Memory alteration operations are delicate and considered 'barbaric' by some, as altering one's very character brings with it a certain moral dubiousness that has fuelled debates ever since the invention of the technology to carry out such a procedure. Nonetheless, there are reports of some of these procedures being conducted, though few are completely successful. The technology itself is not widespread and prohibitively expensive to acquire. Rumours circulate that certain higher organizations, some within Iacon, keep such technology hidden away until such a dire situation arises that it must be put to use.
-Excerpt from "The Iacon Medical Journal, 37th Iteration", some years prior to the Autobot-Decepticon war
The sandstorm buffeted her harshly. Above, through the haze of swirling clouds of sand, two yellow suns floated, their rays warm and the sand underneath her feet even warmer. The desert around was pockmarked with artificially dug holes, a few of which had had pumps inserted within in an effort to drain what little scraps of energon could be found. On either side of the dry lake-bed were rocky mesas with not a spot of vegetation between them. The star-charts did not have a name for this world, simply a flat designation that the computers had automatically assigned to it: DVM-876. No one had bothered with the world enough to give it an actual name. At least, not in any official capacity.
Skystreaker had to stop in her trek for a moment, her silver and black metal form glinting in the sunlight. She was tall, especially for a female of her race, comprised of elegant curves and an agile frame that was built entirely for speed. A set of folded wings lay upon her back, both of which would lengthen quickly if she transformed into her jet mode. Her optics, a pale red in the sunlight, narrowed as she attempted to discern anything from the desert ahead of her. The longer she stood here, the hotter she became and the less comfortable she felt. As for the holes scattered around her, each one a few metres in diameter, it was clear that she was on the right track. Someone was out here, other than herself.
This better be worth the time, she thought. She caught sight of something large and rectangular in the distance, shrouded in the brown haze of the sandstorm. She resumed her walk, her long legs taking her across the dry lake-bed at a brisk pace. The shape in the distance took form; it formed a stark contrast to the dunes and rocky outcrops behind it. The wide rectangular shape, Cybertronian in nature, was comprised mainly of portions of the hull from a scout-craft. The owner of the ship had clearly stripped it of what he could before arranging it into a prefab structure, enough to protect from the sandstorms and put a roof over his head. Hardly what Skystreaker would consider a holiday home.
She neared the front 'porch' of the makeshift abode. Scraps of metal, including a reconfigured Autobot communications dish about the size of her head, had been left out here. The dish ha emitted a guiding beacon that had lead her to the world before abruptly shutting down. A quick examination of it revealed that the power core had depleted and it was likely that there had been very little charge inside to begin with.
Aside from the howling wind, the place was quiet. Her suspicions were immediately raised and she readied the plasma blaster at her right arm, her hand giving way for the glowing barrel. Slowly, she moved towards the open doorway and peered inside. Sand had blown across the floor and the wind whistled loudly within the confined space. The makeshift home was far from airtight, with small gusts of wind working their way through gaps at the corners and where sections of the re appropriated hull had been connected.
There were some touches of home here. The seal of the Autobots, for one, was set on the wall ahead. Some medical equipment was placed on a table by the doorway. Skystreaker stepped inside, closing the door behind her, before she regarded the rest of the modest home. Being a reappropriated scout-ship, there were computer terminals at some of the walls. Only one of the half a dozen present was still functioning. At the far end was a fairly flat and no doubt uncomfortable berth, one that was currently occupied by a large and semi-conscious Autobot. He would have made for an imposing figure at any other time, though his current status had left him a mere shadow of his former self. Tall and well-built, with a mostly blue and grey finish, this Autobot lay sprawled upon the berth with his optics half open. He form was marred by thick patches of rust, likely of the contagious sort. Skystreaker felt ill herself just looking at him, noticing the way in which the rust had been gradually eating away at his metal form. By the berth was a table where a few Cybertronian data-sticks had been placed.
Skystreaker saw his state and put away her weapon. She was not sure how she felt, seeing him like this. Sympathy, sure, but not enough for her to rush to his aid.
"What happened to you?" She asked.
The Autobot stirred where he lay, his eyes opening completely. They fixed on her and he went to speak, only to let out a throaty cough. A splatter of blue-white fluid left his mouth and some of it dribbled down his chin. Skystreaker could see that he had a lot of wear and tear on him, likely some internal injuries to boot. His state must have been deteriorating for a long time. His optics shifted slightly and a look of concern appeared on his face.
"You...joined them?" He lifted one finger, slowly, so that he could point at the Decepticon insignia at her shoulder.
"I didn't really have a choice," Skystreaker replied. She took a step towards him and knelt by the berth. He had called her here for a reason. He better get to the point soon, she thought, as she had no desire to stay here any longer than she had to. And she had no desire to catch whatever he had.
"Were you followed?"
"Followed?" Skystreaker had not even thought about this possibility. No one cared where she went, she was sure of this. The Decepticon ranks had been in disarray for a while. She had her enemies, but it seemed unlikely anyone would send out a search party just for her.
"Our enemies...are everywhere..." The Autobot croaked, his voice weak. He coughed again, hitting Skystreaker in the face with some energon spittle. She gave a disgusted wince and wiped it away with one hand.
I'm going to catch something, aren't I?
"What do you want? Why did you call me here?" Skystreaker asked. Her tone was stern, her growing impatience working its way into her voice.
"Hardly friendly words...for your father..."
Skystreaker shook her head.
"You're not my father," she said. "You might have raised me, but that's it."
The Autobot said nothing in response to this. Skystreaker detected a hint of despair in the way his eyes widened, if only momentarily, before he looked over to the nearby table.
"Take it all," he said.
"The sticks?" Skystreaker scoffed. "What for?"
"Take them..." Before he could say anymore, he coughed again. Skystreaker leaned back slightly, avoiding the fly of spittle. This time around, the Autobot fell into a fit of strained coughs, a pained look crossing his face as he put a hand to his chest and another over his mouth. Skystreaker glanced over at the pads and data-sticks, seeing no significance in them.
"Do not allow the Seal to fall into the hands of our enemies," the Autobot said, having recovered from his fit of coughing.
"Anything else you want me to do? Buff your finish? Back rub?" She figured her 'father' was delirious, judging from his current state. Maybe the isolation here had driven him mad? It seemed likely. "What's so important about what's on these data sticks?" She could feel some anger building inside her, but she kept it contained for now. The lack of solid answers was grating against her nerves.
"Go to Earth," the Autobot declared. He sat up suddenly, his optics wide and one hand out towards her. He grabbed her roughly by one shoulder, drawing him in close. Skystreaker tilted her head away slightly, hoping to not take another mouthful of his spittle.
"Earth? Never heard of the place."
"The coordinates...are in the data-sticks." He looked straight into her optics, his gaze piercing, almost as if he were looking into her very spark. Compounded by his firm grip at her shoulder, it was all enough to make her feel uncomfortable.
"You really have gone crazy," she said, squirming free of his grasp. "What's so important about 'Earth'?" She glared at him, her desire for proper answers coming to the fore. What was he playing at? He had called her out here, to this forsaken pit of a planet, just to lay his personal library on her?
"Nothing," he said. Before Skystreaker could reply, her father interjected again. "Everything."
"Make up your mind." Skystreaker rolled her optics and stood up. "Did living out in this dump scramble your cyber-brain?"
"Don't be..." He coughed again, apparently unable to finish a sentence without doing so. "Don't be so arrogant. Everything happens for a reason."
"Look, I was having a nice enough time wandering the galaxy by myself," Skystreaker said. "You're lucky I even got your message. Now I realise that it was a waste of time coming here." She paused, thinking that she may have been too harsh. He was not well, likely near death, and here she was acting like he was nothing to her. He should have been, she knew this much, yet despite everything that had happened in her time away from him, she still had a soft spot for him. He had never been hard on her.
"Go to Earth," he said. "I think things will become clearer there."
"You think?" Skystreaker sighed. "I don't think that's enough for me to go on. You might want to find someone else to go on your crusade."
Somewhere outside, amongst the howling of the sandstorm, Skystreaker heard what sounded like an engine. She froze, noticing that her "father" had heard it too. He sat up in his berth, coughing loudly as he did so, the energon spittle he unleashed now a dark greenish hue. Whatever was wrong with him, it had worked its way into his very life-blood.
"Did you hear that?" He said, once his coughing fit was over. "They must have followed you."
"Followed me?" Skystreaker found this hard to believe. "No one even knew I came here. I was alone. Who would be organized enough to follow me? And why?" Despite her incredulity, she did ready the plasma cannon at her right arm. Her father remained in his berth, hardly in any state to even climb out of it.
If someone had actually followed her here, there may have been some truth to what the Autobot had told her. That was a sobering thought.
"You have to go," the Autobot declared. "They must not...they cannot get hold of you...or the Seal..."
Skystreaker walked over to the door and pulled it open slightly, peering out into the swirling sandstorm. It had receded somewhat and continued to do so, the air within the valley becoming less thick with sand and far brighter as the full rays of both suns were no longer obscured. Skystreaker's gaze fell upon the Decepticon scout vessel parked in the middle of the dry lake-bed and the several purple Vehicons who had emerged from it. Had they followed her? It seemed unlikely that it was simply coincidence that they had arrived here shortly after she did.
"Maybe they tracked the beacon?" Skystreaker asked, looking back at her father. He did not reply. Instead, he had laid back down, apparently resigned to whatever fate the approaching Decepticons had planned for him. Given her status as one (at least in the loosest sense) she figured she may be able to bluff her way past them. On second glance, her Autobot guardian appeared to be dead. She walked over to his side, sensing no more life from his spark. His rusted form looked more pronounced now, as if the rust itself had suddenly upped its game once the last vestiges of life had left him.
Skystreaker looked down at him, frustration filling her. Why did he have to be so damn vague? She hardly knew what he had been talking about. What did he mean by 'Seal'? The light in the Autobot's optics had gone and they stared blankly ahead, lifeless. Skystreaker felt a pang of sadness at his passing, even more when she realised that he had very clearly kept himself alive long enough to pass on his vague message. The rust had likely addled his cyber-brain, so it was a significant feat that he had even managed to be as lucid as he was.
Outside, her enemies marched closer. She took up the data sticks from the table nearby, one of which apparently contained Earth's location. Things might become clearer if she travelled there, as her "father" had said, but she doubted it immensely. Her Autobot guardian had not been thinking clearly and for all she knew, 'Earth' could be a junkyard planet.
Heading to the partially open door, she peered through the gap. A group of Vehicons stood outside now, weapons drawn. Skystreaker readied her on-board arm cannon and pushed it open, half-expecting them to start shooting right away.
"You have been marked as a deserter," the "lead" Vehicon said in a flat monotone. Skystreaker frowned, but knew that she should not be so surprised. She had indeed deserted, she had just not expected anyone to really notice, or care for that matter. The Decepticon ranks had been in chaos for a long time, with groups of them scattered across the known galaxy. At a glance, it appeared that this little force was organized.
"The punishment for desertion is death," the Vehicon said.
"Then you better get to it," Skystreaker said. She did not give the Vehicon an opportunity to respond, as she fired a shot that hit it squarely in the face. Its head exploded in a shower of fragments and energon fluid, its body crumpling into a heap upon the ground. Skystreaker was not about to take any chances, nor would she play along with any 'punishment' that any of these moronic Vehicons intended to dish out.
She adjusted her aim quickly and fired another shot, the blue bolt of energy connecting with the chest of one of the other Vehicons. There was a small puff of white flame as its spark practically exploded, the light leaving its long slit of an optic before it fell backwards. The remaining four opened fire, filling the air around her with energy bolts. Skystreaker dived to one side, somersaulting with excellent finesse. As she came back onto her feet she fired a volley from her arm cannon, blasting another of the Vehicons before sweeping her aim onto another. This one let fly with a shot that hit her in the left shoulder, sending a burning pain down her chest and arm that caused her to cry out.
Regardless of the pain and the scorched hole that had been burned into her armour, she readjusted her aim and returned fire. She cut down the Vehicon who had wounded her before the two that remained scattered apart. Skystreaker sought cover, as being out in the open was far less desirable for her current circumstances. She raced around the side of the dead Autobot's makeshift home, a few bolts of energy striking the metal near her position while the two Vehicons continued to shoot at her. Skystreaker glanced at her wound, the pain having faded somewhat. It was not immediately serious, despite the blue-white fluid that flowed out of the scorched fist-sized hole. Her pride was hurt more than anything else, as getting shot by a Vehicon was one thing she would never be able to live down.
She leaned around the building and took a shot, shearing the left arm of one of the Vehicons clean off. The Decepticon let out a pained scream and fell over, energon fluid spurting out of the stump in a manner not dissimilar to a geyser, albeit on a much smaller scale. The last Vehicon watched his comrade go down and, despite the lack of any real face on the soldier, appeared to consider its own options before turning around and making a run for it. Skystreaker stepped out of cover, watching as the fleeing Vehicon fired a few shots at her as he raced back for the parked scout-ship. Smirking, she prepared to give chase, only to hear a familiar voice sound out from behind her. She realized her mistake then, as the Vehicons had been mere distractions, all the while the real threat had made their way around her flank.
"Guess who," the male voice said. Skystreaker swiveled around, cannon raised. She recognized the flier standing behind her, a tall and broad-shouldered Decepticon whom she had not expected to see ever again. He was pointing a stun cannon at her.
"Skywarp," she said, her tone sour. She narrowed her optics. She did not have time to do much else before he fired, sending waves of pain through her body, causing her to convulse violently as every joint in her reacted to the shock beam. She fell into a heap on the ground, shaking about, unable to properly control her limbs, all the while Skywarp leered down at her with a sick grin on his face. He no doubt got off on seeing her like this.
He pointed the stun gun down at her and shot her again. This was enough to knock her out entirely, with only a brief flash of pain to be felt before the world around her vanished into nothing.