The Transformers are not mine. They are Hasbro's.
Extra special thanks for iratepirate for helping me beta this chapter. ;)
Solar cycle: day
Lunar cycle: night
"Such shrapnel in the cogs," Ratbat commented. The local news broadcast was reporting an occurring riot, and predicted a much bigger incident as it referenced a past event, when those said low-class anarchists burned down a vital government building. "Short-sighted mechs. Destroying, pillaging as they see fit." He particularly hated the image of mechs yelling provocations while taking down a wire fence and burning tires.
In the distant past, the people were reacting to energon shortages, while in Ratbat's reign, they were predicted to stir chaos because of insecurity.
Ratbat's clenched fist and gritted dentals described his emotions clearer than any words. The crowds could take him down upon the slightest mistake, and he wasn't ready to live amongst them anytime soon. Ratbat would rather deactivate himself than live in poverty.
To save his position, Ratbat had to gain the public's favor. And it was no easy task, with the majority of people displeased by the current government. What could a single pebble do to straighten a crumbling pillar? He didn't even realize he was rubbing his temples again, blank stare meeting a flurry of images before him. What a wonderful way to start the solar cycle.
"Senator, The Kaon Tribunes' public polling results are gathered," his assistant notified him, but Ratbat wasn't the slightest bit interested in the information.
"The polling result: critical for your next judgement."
"Stand down, Soundwave. You know better than to challenge me."
Through the corners of his optic, Ratbat saw the brightly burning yellow visor but remained oblivious to his assistant's frustration. "I insist, Senator Ratbat. Kaon Tribunes: responsible for taking the polls. Surveys: conducted directly on the streets. The facts are gathered from the people themselves. It will provide the best solution for your current predicament."
The Kaon Tribunes was the largest local news corporation. That perked Ratbat's interest. "What a coincidence," he regarded Soundwave fully, optics scanning the other's, scrutinizing. "And what predicament are you referring to, my dear child?"
"Senator Ratbat's reign: predicted as short lived," the visor blazed in challenge.
Ratbat's optics narrowed in building rage, silently promising a whole world of hurt. His own creation or not, there would be consequences for looking down upon the winged Senator and his capabilities. His fists were clenched, ready to deliver said consequences. He didn't need to be reminded of his position.
"Prediction: could be proven erroneous," Soundwave continued. Ratbat's rage quickly dissipated, newfound hope resided in its place. "The polls could be put to your advantage."
"Show me," Ratbat gave in, retreating to his chair, but not sitting on it. Soundwave nodded and continued his duty.
A statistic chart was shown on the screen. It was about a survey of what the government could do about present Kaon, and the people's answers were gathered as a poll. The majority of people wished that a particular rapidly-growing street market on an important road be closed, because it was hindering transport and often caused traffic jams.
Aside from the government, the public was also tired of the market getting in the way, delaying them in fulfilling their roles. Not to mention the thugs and rogues crawling the market during nights.
Ratbat read in silence, absorbed in thoughts. This wish was easy enough, he mused. He would give them that, if it would shut them up. "Mobilize the Autobots and bulldoze those vermin flat," he ordered. "Send a notification to their leader – they must have one – to remove themselves before the end of the deca-cycle, or face severe punishments," Ratbat finished. "Now, on to the next..."
"Course of action: not recommended," Soundwave said, a little too bravely, and was swiftly punished. Ratbat walked up to him quickly, anger boiling in his face as the back of his hand impacted the side of Soundwave's helm. The strength left the educated slave reeling; he lowered his head as one of his indigo servos reached up to touch where the hit had occurred.
"Enough of this disobedience!" Ratbet bellowed, massaging his hurting servo as he looked at his underling, "I overlooked the first one, because you had some important information to deliver. I had assumed that you know your place and would not repeat the blunder. But clearly I was mistaken." He lowered the strength of his speech, whispering like an angry ghost. "Give me one reason, one very good reason, why your judgement precedes mine."
Lucky for Soundwave, that statement wasn't rhetorical; Ratbat was seeking an answer. Despite the aggression, he was willing to listen. That was the only thing that mattered to Soundwave as he elaborated further. "Deploying Autobots: risking the uprising of the potential riot. The street market: the merchants' source of living. Bulldozing the market will only provide them more reason to take up arms and assault you."
Ratbat scrunched his optic ridges together. He had to admit, Soundwave had a point. "And when that happens, I assume you'd take the place of the loyal, obedient servant and stake your life for my protection."
Soundwave was silent for a second, letting the words sink into his processor and proceeding to calculate the possible outcomes. "I... would happily oblige, Senator. But, even if your life is successfully preserved by sacrificing mine, the results of that action would still be unsatisfactory," Soundwave explained further, knowing that Ratbat couldn't live as an outcast, stripped of his rank and wealth. "Course of action: highly faulty," Soundwave heavily repeated.
He just implied that Ratbat wouldn't be pleased by the result anyway if the bulldozing idea was to be commenced. This slave, his assistant, was really daring for someone whose life depended solely on the kindness of his master. Ratbat tried peeking at the possible sentimental reasons. Maybe affection was responsible for pushing this telepath past the limits of Ratbat's patience. Maybe this youngling was honestly concerned for Ratbat's well-being. Maybe Soundwave had put his whole intelligence and knowledge in building the correct solution to his problem. And maybe, that mechling had grown into the ideal assistant he had been so keen on having.
"If you insist," Ratbat replied. Soundwave gave the telltale signs of saying 'Finally!' in the amount of air he vented and his relaxing posture. "Advise me, then. What move would be acceptable for you, Soundwave?"
"Lobby them as you would your colleagues," his assistant offered, and Ratbat had to restrain himself to not laugh. A chortle and a bitterly amused grin came out however. "Have the merchants select their representatives and invite them for supper." Idealistic, his next impression on Soundwave was.
"Are you suggesting that I should lull them with high-grades?" Ratbat abruptly cut his assistant's speech, "They might be pitiful, but they're not as stupid as you have just implied."
"Negative," Soundwave lifted his hand to interrupt, "The purpose of the supper is to show our goodwill and let their anger wane, so they would accept their relocation better."
"Goodwill? Relocation, Soundwave?" the superior ranking one amongst them smirked, amused at the diplomatic choice of words. Ratbat watched as another image was presented on the large screen. It was a market field the Kaon government had recently built to accommodate those merchants, but was neglected as they continued selling their goods on the main street, closer to the crowds. Soundwave was going to make them move out of the streets to a more suitable place.
It started to look realistic. The bitter laugh and chortles looked unnecessary to Ratbat as Soundwave laid out his plans. "And allowing their anger to wane? I doubt one supper is enough... Are you implying that several... arrangements are necessary?"
Soundwave nodded, visor blazing in acknowledgement. "Affirmative."
"The duration of the plan?"
"Approximately twelve deca-cycles," Soundwave added, "preferably one invitation each deca-cycle."
Folding his servos in front of his chassis, Ratbat put everything Soundwave said into consideration. "So, I'm supposed to invite them twelve times, and tell them of their relocation during the twelfth meeting."
His assistant nodded. "Affirmative."
"You assume their anger would have waned by then," Ratbat pointed at his assistant, but quickly lowered his finger. "Do I have to dispatch the Autobots?" Ratbat inquired further, interest thoroughly ensnared by the plan. "For security measures?"
"Autobots: unnecessary. Useless for your plans. Carrying military forces: not a sign of goodwill." Nodding in agreement, Ratbat acknowledged the advice Soundwave had given.
"And what do you want in return," Ratbat turned towards the shining yellow visor of the masked mech, optics softened in gratitude, "in exchange for this proposal, my child?"
He didn't get his answer. Soundwave chose to keep his quiet. His helm was humbly lowered.
"You couldn't possibly trade this..." Ratbat gestured at the screen, "... brilliance for nothing. This could possibly save my afterburner, and you risked my wrath providing me the details," he continued, trying to rationalize his underling, "You aren't that generous," two fingers pointed accusingly.
Again, the unreadable silence and mask. The visage provided no opening into the emotion behind it. Ratbat scrunched his optic ridges together. He still found Soundwave's loyalty too good to be true. Everything had a price. His only underling must have been expecting something in return. He just hadn't named it.
"I don't believe you," narrowing his optics, Ratbat turned towards the computer console again. "I'm going to acquire your answer later." He quickly shifted from affectionate parent mode to work mode. "Tell our subjects to select their representatives in the next megacycle and have the invitation ready. Present it to me by the beginning of the lunar cycle."
"Acknowledged, Senator Ratbat," the monotone echoed. A series of clicks coming from the control panel's keyboards later, he intoned again, "message: sent. Awaiting response." Next, an empty document spread was shown on the screen.
My, aren't you eager to obey, a voice complimented in Ratbat's head. He was willing to wait for several hours but apparently his assistant would not let him. Gladly, he played along.
"Good. There are several dining invitations I've made in the past. Use them as references." Other digital documents popped up, about seven in total. They were Ratbat's past invitations, generously laden with royal verbiage. His assistant worked to suit the invitation for the lower-class citizen's language without trying to underestimate their intelligence.
The body of the text was seemingly building itself when Ratbat commented, "don't forget to personalize each invitation. Find out each representative's name and memorize their faces. Imprint their respective names on each copy of the invitation." Ratbat's fingers tapped rhythmically on his chair's armrest as he patiently waited. His mood was getting pleasant.
"Acknowledged, Senator Ratbat," the reply came swiftly from the other mech, "The documents will be marked as soon as the names are available."
The document was soon completed. Soundwave let it linger on the screen, allowing Ratbat to examine it. "Acceptable. Keep it like that, Soundwave. Notify me when the names have been confirmed."
"As you command, Senator Ratbat."
Now that their job was done, Ratbat stood, cracking his knuckles and straightening his struts. "I shall dismiss myself now," he said to himself, then turned towards his servant. "Do you wish to follow or remain?"
Soundwave hesitated before replying, "I wish to follow."
"Your cat could use a bath," Ratbat supplied an idea. "You can chase him towards the washracks. I'll prepare the decontamination tub."
"Negative. Ravage had been decontaminated recently."
"Hm," Ratbat mumbled, "that would explain the prominent scratches on your servos. Show me that." Soundwave obeyed quickly, sticking his hand out for quick examination.
"Damage: superficial," the younger mech commented as Ratbat gently ran his purple fingers across the indigo palm. The blue metal was riddled with shallow scratches, and several patches of peeled paint. True, it was nothing serious. But it was spread quite widely, from the fingers to around his wrists.
"Your appearance is flawed," Ratbat locked his optics on said flaws in his subordinate's servos, "Minor enough, but they are kinda hard to miss. I should help you fix these. Go and get yourself seated in the living room. I shall fetch the necessary tools."
Sometime later, the both of them were sitting quietly facing each other as Ratbat busied himself with Soundwave's hand, which rested in his own.. The indigo fingers curled compliantly upon his touch, warm against Ratbat's purple ones.
Ratbat's memories drifted back to when those servos were smaller, colder, and lifeless. That twist of events was unwanted; but without that, would that youngling have turned into this mech? The decision to remove that Spark was hastily taken, without being given proper consideration. He had wanted Soundwave to survive, to function; but never wanted to reprogram him into a slave. Pit, Soundwave could try to kill him and he'd find that an acceptable outcome. But instead, Soundwave was seemingly grovelling in gratitude.
Still, his loyalty was questionable. "Name your price," Ratbat suddenly inquired, rubbing his waxed cloth harder against the dark blue palm. "What do you want in return? What do you expect to gain?" He asked without looking away from his job.
Soundwave wasn't expecting that question. "Senator Ratbat: rescued my Spark willingly. Dedication and loyalty: most reasonable trade."
With Soundwave seated, Ratbat had easy access to the other's helmet. The Senator let go of the palm he had been working on and walked until he was positioned behind his assistant, purple hands roaming around the place where his rage had previously impacted, and gently touched the spot.
Soundwave went rigid, fingers tightly curled around the edge of the armrests. It was the first time Ratbat had approached him in a non-hostile way and made contact. He found his body unused to such action.
"Spare me your sentimental slag. I still remember your dying moments," Ratbat reminisced, the memory as clear as rainwater in his mind. "You were quite daring back then; taking advantage over my grief and asking for a cat. Why not now?"
Ratbat was coaxing Soundwave to give a price for his loyalty. He wouldn't understand Soundwave's position; his whole life was full of mutual trades. Soundwave was the type of servant who would always give; it was part of his new processor's customization. "Situation: different."
"Hmph," the purple mech's hands were retreating, and Soundwave eased his tension. Somehow Ratbat had predicted his adopted mech's answer. Soundwave wasn't willing to give his price. Not yet. He knew Soundwave would wait to strike at the right moment. He was always like that: clever, cunning, and like his adopter, an acute opportunist.
Ratbat could only hope that when Soundwave had decided upon a price, he would still be capable of paying.
"So perverse," Ratbat took his tools and stashed them away. He glanced at the indigo fingers he had fixed. "There. Flawless and modest, just like you," he commented at the finish: matte paint, not too shiny but neatly covering the entire metal with opaque blue.
"Service and compliment: appreciated," the younger mech nodded.
"My pleasure," Ratbat waved his hand dismissively, "it's a refreshing change from the usual paperwork. Anyway, any news on the names?"
"Affirmative, Senator. Eleven names."
A/N: I really love readers. Especially those who left tracks: a name on my inbox. I mean, review please? Or favorite, or anything. I'd be really, really thankful. Just tell me what you like, what you don't like, whether the story is too fast or too slow. Your time (and clicks) would be very much appreciated. See you soon! ;)