The Hall of Dead Gods

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by Rurudyne, Nov 25, 2007.

  1. Rurudyne

    Rurudyne Well-Known Member

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    The Hall of Dead Gods



    This story is closely linked to my current project. Cartoon continuity (G1 to Beast Wars). The two books in this series are Genesis and Forgotten Wars. Both can be accesses through my signature.

    As the larger project is still a WIP, I've attempted to write something that will not cause me to either loose momentum or provide spoilers. Also, reading the books should not be necessary to read this ... or so I hope.

    That said, this story is now a project unto itself, since DarkScreamer went and got me thinking that there was a way to build a larger (and useful) narrative around the events I'd originally posted. It will update when it does (I've GOT to work on other projects or I'm soooo dead).

    As always, I hope you enjoy it.

    Comments and criticisms are welcome. As you can clearly see, they CAN make a difference. :) 

    With special thanks to Andrew Turnbull for the title.




    Part 1: Spy



    “Spy”

    Quin had thought he’d heard that nickname for the last time.

    He was an Autobot with an amazing knack for finding his way around Cybertron, for finding places no one like him should even have known about much less have detailed knowledge of.

    But even during the long ages when the Autobots depended upon his mysterious skills for survival, they called him: “Spy.”

    But they didn’t mean just: ‘spy’ — someone who could help you learn things to survive and win. No, they meant: ‘Spy’ — as in someone who would betray you.

    He could never get them to understand that those flashes of inexplicable insight were just that. They dismissed suggestions that he might have some unusual connection with their homeworld and its moons. No, he was always the “Spy” that everyone kept at arms length.

    And for his own part, he’d been happy to do his thing without their help. If no one really trusted him then why bother with them? Much less set foot in Iacon?

    The day that Optimus Prime left Cybertron was a mixed blessing for Quin. On the one hand he was happy to see Cliffjumper go. Cliffjumper was the worst of all his nay’sayers. A mech who bordered on being paranoid delusional. On the other hand, Jazz was gone too.

    But when they didn’t come back, all anyone seemed to remember was that Quin was the one Autobot that Cliffjumper, their hero, had never trusted. Not even a bit.






    One day out of the wild black yonder the rumor mill was abuzz that Optimus Prime was back. He was fighting Decepticons on some strange new world. Autobots started coming out of the girders to fight — not for Cybertron, but for Optimus Prime, for the legend. One way or another they found their way to this Earth and Quin’s unit was no exception. His choice was to go with the rest or be alone.

    He stayed.

    Someone had to provide current intel. He was fighting for Cybertron: not some distant world. Cybertron: not Optimus Prime.

    In the meantime, he saw what Cybertron could be in the absence of War. The Decepticons were bringing substantial amounts of energon back from this world Optimus Prime was fighting for. They were rebuilding and repairing the planet. It didn’t take much imagination to see what was happening: soon Megatron would have Cybertron so firmly in his grasp that no one, not even the great Optimus Prime, could wrest it from him.

    This “Earth” would probably end up being Quin’s home even if he didn’t care one jot about it.

    Besides, if Cybertron was really restored through Decepticon labor ... what moral claim would the Autobots have to their homeworld?

    Of course, they would never give Cybertron up.

    Until Earth these had been the ones who expressly did not flee to distant and peaceful worlds, the so-called colonies. As before, they would fight. Only this time, they would be the ones bringing war to Cybertron.

    Quin finally decided that he could live with that.

    By applying his skills and resources creatively, he managed to establish tiny bases on Cybertron’s moons. Then he got word to the other Autobots that they now had positions from which they could start moving soldiers to Cybertron in stages.

    Optimus Prime turned his tiny way-stations into industrial scale beachheads. Instead of many simultaneous actions taking key resources or strategic positions all over Cybertron, the great leader opted for a massive frontal assault. For what it was worth, Quin still did his best to help Jazz keep the bases hidden from Decepticon view; but, they’d overbuilt and he knew it.






    Then one day the moon he was on was attacked. They could hear some unknown monster tearing everything apart around them — the noise was horrible. While panic reigned all around him, Quin had one of those flashes of insight. He was sure there was a means of escape in a room several levels below their base. He convinced some of his companions to follow him rather than try for the ships. When they got there, walls already deforming all around them, they found what he’d been looking for: the prototype space bridge. It was still operational!

    He saved them.

    But they still turned on him, just the same.

    “Why didn’t you tell us about the space bridge sooner?!”

    He couldn’t give them any answer they would accept. What could he claim that he could prove? Why even bother?

    He was the “Spy” again.

    Through all of what followed, Unicron and the lot, he endured and kept his angsty team alive. They pretty much left him alone in Kaon after that, in the tiny deserted town he’d lived in for thousands of vorns.



    Part 2: Survey



    “Those are illegal.” a familiar voice accused him.

    “Why should I care?” Quin leaned back in his chair and made a show of rolling the chilled mug around in his hands, “So Kup, what brings you to Caris?”

    “Rodimus has a job for you.”

    “Do you want one?” he held out the mug, “I’ve got some of Cashways’ private stock left.”

    “Who?”

    “The guy who used to run this place.”

    “Why would I want some ‘Con’s bootleg energon?” Kup grumbled.

    Cashways hadn’t been a Decepticon. Quin wanted to explain that much. But what could he claim that he could prove? Kup only knew that this was Kaon, Cashways was his friend ... so Cashways was obviously a Decepticon.

    “So, Rodimus Prime is the new face of Cybertron?”

    “You’re just as friendly as I remember.”

    “I’ve got my reasons.” He took a moment to glare at Kup.

    “I’m sure you do.” Kup glared right back.

    “So, what’s the job?”

    “Never mind. I’m sorry I disturbed you.”

    “Kup, what ... is ... the ... job?!” Quin demanded.

    Kup deflated a bit. The crusty old veteran’s head drooped. He took out a small device and threw it on the table beside Quin. Then he left without another word.

    “I’m not going to be around forever.” Quin said weakly to the door.

    Why were they always so mad at each other? The wall wasn’t just between them, it was inside Quin’s head. Literally. The answer to why was on the other side of that wall.

    He took his time finishing his infusion. Decided that he should hide his stash to keep it safe from his fellow Autobot’s indignation.

    He picked up Kup’s little devise. It was just a folded up piece of ‘paper’ ... an Earth substance that had recently made its way to Cybertron. Once unfolded, he read the note. It was scribbled in writing far too haphazard to be the work of a Cybertronian hand.

    From a human then? So much for Rodimus being the one who wanted him to do something!

    The note said that there was an ongoing effort to survey the damage done to Cybertron by Unicron and this “Spike” was responsible for Kaon. His request was for Quin to investigate the substructure of Kaon, the Decepticon Crypt in particular.

    “Actually, that’s not a bad job for me.” Quin allowed.

    It was a wise undertaking too. The monster had actually taken a good swing or two at Cybertron and Kaon hadn’t been spared.

    “This Spike isn’t a complete waste. It’s sad that his species can’t endure.”






    Quin spent the next two days carefully gathering what he’d need for an extended mission. Packing up his supplies reminded him of the old days. Only this time he’d take his private reserve with him too.

    As he was leaving he abruptly turned around to look back at the dilapidated structure that had been his home for so long.

    “If they come and knock you down while I’m gone, will I remember that you were ever here?”

    It was an old feeling, like the way he felt when he’d have those flashes of insight.

    He walked back inside and found a long inoperable waitdrone. This he set by the door.

    “See to any customers while I’m gone.” he gave it a pat.

    Then he walked east out of town.






    The Decepticon Crypt sat in the middle of a vast, broken plane. There had once been a huge step pyramid and massive parade grounds. What was left, what had survived a direct punch from Unicron, was a mess. At least on the surface.

    On foot, the plane took him four times longer to cross it than it should have. All the climbing and jumping almost made him wish he’d opted for that hover-mode alternate form rather than having been such a prude. Almost, but not quite.

    When he finally got to the shattered pyramid he had to poke around three whole days before he found a safe entrance. He climbed in.

    He was surrounded by Seekers. Faces he knew all too well.

    “Quintus Ray?” a voice sounded surprised.

    He blinked hard. Looked around. No one was here.

    “Is that really you, Quintus Ray?”

    Strange name. Someone else’s name.

    “Who wants to know?”

    No answer. He was hearing things!

    The funny thing was, he mused as he poked his way deeper into the uppermost level of the crypt, the voice had sounded just like Starscream’s. Of all the ghost he could possibly hear, why him? There were so many others he’d have rather heard. So very many besides Starscream.

    Hours later he found a huge, gaping hole in the floor. As it was the first sign of internal structural distress he’d come across, he began taking careful measurements of the walls, roof and floor with his scanners. The patterns of stress and deformation didn’t make any sense. It was as if the hole had actually been cut out. But why cut so large a hole?

    To add to the mystery, he soon realized that the crypt around him had been braced before the hole was made.

    Could some Decepticons have survived and stayed on Cybertron? If so, what could they be up to?

    Silently cursing his potential misfortune, he unpacked his climbing gear and his two Mark-17s. Then he secured his pack and started to climb down.

    For several levels there weren’t many posed warriors here at all. Just empty space. But five levels down there were lots. Most had fallen off of their pedestals and were jumbled about. He stopped climbing to look around. Hundreds of Decepticons.

    He examined one.

    His name had been Questcom, a Group Sergeant in the 3rd Corps. Two decorations. He served–

    Quin paused in his thoughts. How could he know that? He looked around at the nearby chassis. Each had a name. As soon as he looked at their badges he knew them for who they were. Or rather who they had been.

    “Maybe it was a ghost I heard.” he sighed as he looked around, “So, one last job, one last service for Cybertron? I guess so.”

    If he was hearing voices from the Allspark, how far away from it could he really be?

    Since the hole wasn’t the result of Unicron’s attack, he decided to work his way deeper into the crypt by walking instead of climbing.

    He made careful notes of the condition of the crypt along the way.

    Mostly it was just jumbled Decepticons, thousands of them, but every so often his scans would find evidence of real damage: cracks in the walls; uneven floors; tilted columns. But in each and every case it looked like repairs had been made.

    Which was madness!

    The debris of ages was everywhere undisturbed. In many cases his foot prints were the only discernible break in the shimmering, powdery dust that covered everything

    Of course the most bizarre fact was that his scanners didn’t even detect the dust! They claimed the whole place was dust free. Even managed to detect residual power in the dust-repellent features of the crypt’s construction.

    Another inspiration.

    He unpacked his stash and a portable mixing set he’d brought with him. In a sipper he added equal parts mineral oil, enhanced energon and some select granulated minerals. Then he gathered up some of the dust and added that too. He capped off the sipper and started the agitator up. A moment to chill in the portable rig and it was ready.

    The iridescent fluid looked normal. He took a sip.

    It was almost too sweet to bear. He slammed back the whole sipper to find the sour. Held the mixture for as long as he could to give his highly refined sense of taste a chance.

    “It’s cybertronium.” he said as his face contorted.

    Quin looked around. The dust was pure cybertronium. The highest grade possible. Why couldn’t the scanners detect it? Was the crypt repairing itself?

    Out of curiosity he took a nearby Decepticon, called Tracer, and put him back on his pedestal.

    Rather than just sit still and wait for who knows what, Quin started setting up other Decepticons on pedestals. He arranged two dozen in ranks, as if they were waiting inspection, before he returned to Tracer.

    Tracer’s feet were secure to his pedestal. The dust that wouldn’t fuse him to the floor had firmly mounted him there. Moreover, neither the pedestal nor Tracer were dusty any more.

    The tomb wasn’t just trying to repair itself!

    Quin reeled from the revelation.

    He watched in silence as the same happened with each of the silent company that he’d restored.

    “What kind of a place is this?” he wondered out loud.






    For over a day, Quin probed the crypt until he came across the cut hole once again. Only this time there was evidence of a real collapse. The level below was much deeper than all the ones he’d been passing through. It looked like there was a great mound of debris below, like looking at the bottom of a sink hole.

    He thought he saw a glint of red from below as his searchlight pierced the darkness.

    “Well, I’m here to investigate damage.” he allowed as he started looking for a place to secure his climbing gear.

    After he had descended he found himself standing on a mound of clutter: broken chassis; broken pedestals; structural bits. He spent a moment taking in the feel of the place before he brought his light to bear on the red glint he’d seen.

    He was looking at a face. A face as tall as Optimus Prime. A face attached to a massive and badly damaged form that dwarfed even Omega Supreme.

    “Maximus.” Quin stammered – falling to his knees in horror and reverence, “Prince of Cybertron. Heir of Primus.”

    He felt the wall within him crack a little.

    It made no sense. Compared to this figure Megatron was a mere petrorabbit. If there had ever been Decepticons like this then how could there even be living Autobots at all? Maximus was ... had been–

    Quin shook himself out of the moment and stood up: whoever this Maximus was, he’d known him without seeing his badge.

    Yet he had no doubt that, were he to dig he would find it, that very badge. A badge as tall as he was.

    Had they been right all along? Maybe he’d been a “Spy?” How else could he even know about Maximus and believe, from his very spark, that he was Primus’ heir?

    “No,” a voice of resolve, “I’ve never betrayed anyone!”

    He was only a spy, not a Spy.

    “I’m sorry, Great Maximus, but I have to see.”

    He climbed up on top of the massive warrior, adjusted his lamp, and lit up the darkness.

    Before this moment he’d walked past thousands of Decepticons.

    Now he was staring at tens of thousands at a glance. Most were still standing up.

    Primus!”






    Quin wandered about the massive chamber for days. Along the way he stopped every so often to drink a toast to certain warriors ... as if he was remembering his friends.

    Something within him wanted to go back to the surface, to Iacon, and bring them here to this place. Here was something totally inexplicable. Truth, whatever that truth was, was here for the taking.

    But what could he possibly claim about this place, about them, that he could prove? He didn’t even know what it was that he wanted them to see.

    They would just see an army of dead Decepticons and their terrifying, but equally dead, leader. They’d be happy.

    He stopped wandering when he found a wide path that looked promising. Decepticons were posed many ranks deep on either side of the path. They were meant to be viewed from it. In his mind he calculated where it came from.

    He laughed: “Of course! Right past Maximus himself!”

    When he finally reached the end of the chamber the path became an equally broad ramp that led down.

    Quin froze still. Just off to his left was a small side chamber. He couldn’t see it, but he knew it was there just the same. He ran. Ran down the ramp through several twist and turns. Ran halfway towards the middle of the chamber below Maximus’.

    When he finally stopped running, it was because he was trembling so violently that he couldn’t run anymore.

    He sank to the ground where he was. Without even thinking about it he uttered a tirade of curses against Alpha Trion so foul that he just didn’t have anything else to compare it to. He didn’t even know he had it in him.

    After he became silent, he broke out the mixing kit and put together the most bitter mixture he could remember how to make. He sipped on it till the raw emotions within him subsided.

    Then he lay down and stared up into the darkness. Names and faces appeared before him there. Four sons and a daughter. He remembered taking them away from Vector Sigma. Endorsing the transfer of his hard earned wealth to pay for their frames.

    Now, only Kup remained.

    He closed his eyes, but they were still there. They were always there in the darkness. They and one other.






    With a sigh, Quin rolled to his feet.

    The funny thing was, that old A-3 was about the only Autobot who really believed in him. If it hadn’t been for Alpha, no one would have trusted him.

    Why was he so mad at his friend? Did he even want to know?

    He shone his lamp all around.

    Here too were uncounted Decepticons. But they had been tossed about in a most unusual way. Some were laying neatly on their side facing one way. Others just by them were facing the other way. And rows in between that were jumbled about randomly. Yet here and there were whole rows of warriors still standing proud. He whipped out his scanners and found patterns of stress with the same strange pattern. As if the whole level had stretched elastically before snapping back to shape.

    Which begged the question of why the level above was so undisturbed?

    He focused his light upwards and got his answer: the ceiling above was massively reinforced. Further down the path, towards the center of the room, he saw huge support piles too.

    “I guess they weren’t taking any chances when they put Maximus up above.”

    Of course, the strange jumble he was seeing here didn’t bode well for the levels below him.

    Still, he had a job to do....

    He came across doors on the far side of the piles in the center of the chamber.

    They were ornamental, massive, and thankfully open. All along the walls on either side of the doors were ripples of color caused by stress induced phosphorescence in the alloy used. He could see the shimmer of that cybertronium dust everywhere.

    The chassis on the other side were posed and jumbled much the same as before.

    An hour later he came across a set of strobe lights that still shone brightly down on a slab of red Iaconian granite. A tiny form laid out for viewing on top of the banner of Cybertron.

    Quin stood over him for a long time.

    “Megatron.”

    The name just didn’t fit. For the very first time he wondered if he was even looking at a Decepticon. He walked on.

    But he felt like something within him was breaking. Or maybe it was breaking out?






    Quin wondered why he hadn’t noticed that the piles upstairs under Maximus had themselves been forced down? Looking at the partly collapsed roof of this chamber he thought it should have been obvious.

    He was directly below Maximus. The roof here was not just deformed but actually broken like shattered glass rods. Beneath the roof’s shattered structural members was the unbroken form of another massive warrior. Though this one was only as big as a Guardian Autobot. Like Megatron, he too was laid out on a slab of red Iaconian granite.

    He walked around to where he could see this warrior’s face.

    Quin began trembling again, but not from anger. This was the sixth face he always saw in the darkness. Once again, he needed nothing to tell him who this was.

    Father!”

    Instead of sinking to his knees as before, he ran forward and began removing debris from the giant Combaticon. He knew he could do nothing about the roof, Artemus the Magnificent’s chassis was the only thing holding it up.

    Even in death he was indestructible!

    As he cleared out what he could the wall in his mind dissolved.

    He was an Autobot because it was an Autobot who had gone to Vector Sigma that day. But when he opened his eyes the face he saw was this face. It had been very irregular, but Artemus had deemed it necessary for at least some Autobots to have the very finest chassis then available. Brexas, the Autobot, had gone in Artemus’ place so the sparks would be Autobots like himself and not Combaticons like their real father.

    The memory made him laugh: how could he have forgotten?!

    He worked for hours till only the roof beams remained. Then he walked around this King of Cybertron, this friend of Primus, to inspect his work.

    “This isn’t the ‘Decepticon Crypt.’” he muttered when he was really sure he was right, “This is the Combaticon Crypt. And this is Artemus’ own tomb. I’ve passed through Megatron’s and Maximus’ tombs too. All Combaticon tombs.”

    He really could remember. With Artemus here there was nothing that could maintain the wall of silence that had banished even living memory from his Cybertron. He could remember friends. Battles. Games. A whole life.

    Death too. He leaned against Artemus when he remembered death. The way they had all been before the rain....

    For a moment his rage against Alpha Trion swelled anew, but he forced it back.

    It was one of so many things that had built that wall in the first place.

    “I’m free, Father. You freed me. And my name is Quintus Ray. The fifth of five brothers and your Autobot son.”

    Now he was ready to go back to Iacon! He had so much he could tell them. Alpha Trion and a few others would back him up 100%. Then they would come to this place and set all of Cybertron’s heroes back like they deserved to be. They would perform repairs and lift the weight of the world off of Artemus’ chest. Maybe even draw Artemus’ other sons home again. It would mean an end to the war.

    Quintus Ray was absorbed in his vision for hours, the way things could be, before he gathered up his pack and started back.

    But as he set his foot on the ramp going up he felt it tighten again in his mind. He cried out.

    What could he possibly tell them if he couldn’t prove it?

    Artemus was all the proof he needed.

    Maybe all the proof someone like Alpha Trion would need too.

    Still, he knew the walls within them could never come down without independent, verifiable proof. Because the wall wasn’t a wall at all, but a firewall.

    And the ultimate irony was that he knew exactly who was responsible for it: the dark gods who lay at the end of this long and winding path he was on.

    “I can’t tell them.” he sobbed, “I can’t bring my brothers home. I can’t end the war.”

    Slowly, he walked back to Artemus.

    At least here, he knew the truth. Knew who he was.

    Maybe they would come looking for him?

    “Father, do you mind a little company? I can keep you from getting lonely.”

    He was much younger than he’d imagined possible – which made Kup’s crusty old soldier routine all the more laughable.

    Someone would come. He could wait in stasis for millions of vorns if necessary. And when they did come ... maybe he would find a way to convince them, or find some way to corroborate his tale that no firewall could deny.

    He set down his pack, got out his data plate and left them a message. Then he drank all his available energon, including his special stash.

    Quintus Ray then leaned back against Artemus, closed his eyes and slept.
     
  2. DarkScreamer

    DarkScreamer Active Member

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    great story keep it up. i relaly wants to know what happened to Quintus Ray. :) 
     
  3. Rurudyne

    Rurudyne Well-Known Member

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    DarkScreamer ... I thought about what you said and there might actually be a way to move forward with Quintus Ray that I've not even considered before. I've got to think about it some though....
     
  4. Rurudyne

    Rurudyne Well-Known Member

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    Part 3: Ghost



    When does life end?

    If you believed the old operational files it never ends. Your spark eventually gets recycled by the Allspark and you pop up as someone else ... provided you performed your function in life properly, of course.

    But is that really continuing to live?

    Is the you that will be then still the same you that you are now?

    All his life he’d known about the other. It wasn’t some fleeting spark memory. It never faded. It never changed. From the moment he was aware of himself the other was there too.

    Proud and assured. Commanding and in control.

    The other was all that and more.

    It was also dependent, easily cowed, subservient and helpless.

    To its peers it had been their commander. The best of them all in a pure meritocracy.

    But to its much larger commander it had been nothing.... Nothing that had been torn apart in an instant of horrific pain.

    That’s what he remembered. Standing their proudly in front of his warriors as they awaited their glory. His glory! Yet still dreading even a momentary glance of another greater than he.

    But in all his life he had never remembered that there had been pain at all, much less what that pain had been like, till he felt it again. Or rather something like it. This second time it had consumed his form, a form composed of plasma based matter. Consumed him like an Earthling insect thrown into a flame.

    Plasma fires had always seemed so remote a possibility. There were safe guards aplenty. But safeguards can’t protect you against the power of the Monster in the hands of a vengeful old friend.

    But, memory continued even when the pain had subsided.

    Only then remembering was all he could seemingly do. After he had stumbled around and fallen backwards into cool darkness, he staggered about and interacted with things that he could neither fully touch nor fully ignore.

    “I’m a ghost.” he finally said once panic had subsided.

    Nothing else seemed close to what he was experiencing. Nothing but that odd human concept. He wasn’t a disembodied spark. However he knew that to be true: he HAD known it to be true. It just wasn’t the same.

    Which obviously meant that he’d been recycled at least once in Cybertron’s long history and he just couldn’t remember it.

    Which kinda answered the question about when a life ended.

    In that state he had wandered around in the cool dark — moving to where it always seemed warmer even if it was never warmer when he got there — and morbidly compiled essay after essay on comparative metaphysics between Cybertronian and Earthling just to have something to do. Just to have something to keep his mind focused and sharp. He soon gave up on berating his always minimalistic research into this or that human philosophy of existence. Actually understanding humans had never been the goal at the time and it was of no value now to simply act as if it should have been!

    One thing he found though was an odd symmetry — at least now that he was finally concerned about something other than manipulating humans through their superstitions and tribal jealousies. A little of something like the Allspark in things otherwise completely unlike the Allspark. A little something totally unlike the Allspark in things otherwise completely like the Allspark. It was as if there was something about Earth that was trying to be Cybertron even as something else were pulling it in another direction entirely.

    He had been trying to cobble together a masterpiece of deductive reasoning towards that very end when his world became topsy turvy again and bounced around him.

    He was actually quite relieved that it did!

    It had seemed like maybe twenty, or even thirty, Earth years had passed. It was getting harder and harder to fight against the fear that he really was some lonely ghost now. That the Allspark was somehow beyond his reach. He had on one occasion even found himself pitying those luckless, sparkless humans ... of all absurdities!

    Then the dust settled. Literally.

    Somehow his awareness of the darkness all around him had begun to change. There was a shimmering that seemed to cling to him and for the first time since that day he could just barely make out his own form. He could hear too — mostly sounds like intermittent ventilation or sometimes something falling. His mind raced to understand what could possibly be happening till another day when he saw a face....

    “Quintus Ray?” Starscream wondered if he’d finally stumbled on the Allspark, “Is that really you, Quintus Ray?”

    Ray looked around in confusion. Demanded to know who was there.

    “This isn’t the Allspark.” Starscream told himself, “And Quintus Ray is alive?... Interesting!”

    He followed the brilliance of a living chassis through the darkness for a while — barely suppressing the temptation to mess with Ray’s mind by going “Boo!” or some human-like nonsense.

    It really was Quintus Ray! But why was he wearing his Autobot badge where he used to wear–?

    That opened up all sorts of interesting possibilities too.

    Then he saw the Autobot do something that didn’t make sense at first. He was moving as if lifting heavy and bulky objects. Then he seems to be operating a small machine. His face winced and he sputtered: “It’s cybertronium.”

    Starscream looked at his own ghostly outline. He held his voice box in check.

    “I’ve somehow been converted into a standing plasma wave!” he silently crowed, “If this is ... then I must be....”

    Inference and deduction: he began making sense of what had happened to him. He was in Kaon. Far away from Iacon where he had ‘died.’

    He followed Quintus Ray around for a while till the Autobot started a long climb down, as if from ropes.

    He didn’t follow Ray, but began retracing his steps. All of them.

    Starscream finally had something to consider besides comparative metaphysics!






    The restored Starscream had been wandering around the crypt in Kaon for weeks now, tracing and retracing once lonely steps that disturbed the ever present cybertronium dust. As dangerous as Cybertron was for him just now this had been the one question, and possibly an opportunity, too big to ignore.

    Just where in Primus’ name had Quintus Ray wandered off to?

    Absolutely nothing about the Autobot’s grand scheme to restore Cybertron was being done in secret. Or at least that’s the way it seemed. They even broadcast on unsecured channels that one “Quin” had gone missing in Kaon. They had repeated the call for any information about his whereabouts several times.

    It almost made Starscream wish they hadn’t killed Iron Hide on that shuttle. He would have loved to have seen the Autobot go into histrionics over the current state of Autobot security. Not that “Galvatron” was any better for being there for the Decepticons! Such raw entertainment value.... But still not enough to keep him away from Cybertron.

    He had found Ray cozy up against Artemus the Magnificent. He was in stasis. There was a note on a data plate with instructions on how to wake him.

    The question then became: why?!

    Which was why Starscream had been retracing Ray’s steps so very carefully.

    “Memory.” he finally allowed as he stood over Ray again.

    With that figured it out he paced and paced around Artemus and Ray for hours in contemplation. Whatever it was that had kept Ray here, Starscream just wasn’t feeling it too. That meant ‘Plan B.’

    He set about examining the Autobot. The next mystery was his badge. Why had he moved it? Was he hiding something else? If he was then there were so many possibilities open for the Decepticon Air Commander. If not....

    He carefully disengaged the badge and lifted it away.

    Nothing. Just armored carapace.

    Starscream sighed “Old ‘Plan A.’” and tossed the badge aside.

    “It seems you don’t get to wake up, old friend.” he stood and took careful aim, “I guess this is good bye for real.”

    Then it caught his eye. He turned from Quintus Ray and picked up the badge — now ‘fluffed up’ like disengaged badges always were. The back of the badge wasn’t uniform.

    “Sneaky little actor!”
    [​IMG]
    Within the confines of the Autobot badge was hidden the glossy black badge of a Seeker. Encoded subcommand grade S-1.... Which was annoying!

    “I was only an S-3!” Starscream accused, “How–! ... Never mind.”

    Of course Ray would be the one to make good. Even if Comdec had always been properly ambitious.... Funny how he hadn’t thought about Comdec in all this time. What if Comdec could somehow be inexplicably alive too?

    Starscream bit his lower lip in an effort to keep calm.

    The Vulpax was supposed to have been lost with all hands. Yet two of those missing hands were here, intact before him. Interesting....

    “I’ve been promoted many times since we last served together. No fault there.” Starscream crooned confidently as he replaced the Seeker badge to its rightful place before flicking the Autobot badge over his back, “And it would seem there may be previously unexpected possibilities in the works!”

    The Seekers. Were they still there? Somewhere? All he needed to do to find out was to be patient and renew one old friendship. How best to proceed?

    Starscream picked up the smaller Seeker and began preparations to safely revive him.
     
  5. Rurudyne

    Rurudyne Well-Known Member

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    A NOTE ABOUT THE SEEKERS​

    If you haven't read any of my Genesis story, the Seekers were not just folks like Starscream. They were a branch of Cybertron's military and merchant spacey. Possibly the easiest way to describe them is to imagine a Federation Starship with a crew of sneaky humans, trigger-happy ferengi, and klingons with advanced law degrees.
     
  6. DarkScreamer

    DarkScreamer Active Member

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    it's really cool so far and it seems like starscream is gonna do somethin to Quintus Ray sooner or later... i mean he doesn't seem to like the fact he is an S-3 and Quin is an S-1. Well i'll just have to see what happens. :) 
     
  7. rerunwatson99

    rerunwatson99 Well-Known Member

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    good story rurudyne...its definitely got some depth into it.
    i haven't read your other fics yet, but i will!
     
  8. Rurudyne

    Rurudyne Well-Known Member

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    Part 4: Memory



    Quintus Ray felt the trickle of consciousness: “They came for me!”

    He suppressed his excitement and checked his chronometer. Only a few years had passed? Much better than he’d believed, but not what he’d hoped for.

    He opened his eyes.

    There was Artemus brilliantly lit up by strobes. He looked as if he’d been polished recently.... Was A-3 here too? There were red eyes lighting up a backlit shadow between Artemus and himself.

    “I’d offer you an infusion, but your filtration protocol that you jury rigged to help you hold down that much energon didn’t work exactly right. We’ll need to purify what I drained from you.... And then we can get hammered!” a once familiar laugh.

    Ray pushed away from the shadow and fumbled for his weapons.

    “Ray,” Starscream was smiling, “do you really think I’d leave you two Mark-17s to shoot me with?”

    “What do you want, Decepticon?” Ray spat.

    “I must confess my surprise that you have two.” Starscream continued as if he’d not heard the question, “As I recall these were very, very expensive.... And not just for being produced in only limited numbers as they were.”

    “Why should I tell you anything?”

    “Just to remember.”

    Ray couldn’t argue with that: “One was a gift from Artemus. The other had been Powertech’s.”

    Starscream brightened as he examined the two weapons: “So, I’m guessing the one with the low serial number is the one that Artemus gave you,” he held up one pistol — a jewel of satin black, “and this one was Powertech’s.” he held up the other, a plain chromed steel example.

    “Yeah.”

    “Legal testimony confirmed. I will vouchsafe your memory for that!” the Seeker smiled and held the weapons out.

    Ray started to take the pistols but pulled back: “You’ll what?!”

    “I said I’ll vouchsafe your memory. That’s why you stayed here, isn’t it? So you could remember? Something about this place lets you remember.”

    Ray examined his hands and said nothing.

    Starscream sighed as he stood up: “To loose your mind like that.... That must have been horrific, to say the least.”

    “I’ll never become a Decepticon!” Ray thundered as he regained his feet.

    “So what!” Starscream’s eyes narrowed dangerously, “Who’s asking you to?”

    “But you said–”

    “Is everything about the Decepticons inherently bad? Ray, at least we remember! Many of us, at any rate.” he sighed again, “I’ve seen a few too proud or too paranoid to ever trust another again succumb and loose important bits of themselves. Though I’m guessing that ‘Quin’ had lost more than just a bit. If you want to think of it this way, all it is, is people bearing legal witness of what you tell them before hand so they can confirm it later in court. A tidy little loop-hole that enables you to remember what you told them as well.... Provided you tell them enough of the right sorts of things and keep it all consistent. Leave out important details about the Cybertron you knew, or ever change your testimony if you’re in my packaging, and it will all unravel just the same. I’ve seen that too.”

    Ray laughed to realize that a cornerstone of the Decepticon way was honesty, if only so–

    “Why tell you? I can tell someone else!”

    “For the Autobots it’s all after the fact — already too late. They have to have a reasonable chance to remember for themselves or the trick doesn’t work.”

    “What about Alpha Trion? I could bring him here–”

    “He’s gone. Merged with Vector Sigma.”

    “Gone?!” Ray couldn’t believe it, “When?”

    “Years ago. How do you think the Aerialbots got made?”

    “No one told me about that....”

    “Ray, it’s pretty much a Decepticon or no one else. Do you want to ever leave this place?”

    No one had even bothered to tell him!

    “If it makes you feel better, I’m in need of a new memory partner too. My old one ... well, he’s gone.”

    Starscream got a bemused smile.

    “You don’t seem to miss him.” Ray accused.

    “I can still remember, Ray. What it was like and why. Knowing that you can remember helps me too. Ray, I don’t want to forget who I was or where I came from. Forgetting seems harder on Seekers than for most others.”

    “It ... it doesn’t work quite like that.” Ray stammered.

    “You’ve really been there and back!” Starscream almost seemed sad — he wasn’t smiling much right now at any rate.

    Ray nodded as he remembered the feeling of that wall starting to slam back down.

    “Why would you trust me, Screamer?”

    “I’d never trust an Autobot.” Starscream crooned, “But a fellow Seeker?” he pointed at the left side of Ray’s chest.

    Ray looked down. His Seeker badge that he’d refused to give up and yet hidden from prying eyes when he’d returned to Cybertron. Something else he’d forgotten about!

    “Of course,” Starscream’s voice became deathly serious, “I’d much rather you not wear this thing while we do this.” he was now holding out both Mark-17s and an Autobot badge too, “But if you insist I’ll somehow manage.”

    Ray took the badge and his weapons.

    He looked at the badge intently. He’d worn it since he was a just boot. For some unknown reason he remembered standing in front of a mirror trying to figure out where it looked best....

    He holstered the guns and put the badge in a leg compartment. No need to antagonize Screamer. Besides, once they had done this the odds were that the Decepticon couldn’t chance killing him. Not if he were already in a position of not being able to turn to another Decepticon. And he could always crawl back here if it ever came to that other possibility.

    “Thanks, Ray.” Starscream seemed actually grateful.

    “So, what do we do?”

    “Well,” the larger Seeker sat on the ground, “since this place is your refuge of memory, I’ll go first.”






    Ray swirled around the cup and took another sip. Despite the improvised filter they’d worked up and tweaked time and again, there was still a faint trace of cybertronium in the infusion.

    “Probably from the cup.” Starscream allowed, “Cybertronium gets in everything.”

    “So that it’s then? I can leave this place?”

    “Yes and no.”

    No?!”

    “There’s one more thing we have to do to make sure this works for both of us. We have to go to one of several worlds where a Court authorized under Primacronian law still operates and enter our testimony into a preset list of case files that address everything from a suit to revoke redaction to personal matters. Once we do that we’ll input a special sequence of appeals and counter appeals disguised as an ordinary barrister program that Shockwave designed. It assures that no case file ever gets to an active docket. I’m hoping that you’re still in good standing too since we can’t, for obvious reasons, give testimony about each other’s lives while the other is there.”

    Ray instantly understood: by entering “evidence” they were placing everything about the other in public records; but, since every aspect of the “evidence” contained personal information too these “public records” were also sealed. Not even a Quintesson would unseal them until the proper time. Neat and tidy.

    Even some of the things he’d told Starscream, that the Seeker couldn’t possibly have known for himself, didn’t represent any real problems. Shockwave had designed the system to take advantage of legal penumbras, if you could remember big public things then you could remember lesser derivative things too. Starscream knew essentially everything about his personal life, but not nearly so much about his professional. No loose ends.

    For either of them.

    He reveled in actually being himself for a change! But better to play dumb and let Starscream fill him in on the details for now.

    “Yeah, I’m good. But where are we going to find a court like that?”

    “Actually, they aren’t uncommon even if no one besides the Quintessons actively employs them. The Galactic Bar was always flush with funds so any Central Court had ample endowment to operate till the end of time if it came to that.”

    “Operating off of the interest?”

    “Exactly! Most were already automated with only minimal maintenance staff when I was a just-boot.”

    “I remember that much. So, Shockwave’s little protocol really bogs the system down enough so that the case files never get to docket?”

    Starscream smiled: “Better than that! Each sequence of automated appeals consumes more processor cycles than the last. It’s nearly exponential progression. A living judge could work through it in a matter of hours given a little common sense, but court computrons have to follow the procedures to code level. You have to realize how many Decepticons there were even when this war began. Also remember that the court can’t even consider if someone is dead or alive without there first being a hearing.”

    “Here’s to gridlock!” Ray took a long, bitter hit — he had already revised his notion that Decepticon memory relied on honesty, “One thing I don’t get though, Decepticons still do this?”

    “It’s mainly for experienced warriors. Most see it as a rite of passage. Punks like the Stunticons openly speak against the practice. The Predacons act like they’re above such ‘petty concerns.’... Losers!”

    Ray nodded in genuine amusement: “So where do we go?”

    “First we need to leave Cybertron together and stay together until we are actually heading to our destinations. It goes without saying that we’ll need more energon than we have. Once that’s taken care of I have a small shuttle hidden near the old military college. While I go to Terranoir you can take a second shuttle I’ve got at my base and go to pretty much any world you want. Autobots are unreasonably popular just now. Then we meet and exchange case file information as well as confirmation materials about our process to docket. Once those are filed in our own systems we should both be free and clear.”

    “Then I can return to my life?” Ray asked.

    “Well, you could always call me up every now and again. That station gets lonely.”

    Ray nodded like he was sympathetic. It’s good to be an actor. Starscream had brought this on himself. Considering all he’d told him it was a wonder that Megatron had tolerated him that long!

    Best of all, he, Quintus Ray, was back! Not Quin. Not some Autobot with a mere knack, but an Autobot who really knew his stuff!

    “Funny thing though,” Starscream said as he stood up for the first time in close to a year, “all this time you were working against us on Cybertron and living at Cashways–” he laughed, “I can just imagine the consternation among my fellow Decepticons if you had ever used those guns of yours!”

    “Limited payload. Limited range.” Ray explained as he stood up.

    “If you say so.”






    Starscream watched Ray closely as they started up. The smaller Seeker– The Autobot seemed to drag his feet ever so slightly when he stepped on the ramp up. Admirable bravado in the face of a thankfully unknown-to-Starscream horror.

    Quintus Ray’s memory refuge was in Artemus? No wonder he had responded so badly to his condition. Once Artemus had been made to be forgotten how could he even remember who he was? But he’d managed to pull through much better than Galvatron was doing right now.

    They spent days leaving the crypt. Mainly because Starscream wanted to put on a show of removing clutter from Maximus or else setting once important officers back on their feet like they should be. He even showed reluctant interest in Ray’s suggestion that they investigate where the Combaticon Megatron’s lights got their power. Once, after Starscream commented that no one had yet to perform any of the survey work that Ray had been asked to do, Ray questioned if maybe the Constructicons wouldn’t be interested in returning to Cybertron to repair the crypt.

    “They would be out of action for years.” Starscream pointed out.

    “They would be lifting the weight of the world from Artemus’ chest. We could bring all his sons home with them.” Ray confessed.

    Starscream acted as if that would be great. Not as great as if Ray could have done it years ago on his own, but tolerable good still. What purpose did this war really serve now anyway?

    But for the rest of their time on Cybertron, even when they were “liberating” some energon reserves that Ray’s old team had stockpiled, he was desperate to find a way to keep Ray from doing just that. There had to be something he could engage him profitably with instead of peace? Something somewhere in all that he had told him?

    Aside from that, Ray was the perfect memory vouchsafe. The Autobots weren’t going to hurt one of their own. And the Decepticons would probably never find Ray out if either of them had anything to say about it. And if someone was luckless enough to not get the drop on the spy? Well, there weren’t many Decepticons that the Seeker would really miss that much.

    It also meant not having to rely on poor old Wildwind who lay in stasis inside a reinforced chamber deep below Iacon. Starscream’s little insurance policy, a pawn best left unplayed, that Megatron never even suspected. Not even on the day the Seeker threw him out of Astrotrain.

    Starscream smiled at his private joke. How was Galvatron’s madness treating him these days?​
     
  9. Rurudyne

    Rurudyne Well-Known Member

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    I removed the link to the outtakes from Webworld. I had used it to try to indicate approximately what was going on elsewhere in the cartoon at this point in the story; however, having more than one time reference (re: the earlier link to part of Starscream's Ghost) seemed problematic enough that I wanted to check my memory against the Wiki.

    What I found is that — this story now stands in late 2008 — is that seasons 3 and 4 were more compact than I remembered them being (A personal Homer moment. I mean, Daniel doesn't grow up even by season 4. Should've been obvious.). Quin's survey happened in 2005 (after the movie), and Starscream returned a little over 2 years later before the Return of Optimus Prime. They were isolated for a while thereafter.

    As a result, they've been out of the loop.

    Which is actually better for my purposes and this story. :) 
     
  10. Rurudyne

    Rurudyne Well-Known Member

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    Part 5: Alabaster



    Ray had been curious about Starscream’s base since he’d first mentioned it. Now as they were on approach he saw how it could be tagging along with Cybertron’s drift through the stars and still not be something worth noticing. It was a collection of old ships that had been lashed together after decommissioning and stripping. Once upon a time such hulks had been sent to ... sent to ... the planet of Junk–

    He sighed. He felt more and more like Quin. It was so hard to keep the past straight. Still, he was sure that after Megatron had somehow fired Cybertron’s engines the practice of rafting old ships started up. Once there were hundreds of rafts like this one drifting along in Cybertron’s wake. This one was so far back that it was still years away from passing obliquely through Sol’s Kuiper belt.

    Starscream had cut power to the engines and shields earlier that day. Now they had slowly caught up with the raft just with their momentum. In particular: a space-battered heavy transport that looked like it had once been a sparkling white liner, judging from hull style and bits of enamel that were still intact.

    “What are the accommodations like?”

    “Alabaster has the very finest in neo-garbage renaissance decor, just as you would expect. But looks can be deceiving.”

    “Sounds like home.” Quin confessed.

    “I noticed.... No offense meant.”

    “None taken.” Ray shook free of the old himself.

    “Hopefully no squatters have moved in.”

    “It’s been a while since you were here. Any chance we could use the sensors?”

    “Useless at a power setting we could employ without detection. Even before going to Earth in Nemesis, I had picked this raft out and carefully moved material around to Alabaster and a few other hulls. She has functional passive sensor baffles as a result. It was to be my home away from home. I never got around to addressing mech comforts, which ended up being for the best.”

    “So what’s with the maps?” Ray had noticed Starscream’s interest in local space charts.

    “The ... raft is out of position relative to Cybertron. Nothing much to worry about, though. At least not right now. Probably some salvage operation adjusting its trajectory so they don’t have to deal with the star system’s debris belts.”

    “No change in the raft’s mass?”

    “None.”

    As their shuttle slowly closed the distance, Ray went aft to stargaze. He was running a Seeker version of an old astronomical calendar of the sort that hardly anyone used these days. It was providing designations, sometimes even names, for every star he could see. Some of the names ... he could almost swear they seemed familiar. One name stood out from the others: Sondal. That’s where he would go.

    After several hours ‘alone’ there was the soft thud of docking clamps and Starscream called him forward. He had pulled up a diagram of the raft’s busy network of passages and open bulkheads and already laid out an inspection tour. They were going together and were not to split up under any circumstances.

    With no gravity they covered the stable raft in little time. There was evidence of an intrusion in one half destroyed troop transport, but no one was there. Finally Starscream led them to another shuttle bay on Alabaster that looked like it’s doors had been punched in. In reality these hid the second shuttle from prying eyes. It was a beautiful ship’s boat that actually bore the liner’s crest.

    “I’ve always liked to ride in style.” Starscream confessed.

    “So I see.” Ray observed as he examined the shuttle’s interior.

    It was the same type as the other, but still bore the trappings of opulence that tickled the corners of Ray’s memory of Cybertron.

    Once the shuttle was free of its moorings, Starscream retrieved its power core from a nearby hiding place. A few easy connections and the shuttle came to life.

    “Welcome to S-yber Spacey!” a cheerful femme voice sounded, “Your ticket to adventure!”

    Ray groaned.

    “It’s part of the ambiance.” Starscream smiled.

    While the recorded voice regaled them with the joys of life on the Alabaster, an “elite experience for the masses,” Starscream used chemical thrusters he’d retrofitted to the ship to move it to the other side of the liner where the other shuttle was docked. Once the two were aligned and clamped together he used the still talkative luxport to set both drifting away from the raft.

    “Well, while we drift far enough away to avoid detection, lets go over our respective itineraries. Have you picked a planet or do you need me to provide you a destination?”

    “Sondal. It isn’t nearby, but that can have advantages.”

    Starscream smiled knowingly: “Terranoir isn’t a short hyperspace jump away either.”

    After drifting for fifteen days they had reviewed all of the materials needed and downloaded their respective barristers into matching data rods.

    As the shuttles uncoupled, Ray found himself staring at the Decepticon on whose shoulders his whole future seemed to hang. His past too.

    “Small wonder Shockwave got himself disbarred!” he laughed just to have something to say.

    Starscream waved him on before turning away.

    “Right, fly straight and true to Sondal.” he turned back to his own shuttle’s plush command chair.






    Sondal was a Cybertronian type world that had once been an ally against the Quintessons. An odd bit of information that no one had ever bothered to do anything about. As a result, Ray’s memory seemed better as the planet came into view.

    Even so, he was glad that he had gone out of his way to approach from a different vector than if he was coming from Cybertron. These people had obviously fallen on hard times. No telling what their current political situation was like.... Even though he seemed to have recalled contact having been reestablished.

    He was almost in orbit before anyone took notice of him. Three old style space fighters rose up to meet him and demanded that the Alabaster fall in line — or else. Ray happily complied and provided all his registry information from when the liner had been brand new.

    “Your registry is suspiciously dated.” the lead pilot flatly accused.

    “Alabaster hasn’t been home in a long, long time.”

    Which was true.

    “Nor have I.” Ray added after a moment, which was not.

    He took his Autobot badge and placed it on his right side just where Artemus had put it. This move revealed his Seeker badge on his left. Ever since the crypt he’d tried to hang onto what had happened to the Seekers and why he had returned to Cybertron; but, all he was sure of was that the Seekers were still out there somewhere and that they were doing something awfully important. Sondal might be just the kind of place hospitable to Seekers like himself.

    As they approached the military base to which he was being led, the lead pilot told him to remain in the ship until he was given permission to leave by the civil authorities. As expected, the luxport landed flawlessly on the parkway, a feat announced by the cheerful voice of an autopilot utterly clueless about where it was and what it was doing.

    Soon a small party of soldiers advanced on the ship and demanded entry.

    A black bright-chrome mech seemed surprised to see a Seeker.

    “Subcommander, I am Thal-6.” he said after a long moment, “What brings you to our world?”

    “I have business with the Central Court, Thal-6.” Ray hid his pleasure that his rank had been recognized, “A matter of evidence submission which, I’m afraid, will occupy me for some time.”

    The mech seemed surprised again and glanced between Ray’s badges.

    “Do you have any weapons to declare?”

    “Yes, two Mark-17 pistols, an energy sword, a half dozen low yield grenades and a legendary assortment of bad jokes.”

    “Transformation modes?”

    “None.”

    That really got their attention! Starscream had acted the same way — to discover that Ray had been such a prude. He’d laughed it off then by saying that by the time flying transformations were available he couldn’t afford anything he actually wanted. Which pretty much satisfied the Seeker.

    “I see, you have been away from Cybertron for a long time.”

    Ray nodded sadly. No need to hide it: he really had been away after a fashion.

    “I’m looking forward to going home once my mission is finally complete.” he tossed in one of his contingency tactics just in case the authorities thought he might be about to go Decepticon on them, “I hear tell there’s even a new Prime these megacycles.”

    The mech hesitated at hearing the archaic time unit referenced.

    “I’m sure we need not worry about Cybertron, she’s in good hands with Optimus Prime.” the mech smiled broadly.

    Not Rodimus? Ray didn’t miss a beat. He blinked hard and put his fist on his hips.

    “Optimus? What happened to Sentinel?!”

    The Sondalan laughed and led him away after he had retrieved his pack from overhead storage.

    Ray kept in the conversation as he was quickly brought up to speed on his own world’s recent history as far as the locals knew, information no more recent than some “local troubles” that Thal-6 wouldn’t go into. Ray was suitably outraged and expressed frustration with his own inviolable orders to go to the Central Court.

    But he knew they had to have known better. Something was decidedly wrong here on Sondal. He didn’t trust these people even as much as he trusted Starscream.

    Which wasn’t much.
     
  11. DarkScreamer

    DarkScreamer Active Member

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    great story. keep up the good work. Can't wait to find out what happens. :) 
     
  12. Rurudyne

    Rurudyne Well-Known Member

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    Part 6: Terranoir



    Starscream didn’t expect much from Terranoir’s space traffic control since the planet was essentially dead. That he got a living traffic controller at all could only mean that Demarcon’s off and on again status as a pirate’s den was more ‘on’ than ‘off’ these days. He wasn’t really interested in Demarcon at all, but needed to be in the old capital on nearly the other side of the planet. Still, requesting landing clearance at the capitol would draw unwanted attention to himself. He was going to be staying in one place for an unreasonably long time on a world where Decepticons might frequent — if only to take in a little sport.

    “Cybertron shuttle,” the traffic controller interrupted his thoughts again, “you are clear to land for inspection in bay B-33. Please remain with your craft until you have permission to disembark.”

    “Why, I wouldn’t dream of doing otherwise.” the Seeker crooned.

    They were only interested in Autobots with a chip on their shoulders about pirates. Still, no sense in being overconfident. Starscream had already employed a masking tech he’d learned vorns ago that had reversed his normal color scheme. He was modulating his voice too. As far as anyone was concerned, he was ‘Starfury’ — a Seeker of no particular merit whose death wasn’t common knowledge.

    Once on the ground, an assortment of armed locals soon made an appearance and searched both Starscream and his ship. That it was actual Terranoirians performing the task was surprising and worrisome all at once. It was ... different to see these people taking an interest in standing up for themselves against the criminal element, but who or what was backing them in those efforts? They rarely displayed such metal without serious backup. He should spend some time in Demarcon rather than just transfer to air traffic control and proceed to the capitol.

    After having him declare his weapons and transformation modes, the locals gave him a tracker token to carry at all times and left. Starscream looked circumspectly at the token. It was emitting a steady coded message based on permutations of 21, which meant that it was tied into a global positioning system with 21 hubs. Very elaborate for a place like Terranoir.

    And disturbingly similar to an Autobot system he knew of.

    “I wonder which Autodolt is in charge?”

    ‘Starfury’ locked up his ship and set off towards the heart of the dilapidated town.






    “Frankly Decepticon, I don’t care why you’re on Terranoir or how harmless you claim to be.” the Autobot ‘in charge’ vented with nods of approval from his equally lackluster companions, “If the locals are willing to let you run around then feel free! But I’m still sending a report to Iacon.”

    “Of course, Beachcomer. I wouldn’t expect anything less of a valiant enemy whose hands are tied for the moment. If it makes you feel any better I’ll be staying in one particular place in the old capitol for some time. That way you can send many reports to Iacon about my non-movements.”

    “I have better things to do than spark sit wayward Decepticons.... So, Starfury, unless you have anything productive to suggest why don’t you go hang out with your friends down in Pirate Town?”

    “Really? Who’s in town?”

    The obviously miserable Autobot rapped on his right thigh in frustration before sighing: “Octane, a couple of minis and some Laserbeak clone called Lightwing.”

    “I’m sure Lightwing will be pleased to be compared to Laserbeak since she has always looked up to him.”

    “Like I–” Beachcomer stopped himself, “Duly noted.”

    “Well, have fun with your reports, Autobot!” ‘Starfury’ beamed, “I’ll go check in with my brethren.”

    “We’re watching you.” he said matter of factly as the door opened.

    “Likewise.”

    “The incompetent fools!” Starscream silently fumed as he walked away, “If Lightwing is here then Tonedeaf can’t be far away. That would make the minis Pusher and Fanservice. What is Octane doing with them? Was he still in trouble with Galvatron?”

    He ran over possible scenarios in his mind. Had Octane somehow redeemed himself enough to be given a slag-job? Possible. Or maybe Tonedeaf had found him while he was on the run and taken him in? More likely. Soundwave’s foppish protégé was a big concern too. True, he had never been all that Soundwave had wanted, but he was his father’s physical equal by design. That meant he was a dangerous mech.

    This was intolerable!

    Either Decepticon would sell him out to Galvatron if they knew who he really was, and it was likely that Tonedeaf was one of the few who knew of the real Starfury’s demise. He needed to get to the Central Court quickly without meeting other Decepticons.

    He’d barely covered a city block alone in his thoughts when he stopped in his tracks.

    “Hello, Lightwing.”

    “Do I know you?” came the reply.

    Starscream turned to see something like a large Cybertronian vectorhawk peering at him from the gutted roof line of a building — a much more elegant form than what her brothers had been willing to pay for. Her optics were blazing bright red, which meant she was ready to fire on him at a moment’s notice.

    “We’ve met.” he used his real voice — he had decided to give Tonedeaf a chance. Maybe he could be useful?

    Her optics narrowed in comprehension.

    “Fanservice!”

    In response to Lightwing’s command, a femme about the size of Rumble or Frenzy jumped down to street level. As she did her arms transformed into oversized impellers nearly too large for her form and her feet grew to help stabilize her should she need to use them.

    “It’s been too long, my dear.”

    “I don’t recognize the color scheme, but the face and voice I do know.” Fanservice growled, “What do you want here traitor?”

    “Fanservice, you wound me! I’ve never betrayed the Decepticons.”

    “Really?” Lightwing challenged, “Throwing Megatron out into space? Or how about selling Cybertron out to help Unicron?”

    “Megatron was mortally wounded and everyone knew it! You could smell the ionization and carbon scoring from his spark containment, for Primus’ sake!” Starscream balled a fist at her as he emoted defiantly, “As for Unicron, I got the better of him! I would have never let him take over Cybertron. Don’t challenge me on this one birdie: unlike Megatron, I got the better of him!”

    “Fair enough.” Lightwing allowed with a chuckle, “It seems I still know how to press your buttons.”

    Starscream looked around. The street wasn’t busy, but everyone had stopped in their tracks and was gawking. The Seeker cringed, he might have well danced about singing: “Look at me, I’m Starscream! Why, I bet Galvatron would throw a party in your honor if you turned me over to him!”

    He was considering if he could kill every last witness without anyone getting away when Lightwing hovered in front of him, apparently intent on landing on his arm.

    Which she did once he’d held it out for her.

    “Don’t worry about them. They have no love for Galvatron around here.”

    “Nicely parsed.” Starscream allowed.

    “Follow Fanservice. And please remember that Pusher has her crosshairs on you even as we speak.”

    “My dear Lightwing, I would never do anything to upset Pusher.”

    “I’m sure she still has that list of hers, if you want to debate it with her, Screamy.” Lightwing positively laughed as she flew away.

    Great! The sniper still held a grudge.

    Starscream turned to follow Fanservice, now returned to her ordinary form.

    She led him to a part of town that was better looking than the rest — Pirate Town, part of the unusual reversal of conditions that was Terranoir. The respectable parts of town weren’t the good parts of town.

    It turned out that their destination was the old docks that were at the center of Pirate Town. For a long moment Starscream took in the lovely sight of the still bright red Cybertronian Ship of the Line — Obliteration. Outwardly intact, she had been salvaged to her hull long ago after the ancient warship’s engines broke in ways that Cybertron’s impious leaders wouldn’t foot the repair bill for. Over the vorns she had been used for storage, for palaces, as an embassy, and even as a public library.

    “You’ve taken over Obliteration?”

    “I wish! Other tenants have her.”

    Fanservice led him to a smaller ship sitting in Obliteration’s shadow. It was the Autobot shuttle that Megatron had built in secret some years before Unicron’s attack. He had used it to help train a select team for an unstated mission that turned out to be his attack on Autobot City. Odd thing though, the shuttle, which had never been more than a mockup, still had no engines. So how had it come to be here?

    “I never expected to see this again.” he allowed as he walked up the boarding ramp.

    “And I never expected to see you again.” a familiar voice rumbled, “Nice repaint.”

    Starscream turned towards Octane and brandished his biggest, friendliest smile.

    “No time for chit chat!” Fanservice actually commanded them, “Take his tracker token. He’s got a date with the boss.”

    “Typical Autobots:” Starscream laughed as he dropped the token in Octane’s hand, “honor system!”

    “Welcome to prison life.” Octane chimed.

    “What did he mean?” Starscream asked after they had walked forward towards the bridge, but stopped in the middle of a corridor.

    “He means that you’re never leaving.” Tonedeaf’s jovial voice answered for Fanservice even as bulkhead doors closed, sealing the corridor around them.

    Starscream looked around, no sign of his fellow Decepticon.

    “I didn’t think that you could become invisible.”

    “You recall right.”

    The area around them began to move down.

    “This simply won’t do!” Starscream thundered, “I have important business with the Central Court! I don’t care what you’re up to Tonedeaf–”

    “I don’t care that you don’t care.” the voice from everywhere announced, “Your Decepticon friend simply picked a poor partner and will just have to suffer for it.”

    “He’s not a Decepticon.”

    It dawned on Starscream that he had a token of his own that he could play. It sure beat risking his life in a pointless struggle with Tonedeaf.

    “Are we helping Autobots now?” Fanservice was shocked.

    “Yes. No. He’s a Seeker. From the old days. He needs my help.”

    The elevator came grinding to a halt and one side opened.

    “Tell me more about this Seeker, Starscream.” a familiar voice droned dispassionately.
     
  13. DarkScreamer

    DarkScreamer Active Member

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    uh-oh i wonder who the "familiar voice droning on is" it's either megatron or some crackup. well whatever, great story so far and keep it up.
     
  14. Rurudyne

    Rurudyne Well-Known Member

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    Part 7: Missing



    “My analysis of this crypt’s structure is conclusive, Optimus. It would have been able to have shielded both Quin and Starscream from the plasma energy release. Furthermore, it is highly probable that they didn’t even notice the event.”

    “How is that possible, Perceptor?”

    “Speculation? Given the facts at hand, this so-called crypt would appear to be a living component of Cybertron and part of the very same mechanism that includes the plasma energy chamber itself. Spectrographic analysis of the energy patterns we have observed in its details reveal that this structure is slowly repairing itself by means of power derived directly from the plasma energy chamber even as we speak. The amount of energy so derived is not substantial in terms of the plasma energy chamber’s potential; but, it would be more than adequate to power all of Iacon and the surrounding districts. I am simply at a loss to describe how that energy transfer is happening. The only clue is this odd, plasma reactive dust that would seem to cover most everything we see. It must be an integral component of the repair process, but because it fails to register on my scanners its final nature is eluding analysis. There is also the matter of these ... dead Decepticons....”

    Jazz turned away from the huge warrior whose chest was propping up the ceiling when he heard how rattled Perceptor was. Like those who had voiced their opinions so far, Jazz’ own first impression was that the Decepti-jerks had taken over some sacred precinct and planted a little dry-rot in Cybertron’s bones. But then they discovered what happened when you set one of these fallen warriors up pretty for all the world to see. The place reminded him of that Chinese emperor’s tomb with all the clay soldiers. Only these were all too real; and, some of them, like the one behind him or the ginormous example they’d found earlier, were genuinely grim.

    Perceptor had recovered his wits and continued his analysis, but Jazz wasn’t interested. He’d read the Readers Digest version later. What titillated the Autobot was that, for some unknown reason, Quin had stopped right here. The same with Starscream the not-quite-dead. Why had they both stopped here?

    Walking around the reclining giant, the path beyond was clear despite the dust of ages finger tip deep like the grime under Wheeljack’s workbench. Jazz reread the simple homily that Quin had left them on a data plate: “Artemus the Magnificent, King of Cybertron, Friend of Primus. Combaticon. Constructicon. Father. If you are reading this then I have been found at last. In the attached files you will find instructions on how to safely wake me. There is much I have to tell you if only I can.”

    But Starscream found Quin instead. Was that why he’d left Cybertron with him? He did intentionally trip his own silent alarm when they took energon from an old hideout. If only that old camp had been part of the central security net....

    “Why is it always the ones you don’t worry about?”

    “No one ever worries about us.” Mirage stopped setting up a warrior nearby, “Are you implying something?”

    Jazz gave him the eye — which would’ve probably been more effective if his visor were ever up. Mirage had come from Earth in the very same shuttle just to be here. No telling why since he hadn’t been ordered to the scene.

    “Quin would never turn!”

    “Hey,” the blue and white mech laughed, “Cliffjumper used to think I was up to no good too.”

    “Yeah, Cliffy always kept it surreal.” Jazz smiled wistfully.

    Was that why Mirage was here?

    “I never knew Quin.”

    “Loner. But he had the best music collection. Real old school stuff. And he knew it too! Quin wasn’t some casual listener just pickin’ up on a bad beat.”

    “So.” Mirage motioned towards the unknown, “Want to put our ‘no one worries about us’ status to the test?”

    “Looks pretty dusty.” Jazz confessed.

    Mirage ran a finger in the dust and wiped it away with a buffing motion. His fingertip was subtly brighter.

    “Don’t tell our verbose friend over there, but this is cybertronium.” he whispered conspiratorially, “Good stuff too.”

    “For real?”

    “He’ll figure it out eventually. Write a scholarly piece about why he couldn’t detect it even though he could see it.”

    “If there’s a pool, I claim 185 to 190 thousand words excluding hard math and foot notes.... Mirage, man, why were you ... well?”

    “Putting Decepticons up on pedestals? Maybe they don’t belong here? But maybe they do. That’s why I want to see what’s up ahead.”

    “Hey, Prime!” Jazz shouted out.

    “What, Jazz?” the harried leader called back.

    “Mirage and I are gonna take this road less traveled. It’s all good?”

    “Just stay in touch.”

    “And bring back any samples of unusual materials you may find!” Perceptor jumped in, “In particular I want you to look for–”

    More shopping list! Mirage had already transformed and was burning rubber. He left tracks of high polish on the floor. Cybertronium indeed!

    Covering ground as fast as they were, they quickly found another partition wall. Big fancy door large enough for that Artemus fellow to pass. Mirage stopped just on the other side.

    “Would you look at this one!”

    Jazz had to agree, the mech standing there was intimidating. Looked like he was about to punch someone the way he was posed. Bigger than Prime. Unlike almost everyone else posed nearby, he looked like he’d been able to transform in life.

    “Those could be wings. Maybe some kind of Seeker? Skyfire lite?”

    “Damned if I know, Mirage.”

    The black with green sub-giant was actually posed out in the path like he was standing guard. Jazz transformed and walked around him. Looked intently at the ‘con’s seemingly bemused expression that stopped with his silvered visor.

    “Whoever he was, he had style! Say, Mirage, this looks like a Kodak moment. Pose while I get set up.”

    Jazz tossed out his hovercam and had it position itself to frame them up nicely. Then he stood by Mirage in front of the dead mech.

    “Say ‘Limburger!’”

    “Just take the picture.”

    The hovercam popped off a few shots from various angles before dutifully returning to its owner.

    “That’s something for the boys to analyze back home.”

    “Why not build more like this guy?”

    Jazz looked at the dead mech, then back at Mirage: “Who says they didn’t?”

    “That’s not funny....”

    This time Jazz took the lead. Transforming while Mirage was still gawking at the unknown type.

    He stopped only a few thousand yards down the path.

    Just off to the left past a dozen rows of toppled minis was another giant like Artemus. But this one had an Autobot badge. It wasn’t the first Autobot badge they’d seen since coming down here, but everything that had one before this one was so badly beaten around that you couldn’t say for sure what it had been.

    Not so with this guy.

    Jazz stepped around fallen Decepti-creeps to get a better view.

    “A Guardian robot?” Mirage asked as he closed the distance.

    “He’s like Omega Supreme.” Jazz corrected, “He was one of ours.”

    “So these things were trophies!”

    Jazz climbed up on an arm to get a look at the face — which was gone. It had been blown apart. Whoever put him here had draped a black with silver fringe cloth over the gaping hole. That same someone had left a marker on top of this one: “Division Commander Praxicon Supreme: A willing slave for the service of Liberty.”

    “Praxicon Supreme.” he informed Mirage.

    “I had no idea Omega had a brother.”

    “He doesn’t talk much, if that’s what you mean.”

    Mirage laughed before opining that someone should tell Omega about Praxicon.

    “Maybe so.” Jazz allowed as he had his hovercam take pictures of the giant.

    “Jazz, what do you think it means: that Artemus was the ‘King of Cybertron?’”

    “I’m more interested in his being ‘the Magnificent’ ... that’s not something people just throw around. Optimus the Magnificent would work. Rodimus would’ve only qualified for ‘the Great.’”

    “You’ve been watching too much History Channel on Earth.”

    “A fella has got to keep himself occupied!”

    “So what about Galvatron?”

    “Galvatron the Lame.... Or maybe Galvatron the Mad if I was feeling generous.”

    “Which you aren’t.”

    “Nuff’ said.”

    Jazz scanned the huge chamber from his vantage point. There was a side path that ran parallel to the main one. He pulled out a lamp and lit it up.

    “Missing.”

    “What?” Mirage demanded.

    “There’s a whole mess of bodies missing over there.”

    ”Missing over where?” he began climbing up to where Jazz was.

    Jazz stepped up the magnification on his eyes to get a better look. The dust had been disturbed everywhere over there. You could tell because of the way it sparkled under bright light. Folks had been moving around a lot.

    “Jazz to Optimus!” he activated his comm link.

    Static.

    “Frag me.” he whispered.

    “What now?” Mirage asked as he was scanning the place that Jazz was still lighting up.

    Jazz synced with his hovercam and downloaded the images they’d been taking.

    “Frag me!” he repeated with greater force.

    “What?” Mirage asked Jazz’ back.

    The Autobot had already jumped down and was making his way to the path. Once there he transformed and started eating through his gears.

    “What?” Mirage demanded as he caught up.

    They were approaching the partition wall. There was no big Decepticon standing in the path.

    “You bastard!” Mirage emoted as they drove past where he’d been.






    “You know, I’ve always found it comforting when two of my best warriors come screaming onto the scene, transform and start pointing weapons back the way they just came from.” Optimus was trying to sound positive.

    Dawn of the Dead or Texas Chainsaw, Prime. Take your pick.” Jazz informed.

    “We are not alone.” Mirage echoed.

    “I’m sure they are tweaking our audio receptors, Optimus.” Perceptor announced, “After all, Jazz is a well known–”

    Optimus raised a hand to silence the scientist: “Autobots, take defensive positions.”

    He casually strolled over to stand between Jazz and Mirage. His weapon was ready.

    “Is there a problem?”

    “Unknown Decepti-goon, Prime. Big one too! And something was jamming our communications.” he tossed him the hovercam, “Second to last folder. The last one’s messed up too. We’ve got one Praxicon Supreme, Omega’s long lost brother and a ‘Division Commander’ over this lot.”

    Prime inspected the images. Handed the hovercam to Perceptor.

    “A very advanced design.” the scientist allowed after a few minutes, “He could be based on the Nova Wing series, so at least he’s not Unicronian. I suppose we should be glad for that much.”

    “‘Nova Wing?’” Mirage whispered to Jazz.

    “Later.” Jazz whispered back.

    “He did look rather pleased with himself.” Optimus pointed out, “But I still don’t see how this qualifies as a Dawn of the Dead scenario?”

    Jazz silently cursed himself for not getting any pictures: “There’s also evidence of body snatching. Or maybe they started walking around on their own. We came across it after we met up with gruesome.”

    “I thought you said he had style?” Mirage accused.

    “Optimus,” Jazz’ voice was haunted, “what are the odds that someone could bring this army back to life?”
     
  15. DarkScreamer

    DarkScreamer Active Member

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    body snatching? ewww! That's kinda disguting but still a very good job. well done and keep up the good work. :) 
     
  16. Rurudyne

    Rurudyne Well-Known Member

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    Part 8: Deposition



    Ray noticed it the instant he logged on to the terminal at Sondal’s Central Court.

    His own chronometer was out of sync with galactic time. Not by much, but just enough to get his attention. Since he hadn’t uplinked to any external systems since before Kup had met him in Kaon, it followed that the cause was to be found in these last few years. Had Starscream done something to him while he was in stasis? Possibly, but the missing time was inconsequential. There wasn’t much the Decepticon could have done with it.

    Just to be safe, Ray set his subsystems for a high level self diagnostic while he got about performing his duty as an officer of the court.

    “I hope you’ve brought enough energon to see you through.” Thal-15 — Thal-6’s nearly identical younger brother — said as he dropped onto a bench not far away.

    “It isn’t necessary for you to stay.”

    “We all have orders to obey.” the Sondalan soldier shrugged, “You really can’t transform? I’ve never met anyone from your world who couldn’t?”

    “Well, you’re young yet.”

    The automated court clerk was guiding him through the preliminary steps with remarkable speed for a system that was supposed to be bogged down as a matter of course. He uploaded the first of the series of suits and appeals on Starscream’s behalf.

    Waiting for a Magistrate.” the clerk program intoned.

    “Good luck getting one soon.” Thal-15 had leaned forward, hands on his knees.

    “I never really thought much about it.”

    “About what, sir?”

    “Transformation. I’d always agreed with an old friend of mine. She said that changing into a thing was somehow improper. And that was before people started coming into this life with the ability to turn themselves into an autoloader or street cleaner or some other utilitarian devise. For some reason, people just didn’t realize going in that for future generations it wasn’t going to be what was fashionable, or neat, or sporty, or even moderately desirable that determined who changed into what. Rather, it would often be what was convenient for the guy paying for your chassis, how he wanted to use you rather than what you wanted to do.”

    “Well, they were paying for it.”

    “Sure, up front. I don’t know how people do things around here, but on Cybertron the first thing you got was a bill for the chassis.”

    Thal-15 seemed stunned.

    “I take it you didn’t have to pay?”

    “No sir!”

    “Good for you. Autobots stopped handing just-boots a bill-of-sale ages ago.”

    The monitor before him was still displaying a wait screen. Starscream had told him that after 50 astroseconds he could pull up an alternate screen and enter his depositions as messages for the court rather than with the computron’s magistrate directly. It was part of the carefully choreographed scheme.

    “Say, I’m going to get things moving along here. I hope you don’t mind.”

    The privacy screen closed and sound baffles started working.






    Ray had been at it for a day before he was called on to offer the first of several motions to the court to expedite the matter of Starscream’s service status in public record. The motion was actually a delay tactic designed to keep the computron’s magistrate busy — just in case one was at hand — while he filed a long winded suit that questioned the legality of the redaction of public records. At precise points in this entry procedure he entered another series of motions to the court.

    With things bogged down nicely for the moment he finished bringing the suit and started working on the files to appeal. After the first appeal was set, before the judgment against the suit was even made, he uploaded the first of five barrister programs — which were available only because the magistrate was also automated.

    Days passed and his energon stores began to be noticeably depleted.

    He was sure glad that he could do this with a sync rather than have to speak or type all his depositions. If he couldn’t do that, then he would have been sitting here for more than a year. More than enough time for a court magistrate to show up before he was done with the whole mess and things really go wrong.

    It would be another week, Earth time, before Ray had completed all the required steps at their appointed time. He was essentially running on fumes.

    With nothing to do but wait for the magistrate and upload the master barrister program, he opened the privacy screen in hopes that Thal-15 was still there — just to have someone to talk to.

    “Wow, you’re back among us!”

    Ray waved at the Sondalan, who was still sitting right where he’d last seen him.

    “So you were saying that Autobots no longer make newly manufactured mechs buy themselves? When did that change?”

    Ray blinked hard. Where did that come from?!

    He thought back.... Oh yeah, they had been talking about that. He tried to remember if the practice had stopped before or after he was supposed to have left Cybertron on his ‘secret mission?’ Had he ever mentioned a set date of departure to these people?

    “You are persistent.”

    “So are you. The magistrate put in an appearance yet?”

    Ray shook his head.

    “Want to get in on the betting pool?”

    “Primus help me: no!”

    Thal-15 laughed: “Say, there is something you might be able to help me with.”

    Here it comes!

    Ray readied himself: “Sure, name it.”

    “Well, I was wondering if you could tell me if you’ve ever heard of an Autobot named Quin. We got a transmission from your people and they are looking for someone whose description is similar to yours. So I was thinking Quin and Quintus Ray: maybe you knew him.”

    “I haven’t been home–”

    “In a long time. I know. We haven’t mentioned you to the embassy because of the nature of your mission.... Apparently being a secret mission, not that I actually know what you’re doing.... Of course.”

    Ray smiled at the stumble bumble approach, either Thal-15 was very, very good or completely on the level.

    “I did know a Quin once. But I haven’t seen him since I left Cybertron.”

    “Do you want me to contact your embassy for you?”

    “No.” Ray practically sighed.

    They had taken the time to establish an embassy here? This far away? What a waste of effort when there was a war to fight. As for Thal-15, he obviously wanted to know more about his mission. Which just wouldn’t do at all.

    “As for your other question, the practice stopped not long after the Great War started. At least according to this one fellow I met some time ago. The Decepticons started promising remission of debts for recruits and the government wasn’t about to be outdone.”

    “Could they really do that?”

    “No, neither of them could. Not legally. It was probably a strange time.”

    Ray remembered something that Starscream had said: “or ever change your testimony if you’re in my packaging”.... Was that how the decepticon ranks grew so fast? It occurred to him that this process could just as well be used to create a new identity provided all the details were consistent. If it had been used that way, then what of the old identity?

    Could that also explain all the disappearances that the old government used to carry on about before they ran running in defeat to Alpha Trion and Sentinel Prime to save them from Megatron?

    “You seem preoccupied.”

    Ray nodded.

    Was he remembering it the way it had really happened or was he remembering it the way that Starscream remembered it?

    “I’m sure they’ll find this Quin sooner or later.” Ray allowed, “No one ever really just disappears.”

    It had to be Starscream’s memory, or rather his deposition, that he was working on. There was no reason to expect that his own memory was fully there yet. So whose could it be except Starscream’s?

    Could that be the way the Decepticons viewed the Autobot alliance? As the government running in defeat to Alpha Trion and Sentinel Prime? That would mean that they hadn’t been part of the government before then.

    But they did command an army....

    Quin tried with all his might to remember if he’d even been on Cybertron when this happened.... Which meant that he probably hadn’t been. He could usually remember where he’d been. It seemed like he’d been serving on a ship at the time.

    He looked over to the youthful Sondalan sitting there with an eager expression on his face. So what if these people were up to something? Maybe it was time that he was up to something too? But he would have to be careful about what he said.






    With barely 10% of energy reserves left, enough to get back to the ship but certainly not enough to get back to Cybertron, the Central Court’s magistrate finally showed up. Ray uploaded the last barrister program which promptly began working on the basis of one of his motions in cooperation with another of the five barristers. Once he was truly out of the loop, he downloaded process status for all case files to his data rod.

    “Is there any place around here to refuel? I’d like to continue our discussion somewhere ... nicer.”

    “Yes sir!” Thal-15 beamed.

    Definitely just some punk kid. Not an agent. So why had they been going on about Optimus Prime leading Cybertron?

    As they left the Central Court, Ray mused that he was also a very useful punk kid: working on the basis of Starscream’s deposition rather than his own suppressed memories was proving very enlightening indeed. It would be interesting to see how his own memories would stack up against the list of observations he was compiling on the basis of what Starscream had told him. Very interesting indeed.

    He had time too. Because he’d lived so much longer than Starscream had, his junior Seeker friend would still be entering data.
     
  17. Rurudyne

    Rurudyne Well-Known Member

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    Part 9: Pursuit



    Jazz paced the bridge of his Autobot cruiser as they were coming down into Demarcon’s space port. Beachcomer had kept them informed of Starfury’s whereabouts — still in the old capitol city on the other side of the planet. They had been receiving daily reports from Hubcap and Dogfight rather than relying on the tracking system alone, so at least it was good information.

    As for Terranoir’s other resident Decepticons, including Octane no less, they seemed as peaceful as ever. Or at least they never gave the locals any troubles.

    “We’re in a nebula.” Sunstreaker pointed out again.

    “I know.”

    “You could hide an armada in here.”

    “I know.”

    Sunstreaker and Sideswipe had been jumpy ever since that day in Kaon. The two of them and their special guest were bored too — not a good combination — and were starting to get on Jazz’ and Mirage’s last sensory elements. Especially when playing video games. He hadn’t kept track of how many controllers they had trashed on this trip. Even with beefed up circuitry, Wii Sports: Cybertron Edition was bad news in the hands of a Transformer.

    “Nice to know that thing is a junker.” Mirage pointed out the Obliteration, looming large over Pirate Town as it was.

    “I think she’s beautiful.” Sideswipe opined, “Prime should see about refitting her. I mean, with Scorponok out there somewhere we could use a real battleship on our side.”

    Obliteration looks too much like Nemesis for my taste.” Sunstreaker countered, possibly just to be argumentative.

    “Not bloated and ugly with no style.” Sideswipe shot back.

    “Enough with it already!” Jazz’ last nerve had been officially stepped on, “I don’t care about some old wreck!”

    “Sure thing, Jazz.” Sideswipe had the chutzpah to act innocent after all that had happened on this trip!

    “Mirage, inform Beachcomer to hold off on the reunion bash. We’ll scope out their Seeker first.”

    “I remember Starfury,” Sunstreaker pointed out, “he was too lame for even Starscream to consider his markings a worthwhile disguise.”

    “That’s telling it like it is!” Sideswipe crowed.

    “Lame or not, he’s been here since just after Starscream skipped Cybertron.” Jazz stopped pacing and sat down.

    “New course already set.” Sunstreaker informed.

    “Speaking of ‘lame.’ Jazz, you never got around to explaining what a ‘Nova Wing’ was.”

    “Not much to say. When I was factory fresh there was this museum of sorts in the basement of the old Expo Center. They had a mockup of something called a ‘Nova Wing.’ Said they were the last piloted space superiority fighters ever designed on Cybertron. The one I saw never entered service. Primus, that thing was neat-o!”

    “You’re not making me feel any better.” Mirage pointed out as he opened a comm channel to Beachcomer’s humble HQ.

    Maybe so. But Jazz wasn’t making himself feel any better either.






    “It looks like a perfect storm hit this place.” Mirage had told Optimus once they had pushed several levels deeper than where Quin had stayed.

    Jazz agreed. Unlike the levels above, this one had partly collapsed into what ever had been below it. Scarier still were the shapes they could make out beneath the collapsed floor. An easy eleven or twelve more giants like Artemus might be down there.

    They had been exploring the crypt in force for days since his and Mirage’s chance encounter. The popular theory was that he was a guard whose only concern was the crypt. Jazz wasn’t so sure — his B.S. Alarm was beeping. Despite the fact that there had been no new sightings, and maybe because folks weren’t worried much, Prime’s interest had been officially grabbed.

    Thus the ‘in force’ bit.

    Communications were a bust in this place once you were deep enough in, so they had relay teams set up to make sure they weren’t out of touch with the Cybertron of the Living. Blaster was “looking into it.”

    “We will definitely have to conduct a structural survey before we can go any further.” Perceptor informed, “We should bring in some hover platforms from Iacon so we can continue to move around without undue risk.”

    “Agreed. In the meantime, I want a full survey of the crypt above us including a census of all remains. I want special attention paid to any more areas where there are too many pedestals for the number of soldiers present.”

    Prime hadn’t used the term “Decepticon” since coming down here.... Most everyone had clued in. As for the missing soldiers–

    “They must’ve been shrimps, Prime.” Jazz pointed out.

    “Considering some of our friends, I don’t think we can discount minis.”

    “You know that isn’t what I meant!”

    “Jazz, I know. Believe me, I know. Besides that, some of those minis had been posed over Cybertron’s ancient crest.” Optimus stared out into the maw of uncertainty for long moments, “Jazz, I need you to put together a team to follow up on our leads, beginning with that sighting in the Proxima system.”

    “I have just the mechs for the job!”

    “You can have any ship you want.”

    “Mirage, you’re with me, man. Go find the Lambo twins and meet me at the docks.”

    “Sure thing.”

    Sunstreaker and Sideswipe could use some action and there was a honey of a cruiser just waiting for a good shake down cruise.






    “Beachcomer is miserable here.” Mirage pointed out the obvious now that Beachcomer was no longer occupying their view screen.

    “He volunteered for this gig.”

    “I think he’d be happier on Earth worrying about global warming.” Sunstreaker opined.

    “I thought it was ‘global cooling?’” Sideswipe turned to his brother, “You know, from when the space bridge returned Earth to a slightly wider orbit?”

    “Yesterday’s news. I overheard Lightspeed and some of his equally geeky human friends talking about how the plasma energy release is causing an unusually strong solar maximum cycle.”

    “Nothing goes as unplanned.” Mirage seemed to force back a laugh.

    Jazz silently thanked Primus that they’d not heard of Mayan doomsday prophesies.

    Then: “Beachcomer volunteered to lead this mission.”

    He took extra care to remind everyone that their slightly dodgy friend was the local commander.

    “Hey Jazz,” Mirage turned away from his comm console, “I’ve got Hubcap for you.”






    Proxima was an old scavenger's port of call. A collection of recycle stations and mining concerns that had been more or less tapped out before Cybertron wandered into this region of space. A fiercely independent population had resisted being drawn into any of Cybertron’s struggles despite various attempts even before the Ark mission had them all take that long nap.

    Economically, it had fallen on hard times since the trash it had to sell wasn’t nearly as good as what Wreck-Gar’s Junkions had available to them. Their main commerce these days was actually with humans who liked the low, low prices for raw materials and no fuss about environmental regulations to get them.

    Devcon had reported that some locals had seen Starscream in the company of an Autobot. He’d been able to confirm their presence from a distance, but they were settlement hopping so he’d yet to get close.

    “We’ve got company.” Mirage reported, “Devcon wants us to open the door.”

    “Or I’ll open it myself!” the Autobot’s gruff voice announced.

    Jazz nodded. Why had Devcon given up?

    The blue mech came pounding down the hall in a most unstealthy way.

    “Problem?” Sunstreaker accused as he turned in his chair, “How’s Slizardo these days?”

    With a guttural growl, Devcon turned on Sunstreaker only to find him ready for a fight.

    “Damn!” Jazz stood up, “Can’t you two learn to play nice?”

    “Hey, Devcon,” Mirage stepped between them, “First tell us why you’re here and then go have it out.”

    “Starscream lit out of Proxima in a ship faster than me.” he handed Mirage a data crystal, “The details are here.”

    “Thanks.”

    “Don’t mention it. ‘Streaker, rec room?”

    “Don’t mind if I do!”

    “I’m sorry,” Sideswipe apologized after they left, “I thought those two had worked this out.”

    “My poor little game box, I hardly knew you!” Jazz pouted.

    “I’m more worried about the furniture.” Mirage confided as he dropped the data crystal into his station, “This IS a new ship after all.”

    “I’ve got the data.” Sideswipe had taken Sunstreaker’s post, “Initiating course correction now. Best speed.”

    “What’s their ride like?”

    “J-class merchant with uprated engines. Maybe an old Q-ship.”

    “At least,” Jazz silently consoled himself, “we out gun’em as well as out run’em.... Quin, why are you tagging along with Starscream? What’s he got on you?”

    Even with Devcon’s data, it would be hours before they had a firm trail to follow. Days before they had visual contact.

    “Is it just me, or does it seem like the Decepticons suddenly have energon to burn?” Devcon asked once they caught sight of the J-class.

    It was true, a prolonged chase like this seemed unlikely given that Starscream must’ve been on the run from Galvatron. If they had this much then why bother taking Quin’s stash? It would be a drop in the bucket for this mad dash. Something wasn’t adding up.

    “Mirage, contact our friends and tell them it’s pointless to run. Stand down and we can all save the energy.”

    “No response.” Mirage reported a few moments later.

    “Mirage, take over. I want to play before I have to replace all of my controllers.”

    “We’ll do.”






    Hubcap’s cheery face filled the screen: “Hey there! Just want to let you in on my research.”

    “Research?”

    “Yeah, Jazz! This place that Starfury is holed up in is an old Central Court for something called ‘Primacronian Law’ — a precursor to galactic law. It’s automated and rarely used. There’s apparently such a backlog of case work that it routinely takes a week or more just to get a magistrate.”

    “Which would explain the rarely used aspect.”

    “Yeah, but there’s more: unless you’re a lawyer or have legal council you can’t even defend yourself in one of these places, so I guess that makes Starfury a trial lawyer as well as a Seeker.”

    “That’s messed up.”

    “We can’t break him out. Until he actually leaves the court complex his personal freedom is assured. Do anything to him and the Terranoirians would be obligated to prosecute us.”

    Jazz sighed: “Any idea when he’ll come out?”

    “Could be any time now. A magistrate must’ve shown up by now.”

    “Are you sure he’s still there?”

    “Affirmative. According to what I’ve read he can’t leave until his business with the court is done. Well, I guess he could always hire another lawyer to represent him in his absence.”

    “About leaving the premises?”

    “His ship, such as it is, is here. So we’d have to give him a head start. Good faith respect for the court and all that.”

    “Start reciting the Code, we’ll be there before you’re done. Jazz out.”






    They had finally closed the distance with the J-class. Without a word, Starscream had pulled to a stop and extended his docking clamp.

    “No fight?” Sunstreaker sounded really disappointed.

    “This is Starscream we’re talking about here.” Devcon pointed out.

    Mirage announced that he was scanning the docking port for explosives or other traps.

    Jazz left Mirage behind as they boarded the J-Class. Dim red emergency lights. Maybe they were trying to save energon after all? He led the way to the bridge. The last door opened to reveal Starscream and Quin looking away from them, out towards the stars beyond.

    “Well, Starscream, you’ve led a merry chase. Quin, we’ve come for–”

    Wait, Quin was too tall to be Quin. The mech turned around. He was familiar, like Jazz knew the mech beneath the disguise.

    “Not exactly who you’re looking for.... Eh, Autobot?”

    “Who are you?”

    “Why,” the Seeker announced in a voice definitely not Starscream’s as he turned, “can’t you tell? I’m Starscream and he’s Quin.”

    “We caught their stunt-doubles!” the Lambo twins announced in unison as they started laughing.

    Jazz turned on his merry allies: “I did not catch their stunt-doubles!”

    Devcon looked confused. ‘Quin’ started roaring with laughter.

    “That’s me! I’m a stunt-double!”

    Jazz turned back: “I did not catch anyone’s stunt-double!”

    Except for Devcon and the Seeker, the bridge echoed with four boisterous laughs. One too many — from above and behind.

    “If you say so, chief!” ‘Quin’ was pointing to his own weapon, “But I’m afraid Runamuck has the drop on you.”

    Jazz cringed.

    “Hey, you know, you might still have time to find the real Starscream or Quin if that tub of yours can go to plaid.” the mech who was obviously Runabout announced.

    “You aren’t walking away!” Devcon growled.

    “Please, like we are your mission?” the Seeker laughed.

    “Return to the ship.” Jazz commanded.

    “But–” Devcon started to protest.

    I will not catch anyone’s stunt-double!”

    Primus! It will take vorns to live this day down!

    He pushed his cohorts back onto their ship and had a confused Mirage pull away and reverse course as soon as the docking clamp was disengaged.

    “Why didn’t you bring Quin?” Mirage asked as Jazz entered the bridge followed by the merry Lambo twins and one sullen bounty hunter.

    Sideswipe explained the joke to Devcon while Sunstreaker clued Mirage in. The bounty hunter was too upset about the Decepticons getting away to be overly amused.






    They had led them away from Terranoir. Based on that fact alone, it seemed obvious that the Seeker that Beachcomer had reported had to have been Starscream. Why was he spending time with that court, though? And where was Quin? Was he ok?

    Whatever was going on, now it was personal. Jazz wasn’t normally the sort to take things personally.

    They landed in the old capitol right next to a small warp shuttle. A drone attendant met them on the steps to the Central Court and escorted them to the waiting area where Hubcap and Dogfight were waiting.

    “He’ll have to walk past us on his way out.” Hubcap explained.
     
  18. Rurudyne

    Rurudyne Well-Known Member

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    Part 10: Confirmation



    Starscream finished uploading the master barrister program before he copied the process information for Quintus Ray.

    He thought about what Shockwave had told him and pondered if he really wanted to go along with “The Plan.” To do so would almost certainly mean some loss of freedom. At least for a while.

    On the other hand, he was genuinely interested in what Shockwave had proposed. What had Megatron been up to? Why did he abuse the kronosphere the way he did? At the time it had seemed like one more stupid misuse of precious resources. One more reason to be convinced that Megatron’s leadership was incompetent.

    But as Shockwave had pointed out, there had been lots of seemingly stupid misuses of precious resources down through these last few years, far too many to be dismissed as mere incompetence. Not that Shockwave had believed Megatron to be incompetent. Within his Terranoirian lair, he had lectured Starscream for his lack of imagination.

    “Pot, meet kettle.” Starscream grumbled at the memory, “I wonder if they’ve caught up with Duster yet?”

    He still didn’t see why Shockwave had thought it important that the Autobots know what he and Ray were doing. Didn’t that invalidate the whole reason why Ray was such a good memory partner in the first place? He was also confident that Ray wouldn’t like the attention either. Spies don’t like attention. Even attention from their allies.

    Still, it meant that he would have one Decepticon subordinate handy once Duster showed up on Cybertron looking for the boss. Duster’s ship too. Officially, his fellow Seeker was to have been working for him all along. Couldn’t you tell? They’d always had the same paint scheme.

    Only an Autodolt would fall for that line!

    But how was he going to sell it to Quintus Ray?

    Then there was the off chance that he would be there when Ray finally went looking for the Seekers. That’s when the real fun would begin. Shockwave must have sensed it too.

    Starscream opened the chamber and was greeted by the sounds of a conversation not far away. He deactivated the masking tech and reverted to his true colors.

    “Well, it would seem I have a fan club.” he announced as he looked into the waiting area, “Do I start signing autographs? Who’s first?”

    An Autobot named Jazz stood up: “Starscream, you are under arrest.”

    “For what?”

    “Misrepresentation: you lied to the Terranoirians about who you are.”

    “An easy enough case to make.” Starscream cheerfully confessed, “But since I’ve been a model guest during my stay, they may be forgiving. In fact, I’m sure they will be since I can claim that my life is in jeopardy from my fellow Decepticons.”

    “Where is Quin?” Jazz demanded.

    Quintus Ray is waiting for me at an undisclosed location. You may be interested to know it, but I’ve really been here this whole time as his lawyer.”

    “Pull the other one!” Autobot Sunstreaker complained.

    “Not at all!” Starscream smiled broadly, “Don’t you know that we are, all of us, under oath and subject to penalties for perjury just by being here? This facility is more than capable of detecting a blatant misrepresentation of my relationship with my client.”

    That one stumped them, though the small yellow mech seemed to be nodding knowingly.

    “So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting with my client that I need to get to.”

    “No!” Autobot Jazz said flatly.

    Strange, he didn’t remember this one being so very humorless.

    “You could bring charges against me, as you said, but beyond that you have no legal right to stop me from leaving on my own terms.... At all.”

    “Please excuse me if I don’t believe you when you claim that Quin is ok.” Autobot Jazz grumbled.

    “Believe what you will. I’m obligated to meet with him and provide him proof of services rendered. If you interfere you will be held liable to this court!”

    Starscream was discovering that he missed this part of being a lawyer!

    “That sounds about right.” the yellow Autobot sighed.

    Starscream glanced over to the drone attendant: “Do you have any problems with me completing my assigned duties?”

    No, Sir. Have a wonderful day!

    It was hard to not laugh on his way out. So why bother restraining it?

    Once he’d swept his ship for tracking devises — there had been several — Starscream boarded his shuttle and took off. He paused to watch the drone attempt to block the Autobots from entering their own, much superior ship.

    “Demarcon Space Traffic Control, this is Cybertron shuttle. I’m leaving the planet and have left my tracker token behind along with some unauthorized Autobot accessories.”

    “Confirmed, Cybertron shuttle.”

    “Also, I’ve been here on business with the court on behalf of my client and I need to confer with him. Would you please delay the Autobot ship so that they don’t attempt further interference with the business of this court?”

    There was a long moment of silence.

    “Confirmed, Cybertron shuttle.” the space controller sighed, “We will hold them here for one day.”

    “Very generous! Thank you.”






    Starscream cut the power to his shuttle as before. It looked like Ray was already back so, rather than slowly coast in for a day, he left the shuttle behind to land under autopilot. With his own thrusters running at minimum power he covered the distance in considerably less time.

    “Ray?” he poked his head into the secure portion of Alabaster, “Quintus Ray?”

    Ray called back to him from within the ship’s darkened interior. He found him in the remains of a gutted engineering bay that now served as Starscream’s own lackluster lab.

    “Any problems?”

    “Oh, just the same old same old.” Starscream smiled and held out Ray’s data rod, “My mission was a rousing success.”

    “Mine too.” Ray nodded as he twirled the matching data rod in one hand, “Though I can’t say this has made me want to hang out a shingle.”

    “Why not? We could form a partnership: ‘Starscream and Quintus Ray, LLC.’ Hire a few outgoing femmes for secretaries, maybe some private investigators–”

    “And do incalculable harm to galactic jurisprudence?”

    “Well ... it wouldn’t be fun if we didn’t.” Starscream smiled.

    Ray laughed.

    “Did you hear that Optimus Prime is back from the dead? I’ve been listening in on local comm traffic using your gear.”

    Starscream blinked hard. Optimus Prime was alive?!? Now Megatron’s failure was complete! No wonder Shockwave was finally willing to break with what had become of him.

    “I guess not.... Lets get this over with. I’ve been feeling way too much like Quin recently.”






    On Shockwave’s advice, Starscream managed to get Ray engaged in a quick highlights version of what he’d told him as a way of jump-starting his memory back to where it should be. He wasn’t disappointed when Ray mentioned the Ark’s departure. He patiently bid his time till Quintus Ray was done.

    “Say, Ray, there’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you and you reminded me about it just now.”

    “Sure. So long as it’s not classified.”

    “It probably is.” Starscream made a show of sighing, “It has to do with why Optimus Prime led the Ark mission in the first place. If I recall correctly, they didn’t actually go searching for energy sources, they went to get energy from Earth. I mean, they could’ve bought energy from Proxima with all the scrap lying around if all they wanted was energy.”

    “Your point?”

    “I remember reading the report that our agent had provided. It said that the Autobots were going to a place called ‘Earth’ to find energy.”

    Rays eyes narrowed and his expression became a mask.
     
  19. DarkScreamer

    DarkScreamer Active Member

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    uh-oh that doesn' sound so good but great story. they not sounding good is that last part about the autobots going to earth to find energy. hmmm. :) 
     
  20. Rurudyne

    Rurudyne Well-Known Member

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    Part 11: The Ark



    “I remember reading the report that our agent had provided. It said that the Autobots were going to a place called ‘Earth’ to find energy.”

    “An agent?!” Ray silently reeled.

    It took him a few moments more to realize all of what Starscream had said.

    “‘Earth?’ Starscream, that’s impossible!”

    “Maybe. Maybe not. Were you in the loop for what happened before that mission.”

    “I was in Tagon at the time. That was all Jazz.”

    Starscream nodded.

    “When Megatron learned that the Autobots were going to search for energy off world he pretty much blew the whole thing off. Then he discovered that Optimus Prime had someplace specific in mind. That’s when he became very interested.”

    Starscream paused as if hoping Ray would say something.

    “You see, our energon reserves weren’t nearly as critical as yours were. Still, ‘If there's a new source of energy to be found, the Decepticons must find it first.’ That’s what Megatron had said. But I don’t think he was really interested in the energy so much as he was interested in the source. He would’ve followed the Ark to Earth without firing one shot if only things had worked out that way.”

    “See, that just doesn’t make sense to me. I read the action report for that battle not long ago and the Ark’s sensors clearly detected a loss of power on Nemesis. I’m not buying that you Decepticons were ok for energon.”

    Starscream smiled and shook his head: “Ray, you must remember how old Nemesis was. She had been part of the Red Fleet, for Primus’ sake! Her power loss had nothing to do with a lack of energon.”

    “She broke?”

    “No comical ‘sproing’ noises if that’s what you mean, but yes, just enough to give the Ark a fighting chance. We figured it out after the fact. If he hadn’t died of non-mysterious causes in the meantime, Megatron had sworn that our chief maintenance engineer was going to pay horribly someday.”

    Ray nodded contemplatively. Starscream was driving at something but he wanted him to provide some critical piece of information or else he wasn’t going to come out and say it, whatever it was. And whatever it was, it had to be something that accounted for Optimus knowing that he was going to the “Earth.”

    “I remember that Jazz had sent out a probe before the Ark mission.” which was both true and the least newsworthy revelation he could possibly make.

    “Probes that were once made in Tagon, if I’m not mistaken.”

    “Slag me, you’re good!” Ray had walked right into that one. “Earth” was an improbable diversion tactic.

    “A probe wouldn’t provide the name of the planet, Ray.” Starscream observed, “Especially a name no one would use for millions of years.”

    “You’re serious about them knowing it was ‘Earth?’”

    “One probe was all they sent out.” Starscream pointed out what would be obvious if only more people had known about it.

    “So what’s your question? What did I say that reminded you of all this?”

    “You mentioned a space craft of unknown origin crashing in Iacon.”

    The one Jazz recovered?

    Ray started to connect the dots Starscream was laying out.

    “So what about it?”

    “One of the strangest commands Megatron ever gave was sending Astrotrain to the edge of the solar system to lay his hands on a specific human space probe. Megatron sent it to somewhere in the past using a piece of hardware called a kronosphere. That probe had a description of Earth’s location on it.”

    Ray stood up and walked around for a bit.

    “Are you saying that Megatron set the whole thing up? All of it? That makes no sense!”

    “Things weren’t going badly for us at the time.”

    “But why?”

    “I –don’t– know!”

    That much had to be true. Starscream was setting pretty on Cybertron before that mission. Given what he was claiming, the Decepticons could have had the reserves for at least one big offensive push too. With Prime gone, they could have taken out the Autobots that remained.... Had their best not followed Megatron to Earth instead.

    “I never saw the probe data.” Ray confessed.

    “Neither did I.”

    “But Megatron did?”

    “I don’t know. He might have. I had suspected that he had an agent in the Autobot ranks before then, but I wasn’t sure. Whoever it was, it was someone he’d cultivated personally. He sent us out to harass Autobots scavenging for low grade energy sources as cover for Soundwave checking up on the Ark’s status.”

    All Ray could come up with was that Megatron was protecting the time line, ensuring that events would go the way they had before. But that didn’t make sense! The Megatron he knew was his own master, it was his obsession and had always been so. He would have overturned the whole world to avoid being a mere protector of the way things should be. Wasn’t that the whole point of this war?

    Then there was Starscream. He’d actually been to Earth’s star system when it was only a number on the star charts. It was the mission that Skyfire– Ray remembered that mission! He’d been with one of the ships that found Starscream drifting through space.

    It was so strange ... to remember.

    “Ray, I want to know why he did this!” Starscream pounded a fist on a nearby panel with considerable force, “I can’t accept that he would ever consent to be a mere protector of history.”

    “You want me to ‘liberate’ the probe data.” Ray snapped out of it as he finally understood his part in all of this.

    No way he was going to do that! Now that he could remember, he also knew all sorts of completely novel and compelling reasons to oppose the Decepticons! Starscream in particular. That mission....

    Starscream sighed: “I can’t blame you for saying that. Really. No, what I want you to do is ask Optimus Prime if he’ll let me use what’s left of the kronosphere to go and see for myself.”

    You want to travel in time?” Ray was incredulous.

    “The kronosphere was badly damaged when Megatron attempted to send the Aerialbots into the distant past never to be heard from again. It probably can’t be made to serve as a conduit for more than a protoform, or maybe a spark protected within a critical plasma field. I can survive as either. It turns out to be a special gift that I have.”

    “And you think he’d just let you use it?”

    “I think he’d let you use it — if there were unanswered questions. For all I know, Prime may already have all the answers! But if he doesn’t, this may be the only way to find out.... Besides that, it would be nice to be able to tell my fellow Decepticons why they’re starving in hiding!”

    Ray had to admit it, it was a nice bit of acting: Starscream’s concern for his “fellow Decepticons.” Back in the day he hadn’t seemed nearly so concerned about Skyfire, his lifelong friend and mentor.

    “You’re asking me to just tell Optimus, point blank, what we’ve done?”

    “Ray, you will still not be able to tell anyone what they can’t possibly know for themselves. None of us have that kind of ... clearance. There will be times that it will feel like there’s a fist rammed against your voice box. But at least our memories are our own. You may be more than Quin ever was, but you are still no less Quin.... Besides, I have to confess something. When I didn’t report back in a timely fashion, my only reliable ally, Duster, took it upon himself to act like he and Runabout were the two of us. As a result, I had an encounter with your friends on Terranoir. I told him I was acting as your lawyer so they couldn’t stop me from leaving. That’s the sort of thing that grabs people’s attention. I may not have a home with the Decepticons right now, but that’s no reason for you to end up being an outcast too.”

    “Why would you care?” Ray grumbled.

    I don’t care about any Autobot. But you,” he pointed to the badge on Ray’s left shoulder, “aren’t an Autobot where I’m concerned.”

    Ray nodded.

    And he thought he understood Starscream’s interest too. Ancient Earth had been a remarkable world only for being covered in what was then called carbon-motor life. A very rare but essentially useless novelty. Otherwise ordinary as planets go. Just a blue and green rock in space with the one moon, circling an unremarkable star. Had something changed to draw both Optimus and Megatron to it like turbofoxes after petrorabbits? That’s what Starscream was after. It had to be!






    Ray determined that Optimus Prime was in Kaon — of all places.

    Actually, lots of his fellow Autobots were there. And they weren’t just anywhere in Kaon either. He’d really stirred up the cyberbats when he tripped that alarm! Strange how things still worked out even with Starscream’s friend running interference. Only this way Screamer didn’t know that he was partly responsible too. Which could have its advantages provided someone didn’t blab. One talk with Jazz should do the trick.

    He helped Starscream return the ship’s boat to its hiding place before they took the other shuttle far away from the raft, nearly half way around the system. Once there he made a call to Jazz’ ship on a scrambled channel.

    “I was told that you were looking for me.” he did his best to be cheerful.

    “Where are you?” Jazz demanded.

    “I think he’s upset.” Starscream whispered.

    “Starscream informed me about the encounter on Terranoir. I can understand why you’d be unhappy with me.”

    “That’s one bone to pick.” Jazz was very unhappy.

    “I didn’t know about Duster until he told me.”

    “That’s two bones.”

    “I didn’t want you to know about this.” Ray casually motioned towards the control panel to pantomime pressing a button.

    “THAT’S my wounded pride!” Jazz accused, “Man, why take off with that crumb-bum? If it was that important I would have backed you all the way. We have lawyers too. You do know that? Right?!”

    “This wasn’t just about law. Where do you want to meet?”

    “Is your friend with you?”

    “Sarcasm doesn’t become you, Jazz. But yes, he’s here.”

    Jazz transmitted the coordinates for a rendezvous and signed off.

    “I’m sure I don’t like being called a ‘crumb-bum!’”

    “Falls into the same category as Autodolt.”

    “Touché.”

    My, wasn’t Starscream being understanding today! Either he was really serious about this time travel caper or he was planning something bigger and better. He wasn’t going to dismiss either or both at this time.






    Ray had Starscream stay back in the shuttle while he met with his fellow Autobots.

    “Nice addition.” Sunstreaker seemed as ‘cheerful’ as Ray remembered Kup describing him.

    He ignored the glares from the red and gold mechs.

    “Jazz, did you ask yourself why I stopped where I did? Or why I never came back?”

    Jazz nodded.

    “Memory. You know as well as I do that without some reference material, something besides yourself to point to ... sometimes it just chokes up in here.” Ray motioned towards his neck, “You must have felt it before? You aren’t a just-boot.”

    Jazz nodded again as his expression softened ever so slightly.

    “Artemus was the sixth face I always saw in the darkness. The nameless face. For some unknown reason, someone decided that he shouldn’t be remembered. But I didn’t just loose him, my own father. No, I lost everything that depended upon him. Everything! It was still there, all those flashes of insight, but I couldn’t grasp it.”

    “Why Starscream?” Sunstreaker accused.

    “He found me.... Maybe it’s nothing more complex than that. There’s a way around the limit, all that to-do with the court, but it only works when both have the ability to remember for themselves.”

    “And that jive?” Jazz was pointing to his left shoulder.

    “Once,” Ray spoke with pride, “a long time ago, the Seekers were Cybertron’s guardians. The few who went with Megatron aside, I’m pretty sure they still are ... somewhere. I was among the elite of Cybertron’s civil defense forces. The Seekers were a big step up even then. My rank, by the way, is Subcommander S-1. It’s encoded in the badge along with my decorations I won in Cybertron’s service.”

    There was a moment of silence before...

    “Kiss and make up already!”

    A voice from over the intercom.

    Sunstreaker and Sideswipe didn’t bother holding it in. Even Starscream, who hadn’t stayed back like he was told, seemed to enjoy the joke.

    Frag! Was Starscream’s laugh ever annoying! You just knew his data core didn’t compute complete equations when he laughed like that.

    “I believe you chose this crew?”

    “I’m still trying to figure out where all the bad karma came from.” Jazz sighed, “What do we do with Starscream?”

    “He wants to speak to Optimus. So we should take him to Optimus.”
     

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