynced just before I knocked on the door.” “Good, Well don’t let me keep you. Let Skycam know I’ll call in on him in a few hours when everyone else’s reports are ready for transmission.” “Sir!” Riot shouted as he saluted, and then stomped off, causing Flakstorm to wince in pain as the sound reverberated inside his helmet. Though to be fair for a bot his size, Riot was actually quite light-footed. ‘Lightfooted’ in this case meant it only sound like a squad of Titans were marching on his brain module instead of a platoon. He envied Riot a little, out of all the team he was the only one who didn’t need to be multi-skilled. Oh security was not an easy job, especially when an Autobot attack was launched, or when they discovered indigenous lifeforms on a few previous worlds that had been missed (and yet nobody ever had the urge to point out a sloppy job to Black Shadow), Riot was at the front of the fight, taking the heavy hits. Still he didn’t need to be a multi-disciplinarian like the rest of the crew. Reminded of his duty, Flakstorm transformed and made his way to Lancet’s labs. Their resident medic, chemical engineer, radiation expert…etc. would probably still be awake after last night’s reverie. Making sure everything was ready for his final report. And that was the reason for the reverie and subsequent hangovers…or at least in Flakstorm’s case. Today was Final Day, the last day of inspections, tests and reports on a planet’s readiness to be inhabited permanently by Decepticons. His team had been stationed with various other construction workers, slave labour, scientists and drones.Now only about a quarter of the drones were left, the others had all gone to other projects. One of the key things with being a D.E.A.D. team was that you had to be good at self-motivation as well as a multi-disciplinarian. While setting up shop on a new planet was a priority, it wasn’t a top priority for the Decepticons. Not when you had Autobots up your exhausts, smashing up weapons, soldiers, and industrial bases. For every fuel depot taken, another one had to be built. This is why the rest of the crew had left 6 months ago, helping to repair a bunch of warworlds and energon refineries. This also meant communication was sparse, his team’s chemical engineer may come across say, a particularly stubborn acid that refused all the standard available neutralisers, so he had to put in a request for aid from a colleague and wait maybe a week, and that was if the central D.E.A.D. hub wasn’t particularly busy that month. Still there was usually plenty to do so they could always focus on another project while waiting for the reply. Still at this late stage in a planet’s cyber-forming, there was very little to worry about, but at the same time, no one wanted to set foot on a planet until it was ready. This was for two mains reasons. One, if it ended up having to replace one that got taken over by Autobots it needed to be used to replace that planet’s industrial base and be ready for s sudden influx of staff. And two, there was an unfortunate incident on Casbaian with Heretech, a stray rock lord who had managed to survive his species extinction, and several tonnes of unsecured plutonium. So yeah, Final Day was important to make sure everything was planet-shaped, but was also a good excuse for celebration of a job well done. That was needed in a close knit team like this. One thing that tended to separate D.E.A.D. teams from your typical combat squad was that the teams really needed to gel and the teams were psychologically analysed before being put together to generate maximum effectiveness and camaraderie. In a frontline combat unit, this was important too, but secondary, possibly even tertiary to slagging Autobots, and camaraderie came from that shared goal. In a unit whose entire purpose was to be, essentially, as nit-picky as possible, you needed to have people who got one with each other. If anyone got on someone else’s nerves too often, that might lead to say, the atmosphere processor not being tuned correctly, leading to an entire atmosphere that would turn in to liquid the second a particular element from another star system was introduced by say, a ship with dust from a meteor impact that just HAPPENED to have calcium carbonate on its outer crust. Still at least the planet Dasani got retrofitted into an aquatic training facility, so it wasn’t a complete write-off. Flakstorm arrived at the door Lancet’s lab, transformed, and strolled in. As he thought, Lancet was up and about, fiddling with about five test tubes, twelve chemical burners and seven computer screens. The medic was a savant like that, give him a problem and he’d add it to the pile of others and yet somehow, still be able to give it the exact amount of attention it needed. “Hi Lancet, everything OK?” Flakstorm asked. “Yep,” the medic replied flicking the test tubes in to various different mixers. “Everything on track for your final report?” “Yep.” “You don’t need anything?” “Nope.” “Hey is that a new primer you’re using on your rims?” Flakstorm commented, and then the medic’s attention shifted completely to him. “Oh you noticed? Thanks boss, yeah it is. I’m not sure about it though, not sure if the gleam sits well with my reds. Though I think it does complement the alloys.” “Looks good to me,” Flakstorm commented and internally sighed. Only two things usually got Lancet’s full attention. His paint job, or a sick/injured colleague. While Flakstorm would grumble about the former, he couldn’t fault his dedication to the latter. Speaking of… “You wouldn’t happen to have a hangover cure would you Doc? I don’t think the Mood Whiplash agreed with me,” Flakstorm queried. Suddenly Lancet stopped everything and looked him in the eye. He placed everything he had in his hands on a table, turned and gripped Flakstorm’s chin in one hand, while the middle finger on his other hand changed to a small flashlight. He brought his finger up to Flak’s optics and examined them. Flakstorm was glad his hadn’t accidentally used his index finger instead, since that turned into a scalpel. “How’s your head?” Lancet asked, his attention entirely focused on his colleagues wellbeing. “Feels like a Trypticon stepped on it,” Flakstorm replied. “OK, I have just the thing. Took it myself about a minute ago actually,” Lancet said before turning back to his bench. He picked up a small glass of energon he had been nursing, sloshed it a little and took a small vial of green liquid from a seemingly random draw on his desk. He placed a few drops in the purple-pink energon, which fizzed ominously for a few seconds and turned…yellow? “I’m no artist, but I’m fairly sure adding green to purple does not make yellow,” Flakstorm commeneted. “Well I’m a doctor and a chemical engineer, a dietician, a biologist….well you get the point. And as your doctor I can confirm what is in this vial should be this colour and is perfectly healthy, so drink up!” Lancet exclaimed, proffering the drink. Flakstorm took it gingerly. Oh well, he’s the Doc, he though and downed the liquid in one go. “Hmm, tastes like liquid uranium. Nice.” “Uh oh,” Lancet said, his face a picture of concern and worry. “What do you mean ‘uh oh’” Flakstorm said, as a feeling of dread knotted his fuel pump. “It’s supposed to taste like radium. Uranium…uhm, do you have any next of kin?” Lancet said, backing away. “WHAT? WHY!?” “Well I need to know who to mail the remains to after the explosion.” “WHAT EXPLOSION!?” “The one that’s gonna happen in 5-4-3…” Flakstorm didn’t even have time to scream as he braced himself for the pain…which never came. After a few more seconds he realised that instead of pain, he felt…good. Great even, his headache was completely gone. “You spawn a mother-boarding glitch!” Flakstorm roared as Lancet burst out laughing. “Oh Primus I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself, HA! The look in your optics…” “Is that anyway to treat your boss?” Flakstorm grumbled, feeling his faceplate warming. “Boss no, friend yes. You gotta admit it was funny,” the medic replied, smirking. “Yeah yeah, it was a good one,” Flakstorm sighed, picking up his data slate that he’d dropped while flailing for his life. “I assume you’ve already sent a vid to the others?” “Yep,” Lancet confirmed. “In any case, the mixture should have the desired effect. How do you feel?” he asked, concern returning to his features. “Frankly, bloody brilliant. Any chance I can get some more of that stuff? Might need it for Lock-On and Skycam,” Flakstorm asked, dusting off his slate. “Skycam’s already had some, but let me mix some up for Lock-On,” Lancet replied, and started mixing the concoction again. He handed Flakstorm a small sealed flask and returned to his various tasks at his station.” “Thanks Lance, I better get going. You sure you’ve got everything you need for your final report?” “Uh huh.” Lancet responded, back in ‘work’ mode. “OK, get it to me by the end of the day, OK?” “Yep,” came the reply. Flakstorm shook his head, and headed for Lock-On’s hab-suite. Now it was time to deal with the “problem child” of his little family. Flakstorm walked up to the final hab suite, not surprised to see the words “do not disturb” flash up on the lock console. He sighed, keyed in his D.E.A.D. override code, and walked in when the door slid open. He was completely unsurprised to see a purple jet sitting in the middle of the room. Primus sake Lock-On, you complete waste of energon, he thought. Looking around the room. At least it was somewhat tidy this time, only a few various vid and lit slates peppering the floor. He carefully picked them up and put them on the nearby desk. He then approached the jet cautiously…then unceremoniously smashed his fist on the cockpit, hard. “WAKE UP YOU WASTE OF A PROTOFORM. HANDS OFF YOUR PISTONS AND ON WITH THE FACEPLATE!” he bellowed. He heard a scream of surprise as the jet contorted and transformed into a robot his size which tried to rise, forgot to turn off his jet mode thrusters in his legs, flew up, hit the ceiling and came crashing down on his rear skid plate. “The Pit did you do and down that for?” Lock-On mumbled as he rubbed his head. It looked like the Mood Whiplash had hit him as hard as it had Lock-On, with the added bonus of smacking his head on the ceiling. “Because you overcharged, again!” Flakstorm countered, folding his arms. “Explain to me why I shouldn’t report you to D.E.A.D. Mech Resources?” “Because when I’m not charging, I’m actually really good at my job,” Lock-On replied. Struggling to rise from the floor. “Oh and because I’m your best friend.” “Oh yeah, that,” Flakstorm said. He deactivated his faceplate, smiled At Lock-On, and offered his hand. Lock-On took it and was pulled upwards. “Thanks mate,” Lock-On said, steadying himself. “Dear Primus my head hurts, how do I look?” “Same as always, horrible,” Flakstorm confirmed. He offered the vial hangover cure. “Got this from Lancet, should fix you up.” “Yeah I just saw the video he sent via internal upload, priceless,” Lock-On said taking the vial. He swigged the contents and immediately perked up. “Seriously though, sorry about overcharging. I usually wake up when you get to the door.” “It’s fine, no harm done ,” Flakstorm said before, looking up and adding “apart from to the ceiling, obviously. You gonna be up for today? It’s important we get everything sorted.” “Yeah yeah, I’ll be fine,” the jet replied, glancing down at the floor. “It’s just…I had the dream again.” “Simanzi…” Flakstorm uttered. Neither of them had pleasant memories of that place. “Fortress Maximus…” Lock-On replied, shuddering. Flakstorm nodded. They rarely talked about the day they met, most of the experience was best left unsaid. “Why do you always have that dream when we’re just finishing up a planet?” Flakstorm asked. “Well if I was a trained psychologist, and I’m not, I’d say it has something to do with having less distractions around to stop me thinking about it,” Lock-On replied. “Not like you don’t have enough distractions without work anyway,” Flakstorm responded, glancing around the room. More entertainment slates filled every available space in the suite, enough to fill the time of a dozen soldiers. “Speaking of,” Lock-On interrupted, “I had a few others around, you seen them? “Yeah, I put them on your desk.” Flakstorm replied, gesturing to the furniture in question. Lock-On immediately began sorting through them. He was a voracious consumer of media from all corners of the universe. And weirdly, unlike most bots, he wouldn’t just upload the information to his cortex, he would read them, or watch them, or in the case of the curious objects from Earth known as “video games” would play them. He said consuming them as “intended” was more fun. Admittedly with the video games, he had passed on that habit to Flakstorm. Something about them just spoke to him, especially the “First Person Man Shoots” from some little known corner of the galaxy called Earth. Something about shooting a lot of enemies without being shot back was the kind of fight he liked. “Ah here we go!” Lock-on exclaimed, finding a single data slate in the pile. “ Here you go, just managed to snag the latest game from that series you like…Hula or something?” “Halo,” Flakstorm corrected, taking the slate. “Thanks man, was wondering if they;d do another one.” He glanced over the data, “Wait, Halo 4? How the slag do the inhabitants of that planet number things? There’s been like, six or seven of these right? Is it any good?” “Don’t ask me, not my cup of energon. I just get them for you. As for the numbering, maybe they have some weird maths system on that dirt-ball. Probably moot anyway, since this will probably be the last one.” “What, why?” Flakstorm asked, slightly disappointed. Oh sure, he knew they weren’t spectacular, but something about a cyborg shooting various fleshies without the actual danger of being shot in the skull plate was appealing. “It was in the last communication. Megatron and the rest of the high command were in open warfare in the planet’s capital New Yorkshire, according to Skycam anyway. Wouldn’t be surprised if that was our next port of call. Hope it’s not a cliff-hanger.” “Knowing my luck, it probably will be. Anyway, get yourself in the skies, I need your final atmosphere report by the end of the day. Once that’s done, we can kick back for a while.” “On my way boss,” Lock-On replied, snapping off a crisp salute, he changed back to jet mode and rocketed out of his suite, into the corridor and beyond. The expected crash failed to materialise, so Flakstorm spent a little more time tidying up the mess from his friends backwash, sealed the hab-suite and headed out to complete his own work. Several hours later, Flakstorm pored through his team’s assembled reports as he drove towards the planet’s communications outpost. Aside from the off typo or misplaced comma, they were pretty much ready for sending. He’d just have to check over Skycam’s before he sent them off, but if the rest of the team’s reports were anything to go by, it was pretty much a go. Up ahead the planet’s main satellite array came in to view, a gleaming set of parabolic dishes, hundreds of feet tall and wide. A second, smaller site was located a few thousand miles further south, with a third on the other side of the planet. They weren’t used as much, the slight tilt of planet’s orbit meaning they were less useful, but always good to have a backup. Flakstorm approached at the entrance to the array and was unsurprised to see it slide open, allowing him to continue forwards without decelerating. He expected no less from the team communications and surveillance expert. Skycam could watch the entire planet from this room, which also meant he pulled double duty as the drone co-ordinator, wince he used them to know where everything was anyway, it made sense to put him in charge of them. Flakstorm rolled up to Skycam’s office and transformed in time for the door to open and to see Skycam swivel in his chair. The black and yellow bot was always prepared when he arrived, again the advantage of being the eyes and ears of the planet. “Flakstorm, Operation: Transmission,” the helicopter bot said in a careful as Skycam walked up. His Faceplate and single lensed visor in place. “No Skycam, I’m not playing Megatron to your Soundwave, knock it off.” “Aww but chief…” Skycam whined as he drew back the faceplate and visor, his face back to its normal frowning self. “Look I get it, Soundwave is the ultimate ideal Decepticon, really. But if you just copy him it just feels weird OK? We like you for exactly for who you are.” “Yeah I know,” Skycam remarked, it’d just be nice to pretend to be someone important, you know?” “Important enough that the Autobots try to assassinate him every few cycles?” “Point taken,” Skycam chuckled. In all honesty his little fanboy obsession over Soundwave wasn’t that bad. It didn’t interfere in his work at all (though he did have a habit of calling the drones Buzzsaw, Ravage or so forth when tasking them), but it did freak Flakstorm out. Besides, Flakstorm added internally, I had to report to Soundwave a couple of times, and I’d rather not go think he’s on the same planet as me. He doesn’t ask questions, he just stares at you and pulls the answers out of your brain. Creepy. As. Slag. “Anyway, how you feeling? I know I felt terrible this morning,” Flakstorm asked, returning to the real world. “Fine boss, thanks to Lancet’s remedy,” Skycam replied, smiling. “Yeah yeah laugh it up,” said Flakstorm trying to avoid optic contact. “Everyone else has their reports done, what about you?” “Just finished up after I had the drones finish their demolition work on the far side. Beautiful work there by the way.” “Demolition work?” Flakstorm asked, confused. He hadn’t signed off on any. “Oh right, I forgot to tell you. Got a high priority request from command this morning. It seems that fight on…where was it again, Erth or something? Anyway, it’s going really well, high command thinks we’ll be declaring the war over any day now! “ “Wait seriously? I knew Megatron was on Earth,” he corrected. “Bot…the war might be over?” “Yeah apparently he ripped the Matrix out of Prime’s chest, and left the old oppressor for dead a while ago. No confirmed kill but even so it’s probably not long.” “Primus really…that’s...wow. No war? That’s like saying there’s no sky!” Flakstorm was almost dumbstruck. He’d been forged during the war, it was all he’d ever known. The possibility was…terrifying , exciting, and distracting “Wait…what does this have to do with the drones?” “Oh some Constructicon said they wanted every planet conquered to have a statue built of Megatron out of its natural materials, so I had to go blast some from the mountain on the other side of the planet before the cybermatter took hold. Got it in time though. Something to do with showing how Megatron shaped the inferior matter in to a useful material or some bolts.” “Huh, I guess it makes a twisted kind of sense. Did they happen to mention when the shuttle service will be back? I want to give the guys a time so we know exactly how long we have to relax before packing up,” Flakstorm asked. “Yeah they said its schedule to arrive in a week. Primus, I miss when we had our own ship and didn’t have to be ferried from planet to planet on a schedule,” Skycam moaned. “Can’t be helped I guess, they needed as many ships as possible after Black Shadow blasted those Warworlds to atoms. We’ll get it back eventually…I hope,” replied Flakstorm. “You spend far too much time making excuses for command you know that?” “Hey you wanna tell Megatron something he doesn’t want to hear? Be my guest, I’ll send your brother a basket of candied energon…” “Yeah yeah,” Skycam waved a hand dismissively. “With a bow and a nice card saying how sorry I was to hear how your arm was shoved so far up your tailpipe it punctured your brain module. Because of the massive amount of stupidity.” “Alright I get it,” Skycam said, turning backtowards the monitor, the joke probably having gone too far. “How is Vortex anyway?” He asked, regretting it almost immediately. “Fine.” Skycam replied, turning back to his monitor. “Oh uh, good,” Flakstorm said, noting the nail in the conversation. He always forgot Skycam and Vortex weren’t on the best of terms. Even millions of years after his ‘conviction.’ “So, everything ready to go?” Flakstorm asked, changing the subject quickly. “Yep, just uploading the reports now and…they’re off. Just gotta hear back from command and we’re good.” “Great, since that’s all done, wanna clock out? Now that Lancet has this cure, might as well get so blasted we’ll need internal rewiring.” Flakstorm asked hoping Skycam wasn’t going into one of his brother –funks again. “Nah I’m fine…” Skycam said, still staring at the monitor. Too late, Flakstorm sighed internally. “Oh well, you’ll know where we’ll be when you feel up to it.” He said. Making sure to emphasise the ‘when’ and not saying ‘if.’ Sky always came out of these funks sooner or later. Still, better make the effort for a friend. “You’re sure?” he asked Skycam again. “We’ll see,” Skycam replied. While it wasn’t the best result, it was an improvement over ‘no.’ He’d be there in an hour or two, tops. “OK we’ll see you there. Lemme know if we hear back from command though right?” That was 4 years, 11 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days ago.