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EMPTY PETRORABBITS FROM THE PI-I-IT!

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Drift had never been so far out from the cities or their ruins. These… fields were so different. Earth, sure. He knew Earth had fields with grass and animals and the like, but Cybertron? How had he lived his entire life- fought a war that spanned the planet and reached deep into space, and never known that Cybertron had wide, endless plains where the sky felt so close that when he looked up, he felt a little thrill of fear that gravity would betray him and off he’d fall. He’d be lost up there, tumbling through the black between the glittering stars.

He stretched out in the long grass. It was metal, but it was grass! Long, narrow stalks of flat, flexible, metal that in the sunlight of daytime shone from soft silver to tarnished brass. The equus ate it, and if that wasn’t just weird, Drift didn’t know what was. However, the six-legged metalo-horses that apparently ran in wild herds were gone for the night. Drift couldn’t even hear them snorting or snuffling about, which is why he figured it was safe enough to lie in the tall grass and rest.

Drift started awake, no memory of dropping into recharge. For a moment he was confused, lost, spark pounding as he stared into the diamond-strewn black of the sky. Then memory returned, and Drift relaxed, shaking his helm at himself. “Stupid,” he muttered out loud, then pushed himself up to sit. His spark still raced, and no matter how silly it was, he knew that until he shook it off, he wouldn’t be getting back to recharge.

Of course, out here, there was no one to see him, mock him. No one to feel ashamed about noticing his moment of weakness.

Drift stood and began walking. Starlight gleamed off the grass, making the plains appear brighter. It would probably glow as bright as daylight if Cybertron had a moon anymore to be full and hang over it. As it was, he had no trouble seeing where he was going.

He also had no trouble seeing that odd movement ahead and to the left a bit.

Drift frowned and walked toward it. What had that been? Defense protocols pinged, but he dismissed them. Whatever it had been, it was small. Probably some little animal he’d never heard of before, really. Curiosity pulled Drift toward where the movement had been like a magnet would draw iron filings. A dozen steps later, and he froze as new movement off to his more immediate left caught his optic. Drift stared, then blinked and squinted into the waving grass and shifting, dim star-gleam. What the slag had that been? Was he seeing… blue?

Wait! That wasn’t grass!

Movement again, and Drift took a step toward the creature as it took a loping, slow hop toward him. Audials! Those were audials sticking up off its head! Tall and long, silver-ish like the grass, but not as narrow until they tapered to a point at the very tips.

“Oh, Primus slag me, you’re so cute!” Drift said.

Pale blue optics blinked, the audials angled toward Drift, the little rounded nose on the point of its face twitching as it took in his scent.

Petrorabbit. The word suddenly pinged from the depths of Drift’s memory core. He was looking at a petrorabbit. But… weren’t they supposed to be dangerous?

“You don’t look the least dangerous to me,” Drift said to it. He was probably mixing up the information. He knew slag-all about the fauna of Cybertron.

Audials and nose twitched, and then movement to Drift’s right brought another petrorabbit into view. He couldn’t help grinning at them. No wonder the old Towerlings wanted them as pets. The new arrival was more daring and hopped a few steps closer to Drift. He was able to see its rounded body and little front legs. The back legs were lost in overlapping plates, making its haunches and lower body look plump and pudgy.

“I’m going to die from cute,” Drift muttered and grabbed some image captures. When he went back to Iacon, he absolutely had to show these to the others. No one would believe him.

More movement, and Drift looked around. “Oh wow.” There were easily a dozen of them now, spread out in a loose circle around him. Pale blue winked in the starlight, the soft, matte silver of their plating a dull glow mixing in with the flicker and gleam of the grasses. Drift was captivated and turned carefully to grab more image captures. By the time he had twisted back around to the original two, even more of the petrorabbits had arrived. He chuckled and shook his helm.

“Guess none of you have seen a mech in- Well, probably never, huh?” Pits, they were utterly unafraid of him, and Drift decided he could use that to get a better look at them himself. He edged a step closer to the nearest petrorabbit, then another, then another when it didn’t turn tail and flee.

“Easy there,” Drift crooned and took another slow step toward the creature. Round little optics stayed locked on his face even as he carefully lowered himself into a crouch. “Easy.”

Grass shwooshed all around him, and Drift glanced at the other petrorabbits. They weren’t moving, but looked closer. He frowned a bit, curious and confused. He hadn’t felt a stronger breeze…

More sounds of movement, but when Drift looked to his other side, the creatures weren’t moving. They were absolutely closer.

Hm. Maybe this wasn’t as good an idea as Drift had originally thought. He rose ever so slowly, but before he could even get fully out of the crouch, the petrorabbit in front of him -the closest- hissed.

Drift froze and blinked as ice flashed through his lines. The hiss revealed long fangs, and from the front paws, three shining, razor-sharp claws emerged. A low sibilance filled the air and surrounded Drift, but he didn’t dare take his gaze off the pale, round optics locked on his own. Blue had bled away to white around the edge, and Drift knew the attack was coming. The only question was: would he be able to reach his weapons in time?

Micron by micron, Drift moved his hands toward the hilts of his swords. They were just little petrorabbits, his conscience protested, but ages of survival instincts screamed far louder. Those fangs were long enough to pierce his plating. Those claws were sharp enough to tear his lines open. And there were enough of them that Drift was in genuine danger.

The petrorabbit lunged, and Drift swept his swords free of their scabbards as he launched to his feet. A high-pitched screeee filled the air, glitching his audials to static. Drift had fought the swarm, but this was different. The petrorabbits were small, harder to hit, and Drift felt a thick guilt at each cute, curvy, plump little body he cut down. He spun and swung, twisted and whirled, and after seconds that felt like hours, broke free of the pack.

Drift ran. He pelted through the long grasses of the plains, aiming for a more mech-made line of metal in the distance. Please let that be a road. Please let that be a road.

The petrorabbits were on his heels, but he started to pull ahead. Primus, how had Blurr done this? Drift’s vents heaved, his thighs burned. Each impact with the ground sent a jagged buzz of pain through his ankles, up his shins, through his knees with a hot jolt. His hips hurt. His spark throbbed in rapid, genuinely frightened pulses, but he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t even slow down.

A quick glance back showed that Drift had truly gained some ground, but there were dozens of them tearing after him still. They raced along low to the ground, lines of silver through the waving grass. Now and then one would pop up in a high bounding leap, white optics locked on Drift, fangs bared and needle-like claws flashing.

Drift nearly fell as he reached the old road, stumbling over the cracks in the plates. He shifted his angle, arms pinwheeling for balance, and somehow managed to stay on his feet. The only thing he could hear was a rushing in his audials. Like wind blowing too hard over the sensors and scrambling the readings, but it wasn’t the wind, it was the glitch from that horrifying scream the petrorabbits had made. There was a dull roar that grew louder and louder behind him, but Drift didn’t dare look. They were close. He’d lost speed. They were-

A horn blasted from just behind Drift, and he jumped and whipped around. Stupid, because he fell. Ancient roadway gouged his back before his aft and legs flopped over his head and pulled him into a sloppy backward roll.

The transport screeched to a halt and the door was flung open. “They bite you?” a slender, rather dainty looking mech demanded.

Drift stared a moment, then shook his helm. Then he gave himself a once over. “No. No bites.”

“Then come with me if you want to live! Hurry!”

There was a screeee from behind the transport, and that was all the encouragement Drift needed. He flung himself from the ground and toward the mech, diving across narrow silver thighs even as the transport ground into gear and began moving.

“Sure you’re not bit?” the mech asked again.

“I’m sure,” Drift replied as he crawled in a clumsy, ungainly sprawl over to the passenger seat. He still clung to his swords, hands aching from the tight, desperate grip he had on them. “How did you find me?”

“Heard the hunting scream,” the mech replied. “Name’s Platinum,” he added. “They only scream like that if they’ve got a mech, did you know that?”

Drift stared out the back window as the transport took him farther and farther away from the petrorabbits. “No. I didn’t even know they existed anymore.”

“Oh those aren’t your average petrorabbit,” Platinum said. “Ever heard of Empties?”

Drift nodded. “Yeah. They were deep in the gutters. Tripped over a few back in the day.”

“Yeah, well, those petros are Empties, and a bite can make you an Empty too.”

Drift frowned and turned to look at the mech. “Starving makes you an Empty. Seen it.”

Platinum lifted one dainty hand in a wave Drift had only ever seen Mirage do so eloquently. “Yes, but so can the bite of an Empty petrorabbit. I can’t always reach mechs in time. I’ve seen it happen.” Pale blue optics glanced over at Drift, then down to the swords. “Mind putting those away?”

Drift’s instincts screamed. “Are we clear of them?”

“Almost. I have a secure place up ahead.” Platinum smiled at Drift, and Drift felt his spark flip over in its crystal.

Drift looked around, optics spotting a rather large wall ahead. Like Pit was he going in there! “You can let me out here.” He was ignored. “Stop the transport.”

“Now, now. Everything’s fine.”

Drift shivered at the tone, saw that the blue of Platinum’s optics was shading to white, and did the only thing he could think of. He shoved a sword through Platinum’s chest.

There was no flash of sparklight. No hum of power up the length of Drift’s sword.

White optics brightened, and Platinum slowly turned his head to face Drift. “Did you know that eating Empty petros has its own… odd side-effect? I didn’t.”

Drift thrust the other sword straight into Platinum’s face, his own spark constricting, then flipping as the transport rattled off the roadway. He had only a moment of relief to note Platinum’s optics were dark and his body limp, then the transport tilted and rolled, and the night closed in on Drift.

~ | ~

Sunlight blinded Drift as he peeled his optics open. It glinted off tall stalks of the strange metal grass, and he heaved a sigh, then laughed.

“Frag me and my slagging nightmares,” he groaned as he scrubbed his hands over his face and sat up.

The transport still smoked where it lay on its side only ten paces away from Drift. To his right, a tall wall rose up less than a mile away. The paneling was rusty and crumbling, and looked far less imposing in the light of day.

Drift pushed himself to his feet, hands going to his hips, but the swords weren’t there. It was a short search to find Platinum -what was left of him- and the swords.

Sharp puncture marks and needle-like scratches covered the mech’s plating, and Drift instantly panicked and began searching his own frame for bite marks. All he could find were the scrapes and scratches from his tumble. His back was on fire, but he’d woke on his back. If they’d torn up Platinum so much, then surely they would have eaten Drift? Right?

Drift whimpered.

It’d been real. It had all been real!

Drift snatched up his swords, hands aching as he gripped the hilts and looked frantically around. Slag this. He had to get out of here before night fell again. First though, he was hungry. Primus, he was starving...