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Title: Mechanical Butterflies

Warning: Beware the purple prose!

Rating: G

Continuity: G1

Characters: Starscream

Disclaimer: The theatre doesn't own the script or actors, nor does it make a profit from the play.

Motivation (Prompt): "Once upon a time."

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What the Autobots always forget about Cybertron's Golden Age is that it was Cybertron's. Iacon is always so celebrated in memory, touted as the pinnacle of civilization, but the rest of the planet still existed. Kaon had its industry and factories, and Vos, its own accomplishments. The Autobots simply forgot them.

What the Decepticons always forget is everything outside propaganda. Megatron's litany of victories required the covering of ugly losses. Kaon's manufacturing capabilities destroyed in the bombing raids; Iacon's glittering towers destroyed at the cost of Vos' total erasure. Better to forget and amp up the glory, ran Megatron's reasoning, than allow the rank and file to dwell on facts.

Historical pitfalls lurk outside both factions' version of the past, and attempting to remember only one part of history inevitably blinds one to what actually happened. You have blundered blindly into Cybertron's willfully-forgotten history before, and you hope to have learnt something from your mistake. At the same time, this blindness can aid you.

If the Autobots have forgotten Vos' achievement, if Megatron hopes to erase its fall, then maybe you can slip between the lines of text in their history books and disappear off their carefully edited maps. The disappeared secrets of your city were once common knowledge, nothing hidden but just forgotten in the greater scope on a devastating war. Even now, the archives are only buried, not gone.

It takes you two more days after you decision to find a way into the collapsed basement where you know the administrative archives once were. Two days of hiding in wreckage, deliberately blocking all communications, and scrambling the circuitry in your head with hard thought. There is no refuge on Cybertron, not with peace looming like a harbinger of personal damnation over your future, but you're left spent and dizzy with that realization.

What you must do is what you do not want to do, and the knowledge beats hatefully on the inside of your optics. The arrhythmic flutter throbs truth and terror and history through your thoughts, and it sends you staggering. Mechanical butterflies, you think. It's a disturbingly apt vision that has been appearing to you more and more often, and your hysterical laughter echoes through the broken city.

There is something wrong with you, you know it, but what's sent you beyond help is discovering that it went wrong too long ago to fix. Once upon a time, your story became nothing but a fairy tale with an inevitably realistic ending. Pure fiction with a true, brutal moral. It shouldn't be funny, but it's either go a little mad or tear your pages out of the story. So you convulse with mirth in almost involuntary spasms of senseless amusement, and you grimly do not turn that clipped-wing black humor back in on yourself.

You once ruled this city, and you rule again for a short time, if only over its ghost. You may be a puppet, a placeholder, and a coward, but you've cut your strings, exited the stage - and cowards survive.

You pore over dust-caked records, powdered metal girders and disintegrated dead bodies sifting down on your head and neck as you bend to the task. Text files are so corrupted the data spews strings of random characters where information should be. The computers are old and without power, and your systems bleat error messages in violent protest when you try to uplink directly. The coordinates are there, frustratingly vague in your memory, but finding the exact numbers takes manual searches through lines of codes until your optics achingly settle on the correct location.

There, and it's not even a real thought. It's a confirmation of what's already decided. It's the sum total of your observation of a dead planet from the top of Shockwave's tower. It's walking witness to the ghosts never laid to rest in your city.

What everyone else has forgotten is that before Vos fell, it rose. At its height the citystate, like its sister-states, sent ships out to other solar systems, other galaxies. Cybertron colonized other worlds, and at the controls of exploration ships and guiding settlers to new homes were Vosians. The colony projects withered and withdrew back to Cybertron as the Golden Age came to a close, and as Emirate, you personally ordered the deconstruction of the last of the Vosian colonies.

But a world once colonized might have infrastructure left behind, or, even after all this time, the worlds themselves might still be suitable for Cybertronian lifeforms. Just one lifeform is enough.

The journey will require engines you don't have, fuel you don't have the capacity to carry, but you are both resourceful and intelligent. The Autobots place their friends to rest with reverence. The Decepticons recycle their fellow warriors with a practical kind of respect. You loot the carcass of your city, cannibalizing dead structures and dead mechs alike, ruthlessly throwing the stripped struts of metal and wire aside when you can get no further use from them. Warriors and civilians rustle along the edges of your thoughts, and you press them forcefully out of your mind as you drift through the empty streets scavenging for more materials. You hide among their shadowed haunts when the Decepticons and Autobots come searching.

The search parties look while you stand, unnoticed and watching, and they move on as if you're already a ghost. In a way, you are. You've become one more spectre of the Vosian dead, unable to rejoin the Cybertronians still trying to live on this planet.

The final result of your work is hideous, no fancy armor or paint to conceal the ugly welds, but it's reassuringly basic. It has one function: to get you from point A to point B. Unnecessary fillips weren't added, cosmetics completely disregarded, and you find it adequate. Plain, but serviceable.

The most difficult part is just getting it off the ground.

One more Vosian launch, a last colonist venturing out into the great depths of space. It's a weird accomplishment, making history where it will be unknown by everyone and no one. There is no fanfare or well-wishers; just the cautious check for watchers before you struggle into the sky, and then up and up into the stars. You escape Cybertron's orbit with the odd sense of lifting off a page, your flight writing you out of the story and closing the book behind you. Maybe you're no longer part of a fairy tale, someone else's character acting out the same ending. Maybe you'll have a chance to survive, even live.

Or maybe it's only the feeling of being forgotten, part of a history that's never been.