Meeting of Minds
Screams. Curses. Wet slopping as an unwilling host struggled futilely against immersion. The wails and moans of those who had given up hope, and the indignant shouts of those who still foolishly clung to some thought of escape.
Music. Sweet music.
Visser Three watched silently as, one by one, potential hosts were dragged forward from the pens to the waiting Yeerk pool. His stately, vaguely centaur-like Andalite body possessed no mouth by which he might smile, but all the same a cold satisfaction bled through him every time a human was forced down to his knees and his head thrust into the pool to accept a Controller. This new species was perfect for the Yeerk Empire -- plentiful, physically fit, highly adaptive... and unable to resist once a Yeerk Controller had infested their body. And the humans, so skeptical of anything new and fantastic, were blissfully unaware of the invasion taking place right before their willfully-blind eyes.
And once Earth was theirs... why, it would be the stepstool to expanding the Yeerk Empire throughout the known reaches of the cosmos.
A tall, lanky human Controller stepped up at that moment, bowing low before the Visser.
"Visser Three, we have a specimin from the new species on this planet," he reported. "It is immobilized and ready for your inspection."
Good Visser Three purred. Bring it in.
The Controller nodded and hurried away to fulfill the order. Visser Three merely chuckled mentally -- lacking a mouth or vocal cords in his Andalite body, he could not laugh or speak aloud and had to rely on the Andalite's telepathic talents. But oh, what a minor setback that was compared to his host's other talents -- the speed, the grace, the intelligence, the brute physical strength... and the shapeshifting technology that the Andalites so highly prized and the Yeerks so desperately fought for.
Though this new species had shapeshifting talents of its own... and access to such fantastic technology that whatever race laid claim to it first would have a sure path to mastery of the known universe. A claim that Visser Three was determined to secure for himself.
And if they could turn this recently-captured specimin into a Controller, force him to accept a Yeerk into his body, then they were one step closer to securing the secrets of this race.
"Get your filthy hands off me, you fraggin' dirty organic!"
Visser Three laughed anew as two more Controllers -- not human, but the powerful and fearsome Hork-Bajir the Yeerks had managed to enslave early on in their quest for power -- hauled in the specimin, which was bound hand and foot in energy cuffs and bellowing louder than any other creature in the cavern, making some of the human captives quiet down and stare. The creature was not a multi-celled organism like every other living thing in the cavern. Rather, it was a robot, the height of a tall human male and its boxy body gleaming even in the dim light of the cavern. It glowered at the Visser through a glowing scarlet visor and bucked and writhed in its captors' grips.
You're a feisty one Visser Three noted, taking a slow step forward. Grasping the mechanical creature's chin in one seven-fingered hand, he forced it to meet his gaze. You can stop thrashing around now. Not only will it do you no good, but we don't want to see you... damaged in any way.
The captive's mouth dropped open in a gape, then snapped shut again. "Ya know, I've seen some weird organics in my time, but you take the grease-cake, pal. Seriously, a blue telepathic four-eyed centaur with no mouth? The Disney folks need to quit drinkin' before noon."
One of the human captives burst out laughing. Visser Three shot him a fierce glare, but the man kept cackling.
"Okay you unholy spawn of a mutant Smurf and a Fantasia reject, let's get one thing clear," the robot snapped. "You have five seconds to let me go before I radio Soundwave. And believe me, you won't like it when the Decepticon army comes rainin' down on your aft..."
Visser Three gave another mental chuckle, allowing the captive to hear it clearly. You seem to forget, robot, that we have disabled your radio...
"Name's Rumble, jack-aft," it retorted. "And the proper term's Cybertronian -- or mech if your lazy. Not robot, that's derogatory."
Very well, mech Visser Three purred. And please, do calm down. You are an honored guest among us. The first Decepticon ambassador among the Yeerk Empire.
Rumble snorted. "Oh, for the love of Primus, Yeerk? Sounds like someone hacked up a greaseball while they were naming your species..."
Visser Three's arm snapped forward once again, this time gripping the captive's throat. Rumble froze, going instantly silent. The mech was in no danger of being throttled to death, and they both knew it... but a simple squeeze would be all it would take for the Visser to tear through the Decepticon's main fuel line...
That's better Visser Three noted, dropping his arm. And really, one would think you would appreciate the honor we are about to bestow upon you -- the honor of being the first among your kind to accept a Yeerk partner.
A Yeerk partner. A representative of our species who would live inside you, sharing their wisdom and intelligence, providing their insight. All they would ask in return is a little use of your own body and mind. Just a little.
Rumble's jaw dropped again. "Oh, you gotta be kidding me. This has gotta be a weird dream... Frenzy, last time I watch 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' with you, ya hear me? Now somebody slap me awake..."
This is no dream, mech Visser Three informed him. You have been selected for this priviledge...
"Priviledge? Having a freaky alien living in my CPU? That's not a priviledge in my book..."
Then you decline the honor?
"Slag yeah, I decline the honor," Rumble hissed, thrashing anew.
Visser Three would have smiled had he had the ability. As it was, he simply switched his tail and gave a sinister telepathic laugh. I am afraid, Decepticon, that you have no choice in the matter. Take him to the pool.
"The pool? What, I gotta be clean before one of your Yeerk buddies'll take me? Organics are weird... hey, lemmie go! Hey! Stop! Where ya takin' me?"
The Hork-Bajir Controllers dragged their captive to the brink of the Yeerk pool, pushing aside the other waiting captives and forcing him to his knees at the pool's edge. This close the captive could now clearly see the pool's contents -- hundreds upon hundreds of sluglike Yeerks, blind and squirming within the sludgy grayish fluid that nourished them, each awaiting a host... willing or unwilling.
"That's just wrong," Rumble complained, expression twisting in disgust. "You're really not gonna stick my head in there, are you..."
Put him in! ordered the Visser.
"Hey, wait just a..." began Rumble, but a clawed Hork-Bajir hand clamped down on the top of the mech's head and shoved it under the surface of the pool.
Ifrit 259 would have screamed in joy had he possessed vocal chords when he finally found a chink in the warm metal, allowing him access inside the Decepticon's head. The Yeerks in this pool had all been chosen as likely candidates to control the Decepticon captive and use him to infiltrate their base, but whoever would be the lucky Controller was left entirely up to chance. Yeerks had no gods, but obviously Ifrit was blessed by some power to have been the strongest, the fastest, the cleverest of the chosen to be the first to possess this creature.
Squeezing his boneless, flexible body into the gap where the Decepticon's head met his neck joint, he wriggled his way through still more gaps, seeking and searching. His kind had evolved perfectly to take control of the minds of other species, being able to slip into all but the smallest orifices to enter the skull, to pierce bone and membrane when necessary, to finally reach the brain and fuse with it, mastering the host, taking possession of memory and body in one fell swoop...
There... just ahead. Even sightless as he was, he could still sense this beings conscious mind burning away before him, radiating anger and fear. Practically wriggling with elation, Ifrit reached forward to touch the mech's brain, to be the first Yeerk to truly see into a Decepticon's mind...
And received a terrible shock. Literally.
What the... It was the mech, who had been squirming and thrashing all this time to escape his fate but now froze in surprise. Get the frag out of there! Stop messin' with my circuits!
Undaunted, Ifrit reached out again... and felt a jolting agony fill his tissues. Ow! Stop that!
I ain't doing a thing! he protested. A thoughtful pause. Wait a sec, what exactly are you doing in there?
Trying to find your brain, foolish creature Ifrit snapped. You seem to have it buried under these wires... some defense mechanism?
Silence. Then... wild laughter, both from the physical body and from his mind.
What's so funny?
You... you actually thought... that us Cybertronians have organic brains? Oh Primus, that's funny! When I get back to the Nemesis I gotta tell Frenzy about you stupid Hurks...
Whatever. Name's Rumble. Who's sharing headspace with me?
Ifrit 259. Now tell me where your brain is located.
Dude, I'm a Cybertronian. A mechanical life form. I ain't got an organic brain. I think with a CPU -- you know, central processing unit? Or have your kind not invented that yet?
That's impossible. No robot can think for itself or have a personality!
You just met one that does, Mr. Ifrit whatever-number-you-were. And what, ya think I was a cyborg or something, like General Grievous?
Never mind. Ya think I got my brain in a little tank or something in here?
It has happened before. A few species practice such...
Visser Three's mental voice cut in at that moment. Controller, report!
Ifrit froze, trembling. How could he make a report to the Visser when the creature he was supposed to control didn't even have a brain to seize...
Rumble had no such fears. He straightened and turned, and Ifrit got the feeling that he had twisted around to face Visser Three. "Ifrit 295 reporting, sir!"
That's 259 he corrected automatically.
Whatever Rumble retorted.
Then the taking of the Decepticon's mind was successful. It was a statement, not a question.
"Yes, sir," Rumble replied, keeping his voice at a neutral monotone. Ifrit's world dipped and tilted dangerously as his would-be host bowed deeply before the Visser.
Excellent. Most excellent. Such a powerful race... yet so vulnerable to our methods. If we can but control a few dozen more, our conquest of this planet will be assured. All races will bow before us!
Return to your host's base, Ifrit! Visser Three commanded. Learn all you can about his species, then return here. We will use your information to plan our takeover of these Decepticons... and take them as our own.
Another cold laugh. As much as I enjoy this Andalite body... perhaps a change of pace is needed. Perhaps that silver leader of theirs will make a suitable host... such power, such intelligence...
"Yes, sir." Despite all Rumble's attempts to keep a straight face, Ifrit could detect a perverse amusement leaking through his voice.
Go now ordered the Visser. Go forth and conquer! For the glory of the Empire!
"Yes, sir," Rumble replied. "For the glory of the Empire..."
"Yes, sir." And Ifrit was jostled about further as Rumble turned again and jogged for the exit.
Primus, it's harder than it looks to act brainwashed. Though notice I didn't say WHICH Empire when I told him "for the glory..."
You overdid it.
Like I need acting critique from a brain-sucking slug.
I'm not brain-sucking!
Ifrit struck out again at Rumble's consciousness, only to find wires and motherboards instead of a brain... and electrical current that flung him back. How is this possible...
Two hours ago, pal, I didn't believe in a lake of brain-parasitic slugs being led by a Disney acid trip, and you didn't believe in giant robotic life forms that could actually think for themselves. Let's call it even, Ifrit 42 or whatever.
Two. Five. Nine. I am Ifrit. Two. Five. Nine.
What difference does it make?
All the difference in the universe! It is my identity -- I am the two hundred and fifty ninth Yeerk of the Ifrit spawn...
Spawn? Eww, sounds gross. And frag, two hundred and fifty nine? You Yeerks ever hear of birth control? Oh wait, it's "take over the universe by reproduction," isn't it? You organics are weird...
Just shut up and let me out of here! Ifrit turned around and tried to wriggle back out of Rumble's cranial shell the way he had come, but the various wires and tubes and other robotic components kept tangling him up.
Watch what you're poking in there! Rumble snapped.
Poking... that was it. If he could disable the mech from within, he could prevent him from reaching headquarters, and there would still be hope of getting back to the Yeerk pool and Visser Three, reporting his failure and the unsuitability of Decepticons as proper hosts. The Visser would be furious, but hopefully not furious enough to order Ifrit 259's destruction...
Don't even think about it, pal.
I wasn't thinking... wait, how did you know... you can read minds?
When you hang out with Soundwave long enough, you pick up a few things. I ain't nearly good enough to read anyone's mind, but I can pick up really loud thoughts -- especially the really loud thoughts of isomeone who's freakin' in my head!/i
Your meager telepathic powers won't help you here Ifrit informed him. It will take more than mind-reading to stop me. And he felt around for a good-sized cable or fuel line that would potentially cause great damage if he punctured it...
Can't settle down in there? Then how about if I sing you a song?
Say what? was all Ifrit could get out before Rumble launched into an annoying ditty, pure malicious relish filling the Decepticon's mind as he continued on his journey.
"This is the song that never ends -- yes, it goes on and on, my friends -- some people started singing it, not knowing what it was -- and they'll continue singing it forever just because..."
Aargh! Ifrit felt himself curling at the sound of the tune... one that just kept cycling over and over through the mech's thoughts. Was this some kind of telepathic torture? These devious Decepticons...
Just a weird human song Rumble interrupted the song loop long enough to explain. But it's so much FUN! Me and Frenzy used it to annoy the slag out of Onslaught... whoopsie. And before Ifrit could recover enough to attack, Rumble started the song again.
The next hour was torture for the Yeerk as Rumble continued to make his way back to the Decepticon base, all the while mentally broadcasting all sorts of inane Terran junk to keep his "passenger" occupied. Just as Ifrit felt he was beginning to build some meager resistance against the Song That Never Ends, Rumble cut it off mid-stanza and abruptly switched to something ludicrous about "Peanut Butter Jelly Time," even including a mental image of an anthromorphic Terran fruit executing some strange little dance. After a few rounds of that, he switched to a bizarre tune about "Spongebob Squarepants," then some gibberish about "Charlie the Unicorn." Somewhere in the haze of agonizing mental pain Ifrit had to wonder if this mech made it his mission to gather as much annoying audio material as possible.
"...aw man, they took my freakin' kidney!" And here we are, Decepticon base! You just hold tight in there until I can find Hook, all right?
Ifrit managed to slightly uncurl himself, shivering. Hook? Who's Hook? Your esteemed leader?
Nope! That's Megatron! Hook's our CMO -- Cranky Medical Officer. Just the kind of guy to see when you've got a telepathic parasitic slime tumor in your CPU.
I am NOT a slime tumor!
I notice you didn't protest the parasitic part... STOP RIGHT THERE! And just as Ifrit reached what felt like a main fuel line leading to the CPU, Rumble blasted him with a cloyingly sweet tune as "loud" as he possibly could.
"I love you, you love me, we're a happy family..."
"How is it that you manage to get yourself into these situations, Rumble?" Hook demanded, increasing the magnification of his visor a few more notches before carefully inserting the tweezers between a few wires. As tempting as it was, he had no wish to disturb the cassette's cerebral wiring any more than necessary -- Soundwave didn't get angry often, but his wrath, when incurred, was almost legendary in its intensity.
"Not my fault," Rumble muttered, face tense with concentration. He didn't elaborate any further, which was very unusual for him... but then, he had most of his processor focused on keeping the Yeerk distracted so it didn't attempt damage on any of his systems. And Hook felt it in his best interests to not distract him from that.
"There it is," Hook said, mostly to himself, as he gingerly teased the creature out of Rumble's cranial shell. Six inches long and a sickly glistening green-tan in color, it writhed in the grip of the surgeon's tweezers like a captured snake.
"Is it out?" asked Rumble.
"Yes, it's out," Hook replied, snapping the back of the cassette's cranial shell shut.
"Thank Primus," Rumble sighed as he hopped down from the operating table. "I would've had to start using my Hannah Montana collection on him if he'd been in there any longer. Eww, so THAT'S what he looks like. Mighty race bent on conquering the cosmos, eh Ifrit? Hah! More like a race of living boogers."
Hook was about to ask what a booger was, then decided he didn't want to know. "If you're done making astute observations regarding your parasite, you may go. Don't you have a report to deliver to Megatron?"
"If ya wanted me to go, you coulda just said something," huffed Rumble, stalking off.
Hook studied the Yeerk for a moment longer, pondering. If these creatures truly were intelligent, as Rumble had explained, perhaps Megatron would want to see this representative of the species. Then again, Megatron's deals with organic aliens had a bad reputation of never working out as planned...
Hook shrugged and dropped the tweezers into a jar of sterilizing solution, slug and all. What Megatron didn't know wouldn't hurt anyone.