Chapter 4: Background checks and old friends

On his next visit, Soundwave brought a tentative timeline for Sam's past. "Now that he is stronger and seems to be stable, I would like to try to question him again," the second in command requested.

Soundwave observed how protective his master became of Sam, and that he kept the human close to him. He noted that his cassettes liked being around the human. He considered that Razorclaw, Shrapnel, and some other supervisors found reasons to keep their version of Sam close by. He forced Bonecrusher into revealing more about his experience with the white-haired slave, and leaned on a few others for the same reason. Several were no longer on the planet. But he felt he was missing some vital piece of information. That information was the key to understanding Samuel James Witwicky's ongoing renewal and reason he attracted protection and the desire to control from Cybertronians.

"I agree. I think he's better; we can try again. But if he becomes upset, stop." At a nod from Soundwave, Ravage went to the other room and nudged Sam. Sam looked up, and seeing Megatron beckon, went to him. Soundwave did not miss the apprehensive look the human sent him. Ravage returned to his creator's side. Megatron lifted Sam to the desk, but did not let go. "It won't be as bad this time," Megatron assured him, at the pleading look Sam sent him.

Every time Soundwave came, Sam worried that there would be another telepathy session. Last time he was exhausted and close to hysteria, and that hysteria drove Soundwave out. This time he had his head together and he was more afraid. A warm finger fell on the juncture of his neck and shoulder. Soundwave did not ask questions this time. Sam felt that presence, and then the memories began to flood through…

He was in the factory, on the assembly line. He worked there for over ten years on the saws. He held the record for the least injury in that time period, because he only lost pieces of two fingers. Beside him, one of the other slaves talked about the examiner coming to evaluate males for stud duty. Sam knew the examiner must not see him. He waited until the supervisor confirmed that they were to power down the machines in the next hour so they could be examined. Sam kept glancing back until the supervisor was across the building. Then he rammed the saw the right way. Blood fountained, and the hand caught in the saws and the bones stopped the machinery. He screamed silently, clutching at the pumping arm and spraying warm sticky blood. The slave master came over cursing. A sword came out. One expert blow, and the pain faded into darkness.

He stood with the datapad in his hand in the field. The master ordered him to say his answer aloud. Of course he could not, and the whip came down- again and again, and again, -then forever later, the agony ended when one of the blows broke something in his back and numbed him everywhere. Then, just as everything was going black, he heard the sulky voice saying, "He wouldn't scream-"

He could hear the tornado bearing down on them as the others screamed in the transport, and then they were all thrown out, and he hit the ground and something fell on top of him.

He was not well, though not really in pain, and there were slaves all around him who were sick as well, but then everything just faded away…

Terror gushed through him as a voice breathed into his ear, "Pain? Anyone can hurt you. I want to possess you. I want to overwhelm you. I want you to fear me and crave me. That's real power, sweet," as a hard body held him down and hands explored his body, testing his pain and pleasure points. Relief came as someone interrupted his tormentor. He knew it was a matter of time before the tormentor came after Noisy again. But the tree fell wrong, and he heard the frustrated shriek as a branch impaled him through the gut. Pain, and pain, and pain, until they got the tree up and the branch came out and opened the big internal vessel on its way out.

And always, just after the pain ended, a calling, a longing, a need for something, and he did not understand- and then he would wake again-

Then the presence was gone. Sam lay with a ringing emptiness in his head and a terrible headache. He curled up in Megatron's hands, seeking the warmth of the metal. He wanted to hide from light and sound.

Looking at Soundwave, who actually looked ill this time, Megatron said, "Let me guess, this time wasn't any better. " He placed Sam on his shoulder, rubbing the human's back and neck, feeling the tension release under his fingers.

"No, master. I will not attempt this again; he is damaging both of us with his erratic memories. I did confirm that most of the information I have on the timeline is correct."

Megatron looked down at his pet, now soundly sleeping, and wondered at himself. He was the Lord Megatron. Few knew how he had been frozen in the Arctic and used by the humans to advance their own technology. His revenge was complete. He had enslaved the humanity that held him captive. He had the remnants of the Cube left when Optimus slammed it into his spark, killing himself, with the boy's body was still in his hand. The shard of the Cube left would not begin new life, but it did revive off-lined robots most of the time.

At the same time, he held the very boy he had killed, giving comfort for the pain from an action he condoned. Sam was supposed to remind him of humanity's threat. This little organic on his shoulder killed several of his Decepticons and lead the resistance effectively for decades. When Soundwave warned that Sam was dangerous in the wrong hand, Megatron knew he spoke only the truth. Had he not spent more than a human lifetime desperately trying to save what he could of his fellow humans? For that reason, Megatron kept the boy confined, exiled from his fellow humans, and under his optic.

Megatron did not expect to care for the boy. Sam became the one intelligent being he could rant to and play with, a constant and soothing companion. Sam was certainly a danger should any opportunity arise to turn on his 'master' and free himself and his fellow humans. Megatron did not forget. But while he kept Sam isolated from his kind and confined, he had to admit the human meant something to him, and he would be loath to lose him.

He wished for a competent medic often, though. Hook would do drastic surgery if he had to, but he was not a medic. Megatron had to conserve the energy of the Cube shard, and many of his soldiers needed minor repairs. There were orders to capture, not kill, any competent medic they could. All Autobot medics swore to help any who asked, including the enemy.

In the meantime, other matters began to take his attention. There was some indication that the Autobot alliance was probing them again. There were some encounters. Megatron came back several evenings and required Sam to help clean and polish his armor. He increased the patrols, and as luck would have it, his men got to a unexpected prize.

Sam was with Megatron for several solar cycles when they found the scouting party. Soundwave sent the information when he hacked the communications from them, and warned the patrol that there was one prize with them that was not to be killed and if possible taken in good condition. The commander, looking at his orders, called another patrol, and they overwhelmed the group. They managed to seize the prize, though the rest of the party escaped. The prize gave a lot of trouble until they pinned him down and put him in stasis. Megatron came as soon as they called him. He knew how to disable the weapons, and Hook created a device to keep them disabled until released.

They carried the prize to the med bay, set up containment and guards, and then released the prize from stasis. The optics came online, blue meeting red as he took in where he was. "Greeting, Ratchet," Megatron purred. "Glad you dropped in. We can use a medic."

Ratchet paced in the containment area. At first they brought him patients constantly. Finally Megatron himself intervened, setting times that his medic would work and ensuring he was not worked into forced recharge. Ratchet was nasty to the guards, but the damned things that they attached to him to keep him in line worked quite well. Fortunately, his patients complained vocally for him when the guards interrupted his work, and the games stopped as Ratchet kept to his oath and repaired those that needed help. No one ever knew when they would need a medic, and he began to get the respect he knew he deserved.

The problem was, they also made certain he was contained. They seemed know any trick a prisoner could get up to. Ratchet had to wonder how. Decepticons were not known for holding prisoners in good condition for any length of time.

Ratchet expected an interrogation or a hacking. Instead, he got a steady line of patients.In a rare moments when the guards walked out of sight, he asked one of his patients why. "No medics, "the 'con said. The drug Ratchet used to calm him for the repair made him talkative. "Hook's no good unless you're desperate; shard's no good except off-lines. " Well, that told Ratchet something they had come to find out- there was an All-Spark shard. Too bad there was no way to tell his team. Truthfully, he had gotten lucky with that patient; the guards stayed in listening range, and they would stop a patient from talking.

The scouting party had two missions. One order came directly from Rodimus Prime; find out if there was any news at all about the All-Spark, either as pieces of the Cube or as part of something else. If Ratchet remembered what the Prime said correctly, his vision stated that there were two pieces of the All-Spark on Earth, but they needed to be reunited to be truly functional. One was known to the Decepticons, and one was hidden in plain sight, but in danger of being discovered.

The second mission was to discover what happened to the human race still living on the planet. When they left, there were billions of people on Earth. Ratchet knew from the moment they did any scans of Earth that finding an unknown piece of the All-Spark was going to be next door to slagging impossible. Human civilization was gone. There were no human cities left at all, and barely any ruins. The Decepticons cleaned out any human debris from space, probably to use as scrap metal. There was human life, several millions from what Ratchet understood, but it was scattered around the planet, and always attached to some kind of Decepticon activity. His spark ached when he realized that the human population dropped to less than a tenth of what it once was.

His spark twisted as he considered his own place in this mess. What did the humans used to say? He was 'screwed.' The rest of the team was forced to run or be slaughtered when the Decepticons attacked in force and then concentrated on him. He thought it was because he was the only one who was part of the original landing team, but from what Megatron told him, it was simply because he was a medic and they desperately needed one. There were times when he hated where the damned medic's oath took him.

The doors opened, but it was not the guards this time. The steps were too heavy, and despite himself he was afraid. He knew who it had to be.

Megatron came far enough into the med bay to see his captive medic, who stopped his pacing and turned to give him a steady, scorching gaze. His people worked the Hatchet into the ground, until he intervened. Now the medic looked well enough. As the Lord Protector expected, he worked on the hordes of patients who needed repairs steadily. He managed better with the repairs than they thought. Hook was more than glad to find material for spare parts when he no longer was called to do unavoidable repairs.

There was a breathing space now, where the major repairs were done and the less urgent ones waited. He would need those taken care of, but for now he could question Ratchet and give him time to recover before the next set started. The medic would need the time to recover. 'The Hatchet's' temper was well known; he would not give up information easily. At the same time, he could not afford to hack the medic. He needed the slagging cranky healer for now.

"I have some questions for you." Ratchet felt the warning, and in the next moment he was on his knees. The devices they used to keep him in line worked very well. "I would suggest that you answer them quickly. I have all the time in the universe, but you will not enjoy prolonging the process."

Hours later Megatron left, leaving orders that the medic was not to see anyone for two days, at which time Megatron would see him again. The Lord Protector was not a happy mech. The Alliance finished licking its wounds, and ready to deal with unfinished business. Megatron was sure they knew that he had a part of the Cube, and they know knew at least part of the situation on the humans.

He believed he could beat them off of his territory. They might even offer some kind of negotiation. But this situation needed his personal attention That meant he needed to leave his human behind. He dared expose Sam to the dangers of space. At the same time, there were very few Decepticons he trusted to adequately care for Sam without an agenda of their own.

Ratchet was jumpy when Megatron appeared again. He was not in his containment, but in the med bay, working on getting his supplies settled. He needed the two days to get his strength back. The session was very draining. He eventually answered all of Megatron's questions. He admitted that part of the mission included finding out about the All-Spark. He said nothing about Rodimus' dream.

Megatron had his hands over something against his chest, held so Ratchet could not see what it was. One guard carried some kind of storage device, which he dropped into a corner. Ratchet stood against one of the medical berths and waited. Megatron sent the guards out with a short order, and the door closed behind them. Ratchet heard it lock. "I need for you to take care of my pet." With that shocking statement, he moved his hands and set a human on the berth.

Sam wondered why Megatron had him covered so completely. He heard Megatron talking to the guards, and he sounded harsh. He knew that there was something going on, and that Megatron was leaving for a time. He had gathered all of his stuff together and the master piled it into a trunk- damn, he had a lot of stuff now, a whole trunk full when all he used to own used to be on his back. Megatron was going to space, to check on his defenses and play negotiation games with the Alliance. Sam lost all hope of the Alliance getting anywhere; he remembered how Megatron played with the human governments.

Then Megatron was speaking to someone else, and one of the names was familiar. Then the master put him down. He was on some kind of medical berth. He glanced up, and then stared. He could not believe what he was seeing. It looked like Ratchet, but with something attached to his chest plates, arms and legs.

Ratchet looked down at the human, and the angry words he was about to speak died before they were voiced. It could not be. Sam had to be dead; humans only lived about a vorn at best, this must be a descendant of some kind. Dear Primus, but this young man looked like Sam the last time he had seen the determined boy, Mikaela by him, when Bumblebee pleaded with him one last time to come with them. They refused, with Mikaela looking at Ratchet, with their secret between them. Sam never got over Optimus' sacrifice, always feeling that he was responsible for that failure. Primus, how could anyone blame the youth he was for that fiasco?

The boy wore black in some kind of soft material. He wore a gold and black collar. Like Sam when they left, his hair was white and thick and short. The young one looked at him, stunned; then he looked back at Megatron.

Megatron picked Sam up and put the human on his shoulder, stroking his back. Ratchet watched in shock. Megatron actually seemed fond of the human. "Behave for Ratchet, pet. I know you're safe with him." He put Sam down and leveled a look at Ratchet. "I hold you responsible for his good health until I return, medic." Then he turned and left.

Megtron knew he could count on Ratchet to look after any helpless being put into his care. There was enough food and water for more some time, and several of the other pet owners were under orders to be sure that his pet was kept supplied. There was some possibility that Ratchet could figure out what was going on with Sam, or figure out a way to communicate. Either would serve Megatron's purpose. He had to admit, though, that he would miss his human. Sam would resent being called a pet, but he did not want Ratchet to know who Sam was; if Ratchet figured it out, then he would know that the medic had a way of communicating with Sam.

Sam watched Megatron walk out of the room, his heart pounding. Ratchet looked at him, and started talking in English. Sam had some trouble understanding him at first; evidently in over a couple of centuries, languages shifted. The language the slaves used had a lot of other languages mixed in with the baseline human vocabulary. "Well, it seems that Megatron wants both his prizes in a safe place." A guard looked in. Sam immediately looked down and became very still and quiet. Ratchet glanced at him before leveling a glare at the guard. Seeing that the medic was talking to the master's pet, the guard withdrew. "So what's your name?"

Sam looked at him and pulled down the collar, pointing to the scar. "What's this?" Ratchet asked, and began a scan. "Primus," the medic almost whispered. "Even the voice box is gone- how can you be so much like Sam? I know he and Mikaela swore to not have children until the planet was free of Decepticons." He blew air from his vents. "You've got some cousins, if you are Sam's descendant. I took some sperm and ova with me from them. There were some childless couples that came to the medics eventually, just like I hoped." He looked into the trunk Megatron brought. "Have to wonder how intelligent you are. For now, stay there," he put Sam in a corner by the wall almost blocked off by equipment, "and play with your toys, so I don't step on you by mistake. " He set the trunk so that it finished the blockage, and went back to his work.

Sam looked into the trunk and pulled out water and a protein bar. Then he rummaged, and pulled out his two favorite 'toys'. Megatron took him to a meeting with his archivist, who had a collection of old human machines he liked to play with. While the two mechs talked, Sam wandered in Jetfire's junk. He had no idea at all how the old seeker managed to find a substitute for batteries for the laptop computer or the miniature music player, but they worked. The seeker, old by anyone's standards, was delighted when Sam showed him how to operate some of the other junk he had, and when Sam hovered longingly over the two items, he let the brilliant human have them. They were far too small for any Cybertronian to use, anyway.

Ratchet looked in on the pet at intervals, but left him alone. The pet was evidently used to being left to his own devices, and occupied himself without fuss. After a time Ratchet started to talk to him. The pet set down what he was dealing with to stand up and listen attentively. "Do you know, I've yet to see another human here," Ratchet told him, neatly sorting some of his tools. "Our scans showed there was a percentage left. "

He paused to concentrate on putting the box up and pulling another down. "I remember when we left, this planet was covered with humans. There were cities. Some of them had more than half the current population in them. There were all kinds of trash in space, old satellites and such, and the air crackled with transmissions. There were all kinds of entertainment. I remember how Bumblebee loved the radio, when his vocalizer couldn't work. He used to joke with your ancestor about how both of them had mechanical voices. We made a vocalizer for Sam, but it sounded like what it was, a machine. I guess that's why he got into the logistics, where he talked more through computers than directly to people. He was a spokesperson for a while, until the president was killed and the slagging idiot that replaced him tried to negotiate. "

Hook came in with some materials Ratchet wanted. "Time to put it up, medic," he said, putting the containers on the berth. "Better get some recharge in while you can. Things might get lively soon." Ratchet said nothing, but he put up the last set of tools. Then he went to get the pet, and his trunk, intending to take him into the containment with him. Hook looked speculative.

"You've got to wonder how much that little fellow knows," he mused. "He goes almost everywhere with the Master, and sometimes when he doesn't know you're looking, you'd swear he understands everything he hears. I've heard the Master talking to him in his office sometimes. Not that it matters, him not being able to talk. He's got more secrets locked in him than the archives by now, and they may as well be written in the ancient language of the Primes."

"Does he have a name?" Ratchet asked, curious. The guards told him to get moving, and he stepped into the containment. The bars slid into place and lit up.

"Sam," Hook said from the door. "Named him after a human that refused to give him the Cube and died when knocked off a building. The Master admires courage, even in humans." The door closed and locked behind them. Ratchet put the human down, and helped set up his blankets and pad, something for him to void in, and some food and water.

Then 'Sam' looked at him and made a deliberate gesture, as if he were throwing something. Ratchet looked at him, puzzled. The human made the gesture again, slowly, and added more.

He thought of Sam, and his processor went into overdrive. If this were Sam, these would be the hand gestures he made to talk until he got the vocalizer working, the 'American sign language' that the human doctors made Sam learn when most of their human vocalizers did not work. His family and Mikaela learned with him, and they taught Bumblebee, who then downloaded the information to the rest of the Autobots. He dug in and found the programs. 'Sam' waited patiently, something the Sam Ratchet remembered seldom did. Then again, that Sam was not a pet.

:Ratchet, did Bumblebee ever get his voice fixed?:

It could not be, it could not be, humans did not live this long. This must be a descendant of some kind. "Yes," Ratchet said slowly. Then a guard appeared and looked in. Once again 'Sam' became very still and quiet, and in fact backed against the wall, with his head down.

"Who are you talking to?" He came over and glanced down. Then he snorted. "Oh, him. The master talks to him, too. What's the point, he can't talk back."

"That makes him a better conversationalist than you," Ratchet informed him. The guard went back to his place for what Ratchet suspected was a nap. 'Sam' did not come from the wall until the door closed behind him. "I trust him about that much, too," the medic said to the pet.

Sam nodded and went to get something. Ratchet recognized the device as a laptop computer. Sam climbed into the berth and worked on it for a time. Then he got Ratchet's attention and pointed to the screen. :If you can read this, make a comment about the game,: Ratchet read. Sam pulled a game up and played it for a time. "All the time I spend in space and you little guys still play those mindless trivial games," the medic commented. Sam shot him a solemn glance. Then he minimized the game and started typing.

:Ratchet, don't give away that I can talk/write to you. Megatron knows that I look at books, but he never thought to have me write anything. I don't know if it's because he doesn't read human languages or he just never thought of it. Humans today are never taught to read or write. If you have questions, ask as if you're talking to yourself or talking to me like I can't understand you or talk back.:

"I have to wonder what's going on with the humans left now," Ratchet said speculatively. "For sure those glitches who watch me keep me from hearing anything, so it must be bad." Sam typed for some time. Ratchet settled himself on the berth comfortably and curled a hand around the human to lean against. When he stopped, Ratchet leaned over.

:Bad is not the word for it. Humans are domestic animals. There are no families. They are born, taken from the mother, raised in a crèche, put to work as soon as they are capable, and bred like animals. Men and women are kept separate and only see the other sex when bred. Slaves work until they die. Children unable to work are 'culled.' No human culture is left, and any human found living 'wild' is hunted down immediately.:

It was an effort not to explode. Ratchet took some time to consider his next question. "I wonder how you got your position. I wouldn't think that Megatron would keep a human as a pet. The last I heard, he hated them and was planning genocide."

:On the genocide-they don't have enough metal for drones and self-repair, so they keep enough humans to do the work.:

"I have to say, your master did seem fond of you." Sam told him how he had been hunted down.

: On my position- That's a tough one to explain. Please don't think I'm insane. I am Samuel James Witwicky. I did die in Optimus' hand. I've died a total of eight times, in all kinds of ways, and I keep coming back. Megatron and Soundwave figured it out. No one else knows. They've been trying to figure out what's going on with me, since I'm clueless. Since they figured out they can't kill me without losing sight of me, Megatron decided to keep me under his optic, and this is his way of doing it. I'm his sounding board and his companion-I guess pet is as good a word as any. He keeps me with him unless he's going someplace with humans. I've had no human contact since he put this collar on me. All humans have collars; it's their way of keeping us under control.:

"I guess I can understand what Hook meant; it's soothing that I can talk to you and know you can't tell anyone what I'm saying. Not to mention you can't argue. "

:Right. I'm kept a) on his desk or a nearby shelf, b)in the cage in his office, c) in my space in his quarters, except when he's there, at which time I can move around in there, d) being carried, or finally e) on my damned harness. I hate last one the most.I have more freedom in here with you than I do with him. Ratchet, tell me, are there humans in space? : Instead of replying, Ratchet made the 'yes' sign. Sam sighed and nodded. :Then at least there's some part of my race that has hope.:

"I have to say, you have patience, at least. The old Sam almost never did. And you seem to be able to disappear when you need to."

:Slaves learn not to be noticed. A slave who is noticed is often in pain. Just for the record, I always return looking like I did when I died the first time, except I have the white hair and no voice. Wonder why?:

Ratchet knew, but he had not intention of telling Sam until he knew how far he could trust Megatron's pet. They were sent to find the pieces of the All-Spark and where they were. Ratchet had the one in plain sight leaning against his hand.

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