Chapter 1: Scrapper and Gremlin
Gremlin’s eager to get the scoop... no matter if it’s a wee bit too irrelevant.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"Why isn't anybody doing anything about this?"
Scrapper refocused his optics through the holographic schematics he was working on. Gremlin was on the other side of the display, holding up a datapad. On its screen was a site from the humans' internet, the header reading in clunky English glyphs The Sun Will Eventually Engulf The Earth.
"Oh for..." Scrapper stopped short, and took a moment to subspace his stylus and turn off the holotable. Looked like this scraplet of his was, as Swindle put it, 'going all Nellie Bly' again.
Whatever that meant.
Gremlin, at the age of four Earth years, had blown the lid off the conspiracy that sometimes the big bots would turn into vehicles. And then he'd uncovered an insidious plot to standardize 'naptime' and deprive him and his fellow mechlets of valuable cartoon and/or Lego time. Once the mechlets began school, Gremlin had been the first to figure out that the big bots had never done any of this before— this being mechlets, the very concept of elementary education, the whole shebang.
And after that first (real) revelation, Gremlin had decided he wasn't going to let anything go unquestioned. Scrapper approved, of course— the universe could fragging well stand to have a few more sparks asking why when told to jump. Gremlin's problem, however, was the kid had no damn sense of scale.
"The squishies have about a billion years to get their dross together," Scrapper told him patiently. "I'm sure they'll have figured something out by then."
"But—" Gremlin pointed to some chart comparing star sizes with planetary orbits. "The humans aren't doing enough space stuff, can't we help 'em?"
Scrapper fired off another short message to Perceptor suggesting that maybe a bit more emphasis on Cybertron Is Better in the curricula might not be a bad idea. Earth was... okay, certainly safer for the mechlets than Cybertron right now. But if the scraplets grew too fond of the muddy blue planet they might never be rid of it.
"Gremlin, look—" Scrapper began. "Organics like the humans change really quickly. Maybe in just a million of their years they'll rejuvenate Sol, or move the planet or something. See, if their scientists already know this much—" he poked Gremlin's pad, right on an animated graphic of an expanding red giant— "then that's half the job done, right? They know what's coming."
Gremlin studied the screen, still unsure. "I guess..."
"If it'll make you feel better, why don't you go see if one of their science-types will tell you what the humans are planning to do," Scrapper suggested. "I hear they worship someone known as Science Guy. Or there's that one Skyfire goes on about... Kneel the Grass Typhoon, or something like that."
Scrapper couldn't believe he was seriously sending his mechlet off to get scientific data from humans, but there it was. Astrophysics was a bit beyond his ken, and the only Cybertronian experts on the subject were having a little trouble unraveling such a dense subject into simplified principles for the mechlets' education. It really wouldn't matter how primitive or incorrect whatever the humans told Gremlin was if it gave the mechlet something to focus on.
Gremlin perked up, red optics brightening. "Does Stephen Hawking have a Twitter?"
Primus below. "No Twitter. That place is a rust pit. Email only, y'got me?"
"Email only!" Gremlin grinned like a turbofox after glitchmice, already on Google.
"And write me a report on what the humans tell you, too." A little extra work never hurt anyone, and he wanted to be sure these squishy scientists, not a few of whom were quite chummy with the Autobots, after all, wouldn't editorialize on the subject of Decepticons.
"I'm gonna find out everything," Gremlin promised, sitting down next to Scrapper and furiously tapping away at his datapad.
Scrapper couldn't stop a smile from crawling across his faceplates. "Pace yourself, kid; it's a science lesson, not an exposé on political corruption."
Gremlin's head snapped back up. "What political corruption?"
Scrapper buried his face in his hands and groaned. Perhaps he should look up this Nellie Bly.
Gremlin's name is derived from the aviation folklore of a mischievous spirit that specializes in failure or mishaps of a mechanical nature.
Gremlin here is about nine, and intellectually about on par with a human kid of the same age, if a bit more inquisitive than usual. That inquisitiveness will lead him to become an investigative reporter and adopting the adult designation of Freelance.
"Science Guy" = Bill Nye, naturally
"Kneel the Grass Typhoon" = Neil deGrasse Tyson, by way of Scrapper giving not much more than a dry fart about human names or humans in general.
Chapter 2: Megatron and Pax
Megatron contemplates the effect Pax has had on him.
(Yo, guys, I just bought a HOUSE, so I am super busy going quietly insane about that, how y’all doin’? Anyway, found this bit falling out of my brain. Enjoy.)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For every step Megatron took down the corridors of the Nemesis, Pax had to take nine. The lighter rhythm of tek-tek-tek-tek counterpoint to a heavy tlungk...tlungk...tlungk filled the comfortable silence between the massive warlord and his little silver mechlet as they headed home. At least he walked now, properly, having progressed fairly quickly out of that awkward 'run everywhere and fall over a lot' stage that all the mechlets had gone through.
Another long day negotiating with human authorities for Megatron. More than a few of the shouty organic beasties were yet quite unhappy with the new truce between their alien visitors, which irritated Megatron somewhat. He should have thought they would be grateful, now that he and his Decepticons were no longer raiding their primitive energy collections. Something about restitution or the like. At least Optimus had managed to smooth things over with the more reasonable of the principalities' leaders, and the less reasonable, more frothy ones seemed to be running out of steam. Megatron was content to let the Prime make whatever deals and arrangements would keep the organics out of their cogs.
Also, the humans had learned of the mechlets, somehow. Soundwave kept him apprised of the humans' attitude regarding the subject. Thankfully the ones muttering darkly about 'aliens breeding to take over' were outnumbered and overshadowed by a general sentiment of unbridled glee. For some reason.
Not that Megatron cared about having the approval of humans. It was simply enough not to have to worry about having to retaliate against any who might try to harm Pax. It wouldn't do to break armistice over a few squished fleshlings, after all. The governing body known as the United Nations had made it clear that if the Autobots and Decepticons were to remain on Earth until Cybertron was safe to recolonize, there were to be no further hostilities toward humans or their holdings. The logistical processor-ache of trying to set up and maintain an interim settlement on another planet if they were evicted from this one would likely be more trouble than it was—
/Lord Megatron. The research I've been doing is finished. Transmitting report to your personal console now./
/Very good, Hook./ Megatron could tell from Hook's curt harmonics that the medic was uncertain of something; possibly of Megatron's reaction to the results of the request he'd made. Truthfully Megatron himself had no idea how he would react, one way or the other. The implications of either possibility were unsettling, for entirely different reasons.
Well now. Pax was humming. Refocusing outward, Megatron glanced down at his offspring. Pax was probably among the least vocal of the mechlets. He was as quiet as he'd ever been, since emergence, and humming like this seemed to be reserved for times when he felt particularly content. He was, at the moment, playing some sort of colorful game on his datapad as they walked. Megatron had been assured that such frivolity was beneficial, necessary, even, for processor stimulation. Still...
"What have you got there?" he queried, keeping his voice neutral. Megatron had learned early on that his usual habits of looming and glowering when speaking to another mech only made Pax clam up even further. He had yet to actually outright frighten the mechlet, though, and was glad he had made the effort to temper his customary aggression where Pax was concerned.
Megatron had never conceded to soften his harsh edges for the sake of another's comfort. It was a little troubling, the effect this little fragile mech had had on him.
"We're building a town. Dion and Fledge and me." Pax angled the screen up, displaying a crude geometric landscape. Dotted around the blocky hills were a few equally blocky buildings in various stages of construction. "I'm planting more trees so we won't run out of wood tomorrow."
Some sort of civic simulation, then, with resource management thrown in. At least it was educational.
"And I'm taming some cats so we can keep the creepers away."
"They explode when they get close to you but they stay away from the cats. I'm putting them in Fledge's build so he doesn't have to start over again."
Megatron wondered if human parents ever felt this confused. "How... thoughtful." They reached their joined quarters— Megatron had annexed the adjoining room when it became clear that his spartan living area was a bit cramped for two mechs, even if one of them was miniature— and signalled the door open. "You have an assignment from your teacher?"
"Yes. Read a history file."
"You will deactivate your game until you're finished with that."
Pax did just that, without a blip of protest, as the door slid shut behind them. "Yes."
Not for the first time, Megatron wondered at Pax's quiet deference. Unlike so many others, Pax did not fear Megatron, nor obey him only to curry favor. Even the other mechlets seemed to instinctively find Megatron at least a bit intimidating. It was strange to have another's unconditional trust.
As Pax settled down to do his reading (and as infuriating as Ultra Magnus was as a warrior and general, Megatron could count on anything that Autobot distributed to be painfully factual and propaganda-free) Megatron activated his console and called up Hook's findings.
'Summary of code alterations implemented in reproductive upgrade systems:' went the opening line.
What followed was likely an even drier read than Pax's homework, but Megatron went through the whole thing until he came to the part he was really after.
'Cognitive function: no implementation. Reproductive code contains no behavioral directives, mental compulsions, or shell daemon programs.'
Megatron read the glyphs again, then stared through them as he mulled it over. He turned to observe Pax, still sitting and reading his datapad.
So. All of the reworking of his components, and nothing to compel Megatron to care for this little spark. He was doing that of his own free will, apparently, no matter how out of character it seemed.
It made sense, in a way; if there were code to in some way force a mech to shelter and nurture a mechlet, then Astrotrain, Onslaught, and Blast Off would still be here, begrudgingly raising their own mechlets.
Breakdown made regular optic contact with Boost, his mechlet, and Boost could come up behind Breakdown and not send him into a panic attack.
Dead End would actually smile and laugh at Turn's antics.
Scavenger wasted less time hoarding and worrying about others' approval and more time taking Rivet exploring.
And Starscream hadn't tried to overthrow Megatron in years .
A very small part of Megatron wanted there to be some explanation for all this bizarre behavior. Something more concrete than a tiny new mech popping whole out of one's internals. After all, Megatron had made no specific, conscious decision along the lines of 'protect and dote on this scraplet who has done nothing but just show up'.
Not a change of code, then, but perhaps a change of spark.
Pax seemed to sense he was being stared at, and looked up to meet Megatron's gaze. The mechlet's raised brow was as good as any spoken question.
Megatron gave him a dismissive gesture. "Don't let me interrupt your studies. I was merely thinking."
"I'm done," Pax replied, optics falling back to his datapad. "It's just a bit at the end I don't understand."
"It's a poem that was on the gateway into the Tarn caldera." Pax pointed to a paragraph at the end of his reading assignment. "It doesn't make any sense."
Megatron stood, allowing himself a grin, and made his way over to where Pax sat. "Poetry, hm? I happen to know a thing or two about that subject..."
Pax’s name, as shown in the final bits of the first story, is an attempted dig at Optimus on Megatron’s part. Megatron does actually respect his longtime rival and opponent on some level, so it’s at least a positive provocation. Kind of. Optimus just considers it an honor.
Pax develops a keen interest in architecture, preluded by his playing Minecraft up there. ;) He eventually grows up to be an architect and restorationist, rebuilding on Cybertron in a mix of old pre-war and new Earth-inspired styles. He’ll eventually adopt the designation Keystone.