Worlds Away - Chapter Three
Megatron sat back in the Decepticon throne on Cybertron and allowed himself a good, long laugh.
They hadn’t won, not yet. The Autobots still existed, but Cybertron was safe. It now orbited what the humans called Barnard’s Star. It was a small star, not very bright, not very hot, but it generated enough energy to pull Cybertron from hibernation. Shockwave had put seven-eighths of the planet into stasis two million years ago to conserve power. Now it could be awakened.
“Are you quite through?”
The Decepticon High Commander looked over at his second. “Ah, Starscream. Even you can’t ruin my day.” Not that Starscream wouldn’t try.
“There’s still work to do. We shouldn’t celebrate yet.” Usually Starscream was the first to declare victory, often prematurely. However, out of spite held so long that it became second nature, Starscream would almost always do the opposite of whatever Megatron did. Megatron tended to be the more cautious of the two, but now that he was relaxed, Starscream had to be wary. The Seeker hated to examine his own mind and didn’t realise that Megatron could - and often did - manipulate him in that way.
“I doubt you’ll be able to stop the entire planet.” After two million years, there was bound to be some amount of celebration.
The Seeker waved a hand, agitated in the face of his commander’s calm. “That isn’t the point! The Autobots will be after us again soon. We will need more energy if we wish to expand the empire. We still have people scattered throughout the galaxies. Vector Sigma will no longer work for us…”
“Starscream, shut up. You’re not telling me anything new.” At the moment, the last point was the most important one. The Autobots had no idea where Cybertron was, and thus had the disadvantage. Expansion and searching would be put off for a while, anyway. But Vector Sigma… that was personal.
Vector Sigma was a great computer, one of the old programs, located deep within Cybertron. The key had been destroyed, but the loss was minor; while the Decepticons had it in their possession, they made detailed enough scans of the key to duplicate it. It should have worked… except that one of the Autobots merged with the program, and it would no longer create minds for the Decepticons. But if such a program could be created once, it might be duplicated, and there were other ways to create new minds…
“I merely think we should have a set plan of action,” said Starscream defensively.
“One thing at a time. The solar stations are nearly complete. First we awaken Cybertron,” Megatron reminded him, standing. “I will deal with Vector Sigma. The rest can wait. Now go away.”
The Seeker folded into his jet-form, chuckling as he did so. When Megatron was annoyed, Starscream was happy.
Soundwave looked over as Starscream landed. The Seeker looked pleased with himself, which was never a good sign. “Just doing my rounds,” he called cheerfully at Soundwave’s curious look. After Cybertron had been transported, most of the work crew left. Starscream and Soundwave remained behind, and Megatron had arrived to see the results of his scheme. Astrotrain and the Constructicons went back to Earth. No one was sure where the Insecticons were now.
“Making sure the lights are coming on, putting in personal appearances to let the populace know that the old hierarchy is still around, reminding Megatron of things to worry about,” said Starscream, ticking off the points on his fingers. “The usual.” Soundwave shook his head in disapproval and wandered over to where a group of technicians were looking over an open panel in the side of the planetary jets in curiousity.
“You’ve got weird hobbies, Starscream.” The voice came from somewhere above him. Starscream looked up; the five cassettes were peering down on him from a ledge on one of the jets. They wanted to be out, but Soundwave didn’t want them to run off too far or get underfoot, so they compromised. Frenzy was dangling his feet and was evidently the speaker.
Rumble peeked over the red cassette’s shoulder. “What’s Megatron planning now? We just gonna ditch Earth?”
“Unfortunately not.” It was a temptation, the idea of just collecting the army and closing down the Cybertron-Earth space-bridge. It would drive the Autobots batty, at least at first; wherever the Decepticons were, they couldn’t be up to anything good. And they wouldn’t be able to find them anywhere on Earth, and they’d go crazy looking or them. Eventually they’d try the space-bridge, and realise the Decepticons had pulled out for good.
However, it wouldn’t work for two reasons. First, the Autobots would eventually find them and get back to being a nuisance. Second, if the Decepticons left, they couldn’t keep an eye on their enemies. Who knew what kind of trouble the Autobots could cause if left unchecked on such a resource-rich planet such as Earth? It was foolish to believe the two factions would never meet again, being only six light-years apart and having lifespans that were measured in geologic eras… The Decepticons could keep running, of course. They could send out scouts, set up new space-bridges, and transport Cybertron further and further away…
But they were Decepticons, said Starscream, and they wouldn’t run.
“You’re getting better at your inspirational speeches,” said Frenzy happily. Starscream gave up and left. He still had things to do.
Stalker’s form unfolded as she entered the hangar, and she immediately sought out Shockwave. He was, as expected, in the control room. “It’s incredible out there! Shockwave, you’ve got to come out and watch the results of your handiwork!”
“I can see perfectly well from in here,” Shockwave said. He did have access to every camera on Cybertron, and there were a lot of them.
The monitor’s typically unemotional reply drained at least part of the tracker’s zeal. Boring Shockwave wouldn’t understand, anyway. Just because she found it fascinating to watch the cold lights of Cybertron’s great cities drive back the sullen red light of Barnard’s Star, to listen to the almost imperceptible hum of awakening systems, to finally see movement again in the long-sleeping streets… Shockwave wouldn’t have appreciated being pulled into an impromptu game of sky-tag by a couple of newly-revived jets whose enthusiasm shadowed even Stalker’s own, either. She could have stayed out there until her energy reserves forced her back, but she was summoned, and she asked why.
Shockwave finished whatever minor task he was performing before replying. “I will be out for a time. You must watch the tower.”
“Sure, boss.” The Seeker quickly moved over to the console, trying to make up for her brief inattention. “Where are you going?”
“On assignment with Megatron.” She didn’t need to know more than that. Shockwave gestured at his computer: “The Seventh Sector is ready to come out of stasis. Begin the awakening.”
It wasn’t something one would think would be immediately important; Transformers were long-lived and almost impossible to destroy. It wasn’t as if they needed to keep their population high. Of course, if one wanted to expand one’s empire beyond the planet, one needed subjects. Without an influx of new minds, the empire’s range was limited, and Cybertron had only a few hundred citizens left.
Which brought Megatron and Shockwave to where they were now, deep in Cybertron. They had already attempted to reactivate Vector Sigma with a duplicate key some days ago, and found they needn’t have bothered; with an Autobot merged with the program, they couldn’t get it to do their bidding.
Ways around it were discussed, including sacrificing a first-generation Vector Sigma-product Decepticon to the program to try to pull things back to neutral. There was a slight problem - no one knew of any. They might have been nearly impossible to destroy, but a war machine is going to have a shorter life expectancy than one who stays out of the line of fire.
Threats were out as well. One, hostages were only useable bargaining chips while they lived. Two, they didn’t want the machine that had full control over the minds of their people to be working under duress.
The fact that the Vector Sigma computer now had a guiding intelligence also meant that it no longer required a key for awakening. It flared briefly as Megatron entered the chamber. Shockwave waited in the hall as back-up - to assist Megatron if he needed it, or to seal the area if things got really bad. Orange light pulsed and the walls intoned: “Megatron. Why have you returned?”
“I have come,” he said, “to talk.” It was the last option. A bit of a wild guess, but maybe, just maybe, he could talk some sense into the ancient computer.
The disbelief in the disembodied voice reminded Megatron just why he hated Autobots so much. “Talk. Discuss. Come to a mutual agreement.” With an effort, he cut the annoyance from his voice. “You have something we need, we have something you need.”
“You have nothing to offer.”
How much was Vector Sigma and how much was Alpha Trion? It mattered; it was the ancient computer Megatron had to appeal to, to cast the Autobot out. Alpha Trion would never listen to Decepticon reason. “Before Cybertron was, you were. Cybertron nearly wasn’t. We the Decepticons have always held the planet’s interests at heart, often with great risk to ourselves. Without our fire, without our spirit, all Transformers would still be thralls of the Builders. Give the Autobots your services if you must, but we are the ones who have earned it. You gave us life; we have done nothing worse than defend our planet and guard our survival, and you would condemn us to extinction?”
“Your survival takes its toll on the helpless. Perhaps the universe will not be better off without you, but countless civilisations will. And you are not condemned; a peaceful life can last you eternity.”
It was obvious who was the controlling interest in the ancient program. Megatron hid a scowl. How was he supposed to convince an Autobot that it was wrong? “The purpose of Vector Sigma was neutrality. Minds had to be random, or else the point would be lost. And it was random; how many Autobots joined the Decepticon cause of their own free will? And how many of my people defected to the other side?
“Would you take that away? And how far will you take it? Today you refuse life to the Decepticons; tomorrow will you start to guide the thoughts of the Autobots? A little more loyalty to the cause so they won’t consider changing sides? A bit more self-sacrifice so they don’t realise how dreary their existence is? Take away their survival instinct so they become content to sit on their world and slowly die out, or be wiped out by the next alien war fleet because they can’t stand to fight back?”
Megatron clamped down on his emotions; he had to try to stay neutral. He lowered his voice to keep from shouting: “When will you stop, Vector Sigma? When all think what you would have them think? I had thought we had moved past the Builders and their slavery. Perhaps they will be content, but they would only be content slaves. Even the Builders let us dream of freedom. Who are you to declare yourself a god?”
Silence reigned for several minutes. Finally, Vector Sigma said, “It will not be like that.”
“As the Decepticon leader, I have a responsibility to defend my people. You hold their future hostage…” Megatron raised his fusion cannon… and abruptly lowered it, giving into a paroxysm of laughter.
A few, long, seconds later, Vector Sigma asked, “Well?”
Eventually, Megatron got a hold of himself and straightened, but his attempt at regal bearing was somewhat marred by a sardonic smile. “You’ve just done us a great service, Vector Sigma. I’d almost forgotten one of the main tenets of the Decepticon Cause - Rely on no one but yourself. We’ve always thought the Autobots a bit stupid for clinging to the old programs of the Builders, and here we are worried because you won’t help us.
“The Builders gave us existence, yes, but they also gave us oppression and slavery. You, Vector Sigma, are the last trap. The Decepticons hereby cut all ties with the Builders.” He started out.
The sphere flared. “You cannot create new minds without me!”
“Can’t we? That’s the trap - dependence on Builder machines. We thought we won long ago, but it is only now that we are truly free.” Megatron threw one last glance into the chamber. “We are Decepticons. We’ll find our own way.”
Megatron found Shockwave waiting in the outer hall, and didn’t speak to him until the sullen glow of Vector Sigma was far behind them. “I’m assuming it has its own power source?”
“It does,” said Shockwave.
“Excellent. Disconnect Vector Sigma’s machines from the rest of Cybertron; not just with lock-outs - I want the cables physically detached,” Megatron amended. “Leave it and its generator intact. I don’t want it destroyed, merely made harmless. I will keep it as a symbol - not all chains are obvious.”
“Very good, sir,” said Shockwave, though there was no way to tell if he was being sincere, sarcastic, or merely polite. “I’ll set some technicians on it immediately. What next?”
It would always be a question of ‘what next?’, so all they could do was prioritise. “Next we’ll have to come up with our own methods to create new minds.”
By now, the people of the Sixth Sector were awake and generally milling around. Some took to the sky to seek out old friends or just to play, others remained on the ground, catching up with each other as if there were actually anything to say after stasis-sleep. Most were asking questions that no one could immediately answer. Shockwave had posted bulletins on all active screens, but of course it wasn’t enough. Megatron fully intended to broadcast a proper address to bring everyone up to speed, but he wanted to wait until the planet was fully active. He disliked repeating himself.
He was certainly noticed, though no one approached him. It was just as well; there were things he wanted to get done before becoming a public figure again. Megatron landed near the planetary jets, startling a purple tank. “L-Lord Megatron…”
Megatron waved the formality aside; he preferred his military title to his monarchic one. Not because he was trying to be a people person or a common man’s king, but merely because he liked the connotations better. Lord Megatron of Cybertron, High Commander of the Decepticon Battle Fleet sat around while others did all the work; Commander Megatron actually got things done. It was also why he spurned a crown; while he understood the importance of symbolism, he didn’t want to become one himself. “Is Soundwave here?”
“Around the other side of the jets,” said the tank, pointing.
The commander nodded and walked in the direction indicated. Soundwave was indeed there, in the middle of a small crowd. Megatron waved his lieutenant over, who made his excuses and went. “What’s all this?”
“Technicians.” With the Constructicons back on Earth, the Insecticons who knows where, and Starscream tending his own tasks, Soundwave was the only one around qualified to run the jets. They weren’t needed currently, but he thought it prudent to train others in their use so he could go do other things. Then he asked, “What of your mission?”
Megatron took a cursory glance around. “Vector Sigma is useless to us,” he said sotto voce. “Details later, away from the mob. How long will you be here?”
“Good. Return to Shockwave’s tower in half an hour.” Megatron smiled grimly. “All Sectors should be awake by then, and we’ll be going on-air to explain where we are and what year it is… Which reminds me - where did that idiot Starscream get to?”
Anyone else would have made a razzing noise. Soundwave just shrugged. Megatron took off to go back to the First Sector. Starscream could be summoned easily enough by radio.
One of the mechanics noticed Soundwave walking back to the jets and approached him. He looked something like a Constructicon, though of course he wasn’t; that title only belonged to the six who formed Devastator. But the general outline was similar; this one too looked like his transform was a piece of heavy machinery, though his colour was black with yellow highlights. He made his way quietly, as if he didn’t particularly want to be noticed. Once he was close enough, he said, “Soundwave? Lieutenant, may I speak freely?”
The black Decepticon looked about nervously, and in a quieter tone said, “I’m sorry; I overheard your conversation…” He paused, then started again: “Your cassettes, they aren’t… they aren’t Vector Sigma products, are they?”
Soundwave glanced involuntarily at where Rumble and the others were amusing themselves. While normally they were content to sleep in Soundwave’s chest compartment, with all the excitement going on, they wanted to stay active. They had found a playmate as well, an orange robot their size. The mechanic nodded at the group. “Her name’s Gadget. She’s mine.”
There was an emphasis on ‘mine’ that went beyond proper Transformer relationships. “You’re taking a risk,” Soundwave reminded him. He was talking to the third-in-command of the entire Decepticon army about a nearly taboo subject.
“I’d be taking a bigger one if I was talking to the other side. I joined the Decepticons because they allowed me to spark her. Besides, I’ve watched you interact with your cassettes. I knew.”
‘Sparking’, the act of using your own life-force to awaken life in a shell. It was possible, though most Transformers didn’t know it - not all life had to come from Vector Sigma. “I never trusted Vector Sigma, even though I got my mind there. I wanted Gadget to be my creation and mine alone… I was neutral at the time; the Autobots were in charge, and they were outraged when I let slip my intentions…”
The Autobots always did hold the old programs with a bizarre reverence that was almost superstitious, though in later times they seemed to have eased off somewhat - the Dinobots being a rather unfortunate example. The Decepticons knew better; they were the ones who led the uprising against the Builders… all robots had been on the same side at the time, but it was the ones who later became Decepticons, the war machines, that overthrew the Builders. Then the Autobots slowly forgot their slavery under the Builders, forgot who rescued them… To the Decepticons, Vector Sigma was simply an extremely useful tool left behind by ancient enemies, and thus a thing to be exploited.
“Understood,” said Soundwave. Vector Sigma gave minds randomly, fully educated, fully adult, and sometimes fully neurotic. One had to be very careful in phrasing what one wanted to the ancient computer, because it was so aggressively neutral. It used to be, anyway.
But sparked Transformers… that was a different story. One could program them, to some extent, and one could make them intelligent, but one could never give them a mature mind. They had to learn, and as such, acted - here Soundwave had to use a human word - childlike. If one knew what to look for, he could easily tell a sparked mind from a Vector Sigma product. They also tended to be small, for the simple reason that it takes less energy to awaken a small robot.
“I just wanted… to tell someone who would understand,” finished the black Decepticon. “Thank you.” He saluted and went back to the jets.
Not all life had to come from Vector Sigma; Soundwave’s tapes attested to that fact, and now he had proof of at least one other. But sparking simply wasn’t allowed. It wasn’t even allowed to be spoken of, as if it were holy writ. Not for the first time Soundwave found himself wondering just who came up with that law…
It was something to consider. Megatron certainly didn’t care about ancient taboos - he was one of the few who knew the cassettes’ unconventional origins - and the Decepticons as a whole were less tied to the old laws than the Autobots were. The Decepticon cause came first, but individual freedom wasn’t far behind it.
Cybertron had originally been in the galaxy locally known as M31, and it was known that scout teams or conquerors from bygone eras were still there. And since the Decepticons had found evidence of their kind in the Milky Way Galaxy, it meant there were likely others in the nearby M33 as well. And that wasn’t counting dwarf galaxies like LMC and SMC, or those stars strewn throughout the void that might support planets…
“Dreadmoon, activate the watchtower transmitter, maximum power. Send a general request for report signal, one level less urgent than priority frequency.” Starscream paused. “Wait. Delay that order. Send a message to Decepticon Headquarters on Earth first, and tell them to throw enough interference into the air to block signals from space.” The Autobots knew the Decepticons’ usual frequencies, and Starscream didn’t want them listening in and back-tracing the signals. The general mediocrity of the information request and the fact that it wouldn’t be on an emergency channel should keep any accidental listeners from paying any attention.
The monitor keyed in the necessary commands, and a few seconds later Skywarp acknowledged: “It’ll take time to set up the jamming transmitter.”
“It only needs to work for about ten minutes,” Starscream told him. “It doesn’t have to be anything subtle. In fact, the less subtle, the better. And while you’re at it, broadcast loudly about how this jamming field will help us take over the Earth. Destroy a few human communications towers too, for the show of it. Then let the Autobots chase you off so they’ll be too busy patting themselves on the back to realise that we’ve actually succeeded in our real plan.”
“Sounds needlessly complicated.”
“It isn’t. Signal when you’re ready to activate the field. Starscream out.” The Seeker settled back in his chair and chuckled. “We should try planting bugs in Autobot Headquarters. I would enjoy watching them run around, trying to figure out what we’re up to. They know we’ve moved Cybertron, at least, but they don’t know where.”
Dreadmoon looked over. “What happens when our scattered people signal back? If they’re spread through three galaxies, how are we supposed to find them again? We haven’t any ships powerful enou…” He paused and considered that. “No, we must have. How else could you and the others have crashed on Earth four million years ago?”
“There is a… corridor,” said Starscream. “Natural or artificial, I couldn’t tell you. It links this galaxy and M31, perhaps more. I think it touches subspace; all I know is that I could fly on my own power from Cybertron’s old co-ordinates to Earth if I used it. It was discovered soon before the final fall-out between the Autobots and Decepticons, so we never had a chance to study it thoroughly - the war got in the way. The Autobot ship stumbled into it by accident four million years ago, and we followed. An asteroid collision knocked our ships out close enough to Earth that we crashed into it.”
The monitor considered that. “So this corridor is a type of wormhole?”
“Kin to it maybe, but it isn’t a wormhole,” said Starscream positively. “It’s a corridor; one can enter or leave at any point, and I don’t know how long it is.”
“Strange,” said Dreadmoon. Then, “Probably good that Cybertron wasn’t returned to its original position. The Autobots could just follow your corridor back. They still might, though they’ll be a bit confused to find we’re not there.”
The Seeker steepled his fingers. “The Autobots don’t know about the corridor. Few scientists even did; there wasn’t time to tell about it, and we were too eager to see where it…” Starscream paused, and corrected himself: “No, they would know about it. I forgot.”
He shook the thought aside, and continued another one. “Retrieving our lost people will be simplicity itself. We’ll use the space-bridge. The transporter rings are easy enough to make, once you have the schematics, and those can be sent over the communicators.”
“Hmm. I’m surprised the space-bridge works at all,” Dreadmoon said. “I looked over Shockwave’s plans as he was installing the one here, and it looked more like magic than science. I understand subspace mathematics fine, but space-bridge calculations made my head hurt.” The Transformers had discovered and made use of subspace ages ago, mostly using it for long-range communication and to store or pull extra mass for their other forms. “Besides, Cybertron keeps moving; how can it still work?”
“Shockwave had two million years of near-solitude to invent hyperspatial mathematics,” Starscream reminded him. “I’m willing to bet he came up with the whole thing out of boredom. And a space-bridge doesn’t have a set size; the two contact points attach from anywhere. In theory, you could use one to bridge the entire universe.”
The monitor smiled slightly. “You don’t have the faintest idea how it works either, do you?”
“I can understand the concept,” said Starscream huffily. “I merely can’t explain it.”
Dreadmoon let it go at that and turned away so the Seeker couldn’t see him smirk. Typical Starscream.
Starscream’s radio chimed. “I’m busy,” he said automatically.
“Then get un-busy,” ordered Megatron. “Come to Shockwave’s tower immediately.”
“Ah, the public address. You need me there so the people have something nice to look at while you orate.” Starscream didn’t actually have any real objections to the role of ‘stand around and look formal while Megatron gives his speech’, he just felt like being a nuisance.
“You will come now of your own free will or you will be carried.”
“Erm… I’ll be there.” Starscream made a face at his radio before he shut it off, then shot a long-suffering look at Dreadmoon. “You can handle the transmission?”
“I have been a Sector Monitor for three million years.” Five million if you counted time in stasis. Starscream nodded and left. Dreadmoon turned back to his console. The longer he knew Starscream, the stranger the Seeker got. If he was caught in a good mood, he was enjoyable company. The rest of the time, he was anything from overprotective to cold, and it was all impossible to predict.
Stalker travelled the deep halls of Cybertron in her ground-vehicle mode. Once Shockwave had returned from wherever assignment he and Megatron were on, she was no longer needed in the control tower. It was just as well he didn’t ask where she was going; Stalker was a lousy liar.
The tracker reached an intersection and unfolded into her robot-mode. The area had registered a slight power drain… done in pulses, like binary code. It was obviously an invitation; one that Shockwave could have easily deciphered, which meant the one doing the summoning knew he was out. That could mean he was either seen away from his post, or the control room was bugged. She would have to check the tower when she got back. Stalker said, “I’m here.”
A panel in the floor was pushed out from below, and a red-orange figure climbed out. “What’s going on, Stalker?”
“Firestar. Do the others know you’re here?”
“Are you kidding?” Firestar was an Autobot. She and Stalker had developed, not a friendship, but a mutual respect during a battle that forced the Decepticon strike-force and Elita-1’s guerrillas to work together. Either warrior would be in trouble if this meeting were known. “I repeat; what’s all the commotion topside?”
“Cybertron is waking up.” It was obvious enough. Saying it couldn’t be seen as giving information to the enemy.
The Autobot shook her head. “That’s what we thought. What star are we around?”
“That information is classified.”
“No matter; we’ll figure it out ourselves soon enough.” Firestar sighed. “Scrap. I can’t believe it - your side is winning.”
Stalker cocked her head slightly. “Is that so terrible?”
“Don’t start reciting the Decepticon Cause at me again,” said Firestar. “It sounds all well and good when it’s being explained to you, but when you actually think about it… Look, you guys just aren’t nice.”
“The universe isn’t nice.”
“Maybe because you never give it a chance.” The Autobot started pacing. “Look, one of the Decepticon selling-points is the Unknown Menace From Space scenario, how you always need to be ready for it. Let’s say the Unknown Menace comes; you can fight it or you can try to deal peacefully with it. It waits for you to make the first move and echoes whatever you do to it. So you either get caught up in a long and costly war, or you can expand your empire through trade.”
The tracker nodded. “Or, while you’re talking to it, a battle fleet swoops in from subspace and decimates your planet.”
The lights flickered as a shadow dropped from the ceiling behind Firestar. The ceiling was unaffected, but the dark shape came through it anyway. It thrust out its hands, burying them intangibly in the Autobot’s back, shorting her circuits. Firestar collapsed.
Then, like a picture suddenly coming into focus, the shadow took on form. Razorshift sneered: “Interesting choice of friends, Stalker.”
Stalker pulled herself to full height, and she still only reached the black Seeker’s shoulder. “Doesn’t ‘infiltration’ mean anything to you? You want me to just walk up and say, ‘Hi, I’ve given up on the Decepticons, how about letting me in?’”
“Does Shockwave know about this?”
“Just having you know about it has probably blown my cover!” Stalker challenged. “My prey are clever, and much more subtly cunning than you.”
Razorshift didn’t step back. “At least we have a prisoner to show for it.”
“Don’t even try it,” snarled the tracker. “I’ll have enough trouble salvaging my infiltration plan as it is. And don’t think you can just interrogate these ones; you might think yourself a warrior, out in the sky, on the winning side, but these have been playing hit-and-run for millions of years under the most adverse conditions. They won’t break. And even if one does, the others will have vanished before you can follow up on the information.”
Stalker jabbed a finger at his chest. “You listen, hotshot - you go to where your ‘real’ fights are, with flashy weapons and battlefield honour. Leave me to the tunnels where the only code is survival and the only weapon is cunning, because you can’t handle it. This is my function, my territory, so go back to your ornamental existence and out of my way!”
The black Seeker frowned. “I don’t trust you, tracker.”
“Good. It’ll score me more points with the Autobots.” She crouched by the orange robot. “Spray a few shots around. I’ll do the same. When she comes to, I’ll say I chased you off. That should get me back in their good books.”
“Maybe I should shoot you to make it more realistic?”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Just the walls, Razorshift.” Razorshift scowled, but did as she asked. Stalker fired off a few shots of her own after he’d left.
It took several minutes for Firestar’s automatic repair systems to sort out her circuits. “What happened?”
“One of the Seekers followed me. I managed to convince him I was attempting to infiltrate your crew.”
Firestar nodded, not out of agreement. She and Stalker had an interesting relationship; they were on constant truce, polite, but not trusting one another a bit. She couldn’t trust anything the Decepticon said, and Stalker had the same reservations. There was evidence of an exchange of fire, which meant Stalker either fought off her follower, or it was staged for whatever purpose. That was the problem with Decepticons; with ‘deception’ built into the name, one could never be sure of them.
The two said their good-byes and went their separate ways. The problem, Stalker decided, was that it was hard to dedicate yourself to the destruction of people you respected and, in other circumstances, would have liked. She was fairly certain that Firestar felt the same way. Razorshift might raise cry, but hopefully she had convinced him of her motives.
Stalker was a lousy liar. Unfortunately, she wasn’t herself sure if she told any…
“Where is that idiot? If he’s late, so help me, I’ll…”
“And keep my public waiting? I’m hurt.”
Megatron looked up. Starscream was perched on the back of the throne like a hawk. A really big, annoying hawk. “Get down from there.”
The Seeker obligingly hopped down. “I don’t see why you’re so worried that I’ll be late. I don’t see Soundwave ar… oh, there he is. The usual, then? Stand two paces behind you, one left, and look noble?”
“If you can possibly fake it.”
Starscream made a face, but smoothed his features as he stepped into position. Show was important. Cybertron had just woken up, was disorganised and confused, so the leaders had to be ordered and united. The fact that they weren’t wasn’t important, they just had to look it, at least while the planet was watching. Just give the appearance of stability, and the world will stabilize around you.
Soundwave stood opposite of Starscream, and the Seeker caught a flash behind the impassive face. It could have been anything from the pleasure of a job well done, a simple nod of acknowledgement, or even the thought of, ‘I should be standing in your place, but you’re in my way.’ The look passed too quickly for Starscream to read it.
Megatron flexed his hands once, then let his arms drop to his sides. “Let’s get these formalities over with. There’s work to be done.”