Chapter 13: The Decepticons take action

Sam walked into Barbara's office and stopped, startled. "Hello," he said in his mechanical voice to the new assistant.

Sam lived at the colonies for half a year Earth time and he loved it.

From the beginning the organic colony showered him with kindness. While Willie acted as his advocate from the beginning, Sam learned quickly that the women ran the colony. The colonial world was far different from the world he was raised in. The language shifted, but not terribly. Every night he recorded language differences between the colonies and the slaves one Earth. When the colonists started dealing with slaves, they needed to understand the vocabulary.

Bumblebee managed to visit with Sam while he was in quarantine. Sam signed, How did the family lines come about? And Simmons? The rest I can kind of understand.

"The family lines were more who settled on what space colony and who the colonies were named for," Bumblebee explained. "The first one was Lennox. Not after Will, really, but after Sarah and Annabelle. Sarah was one of the colony leaders, and Annabelle was the human security head when she became an adult." Willie chimed in that the four parents that founded the Witwicky family line were the leaders of the next space colony, followed by the Epps family line. The last family was Simmons, who was led by Sandra Simmons. Simmons never married but he did have two sisters who came with us, Bumblebee signed to Sam. They weren't much like him. Thank Primus.

:So it's the colony you come from that defines your family line?: Sam wrote.

"Most of the time, "Willie hedged. "Each of the colonies is known for something. The Lennox family colony is generally the center for security. Simmons does most of the food production, and their family guardian is Hound. Epps does a lot of administration, and theirs is Kup."

:And what is the Witwicky family known for?: Sam asked, almost afraid of the answer.

"We fix things," Willie said. "We're the smart ones."

Bumblebee gave Willie a light poke. "The Witwicky family line houses the infirmary where difficult cases are brought, "he said. "They have the main library. They have the engineering school, and the shipyard. Many of the family have been engineers and medics and scholars. They were the ones who approached the Psyches. They also house the government council, and the Prime resides there for that reason. It's where we're headed, Sam."

:So the Simmons make it, the Epps distribute it, the Lennoxes guard it, and the Witwicky's fix it: Sam commented. Bumblebee thumped his head while Willie snickered.

"Please repeat that to my mom," he said. "It fits her sense of humor."

The moment Willie left Sam at the infirmary, he sought out his sister Saralee. While Miranda Witwicky was the best medic on the planet, Willie felt Sam needed a gentle introduction to the colony. Saralee ran the family center for the Witwickies. Like her mother, Saralee possessed a strong personality. Unlike her mother, she used strong social skills to get her way. She listened to Willie's impassioned plea and arranged for Sam to come to the family center after his surgery.

Family centers managed most of the colony administration dealing with personal matters. Here the children lived until they showed an aptitude and/or finished their basic educations. From there they went into training as early as twelve or as old as seventeen. Educational play began as soon as a child noticed the world around them. Once a girl gained menarche, she received birth control until her mother, grandmother, or guardian judged her ready to have children. At that time, the family gave her permission to remove the birth control, and she chose when to get pregnant. After the second child, the birth control was reinstated. Unplanned pregnancies were unheard of. Everyone worked in some capacity, with very few exceptions. Everyone had a place to live, food, and medical resources. Allocation of resources involved some tension, but survival in space required cooperation on everyone's part.

As the family head, Sarahlee monitored the Witwicky colony as a whole. However, she took the time and trouble to settle Sam in the family compound. Sam spent a blissful two weeks submerged in his extended family, with women and children in family groups, and learning how to live as a free human without being a fugitive.

So Sam divided his time between Rodimus, which included spending time on the Lennox compound learning their weapons and getting back into shape; spending time with Barbara Epps in dealing with the diplomacy issues; and staying in the Witwicky family compound. He visited the Simmons colony and toured the 'farms'. "You grow plants in dirt?" one hydroponics attendant asked blankly. Sam almost laughed in her face. Hound, the family guardian for Simmons, carefully explained to her that before hydroponics, all plants were grown in dirt. Sam explained how to grow many of the plants that Kup and some of the others managed to obtain while on Earth. The main base for the Autobots remained on Lennox. Sam traveled there regularly with Rodimus and met a lot of the Lennox family. Not all were soldiers or involved in support of the military; they still had a lot of the food and distribution there, as the first colony settled.

Sam found that he earned a stipend for four different jobs: the diplomacy with Barbara, the military information with Lennox, working with the library and Jetfire on history, and working with the Simmons on growing the new plants. He was popular at parties for the music on his computer and music player. He met a lot of curious women. He confined intimacies with infertile women, which gave him a huge pool to chose from. He never spent more than one night with any particular woman.

He worked hard to give the colonies everything he knew. He grasped at every chance to enjoy his freedom. Despite all the protection Rodimus offered, he knew a Pretender lurked somewhere, and he knew what their orders were.

"Where's Grant?" he asked. Grant Lennox, Barbara's normal assistant, was a small mousy little man with a sweet smile and a quiet manner. He was not at all military, being much more suited to administration, and did an excellent job running the office. He adored his two girls. Sam liked him. He was also fairly sure that Grant had a crush on him, something the assistant tried very hard to hide and that Sam carefully overlooked. Willie confided at one point that he thought Grant was same-sex. He said this in a hushed voice and with a glance around to be sure no one was listening. Sam considered, and explained to Willie that not only was he aware that such things happened, but that it was fairly common in the older slaves, who after all, had no access to the opposite sex. Willie looked dumbfounded. Sam gathered that homosexuality was frowned on. No place is perfect, he thought sadly.

The new assistant said Grant was sick and would be out for some time, and that Sam was to go in. As they began work, Barbara noted that Sam seemed jumpy. As they finished a conference call, he asked about Grant. "He needed some medical work done," she said. "It all came in on the computer, which isn't like Grant. I know he's been a little on edge lately, but he wouldn't tell me about it, said it was a situation he had to work out on his own."

"Who's his medic?" Sam called Miranda and coaxed her into bending some privacy rules. She checked the medical files. The medical leave form, correctly filed and approved, had her electronic signature- but she never saw him. She agreed to call security while Barbara tried to contact Grant at home. Sam added together the facts- that the new assistant was a large man, odd for the colonies; that the medical leave form was fake;and that this matter came up quickly. When they had the door open, Sam watched the assistant for a time. He moved stiffly. Sam closed the door, locked it, and unlocked the back door out. Then he called Rodimus Prime.

"You're being paranoid," Barbara scolded, just as something slammed into the door. He grabbed her, shoved her through the door, and locked the door to the office from the inside before slamming it shut behind them. Then he grabbed a shocked Barbara again and hustled her into the next room. Someone slammed on the door again as they exited. A security squad met them. "Go with them," the leader said to them, pointing to two of his squad. The two hustled both of them to a hallway where they met Bumblebee. He led them to a empty meeting room with two exits.

Soon after the bot said, "They got him. Sam, I owe you an apology. I never believed a Pretender could pass as a human." No one but the spy was killed. When they returned to the office, Barbara freaked out. Both doors lay in splinters, burns and hole abounded, and her computer sat ruined. Red and blue fluid splashed over the floor and walls.

Sam asked if anyone found Grant yet. "We checked on Grant Lennox's home when you called about the assistant," Jake Lennox said, "and as soon as the crap started here, we sent a squad to this new guy's home. We need you to come, Sam." Barbara insisted on coming as well, despite Sam and security's attempts to peel her off. He tried to warn her it would be ugly; she set her jaw and insisted. When they arrived, she saw the still body with the head at an odd angle, and managed to make it to the waste disposal before she threw up.

Sam let her go, taking in the new assistant's room. Grant lay dressed in the normal shapeless slave outfit, with a steel collar. Red marks circled his wrists and ankles. Under the collar, his neck showed chaffing. When they moved the body so that Sam could see his back, Sam saw the marks and looked away. It was all he could do to keep his voice steady. "Switch marks," he said, glad that his mechanical voice was not capable of inflection. "The wrist and ankle marks are from chains."

"Did they beat him to get him to talk?" someone asked. Sam turned to see Carol Lennox walk in. She handled security for this area.

"Possible. I'm sure that anything they wanted to know, they got." He went and put his arm around a weeping Barbara, who buried her head in his shoulder. He heard cursing from the other room. Barbara stepped back and wiped her face. He gathered his courage and walked over. Then he turned and walked out.

Beside he heard Barbara say, "Is that a cage?"

"Yes," he said, his voice full of static. He breathed a moment, gathering himself, and walked back in. It was a smaller version of the one in Megatron's office, with the waste disposal, the bedding, and the food. There was a different type of water dispenser, adapted for space, and a set of chains set around the bedding. He found sets of his slave clothes, blankets, and the space cleaning solvent in a bolted down trunk. He nodded to himself. He moved aside to let Carol Lennox in. The others watched from outside the bars.

"These are the same clothes you wore when we talked to Megatron," Barbara said. Sam nodded.

"Why are the clothes different from Grant's?" Carol asked. Her voice sounded even. Her expression showed her feelings. She wanted to kill someone. Grant was a Lennox, and this happened to him under her watch. Sam kept expecting her to go ballistic.

"I'm Megatron's personal property," Sam explained. "The clothes mark me as that. Grant was dressed in the standard collar and clothes." His face was blank. An officer from the other room came in with a bundle that clinked. Sam pulled out chains. The thought of one of the colonists wearing them made him feel sick. "These were made to go around the ankles and wrists and link to a chain around the waist. The Decepticons stopped using chains like those when there was no longer an organized resistance," he went on. He showed them what the chains were for and how they worked. The wrist shackles had blood on them. "Grant fought."

"Why would they have stuff for more slaves? Who else did they expect to take?" Barbara asked. She managed to keep her voice steady.

"Anyone useful as a hostage, I think," he said, as he stood up and got out of the cage.

Sam reported the incident to Rodimus that evening. Security took him to Lennox colony and the Prime after he had told them as much as possible from the room. "There's more than one," he said, pacing. "That wasn't CyKill, I'm sure of it. I don't understand why they didn't just kill Grant. Why keep him alive? To question him? They would have gotten everything he knew in an hour, just scaring him. Grant was no soldier and he hated the military. That's why he worked with Barbara."

Rodimus noted Sam's distress, though Sam managed to remain calm. "Sam, what is truly bothering you here? Or would you prefer to speak to Mulah?"

Sam stopped and faced him. "Part of it is just seeing the cage again. Now I know in my gut they are here, that they intend to take me back and that they won't quit until they do." He took a deep breath. "I've been so happy here. I'm a free human with other free humans. But it's not just that, Rodimus." He turned and looked at the Prime. "I saw one of these free humans treated like a slave- forced into clothes they would never wear here, chained, beaten, and killed, a life just thrown away, another useless death!" A sob escaped him. "Grant was a good person, a sweet, gentle man, and they threw his life away like so much trash!"

"I know, Sam." Neither of them saw Alex and Carol Lennox standing at the door.

"I'd surrender if I thought it would do any good at all, but I'd just be handing him a weapon to use against us all. You have to make a priority to keep the colonies free. Then and only then do we need to deal with Earth." He paced on the table again. Then he swiped at his face. Rodimus could only watch helplessly.

"I have to agree with that," a human voice said. Sam whipped his head over to see Alex and Carol walk up. "Sam, you have my word that if we go to Earth, it will be to keep us safe here, or because we believe that the colonies are safe. Waterfall and our allies are willing to work with us on that. You might also consider that together, humans, Psyches, and the Autobots destroyed the Fallen. Megatron was there, with the 'cons that he didn't leave on Earth. We beat him, and he's afraid of us. He's trying to get you for exactly the reason you named. "He turned to Rodimus. "Do you agree? I just spoke to Basalm, a lot of that is from him." They climbed the ladder to the table. Sam wiped his face again and took some deep breaths.

"I agree with you and the leader of the Psyche military. Sam, I dislike doing this when you have been so strongly reminded of your time as a slave, but you must to submit to protection. Your safety is part of the safety of this colony. Moreover, this is proof of the threat to these colonies. This will be discussed in Council tomorrow, and you must be there. "Sam nodded.

"In the meantime, you're coming with me," Carol said. "I had no idea you were so upset or I'd have sent you to Mulah. None of this is remotely your fault, and we're in no more danger than we already were. The difference is that we know it. You warned us, and if you hadn't called Rodimus, Grant would still be dead, the cage would still be there, and you would be in more danger- meaning the colony would be in more danger- than now." She hugged him before taking his hand and leading him away. Alex watched them go, and turned to Rodimus.

"She'll take care of him," the general said, sounding sad. "Pits, the poor guy finally gets his feet under him, and life had to kick him in the ass again. Sucks to be him." He shook his head. Then he turned to Rodimus, the look changing to one of determination. "Now, let's talk about how we're going to present this to the Council. Sam had a valid point."

Sam attended the Council meeting, as requested. Security clamped down before the incident became well known, to prevent hysteria, so most did not know the reason for the meeting. Up until now, the Alliance remained hesitant to attack Earth. Such a huge commitment of resources for anything other than defense seemed wasteful.

Rodimus and Alex Lennox ran the meeting. They related the incident. Ratchet did the autopsy on the Pretender. He began with the assumed name and resume, before he showed holograms showing how the Decepticon Sideways managed to pass as human. The revelation that more Decepticons might still be in the population kept them grim and listening. Miranda performed the autopsy on Grant.She testified that before Grant died of a broken neck, he suffered being chained and beaten by a device called a switch. She showed holograms of his body. Alex Lennox called a break. Too many organics, human and Psyche alike, needed some time to to settle their emotions. Some cried, some ranted, and some headed for the waste disposal.

They brought in the cage when the Counsel reconvened. Carol went over the cage, showing the various adaptations for keeping a human alive and contained. She opened the food packages and passed samples of the food to the Council. "You actually ate this stuff?" one of the humans asked. Only one of the Psyches managed to swallow the stuff. The others spit it out.

Rodimus stepped forward. The Counsel went quiet to listen to the Prime. "We see here the true picture of what we face," he said. "We believed that with the death of the Fallen and the defeat of Megatron, that threat was, if not over, at least diminished. Now we know that the people of Earth paid and still pay the price for our victory. We know that Megatron has built a fleet of warships over time; we saw a fraction of those when we rescued Ratchet and Sam. We see that the Decepticons have no intention of leaving us alone. Megatrons sees the means of our defeat through taking Sam and completing the All-Spark."

Murmurs broke out. One person called for Sam to speak, and others joined in the call. Sam came forward. "What Grant endured was a taste of everyday life for a slave, " Sam told them.

Mulah was one of the Psyche representatives. "How valid is the fear that the slaves will be slaughtered if we attack Earth?"

"The humans' use to the Decepticons is as workers," Sam said. He hesitated. "That does not mean that all Decepticon supervisors will be willing to kill their own charges. I know several of my supervisors would hesitate."

Rodimus said, "We saw how the Decepticons acted on Cycle." That was the Psyche colony world the Fallen tried to destroy.

Mulah stood and turned up the volume of his speaking device. "But these were not people they worked with. I saw a pattern in Sam's memories. As the humans lost their ability to fight and integrated as slaves into the Decepticon society, the attitudes of the Decepticons who work with humans changed. Their treatment of slaves is still deplorable, but they no longer see the humans as threats. Many of them see humans as responsibilities. They learned that taking care of their human's needs has increases the usefulness of their charges." He paused. Around him everyone listened attentively. "The supervisors that worked well with Sam in his various lives were well regarded, considered efficient supervisors. They gained enough status to get attention from Ratchet as soon as a medic was available. Ratchet and Sam agree this was a mark of a valued Decepticon. I believe that while we must remember that Decepticons have that name for a reason, we also remember that all of them are not heartless killing machines. "

The Council ended on that somewhat less grim note, with the firm decision made that the hunt for the spies would escalate, that Sam would be constantly protected, and that the arrangements for war would escalate.

Rodimus and Alexander Lennox announced that most of the fleet was in good shape, that Waterfall and the other allied species, with their planets, agreed to provide extra security details to work with militia left behind. The priority was to find the spies and the Decepticon ship serving them, before moving on to deal with Megatron and the remaining Decepticons.

Rodimus asked Sam to look at Grant's private diary. What Sam read there saddened him deeply. "Cykill," he told the Prime. "No doubt at all. He figured out that Grant was same-sex, and he used what he learned on Earth with me and the other slaves."

Grant knew his kidnappers. Barbara's assistant was a totally innocent pawn, who found the wrong someone to share his needs with. He said at one point that his friend had some physical problems, and that he sought comfort with Grant. Of course Cykill's ability to share intimacy had limits,but with Grant, who was probably ashamed of his same-sex needs, his 'disability' would be a blessing. Grant could tell himself that what they shared was not sex, and still have his cravings met. Grant began to be troubled, not so much by his friend, but by the men his friends shared quarters with. He began to distance himself from his friend, and the friend did not take that well, to the point where Grant began to be afraid, and he made an appointment to see a Psyche at the urging of the mother of his girls.

Sam figured that Cykill found out about the Psyche appointment, and saw it as a threat. Sam wondered why CyKill had not just killed his lover, but he remembered that CyKill had not wanted to kill Noisy either. If CyKill had seen Grant as a possession, then Sam could see him claiming Grant as a slave and beginning to teach him his place, until Sideways lose his cover. He could not take Grant with him or leave him to talk.

"He never had a clue what his friend was until the end," Sam told Rodimus. "Cykill used him to learn how to behave in the colony's society, how to fit in. And he liked having that power over Grant."

Soon afterward Sam got a message from Willie saying when the Scout was due to arrive. He needed a sounding board who wouldn't dance around his feelings like everyone else seemed to. He said the ship was due for a dry-dock overhaul and if Sam would meet him there and help him with the work, they could talk. Sam headed over with two human guards. When they reached the area, it seemed deserted. "Where is he?" Sam wondered out loud, frustrated. Sam's guards tried to call main security and could not get through.

Shots rang out and both guards fell. "Don't move!" someone yelled from behind him. Sam dropped instead, grabbing for the weapons. He came up in time to see a human form coming at him at an inhuman speed. He fired and ran, turning when he reached doors to fire again. Despite one of the shots hitting the human form in the leg, the man kept coming. Sam headed for the bots' side of the spaceport, using as many doors as he could, trying to raise anyone on his communicator. Communication in the area was down, it said.

He heard the pretender gaining on him. The shots made him hesitate. Sam got through the last door to a wide corridor and fired his last shot. At the sound of a transform, he bolted for the closest human sized door. One hard blow sent him tumbling. He rolled to his feet. This time the bot took him down, knocking the breath from him. As he tried to force his lungs to work, his attacker turned Sam to his back to face him.

CyKill believed that the master's pet would surrender as soon as he knew he was caught. Slaves knew very well just how useless it was to fight a master. He waited for the master's pet to regain his wind. When he did, Sam exercised his prosthesis creatively at the height of its volume and struggled as hard as he could Cykill placed fingers over Sam's throat, pressing. When he judged the lesson learned, he let up and the human gulped air. "That's the first time I've heard you live up to your name, Noisy," he said, amused.

"Noisy died," Sam spat, still panting.

"Too bad, he knew how to behave with his masters." He let go of Sam's throat and grabbed his arms. "You can make this easy or hard, but you're coming with me."

Sam fought every step of the way. He grabbed anything available. He screamed and cursed. He thrashed constantly, doing anything to slow Cykill down, hoping anyone would hear him. As he went from amused, to annoyed, and to angry, CyKill went from dragging, to bruising grips, and to light blows. Finally CyKill slammed Sam against a wall. Sam went limp. As Cykill shifted his grip, Sam's hand shot out and hit an emergency button. Alarms screamed through the building. Startled, Cykill dropped him. As Sam landed on the floor, the infuriated pretender kicked him him twice in the gut and chest. "Try fighting me now," he snarled, and shut off the alarm.

Sam saw CyKill reach for him. He curled around agony, both in his chest and his belly. Breathing hurt. Something inside him tore on the last kick. Suddenly a large foot kicked Cykill away. Bumblebee bent over him. "Help is coming," Bumblebee said. Behind him, Sam saw Kup kick CyKill to Hound, and Hound kick him to Ironhide.

"You tried to take one of mine as a slave," Ironhide said, snarling, his foot on CyKill. "Then you killed him."

"He was mine! He knew he was mine, until that female got in the way," CyKill shrieked. "He came to find me and the others- they had no right, he was mine! He needed me!"

Ironhide glared at him. Then he lifted his foot. Sam watched in savage satisfaction as Cykill crumbled.

But weeks later, Sam woke to see bars around him.

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