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2017-06-20 Secret Garden

From Transformers: Lost and Found

2017-06-20 Secret Garden
Date 2017/06/20
Location Asteroid
Participants Mirage, Sandstorm, Nightshade
Plot Artifacts of the Knights of Cybertron
Scene GM Tez
Summary An artifact hunt leads to a beautiful discovery in a desolate place.

Not far from the location of the first artifact's retrieval, another location is marked on the map as a Point of Interest -- but it's a location that doesn't correspond to any point on the more recent ship's maps. Seriously. There's nothing there. Just a star surrounded by a disc of debris that has yet to collapse into a planet. The spacebridge to the location pops out onto the surface of one of the larger asteroids in the belt surrounding the star, meaning they'd better pack for space. On the other side, it's desolate, wild, and raw in a way that's rarely seen outside of the ash of a battlefield. Although there are no signs of life, buildings, or technology, their scanners insist that Cybertronian technology -- the artifact, presumably -- can be just over the curve of the asteroid's horizon.

Hmm, space. Not Nightshade's favorite place. She's got a small frame easily tossed around by space debris. She uses her thrusters to float just above the asteroid's surface, surveying the area with a little analytical frown. "We're sure that map isn't having a laugh at our expense? Though I suppose if one wishes to hide something, hiding it where others would have absolutely no possible reason to go is a rather clever trick, isn't it?"

Armed with a thruster pack of his own for space-walking, Sandstorm floats along beside Nightshade, really wishing he hadn't agreed to do this. Space wasn't his favorite place either, and he was out here with a Decepticon and Mirage. Definitely not his favorite people. "<< I'm more interested in what this means for the timetable on this artifact. >>" He turns his helm slowly, optics squinted as he pans his gaze along his field of view. "<< How long ago one of those 'Knights' left it here, if they're supposed to be all gone. >>" Whether he means dead or missing, Sandstorm isn't clear, probably because he honestly hasn't bothered to know or care where those Knights are supposed to be now. All he does know is they left this giant monster for him and the LL to deal with, and the only clue to its defeat being a scavenger hunt for old junk. He'd like them to be alive somewhere so he can sock one; punching the AI wouldn't be nearly as satisfying.

Mirage steps out onto the asteroid delicately, faceplates scrunching up with distaste when he sees the desolate landscape. The cloth he is wearing floats oddly in zero gravity, tendrils swaying like a snake moments from striking. Even in the middle of their chaotic landing and search, the scout has found time to dress up for some Adaptusian festival or other occuring at this time of year. It hasn't stopped him from reporting for duty, though. When he turns his attention back to his compatriots, his red-lined optics brighten.

Trying to smooth out the cloth, an impossible task in this atmosphere, he answers, << I couldn't agree more. The sooner we get looking for this artifact, the better. >> The only thing worse than dirt is millions of chunks of dirt floating around in space.

The stars in the sky above are all but blotted out by the vast swirl of debris that flows around them. Not all of it moves at exactly the same speed, and on the horizon, a slightly faster moving clot of debris advances to pass overhead. As it passes, the light of the star shines bright off the sharp angles of artificial structures: ancient starfighters, ships, torn to pieces. Some of it passes close enough to touch, if they tried just a little to reach. It's the first sign that there was ever life here. The asteroid beneath them is pocked and unstable, and they pass a fissure that seems to run so deeply through the rock that it's a surprise it still holds together.

"<< You know, you're right. I wonder if this used to be more of a...place, shall we say? >>" On a galactic timescale, things big enough to turn planets into asteroid fields hit planets all the time. She still flaps her wings rhythmically in space even thoug they make little difference, mostly out of reflex. "<< But now it's... >>"

She trails up when she sees the glint and follows it up to the field of debris, the bits and pieces of starfighters and ships. " << ...Or, it could be the remains of a battlefield. One of ours, you think? >>" By which she means the war, which extended so very long and so very, very far. It's hard to remember there were other wars before The War. She drifts upward, flying closer to the cluster to investigate.

Nightshade isn't the only one whose kibble moves despite there being no reason for it. Sandstorm's rotors spin, despite the lack of air for them to kick up. "<< They still would've had to put it here after, don't you think? Or it'd be smashed to scrap like the rest of it. >>" Or so he assumes. Sandstorm goes quiet when Nightshade does, following her gaze to the debris. Now that was a more likely target. "<< It's a big universe, sweetspark, and a lot of battles happen in it. Odds are it's probably not one of ours. >>" Considering his scanner's only picking up the artifact, and not anything else Cybertronian. Still, odds are that she could be right. They'll just have to see, which has him manipulating his thrusters to send him after her. "<< Keep up, Mirage, or are you too busy admiring the view? >>"

As Nightshade and Sandstorm fly closer to the debris, it's easy to see that some of it is from very, very large ships, sweeping by overhead with a grand and stately grace, while other bits from within tumble through, including chairs and even what looks like nothing more than a common energon cube, emptied of liquid. The body a slim starfighter tumbles past Nightshade, close enough to grab.

"<< Do NOT call me Sweet Spark, Autobot. >>" How did Nightshade end up partnered with this sourpuss? At least Mirage has a sense of style, even if she cannot for the life of her see the practical purposes of cloth in space. She glares down at him in what is...rather silly-looking, honestly, despite the haughty menace in those pink optics. And then shoots past to try to catch the starfighter. " << We should see what's in here. -Oop! >> " The tiny Decepticon has to fire her thrusters to keep that energon cube from bonking her in the head. Ugh, space!

"<< Why, you like 'sugarcube' better? >>" Back in The Day Sandstorm might've delivered the line with a hint of flirtatious snark; now, it's hard, as if Nightshade has said something that personally offended him. Either way, it certainly won't endear him to her any, which is kind of the point. He snorts, a sound lost to the vacuum of space, when Nightshade nearly runs into the cube. He angles and works his thrusters much more cautiously, especially since he's a lot bigger, in order to not run into anything. "<< Maybe it was ours, >>" he mutters to himself, glancing over the corpse of the starfighter. "<< Bad luck for him. >>" Sandstorm pulls his scanner up to get a better look at it, trying to pinpoint the location of the Cybertronian technology. "<< Lucky for us everything else here is dead, or we'd be looking for a needle in a scrapbin. >>"

Mirage is indeed distracted, but not by the view. While landing had helped with the Lost Light's supply issue, the scout is still running on a lower grade than he's used to. His sluggish, delayed reactions have more to do with being absolutely exhausted. He rubs at an optic and squints up at the wreckage as the two fliers start to explore. His painted lip components purse in annoyance. ::I'm afraid we don't all have space-faring alt modes. A little help?:: he asks.

As the starfighter tumbles by, Sandstorm catches a glimpse of a transformation cog in the torn internals, gutted in a spill of wires and cords. There's no sign of the spark, but then maybe it's with the other half of the starfighter ... wherever that is. The Cybertronian technology signals from back below, farther along the curve of the asteroid, and following the jagged split that cracks the stone.

"<< Miss Nightshade will do, >>" the little Decepticon insists with a scowl, diving below again. She's tempted to wonder if the unfortunate starfighter was a Decepticon, Autobot, or...someone else, from another Cybertronian war. And then she notices the signal, and poor Mirage down there. " << So sorry, didn't mean to be rude, there! I'll be right down. >>" She shoots downward with her thrusters and pushes Mirage with her tiny, tiny body to give him a little thrust, starting to follow that strange, jagged crack. "<< We're getting a signal here, Sandstone. >>"

No, she couldn't think of a rude name for him.

Sandstorm briefly considers calling her 'Night Howler', but he's distracted by the transformation cog in the half of that unfortunate starfighter that's left. Eugh. "<< Storm, >>" he corrects, turning and using the thrusters to move back toward the asteroid and the huge crack, which is conveniently seeming to lead them right to the artifact. "<< And I know we are. Look, I've got a scanner too. >>" He waves it at her, putting on a highly sarcasticly cheerful grin. "<< I know it might be hard for someone as small as you to see from all the way over there, but rest assured, I got it covered. >>" Leaving Mirage to Nightshade's manipulations, he starts heading in the direction of the signal. Let them come at their own pace.

Mirage grabs at the scraps of fabric desperately, not wanting any to tangle around the new arrival or float into the path of their boosters. It at least distracts him from how this is a thoroughly undignified way to travel. ::There's nothing to apologize for. I simply don't wish to fall behind,:: he answers. Or be left stranded. He doesn't want to die on a slab of dirt surrounded by the detritus of an ancient war.

The scout barely has time to brace himself before he hits the ground, pedes landing soundlessly. Now that he has a little forward momentum he tries to carry it through by quickly moving into another leap. Mirage flails helplessly along with the two fliers.

Mirage's bounds may be undignified, but they are swift: with the two fliers, they swiftly cross the jagged, pocked landscape. Below, there are glimpses of something criss-crossing in the depths of the chasm. It pulls close, sealing like stitched fabric to pull close at a deep crater. As they approach the edge, they are greeted by a sudden and strange garden:

Petals of glossy, shimmering black turn up to track the light. The faintest rainbow sheen paints over the light-absorbing panels of the wrought-metal flowers. They spill uncontrolled up to the last few feet of the crater's edge, before it grows too steep for the vines to climb. Their roots plunge into the stone, metal carving through and deep into the earth. The whole of it echoes with signatures of Cybertronian technology, but it's nothing that any of them have seen before. The strongest signal is to be found deep in the center of the crater, at the deepest point where that root-stitched crack seems to originate.

Nightshade dusts off her hands (another unnecessary gesture in space) after giving Mirage that little push, something that probably only works without gravity. Usually she needs help pushing a crate. "<< Oh, a reference to my height! I certainly haven't heard that one before. >>" She huffs and flies out from behind Mirage, only to fall silent when she sees the...garden? It's like a garden.

She loves gardens, metallic or organic. Oh, it's a bit of a heresy for a Decepticon to like anything organic, so she makes excuses that she's looking for chemical compounds found in organic life. (And often she is.) But she can still remember being a stray beastformer ekeing out a living in the dark alleys of the city, simply hearing rumors of the gardens where the elite hobnobbed, and just dreaming about them...

Well, the gardens she dreamed about didn't look like the real thing, nor did they look much like this. No, the elites would never see anything like this. (Except you, Mirage.) Entranced, she starts diving further, an awed gaze in her optics and a dreaminess in the way her wings spread out.

Sandstorm doesn't need his insults to be original, as long as they piss off the intended target, which they clearly have. Grimly pleased with himself, he follows the rugged shape of the asteroid along that giant crack until reaching that crater. He does pause a moment, slowing his movement so that he comes in at a softer angle, giving him more time to appreciate the view beneath him. Flowers? Here? Well, with all the other slag they've seen during this journey, he supposes he shouldn't be surprised anymore. Rotor arms shifting, Sandstorm descends into the crater, optics flicking between the scanner's readout and the flowers.

"<< It's here, in the center. >>" Sandstorm points as he comms the others, still slowly falling toward it by making minute adjustments in his thrusters. "<< Hope it at least stands out somehow, or we'll be taking back a lot of these things. >>"

Mirage only comes to a stop when he spirals into a the ground, the scout muttering to himself as he tries to spit out a mouthful of dirt. His attempts to right himself are much more decorous, Mirage sitting up slowly and moving with care. His facepaint is slightly smudged from the impact, but he's no the worse for wear. ::If we could watch the language?:: he pleads, not wanting to spend this whole trip surrounded with snark and animosity.

He doesn't have much longer to dwell on that, though. Now sitting on the ground, his gaze shifts to glance at the crater. His mouth opens in a small o of surprise, not expecting such a poetic scene here of all places. Is he imagining it? The scout glances warily between the two fliers, trying to guage if they see it to. It's no idle worry. He's had a few hallucinations since the stress of the worm's attack.

The flowers angle toward them as they arrive full of with light and warmth, turning towards them as though they were in themselves small stars. And -- really -- aren't they? The field of flowers glistens with slick rainbow hues laid in an opalescent shimmer. But for the slow turn of the lushly petaled flower heads, looking like nothing so much as a rose, there's no other movement in the field, no sound. Nothing lives here in the dark, and corpses continue to pass above them as they make their way to the center. At the heart of the crater, roots plunging deep into a crevice in the earth, is a solitary, central bloom that radiates a strong signal of Cybertronian technology.

"<< In the center...? >>" It takes Nightshade a bit longer than Sandstorm to get there, her thrusters not being terribly powerful, but she does eventually drift down towards the center. Almost sad to do so, as she sort of just wants to...stare at the huge roses, look them right back. She ought to be unnerved by them, but instead she's fascinated. What are they? Won't she have a story to tell Skystalker later? A shame she probably can't take a sample back. It seems unwise.

Instead she's staring at that one little bloom, reaching down towards it. " << It's...Cybertronian. Do you think? >>"

Sandstorm, meanwhile, has his free hand hovering over his blaster, his expression more wary. Whatever these flowers are, whoever left them, he's not about to go in assuming they're harmless. He's staring at the bloom in the middle, the one the scanner indicates is what they're looking for, and trying to get a more detailed reading out of it. "<< Hey, wait a damn minute! >>" he hisses, completely ignoring Mirage's request for watching his language. "<< You don't know what that thing is, or what it does. These plants are obviously constructed to follow light and heat, haven't you been paying attention to how they turn toward us? Who knows what else they do, and you're just gonna shove your hand in there? >>" If anyone was going to do something stupidly dangerous like that, it was him! He shifts, leaning closer and holding the scanner over the central flower. "<< At least let me try to get a better reading to see if it's going to try and eat us first. >>"

Mirage remains on the ground for a time, caught up in the scene. The other two have confirmed that this sight is real and that makes it all the more amazing. All the sudden he finds himself wishing he hadn't rushed them, that he could stay here a bit longer. Wouldn't it be nice to forget their problems for a time and simply enjoy beauty? ::Torque would love this,:: he remarks idly, the thought slipping out without thought in his exhausted state.

It's a little too late to avoid touching the flowers, though, for as Mirage pulls himself to his pedes and tries to make his way towards the two fliers the floating cloth trailing him inevitably brushes along the length of several petals. ::There must be quite the story to this place.::

The flowers flutter harmlessly as they angle to absorb the heat and light surrounding them. The trailing edge of Mirage's cloth catches on the petals and leaves of the flowers, which ring together in a soft chime that must be felt, rather than heard, as the vacuum of space steals all sound. It was probably lovely, once. Honestly, it's like they've been taught to find weapons in every innocuous bit of the landscape. The central flower rings bright on the scanner as the source of the signal they have been tracking, and leans into the touch of Nightshade's hand.

"<<...I know, I know! I realize I'm acting...it's hard to explain.>>" Nightshade scowls again, though there's less energy behind it. "<< Just, wouldn't it be nice if once in a while, we didn't have to assume everything wanted to kill us? Even if yes, that does not in fact match the pattern of most of the universe? Though it...oh. >>" She blinks her optics as it pulls towards her, and picks it up. "<< This is...it. The artifact. It has to be. Doesn't it? Look at the readings...>>"

Does that mean it's hers? It's so lovely. She gazes into it, a little distracted.

"<< Try me, >>" Sandstorm says dryly. He glances back up at where Mirage is--walking through the fragging flowers, Primus damnit! "<< Well I guess it doesn't matter now, since if Richie Rich stepping all over the things doesn't get us killed, then they must be safe. >>" Where did you even learn that reference, Sandstorm. Regardless, it seems the flowers aren't going to harm them after all; at least not yet. Allowing himself to touch down amidst the blooms, he frowns as Nightshade picks the central one. He still hasn't put his blaster away.

"<< Fine. It's the artifact. Good job. Can we go now? >>"

Mirage tilts his helm towards Sandstorm, looking down his nasal bridge at the other mecha. He may be tired, but he knows when he's being talked down to. He deigns not even to acknowledge the conversation. He tried that earlier with his polite request to remain hospitable, but it is increasingly clear Sandstorm is just naturally rude company. ::I suppose no one call this search inefficient,:: Mirage remarks, sounding a tad disappointed. He wouldn't have minded lingering in this flower bed a few minutes longer. Leaning down a little, he touches the edge of one of the chiming flowers. ::As long as they're not deadly, perhaps I'll bring one back for the greenhouse. I know some who would enjoy these.::

With a grimace, he starts to paw in the dirt to pull up a flower and a bit of its roots. It's an unpleasant task but worth it to please Hound and Torque.

The stem of the flow breaks, with the central bloom lifting into Nightshade's hand as though it was made to fit there. The gloss of the petals fades once the bloom has been plucked, transforming from shining black to a golden metal -- brilliant, but somehow cold. As the last touch of black fades from the bloom, the pants beneath them suddenly dissolve, turning into dust and ash that's blown back the stellar winds. From there, the death lances across the field, crawling up the sides of the crater and racing deep into the earth. The network of roots that once held the asteroid together dissolves. The only blossom to survive is the one that Mirage plucks just before the wave of rust reaches it. Strangely, its petals retain the sheen of glossy black.

The ground ... trembles.

Nightshade stares at the artifact transforms in her hand, too transfixed even to let Sandstorm's complaints bother her. Then she watches the garden die around her, and for a moment feels a little pang of guilt. By taking the artifact, they might be destroying something lovely...But enough sentimentality! Their species must thrive, which means they have to stop Unicron. She loves organic flowers but grinds them up for chemical compounds without regret. How is this any different?

Lost as she is in her own thoughts, it takes her a second to notice the vibration; when she does, she darts upwards in alarm. "<< Perhaps we...should go. >>"

Okay, that has Sandstorm putting away his blaster, if only because it will be useless against an asteroid that's tearing itself apart. He knew plucking that flower without scanning it more was a stupid idea! Still, he can't help but feel a heady rush at the oncoming danger. "<< No slag, mech, the whole thing's about to come apart, and I don't know about you but I'd rather not end up like our friend back there. >>" He means the spacer, of course. Gunning his thrusters, Sandstorm zooms up and out of the crater, heading back the way they came, when he remembers - aw damnit.

"<< Brace yourself! >>" Is all the warning Mirage gets before he's grabbed around the middle and hauled away from the dying garden and its crumbling bed, Sandstorm easily hauling the smaller mech into his arms. If there were air for sound to travel through, he'd definitely be grumbling under his breath about having to save some dumb aft's hide, again.

It all happens so quickly. As fast as Mirage is, he has no time to react. By the time his sluggish mind comprehends that the very earth beneath them is shuddering he finds himself forcefully yanked up and away. The scout shuts his optics, trying to hold back a sickening roll of his tanks at the unexpected flight. Within a short while, though, he comes back to himself. ::... ?! There's no point in running! The fastest way out is to comm for a new bridge!::

Mirage has a point: without the interlacing roots to stitch the asteroid together, it crumbles as forces long held in check are allowed to finish tearing it apart. The dust that was once a garden shimmers as it spreads into space. The unequal distribution of mass and momentum cause the asteroid to tear itself apart in sudden violence. It's about to get very crowded and very busy. Already they are forced to dodge smaller bits of rock torn loose from the whole.

"<< Bracing, I'm bracing! >>" Knowing that Sandstorm is probably faster than her, and both of the other two mechs are bigger, Nightshade clings to Mirage's arm as Sandstorm hauls him out, rather than trying to get out on her own. Better they stick together-less risk that way. "<< And I have the artifact! >>"

"<< The hell do you think I'm doing! >>" Sandstorm doesn't REALLY need to shout it, but he does anyway. Thankfully he's done what Mirage just told him to, comming for the space bridge to open and get them the hell out of here. "<< I just thought maybe I should get your aft away from the collapsing asteroid before I did it! >>" That's gratitude for you, he thinks irritably. Whatever, the bridge should come soon, bringing them all back to Rigard. In the meantime, Sandstorm works the thrusters' controls, weaving around the bits of asteroid that are already breaking off. For Nightshade, he has one last, "<< Good. If you lose that slagging thing I'm leaving you with it. >>"

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