Transformers Reloaded: If Mine Eye Offends Thee
by Philip S.

Summary: Shockwave is Megatron's most loyal follower. What turned the cold and logical war machine, who once ruled a city state of his own, into the spineless wimp that oversees Cybertron in present times and licks Megatron's boots? Here, finally, is the answer.

Cybertron, 6.1 million Earth years ago

Megatron observed the ongoing procedures with a cold, clinical optic, his face unreadable to anyone. No one would have been able to guess at the vast torrent of thought currently flashing through his cerebral processors. He had much to consider and only very little time to do it.

Before him on the operating table was the inert form of his most powerful lieutenant. Shockwave's purple frame was damaged extensively, multiple blaster wounds and torn armour plating telling of the fight he'd been in. And what a fight it had been. Megatron was honestly sorry that he hadn't been there himself to partake in it.

He scanned the data reports once again. Casualty figures where high on both sides, but one entry stood out before all others. One of the Autobots' top field commanders was among the deactivated, one who had frustrated Megatron almost as much as Optimus Prime himself.

Grimlock was dead. The thought should have filled him with satisfaction, but it didn't. The powerful Autobot warrior and former gladiator had been one of Megatron's first choices for his inner circle back when the war began, but the fool had refused to join the Decepticons. Ever since that day Megatron had wished to destroy Grimlock with his own two hand units. Unfortunately that would never happen now.

Grimlock and Shockwave had clashed in the middle of the Autobots' renewed offensive into Nova Cronum and the battle had left both of them damaged and in dire need of repairs. Grimlock had been the victor of that scuffle, if only by an inch, and would probably have finished Shockwave off if not for a lone Decepticon sniper who took him down from behind. Megatron honestly did not know whether he would have honoured or vaporized that sniper had he been given the chance. As it was the sniper had been killed mere astroseconds later when the Autobots carpet-bombed the entire area in retaliation. His identity would remain unknown. It could have been anyone among the wreckage of Decepticon warriors left behind on that battlefield.

Megatron focused on more important matters. Grimlock was gone, case closed. Shockwave still clung to life and would be repaired. It would take time and precious resources, but he was too good a warrior not to do so. Cannon fodder could be left to expire. Generals could not.

As the repair drones worked over his subordinate Megatron unwittingly flashed back to the distant past.

"Vos and Tarn are ready."

Megatron nodded, the musical voice of Soundwave laying out the details of the next step of his master plan. That was Soundwave's job, the details. Megatron was a master combatant, a tactical genius, a strategist par excellence, and a visionary regarding the future of Cybertron. Soundwave was the master of the detailing, though. Early on he had helped Megatron hammer his broad vision into a finely tuned agenda, had pointed out all the flaws, and had even played devil's advocate when necessary.

At first Megatron had been reluctant to take another Transformer so deep into his confidence, but then he had come to grasp Soundwave's character. The communicator, built for the sole purpose of recording events and storing data for Cybertron's vast historical archives, was a rare combination of razor-sharp wit and a near-total lack of personal ambition. He had joined Megatron not for personal glory, but for the satisfaction of actually shaping grand events instead of simply recording them.

They would soon set those grand events into motion, starting with the two city states Soundwave had just mentioned.

"Shockwave will not be easily fooled," Megatron said, thinking of Tarn's ruler. His own ruler, too, seeing as he was a citizen of Tarn. Soon there would be no one above him, though, not even in the most abstract sense.

"Shockwave is brilliant," Soundwave agreed, "but lacking in imagination. Given the scenario set before him, he will react predictably."

The plan was not that complicated, really. Cybertron was at peace, but discontent was brewing among the various city states, especially among the military cast who had gone too long without an enemy to fight. Tarn, the city state ruled by Shockwave, was on the brink of secession from the old order. There was little doubt Shockwave had plans of his own, seeing how much he had built up his city's military during the last mega cycles.

Vos, Tarn's direct neighbour, was equally ripe. The Vosians had long considered themselves the intellectual elite of Cybertron. Its ruling council was composed of self-proclaimed geniuses. Their barely-veiled disdain for non-Vosians had earned them few friends outside their city limits.

"Starscream is another matter, though," Soundwave continued. "While there is a high probability that he will perform as planned, he is a lot more unpredictable than Shockwave."

Starscream, yes. Megatron had taken a long and thorough look at the career of Vos' figurehead ruler. A military Seeker model by design, a scientist and explorer by choice, a politician apparently by frustration. Not all details were public, but it was known that Starscream had quit the deep space exploration corps after a mission in which his long-time partner Skyfire had been lost. He had gone into politics for lack of anything better to do, or so the general consensus went, and held little actual power in Vos. The ruling council had picked him as their figurehead mostly to appease the many members of the military line living in Vos.

Figure head or not, though, as the official ruler of Vos he would be in command of their military come the day and how he would react was ... not entirely certain.

"I have seen Starscream fight," Megatron said after some thinking. "I believe he will do as we expect him to do."

For many mega cycles now Megatron had used the outlawed underground arena games as a testing ground for potential recruits. Unlike the state games, sanctioned by the Council of Elders and the Autobot Overlord, the underground games were much more brutal and usually ended with at least one participant in terminal stasis lock. They had become an outlet for those most frustrated with the lasting peace and a perfect place to find followers.

Starscream's participation in these brutal outlaw fights had come unexpected. One of the ruling class partaking in mindless combat? It fit with what they had learned of Starscream's character, though. Bored, frustrated, unhappy with his existence. Eager to drown himself in his baser programming if only it would help him forget whatever personal demons haunted him.

"If all goes according to plan the Vosian agents will do their part in four cycles."

The plan called for Vos and Tarn to be set at each other's throats. Both city states were armed to the teeth and an open conflict between them could not help but escalate into mutual annihilation. Both cities had populations comprised largely of military models. Once the dust settled the disgruntled survivors would take a look around and convincing them that the untouched cities of the Autobots, mainly Iacon, were to blame for their misery would not be hard.

The survivors would look for someone to tell them what to do, who to blame. Shockwave and Starscream would be largely discredited, having brought their cities to ruin. Thanks to his prowess in the arena games Megatron was one of the most prominent figures on Cybertron and his political views regarding the ongoing stagnation and the rule of the Council of Elders were well-established. It would be easy for him to slide into the leadership slot.

Once there, though, he would need lieutenants.

"Shockwave will follow you," Soundwave said, guessing his thoughts once again. "He is ruled by logic. He will see that you are the best choice to unite the survivors into a fighting force. Even if he were to find out that you set the downfall of his city in motion he would not seek retaliation. Revenge is not logical."

Soundwave was probably right, but his argument troubled Megatron in ways the communicator could not guess. Shockwave was probably the most powerful military model on Cybertron save for Megatron himself. They had never matched strength, Shockwave figuring himself above the primitive debauchery of the arena, but Megatron could not be a hundred percent certain he would win such a battle. Yes, if all went according to plan Shockwave would follow him because it was the logical choice.

But Shockwave would also not hesitate to do away with him the moment he judged it the logical choice.

Megatron and Soundwave continued their discussion, mostly centred on Starscream and that they would have to include him in their inner circle as well to appease the vast numbers of Seeker model warriors they needed to recruit into their ranks. Megatron's thoughts remained on the matter of Shockwave, though.

Megatron's thoughts returned to the present and Shockwave's battered frame. Everything had gone according to plan at first. Tarn and Vos had annihilated each other with photon missiles and the survivors had flocked together under his command as expected. Both Shockwave and Starscream had signed on as his lieutenants. Perhaps a bit too eagerly in Starscream's case, whose ambitions became more pronounced with very passing cycle.

The initial assault on Iacon had gone off without a hitch, many of the Council of Elders, the Overlord, and even the current bearer of the Matrix, Sentinel Prime himself, had been among the casualties. Things had not gone well afterwards, though. Optimus Prime! Who would have guessed that his old friend Orion Pax, dock worker turned gladiator, would be the one to inherit the title of Prime? Who would have guessed that he would turn out to be so competent a military leader? Under his command the Autobots had united into a fighting force to be reckoned with and what should have been a short, victorious campaign had turned into a seemingly endless war.

And that was what worried Megatron the most. He had promised his followers glory and victory, a Cybertron united under his rule, a galactic empire ruled from a mobile throne world. He had yet to fulfil these promises, though. And while most of his followers didn't seem to mind as long as they had enemies to fight against, he had come to see the slow erosion in Shockwave's loyalty, if it could be called thus.

It was only a matter of time now, he was certain, until the cold and logical war machine decided that having Megatron as leader of the Decepticons was no longer the logical choice. And while Megatron did not fear Shockwave in matters of personal combat, he did fear the effect such a power struggle could have on Decepticon unity, especially now when the Autobots were renewing their offensive.

Which was why he was considering this opportunity that had dropped into his lap.

He had consulted with Soundwave on this, as he did in most things. His spymaster had laid out the details for him, just like always. What he proposed was feasible, but it would have consequences. Consequences that could potentially be as dire as a bid for leadership on Shockwave's part.

As Decepticon leader it was up to him to weigh the risks and gains and make a decision.

The procedure was a slight variant of the infamous 'Robo-Smasher' software he and Soundwave had developed early on during the war. The one that had brought the Constructicons over to his side of the fence.

Absolute loyalty to Megatron would now become part of Shockwave's base programming. The thought of rebellion would never even occur to the purple war machine in the future. Whatever logical scenarios he constructed, disobedience could never factor into them.

There was a downside to this procedure, of course, the main reason why he hadn't performed it on each and every single one of his troops. To instil absolute loyalty meant to limit the intellect. Individuality was restrained. Initiative was cut short. The procedure had succeeded regardless with the Constructicons, but there had been many, many failures as well. Which meant that it could potentially turn an effective field commander into an ineffective drone.

The risk was great, but worth the potential gain. Megatron did not fear a potential rebellion from Starscream, the Seeker did not have the tactical or strategic mind for it. Soundwave's loyalty was beyond doubt. Shockwave, on the other hand, was the one true danger to his position as leader and needed to be removed, even if it cost him his most efficient warrior.

"Sir?" One of the diagnostic drones approached him, waiting for his command. They had reached the point in the repair procedures where they would access Shockwave's neuro-circuitry. It was the point where he would have to decide.

"Do it," he said after another moment's consideration.

None may challenge the authority of Megatron.