TF Metatisic Saga - Part 31

Deviation Actions

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By Shinjuchan
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Literature Text


TITLE: Metatisic., Metatisic: Saga One
TYPE: Transformers G1 fiction
AUTHOR: Megan Seekings & A. Chandler
FIRST RELEASE: 1985, 1986, & 1987.
Revised edition 5/8/03, 2004-2008, 2020

SUMMERY: Unable to obtain it from their native planet of Cybertron, Decepticon leader, Galvatron resorts to excavating an asteroid particle that has tested positive for Cybertonium, dispatching a crew to retrieve it. But as the surface layers are removed, trace outline of an ancient staircase unintentionally leads the party on a sudden and very unexpected journey deep into Cybertronian history prior to the first Great War some 14 million years ago!


‘Go’ was easier said than done. Apparently Cyclonus had forgotten where he was. There hadn’t been anything to warn Rumble of what the jet was going to do. It had been a split-second moment of pure horror for the Cassetticon.

They’d hit open air, and Cyclonus had just transformed and hit his thrusters like it was the most natural thing in the world. Mostly because it was-- but it wasn’t a really good idea. It was a really, really bad idea!

OH SLAG!” Rumble screeched.

Scourge grabbed the cassette by the arm. “Transform. We have to stop him. He doesn’t realize what he’s doing.”

The Cassetticon didn’t ask questions for once. He transformed and Scourge tucked him in his paneling. Then he took off in full pursuit of the jet. The purple cassette heard the sounds of Scourge’s anti-gravity initiator wailing in conjunction with the heavy boosters firing. Rumble wasn’t aware of much beyond that, except a loud thump and the noise of Cyclonus cursing Scourge’s claws. The sound of him transforming was the only thing that cut off the swearing.

“Damn you, Cyc! Do you want to get us all caught?!” The sweep leader demanded.

Then light. A faint breeze of the thin, open air. Sounds of the living city below and around them made an impression on the cassette’s senses. Rumble transformed and was immediately caught under his arms by Scourge, even though he could fly on his own.

Cyclonus hovered in midair, a cross look on his face. “Of course I don’t, but we’ve wasted enough time already and now we’re wasting even more!”

Scourge’s optics narrowed. “You’ll end up getting us all figured out! These people have never seen alt-modes like ours ----  Heck, they have less than twenty planes, and none that look as complex as you.”

Galvatron’s saboteur blinked, unable to reply.

“Don’t forget where we are and what would happen if our technology were to be used by these ancients.” The Sweep slowly released Rumble to free float on his own. “There may be no home to go back to.” A frown passed across his face and then Scourge shook his head. His tenor descended to its normal harsh tone. “Snap out of it and do the leader thing.”

Cyclonus looked away, over the towers and spires. His expression was as introspective as it was speculative. “This whole place becomes more ominous to me by the moment. Some things are so… familiar. I feel like I’ve been here before.” He frowned sharply. “The sensation of familiarity made me careless.”

Rumble shook his head. “Just a product of the time slip, probably.”

“Yeah, time slip or whatever. Screw your head on right. I just want to get this over with as fast as possible.” Scourge complained.

The jet nodded almost regretfully. “Follow me.”

It was a short flight up to the dome and, for that, Rumble was grateful. It was a good landmark to start from and close to the Dourjer’s private quarters, and the Long Hall. “Yeah, this is near it. Take a right Cyclonus. We ought to drop down right in terrace outside.”

Cyclonus sighed. “I do have a navigation system designed for deep space.”

“Uh, sorry.”

Scourge just chuckled as they descended. Alighting near the fantastic arched hallway was easy. The next part wasn’t so great. That weird yellow seeker, the one who’d been talking to Shockwave when Rumble had stumbled on Soundwave, was out and about again.

“There you are!” His too cheerful voice got on Rumble’s nerves immediately. Far removed from the warrior tones he’d used with Shockwave — this must be the poor sap’s normal setting. Urg, the Cassetticon thought, Gag me with a socket wrench.

Cyclonus didn’t move a millimeter. He seemed rooted to the spot.

Taking the jet’s posture to be one of confusion, the Herak offered.“I am Quodlibet. The master has been greatly anticipating the return of his Arms Bearer and those he arrived with...” He smiled. “If you will follow me.”

“What’s up?” Rumble asked when he didn’t immediately obey.

Cyclonus batted before his face with a hand, as if to remove some sort of obstruction. “…nothing… I thought.”

“Oh well,” Rumble shrugged. “We’ve wasted enough time right? Follow the yellow brick roa… uh, dude.”

Cyclonus rolled his optics at him. They did follow, but the lieutenant mused quietly with a faraway expression on his face. Rumble was getting antsy. When Quodlibet went inside to announce them, he discovered he had good reason beyond his fear of interacting with the Autobots before the Dourjer.

Scourge leaned over to Cyclonus. “You too, eh?”

“Me what?”

“That flyer. I had a similar reaction out on the battlefield when I was discovered. One of them touched me --- and these weird sensations came over me.” The Sweep frowned.

Cyclonus glanced at them both and then back to the door where the dusty yellow herak had gone. “Effects of our being here, I’m sure. Rumble is correct. We really do not belong here and there’s no telling what our being here now is doing to the vorn we left…”

Shrugging, the blue repulsor-craft indicated he didn’t buy that explanation. “Maybe. It’s strange though. I felt like I knew him.” He shook his head. “…creepy, isn’t it?”

Rumble interrupted. “Hey, what are you guys upset about? Try meeting mini-me Soundwave. Now THAT feels weird.” He laughed, “Surged my systems. Hard to think of him as so small-- and yet know that it’s his database that’s saving our afts. I mean, he’s the only reason we aren’t being chewed on by graters right now. That’s wayyy heavy.”

Smirking, Cyclonus nodded. “Indeed.”

“More respect! Geez, why can’t I get this back home?” The Cassette sighed. “I want to go home.” That was an understatement. He wanted to fold up and hide in Soundwave’s chest for awhile. This was way too much adventure, even for Rumble. He’d never complain about being bored ever again, if they could just make it back.

“You and me both, Rumble.” Scourge agreed.

The seeker returned. “The Dourjer will see you now.”


Cyclonus scanned the group of Autobots who were entertaining the Decepticon leader with an exhibition of their various alt-modes. Metatisic truly seemed delighted with each one, though his face showed only a faint but growing smile. The General, on the other hand, scowled at each one. Pycon and Chamfer, who stood with the line of seekers between him and the Cybertronians, mirror his attitude.

Shockwave was speculative, his optic half-dimmed as he watched each successive transformation. The herak seemed genuinely interested and only the red-orange one closest to Chamfer bah’ed faintly. The jet led Scourge and Rumble past their protective line, bowed to the Dourjer, then backed away before turning slightly so they might watch as well.

Various hovercars presented themselves… a single three repulsor speeder… a communications tower…

"Great Master," the big one rumbled. The tricolor mech looked as if he could punch through duranium, but spoke as if he were as timid as a robo-puppy. "I'm gonna step out a little further here, if that's alright. I take up one huge parkin' spot."

"Certainly, Gridlock." Metatisic allowed.

The Autobot paced back further, judged his distance, and then transformed into one of the largest construction vehicles that Cyclonus had ever seen. He resembled some sort of super-dozer with grader attachments. He almost reminded the jet of some form of archaic tank.

"Fantastic. Such detail rendered on such a large scale."

Gridlock sounded embarrassed. “Uh, thank you, Master.”

“You may return to root mode, Gridlock.” Metatisic nodded and his wishes were immediately obeyed. Cyclonus was starting to notice the confusion pulling at him again. He had expected to feel some sort of animosity towards these Autobots-- but found very little to be had. They seemed almost childlike from this angle, eager to show off what they could do and be to those they considered new friends. Foolish, true, but the jet could not hold onto any sort of anger in respect to it.

“Transformation is an art that I have cultivated among my mechs,” the Dourjer spoke. “It pleases me to see that your Emirate follows the ways of the future.”

The big red fembot bowed. “Primus?”

Cyclonus almost gasped. Next to him, Scourge did. He could hear the Sweep have to stifle down some sort of response. It wasn’t loud, not loud enough to draw attention, but it made the jet give him a hard stare. Rumble was in shock, his mouth partially open.

“You speak out of turn, femme.” Sarterius ground out.

The monarch held up a hand for him to be silent. “What is it?” Metatisic’s voice had a warning edge to it.

She bowed again, with great apology. “Ah’m powerful sorry, Great Master. But you ain’t seen my transformation yet.”

There was a smile from the Decepticon leader. Small, but forgiving, the expression was indulgent. “Very well. Demonstrate.”

The girl transformed into some sort of heavily shielded transport. Her windscreen was small and her only window, as if something were either to be kept out-- or in. Cyclonus’ best guess was that she was a prisoner transport, or dealt in noxious substances.

“Very interesting,” Metatisic commented. He sounded more than a little puzzled. “You may transform.”

She did and was all smiles, though she may not have been had she been as close as Cyclonus was. Shockwave’s estimation of her was quite unflattering. It brought a minute grin to the jet’s face.

“A transport,” the empurpled guardian mused quietly as he leaned down to the Dourjer. “A most unfeminine alternative.”

“A femme that fights, leads mechs and transforms? Highly dubious,” Sarterius added to the hiss.

The Dourjer’s brow tightened almost imperceptibly. “Cyclonus?”

“My Liege?” The jet spoke up.

"Arms Bearer." He finally picked him out in the crowd and excitement, his optics falling on him alone.

Cyclonus bowed with reverence, turning completely towards the Dourjer. "You requested our presence, Lord?"

Sarterius’ optics narrowed as the jet and his companions approached Metatisic. They were threads of fire when the ruler himself rose from his throne to clasp the saboteur on the shoulder. Suspicion and doubt were Sarterius' predisposition; clearly a natural by-product of his personality constituent. It was a quality Cyclonus respected and scorned all in the same thought.

His curiosity over the foreign alt-modes was still palpable, gestured to the Autobots. “Fascinating. Don’t you agree?”

In his time, Cyclonus had seen entire cities transform – planets even. No one even made construction equipment as big and ugly as Gridlock anymore. He answered the leader’s wonder with an equally amazed, but phony smile. “Yes.”

“They come from Cybertron where you and your comrades had been. How is it that you could not have seen these… Autobots?” His voice was clear and sharp; he stressed the last word. This was the million credit question and Cyclonus almost grinned.

“Mighty One, we were studying an abnormal place just outside the Dead Zone where there is near perpetual acid rain. We had hoped to gage the acid’s effects on the Cybertronian landscape… Other than the ancient remains of a severely irradiated factory, there was nothing to indicate anyone living there or anywhere around the area.” The jet’s lie was so smooth that he almost believed it himself.

One of the general’s eye-ridges twitched. The Dourjer glanced at him and then back at Cyclonus. Then his attention turned to the smallest mech among the Autobots. He was a thin, whip-like creature with bulbous blue optics. “Voyager, is there such a place on Cybertron?”

“I believe so, Majesty. It sounds a great deal like ‘the Mire’.” His reply was near instantaneous. “It is extremely close to the Zone. We skirted it on our way here.”

“There are no cities nearby?” The king probed again.

It was the girl that replied this time, “No, Lord. Ah can’t think of anyone who’d willingly go to that awful place.” She glanced at Cyclonus with a shy sort of apology.

Smirking, the jet asked, “May I respond, Master?”

Metatisic gestured to indicate that it was allowed.

“You will find, Dear woman, that we Decepticons dare much when there is something worthwhile to be had. In our case, we sought knowledge to increase our understanding of the strange landscape outside the Zone. We then succeeded in capturing our target.” Cyclonus’ tone was blunt.

She looked uncomfortable, her optics flicking to the blue Herak for a quartex, but tried to mask it with a nod. “Well, that explains that.”

"To be sure," Metatisic chuckled but a moment. "But I am curious, Decepticon Cyclonus. When you were first before me you said, "Autobots". His focus shifted Scourge's direction. "You did actually." His focus floated back to Cyclonus to complete his question: "How did you know of them if you had not seen them as you say?"

Sarterius crossed his arms. He didn’t have to say a word at all to acknowledge his own doubt.

"Well... we weren’t sure to be perfectly honest." Galvatron’s lieutenant gestured apology.

"Explain." Metatisic’s voice was not harsh, but it did demand exactly what he stated-- with implied alacrity.

Cyclonus nodded respectfully. "While we were measuring the caustic precipitation in that strange area, we discovered what appeared to be the remains of an old factory center. There were several old shipping crates there marked with the signs: Auto. Bot.-- Automatic service robotics. We read the name and figured that's how it translated."

Scourge continued even those he was not directed to. "We detected no forms of life, only wrecked buildings and the dead. We determined --" He scanned over the Cybertronians with a critical optic. " --- Incorrectly it appears, that Cybertron's inhabitants, if there had been any, had died or abandoned the place... the entire planet surface, perhaps."

There was a hushed whispering among the Cybertronians gathered. With his bulbous blue optics almost comically shuttered by his thin brow ridges, their little scientist spoke up again. "It does sound like the Mire." Voyager made a motion to come forward until Pycon's huge foot stepped into his path. The thin mech continued without much notice, "Was there anything more to be seen there?"

"Aside from what I'm sure were older, decommissioned models just left in their packing; we saw others who were not, but they were extremely strange-- tossed about in plain sight with no identification. We don't know what those sort were." Cyclonus replied.

"They had five faces." Rumble added to the lie, gesturing to his own as if in disbelief. "But twisted and ugly. Tentacles and stuff." He wiggled his fingers for effect. The statement, perfectly casual like it had been no big deal at all, lit up his audience.

The fembot pounded one black hand into the other with a sharp clang and an air of satisfaction. “Quints! Thems were Quints!”

Voyager nodded seriously. “Or at least their metal shells. It was indeed the Mire then.”

Perfect. Cyclonus could have smiled at the Autobot female’s reaction. It was exactly the impact he’d wanted. “Quints?” He feigned his ignorance with a perfection only Soundwave could have seen through.

“Quintessons.” Gridlock supplied with a soft voice. Obviously this was not a topic he liked. “Ugly monsters. Like your little buddy said.”

Cyclonus kept his aspect of confusion in the forefront. What he would have really liked to do is laugh his afterburner off and call them idiots. He valued his life too much to give into the whimsy of the moment though. “Are they Automatic Service Robotics as well?”

“No.” It was the blue Herak that supplied this time. This was the one called Coronach. For some reason he struck Cyclonus as someone he would have respected and been honored to serve with. He’d seen the Commander kneeling to the Dourjer when Canticle had brought them in. “As far as I’ve been able to ascertain, they are some sort of demonic fiends--”

“Cyborgs.” Voyager interrupted.

The girl interjected fervently, as if she hadn’t heard the Aerial Commander or her fellow Autobot, “They ain’t like we are atall! They’re evil, nasty critters!”

"Demonic monsters?" Cyclonus actually sounded shocked. In part he was. He couldn’t believe that a Decepticon could be so backward. "The mostly intact creature we saw hardly looked like a evil spirit ... of course it was dead as well. Hard to tell through the rust layers really-- so who am I to say?"

“It is written that Those Forsaken can take on any form they desire, including sheathing themselves in metal.” Coronach’s tone was sharp.

“Heh .. Like renegades I’ve known,” Sarterius added darkly.

Cyclonus noticed Metatisic's sweeping glance even more riveted on him and his party than before, "I apologize, Mighty One. We may only repeat what we have seen…" He added to smooth the explanation further, "And it had been your question."

Coronach too, bowed in apology – as did the Cybertronians, at his gesture. They seemed to take their cues from the stick, the chic and the hulk. He glanced at Rumble, interrupting his thoughts. Cyclonus almost smirked. He wasn’t sure what had happened, but the cassette’s method of description must be rubbing off on him. He focused back on the ‘bots briefly. Those three though, took their cues from the blue flyer. The wheels were already turning to figure out how to use that to his advantage if he had to, even as he returned his gaze respectfully to the king. The jet was always prepared for the worst.

The Dourjer pondered them all silently. They had talked the talk and walked the walk, but Scourge could not read any of it’s effect on the Decepticon monarch’s expression. He had moved away from Cyclonus without saying anything at all, as a matter of fact. That could just be sign of Metatisic's deep thought, but Scourge couldn't shake the feeling that there was something terribly wrong going on here. He glanced at the Autobots and could barely reign in his panic.

These very moments would shape everything that came after them. This little rag-tag handful of Autobots would bring more and it would all end in the greatest war ever fought by their people. It would threaten the very extinction of the Decepticon way of life. And their’s too. Worst of all? This growing anxiety wasn’t some sort of weird error. Scourge would swear he’d been in this room before --- more than once. He even knew what song the floor played. The ghostly notes passed across his processors in a pair like a chase on extremely light feet had played them, weaving in and out of the colonnade, but he just couldn’t access the archive.

"Shockwave." Metatisic’s loud call interrupted the wonder.

Scourge almost cringed. This is it, he thought ruefully. “Bye Cyclonus, Half-pint — You too Galvatron, you big jerk, whenever you are. Too bad I didn’t get back to tell you what was really on my processors. You want to know why I pulled at that slag? We bust our afts for you, risk our damn lives, and you treat us all like we’re out to get you. Cyc…

“Shockwave I am satisfied in the explanations given by Cyclonus' fellow scientists. By the Cybertronians own reaction it would seem to me they were telling the truth." He nodded now, "They have been into Cybertron, indeed." He sat down in his seat.

The sweep leader was still tense, but hope had started to paint his probabilities in rosy tones. Maybe, just maybe, this really was going to turn out alright.

"Decepticons; Scourge and Rumble. You are Cyclonus' fellows and I see you were both wrongly accused ---- You have my pardon."

Scourge could have sworn that he saw the stress release drain from Rumble in that instant-- as if he was going to transform into a puddle of molten relief with optics. He himself? Scourge felt a million times better, but amazed even more that General Sarterius – who had always been ready with words on every other occasion before –  offered no verbal protest at all. The Sweep still didn’t want to be here, and the Autobots were really making him uncomfortable, but he wasn’t petrified of dying at any moment anymore. A decent improvement, if he said so himself.

Shockwave nodded with the kind of grave authority one would expect of a robot of his attribute. Metatisic said only this further, “But – this is business best conducted in private. We’ll speak on it later.”

Scourge bowed even before Cyclonus or Rumble did. He felt like he could just about kiss Cyclonus at this point. Rumble was right. That jet was truly the mech.

Metatisic smiled at them before turning serious attention back to the Autobots. "In the meantime ---- Voyager?"

"Yes, Lord-sir?" The needlebot spoke up. Scourge decided he hated his voice. It was nasal and pretentious and the more he heard it, the less he liked it.

"About your Emirate Xaaron. You have made contact with him in Cybertron prior from our lands, I am told?"

"We had made contact from Bractos itself just prior to the Apex,” Voyager responded. “We lost transmission and I was unable to reestablish the link-up.”

“Even if we’d awanted to, Commander Coronach said we were getting summoned all up for an audience with you, Yer Majesty." The girl replied. Scourge almost frowned. He-- he didn’t like her. That must be it.

“Voyager was?” Shockwave asked, turning his bright yellow optic to scan the Autobots.

The thin mech nodded enthusiastically. "The communications tower you saw, Sir Shockwave."

"Ah, yes." Shockwave nodded.

Metatisic’s face grew thoughtful. “Could you in fact contact your Emirate again now?”

Voyager was hesitant. “I’m not sure, Majesty. The stellar interference has waned, but is still quite strong. My systems are advanced but my transmissions are limited by my own output capabilities.”

"Hmmm… Shockwave?” Metatisic turned his head slightly. “Do you think Legate would be able to boost the output?”

Shockwave spoke, “Perhaps. His communications center has a great deal of wave magnification equipment and he is quite familiar with the eccentricity of the Karna’s exceptional radiation.”

“If we were to provide you with the means, you would contact your Emirate then?” Metatisic’s optics flicked back to Voyager.

“Oh, instantly, Your Majesty-sir.” The thin mech chirruped. Scourge still had the urge to smack him every time he vocalized.

“Excellent.” The burgundy ruler clicked his console, “Legate. ..acknowledge. ”

The mech on the other end replied, “Legate, Mighty One. What is your need?”

“Would it be possible to align your equipment, with the proper focus-- say a mech who could take on the form of a communications tower and switch signals-- to send a transmission beyond the Dead Zone and into Cybertron?” Metatisic seemed to meander with the question, but his optics remained sharp.

The Autobot needlemech was practically bouncing, he was so excited. Blessedly, the little freak kept quiet. Pycon had the most absurd expression on his face and kept glancing at Chamfer, as if wondering almost aloud how much trouble he would be in if his foot slipped and crushed the thin mech. Chamfer narrowed his optics. He obviously thought it wouldn’t be worth it. Scourge almost wished it were.

A pause. It was a short one. Then Legate replied, “A moment, Great Master. Let me consult with Inpentshisi.” There was some animated conversation just out of audio range on the other end. Metatisic leaned on the arm of his grand chair, listening as intently as everyone else. When that died off, Legate, his voice ever so smooth, spoke again. “Inpentshishi feels that such communication is quite possible, My Lord. Preparations for the attempt will be finalized in five to six megacycles.”

“That long?!” Metatisic was shocked.

Legate apologized immediately. “Our tele-communications equipment has never been used to broadcast outside of Ta'nak, Master. Not even to Saria. There has never been a need to do so.” He explained, “We must have time to properly re-calibrate the systems.”

The Dourjer looked disappointed, but he replied in a reasonable tone. “Very well. Proceed.”

“As you Command, Most Mighty.” Legate replied as Metatisic clicked the console again.

Scourge watched as the little Autobot tower turned his head this way and that, then checked his own panels. Something was up.


Metatisic looked up from his own disappointment to find the little Cybertronian --- Autobot, he really must remember to call them that — trying to get his attention from just the other side of Pycon’s massive foot. His optics were lowered, but the Dourjer knew that hardly mattered with this one. “Yes, Voyager?”

“I know this is greatly important to you,” the little tower began, then stopped. “I’ll try to broadcast myself now, and raise Xaaron. I cannot promise I can, but I’ll try.”

“Then do so.” Metatisic commanded. He watched with interest as Voyager walked a short distance away. He shifted to his altmode again. There was a great deal of bustle between the Air Commander and the fembot as they adjusted arials and dishes to the appropriate angles dictated by Voyager. Obviously this was exactly how they’d transmitted out of the city before and it gave the Dourjer a sense of great anticipation. It would work. He knew it would.

The girl was allowed to borrow the Commander’s transmitter without so much as a word passing between them. She was twisting wires next-- attaching cables with the kind of precision he would expect in a mech. No expression dusted her face beyond an extreme focus. “Ah think that’s as much damage as Ah can do, Voyager. All that mess I done check out?” She asked.

“I believe so. Everything’s responding,” Voyager said. “Prepare to transmit.”

“By yer leave, Lord?” The fembot turned and bowed.

“Yes, yes. Go ahead.” Metatisic attempted a control over his enthusiasm he just didn’t feel.

She turned back, kneeling down, and worked the controls on the transmitter, “This is Steelheart callin’ Servo. This is Steelheart callin’ Servo. Y’all still there or what?”

The Dourjer almost winced. These Autobots had strange ways. Not the least of which was their informality with each other. Their… rampant talkativeness… the…

Static. The static grew louder and there were snatches of sound. A voice! It was a voice from the other side of the Zone. Metatisic leaned forward on his throne, excitement thrilling through him.

“Say that again. Ah didn’t catch that.” Steelheart transmitted.

“Bzzz-not Servo…-bzzz- Stickshift.”

“Well hello again there, Stickshift. We had us a nice conversation afore. Ah’m…” The girl started, but didn’t get to finish.

The mech on the other end, Stickshift, was shouting loud enough for mechs. “Ste--bzzz-heart… Another message! Don’t just -bzzzzz- get someone!” There was a sound like a hundred pairs of heels clanging against flooring all at once. A massive wave of static and some sort of whine interrupted what happened next,  but Metatisic saw some of Voyager’s dishes turn and the static slowly evaporated. The signal was now clear, if faint. “Steelheart?! Are you still there?!” The mech’s voice sounded like it was coming from down a long tunnel.

Steelheart sighed. “Yeah, Stickshift. Ah’m here. Ah’d really like to speak to…”

“Are you still in their capital? Are they the gladiators?” He asked, interrupting her.

“Well, Ah need to talk to…” Steelheart tried again.

Other voices broke in, almost as if the one called Stickshift had been shoved out of the way.

“Did you meet their Prime?”

“Is Primus really there?”

“They let us see the pictures! The city was amazing!”

Wave after wave of questions, some of which that Metatisic shared. Most of which seemed to be repeating. He imagined a tangle of bodies, jammed up against the transmitter —  everyone jockeying for a turn. These people… were almost charming in their simplicity. They reminded him of cultivators or weavers to a certain extent.

“Alright, all of you, get back.” A new voice presented itself.

Steelheart’s expression brightened. “Servo?”

“Out of my face-plate, I can’t even hear her.” He spoke to someone else, then to her. “Yeah, kiddo. It’s me.”

“Ah can’t believe yer still there.”

“Can’t believe me? Darlin’ the whole damn city of Iacon is in here, practically.” Servo popped, “It was nuts and bolts everywhere after the first transmission cut out. What happened?”

There was a short wave of static that resolved itself easily with another tiny shift in the dishes. Steelheart’s mouth set in a grim line. “Look, Ah can’t talk about that right now. Ah need to know if the Emirate is around there anywhere. Ah’ve got someone mighty important here that’d like to talk to him.”

“Nah. He was pretty upset after that slag-flinging session on the council floor. He left to the annex-- after Delusion got carried out. When...” Servo began.

Sirens went off on the other end, followed by the distant roar of an explosion. The Cybertronians had barely recognized that anyone else was in the room before-- now they seemed to completely forget. Riveted on Voyager and Steelheart, their optics were large with mounting horror. Metatisic’s intended question died on his lips. This did not sound like a transmission-- it sounded like an audio patch into hell. The boom reverberated like the entire building was coming down around their audios.

Servo sounded as startled at Steelheart looked. “Can diggin’, piston pullin’…”

Gridlock had grabbed her shoulder. Her optics had become huge pools of still blue. “What’s goin’ on?! Servo?! SERVO!

“Fraggin’ Quints!” He bellowed. “Somebody get me a gun!”

“Quintessons?!” Someone else shouted from what sounded like the far end of the Assembly hall. The acoustics shifted again as an explosion distorted the signal and another voice added, “PRIMUS! CURSE THOSE QUINTESSONS!!!

The tinkers postures had stiffened. Even the girl’s fists had curled. Her jaw was set and she seemed taller, somehow-- even from the floor. There was a hard blue shine on her strange optics, as if death itself sat behind those windows. It was not an expression the Dourjer was familiar with on too many female faces, nor was it one he liked.

“Darlin’ it looks like those brutes homed in on your signal. We’re gonna have to go and show em it’s not nice to listen in to other people’s calls.” Servo growled, though his voice was tight. He spoke to someone else, “Hey, you sure this thing’s loaded?”

“Yeah! I loaded it myself.” Was the response-- probably Stickshift.

“Great. Probably blow off my damn hand.” Servo then spoke to Steelheart, “You take care. Your brother’d never forgiv----- ” another explosion cut off whatever he was going to say. The burst of static was followed by an eerie silence.

Metatisic blinked.

“Servo! SERVO!” Gridlock shouted. He shook Voyager. “Get him back! GET HIM BACK!” Gridlock’s deep voice was almost a wail. Steelheart was on her feet, trying to soothe him, but he wasn’t paying attention.

The tower transformed, slipping out of the giant’s grasp and sitting dazedly on the floor. “I can’t! The signal cut off on their end… not ours…” Voyager put his face in his hands.

A sob was the only warning the girl had before behind embraced by the huge behemoth who called himself Gridlock. He was bawling, “He’s gonna die! Steelheart, they’re all gonna die!”

“Oh, no he’s not. The transmitter just fell over or something… don’t worry none.” She patted his arm and tried to extricate herself.

The Dourjer shook his head faintly. When he had finally thought to ask something, the little tower was already back in robot mode and fighting vainly not to go into a fit of weeping like Gridlock. When he did finally ask-- he had as many as those on the other side of the transmission had. “Who is this Servo fellow? Who were those people? What were those whooping noises? Why did the transmission cut out?”

Put on the spot, the girl tried even harder to shove herself out of Gridlock’s hold, all the while apologizing to him for being so rough. The big mech sniffled and finally let her go, “Well, he’s mah brother’s boss, Lord. He runs a supply company — warehouses. Gridlock worked for him too.”

The big robot nodded. “I crushed crates f-for him and fixed the pavement when it wore down. The parking lot and delivery bays get a lot of t-traffic…” His whisper was almost a plea. He obviously wanted everything to be as he remembered it when he got back to Cybertron. Metatisic was not unmoved, but he was terribly confused. Every one of these mechs, including the girl, seemed to be workers. The littlest was possibly a scientist. Who sent workers – including one who admitted that his job was fixing pavement and waste disposal – and a single scientist on an emissary to a king?

“Those people, Ah reckon, were some of the council-mechs and maybe a guard or two. Well… and Stickshift. He’s a courier-- but he works for Servo.” Steelheart had continued. Her voice sounded far away, as if she were there fighting Quintessons alongside them. “And those noises were them proximity sirens. All the big cities got em. They warn of aerial assaults-- and can be tripped by them watch guards if’n somebody notices somethin’ going sideways on us.”

“Bombs,” one of the tinkers interrupted. “They were bombing Iacon.”

“Ah know that. Don’t have yourself a fit.” Steelheart scolded, “They do that every other astrocycle, seems like. I bet you forgot we was fightin’ a war with all that trudgin through the Zone and then all this beautiful city Primus’ got here.” She turned her head and gave a small bow. “And it is a right beautiful place. Thank you heartily for showin’ it to us, Great Master.”

The tinker looked at his own peds. A frown creased Metatisic’s brow. There still was one question yet to be answered.

“Voyager, what happened to the signal?” The Dourjer asked again.

The slender tower sounded like he had been beaten and left for dead. His tone was hollow and his optics far away as he spoke, “I don’t know what cut off the signal on the other side. It– it could have been anything. Jamming equipment. The transmitter could have fallen over or the dishes detached. The building may have come down.” He shook his head slowly. “I just don’t know. I don’t know.” Almost curling into a ball where he sat, he apologized again. “I don’t know, Your Majesty.”

Metatisic looked over these strange Autobots with a concerned expression. Vibrating with nervous energy, depressed and angry, they were darker than their fascination had made them before. These were not mere children. Uneducated though they were, they were full grown mechs-- Mechs whose ways and motivations were uncertain.

He glanced to his right. Shockwave, impassive, watched everything with a quiet sort of intensity. It was a mood shared by Cyclonus and his band of scientists. The Arms Bearer seemed to be formulating, mulling over the experience, like any good mech of discipline might.

To his left, Sarterius was glowering harder than ever –– an expression shared by his men. They had no pity in them for these strangers. Pycon and Chamfer would grab their weapons in an instant, if so ordered, and slaughter every one of the aliens. They would do it without question or thought.

The Heraks, who had spent some time with the Cybertronians, were in various stages of upset. Canticle had his arms crossed over his chest, as if he’d been personally insulted. There was a cold frown on his face, as if to say, were he there in Iacon, the Quints –- or whatever they were —  could not run from him. Quodlibet, his notorious joviality gone, seemed close to tears himself. He kept glancing at Voyager and the others and worrying his lower lip. Coronach’s face was one of quiet concern. It was he who made brief, but respectful, optic contact; an entreaty the Dourjer almost heard, it was so clear. Can’t we help them, My Lord?

Metatisic’s processors ached with the overload. “Commander Coronach.”

The blue Herak bowed deeply. “Master?”

“You and your flyers take the Cybertronian ... the Autobots to the Officer’s Mess. They look fatigued and in need of cheer. Few things provide that with more ease than a full fuel tank.” He made his voice carefully pleasant, but noncommittal. He had much to ponder.

“By your leave, Great Lord.” Coronach rounded up the Autobots by name, as if they were his own soldiers. Each tinker bowed before his throne, very respectfully — if clumsily —, before joining his fellows. The girl was last and offered her apologies in relation to what had happened and thanked him for his hospitality. Metatisic acknowledged it with a wave of his hand, his mind already engaged with things far removed from niceties. Coronach himself, as was his duty since she was the alien leader, walked alongside her. With Canticle before and Quodlibet bringing up the rear, the rest were marched from the hall.

Once they were long gone, Metatisic rested his chin on his fist, his elbow digging into the arm of the grand chair.
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