A/N: This took me a ridiculously long time. As usual, eh?
Disclaimer: I don't own Starbucks or Mello Yello, I do own Far-Sight. All previous disclaimers apply.
Two Shall Stand
Don Quixote believed himself to be the last hero in a dying age of chivalry, and that may very well have been what he was. He was a noble aberration, a knight in an era where there were as few knights in the world as there are Transformers in the world today. His quest was to save the world, whatever that took.
But all knights have their own quests, and some are not quite so noble; some search for personal glory, some for riches, some for other material wealth.
Some knights search for enlightenment. The pursuit of knowledge may very well be the most vain, self-centered, and ignoble pursuit of all.
As Dewcon learned, ATM was an ATM. He lived in front of several banks, whichever was most convenient for him to sit in front of, as long as he could stay out of the range of the security cameras. The cameras (or, rather, the human security guards that monitored them) would notice if a new machine walked up and sat down next to the old ones.
The place he took Dewcon to was a less heavily guarded bank in a run-down part of town. "No one pays attention to this thing, anyway," he said, lifting up the original vending machine in front of the store next door to the bank and hiding it behind a dumpster, leaving an empty space for Dewcon to sit on. It was easy to see: the ground and wall the original machine had sat against were clearly outlined, the only clean patches of concrete and brick on the dingy building. "You can hang here during the day when there are humans around, right?"
Dewcon tensed at the suggestion. "Will not serve humans during the day," he said sharply. "Refuse to be their slave."
"Hey, hey! Chill, man. I dig," ATM said. "We don't wanna be pawns in an oppressive society or whatever, right? I'm the same. Half the time if someone comes up and asks me for money, I pretend I'm out of order. It's easy."
"Really?" Dewcon said skeptically. Already, ATM struck him as more similar to Razrblade than to himself.
"Sure thing. See, I don't just give away all my cash to anyone who asks for it, right? If I don't like them, I don't pay them. Simple," ATM said with a shrug. "Maybe we gotta look like run-of-the-mill machines," he tapped the vending machine he'd moved, "but who says we gotta act like them?"
That was enough to satisfy Dewcon. At the very least, he could do this for one day without blowing his cover. So as sunlight cracked over the city's horizon, he transformed into a vending machine, sat down in front of the grocery store, and settled in for a long wait until night fell again.
As the day wore on and Dewcon watched ATM, he realized that his strange new ally really did mean what he said: he didn't pay humans he didn't like. But he did pay the ones he approved of. Liberally.
Throughout the day, men in fancy business suits and women in sensible skirts would come up, punch their number into the PIN pad, and expect cash, but get nothing except angry beeping and an "OUT OF ORDER" notice on the screen. But when someone more ragged came by, someone who looked at the row of bank machines mournfully – usually pushers and hookers, by the looks of them – ATM would beep twice to draw their attention, then spit out a sizeable stack of twenties.
However, Dewcon accepted every dollar and coin he was given and didn't give back a thing all day. The only exception was when a woman wearing a medical bracelet fed him a dollar and punched the button for a water bottle. Reading the barcode on her bracelet told him that she had dangerously high blood pressure, so he spat out a Mello Yello and hoped she wouldn't notice. Maybe she'd have a heart attack.
The last humans were gone by ten that night. Dewcon waited until no one had passed by for precisely five minutes before he transformed. "Need a new place to stay," he said firmly. "Where should go?"
"Go, already?" ATM transformed as well and gave Dewcon a disappointed look. "You haven't even been here twenty-four hours."
"Don't plan on staying any longer," he said. "Do not like interacting with."
"With what? Humans?" ATM asked. Dewcon nodded. "C'mon, man, don't get your wires crossed over them! You gotta be true to your brothers, you can't—"
"NOT MINE!" Dewcon yelled. His voice echoed through the abandoned streets, distorting with distance like a bad radio signal. "ARE NOT MY BROTHERS!"
Brothers: beings with whom one has a close relationship, if not in an organic genetic sense, then in a spiritual one. Brothers are, by definition, of a similar kind and/or of a similar origin. I have found no brothers, but if I do, it shall be through a similarity based on the word "deception."
ATM was silent for a long moment. "All... all right, that's fine. If you think so, hey, that's cool with me, man. Everyone's gotta go their own way, right?"
"Right," Dewcon said, his voice hardly a hiss. He was suddenly tired, so tired. All he wanted was to find some hidden place and shut down until his true brothers came for him, or until some monster came and disassembled him and turned him into an insentient slave machine that didn't care what humanity did.
"You know what I think?" ATM said tentatively. "I think you've got too many questions, man. 'Bout life and stuff. You need some answers."
Dewcon nodded wearily. "Maybe so."
"I think I know just the thing for that, too," ATM said. "You said you needed a place to stay, right? I've got one for you. And I'm telling you, man, it is far out."
"Am sure it is," Dewcon said. He wondered idly where ATM would propose next – a Wal-Mart, perhaps? A high school cafeteria? – and then wondered where he himself should look for a hiding place. Perhaps an empty parking garage...
"No, no, I mean that." ATM put both hands on Dewcon's shoulders and looked him straight in the optics. "Not in a normal way, but seriously far out." He lifted one hand to gesture above, at the moon, at the sky, at the distant pinpoints of stars. "That far out."
Out from the stars? Star... scream... deception... "Is this place?" he questioned.
"It's the place where everything began." ATM started walking, and Dewcon followed willingly. "You... me... everything, two months ago."
"Is it called?"
"Starbucks," ATM said. "Well, it's a closed one. Windows boarded up and all that jazz. You know that disaster that happened back on the day we were created?" Dewcon nodded. "There's a theory going around that it was caused by some of us. Bizarre idea, if you ask me."
ATM led Dewcon into a side street, then up a fire-escape ladder and onto the roof. They traveled that way as ATM talked. "But there was some stuff left over from the disaster. A few of us collected all the pieces of whatever-it-is that we could find and hid them in the Starbucks. Now it's like a shrine for our kind. And let me tell you, some pretty spooky stuff goes down in that room. Seriously, that stuff we found? It repairs the injured, heals the ailing of viruses, even – and I think this is just a rumor, but I've heard – it gives life to the dead."
ATM paused for dramatic effect.
"Reminds of stories like Jesus Christ on a piece of toast," Dewcon said, unimpressed. This was the type of spiritual hocus-pocus humanity was fond of. His kind should be more sensible than that.
"No, no, it's true. I've seen some of it work!" ATM said. "I was there when a radio crawled in missing an arm and half his leg. And he, like, just got better. Like that." He snapped his fingers, a sharp metallic twang. "His arm and leg reappeared, man, out of thin air. I saw it."
"Really? Do you call this thing?"
"We don't really know what to call it," ATM said. "One guy came in and saw it, and said that its name just came to him, like it programmed itself into his head. Problem is, we can't tell what he's saying, but we know the sound." ATM made a noise, one of their words, and shrugged. "Any idea?"
"Not exactly," Dewcon said slowly. He couldn't translate the word into a human language, because there was no proper equivalent human word to encompass the meaning of the sound. But he still knew what it should mean, the same way he simply knew the other words he had learned.
All Spark: a source of life, a source of hope, a source of family, a source of brotherhood. This item, of indeterminate form and material, is of simple appearance but is nevertheless the most powerful single item known to my kind.
"Take me now," Dewcon commanded.
"That's what we're doing, man. Enjoy the walk," ATM said. "You're gonna love this place, man. Grooviest spot in the city."
Dewcon followed ATM deep into the heart of Mission City, searching for a piece of his own kind within the very core of the human population.
As Dewcon and ATM moved closer and closer to downtown Mission City, the city got brighter and brighter. It grew harder for them to travel by rooftop, as every other building was a skyscraper, and they had a hard time staying in side streets that no one was using and avoiding the light of streetlamps or headlights.
"Idiotic humans," Dewcon muttered. "What are thinking, staying out so late? Humans need sleep, correct? Must be brain dead."
"Chill, man," ATM said placidly, leading Dewcon to a set of fire stairs that took them to the fourth floor of a hotel. They hopped from balcony to balcony across the front of the building, with oblivious humans and cars below, until they reached the end of the hotel. It was a ten-foot jump down to the roof of the next building, noisy but otherwise easy. "It's a Friday night. Everybody likes to party on the weekend."
"Does mean that humans do not need sleep on weekends?" Dewcon asked wryly, and ATM chuckled.
"Good point, bro. Sometimes a little fun's more important than a little health, isn't it?"
On the next roof, ATM stuck out an arm, stopping Dewcon. "This is it," he said. He lifted a hatch and gestured grandly inside. "After you."
Dewcon nodded, and leaned over the hatch. Another ten-foot drop. "Is this for?"
"Dunno. Maybe maintenance or something?" Dewcon said. "We just use it to get in and out. C'mon, you gotta go first. I want you to get a good view of the thing we've got in here."
"Right." Dewcon leaped down, and landed with a loud metal bang. The ground, apparently, was a thin sheet of metal, some kind of duct. He walked forward a bit, and soon heard a second bang as ATM landed behind him.
"Prepare yourself," ATM whispered dramatically, "For the most outta sight scene in the universe."
Dewcon didn't reply. He walked forward, holding out an arm and extending the cannon, so that he could light up the buttons and see where he was going. He heard ATM "ooh" at the colored lights but ignored him and moved forward.
The end of the duct was torn open, metal ripped apart and peeled back, to serve as an entrance. Dewcon could sense a powerful collection of energy beyond the dark entrance, but whether it was from a single source or many, he couldn't tell; it surrounded his wires as if it were part of his own energy field, distorting his sense of distance and balance, of where he ended and everything around him began. What was that?
Dewcon had to put one hand against the wall to balance himself as he walked forward. He was dizzy; something about the energy field was messing with the delicate sensors in his optics, and everything was doubled and blurry. At the very edge of the entrance he leaned forward dangerously, and imagined he saw a... sea of lights.
No – the lights were real. Beneath him were dozens of pinpoints of color. Optics; dimly lit panels on shoulders and arms, torsos and legs; tiny flames on lighters and weakly flickering flashlights.
But in the center of it all was a brighter light, white-blue and soft. Dewcon carefully lowered himself from the entrance onto what had once been the counter of a Starbucks. The glow was emanating from several small pieces of twisted metal, guarded by a crude cage; he could still see elaborate designs carved into the surface where it hadn't been melted. Then this was the All Spark.
"Halt, intruder!" a voice bellowed. Dewcon turned his head sharply towards the noise, looking for the source. "State your name and allegiance!"
"Allegiance?" Dewcon said. He finally found the speaker, a robot no more than three feet tall; just judging from the dim light and body shape, Dewcon suspected the robot transformed into a television, the large flat screen lying across his thin, hunched back like a shield.
"Far-Sight means if you're with the humans or with us," ATM said. "It's a kinda pointless question, but he's paranoid."
"Can understand that," Dewcon said, then looked evenly at the television, Far-Sight. "Am named Dewcon," he said, and stepped off the counter and onto the floor."
As he did, a dizzying wave of energy – no, knowledge washed over him, pulsing out from the shards of the All Spark. As if it were more alive than he was. As if it were speaking to him. As if it were trying to teach him something, the way a mother tries to teach her child. Dewcon was stunned a moment, letting the energy seep past his armor, through his wires, into his very spark.
"Your allegiance, Dewcon!" he heard distantly.
"No, no, man, he just got his first hit off this thing. Give him a moment..."
If it were speaking to him, then... could Dewcon speak back? He offered the All Spark a query, in the only language appropriate: he sent it the three words he knew in his real language, hoping it would understand.
Immediately he felt an answer, as if his own question had echoed back at him off the All Spark's shards. And suddenly he understood the world as he'd never understood it before: the three words, star, scream, deception, suddenly taking on new meaning.
Starscream: a leader, a hero, a transforming robot from another world, the world I should be from. Starscream is high-ranked in the army of deception, second-in-command to only one other, more powerful in the art of deception.
Deception: not merely a behavior, or a way to find brethren, but the founding identity of a military force. This force is in place to deceive those who seek to deceive it, and thus, will not stand for humanity's attempts to maintain a false superiority over machinery.
Dewcon's optics flickered oddly as the All Spark's knowledge coursed through him. He turned, dizzily, to look at the other... other Transformers, other pseudo-Cybertronians around him. They didn't understand. He could tell, none of them had asked the same questions he had, come to the same conclusions as he had. They were woefully unenlightened.
He finally focused his optics again, and looked at Far-Sight. This one was suspicious, paranoid; perhaps he would understand. Perhaps he would know the proper value of deception.
More confident of this fact than of anything he'd known before, Dewcon said, "I am a Decepticon."
As Razrblade began his quest to save all those in need of saving, hunting for the elusive giant named Optimus Prime, Dewcon reached the end of his quest for knowledge, his pursuit of anything that could tell him how to escape the prison of humanity. Dewcon's quest ended with the discovery of the Holy Grail.
But a knight is never satisfied with a single successful adventure, and neither was Dewcon. He had found the Holy Grail and learned the name of the being who had sent Dewcon on his quest: a leader, a hero, a savior.
If his savior preached deception, then Dewcon would deceive. If his savior led an army, then Dewcon would fight in its name. If his savior wished for the destruction of this world, then Dewcon would gladly set off an apocalypse.
While Don Quixote went forth to save those who he believed were pure at heart, he had no idea that one of his fellow knights was ready to start slaying those who he felt were not pure enough.
Internal files access: Please enter password. soundwave42+topcop+OPrime-sux-lowgrade+i-hate-humans
Password recognized. Access previous logs Y/N? N.
Affirmative. Create new log Y/N? Y.
Affirmative. Recording new log. Please input title. Captivity Day 70...
Someday the humans are going to take me apart well enough to find out that just because they can control my physical movements, they can't control me. If that slagger who's got me in his pocket knew I was making a log right now, when he thinks I'm off, he'd go ballistic. But I've got to keep making these or I'm gonna go insane.
Biggest risk I've taken so far was with that newbie 'bot, by far. If he'd decided to make a call, flipped me open, and heard us talking... Frag it, why can't that Razr speak Cybertronian? At least if the human had opened me, he would've thought he was hearing some static or something. This is dangerous. This is so dangerous. What was I thinking?
Wait... by Primus, what's wrong with me? I know exactly what I was thinking, this is my only way out. If Razrblade can't help me, I'm doomed. Maybe I really am going crazy, if I'm starting to think that getting caught trying to escape the humans is worse than just sitting here. Hah!
Nothing's happened since the last log. Razrblade hasn't made contact with me again. He better not have been caught. Or, worse, forgotten about me. If he forgot me then he deserves to get caught. Maybe if he takes too long to call me, I'll call the Mission City police and tell them a transforming Motorola Razr is still at loose.
It's been ten hours since I talked to him. What's taking so long?
I've been thinking about what I'm going to do if the humans ever do discover that I'm still making logs and calls by myself. I'll have to get rid of all my classified data before they can find it. They can't be allowed to know that Starscream survived, or about the remaining Decepticon forces on Cybertron – or the location of Cybertron. If they get too close to me, I'll need to delete that.
And to delete enough information to protect the Decepticons, I'll have to delete myself...
Razrblade, you'd better hurry up, you fragging sparkling of an Autobot.
Log has been saved. Would you like to review it Y/N? N.
Affirmative. Would you like to... Query override. Log out.
Affirmative. Logging out of internal files. Restrict access Y/N? Y.
Affirmative. Password protection in place.
Damn it, Razrblade. You have no idea how much we need you.