It's about time for that visit Ton-Ton had everyone preparing for. But will they be prepared for the unexpected guest tagging along?
How D-Strux had roped himself into visiting the Flatirons he'd never fathom. Especially not the part where he'd insisted on accompanying Sue there. That part was giving him a headache.
It was the morning of Sue's second full day staying in the lair up in the grey mountains, and it had started well enough. Nothing had woken him unnaturally early and he'd felt far more refreshed than he had after many a night of arguably uninterrupted sleep.
Sleep was a tricky thing for D-Strux. It had to be timed perfectly. Otherwise it'd be too light and he'd still be tired come morning, or it would be too deep and he'd find himself starting awake from some uncomfortable dream far earlier than he appreciated.
The latter had happened that first night sharing the lair with Sue. It was only through cohabiting with Skrap-It that he'd learned to wake quietly in those situations. No rev from his engine —not a big one anyway— and no... noise from his voice box either.
The strange thing about that early morning? D-Strux had looked down to where Skrap-It was having a twitchy, unperturbed dream on his tread hub, then over to where he was genuinely surprised to see another T-Trux asleep in his cave, and had felt... reassured enough that he'd found himself closing his eyes on the yet darkened world outside his door and hadn't woken again until morning proper.
This night though, D-Strux had just plain slept. The way he'd long envied other Trux the apparent innate ability to. Even Skrap-It, who on a daily basis could barely walk in a straight line or carry on a coherent conversation, he'd envied for his ability to sleep without fear of what might disturb his slumber.
Perhaps it was the repairs he could feel making functioning much less a chore than it had slowly been becoming.
But no. D-Strux had had an aversion to bedtime and sleep on average since he was young enough that if asked about it, he probably wouldn't have been able to think up a convincing lie.
Might not have thought to either
It was, strangely enough, a relatively fond memory of his: Being told it was past little T-Trux's beddy-bye, then roared out of the cave in the morning. Because sleep was less daunting when it wasn't quite so dark outside anymore.
Sue'd kept him on track though, so he'd learned to deal with it and as he'd matured and especially once he'd stopped growing, it all became easier. Mostly because a full grown Trux didn't need as much sleep as a growing one, but he'd take the victories when they came.
Looking at Sue over their breakfast that morning, D-Strux had wondered whether he should have told her about his little problem with... 'beddy-bye time' way back when it had first started.
Poor guardian had probably thought 'little D' was just plain rambunctious and stubborn.
Then again, he was pretty sure she'd already known about it. Why else would a T-Trux be so patient with a disobedient young'n? Telling bedtime stories and singing the occasional lullaby. Lullabies which D-Strux's long term memory had held fast to and, on occasion, even let him listen to when he was feeling nostalgic. Which was something he attempted to avoid as much as possible.
Yeah, Sue had known alright. And little D hadn't needed to say anything about it for her to do her absolute best.
No doubt her efforts were the only reason he hadn't switched to a nocturnal existence altogether.
Which was a wonderfully terrifying thought: A T-Trux who stalked their territory at night. Invisible but there.
Why hadn't he thought of that before? Oh, right. Because he'd had a caring guardian who'd made sure he grew up with a lick of sense and the skills to keep himself alive in the rough world they inhabited.
...Well enough, anyway. Until those horrible, incorrigible Trux took up permanent residence at-
"What?" He blurted. To which, Sue looked up with a face that convinced D-Strux she'd been speaking for a while now. And that it was a good thing he hadn't taken any harsher a tone with her.
Then the set of her jaw softened and she'd chuckled. Because she'd been kidding.
"Have you changed at all, D?" D-Strux raised a brow plate at that. Not sure whether she wanted an answer. "Oh, it's good to be back."
"You were saying something about the Flatirons?" D-Strux prompted. Sure now that Sue didn't need a response to her question.
"Hm? Right! Yeah, the gang invited me, open invitation, to visit their place. Pointed it out on our way into the Crater, so I know the general area they're talkin' 'bout. I'm thinkin' right after this I'll tank up an' ease on down the hill-"
"No." Sue blinked at the one word full stop and D-Strux couldn't keep himself from looking off to the side before explaining. "Not alone."
Sue cocked her head and he met her eye again. "I don't trust those miscreants; you never know what they'll be up to next. Redirecting a river for their own entertainment?" D-Strux paused at the softening, almost remorseful change his lunchmate's expression underwent. Unable to decipher it though, he continued.
"Who knows what they might try."
"D, I gotta tell ya, your concern warms me. I know I'm not as good at keepin' an eye out with only one... eye, and I know I can't outpace a pack of Skraptors anymore, but I got used to it and I can certainly handle those softies." D-Strux felt his face rearrange itself in distain. To which, Sue laughed.
"Seriously! The worst thing they done the whole way down here was sayin' a thing against you. And they still went all that way and through all that trouble to help. So I'm payin' a visit."
"Then I'm coming too." It'd been out before he could think about it and Sue'd just smiled and gone back to eating.
And that's how he found himself rolling down the grey foothills toward the Flatirons. A Scraptool on one tread hub and someone he'd long thought gone rumbling right next to him. Almost exactly the way he remembered her.
"I missed the weather down here," Sue said, right out of the blue. "You ever see snow down here?" D-Strux gave her a blank look, wondering what on earth- "Right. Forgot the Crater doesn't e'er get that cold."
"Maybe I'll take you for a visit sometime. Everybody should see snow once. Though," Sue said, brow plates furrowing, "some should prolly only see it the once. Doesn't agree with everyone."
"What doesn't agree with everyone?" D-Strux asked, doing his best to keep frustration from his voice.
"Heh, well... You know how ash falls from a fire or after a volcano burps?" D-Strux suppressed a smile at the reminder of little D's word for the horrid noises a volcano made from time to time. Still felt his mouth grimace out a smirk. "Lookin' all grey an' white and coatin' everything till it got blown away?" He nodded. "That, but the ash flakes are cold and melt in the sun."
"Doesn't make a lick of sense?" Sue asked with a knowing head tilt. "You'll get it when ya see it."
Then they'd had silence as they traversed the tricky, rocky part near where the incline of the grey foothills ended and flat ground began, and it was off to the Flatirons. No matter how badly some of them didn't want to 'stop by for a visit.'
Interestingly, D-Strux didn't feel the need to travel at his usual speed, instead finding himself content to roll right alongside his bigger travel companion and answer questions about whether that waterfall had been there back before she left. Or whether that tree over there was the same one that'd been struck by lightning and set fire for hours in the middle of an unclouded day. That one time.
The answers were mainly 'yes' anyway.
"So, you been to their place before?" Another yes question. This time answered with an inescapable growl.
"Oh, D-Strux really doesn't like that place!" Skrap-It piped up for nearly the first time since they'd left the lair. "We've tried to burn it, smash it, flood it; anything to get those annoying Trux outta the Crater!"
Without stopping, Sue turned her body fuller to them, face not quite surprised, but somewhat impressed. "Ha. Gettin' creative in yer adulthood! I like it," she said, before getting back to making sure she wasn't about to squish anything that might happen to be in the middle of their path.
Though, realistically, if something was annoying enough to get in the way of an imposing T-Trux such as herself, it deserved to get squished.
You asked D-Strux.
After a bit of a pause, Sue spoke again, "So, you've been there lots'a times, huh?"
That time D-Strux kept the growl down, low enough that it got lost in the sound of the still not perfect turn over of he and his maybe, kinda, still guardian's engines.
"Never on a friendly visit. Never been invited either."
"Well," started Skrap-It, "we don't need to worry about that yet, do we?! The invitation was for someone who's name starts with an 'S' and it wasn't me!"
"Skrap-It." D-Strux said. A slight overtone of warning in his voice.
"Yeah, D?" Oblivious.
"Aw, let the little guy have some fun! I like hearin' what he has to say," Sue practically cooed.
With a blink, D-Strux realized she hadn't spoken that way around him since he'd been young. Young enough that he couldn't have been expected to find his own ore.
In this instance, he found it both put him on edge, and somehow soothed some of the rankle from his indignation.
"You always did enjoy the absurd," he said, in a neutral voice.
"Thanks, D." Both of the absurdists said. At the same time. To which D-Strux sighed and gave his head a shake. Knowing he'd have to keep the two apart if he ever wanted another quiet moment to himself.
"Oh, I think we're just about there!" Said Sue, a moment before the loamy Crater path changed under their treads to something akin to bedrock.
D-Strux peered into the distance and squinted. "So we are."
"Well, don't sound so excited 'bout it," Sue said, giving him a sly look as they passed the last of the tree cover and started on the considerable stretch of wide open flatland.
"I'll try to contain myself," D-Strux rebutted, managing a smidge of mock solemnity before the sour mood he could feel coming on started... coming on.
"Ah, the welcoming committee," D-Strux ground out at the sight of one red T-Trux approaching them on their approach of the garage. Meeting them while they were still a ways off.
"D-Strux, you here to play nice?" The outnumbered and outclassed Ty asked. Rolling to a stop a respectable distance from the visitors.
"I'm not here to play at all," D-Strux informed.
"Sue's here on that 'visit' your gang invited her for," D-Strux informed the red busy body.
"And you're here...?"
"He's keepin' me comp'ny," Sue offered when it was obvious her younger had no interest in elaborating.
D-Strux watched Ty look between his soon to be guests, give a quizzical nod, then turn with a gesture towards the garage. And the Trux wreathing it's entrance.
When had those gotten there?
After a quick glance between themselves, the two giants followed the smaller giant onward towards his wall of friends. Most of whom seemed to be bracing for something.
"If yer here for a fight, bring it on. We're ready for ya, D-Strux!" Ah. Right. Of course. The three horn explained that pretty handily.
"Dozer, if there is the possibility of a non-violent resolution to whatever the issue, it would absolutely be preferable to-"
"Sue? Bro! You came!" Screamed the blue one as he tore past his incoming leader and nearly plowed right into the Trux he was excited to yell at.
D-Strux cut him off in the nick of time. Bending his head to give the diminutive 'Dump a warning look before Sue's happy words of greeting registered.
"-it's good to see you too, Ton-Ton! Uh, D, yer just a smidge in the way right where ya are."
With one additional warning squint, D-Strux backed away and let the two exchange weirdly pleasant pleasantries as the rest of the group gave him the stink eye. Which he returned without a second's hesitation. Only, when he did it, it had a perceptible effect on the recipient.
Heh heh. He could hear the yellow one's paneling rattling all the way over by the garage.
"Hey, D-Strux?!" Asked a raspy voice he'd heard somewhere before.
"Over here, big guy," it came again. That time pulling five T-Trux eyes to the bed of the still overexcited 'Dump.
"?" Stared D-Strux.
"Name's Ace, in case you've never heard it before," said the silver Wrenchtool. Bold as brass.
"Charmed. Now stop-"
"Talking to ya?" She cut him off. Getting herself and everyone around one step closer to witnessing what happened when a D-Strux on a visit was actually mad. "Yeah, not happening. I got somethin' to ask and I ain't plannin' on stoppin' till I get me an answer."
"Don't worry 'bout it, Silver; D loves answerin' questions," Sue quipped, in between the throws of the exhaustive greeting ritual the blue Trux was still putting her through.
D-Strux didn't bother sending Sue a glare, knowing it would be pathetic, and instead turned his growing annoyance on the Tool in the 'Dump bed.
"How come you aren't destroying anything today?"
"Who says I won't?" He answered with what he hoped was a worrying scowl.
"When do you ever put off destruction?"
"Ace's got a point, Dude," butted in the irritating Ankylodump underneath the infuriating Wrench. "A good one."
Holding back quite a few unhappy responses, D-Strux went with the least cutting he could stand. "Stick to your own business, 'Dump."
"Chill, Dude. 'M just sayin'," he said, before getting back to haranguing the largest member of any party.
"So," said Silver, calling attention back to herself, "if you're not here to destroy anything, then why are you here?"
"I just am. Got it? Or is the concept too complex for-"
"You just 'are' here, huh? I'm not buyin' it," the Tool said, tone indeed disbelieving. Perhaps bolstered by the slow encroach of the remainder of the Flatirons gang. "What about all those times you said, 'I will destroy all of you Trux! And your little friends too!' Ya sounded pretty determined then," the little silver one pointed out. Not the least intimidated with holding the continued gazes of three full grown T-Trux. At once.
D-Strux's hands fisted as he glared down at the Tool. "Destroy your spirits," he said, managing to make that sound somehow worse than the obvious alternative.
Sue laughed, sounding as if she couldn't help it.
"Oh, good one!" Every eye flitted to Sue, to which she laughed harder. "Classic T-Trux intimidation tactic," she explained. "You always were a quick study, D. An' here I find ya; still makin' me proud."
D-Strux narrowed his eyes in another one of those intimidation tactics he obviously didn't rely on, and rolled forward. Closer to the annoyance in the 'Dump bed.
"Like you said: I'm not one for putting off destruction," he said, enjoying the amount of bass in the statement.
"What d'ya think, Ty? D-Strux tellin' the truth?" Great. Now the three horn was getting on his nerves. D-Strux usually liked the way that one trembled at the mere hint of his presence.
Oh, Yellow was still trembling. Not so disappointing as he'd thought.
"Well, like we've said before, Dozer:" Ty the bore said, turning his head to D-Strux, "You're welcome so long as you play nice. You ready for that, D-Strux?"
Knowing his only available option, aside from answering the inane question, D-Strux exercised it by glaring right into Ty Rux's eyes, then taking off for somewhere with fewer Trux to badger him.
Just so happened to be in the direction of the garage.
And just so happened to be where everyone else was heading next. So his moment of privacy was over considerably sooner than he'd been hoping for.
"Hey, uh, Skrap-It?" D-Strux hid the start his engine made at the unexpected voice by passing it off as a pathetic excuse for a warning rev.
It wasn't very effective and ultimately got ignored by the entire approaching group and the red Wrenchtool looking at the passenger on his tread hub.
"I got some shelving in the garage could use a weld. If ya... wouldn't mind? Won't take long?"
"Please?" Skrap-It twitched just a hair at that. D-Strux could feel it through his paneling.
After a contemplative pause Skrap-It jerked his head in a funny, noncommittal direction. "Well, ya got me in a tight spot, what with ya havin' helped out my friends here, so I'll do it." Huh. D-Strux kept his surprise private as his Scraptool cavemate hopped off his treads and followed the relatively stoic Wrenchtool through the foreboding maw of the Flatirons garage.
That lie hadn't been half bad. Maybe the scrapper just had trouble lying to him specifically?
Whatever. To D-Strux anyway, it was obvious Skrap-It was eager to have something to put his welding skills to use on.
As the gang plus Sue joined him, the 'Dump excused himself for a 'ramp break' and tore off for a collection of deadly looking boulders a ways off. Then started jumping off of them in a disturbing fashion. Obviously not intelligent enough to see the very real possibility of doom twisted up in every flying leap.
"Sue," both of the visiting T-Trux shifted their gaze to Revvit, who, for once, wasn't on top of his T-Trux's head, "if you would like, I can have a quick look at your radiator to see how the patch is holding up?"
D-Strux held back the growl he felt tickling the back of his throat at the offer.
Sue was a mature, independent Trux who could make her own decisions. Didn't need him butting his head in at the first, offhanded objection to every situation. No matter how valid.
"Sure! That'd be great, Rev," Sue said, rolling closer to the yellow menace.
D-Strux watched the mechanic crawl through a panel near where he knew a T-Trux's engine lived and found himself trying hard not to think about exactly that having happened to him while he'd purportedly been... indisposed.
Still sent a shiver down his spine. One that may not have gone unnoticed, came the dread thought, as he caught the red Trux across from him staring. Directly at him. Right past the business with Sue, Revvit, and the radiator.
Ignoring that, and feeling compelled to see for himself that nothing off color was taking place with the 'quick look', D-Strux moved some closer to where Sue was sitting there, chuckling to herself about 'tiny feet'.
He drew up short though when the constant annoyance known otherwise as leader of the Flatirons gang mirrored his advance.
Hm. Guess they both had somebody wrapped up in all this they had a vested interest in looking after.
Still, he held the renewed eye contact until his smaller competition looked elsewhere; not at all willing to let someone as soft as Ty Rux beat him at something so simple as a good old fashioned stare down.
"I am pleased to say that the patch is holding quite well," announced the Tool as he squirmed his way back to the outside world. "Though, if you are ready for the permanent repair, I can oversee the entire process in a well equipped docking bay in our garage?"
D-Strux found himself glancing into the relative gloom of the mysterious place at the suggestion. Aware that there was nothing to be done if Sue agreed to the arrangement.
"Bring it on, Rev! I've been lookin' forward to goin' longer without a tank up."
"Wonderful! I believe that Skrap-It is already inside, so, after-"
"After me." The look of confusion was a welcome one on the little know-it-all's face. Assuaged a hint of D-Strux's frustration at having to actually enter the Flatirons gang's stupid 'garage'. But, it was worth the discomfort to be first through the door and have the chance to case the place for potential danger and traps.
He gave the funky, smaller than it looked from the outside, enclosed space a once over. Spotting Skrap-It and the red Tool over on some scaffolding twigs against one wall. Skrap-It going his usual level of overboard as he sent out showers of blue sparks, welding some joining pieces to each other while the his red task manager watched on in envy.
Not bad Skrap-It. Not bad.
"Thanks fer showin' me the way in, D," Sue said, taking the ramp a gear lower than D-Strux had bothered with and therefore giving him time enough to give a couple of the customized, Trux sized hidey holes a good sniff. "But i figure this is gonna take a while; maybe you wanna wait outside? Keep an eye out fer Skraptors or... fast movin' inclement weather?"
On an intellectual level, D-Strux knew Sue was saying those things as a subtle —when in current company anyway— way to give him an out; an excuse for what she knew as his nervous shoulder set to get out of there and cool down in some well deserved privacy. But on an entirely unintelectual level, he couldn't help but perceive it as a rejection.
He didn't enjoy the indignant twitch his tail made. Knew Sue'd seen it too.
But also knew, when her expression softened, just for him, that she wasn't going to suggest such a thing again.
So D-Strux took up sentry in a nearby, shaded corner, and watched as a horde of crawling Tools started their unnatural treatment of his long lost guardian.
At least Sue seemed to be enjoying the attention. Somehow.
Squinting against the artificial brightness of what might otherwise have been a perfectly good cave, D-Strux gave a smirk as he realized that even the Trux and Tools who weren't busy with something were avoiding looking in his direction. A couple of them even making turns the long way around to save themselves the stress.
Heh. Folks in the Flatirons had a good idea, for once.
Having nothing to do aside from glaring and squinting, D-Strux allowed his engine to settle to a comfortable resting rate and found himself enjoying the sound of his lower revolutions per minute as he hadn't been able to in quite some time.
Shrugging off the shadow of the annoying thought that maybe the Flatirons gang could be trusted about as far as he could throw them, D-Strux gave the back of each member's head another good glare, and let his eyes close for just a moment. Appreciating the dark privacy the action brought.
He let them stay closed just a while longer, aware he didn't need his eyes open to know whether he was needed.
Sue could handle these 'softies' on her own anyway. Just like she'd said.