Welcome to Oasis
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Looking down at the mound of data pads before her Elita was sure the Matrix had made a mistake placing her in charge, or at the very least was having a good laugh at her expense right now. Her full designation of Elita One held the same position as a Prime over the femme population; it was just tragically unfortunate that the title did not also come with instructions or a warning label.
"Energy reports, maintenance reports, recreation reports, weather reports. Is it really necessary that I know absolutely everything that happens around here?"
"You are the boss," Chromia teased, her feet propped up on Elita's desk, her heavily weapon incrusted arms behind her head.
"Just for that I should put you in charge of morale for the next work assignment cycle," Elita tormented back, shuffling through the data pads and arranging them by priority.
"Go ahead, but I'm not taking the heat if there's a full scale mutiny."
Elita laughed because she knew her long time friend was correct. Chromia was a lot of things; a superb security officer, an even better special weapons sergeant and a top-notch disciplinarian, but being able to lighten damp spirits was not one of her strong suits.
"It would at the very least give you a minor riot to boost your morale," Elita suggested, knowing that the need for Chromia's abilities had been practically non-existent when they went into hiding on this planet. The few younglings that Chromia had cared for after evacuating Cybertron had all left to join the war once they matured and that was long before they had come here. And since the whole point of them being here was to go completely unnoticed until they were called upon, Chromia simply had nothing to do, or at least nothing to do that truly interested her.
"True, a riot would be nice, and it would give the medics something to worry about other than fussing over ridiculous routine system checks," Chromia snorted, her displeasure clear on her expressive face.
"Well, you could always help me out with this energy dispute," Elita suggested, sliding a pad over for Chromia's inspection. "It seems that the Gatherers are starting up trouble with Sorters. They're claiming that the Allspark energy is being contaminated with power from the collections grid."
For almost 20,000 years they had been siphoning, storing and maintaining energy from the Allspark as the Matrix had directed. Of course to the great disappointment of the thirty femmes in residence, only the Allspark's unique energy was taken, and not the pearls of life Cybertronians used to create their own kind. Not because they had not attempted, but because the Cube had seemingly refused to relinquish its treasure no matter what they had tried. Of course Alpha Trion, the only creator in Oasis and to their knowledge, the only creator to have survived the war, refused to build a protoform even if they were able to coax a Spark free.
But despite their disappointment the femmes went about their daily duties, waiting for when they would be needed again. It was only in the last hundred years or so that they had to resort to remote operations to remain undetected by humans when the Cube was discovered. At that point hope of new sparklings was lost to them.
"Again?" Chromia asked in miserable disbelief. "I thought we cleared that up when we dug them their own tunnels and provided a completely independent power system."
"I know, I know, but this seems to crop up every couple of hundred years or so, and with the recent disruption of the Allspark's energy flow, the Gatherers are on edge."
"The humans are probably just messing around near the surface connections again and the inputs have retracted to a stealth position until the connections can be reestablished," Chromia reasoned with a shrug. "Sector Seven is always fiddling with upgrades to their system."
"That is true," Elita agreed. "But it has never taken this long to reestablish before."
"I could lead a small group to investigate," Chromia suggested, her excitement almost tangible.
"No offense 'Mia but there's nothing small about anything you do," Elita reminded her friend gently. "No, I think we should wait a bit longer before going to the surface. The risk of discovery with Megatron up there is just too great unless there is a serious problem."
With the arrival of primitive man to this section of the Earth, the Matrix had directed them to move into the tunnels below the Allspark to avoid interfering with the young species. The incursion of Sector Seven only made them retreat deeper and abandon almost all forays to the surface. It was made quite clear to all of them that it was not yet time to come out of hiding.
"Besides, a surface mission would require Alpha's direct approval and he has locked himself away in his workshop for days," Elita reminded.
"How has the old coot been doing?" Chromia asked kindly as she sat up, all illusion of aloofness dropped.
"Who can say?" Elita said as she transferred all the day's reports into her personal data pad. "He's been obsessed with some new discovery of his, and every time I've questioned him about it he just smiles and says, 'You will see soon enough'. But I suppose it's better than him wasting away down there."
Chromia nodded with sympathy. Femmes had the luxury of being and doing whatever they pleased with their existence. From almost the first moment of activation, femmes would expand their abilities beyond that of the single interest they had been created for. Their counterparts had no such luxury and had to be completely reconfigured in order to change what they had been made to do. Alpha Trion was a creator that had forbidden himself from creating and Elita feared that it was slowly driving him mad.
"I am off to the Cycling Chamber, you coming with?" Elita asked though she already knew the answer.
"Nah, you go on, I'm going to go help Kup and Hot Rod put the battle droids back together so me and the kid can take them apart again later," Chromia said as she stretched to a standing position.
It always amazed Elita how tall her friend was. As a rule, femmes tended to be smaller and more delicate then their counterparts, most never upgrading beyond minibot size. With the exception of Alpha Trion, Chromia towered over everyone in Oasis. Her armor and weaponry were second only to military designed bots, but her strategic mind was the best Elita had ever known. Only Prowl came close. Optimus' military strategist tended to error on the side of pure logic, which didn't always account for all variables in Elita's opinion.
The Cycling Chamber was thankfully only a short walk away since Elita had waited until the last moment to prepare for the meeting. Five turns later she entered the monitoring room and took a moment to marvel at the sheer beauty of it.
The room had been mined into a smooth imperfect oval and had the appearance of being the work of natural wind erosion. Anchored to the walls and ceiling were clear conduits of Allspark energy channeled through regulating monitors. The stone in this area was nearly pure white and glittered with tiny crystal facets that perfectly reflected the swirling blue, red and mixing purple light.
The Allspark energy had to be continuously circulated for it to be maintained properly. Without constant supervision and adjustments it would weaken and eventually fade, becoming nothing more than light and warmth. It wasn't a perfect or permanent solution but it was the best they could do for now. There were three mechs assigned to permanent duty cycle here for the sake of consistency and Elita was greeted by two of them, the Head Gatherer and her assistant.
"Good morning Elita," Moonracer said as she directed the femme leader to a chair at a round table just inside the entryway.
"Good morning, Moonracer, Tally," Elita said in return, acknowledging both representatives of the Gatherers before taking the offered seat.
Elita had been initially surprised that Moonracer had chosen to serve the community in this manner. The lavender mech was an expert sharpshooter and was a bit on the free spirit side to shackle herself to a job that required such precise demands. Of all the residents of Oasis, Tally was the more logical choice for Head Gatherer, being a number cruncher and obsessive compulsive about perfection, but in hindsight it made perfect sense. Tally was just too abrasive to be an affective leader and Moonracer never failed at anything she but her processor to.
"So shall we begin with the list of grievances or the accumulated data from the last five work cycles," Tally asked even as she pressed a data pad into Elita's hand.
"As you can see…"
Elita tried to pay attention to everything Moonracer's assistant said, really she did, but it was almost word for word the same speech Tally had given almost two hundred years earlier.
The gentle, hesitant call almost startled the femme leader into responding verbally. Since coming to Earth, inter-cranial communications had dwindled to almost nothing. With only thirty-three Full-term Cybertronians and five Pre-loads in residence in Oasis, face-to-face communications was considered more desirable. Everyone was within walking distance of each other and it seemed rather silly to communicate as if they were on the other side of the planet.
Yes, sir? Elita replied to Alpha's call as she smiled to Tally to assure her that she was still listening.
You are needed below, he said simply.
Do you need me immediately? Elita asked even as she responded vocally to a question Moonracer asked. I am in the middle of a meeting.
I don't know how long I can maintain... Alpha Trion stuttered to a stop. The trace of fear and sorrow in his voice made Elita hold up her hand to the Head Gatherer in front of her to put a hold on their conversation. Please come quickly, her creator begged.
I am on my way.
"I must take care of something," Elita said by way of an apology. Moonracer exchanged a glance with her next in command before commenting.
"Is everything alright?"
Elita was not in the habit of downplaying situations, and she had learned that the individuals under her authority appreciated it.
"I do not know, but I may be busy for quite some time," she explained as she stood to leave.
"Then we will reschedule for a later date," Moonracer said, nodding to Elita.
Elita nodded in return and made her way to the deepest sub-level of Oasis. Even before Sector Seven had made it too dangerous for the citizen's of Oasis to attend to the Allspark directly, Alpha Trion's lab was the lowest occupied tier. It had been there first before the femmes' arrival to Earth and once they had arrived the femmes had built off of Alpha Trion's deeply entrenched starship. Very much like the ants they had patterned their compound construction after, Oasis was a branching, downward facing, cone like series of tunnels. And like the insects, the Cybertronians had no elevators.
It took longer than Elita would have liked to reach Alpha Trion's lab. The path down was not a direct one and brought her into contact with many Oasis citizens. As Elita One she was leader, but the position was more or less an elected seat unlike a Prime that was built to be a commander and expected to be followed. So it followed that she was something of a celebrity and was at least greeted if not outright stopped by the random citizens she encountered. Fortunately they would graciously let her go with little fuss when she explained that she was busy with something.
Elita was not sure how long it had taken her to accept her role. She supposed it was a forgone conclusion that something had to change once the war began and she lost Orion. It wasn't something that she liked to remember or think about too much, but it was that loss of home, security and love that had forged the new mech that she was now. She had to be strong, if not for herself and the citizens of Oasis that trusted her with their lives then for the memory of those she had lost. She could not let her people simply drift out of existence without a fight.
It was a feeling all the femmes shared. Whether it was something that was ingrained into their unique codes or whether it was simply a species need to survive, it really did not matter. If something was not done, Cybertronians would die just as their planet had because of a war that would not end. Some of the femmes believed that they would have to wait until all of their counterparts had destroyed each other before the Matrix would allow them to continuing there race. She sincerely hoped it would not come to that.
Elita finally reached the heavily armored door to Alpha's lab. Since the laboratory was actually Alpha Trion's entire ship almost completely intact deep below the Earth's surface the entrance was the vessel's bay doors and Elita had to punch in a code to open them. She did not venture down here often, Alpha Trion treasured his privacy. No, this was far from the first time she had been inside, but this was the first time she had entered and felt uneasy.
"Hello," Elita called into the semi-darkness. None of the ship's elimination was active and the area was lit solely by the glow of equipment screens. "Alpha Trion?"
Only silence greeted her. Moving forward, Elita moved towards the back of the gutted spaceship, littered with half realized projects and abandoned failures. Alpha Trion was not an inventor, but a creator, and while the two were closely linked Alpha lacked the ability to shrug off failure. For a creator failure meant death, for an inventor it simply meant another opportunity to try something new. Alpha Trion could not bring himself to complete or abandon any of his projects and consequently the lab was jammed packed with junk. Finally a sound to her right alerted her to the location of her creator.
Turning a corner created by a pile of stacked crates, Elita found Alpha Trion bent over his workbench. Her creator's matte silver exterior seemed to glow green with the light from a container by his right side. The light was just bright enough to cast a blurry shadow on the opposite wall. It was an unusual color for a light source with blue, red and white being more common, but it was the deep richness of the color that truly made it unique. How could something so dark give so much light?
"Time, I just need more time," Alpha Trion mumbled his thin frame sagging.
"Alpha Trion?" Elita called again a little louder than she had before even though she stood almost directly behind him now. But he still did not respond.
Elita stepped forward and she felt something crunch underfoot. Looking down and adjusting her optics to compensate for the light level in the room, Elita found that the metal floor was covered in dirt and rocks. The tunnel floors of Oasis had been covered in metal long ago. They had discovered that by simply walking around they were eroding their rock floors too quickly, so this much debris could have only come from outside.
She knew that Alpha Trion had his own tunnel connecting to the surface. In fact Elita was the only other one that knew about it. It was intended for emergency use only, if they were ever overrun it was their last hope for escape, but if the enemy knew of its existence it would lead them directly behind their defenses.
"You have been to the surface," Elita accused, anger starting to rise within her. It had been decades since the last time anyone in Oasis had seen the sun and yet her eccentric creator had recently taken a stroll without any consideration for the safety of the other citizens.
"I have," Alpha answered for the first time, the graveness in his voice halted any reprimand she might have said. "I could not wait, I should have waited, but I didn't know, I never realized..."
He didn't finish but turned to her and griped Elita's arms tightly with his long fingered hands. She was so startled all she could do was stare and his hands and the dried red-brown mud on them.
"I need time, Elita," her creator urged her, "and you can give me that time."
Dread lodged in her Spark. He couldn't possibility be asking her to use the ability the Matrix gave her. Alpha Trion knew how dangerous it was, he had been the one to warn her against using it. How could things have gotten so critical to be contemplating such a plan?
"I have made a terrible mistake, Elita." He let go of her then, returning to his workbench. He gathered something into his arms.
"Alpha, please. Tell me what has happened," Elita begged, following her creator. "What do you want me to do?"
"Care for her."
"I don't under…"
Whatever Elita was about to say drifted away and died. In Alpha Trion's arms was a small sparkling unlike she had ever seen before. It did not have the indeterminate shape of a protoform as most newly activated sparklings would. The portions of its exterior that were exposed above the blanket it was wrapped in were smooth and appeared seamless as any finely crafted racing form might have been constructed for a mature Cybertronian. It was small but not as small as a microbot would have been as a sparkling. Elita activated systems she had left dormant for so long she feared they would not function. She was pleasantly surprised that she could now detect the soft cycling call meant to update the femme caretaker of the sparklings condition.
"It's starving," Elita accused hotly, resisting the urge to snatch the little one away from Alpha Trion, and possibly cause more damage.
"I tried to supplement, but her needs are too great," Alpha said softly willingly handing the sparkling over.
"How long has it been since it was activated? When was the last time you tried a transfer? Were you even going to bother telling us about it?" Elita demanded having no sympathy for her creator and his obvious suffering as she unwrapped the bundle completely.
The sparkling gave a shudder and pulled its limbs in towards its chest. Immediately Elita could see the heat loss as the tiny life's systems attempted to compensate. Cybertronians did have a minimum functional temperature but the ambient room temperature should have been more than sufficient and yet this sparkling seemed not to be able to tolerate it. Now realizing the need for the thermal covering, Elite wrapped the sparkling back up.
"What is wrong with it?" she asked Alpha Trion as she attempted to link with the sparkling's basic internal communication and could not establish a connection.
"I never intended for that protoform to be used. It was experimental and not all of the systems are functioning to full capacity, but there was no other choice." For the first time since she had entered the workshop, Alpha Trion looked her straight in the optics when he spoke to her. "I can fix this Elita, I just need more time," he tucked a loose corner of the blanket around the now softly purring sparkling.
Elita let herself be escorted out of the workshop without a fuss. It was becoming obvious that Alpha Trion was not going to be anymore forthcoming to the sparkling's origin, but that was secondary to the said sparkling's needs. She needed to get it to the medical wing for immediate attention.
"I have sealed the emergency escape exit and all other entrances should be sealed as well," he told her once they were out in the tunnel leading to the rest of Oasis. Before she could ask why, he supplied an answer to her unspoken question. "Megatron is awake and the Allspark has been lost. Now more than ever we must insure that we are not discovered."
Elita nodded and turned away to leave but she had one last question.
"You kept calling it 'she', sparklings don't truly orient until their first upgrade and I have never heard of anyone accurately predicting a femme metamorphosis. How can you be so sure?"
Alpha Trion did smile then. It was that sad, soft expression on his haunted face that finally succeeded in enlisting some sympathy from Elita.
"There is a moment when they first look at you in innocent wonder and your Spark just knows that they are different, special, and meant for more than you had planned."
Alpha Trion retreated back into his workshop and solidly locked the door behind him. Elita hurried on to the upper levels, her precious package tucked in the crook of her left arm and close to her chest. The citizens that she had seen on the way down were still there. The greetings they would have given hauled as they realized what she had cradled to her side.
It was a strange procession that followed her. No one stopped her, no one dared. No doubt they all had already activated their individual monitoring systems and were aware of the need for haste. The news must have spread silently through out Oasis for by the time Elita arrived at the clinic almost all of its citizens were there.
When the medical bay door opened to allow her entrance, Elita was nearly run over by Hot Rod and Kup as they exited. By the way the young mech was rubbing the new looking patch over his left forearm, Elita guessed that they had been in for repairs and not a social visit.
"Whoa-ho, when did we get a squirt?" the flashy barely out of youngling stage mech asked staring down at the bundle in Elita's arms, blocking her path in the process. Obviously the only two non-femme mechs in Oasis had been left out of the compound wide status alert.
Elita gave Kup a glare and though stunned himself the older bot reacted right away. He grabbed his apprentice by the elbow and forcibly moved him out of the way. Hot Rod protested quite vigorously, not wanting to be left out of the only excitement this place had seen since the last tectonic plate shift.
"Kid there is one thing you never do," Elita heard Kup say as she looked around the room for the chief medical officer. "Never get in-between a sparkling and its femme. You'll lose guaranteed every time."
"Everyone out!" Gurney commanded, only grabbing Firestar's arm before she made it out the door. "Not you! You're my assistant this cycle."
Elita thought that Firestar may have muttered some kind of an apology, but she wasn't paying attention. The sparkling had unveiled it's… her little optics. The tiny little thing had bidirectional optical coverings something few mature mechs had and when they had opened the optics that they revealed were a pale green. But that was not all that surprised Elita. The sparkling's face was exceptionally detailed and had more moving components than was strictly necessary for function.
"So what do we have here?" Gurney asked softly, drawing the sparkling's attention to her.
"Audio/visual response is normal," the CMO said with a smile and the little one responded by opening her mouth and optics wide. One tiny hand made it's way out of the blanket and wobbled in the air towards Gurney's face.
"Physical adaptation is well below normal," she continued on in the same soft voice even though Elita could tell that Gurney was concerned.
Elita reached over with her free hand and let the sparkling capture her finger. The petite fingers gripped with more strength than she would have thought given the obvious lack of motor control.
"Well, little one, what are we going to do with you?" Gurney asked, the sparkling's mouth quirked up in something that resembled a smile. "No external data inputs, no inter cranial communications to speak of, no transfer inputs. What was he thinking?"
"It is going to make it, right?" Firestar asked anxiously.
"I'm not sure how it could without energy transfer inputs. How can we nourish it?"
"She," Elita interrupted. "Alpha Trion says that she's a femme."
"That's ridiculous!" Gurney scoffed. "Femme metamorphosis happens at first upgrade and this sparkling is nowhere near that stage."
Suddenly the CMO stopped and stared at the focus of everyone's attention. While the rest of them had been talking to each other, the sparkling had brought Elita's finger to her mouth. To their astonishment she was suckling on the digit. Gurney snatched up an internal systems scanner and passed it up and down the sparkling's length.
"It has an internal raw matter processing unit and a fully functional energon converter," the medical officer said with astonishment.
"I thought only mining drones had a matter processor?" Firestar questioned.
"And only mature femmes have internal energon converters," Elita reminded not being able to keep the smugness from her voice.
"Well apparently this little one has both," Gurney said with a grin. "Alright I concede that she might be a femme, a femme sparkling, who would have ever thought. Well this might not be as bad as I first feared. We'll just need to find the right mix of components necessary for her function and administer it orally and her systems should pick up from there."
"Where did she come from?" Firestar asked quietly reaching over to lightly touch the sparkling's hand were it still held Elita's finger in a tight grip.
Elita couldn't answer that question, and part of her didn't care. For the first time in eons there was a new sparkling, a sign of hope for their race. And something deep inside her told her that it was vitally important that this sparkling survive for all of their sakes.