Fortuna Inversis

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by Longitudinalwave, Jun 5, 2020.

  1. Longitudinalwave

    Longitudinalwave A Big Fan of (Sound/Shock)wave

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    Fortuna Inversis

    Kaon. It’s an open, festering wound on the otherwise generally peaceful and prosperous planet of Cybertron; a city-state prostrate under the heel of the tyrannical Lord Straxus. Everyone knows this, and no one knows it more than the inhabitants of its closest neighbor, the city-state of Vos. Kaon is a place of energy deprivation, filth, poverty, and misery; in short, it is a place Vosians go out of their way to avoid. So how did a well-bred Vosian noblemech like me end up in one of Kaon’s hovels? That, I am afraid, is a rather complicated story, and for you to fully understand it, I need to start at the beginning. My name is Succendam Off de domo Domini Cael (or, for those of you who do not speak Vosian, Blast Off of the House of Space), the creation and only heir of Dominus Spatium and Domine Astrum. My creators were extremely wealthy, arguably even wealthier than the royal family, and they were a regular presence in the court of Rex Ventus, the King of Vos; however, they were also spacefaring explorers, and, as such, they were killed in a particularly unpleasant spaceship explosion when I was four stellar cycles away from the age of legal majority. It was a tragedy, of course, but as they had been away from home frequently for most of my life prior to that point, it did not affect me as much as it might have, and upon their deaths, I became the master of the Cael estate and its workers. Not long afterwards, I hired a mech from Kaon to serve as my clerk. He was quiet and efficient, and generally did good work, but he was always filthy and clearly half-starved, not to mention a war-frame, and that did not fit in with the image I wanted my staff to project. Thus, I fired him; which proved to be stressful for both of us. When I informed him that he was being let go, he started creating quite a scene, begging me to keep him on for the sake of his family and generally acting horribly undignified. In the end, I grew tired of trying to reason with him and had my guards remove him from my estate. After a few days, I forgot about him altogether, little imagining that we would encounter each other again, and my life progressed quite smoothly for the next two stellar cycles. I even arranged a sponsalia (that is, an engagement) for myself with Illusion of the Furtim Line, a female from the Towers District. But my happiness proved to be transient. Just a few solar cycles after I reached sedecim (sixteen) stellar cycles of age, I was baselessly arrested for treason. Sure, I may have made a few….inopportune….statements about Rex Ventus’ ability to rule, but I had never plotted to overthrow him, and everyone knew it. As he soon made clear, his real interest was not whether or not I had betrayed him but rather to see if he could get his filthy hands on my land and holdings….and irritatingly, because he was the king and thus the head of the judiciary system of Vos, it soon became apparent that he could do just that. On the pretext of incredibly flimsy evidence (even the king’s young creation, Princeps Stella Clamor- Prince Starscream- remarked on the flimsiness of it), I was found guilty of treason, and stripped of my title, my lands, and my holdings. Ventus made a show of mercy, claiming that he would spare me from execution because of my youth. Then he banished me to the slums of Kaon with no servants, no Shanix, and no energon….which, had fate not intervened, would have been nothing more than a prolonged death sentence. So much for his mercy. Not long after I was abandoned in Kaon, I was approached by a mech whom, I would soon learn, was one of Lord Straxus’ Enforcers.

    “What are you doing out at night, Empty?” he spat. While I could understand Neocybex fairly well, my ability to speak it was rather limited. Most nobles (and their servants) could speak Vosian, after all, so there had been little need for me to practice speaking the language. Thus, my response to his question was less than elegant.

    “I do wrong?” I stammered in broken Neocybex.

    “What’s the matter, Empty? Can’t you speak?” the Enforcer mocked

    “Empty?” I echoed, utterly confused. I knew the word-in Vosian, it was vaccus-but he seemed to be using it as a noun rather than an adjective.

    “Yeah, an Empty. That’s what you are…a worthless piece of gutter trash. Although if you’re too stupid to know what that means, then maybe you’re also too stupid to know that no one is allowed out after curfew. If you don’t get inside in the next ten minutes, I’m taking you to prison. You got that, Empty?”

    “Yes,” I replied. With that, I bolted away from the mech and started searching for some way to get inside before I got thrown into a Kaonite prison, which I was certain would make the one I had been locked up in in Vos seem like my palatial estate by comparison. After a few minutes, I stumbled upon a small building-a hovel, really-and, in desperation, banged on the door.

    “Fac me introire! Ergot placet mihi!” (Let me in! Please, let me in!) I was in such a panic that I didn’t even stop to consider the fact that whoever was inside probably didn’t speak Vosian. After a few seconds, the door was opened by an exhausted-looking war-frame, one who was startlingly familiar.

    “Who are you, and what do you want?” he barked in Neocybex.

    “Need roof...help,” I replied, now desperately wishing that I was more fluent in the language.

    “Vosiane loqui possum. Quod requires?” (I can speak Vosian. What do you need?) the other mech asked, surprising me. His rough, thickly accented voice was also familiar, but I still couldn’t place him.

    “Et opus tectumque. Quaeso!” (I need shelter. Please!) I replied. The war-build examined me, and then glared at me coldly.

    “Et nota videtur. Quod nomen tibi est?” (You seem familiar. What is your name?)

    “Succendam Off de domo Domini Cael,” I replied….and just as I said this, I realized why the war-build seemed so familiar. He was the same one whom I had fired from his position as my clerk two stellar cycles previously. A sense of dread washed over my spark. This was not good.

    “Quid si ego auxiliatus sum tui? Et accensus sunt me, cum scires haec non erat familiaris.” (Why should I help you? You fired me unjustly, even though you knew I had a family.) the war-build said coldly.

    “Paenitet! Paenitet-” (I’m sorry! I’m sorry…) I exclaimed, stopping short when I realized that I had never bothered to learn his name.

    “Impetus. Impetus sit nomen meum. Cum tibi, ne quidem sciunt nomine meo: ego auxiliatus sum tibi, non. Exite!” (Onslaught. Onslaught is my name. Since you do not even know my name, I will not help you. Go away.) In complete panic, I fell to my knees.

    “Amabo, noli me manere. Faciam quod vis facere!” (Please, let me stay! I’ll do anything you want!) I pleaded.

    “Quidquid?” (Anything?) Onslaught asked.

    “Ita, quod,” (Yes, anything.) I replied. Onslaught seemed to ponder this for a few seconds, then pulled me to my feet.

    “‘Ut maneat in domo in tribus conditionalibus. Primo, vos mos reperio a officium, mercedem tuam super me, et convertam. Habeo tres alere velis nobiscum sic oportet operam. Secundam, maneat, si tu non es membrum de familia. Et erit servum, et sic potest haberi. Tertius, et sic loquetur ad me, domine. Mecum adhuc volo?” (You may stay in my home, on three conditions. First, you will find a job and turn over your wages to me. I have three brothers to support, so if you wish to stay with us, you must contribute financially. Second, if you stay, you are not a member of the family. You will be a servant and be treated as such. Third, you will address me as “sir.” Do you still wish to stay with me?) he asked. Naturally, I was horrified by the conditions that he had set, but because the alternative was even worse, I was forced to swallow my pride and accept them.

    “Ita domine. Habeo alia optio,” (Yes, sir. I have no other choice.) I said. Onslaught nodded.

    “In that case, you can come in. You will speak Neocybex from now on.”

    “I...try, sir,” I replied. Onslaught nodded, and mercifully did not comment on my broken Neocybex. Then he led me inside the shack of a building he called his home, and I was shocked by the squalor inside. There was a table, three recharging centers, and four chairs, crammed into a space that was smaller than the storage closets on my estate. Other than that, there was no furniture-no washracks, no energon dispenser, nothing! In place of those essentials were a third grown mech who clearly transformed into a tank, a grey youngling whose rotors marked him as a helicopter, and the tiniest sparkling I had ever seen. He was bright yellow and had enormous purple optics, and he appeared to turn into a ground-based vehicle of some sort, though I wasn’t sure of what type.

    “These are my brothers, Brawl, Vortex, and Swindle,” Onslaught said, as he pointed to the tank, the youngling, and the sparkling in turn.

    “Who’s that, Onslaught?” the tank, Brawl, asked. He was exceedingly loud, and I could tell right from the beginning that he was going to be a major irritant.

    “This is Blast Off of the House of Cael,” Onslaught replied.

    “The rich jerk who fired you? What’s he doing here?”

    “I’m not entirely certain of that, Brawl, but given the fact that he, a very wealthy, very arrogant mech, begged me to allow him to take shelter in what he probably thinks is a shack, I’d guess that he has run into a disaster of some kind,” Onslaught replied. When he said this, I realized for the first time just what I had done. I had agreed to work as an unpaid servant in exchange for being allowed to take shelter in a hovel!

    “We can barely keep ourselves fueled; why’re we givin’ some of our energy and our home to a rich, spoiled jerk?” Brawl asked.

    “We aren’t “giving” Blast Off anything. This is probably a foreign concept to him, but rest assured-from now on, he’s going to have to earn every drop of energon we give him,” Onslaught replied. Although he was ostensibly speaking to his brother, it was clear that Onslaught was telling me something as well: namely, that if I didn’t please him, I would not get to refuel.

    “Where’s he gonna recharge?” This question came from Vortex. The question being something that I, too, was interested in, I turned to Onslaught for the answer.

    “There isn’t enough space for him to recharge on the floor, at least not without us tripping over him on a constant basis, the recharging center you share with Swindle is far too small for another sparkling, let alone a shuttle of his size, and my recharging center barely fits me. Thus, he will have to share Brawl’s recharging center,” Onslaught replied.

    “What?” Brawl and I exclaimed simultaneously. Vortex giggled.

    “Now you know how I feel having to share a recharger with Swindle,” he said to his older brother. Brawl growled, and I backed away from him, but the small helicopter just giggled again.

    “Vortex, go back to recharge,” Onslaught said.

    “But I’m not tired! And Swindle kicks really hard in recharge,” Vortex whined, gesturing at the unconscious sparkling. How that sparkling managed to stay in recharge with Brawl and Vortex shouting around him, I did not and do not understand.

    “I know that sharing a recharger is unpleasant, Vortex, but we don’t have enough Shanix or enough space to get you your own. If you don’t recharge properly, you’ll be at risk for developing a virus that we wouldn’t be able to afford to treat. Please at least make an effort,” Onslaught said gently. Vortex pouted, but he climbed onto the tiny recharging center regardless. Evidently, he had been lying about not being tired, as, only a few minutes later, he was clearly in recharge. Once he was assured that the youngling was resting, Onslaught turned back to Brawl and me.

    “It’s very late, so it would be wise for the three of us to get some rest, too. I’ll see you both in the morning,” he said. With that, he went to his own recharging chamber and was almost immediately dead to the world, leaving my-shudder-new companion and me staring awkwardly at each other.

    “Just my luck, havin’ to share a recharger with a prissy little snob,” Brawl muttered.

    “I...not like….either,” I replied, mortified by how poor my spoken Neocybex was. Brawl shot me an odd look.

    “Why’re you talkin’ funny, Prissy?” he asked. I scowled at him, as I did not at all appreciate him calling me “prissy”. It was hardly my fault that I had been bred to be disgusted by the squalor that these brothers lived in!

    “I speak Vosian. I...not good...speaking...Neocybex,” I explained, inwardly fuming at how unfair it was that I was expected to adjust to the language used by these plebeians.

    “Oh. Okay then. Which side of the recharger do you want? I ain’t gonna like it regardless, so it don’t matter none to me,” Brawl asked. I idly wondered why he insisted on butchering his own language before replying.

    “Left,” I replied. I had no desire to be trapped in between the tank and a wall.

    “Fine. Just so you know, Prissy, I snore. Hope you don’t mind,” Brawl said as he got onto his recharging center. I very much did mind, but, under the circumstances, there was nothing I could do but wish fervently that I was anywhere but in the slums of Kaon and follow him to the recharging center. I gingerly joined the tank on the center, glad that the lighting was too poor for me to see how filthy they both probably were, and struggled to enter recharge. It seemed as though every time I was about to do so, Brawl’s engines decided to rumble noisily, and then, as though that wasn’t unpleasant enough, he eventually rolled over in such a way that he pinned my arm to the recharging center’s slab. This was, as one might imagine, quite painful, and I cried out, but no one reacted. Evidently, they were accustomed to recharging through a racket. After what seemed like an eternity of discomfort, exhaustion eventually took over and I fell into recharge.

    “Wake up! You have work to do!” I checked my chronometer, and was startled to find that it was only 4:30 in the morning.

    “Suss etiam mane,” (It’s too early.) I protested. I was not fully awake, and, as such, my CPU had not yet fully registered that I was no longer at home. Then my optics focused, I saw Onslaught, and the events of the previous night rushed back to me. I groaned in a mixture of exhaustion and disgust, and then quickly got to my feet. A quick perusal of the room (my processor simply refused to accept it as a building) revealed that Onslaught, Brawl, and Vortex were already awake. The tiny sparkling was still asleep, but then, he wasn’t even out of his first frame. Clearly, then, and much to my distaste, I was going to have to become an early riser.

    “I had better not have to wake you up again, Blast Off. As one of my employers told me, it’s ‘not my job to coddle the hired help’,” Onslaught snapped. The fact that I had been the employer in question made the whole situation even more mortifying.

    “Yes, sir,” I replied weakly. I knew that protesting would likely only make my-*shudder*-employer angrier.

    “Good. Now, your alternate mode is a shuttle- if a small one- correct?” Onslaught asked.

    “Yes, sir. Quare-er,why?” I asked, wondering what my alternate mode had to do with the work that he would expect me to do (whatever that proved to be).

    “You have no work experience, and you can barely speak Neocybex. Due to those handicaps, the quickest way for you to get a job is to get you employed as transport of some kind, since, as a shuttle, your alt mode meets the main requirement for that position. Here are the instructions to the transport center; download them to your CPU,” Onslaught replied as he handed me a small chip. I stared at him, mildly appalled. A noblemech working as transport? It was beneath my dignity!

    “Hey, Onslaught, I don’t think Prissy likes that idea,” Brawl observed, sounding mildly amused. Vortex snickered.

    “Can I call him Prissy, too?” he asked.

    “No,” I said.

    “Sure, kid,” Brawl replied.

    “You’re in no position to complain about what they call you, Blast Off; or, for that matter, the job I want you to get…..unless, of course, you’d prefer to find energon and shelter on your own,” Onslaught said coldly. I sighed weakly. Any ludicrous hope I had had that I would be able to maintain a semblance of dignity as the-ugh-unpaid servant of a pauper was effectively dashed by what Onslaught had just told me.

    “I….be good, sir.” Onslaught nodded.

    “In that case, get going. Brawl and I have our own jobs to get to,” he snapped.

    “Energon?” I asked. Surely, they didn’t expect me to go job-hunting on an empty fuel tank! Brawl and Vortex laughed.

    “Wow, you’re even dumber than Brawl if you expect energon now! We never get to refuel at this time of the solar cycle!” Vortex exclaimed.

    “Dumber than Brawl? I’ll show you dumb, tiny!” Brawl bellowed.

    “You always do, bro,” Vortex replied, giggling as he ducked to avoid the punch Brawl threw at him. Such barbarism!

    “Enough! Blast Off, not everyone is able to refuel whenever they feel like it. This unit is lucky if we get to refuel once a solar cycle, and at present, I have gone without refueling for three solar cycles. Do you understand?” Onslaught asked. I stared at him in shock, wondering vaguely if this was some sort of joke, before realizing that he was serious. If the unit couldn’t even fuel itself properly, no wonder Onslaught needed my labor! Grimly resigning myself to hunger, I nodded.

    “Yes, sir,” I replied.

    “Then, for the last time, I will tell you to go find a job. I don’t have time to explain everything to you. Brawl and I have work to get to,” Onslaught said. I nodded and quickly left the hovel, then downloaded the directions to the transport station into my CPU, transformed into my alternate mode, and took off. Roughly forty minutes later, I arrived at my destination, which, although not quite as disgusting as the hovel I was currently living in, was still quite filthy. I transformed, landed, and walked inside the building. The inside was just as filthy as the outside. I reluctantly walked over to the window that was marked as “Employment”. Much to my surprise, I was the only one there, so I winced, swallowed my pride for the millionth time in less than 24 hours, and walked closer to the window. The mech on the other side looked at me with very little interest.

    “You a shuttle?” he asked. He had a very strange, slightly echo-y voice.

    “Yes, sir,” I replied.

    “You’re awful small for a shuttle,” the mech said. In response, I transformed into my alternate mode, which, although much sleeker than the shuttles typically used for-ugh- transport, was still most definitely a shuttle. Once I was confident that the other mech was convinced that I was, indeed, a shuttle, I returned to my robot mode.

    “All right, all right, you’ve made your point. Though why a delicate thing like you is applying to work as a garbage shuttle, I couldn’t begin to guess,” the other mech said. It was at this point that I realized just how much of a grudge Onslaught held against me. It was one thing to expect me to work, but this? This was an entirely different level of humiliating.

    “Job,” I replied weakly.

    “You’re not much of a talker, are you?” he asked.

    “Vosian. Not good at Neocybex,” I replied. His optics brightened in apparent understanding.

    “You can’t speak Neocybex? That explains it, then. Garbage transports don’t have to talk much-and given how lithe you are, I think I’ve got a good job for you. You see, the Towers District has been requesting more garbage transports, but they say they think our regular employees look too bulky. A sleek shuttle like you would be the perfect fit, and I can finally get my boss off my back about that. What do you say?” he said. My first instinct was to say “absolutely not”, but then I remembered that my life was very dependent on my getting a job.

    “Yes, sir,” I replied, trying not to sound absolutely horrified.

    “Great! You’re hired! Follow me!” he exclaimed. I complied, and he led me to what appeared to be a hanger of some sort. A few other shuttles, all much larger than me, were milling about. They were all filthy and covered in grime, and I shuddered. My beautiful, clean plating….

    “Can you transform for me?” a different mech asked. I did so, and then he started gathering cans of paint.

    “What...you doing?” The new mech laughed .

    “Repainting you. All garbage transports have a specific color, and you don’t match it yet. That being said, this will probably take awhile, so if you want to take a nap, you can. I’ll wake you up when I’m done,” he said. More out of a desire to escape my situation than anything else, I decided to take his advice. I was reawoken about forty-five minutes later.

    “All right, I’m done. You can go ahead and transform back into robot mode now,” the second mech said. I complied, and had to hold back a nervous breakdown. My beautiful purple-and-white coloration had been replaced with a hideous shade of brown, and my family crest had been painted over and replaced with Neocybex lettering that read “Garbage Disposal”. Once I had calmed down from panic to mild disgust, I turned to the second mech.

    “Thank you,” I said. I didn’t feel thankful at all, but it seemed prudent not to let him know that. The mech smiled.

    “No problem,” he replied. He walked off, and the mech who had hired me walked up and took his place, then handed me a chip similar to the one Onslaught had given me earlier.

    “Here’s your schedule. Your shift starts at 6 and ends at 5. You make 12 Shanix per day; if you’re late to any of the pickups, it comes out of your pay. Any extra Shanix you earn will come from tips. Any questions?” he said rapidly.

    “I...start now?” I asked.

    “No, you start tomorrow. That way, you have some time to go over the schedule, though I guess you’ll have to find someone to read it for you if you don’t understand Neocybex very well,” he replied. I didn’t bother to tell the mech that I could read Neocybex just fine; there didn’t seem to be much point.

    “I...go home?” I asked. I felt very relieved that I was not going to be immediately thrust into a humiliating, unfamiliar work environment.

    “Yeah, you can go home now. But if you aren’t back here by 6 AM sharp tomorrow, you’re fired. Got it?” the mech replied.

    “Yes, sir,” I replied. With that, I left the transport station, transformed into my vehicle mode, pulled up the directions that I had used to get to the station, and then simply reversed the directions in order to get back to Onslaught’s hovel. (One of the benefits of being a shuttle is the fact that we all possess a natural skill for navigation.) Upon my arrival, I returned to robot mode and knocked on the door, which was opened by none other than the tiny sparkling.

    “Hi,” he said. He seemed a bit bemused, but not particularly frightened. A few seconds later, Vortex joined him at the door.

    “That’s the shuttle I told you about, Stumpy, the one who showed up last night when you were in recharge. His name is Blast Off, but Brawl and I call him Prissy because he used to be Onslaught’s boss, back when you were even littler than you are now. He used to be really rich, and he still thinks he’s better than us, but something bad happened to him and now Onslaught says he’s the “hired help”, and that means he has to do what we say. Ain’t that right, Prissy?”

    “Yes,” I replied, still a bit shell-shocked by the fact that I-the wealthiest noblemech of Vos-now had to take orders from two filthy little brats.

    “Onslaught must think you’ll make a lot of Shanix.” Unbelievably, this particular comment came out of the mouth of the tiny sparkling.

    “What?” I asked.

    “If you’re living with us, we’ll have to buy energon for you, which will increase our expenses. If Onslaught’s letting you stay anyway, it must be because you’ll bring in enough energy to cover the difference-and also make a net profit,” the little sparkling replied. I stared at him in utter bewilderment. What sort of sparkling had that level of understanding of economics?

    “Onslaught says that Stumpy’s an “economics prodigy”,” Vortex explained, as though sensing my confusion.

    “I see,” I replied. It was rather unfortunate for Onslaught, then-but quite fortunate for me, conditions being what they were-that the sparkling was far too young to be employed full-time (even in a cesspool like Kaon).

    “What are you doing back here so early, anyway? Aren’t you supposed to be getting a job?” Vortex demanded.

    “I...got job. Job starts tomorrow,” I explained quickly.

    “Oh. Okay. See you later, Prissy. Stumpy and I have stuff to do,” Vortex exclaimed. He grabbed his younger brother by the hand and proceeded to pull him outside.

    “You go to school?” I asked.

    “School?” Vortex and “Stumpy” echoed, apparently perplexed, which in turn puzzled me. Surely a youngling and a prodigy knew what a school was.

    “Learning place,” I explained. Vortex frowned.

    “We know what school is, dummy. We just don’t know why you think we go to school,” Vortex replied.

    “Schools cost money, and Onslaught can’t afford to send us,” the sparkling added. This shocked me. Apparently, my assumption that public education was available across the entirety of Cybertron was mistaken.

    “Where going?” I asked.

    “Out,” Vortex replied. Before I could ask any more questions, both the youngling and the sparkling scampered away and disappeared. After a few seconds of worry that Onslaught would be upset that I had not kept an optic on them, I quickly realized that, since Brawl and Onslaught both worked, and I hadn’t lived with them until very recently, they were accustomed to Vortex and Swindle taking care of themselves in spite of their youth...and in truth, they were both probably more street savvy than I could ever hope to be. Unfortunately, with their departure, I was left alone in the tiny, filthy hovel, with little to do except reflect on my thoroughly unpleasant situation. Starting the following day, I-a noblemech of Vos!-would be working 11 hours every day as a garbage transport, all so I could pay my former employee for the “privilege” of living in a hovel and sharing a recharging center with a loudly-snoring, filthy tank. How had I been reduced to this? Overwhelmed by the blatant unfairness of it all, I started to weep. Why me? After I finished wallowing in (very deserved) self-pity, I finally downloaded the schedule that I had been given at the transport station, which promptly created yet another cause for self-pity. Because the universe apparently has it out for me, the last stop on the schedule was Amabilia Manor, the estate of my sponsa (betrothed), Illusion of the Furtim Line. In other words, there was a very real chance that Illusion, whom I was still quite fond of, would see me working on her estate as a garbage shuttle! What had I done to deserve that? A few hours of alternatively wallowing some more in self-pity, vaguely wondering if I was supposed to be responsible for cleaning the interior of the hovel, and trying to ignore my ever-lowering fuel levels, Vortex and the little yellow sparkling returned with a handful of Shanix and one (very small) energon cube.

    “How... you get that?” I asked.

    “Stumpy. I dirty him up a little, set him in full view of passersby, have him make his sad face, and bam! Instant Shanix. Nobody can resist helping out a poor, starving orphan, after all. It’s great!” Vortex explained. Wonderful. I was living with a pair of miniature con artists.

    “I hate it. Why don’t you ever have to be the orphan?” the tiny sparkling said.

    “Because I’m a warbuild, and thus, not small or cute enough to get sympathy. For some reason, you were the only one of us our creator didn’t design as a warbuild, so you have to do the cutesy stuff. Besides, you’re a better actor than I am,” Vortex replied.

    “But I have to do all the work!”

    “No, you don’t! When your cute face doesn’t bring in enough Shanix, I make up the difference by raiding their subspace containers while they’re distracted. How do you think we got the energon cube today, magic?” Vortex replied. Oh, terrific. One of them was a thief as well. However, much to my surprise, rather than keeping the Shanix for themselves, the pair instead deposited it in a container located under Onslaught’s recharger. The box was largely empty and lined only with a thin layer of Shanix, which puzzled me. Even considering the fact that neither Onslaught nor Brawl was likely to have a particularly well-paying job, it seemed like they should have more Shanix than that. With two grown mechs (soon, I reflected sadly, to be three) working full-time, why were their savings so limited, and why did they have to ration energon so strictly? The answer to that question arrived a few minutes later, when a large red-and-white mech stormed into the hovel, prompting shrieks of fear from Vortex and the sparkling, who both promptly ran to hide behind me.

    “Who is he?” I asked.

    “An Enforcer. Do whatever he says,” Vortex explained, clearly ill at ease. Given how confident he had been previously, this was rather alarming.

    “All right, Empties. Pay up!” the Enforcer exclaimed aggressively. In response, Vortex ran over to the Shanix container, handed it to me, and instructed me to hand it to the Enforcer, which I did. The sparkling started crying into my leg, and for the first time, I actually felt a pang of sympathy for the two of them. If I was terrified, it had to be even worse for a youngling and a sparkling. The Enforcer emptied the container into what appeared to be his personal subspace compartment and then scowled.

    “Is that all the Shanix you have?” he demanded. I looked at Vortex, who nodded. In response, the Enforcer proceeded to upend the hovel, apparently in search of any hidden Shanix, and totally destroying one of the chairs. My fuel pump felt like it was beating out of my chest, and my spark constricted in terror. After what seemed like an eternity, but, according to my chronometer, was actually only five minutes, he stopped tearing the hovel apart, now apparently having determined that Vortex had told the truth. Then he stomped over to me.

    “Tell Onslaught that if he doesn’t have at least fifty shanix waiting for me next time, I’ll take your two youngest brothers as payment instead. There’s a titanium mine that would pay hundreds of shanix for a couple of slaves who are small enough to fit in those hard-to reach crevices,” he said threateningly. With that, he grabbed the energon cube, downed it in one gulp, dropped it back onto the floor, and stormed out of the hovel. As soon as he was gone, I found myself awkwardly attempting to comfort a sobbing sparkling while also trying to work out what, exactly, had just happened. After a few seconds, I gave up and decided to just ask Vortex.

    “What happened?”

    “I told you that guy was an enforcer, right? Well, all of the Enforcers work for Lord Straxus and make sure he gets to stay the boss. Because of that, they can do whatever they want-short of trying to overthrow him, that is-and almost all of them eventually set up this thingy they call a “patrol fee”, which is a fancy way of saying that they can come into your home and take as much of your Shanix as they like, and you can’t do anything to stop them...unless you wanna get thrown in prison. And if you can’t meet the fee they want for whatever reason, they’ll throw you into debtor’s prison or sell you into slavery,” Vortex explained. This, as one might imagine, was less than comforting news. While it certainly explained the desperate poverty of Onslaught’s unit, the revelation that most of my earnings wouldn’t benefit me even remotely was even more disgusting and unpleasant than the fact that I was expected to work as garbage transport in order to earn them in the first place. Once the sparkling finally stopped sobbing, I reorganized the hovel to the best of my (very limited) ability, as Vortex watched with very irritating amusement. I was trying my best! It was not as though I had ever personally had to reorganize a room before! As soon as he was convinced that his home was (more or less) back in order, Vortex started heading for the exit again, dragging his younger brother behind him.

    “No! I’m n-not going out again! The Enforcer might still be around, and if he catches us begging, he might put us in jail!” the sparkling said, clearly terrified. His huge optics somehow seemed even wider than usual. Vortex laughed.

    “C’mon, Stumpy. They’ve never caught us before,” he said, remarkably boldly, I thought, for a youngling who had been hiding behind my leg, in apparent fear of an Enforcer, not thirty minutes before.

    “‘“M not going. Enforcers are scary,” the sparkling replied, suddenly sounding a lot more like what I had expected a sparkling still in his first frame to sound than a business mech.

    “Only if they’re close enough to hurt you. If they don’t know where we are or what we’re doing- which they won’t-they’re no threat,” Vortex replied. In response, the sparkling latched onto my leg again, much to my mild disgust. Although I pitied the pair, I had no desire for them to be putting their filthy hands on me on a regular basis.

    “You can’t make me. The Enforcer is too close! And if you do, I’m gonna tell Onslaught,” the sparkling said. Vortex scowled.

    “Fine! Stupid sparkling,” he exclaimed. With that, he pouted and sat down on his recharging center. It was at this point that I realized that I had not yet learned the sparkling’s name (or, for that matter, how old he was). Onslaught had told it to me the previous night, but I had subsequently totally forgotten it.

    “Name? How old?” I asked the sparkling.

    “Swindle. I’m five stellar cycles old,” he replied. “Swindle” seemed like an odd name for a sparkling, but then again, “Onslaught” and “Brawl” weren’t exactly names that I would have imagined a creator giving to their creations either. Perhaps it had something to do with what their creators were like. Since three out of the four brothers were war-builds, it seemed likely that at least one, if not both, of them were also war-builds, amongst whom such names might be common. My curiosity having been aroused, I decided to continue questioning the sparkling to see if I could obtain any further information about Onslaught’s unit.

    “Creators?” I asked. Much to my surprise, it was Vortex who answered. I had assumed that he was too street-savvy to trust me with such information, but evidently I had either overestimated him, or he did not think that the information was important.

    “Our male creator was named Dragline and our female creator was named Highwall. They were miners and they died in a cave-in two solar cycles after Stumpy was brought online. He doesn’t remember them at all, and I was only three stellar cycles old, so I only remember little bits and pieces. Brawl was eleven stellar cycles when the cave-in happened, and Onslaught was thirteen, so they remember more,” he explained.

    “Other members of house?” I asked.

    “Well, there was Dragline’s brother, Onslaught. He was a soldier, but he was offlined in battle a long time ago, I think before Brawl came online. Our Onslaught’s named after him,” Vortex replied. Stunned, I started performing some mental calculations. If Onslaught the elder was the only member of their house besides their creators, and he and their creators had all gone offline by the time Onslaught had reached the age of thirteen stellar cycles, that meant two things. First, Onslaught had been raising his three younger brothers, alone, since he was thirteen, and second, if he had been thirteen when Swindle had just come online, and Swindle was five stellar cycles old now, that meant that he was currently only eighteen stellar cycles old, barely any older than me. I had thought he was at least thirty-five stellar cycles!

    “I see,” I replied at last. The next several hours passed largely uneventfully (especially in comparison to the shocks that the morning had provided), and, around 7:00 in the evening, Brawl returned to the hovel. (His approach was so loud that I heard him coming several minutes before he actually arrived.) Upon his arrival, he immediately collapsed into one of the chairs, looking absolutely exhausted.

    “Hey, Brawl, how was work?” Vortex asked.

    “Long. Did Prissy get a job?” Brawl replied.

    “Yep. He starts work tomorrow,” Vortex said.

    “You stay out of trouble, Tiny?” Brawl asked. Vortex smirked.

    “Of course, bro. Stumpy and I would never do anything that would get us in trouble.” Brawl snorted. Clearly, he knew better than to believe his brothers.

    “And what really happened?”

    “We got ten Shanix and an energon cube from our usual methods, but then the Enforcer broke in and took all of it, so now we’ve got nothin’ again. I hope you picked up some extra shanix today, ‘cause if not, none of us are gonna get to refuel, and I’m hungry,” Vortex explained.

    ‘Lousy no-good Enforcers. Ain’t like we got any Shanix worth stealin’,” Brawl muttered.

    “How much Shanix did you earn, Brawl? I’m hungry too,” Swindle asked. In response, Brawl actually gave what passed for a smile; which was much more terrifying than his scowls.

    “10, plus 6 extra I spent on energon,” he said. Vortex and Swindle cheered, and even I felt a sense of relief. Admittedly, it was disgraceful that I- a noblemech!-felt relief at the prospect of something so basic as being able to consume fuel, but it was still better than dying of fuel deprivation. Vortex started pawing at his older brother, likely in search of the energon.

    “None of that, tiny. Nobody’s refuelin’ till Onslaught gets back,” Brawl said. Vortex pouted, but didn’t argue, instead choosing to kick me in the shin to relieve his frustration.

    “Ouch!” I exclaimed. Vortex giggled, and I glared at him. Why had I felt sympathy for the filthy little youngling, again? I elected to ignore him and turned my attention to Brawl instead.

    “Where...work?” I asked.

    “Construction. Ain’t many jobs for a stupid tank like me, but I can lift stuff pretty good. So long as I can do that, my boss don’t care that I’m not so bright and don’t have no ed-you-cay-shun,” Brawl replied tersely. (I am not exaggerating his pronunciation of the word “education”, by the way. That’s exactly the way that he said the word.)

    “No...school?” I asked.

    “Not really. Our creators worked real hard to make sure that they could send Onslaught and me, but I only went for a stellar cycle. Teachers said I was too stupid to learn anything, and so my creators took me out ‘cause it was too expensive to spend Shanix on school for me if I wasn’t gonna be learnin’ nothin’. My female creator tried to teach me some after that, but she was always real busy, so I never did learn much before our creators died. Onslaught’s real ed-you-cated, though. His teachers said he was the brightest student in his level, and he always made real high scores. Our creators were so proud of him. He was ‘posed to be our ticket outta bein’ poor, seein’ as he was so smart and all. His teachers even said he could probably get a scholarship to Kaon’s Military Academy, but a stellar cycle before that could happen, our creators were killed, and he had to drop out to provide for Vortex and Swindle and me. Don’t bring that up around him, though. Makes him mad,” Brawl explained. I had a feeling that this was the longest that I would hear Brawl speak for a very long time. He didn’t seem particularly chatty by nature. The fact that he didn’t say another word until Onslaught arrived at the hovel about an hour later, even as his younger brothers chatted nonstop around him about a variety of inane topics, proved my suspicion correct. Upon Onslaught’s arrival, he took one look at the room and then glared at me.

    “What happened here?” he demanded.

    “I...sorry, sir! Not...clean...before,” I apologized. Onslaught didn’t look appeased.

    “It wasn’t really Prissy’s fault, Onslaught. An enforcer showed up and tore the place apart looking for Shanix other than the ones in our container. Prissy was just too stupid to know how to put things back right,” Vortex said. Normally, I would have glared at him, but I was too relieved that he was defending me to really care whether or not he was calling me an idiot (which, for the record, I am most certainly not.)

    “An enforcer? Are you two all right?” Onslaught asked.

    “Yeah, we’re fine, but the Enforcer said that if we didn’t have at least fifty shanix when he came next time, he’d take me and Stumpy as payment instead,” Vortex replied. In response, Onslaught sat down on his recharging center (remember, there wasn’t-and, sadly, isn’t- that much room in the filthy hovel) and buried his faceplates in his hands, clearly quite upset.

    “He said WHAT?” Brawl exclaimed as he jumped out of his seat, so loudly that I am surprised my audio receptors weren’t burnt out. Vortex repeated his explanation, and Brawl collapsed back into his chair, his anger evidently spent. Onslaught, for his part, turned to me.

    “Did you get the job?”

    “Yes, sir,” I replied, trying not to think about how horrible the job was.

    “Good,” Onslaught said, sounding utterly exhausted. Then the little sparkling walked over to him, huge optics filled with worry.

    “If we don’t give him enough Shanix to pay his “patrol fee”, the Enforcer’s gonna take us away! You won’t let that happen, will you, Onslaught? I don’t wanna be taken away by an Enforcer. They scare me,” Swindle asked.

    “I most certainly will not allow that to happen, even if it means working even more shifts than I currently do. Nothing is going to pull this unit apart,” Onslaught replied firmly. At this, Swindle seemed to relax. I, on the other hand, still felt nervous. No matter how hard Brawl, Onslaught, and- *sigh*-I worked, I did not see how it was possible for us to be able to purchase energon and consistently maintain at least fifty shanix for the enforcer on our meager salaries.

    “Now can we refuel? I’m hungry,” Vortex asked.

    “Yes,” Onslaught replied. With that, he, Vortex, and Swindle joined Brawl at the table (which was, like the rest of the furniture, rather worse for wear), and Brawl retrieved four energon cubes from his storage compartment. One was split between Swindle and Vortex, one was taken by Onslaught, and one was taken by Brawl. Assuming that the last one was mine, I reached for it...only to have my hand slapped by Onslaught.

    “You are the hired help, remember? You fuel after we are finished,” he snapped. My circuits heated up with embarrassment, but I retreated back to “my” recharging center and sat down on it to wait anyway. While it was humiliating for me-a noblemech!-to be treated like a servant by my own ex-employee-a desperately poor pauper, no less-I could not afford to raise a fuss. Luckily, Onslaught’s unit refueled remarkably quickly, so I was able to refuel myself less than thirty minutes later….only to immediately gag. The taste was disgusting!

    “Energon...bad,” I choked out. Onslaught gave out a harsh laugh.

    “I would advise you to get used to it. It may not taste like the delicacies you’re used to, but it’ll keep you alive, and it’s all we can afford,” he said sharply. Although I hated to admit it, he made a good point, and so I forced myself to consume the fuel despite its taste. After all, for all I knew, it might be solar cycles before I could refuel again. Not long after I finished, Onslaught sent Swindle and Vortex to recharge. Both complained extensively, but eventually gave in, and were in recharge in only a few minutes. This being accomplished, Onslaught collapsed onto his own recharging center and was immediately offline to the world, and Brawl followed suit. Clearly, both of them had been absolutely exhausted, and that did not bode well for the career that I would be starting the next day. It was only 8:45 in the evening! Was I going to be that exhausted from work every solar cycle for the rest of my life? However, I still joined Brawl on the recharging center a few minutes later. If I was going to have to wake myself up at 4:30 in the morning, I needed as much rest as I could get. I set an internal alarm to ensure that I wouldn’t oversleep and anger Onslaught again, and tried to ignore Brawl’s loud snoring. I fell into recharge after what felt like an hour (but likely wasn’t). Luckily, the alarm worked, and I was woken promptly at 4:30, then left Onslaught’s hovel to head to my first solar cycle on the job (shudder). I arrived at the transport station at 5:10, and sat around awkwardly for twenty minutes, then departed for the first stop on my schedule. (I definitely did not want to have my pay docked for showing up late, so I felt that it was wise to depart early.) I arrived at the first of the manors of the Towers District at 5:50 and sat around awkwardly once again. At about 5:56, a mech whom I assumed was one of the manor’s servants arrived with a garbage container. I winced, tried not to think about what I had been reduced to, and then opened the door to my cargo bay. The servant then deposited the garbage into my interior, and I shuddered. It was so unfair! I hadn’t been built for work like this! Once he finished emptying the container (into my interior!), he pulled out a few Shanix.

    “Hey, you! Transform so I can give you your tip,” he said. I complied with an intense feeling of humiliation. Why me?

    “T-thank you,” I stammered, hoping my mortification wasn’t too obvious. The servant handed me the Shanix, and I put it into my subspace compartment. (Shuttles actually have two, one which stores the cargo they can carry in alternate mode, and one which is for personal use.)

    “No problem. My boss really appreciates your streamlined design, so he decided to reward it. He says it’s much more “aesthetically pleasing” than the other shuttles he sees,” the servant replied. I nodded, reverted to my shuttle mode, and then took off for my next stop. For the next eleven stops, nothing particularly interesting happened, though my beautiful plating quickly became covered in filth and grime. I did receive tips at all eleven of these stops, evidently because of the sleekness of my alternate mode. I had no idea if this would be a regular occurrence or not, but I wasn’t about to complain about it. The more Shanix I made, the more reason Onslaught would have to keep me around. While it was still humiliating to be tipped like a servant, it was preferable to the alternatives, so I planned to keep my mouth firmly shut on the matter. However, the thirteenth and last stop was not so uneventful (sadly). The flight between the twelfth stop and the manor of Illusion was shorter than the flights between most of the other estates, which meant that I arrived early. Although one of the servants was ready with the garbage (and my tip) when I got there, this meant that I had a full hour before I was expected to deposit the garbage at the dump. As such, I found myself standing around awkwardly on the grounds of the estate, listening to the servant talk about various things.

    “Sure, they’re a bit stuck-up, but they’re not that bad, all things considered. And in speaking of not bad, the Lord’s daughter is a beaut...and whaddaya know, she’s come out on the grounds with some of her friends now. Aren’t they lovely? Of course, they’re way out of our league, but a mech can dream,” he said. My circuits heated up in humiliation. I had been betrothed to Illusion less than five solar cycles ago, and now she was “out of my league”?

    “Yes,” I said quietly. He grinned.

    “Well, I gotta run. Have fun watching the lifestyles of the rich and famous,” he said. With that, he left me and went back inside the manor, and I turned my attention to the conversation Illusion was having with her friends.

    “Is your betrothal off then, Illusion?” one of the friends asked (I believe her name is Argenti.) Illusion sighed.

    “I don’t know. Blast Off hasn’t so much as called me in three solar cycles, and the King of Vos says he hasn’t seen him for awhile, That doesn’t seem like him,” she replied. I sighed. It was official. The Universe hated me.

    “Well, if this is his way of calling off your engagement, then I’d say you dodged a laser blast,” Aurum, another of her friends said.

    “No kidding. If he doesn’t appreciate someone like you, he’s crazy,” Argenti added.

    “But I know him, Argenti. He’s a bit arrogant, but he’s not inconsiderate of me. He likes me! He would never just fail to call me for three solar cycles. Something must be wrong,” Illusion replied. As you might imagine, I was more than a little relieved that Illusion, at least, didn’t think that I was some sort of irresponsible cad.

    “I’ll say something’s wrong. Your conjunx-to-be is a creep,” Aurum said. Suddenly, a blue-and-white mech appeared out of nowhere, prompting shrieks from the females. I recognized him as Mirage, Illusion’s cousin. I had met him once or twice at dinner parties.

    “Mirage! How many times do I have to tell you not to do that?” Illusion exclaimed. Mirage laughed .

    “Is that any way to talk to your favorite cousin?” he asked.

    “Mirage, you’re my only cousin,” she replied.

    “Technicalities. And I have to say, I agree with Aurum. If Blast Off doesn’t appreciate how beautiful you are, he doesn’t deserve you,” Mirage said.

    “Me? Beautiful? That’s why suitors have been beating down my door, I suppose,” Illusion replied dryly.

    “They don’t know you’re available again yet, cousin dear,” Mirage said.

    “And they won’t be the only ones chasing you. I think that garbage mech is sweet on you, Illusion! He hasn’t taken his optics off of you since Tersus left,” Argenti exclaimed.

    “And no wonder! You’re probably the first clean, beautiful thing he’s seen in a stellar cycle,” Aurum added. She, Argenti, and Mirage laughed.

    “He would certainly make for an interesting story, at least...and you could use the smell to scare off all the other suitors!” Argenti said. This conversation, as you might imagine, was mortifying, and I decided to make myself scarce. I headed for the edge of the estate, hoping that I would no longer be able to overhear the conversation. Much to my surprise, however, Illusion actually followed me to the edge of the estate.

    “I’m so sorry for what my friends said about you. You weren’t causing any harm, and….Blast Off?” she exclaimed. Apparently, being covered in grime and wearing hideous brown paint was not sufficient to prevent my sponsalia from recognizing me.

    “Ita,” (Yes.) I replied quietly.

    “Quid tibi accessit? Ubi eras?’ (What happened to you? Where have you been?)

    “Me expulso rege fictis maiestatis criminibus. Et comprehenderunt omnia mia. Ego autem in Kaon cum pristini ... servum suum servo suo ut nihil minus. Qui autem pauperrimus, et sicut tale, et iussit ut reperio a officium ad terminos occursum. Est nimis ignominia.” (The king banished me on false charges of treason. He seized everything I own. Now I am living in Kaon with my former servant…as his servant, no less. He is very poor, and as such, he ordered me to find a job to make ends meet. It’s very humiliating.) I explained.

    “O, non! Quod sonos terribilis! Quid facere possum?” (Oh, no! That sounds terrible! What can I do?)

    “Proelio nostros dicere videmur. Non possum non enutriet, et non aliquid incorruptelam possidebit.” (I think we should call off our engagement. I can no longer support you, and you will not inherit anything,) I replied. Because Illusion had an elder sister, Apparition, she would inherit very little from her creators. As the younger child, her fortunes were dependent on picking a suitable Conjunx Endura. I, sadly, no longer fit the criteria.

    “Non curo illud! Te amo,” (I don’t care about that! I love you.) she exclaimed

    “Ego autem en uno-locus, magno cum quattuor aliss. Opus mihi quotidie horas undecim. Ibi sus ‘nunquam satis cibum. Illic est non satis manducare. Non possum facere vobis.” (I am living in a one-room hovel with four other mechs. I have to work eleven hours every solar cycle. There’s never enough energon. If you become my conjunx endura, you’ll have to slave away just to stay alive, too. I can’t do that to you.) I said. As horrible as it felt to call off my engagement, I couldn’t drag Illusion into the desperate poverty that I had somehow found myself in. It wouldn’t be fair to her, and living with a Conjunx Endura that I was unable to support would have been unbearably humiliating. Illusion frowned, but then nodded, apparently having realized the full costs of becoming my Conjunx Endura.

    “Saltem accipe pecuniam,” (At least let me give you some money) she said. Then she handed me a pile worth about 500 Shanix. Part of me wanted to reject it, but knowledge of my dire situation won out.

    “Optime. Gratias tibi,” (Very well. Thank you.) I replied.

    “Gratias. Bona fortuna,” (You’re welcome. Good luck.) she said. I deposited the Shanix in my subspace compartment, bid Illusion farwell, and then transformed into my alternate mode and departed from her estate. I dropped off the garbage at the dump, flew back to the transport station, where I received my (pitiful) wages, and then returned to Onslaught’s slum. Swindle and Vortex were waiting there for me.

    “How many Shanix did you earn?” Swindle asked.

    “Twelve. Thirteen...tips. 500...female,” I replied.

    “500? We’re rich!” Vortex exclaimed. I deposited the Shanix in the container, as Swindle and Vortex enthusiastically speculated about what they would do with it all. About an hour later, Brawl returned home, deposited his earnings in the same container....and then stared at his younger brothers and me in shock.

    “Where’d we get so much Shanix?” he asked loudly.

    “Apparently, a girl gave Prissy a bunch of Shanix for some reason, and now we’re rich!” Vortex replied.

    “That true?” Brawl asked.

    “Yes,” I replied.

    ‘Huh. Maybe you ain’t as bad as I thought, Prissy,’ Brawl said. Coming from him, this was high praise indeed. Onslaught, upon his return to the hovel, was just as surprised.

    “How did you manage to get this much Shanix?” he asked.

    “Can’t explain...Neocybex. Don’t speak well,” I replied. Onslaught shrugged.

    “I suppose that it doesn’t matter where we got it so long as we have it,” he said. That was all he said on the matter, and for most of the evening he treated me with the same hostility of the previous two nights. However, after his brothers had entered recharge, he walked over to me and actually gave me a look of what seemed to be respect.

    “You’ve worked all day without a single complaint, and you managed to bring more than 500 shanix to my home with you...more than enough to keep Swindle and Vortex safe from the Enforcers the next time they come by. For that, I suppose I should thank you. I still don’t like you, but you’ve proven that you can earn your keep. You’re still our servant, but you’re now a member of the unit, which means that I’m not kicking you out. You do good work,” he said. With that, he went to his own recharging center and was quickly dead to the world, leaving me to my thoughts. As much as I hated the life I was now stuck in, at least I was no longer utterly hated by the mech whom I depended on for shelter. That, at least, was a positive development, and it is one that has stuck. The past six lunar cycles have been dreadfully humiliating, but at least there is one glimmer of hope. If I could win over Onslaught and his unit, then maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance that all of us might be able to escape the festering wound that is Kaon.

    The End
     
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  2. The Fallen

    The Fallen Retired Collector

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    Nice work on another good story.
     
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  3. Longitudinalwave

    Longitudinalwave A Big Fan of (Sound/Shock)wave

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    Thanks!