Chapter 3: The Mine and Aftermath
Sam was climbing the walls. Literally.
He managed to get to the latch this time and fiddle with it for some time before he heard Megatron's steps approaching. By this time he knew his so-called owner's stride from other 'con's. When the door opened, he stood on the floor again. He jumped a little further than usual this time. Stumbling, he managed to catch himself before he fell.
"Why am I cursed with such idiotic fools for Decepticons, Sam? " the Decepticon leader grumbled. Something slammed on the desk, a drawer opened, and slammed again. Megatron came over to open the lid of the cage and lift Sam out. "I need those mines to produce." He set Sam on the desk.
Megatron paced and went over his plans while Sam listened and watched. Within a few weeks of his captivity, Sam became Megatron's sounding board. Being mute, Sam voiced no unwanted opinions. Nor would Sam be able to betray the Decepticon leader's thoughts or plans. At the same time, he listened intently to his master, nodded and shook his head as appropriate, and thereby learned a great deal about what went on in the Decepticon world at high levels. He reflected at time about how valuable such information would be to any Autobots or resistance fighters. Too bad there was no one to pass the information to. Today he stood on the desk and listened to Megatron rant..
When Megatron carried him to the site of the last resistance holdout, he expected to be executed. At best, he anticipated being collared and shoved into a slave outpost in the back end of nowhere. Instead he was being –claimed? Exiled? What in the slag was running through Megatron's processors?
Back in the cage, he paced, occasionally pulling at the collar. In these last few years of freedon, he almost forgot what the constant weight on his neck felt like. In time, his neck would conform to the collar, the way that wedding rings and constantly worn watches would back in the day when humanity had such luxuries. Most slave collars were made of steel. This one was made of onyx embedded in gold. Any collar had to have metal to conduct the electric shock that was its control.
He rubbed the clothes he wore, trying to figure out the material. It felt good against his skin, but he doubted that was why Megatron chose it.Slave uniform tended to be dull blue or gray or green. Uniforms also tended to be of rough cloth that could last, like canvas or denim. Comparing the two, he realized that both collar and clothes marked him as Lord Megatron's possession and set him apart.
Megatron considered him a prize possession. Sam was 'a living reminder of what humans could be and never will be again', a symbol of his triumph over this world. Sam remembered hearing the comments of the bystanders. The Decepticons who fought in the war and dealt with the resistance liked that statement a lot. The later arrivals thought that keeping a human penned away from other humans was just a waste of a strong back. After pacing for some time, Sam stopped, took a deep breath, and forced himself to shove aside emotions and try to think. Don't ask why, he reminded himself. Ask for the reason. What reason does Megatron have for keeping me in a pen, keeping me from other humans, and not killing me?
The sound of Megatron approaching the cage sent him to the back of his enclosure. Once again he was lifted from the cage, but this time they went into the room Hook was working in.
Directly in sight of the door lay an area made for a human. It held what a human would need- areas to clean up, something to void into, areas to sleep, some shelves that held food, empty shelves, and a chest of the same clothes he was wearing. The area took up a tiny portion of the huge room,clearly where Megatron private apartments. Sam realized that there would be no such thing as privacy. There were no walls, but posts at each corner. Megatron put Sam in the enclosure and Sam could hear a faint whine. He could see some kind of line on the floor. When he tried to cross it, his collar pressed against his throat.
He backed up and turned to explore. There was a water faucet here, with towels and a bottle of solvent nearby. The water ran warm, and Sam wondered where it came from. He knew the solvent cleaned both clothes and skin. There was a waste disposal like the one in his cage. The sleeping pad was larger and thicker, and there were several blankets. There was a trunk of foodstuffs, better than the normal slave ration. Sam looked over at Megatron, at a loss. What was he supposed to think now?
"You belong to me now. And anything of mine is taken care of." That day and several days after, they inspected the contents of the trunks the drone brought, which held everything the base had in it. Sam salvaged quite a bit, including a lot of books.Sam concluded that something was driving Megatron that neither of them understood. More and more, Sam sensed something trying to influence him-right out the damned door and to something, which was why he tried to get out of the cage when left alone for any length of time. What? He had no idea.
That night and many nights to come, Sam's mind worked around what Megatron said to him in the clearing. Born free, educated as an intelligent being, independent, Sam represented a lost civilization. Megatron saw him as a reminder that humans were not always domestic animals. Given any opportunity at all, they could and would recover and fight back; Sam could teach them how. Therefore Sam had to be removed from contact with them-exiled. If Megatron could not kill the stubbornly resurrecting human, then the Decepticon leader would keep him confined and under his optic until he figured out what was going on.
Did he know that he was admitting to forcibly downgrading a species to keep them inferior, and that in doing so, he was admitting that species was as sentient as his own? If he did, Sam doubted he cared.
Sometimes when Megaton was in the room, he let Sam move freely. In the office, Sam remained on the desk, on a shelf Megatron installed nearby, or in the cage. Outside the office he wore the harness. At the same time his 'owner 'tended to be fiercely protective. Any other 'con coming near Sam better have a reason.
Once or twice he was able to get hold of a datapad and play with it a little…
Megatron wound down eventually and looked Sam over. He seldom left Sam behind when he traveled out of the compund, preferring to keep the human with him, but he did not take Sam where there were humans around. He got information on Sam in bits and pieces. Soundwave put the word out to provide information on any male slave with white hair who looked Sam's apparent age, from any time period. Occasionally, when he met with Megatron on routine matters, he reported progress.
Soundwave brought his cassettes at times. After their mutually unpleasant experience that first day, Sam watched Soundwave warily. Megatron put him into his area of the private quarters, setting the barrier. Soundwave sent his cassettes to observe him the human pet. The first time, they were grouchy about it, though they obeyed. The door closed behind them, and sounds came out muted.
When the meeting ended, Megatron opened the door. A bright greed disc sailed past him, about knee level. He watched it pass by in some disbelief. Ravage trotted by to fetch it and take it back into the room, tossing it with a jerk of his head into Sam's area. Sam caught it. Frenzy, Razorbeak, and Buzzsaw all slunk out of the room as well, lining up behind Soundwave. There was some silent communication. Noting there was no damage anywhere, Megatron dismissed them all.
He noted that the cassettes did not protest 'observing' Sam again.
Megatron did not like the reports he was getting from space, and he wanted to increase the planetary defenses and warning systems. This required metal. Normally the mine Sam had taken refuge in would be too much trouble to reopen, but not now. Besides, he got a lot of complaints about the manpower the mines wasted. Humans were certainly replaceable but they still had to be raised and trained. Today he visited the mines personally. He confirmed information on the death rates of the humans working there. That rate appalled him. He felt no useless compassion for humans, but there was no reason to lose strong slaves the way they were being wasted in the mines. More food, sensible and inexpensive safety precautions, and less vicious punishment saved serious credits. Other facilities using those policies proved not only more productive but much more productive. He had no idea who sent him that report but he was glad he saw it.
Well, Megatron sent for Bonecrusher. The head of the mines could implement these changes or be replaced. There were several subordinates delighted to take his place while Bonecrusher went to the asteroid minest. Still, despite his damned temper, the mech did have more experience with the mines than any other mech Megatron had. He got the message that Bonecrusher stood outside and put Sam in his quarters instead of in the pen. He wanted his pet far away from Bonecrusher's cruelty.
He enjoyed the company of his pet. Sam was someone to rant to, someone to distract him when he was frustrated, and a soothing presence when he worked. A drone delivered food and cleaned the pen when it cleaned Megatron's quarters. Otherwise, Sam was self-sufficient. His ongoing silence comforted the Decepticon leader after listeing to his pit-spawned subordinates whining. More and more they worked out signs for basic needs and ideas.Sam possessed an expressive face when he chose to use it.
As Megatron expected, Bonecrusher protested the changes. The shouting wore on Megatron's patience. Eventually he sent Bonecrusher out of the door with the specific threat that he intended another personal inspection within the solar cycle. He expected to see the changes implemented and improvements in production. He reminded Bonecrusher that the asteroid mines always needed more worker. As the mine overseer stormed out, Megatron pushed the door to his quarters open and called Sam. He lifted his pet onto the desk when the office door opened again. "Master, I wanted to ask-"he stopped, staring at Sam, who was in Megatron's hands. The expressions that moved across his face ranged from shocked, to calculation, to disgust, before finally settling to a blank. Megatron watched, wondering if Bonecrusher would attack. Sam kept his head down and edged behind his master's hand.
"Yes? I will tell you again, Bonecrusher, this is not a matter of softness, but of sense! If treating the humans better will increase production, then do it!"
"It is not a matter I wish to discuss in front of a babbling slave," Bonecrusher said with some stiffness.
"Sam, being mute, does not babble," Megatron said. Bonecrusher relaxed just a little. "Why does he disturb you?"
"I was concerned about a possible security breech," Bonecrusher retorted, and asked his question. The respond was simple enough. "He reminds me of the last resistance leader," the mining supervisor admitted. "Gave us a lot of trouble for about a quarter of a vorn, before we finally cornered him. He took out a few of my unit when he died. He was older than this one, skin and hair was darker. We were trying to take him alive, under orders."
"I remember that," Megatron said thoughtfully. "We needed examples. The last one, you say?"
"Last one on this continent," Bonecrusher said, considering. "I think we executed the last one in the continent over, in the rain forest, about a solar cycle after that. We had a hard time there because of the terrain. That group was more a rock in a joint than anything else. The one that looked like your pet, his group did some real damage. About half the ones they killed couldn't be brought back. "He turned to go. "Not like the humans we have now, who know their place and have some use."
"Then quit wasting them." Bonecrusher closed the door behind him, and heard a snort. He hated the memory of that particular human. He was a slave at one of the first mines Bonecrusher supervised. There was a cave-in, and the slaves in it were presumed dead. The slave that looked like the master's was one of them. Some time after, the sneak attacks started. A freak avalanche buried Bonecrusher for several solar cycles. Slaves disappeared. Incidents never seemed to stop, even when they made examples of the ones caught. Over the human years the group fought, they lost eight of his unit permanently. It still smarted. It took extreme security measures and a lucky capture before they managed to crush the resistance group.
Megatron did not see the look of hate Sam shot at Bonecrusher, but he did see the gesture Sam made at him when he went out the door. He barely smothered his laugh into the snort. "Won't work," he informed Sam, who snorted in his turn. "So you were the last resistance leader. I should have known, shouldn't I." It was not a question. He touched Sam's collar. It was a reminder to both of them that Sam was pretty much helpless. The human strength in the war lay in their weapons and their knowledge of their planet.
"Better to keep you under my optic, I think," Megatron said, in a meditative way. "I will find out everything that happened to you, eventually." Sam shrugged. "In the meantime, I think you need to eat." He let Sam chose his food and a bottle of water, and sipped his own energon while Sam ate. Then they set up a chess game. Megatron always won, but Sam was progressing enough to give an entertaining game.
Sam looked over the chess game and waited for Megatron to make his move. He did not have to work as hard on giving a good game without winning, and he let his mind wander a little.
One of Sam's personal failures included never managing to kill the sadistic bastard Bonecursher. Sam woke after his death with Mikaela in one of the slave camps, was chained to a spot on the floor like the other slaves and naked except for a blanket. When the mechs roused the slaves, they gave him clothes, far too little food, and hauled him to the mine with the others. Humans worked in the mines because of the limited space. That year in the mines stood out in his mind as few other experiences in his long life did. Afterward he experienced hell as a slave, but more in isolated incidences than the ongoing hell that the mines were. Humans died like flies there. The workers wore chains, and did grinding hard labor. Mech used whips on a whim. They killed anyone unable to work. Sam woke looking like a teenager again, and the older men tried to protect him somewhat.
Six months into the year Sam was there, they had an influx of young men around his apparent age. They were young and strong, athletes that reminded Sam of Trent. Half of them died within a month, replaced at a steady rate. The older men died. Sam became senior human at the mine. Talk was discouraged in the mine by the whip, but the men used hand signals. When his group members moved into a shaft that a bot could not fit into, Sam signaled one to check out the cave while the rest of them worked on. The scout came back excited. Sam motioned to the shafts on either side. The wood used for shafts- metal rusted too quickly- splintered in seconds, and they all rushed for the opening to the outside of the mine, taking the tools with them.
They emerged in a wooded area. Sam led them deep into the heavy forest, moving as quickly as they could. They found a peach tree and attacked the fruit. They found berries. Sam killed a squirrel. They did not bother with cooking,shared a bite of the meat. Then they got the chains off, using the tools. By some miracle, they did not break anyone's wrist or ankle. Sam examined the bands carefully to see if there was anything embedded to track them, but he did not find anything.
It took them two weeks to find free humans. The old man complained when they appeared, pointed out a nearby pond, and gave them soap. Sam almost scrubbed his skin off. Looking at his fellow slaves, he saw five youths, thin and muscled. All except Sam had the tanned skin and dark hair common in the area. His own skin and hair looked pale in comparison. By the time they returned, the man cooked a huge pot of oatmeal and fish frying. He handed them a bowl of radishes and spring onions. They ate like wolves.
Full, clean and grateful, they asked him what he needed done. In the time they remained there, they did all the work to get the old man's crops into the ground, built storage, and repaired his home. To the miners, used to a day's hard labor on little food , plowing was easy work. Sam went into the woods regularly with the old man to trap animals and hunt for wild plants and fruits. They left him happy, with his crops well in the ground and enough food to replace what they ate. He gave them some supplies when they left with the resistance.
Sam found out his fellow workers were the offspring of soldiers from a military base that dug in and protected themselves, until found by the mechs and targeted for a labor source. They believed what the slave masters told them, that Sam had his voice taken out for asking questions. Sam did not correct them. He and they had only one goal- they intended to get revenge on the mechs for the hell they survived, and rescue their fellow slaves.
No one questioned where Sam got his skills. The resistance base sat in a natural cave, deep underground, and the leader had a list of places that might have canned food and weapons storage. They gathered as much as they could. They hunted- game was plentiful. They became master scavengers from what was left of the human remains. Sam was especially skilled at this job. Once he had some idea of where they were, he led a group to find the last caches of ammunition and weapons that would work against the Decepticons.
They managed to contact the remains of the military school and get them to the safety of the base, and set the school up as a trap. Sam did some exhaustive planning. The Decepticons shut down that part of the mine and never bothered to try to find the bodies; there was no hunt for missing slaves.
The mines were situated in a valley and the mountains above were covered in snow during the winter, when it was easier to leave the slaves in the mine itself than to try and keep them warm outside. They cleared the slaves out of the mine using the cave. They set timed explosives inside the mine shafts. Then they created an avalanche with carefully placed explosives on the mountain.
They got an unexpected bonus in that several of the robots, Bonecrusher included, were buried in the huge devastation that the avalanche created. The resistance was overjoyed. The Decepticons were neutralized until their command looked into matters and dug them out, which took over a year. In the meantime, the resistance made progress in establishing safe spots and protected areas. For years, they operated as quietly as possible. The goal was to keep as many humans free as possible, without being caught. Eventually, the Decepticons figured out that the 'accidents' were being engineered, and that the resistance existed. The hunt started.
Unable to speak, Sam advised through writing and example. Leaders normally kept him in jobs that did not involve direct fighting; even mute, they considered him as a prize information source. They did damage. They freed slaves and got them to the best safety they could, teaching them basics and scattering them so they would not easily be caught .He did the best he could, but it was not enough. It was never enough. The number of soldiers whittled down slowly.
The Decepticons were consolidating their grip on Earth, and concentrating on the few areas with free humans. Sam knew that the 'cons planned slow, agonizing deaths for the members of the last few free human groups; they announced it every chance they got, to keep the slaves in line.
There were always volunteers for missions. Sometimes the 'cons they killed came back, and sometimes they did not. Everyone kept poison, and everyone swore to the pact. Then two got captured by being knocked unconscious in a blast, and never had a chance to use their poison. They were set for public execution. Sam and his group took the last long range sniper weapon they had, and set it up. They set up the last weapons with mech killing capacity, and waited for the execution to start. The shots rang out, stopping their comrade's pain, and the executioner died in front of the human audience. The snipers shot themselves when they knew they could not escape. The ones with the 'con-killing weaponry blew it when their attackers got too close. They took out another'con that way.
In the end, Sam took two of them with him. They herded him into a blind canyon, determined to take him alive. He drove a covered truck full of the last deadly explosive, recklessly using the last of the fuel. He scrambled out of the truck, and set off the explosive as the Decepticons came for him.
He was proud of his score, even now. In total he killed over twenty Decepticons personally, and helped kill a lot more. At least he had reduced human misery a little, had slowed if not stopped the takeover. It was his third death. He estimated that he lived around half his life then.
"Your mind is not on the game," his master said, breaking Sam out of his memories. Sam looked at the board and moved his piece. "Checkmate!" the master said triumphantly, and Sam sighed.
Why did this power, thing, whatever, force him to keep living? What more did he need to do to get out of this never-ending cycle of humiliation? The mechs looked at him and saw the symbol of humanity's subjugation. They looked at him and thought how humanity was reduced to serving as toys when their ancestors died to keep from being captured.
There had to be an answer. There had to be a reason.