Life of a Soldier

"The history of any one part of the Earth, like the life of a soldier, consists of long periods of boredom, and short periods of terror."
- Ager, Derek (1973), 'The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record' (New York: John Wiley & Sons).

My thought processes return to normal speed, and I am again myself. Thought processes don't shut down in stasis, not totally. If they did, they might never start again. I don't know why. That sort of thing is for tech-head medics. I'm just a soldier. Anyway, deep stasis is like that, but every millennia passes like a second. It's no loss; thoughts don't make much sense in stasis, anyway.

Barrier's dead, and I've been woken to take his place. I should feel sad at the death of a fellow Decepticon, but really, I'm glad. He died, and I wake. Deep stasis isn't bad, but walking in the waking world is infinitely better than sleeping away the millennia. And so what if a circuitry failure felled Barrier? I didn't know him; didn't fight by his side. I've seen dozens fall. There's a hundred more from where Barrier came. So I stand his post and thank circuitry failures to be awake.

Shockwave's cut back on most of the manned posts; replaced us with dumb machines. He says that they do our jobs just as well without the fuel cost. Whatever. Some jobs have to have a living core behind them. Others hold posts, but I don't know them. We don't speak. We pass in the halls and skyways, gears in a machine, saying, radioing nothing. Shockwave discourages idle chitchat. Even if we wished to speak, most of the atmospheric gases have liquefied or frozen. Lacking the usual amount of carrier medium, all sound seems muted to my audio sensors. I hear the sound of my footsteps more through my feet and less through the thin air, and all the sounds seem so distorted that I am tempted to turn off my audio sensors, embrace silence, and hear this uncanny half-hush no more.

The millennia pass, and I watch the ever-changing stars. Their patterns shift, never the same. Sometimes, I connect the blank spaces and bright dots and see pictures. I see many things. I can see the faces of my old squadron. They are mirrors to my own. My idle tracing leads to a visage contorted and distorted in violent death. I do not look away. I've seen that face that could be my twin wrecked in so many way that any creeping fear of it becoming my own is gone. We're wired to see patterns, Shockwave says, says that we'll try to make sense out of nothing.

When I look out on Cybertron, there's nothing in the long cold traces and ephemeral shadows I see. There's some fuel gone here. There's some wires frayed and frazzled there, just a little too neatly to be believed as natural wear and tear. There's the circuitry failure that got me this position. It's illogical that anything unknown would still live on Cybertron. Sure, I know what I saw, and I know when to shut up. Eventually, I just stop making reports. There's no point.

The stars . . . my comrades are out there. Maybe they're dead, but they haven't been gone long. I like to think that they live and thrive and have forgotten about this dead world. It would be just like us, very Decepticon. Let the dead die.

Cybertron changes. The gas concentrations fluctuate, the structures fall apart, and steadily, the energy drains. Still, we could all die here, and I don't think much would change. The dumb machines would go on for a time. Stupid slaves.

Shockwave's cutting some of the posts, sending the personnel back into stasis. Says he needs the energy. I endeavour to man my post better that I won't be returned to deep stasis, that suspended animation. I'm weak with apprehension - or maybe just lack of energy - a few million years isn't really long enough to be able to guess at the future actions of my superior.

Besides, people aren't my thing. I shoot them. I pass them by without a word. The association ends there.

I was not always this way. I had friends, and I had wingmates who, even if I didn't like them so well, I knew I could count on to watch my back in combat. They meant something to me. They're gone now: dead or asleep, gone with the battle. The only foes now are the ones of my own imagining.

Time passes, and some science types are awakened. Shockwave's up to something. I don't get what. It all goes way over my head, exosphere-like. If those tech-heads can figure out Shockwave's jargon, more power to 'em. The ones that don't get sent back to deep stasis. There's an awful lot sent back. Maybe only Shockwave understands what he means. Maybe even he doesn't.

Energy's getting terribly low. It was just a matter of time. We haven't found any new energy sources in millennia, and even a skeleton crew saps what fuel we have left. I'm going to be sent back to deep stasis. Will I ever wake again? I don't want to die for my cause, not in some sleep-cell. What good do I do the cause asleep, anyway? I want to walk this dead world; fly the thin air. Oh frag, here comes the lid -

It's not long before I wake again, though, to my pleasant surprise. Cybertron hums with activity. Our lost comrades have made contact. Shockwave and the techs, mostly Shockwave in the end - only Shockwave really knew what was going on and had the perseverance to keep at the plans over the many millennia - have set up a link between Cybertron and the world our lost and found fellows discovered, a space bridge to a mud ball called Earth.

Our enemies still live. Now, they walk Cybertron again. Megatron, our supreme leader, commands us to deal with them.

The mod-job to be able to drop the crystals to cause acid rain is a simple one; a mere component swap said the tech. Whatever it is, it's quick. I had it done millions of years ago, back when acid rain flying was a popular pastime. It's a common enough procedure, and I'm glad I had it done. It got me sent on this mission.

I am sent with two others that I don't know to bring the acid rain. It's not combat flight by a long shot, but it feels good, the tight, sharp turns. I could use longer, smoother turns, but when Old One-Optic isn't looking, I see no reason not to cut loose a little. I'm tired of feeling like a carefully machined cog slotted to a single purpose.

The air rushes over my frame, sending online long-unused sensors. The wash of data hits me. I had not forgotten it. Who could? But it is a joy to be reminded.

The crystals fall, setting the very weather against the Autobots. I see the ground bound junkheaps felled and feel truly glad to be a Decepticon for the first time since before I tasted deep stasis. The space bridge made me worried, made me wonder if the Earth contingent hadn't gone soft, trying to save a dead world. The Autobots and whatever doomed ally they brought along despair and rightfully so.

No, something is amiss, but what? One of the Autobots has repelled the rain. A second aims - those missiles! They aren't explosive, are they? Dummy, what else could they be? Oh Cybertron, I'm going to die . . .

The End