So, I'm going to jump right into this. I've been tweaking and working on Warhead for a long time, and I wanted to post it somewhere it would really get appreciated. Please note that it will be a rather long piece of fiction as I am a writer outside of my fan interests as well, and as such it's separated into multiple books which will run consecutively. It will be a reimagining of the mythos, starting with the golden days of Cybertron. Hope you enjoy. ---------------------------------------------------------- Transformers: Warhead Book I: Tyrannicon Rising Chapter I: Rise Fight. Struggle. Die. The watch words. The way of life, the key to survival, so long as one could avoid that final stage. D-16 repeated it like a mantra in his head, the servos in his hands struggling as he grasped at the rocky outcropping of the chasm wall. Only a few more steps to ascend to the top. A few more meters. An eternity of distance. D-16 made the mistake of looking down, watching the Energon pool leaking out of the side of the chasm wall drop off below, so deep the glow of the Energon was lost to the darkness. He suppressed a shudder, turning away. Even though he was a protoform, newly created, he was not sacred. He was under no one's protection. Death would come as unceasingly for him as any other Cybertronian. D-16 planted his foot onto a ledge, but tested it with his weight; it broke, and he dangled helpless for a moment before catching himself and ramming his foot into the wall, creating a hole of his own. His pain receptors throbbed in protest, but it meant little. The ascent was all that mattered. A piece of metal broke from the canyon wall, and he turned his eyes away; it bounced harmlessly off his helm. His hand grasped the top of the chasm wall, and he hefted himself over the top, scrabbling to get onto solid footing. He paid no mind to the deep gouges on his silver chassis, products of the climb. D-16 was more concerned with the vista in front of him: the Decepticon city of Kaon, or at least the underbelly thereof. A large emblem in the classic Decepticon purple glowed luminescent in the dark of Cybertron's nighttime; its sharp edges and sleek contours drew in D-16's attention. He touched his chest for a moment, the blank spot in the center still yearning to be aligned with a faction. A family. There was a drive in him, perhaps programmed, perhaps self-determined, something unfathomable. The need to belong but more than that: to be respected, to have the same kind of recognition and power as the others, if not more. A prime directive. And then he was on the ground, the rush of air from an Energon cannon's explosion taking the breath from his lips. He shook his head, looking around and seeing nothing, until he focused his optics on a spot darker than the remainder of the night, just behind him at the chasm. Something prowled there, quadrupedal and slinking. A turbofox, D-16 thought suddenly, though he'd never known these native creatures to have cannons strapped to them. That meant it was domesticated. And that someone had armed it, and programmed it to kill him. Another test, then. He stood up. The shape of the fox leaped out of the darkness, its teeth flashing, and D-16 tried catching it, only for it to bowl him over and snarl, trying to bite his neck servos. It was a sleek black, almost pure, with silvery limbs, and it did indeed have a cannon mounted to its back. D-16 held it away from him as best he could, and finally wound up for a punch which sent the beast reeling off to the side, stumbling. While agile, turbofoxes were not especially armored. “Come then. Fight. Struggle. Die,” D-16 said, rolling to his feet. He opened his arms wide, clawed the fingers. The more imposing he looked, the better. The catlike creature paced the ground in front of him, not attacking. He didn't move, remaining as a statue. The creature stared at him, cocked its head as if confused. It bounded off into the night, and D-16 heard the distinct noise of a conversion to vehicle mode, the lilting sound he yearned to acquire for himself. “So you weren't alone after all, little fox,” he murmured. He looked back to the giant symbol of the Decepticons, awaiting him in the gloom of Kaon's underground. He trudged forward, his servos in his feet grinding in protest. A few cycles later, he marveled at the industrial spires crossing the paths of Kaon. Each marked a shop, recharge station, and so forth, and the street was liberally dotted with them all, a profusion of spines like the innards of some colossal titan. A few of the other Cybertronians glanced at him, but little paid him any heed; while it had been some decacycles since protoforms commonly stepped from the bowels of Cybertron, it still occurred enough to be nothing special. The home of the Decepticons was dimly lit with little other than phosphorescent pole lights, sending a purplish wash over the area, and reflecting purple off the silver of D-16's body. It disappointed him. After wanting to be a Decepticon himself so badly, there seemed to be little here, distractions and fleeting moments of lucidity scattered in the gloom. It made him question if this was all there was to life. A dead end existence, no sound, no fury, no fight to any of it. Empty days. He passed an Energon bar, with a few Decepticons skulking outside of it. Three in particular seemed even less appealing than he did currently, with a multitude of scars covering their bodies and dull, scratched paint schemes. D-16 spared them only a glance, and kept moving, aiming to get to the groundbridge elevators in the center of Kaon. After a millicycle or two of walking, he noticed the trio following him. He lifted an arm, examining them in the reflection of his own body: two were four wheeled types, while one possessed only two, some kind of bicycle form. “Hey, proto!” one of them called out. “Stop.” Obediently, D-16 turned, and the center one, the bicycle, punched him in the face. A line of Energon dribbled out of D-16's mouth from the force of the blow as he was sent reeling backward, stumbling on his already weakened feet. The bicycle stepped forward, its black and poisonous green paint scheme showing nauseously clear in the purple light. “You're coming with us.” D-16 wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “And why is that?” The two four wheelers looked at each other and laughed. The bicycle glanced back at them. “Shut up. Damn Vehicon punks. You don't need to know why. But you need to get your skidplate in gear and come with us, or we're going to bring you in pieces.” D-16 looked at the trio: not openly armed, which suggested they were at least following Kaon's policy of concealed weapons only, if they were carrying at all. Compared to him, however, they could have any number of weapons: concealed weapons could also be onboard ones. He had none. “I refuse.” Fight. Struggle. D-16 didn't finish the mantra in his head this time. “You've got brass bearings, kid,” the bicycle said. “But they don't call me Lockdown for nothin'. Boys, rough him up a little.” The two Vehicons approached D-16, each brandishing no weapon, and D-16 lunged at one of them, ducking under the Vehicon's sucker punch and tackling him full on. The protoform began pounding the Vehicon's chest plate repeatedly, denting it inward until it snapped in two, and he reached in and yanked out the first Energon couplings he could find. The other Vehicon grabbed him and tossed him off his counterpart, while the first grabbed at the Energon spilling out of its chest, trying frantically to seal the leaks. Lockdown whistled. “Not bad. Brutal, but effective.” He nodded to the other Vehicon. “Your turn.” The Vehicon looked at Lockdown, the former's hands trembling and stained with Energon from his fallen comrade. He turned and faced D-16, who stood once more opposite them. Other Decepticons now had turned to watch: street brawls were always a source of good entertainment. D-16 found a measure of repulsion in the idea. Fight or murder for sport didn't make any sense. Cooperation fostered a mutual growth. Naturally, he realized a split second later, not everyone would share such a viewpoint. The other Vehicon converted into its four wheeler mode and barreled down the street at D-16, who jumped out of the way. The Vehicon converted back and grabbed his leg, slamming him into the pavement. He kicked at the Vehicon, who in turn yanked on the leg and spun D-16, nearly stress fracturing the knee joint. D-16 cried out in pain and went limp. Lockdown walked forward, kneeling down and grinning. D-16 stared at him, seeing the red of Lockdown's optics up close. Some kind of staining had occurred on his face, looking like a tattoo. “Here's the deal. You come with us now, we forget you roughed up that guy, or I just jab you with an Energon prod and bring you anyway. Pick one.” D-16 moved to grab Lockdown's face, and the latter instantly used the Energon prod, shocking D-16 into unconsciousness. “Nighty night, proto.” * * * D-16 awoke in a repair chamber, his wounds mostly closed. He stretched his body out, noting many of the servos still ached, but internal diagnostics suggested he was back to his peak. The chamber itself seemed self-enclosed, a darkened room, with a single one-way glass panel for observation. He strode up to it, trying to peer out, but no matter what he set his vision mode to, he wasn't able to penetrate the glass. “You're wondering why you were abducted, aren't you?” an unfamiliar voice echoed. Deep. Striking. But playful, somehow. Not Lockdown. D-16 looked around, finding the source to be three speakers inset into the ceiling. “Yes,” he said simply. Best to play along and learn more. “It's quite simple. You showed promise. I watch all the protoforms when they escape The Pit. Those who escape in record times are challenged. If they succeed that challenge, then I aim to acquire them,” the voice said. Something smelled of sophistication in it, despite its harsh tone, and somehow this unsettled D-16 more: the idea that a refined Cybertronian would be capable of such things. “Lockdown can be a bit rough around the edges, but he provides good entertainment in the arena the same as many of my Decepticons. You, my unnamed friend, are one of those new entertainers.” “You intend me to be a gladiator, then?” “Precisely. The masses demand satiation. The miners demand an outlet. I am only too willing to provide. For a price, of course.” The voice chuckled. “Who are you?” D-16 asked. “I've many names, and more I've acquired through business, but call me Swindle. Given I always get the better end of the deal, it's an appropriate moniker.” “And if I say no?” “You don't have a choice, my unnamed friend. Either I simply scrap you here and use you for spare parts (and believe me, there's plenty of bots who would pay for your parts), or you fight. If you fight well enough, you become an enforcer instead of an gladiator. It's a good deal,” Swindle said, though D-16 heard a distinct chuckle waft from the speakers. “My designation is D-16. I'll kill whatever you want if you get me out of here.” “My, my, what enthusiasm! And without even an alternate mode. Speaking of which, we provide alternate modes to our gladiators if they don't have them,” he said sweetly. “It would cost another fight's worth of entertainment out of you, but I'm sure it's a small price to pay, right?” D-16 closed his eyes, recalling the iconic sound from when both the unseen Cybertronian and the Vehicon converted. He savored it, imagined what it would be like, to also have the extra durability stemming from being able to convert. “Done.” “Excellent. You seem to be just fine, so why not a test sparring run? We'll let you play with one of our other new acquisitions. Oh, but first, your alt mode.” There was a tapping sound over the speaker, and a holographic interface booted up in the center of the room, showcasing three different vehicles. One was a four wheeler, much akin to the Vehicons. D-16 passed over it, looking at the other two. One was a jet of some sort, but angular, not like the Cybertron Defense Force's Seeker Armada jets. The last was perhaps the most utilitarian: it had no frills, appeared to be hovering, and seemed heavily armored. A tank. D-16 pointed at the tank, and from wherever he watched, Swindle's chuckle echoed again in the chamber. “Excellent. We'll have you retrofitted in a snap. But for that to happen...Well, I'm afraid we'll have to knock you out again. So sorry!” he said sweetly, as an Energon pulse rocketed through the chamber, sending D-16 into unconsciousness once more. This time he drifted in a sea of stars. Each shone with brightness, spotlights in the eternal dark. Cybertron stretched out beneath him, an endless vista of glittering steel, Energon rivers running along it, the capital cities glowing beautiful. The vista brought him a great deal of peace, but something inside him felt betrayed by the image. He knew what it was, of course: the endless toil of some, but not all. The reaping of benefits by some, but not all. The endless Cybertronian struggle, a failure of equality. And then something changed, in a little corner. Fire. War. It writhed serpentine in the cities, twining them together inextricably, consuming it all. It erupted in a gout of flame from the planet, turning the surface black. A sense of foreboding filled D-16 as he watched with horror the planet fall deeper and deeper into destruction, and he saw something loom in the darkness behind Cybertron itself, a shape unknowable. It reached for the planet with an open hand, and he awoke. “Welcome back to the living, D-16. Hope you're ready for the show,” Swindle said, and the back end of the repair chamber opened up, revealing a circular arena with pillars littered throughout. Rusted dust scattered everywhere, testament to fallen soldiers by the score. The metal of the area had been pitted and scarred with countless weapon strikes and blast discharges. “Go on,” Swindle said. “Your first bout awaits!” D-16 entered the arena amidst cheers, looking around to see the stands full of Decepticons and Autobots alike, thousands of them. He let the praise wash over him, and ignored it. He needed to kill whatever it was they sent after him. Fight. Struggle. Survive. The door opposite his opened, revealing a newcomer not altogether unlike himself: it must have been another protoform, though doubtless with an alternate mode of its own now. It was emblazoned a deep red, with orange highlights in certain shell-like portions of its main armor. He couldn't make out its face quite from this distance, but something looked unusual about it. “Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for a brand new spectacle! We have here two protoforms, newly minted, who have managed to not only escape The Pit, but survived the dangers of the Minicons and even Vehicons! Get ready for the fight scene of your life, featuring...!” The announcer trailed off as a large holographic display showed D-16's face. “D-16, the silver challenger! And in the opposing side of the arena, the red powerhouse, Rampage! Who will win in our newest battle?” The screen switched to show the other bot's face, with wide green eyes and a segmented mouthpiece. “And fight!” D-16 immediately converted to vehicle mode, relishing the classic sound as he moved forward hovering. He possessed no weapons, but based on his internal diagnostics he had enough armor to withstand a heavy Energon cannon without any issue. He sped toward Rampage, who transformed into a tracked vehicle carrying nothing. D-16 realized neither of them, even in their alternate modes, had been issued weapons. So we fight the old fashioned way. The two crashed into one another in the center of the arena, converting back to robot form. Each slid around the nearest pillars, with D-16 whirling into a kick which floored Rampage. The red bot went scrabbling on the ground like an organic insect, crawling right up one of the pillars and flipping to land heavily on D-16. He's heavy, and has reinforced servos; I won't win in a head to head fight. “What an opener: our duelists have already started duking it out blow by blow! But what say we even the odds a bit with some melee weapons?” The announcer's voice ended as a strange metallic clink was heard, and a number of swords, axes, and bludgeons fell from the ceiling to embed themselves heavily in the ground. D-16 shoved Rampage off him and rolled away, and a spear rammed into the ground where his head had been a moment prior. “Rampage! What did they promise you? Freedom?” D-16 asked. Test the waters. See if he's a brute or a thinker. And if he can be swayed. “Freedom is meaningless if you're weak! They offered me nothing. I demanded battle! I want to prove myself, to be the most powerful, and where better to begin than here?” Rampage said. His voice was guttural, angry, but tinged with pride. He looked around and grabbed an Energon sword, spinning it around in one hand. “And that means I'm going to carve your spark out of your chest and devour it if I have to!” Rampage lunged at him, trying to stab the sword through D-16's chest, and the latter dodged, picking up an axe and flinging Rampage's sword back, setting the larger bot off balance. D-16 shouldered through, ramming Rampage off his feet and sending him toppling down. “Upset! We have D-16 on top, despite lower specs! Could we have an underdog win? Rampage probably doesn't think so!” the announcer cried out, and the cheers intensified as the red bot climbed to his feet. He roared unintelligibly, bounding toward D-16, who sidestepped him and hammered him in the back with the flat of the axe, sending him facefirst into the metal. “Rampage, listen to me. We are little but slaves here. Throw the match. I have a plan, and we can continue onward, the both of us. We'll escape. You can prove you're the strongest in the process, and we both can get our freedom by our choice, not by Swindle's,” D-16 said, pressing a foot into Rampage's back to keep him pinned. “Let go of me! I will win by any means, I don't care!” D-16 pushed the axe's blade to Rampage's head. “You already have lost. But I'll give you a chance to surrender instead. No one will expect it. Cooperation between gladiators is unheard of.” Rampage stilled when he felt the axe. “What do you get out of this? What do you even want?” “Freedom. Freedom from all of this, from the castes, from war. Freedom for every Cybertronian,” D-16 hissed, his voice deepening. Why he wanted it was beyond him at the moment. It seemed appropriate. Something to reflect upon later. Rampage paused for a moment. “Done.” Satisfied, D-16 lifted the axe, and Rampage leaped at him, tackling him to the ground. “But I'll make it realistic!” Rampage said, pushing the smaller bot's shoulders down to prevent him from hefting the axe. D-16 narrowed his eyes, and rammed his head into Rampage's. Without a helm, D-16 knew he would have been knocked silly, but Rampage only seemed mildly affected. He shoved the red bot off him and hammered his face with the side of the axe, knocking him off his feet, and raised the axe above his head for the killing blow. “I forfeit!” Rampage cried suddenly, raising his hands above his head. D-16 lowered the axe, and offered him a hand, and the larger Cybertronian took it. The two stood together, looking into the crowd. “I don't believe it – this is a first, a match not ending with a decisive victor by attrition! Ladies and gentlemen, you have just witnessed history!” the announcer said. The arena remained quiet for a few moments longer, and then cheering louder than any before drowned out every other sound. D-16 grinned, and looked at Rampage, who snorted and nodded. The two raised their arms, reveling in the adoration of the crowd. Rampage clapped D-16 on the back, and leaned in. “You'd better be worth the trouble.” D-16 smiled. “The world will know me soon enough. He scanned the crowd, seeing so many colors, shapes, and body types for Cybertronians. Seeing the multitude all enjoying something together brought a wellspring of emotion within him, and he smiled wider. Perhaps this is why I want equality. Perhaps this feeling, this emotional rise. And if these floodgates have opened, then maybe I am to learn who I really am in seeking this equality for all of Cybertron. “I will make them know me.” Through his mind flew a single worrying thought, despite the conviction in his voice. But where did all of this motivation come from? Why do I want freedom for anyone? All I want is to be free myself. But the words seemed to flow so easily. He glanced at Rampage, the red Cybertronian seemingly possessing none of his doubts. I will work to make the world mine, then. For the sake of freedom. Somehow, the thought seemed false.