Soundwave sat in his preferred alcove of the Senatorial chamber, listening to the vocal and unencrypted electronic communications around him of the pre-session discussions with the usual percentage of his processor capacity. Most of the chatter was utterly irrelevant, self-important mechs and femmes attempting to convince the other mechanisms that they were even more important than they believed. Those with acuity and intelligence avoided the throng on the floor, and kept their cognitive processes behind at least minor encryption. He ran the conversations through a keyword program, as there was occasionally something interesting in the chatter. Some mention of a plot or squabble for positioning that held the potential for useful manipulation later.
This cycle was not one of those occasions, he concluded as the Senate princeps moved towards the podium, taking his place and calling for order. Quiet broke out on both audio and electronic bands, and Soundwave returned to his ostensible role as recorder. Disappointing.
The Senate session ticked along astrosecond by slow astrosecond, speech after pre-entered speech and then discussion on the topics of the moment. The Senator from Vos spoke again on behalf of his newly-anointed Lord about the allocation of resources from the currently unsettled plains between Vos and Tarn -- though no-one else would, Soundwave received the unmistakable crackle of anger from Tarn's Senator. That situation was not new, in and of itself. Resource struggles between the city-states were as old as Cybertron, yet becoming more intense with every mega-cycle. Vos had previously been content to restrain its expansions in other directions. This newly-risen Lord, however, was a very different mechanism. Soundwave enjoyed the novelty of a mech ejected from Iacon having risen so high in a rival city-state, as though his frame-class had as a whole determined that the insult (shrouded in smoke and mirrors as it was) was unacceptable.
There were many reasons for the discord between the city-states, as Soundwave comprehended much better than the majority of other mechs. He, unlike most, had spent vorn upon vorn in the Senate's chambers and record halls, absorbing data. The current Overlord had once been a generous mech, and in that generosity had opened the protocols governing creation to levels not seen in epochs. Not all had desired to utilize the expanded opportunities, but many had. Soundwave did not understand the appeal of generating an entirely autonomous being at the expense of his own resources. As a communications specialist, he was certainly accustomed to forging and sparking symbiotic beings -- independent, yes, but they remained his, and could be sustained from his own resources. At the present moment, he held two proto-Sparks within his subspace compartments while he deliberated upon their final form and function. They were not decisions to be made lightly.
At the same time as creation had exploded upon their world, stagnation had struck. Barring the military builds that had chosen to voyage to other systems to utilize their design functions at maximum instead of atrophy, few Cybertronians of the current era left the homeworld, content merely to exist in their designated functions. The pressure had been an inevitable result of the combination, and it would continue to intensify.
Soundwave's attention was refocused as the loud, sharp words exchanged between the rival Senators cut off sharply, the electromagnetic impulses of their anger that had flared impotently along his sensors broken like a jammed transmission at a new presence, unease and disquiet touching his processor instead from many sources.
He knew, even before he gazed down, that Ravage had stepped from the deep shadows of the Overlord's adjacent chamber onto the princeps' dais, the powerful bodyguard's matte-black concealing paint and burnished-steel weapons having their typical impact.
His facemask twitched slightly in appreciation of the effect.
Ravage prowled out to the edge of the dais, his deep-amber optics fixing both Senators in pace as a low rumble of his main engine warned against further outbursts. His long, finely jointed tail flicked, curling at the tip, as the two shifted on their pedes like errant sparklings -- his own phrasing amused him, much as their behavior seemed to amuse the mech his optics lingered on. Compared to Ravage, the two were barely more than sparklings. Ravage had always been present, at the side of Overlord after Overlord with his partner Nightbeat, ever-strong and powerful even as the lords he served fell to rust and decay. As the current Overlord recently had.
The Overlord was now a failing mech, at points barely able to function, in need of near-continual fresh energon supplies -- yet he was still greatly venerated among the teeming masses of the populace. Soundwave had difficulty comprehending the attachment. A strong ruler, or a more competent one, would return the restrictions, would launch more expansive explorations -- colonizations, preferably -- than the few scientific missions that had gone on in recent orns, to alleviate the pressure. Nonsentient ships could be fueled from substandard sources with no difficulty. Several exploring teams had returned with knowledge of planets and planetoids that were reachable and habitable, planets which held resources... Inferior in quality to Cybertron's own ores and fuel sources, that was inevitable, but they would be functional.
The use of those planets, despite the obvious necessity, was argued in the Senate every time some mechanism's processor focused upon the obvious. Some argued that Cybertronians would be depleted and lessened by the use of foreign matter. Soundwave found the data inconclusive. The explorers had not been damaged by their use of the materials during their journeys... but that had been short-term. The other mechanical races were supposed by some to have been bifurcations of their own source code, at some point beyond currently-accessible memory. Soundwave found that equally inconclusive, as deep-level diagnostics of Lithones or others were difficult to acquire and equally difficult to parse. If it were true, it was then obvious that thriving populations could exist away from Cybertron, which would be reassuring. Others argued on more esoteric and illogical grounds, that there were other forms of life upon those planets and satellites which should not be interfered with. That was foolish, however up to the present, the voices against had prevailed, irrationally to Soundwave's opinions. It was unnecessary to eradicate, Soundwave believed, and if they were viable life, they would adapt to the alteration of their surroundings or perish. Transformation was necessary to avoid unviable code.
The thought was an idle one, but it struck against the careful structure of Soundwave's cognitive processes and reverberated as if it were tuned crystal.
Transformation was necessary. This stagnation was unviable. A new system was required.
The transformation would require more than a replacement of mechs of the Senate -- Soundwave had arranged those, to no world-changing, but often profitable results, many times. He was aware of the limits of their use. It would require an entirely new format of leadership.
The crucial variable, then, was where that leadership would emerge from.
It would not be Soundwave. He had no interest in being the visible face of power, it was not a part of his functioning.
His difficulty would be Ravage and Nightbeat. No assassination had ever gotten past the sharp-sensored bodyguard team. That they retained such high functioning, however, meant that there was a possibility of convincing them to shift their loyalties -- at the end of this Overlord's tenure, if not before. The current Overlord had no designated heir. It would be regrettable to lose their skill and memory for less than absolute necessity.
His optics cast down again as Ravage pivoted smoothly, his back strut raised high, tail still curved in a dismissive arc, the Senators dealt with and obviously no longer holding any of his attention. Soundwave wondered, as he often did, what the dark mech truly thought of the situation. He held so many in such obvious disdain -- it was impressive how much the bodyguard could express without vocalizing so much as a syllable, or transmitting any obvious signals -- that it was impossible to tell without invading past his formidable processor-shields. Soundwave was uninterested in the consequences of such blatant treason, for the moment.
Soundwave began deliberating on methods of locating a suitable replacement for the Overlord, as the portion of his processor occupied with his ostensible task continued recording the orations. His current proto-Sparks would become useful scouts, with high recording capability, to learn the cities of Cybertron he could not be absent from Iacon long enough to properly understand. Flight would be necessary, and the ability to sense and retrieve energon without his presence.
The session ended, and Soundwave did not remain to listen to the gossip afterwards. The interplay within the Senate was no longer a primary concern.
* * *