Chapter 1: Discovery
"What are you trying to do, give me trouble? I have no missing slaves! Every one of them is accounted for! " The agitated royal blue and black Decepticon waved the datapad. "If there's a slave in the woods, he's not one of mine!"
Lord Megatron looked up from the datapad he was examining. Whenever a new set of slaves arrived in to work at the energon plant, he reviewed the slaves and their backgrounds. He wanted to know what belonged and what did not, here in his central area. Slave equaled human. No human on this planet dared even look at Lord Megatron . They knew their place or their masters reminded them, painfully. Slaves worked the factories, the mines, the farms and the other boring work, supervised at all times. They lived only to serve.
Slaves never worked in the central buildings; it was one of the few places drones did the work. There was no good metal for drones here. What good quality metal they mined from the nearest asteroids,they used for their own repairs. He had no decent healer. His standing orders stated that any medic was to be captured, not killed. Hook did some repairs but he hated doing it and no one would go to him unless desperate. The shard was strong enough to renew most of them, but its use had to be conserved.
The human slaves were bred, born, worked and died in the slave sectors. At one time, when the resistance still existed, they managed to plant one of their own in with the slaves, and that fragger did an amazing amount of damage to the administration of the planet until they tracked down the problem. He killed himself before they caught him. The last resistance fighter died generations of humans ago. To Megatron's certain knowledge, it had been more than a generation of the humans since a true feral human was seen.The last report of a "feral human' turned out to be a terrified, abandoned slave, half-dead from exposure. That started an investigation and sharp punishment of the lazy mech involved. Megatron did not look kindly on wasting workers. Humans did not live long and they did not breed well, so even flawed slaves had a use somewhere.
The current cream of the slave crop stood in front of him now. He could see from here that they were all young, strong, healthy boys. All of them were had the tan skin common in this area, with black or brown hair and light eyes of various shades. All wore the collars that kept them under control in groups. Individuals were dealt with through other punishments, usually a switch or whip. The boys wore thick rough dark blue outfits. They gazed at the ground with their hands at their sides, like well-trained slaves. Slaves did not want to be noticed. A noticed slave was one in pain.
Females worked in specialized areas, in jobs that allowed them to carry. All breeding was strictly regulated, but a lot of females died carrying.
"Send them away," the Lord Protector of the All-Spark said, handing back the datapad and striding over to the patrol. The slave trainer herded his crop back into the building. The shouter was the head of the facility. "What's going on here?" Megatron asked, annoyed at being interrupted.
"This patrol is demanding to look for their nonexistent woods human here. None of my slaves is missing. It is a waste of time and would disrupt the routine. I have no intention of getting behind in my production for such stupidity!"
Megatron turned to the patrol leader. "Kickback saw him, but he managed to get away," the leader insisted. "And there's proof that a human's been in the woods. We found animal traps, and I know I smelled smoke not too long ago."
"What did you see, Kickback?" Megatron asked. A real feral human was one of the best kinds of challenge. A real wild human needed to be hunted down. Megatron and the ones with him during the war and the early days of the resistance knew that humans could be dangerous. The stupid Autobots had taken some humans with them. If so, any seen wild could be spies. No one wanted the slaves to get ideas. At the same time, a real feral human gave one of the best kinds of challenge. Megatron felt anticipation growing.
"I know a human when I see one," Kickback said, glowering at the facility manager. "It was a young male, like the ones here. He had on green and brown clothes and had white hair. I got one good look before he got into the woods. I couldn't scan him in there. He crossed a herd of deer and I lost him on the scan, and none of us picked him back up. "
"We covered every inch of ground he could have reached," the leader confirmed. "That's why we came here, to see if it was one of these."
"White hair," Megatron said slowly. He had not seen a white-haired human in more than a century.
"White hair is a sign of age in a human," the facility manager scoffed. "My slaves are young. White hair here would stand out like a beacon. "
"You," Megatron pointed to one of the patrol at random, "go with you," he pointed to the manager, "and make certain that this feral slave is not hiding on the grounds or is one of your slaves. That way disruption is minimized and we know for certain that this slave is not here. Understood? "They did. "If you find the slave, contract your leader. In the meantime, I want to see what you found."
Some time later Megatron was looking at the traps. "This is not a slave-raised human," he said flatly. The trap was well-made, and if Kickback had not shown it to him, he would not have seen it. The patrol leader outlined the area they had searched. Megatron looked over the area, and nodded to himself. It was bad terrain to search. This batch of woods led into a mountainous patch, where it would be hard to find a single human without a great deal of effort. They must cut him off quickly. The human had three choices- to find his hiding place, wherever it was, and lay low in the hope that they would go away, to go to his hiding place, gather a small amount of necessities and head out, or head out without anything but what he had on him at the moment. If he had run, more than likely the patrol would have detected him.
"He's gone to ground," he said, excitement running through him at the challenge. "He must have found some hiding place that we can't easily detect. He's hidden from us before, if he knows some tricks like hiding from a scan by using other organics." He stood. "I want another patrol called in to run a perimeter in case he got past one of you. Your group will hunt with me." The patrol was delighted. "He's to be taken alive and in condition to be questioned. Do not allow him to off-line himself. "That startled the patrol leader, though he passed on the order. Evidently the leader was a late arrival, after the human resistance was crushed. Humans in the resistance always committed suicide before being taken.
As he headed out, Megatron felt more active than he had in some time. Boredom was a condition he thought he would never again fall prey to, not when the war on Cybertron went on and on the way he never thought it would. Optimusbecame a damned good leader, to be able to go from an administrative position to the battle leader so fast. He remembered his 'brother's' death. How he caught the boy holding the Cube, but too late. He remembered that brave young man. Terrified, with the chance of getting rid of his burden falling in flaming pieces to the ground, he still ran, still got as far away as he could from the giant that dwarfed him. Megatron smiled in internal amusement as he remembered his offer to make the boy his pet if he would give up the Cube, and how the boy shouted his defiance back.
Then, done playing games with the inferior being, he knocked down the art form the boy was so precariously perched on, and the boy fell, the Cube still in his arms, and landed on Optimus' outstretched hand. That might have saved him, but that he hit with his head first. Megatron heard the wet 'crack' of his skull, saw the green eyes begin to glaze with death, before Optimus was gone. On the ground Megatron found them, the boy and the remnants of the Cube overlying Optimus' chest. His brother's spark was gone. The Decepticon leader took the shard and left to regroup, unwilling to fight further. The Prime won a Pyrrhic victory. Optimus was his brother, as close as anyone got to him , and in a way he mourned the boy. There were so few who were brave enough to stand up to him. The Lord Protector would have followed through on his offer to the boy if he had lived- willing or not. It would have been a pleasant challenge to tame him.
Shaking his head to rid himself of the memory, the leader of the Decepticons began to direct the search.
The human in question was well aware the patrol spotted him. He packed quickly, cursing in his thoughts. The resistance built this underground base as the third and fourth waves of Decepticons fell to Earth. This one missed being destroyed by Decepticons or gutted by humans when it was abandoned early, too close to Megatron's main base.He stumbled across it some time ago on a harsh winter night. It had food, clothes, fuel and everything he needed to get by until spring arrived and he could begin to explore and gather his needs on his own. He found books, and writing paper, and all he needed to get his head together. That had helped him bring matters into perspective, though he had to admit that he still did not know what was going on with him.
He did not know how he got here. He woke up on a freezing winter night, alone. He looked young enough that if found in the woods then, the mechs would believe he was dumped by some owner who was tired of dealing with a flawed slave. It would not be the first time such a thing happened, though it was frowned on.
But he ran across a patrol, and as bad luck would have it, one of them saw him. Worse luck, he was checking his trap. If they found that, and more than likely they had, they would know he was no abandoned slave. Slaves, even the brightest of them, would never think to make a trap to catch food. Decepticons kept their human slaves ignorant and dependent. They were domestic animals, not the strong independent species they had been.
He knew they would hunt him down. He had to get out. The base escaped notice for two reasons. The resistance built it with every ounce of camouflage they knew of, and because no one was looking for it. Sooner or later they would find it. If they followed the pattern they normally followed, they would try to take him alive, instead of just blowing this place to hell and gone.
He looked over the old canvas bundle and checked his pockets. He packed very basic materials here: something to make a fire with, food, some other survival stuff. He had to be able to run; this should be light enough. He knew of an old mine complex nearby, and that it came out almost at the mountains. If he could make it that far, he could hide. That was really rough territory for the mechs. He would be living hand to mouth until he found another safe spot, but that was better than being caught. The last thing he checked into his pocket-it was amazing how many pockets the old military uniforms used to have in them- was the poison mushrooms he picked up a while back. That was better than being caught alive. He tied the bundle around his waist in a knot that could be untied on the run, and headed to the hopefully still hidden door.
Megatron's forces found the hiding place. Unfortunately, the human was not there. Megatron looked at the place. It was built for the purpose of hiding humans from his kind. He remembered seeing others like this one. It worked simply by fooling the eye and scans.He found it because he knew what to look for. However, it was made for humans, which meant that he did not have very many soldiers who could get into it. They could not scan it to find a human because it was built of materials that fooled scanners. Finally he contacted Soundwave for his cassettes. Ravage and Frenzy fit in. They found signs that the base was hastily abandoned. Megatron told them to find a back door and look for a scent or any kind of tracks.
"Section this area," he sent the data burst out to everyone in the hunt, and assigned sections at random." Run overlapping scans. Try for a scent." He transformed and flew over the area, but the woods were too thick. Other organic animals caused false hits on the scanner.
Leaving Frenzy to find the hidden door, Ravage came out and tried to find a scent. What he found instead destroyed his ability for some time. Soundwave contacted Megatron with that news. "The human left behind a trap," the communication specialist informed his leader. "It is the essence of a particularly strong smelling animal, and Ravage will not detect anything else for some time."
"We have a clever one," Megatron mused.
"Dangerous," Soundwave said bluntly. "I advise you to kill him, Master."
"Corpses are very difficult to interrogate," Megatron informed him, and Soundwave wisely said no more.
Six hours later, there was still no sign of the human. Frenzy found the back door, which was near the scent bomb Ravage triggered. Buzzsaw, Lazorbeak and Ratbat appeared at that time, and began to search from the sky as Frenzy and Ravage did the ground. As evening fell, the ground cassettes come across a screening of vines. Curious, Ravage pulled at them in passing. They moved easily. Ratbat landed, and the three of them explored until they uncovered the opening of a mine shaft, partially covered by rock, but with room for a thin human to crawl through. Ravage began to claw at the loose rock covering. When possible, Ratbat went through. The others stayed to open the shaft further.
Once inside, Ratbat found that the shaft was large enough to fly in, and began to hunt. To his dismay, there were several branching shafts. He headed down the main one until it once again branched. It could find nothing to tell him which way the human went, or if he came in at all. Going back out, he met the other cassettes and contacted their master, who contacted Megatron with the news. Megatron left the search to the patrol leader and got information on the mine.
The human crawled into the opening of the mine and reached into a pocket, producing a flashlight that needed to be shaken to work and the means to make and light a torch. He used the flashlight until he estimated he walked a mile. Then automatic lights began to work. The mechs planned this mine, and they built to last. He worked here, some time ago. His lips compressed. Those were not good memories. He remembered the sound and the feel of the whip far too well. He escaped through a natural cave opening he came across by accident. If there was any other way out- but there was not. How many lifetimes ago was that? He started to count as he walked, but had to put that aside to figure out where he was. The mine stretched for miles, and he needed to find the cave opening. To his knowledge, that opening was never discovered when the mine was buried in an avalanche and abandoned. It was a risk he had to take; he had to assume that the known openings would be covered.
He kept moving. He doubted any mechs knew this shaft sat here, but he had only a little food and a long way to go. Better to get to the mountains, and find a cavern or cave. He pushed the thought away. That was later. He put together a torch and consulted the map in his head. It was amazing, how he remembered absolutely everything now. He could rest later, when he was surer of being safe.
By the time the darkness set in, they searched every inch of the possible area the human could have reached again. "Set up a perimeter," Megatron ordered. He possessed the map of the mines now, and a list of soldiers that could get in. Ravage, Frenzy, and Ratbat were to search from here, going down every shaft until it ended. Others would go from different entrances, once they were opened or found.
The human walked on, keeping a steady pace. There was a lot of debris, so he did not try to run or even rush. He ate at some point, voided in a way that would hide the smell. He smiled when he remembered leaving the scent bomb. At least he got something out of the damned skunk that ruined one of his traps. He drank whenever he came across water.
The night wore on, and daylight came again, and there was still no sign of the human. Ravage's scent improved, but he found nothing. They searched the honeycomb of shafts patiently, one after the other. Ratbat took one side as Ravage and Frenzy took the other. Then Ratbat called the others. He saw a light ahead; something must be there.
The human came a part of the shaft which shifted, causing about a fifteen-foot gap. He had rope, but nothing he would trust his own weight to. He looked down. He could not see the bottom, and the sides were steep. Then he noted that there was a ledge going around the edge, all the way to the other side. He slid onto it. He did not like heights-it reminded him too much of how his first lifetime ended- but he began to move along the ledge slowly and carefully. He was about fifteen feet from the start when he heard something, and froze.
Ratbat saw the gap from a fair distance and landed to walk up to it. It was too wide for the human to jump. He looked down. There was no light down there. Ratbat considered the possibility of the human falling and dying. But sound echoed here; would they not have heard the human scream, at least? He sent a data burst to his fellow cassettes, and flew over the gap to look for signs of the human on the other side. He went for a time, and saw nothing.
It was the small splash of white that caught his attention when he flew over the gap on the way back. Turning to chek again, he saw the human, back against the rock wall, on a ledge only a foot or so large.
He had not seen this mech before, but he heard of it. It was part of a group that worked with the communications expert, Soundwave, who was high in the command structure. The human was a soldier once, a leader once, and he knew when to make a hard choice fast or there would be no choice at all. He jumped.
Ravage and Frenzy heard Ratbat cursing as they approached, and broke into a run. They could see Ratbat with something clutched in his feet. It was struggling hard and managed to get free, landing hard. Immediately it scrambled to its feet and headed in the opposite direction. Ravage was on it the next heartbeat, just in time. They lay at the edge of the gap. The human writhed under him, still fighting.
He never voiced a sound.
Ratbat went out first and contacted his master. Soundwave in turn contacted Megatron. "The human is found. He did try to off-line himself. Ravage and Frenzy are bringing him out. They tell they do not think he can speak." He added a picture of the human.
The picture made Megatron pause. No, it had to be a descendant. He saw the boy die. He noted that the picture did not show the human having a collar or scars from a collar. So, this had to be a wild human. "How long before they bring him out?" Soundwave gave him a time estimate. "I will want your assistance in questioning him." Then he went to the opening and waited. He would not have thought the boy was old enough to sire children, he mused. Perhaps this was a family line.
They dragged him through the hole, Frenzy and Ravage each holding an arm. The human was filthy dirty, his green and brown patterned clothes torn. He stood, and took in the circle of beings anywhere from three to five times his size. He waited, refusing to look at them after that quick glance. Frenzy carried a bundle in his other hand. Megatron beckoned. They pulled their prize closer.
"Did you search him?" They nodded, and Frenzy gave him the bundle. The Lord Protector opened and looked it over. No slave would know what this stuff was for, except maybe the food, and he was not certain of that. "Look at me, "Megatron commanded. The human lifted his head until his eyes met red optics, and recognition flared in the dirty face. If this was a descendant, he was a perfect replica in every way. Megatron bent and picked the human up. He could feel the cool organic body shaking in his hand. " Samuel James Witwicky," he murmured. This was no descendant. "Just how have you lived this long, and what happened to your voice?"