Author's Note: Sorry about the delay... My mother broke her leg in May, and guess who got stuck as the "designated taxi". My car, a Hyundai Accent, rusted out from under me and was hauled away for scrap in June, so I'm stuck driving mom's Ford Focus (formerly my grandfather's) while waiting for my dad to get off his ass and fix the car he found for me, a red Honda Prelude. Also, mom's driving me right up the wall and back down the other side, yapping on and on about things I really couldn't care less about. Can't wait till her leg heals... She can go get her own drinks and she can fetch dad's snacks, and both of them can leave me the slag alone.
Disclaimer: Prima and the Transformers in general belong to Hasbro. Ultra Rodimus and Ultimus are mine.
Cybertron, roughly 85 million years ago...
The sun had already set on the metal world, though the horizons continued to glow sullen red as fires burned across ruined cities, fallen ships, and wrecked factories. Overhead, moving specks among the stars revealed the flight of those ships that had escaped the planet's atmosphere, the ones that had run early or had been at the front of the last few groups that managed to take off before the spaceports were overrun. Quite a few had not made it, bursting into flames under the fire of the revolting slaves.
A lone mech picked his way through the burnt-out debris of what had been a research facility, keeping to the shadows, hiding his bright yellow and blue paint in the darkness. Every few steps he would stop and listen, occasionally poking his head out to look around, making sure that no one had seen, no one was following. The very last thing he wanted to do was lead the rampaging hordes of his fellow Cybertronians to this place. He did not want them to find what was hidden here.
As he approached his destination, the blue and yellow mech named Prima slowed his pace even more, keeping himself hidden from any watching optic. Not for the first time, he wished he were darker in color, like the more typical greys and charcoals and blacks of many of his comrades. This would have been so much easier if he could blend right in with the shattered metal around him, rather than sticking out like a sore servo.
In the interest of losing any potential observers or followers, Prima took a very winding, meandering route, darting from one patch of cover to the next, until finally he ducked down a hidden passage, following it to a door. Pausing for a long moment, Prima cycled air to cool down his systems, then lifted one hand, knocking on the door in a precise sequence. For a long moment, nothing happened. Then the door unlocked, allowing the blue and yellow mech to slip inside. Prima closed and resealed the door behind him, his optics adjusting to the difference between the darkness outside and the light of the hidden facility as he turned around.
Large cylindrical pods filled the chamber, wiring running across the ceilings and floors into each one. Each had a transparent metal hatch, at the moment open. Built into the side of each pod was a complex monitoring system, to record the vitals of the occupant. These were stasis chambers, meant to hold a mech in suspended animation for as long as they were programmed to, or as long as the power held out. This was one of several chambers in this hidden facility, all of them filled with the stasis chambers taken carefully from any breached complex where undamaged ones could be found. It had taken nearly a quarter of a vorn to gather all the equipment, working in secret, and to get this facility ready. The power supply had been isolated from the rest of the the planet's power grid and shielded to make it nearly impossible to detect from ouside. The complex would be entirely self-contained.
The chamber was also full of mechs.
At least a hundred filled the chamber, between the stasis pods, some sitting on the floor and talking amongst themselves, some sitting alone, some standing, either together or singly. Some bore the red brands of the domestic slave line, others the purple brand of the military technology slaves. All were heavily armored, their armor battered and dented and scorched despite all the repair work they had undergone. Scars cut across the bright colors and vivid markings many of them sported. More than one had horns and spikes decorating their helms, ornaments that were not part of their original design. Many of them also bore weapons, blades and maces and energy sabers.
As Prima stepped in, every head came up, every optic turning toward him. Every hand tightened on the grip of the nearest weapon, whether or not it actually belonged to them. Prima was not surprised. These mechs were gladiators, the arena fighters, built and trailed killers. And one of the most persecuted groups on the face of the planet.
"Prima." One of the gladiators, the biggest of them, pushed himself away from the wall he'd been leaning against and picked his way over. "What news?"
"The Quintessons are almost all gone," the newcomer replied. "Most of them managed to get to thier ships and flee, throwing their sharkticon guards against the hordes pursuing them. Of the ships, many managed to break atmosphere. Then someone managed to get control of the heavy weapons towers. I saw ships exploding in mid-air, others crashing in flames. Any Quints that did not make it to their ships are being hunted down. It won't be long before Cybertron is empty of them."
The huge gladiator digested that in silence, then looked at the door behind Prima. After a moment, yellow optics shifted back to Prima, their rims crinkling in a questioning look.
The blue and yellow mech's shoulders drooped in sorrow as he shook his head, listening to the resulting ripple of shock that ran through the crowd. "I am sorry. There are no more. All of you are the last of the gladiators."
"The last?" someone asked shakily.
"I saw many, torn to pieces by enraged mobs. They pleaded for their lives, but no one would listen." Prima would not look at the crowd.
"I don't understand!" another gladiator spoke up. "We are Cybertronians, just like they are; why do they hate us so?"
"Because of what we are," the big yellow-eyed gladiator guessed softly.
Finally looking up, Prima nodded slowly. "They condemn those who tortured and murdered their comrades, anyone with Cybertronian fuel on their hands. Quints and sharkticons. Their drone guards. And the gladiators, who took more lives in the arenas than most of the guards ever did."
"We had no choice!" The speaker was a large grey and black mech, missing an optic and most of one arm. "We too were slaves; if we refused to fight or kill we were tortured, sometimes to death! Those who survived the torture were either thrown to those monstrous half-metal beasts or thrown into the smelting furnaces while still alive!"
"I know." Prima's voice was soft. "I do know. So do the others. But they are drunk on rage and victory, and all they see is the energon of their brothers on your hands and blades. That's why we built this." He gestured at the stasis chambers filling the room. "And why this place was built in secret."
The big yellow-eyed gladiator's optics narrowed. "To save us? How?"
"In time, we will start to forget what happened. New generations will build Cybertron anew, with no knowledge of the gladiators or your history. Here, you will sleep, held in stasis until the hatred fades. Then, when Cybertron is at peace, you can be released from stasis. You will be able to out aside your weapons and find new lives."
There was a long silence as the assembled gladiators considered that. Then one of those bearing the domestic slave brand grunted, pushing himself to his feet.
"Sounds better than always running and hiding, in fear of being found and slaughtered like a cyber-beast," the gladiator stated.
Sounds of agreement rose from the crowd. The gladiators began getting to their feet, brushing bits of debris off their armor. They moved toward the pods, poking at their outer shells before looking at Prima, waiting.
In all, just under four hundred gladiators entered the pods, entering stasis mode. prima eyed their vitals on the monitors, waiting for them to stablize before moving to the next pod. The biggest gladiator trailed him, watching. Finally, that big mech was the only one still awake.
The big gladiator looked at the empty pods, then down at himself, then at Prima, tilting his head slightly. Clearly he was too big for those pods. As Cybertronians went he was a giant, towering over his fellow gladiators and over Prima himself. "And how do you propose to get me into one of those things?"
Prima had to grin at that. "I did take your height into account, my friend. Follow me." He took his hand from the last occupied pod, leading the bigger mech into a side chamber. It was smaller than the main chambers, and contained a single pod. The pod was braced in the corner, slightly slanted, and much larger than the others.
"This pod wouldn't fit into the main chamber." Prima indicated it. "It took a long time for me to find one that would hold you without requiring that bits be removed to make you fit properly."
That got a snort out of the bigger mech as he stepped forward to inspect the stasis pod. Prima stepped out of his way, watching as his friend, his bodyguard during the most violent part of the rebellion, before the freed slaves had turned on the gladiators. The bigger mech was younger in spark than Prima, much younger in frame. All the repairs he'd undergone after fights in the arena had left his body much newer than his spark core. He wore the hide of one of the half-metal Quintesson monsters across his massive shoulders; it had come from a beast he'd killed in the arena.
Finally, the mech looked back at Prima. "Well, it looks like everything is in order..." He paused for a moment, looking at the pod. "And I guess I cannot delay. Every moment I wait increases the danger."
Prima stepped forward as the big mech entered the pod, leaning his back against the metal wall of the stasis unit. Yellow optics met blue as Prima began to close the hatch of the chamber, pausing to grasp forearms with the bigger mech one last time.
"I hope that you will awaken in a much better time than what you're leaving behind," Prima murmured, reluctantly letting go. "Farewell, Ultimus."
The stasis pod's hatch closed, locking into place. Ultimus watched as Prima began activating the unit. His systems began to wind down into stasis. The last thing he saw was Prima watching him, one hand on the pod's hatch. Then his systems shut down, and his vision faded to black.
Not quite the way I wanted it to come out, but, as always, my plot bunnies are being difficult. Remember, reviews fuel updates!