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TF Metatisic Saga - Part 32

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METATISIC: PART THIRTY-TWO


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
RATED: PG

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!


CHAPTER 14: TRUTH REVELATIONS


They had come into his house, into his land and domain, looking about themselves as though they were among miracles. Not sometimes, but always. The Cybertronians had gazed hungrily at the bronze flutes of photon that dotted the corridors along side  unselective dances of fire-light. Even the sudden thrum of one of the many bridges was enough to have one of the Autobots pointing again. Simple things; commonplace technology that he himself had long since dulled appreciation for. It was passive behavior at first, but—  

Metatisic sat in silence, his hands clasped, his observation still held the exit ahead they had departed through and arrested upon one of the twin feldspar bowls that defined the doorframe. Cyclonus watched from the Dourjer’s right. Metatisic never left focus off the dish, not even for Sarterius and Chamfer’s offhand chatter between them – regarding the Autobots no doubt, even if the future jet couldn’t understand their Delepic speech.

A spring of photon nearby infused a hint of warmth into the moonstone basin’s translucent coldness, while liquid blue, toned to indigo, shimmered a wintry variegation. Metatisic stared into the feldspar’s depths, like some old-fashioned clairvoyant gazing into a crystal ball, as though fascinated by the subtle shades; in truth, the Decepticon monarch looked beyond that interior, seeking perhaps the in-most part of his own self. But searching for something else as well: grasping for a link, a connection, an access code.

"You don't think they may have come here looking for new territory away from these creatures they’ve mentioned do you?"

Metatisic’s sudden enquiry was unexpected. His attention left the exit now and landed squarely on Sarterius.  

"If they have, they've thought wrong."

“I’m saying that it is peculiar.” The Dourjer explained. He shooed off a house-servant who had just come to see if he might need a refill. “No.” He said and then focused back on his chief-general.

“Imagine. Trekking the entire stretch of the zone. No means of flight. Even if I had fancied meeting them at last, their reasons for actually coming into Ta’nak doesn’t appear to have a purpose to it.”

“At least not one they were willing to give.” Chamfer, with his arms crossed, offered without a moment’s hesitation. Much like his commander, Sarterius, he was always ready to dish out speculation whether it was deserved or not. Handling renegade networks had taught him that quality, but it wasn’t any less evident in his king and god either.

“The thinner one .. What’s his name?” Metatisic asked.

“Voyager?”  

“Yes, him – the post. He said that their Emirate knew legends enough to have expected the probability of there being mechanoids already here.”

The Dourjer rose. So deep in thought that it pinched his brow and made slits of his optics, he passed Cyclonus’ shoulder, circled to the rear of his seat and stopped there resting crossed arms along it’s back and propping his chin upon a fist.

“They haven’t come to trade.” Metatisic assess. “They’ve brought nothing with them to do so, but him .. him HIM.” He spat, “He snaps pictures and records everything in sight!”

To Rumble, Metatisic appeared as though he were in pain. Not the physical sort, but the mental variety delivering it’s war of logic and reason with tiny repeated knife jabs that forced Galvatron’s parent to close his eyes. The Dourjer believed their rouse easily, but still that new trust didn’t deny facts:  “Scourge, you should have just shut your damn yap.” Rumble didn’t say it out loud opting to grind his heel into the Sweep leader’s boot instead when he was sure those in the room were not looking.

“This is your fault.” The cassette cursed vaguely.

“How is the Autobots coming here my fault?”

“That.” Rumble muffled into his hand in between a cough. “Because you just had to call them, ‘Autobots’. He fake coughed again, “Metatisic is already assuming stuff.”

“Cyclonus.” Metatisic leaned up on his elbow first before he left the throne cantering towards him. His helm tipped just slightly. “What do you think?”

“Mighty one?”

“The Autobots. What do you think?”

Cyclonus thought about what he ‘could’ say: “No! Don’t do it! We’ll eternally regret the affair!” Rumble was right – even with the added quantum of Metatisic’s new blessings. As remote as it may seem, their words and their presence had the probability of alternating their future lives – or, even worse, maybe even destroying it! Scourge could not have known that the Cybertronians had not taken the title of ‘Autobots’ just yet in this time line, but they obviously didn’t. Was it a small and minor thing? Perhaps, but if he offered a sentiment now based on what he understood from the future.

“Cyclonus?”

“Is it fair, my league, for me to offer an opinion of the alien robots?” The lieutenant opted for no judgement at all, “After all, I, myself, and my own comrades were discovered in much the same manner."

“I think they’re spies.”

Cyclonus was so thankful that Sarterius had chosen to interrupt.

“Master, I am sure they’ve been sent here to count our numbers.” The general flared and took a position between the jet and the Dourjer. “The thin one spoke of wrestling Cybertron away from it’s current owners and the female one backed it.”

Metatisic regarded him for some time before speaking again. Cyclonus saw that same deep focus being inducted again as he had so studious on the Great Hall’s exit earlier. The brightness was gone from the windows of his optics, but replaced with a different kind of gleaming.

“So did the large one.” He added, thought for a moment more and then continued, “And you heard that on what little contact they managed. ... Sarterius, what type of ruler, in the midst of war, licenses independent diplomats out into the middle of absolute nowhere?” Metatisic tone shifted suddenly. His voice was hollow, the tail end of an echo with allegation, “To take pictures ..  To take data recordings?”

He lingered on a ‘hmmm’ looking wide and stern at his chief-general who only sniggered:

“Spies, master.”


1

Bractos - OM-T18; Officer’s mess - The Iysurus


Coronach sighed as the band meandered towards the Officer’s Mess. That had gone… less than smoothly. The Cybertronians were a curious people already and now, though he hated to admit it, they had become even more mysterious.

He glanced at Steelheart. Her expression unguarded, she looked as if she could chew titanium and spit rivets. She was thinking of home, there was no doubt. At war in her own mind, fighting the enemies of Cybertron, lost amid explosions and the dying. War, when she should have only known...

She noticed him watching and small nervous smile dusted there instead.

“Ah got somethin on my face, Coronach?” she asked in a low voice. “With Gridlock a sobbin all over me, Ah wouldn’t be surprised.”

“Uh, no. No. You look very nice.” He resisted the urge to slap himself, and hurried to add. “No, there isn’t anything on your face.”

She looked away, her optics downcast. “That’s good to know.”

He frowned and focused straight ahead. There was something wrong. He knew it, but simply could not put his finger on it.

“Commander Coronach!” Canticle announced and keyed open the doors to the Mess. He waited by the controls with a dour expression on his face. Coronach stopped and let the Cybertronians, herded by Quodlibet, enter in front of him. They milled around, fascinated by the door as much as the actual interior of the hall. Their inquisitiveness had diminished, but it was not gone completely. Voyager passed, strangely enough without his recorder in gear-- though he did stop and admire the controls.

The blue Herak felt a rather rough thump against one of his legs.

“Sorry, Commander.” Gridlock mumbled as he passed. “Those graders sometimes get in my way.”

Coronach looked down at his leg and tried to ignore Canticle’s snort. Finding nothing more than a little scrape, he replied, “No harm done, Gridlock.”

When the Commander did finally enter the Officer’s Mess, he saw two more of his own Heraks --the only ones besides the servants and the Cybertronians in the hall-- at attention and waiting to be allowed to finish their meals. He shook his head. “Blázon, Carillon ..don’t stand on ceremony.” He ordered.

The purple and gold Herak grinned and said, too loudly, “THANK YOU, SIR!

Carillon cringed and shoved on his wingmate’s arm to get him to sit back down. “Be quiet.”

“I AM BEING QUIET.” Blázon responded, in a wounded tone.

Coronach had never exactly figured out what had happened to that seeker’s volume control, but whispers from him were near deafening. His shouts could wake the dead. Someone tugged at his arm. At this point, he half expected it to be Voyager. The blue Herak was surprised to find it was not.

“Please, Commander,” Quodlibet almost sniffled. “That mention of Steelheart’s brother made me think of my sister. I haven’t seen her in awhile and if Carillon and Blázon are here-- Aubades is probably somewhere close by with her.”

“I will not keep you. Go and see Aubades’ Lieden.” Coronach put his hand on the yellow Herak’s shoulder. “And wish her well from Canticle and myself.”

The red flyer snorted. “Ha!”

“Thank you, Coronach.” Quodlibet smiled. He was gone with a salute and a newly returned spring in his gait.

The blue Herak rounded on Canticle. “Must you ever be so negative?”

“It is my nature to be negative, wingmate. One of my more endearing qualities.” Canticle smiled nastily. “Besides. Someone must counter all the light ‘Libet puts forth or you’d be so blind you couldn’t see for him.”

“You frequently walk the line of getting a fist in your faceplate, my friend,” Coronach chuckled.

Canticle grinned and drifted over to the other two seekers. Alone, Coronach decided to take a turn around the Mess. He’d never much liked this room. The ochre tones were supposed to hide dirt and wear-- but didn’t. There had been enough fights in here to dent the walls in several places, there were burn marks from energon being thrown and the floor was badly scuffed in areas. One of the tinkers smiled at him as he glanced down. Coronach nodded in response as he kept walking.

The Autobots, at least, remembered how to order fuel. Engaged in consuming it, they’d drifted around to various tables- most were talking quietly in between mouthfuls. Voyager was sitting by himself, swishing his energon this way and that, a morose expression on his face. Coronach did not feel like having his hardfiles inspected microscopically at the moment, no matter what kind of mood the little mech was in, so he ignored him.

Even though the mech’s size would seem to preclude it, he didn’t find Gridlock immediately. Scanning further, he found the big mech leaning in one of the arches that led onto the landing ledge. The balcony was quite wide, in fact, but had no rail. With the Cybertronian fear of heights, it seemed odd that he would be so close…

Where was Steelheart?

Taking the entire room in almost at once, he found her to be missing. Surely she was not out there too. He had thought her upset, not suicidal.

Careful not to stomp and draw attention, regardless of his mood, Coronach crossed the Hall and walked through one of the other arches. Without even acknowledging Gridlock, he scanned down the length of the ledge. There she was, hand safely braced on the wall, watching the mechs and femmes going about their business in other places. He sighed. She had induced more panic in him in two astrocycles than vorns of being Commander of the Master’s Herak had managed.

“Gridlock, why don’t you go get some fuel and sit down. I’m sure you’re tired.” He said, with a pointed look up at the large mech.

“Uh… sure, Commander Coronach.”

The blue Herak watched him leave, then walked along the ledge towards Steelheart. Deep in thought, she didn’t notice him. There wasn’t anything special about the view. He corrected himself as he scanned over her head. To him there wasn’t anything special. To someone without the ability to fly, the swarms of people going here and there must seem almost like magic. It was an odd thought.

“I hope the battle goes well.” He ventured after a moment.

No answer met his statement. Only the noises of the city and the semi-muted conversation from the Mess behind them touched his audios.

“You cannot fight your war at home by destroying yourself from within, Steelheart. It is not your fault you are not there.” He put his hand on her shoulder.

That got a reaction. Her head lowered and then she glanced over her shoulder at him.

“You’re weeping.” Coronach stated, almost dumbly.

“Yeah. Ah didn’t want the others to notice.” She admitted, looking away. “Gridlock goin ta pieces was enough for everyone. They look at him as be’in damn near impervious ... so somebody else has gotta be until he gets a good grip back on hisself.” Bowing her head again, she wiped at her face. “And thanks for the well-wishin, Coronach. Ah’m sure all those good thoughts’ll hitch up to mine and help em out… Primus willin’.”

The blue Herak watched her for a long time. This-- self flagellation Steelheart was putting herself through had a great deal more to do with the city she was looking at, he realized, than the battle back on Cybertron. It was not hate-- but what was it? There were far too many questions and he wanted answers.

“What troubles you?”

Her voice caught. “Ah…Ah realized that…” She half turned. “You don’t hafta be nice to me anymore, Commander.”

“Commander?” He scoffed. "...What is this? You will call me by my name or you will not speak to me."

Steelheart grimaced. “Ah ain’t got the right to.”

“What?! Did I correct you? Of course you have the right,” Coronach insisted. He put a hand to his forehead, his temper finally showing. “Your behavior becomes progressively more bizarre! Is this self-depreciating manner something your people often exhibit? Is that why you would march into the dust, unknowing of what you would meet? Is that why you torture yourself now? Tell me!”

She’d turned the rest of the way somewhere during his tirade. Those extraordinary blue optics looked up at him. Her brow furrowed and Steelheart glanced down, then back quickly. It was as if she was getting herself worked up to answer all his questions.

“Tell me.” He repeated in a softer voice.

“We left cause we was desperate…”

Coronach didn’t dare even vent as she finished. Dread crept up along his cables, causing him to tense. Now he wasn’t sure he wanted the answers.

“Ah ain’t meant to be hateful or not appreciate all this.” She gestured to Bractos. “Ah was thinking again, an astro-second ago, that it woulda been better for me to just cease functioning in the Zone and not know… because now Ah realize what it must be like to be really free — and Ah ain’t sure we’ll ever get there.”

“You ... you’re a. You’re a slave you mean?” He stated the obvious in astonishment.

Steelheart nodded, wrapping her arms around herself to keep the very answers she was giving at bay. “Ah was. We all were.” She continued quietly, “Ah’m sorry for not tellin’ you afore… but… Ah was ashamed. Awhile back before y’all found us, we made a deal not to tell if’n we didn’t have to…” Her lips pulled tight in a grimace. “And here Ah am, breakin mah promise. Some leader Ah am.”

She forced her arms down and one went back to the wall. A brace.

Coronach put a hand on her shoulder again and let it linger this time. He hoped it would impart some sort of comfort. “I think that you are a very good leader. Better even than some of the mechs I know.” He looked out over the city. “Though I am ever awed by our mighty Bractos… I too have taken it for granted like the others. Perhaps that is why your party alone has been able to cross the Zone. To remind us of all we have — all our ancestors fought and died for. We speak the words… but do we listen to them?” The blue Herak shook his head, falling silent. The view was magnificent, and he’d seen it almost every day for vorns. What else had he been missing?

He almost didn’t notice her hand coming away from the wall. Steelheart gave no sign of having moved, and, had he not felt the slight vibration through her shoulder, he would not have acknowledged the movement at all. The implied trust was pleasing. She knew he would not let her fall.

“What was your Master like, that you would run so very far from him?” Coronach asked, at length. He wasn’t quite sure what reaction he would have to the answer, whatever it might be.

“It was a Quint, and they only make them horrible things one way — brutal.” Steelheart glanced at him, but didn’t make a move to dislodge his hand. “Ah didn’t think Ah ran, but now that you put it that way, Ah didn’t feel free even after Ah speared that ugly…”

CORONACH!” Quodlibet interrupted. He was running fast through the Mess Hall by the heavy staccato of his feet. The other Herak were trying to get him to slow down, by the sounds of things and the Cybertronians were getting restless.

The blue Herak sighed. Damn his timing.

“Pardon me, Steelheart. I must see what new crisis has flustered my wingmate.” He released her shoulder reluctantly, stepping away.

The fembot smiled. “Sure.”

Finding himself smiling in response, he tamped down on it. He turned and strode through the archway

“What is it now, Quodlibet?” He asked with a quirked brow ridge.

“Sar--Sarterius…” The yellow Herak was practically gasping, he was venting so hard. “V-voyager. General Sarterius is coming for Voyager.”

The Herak looked at each other and then at their Commander. Coronach could offer no solution. He was just as confused, but in new instant alert. “Why?”

“D-don’t know!” Quodlibet choked out.

Canticle frowned. “Let me round them up at least. It won’t do us any good to have them scrambling to finish their lunches — The general is not patient.” He clapped his hands and called for all of them to hurry up and make themselves presentable.

“Sarterius is furious!” The yellow Herak grabbed Coronach’s arm. “Furious!”

“What about? What happened?!”

“I don’t know. I couldn’t hear. I just — I w-wanted to warn everyone.” Quodlibet’s admission was almost a whine.

The blue seeker put a hand to his forehead in frustration. This wasn’t his life. It couldn’t possibly be. It was someone else’s that had been rudely thrust on him. He knew what his life was like, and it didn’t involve all this rampant chaos.

“Warn us of what?”

With a sick feeling, the bottom almost dropped out of Coronach’s fueltank. “Steelheart, do not step in front of me. Stay behind me and face the front —  do not turn, do not raise your optics off the floor.” He called to Canticle, “Form them up behind us. Don’t let them stray.” Then to Blázon and Carillon, “Stand at the ledge. If Sarterius’ Decepticons are coming from that direction, I want to know.”

He was obeyed instantly, but dread still settled tightly near his cyclotron.

“What’s going on, Coronach? Y’all are settin’ yourselves like there’s gonna be a fight.” Steelheart whispered.

“No. We are forming up to prevent one. Sarterius… has a temper.” Once everyone was in place and Canticle and Quodlibet flanked him, he heard the sound of approaching peds thundering beyond the closed doors. “NO ONE SPEAK UNLESS THEY ARE SPOKEN TO!” It was the last order the blue Herak was able to give before those doors were whisked open.


2


Curious. Very curious.

Though he did not reveal himself, the massive green thundercloud – heavy with acid –  that had settled on Sarterius’ processes experienced a brief blast of confusion. Everyone in the Officer’s Mess was on their feet and all spaced just so, at parade rest. With his wingmates flanking him, the Aerial Commander stood at rest as well and before them all. It was like he thought himself some sort of shield. The chief-general did not know how they had been prepared for the arrival of he and his mechs, but he did not like it.

Pycon, who marched through the doorway in step with Chamfer, reached the strange little mix of flyers, soldiers and aliens. “The data recorder.” He put out his hand to Coronach.

“May I know why you seek property that is not even mine to give?” The Commander’s voice was not insolent, no, but it was very close to it. And there, just behind him, was that wretched fembot looking so meek and mild at his elbow. Sarterius’ optics narrowed.

“My orders were for the data only. Not questions,” Pycon stated flatly, but put his hand on his pistol. Chamfer copied the gesture, but with a great deal more menace.

Coronach snapped, “I do not appreciate being threatened. Especially not by Decepticons I outrank.”

That tore it. His massive feet striking sparks off the floor due to his furious momentum, Sarterius marched through the doorway. He shoved aside a slave who had the bad luck not to have noticed him. The servant’s body slammed into the floor and went sliding. “You do not outrank ME, Commander!”

Sarterius glowered at the ragtag collection of mechanoids. It was truly annoying, but the expression on Coronach’s face did not change. Though the yellow one quailed and the red one narrowed his optics, the blue seeker had no reaction at all. He simply pulled himself to attention and gave the command for all the others to do so as well. Then he offered a respectful, “General Sarterius.” He bowed.

He did not know Coronach anymore. The bright, eager youth that had charmed him when none of the other winged gadabouts who served the Dourjer could-- had become this creature. This creature whose optics were shuttered and face revealed nothing. His very posture was a study in hidden motives. “I want every one of the Autobots out in the hallway, this instant!”

“As you command, General.” Coronach called to the Cybertronians and his own wingmates and they all marched outside and into the hall.

“Pycon, Chamfer… keep watch on them. If any of them break and run, give no quarter.” Sarterius ordered.

A blue-grey Herak, plain but silvery, stepped through the arches just as Sarterius was going to join the merry little crew out in the hall. The General recognized this one. Carillon’s face was a mask of ice. This insolent whelp was like all the others. They fooled themselves by believing that they, by virtue of their fancy technology, were so much better than everyone else. They were nothing. Their little airframes were foil compared to a real battlemech and their time would pass.

“Have you a complaint, Herak?” Sarterius demanded.

“No… Sir General.” Carillon’s voice was quiet.

And all of them were cowards. Sarterius sniffed angrily, turning. Every last one. Not worth the metal they were made out of. The doors whooshed shut behind him. He found the group out in the hall maintaining the same stillness they had in the mess. It had become infuriating. The unnatural calm, the fact that he was expected… it was not normal. It smacked of treachery.

“And now… I want the recorder.” Sarterius stood before Coronach, his great fists on his hips.

The younger mech dipped his optics respectfully, but only just – no more. “May I ask you why, General Sarterius?”

“It is not your place to question me.” Sarterius snarled. “If you do not place the device in my hand now, I will take it by force!”

There were several barely contained gasps, but Coronach remained calm. “Voyager.”

“B-but…” the little mech pled.

“Just give him your scanner, Voyager. The Dourjer will see you have nothing to hide.” Quodlibet’s voice was soft but firm, belying his almost cowering posture. Coronach didn’t attempt to correct him for speaking without command. Sarterius scowled.

It then crawled out from behind the yellow seeker. The trembling little needlemech held the box to his narrow chest and looked up with huge blue optics. Before he could beg or otherwise speak at all, Sarterius ripped it out of his hands. He shook it before him.

“What,” he growled. “Is THIS?!

Voyager gaped in shock.

“What is it for?!” Sarterius snapped. For all their magnificent acting, these Autobots were little better than terrorists. They obviously sought to take information back to their government so that they could then return and swarm Ta’nak.

“It, it’s a s–scanner.” Voyager mumbled. He was shivering so badly that his plating had started to rattle.

The General leveled his cannon at the tower and snarled. “WHAT IS IT FOR?!

“Coronach!” The frightened gasp belonged to that miserable girl.

The Commander of the Herak began. “General…”

“Out of this, Coronach.” Sarterius grunted.

“I only wish to know why this has occurred. If the Dourjer was displeased, I feel it may have been my fault. I did attempt to teach the foreigners what to say and — ” Coronach’s tone was level, even. No tension. No anger. Only a note or two of confusion managed to break through.

“Perhaps a little too pleased.” Sarterius snapped. His ruby windows flicked from Voyager to the girl. “Sweet talking maybe?” He finally charged.

The red Herak exploded, “How dare you accuse my Commander of such base behavior!” Canticle didn’t even have time to react, Pycon’s fist slammed into the alloy alongside his cockpit doubling the Herak with a shriek of his fuselage warping. Still Coronach did not move — even as the girl clasped his arm in terror and the Autobots cowered. Voyager had thrown himself back behind the yellow flyer and peeked out nervously under one wing.

Sarterius shoved Pycon back, thrusting the scanner into his hands. Then he snatched the red plane off the floor by his throat. His fingers tightened like a vise. “No! How dare you – YOU!

Canticle forced out passed the static in his emitter, even as he choked. "S...o...so... I am... corrected..."

Uncaring of the sucking, straining noises that the mech’s internal works had started to make, he dropped the traitorous Herak like the garbage he was. Canticle landed with clatter of plating. One of his glossy orange-red wings, with a sick metallic sigh, deformed on impact. He did not cry out. Instead he vented short and shallow, obviously trying to control the pain.

“These are my Herak. I found the Autobots,” Coronach’s voice was absolutely flat. “I’m in charge of them. I deserve to know why all of this is being allowed.”

"Very well, Coronach. Your inexperience is as clear to me now as I thought it was before. Metatisic and myself both have reason to believe these Autobots might be spies." Sarterius said in a too kindly tone.

That provoked a reaction like nothing else had. “What?! Spies?!” Coronach’s face registered profound confusion.

"Yes. Isn't it obvious?” He snarled at Coronach, then turned his full attention on girl. “Sent here under the command of your Emirate did you not say? Fighting a horrible war?" His voice mounted strength until he shouted. " ... Taking lands?! And now you've come here to our lands to count our numbers haven't you? Eh? .." Sarterius laughed suddenly. He almost sounded insane, even to his own audios. "You expect the Dourjer to believe your leader, in the midst of such a horrible war, would send out an envoy to snap VACATION PHOTOS!" The General didn’t even await an answer. “Why are you here?!”

The femme did not move. Her optics were dead, her limbs tense. Sarterius almost wished she’d fly at him now. He’d tear her to pieces.

“We don’t have a choice. We gotta tell him.”

It was the big mech, the one who had leaked like a perforated oil pan before the Dourjer.

Some of the Autobots gasped. “Gridlock!”

At last. At last, the truth. Sarterius almost smiled in savage joy. He would be vindicated and the Autobots would be dead. One less threat to the glory of the Dourjer-- the glory of the Empire.

“Stop it!” The huge mech’s hands tightened symbolically squeezing their moment of uproar, “Stop! .. We have no choice no more! We HAVE too! ----- Steelheart?”

Steelheart sighed. "We came because —  we can't go nowhere else. We ain't got no damn armies. We're fighting from house to house as it is... trying to free the rest of the slaves as we go." She frowned. "From what Ah understood, the Emirate hoped y'all could help... but Ah'm startin to think that some."

The General blinked. She didn’t finish, but this was not exactly what he had expected to hear. Where was the sudden admission of collusion with the Rougeons? Where was the affirmation of the evil designs of their Emirate on the lands of Ta’nak?

“Slaves?” Sarterius blinked, “What’s this to do with slaves?”

“We are.” Gridlock rumbled.

Steelheart affirmed. “We all are.”

The post sniffled. “Even myself. We’re all fleeing from the Masters.”

"You may be fleeing, Veeg. Not me. Ah gotta go back. Ah gotta help mah brother,” Steelheart retorted sharply. “Ah ain’t leavin Airnhide to get hisself killed.”

Gridlock nodded. “Yeah. Me either. We just want some help.”

"Interesting."

The new voice seemed to come from nowhere and it certainly wasn't any of them. Even Sarterius glanced left and to the right for a moment.

"Interesting indeed."

Metatisic, Shockwave at his side, stepped out of the shadows. He swept those assembled with a look. All this new data was quite… informative.

"Master." Coronach moved forward first with a bow and ready apologies. "Sire, I .."

"Silence. You don't have to explain because I've already heard." Metatisic walked towards them with the guardian called Shockwave keeping pace by his side.

Sarterius wasn't so sure if he had. "Dourjer, you don't seriously believe such a story?"

"You said yourself, Sarterius, that desperate mechs will do anything to preserve their function cycle." He washed a thoughtful glance over Steelheart and flicked another at the giant Gridlock, “...  what could be more forlorn than a terrified slave? That could drive a mech to trek across such a forsaken landscape as the Zone more surely than any whip or command."

His consideration came to rest on Steelheart. It was so simple. This explained her odd forcefulness, her lack of modesty or manners. “…or a femme.”

It all made sense now. All of it. The awe they carried, or the lack thereof — he noticed Voyager hiding behind Quodlibet — ALL of it.

His gaze was so intense and peering so deep that Steelheart seemed compelled. She stepped forward and bowed, "Ah'm sorry. Ah was …well we were … e-embarrassed."

"You've got so much... we didn't want to seem... w-we didn't want you to think that we were moochin, Yer Master-sir" Gridlock added.

Voyager mumbled, stepping out from behind the yellow Herak. "B-but it happened anyway."

"Fear of taking advantage still does not explain the obsessive need for recording though." Sarterius reasoned, "Even for slave mechs. What required such exhaustive data collection?"

Metatisic had a much softer approach. "Perhaps you should tell me —  entirely."

Voyager nodded. “The Assembly felt that the idea of a power capable of challenging the Quintessons did not exist. Many of them still demand proof. Assemblymech Alpha Duon alleged it was foolish desperation to believe in what he called fables."

Steelheart added, "So Voyager was supposed to collect data and prove the legends there was true-- if’n we found it."

Voyager gestured his helplessness. "Alpha Duon is extremely hard to convince. I had to get everything so that he would know that we were telling... the truth..."

Metatisic had yet to say anything and a worried look crossed Steelheart’s face. She stepped forward, unthinking, her attitude one of near hopelessness. "Please! You gotta believe us!! You can have the recorder... You can check it for yourse-----"

His hand on her chin was shocking and completely unexpected. She fell silent instantly. Smoothing the jaw, his stare was on the verge of cutting through her optics and into her processors. The faint blue glow was strange, it cast weird shadows over her face.

Not the open warmth of red…

"The eyes. I can always tell by the eyes... hmmmm…"

…but the brightness of the noon sky when the Karna is nearing Apex…

"Sire?" Voyager shifted from foot to foot.

…and without clouds brooding.

There was no shadow in the light itself. "I believe you." He released her chin.

Steelheart blinked, standing as still as a statue. “Oh… mah… stars…” She whispered, hastily backing up. The girl actually bumped into Quodlibet.

“You'll forgive the suspicion, but even you must agree your exact nature was tenuous at best." Metatisic smirked only a tad.

The girl nodded with emphasis. "And mah flippin out at the General didn't help none..."

Gridlock grimaced. “Or me about ta shake poor Veeg to pieces…”

Voyager said, “And now I realize how suspicious I looked.”

There were murmurs all around as each of the Autobots recounted something that in some small way may have added to the misunderstanding. When there was a brief moment of silence, Coronach spoke in a contrite tone. "I should apologize myself, Great Master. I had learned truth just before Pycon and Chamfer arrived."

Sarterius frowned darkly at the Aerial Commander. Metatisic gestured with two fingers. Not now.

"However, the most serious concerns are no longer yours. As this was officiated by your Emirate Xaaron and his Assembly, I must speak with him." The Dourjer continued, speaking to the Autobots.

"And then you'll make a decision?" Gridlock wondered aloud.

"That is something I will not promise. I've decided nothing at all as I don't know of your situation from an official source." Metatisic glanced at the huge Cybertronian. It seemed strange to be speaking to slaves on such an informal level — aliens though they may be. Their natures were in constant conflict. They did not seem to know their place, though they wanted very much to please. He had not forgotten their display before him. Now he was sure it had been honest awe. They very much wished to give him respect, but did not know how. Were their Masters irresponsible? Wicked? Both were possibilities. Or were these slaves badly trained? Rabble-rousers? Neither of those things excluded bending knee before the living heir of Megadyne and striving to please their god. That just meant they were troublemakers — not Rougeons. Troublemakers only needed a firm hand, stern correction and good training. He took them all in a sweeping glance. The girl had proven it, they were not evil by nature.

Gridlock was meek. "Sorry."

He almost smiled. No. Not evil by nature. Metatisic mused aloud, more for their benefit than his own, "I'm not in the habit of aiding and abetting escaped slave constructs. Was your flight justified? ... perhaps. Should I return you to your Masters or is there another reason that further supports your escape? No… These are questions best reserved for your leader and not his messengers."

"Sir ... I mean, Great Master." Voyager began, worried of what he had just heard. "A-are you going to return us?"

"Perhaps. Perhaps not." Metatisic paused. Really these Autobots should understand. If his own slaves had fled, he’d want them returned. But then, he might decide it were better not to involve himself at all. He might not return them, in fact… he may keep them. He was a great appreciator of new technology and these Cybertronians were rife with it, slaves though they may be.

"I am delighted to finally learn that the reports of your existence are verified.” Metatisic began, “but understand my reasoning: You have come into my territory bringing with yourselves your problems." He explained further, "These are not the concerns of my Decepticons and nor did we cause them, but yet you have brought them here with you. I've seen slave escape attempts before ... more often than I would care to."

Steelheart looked down. It was as if the light died out of her optics. Her dark hands clasped, pulling against each other.

"What will they think when they find that I'm harboring their property? You call them monsters — demons." His gaze raked over them again, his brow furrowing. "You have escaped here. Here – to my Lands. There is threat enough in that your Quintesson Lords may come here looking for you and what then does that do to my people? My cities?" The Dourjer gestured.

Voyager offered, "We did not mean to intrude, Sire."

"This I understand, but it is also why I must speak with your Emirate and further clarify your situation." Metatisic said in a judicious tone.

"I knew this was going to happen." Gridlock sounded obliterated, like he would burst into tears again. "You know Servo told me those stories about the warriors’ revolt… there’s no way I’d have come if I didn’t think he was tellin’ Primus’ own truth." It was a stray comment. A long mumble really and not even directed at anyone in the room, but Metatisic caught it.

The rouge glass panes twinkled. "Excuse me?"

"He said that if we found the warriors, that you’d understand because the Gladiators fought the same war mega-vorns ago." Gridlock’s voice was thin; he seemed to be trying to hide inside himself.

“Delusion told me something similar,” Voyager supplied.

Gridlock glanced at him, confused. “Really?”

"How would your people know this?" And, before the Autobots could think to answer –  another question, "Who’s Delusion?"

Voyager replied. "He's one of the councilmechs, Sire. He's the one who brought the legend of your people to the assembly in the first place. He said that many thousands of Vorns ago there had been another revolt against the Quintessons and that all the warriors escaped across the border." The tower chuckled, "And no one believed him. Duon thought he was insane."

"Oh Duon's an old slag gasket," One of the tinkers retorted. “Everybody knows it.”

Metatisic hadn't spoken a word. Panthering the hall for a moment, his aspect was one of intense thought. He actually slapped one of the pillars, leaning against it for only a quartex, before continuing his steady prowl.

It was Shockwave who actually spoke. "I've heard this."

"Yes, yes." Metatisic nodded quickly and repeated the old chant, "’We will not forget’... I know."

"The ancient chant of the Exceptional Engender," Shockwave stated further.

"You mean these Masters of yours are the same?" Metatisic sounded supremely shocked.

Steelheart nodded, her voice faint. "Yessum."

He said it again just to make sure he had heard all this correctly, "The same beings?"

Voyager nodded extreme affirmation. "They've held Cybertron... forever it seems like. We've only just now mustered the capability of fighting back... even if we don't have the skill."

"The exceptional engender? Is that the um .. Bantha..a .. um .." One tinker asked another.

"Be with your offspring. Powerful and mighty, Megadyne, hail to you firstborn ray of Karna." Metatisic spoke the hymn in perfect memory, "To be your resurrection and allow the greatness that was your armies to be with my own now on this day. Yes... much like what you’ve said…” Metatisic spoke the verses more like a detective digging for clues, "The greatness of your armies is supposed to be the story of the victory... the exodus out."

Metatisic stroked his chin thoughtfully. "--- That's when Megadyne became one in the light and turned into the Karna."
SOME WORDS TO KNOW..                     

Mire - (Mi-r) The site of a ancient factory, it’s a unhabitable plot of land in Cybertron constantly plagued by acid rain and radiation.
Sarterius -(sahr-tur-e-us) A stern, well-wore classic example of military hardware who serves under a Decepticon named, Metatisic. His name is a play on the word ‘sarcastic’; sardonicism, bitter derision, harsh
Dourjer --(doe-ger) The title of a Decepticon monarch, king or leader; Originated from ‘Djoser’ (Zoser)
Herak – (He-ra-k) First generation prototype ‘seekers’
Aubades - (Ow-baw-dee-s) Like the other Herak, his name (much like the other seekers) is related to music. His meaning ‘a serenade done in the morning’; A Herak Wingleader, his wingmates are Blázon and Carillon.
Lieden - (Lee-den) Quodlibet's ever troublesome sister. Her name means "Sorrowful".
Blázon - (Blahy-son) A trumpet blast. He's the Herak with no volume control. His wingmates are Aubades and Carillon.
Carillon - (Carol-lawn) A song played on bells; He's the dull looking Herak who first appeared with Canticle when they came upon Cyclonus and Metatisic in the barrens. His wingmates are Blázon and Aubades.

Published:
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