Here be the final part. Big Convoy remembers the terrible price of trust and his unwanted promotion into a Maximal leader. What memories burden this lone warrior in his moments of quiet?
Thank you for the reviews, Wolf Prime. Appreciated as always.
Next week, I'll be posting up a short "Robots in Disguise" universe-set fic spotlighting the dark clone of Optimus Prime: Scourge!
Soliloquy of A Mammoth
[The past, a hundred stellar cycles ago, Maximal supply station 18.]
Big Guard was staring in disbelief at the monitor screen within the Canopus shuttle. Station 18 had been attacked. Smoke was rising from its entryways and from various windows. The docking bays for ships were covered in the broken pieces of destroyed ships. Marks from laser fire and explosives covered the station walls.
Big Guard pulled the Canopus into the first available bay space he could find and de-boarded.
He walked slowly through the rubble of ship hulls. It was too quiet. Where were his team? He headed for the station compound.
His foot caught onto something. He looked down. There was a heavy cubic metal object buried between ship plating pieces there. He bent down and pulled it out from the rubble mess.
He dropped the object. It fell with a clang to the ground. It was a torn arm! It looked like the arm of his youngest crew member, White Dash. The Maximal insignia was displayed on one side of it.
Big Guard's optics rapidly scanned his surrounding area. To his cold horror, he spotted more Maximal body parts littered on the ground around him. His head shook in denial. Then he saw an intact winged black and red body lying nearby. He rushed over to it.
It was Falcia-1. She lay still and lifeless with a gaping laser hole in her chest. Big Guard fell to his knees beside her.
"Falcia…" he uttered.
Her optics were dark. Big Guard's hand drifted to her face and his fingers brushed it gently. He then picked up her limp body in his arms.
As he knelt there cradling Falcia-1's damaged body, grief overwhelming him, he suddenly noticed something grasped in her hand. He reached for it. Carefully, he pried her fingers open. Big Guard's optics widened in shock. A short sentence he had spoken to Falcia earlier rung in his mind.
"I trust you."
There in her palm was a Predacon badge.
[The present, aboard the Gung-Ho.]
A Predacon agent. All along. She had deceived us all.
But I also remembered what she had said to me back on the Carina…
"You shouldn't go out unaccompanied, sir. Let us come with you."
It suddenly made sense. Why she had seemed nervous when I last saw her. She must have known the ambush that was awaiting at station 18. Whoever her Predacon superiors were, they had planned the attack on the station for some reason. Falcia-1 had been trying to talk me into taking the rest of the crew with me to Ekilia base to avoid the attack. She had made up the call she reported from Ekilia to keep me away from station 18. That's why Marshal Survive had not been there.
Had she become conflicted between allegiances? In the process of infiltrating the Maximal ranks for the Predacons, had she grown to care for her Maximal comrades and friends? Is that why she tried indirectly to save us from the attack at station 18? Or had she just been serving some other agenda?
Whatever the reasons behind her actions, she had succeeded only in saving me. She along with the others perished.
Why she had been offlined too is a mystery. She had obviously been shot in the chest. By whom? Had it been by one of our Maximal crew members that had realised her treachery? Or had she been taken down by a fellow Predacon? Perhaps for failing somehow in her mission or defying them? Had she perhaps fallen in an attempt to protect her Maximal comrades? Or maybe she had leapt intentionally in front of gunfire in an act of suicide? Perhaps she had grown weary of her own deception.
I did not know whether to mourn her or hate her.
I later discovered she had no existing records from before her enrolment with the Maximal military service. There was no known Maximal or Predacon by the name of 'Falcia-1'. Falcia-1, if that was even her real name, had been nothing more than a deceptive and well-crafted Predacon illusion.
An illusion that had saved my life.
Whatever her original mission involving infiltration into the Maximal military ranks had been, she had evidently faltered in it and paid the ultimate price. I imagine how she must have been torn between what she was obliged to do and what she wanted, her Predacon masters or the Maximals she had grown to love. She compromised. When she failed to convince me to take the rest of the crew with me to Ekilia, she returned to her masters with most of our Maximal crew and our ship. But she had managed to spare me and revealed to me her deception in her death.
We all know the risks of being soldiers. But we don't always understand the price. A price of grief and bitterness for the ones that are left behind.
From the loss of my first crew, the 'One-Bot Army' was created. For a hundred stellar cycles after, he fought alone, unwilling to let others close to him again.
I became self-reliant, untrusting, intolerant, impenetrable, isolated… I wanted to be free of the weight, deception, grief and responsibilities of working with others.
I refused to take command of anymore Maximal soldiers and earned my reputation as a formidable lone warrior. I plunged into battlefields on my own armed with my canon, missiles and melee weapons. I never wanted support. I just wanted others to stay out of my way. The Elders and High Council soon began to view me as something of a rogue Maximal warrior.
Do past experiences make us who we are? Some of us find it hard to ever move on…
[The past, ninety-five stellar cycles ago, Cybertron.]
Big Guard stood utterly straight and unmoving in the centre of a grand circular chamber, the perfect picture of military discipline. As he held himself in his erect trained posture, head tilted down, he remained acutely aware of his surroundings. Around him, the various shrouded forms of the Maximal Elders looked down at him from raised platforms. Big Guard attentively listened to their words.
"Big Guard, we have summoned you for an important announcement," echoed one Elder.
"You have served loyally and with tremendous potential in the Maximal military forces for fifty stellar cycles now," a second Elder spoke, "But in the last five stellar cycles, reports have suggested that you have become somewhat…quiet and isolated. Do you have anything to say about that, Big Guard?"
Big Guard's response was monotonous.
"No, Honourable Elder. I do not."
"Big, we know what happened at station 18 five stellar cycles ago," a third Elder resonated, "We know what happened to your first team and that you have been deeply affected by it."
"But you must be willing to move out of the past and into the future," a fourth Elder continued, "It is imperative that you do so now."
"You must learn to work with others again," a fifth Elder stated, "You must learn to be a leader."
Big Guard lifted his head slightly. His expression had become one of controlled curiosity.
"Elders? What are you saying?"
The first Elder who had spoken looked round at his fellow Elders. There were subtle nods from each of them in response. He looked back down at Big Guard and proceeded.
"Big Guard, Vector Sigma has named you to be a Matrix-bearer. You are to become a Convoy."
Big Guard's unwavering military posture suddenly cracked. His hands visibly tensed in surprise. His gold optics widened.
"No...," Big Guard uttered in a low voice, "No!" he then said louder and more urgently, "This isn't right. It's too soon. I have not earned the title. And I have made serious mistakes in judgements. I lost my entire team at station 18 and failed to be aware of…a deceptive member amongst them. I have made fatal errors that a Maximal commander cannot afford."
"All valid points. And in addition, a commander must be confident and willing to lead troops," the fifth Elder firmly stated.
Big Guard's face hardened.
The fourth Elder shook his head, a look of apology in his optics.
"This comes from Vector Sigma. It's not a matter of choice…'Big Convoy'."
[The present, aboard the Gung-Ho.]
I wasn't ready to be a leader then. I still am not now.
I am a warrior before a leader.
Cybertron's sentient god computer, Vector Sigma, works in mysterious ways. She can give orders on occasion that require much faith from all Cybertron's leaders to follow. But her words are law to us. We trust in her timeless and divine wisdom. It is often the case that we do not always immediately know what her purpose or reasons for an order may be. Vector Sigma is as old as Cybertron itself and she operates with prophecy and ancient energy.
I cannot fathom why Vector Sigma wanted me to become a Maximal commander. I am insufficient as a leader. I have been for the last one hundred stellar cycles. What grand design does our god computer have for me?
Becoming a Convoy went against my instincts to work alone. The expectation of leading others was counter-intuitive for me.
My fingers rise to touch my mask. Big Guard lays sealed underneath forever.
It is like being caged, caged within responsibility and duty.
I struggle perpetually with the internal conflict between what I wish for and what I must be. I dream of the freedom of isolation, but must accept the duty of leadership. I know leadership is rarely an easy task. Something is always sacrificed for it.
I am changing. I can feel it. The role of mentor is forcing me into working with, trusting and relying on others again. I am transforming into something more than the solitary warrior. I am becoming a teacher, a leader of others. Vector Sigma probably wanted this to happen. I know the Elders and High Council have wanted this from me too.
But why me? Why was I chosen to lead? To carry an Energon Matrix?
My hand falls upon my chest. I feel the gentle radiation of the Matrix's energy within me. I am directly linked to Vector Sigma through this Matrix, and through it, Vector Sigma guides and influences me into an unknown future that only she knows. She speaks through my voice and I am compelled to let her pull me. We are powerless to resist the grip of destiny.
I am walking toward the Gung-Ho's command centre now. I no longer hear the voices of my Maximal trainees. I've left them far behind.
My memories are flashing before my optics.
I see Blast Charge, Tracker, White Dash, Micro-break, Razorshark…and Falcia-1 again.
I see Longrack, Cohrada, Break, Stampy and Heinrad in the present.
I find myself smiling involuntarily again to Falcia.
I watch Black Shadow holding the young Maximal hostage before me.
I stare horrified at the body parts of my first crew scattered on the ground around me.
I hear an Elder's words echo through my audio sensors: "It's not a matter of choice…'Big Convoy'."
I am cradling the offline body of Falcia-1.
I am looking at the Predacon insignia in her hand.
Again and again and again…
Standing alone at the central controls in the command centre now, I gaze out of the Gung-Ho's monitor screens at the uncountable stars littering the darkness of space. It is peaceful and quiet. I savour this rare moment of silence and solitude.
I know more often than not, the most important battles we fight…
…are the ones we fight alone.