Hydrogen is the most common element in the known universe. It is everywhere, even fueling the celestial fires of the stars. Oxygen, too, proves abundant. When two hydrogen atoms collide with an oxygen atom, water forms. This is true even on the metallic planet of Cybertron; and yes, it even crystallizes into ice in the places where the planet is cold enough.
Orbit stabilized. The Autobot flier known as Jetfire finally relaxed at the helm. Though he was the captain of this expedition, he was also the most qualified pilot. None of the other Autobots aboard had the skill to navigate the planet DEX-5’s particularly tricky gravity field. The planet was not only massive, but elliptical. Jetfire was an old pro at navigating gravity wells. He ought to be, having learned his lessons the hard way.
Jetfire had always believed H2O to be rare until he and Starscream first went offworld. A scientific study of a whole new ecosystem in a whole different solar system was the greatest adventure his then-young mind could conceive. The life forms there had been fragile and composed mostly of water. It had boggled the mind to think that the substance could be a component within a vessel of intelligence. That was okay, though: Jetfire was a scientist. When new data came in, he could adjust his world view to accommodate the truth.
That had been a hot planet close to its sun. Even the polar regions that received only periodic bursts of sunlight were too warm to allow ice to form. It wasn’t until he and Starscream took their second expedition that they had seen so much crystallized water. It had covered a whole quarter of the planet’s surface! And the way it reflected the sun’s light… even Starscream had had to admit it was beautiful.
Jetfire stood and his second assumed the chair. Scattershot was a decent pilot himself, but he was still young and had much to learn. Though their orbit was stable, one never knew when some bump in the road might hit them. Scattershot would be able to handle it. The other pilot aboard, Strafe, was too twitchy, too prone to panic. He was reliable in dogfights, but they did not anticipate any incursions all the way out here. The Decepticon “menace” was all but gone these days.
He solemnly picked up their “precious cargo” and opened the hatch on his chest, storing it inside for transport. His hands shook and he found it difficult to fit the device inside.
“You want Strafe to go planetside with you?” Scattershot offered.
“No,” Jetfire said a bit too hastily. He paused. “No, thank you. This is something I have to do alone.”
As he finally got it inside and closed his chest cavity, the other Autobots on the bridge – Strafe, Lightspeed, Nosecone, Afterburner – looked at him with expressions that ranged from confusion to sympathy. How could they understand what he was about to do? That he was about to condemn an old comrade to imprisonment for eternity, and it weighed on him? All these Autobots were young. They had been brought online during the war. They only knew his friend as a mortal enemy.
By the time he and Starscream found the planet that would come to be known as Earth, they had become seasoned explorers, ready to handle anything… or so they thought. The audaciousness of youth could only be realized after the lessons of adulthood. Crystallized water danced through the sky with mesmerizing delicacy; he had been drawn in by the beauty of it, only to realize too late its deadliness. The evaporated moisture in the air had accumulated into thick phalanxes high in the atmosphere, which filtered the sun’s light. The small crystals being flung around by the powerful winds diminished visibility even further. It hadn’t been the cold that had gotten Jetfire. Some of the crystals got into his vents and melted against his warm internal components. Something shorted. His navigation system winked out and Jetfire, already bewildered by the alienness of his environment, panicked.
Jetfire entered the planet’s atmosphere and vectored his trajectory for the dead-center of the planet’s largest icecap. The entire world was a frozen body, but ice did not cover the entire planet in one piece. It was segmented like giant continents of H2O surrounded by seas of frozen ammonia. This time around, he was prepared. His boosters were more powerful, his armor better prepared for the uninhabitable environment he ventured into. The War had pushed the Autobots out of their homeworld, out amongst the stars. Their skills at navigating foreign worlds had increased out of necessity.
Jetfire transformed and landed feet-first. Nosecone folded down onto his chest, arms and legs extended out. His rockets split apart to form feet; water melted and pooled around the still-hot metal but he had to start walking as it almost instantly froze back. He didn’t want to get stuck, not again. He looked down into the glass window to confirm his cargo was not damaged. The lights were all green.
Time to get to work. He hated it on this planet. Frozen wastelands made him edgy. No one could blame him for that little neurosis.
He spiraled out of control and fell prey to the planet’s gravity. By the time he regained his head, he was too close to the ground to veer back up. The only recourse left was to adjust the angle of his decent so he didn’t hit the ground nosecone-first and kill himself. But when he hit the ground he didn’t stop. There was no ground, just more frozen water, which melted in the heat from his reentry. He sunk, down, down, going deep into the seemingly-endless mass of frozen, slippery water.
Jetfire found himself in a cavern of his own making and transformed into robot mode to climb his way out. But the cavern was already flooding, and the water crystallizing back as the heat energy dispersed. He managed to pull himself a few meters upward before finding himself entombed within the frozen water.
Not to panic, though. His best friend was still up there. Starscream would save him. Jetfire activated his emergency beacon and waited.
Eight solar-cycles in, the rescue party still hadn’t found him. Jetfire put himself into emergency stasis not just to conserve fuel, but to keep himself from going insane from the loneliness. They could easily reactivate him once they found him…
Jetfire deactivated his blaster once he decided the hole was deep enough. He opened his hatch and pulled the device out… a device he had constructed to keep a spark imprisoned for eternity. And if anyone tried to open it, the nuclear power cell inside would detonate in a last-ditch effort to destroy the prisoner inside. That was what it had come to.
That was how evil his once-best friend had become. But it was worth than that – his was an evil that had transcended death; somehow, someway the spark could not be extinguished. It had to be contained and hidden away so that no one could ever unleash him back into the universe.
Starscream finally found him… six million years later. But everything was different. Cybertronians slaughtered each other, locked in civil war that lasted longer than anyone could imagine. And Starscream had chosen the side of the Decepticons, a moral path that Jetfire could not condone, could not journey down himself. Starscream had called him traitor. And tried to kill him. Jetfire had awoken to a world where everything was wrong and he almost wished he had never awoken at all.
“I’m sorry, Starscream,” Jetfire said, just in case his friend could still hear him inside the containment unit Jetfire had constructed with his own two hands. He lowered the prison into the pit and then melted the ice once again, entombing Starscream much the same way he had been entombed. The sick irony was not lost to Jetfire. Maybe that was what had subconsciously inspired the idea.
He transformed back and rocketed away, back to his ship. He hoped never to have to return here. But in a way, part of him would never leave, just as part of him had never left the Earth where he had slumbered in blissful ignorance of what his best friend had become. In the final analysis, it was hard to tell who had betrayed whom.