The Champion prowled back and forth, his nature at odds with remaining hidden, yet the last blow against their taskmasters had revealed his energy signature to those still loyal. Even a modification of his outward form would not be enough this time; he would need to reroute his power in such a way as to not match those patterns.
Soundwave, ever the loyal assistant, merely watched him from half-shuttered optics.
"Proposal," he said when the fearsome war-build stopped pacing, dentae parted to issue a command or query. Soundwave did not, by habit, tend to read the processor leaks of this one; they were too disturbing in how saturated by violence they tended to be.
"Go ahead," the Champion said, allowing curiosity to replace his vexation.
"Development of smaller, agile, energy efficient models to gather more intelligence on the enemy."
"It is a thought, but where would you gather the necessary matrices for a core spark?" The Champion asked, coming at last to sit opposite his lieutenant. "I do not doubt your capability to machine the rest, but entering the Undercity to gather such Matrices is to invite deactivation, and we can ill-afford to lose anyone."
"Solution: fracturing of an existent core-spark." Soundwave projected the mathematics and schematics of what he saw as possible with an over-saturated spark. He then projected separate schematics for his designs. A sleek animalistic quadruped to slip through defense grids made the Champion smile. He inspected two different designs of flying sensor arrays, as well as the two bipedal concepts for sabotage and crowd control.
"Sound theory, yet risky, to say the least. From this," and the Champion traced a line of code, "it looks as if they would still be tied to and possibly dependent on the original source. How does this differ from slavery, Soundwave?"
Soundwave brought up the logic he had formulated against just that question. "Symbiotic. The drain on resources is felt by the original spark carrier. Bound to assist and protect the new ones."
The Champion considered this, then curtly nodded. "Determine those you will need to do this, and begin. I will make the materials available to you."
Soundwave withdrew then, as he knew exactly how he wished to proceed with this project. It was one he had been planning for longer than he had been free, longer than the Champion had been gathering supporters. While his processor abilities were truly superior to those of almost any other mech on Cybertron, he had one ally that had shared the development of the idea, one he could trust, but who had not been willing to commit to the Champion.
This project might bring him over, or perhaps it would give the other faction slowly rising among the laborers more advantage. Soundwave could see the logic in having two separate movements, although an alliance would need to be forged, soon, to prevent a fragmented society once the Quintessons were overthrown. Perhaps this project would lay the foundation of that alliance, for Soundwave suspected Blaster was far more sympathetic to the other movement.
Blaster, unlike Soundwave, still reported to a Quintesson. He had managed to override the house protocols the Quintesson used on them, but had not gone so far as to erase his own existence as Soundwave had. He was still learning too much, was situated so perfectly to relay information to all of the resistance cells around the planet, and especially to those in space.
Maybe it was for the best that the only other mech on Cybertron that was like him had gone deep underground. Metaphorically, Blaster amended, making a small subroutine to double check his processor against any intrusions from his last exploration of an access port to the actual Undercity. There were energies swirling so near to the port, yet Blaster had been physically incapable of pushing past when he successfully unsealed it.
Something deep in his core just knew that the danger outweighed the gain if he passed the port. So he'd sealed it up and encrypted the maps he'd made to keep them from falling into the wrong digits.
However, the corridors that led to the port were exceptionally well-shielded, and so far off the main pathways that Blaster relied on them for his clandestine meetings, away from the eyes of his nominal master. When he received the encrypted invitation from Soundwave to meet up, that was the location he sent back before setting up plausible excuses and alibis to cover his absence from the slave quarters, on the off-chance his mostly absentee master came inspecting them.
"Hey Soundie!" Blaster greeted as he entered the corridor to find the other mech waiting. "You must have been pretty close when you hit me up."
"Hypothesis correct," Soundwave acknowledged. "Query: cooperation in project still viable?" It had been long enough since their last discussion of the 'project' that Soundwave had to offer a brief snippet of their theorizing to jab Blaster's memory units to provide further details.
"Oh mech you have no idea how much I want to cooperate on that! Yes!" Blaster felt like his struts were melting with relief. Their plans for various small, highly efficient spies and specialists could do so much for the resistance cells everywhere. If Blaster had such creations, he could deliver far more messages without having to encrypt them personally and broadcast them with the ever present fear of being found out.
"Resources will be provided. Remaining obstacles: secure location for experiment and crafting. Determining safest method of overcharging to create spark-shards. Containment units to hide creations." Soundwave ticked off each of the points they had not finished all of the details on the last time it had come up.
Blaster leaned on the smooth wall, optics going down to the darker end of the corridor. The energies on the other side of that port terrified him, but this area was never used. He could, with a little bit of craftiness and assistance from some of the smaller builder mechs make this part of the corridor look as if it were inaccessible, even.
"Give me a few cycles, and I'll get the place, right here. Know some friends, have some favors to call in, and I trust them. You work on the overcharging bit; I'll touch base with a couple of mechs that have been experimenting with shielding to work on the containment issue." He pushed off the wall and slapped his manipulator out, digits wiggling with hyper energy. Soundwave completed the circuit, hidden ports on both sets of digits revealing themselves and completing an illicit hard-lined connection. They synced their chronometers this way, agreeing wordlessly on the details of when to meet again, while quickly sharing a brief of what each knew of the resistances. It was faster than verbalization, and therefore one of the more forbidden methods of communication.
Right now, it was as much a comfort to both mechs as it was a shared briefing before they parted ways.
Soundwave studied the methods of overcharging a spark, or core, with a track of his overclocked processor almost constantly. There was the typical method, of hard-wiring into a power source, but that risked two things Soundwave was seeking to avoid: damage and discovery. In theory, a refined source of energon, ingested to excess, was capable of producing an overload of energy, but energon in such quantities could adversely affect judgment.
That left a third path, considered taboo to the point of being profane, which was to expose one spark to another, and let their fission processes feed each other. That method was almost urban legend, but Soundwave had found it in the oldest archival records he had recovered. Those records, destroyed almost completely by the Quintessons, held clues to a time before the enslavement. Those clues defied the Quintesson creation story, that the Cybertronians owed all they were to the organic-techno creatures.
The more he studied the options, the more that third method was the only one he could see as being useful to their needs. Would Blaster be willing to take such a risk? More, would Blaster be able to get past the taboo surrounding exposing one's spark? Perhaps he should broach that part of it with someone more logical, like Perceptor, if he could reach the scientist. Or he had the option of consulting Hook, considered one of the best manipulators of Cybertronian engineering in existence.
Yes, getting to Hook would be easier anyway. He and his team were often away from the overseers, building new monuments to Quintesson greatness, and no one loathed their masters in quite the same way as the teams that were forcibly connected to one another without any say in the matter, such as the Constructors.
He pinged his leader, sending a quick data burst of where he would be and why. Unsurprisingly, the Champion acknowledged and gave him a task of making contact with a resistance cell near where that team was. They never missed a chance to keep working toward Cybertron's freedom.
Blaster inspected the designs in the deepest, securest part of his processors. His friends had tackled the idea of protecting a smaller form with enthusiasm, and provided him with something so logical that he had no idea how neither he nor Soundwave had thought of it.
Some mechs used smaller ones as power boosters by integrating them into their outer frame and armor. The team-bonded combiners magnified their own power by being able to merge into a full mech composite. But in all cases, the linkages were exposed and able to be disconnected by force.
"What if you took them into you, using the subspace ability you use to store extra components for your business form?"
That question, asked by the eccentric engineer Wheeljack, had been perfect for setting off a session of networked solutions. With very little modification, Blaster was certain he could transport all four of the planned symbiotic mechs, and Soundwave's design was similar enough to make his success likely too.
::Work space ready. Solution for protection found. Meet soon?::
The deeply encrypted message was shot through on the tightest frequency Blaster could manage, but he had to get Soundwave to meet with him soon.
::Power solution found.:: There was a chronal mark and confirmation of their meeting space included before the communication cut off. Just that brief touch, though, was enough to give Blaster all the hope in the world that they would soon be together, working toward gaining true freedom.
Soundwave inspected the work space, still curious about the nearby source of power. Evidently, this corridor was one that abutted the Undercity at one of its more blatantly dangerous points. That might be useful eventually. There were some mechs, it was said, that could safely move in and out of those spaces, though few ever went so deep as to encounter the mechanoid defenses.
Perhaps, if they were successful, one of their small creations could explore, possibly find an alliance with the sentience Soundwave was certain he had felt during his one trek across an outer part of Tarn's Undercity.
"Soundwave, good to see you again," Blaster greeted as he entered the hidden annex his friends Hound and Trailbreaker had rigged with help from Grapple and Hoist.
"Meeting optimal, security concerns minimal," Soundwave agreed, indicating their haven to begin work in. "Components delivered, solutions found. Discussion necessary."
"Discussion? Alright, let's get to it." Blaster shifted open a small subspace port and removed two sealed slips of energon, offering one to Soundwave as they settled in. He was getting good at swiping these from his purported master's storage room.
Soundwave offered a quick-burst diagram as he spoke, one that showed the power transfers, and the path that Hook had traced through the systems for him, showing how the overcharge could be achieved. That way, maybe, his friend would listen with logic instead of taboo-laden emotion.
"Most direct, efficient method of spark creation: spark merge and fracture via overload," he stated with that factual diagram and equation set.
Blaster's optics had spiraled wide open at the diagram, and then his fans stuttered a little as he really grasped what was being shared with him. The procedure was rumored and hinted, but always with shame. It was so forbidden… forbidden by whom? His logic processors caught up with him, and he thought about all the proscribed techniques he used to stay in touch with the factions. He considered how useful each and every one of his technologies built into him but forbidden for use were.
"You, me, spark merge… whichever one actually takes the build-up will provide the spark shards. Alright, we can do it," Blaster told Soundwave. "I've got power units to nurse the shards along to full capability, and that will give us time to craft the frames. You ready to tackle it now?"
Soundwave nodded once, relieved, as their plan looked like it was going to finally see completion. With such useful creations, the revolution could move forward faster.
Blaster onlined to see Soundwave already staring at him. He gave a slow, lazy grin.
"I think they forbid it as much to keep us from having fun as from making more mechs," Blaster said lazily. "That was a major trip."
Soundwave worked his way through the underlying meaning of his friend's words, and compared it to the sensory data still being analyzed in the aftermath of a satisfactory experiment. "Agreed. More intense stimulation of all sensors and neural connections than merely using data exchange pathways." He then calibrated his sensors, scanning internally.
Blaster did likewise, and almost yelped with glee at the findings of not one but three tiny, fractured shards in his core chamber. "It's a start!" he said in an explosive whisper. Even learning Soundwave had managed to create four splinters could not dampen his enthusiasm. "Okay, you managed one more, so let's get yours taken care of first, in case they need the extra amping," he insisted, getting the power units ready to receive the fragile shards, to feed them direct current in the thickened energy-gel his pal in Engineering had cooked up. If this worked, the sparks would stay very small, but maintain a resonance with the spark they had come from.
Soundwave laid back, and forced the emotive response to baring his core chamber away. After all, they had only just interfaced their sparks into one shared unit for… an unspecified chronal duration, as Soundwave's data had failed to record that part accurately. He focused his optics on Blaster's faceplates as the mech carefully extracted each splinter of a spark out and placed it in a separate unit. The reverence on the other mech's features, rippling through his energy signature, more than assuaged the vulnerability issues at work here. Very soon, Soundwave would need to perform the same task for his friend, so this, like many of their subversive activities, was another exercise in mutual trust.
"So, what do you think of making them able to transform small enough to dock in a subspaced compartment, one that has a complete sensor net and relay feed for near-instant briefing?" Blaster asked as he studied the way the two shards he needed to grab weren't quite picking up their own resonance.
"Thought path parallels own consideration. Hidden, safe, recharges."
"Yeah. Hey, Soundie, I'm going to put these two in one unit for now; I think they're in harmonic lock." He flicked his data to the other communicator, who acquiesced the logic of that.
That they had to do it for two of Blaster's spark shards let Soundwave wonder if it would turn out to be a flaw or a merit, to have two pairs of harmonic-locked agents.
There was a silent consensus to try again, if the first set of agents worked as well as they thought, but Blaster and Soundwave didn't let the future cloud their perceptions of the immediate need. While the pairs of harmonic-matched splinters were developing more slowly, each of the communicators worked on frame designs for the remaining three shards. Blaster had discussed the concepts with his engineer friend, who favored the quadruped designs immensely. Soundwave, having gone to the constructor class for aid, had modified the avian format slightly based on some critique from them.
Slowly, using moments stolen from their other duties, two felinoid type frames emerged, and one avian. There were differences in the feline aspects, and differences in the sensor suites used. Also, the routing of power toward defense and detection had been manipulated slightly different in each frame. The sleek black one would be well-suited to stealth and infiltration, while the brighter golden one was intended to be seen as an exotic to wander in more privileged areas, sniffing out Quintesson bolt-holes.
The avian took both of their manipulators to attain the level of sophistication they were looking for. This one would ride the thermal currents, recording everything of interest to the factions seeking to overthrow the technorganic race of slavers. The avian would also be the more likely messenger from one to the other of the communicators, being small and able to slip from city to city faster.
"Soundwave, what if it fails?" Blaster asked, suddenly unsure as he looked at the completed frames, their core chambers open to receive the small, potent sparks that had developed from the original shards.
"First attempt. Failure means analysis. Analysis will lead to success. Try again with new data." Soundwave did not wish to admit to the emotive reaction he was experiencing as well. The shards still resonated to him, at least the ones he had splintered off, and sang a unique song of their own as well. It was a curiosity that left Soundwave hopeful for more than just the logistic success of this experiment.
"Alright, alright, you know best," Blaster said, shaking off the hesitation to start moving the mature spark into the gold frame. His digits tingled as they held the spark momentarily, feeling it recognize itself as part of the one in Blaster's chestplates, but also as something new and separate. He wasn't certain, but he thought that the feeling he was experiencing fell under the description of 'reverence' as he slowly placed the new spark, still slick with the energy gel, into the chest compartment of the tiny frame.
Beside him, Soundwave had the two single sparks and both of the frames he had made ready. For all that this was supposed to be a logical procedure, taking one spark out and placing it in one frame, then repeating those steps, he found himself stopping. His processor evaluated the hesitation, and realized the harmonics of the two sparks were thrumming a warning. He focused his sensors on them, keeping in mind the differing abilities he needed in each of these two agents. Later, he might be able to analyze exactly which minute differences led to him changing the order in which he placed the sparks in their frames, but for now, he had to borrow Blaster's more emotional reaction of 'it felt right'. The quadruped was situated first, and then the avian, before Soundwave moved back, as Blaster had, to see if the frames and sparks knit as a whole.
"Any guess how they're going to act?" Blaster asked, still a little nervous about the process. His very core seemed to ache with a need for these new lives, making him worry more than usual.
"Experiment. Unknown manipulations introduced with spark-frame activation."
Blaster had to chuckle. "Soundie, you always fall back to pure techno-babble when you're unsure. And I get it." He rested a hand on the other's shoulder mount, currently vacant, and waited as patiently as he could.
Soundwave did not dignify that with a response, optics trained on the three new-frames, waiting for them to kindle, to show sign of being actual new-sparks… but he did make certain the contact of his mount was firm under Blaster's hand. The contact, after all, allowed for better awareness of each other.
It was his quadruped that first showed signs of having kindled, that moment when a spark accepted the frame it had been granted, establishing full connections. The base color shifted, as the chromatics came fully online, making the quadruped begin absorbing all light in a deepening black that defied mere optics to remain locked on it.The basic shields came up then, followed rapidly by a sensor-obfuscating screen of energy patterns.
Through it all, Soundwave felt the process as a subroutine in his own processors, as if the quadruped's spark was still in his own chest plates. The near instantaneous transmission of the first sensor readings were a cascade against Soundwave's eminently capable data sorting processes. The challenge was a thing of joy, not that he cared to categorize it in that manner, as he reorganized a bank of memory clusters just for the data of this new… symbiont. When he, and the quadruped, noted that the other quad was online, Soundwave subdivided his attention, checking on Blaster.
Blaster had pushed off from his spot at Soundwave's side the moment he felt the first tug against his own spark and brush against his processor. It was too warm, too inviting, and he went to be close to their creations, putting a hand on the bright metal of his own crafting. It warmed as motors and fans responded to the commands of the spark, before the pulse of information flooded his own processors as a secondary data feed.
"Primus!" Blaster said, barely audible, yet invoking a myth that was called an outright lie by the Quintesson loyalists, the myth of a creator that had made them all long before the Quintessons came to Cybertron.
Most of the revolutionary factions used the myth as a rally point, but Soundwave, hearing it escape his friend's vocalizer, wondered at the fervent passion. Did Blaster believe in that story as fact?
Soundwave was distracted from that thought, relegating it to a low priority cluster, as his quadruped shoved up onto its pedes. Soundwave reached to firm the connection from a mere data feed to true communication, resting his digits on the felinoid head.
::Ravage. Seek. Learn. Destroy.:: Each word carried over as more concept than actual lingual glyph. Ravage was the designation, while the coding had derived three objectives as mission parameters. Ravage was meant to seek out the Quintessons, learn all he could, and destroy them when the time came for the revolution to move to the next step.
"Ravage, transformation protocols operational?" Soundwave asked, aware the avian was beginning to animate, and wishing to test this last, crucial point. With a small snarl of effort, the quadruped flung himself into the air, rapidly realigning body parts until he was a compact rectangular device, caught safely in Soundwave's outstretched hands. The communicator opened the newly redesigned subspace compartment and shipped his symbiotic creation into the dock there, before closing it to focus on the avian.
"Just in time, Soundie," Blaster said softly, having settled on his aft, hand still on the gleaming, blockier quadruped's… Steeljaw's?… head. Soundwave put that designation, offered wordlessly from Blaster, away, and gave Ravage's in turn before he focused on the intricately jointed avian's frame shimmering with energy fields coming up to both guard and scan the environment.
The beak moved first, and then those carefully crafted motors and gyroscopes were tested as the tiny flier pushed to a perched position, head swing side to side to take in everything.
Soundwave raised his arm, thinking to reach for the avian, then paused, arm level to the decking and outstretched. A small push against the new data feed this one was streaming to his processors, and the new-spark gave a tiny cry and sprang out from the work table, wings cooperating fully to allow her to make the landing easily.
That realization, as the avian settled into a designation of 'Laserbeak' with the purposes of stealth, communication, and espionage, took Soundwave aback. It had been some time since any of those linguistic differentiations had made themselves known. However, it felt correct to Soundwave's reading of their civilization to have such a thing occur. The emergence of one of the many genders that was not a default worker class one was one more expression of the change that would come to Cybertron.
"So I guess we acclimatize to them, and them to us, while we wait on the last four sparks to mature?"
"Correct," Soundwave agreed, indulging himself by raising a digit to stroke along Laserbeak's head. The sensation of pleasure, that was both a part of him and yet separate, was something he would remember for his own files, but not mention when he reported to the Champion of the experiment's apparent success.
Working from their secret location, with Blaster leaving as needed to meet his schedule and not arouse suspicion, the pair of communicators adapted rapidly to the inputs from their symbiotic creations, and the three new-sparks matured rapidly into their code. The frames were as large as they would ever be, requiring only small tweaks to meet the demands placed upon them, but the coding continued to unfold to let each one have full personalities and skills at their command.
The entire time they were integrating the three symbionts, the four waiting spark shards continued to mature, to shape into solid cores for placement. Blaster maintained a constant analysis of them, comparing to the sparks they had used for Ravage, Steeljaw, and Laserbeak. He knew they were getting close about the same point he and Soundwave decided it was time to do long-distance training with their creations.
"Do we want them here with us, just to be safe, since I have a feeling the twinned sets are going to require a little more interaction? Or go ahead and let them roam and spy, trusting them to stay out of trouble long enough for us to socialize their siblings?" Blaster asked.
Soundwave weighed the factors carefully. He had judged the abilities of all three adequate to evasion and even to direct conflict, should that happen. Blaster was correct; harmonized spark creations were notoriously difficult to socialize at times. It was all too easy for a harmonic pair to develop sociopathic tendencies toward other mechs, as only their harmonic match seemed 'correct' to their processors.
"Send on missions. Testing their abilities will distract them from the difficulties of their spark-siblings. Allow us to focus intently on the harmonic pairs."
"Sounds good to me." Blaster flipped open the docking compartment, letting Steeljaw unfold into real space. He then crouched next to the quadruped, placing hands on his symbiont's head and body. "You be careful, but go do that look-see we planned out. When you get back, I'll introduce you to your new buddies, alright?"
He got a whuff of air as a response, before the gleaming mech ran off, eager to hunt and explore within the parameters of his mission.
Soundwave wasted less time, ejecting both Ravage and Laserbeak in quick succession. "Begin mission. Avoid detection."
The felinoid gave a rasping acknowledgment, while Laserbeak gave a small whistle, before both left, each going in a different direction than Steeljaw. That all three were sending back eagerness, caution, and joy for the hunt made Blaster and Soundwave more secure in their choice.
"Now to get both of the twins set up," Blaster said, going to the workbench, joined by his friend in short order. This was going to be interesting, to say the least.
The transfer of sparks to frames went smoothly, and it seemed as if the time between transfer and kindling was lessened this time around. However, both creators knew in moments that they had their hands full, as the energy fields came up around the pairs, still harmonized to one another, but the sensor data was jangled and discordant with prickly emotions.
"Overlap of fields could be a defensive trick if they work on it," Blaster said, even as he tried to sort out the source of discord. On a hunch, he reached out and separated his pair a little, but Soundwave continued to study the other pair.
::Irritation dislike crowded:: flicked out to Soundwave.
::Panic separation anxiety:: slammed into Blaster.
The communicators, having kept a small link open for each other, exchanged looks at the polar opposite reactions. "Hypothesis, sparks are as one, but sensor data is overwhelming and confusing?"
"Yeah, gotta be," Blaster said, pushing his pair back to where they were touching, while Soundwave parted his pair slightly. "I'm going to try and insinuate some firewalls, set up a regulated communication exchange."
"Will observe," Soundwave acknowledged. He ghosted along Blaster's awareness and processors even as he watched the small pair near his hands begin to move and react more physically to each other's presence.
"He's touching me!" erupted from the now vividly red frame, before the blue one shoved at him.
"He was touching me!"
Blaster heard the vocalizations but was carefully threading himself through the small pair he had crafted, fighting the waves of anxiety and confusion. Their sparks were too strongly harmonized, but Blaster thought he could tweak them just enough as he installed better firewalls to allow each to recognize their own sensor inputs as separate from their twin's. He crafted a modulating wave, modeled on the amplitude of a quiet song, and gently thrummed it through the link at both of them. They slowly settled down, letting the wave pass through them, leaving minute differences in their sparks that helped them be individuals.
"That's right, little ones," Blaster crooned as the pair moved to sit up, hands tangling in each other's. "We'll figure it all out, as one little family unit, okay?"
"Okay," the pair chorused, before looking over at the disturbance near them.
Soundwave approved of his friend's resolution, but the pair he was tending had gone toward antagonism instantly, expressing anger and irritation for the conflict of sensor reception from two points versus one core trying to be unified. In an attempt to prevent damage, as the pushing and shoving was moving toward proto-stingers being powered up, Soundwave picked up the pair, one in each hand, to move them apart.
"Hey, now, give him back!"
"You can't take him from me!"
And they turned their stingers on his frame, zapping him with those first line defenses repeatedly.
Blaster had to smile, but he managed to lock down his laughter, cuddling his two close to his frame as they worked through diagnostics together. Soundwave definitely had his hands full, but right now? Blaster was going to call their experiment a success and look forward to a future where the symbionts helped them all get free.