The forest was abuzz with chaotic chatter; not once has it ceased speaking. Organic life screamed and squawked in the thick, impenetrable canopy above. Below, the debris-laden ground was filled with scurrying rodents. Strange reptiles, with lighting-fast limbs and mouths large enough to swallow said rodents whole, struck at their prey as they fled from cover. Between the two places stood the twisted boughs of magnificent trees, jutting from the earth in malformed, ash-grey spires. Their branches, covered in lavender leaves, mingled and locked with others, forming an interwoven tapestry of chaos that allowed almost no light from the sun to pass through. Because of such, the night lasted forever here, and it's inhabitants have found ways of navigation without the use of the life-giving star that, by now, hovered high in the sky. The air was so thick with humidity, one could hardly breathe without the fear of drowning. Survival in such a hostile environment would be nigh-impossible... unless one was built for the task.

A small quake begat the attention of the animals that inhabited the forest floor. They froze in their tracks, waiting. Another quake. The animals turned and fled, digging into burrows under the thick root of the trees, or taking flight to the vast, blue sky. They cowered in the confines of their hiding places, daring not to make a sound, as the steady tempo of quakes became louder and louder, until the trespasser was in sight.

It was not a creature of flesh and bone, of sinew and blood. Instead, the disturbance was a figure of metal, his cold skin gleaming dully in what little light bled from the canopy. It was the color of dark grey, with stripes and highlights of maroon, painted on in a hard, geometric fashion. His face was held in a steely mask of indifference as he swiveled his head, cooly scanning the passing vegetation with two perfect circles of light that glowed a soft white. He tread ever onward through the forest, stepping over broad tree roots with machine precision. Considering the magnitude of his form, one would assume he paid no mind to the animals below, their forms insignificant in comparison. But, in truth, he was exceptionally aware of them as he made countless mental notes of their appearances and habits.

The being stopped in his tracks, articulators grinding to a halt. After taking a moment to survey his immediate surroundings, he pulled out a flat device from a compartment in his left thigh. The blue screen glowed softly, relaying information that he'd already written down. Bringing up his free hand, he pressed the alien runes below the screen in quick succession with his cumbersome digits.

Impact's Log, Solar Cycle 62

Little to report today. An additional 23.7 square kilometers of the southeast quadrant have been explored and mapped so far, and I expect another 17 will be completed before I must power down. Returning to camp is not possible this solar cycle, due to distance and rate of Energon depletion. The topography remains largely unchanged. I have catalogued two new organic creatures, one semi-avian and the other a burrower. Greater detail will be divulged in a separate log.

My ship's orbital scan indicates that a communal hub of intelligent, indigenous life-forms lies approximately 27 kilometers from my current position in my direction of travel, beyond the forest. As such, after completion of today's mapping, I shall establish a border and resume exploration in another quadrant. Avoiding contact with the natives remains a top priority, as per Autobot Exploration Directive: Article 5, Sec-

A disturbance behind him drew his attention. He whipped his head around and moved his hand to the weighty hammer on his hip. The ever-present darkness made it difficult to see, but his piercing gaze could still make out the endless expanse of shadowy pillars. After a brief moment of tension, allowing the pervasive ambiance of the forest to fill his audio receptors, he concluded that there was no immediate threat. His metal shoulders relaxed and he resumed scribing his report.

It may be worth noting that I have not sighted any of the larger browsing animals in my path today. The fauna that they seem to mainly subsist upon is ever-present and healthy, but it remains practically untouched. Something is keeping those animals from thriving here. It is a strong possibility that larger predators exists, though I have yet to see one. It would have to be very powerful to take down one of the browsers. Although unlikely, such a creature could pose a threat. I will have to proceed with extra caution.

He paused for a moment, as if unsure whether or not to continue. Then, he added:

This is a savage and relentless world. Any Cybertronian, Decepticon or Autobot, would have left before the humidity rusted them solid. Establishing any base of operation on this planet, regardless of its proximity to Cybertron, is, by all accounts, tactically unsound. I do not discount the threat of an attack, but I strongly feel that my skills would be of better use elsewhere.

No sooner had he typed that last passage than he immediately erased it. It was the same passage he'd typed at the end of his reports for the last 29 solar cycles, and not one of those instances had he let it stick. Protesting his mission would not contribute anything to the Autobot cause, nor would it expedite his tour of duty. Only one hundred solar cycles and no trace of Decepticon activity would relieve him of his time here and allow him to report back to Cybertron. Looking at his chagrin, dictated on his notepad, allowed him to cope a little.

His free hand wandered above his chest. Dangling around his neck on a chain were several metal spheres. They clinked together as he grasped the centerpiece of the necklace: a shimmering cylinder with a dark, glass bottom. His whirring fingers cradled the object as he stared into its glossy abyss. Locked and fixated, the figure was a statue; cut off from the rest of reality. The animal callings above, the rustling and shifting below, the oppressive dampness that constantly assaulted his silvery body were all forgotten. For the moment, all there seemed to be was him and the trinket between his digits.

The moment ended and he snapped back to attention. Awareness of his surroundings, once again, filled his mind. Turning his attention back to the glowing device, he re-read his log entry before writing his conclusion and continuing his trek through the umbral forest.

Impact, signing off.

"C'mon, Fusahs!"

"W-wait! We shouldn't... we should go back!"

"Don't be such a spawnling! We're almost there!"

"You said that ten minutes ago! Ri'tori! I... I can't keep running like this!"

"It's good exercise! It'll be worth it in the end, you'll see!"

"I can hardly -see- anything- OOF! Ouch... It's nighttime and we're in the Shadowgrove! No one is supposed to be here even during the day!"

"That means nobody will follow us. You were the one who wanted some peace and quiet."

"I-I didn't think we'd be breaking the law for it!"

"We're already breaking the law!"

"..."

"I'm... I'm sorry, Fus. I didn't mean to scream at you "

"Ri'tori..."

"I'm just... rrgggg! I'm so angry it has to be this way! It's not fair..."

"Ri'tori, look!"

"What? Oh... woah... what is that?"

"It looks like... a small house?"

"Not even a royal guard would want to live in something that small. What makes you think it's a house?"

"It has a door, and it's... open?"

"...Let's go check it out!"

"Wh-what?! Are you crazy?!"

"No, I'm cold and getting colder. It looks cozy enough."

"It looks like it's made of metal... Ri, we don't even know what it is, and if it is a house, it probably belongs to someone! What if we get caught? What if we-"

"Hey, hey... shhhh... Fusahs, don't worry. It's just you and me out here, remember? It's gonna be alright..."

"Ri, I...

"Come on, just a quick peek, and it's back on track, okay?"

"O-okay..."

"Hey."

"Hm?"

"I love you."

"...I love you, too."