A/N: Author's Notes are now at the bottom.
Chapter 7: Babel
"Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."
"Our principle is that the party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the party."
~Mao Zedong, human revolutionary, political theorist, and communist leader (Chinese)
"The democracies of the twentieth century; those noble experiments failed because the people had been led to believe that they could simply vote for whatever they wanted… and get it, without toil, without sweat, without tears."
~ Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein, human author and Annapolis graduate (American)
"Receiving transmission from Battle Frontier," NUNS First Lieutenant Cathy Glass announced from her position on the SMS Quarter's bridge. The daughter of the late President Howard Glass, Cathy had served as NUNS's liaison with SMS ever since the Vajra War. That she was going out with Major Ozma Lee, leader of SMS's Skull Squadron, also had something to do with her insistence on staying in her post.
"Open hailing frequencies," Captain Jeffery Wilder of the SMS Quarter replied, sitting up as the face of Admiral Perry replaced the various charts, graphs, and tables on his heads-up display. "Good day, Admiral. What new developments have occurred?"
"Good day, Captain," Perry replied. "First Contact with another alien race. President Ikari is linked as well. Switching to live feed from your planetside base."
"Very well," Wilder said as the HUD split into four parts, three small screens that held the faces of Perry, Ikari, and Brera Sterne and one that, confusingly enough, only showed, several cars and motorcycles huddled together. Things started making more sense as the vehicles transformed into robots.
As captain, it was Wilder's job to keep calm in the face of everything. Yet even he was a little awed by the various transformations happening before his eyes. They hearkened back to childhood memories, to the sense of wonder and awe he had felt upon seeing a Valkyrie transform for the first time. But this wasn't just a mecha transformation.
"This is art!" First Officer Bobby Margot exclaimed, his eyes on the large red truck that folded into itself over and over, each fold forming new connections and new parts until a humanoid form emerged, an extremely ornate form that caused Wilder and Perry to briefly wonder how much damage it would take to break something.
Once all the vehicles were finished transforming, the truck introduced itself.
"Greetings. I am Optimus Prime, leader of the Autonomous Robotic Organisms from the planet Cybertron. I bring a message, a warning of danger to your world. Out story is a long one, but I will try to condense it as much as I can. Will you hear it?"
"Proceed," said the talking head of President Ikari. Prime nodded and tapped his forehead, causing an incredibly lifelike 3D display to emit from his eyes as he narrated.
"Before time began, there was…the Allspark. We know not where it comes from, only that it holds the power to create worlds and fill them with life. That is how our race was born."
A world made not of earth or liquid or gas but steel. At its center, a massive cubical construct, covered in arcane runes, pulsating with energy. Thirteen thin, wiry humanoid frames, each alike, but also different.
"Over millennia, we flourished and established a civilization on our homeworld of Cybertron. With the passing of eons, we spread among the stars. We were a peaceful people and wished live in harmony among the universe's races. But there were those who did not share our wish."
A jet-black aerial vehicle descended upon an unknown world, bracing itself with legs formed out of engines and tailfins, gazing in wonder at its unfamiliar surroundings as the plane's nose slid back to reveal a face. A gaggle of tall, dinosauroid aliens covered in blades climbed into hiding places in massive trees, save for one with the temerity to make first contact. Glittering metal spires and towers rose from the ground, reaching like so many aspiring hands towards space. Out of nowhere, a massive disk floated ominously overhead and sent a hellish beam raining downwards from its center, obliterating everything in its path, throwing up clouds of debris and mecha parts. Waves of three-legged walkers landed from the disk, their energy beams scything through those few who remained.
"To defend ourselves, we built armies – masses of drones, supported by powerful Guardian Robots. But they were not enough, and so we created the Decepticons - a volunteer force of Cybertronians who would use our transformation abilities in combat."
Waves of robots, their bodies intricate and advanced, their eyes lacking the brilliant spark of their cousins, emerged from factories surrounding the Cube. Gigantic machines covered in weaponry stood tall in their midst like lords of war. At the forefront, a group of Cybertronians – proper Cybertronians – formed up, led by one of regal yet sinister bearing, a massive cannon attached to one of his arms. All around him, a mechanical city cheered.
"Then came the day we were betrayed. Megatron, the general of our armies, wanted to install himself as leader of Cybertron, and so began the Great War – a war that consumed our worlds until they were filled with nothing but savagery and death. All who resisted him were destroyed, until we made a terrible sacrifice."
Burning. Everything was burning. Inhabitants of the cheering city ran through ruined blocks as volleys of fire flashed all around them. Once-great lecture halls, public parks, sport arenas, centers of art and culture, and countless other constructs reduced to rubble. Drone and Cytertronian parts littered the ground. Guns roared. Blades hummed. Missiles screamed. The ground cracked, and lava poured forth as the planet itself wept for its children. A single capsule escaped from Cybertron, leaving an empty cubical socket, dying factories, and the parts of countless Cybertronians in its wake. A single robot staggered about the landscape, until a flying spear impaled its midsection. The regal and sinister one roared its anger to the heavens.
"We knew Megatron was after the Allspark, and would use it to create an army with which to rule the galaxy. In desperation, we shot the Allspark into the far reaches of space, far from Megatron's grasp. From that day on, both sides' goal turned from annihilation to recovering the cube. We scattered across the galaxy, searching every star, every world, hoping to find it and rebuild our home – or, in Megatron's case, settle the conflict once and for all. No progress had been made in five hundred thousand years – until now."
A great exodus. A massive space battle. Two human females, glowing pink and green. Millions of nodes extending from them to millions of Insecticons and human fighters, each connection pulsating with energy to the beat of "Lion."
"Your ability to tap into the Insecticon FoldWeb has shown Megatron a way by which the Allspark may be found. It is imperative that this does not happen. Our war has come to your world. Will you help us?"
All who were connected by the video link murmured and discussed amongst themselves, and Optimus's Autobots found themselves answering many questions from the humans.
"Here's what I don't get," Ikari said, scratching his head. "If you Autobots controlled this – this Allspark, why didn't you just raise an army with that and fight the Decepticons with it?"
"Freedom is the right of all sentient beings, President," Prime said, his optics narrowing. "We made a mistake in doing so with the Decepticons. How could we in good conscience repeat that mistake?"
"Also, any new soldiers we make were liable to go over to Megatron's side. He can offer them infinitely more outlets for their abilities than we could," Ironhide added. "It may benefit us for a while, but in the long run it harms more than it helps."
"You mentioned that you were looking for…for us 'little queens'. Where's Sheryl?" Ranka asked. She was concerned for the older woman, especially given the abduction attempt that she found herself the subject of. Arcee, Ironhide, and Jazz looked down.
"The Decepticons have her," Arcee said, a little shamefully. "I'm sorry. I was unable to fight off Blackout and Scorponok both–"
An emotionless metallic voice cut in as an icon bearing the Decepticon insignia joined the icons on the HUD screen.
"Greetings, representatives of the New United Nations Spacy. I am Soundwave, Intelligence Director of the Decepticon Empire," the voice said. "Sheryl Nome and her consort Alto Saotome are safe under the protection of my subordinate."
Ikari, Perry, and Wilder kept their composure, even as all around them technicians and communications personnel descended into a buzz of activity, working frantically to find out how someone could have eavesdropped on and inserted themselves into a conversation guarded by NUNS's most stringent security and encryption protocols without anyone noticing. If Soundwave could do that, then he could also insert viruses and inflict general all-round nastiness upon NUNS's systems should a shooting war start.
"Well, that's nice to know, Director Soundwave," Ikari said. "I suppose you're here to tell us about your side of things?"
"Correct," Soundwave replied. "It would only be logical that one should choose sides only after hearing the stories of both."
"True," Ikari said, nodding. "Alright, shoot."
The beat-up police car wasn't a normal police car. Alto and Sheryl had come to that conclusion since it ignored their protests and drove away from the nearest shelter and into the parking garage of one of the more popular nightclubs in the area. The doors remained closed and locked when they tried to get out. That the driver did not respond to Sheryl's quip about the lack of donut shops nearby confirmed the suspicion that there was more than meets the eye with this cop.
"I think we can drop the pretense," Sheryl said, snuggling up next to Alto. "Who are you, and what do you want?" Given the strange events the two had seen, neither were all that surprised when the car's dashboard and parts of its radio mashed together to form a face.
"I am Barricade," it said. "My race is dying, and we need your help. Will you hear my tale?"
Sheryl shrugged. "Yeah, sure."
"Not like we have a choice in the matter," Alto added.
"Very well," Barricade said.
Memories. Alto and Sheryl soon realized that they were seeing a pre-recorded set of memories, broadcast for them on a 3D display.
"I and others like myself come from the planet Cybertron. It is far from here, and not recorded in any of your star charts. Our story begins with the Cube – an artifact about which we know very little, only that it birthed our race. Our civilization spanned the galaxy, but as we spread, we attracted much in the way of unwanted attention. Some wanted our technology. Others found us an affront to their beliefs. All in all, we found that in the grim darkness of this galaxy, there was only war."
Tusked greenskins that waved crude guns and axes and charged with ramshackle armor. Self-mutilating madmen in ships adorned with blood and body parts raided world after world. Howling blue-eyed creatures with skin like lava that attacked everything within sight. Aliens like these and stranger descended upon newly born metal worlds, raiding, looting, and destroying.
"Our culture had venerated peace, and we were loathe to partake in violence ourselves. And so we built armies of drones for grunt work and Guardian robots for heavy firepower. But drones lacked the Spark of true sentience, and Guardians, while powerful, were tactically inflexible. Thus, it fell on we Decepticons – Cybertronians who volunteered to pick up the soldier's burden – to defend our homes. It was a thankless task, but someone had to do it."
A thousand worlds. A thousand campaigns. A thousand enemies. Masses of identical drones formed ranks and advanced upon their foes, indifferent to the large numbers of their brethren blasted apart by return fire. Gigantic war machines shook the ground as they walked forward and unleashed supernovas, until finally succumbing to waves of repeated assaults by smaller, quicker, and more numerous foes. Leading them was a Cybertronian of regal yet sinister bearing, scarred with battle, standing at the front lines and barking out orders, never flinching even as missiles and shells and beams exploded all around him, moving from his position only to push a comrade out of the way of incoming fire or to get into a better firing position.
"Those who return never truly come home. The very bots we risked Spark and servo to save regarded us with fear, and our civilian leaders were too old, too dead-set in their ways to accept us as part of society. They, too, regarded us with fear and suspicion, afraid that as more and more of us were needed fill our ranks, we would rise against them. They enacted laws, curtailing our freedoms and limiting our interactions with our fellow Cybertronians for fear we would corrupt them with our warlike ways."
Furtive glances. Thinning crowds. Hushed whispers. A mother pulling her child away from the being that was like them, yet not. Adults trying unsuccessfully to hide their stares at not-yet-repaired parts. Ornately decorated robots, clearly upper-class and flanked by similarly decorated warriors, gathered in secret and pondered about the "Decepticon Problem." Veterans increasingly cut-off and isolated from mainstream society, returning home only to find that nothing was the same.
"Finally, some of us couldn't take it any more. To be used like tools, discarded like scrap metal once we outlived our usefulness, and called back once they needed us again – we didn't deserve this. Then, the Seeker Rebellion started, and we were called upon to point our blades and guns to our own battle-brothers."
A titanic struggle between two sides who knew exactly what the other was capable of, how they would fight, how they would react. The regal one and the rebel leader – a bright red robot that rapidly swapped between his humanoid and fighter craft forms – engaged each other in single combat as thousands of soldiers clashed in a gnarled mess of limbs and weapons, moving with a terrible efficiency borne from millennia of war. An army that had faced down every single one of the countless horrors the galaxy threw at them now sought to destroy itself.
"Fortunately, we realized our foolishness in time. The problem lay not within us, but within those who would be our masters but proved themselves unfit as such. And so we followed our glorious leader Megatron and took our destiny in our own hands. We captured factories, and space bridges, and munitions depots. We adapted the weapons of our former enemies so that we may always outmaneuver our foes. We suffered some setbacks over the years, but soon we were poised to take control of Cybertron and ensure that such a raw deal for those who made the greatest sacrifice never happens again. And then, when victory was in our grasp, our enemies committed the greatest crime of all."
"What crime?" Sheryl asked. No image accompanied this last part.
"Genocide," Barricade replied. "Genocide, inflicted on our own species. They held the Allspark – that Cube which is the only means by which we Cybertronians propagate – and they shot it into space rather than let us have it. Rather than to surrender graciously and admit their mistake – and I see by the expression on your consort's face that he agrees this was a mistake – they condemned our people to slow death."
Alto humphed. "So what do you want us to do?" This time, an image appeared, one that both Alto and Sheryl recognized as the final battle of the Vajra War.
"We have known of the Insecticons – that which you call the Vajra – and their living FoldWeb," Barricade said. "We also know that your people have found a unique way of tapping into that FoldWeb. Half a million years of war has thinned our numbers, Sheryl Nome, and we seek your help. If every single Cybertronian stopped fighting and searched, we may still not find the Cube. But with a hive fleet of Insecticons, or several…why, we could repopulate our home. That, my friends, is all I ask of you. Will you help us?"
"Questions?" Soundwave asked.
"What a way to make yourselves out to be freedom fighters," Ironhide humphed. "Why don't you play the vid of what happened after you conquered Iacon, huh? Bet the humans'd love to hear you justify that. Oh, right, you don't have to, because I was there." He turned to address the NUNS and SMS personnel gathered. "Iacon was one of our largest cities and the first target of Megatron's rebellion. I was part of the Decepticon Army at that time – 'was' because I left after that. I signed on to defend my people from outside aggression, not to turn my cannons on them or be killed myself." He turned to the HUD screen where Soundwave's icon was displayed. "Play the orders we were given, Soundwave," Ironhide growled. "Do it!"
Soundwave said nothing. A second later, a different voice appeared over the comm. "The Iaconites have had a chance to surrender this city and leave with their lives. They chose not to take it. Now they will suffer the consequences," announced the recorded voice of Megatron. "They who would not take on the burden of violence or fear or sacrifice themselves gladly shunted that burden to us. Let them know violence. Let them feel fear. Let them understand sacrifice. Strike hard, strike fast, no mercy. Decepticons, transform and rise up!"
"We did everything required of us as a civilized race," Soundwave said, after it was played. "We approached their walls. We announced our intent to capture the city and the factories, communications arrays, mineral refineries, and all other infrastructure within it. We warned that they had until our siege lines were completed to surrender, and that we would treat the city we would any other target if they refused our offer. The Decepticon Army did nothing forbidden by our Codex Bellum. Assertions otherwise is mere historical revisionism."
This charge brought a chorus of angry shouts from the Autobots.
"Did nothing my left ball bearing," Ironhide spat, earning him a disapproving look from Optimus. "What about the first line, when we swore our duty to Cybertron and its people?"
"It is you who are guilty of historical revisionism," Ratchet shot back. "Why, I–"
"Whoa there, hold the flame war," President Ikari said, cutting in. "Look, guys, right now we don't have enough information to decide which of you is in the right. But even if we did, the way our government works is that we can't decide what to do right off the bat. We're a democracy, and so if you want our help, then it would be much easier if you'd each just draft up a proposal, and I'll use the First Contact clause to call up a meeting of Congress. Then we'll review your case and make a decision from there. Monica here can send you a printout of the Congressional Petition template, if you like."
After receiving the Word file, Soundwave allowed himself to feel a small measure of satisfaction as he reviewed the way the meeting had gone. The humans' reactions turned out more or less as he expected they would, which was good, as it meant that his logic algorithms were accurate, at least at the moment. Suddenly, he sensed that Megatron was trying to raise him.
"Soundwave, my loyal war hound," Megatron said, his voice that same mix of gruff and cordial Soundwave had known since he first took over the post of Intelligence Director. "Sitrep?"
"Lord Megatron, I am working on convincing the humans," Soundwave replied. "However, the projected probabilistic need for additional reinforcements has increased by 18 percent."
"I see. Most of our main forces are still tied down hunting for Ultra Magnus. However, Tidal Wave reports that he was successful in pacifying the resistance in the Orbsah system. Starscream's team has also finished their sweep of the Rabotev system."
"Starscream? But – is he the best candidate for this type of operation?"
"You requested 'as many bots as can be spared,' if I recall correctly," Megatron replied. "And Starscream's Seekers are force multipliers of the highest magnitude. Yes, Starscream is a wild card, and his maverick tendencies are widely known. However, I have explicitly made it known to him that operational authority is in your hands, and you will also have Tidal Wave at your beck and call. Between that, not even Starscream would dare chance too much. Hold the line, Soundwave, until I can arrive with the main army."
"As you command."
A/N: Right, so, this chapter is gonna be very much "love it or hate it." I had a hard time with the monologues, and so decided to try experimenting with a more minimal style, where hopefully you will be able to fill in images that it would take way too long for me to try to explain. If I failed at that…I'm sorry. Also, apologies in that I've made you wait so long for a chapter that's just people talking. A large part of the delay is due to real life taking precedence over fanfiction, as well as me having to rewrite parts of this because the original versions stories tend to suck when the author uses them to push his own political views.
BTW, anyone who likes Naruto should read S'TarKan's fic "Team 8."