Ch 1: Prologue to Adventure, Part 1
Chapter 1, Part 1: Prologue to Adventure
Ducking another round of gunfire, Hank Veer cursed his stupidity for the millionth time that orn. His mother had been telling him for vorns that the young man was going to take a step too far one day, and tumble right off the edge of a cliff, literally or otherwise.
Now, he knew her words to be absolutely true.
Just the previous evening, he’d still been washing dishes in his mother’s roadside eatery, desperately keeping his ears open for news of the War. At twenty vorns old, Hank had as much of a social life as was possible in the tiny settlement of Hillitrex - which was to say, none at all. So, rather than go out after the dinner hours to try and scrounge up something fun to do, he spent most evenings in the eatery, catching snippets of conversation between the travellers who stepped in for a quick meal. This far into the Prianti Mountains, the most they ever heard of the War between the Autobot Army and Decepticon Imperialists was who had won a recent victory, who was on another recruitment drive, and which city states were no longer safe to inhabit as battle raged through them. And all of that information was filtered from those fleeing the destruction - merchants trying to maintain their businesses, couriers hurrying towards distant outposts, or refugees whose homes had recently been destroyed.
In recent vorns, that latter category had seen more and more people counted within it, hardening Hank’s heart against the Decepticons who caused the most devastating losses to civilian populations. Much as he would have liked to leave home and go do something about it, his mother always cautioned him about seeking out trouble; someone with his luck always had enough come to them on its own.
And last night, she had finally been proven right after all.
Just as Hank had been piling up the dirty dishes from a table at the rear of the room, a young man wearing green leather clothing that had seen better days ducked in the entrance. He ignored Mrs. Veer’s welcome, not pausing as he snatched a menu pad from her hands and went straight to the booth in the most shadowy corner of the eatery. Curiosity overwhelming his sense of foreboding, Hank stepped over to him.
“Um, you okay there, buddy?” He asked cautiously. The dark-skinned youth glanced up from where he was pretending to scan over the menu, eyes nervously darting over to the front door and back.
“Can you make like you’re taking my order, and that I’ve been here a while?” He hissed in a desperate tone. Blinking in confusion, Hank didn’t even have time to ask why before the door was slammed open once again.
He was able to puzzle out an answer to the stranger’s request when five heavily armored and thoroughly intimidating people stomped in.
“So, that’s the Hexian sausages, with a double side order of Trax potatoes?” Hank said, grabbing his small datapad and swiftly tapping out some random words. The young man before him nodded, eyes expressing relief and gratitude. “Okay, that’ll be right out.” As Hank turned to head for the kitchen door, he watched as his mother nervously seated the group of newcomers, even as several other people in the room glanced over and prepared to leave.
Hank didn’t blame them. The purple Decepticon sigil, prominently displayed on the scarred armor, was enough of a deterrent for anyone. He himself, though, just felt growing anger, especially as he saw how terrified the newcomers were making his middle-aged mother.
A few moments later, she joined him in the kitchen, and Hank wrapped her in a tight hug. He’d been a full foot taller than his mother for the last four vorns, and now tucked his chin over the top of her head.
“Why are they here?” Hanna Veer gasped out, her hands grasping the back of her son’s orange vest. “Their kind have never come this far into the mountains before.”
“I don’t know, Mom.” He replied, eyes trained on the door. “I’ll handle taking their food over, though. You just look after everyone else, okay?” Composing herself, Mrs. Veer quickly agreed, and the two of them swapped the orders on their datapads before taking the lot to their cook. Hank quickly informed the man of what was going on out front, causing him to grow pale and swallow nervously.
“You said that young feller came in lookin’ scared just before they did?”
“Yeah. I think he was running from them.”
The elderly cook frowned. “Best see about getting that lad out of here quickly then, but not so obviously that they single him out.”
“Or us either.” Mrs. Veer added. Hank nodded to both of them, accepting the platters that held the Decepticons’ meal orders and drinks. Steeling himself, the twenty vorn old used his shoulder to push open the door, and strode out with a brave face.
He froze upon seeing that all five Cons had left their table to surround the young man who’d run in just before them.
“...It’s simple, kid.” The tallest of them was demanding, halfway leaning over the still seated youth. “Did you come here from the north or the south?”
“And I’ll ask again, what’s it to you?” He responded calmly, hands folded in front of him. Two of the Decepticons had sat down on the booth’s other bench, while the remaining pair stood directly behind the young man as the leader bent down to look him right in the eye.
“Cheeky fragger, aren’t ya?” He snarled.
“Some of the time, yes.”
“Hey, Onslaught, lookie here!” The woman standing behind the booth suddenly snatched something from the youth’s neck, eliciting a yelp as his head was forced upward.
Hank felt his insides shrivel at the leader’s next words: “Well, well, well! Guess we’ve found ourselves a Roamer.”
Once a staple of Cybertronian society, Roamers had been large, extended families travelling around the world in their brightly colored caravans, exchanging goods and services at all the city states, and spreading important news to backwater towns that didn’t have Hubs connected to the Global Communications System. In the last couple decades, though, they and other non-city dwellers had come under attack by the Decepticon Imperialists - first through hateful propaganda that turned numerous Cybertronians against them, and then actual bombardment when the War began in earnest. Very few of their caravans remained, with members of the formerly close-knit family clans scattered around the planet, seeking refuge wherever they could.
With this one so undoubtedly identified by his caravan’s pendant, Hank knew the Roamer was looking at a gruesome execution if he didn’t escape these Decepticons right away.
It only took him a few kliks to close the distance from the kitchen door to the oblivious Cons, and one more after that to hurl the platters he carried at them. Yelping in surprise and pain at the sudden barrage of dishes and foodstuffs, all five Decepticons leapt up and away, giving the Roamer the chance he needed to spring to his feet and take off out the front door.
For one glorious moment, Hank felt the thrill of victory - and then the Con leader’s gaze locked onto his own with murderous intent. Suddenly, Hank lost any desire he might have had to know why the man was called “Onslaught.”
The laser fire and plasma blasts started flying as he too bolted towards the door, and were all the encouragement Hank needed to speed up his steps. Outside, the night cycle had long since descended, leaving his surroundings in near darkness - but by the light of the moons and stars and his own memories, he was able to hurry on a convoluted path through the closely clustered buildings that made up Hillitrex. The screams of panicked civilians and enraged shouts of the Decepticons behind him slowly faded away, leaving only Hank’s labored breathing as he hurried through the settlement, taking numerous twists and turns until he ended up at the edge of the forest that covered the lower slopes of the Prianti mountain range.
Rather unfortunately, he ran smack dab into someone else practically the instant he lurched into the shadows of the trees.
“Ow!” That someone yelled, and the voice alone was enough for Hank to identify him.
“You-!” He grabbed the front of a leather coat, and even if the night was dark enough they could barely see each other’s faces, Hank knew the dark skinned stranger could tell how torqued off he was. “What were you thinking, coming into our place and sitting down like that?!”
“Well what was I supposed to do?” The other man protested weakly, attempting to take a step back but unable to pull himself out of Hank’s white-knuckled grip. “They were about to catch up to me anyway - I needed to someplace to hide!”
“You could have come in our front door and gone straight out the back again! Or done the same thing at any other place on the street! Primus, do you realize how much trouble I’m in now?”
“How much you’re in? I’m the one they’re trying to kill on sight!”
“And now I’m in the same boat! Slag, do you even realize they might burn down my mom’s business now?”
“Hey, I never asked you to help me, so don’t go pinning the blame for this on me - I’ve had enough of being a scapegoat to last me a lifetime.” The two glared at each other as best they could, before Hank finally sighed and released his grip.
“You’re right. I’m sorry, I just... I didn’t think back there, and now I can’t help but picture all the horrible ways this could go, because I was a stupid idiot again.”
The stranger rubbed the back of his head, expression sheepish. “Well... You did technically save my life, so it wasn’t all that stupid. Thanks, by the way.”
“You’re welcome, I guess.” Hank mumbled, sinking down to sit with his back against a tree trunk. “...What in the Pit am I supposed to do now?”
It took a few moments, but the other man stepped over and took a seat beside him. The two sat in silence for a while, listening to the subdued movements of wildlife through the vegetation around them, and the distant, lingering noises of civilization from the inhabitants of Hillitrex.
“My name’s Spencer Ringer.” Hank glanced over, and by a dim shaft of moonlight was able to pick up the silhouette of his new companion’s face. He was looking down, poking at a few leaves with a twig. “I was on my way north when I ran into those Cons and got on their bad side. You’re welcome to come with me if, you think you can’t go back to your home safely.”
“Why? What’s up north?”
A ghost of a smile graced Spencer’s lips. “Iacon, for one thing. And the secret headquarters of the Autobots, for another.”
Hank stared. He blinked. He blinked again, and continued staring. Then, a grin of his own appeared, spreading until it made his face hurt. “Dude, I am so in.”
(For those unfamiliar with Cybertronian time measurements, this is how I use ‘em:
Breem (Minute) 100 kliks
Joor (Hour) 60 breems
Orn (Day) 30 joors - 15 for a day cycle, 15 for a night cycle
Deca-orn (Week) 10 orns
Groon (Month) 3 deca-orns/30 orns
Vorn (Year) 14 groons/42 decaorns/420 orns )