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Transformers: This Is How It All Began - A Tragedy

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Old 05-17-2012, 01:55 PM   #1
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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

So many tales, so little time...

This Is How It All Began
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Old 05-17-2012, 01:57 PM   #2
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1.0: Heavy Rain
Cybertronian Mining Site Dega-Tryptic
A very long time ago

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

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.
So many tales, so little time...

This Is How It All Began
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Old 05-17-2012, 01:59 PM   #3
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1.1: Daybreak
Sometime later

This is how it began.


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

“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

“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

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.”

So many tales, so little time...

This Is How It All Began
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Old 05-17-2012, 11:07 PM   #4
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i like it please do more !!!
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Old 05-18-2012, 02:24 AM   #5
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Thank you! I shall!


2: Nights Before
The East Ridge Plaza

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

“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

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.”

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.

So many tales, so little time...

This Is How It All Began
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Old 05-19-2012, 01:14 PM   #6
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1.3: Important Information
Planetary News Feed
Qosho Region Local

“...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

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

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.

So many tales, so little time...

This Is How It All Began
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Old 05-19-2012, 05:48 PM   #7
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interesting keep it comin
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Old 05-19-2012, 06:21 PM   #8
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wow this is frickin' great ! What made you decide to write this story ?
Originally Posted by pitt55 View Post
You don't see Optimus sitting in a corner, sharpening his blades, fantasizing about ripping Decepticons' guts out when not in battle for instance.
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Old 05-20-2012, 03:34 AM   #9
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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

“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

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

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.

So many tales, so little time...

This Is How It All Began
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Old 05-21-2012, 03:38 PM   #10
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1.5: Battle Protocol

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

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

“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.

So many tales, so little time...

This Is How It All Began
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