Part 1: Adaptus Cybertron’s South Pole A whirling, writhing mass of white. A blizzard of metallic flakes and clear, frozen corrosive liquid molecules danced in chaotic rhythm surrounding Mining Outpost: Beta-12 of Cybertron’s south pole. In the mass of white, the dark outline of a figure began to materialize, trudging with moderate difficulty through the frozen wasteland. The wind deafening the crunch of the figure’s metallic footsteps into the snow. Rushcut sat up from her make-shift snow-stool to greet her comrade. ‘Any luck?’ The figure, known as Frak, shook her head regretfully. ‘Nah, I double-checked just in case, but it’s just as Terminus said. The storm sped up the erosion, causing our entrance to cave in prematurely. We’re going to need to either start over somewhere else, or branch out from one of the others’ tunnels.’ Rushcut’s jaw tightened as she attempted to withhold her frustration. ‘Okay. I should have figured as much.’ Frak followed as she began trudging in the direction of the Outpost. ‘Rolt’s going to tear us new ones if he finds out we haven’t made any progress in the last goddamn hour. Let’s stick with Terminus and Icepick for today, and drill a new hole tomorrow morning before Rolt gets up to supervise us.’ ‘That might be a little tricky, what with the Routine Procedural Appearance,’ Frak reminded her. ‘Ah, dammit. I forgot about that.’ Rushcut paused for a minute as Frak watched her. ‘Okay, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens when tomorrow comes. For now, we stick to the plan.’ The two transformed into their clunky, vehicular forms, and drove across the metallic ice that covered Beta-12’s landscape. After a moment of silence (save for the whistling of the wind, and the violent growl of their engines), Frak spoke up. ‘You know, they should really do something about the erosion here. I mean, I’m no expert or nothin’, but I feel like there should be some kind of, I don’t know, check, or something, to make sure these entrances don’t cave in on anyone.’ ‘No, no. You’re right. Absolutely. I don’t think Decimus has a choice but to address it at this point, considering what happened.’ ‘What happened to Imprint? Yeah. And to think that could have been one of us. To think if we came any sooner to our area, the entrance could have caved in on us as well.’ Rushcut made a tsk noise from within her vehicular shell. ‘How’s the big guy been taking it? Still—?’ ‘Royally pissed? Pretty much, yeah. Still, he’s taking it as well as anyone would take losing your partner in a mining accident, so you can’t blame him.’ ‘Oh sure, the guy’s justified, don’t get me wrong, but he gets violent when he’s pissed. Like he starts throwing things. He’s just—you know what? Just give him some space. That’s all there is to it.’ ‘Mm-hmm. For the sake of his mental health, definitely.’ ‘I meant for the sake of your physical health. Stay away from him.’ Frak chuckled nervously, then went quiet for a moment. ‘I’d worry about whoever Imprint’s replacement ought to be. Decimus is bringing some new blood with him when he gets here.’ ‘Hmm.’ The two transformed on the approach to Terminus’ personalized mining entrance. Each miner stationed on Beta-12 were split into pairs, and ordered to tunnel as deep into the icicle-caverns of Cybertron’s pole as they could. Their tunnels would at times intersect with the tunnels of other pairs, and at other times intersect with the tunnels of ancients, having long-since been utilized by the previous generations of Cybertronian. Some dating back long before the times of Nova Magnus and Senator Jhiaxus, of Lio Prime and High Protector Dreadlock, or of even Grey Convoy or Zeemon Maximus before them. Evidence of their history could be found etched into the walls of the caverns, that is, if you dug deep enough. The two advanced steadily into Terminus’ passage. Their sparks skipping a pulse as they made their way through the entrance tunnel and down the main shaft. As they descended, the ice appeared less frequent along the walls of the cavern, slowly translating into the dark metal of Cybertron’s crust. Terminus had made progress. The lamps hanging overhead flickered as they made their way through the lower-most passage. Another issue Decimus would have to address. They found Terminus hunched over in the dark. Drilling quietly into the rock before pausing to wipe away some of the debris with his hands, and drilling once more. Icepick stood leaning against the wall adjacent to his fellow minor, scanning the words of a light cyan data-pad which illuminated her face more than the overhead bulbs did. She glowered up from his pad momentarily before giving a sort of half smile to the pair. Regardless of Icepick’s acknowledgement, it was Terminus who addressed them, his face nearly pressed into the wall. ‘Caved in?’ The aged robot asked. ‘You were right,’ Frak said. ‘Couldn’t begin to guess where we last dug under all that snow. Mind if we branch off from here?’ Terminus waved a dirty, rustic servo aimlessly to the side. ‘Be my guest.’ As Frak went to work on the wall opposite from Icepick, Rushcut briefly gave her thanks to Terminus before addressing his partner. ‘Yo, is he okay?’ Icepick looked up from her data-pad, wide-eyed and smiling. ‘Who? Terminus, or—?’ ‘Terminus, yeah. Lately he’s been—,’ ‘Ahhh, forget him,’ Icepick said, smoothly waving a blade-like servo as if to dispel the notion of an issue. ‘He’s just trying to show he’s upset about Imprint. I keep tellin’ him that mourning is the job of the deceased’s partner, but he insists it was management’s “responsibility” to prevent this from happening. I don’t see what the big deal is about it. ‘Tis a dangerous job, y’know? These things happen.’ Rushcut opened her mouth to speak, then closed it, and thought about what Icepick had said before opening her mouth once more. ‘Isn’t it, though?’ ‘Isn’t it what?’ ‘Isn’t it management’s responsibility to ensure the mines don’t cave in on top of us? They’re the ones that can do something about it—not us.’ Icepick shrugged. ‘Maybe they can’t do something about it. Sorry, bad grammar moment—maybe they can’t do anything about it. They’ve got a lot more to deal with than the stability of the holes we’ve created. You haven’t worked in management. I haven’t worked in management. We don’t know dang about what happens up top, so we really have no right to question what they do.’ ‘I, uh, yeah.’ Icepick shrugged again before staring down at her pad. ‘Maybe help your own partner with that wall over there, eh? Try to keep yourself useful.’ Rushcut smirked sardonically at the remark, ‘I take it that’s what you’re doing?’ ‘Indeed! I’m catching up on next week’s schedule. Some of us might get re-located with all the new-comers coming in.’ she looked up from her pad and grinned. ‘I want to know whose aft I need to kiss to ensure I still get to see all my friends next solar cycle.’ ----- Kaon Please get on with it. Please, please, get on with it. This is a waste of my time. ‘Then the decision has been finalized,’ Proteus’ voice roared throughout the Senatorial Chamber. The ceiling stretched miles above, as a dim light cascaded down upon the government officials, as if the heavens themselves were appraising the formal convocation. Yes, finalized. Final. You’ve said it now please use that word the way it’s meant to be used and end it. ‘On the account of the Primal Charter’s decree of separating military from state, Nominus Magnus shall not be inducted into the Senate, nor shall the Senate disclose any of its prior dealings or operations with him, or any active Prime, Major, or Minor of the Cybertronian military power.’ Why is he repeating what we’ve already just agreed upon? Why can’t he just say “okay” and put this meeting out of its misery like the dying mechanimal it is? ‘The reason behind the Senate’s decision shall be to dispel any possibilities – no matter how slim it may seem— of Cybertron falling into a military dictatorship, as to prevent the mistakes of our predecessors, and their failure that was the Dreadlock incident.’ Yes, yes, get it out of your system so that we know what to tell the reporters. Who’s sitting next to me right now? Decimus? No, he’s off doing another one of those “Routine Procedural Appearances.” Useless. No, it’s Momus. He’s easily dispensable. If I must wait one more minute, I will dig my teeth into his throat wiring and tear out his— ‘Are there any objections?’ Proteus waited, scanning each of his fellow Senators for a reaction. His optics fixed on Ratbat, brow lowered, corner of his mouth slightly raised. ‘Any objections, Senator?’ Why are you asking me? Is my disgust so evident that you feel the need to pry? ‘No, Senator.’ Without a word of goodbyes, nor goodwill, Proteus rose to his feet. ‘Then this council is adjourned.’ Ratbat had already stormed out of his booth and into the amphitheater’s halls before Proteus could lay the last word. Behind him trailed his assistant, walking with a petulant grace that contrasted the Senator’s disjointed and harrowing stride. ‘Ensure Aquabat has the transport ready outside. And a fresh tank of premium to boot.’ The Senator’s glossa slithered between his teeth as he pictured it. ‘I’m getting… cravings again.’ His assistant bowed his head as he walked. ‘As you Command, Senator Ratbat.’ ‘And try to keep up the pace. I don’t want any of our fellow government officials thinking they can catch up to me for a conversa—,’ ‘Well oil my gears, Senator Ratbat!’ From an branching hallway came Senator Crosscut. Grin as wide as his head would allow it. A blocky assistant carrying a data-pad sighed as he quibbled along behind him. ‘Long time no speak! You’re looking as spry as ever! But hey, I saw you frowning over Proteus’ speech back there. Is everything okay back at—.’ Almost immediately, Ratbat’s assistant took over. ‘Senator Ratbat is very tired right now on account of his various duties toward Cybertron and her colonies. We must regretfully postpone your reunion, and schedule a meeting at a later date if absolutely necessary.’ Yes… yes, we must. We must leave at once. A twinge of annoyance spread over the right side of Crosscut’s face. ‘Oh please. That might work on those Iaconian journalists, or Ratty’s financial employees, but I’m a Senator. This is between Senators.’ Oh, for the love of—get this plebian out of my face already, these pains are unbearable. ‘I restate: we must take our leave of you at this time. It is paramount that the Senator be returned to his home immediately, and without delay.’ ‘Now listen here…’ ‘Any failure to comply with this shall result in specific topics to be conversated against the will of greater decency.’ Ratbat grinned discreetly. This is why I made him my assistant. ‘What are you talking about?’ ‘Simply put, it could be stated that neither party in this situation would find it favorable to discuss any topics related to one known as Astraea, especially in the presence of certain officials who may be interested in the matter.’ And there it was. That look of sudden shock and fear. Of confusion and knowing inferiority. Ratbat did not know what his assistant knew, only that it would have been something Crosscut didn’t want known. The Senator’s optics widened. He swallowed hard. ‘I don’t—how do you know…?’ ‘We beg your forgiveness, and look forward to discussing a topic of your choosing at a time when the Senator is free to do so.’ With that, the two left Crosscut standing in the center of the amphitheater corridor, trying to wrap his head around what had just happened. ‘So, who is this Astraea?’ Ratbat asked as they exited the building into the street. ‘An error, unfortunately mis-calculated by Senator Crosscut approximately three deca-cycles ago.’ Ratbat supposed that was all he needed to know. Ahhh, blackmail. It was a shame his top blackmailer happened to be the worst conversationalist he ever had the displeasure of knowing. But then he wouldn’t have been nearly as good at what he did were he any different. As they approached the shuttle, Ratbat clutched his chest. His need to return to his inner sanctum was burning a hole through his spark. He grinned weakly at his assistant. ‘This, Soundwave, is what gives you the privilege to walk upon the planet’s surface, let alone in the presence of a Senator.’ His smirk widened. It’s all you’ll ever amount to, anyway. ----- ‘That was disappointing,’ muttered the grey and turquoise Senator exiting his booth. ‘No kidding,’ replied his smaller assistant, pattering next to him. ‘These meetings are almost always as boring as the pit, but this one was just…’ ‘Ignorant to matters of greater importance?’ ‘Well yeah, that, and boring. They wouldn’t even talk about the—.’ ‘Of Kaon’s underworld, I know. Even as this meeting was situated in Kaon.’ His assistant laughed at this, but the Senator would only nod in agitation. ‘Idiots! Do they not see the degeneration of this state’s society? They are either ignorant to its people, or—No! That is exactly it! They cannot bear to take responsibility over what they have allowed Kaon to come to and so choose to ignore it in favor of their own postulated egos! It’s a disgrace!’ The assistant nodded its boxy head vigorously. ‘And what do they have against Magnus, anyway? He’s always been pro-Senate. Hell, they made you a Senator, so obviously, they don’t have anything against associating military—.’ ‘Former military. But yes. Precisely, Fistfight. Something should be done about the crime of this city. Of this world. Something needs to be done.’ The Senator’s servo clenched into a fist as he proceeded through the main amphitheater’s lobby. ‘My fellow Senate-members have taken great lengths to be… politically correct. They have not been in the field like I have. They don’t know what the Kaon Underworld is capable of. Cybertron needs to be saved. And if Kaon has no one to champion it, then I will—.’ ‘Oi, Senator!’ The Senator turned to see Crosscut jogging over to him. ‘You wouldn’t believe the conversation I just ha—.’ Fistfight raised a stubby limb to the new arrival. ‘Apologies, but Senator Shockwave is very tired right now, and will not be disturbed at this time.’ ----- The Blue Deployer – Kaon Gutcruncher paced eagerly from one end of his quarters to the other, his large footsteps pounding against the thin copper floorboards. The sound of the speak-easy’s drunken regulars and bustling staff could be heard muffled through the walls amid the mellowed music being played throughout the restaurant. Sawdust poured from the ceiling as feet scuffled excitedly on the floor above. ‘Run me through the numbers again.’ ‘Forty thousand two-hundred and eighteen credits per game,’ Charger replied, closing his data-book. ‘On average. It is not a precise amount, but that is what we will be making should the gladiators continue to request our services.’ ‘Geez…’ Gutcruncher scratched the back of his head. ‘That adds up to a lot. Like a real lot.’ Charger calmly raised a servo to his business partner. ‘Again, this is assuming they continue referring to us for disposal purposes.’ ‘Why wouldn’t they? They need bodies to disappear, and we make them disappear. They’re smart enough to see how that works.’ He ceased his pacing and grinned at his number cruncher. ‘This is good. Let’s go give Cryotek the good news. I get the feeling he’ll want to hear this.’ The two exited their temporary place of living and into the upper hallway on the Blue Deployer’s second level. The hall was a wreck. Dimly lit, it was stained with graffiti, littered with discarded trash, and densely populated by the lowest of Cybertron’s lower class. Cybes danced drunkenly before one another, others barked insults at each other and got into sloppy skirmishes and fisticuffs. Others stood closer to each other as physically possible, their sparks merging in rituals that took place more commonly behind closed doors. While Gutcruncher felt at home with the so-called degenerates of Cybertronian society, he knew Charger—an uptight math-geek of the Jhiaxan Academy, was still made uncomfortable by the criminal atmosphere. What caught Gutcruncher off-guard was the mathematician’s grim fascination with his data-book. ‘Something the matter?’ ‘Not really,’ Charger replied. ‘It is simply… well, you have seen the state of which these bodies are shipped to us.’ ‘Of course, I have.’ ‘They seem to be arriving in worse condition as time passes.’ Gutcruncher merely shrugged, passing by a crowd of syke-junkies, hopped up and muttering to one another in a corner of the musky hallway. ‘Don’t sell yourself short. We’re experts, Charger. We can turn dead metal into sparkling tissue as if freshly spawned by Primus himself. We’d be out of a job if we couldn’t.’ Charger nodded. ‘That is not something I doubt. It’s just—look at this,’ he passed Gutcruncher his data-book. A video-recording danced across its screen. ‘This is footage of the gladiatorial combat. This is what they do to each other.’ Gutcruncher frowned over the footage. ‘I didn’t know it was possible to do that to a person.’ ‘You’re acting disturbingly calm about this.’ ‘I’ve seen a few dead bodies in my day,’ he replied, nonchalantly. ‘He’s consuming his enemy’s throat-wiring. He’s lapping up his spilled Energon!’ ‘I can see that. What’s the winner’s name?’ ‘Cy-Kill.’ ‘That’s literally hilarious. But seriously, what’s your point?’ Charger closed his data-book with the flip of his wrist. ‘My point is that we’re dealing with sadists who go through all of this trouble just to kill each other for their own amusement. My point is more than half of them are Neo-Destrons preaching about a new-world order. My point is they’re dangerous. Clench and Colossus are dangerous. Gutcruncher, we should be cautious about doing business with these people.’ ‘You’re worried about getting killed by these psychopaths?’ He chuckled, and flexed a bicep. ‘You’ve got nothing to worry about, Charge. Not when the gun-show is in town. Wha-bam.’ ‘Seriously, Gutcruncher. Let’s be careful about this.’ Gutcruncher shrugged as they approached Cryotek’s study. ‘I know. You know I’m always careful. This may surprise you, but I’m not what you'd call a fan of dying.’ The study appeared to have been the one “nice” room in the entire building. A pair of mechs standing guard before the door eyed them carefully. The slim red one unsubtly thrust his hip out, showing off the pistol holstered to his waist. ‘Take a hike. The Blue Deployer’s Manager is very busy right now, and I don’t think he would be too happy—.’ ‘It’s okay, Terrorsaur.’ The one Gutcruncher recognized as Cataclysm gestured deadpanned to the two of them. ‘I know these two. They’re free to enter.’ Terrorsaur looked from Cataclysm, to Gutcruncher, and back. ‘Huh. Very well then.’ He muttered something into his wrist communicator, and the doors to Cryotek’s study parted. ‘He’ll see you now.’ As Gutcruncher and Charger entered, a chill crept over them and seethed into their systems. ‘Primus, why is it so cold in here!’ Gutcruncher bellowed suddenly. ‘I… can’t say.’ Charger muttered as they entered the gloom. Ice had formed across the walls and hung from the ceiling of the chasm-like room, becoming all the thicker, and all the more oppressive as they ventured deeper. Icicles hung from above, causing Gutcruncher to wonder how safe it was to venture under them at all. At the end of the room, they found a dim lamp lighting a desk that had been completely frozen over. A massive, round figure sitting behind it. Cryotek looked up from his studies, and smiled warmly at the pair. A dark avian creature sat on a perch on his desk, staring at Gutcruncher and Charger through cold blue optics. Rumour had it that Cryotek was a beast-former. A primitive, who grew up in cultures outside of Cybertronian civilization, and was constructed in a more natural form. Squinting, Gutcruncher could make out a pair of wings sprouting from the mafia leader’s back. Though he doubted Cryotek would ever be able to fly, given his round and bulbous body-frame. Gutcruncher always knew he himself was fat, not that the fact had ever really bothered him, but compared to the massive Cryotek he felt as slim as one of the fastest racers on Velocitron. Secretly, he took a great satisfaction in seeing his boss in a worse physical shape than he was. ‘Now, what brings you to my den? Gutcruncher. Charger,’ Cryotek asked in a warm, welcoming tone of voice. Gutcruncher stepped forward. ‘Good news. We just received confirmation of payment from the Gladiatorial Ring. Each game they pay us at least forty thousand two-hundred and eighteen creds for us to dispose of their… losers.’ Charger continued. ‘Presuming they hire us for cleanup each game—that is, on a weekly basis—by the end of the stellar cycle we could make over one-hundred thousand creds.’ ‘Ah.’ Cryotek’s humble grin remained just as it was when they had walked in. ‘So… yeah. Your majority profit out of this will be about just as large.’ Gutcruncher finished. ‘What is the good news?’ Gutcruncher and Charger exchanged looks. It was Gutcruncher who spoke first. ‘I’m sorry, what?’ ‘The good news. You said there was good news.’ They exchanged glances once again. Gutcruncher explained. ‘We… just told you the good news.’ While his fatherly grin remained, Cryotek’s brow appeared to furrow a little. ‘Not in my opinion. No, you did not.’ He rose from his chair. His massive body dwarfing the already large Gutcruncher. His voice remained as smooth and collected as when they entered. ‘You came to me claiming that forty-thousand credits per a game is good news? For you, perhaps, as you both are still lower class entrepreneurs, that would be true. But I am afraid I must inform you that my business is on a much higher level than the two of you and your little body-trafficking schemes, and as such, demands more from its partnerships. You see, most of my past partnerships have created millions in revenue alone. I expect at least the same from you.’ Gutcruncher stuttered momentarily, before bowing his head. ‘I—I apologize, Cryotek. We are open to suggestions on how to… to raise our income to meet your satisfactory gaze.’ Cryotek waved a calming servo. ‘Oh, it will be nothing too drastic. Simply demand a higher price of compensation from Clench the next time you contact him.’ Had he a mouth, Charger’s would have dropped. ‘You… want us to haggle with Clench?’ ‘Indeed. Four-hundred thousand credits per game should be an appropriate price for your services.’ Charger’s fingers began twitching. ‘You… I…’ ‘We’ll do it.’ Gutcruncher said, suddenly before nodding towards Charger. ‘We’ll do exactly that.’ Charger turned from his partner back to Cryotek. ‘Just to be clear… your sponsorship of us… it includes… protection, yes?’ ‘Of course,’ Cryotek’s grin seemed to expand somewhat at this. Charger nodded absentmindedly, ‘Right, yes. Then we humbly apologize for our prior… mistake, and will make you proud come next game-day.’ Cryotek lowered himself back into his seat, joints cracking as he did so. His fatherly grin had all but burned itself into the minds of the two entrepreneurs at this point. ‘Oh, I’m sure you will.’ ----- ‘Okay, we can do this…’ Charger muttered, making his way back to the room. ‘We just have to negotiate with Clench. Not an issue. Cryotek will protect us. Everything will be fine.’ Charger’s visor began to change colour, fading from a blue, to a light orange. ‘Calm down, Charger.’ Gutcruncher spat. ‘Think about your condition! But you’re right. It will be okay.’ Charger shook his head as they entered their room. They sat down on their recharge-slabs, side by side. ‘I just don’t understand. What does Cryotek do with all his money?’ Gutcruncher cocked his head to the side. ‘I’m not sure I follow.’ Charger gestured up to the ceiling. ‘I mean, look at this place. It’s a sty. If Cryotek is making all this money—why does he choose to live here of all places? And what is with all the ice, and the bird, and—.’ ‘Charger, settle, I won’t ask you again.’ Gutcruncher sighed, and draped a hand over his partner’s shoulder. ‘All that matters is the job. Don’t question the boss’s orders. It will get you nowhere. Just the job. Besides, with Cryotek backing us, haggling with Clench will be a synch. I promise.’ ----- The Arena Clench ripped his fist out of what was once the skull of Doom-Lock. The Gladiator fell to the ground, crumpled into a ball of spasming metal and circuitry. Where his face once was, was nothing more than a gaping hole peering into what seemed to be an endless darkness. The crowd’s cheers reverbrated from all around him. From above, his brother Colossus nodded his approval. Clench spread his arms wide and let out a screech of wretched pleasure. Thick sticky liquids poured from his optical sockets. ‘Till all are one!’ ----- Cybertron’s South Pole Rolt paced behind the landing pad. Decimus had arrived five minutes earlier with a crew, new miners, and new orders that he was to announce to the workers. They were preparing him for his speech in the back. Something about the visit riddled Rolt with an immense, fidgeting anxiety. What if he was being replaced with a younger, new surveillance-bot? What if they chose to withdraw some of the older models: friends like Terminus and Rushcut who had worked with Rolt since the beginning? What if Decimus decided there didn’t need to be a mining outpost at the south-pole? He had heard rumours from the other supervisors scattered across the planet. Not all Routine Appearances were good ones. Lately, especially, there had been a mass termination of mining outposts, with several fine mechs losing their jobs and turning either to beggars on the streets, or to crime in Kaon’s underworld. Rolt knew he would at least have a chance acting as a surveillance official someplace else, but he knew the miners wouldn’t fair nearly as well. And he couldn’t help but feel responsible for them. His assistant/bodyguard Rink stood watching his nigh breakdown with a depressing lack of concern. Upon realizing that he was being watched at all, Rolt stopped what he was doing, and approached the bodyguard. ‘I’m gonna go address the workers before the big D gets here.’ Rink frowned. ‘The big—what did you just say?’ ‘Forget it. I’ll be right back.’ Rolt made his way to the platform from which Decimus would be speaking, climbed on top of it, and stood before his workers. Thankfully, Beta-12 was a small mining outpost, with only eight—well, formerly eight, miners working at a time. All the reason to shut us down. Rolt shook his head vigorously at the thought. As he stood before the audience, all but three had their undivided attention on him. ‘Funnily enough,’ Rushcut went on. ‘I’m actually the youngest miner to earn the right to a built-in drill. Aside from Terminus and Icepick I’m the first--.’ ‘Oh, my God, shut up,’ Frak spat. ‘Seriously, dude, you’ve talked about this like seven times already. It gets tiring. Besides, I think Rolt is going to speak.’ Rushcut scrunched her face into a scowl and kicked a tuft of snow in frustration. ‘It is something worth bragging about though. Not everyone gets to be “that chick with the drill.”’ ‘Hello, everyone? Can everybody hear me?’ Rolt spoke, hunched over a microphone. ‘Yeah, hi. Can you guys in the back—Rumble, Frenzy, guys—can you be quiet for just a moment, or… Frag it. Hey guys, I just wanted to remind you all to be on your best behavior this time. Some of you, I know, choose to distract yourselves from the speaker during these kinds of matters, even when the speaker is a Senator, and therefore responsible for which of us gets work.’ He paused. ‘I’m really only talking about Rumble and Frenzy. Because come on guys, this happens every time. But anyway, that’s all I really have to say. Be polite. Understood?’ A plethora of affirmation greeted him back from the crowd. Save for Frenzy and Rumble, who were cackling to each other about one thing or another, and the deceased Imprint’s partner, who stood stone-faced, staring spears at Rolt. Poor chap. Rolt mused. He felt genuinely upset about Imprint’s death, though he had to admit it was simply one of the risks that came with the job. Perhaps Decimus might propose something to fix the apparent safety issue, but Rolt severely doubted it. If things continued smoothly, Rolt had no complaints. After a few moments of silence, a representative approached Rolt, muttering into his audio receptor that Decimus was about to begin his speech, before continuing across the platform. Hands wringing in anticipation, Rolt made his way to the side of the platform with him. The Senator, surrounded by several large body-guards, stepped into view and took his place at the podium. Frak would, at times, wonder what separated a miner from military or security as far as body-types went. Seeing the security working for Decimus reminded her. She and the other miners were large, but they were also hunch-backed, bulbous, disproportionate, and clumpy. The body-guards were just as large, but they were also streamlined, well proportioned, and carried airs of elegant professionalism, despite having fists as large as regular bots’ torsos, and arms capable of punching through solid Cybertanium steel. Each of them were armed with path-blasters. Each of them scanning the small crowd for a reason to shoot. Decimus appeared to loosen his collar as he gazed upon the seven watching miners from above. His moistened his lip-plates and began to speak. ‘My fellow Cybertronians…’ he seemed to wince after speaking this, as if distressed by something. He restarted. ‘Miners of Outpost Beta-13,’ A bodyguard raised a hand as if to correct Decimus’ mistake, but quickly decided better of it and retracted his servo. Decimus continued. ‘As always, I come to congratulate you on a job well done. Without you and your hard work, we would not possess the Energon required to power our cities, our electronics, our machines, our super-computers, our interchanging roadways, our security systems, or even ourselves. You are the spinal-strut of modern Cybertronian society, as without you, none of us, none of what we are—would exist. If it weren’t for you, we would still be living in the Cybertronian wilderness—still in the possession of primitive bestial forms rather than the far more advanced and convenient vehicular configurations we are lucky enough to be forged with today.’ Rolt couldn’t help but feel upset by this statement. As he transformed into a camera outlet, and nothing remotely vehicular whatsoever. He knew Decimus felt nothing of it, but even still, the lack of consideration in his word choice left him feeling empty Decimus went on. ‘As a Senator—as a leader of our planet: the glorious mother Cybertron, I make sure to address even the smallest mining colonies, in even the harshest of climates. For every shape serves a purpose, and every one of us is worthy of Primus’ respect. Now, on to matters of business.’ Rolt involuntarily relieved himself. ‘As Beta-11 is what could be considered… undermanned. I understand that the frequent loss of personnel requires a constant boost in numbers. As such, I have brought a suitable number of fresh miners eager to get to work. I expect you all to welcome them with open arms. The two whom I consider our top candidates go by the names of Drillhorn and Drill-bit.’ ‘Oh, get the hell out of dodge!’ Rushcut shouted suddenly. Decimus ignored her. ‘I have also received word of certain technical issues with the mines.’ Imprint’s partner raised his head to this, and began listening intently to the Senator. Decimus smiled warmly. ‘The lighting issues in the mines shall be fixed in no less than a mega-cycle. I thank you for your patience on the matter. I bid you all farewell.’ Decimus turned to one of his guards as the miners began exchanging glances. Imprint’s partner marched towards the podium. ‘Oh, my god,’ Frak said, grabbing Rushcut and pointing towards the massive mech. ‘Oh no… what is he going to—?’ ‘I’m not looking. I’m not looking.’ Each of the miners whispered amongst themselves of what was about to occur. All but Terminus, who stared at the scene through wide, and determined optics. ‘Excuse me!’ the mech shouted from the foot of the stage. Rolt, noticing this, brought his hands to his face and screamed internally. Decimus blinked down at him, surprised to witness one of the miners speaking back to him for once. Despite his guards’ protests to proceed, he chose to respond. ‘Er… yes?’ ‘Are you sure you’re not forgetting something? Maybe something about the reliability of the support beams used to keep the mines secured?’ Decimus blinked, then shook his head and smiled. ‘I don’t believe so, no.’ Imprint’s partner placed his hands behind his back in response to this. ‘Well I—I dunno, I just thought it was important. Considering someone died in a cave-in—specifically because of defective equipment.’ Decimus frowned, and slowly began to make his way off the stage. ‘Well, I’ll consider discussing it with my colleagues when I get the chance. But I believe we supply you with equipment tested to be above the level of solidity required to be used in mining operations. If they fail for whatever reason, then that is simply a matter you yourself need to take into consideration when doing your job.’ He continued off the stage. ‘Wait-wait-wait, before you go,’ the mech said, preventing him from walking off once more. ‘I feel like I didn’t make myself clear. Somebody died. They’re dead now.’ ‘No, I understand,’ Decimus spoke, nodding sagely. ‘It is a shame, yes. But miners perishing in accidents is quite common. In fact, there are miners expiring all over the planet due to one accident or another. It is simply one of the risks of the job, as you are already well familiar with.’ The mech’s servos clenched around the edge of the stage. ‘That really doesn’t hamper the issue at hand. If anything, it means this issue should have been resolved ages ago!’ Decimus seemed to shrug. ‘Again, I will speak of this in my next—,’ ‘Just one more question,’ Imprint’s partner said, raising his hand. Decimus seemed hesitant to answer, but did so anyway, convinced he was invulnerable thanks to the protection of his guards at his disposal. ‘Yes?’ ‘Will you suck my aft?’ The guards, the miners, and Rolt stared at him with their jaws dropped. Rumble and Frenzy fell into a chaotic laughter. Rolt relieved himself for a second time. His optics seething with yellow energy. ‘Sorry, maybe I didn’t make myself clear again, will you suck my oily aft?’ ‘I—I—,’ Decimus was speechless, he had never been spoken to in such a way. ‘Will you take your moist, squishy, hyper-glossed, upper-class lips, wrap them around my puckered aft-shoot, and suck the grease that I dispense from it? I just—I want to be sure you’re getting this.’ ‘Why I…’ Decimus looked as though he were about to fall into emergency stasis-lock. ‘I’m sorry, it’s just—I like it when people suck on my aft. It’s one of my dirty pleasures. And I like stupid, nobles with big, aft-sucking lips to do it. I’m looking for someone with some biiiiig lips to give the ol’ backside a good suck, and I was wondering if you could be that aft-sucker I was looking for.’ Decimus reached into his chest compartment and pulled out a cloth, which he used to dab at his helm. ‘Why I never…’ One of the guards ushered Decimus off the stage, and away from the miners. ‘How dare you refer to a member of the Senate in such a way!’ The mech smirked. ‘Are you gonna do anything about it?’ In a flash, the Guard whipped out a pistol and fired it at the Miner. A mechanism sprang out and attached itself to his chest, causing shocks to run through the mech’s body, slowly forcing him into his vehicular mode. When the transformation completed, Imprint’s partner was rendered still, and silent. ‘Gotta love a good mode-lock.’ The guard said, before looking over to Rolt. ‘You’d better deal with him.’ As the guards proceeded to depart with Decimus, Rolt sprang after them. ‘Ohmygodohmygod, I am so, so sorry Senator Decimus. He was—his partner just died and he’s been dealing with it in his own way, and he’s never been good at expressing himself, but—’ ‘What is his name?’ Decimus muttered. ‘Impactor, sir. He and Imprint came from the same colony. He’s a hard worker, you know. And well behaved. In fact, he’s usually a pretty friendly guy when he’s not trying to pick fights.’ Rolt continued, his voice firm. ‘Impactor’s an asset to Beta-12, Senator Decimus. I’m serious.’ Decimus paused for a moment, teeth gritted, then spoke. ‘I had no intention to recall any of your workers when I came here, and I will not recall any now. His words mean nothing to me. He is nothing to me. And to react in kind would prove he has any sort of power over me. He never will.’ Rolt sighed in relief as they approached Decimus’ shuttle. ‘Thank you so much Decimus, you know how much I care about the people that work here. Icepick, Rushcut, Terminus, Frak, Frenzy, Rumble… Even if the likes of Impactor are somewhat misguided into thinking they deserve the same types of health-care or maintenance work as the higher classes, they are still good people at heart. And I take great pride in watching over them.’ Decimus had already entered the shuttle as it prepared to take off, he stood just at the top of the landing-ramp, his cape flapping from the winds generated by the warp thrusters. ‘Ah yes, I had nearly forgotten. I was conversing the matter of Energon production with my fellow Senator Momus, and we had something of a disagreement. Something you might be able to settle, dear Rolt.’ ‘Um, sure. Lay it on me.’ ‘This decacycle’s Energon output—is it lower here than the world-mining-average, or higher?’ ‘Ah, lower. But that’s because of this season’s ice-storms interfering w—,’ ‘Then you’re fired.’ The shuttle doors closed over Decimus’ face as his shuttle took off. Disappearing into the sky, and high above the clouds blanketing Beta-12.