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Turn of a Switch

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Prelude

Some scientists believe that there are numerous universes, parallel to each other; a few – rather obscure – scientists have a theory that there is a point where all these universes overlap. A centerpoint, a universal constant, something that remains the same throughout all layers of existence.

But all scientists would tell you that tinkering with something of such infinite importance is pure folly.

However, a mad librarian-turned-warlord wouldn’t care for such things as warnings or common sense; and when he, blinded by his desire to possess and devastate all of creation, dug into what is known as the Matrix of Leadership, he unleashed forces beyond even his imagination.

Blue light engulfed him – as it engulfed every single one of him – and the very fabric of time and space was bent, for Centerpoint was shaken. And a little librarian from a very different world, who’d never touched or seen the Matrix before, suddenly found himself spirited away from his desk.

Blue light faded, leaving only darkness around him, and little librarian tried to move his head to see – but couldn’t. Immobilized, terrified, he cried out, and called for somebody, anybody, until he ran out of fuel. And with his last glance he saw a note appearing on his inner screens – something about “data corrupted”.

And then he knew no more.

 

1.

“So I’m tellin’ ya, that thing Stonemash saw – it was totally a sparkeater!”

“And I’m tellin’ ya that Stonemash is full of slag. There may be scraplets here, but there ain’t no sparkeaters.”

“And why are ya so sure?”

“Cuz sparkeaters don’t exist, ya dumb glitch!”

“Sure do!”

“Sure don’t! Tell him, Megs!” Rumble looked up and poked his partner’s leg.

Megatron just sighed and ignored him. He learned not to join the twins’ endless banter long ago – they didn’t really need his opinion anyway. In fact, in the first week they were assigned to him he cursed his whole existence, but later two Disposable class minibots kind of grew on him. The trick was not to listen to everything they said.

And, just as always, they happily went on with their arguing.

“Sparkeaters totally exist, and they hunt in places like this mine,” Frenzy finished drilling and moved away for Rumble to use his piledrivers.

“Well, ya and wussies like Stonemash can go and frag yourselves, and I know that sparkeaters don’t exi-EEEEAAAAAAGH!!! Sparkeater!

Under Rumble’s heavy hits a huge chunk of rock moved and fell apart, uncovering a face contorted in silent scream. In a matter of second Rumble and Frenzy dashed back to hide behind Megatron’s larger frame.

As the dust settled down, it became visible that the face was accompanied by upper torso and a part of a hand – all protruding right out of stone. Silent, unmoving, with an expression of terror and panic frozen on the figure’s face, optics grey and lifeless.

Megatron stepped closer to the broken wall.

“It’s not a sparkeater; it’s just a bot.”

“Just? Just? “Justa bots” don’t get stuck inside solid rock!” Frenzy’s voice reached a high-pitched tone. He and Rumble were looking tentatively from behind Megatron’s legs, eyeing their discovery with suspicion.

“Is he dead?” The other twin inquired.

“I don’t know. How do you survive inside solid rock?” Megatron was now face to face with the mysterious bot. His colours – red, white and blue, from what he could see, – didn’t fade, but simply dulled by all the dust.

“Hey… Hey, big guy,” Rumble fidgeted warily. “Maybe we’d better not touch it? Just… leave it and let’s call the head of shift. This is freaking me out.”

“Uh-huh,” Megatron muttered absent-mindedly, lifting his hand and placing it on the bot’s chest. The plating felt cold – apparently, its owner really was dead…

And then he felt it – a slight pulse inside. A living spark beating.

“He’s alive!” Megatron snatched his hand away in shock, but immediately collected himself. “Quick, help me get him out of there.”

Out?” Frenzy screeched. “Are ya crazy? This thing may not be a sparkeater, but it’s just as creepy.”

Megatron ignored him once again, activating his pickaxe, and in a couple of kliks the twins begrudgingly joined him.

***

There was a slight buzz in his audials, that his processor soon recognized as words. Somebody was talking above him; his whole body seemed light and almost not quite there, but there was warmth slowly beginning to flow through his fuel lines… Energon. He was being given energon!

With a quiet click his vocalizer switched on.

 “W-hhhrrrrrr… What…” he attempted to speak, and the voices silenced for a moment – only to start speaking again. Two higher-pitched voices were chattering in the background, and the third one – low and deep – spoke to him:

“Easy, don’t strain yourself. Primus, how long have you been there..?”

His optics blinked, coming online. It was dark, or maybe his visual sensors were still adjusting – but he was able to see a mech-shaped form above him, optics glowing red.

He groaned, feeling pain creeping through his servos alongside warmth. His body, dried out and emptied, was not ready to accept fuel. Everything seemed surreal, vision was growing blurry, static overcoming it.

“No-no-no, don’t go offline, help is coming. Stay with me! Come on, what is your name?”

He held on to this voice, forcing his processor to work. Name… His name.

“Or…Orion. Orion Pax.”

And in this very moment he realized that his name was the only thing he remembered.

 

2.

“I can’t believe this insolence of yours! First you try to hide and smuggle illegal fugitives – and when they get sick, you DARE to call me for help!”

Orion lowered his head and bit his lip, feeling the desperate need to shrink and hide – which would be hard, since he was standing in the middle of a very well-lit and spacious office. The orange and green bot behind the desk didn’t look very imposing, but he obviously was in charge here… and he was furious. The worst thing was that while Orion was somehow the cause of this boss bot’s anger, he wasn’t the one shouted at. He wasn’t even noticed much.

“I’ve told you, I haven’t been smuggling anyone. I found him passed out in one of the tunnels… sir.” Tall mech with light grey plating – the one who brought Orion online and gave him fuel – didn’t raise his voice, but Orion thought he sounded irate. Irate and tired.

“Oh please!” The boss – from what Orion gathered, he was the manager on the mining facility where he… somehow? woken up – snorted and waved his hand dramatically. “This fellow has no ID, he doesn’t fit any description in the database – obviously his records have been deleted on purpose. You thought you’re so smart, but nobody frags with Nosedive! Now listen here, glitch-head: C12 – and this is the matter of my personal pride, mind you! – is an exemplary facility. Here, we all fulfill our purpose, and I won’t let some troublemaker destroy the results of my hard work!”

The manager – Nosedive, apparently, - stood up and smashed his hands against the desk.

“Now, Megatron, what should I do with you?” He put a palm over his forehead dramatically. “My colleagues up in top management sure gave me the most wonderful present by transferring you here. But, I believe… Three stellar cycles of working in Sector 37 may teach you something?”

Orion couldn’t stay silent anymore. 

“Sir, I beg you to reconsider!” he pleaded. “He’s telling the truth, I’m not a fugitive, I just…”

“You shut up!” Nosedive rasped, and then smiled unpleasantly. “Don’t think I forgot about you, little fugitive. What, did you really think deleting your records would help you escape – whatever is this you’re escaping? But don’t worry – your troubles end here. Here, let me see…” He took a datapad from the desk and began scrolling down the pages. “Aha! Pifall, that’s his name. You’ll take Pitfall’s place”.

“Sir, Pitfall is dead,” Orion shivered – now anger was obvious in Megatron’s voice.

“Indeed he is,” Nosedive smiled again, and this time it looked even more unfriendly. “But the report about the unfortunate incident that took poor Pitfall’s life has not been officially sent yet. I’m doing a favour for our little fugitive: I’m giving him an ID and a job, so that he can be a useful member of society again”.

“And you get to cover up a fatal incident”, Megatron smirked. “An exemplary facility indeed”. 

“Four stellar cycles in Sector 37. And I’d watch out for unfortunate incidents myself, if I were you,” Nosedive narrowed his optics.

“I definitely would. Wouldn’t want to ruin your reports”.

Orion shuddered when the manager’s gaze fell upon him once more.

“As for you, Pitfall… You get to work in Sector 37 too. So far it looked more like I have been rewarding you for your illegal activities, and we can’t have it, can we?”

 

3.

At the end of the solar cycle Orion felt like he was ready to go offline again – and this time he wasn’t sure he wanted to wake up. Every gear, every joint in his body ached; his legs shook, and his hands – oh, they seemed like a one burning mass of pain, and he couldn’t even move his fingers anymore. When the signal for the shift’s end rang, he just fell down where he stood, venting hard, barely noticing other miners walking past him.

His visual receptors adjusted to the dark pretty fast, but now everything was blurry again. Energon… He needed energon. He heard people mentioning daily payment being distributed nearby… He needed to stand up. He needed to refuel.

It took him ten kliks to get to the automatic dispenser. It scanned Orion’s ID card – unfamiliar name of Pitfall appearing on the screen – and he got his cube, half-full with precious liquid.

Wait… Half? Only half a cube?

Orion felt his vision being overcome by static, sparks flying. Oh Primus, no… He wasn’t crying, he wasn’t. As if mocking him, his pathetic half-filled cube began shaking, Orion’s poor hands finally giving up after a day of torment. He dropped on the floor again, if only to save his energon from spilling, and just sat there, shoulders shaking quietly. The most horrible thing was that Orion didn’t even understand why all of this was happening to him, why he was here, why did Nosedive hate him so much, what to do now, and everything hurt, hurt so much…

What did he do to deserve it all?

***

Sometimes Megatron wondered why couldn’t he ever hold his tongue. One would suppose life should’ve taught him to stop himself from doing stupid things and interfering with problems that had nothing to do with him and were, to be honest, too much for him to handle. The mere fact that Megatron ended up on C12 was a testament to that. But hey, at least the incident that began his life's downward spiral wasn’t his fault. Somehow, it didn’t bring much comfort.

He got his daily payment and was heading to the elevator, when in one of the corridors he noticed a familiar combination of colours. His mysterious find was sitting on the floor beside an energon dispenser, trying to lift a cube from the ground.

Megatron slowed down, then stopped. The little bot’s hands were shaking, threatening to spill the energon, and the edges of his optics were scorched, as if he was crying recently. He probably was; to be honest, he was in terrible shape.

Megatron hesitated for a moment – and then sighed and shook his head.

“Oh, Primus damn me.”

 

4.

“Orion – Orion, is it?”

Orion lifted his head and squinted, forcing his visual sensors to calibrate, only to widen his optics in recognition.

“Oh… Hey,” he smiled awkwardly. “I… I’m sorry. Do you need to use the dispenser? I’ll be off in a moment”.

Instead of replying, Megatron – that was his name, Orion remembered, - settled down in front of him and made him put the cube down.

“You obviously wasn’t built for manual labor. What caste are you?” He took Orion’s aching hands in his own and looked them over, bending Orion’s fingers experimentally.

“I don’t know,” Orion answered meekly, wincing as his fingers were moved.

“You… don’t know?”

“I don’t remember a thing before I woke up in that tunnel,” Orion watched his hands, not daring to look up for some reason.

“Oh,” there was a pause. “So, I guess, you won’t be able to explain how you got stuck miles under the surface inside a solid rock?”

“I what?!” Orion was so shocked that he almost jumped, forgetting about pain.

Megatron looked him in the optic.

“I found you. Inside a solid rock. Trapped and barely alive, with horror written on your face. Any ideas how you got there?”

Still astonished, Orion simply shook his head.

They sat in silence for a couple of moments.

“But… Why didn’t you say that before?” Orion inquired finally.

Megatron snorted.

“To whom, to Nosedive? He wouldn’t believe it, and if he did – it would have been even worse. He’d have made a report, and you’d have been dragged to the Institute, or someplace worse”.

“What is the Institute?”

“The last place where you want to be. Now, about your hands,” Megatron reached to his subspace and took out a small tool pack. “Your joints are too loose; your fingers are tuned for dexterity and precision, and it makes them unsuitable for manual labor. But I can tighten them up”.

“Okay…” Orion was a bit unsure about that, but tried to hide his doubts; he didn’t want to offend someone who was trying to help him.

“Now listen up,” Megatron began speaking, never lifting optics from his work. “You get paid daily. This,” he gestured to Orion’s cube, “is what you get if you don’t manage to fill daily quota. If you exceed it, you get additional energon or money, it’s your choice. I’d recommend you to take energon and change it into shanix in the city, because exchange course here is atrocious”.

“Can I just… drink the energon?” Orion looked at his cube with despair. It surely wasn’t enough to fill his fuel tanks.

“Of course you can, but where will you get the money then?” Megatron looked at him incredulously. “Don’t worry, half of the cube is enough to go through the shift, so you won’t go into stasis. If you have any questions or problems, don’t go to the administration – well, you’ve seen Nosedive. Go to Driller, he’s mining supervisor and a decent bot.  About the guards – most of them are tolerable, except for the big red one named Dozeoff. Try to avoid him if you can, and don’t let his name fool you. Oh, and never go to washracks alone, especially if it’s late.”

“Why?” Orion asked automatically and immediately regretted it.

“Do I really have to answer that? By the way, your hands are ready,” Megatron put his tools away. “What do you say?”

Orion flexed his fingers carefully; they felt numb, and moving them was harder, but at least the shaking stopped.

“I don’t know,” he muttered. “Will it help?”

“It should. Now show me your info port, I’ll send you some useful programs”.

Fortunately, Orion knew where his info port was (left wrist) and how to open it. In fact, it was rather strange: it seemed, his amnesia was very selective; he knew basics about his body, but didn’t know what function he was supposed to fulfill; he knew what energon was and that Cybertron was his homeworld, but he had no idea how Cybertron looked like. Orion made a mental note to catalogue his knowledge and categorize it; maybe it will help him to understand why he had forgotten certain things and how.

The programs Megatron was sending him seemed, indeed, useful in this new life of his. Applied force calculator, energon analyzer, energy conserving protocol… Curious, Orion rummaged through his own programs. Advanced linguistics? Archive programs (a whole dozen of them)? Grid connection optimizer? Well… At least the question of his previous function was easier to answer now: he most likely belonged to a data caste.

Orion got so concerned with his discoveries, that he missed the moment when Megatron disconnected. He was brought back to reality by the sound of liquid flowing. Megatron was pouring energon into his cube from his own.

Orion tried to object, but the other mech just waved his hand dismissively.

“Don’t bother, I have enough. And you definitely won’t be able to fill the quota tomorrow if you are starving. Try using that energy conservation protocol, it will help.”

“Thank you,” Orion said quietly. “And… I’m very sorry I got you into trouble.”

“Ah, don’t think about it. Lately it’s a rare occurrence when I’m not in trouble,” Megatron smiled bitterly at his thoughts, as if there was a joke Orion didn’t understand. “Come,” he stood up and offered Orion a hand. “Let’s go find Pitfall’s old berth. It is yours now, apparently”.

“This… Pitfall person,” Orion frowned as he was helped to his feet. “Did he die recently?”

“Three solar cycles ago, yes. In a cave-in,” Megatron’s face was emotionless, but Orion could feel unrest in his EM field. Anger, concern, distaste… Many things he couldn’t quite catch.

“I don’t think it’s right… For me to steal a dead person’s name and belongings,” he muttered.

“Perhaps. But, frankly speaking, what choice do you have?”

To this Orion had nothing to say.