Transformers: This Is How It All Began - A Tragedy

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by The Librarian, May 17, 2012.

  1. The Librarian

    The Librarian Well-Known Member

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    Transformers: This Is How It All Began

    Well, it's been a long time since I posted here! All the same, I have been quite productive in a TF Fan-Fic sort of way over the past months. You see, a couple of years ago, I decided to try and write a definitive origin for the war between the Autobots and Decepticons in a Generation One type setting. Not the definitive version, as such, but my definitive version. A sort of distillation of everything I liked about Transformers, especially the TFUK comics, that worked as a coherent, logical origin story.

    So far, I’ve been posting it on Livejournal ad AO3, but as I think TFW2005 prefers stories to be posted directly here, I’m going to split the difference: I’ll post chapters here, one at a time, with links to the AO3 version at the end of this first post.

    One last thing before I shut up and begin: there are several ideas of my own invention laced throughout this fic, most importantly a naming convention. On a whim, I’ve concocted a naming system for Cybertronians separate from their actual ‘real life’ names. I hope that I’ve written this well enough that even if a character has a ‘pre-war’ name, their personalities will shine through (unless I’m being deliberately obtuse) but please let me know if this is getting in the way of the story for you.

    And now: the fic!

    [UPDATED: Act 1 complete, Act 2 complete, Act 3 complete, Act 4 underway!]

    This Is How It All Began

    Act 1: Twilight of a Golden Age

    1.0: Heavy Rain
    1.1: Daybreak
    1.2: Nights Before
    1.3: Important Information
    1.4: Side Effects
    1.5: Battle Protocol
    1.6: Point of Impact
    1.7: Lift Off

    Act 2: The Last Days

    2.0: Shrikebats
    2.1: Life Goes On
    2.2: Homecoming
    2.3: Media Relations
    2.4: Fighting the Current
    2.5: Friction
    2.6: Sparks in the Tinder Box
    2.7: A Fresh Optic
    2.8: Fire-fighting
    2.9: Public Image
    2.10: Foreign Affairs
    2.11: Night Scene
    2.12: Confessions
    2.13: The Brink of Victory
    2.14: Case Closed
    2.15: Point of No Return
    2.16: Ignition

    Act 3: Mutually Assured Destruction

    3.0: Ancient History
    3.1: War Games
    3.2: Fire in the Sky
    3.3: Manoeuvres
    3.4: Desperate Measures
    3.5: Divine Intervention
    3.6: Channel Hopping
    3.7: Last Chances
    3.8: Falling Stars
    3.9: Diplomacy by Another Means
    3.10: Second Strike

    Act 4: In the Ashes

    4.0: After-image
    4.1: Fallout
    4.2: Breaking the Spear
    4.3: Survivor/Guilt
    4.4: Small Differences
    4.5: Walking Wounded
    4.6: Upheaval
    4.7: In Memorial
    4.8: Crisis of Faith
    4.9: The Simfur Revolt



    Enjoy!
     
  2. The Librarian

    The Librarian Well-Known Member

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    1.0: Heavy Rain
    Cybertronian Mining Site Dega-Tryptic
    Anska
    A very long time ago


    “Get down!”
    “Incoming!”
    “Heavy fire in sector three – arrgh!”
    “Fall back! Fall back!”
    “DOWN!”

    The explosion scattered the squad like a bunch of hex nuts. Bodies tumbled end over end, coming to rest on wheels and tracks and hoverjets as innate protective instincts kicked in. Engines roaring, they churned up mud and gravel in their scramble to escape the impact zone. Another volley of missiles shot overhead, the gunners shifting their aim towards the next line of defence. The shockwaves still sent several of the troops spinning end over axel, forcing them to flip back into bipedal form for a few seconds to right themselves before transforming again and re-joining the retreat.

    Finally reaching a relatively intact section of the defensive wall, they regrouped and dug in again. One of them, battered red armour streaked with dirt, heaved a heavy gun into place, sighting it on the advancing enemy. “Still out’a range,” he grunted.
    “Wouldn’t do any good anyway,” a bulkier, darker trooper muttered grimly, “Most of the high-impact rounds just went up in smoke.”
    “At least it’d be something. Ah don’t wanna just lie down and let ‘em roll over me.”
    “We’ll never do that,” a third soldier put in.
    He was slimmer than the other two but taller and just as heavily armoured. Red and blue chased each other over his frame, dulled by the same grime that covered them all.
    “’Course not, sir,” the dark trooper agreed, adjusting the nozzle that protruded from his left forearm, “’Course if they did, he’s got least to worry about. His thick skin, they’d roll over him and he’d get up again.”
    “Slag yah,” his cannon-wielding companion retorted amiably.
    “If only the rest of us were so lucky,” their commanding officer said with a shrug.

    A long, high whistling sound announced the approach of another missile. On reflex, they hunkered down and braced themselves. The projectile struck somewhere behind them, sending a large chunk of wasteland flying in several directions. The dark soldier flung up his arms, energy thrumming along them. Debris rebounded from a dome of solid light, the shield flickering and dimming with every impact. Several particularly high-speed pebbles punctured the barrier completely, ricocheting off the skin of those huddling within.
    “What’s the slagging use of –” the red soldier began but the dark one cut him off.
    “I’m running low – this is the best I can do!”
    “Here comes another one!” the commander yelled.
    “Everybody down!” someone added unnecessarily.

    Under the din from the exploding shells and falling rocks, the commander registered the tweet of an internal communications channel. He diverted a sliver of his attention to the airwaves, unlocking the information shimmering through them with a thought. The words were very welcome.
    “Attention all ground squads. Stand by to fall back to inner perimeter. Heavy air squadrons inbound.”
    “Finally,” the commander murmured to himself, before addressing his squad aloud, “The flyers are coming! Prepare to transform and roll out!”

    From high above, growing ever close, came the shriek of jet engines.
     
  3. The Librarian

    The Librarian Well-Known Member

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    1.1: Daybreak
    Vos
    Cybertron
    Sometime later


    This is how it began.

    Maybe.

    Imagine Cybertron, not as it is but as it was: the shining heart of a great and glorious empire. Imagine a world that, even then, was never still. Imagine that it did not writhe and twist as it does now, pierced by a million daggers, but that around the great immovable towers, roadways bowed and weaved in time to the needs of those who traversed them. Imagine those towers like mountains, gilded and shining in the morning sun, not yet pitted and scorched by the heat of battle. Imagine Vos, the silver city, rising into the pale sky, the tallest spires lost in the misty clouds, their glory reflected in the waters of the Iron Sea. Imagine the great arc of the Tyris Bridge crossing from shore to shore, burnished white expanse crowded with unceasing traffic.

    Imagine looking down at it all and wondering if such a vista had been created simply so that it could be seen from on high in the gentle light of dawn.

    Sarristec toyed with this thought as he banked over the bay, angling towards the government district, his wings stretched wide to catch the sun. Vos was without a doubt glorious. Unlike the bombastic beauty of Iacon or the grim militarism of Tarn, the architecture was sweeping and graceful, the work of artists as well as engineers. Every line swept and curved and spiralled and soared. It was a prayer to flight, a hymn to being able to fly. The aeries, far, far above the smoke and dirt of the lower levels, were vaulted temples honouring those who had dared to defy gravity.

    The Palace of Law was the apex of the city’s glory, the beauty of all the rest distilled and cast into perfection. The sheer poetry of the structure made Sarristec’s systems spark with joy. He came into land, wings folding around him, legs and arms unfurling. Touching down as gently as a falling ember, he stretched languidly and surveyed his surroundings with undisguised pleasure.

    “Good morning, my Lord.” An elegant bronze attendant glided to his side, data packets humming in the ether around him. “I have the latest streams prepared for your download. The Conclave will assemble in thirty micro-cycles.”
    “Thank you, Zacarii.” Sarristec had long ago learnt that names were important in politics, if only as a means of maintaining your image. “I will process the news on my way to the chamber.”

    With the up-to-the-cycle information whispering into his processors, he began to walk slowly into the maze of cloisters and state rooms in which the Vosian government worked, content as always to savour the regal atmosphere. Mechs, femes and avirs of all shapes and sizes milled about, handling the day-to-day running of a city-state that vied for power and position against the economic strength of Polyhex, the religious power of Iacon and the tactical might of Tarn. It was a never ceasing battle to stand proud and strong in the face of such competition, one in which defeat would mean being subsumed by their foes, the glorious city hacked apart and scattered as spoils for the undeserving. Sarristec intended to see that battle won and won well. Because that was what his position entailed. Because he would not stand by and watch his home swallowed up by its oh-so hungry enemies.

    And, he reflected as he walked, because he so dearly wished that all of Cybertron could be as beautiful as Vos.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The East Merchant District
    Praxus
    Cybertron


    “Hey! Wheels! You done yet?”
    Aratron fluttered his doors in annoyance at the voice and ignored it in favour of the pallet of batteries he was lifting up to the top of an already precarious stack. Strictly, he should have started another stack two pallets ago but space was not exactly in abundance.
    “Come on Wheels! It can’t take this long to put a couple of crates straight.”
    Wondering how his friend could possibly know how long any work was supposed to take, Aratron checked that the stack was not going to come crashing down before he came back on shift. Satisfied that it was at least nominally stable, he picked his way over to the storeroom door and re-entered the shop.

    Gauun was lounging against the left hand work ramp, his doors drooping and his head flung back in a mockery of emergency stasis lock. “At last!” He could never imitate unconsciousness for long – it meant not talking. “You must be the slowest workmech this side of the Dead Ends.”
    Aratron shrugged expressively and closed down the body shop’s computer system. It would be a few deca-cycles before Racetrack arrived for the next shift and leaving everything on would only waste power.
    “So where we going tonight?”
    He gave another shrug and made sure all the preview holo-constructs had closed up properly. “I dunno,” he said.
    “Wheels, you’re hopeless. Every time I ask you where we’re going, you say you don’t know – bit repetitive. And every time, we end up in the same dive, with the same crowd.”

    That was not true, since Aratron knew that he had had to explain why he got called ‘Wheels’ at least three times recently, which meant that they had encountered several mechs who didn’t know the embarrassing story behind it, which in turn meant they must have met new people. Somehow he doubted this would dent Gauun’s conviction that they needed to get out more.
    “How about we drive out to the East Ridge? Might be some fun to be had up there – bit of a snooty place but that’ll just make it all the more fun. Shake ‘em up a bit to see what real high-power mechs look like. Might make some of them realise what they’re missing, with all that trying to be all up-class and elite.”
    Privately, Aratron doubted they would be especially welcome there, especially if Gauun was going to keep up his usual non-stop commentary on himself and life around him. Out loud, he simply offered a non-committal, “Whatever.”

    “It’s settled then!” Gauun leapt away from the ramp, wheels already turning. He flipped onto them and revved his engine, limbs disappearing into his vehicle form. Beaming the alarms, Aratron followed suit, steering around the display racks and joining his friend at the street doors. Flashing his lights rakishly, Gauun shot outside, skidding erratically down the slipway.

    At a more cautious pace, Aratron trailed in his wake, wondering not for the first time where the other mech found the energy to be so recklessly hyperactive all the time. It wasn’t as if he had a steady means of employment or was particularly rich in his own right, was it?

    Also not for the first time, Aratron followed this up by wondering why he stayed friends with the crazy glitch. It surely couldn’t all be down to their shared proto-structure – it had to be one of the most common body-types of the planet and he certainly wasn’t friends with most of those who had it.

    Still, he mused, whatever there was to be said about life with Gauun, it was certainly never what you might call boring.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The Celestial Temple
    Iacon
    Cybertron


    “Yes, the battle on Anska has been won – for the moment. But if our forces there are not properly reinforced, we will still lose the drilling platforms.”
    As he said it, Xaaron began an internal countdown, opened a note file listing the usual responses and delineated a new column for tally marks.

    Tomaandi of course was the first to speak up against the very idea of reinforcement. It was too expensive, their resources were stretched too thin and anyway, it was not necessary in the first place, because surely that many highly trained Cybertronian troops should be able to handle anything. Haacano chimed in with the brilliant observation that a lack of resources might hamper the army’s effectiveness. Traachon noted that if the forces on Anska were recalled, not only would the mining platforms have to be abandoned, it would be seen as a defeat – hardly something to discourage the neighbouring stellar empires from making similar aggressive moves against Cybertron. At that, Xaaron tore himself away from his score keeping, pointing out that the Bn’rite had not exactly gone out of their way to be aggressive: it seemed clear that they had staked their claim on the planet in perfect ignorance of the mining platforms already established. Which was not an unforgivable mistake when standard Cybertronian off-world procedure was to fit in as closely as possible with the pre-existing environment. Graviitus countered that it would encourage aggressive actions from other, less ignorant species who would like nothing more than to plunder Cybertron for its wealth.

    Kaliton took that opportunity to ask how important the Anska mines really were. Given that they produced a comparatively low yield of usable fuel, perhaps, he suggested, tapping his front legs pensively, it would be wiser to focus their attention elsewhere. On the (much more productive) Altihex funded operation on Dromedon, for example. This immediately set off a chorus of protestations and ignited the old argument over the proper use of the planetary defence forces and the potential favouring of any one city-state above the others.

    This in turn was cut off by a series of loud, dull booms.

    The Prime struck his spear against the ground once more to make quite sure that he had the Council’s undivided attention. “Emirates,” he said in a weary tone, “You are here to discuss the situation on Anska, not to bicker over your representation in off-world interests. If you are unable to keep to the topic at hand, I suggest you take a brief recess to clear your processors.”
    This summary dismissal provoked considerable dissatisfied muttering, both vocal and etheric. The Prime, though, sitting regally on his great throne, was impassive and unmovable so they were left with no choice but to gather as much dignity about themselves as they could and try not to make it too obvious that they were racing to see who could get outside first.

    Xaaron made sure he was the last to leave and that he stayed a good way behind his comrades in discord as they clattered and quacked their way towards their various offices. At the last minute, he doubled back and slipped through the council chamber doors before they could shut again. “You wished to speak to me in private?” he asked innocently, clearing the flag the personal communications burst had raised.

    Sentinel Prime raised himself laboriously from his throne and stared down at the unimposing golden mech before him with the same cool impassiveness he had shown the council. Then his face twisted. “I take it you want the troops recalled from Anska.”
    “I wish to see the situation resolved for the benefit of Cybertron, my Prime.”
    “Don’t we all?” Sentinel leaned on his spear and shook his head slowly. “And that is not the point. You are attempting to manipulate them into recalling the forces sent to defend the mines.”
    “I was not the one who suggested that the mines might not be worth the trouble.”
    “Are you denying feeding the honourable Emirate for Altihex the latest production figures?”
    “He could have accessed those himself.”
    “Xaaron.” A warning note entered the Prime’s voice. “I will not allow you to divide the planetary council simply to serve your personal convictions. Convincing them to end the campaign is one thing. Forcing divisions so that further military action must be vetoed is quite another. Do I make myself clear?”

    Xaaron bowed, his face blank. “Perfectly, my Prime.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Cybertronian Mining Site Dega-Tryptic
    Anska


    Optrion gently lifted the diminutive body from the wreckage of the tank and laid it on the ground with its kin. As deftly as he could while working one-handed, he dragged a stretch of cloth, torn from one of the numerous war tents the Bn’rite had erected before the battle, over the collection of corpses.

    The Bn’rite were organic tripeds, generally around a third of the size of the average Cybertronian. Their skin was a mottled blue, scaled and banded beneath uniforms of dark brown fabrics. In death, they curled in on themselves, their six arms wrapped around their sinuous bodies, becoming even smaller. Some of them had been sliced open by shrapnel, some even sliced in half, staining clothes and surroundings with green internal fluids. Some had been crushed, either by wreckage or shockwaves. Some, such as the one Optrion had retrieved, seemed to have simply dropped dead.

    All of them were dead. The Cybertronian air forces had left no survivors anywhere in the expanse of churned mud, not a single one. They had driven the attackers back with pitiless efficiency, hounding them until they were either destroyed or fled. Ruthless but necessary. If the advance had not been broken, the ground forces would have been overrun.

    Optrion straightened and looked around. A few other soldiers were picking over the battlefield, some doing as he was and laying out the enemy corpses, others helping wounded comrades back to the waiting medics. Only a few mechs had gone permanently offline, but a large number were missing their heads or limbs and several would need to be reformatted completely.

    “Yah should get that fixed,” someone said behind him.
    He glanced down at the ragged hole where his right arm had once been and nodded distractedly. “Probably, yes.”
    Ironhide was sitting atop the ruins of a redoubt, idly fiddling with his pulse rifle. His armour was considerably cleaner now, though still scorched and pitted. He jerked his head towards the troop ships squatting on the horizon. “Ratchet told me ta drag you back by the axles if that’s what it took ta get yah ta report ta him.”
    “I’m sure he did. But since it is not spark-threatening, I think it will keep for a little while longer.”
    The older mech waved dismissively. “Yhor shut-down.”

    Knowing Ratchet, Optrion thought it far more likely that he would be kept fully online, just so that he could feel every painful reconnection. The surgeon’s ire, however, did not especially frighten him and he was content to delay the inevitable. His optics swept the battlefield once more. Overhead, a flyer was circling lazily, on the lookout for any renewed attack. “We were lucky,” he commented, studying the wrecked Bn’rite tank, “These are more advanced than the home-world authorities would like to admit.”
    “Yeah,” Ironhide agreed, without looking up, “Lucky.”
    Optrion moved closer, examining the main gun, comparing the energy projector to the Cybertronian equivalent. Yes, it was not the governing councils’ policy to acknowledge how close some of their alien neighbours were coming to matching them in terms of military technology. The minute lifespan of organic beings was nothing if not a spur for innovation.

    “Well,” he said, straightening and turning to head off to meet his doom a.k.a. Field Medic (Second Class) Toiinat, a.k.a. Ratchet the Terrible, “thank the Allspark its mechs like Megatron calling the shots out here.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     
  4. Jazzfan0217

    Jazzfan0217 Just chillin'

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    i like it :popcorn  please do more :thumb  !!!
     
  5. The Librarian

    The Librarian Well-Known Member

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    Thank you! I shall!

    ------------------------------------

    2: Nights Before
    The East Ridge Plaza
    Praxus
    Cybertron


    The East Ridge might have been home to the high and the mighty but it was not as impressive as it sounded. As with everywhere else, lighting restrictions had left the nights dark and lifeless. The broad-spectrum illuminations that had once blazed from every building lay dormant and their low-energy successors did little to make the place look attractive. In fact, they only added to the gloom that seemed to hang over the streets.

    Guaan, however, was undeterred and the interior of the oil-house into which he led Aratron fitted the picture of the elite end of town considerably more than its exterior. Everything was clean and polished and if not brightly then artistically lit. Those present fitted their surroundings perfectly. They were all high-end models, fitted with the latest mods and the best bodywork going. Several groups were clustered on the various platforms ranged in a spiral up the main room, chattering loudly on most of the major wavelengths. The largest crowd was clustered around an ornate mech who was regaling them with his personal opinions on life, the universe and everything.

    At first, Aratron paid little attention to the rant. He was too busy being distracted by the way members of the mech’s audience kept pressing against each other, blue sparks fizzing as they touched. There was not exactly a taboo against ‘crackling’ but it was definitely not something Aratron had ever considered doing in public.

    “…would know if you’d ever seen it,” the vocal mech was saying when he finally tuned in, “An absolute waste of good materials, if you ask me. Hideous and inefficient. The whole line should be reformatted.”
    “I’ve heard it’s quite a popular form on the gladiatorial circuit,” a feme sitting on the shoulder of one of the other mechs put in tremulously. As soon as she said it, she covered her mouth with both hands, shocked at her own audacity in mentioning something so risqué.

    The orator was unfazed. “No doubt. Big and ugly probably strikes about the right note with the barbarians who like that sort of thing.”
    “Ever seen a match?” the mech acting as the feme’s perch asked curiously, stirring a beaker of oil with his finger.
    “Absolutely not! What a terrible thought!” Loud-voice’s delicate white fins flapped and curled indignantly. “If you ask me, the Magnus should stamp it out – literally if that’s what it takes.”
    “Bit hard to defend when it’s part of the state games,” a thickset green mech pointed out.
    “Hah! Properly refereed and adjudicated and even then it’s a brutish sort of sport. No skill, no artistry – simple violence played to a crowd. Merely encourages the menial classes to brawl and damage themselves when they should be working. Small wonder there’s unrest when those supposedly leading us actively encourage aggression in the dregs.”

    “Have you heard about the latest outrage?” The feme again, clearly excited at being able to report another scandal. “An entire sky-dock in Tagen Heights! They say it was the foremech! Can you believe that?”
    “Absolutely,” the orator said vehemently, “They may be brought online as a higher grade but they’re surrounded by menials day after day. It’s hardly surprising that they degrade.”
    As he was listening to this new proclamation, the big green mech noticed the two newcomers standing nearby. Their drab silver bodies and black trim made them stand out in the upmarket oil-house as much as the clientele’s gilt trim would have made them stand out in a Polyhex slum. Slowly but inevitably, the rest of the group turned to see what their companion was looking at.

    Gauun’s expression was painfully cheery. “Oh, don’t mind us. It’s all really fascinating – very interesting theory. Do you think if we hang around with clean-living elite types like you, we’ll end up raising our grades just like that? I mean, if hanging around with ‘dregs’ brings it down, it’s only logical that hanging around with over-revved shine-freaks like you would take it up. Right? Oh, sorry, did I say that last bit out loud? I mean, over-revved, over-fuelled shine-freaks like you.”
    “I think,” began Loud-voice with chilly and forced calmness, “you must have come through the wrong door.”
    “I don’t think so. This is an oil-house and we want oil, so I think we’re in the right place. We were going to order when we got distracted by your stirring lecture on the times we live in. Isn’t that right, Wheels?”

    “Yeah,” Aratron agreed cautiously, eying the now distinctly miffed mechs around them, “Right.”
    “I very much doubt you would be able to afford the quality of oil served here,” Loud-voice grated, his optics burning brighter green with every word, “And even if you could, I suspect it would be too rich for you to handle.”
    “Too weak, more like,” Gauun corrected, before adding amiably, “But we’ll try it anyway.”

    And with that, he led the way to the bar.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The Palace of Law
    Vos
    Cybertron


    “The disruption to the Tagen Heights is affecting our traders less than we feared. We will still be able to achieve our quotas, although there may be some delay in doing so.” Lord Vvnet paused, blue armour flaring a little, as Lord Geneion indicated he wished to speak.
    “Some delay?” The flyer’s voice was scratchy with age. “What is that supposed to mean? We have roads to build – a city to maintain.”
    “Not to mention war wings to equip,” Lord Myyoc put in, tail flicking back and forth, “If your traders are going to be even a cycle late, my timetables will be thrown into disarray.”
    Vvnet pressed her fingers together and glanced at the war minister irritably. “Around four cycles’ delay will be unavoidable but I hardly think you can be doing your job particularly well if that is all it takes to throw you into disarray.”

    “My lords…” Lord Taynset’s soft voice cut through the squabble before it could begin. “This is not the Prime’s council chamber. We all work towards the same goal. Let us do so with some measure of decorum. Now. The trade delays are not a matter over which we can exert much control, so I suggest we move on to consider matters on which our discussions will have some bearing. I believe Lord Sarristec wished to raise a point about the payment of the lower grade menials.”
    Sarristec acknowledged the invitation, ducking his head. Taynset made him nervous and not just because he was the first among equals, the senior Lord of Vos. There was something about the sleek teal mech, with his neat, sharp wings and soft yellow eyes that spoke of total confidence, as if he had nothing to prove to anyone. Naturally enough, this made those around him feel precisely the opposite.

    “Ah…yes. My Lords.” Brushing at an invisible speck of dust on his forearm, Sarristec gathered his thoughts. “It has come to my attention that the rations allocated to the majority of the menial grades working under our jurisdiction have been declining over the course of the past few mega-cycles. While this is understandable, I think the cuts have been more severe than was strictly necessary, especially when considering energy allocation elsewhere. I recommend an immediate three per cent increase in fuel rations, with a possible rise to four and a half per cent should it prove viable.”

    There was a moment’s dumbfounded silence. “Are you suggesting,” Vvnet growled, that we squander resources on rewarding menials?”
    “Absolutely not!” Sarristec bristled at the suggestion. “Rewards are for those who go above and beyond their duty, menials merely perform their function. But their functions are still vital to our city and they must have the strength to perform them. Besides…” A slightly sly note entered his voice. “It would go some way to prevent the civil unrest that threatens our neighbours’ stability. It would show, would it not, that we are a beacon of sanity in this world. There could be no question of the destruction of vital facilities here.”

    He let the threat of insurrection and the lure of gaining face before the other cities sink in. Lord Omnitron, who had so far been silent, raised a questioning finger, dark optic strip momentarily brightening. “From where is this three per cent to be conjured?”
    Sarristec smiled. “We must, of course, take the lead and sacrifice part of our allocated power for the good of the city. But,” he continued quickly, “I thought that most of it could be reassigned from the energy currently set aside for use by the officers of the Magnus and the representatives of the sundry High Council ministries that we are required to support. The fuel shortage is an issue of planetary importance, so they could hardly begrudge making such a small sacrifice for the sake of Vos’ continued stability. We do, after all, constitute a large part of Cybertron’s economic infrastructure.”

    That pleased them. When in doubt, put one over on the central government. Taynset motioned for quiet, cutting off the murmur of approval. “I think we can all agree that, if Lord Sarristec’s proposal can be carried out, it will prove popular.”
    Sarristec froze, the sudden recognition of a victory too easily won stealing over him. Had he over reached himself? A Lord he may have been but he was still a junior among the Conclave and he was arguing for a major shift in policy, one that would have consequences both at home and abroad. He knew the stakes, he thought he could get away with it, use it to bolster his support among plebs and elite alike. Was there something he had overlooked, some way in which Taynset could turn the proposal against him?

    “And I believe that if it is to be carried out, it must be done so under the optic of the mech who devised it. That is only fair, after all.”
    Sarristec’s ventilators began to turn somewhat more easily. That was as much as he had expected and he was ready both to turn it to his personal advantage and escape it if that became necessary. “I would be honoured by such an appointment,” he said, with as much grace as he could muster.
    Another murmur of approval went around the table. Taynset inclined his head. “Then so be it. Congratulations, my Lord Sarristec.”

    Bowing in response, Sarristec did his best to hide his satisfaction.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Cybertronian Mining Site Dega-Tryptic
    Anska


    The liquid metal flowed slowly and painfully into the connection port, coalescing into the rudiments of an endoskeleton – and no more. The moment the joints and connections had reach the lowest level of structural cohesion, the flow of raw proto-matter was cut off and a jolt of energy stabilised the embryonic limb.
    “Is that it?” Optrion asked, trying not to sound petulant.
    “That is it,” Ratchet growled, jerking the dispenser hose away irritably, “I need to save it for more important patients than idiot squad leaders who ram their arms down tank barrels.”

    Optrion chuckled to himself and stood up, flexing his new arm. “How long until I can get it properly rebuilt?”
    “How should I know?” The doctor hauled the vat of proto-matter on towards the next repair berth. “How long until they stop dragging in mechs with holes in them?”
    Abruptly serious again, the taller red and blue armoured mech surveyed the crowded field station. Soldiers in various states of disrepair filled every available berth, some transformed, some in vehicle mode, some stuck halfway between. More than a few were in need of new hands, limbs, wheels and treads. There was even a flyer, looming over the ground-bound troopers and looking very subdued, one of his wings hanging in tatters.

    “Hey,” a voice called from behind them, “if you’re done fixing up the boss-mech, how’s about getting’ me a SCRAPPING HEAD?!”
    Optrion looked round to find that they were being addressed by a battered green tank, who was glaring at them from his seat on an upturned crate. Or would have been glaring if everything above his jaw had not been missing.
    “Slag you, Bombshock” Ratchet retorted with the cool professionalism for which he was noted, “Frag me, if I’d known you had enough left in you to reroute your vocal processors, I’d have added an extra hole or two to keep you down.”
    “Oh, that’s nice,” ‘Bombshock’ fumed, “I spend all my time keeping your pearly white skidplate in one piece and you don’t even fix me up when I need it.”
    “Eh, shut up. It’s just your head. And it’s an improvement. You look less slagging ugly like this. You planning on standing there all day?” The white mech’s attention had switched back to Optrion. “Go do some commanding and get the Pit out of my light.”

    Leaving the doctor to his patients, Optrion made his way out into the open, emerging into the red light of the Anska day. He stretched his arms experimentally, making minute adjustments to his balance to compensate for his newly evened weight. The freshly cast joints felt both stiff and weak but time would improve them. In a few cycles, he would be back to full strength and once the new armour was fitted, ready for battle again.

    The camp was relatively quiet as he crossed it, those mechs not on guard either with the medics or on recharge cycles. A few were scattered around, cleaning weapons or fixing equipment. He nodded to another squad leader and took the rough path up to where the command platforms have been positioned, passing under the shadow of the bulky communications boosters. And for the second time in as many cycles, someone called out from behind him.

    “So. Do you make a habit of disarming yourself at the same time as your enemy?”

    The first thing anyone noticed – the first thing to notice – about Field Commander Megatron was his size. He was easily head and shoulders above most mechs. Even Optrion, by no means small himself, had to look up to meet his optic. The reasons for that were varied. He had not exactly been compact in the first place, formatted as he had been as a heavy labourer in Tarn, a city known for the stature of its progeny. A course of less than legal upgrades during his days as an ‘athlete’ had only increased his height and bulk. Adding to that the dermal armour and weapons systems fitted as standard to every member of the Cybertronian military, he had become a truly formidable sight.

    Optrion snapped to attention, more than a little embarrassed to find himself addressed in such a manner by his superior officer. “Not a habit, exactly, sir.”
    “Hm.” The silver grey mech looked down at the laser cannon he was cleaning. “And yet when a tank breaks your line, your response is to sacrifice a limb to destroy its offensive capabilities.”
    “May I explain, sir?”
    Megatron’s optics flickered to a slightly lighter yellow. “I think you had better.”
    “The tank broke through by overcharging its motivator, sir, and opened fire on my squad at point-blank range. We were almost out of ammo and I doubted we would be able to breach its armour in time anyway. So, I…ah…”
    “Jammed your arm down its main barrel,” Megatron completed.
    “Yes sir.”

    There was a protracted silence as he finished clearing out the cannon’s stock. Deftly, he jerked the weapon and slammed the casing closed again. Then he threw back his head and roared with laughter. “An impressive piece of improvisation,” he said once he had regained his composure and pulled himself away from the support pillar he had been leaning against. He clapped Optrion on the still-armoured shoulder and stowed the laser cannon.
    “I did what I had to, sir.”
    “And did it well. I approve of commanders who are prepared take risks alongside those under their command – provided it pays off, of course.” He turned and beckoned Optrion.

    “I looked up your record,” he added once they were in motion, “This battlefield saw plenty of the usual heroic nonsense but your actions stood out enough to arouse my curiosity – if only because of who you are. It’s rare indeed to see an Iaconian, much less an Iaconian officer willing to get his skin scratched in the line of duty.” This was said with considerable conviction and not a little contempt.
    “You, ah, don’t like Iaconians, sir?”
    “No,” Megatron agreed, “I do not. You, however, show considerable promise. You’re here for a start.”
    Optrion hesitated then decided that some response to this was indeed expected. “I felt I could best serve Cybertron by helping defend it from outside attack.”
    “Good. You would have been wasted as a ceremonial guard.”

    It was high praise indeed from a mech famed for leading some of the most successful campaigns in Cybertronian history. Fortunately, before Optrion was forced to try to think up a suitable reply, a dark shape materialised on the edge of his vision, making him jerk to one side to avoid it.

    The black quadruped chuckled softly as he dropped down from a barricade. He fell into step beside the commander, fangs glinting as he spoke. “Bentwing’s squad is on a return vector. They will be here within the cycle.”
    “Excellent.” Megatron did not even break stride. “Is the ops-suite prepared?”
    “Yes commander.”
    “Then signal Bentwing to meet us there.”
    “Commander.”

    The quadruped loped dutifully away. Apparently suddenly remembering that the red and blue mech was at his side, Megatron turned back to Optrion, a flash of irritation crossing his expression. “It would appear we have no time to discuss your close-combat methods in more detail. I will need all squads prepped and on standby. Give your mechs a head-start and pass the word.” With that, he too quickened his pace and followed his subordinate towards the largest of the command platforms.

    If he noticed Optrion’s reflexive salute, he did not acknowledge it.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     
  6. The Librarian

    The Librarian Well-Known Member

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    1.3: Important Information
    Planetary News Feed
    Qosho Region Local
    Cybertron


    “...and though the news has been largely well received by Vos’ labouring classes, many have dismissed it as a cynical move to ensure continued support for the current administration. Some political observers have also asked whether the redistribution of power away from High Council facilities is an act of deliberate provocation from a city that has long campaigned for greater autonomy from the planetary government. As yet, no statement has been issued by the Celestial Temple but sources in Iacon Central have indicated that the Prime is disappointed that the Lords of Vos undertook this new plan without prior consultation.

    “Five sub-orbital platforms in the Tagan Heights were reactivated this morning following extensive repairs and upgrades in the wake of the crash of the Maximo Sky Dock. Six platforms remain non-operational though local authorities are confident that at least three will be brought back online tomorrow. Repairs to surface facilities are expected to take much longer. Emergency crews are still working to secure the impact site itself. Their efforts are being delayed by extensive looting, which it is widely believed is being instigated by the criminal Black Shadow brotherhood. Two squads of Civic Guards have now taken up position at the site in order to prevent further criminal activity.

    “We have just been informed investigation into sabotage aboard the Maximo has entered a new phase with the arrest of three Tagan dockworkers on charges of sedition and incitement to commit acts of insurrection. This follows the arrest of the Maximo’s formech, who it is understood will be transferred to a high security holding facility for further questioning. Official data-feeds remain closed over whether a larger subversive organisation is implicated.
    “More on these events as they develop.”


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Habitation Complex #62
    Praxus
    Cybertron


    Groaning, Aratron rocked from side to side, trying to find some relief from the ache in his axles. His suspension squeaked unpleasantly. The ache persisted. In fact, it got worse. He was just debating whether powering down again would go some way to speeding up his internal repairs when the shift alarm boomed through the complex, the lighting strips automatically switching themselves up to full.

    Swearing enthusiastically, he transformed, scrambling to activate the energon dispenser before it was shut off for the morning. In the process, he managed to land several resounding kicks against Gauun’s side. Jerking online with a yell, he too transformed, flailing for balance as sluggish gyros failed to properly register the change in shape. The combination of scrambling, flailing and a habitation pod that could only comfortably house two mechs if they wedged themselves in in vehicle form resulted in a loud crash and a pile of twitching limbs.

    “Thank you.” Aratron’s voice drifted up from somewhere near the floor. “I really didn’t think we got enough dents from being thrown over a cliff last night.”
    “Oh, quit complaining,” Gauun retorted, pulling his leg out from under his friend, “It wasn’t really a cliff. More a wall. And anyway, you can’t say it wasn’t worth it for the looks on their faces. Bunch of stuck up dipsticks. They think that was a good time? Never been to a decent rave in their lives. Too busy over-revving in their luxury apartments. Alone probably. Well, we showed ‘em, didn’t we? Proper fun, that’s what we have, the kind they’re too afraid to have –”
    “You got sloshed and smashed a sculpture.” Aratron shoved his friend off and stood up. “Access: Ara Mech Tron Verous Klyda,” he growled at the squat box set into the wall, “Dispense morning ration.”

    The box thrummed and clicked open, disgorging a flattened cube full of shimmering liquid. As soon as Aratron had taken it, Gauun shouldered him aside. “Gau Mech Un Verous Klyda. Give me power, you brainless piece of scrap. I’m running on fumes here!”

    Another cube dropped into the silver mech’s hands. He held it up to optic-level and studied with disgust. “Is that all? A turbo-rat couldn’t run on this!”
    “Well maybe if you actually worked once in a while…” Aratron muttered, halfway through absorbing his ration.
    Gauun rounded on him. “Hey, I work! It’s not my fault if no one can appreciate my artistic ability!”
    “You can’t be bothered to keep your catalogue updated – how is that not your fault?”
    “I’m not going to lower my standards because there’s no mech between here and Polyhex with any taste!”

    “You’re a low-grade decal designer,” Aratron practically shouted, “You’re not a slagging artist!” With single violent movement he crushed the emptied energon cube between his hands, reducing it to crystal power. “And I’m not going to be late and get my pay cut because of your crazy ideas about having a good time!” He beamed the door to open and stormed onto the terrace. All around him, hundreds of labour-grade mechs were flooding out of the habitation complex. The shaft, with its eighty levels of dormer pods, reverberated to the sound of engines, wheeled form after wheeled form spiralling up the central ramps towards the surface.

    Gauun, stumbling after him, yelped as the door snapped shut again. “Hey! Oh, come on, I’m not that bad! I’m not! Wheels!”
    Pointedly ignoring him, Aratron transformed. A jolt of pain ran through his axles as his tyres hit the road. He shuddered but drove on all the same. The upward traffic flow quickly sucked him in and before he knew it, the dishevelled figure that was Gauun had been left far behind.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Cybertronian Mining Site Dega-Tryptic
    Anska


    The Iaconian entered the command platform with the self-assured step of an experienced soldier but his nervousness was betrayed by the swift movements of his optics. Ravage, padding silently around the rim of the low, cylindrical chamber, supressed the urge to chuckle. Poor little road-wheeler. All awe-struck at being called into the inner sanctum.


    It was the only acceptable reaction. He was coming into the presence of a giant among mechs, both literally and figuratively, and the absence of healthy respect would have been unforgivable. Naturally, Megatron made no effort to put the newcomer at ease. As was only proper, he simply raised a hand to beckon the squad leader over, not even turning from the sweep of tactical displays that dominated the room.

    Sizing this ‘Optrion’ up, Ravage quickly identified thirteen ways to fatally incapacitate him. Most of them centred on striking for the weakened right arm. A quick scan of the personnel records threw up a couple of potential psychological points that could be used against him too, certain combat tendencies that made him vulnerable. The psychological profile also indicated that treachery from him was not overly likely.

    Ultimately, Ravage concluded, he was not a significant threat. He could be dealt with if necessary and the probability that it would be was not all that high.

    Optrion joined Megatron by the display, shifting into a neutral ‘at ease’ position. Ravage moved to link himself into the platform’s communications system, shunting the latest information from the remote monitoring stations to the main hologram panels. Megatron nodded curtly and slid a map of Anska’s northern hemisphere in front of Optrion. “Bentwing’s reconnaissance squad have scouted the Bn’rite encampment in more detail than our previous sensor forays.” The map spiralled in to show seven heavily fortified compounds surrounded by gun emplacements and tanks. Symbols flashed across the image: estimated troop distributions, energy emissions, terrain composition. “Built up from disassembled transports – standard tactics for them – and positioned around the exploration shafts they sunk when they first landed.”

    Tilting his head to the side, Optrion slowly lifted a finger and gestured at the three core compounds. “They’re pulling their remaining troops back to protect their centre. The hardware distribution is meant to hide it but they’re definitely consolidating.”
    “Very good,” Megatron rumbled with a grim smile, “That’s exactly what they’re doing. They’ve done a pretty good job of hiding it from our long-range probes but Bentwing was able to get a handful of infiltrators onto the ground. Mostly as rocks but we’ve got a few who’ve managed passable imitations of local wildlife. They’ve confirmed – some even got off some live reports – that the Bn’rite have pulled almost two thirds of their force back to that central position. And thanks to some heavy analysis, we now know why.” The hologram zoomed in further, until only a single compound was visible. This spooled open, walls and buildings being disassembled to uncover their internal workings, or close approximations thereof. One particular structure, a squat cylindrical machine, was pulled to the fore and highlighted in a bewildering array of colours. It rose up, a long, flared spike extruding from its lower surface.

    “A geothermal tap,” Optrion murmured quietly, the significance of the device evidently not lost on him. Ravage could not help but be impressed. The Iaconian must have done his research well.


    Megatron clearly shared the sentiment, for his grim smile returned. “Exactly. They’ve extended the largest shaft and built it in. Probably been using tank movement to mask the vibrations from their drills.”
    “And launched an all-out attack on our ground forces to keep us distracted,” Optrion added, “No wonder they committed so many troops. If they get that tap activated…”
    “They’ll have all the power they need to dig in and we’ll be staring at each other until one of us rusts,” Megatron finished angrily, hand clenching, “With that power supply, they can shoot down our transporters just as effectively as we can shoot down theirs and no one will get this wretched planet’s resources.” The commander paused and Ravage watched Optrion carefully, waiting to see if he would pick up on the invitation to offer his opinion on the situation. After a moment, he did.
    “We need to destroy it before it’s activated. And that will probably mean the end of them. It doesn’t seem likely that they will have the means to repair a machine that big and complicated.”
    “Glad you agree,” Megatron replied, dead-pan.

    The tone seemed to spur the Iaconian into being a bit more daring with his observations. He pointed to a schematic plan of the Bn’rite compounds. “The embedded weapons are mainly anti-aircraft. They’re more afraid of being attacked from the air than from the ground. Since most of our heavy ordinance is carried by our flyers, they’re right to be. But if we get enough ground troops through their perimeter, they could do enough damage to put the tap out of commission. Or at least make an aerial strike possible…” He trailed off. “Or rather, we could have, prior to their all-out attack on us.”

    Megatron gave another curt nod and scaled the display down again. “Yes,” he growled, “Organic or not, they are intelligent enough to see the flaws in their own defences. Now, with so many of our soldiers damaged, we can’t mount an effective large scale ground offensive. Fortunately, neither can the Bn’rite.” He crossed his arms. “They sacrificed a massive number of troops to that attack. Not enough that they can’t defend their camp but enough to weaken that defence. A ground squad striking hard enough and fast enough could punch through and cause havoc behind their lines.”
    “They’d be overwhelmed,” Optrion said bluntly, “and there would be no guarantee of success.”
    “There would be,” Megatron answered, annoyed at the interruption, “if causing havoc was the objective. As large a squad as possible, carrying sensor disruption packages to be detonated within their inner perimeter. They’d be forced to rely on sight targeting. Enough to make a normal aerial assault futile. Not enough to stop this.”

    Casually, he flicked a tactical animation in front of the squad leader. Optrion watched silently as Megatron’s proposed strategy played out before him. The commander stood back and watched him appraisingly. Ravage watched them both, golden optics drifting lazily from one to the other. At length, Optrion’s vocaliser issued a bass hum. He glanced up at Megatron. “I’m to lead the ground attack?”

    There was, Ravage thought, an odd mix of youth and war-weariness behind the question. Resignation jostling with uncertainty.
    “I don’t give junior officers private briefings simply because their exploits amuse me,” Megatron said with not a little good humour.
    “There are more experienced soldiers, sir.” It was not so much a protest as a statement, a fact that might have a bearing on the situation.
    “Most of whom will be needed for the second stage. You –” and Megatron punctuated the word by clapping Optrion on the shoulder, “You are the mech who held his ground even when it meant sticking his arm down a gun barrel. That’s the kind of tenacity I need going up against those ground defences. Soldiers who accept that they and those under them are going to die are no use to me. I need someone who won’t accept that this could be a suicide run but will make damn sure it’s not. That’s you.” He turned away. “Ravage, transfer the lists of available troops to Squad Leader Optrion. Optrion, if you think any of them aren’t up to this, for any reason, notify Ravage and leave them out. Your mission, your call. Dismissed.”

    “Sir!” Optrion saluted smartly and marched out, pausing only long enough to receive transmitted data-files. Ravage watched him go with a faint smile, examining the set of his shoulders and the subtle lengthening of his stride.

    “Something amusing you?” Megatron rumbled, apparently able to read Ravage’s expression without actually needing to look.
    Ravage laughed softly. “Simply recalling another young squad leader the first time he was given the responsibility for a key mission because there were no other candidates.”

    The only reply to this observation was a faint sub-vocalisation.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     
  7. Jazzfan0217

    Jazzfan0217 Just chillin'

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    interesting :thumb  keep it comin :popcorn 
     
  8. ARCTrooperAlpha

    ARCTrooperAlpha Well-Known Member

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    wow this is frickin' great ! What made you decide to write this story ?
     
  9. The Librarian

    The Librarian Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the coments!

    As for what made me write it...and odd combination of things. The basic idea started out as the prequel to a Unicron Trilogy style TF story. Eventually though, I decided to draw more on Simon Furman's pre-war stories from the early UK TF annuals. What really spurred me to write it, however, was being really disappointed with things like Megatron:Origins and what I was reading about the 'Unified' canon. One of those, "If you want a job doing properly..." things, I guess!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    1.4: Side Effects
    The Celestial Temple
    Iacon
    Cybertron


    “Of course it’s political.” Graviitus sounded astonished that the question even needed to be asked. “Sarristec has a very generous public face but no one really doubts that he’s got lofty ambitions.”
    Xaaron did his level best to refrain from pointing out that surely everyone in Vos must have lofty ambitions. Was that not part of the point of a city renowned for its flyers? Much to his own surprise, he succeeded and uttered the much less flippant rejoinder, “But political which way?”
    Graviitus frowned, wings flexing. “I’m not sure I understand you.”

    This was not a vast surprise. The honourable Emirate for Vos was not widely known for his towering intellect. It was widely believed that his nomination to the post had been a deliberate insult to the High Council on the part of Lord Taynset. No one had actually questioned the Vosian leader’s choice, of course, largely from the misguided belief that a fool would be an easy target at the debating table. As it turned out, a fool with Lord Taynset’s words in his vocaliser was a positively terrifying opponent, made even worse by his natural belligerence and tenacity.
    “I mean,” Xaaron began, turning his chair slightly towards the floor-to-ceiling window that dominated his office, “what is the ultimate end? Is this meant as a way of bolstering Sarristec’s popularity? Or of the ruling Lords in general? Is it a rebellion against the Council? Or just a precaution against energy riots? And then there is the issue of where the energy saved by reducing the Council’s allowance in Vos is being redistributed to.”
    “What issue?” Graviitus demanded, “That energy will now be allocated to the hardworking menial-grades who maintain Vos’ standing as one of Cybertron’s greatest city-states,” he explained, regurgitating the official press release verbatim.
    “Quite…” Xaaron pressed the tips of his fingers together. “But of course according to Vos’ own systems, many of its menials occupy positions in military organisations. Some might conclude that for all the public good intentions surrounding this new energy plan, it is fundamentally a means of strengthening the Vosian strategic position in the Qosho region.”
    “That,” Graviitus snarled, slamming a clawed fist into an open palm, “is a conclusion that could only be the product of Tarnian paranoia. We have always been dedicated to peaceful coexistence with our neighbours. Whatever steps we take to ensure the protection of our citizens, we would never commit ourselves to any form of aggression.”
    “Of course. Nova Cronum respects that and remains dedicated to maintaining its many partnerships with Vos.” Turning back round to face his fellow Emirate, Xaaron spread his hands. “We simply do not want anyone to have any doubt over Vos’ intentions in this matter.”

    “In that case, I can assure you that Lord Sarristec proposed this plan first and foremost as a means of averting unrest in these troubled times. He looks to the people of Vos for his support – as all the Lords do – and does not wish to suffer the fate of the likes of Lamdatron of Protihex.” Gravitus rose from his seat with dignity, wings arching high. “And the Lords of Vos’ intentions in accepting the plan are nothing more or less than keeping our people fed and content despite the High Council’s inept handling of the current situation. I hope that Nova Cronum is satisfied with that explanation.”
    “Of course,” Xaaron said mildly, rising also, “Thank you so very much for providing it.”
    With a grunt and a curt bow, Graviitus swept out.

    Xaaron sat back down, drumming his fingers against an armrest. After a moment, he gave a short, derisive hum and triggered a visual channel. The holographic image of Tryptatrion, Speaker for Nova Cronum, swam into existence before him.

    “Good news,” he said with heavy sarcasm, “I can confirm that Vos insists it has no ulterior motives whatsoever. Now, returning to the Anska issue…”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Lord Sarristec’s Apartment
    Vos
    Cybertron


    They were talking about him on the news feeds again. The local ‘casters had been coming back to the new energy plan at regular intervals since it had first been announced and naturally that meant that his name kept coming to the fore. Reclining on a divan, Sarristec allowed himself a broad, satisfied smile as one particularly enthusiastic pundit praised his foresight and benevolence in advancing the plan. It was always so pleasant to have one’s ideas recognised, applauded even.

    A chiming communication channel brought him out of his reflection. Composing himself quickly, he shunted the news feed aside and redirected the incoming call to the apartment’s holographic matrix. A stocky, drably coloured flyer materialised before him, bowing immediately and with little grace. The awkward gesture completed, he brought his hands up to his chest and began fiddling with a set of overlapping plates that presumably belonged to his vehicle form’s tail. He could not have more obviously have been a menial in the presence of his betters if he had appeared covered in grime and toting a load of some kind.

    Sarristec gave his most charming smile and inclined his head just far enough to show respect without deference. “Workmaster Tesauun, isn’t it?”
    “Um…” Tesauun began eloquently, “Most people just call me Hot House, sir.”
    “Then permit me to do the same. What can I do for you, Hot House?”
    “Well, actually sir…it’s about what you’ve done for me. For us.” The workmaster composed himself, forcing his hands back down to his sides. “We wanted to be the first labour union to thank you for all you’ve done. You’ve no idea what a difference this extra three per cent is going to make. Well, err, you probably do, sir, of course.” Hot House laughed nervously.

    Chuckling as well, to put the mech at ease, Sarristec accepted the thanks graciously. “How soon do you expect to see visible benefits from the increased allowance?” he asked.
    “Oh, right away sir, right away. Even if it just means we can go longer between shut-down periods, we think this might make us four or five per cent more productive.”
    “Your crews are willing to work longer shifts?”
    “Of course sir!” The workmaster sounded moderately offended by the idea that anyone could doubt it. “You give us the power, we’ll work. We’re not Tarnians – we don’t run off to play games when there’s work to be done.”
    Making a noise that was broadly noncommittal but implicitly approving of Hot House’s casually nationalist slur on Vos’ nearest neighbours, Sarristec lifted a hand. “Of course you will. And despite the current shortages, as long as I am in power, I will work for and with the unions to ensure that they have all the energy they need.”
    “We’re all behind you, sir. You need anything, Union One Four Three will be right there to help you out.”

    “Thank you.” Sarristec made a show of consulting his schedules. “Now, please excuse me. I’d love to talk more but I have a very full day.”
    With an effusive babble of thank-yous and apologies for disturbing him, Hot House’s image evaporated.

    Sarristec settled back on the divan and returned to the news feed, contemplating whether he knew anyone who might be willing to trade some trivial favour for the services of a construction crew or two.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Central Compound
    Bn’rite Encampment
    Anska


    In spite of muscles that ached from fatigue, First Kor moved restlessly through the compound, his long, loping strides kicking up small clouds of dark green dust. The first time he had seen the mining site, the prevalence of that ugly colour, so like dried blood, had evoked equally ugly images of death and defeat. Time had only justified that unreasoning, instinctual response.

    He had witnessed the battle from the fringes, allowing First Kirvi to lead the charge. She, the more aggressive of the two, had been the better choice. And to her credit, she had cut a swathe through the Machines’ ranks, her forces bringing many of them down before eventually falling to their overwhelming air power. Ultimately though, the attack had to be considered a failure. Too many of the Machines remained operational and, if the scouts spoke truly, many of those who had been felled were being rapidly repaired.

    It was only a matter of time before the reprisals began.

    Kor’s front nostril flared as he rounded the corner of an anti-aircraft battery and caught the distinct scent of fused metal. Arcs of light sporadically illuminated the brooding shape that lurked behind the camp’s control tower, making monsters out of the labouring technicians’ shadows. The geothermal siphon was but a few short spans from being finished and once it was, they would have the power to raise a deflection field around the entire hillside, barricading themselves in against the Machines’ onslaught.

    Those few short spans might as well have been an eternity. Of the twenty heavy sects the Bn’rite had landed, Kor had three left at his disposal, along with the fragmentary remains of two more. His anti-aircraft guns would undoubtedly deter the kind of bombing raid that had destroyed Kirvi but they would be little use if the enemy got in close – and Kor did not believe for a moment it could not. He had seen the weird, shifting, bipedal things weather even point-blank tank fire, and they were ungodly fast. Nothing that large and unbalanced should be able to move so nimbly and yet they did, dancing around the lumbering heavy artillery, on legs one moment, on wheels the next.

    Involuntarily, Kor’s upper shoulders slid inwards. He quickly coughed and rubbed at them, disguising the fear reflex as a reaction to the abominable chill that dusk always brought.

    A Second hailed him, joining his left hands in a salute. “We’ve caught another one, First.”
    Tossing his head in acknowledgement, grateful for the distraction, Kor demanded details.

    It was a familiar story. They had been rooting out the infiltrators since the Machines had made their aerial sortie of the encampment. Rocks that mysteriously appeared near vital equipment. Small, scuttling things that registered on the energy detectors. Cable-like worms that burrowed down into the mine shafts. This instance was no different from the dozen previous to it. A rock had been caught shifting into the form of a small, six-legged creature. It had tried to slip into the control tower, only to be cornered and neutralised by observant sentries.

    Kor told the Second to commend the soldiers in question and ordered the remains transferred to a laboratory in one of the other compounds. With all available science personnel working on the siphon, there would be no one to dissect the blackened tangles of gears and wires. Detailed studies of their foe’s spies would have to wait.

    A rattling cheer from the technicians drew Kor’s attention and he felt a surge of hope as he saw that one of the three heat exchange vanes had been activated. The siphon’s great cylindrical body emitted a series of low moans as the machinery inside began to turn. Dismissing the Second, Kor loped across to where the chief engineer stood haranguing her aides.

    “Three spans,” Pavra announced in answer to the First’s unasked question, “Though there’s a good chance installing the next two vanes with it powered up will tear the whole thing apart. And we’re going to lose more workers. I can tell you that for nothing.”
    “Do you think we have a choice?”
    She glanced sideways at him, hard violet eyes becoming angry vertical slits. “No. But if you’ve got any more troopers with technical training, we need them here.”
    “They’re all already here,” he assured her, “Or they’re in the medical house, as good as dead.”
    The chief engineer snorted and, without asking permission to leave, stormed off to supervise the installation of the next vane.

    Crossing his arms, Kor looked up at the siphon, recalling how he had watched its components being loaded aboard the deep-space cruiser before lift-off from the homeworld. He had marvelled at their size and intricacy, and had planned for the siphon’s immediate construction on arrival, to strengthen what he already considered a very strong defensive position. The lethally agile aircraft that had forced the cruiser down a good way shy of its intended landing site had disabused him of the notion that securing the Bn’rite foothold would be so simple a matter. But it had not been until he had watched seventeen heavy sects torn apart by a relative handful of machine creatures that it had occurred to him it might be impossible.

    With their shifting bodies and expertly camouflaged bases, the Machines seemed to have stepped out of the nightmare stories of Kor’s childhood: great metal ogres burrowing up from the ground to feast upon the unworthy. Surely someone must have built them. Yet in all their engagements with them, no evidence of any pilot or controller had been found. And the way they moved, the strange expressiveness of what must surely be their faces…

    Kor spun on his hindmost heel and propelled himself towards the control tower. He could not afford to brood in front of his already demoralised forces. There were strategies to refine, tank deployments to revise, communications to send to the homeworld – a million trivial tasks to keep him from thoughts better left un-thought. Forcing himself to focus on military minutiae, he began to climb the staircase that led to the upper observation deck. Being able to see first-hand the layout of the position he needed to defend always helped with planning, if only by cutting through the overwhelming mass of data that computer readouts provided –

    The compound’s klaxons screamed. Kor froze with two feet on the third storey walkway then bolted the remaining distance into the observation deck, shoving past the sentries to get a clear view down through the foothills. Symbols were flashing across the crystal windows, alerts and tactical data painted in bright blues and greens. Magnified images sprung up next to them, transmissions from perimeter drones whose proximity sensors were going wild.

    Kor needed none of it. The observation deck offered clear line of sight right the way across the plains below and he could see with own eyes the clouds of dust billowing up on the horizon, the dark shapes racing ahead of them. And he was sure, even over the howling alarms, that he could hear the roar of alien engines, hungry for vengeance.

    The Machines were coming for them.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     
  10. The Librarian

    The Librarian Well-Known Member

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    1.5: Battle Protocol
    Plains
    Anska


    Gunning his engine, Optrion roared up the short, rocky rise, shells from the Bn’rite forward positions tearing the air apart above him. At the last moment, with his front wheels grazing the top of the rise, he flung himself sideways. Half-transforming, he dived for the lower ground as missiles pulverised the incline behind him. He crashed back to earth, hands shooting out to take the impact then pulling in again as he folded back into vehicle mode and rocketed onwards.

    Around him, fifty-two ground warriors bounced and tumbled across the plain amidst an increasingly heavy bombardment. Incoming fire and wild driving filled the air with clouds of dust and smoke. The local vegetation was rapidly being reduced to a few sorry clumps, eaten up by jagged craters and erratic tyre tracks. Those soldiers who could were returning the Bn’rite’s fire, sending bolts of light streaming up through the evening gloom towards the tanks that clung to the hillsides like angry limpets. Since the attack force had to evade a concentrated enemy barrage, most of the shots were falling short or going wide, throwing up yet more debris and doing little to deter the Bn’rite gunners.

    A low-slung hoverjet cruised past Optrion, engines burning bright beneath dark blue armour. Tilting sharply, the mech managed to avoid one volley only to veer into the path of another. The shells slammed into him and his insensate body went pin-wheeling backwards, consumed by fire. Optrion swerved wildly, cursing as the shockwave from another blast nearly sent him end over axle. He regained his balance just in time to see two heavily armoured transporters blown off their wheels by an earth-shattering explosion that marked the landscape with the deepest gouge yet.

    “Squad leader to all point mechs,” he beamed to the communications relay, “New ordinance detected. Identify immediately.”
    “They’ve turned – ah, slaggit!” The response was obliterated by a burst of static.
    “They’ve moved some sort of heavy gun into place,” another voice cut in, “Can’t get a clear line of sight on it.”
    “I’ve got a target!” a third voice joined in, “Taking the shot!”

    “We’re not coverin’ enough ground here,” Ironhide broke in on another, more direct channel, his dull red form barrelling out of the smoke, “Too much time dodgin’, not enough gettin’ forward.”
    “We’ve got twenty mechs within two hix of their forward perimeter,” Optrion replied calmly, using a sharp zigzag manoeuvre to avoid another out-of-control body, “Which as of – now includes the two of us.
    “Slag me,” the older soldier muttered, “There ah was thinkin’ yah might be loosin’ control.”
    “Not yet.” Flipping channels, Optrion tapped back into the relay. “All point mechs – release stage one flares. Wave two – close up for full strike on the central compound. Wave three – fan out and begin diversion manoeuvres.”

    A thousand miniature supernovas filled the darkening Anska sky, bathing the Bn’rite camp in high-intensity electromagnetic radiation. The effect lasted mere moments but it was more than enough to blind the troops positioned at the perimeter. And the instant the tank fire slackened, Optrion’s soldiers accelerated hard.

    The second wave bunched up into a rough arrow, homing in on the western side of the Bn’rite lines. Opening up with missiles and machine guns, they scattered the defenders, cutting the pockets of infantry down with ease and blowing three tanks into blackened shrapnel. The other positions were far too slow to respond, their attention forcibly split between an abruptly concentrated onslaught and the Cybertronian rear guard still weaving about on the fringes of the plain. Warriors peeling off from the wedge formation were able to dart with ease under the remaining tanks’ barrels and empty plasma rounds into their flanks. Within a few microcycles of the flares, the Bn’rite perimeter lay wide open, their remaining forces retreating at full speed back under the relative protection of the stationary guns mounted on the walls of the mining compounds.

    Slewing to a halt, transforming and hunkering down behind a particularly large boulder, Optrion quickly surveyed the scene, marking the close-range turrets as they opened up on the invading force. Ironhide slammed down next to him, rolling into a crouch, weapons humming fiercely. “Yah ready fer this?” he asked shortly, hands flexing.
    Optrion locked his rifle into place, hand transforming to seal around the stock. “Absolutely.”

    And he launched himself into the crossfire.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The Celestial Temple
    Iacon
    Cybertron


    The muted muttering of the Emirates and their aides faded as the Prime entered the council chamber, his spear beating time against the Temple’s ornately patterned floors. Sentinel paused on the threshold, his white optics flaring ever so slightly. The Emirates rose and bowed, some more flamboyantly than others.

    Acknowledging their show of respect with a single slow nod, the aged mech strode through the centre of the chamber, through the circle of seats and perches the Council occupied. Ascending to the high platform on which the huge, intricately engraved throne stood flanked by golden pillars, Sentinel turned to survey the assembly, spear coming down with one last resounding boom. Then, at last, he took his seat. The Emirates followed suit, several of the lower-ranking aides slinking out of the chamber before the great doors could slam shut.

    “This Council is in session,” Sentinel announced, his voice filling the hall, “Praise the Allspark. Hail the Flame.”
    “Praise the Allspark,” came the refrain, “Hail the Prime.”
    “Given the latest report from Anska, I believe a decision on the matter is now of paramount importance.” Kaliton was the first to speak, folding his claws together as he made the proposal.
    Xaaron lifted a hand. “I second this.”
    “We all consider the matter of vital importance, I think,” Tomaandi grumbled, “Is anyone intending to suggest firm courses of action?”
    “Iacon moves for the immediate deployment of reinforcements,” Traachon responded, his antenna vibrating slightly, “If Megatron is unable to prevent the activation of the Bn’rite geothermal power supply, it is unlikely he will be able to repulse their beachhead.”
    “And do you really think these aliens will be content with simply securing their position?” Graviitus demanded, “Once they can properly defend themselves, how long do you think it will take them to bring in their own reinforcements?”

    Kaliton’s claws snapped. “I move that all forces currently deployed on Anska be recalled immediately. Altihex does not consider the mining operation there to be profitable enough to justify the resources being expended in its defence. Particularly if that defence means a protracted conflict with an alien power.”
    A discordant chorus of agreement and protest greeted the counter-proposal. Half a dozen Emirates began speaking over one another, expressing half a dozen conflicting opinions on the issue and berating the others for not agreeing with them on every point.

    It took the echoing slam of the Prime’s spear against the dais to return the Council to order. He said nothing, merely regarded them with a stern expression long enough for them to remember what had happened the last time their discussions had become an out-right argument. With somewhat more decorum, they resumed, Traachon nipping in ahead of his peers to begin a long, excruciatingly detailed speech outlining all the reasons military action on Anska needed to be continued and, indeed, reinforced at the earliest opportunity.

    Sentinel watched impassively from his throne. His gold and vermilion body was almost perfectly still, which had the curious effect of blurring the line between the mech and the surrounding decoration. Only the minute adjustments of his head and eyes as he followed the debate betrayed the fact that he was not just another statue.

    His gaze lingered briefly upon the Emirate for Nova Cronum, perhaps recalling previous exchanges. For his part, Xaaron appeared content to attend keenly to the words of his peers without offering any in return. He had the look of a polite spectator, and the most it seemed he was concealing was his usual, slightly self-satisfied amusement at the proceedings.

    Only time would tell how long that would last.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Command and Control Tower
    Bn’rite Encampment
    Anska


    “Realign Compound Two’s north-east guns to cover Compound Three’s south-west walls!” First Kor seized the edge of the operations chart, bracing himself as the observation deck shook violently. He tried to locate the source of the explosion but the speed and close confines of the battle were overloading the tactical readouts, making it impossible to trace every missile’s trajectory.

    “Power loss to eastern deflection barrier!” one of the operations techs shouted, frantically manipulating one of the control consoles, “Defence guns in that sector destroyed!”
    “Reassign squad six to compensate.” Kor glanced up at the semi-circle of windows that, in theory, allowed him to survey the battlefield. Unfortunately, nightfall and an obscuring pall of smoke had reduced visibility so far that only brief flashes of the conflict could be seen, caught in the glare of swinging spotlights and the glow of weapons fire.

    With one source of information blinded and the other suffering from the opposite problem, Kor had to base his decisions on the constant stream of communications chatter flooding into the command post from those fighting the battle first hand. Hardly a reliable and consistent source of information at the best of times, the chaos outside was making it positively unsound, leaving the First with increasingly large holes in his bigger picture.

    He was therefore not willing to believe that he could discern, within the intermittent flurry of information, a subtle thinning of the enemies’ ranks. He could see their energy signatures faltering on the screens, in some cases blinking out entirely. Soldiers on the ground reported toppling the giants, bringing them to their knees, blowing their armoured bodies apart. He had even caught sight of one of the Machines going down, pounded by the point-defence guns until its armour shattered and it collapsed, clawing uselessly at the air. The short-range defences, deployed at point-blank range, seemed to be doing what all the tanks and ranged artillery had not.

    The temptation to accept that the tide was turning in the Bn’rite’s favour was immense. But every shudder and every scream over the communications channels reminded Kor that his men were still dying and that even if the Machines were being worn down, any lapse in concentration would be fatal. Still, when the Chief Engineer’s voice broke through the hubbub to announce in excited tones that the geothermal siphon’s second vane was operational, he could not resist slapping his lower right hands together in a gesture of triumph.

    A fresh energy filled the control room, a new purpose entering the operators’ movements. Capitalising on the surge in morale, Kor sent two of the nearest active tanks charging forward to meet the enemy’s advance head on. He scowled, examining the readouts, drawing out the meaning amid the madness, then ordered two more to retreat to flank the central compound. Together with the forces already stationed within the walls, they might be able to keep the Machines at bay long enough to –

    “First!” A Second, her face flushed with panic, called out from her monitoring post. “We’ve lost deflection barriers on the north wall!”
    “Enemy troops on attack run!” another operator yelled, as if Kor could not already see the patterns leaping out from the sensor inputs, or hear the roar of missile impacts.

    Outside, spotlights swung round to better illuminate the north side of the compound. The grey expanse of the wall visibly shook under another assault then fell still as the sentry guns opened up at full power on whatever was on the other side.

    For an instant, Kor thought the strange shift in the wall’s colour was down to the harsh light shed by the gunfire. It was not. A strange dampness was spreading out from a spot roughly halfway up. More than that, the surface of the wall was beginning to bubble.

    Kor opened his mouths to order a full report of what was happening but before he could utter a single word, a hulking red vehicle erupted through the melting surface, acid still dripping from the bizarre looking weapon projecting from its roof. Without needing to be ordered to do so, the troops inside the compound fired. Their shots bounced harmlessly off the Machine’s armour, and it swerved aside, allowing another, larger red vehicle, this one trimmed with blue and riding on six wheels, to burst through the hole in the wall.

    A tank roared around from behind the control tower, blasting away as it came. The red and blue Machine weaved through the hail of shells then suddenly surged upwards, exploding into a flurry of pistons and panels. These swiftly resolved into a towering figure that bodily tackled the oncoming war machine, driving it backwards. The first Machine changed too, the strange gun leaping into one huge metal hand and spewing forth, not acid this time, but a jet of freezing liquid that left a flash-frost on everything it touched. Soldiers keeled over, their limbs curling in on their bodies in death. The tank’s armour buckled, unable to stand the strain of being cooled so quickly.

    The red and blue creature stood back and levelled the barrel of a weapon that seemed to be fused into its arm. Kor screamed at the operators to realign the remaining guns, to turn them to aim inside the compound. The order came too late. The alien thing fired and a lance of golden light reduced the tank and its crew to a blazing fireball.

    Almost simultaneously, the Bn’rite retaliation smashed into the Machine’s hide, shells peppering its hideous form from all angles. Staggered, it nearly fell. Its fellow rushed to its side, giving it covering fire with more streams of destructive chemicals.

    The red and blue Machine lifted its head to look up at the control tower, to look straight at Kor with the two yellow lamps that sat were its eyes should have been. Those lamps shifted a fraction, expressing something the First did not – could not – comprehend.

    All his righteous fury drained away in an instant and he was turned cold by the unknowable depths of the alien’s gaze.

    And then, to his horror, every single Bn’rite sensor system crashed at once.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     
  11. The Librarian

    The Librarian Well-Known Member

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    1.6: Point of Impact
    The Celestial Temple
    Iacon
    Cybertron


    “It is still not fully understood how Cybertron converts sunlight into chemical potential!” Aetalon’s fist pounded against his thigh. The Emirate for Simfur’s single eye had contracted to a fiercely burning point. “The solar harvester project is wonderful in theory but it is only a theory! We can’t give up existing resource planets because a theory says we might not have to rely on them in the future!”
    “Existing resource planets are only worth protecting if they are providing resources!” Tomaandi insisted fervently, “It has surely been established by now that Anska is a weak investment –”
    “Nothing of the kind has been established!” wailed the Emirate for Tagan, his wheels whirring plaintively, “Despite Altihex’s attempts to distort the evidence! We maintain that given enough time, Anska would be a very valuable –”
    “Time spent beating off constant alien attacks!” Haacano rumbled, “In light of the reports that the Bn’rite are preparing for a second invasion attempt, Tarn sides with Altihex: this planet is not worth an extended off-world conflict.”
    Graviitus gave a howl of derision. “Tarn would have Cybertron bow to off-worlders, would it? Vos insists that we cannot allow lesser powers to dictate our mining and exploration programmes!”
    “Vos insists on a great many things,” came the instant retort, “often without giving full consideration to the consequences!”
    “We reject the implication of that statement!” Graviitus roared.

    Glancing up at the throne, Xaaron wondered why Sentinel was allowing the argument to escalate. The Prime had made no move to call for order, despite the increasing disorder with which the debate was being conducted. He was slightly surprised to find that Sentinel was looking back at him, optics bright with focus. They held each other’s gaze for a moment, then Xaaron looked back at the Council. Traachon was desperately trying to calm Graviitus down as the other Emirates were began splitting off into sub-conferences, the global political alliances manifesting in miniature, any hope of a swift resolution rapidly evaporating.

    Resignedly, Xaaron began to beat his fist against the side of his chair.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Central Compound
    Bn’rite Encampment
    Anska


    Growling in pain, Optrion dodged behind the control tower. Disrupting the Bn’rite’s electronic targeting systems had done nothing to stop them manually aiming their weapons and the punishment he had taken getting so far into their territory made it doubtful he would survive many more direct hits. Which was going to be a problem, since the tanks that had been flanking the compound were now firing wildly and continuously through the hole Ironhide had made in its protective wall.

    Spikes of agony shot through the back of Optrion’s knees and he whirled to find that a trio of Bn’rite troopers had managed to sneak up behind him, an impressive feat given that they were carrying a kind of four-barrelled cannon between them. He wondered if his rear sensors had been obscured by battle-damage or compromised by the sensor-jamming pack. Despite the normal precautions when handling such devices, it was not unknown for those using them to be affected along with their targets.

    He loosed a volley of ion bolts and sent the aliens scattering, their exposed skin burnt and blistered.
    “Everythin’ still und’r control?” Ironhide asked, ducking round to join his squad leader, smoke still pouring from where Bn’rite munitions had flattened themselves against his armour.
    “Why would you think it wasn’t?” Optrion shot back. A shell promptly impacted a hand’s width from his foot, blowing the two of them backwards and showering them in dirt and shrapnel. He threw a warning look at the red warrior, daring him to comment.

    Smirking, Ironhide jerked a thumb towards the opposite end of the compound. “Yah think we should try ta take the tap out?”
    “We wouldn’t make it. And besides…” Optrion pointed up. “Listen.”

    New sounds had joined the cacophony of the battle, the high whine of straining motors and the resounding thump of flak being launched skywards. Arcs of superheated metal began to pour into the night as the encampment’s anti-aircraft guns sprang to life.

    They were much too late.

    Transformed for atmospheric flight, hull spread out into a great delta wing, the Cybertronian space-cruiser rocketed overhead, followed nano-cycles later by a sonic-boom so powerful it nearly flattened everyone below into the ground. The Bn’rite guns, deafened and blinded, tried in vain to bring it down. Though they scored a few hits simply because it was too big a target to escape entirely unscathed, most of the fire streamed impotently past, the ship hurtling onwards unhindered. The guns swung in an attempt to track it and struck nothing but its exhaust fumes.

    Focusing on the retreating spacecraft was the last mistake of the gunners’ lives.

    The twenty heavily-built mechs who had leapt from the cargo-bay doors plummeted unseen towards the buildings below until, at the last possible moment, they triggered their thrust packs, high-energy gravity pulses providing just enough lift to prevent them from being dashed to bits by the landing. As the boost slowed their descent, most of them transformed, shifting into massive tracked vehicles loaded down with weaponry.

    The last one to land did so only after pushing his thrust pack to the limit. Actually swooping back upwards, he covered two hix more than he might otherwise have done before slamming into the ground in the middle of the central compound, still in bipedal form, knees bending to absorb the impact. Drawing himself up to his full height, he stretched, shed the smouldering thruster and roared. In one fluid movement, he collapsed into a tank bigger and more heavily armed than any of the rest. His gun barrels slid out of their housings, already belching fire. The first shot ploughed through the control tower and practically sliced it in two.

    Megatron had arrived.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The Celestial Temple
    Iacon
    Cybertron


    “Emirates, we are straying from the point,” Xaaron said once he had the Council’s full attention, “Again.” This was greeted with irritated but subdued muttering, several of the gold-clad mechs throwing glances at the Prime. Xaaron ignored them. “Each city has its own perspective on this matter, naturally, but trying to persuade each other that we are right and they are wrong is only serving to make this Council appear divided and indecisive.”

    Of course, this Council was divided and indecisive and everyone knew it but no self-respecting Emirate would ever admit as much. It would have been tantamount to admitting that they were fundamentally superfluous and therefore had no reason to be stationed in Iacon, a city renowned for the luxury of its high-end habitation districts. The only thing potentially more damaging was the possibility that outsiders might reach that same conclusion unaided and take it upon themselves to do something rash. Like conduct a detailed investigation into councillors’ living costs, for example.

    “Besides which,” Xaaron continued, having hesitated momentarily to allow his peers to work out the implications for themselves, “the longer we procrastinate, the more lives will be lost on Anska. Megatron intends to attack before the Bn’rite can secure their position – he may already have done so – and whatever the outcome, that battle will be costly for both sides. Moreover, it is unwise to assume that success on one battlefield will automatically lead to victory on another. I have been a soldier – I know first-hand how changeable the fortunes of war are.” He paused again, allowing those mechs who, like him, had seen military service to offer gestures of acknowledgement. Tomaandi shifted uncomfortably, lacing his fingers together, but said nothing. Noting this with some pleasure, Xaaron went on. “In all likelihood, neither side will be able to adequately defend a claim to the planet with the forces currently deployed there. Therefore, both we and the Bn’rite face the same choice – send reinforcements or leave Anska. And we must both make that decision quickly, lest the other side move in first.

    “As to how the Bn’rite will respond, it is perhaps worth considering the fact that they, given their biological nature and technological state, have a narrower choice of colonisable planets. We are flexible. We can pick and choose those planets that will give us the maximum resource yield, regardless of their surface conditions. The Bn’rite cannot. It is in their interests to fight and fight hard for every world they discover to be inhabitable by their species. I find it unlikely they will not attempt to secure another bridgehead on Anska. Indeed, as the honourable Emirate for Tarn pointed out, long-range monitoring already indicates increased activity in their home system, possibly as a prelude to a second interstellar mission.

    “I consider it even less likely that they will not make a concerted effort to avenge the losses incurred by their first mission.” Xaaron smiled slightly. “A futile effort, perhaps. But as I have said, battles are costly. Whatever we decide, we must be satisfied that Cybertron can live with the consequences. Shutting down the operations on Anska will be a blow to those states that have an investment in them, there is no doubt of that. Equally, there can be no doubt that a long term military operation would be a drain on every state.

    “It is our duty to weigh these considerations and determine the optimum course of action. I believe we have had more than enough time to do so,” he concluded, placing his hands together in an echo of Tomaandi’s earlier gesture. “The government I have the honour to represent agrees with my assessment. As such, Nova Cronum moves for an immediate vote on the Anska issue.”
    “Tarn seconds this.” Hacaano stated, just beating Kaliton to the punch.

    Agreement, enthusiastic, resigned and grudging, was slowly signalled by each member of the council. Traachon was the one who proposed the final motion. This, of course, was Iacon’s right as the de facto planetary capital. His glance at Xaaron, however, suggested that in this case it was a right he was not eager to exercise. Clearly he did not think much of his city’s chances in the approaching vote.

    “The motion is this: that reinforcements be immediately dispatched to aid with the security and defence of the mining operations being conducted on the planet designated Anska, on the understanding that if this does not happen, the Anska operations will perforce have to be abandoned and all troops currently deployed, recalled. All those in favour?”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Bn’rite Encampment
    Anska


    It was glorious to behold.

    The heavy brigade cleaved remorselessly through the Bn’rite fortifications, their guns obliterating stone and metal and flesh and bone with equal ease. Throughout the encampment, walls came tumbling down, their foundations erupting into volcanic blooms, blown apart by concussion missiles and magma grenades. Mining equipment – heavy lifters and massive reinforced drills – melted as coruscating energy beams bored into them, their superstructures collapsing and breaking apart with a kind of chaotic beauty that most sculptors would have killed to replicate. Control towers crumbled before the angry songs of sonic cannons, crystal and stone shattering to powder and exploding outward in fantastic dark clouds.

    Ravage had secured the perfect vantage point from which to admire the slaughter. From atop a largely intact guard tower someway above the camp, he could fully appreciate the artistry inherent in the destruction being wrought upon Cybertron’s enemies and, as much as his duties allowed, he permitted himself to become absorbed in the spectacle.

    The Bn’rite had been thrown completely off balance. The tanks so effective at range and against more lightly armoured foes were helpless in the face of the Cybertronian shock troops. Their blazing wrecks soon adorned the hills alongside the ruins of the buildings they had been trying to protect. Ground troops and technicians scattering in panic before the onslaught were quickly crushed under tread, their occasional attempts to fight back little more than an irritation to the attackers. No tiny hand-held alien weapon was going to breach these warriors’ armour.

    At the centre of the attack was Megatron, the axis on which the wheel of battle was turning. The silver giant’s first act had been to systematically reduce the main tower to dust and ashes, his guns sweeping to and fro until nothing remained of it or its inhabitants. Then he had turned his attention to the geothermal tap. He forced his way through – and over – the remaining defenders, physically ramming one of the tanks aside before detonating another with a well-aimed burst of laser fire. Transforming as he reached the foot of the massive cylinder, he swatted engineers from their gantries and drove a fist through the main surface control cabin. That done, he stood back, lifted his rifles and calmly fired shot after shot after shot into the semi-functional power supply’s heart.

    At first this seemed to do little, the sting of an insect on the hide of a great beast of burden. But in no time at all, whole sections of the machine were open to the stinking air and its insides were aflame, twisting and distorting as laser bolts hammered into them again and again and again. Torn free from its housing as the internal mechanisms unbalanced, one of the heat exchange vanes erupted from the shell, a great metal knife crushing its way through delicate pipework and heavy-duty support beams.

    Megatron paused briefly as two – perhaps the last two – Bn’rite tanks charged at him. They did not fire, presumably because they had already exhausted their ammunition. Their crews must have been determined to go down fighting in any way they could. An honourable but pointless gesture. One of them never made it near Megatron. Two Cybertronians – the Iaconian and one of his troopers – sprang upon it and, between them, flipped it onto its back. And as the other rushed heedlessly on, Megatron sprang forward to meet it, rifles retracting into his arms, and seized it in both hands. He heaved, lifting it clean off the ground, and whirled, flinging the tank with all his might towards the siphon. It crashed through the wreckage and, with a great rushing howl of tortured metal, the whole thing began to slip with thunderous inevitability into the shaft in which it had been constructed.

    To all intents and purposes, the battle was over in that moment. Megatron stood victorious again. As if there could ever have been any doubt. The field commander bellowed in triumph, a cry echoed by every Cybertronian still standing or rolling.

    Intending to add his voice to the chorus, Ravage began to transform. A sudden burst of signals stopped him in his tracks and he quickly settled back into radio mast mode. His function as a battlefield communications relay overrode everything, even the right to celebrate victory. An urgent voice quickly materialised out of the decoding algorithms, that of the planetary comms officer. Her tone was disbelieving and Ravage could not help but feel an echo of that same incredulity as he heard what she was saying.

    He contacted Megatron immediately, relaying the message and requesting a response. For a long, painful moment there was none. When Megatron did speak, it was in a low, angry growl. “Repeat. That. Communication.”

    Wishing with all his being that there was no communication to repeat, Ravage obeyed. “Message reads: Priority instruction to field commander, Anska expeditionary force. New High Council edict – all military operations on Anska to cease. All forces currently deployed to withdraw to the Dion Prima Staging Ground and await new orders. All mining personnel and equipment to be evacuated and returned to Cybertron. All remaining Cybertronian technology to be reduced to basic constituents and destroyed. Please acknowledge receipt of this communication immediately.”

    Another, longer silence followed. Ravage could feel his commander’s anger almost as a physical blow, even from so far away. Finally, Megatron’s voice cut across the airwaves, as cold as space. “Communication acknowledged. Relay this to all forces in play: withdraw immediately to Dega Tryptic and prepare to leave Anska; repeat, withdraw immediately.

    “And relay
    this to the High Council: the battle here has been won.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     
  12. ARCTrooperAlpha

    ARCTrooperAlpha Well-Known Member

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    love this ! I particularly enjoy how you played out politics (being a student of poli sci)

    Most politicians, especially in the Asian regions, usually make these kinds of concessions for the sake of "saving face" or "let it go, that place is worthless to us". I'm dying to know what happens how the Bn'rite will react when they need more resources : )

    This is a pretty good prequel to the Unicron Trilogy since Megatron was a military commander before Optimus was one (comic book-wise anyway). Aside from the caste system, the Aligned continuity is pretty boring.

    Overall, GREAT JOB !!!!
     
  13. The Librarian

    The Librarian Well-Known Member

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    Thanks! Glad you're enjoying it - and that the political bits aren't too obviously fudged!

    I shifted it from the Unicron Trilogy to a Generation One style universe chiefly because of my love of the UK comics. I think there's a lot more scope there for interesting backstory. Most of the political stuff is directly derived from references in Furman's annual stories, both prose and comic-strip.

    And to be honest, the caste system is one of the things I actively loathe about the Prime backstory. I don't think it makes sense, and I view it as a ham-handed attempt to make Cybertron alien and different while giving Megatron a sympathetic backstory at the expense of the Autobot's moral high ground. But there's a rant for another time.

    Epilogue to act one follows!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    1.7: Lift Off
    Cybertronian Mining Site Dega-Tryptic
    Anska


    The last mining platform finished folding up and heaved itself from the ground, beginning its slow rise to meet the waiting space cruiser. Optrion turned and surveyed the rest of the camp, now almost completely stripped of equipment. Only one command platform was still in place and even that was already reconfigured into transport mode. A scattering of soldiers remained on the ground, ostensibly as sentries, but in truth there was little left to guard and even less left to guard against.

    A last pointless gesture in an utterly pointless campaign.

    Optrion’s hands curled into fists. Many good mechs had died fighting for Anska, many more remained in stasis lock and in the end it had all been for nothing. At a stroke, all the deaths and all the slaughter had been rendered completely unnecessary.

    Throwing himself angrily into vehicle mode, he charged through the empty camp, scanning for any equipment or debris that had been overlooked. Standard procedure required all evidence of Cybertronian activity to be erased, insofar as that was possible, and it was the responsibility of all squad leaders to ensure this had been carried out properly. True, Optrion was probably not in the best frame of mind for such a task either, but responsibility did not step aside because of one’s personal grievances.

    He drove recklessly, without heed for the conditions or the aggravation of his wounds, trying to find focus in the motion and the feel of his wheels on the torn-up earth. With grinding slowness, it came, the cool clarity of radar and infra-red, microwaves and geophysics taking the edge off his anger. Soon he had located and collected a few small components that had evaded earlier sweeps, carefully storing them so they could be cleaned and sorted later.

    It was as he was retrieving a minute power regulator that he caught sight of the brooding figure on the fringe of the former camp. Even at a distance, there was no mistaking Megatron. His powerful form was stark against the dark landscape, silver armour turned deep orange by the dawn light. He stood with his arms folded, staring out across the plains, head moving slightly this way and that as he followed the swoops and dives of the winged animals searching for food amidst the churned mud.

    “Take my advice: don’t.”

    Megatron’s lieutenant lay stretched out on a large nearby rock, watching him through half-shielded optics. Which was something of a shock given that Optrion had scanned that particular rock thoroughly mere nano-cycles earlier and found nothing.
    “Don’t what?” he asked, reversing slightly.
    “Show your support. Try to snap him out of it. Go anywhere near him.” The black quad languidly raised a paw and waved towards his superior. “Trust me: he would not thank you.”
    A little disconcerted – he had indeed been debating whether he should speak to Megatron, if only in the spirit of comradeship – Optrion shifted uncomfortably on his suspension. “Oh…of course. I understand.”
    “No you don’t,” Ravage replied with a smile, “But at least you try.”
    “I understand why he’s angry.” Irked by the condescending tone, Optrion responded with more heat than he had intended. “He has every right to be. We’ve finally secured this planet and now we’re just going to walk away from it.”
    “Of course we are.” Ravage examined his claws, sliding them in and out of their housings. “Allspark forbid that the great and glorious High Council ever reverses a decision on account of something as trivial as the facts.”

    Optrion frowned, disturbed by the cool sarcasm. “That’s not what I meant.”
    “No?”
    “I…” He tried to work out what he had meant. He had certainly not been trying to imply that the Council were foolish for not changing their minds. They must have had good reasons for making the choice they had, reasons that still existed even though the Bn’rite had been defeated…

    “They should have decided sooner,” he said eventually, “We needn’t have lost so many if they’d just been quicker to decide this planet wasn’t worth fighting for.”
    “Hmm.” Ravage rose to sit on his haunches. “How very Iaconian of you.” He sprang to the ground and Optrion realised that Megatron had begun to march back into the camp, apparently still lost in thought.

    With a flick of his tail and not so much as a backwards glance, Ravage slinked away after the field commander, vanishing from sight and sensor as abruptly as he had appeared. Left alone with the debris, Optrion tried to figure out which particular aspect of being ‘Iaconian’ he had just been insulted about. Quickly deciding it was not worth the processing power, he went back to scanning, determined to lose himself once again in dispassionate topography.

    Behind him, with a whine of motivators, the folded command platform finally pulled up its moorings and rose into the morning sky, the standard of Cybertron lifting from Anska’s soil for the last time.

    End of Act 1


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Cast – Act 1

    Name (Nickname) – Function – Full designation [Name – Base Form – Template – Birthing Well]

    Sentinel Prime ​
    () – Prime of Cybertron
    Xaaron () – Emirate of Nova Cronum – Xa Mech Aron Tava Szenda
    Graviitus () – Emirate of Vos – Gravi Mech Itus Lyivas Keldon
    Haacano () – Emirate of Tarn – Haac Mech Ano Tava Szenda
    Tomaandi () – Emirate of Praxus – Toma Mech Andi Verous Klyda
    Traachon () – Emirate of Iacon – Traac Mech Hon Ias Zar
    Kalitron () – Emirate of Altihex – Kali Hexi Tron Roda Corvis
    Aetalon () – Emirate of Simfur – Aeta Cyol Lon Dradia Chemil

    Optrion () – Planetary Defence Force Squad Leader – Op Mech Trion Novus Zar
    Zerinat (Ironhide) – Planetary Defence Force Trooper – Zer Mech Inat Cosa Hexus
    Toiinat (Ratchet) – Planetary Defence Force Medic – Toi Mech Inat Cosa Hexus
    Megatron () – Planetary Defence Force Field Commander – Mega Mech Tron Tava Szenda
    Rahshiv (Ravage) – Planetary Defence Force Lieutenant – Rah Quad Shiv Temla Corvis
    Hialuxx (Trailbreaker) – Planetary Defence Force Trooper – Hial Mech Uxx Roda Zar
    Deoparl (Bombshock) – Planetary Defence Force Trooper – Deo Mech Parl Tava Chemil
    Rotec (Bentwing) – Planetary Defence Force Squad Leader – Ro Mech Tec Lyivas Keldon

    Taynset () – High Lord of Vos – Tayns Mech Et Lyivas Keldon
    Sarristec () – Lord of Vos – Saris Mech Tec Lyivas Keldon
    Geneion () – Lord of Vos – Genei Mech On Lyivas Keldon
    Vvnet () – Lord of Vos – Vvn Feme Et Lyivas Tema
    Omnitron () – Lord of Vos – Omni Mech Tron Tava Szenda
    Myyoc () – Lord of Vos – Myy Quad Oc Tava Corvis
    Tesauun (Hot House) – Workmaster, Union Four One Three – Tesau Mech Un Lyvias Keldon
    Zacarii () – Palace of Law Attendant – Zaca Trac Rii Tava Szenda

    Gauun () – Decal Designer – Gau Mech Un Verous Klyda
    Aratron (Wheels) – Body-shop Worker – Ara Mech Tron Verous Klyda

    Kor – Bn’rite First
    Kivri – Bn’rite First
    Pavra – Bn’rite Chief Engineer​
     
  14. The Librarian

    The Librarian Well-Known Member

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    In case you were wondering - and I'm sure you all were :)  - I don't actually know how many acts this things is going to end up being comprised on. The second Act is massive, over double the length of the first, but the third is likely to be much shorter. After that...things get a bit hazy in my plans...

    Essentially, it will be as long as it needs to be. Though it would be nice if it would let me know how long that would be...

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Act 2: The Last Days


    2.0: Shrikebats

    Cybertronian Mining Operation
    Planet Dromedon
    A very long time ago


    Nothing on Dromedon was ever dry. No matter how hard you tried, the infernal damp got everywhere. It seeped into every piece of equipment, ever storage crate, every joint. Every night you came off patrol soaking and even after a full rest cycle, you still squelched when you moved.

    Worse still, the conditions allowed the local plants to flourish to an unholy degree. Gigantic trees blocked out most of the natural light, their boughs weaving together into an impenetrable mesh that made low-level flight impossible. What wasn’t blocked off by branches was festooned with creepers and vines, the kind that clung and stuck and caught until you became so hopelessly tangled up in the things that you couldn’t move. Algae and mould bloomed everywhere, on every surface that was porous enough to take them, leaving the few bits of truly solid ground slippery and treacherous. If that wasn’t bad enough, the rest of the ground consisted entirely of a layer of weeds and slime covering the kind of bog that sucked you inexorably downwards, your body flooding with foul black sludge.

    The only thing worse than the plant life was the animal life.

    Snarling, Megatron fired a salvo of energy bolts into the whirling mass of slick purple bodies. The burning red light simply vanished into the creatures’ midst. It must have killed or at least injured a dozen of them but their sheer numbers made it impossible to tell that any had fallen. Around him, the rest of the battalion kept up similarly futile barrages, most while trying to free themselves from the various pitfalls the terrain offered.

    Nothing seemed to deter the bats. Most weapons only succeeded in dispersing them for a while. Only chemical weapons seemed remotely effective on a large scale and the atmospheric conditions made it virtually impossible to deploy those on a useful scale. They just kept on coming, weaving through the trees with almost unnatural precision, their bodies flexing and contracting as easily as any Cybertronian’s, allowing them to flit through the tightest of gaps. And the instant they got into a reasonably open space, they swarmed and became clouds of snapping jaws and flashing talons, all the while screeching and screaming until the din filled the forest, echoing and rebounding over and over again.

    “Look out!”

    Megatron was already in motion by the time the cry reached his audios, ducking below the plummeting bat’s outstretched claws. He lashed out with a balled fist, catching the animal a devastating blow to the spine. Ion bolts whizzed over his head, neatly bisecting a second bat as it tried to take advantage of his momentary distraction.

    “This is hopeless!” Optrion yelled, dropping into the gulley to join his commander.
    “I’ll welcome your suggestions,” Megatron grated back, repaying the squad leader by blowing yet another bat into charred meat nano-cycles before it could take a bite out of Optrion’s arm.
    “We can’t just keep blasting away at them,” the red and blue mech shouted, continuing to blast away, “There’s too many of them this time!”
    “Are you just going to repeat the painfully obvious for dramatic effect?” came the acerbic reply, bellowed over the howling of the swarm and the shriek of weapons fire.
    “My point is, sir, that we need to split them up somehow – stop them attacking us all at once.” Optrion swivelled abruptly, taking out a particularly large and vicious-looking beast that had been dive-bombing a lanky green warrior fighting to haul an insensate tank out of the swamp.

    “An excellent idea – but since we’re completely surrounded and up to our knees in a slagging swamp, how were you suggesting we draw them off? Hope they’ll follow us into the ground?” Megatron punctuated this sarcastic question by half-transforming – far enough for his rail gun to come together – and launching two proximity missiles. The resulting explosions blew gaping holes in the bats’ ranks, which promptly closed up again, the maddened fury of the monsters unabated. “Of course, if there were any solid ground in this wretched place,” he grumbled, retaking biped form, “I could change properly and even the odds.”
    “I was thinking sir,” Optrion put in with remarkable composure, “These things home in on our energy signatures, yes?”
    “Yes! Something useful before I rust, Iaconian!”
    “The charge in our armour,” he continued quickly, “That’s a big part of our detectable signatures – perhaps if we drained it or…inverted its polarity, it would…distort our signatures enough to put the bats off – or at least confuse them long enough for us to get the upper hand.”
    Megatron threw him a brief, incredulous look. “That has to be the most ludicrous idea I’ve ever heard!

    A bat flashed past, its talons slicing a broad gash along his back. Optrion’s hand shot out, closing tight around the thing’s barbed tail. With one mighty heave, he flung it against the nearest tree. “You didn’t say they had to be good suggestions, sir.”
    Grunting, Megatron straightened, his self-repair systems already working to seal off the damaged sections. A moment later, he triggered his com-link. “All units: initiate a polarity reversal within your charged armour on my mark. Mark!”

    The swamp lit up with the glare of momentary electrical discharges. Megatron’s frame sparked for an instant, a strange disorientating sensation flooding his body. Optrion actually flinched, clearly unprepared for the physical effect of the inversion.

    The bats reacted instantly. The swarm lifted out of the gulley, a visible jerk of surprise running through the cloud of wings and fangs. Then, all at once, it broke apart, great swathes peeling away and disappearing back into the canopy. Freed from the constant attacks, the Cybertronian warriors were suddenly able to aim with considerably more accuracy and hundreds of the startled creatures were cut down as they raced for the safety of their nests. Staring up as the last of them vanished behind a maze of foliage, Megatron let out a long, low hiss of static. He looked down to see Optrion, water dripping from his every part, wearing the expression of one extremely surprised his plan had actually worked.

    “That settles it,” Megatron growled, shaking his head in a futile effort to dislodge his own coating of slime, “First chance I get, you’re being promoted.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     
  15. batmanprime

    batmanprime Omega-con

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    Please Sir. You've got to give me more. I'm like a crack head now. I'm Jonesing.
     
  16. ARCTrooperAlpha

    ARCTrooperAlpha Well-Known Member

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    ah so we have an improviser eh ? Totally fine, you can be the next "PeteyNorth" (well known for his revamped Generation One fanfic)
     
  17. The Librarian

    The Librarian Well-Known Member

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    batmanprime - Heh! Well, forgive the slight delay in updates. I'm extremely busy moving cities at the moment, so my update schedule's gone out of wack. But I hope the next chapter gives you the fix you need!

    ARCTrooperAlpha - Improvisation but with a long term plan! I know the broad strokes, but the fine details are changable!

    New chapter - enjoy! (I like this one!)

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    2.1: Life Goes On
    Tava Szenda Birthing Well
    Tarn
    Cybertron


    Diatrion was beginning to feel just the tinniest bit redundant.

    In theory he and the rest of the white and blue liveried Civic Guardsmechs were there to provide security for the Prime’s visit to the Tava Szenda Well. Maintaining inter-state security was, after all, the sole function of the Civic Guard and this was very much an inter-state event.

    But of course the Prime was flanked at all times by a cadre of gold-armoured ceremonial bodyguards, and shadowed at all times by several dull grey full-time bodyguards, so his security was already doubly ensured. And the Well itself was under the protection of highly trained members of the Order of the Dai, each one a master of Metalikato, Circuit Su and a dozen other arcane martial arts, so anyone trying to do harm to the vast pool of protomatter would be sliced into spare parts before they got anywhere near it. And each of the surrounding city states had dispatched members of their own police forces – invariably those built along lines that discouraged boisterous conversation, let alone aggravated assault – to handle security for their individual delegations, so no one really had to worry about the presiding officials’ safety. And by long tradition, all those who wished to witness the miracle of creation were kept at a respectful distance by the Circuit Masters who tended the Well, whose sole purpose was to preserve the purity of the raw stuff of life that heaved and swelled within.

    In fact, when you got right down to it, the only reason the Civic Guard was there at all was to make sure that the event didn’t dissolve into a four way argument over who held jurisdiction.

    This time, no one showed the least inclination to argue over anything. Even the Vosian and Tarnian delegations seemed content merely to glare at each other from opposing ends of the grand observation deck. For not unrelated reasons, the phrase ‘stultifyingly boring’ kept reoccurring in Diatrion’s thoughts.

    At least the surroundings were pleasant. Indeed, they were spectacular. The Well sat in the natural pit formed by the confluence of three of the great chasms that ran between Cybertron’s thousands of continental plates. Huge pipes and armatures grew from the encircling cliffs, the ever-shifting bones of a vast machine, interlocking and pulling apart in time to some ineffable beat. The Well itself was a roughly circular bowl sunk deep into the subsurface, the rough, raw ground giving way gradually to silvery almost-liquid. Strange currents tugged the pool this way and that, shapes forming one instant to be swept away the next. Sometimes smooth cables would thread their way under the surface, moving like lightning. Sometimes weird shapes would emerge, criss-crossing patterns of metal shards or hexagonal blocks intersected with one another. Sometimes the whole mass would begin to coalesce on a single point, a lone bubble that would surge lethargically upwards only to collapse back down, lacking the energy to break free. The motion of the Well was mesmerising, chaotic but full of tantalising hints of an underlying order that, if one just stared long enough, might allow a glimpse of something greater than the physical world…

    Diatrion snapped back to attention, fixing his optics on a point well away from the Well, high in the observation deck where the Tagan dignitaries were taking their place among the throng. He was supposed to be watching for trouble – however unlikely it was to happen – not trying to commune with the Allspark. He had to be focused, ready for anything.

    “Something wrong?” asked one of the two guardsmechs manning the observation post with him.
    “No,” he replied, a little too quickly.
    The other guardsmech, the eldest and most experienced of the trio by quite a way, chuckled. “He’s just bored. Like the rest of us.”
    Shaking his head ruefully, realising there was little point protesting the assessment, Diatrion said mildly, “Just trying to stay focused.”
    Clutch – a nickname earned long ago – simply chortled again and thumped Diatrion on the shoulder with one oversized hand. “Don’t worry. Shouldn’t be more than a deca-cycle or so before they start getting on with it properly. And the ceremony itself shouldn’t last till past midday.”
    Mesinat, the third guardsmech, let out a long, low groan. With considerable effort, Diatrion clamped down on the urge to do the same.

    It was going to be a very long day.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The East Merchant District
    Praxus
    Cybertron


    It had been a very long day.

    Aratron lifted the beaker of oil and poured it into his chest inlet port with a satisfied hum. The highly refined fuel hit his systems in a rush of energy, jolting him out of his lethargy. His optics brightened considerably and he sat up straighter, a spasm in his fingers nearly causing him to lose his grip on the beaker.

    “You looked like you needed that,” Calitae told him from behind the bar, leaning her elbow on the burnished surface, “Racetrack working you too hard again?”
    “New stock,” he told her with a grimace, “Had me running raw sheets up from the docks all day.”
    “You? What is he, too tight to hire a proper hauler?”
    “Can’t afford it.”
    The thickset orange feme nodded sagely. “Tough times.”

    Taking in another draught of fuel, Aratron glanced around the room. The dingy oil-house was largely empty, a few regular patrons filling out a couple of tables, nothing more. The thunder of traffic filtered down from the expressway above as a distant roar, the occasional heavy transport setting the wall hangings rattling. A visualizer cube projected a news feed into the air, images and data-streams from the Prime’s visit to one of the Qosho Region’s Birthing Wells. No one was paying much attention to it.

    “You seen Gauun lately?” Calitae asked, picking up a beaker and a buffing pad.
    Aratron frowned. “Not for a few days.”
    “Wow.” The barkeeper began polishing. “You two fallen out again?”
    “Not since last stellar cycle.”
    “That the time he got you chucked over a cliff?”
    “Yup.”
    “How long didn’t you speak to each other that time?”
    “Day and a half.”
    “Wow,” Calitae repeated, putting down the now-shining beaker and reaching for another. The treads slung across her back shifted a little. “So a few days means, what, he’s got himself run down by a train?”
    “Dunno.” Sloshing the last of his fuel around in its container, Aratron looked across at the visualizer, aware of a surge in the information it was throwing out. The Prime had just entered the concourse leading down to the Well. Echoing the crowds in the images, a murmur of “hail the Flame, hail the Prime” ran around the oil-house, some of the mechs even lifting their beakers in salute.

    “He’s probably just caught up doing ‘art’ or whatever,” Aratron said when the moment had passed.
    “Doing art and whatever, I’ll have you know!” cried a voice from the door.

    Gauun burst in like a small silver and black rocket, charging over to the bar gesticulating wildly and talking nonstop. “Honestly, I take a couple of days out of my busy social schedule to seal the greatest deal – so far – of my professional career and everyone assumes I must have dropped off the face of the planet. What is it with you people? Can’t face the thought of life without me? A fresh can of oil for my friend, Calitae, and one for me and one for yourself! Best quality you’ve got! I’m in the mood for getting completely blasted!”
    Calitae and Aratron exchanged incredulous looks. “His processor’s finally gone and fried itself,” the mech muttered eventually.
    “Just as long as he can pay for it,” the feme said with a shrug, and reached for a drum of high-grade.

    “Fweee!” Gauun whacked Aratron on the door-wing. “Thanks a lot for all that faith you have in me. Really makes my day. Lucky for me that I have faith in me, otherwise I’d be the complete loser you seem to think I am – despite all the evidence, I might add.”
    “What evidence is this?” Calitae asked, placing freshly filled beakers on the bar, “I’ve always thought you were a loser too.”
    Snatching up one of the cans, Gauun threw back his head and chugged down half his fuel in one go, pouring it straight into his mouth. Slamming the container back down again, he grinned broadly and regally extended a hand. An image appeared above it, a burly black mech with bronze trim covered head to foot in garish cyan patterns. The hologram revolved slowly, revealing that the lurid designs wound their way across every part of the mech’s body.

    “You are looking at this season’s decals for the West Sector Athletics Team,” Gauun explained, before snapping his hand closed and dismissing the image, “And now you’re looking at the mech who’s been paid a whole heap of shannix for designing them.” Looking infuriatingly pleased with himself, he hopped onto one of the bar-perches, the seat reforming to accommodate him.
    “They paid you for those?” Aratron deadpanned.
    “We can’t afford to turn the lights up full and that bunch of wannabe gladiators can splash out on your scrawls?” Calitae shook her head disbelievingly. “There’s no justice in the universe.”
    “Oh no, no!” Their newly wealthy friend spread his hands. “Please, hold back on the gushing praise and enthusiastic congratulations! I’ve only finally made the big break I’ve been working towards for stellar cycles.”

    Unable to help himself, Aratron laughed. “This is all because you met that quad at the party at Garadus’, isn’t it? The one who was ‘in sports’, right?”
    “What can I say? He liked my ‘low-grade decals’ – thought they added a touch of the streets to the team, help the people relate to them big, tough, fancy-formed athletes of his.”
    “Besides which, you’re cheaper than most of the pro-artists, huh?”
    “Still got enough out of it to pay you for fuel all night,” Gauun told Calitae with a smirk, “Keep ‘em coming! I owe my best friend here for not being there to make sure he gets himself higher ‘n the Celestial Temple for the past quartex.”

    He whacked Aratron’s door-wing again, affectionately this time, and flapped his own encouragingly. Aratron lifted his beaker in half-mocking salute and drained it into his mouth in one go.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Tava Szenda Birthing Well
    Tarn
    Cybertron


    Sarristec would have given anything for a crystal goblet of the highest-grade fuel. Preferably with something borderline illegal dissolved in it to give it that little extra kick.

    Being included in the delegation sent to oversee the Reaffirmation of the Tava Szenda Well was of course a great honour, although really his presence at the head of a group of sector representatives and wealthy business people was only natural. Most of the Lords of the Conclave did not fit with the image of a newly resurgent city grasping the future with both hands. He, by contrast, was well on his way to becoming the face of a progressive Vos, both at home and around the world. The reforms he had formulated had made him a popular symbol of a new, better order – which, coupled with his looks, had in turn made him the darling of the media networks.

    The problem was that most of the Reaffirmation was taken up by long, interminable blessings delivered by a High Circuit Master whose voice resembled the high, shut-down inducing drone of a ventilation system. It rambled on and on and on about the mystery and magnificence of Cybertron, the glory of the Allspark and the wondrous gift of new life, until Sarristec was ready to cave its domed head in with its own staff of office. He did not even have the satisfaction of being able to complain about the proceedings. Along with everyone else on the observation deck, he had to maintain the image of his state and look like he was actually interested in what was going on. A finer display of false sincerity and feigned attention it would have been harder to find. Even the Civic Guards, their bland white forms easily identifiable on the fringes of the gathering, managed to keep up an air of respectful attentiveness and they must surely have been the most bored of them all, their presence being as superfluous as it was.

    A stir went through the assembled dignitaries as the High Circuit Master finally slowed to a stop and, with much genuflection, beckoned the Prime forward. Sentinel strode to the Well’s edge, the midday sunlight glancing blindingly off his golden armour, and lifted a hand to the sky. “Brothers,” he boomed, his voice filling the great pit, “We are gathered today to witness the giving of the gift of life, to share in the miracle of creation and to welcome a new generation into this world. I stand here before you so that our forms may be shared by those who are to come, so that they too may enjoy the strength and the will that have made Cybertron great.”

    As he spoke, the protomatter began to surge about energetically, more and more half-formed shapes bubbling to the surface. He stepped forward, his feet disappearing into the silvery mass. “It is the will of the Allspark,” he intoned, optics blazing, “that the past shall embrace the future and that all shall share in the light of creation.”

    White fire criss-crossed his body for a moment, a flare of information that swept outwards to flood the entire Well. Sarristec leaned forward, engrossed in the spectacle despite himself. The raw power released as the Matrix imprinted on the protomatter flashed and crackled across the pool, surging and flaring like a living thing. Words and images spilled from the maelstrom, instants of lucidity scattered into the ether by a mad whirling rush of data – glimpses into the mind of the Allspark.

    Then the wave of light had passed and the Prime had stepped back onto the shore. His great frame sagged imperceptibly with the effort of imparting the commands that kept the protomatter within the narrow parameters that defined recognisable sentience. The High Circuit Master gestured with its staff and two acolytes hurried forward, their bodies still armoured, not yet the stripped, gilded skeletons of true Masters. Between them they carried a heavily reinforced container, the large black cylinder held within an intricate bronze lattice. At the Circuit Master’s touch, this slid aside, unfurling and rearranging itself to allow the box to open. From it, the ancient mechanoid took a hand-sized, almost disappointingly plain grey sphere. This it lifted, first towards the Prime, then towards the watching audience.

    “The Template of the Mech Tron,” it announced grandly, and plunged the sphere into the Well.

    The protomatter became positively frenzied. Bubble after enormous bubble erupted, the great domes shivering in the sunlight for a split micro-cycle before beginning to deform, blank surfaces gradually giving way to more complex shapes. The transmutation accelerated as it went on, servos and gears, beams and pistons, hands and feet, all the parts of a working body flowing into existence, the template mapped on to reality. The heads were the last to form, momentarily blank then steadily filled out with the broad strokes of the final product, a mouth, optics, a central sensor node, the finer detail following almost immediately.

    Hesitantly, uncertainly, following the ancient coding that had driven the Cybertronian race up to the surface of their world, fifty four protoforms made their way up on to the Well’s gently sloping shore, drawn instinctively to the where the Prime waited. He saluted them, one forearm held horizontal across his chest-plate. Rapidly becoming accustomed to their shape and their minds, they copied the gesture, some more readily than others. “My brothers,” Sentinel called, voice carrying once more through the great pit, “Feel the sunlight on your skin. Feel the glory of the Matrix in your circuits. Feel your Sparks filling your bodies. And know that you are alive.”

    Circuit Masters, golden reflections of the naked silver beings who had risen from the pool, gently shepherded them into three lines, communicating with the new-borns in the most basic and ancient of the Cybertronian languages. The Prime spoke to them again, his grand words guiding them towards the higher and more complex methods of communication. “You will go forth from here, as did all those who came before you, to take your place in our world. As they did, you will begin your lives performing the humble, vital functions that preserve us all. As they did, you will rise in time, fulfilling the potential that lies within you. From this moment on, it is your duty to follow in their footsteps, to strive to be everything that you can be, to better yourself, to better your brothers, to better Cybertron. Let it be so, in the name Allspark, in the name of the greater whole in which we are all united, now and forever, until all are one!”

    “Till all are one!” roared the crowds obediently. “Till all are one!” echoed the protoforms, caught up in the atmosphere.

    “Till all are one,” repeated Sarristec sarcastically, more or less to himself. He looked down at the mechs who had just clawed their way out of Cybertron’s skin and wondered how many of them would ever rise from the ‘humble, vital functions’ of the menial classes. No more than a handful, if that. Since before Sarristec had come online, template and Well had dictated what you were or were not likely to achieve. They decided the forms you could take when you were formatted, the line of work your body fitted you for, the respect you got from society, your ultimate place in the world. And fundamentally, the Mech Tron line was cast in the menial mould, whether it emerged from Tava Szenda or Verous Klyda, whether it was formatted as a bulk in Tagan or a flyer in Vos.

    The Prime had not lied when he said that each of the protoforms would rise in time to fulfil their potential. Society had simply decided long ago that that potential was very small.

    And as he turned to converse with the wealthy, powerful mechs around him, Sarristec smiled with reaffirmed confidence that the Mech Tec line had very great potential indeed.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     
  18. batmanprime

    batmanprime Omega-con

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    Ahhhh. Better, thanks. That'll hold me, for a bit.
    Great story.
     
  19. ARCTrooperAlpha

    ARCTrooperAlpha Well-Known Member

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    what's with the new protoforms ? were they the would-be reinforcements ?
     
  20. The Librarian

    The Librarian Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the comments.

    ARCTrooperAlpha - The new protoforms are, well, new people. They're not reinforcements in the sense I think you mean. They're just newborn Cybertronians.

    Next chapter below!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    2.2: Homecoming
    Military Spaceport
    Iacon
    Cybertron


    Optrion savoured the feel of Cybertron’s surface, cool and welcoming beneath his wheels. It was good to be back.

    The massive space cruisers that dominated the landing field spilled vehicles of every size and shape out across the spaceport, a flood of colour flowing from their gaping bellies. Hoots and hollers rang out as the returning mechs jostled and shouted at each other, the ground-side officials fighting a constant battle to keep the exuberant warriors under control and ensure that the equipment tenders they were hauling were delivered to the right places. Above, flyers hauled heavier loads out through the cruisers’ upper doors, or flitted under their great wedge-shaped hulls to attach refuelling lines and begin maintenance.

    There was a palpable sense of relief in the air. Even if the returning soldiers could not claim the battles won on Anska and Dormedon as resounding triumphs, they had at least survived to see their homeworld again. The dozen solemn processions of oval pods spoke all too eloquently of how many had not done so.

    Driving into one the loading bays, Optrion unhitched his trailer, allowing it to be seized by automated loaders and hoisted up into the cavernous maw of the main warehouse. Freed from his burden, he accelerated out across the last stretch of landing field and joined the steady stream of traffic heading along the expressway to the nearest garrison.

    “Slag me but it’s good ta feel a road under ma wheels ag’in!” Ironhide hollered, racing up from behind, the rest of Optrion’s squad close on his tail.
    “I’ll second that,” shouted Trailbreaker, closing up on the left flank, “Almost forgotten what it’s like to drive without my chassis filling up with mud!”
    “And the air!” yelled Overhaul, his boxy maroon form swaying with the speed, “It’s clean!”
    “All right, mechs, don’t get over excited,” Optrion cautioned, slowing slightly to force the others to do the same, “We’re not on leave yet.”

    Suitably chastened, they formed up into a more organised convoy just as the roadway abruptly dropped away in front of them, a whole section hinging downwards to transfer them into the labyrinthine garrison complex below.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Planetary Defence Directorate Garrison Optir Prima
    Iacon
    Cybertron


    They had been assigned a long, arched chamber on the fifth level, a bare room lined with rest bays and not much else. Lockers unfolded from the floor as they transformed, each adapting to a particular warrior’s requirements at a touch.

    “Ok, yah lazy slaggers, get yer kit cleaned an’ stowed!” Ironhide boomed, already pulling weapons out of internal storage, “No one gets outta here ‘afore me an’ the boss mech see that yah all ‘ve put away those big dangerous guns ah yers! Dun wanta hafta have th’ White ‘n Blues callin’ me away from mah high-grade cos one ‘a yuh glitches has put a hole in some home-town empty fer jostlin’ yer in the street!”
    “Yes sir! No sir!” the squad chorused, exchanging grins while they obediently off-loaded their various arsenals into the waiting receptacles.

    Optrion smiled to himself, nodded to a smirking Ironhide and entered the partitioned vestibule that served as officers’ quarters. He held his ion rifle up to the light for a moment, admiring the gouges and scratches along the barrel. Repeated and sustained scrubbing had removed most of the evidence that it had been dropped in a swamp but the shrikebat bite was a permanent memento, one that would probably dramatically shorten the gun’s lifetime. Given how many of the bats lifetimes he had shortened, he supposed that was hardly an unfair trade.

    He allowed the locker to gulp down the rifle and the rest of his armaments and returned to the main room, where Ironhide had the squad standing at attention, as neat and pristine as their equipment. Once he had completed his inspection and the lockers were sealed back into the floor, Optrion seized the moment and addressed his troops.

    “Before you rush out of here to go and enjoy yourselves at the expense of the local populace’s peace and quiet, I have something to say.” He paused a moment, looking from mech to mech. “It has been an honour serving with you all. Every one of you has proven your valour and honour on the field of combat. You have made me proud. You have made Cybertron proud. And, most importantly, you have done justice to those who fell at our side, those who we could not bring home. For them, in their name, I thank you.”

    “As do I.” All optics turned to the door and fifteen arms shot across fifteen chests. Megatron, still armed and as towering as ever, responded with a salute of his own. “Your leader does you proud,” he told the assembled warriors, “As much for his modesty as for the accuracy of his praise. You are heroes, every one of you, there is no doubt about that. And no doubt every one of you will agree that he is too.” A cheer of agreement went up at that. Megatron smiled. “Exactly. But since he refuses to seek out the reward of that heroism, it is left to the rest of us to force them upon him. Op Mech Trion Novus Zar!” he barked with sudden sharpness, “Step forward!”

    A thrill of nervousness shot through Optrion’s systems as he obeyed, mingled with more than a little pride at his superior’s compliments. Megatron reached out and laid a hand across the insignia displayed on the squad leader’s shoulder. “By the authority of the Planetary Defence Directorate, I am required and commanded to confer on you the rank and responsibilities of Lieutenant Commander, with immediate effect.” A burst of data from his palm forced the insignia into a new shape, replacing the square on its end with two triangles either side of a vertical bar. The ident-signal shifted too, the security clearances automatically updating.

    Another, louder clear went up. Megatron stepped back and he and Optrion saluted each other.
    “Thank you sir,” Optrion began, “This is an honour –”
    “I said I’d get you promoted,” the silver tank interrupted firmly, “And I always carry through on my threats. Besides, don’t you think you deserve the rank?”
    “Everyone else in the room seems to, sir.” Indeed, Ironhide was wearing an almost impossibly smug I-told-you-so expression.
    “That would be because you earned it,” Megatron explained patiently, as one might to a slightly addled protoform, “And not for being humble.”
    “No sir. I earned if for sticking my arms down tank barrels.”
    Megatron laughed, encouraging the others to do the same. “Hah! Yes, that is exactly what I need: subordinates who get blown to bits on a regular basis. Well, that concludes the pleasant part of my day. Now I have to go lead a parade. But I’m sure I can leave you mechs to take care of congratulating your newly elevated commanding officer.”

    To a loud refrain of “Yes sir!” he took his leave of them. Optrion turned to Ironhide.
    “Told yah,” the older soldier said with a grin.
    “You did. You also promised you’d pay for a round of high-grade.”
    “Ah did. An whut are you buncha scrapheaps lookin’ aht?”
    “I think they’ve just decided not to let you out of their sight for the rest of the night,” Optrion told him, clapping him companionably on the shoulder, “All right mechs,” he bellowed, “form up and roll out! We’ve got some leave to begin!”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The Celestial Temple
    Iacon
    Cybertron


    “Xaaron?”

    The Emirate for Nova Cronum ignored the sound of his name and continued staring out across the golden spires arrayed before him. In the distance, crowds were gathered around one of the great gates that gave access to the wider world, flocks of avirs circling over them in order to catch every last instant for the newsfeeds. The single expressway running from the gate to the Celestial Temple was lined with hundreds of banners and even from so far away, the regal forms of the honour guards were clearly visible against the grey road.

    Soft footsteps approached as Traachon joined him on the balcony. “Is something wrong?” the Emirate for Iacon asked quietly.
    “Is it wrong to want to watch the festivities?” The question was tinged with wry humour.
    “You never struck me as someone who enjoyed ‘festivities’.” Traachon was undeterred. “Certainly you always seem to make a point of avoiding them whenever possible.”

    The gate was open now, the impenetrable walls of Iacon breached to admit the Prime. He rolled in, a huge, many wheeled vehicle moving with regal leisure, his sweeping lines as distinctive as the utilitarian silver tank trundling along beside him. They were of a size, Sentinel and Megatron, though otherwise they could hardly have been more dissimilar. The warrior’s squared-off bulk, host to a wealth of cannons, was dramatically at odds with the Prime’s streamlined, peace-time form.

    “I wanted to admire Sentinel’s…timing,” Xaaron said at last, clasping his hands behind his back.
    Traachon frowned. “His timing?”
    “Yes.”
    “I’m not sure I follow you.”
    “No?” Xaaron smiled and gestured expansively at the approaching procession. “There is Sentinel, back from the morally dubious act of reaffirming Tava Szenda and he times his arrival to coincide precisely with Megatron’s triumphant return from the colonies. They enter Iacon together and share in the glorious image of victory. A rather neat arrangement, don’t you think?”

    “What do you mean, morally dubious act?” Traachon demanded, legally trained mind homing in on the phrase, “How can you call the Prime’s duty a –”
    Xaaron cut him off before he could finish the admonishment. “Every city-state is suffering from chronic overcrowding. We’ve exhausted the moons’ natural resources and we daren’t tap Cybertron’s any further because we simply don’t understand our world’s interior well enough to be certain we won’t irrevocably damage it. We are increasingly reliant on mining colonies outside our solar system – each of which, I might add, is controlled by one or other of the larger cities, making them even more powerful and likely to quarrel – and the further we have to go to find planets whose resources can be refined into useable fuel, the more energy we have to expend bringing those resources back here to refine them. As a member of the High Council, as an Emirate you are – I hope – painfully aware of all this. And you still have to ask me why I call ensuring that the Birthing Wells can continue to churn out viable protoforms is morally dubious act?”

    “It is our moral duty to give the gift of life!” Clearly Traachon was astonished by the suggestion that it could be otherwise. “To give the gift of form to those who are yet to come! That is the founding principle of our civilisation! And whatever problems we face, that is the creed the High Council was formed to uphold! Would you have the Wells left to churn out mindless animals and shapeless abominations, denied the light of the Matrix and the glory of true sentience?”
    “Turbo foxes consume less energy than the average Tron-line labourer,” Xaaron retorted flippantly, “And no – I would rather that we found a way to limit the Wells’ output completely, for the moment at least. Oh come now, Traachon,” he added, glancing over his shoulder at his fellow Emirate’s scandalised expression, “Even some Circuit Masters have been known to express that view.”

    “And have been called heretics because of it! Xaaron…I say this as a friend…but that is a dangerous view, one someone in our position cannot afford to express lightly…”
    Xaaron was touched by the genuine concern in the other mech’s voice, if more than a little amused by it. “Perhaps in Iacon. But even here, I think you would find many who would readily exchange faith in the Allspark’s divine plan for a tank full of fuel and the promise of more tomorrow.”

    The procession had reached the halfway mark, where the monolithic Decagon cast its shadow across the roadway. He admired again the pleasing contrivance of the truck and the tank sharing the adoration of the masses, the twin faces of Cybertron’s heritage being cheered for giving the people a glimpse of victory, real or imaginary.

    At his shoulder, Traachon made several small noises, as though he were trying to speak but words kept failing him. Finally, he managed, “And what of your faith, Xaaron? Do you trust in the Allpsark?”
    “I’m a politician, my friend,” the golden mech replied without turning, “My faith is negotiable.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Dead End
    Tagan
    Cybertron


    “Well, he’s gone,” Glitter announced. The white quad rose and slunk away from the body, retracting his sensor arrays. “Mustn’t have seen it coming – didn’t have time to transfer enough code away from the damaged parts of his body, didn’t consolidate fast enough – and then there wasn’t enough left of him to think with.”
    Diatrion exchanged a pointed look with Talainat and bent to retrieve a fragment of blue armour. “Can you confirm why this still has colour?”
    “Lacquered. Looks almost genuine, doesn’t it.” The medic patted another piece. “I’d say he had a touch of chromo-deficiency. Either that or he was just showing off. ‘Look at me, I can afford to have real cyrianate plating, not just change my skin to mimic it.’”
    “Can you tell where the lacquer might have been administered?” Diatrion asked.
    “How should I know?” Glitter shook his head irritably. “Damnit, I’m a doctor, not a fashion expert.”

    “Can you at least give us a full-spectrum scan of it?” Talainat asked, pointing a sensor probe of his own at the blue metal scattered about. Information began to spool across the windscreen that forming his chest-plate.
    “Of course I can,” the medic huffed, “Want me to do it here or back at base?”
    “Here. We need to get him identified fast.”

    True enough, Diatrion agreed silently, contemplating the sorry sight before them. The mech – Glitter’s examination had confirmed it was a mech, not a feme or a cyol, though it was impossible to tell at a glance – lay sprawled in the middle of the street, what remained of his arms and legs stretched out in an almost comical fashion. Fragments of his fancy armour were spread all around him, their bright colours a sharp contrast to the dullness into which the rest of him had faded. All distinguishing marks had been bludgeoned from the body and with the fragmentation of his core programing, only a few general facts were immediately obvious.

    He had been rich – the lacquered armour spoke volumes about that. He had been a grounder – he was too small to be a flyer – and probably something sporty, given the comparative low mass of what was left of him. And he had definitely not been one of the empties who usually inhabited Dead Ends. Whoever he had been, he had been a long way from home when he died.
    “Why would someone wealthy enough to afford fancy mods come down here?” Talainat wondered aloud, by chance echoing Diatrion’s line of thought.
    “Perhaps to find more mods,” the larger mech suggested, waving at the ugly, forbidding buildings, “Good place to meet a supplier, if you weren’t planning on asking too many questions.”

    Except that didn’t ring true at all. Despite what politicians claimed when they went on their little ‘clean up the city’ tirades, Dead Ends were generally not where most of the illegal modding happened. Dealers had their images to maintain and dead habitation districts were not likely to put customers at their ease. Sure, they usually operated out of pretty run-down and crime-infested areas but actual Dead Ends? Not likely. Practically unheard of, in fact.

    “For some sort of deal, anyway,” he amended, “One that needed to be done away from prying optics.”
    “In the middle of the street?” Talainat sounded as convinced as Diatrion felt.
    “A bet of some kind, maybe? Came here to prove how tough he was…”
    “And a gang of empties got the drop on him? Could be…there’re enough signs of a struggle to fit with that…and if I were an empty and I saw some high-grade racer decked out in all his gear, I think I’d want to rip his arms off too.”
    “Except…” Diatrion swung around slowly, following the pattern of foot-marks and tyre-tracks. “No, that doesn’t fit.” He jerked a thumb at the corpse. “That damage isn’t the work of a mob – or if it is, it’s the best trained mob I’ve ever seen. Blunt trauma, sure, but taking out all the distinguishing marks?”
    “Not likely,” Talainat admitted, “Especially when –”

    “Your scans,” Glitter interrupted brusquely, beaming the files to the two of them, “The lacquer is uninteresting, well formulated but nothing special. Not local, trace elements suggest it was mixed up somewhere between Praxus and Polyhex.”
    “I thought you said you weren’t a fashion expert,” commented Talainat.
    “Yeah, but I’m an excellent forensics officer. The body’s base materials suggest it was formatted in that region too, by the way – and the proto-structure almost certainly came from one of the Praxian Wells. Not Verous Klyda though. Zinc content is too low.”
    Diatrion gave an annoyed hum. “Well, at least that cuts out most of Praxus’ population. But it doesn’t exactly tell us what in the Pit a Praxian is doing lying dead here. Are you going to be able to narrow him down any further?”
    “Not here. Give me a deca-cycle in the lab and I might be able to give you more. No promises.”

    “Right.” Diatrion signalled the constables scanning the immediate area. “Let’s call in a flyer and get the body moved back to base. I want every last piece collected and sealed for transport. We need to know who this mech was before we can work out why he was killed, so let’s make sure we don’t leave any important bits of him behind.”

    He looked back down at the corpse and scowled. A mech killed half a world away from where he had come online, for no readily apparent reason, in the middle of a Dead End. The first case back on the beat just couldn’t be an easy one, could it?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     

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