A/N – General disclaimer: While the political system in this work is based in part on the political system that I am familiar with, i.e. the American government, this work does not represent in any way my actual political views. Because I know it's going to come up if I don't say it now.
This was longer, but the next section has a fight scene that needs re-wrote. It'll be up soon as I figure out how to make it not sound like it was written by a third-grader.
Sam glared at the caged Decepticon. "That's not true! Optimus says-"
Barricade paused in his pacing. "Boy, if you could trust everything the Autobots say, then Prime sent an innocent child up against a group of murderous psychopaths. Either he likes to send incompetent children to do his dirty work, or they've been lying to you."
"Bee's not incompetent!"
Barricade stepped toward the bars of his cell. "No, he's not. He's a resourceful soldier, a competent scout, and an unrepentant killer."
"What?! Bee's not – he wouldn't-"
"You know nothing about him, about what he's done. Nothing about any of them, and certainly nothing about me." Barricade turned and resumed pacing his tiny cage.
"Then tell me."
Cybertron, nine million years ago –
The Lord Protector glared down at the councilor. "'Allocated to more productive areas?' Would you care to… expand… on that?" Megatron's voice was soft and dangerous.
The representative of the ruling council stepped back instinctively. He recovered, glaring up at Megatron. "It means exactly that. There is a fuel shortage and resources must be sent where they can be used most efficiently."
"Cybertron has a standing army for a reason, councilor. I think that starving that army might be a little counterproductive, don't you?" Megatron reined in his temper. As therapeutic as hitting the councilor in the face would be, it wouldn't help his position any.
"Don't be melodramatic," the councilor snapped. "We're not starving anyone-"
"Yet," Blackout rumbled from his post behind Megatron. Blackout had always given the councilor a feeling like the massive bodyguard was mentally dissecting with his stare. The councilor repressed a shiver, shooting Blackout a look of studied disgust.
"We're giving the resources to those who will get the most use out of them. Waste not, want not."
"Except that we are left wanting."
Ignoring Blackout, the politician turned back to Megatron. "We can fuel ten civilians for what it takes to keep one of your war machines battle-ready, Lord Megatron. If the fuel crisis continues in such a manner, keeping the army fully supplied will require us to cut everyone else's rations by more than half. This way, we're only… inconveniencing a few to feed the many, rather then starving the many to feed the few. Surely you can see the wisdom in this."
"I can see that it's starving when it's you, but it's melodramatic when it's us."
Megatron held up a hand to quiet Blackout. "Then address the problem rather then the symptom, councilor. Approve fuel-finding expeditions-"
"Do you realize the cost of even one expedition? We've already gone over this in council! We've weighed the probability of success against the projected costs, and found that it isn't worth the risk. The failure of even one expedition would be devastating."
"So you sit and do nothing." Contempt laced Megatron's voice.
The councilor matched the Lord Protector's glare. "We are doing everything we can! We're negotiating with the H'nduk for trade rights, but these things take time. All the rationing measures are only temporary."
"The H'nduk are engaged in a civil war. The current regime – our allies and foremost supplier of fuel – are in danger of being overthrown by a fanatical faction who thinks we're mechanical demons. If the rebels win, there will be no trade of energon or raw materials of any sort. And yet, the council has forbidden us to intervene." Megatron's optics were accusing.
"We are not dictators, Lord Megatron. We do not get involved in the politics of free worlds."
"Your misplaced morals are going to get us all killed," Megatron ground out.
"Even if you disregard the moral implications, consider how much fuel it would take to mobilize the army! Not to mention the materials required for repairs, the transports that would have to be built…" the councilor tried reasoning. "The rationing-"
"Would give us enough to mount an offensive on the rebel-controlled mines. If we move now, the hardships the campaign would cause on the civilian population will be minimal. If we wait for the H'nduk government to fall, wait for diplomacy to come to the inevitable conclusion, there may not be enough supplies to get the army off the planet, no matter how strict the rationing."
"The council will never approve a war against a people who have never attacked us!"
"They won't have to attack us. They can just sit back and starve us into submission. And they will, unless the council allows me and my soldiers to act now."
The councilor drew himself up. "They aren't your soldiers, Megatron! I'll have you remember that the council controls the army!"
Megatron's optics were cold. "Does it?"
Optimus Prime's optics followed Megatron as the Lord Protector paced in frustration.
"They're going to get us all killed," Megatron was ranting, "They're destroying any chance we have of making it through this crisis intact, and they don't even seem to realize it!" Megatron gestured in short violent motions as he ranted. "They see only the short term, without addressing the future. And you're letting them run our people into the ground!"
Optimus sighed. "What would you have me do? The allocation of military resources is a council matter. Only they can make the decision to go to war, not yours or mine."
"You underestimate your influence with the council, brother."
"You overestimate it," Optimus countered. "Until the situation becomes so dire that we must declare a state of emergency, it is in the council's hands."
"We should declare a state of emergencies before it becomes dire, and escalates to the point that it cannot be fixed," Megatron growled. He dropped into the chair across from Optimus, rage spent. "Times like this, I wonder why we have a council at all. Just think of it, a benevolent monarch, who would rule wisely and absolutely-" Megatron mused, not noticing the concern growing in Optimus' optics. "Wouldn't that be better then the bureaucracy for the council?"
"Giving absolute power to one person, with nothing but his conscience to guide him? The potential for corruption is too great. It is not our way," Optimus said quietly.
Megatron fixed him with a suddenly steely look. "No, brother, it is not your way."
Accessing Cybertronian News Broadcasting System. Downloading…
"Despite reassurance from the Autobot majority leaders, concerns continue to rise over the increasingly strict rationing of fuel and raw materials. A council spokesperson spoke to the assembled rally in Iacon City, saying that, quote, 'There is no reason to for worry. The council is taking all necessary steps to bring the rationing of fuel sources to a timely and satisfactory end.' Economist, however, expressed concern over the state of trade on the H'nduk home world of Kor'th. So far all attempts to negotiate with the new regime have failed, causing even greater pressure on Cybertron's already taxed fuel supplies.
"In other news, rumors are flying around Iacon City about the Lord Protector's decision to recall troops from across Cybertron. The Lord Protector ordered the army to return to Kaon yesterday, except for a small handful of soldiers guarding councilors and supply depots. No public statement has been made by the Lord Protector or the army officials regarding his intentions behind the move-"