Rob's Pile of Transformers: "Something to Do"

I just knocked this off in under two hours, completely spontaneously. The train of thought that led up to it is so convoluted I don't understand it myself. Ah well. Setting's unimportant; it could be the late second-season cartoons, or the comics after issue 24. Enjoy!

Something to Do


  It was not a very realistic design, really.  It was 
far too small.  And it was the wrong color.  And it 
featured mounted weapons that would never be seen on 
its prototypes.  And on top of that, it wasn't even a 
very _good_ design.  Earthen space shuttles were 
tremendously, hopelessly primitive craft, and all the 
advanced tech in the world couldn't save them from 
the fact that they just weren't a very sophisticated 
design.  Not by Blast-Off's standards, anyway.

  But when Blast-Off had spoken to his leader about 
getting his vehicle form re-designed, all he'd gotten 
in response was a rant about "limited resources" and 
"critical energy shortage."  So, for now, he'd have 
to deal with being trapped in a discouragingly crude 
form.

  He did have to admit that it got the job done.  But 
it was just... so... _limiting!_

  Such were the thoughts that flitted through Blast-Off's 
mind as he floated in orbit above Earth.  Even they did 
not really hold his interest for long, however.  Like 
everything else up here, he'd done it all more times than 
he could count.  Blast Off's automated guidance systems 
handled most of his chores for him, feeding updates that
scrolled across one corner of his field of vision as the Earth 
drifted by, far below him.  The end result was that he had 
more time for introspection than any sane being would ever 
want.

  +++Viewtrex report+++
  +++Approaching sector 14+++
  +++Coordinate with visual scans+++

  Blast-Off's optical circuitry zeroed in on the 
planet below him, picking through the myriad clouds 
that drifted across the surface.  Continents, cities, 
lakes, deserts, forests... all far below him; all 
amazingly tiny.  He spotted the southern edge of the 
Mediterranean Sea, Italy projecting into it a bit 
further north.  A quick reflective energy pulse 
confirmed his altitude, and position.  And his duties 
were complete for the next twenty minutes or so, till 
he entered sector 15.

  And there was nothing to do till then.

  Oh, sure, he _could_ have listened in on the 
communications that were being bounced off of him.  
As the Decepticons' orbital relay platform, he was 
responsible for making sure that field reports made 
their way back to headquarters, and that orders 
handed down made it back to those field units.  But 
that had long ago ceased to interest him.  "Observed 
security measures at human coal-burning fuel plant 
for 6 hours.  Returning to fall-back point Alpha."  
"Engaged Autobot patrol at 07:21:41.  Patrol 
retreated with minimal damage at 07:24:38.  Resumed 
patrol pattern, 7:24:51.  No damage incurred.  922 
energy units expended."  Blah blah blah.  Staring at 
the planet below him was dull, but it beat listening 
in on the mundane doings of his comrades down below.  
If anything interesting had happened, the emergency 
frequencies would instantly alert his sensors and 
he'd tune in.  But emergencies were very, very rare.

  This job was tremendously boring... and he was the 
only Decepticon that could do it.  What a thrill.

  +++Viewtrex report+++
  +++Unidendified contact+++
  +++Bearing 4-4-53, closing 8000+++
  +++Recommend course change to 9-9-00+++

  Hmmm, now _this_ was unexpected.... Blast-off 
focused his hyper-keen vision ahead, searching out 
whatever had wandered into his space, ready to shoot 
it down if need be.  But that was unlikely.  His 
orders were to avoid conflict if at all possible.  
That meant he couldn't even amuse himself by shooting 
down the humans' communication satellites.

  His vision panned slowly back and forth, till at 
last a small infrared signature returned.  His 
optical range magnified it instantly, revealing -- 

  A paint chip!  Hmm!

  Blast-Off waited till the last possible moment 
before thrusting himself the tiniest degree to one 
side.  The minuscule bit of space debris whizzed a 
few yards past him.  Even though it would probably 
not harm his ultra-strong armor plating, it would be 
foolish to take the chance.

  Anyway, dodging it was something to do, for a few 
seconds at least.

  He drifted onwards, looking up, down, ahead, 
behind.  Nothing.  A distant speck drifted past the 
opposite way, a human satellite he'd known would be 
there long before his sensors reported it.  Primus, 
how much longer...?

  +++Viewtrex report+++
  +++Approaching sector 15+++
  +++Coordinate with visual scans+++

  Finally!  The most interesting part of his trip.  
He ran the perfunctory position check, finding the 
Persian Gulf below him and bouncing another pulse off 
of it.  But his attention was elsewhere, eagerly 
anticipating.

  He waited... and waited... any second now...

  +++Priority Viewtrex report+++
  +++Contact bearing 4-4-48+++
  +++Abnormally low detectability range+++
  +++Probable Autobot+++
  +++Recommend go to combat status+++

  At last!  Blast-Off bled energy into the twin ion 
cannons that were mounted on his wings, and prepared 
his thrusters for action.  He scanned ahead, 
searching along the vector his on-board computer had 
given him.  There -- a tiny speck, dimly lit by the 
distant sun, starlight glinting off metal.  An 
Autobot, the mortal enemies of the Decepticons.

  Blast-Off sent out a range-and-position pulse, 
establishing a target lock on the incoming object.  
His sensors felt it as a similar pulse reflected off 
of him, his target acquiring his range and position.  
Then nothing for a moment.

  He sent out a second pulse, at his usual carefully 
measured intervals.  One every two seconds.  The 
combat manual prescribed increasingly frequent pulses 
as one drew nearer, to prevent jamming and ensure 
accuracy.  He didn't do so.  Two seconds, no faster.  
He sent another pulse, and felt one hit him.  Two and 
a half seconds, for his foe.  A daring opponent.

  The object ahead became a discernible disk, 
acquiring a definite form and shape and bits of 
coloration.  Blast-Off's targeting pulses continued 
to resonate out, every two seconds -- no faster.

  +++Priority Viewtrex report+++
  +++You are within firing range+++
  +++Engagement recommended IMMEDIAT--

  Blast-Off didn't bother listening to the rest.  
Stupid Viewtrex system.  What did it know about 
military duty in space?

  He could see the enemy clearly, now.  Still sending 
out his pulses every 2.5 seconds.  Growing closer and 
closer, larger and larger.  But still not quite as 
big as Blast-Off.

  They were so close now that they were within short-
range radio wave distance.  And that was how Blast-
Off chose to communicate.

  "Greetings, Cosmos!" he said grandly to his target.

  "Hi, Blast-Off," the green Autobot replied.  Both 
of them fired retrothrusters, slowing down.  Both 
continued to send out targeting pulses, each at their 
own slow, measured pace, as they drifted closer.

  "You are late," Blast-Off observed.

  "Had to drop altitude for a little surveillance.  
Oh, and I left you a present on bearing 4-4-57," 
Cosmos said.

  "The paint chip!  How generous of you," Blast-Off 
said.  "Wherever did you get it?"  No sane space 
warrior would dare scratch his own armor -- it made 
re-entry unnecessarily dangerous.

  "Junked satellite.  I passed it during my 
surveillance run."

  "Interesting.  You erred, however.  It was on 4-4-
53 when I found it."

  "I must be going senile," Cosmos said.
  
  "You _are_ an Autobot."

  "Let's not start on that again," Cosmos said.  They 
drifted past one another just then, only a few 
hundred feet apart.

  "Some other time, then.  Farewell, Cosmos."

  "Later, Blast-Off."

  Blast-Off switched off his radio and targeting 
pulses, taking note as Cosmos did the same.  He fired 
his thrusters, coming back up to full speed and 
resuming his orbital course.  And he called up a log 
file.

  "Delete Viewtrex time record 044.232 to 044.249."

  +++Viewtrex report+++
  +++Time records deleted+++

  "Manual log entry follows: Time record 044.232.  
Minor course adjustment to avoid Autobot contact.  
Resuming patrol pattern.  Status normal."

  +++Log entry recorded.+++

  Cosmos had stopped to do some surveillance work, and 
there had been a junked satellite nearby.  Blast-Off 
could probably use that information to figure out 
where he'd been and what he'd been looking at... but 
what would be the point?  Sooner or later Cosmos 
would find out about it.  That would shatter the 
delicate trust between the two of them.  And having 
Cosmos around was more important to Blast-Off than 
gaining some trivial bit of military knowledge.

  Blast-Off stared ahead, faced with several hours of 
boredom before he met up with Cosmos again.  As 
always, he vaguely wondered what his fellow 
Decepticons would think if they knew about his 
conversations with his Autobot counterpart.

  As always, he didn't care.  They were down there, 
with things to do, people to talk to, places to see.  
He was up here, alone, in the middle of nothing.

  And what did _they_ know about military duty in 
space?  Precious little.  But Cosmos knew.  He had
to deal with it too.  Blast-Off would never admit it 
aloud... but it was good to have a friend of sorts up 
there.

  And even better to have -- even if only for a 
moment -- something to do.

****************THE END***********************


 

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