Sabotaged Identity

by Raksha (jkink@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu)

   
Author's Note: This one includes a number of my own characters,
including one who makes it obvious that there are all kinds on both
sides. No, it's not a sequel to "Nightbird". But it takes place in the
same Universe, not quite 10 years later, so around the present date,
1993/4. At this point in time, Megatron and his ranking officers move
back and forth rather freely from Earth to Cybertron, fighting the war
on two fronts. In this story, they're on Cybertron......

     "Every silver lining has a dark, dark cloud;
     Always after sunshine comes the rain.
     They say that after night
          the dawn is sure to be bright;
     But don't forget the night will come again."
                    --Star Trek the Next Generation
                      Annual #1, D.C. Comics



     Sabotage crept down the narrow, steeply slanting tunnel that
had been cut deep into Cybertron's metal crust.  It was almost entirely
black, except for irregularly spaced pads of radioactive luminescence
that had been inlaid into the uneven ceiling.  It was suffocatingly hot,
and condensation ran down the walls, dripped from above, and made
footing treacherous.  More than once, Sabotage had to stop and brace
herself against the walls to rest.  No wonder they call this place Hellpit
Territory, she thought as she crept forward again, ignoring the painful
throbbing in her right leg and shoulder -- her old battle wounds, never
fully repaired, that were aggravated by her slow and awkward progress
downward.
     Every so often she passed other tunnels branching off to both
sides, some darker, some a bit more brightly lit.  These mining tunnels
honeycombed the subsurface of Hellpit Territory, the only place on the
planet where valuable quadrilithium for laser weapons crystallized
naturally below ground.  Sabotage had studied her route well, and was
not fooled into following the wrong pathways.  It would be easy,
dangerously easy, to get tempted into following a brighter, more even
tunnel, and get lost down here.  If they found her, the overseers in
charge of the mining slaves would make short work of her.
     Up ahead, she sensed the illumination growing just
perceptibly brighter.  She was getting close.  Taking care to move
soundlessly, she concentrated on what lay ahead, sending her mind
ahead of her . . . sometimes it worked, sometimes she could get a
telepathic sense of how many opponents she would have to deal with
when she turned the last corner . . . yes, she was getting the definite
impression of thought-wave patterns now, many, jumbled together....
She stopped, let her one working optic sensor dim to black in
concentration.  Above the muddle of minds steeped in exhaustion and
despair she picked out two that were clearer than the rest, alert, with a
hostile tint to their thought-waves ... not that she could ever delve
deeper than that, much as she had tried, to pick out actual thoughts
and images from another robot's mind.  A vague general impression
was all she could achieve, if anything at all; her telepathic abilities
were too weak and sporadic to be heavily relied on.  Not like those of
her long-dead creator, she thought with a shudder of bitterness and
pain -- he had been a true, powerful telepath, and he had died along
with her beautiful home city, long ago in this senseless Autobot-
Decepticon war.
     Sabotage's city had been one of Neutrals, innocent bystanders,
thoughtlessly ruined in the clash of two great armies that happened to
meet head-on in that particular location.  She had never known, or
cared, which side won that battle.  She only knew that she had lost
everything and everyone she had ever cared for, and from that moment
on, the Autobots and Decepticons both were her enemies.  She had
traveled alone across the planet, from territory to territory, destroying
what she could, and, as her name proclaimed, sabotaging the military
operations of both sides.  She despised all warriors too much to have
formed any friendships along the way -- she had, when her survival
was at stake, entered into temporary alliances, though her "allies" later
found they had made a fatal mistake in trusting her, after their
usefulness was ended.  In all, Sabotage was a dangerous, elusive, and
solitary robot who lived to destroy, knowing well that her hours were
numbered and hoping only to take as many of her enemies as possible
with her when she was finally caught.
     Today, however, she did not intend to die.  Only two
overseers stood against her in this section of the mine, and two she
could handle easily.  She tried to get as precise an idea as possible of
their locations by concentrating on their thought-waves, and then leapt
around the final bend in the tunnel, firing the lasers on both her arms
simultaneously -- one at each guard.  Her guess at their locations had
been precise, and they were taken completely by surprise.  As one, they
fell to her paralysis bolts -- weapons she had developed which allowed
her to keep her victims alive long enough to extract any useful
information they might have.  These two, however, had none.
Sabotage wasted no time and fired a point-blank laser blast through
each of the guards' optics, to melt down the vital circuitry of their
brains.
     Behind them, separated by a glowing containment field, the
first of the mining slaves were staggering dazedly to their feet with the
realization that something unusual was going on.  Quickly Sabotage
picked out the control box on the wall that kept the containment field
in place.  She could blast it and destroy the field that way, but it would
set off alarms.  She pulled open a panel and expertly disconnected the
necessary wiring, disabling the alarm system, and then sent a charge
of energy into the controls.  The containment field failed with an
electronic crackle.
     The mining slaves stood staring at her -- Autobots,
imprisoned here so long that they had lost all hope of escape.  The
horror of Sabotage's physical appearance probably had something to
do with their shocked expressions as well, she thought ironically.
"You're free, you idiots!" she snapped at them.  This seemed to jolt
them into awareness of their situation, and they rushed forward, nearly
running her over in their eagerness, streaming out into the tunnels.
Sabotage grabbed hold of one of the last, one of the smaller ones, and
slammed him up against the wall of his former prison.  "Tell me,
where is the nearest pocket of quadrilithium?" she demanded.
     "This tunnel leading off to the right," he gasped.  "Follow it
down, and take the third tunnel going left.  But -- there are guards--"
     "How many?"
     "Three or four, it depends--"
     Sabotage shoved him aside and darted into the tunnel, leaving
the Autobot to stagger after his companions.  Some of them would no
doubt get lost in the maze of corridors and be recaptured, but that was
no further concern of hers.  Enough of them would escape to make
things inconvenient for the Decepticon mining operation.  Sabotage
would, however, make even more trouble for them while she was here.
She burst out of the tunnels into a more spacious chamber, firing as
she came out, again catching the guards by surprise.  But there were
four of them this time, and she hadn't known their exact locations, and
they managed to dodge her blasts.  Behind them, slaves clambered
over outcrops of multicolored quadrilithium crystals that were
imbedded in the metallic stone.  They stopped their work and dove for
cover as well, for Sabotage's firing was random.  She leapt aside as the
closest Decepticon guard opened fire on her.  At that moment her
damaged leg gave out and she stumbled, barely managing to pitch
herself forward behind a cover of crystal outcrop.  But the blast caught
the edge of her foot, and immediately a searing pain raced up her leg.
Neurocircuit inhibitor!  Clamping her jaws shut over her cry of pain,
Sabotage dragged the paralyzed limb after her as she pulled herself
further behind the crystals, then balanced on her good leg to fire over
the top of her barricade.
     The four guards were closing in on her, and she couldn't fire
on all of them at once.  Worse, as soon as her first laser burst had
struck the quadrilithium, a wailing alarm siren had gone off, and more
guards would arrive any moment now.  The neurocircuit inhibitor
blast was starting to wear off, and Sabotage was beginning to get some
feeling back in her leg.  Quickly she set her weapons to produce a
sonic wave capable of shattering the quadrilithium crystals -- lasers
bounced harmlessly off them -- and fired up and outward at the sides
of the chamber.
     A deep, grinding, rumbling sound drowned out the high-
pitched shatterings of the quadrilithium as the crystals sprang into
multifaceted shards.  The entire unstable ceiling of the chamber came
down with a tremendous roar.  Sabotage sprang for the cover of the
tunnel behind her and ran as fast as she could, still limping, up the
steep incline.  A plume of rock and metal fragments and pulverized
crystal dust blasted her from behind and she almost fell, but kept
going.  Soon she was past the empty holding cell where she had
released the Autobots, and back in the original corridor that led
upward and out of the mines.  It was a straight run to the surface from
here, if only she encountered no more guards.
     As soon as she had this thought, Sabotage heard them coming
at her from an intersecting corridor.  Laser weapons and neurocircuit
inhibitor blasts flashed toward her out of the darkness of the tunnel.
She released another sonic wave, a short pulse, enough to cave in a
section of the ceiling behind her.  Through a hail of sharp-edged
fragments, she ran for the opening up ahead, transforming into her jet
mode and streaking away into Cybertron's dark sky.
               * * *
     Siege-Gun waited in the dimly lit entrance chamber to his
commander's throne room, letting his optics adjust to the darkness.  It
was not good form to go tripping and stumbling into Shadowlord's
presence, he had found over the years, and so always gave himself
some time to get used to the lack of illumination before entering.
Besides, these few minutes were often vital for gathering one's
courage, especially when bearing unpleasant news.  Like today.
     Siege-Gun steeled himself and entered.  The throne room was
even darker than the entrance chamber, but a single torch burned
beside the door.  Straight ahead, Shadowlord's throne rose on a pillar
of darkness, its edges rimmed with a faint silver network of thin,
shimmering lines:  Shadowlord's remote sensor system, to which he
directly plugged himself in and personally observed his entire
territory.  Shadowlord himself was, at first glance, difficult to pick out
on his throne, though the leaping flame of the torch cast eerie outlines
of his wings and horned helmet onto the wall behind him.
     Siege-Gun came forward, stopping at a respectful (and safe)
distance.  "Commander," he began, "there's been--"
     "A problem.  I know," Shadowlord interrupted.  Of course,
Siege-Gun thought, he *would* know.  Shadowlord's huge, luminous,
cold-white eyes stared out at him unflickering from the shadows of his
face, and Siege-Gun resisted the urge to squirm.  The ruler of Hellpit
Territory continued inflectionlessly, "Earlier tonight, someone
bypassed the security alarms and entered the North Mine, whereupon
she killed two of my overseers, released 57 of my slaves, and collapsed
a ceiling on 28 more, as well as four more guards, to say nothing of
utterly destroying a valuable outcrop of quadrilithium.  A small
outcrop, to be sure, but it represents a loss for me, and I'm not
pleased."
     "Uh ... yes, Commander," Siege-Gun murmured.  Light from
the torch danced faintly over the strands of the sensor-net.  Nothing,
absolutely nothing that happened in Hellpit Territory escaped
Shadowlord's notice, and it wouldn't have done any good to try and
downplay the facts.
     "Furthermore," Shadowlord went on, "after all this mayhem,
the perpetrator escaped.  I am familiar with this female's activities --
her name is Sabotage, and she has caused trouble in these parts before
-- but never within the borders of my realm.  She made fools of you
and your guards -- and with Megatron due for an official visit
tomorrow, I have no intention of letting your incompetence reflect
badly on me."
     He fell silent, pinning Siege-Gun with his luminous gaze.
The shadows flickered behind him, and seconds passed like eternities.
"Find this vigilante and kill her," Shadowlord said finally, "before she
causes any more trouble."
     "As you command, Shadowlord," Siege-Gun said, offering
the Decepticon salute of the closed fist against his chest, and turned to
go.
     "And, Siege-Gun--?"  Shadowlord added, freezing him in his
tracks.  "If there should be a problem while Megatron is here ...  I
assure you, *you* will be the one to pay for it.  Now go."
     Siege-Gun nodded and hurried out of the throne room,
relieved to be away.  It was only after the doors had closed and he
stood in the entrance chamber, that the full meaning of Shadowlord's
words came to him.  If he did not succeed in this mission, his own life
was forfeit -- even after all his years of loyal service.  Fighting a sense
of betrayal, Siege-Gun hurried off to organize a search troop.
               * * *
     This was the worst of all possible outcomes, Siege-Gun
thought as he led a troop of guards at a run down the fortress corridor.
Some hours ago they had flushed Sabotage out of hiding among the
ruins of Hellpit City, forming a net-like pattern to close in on her.
They had been close, so close -- and then she had vanished, right from
between their grasp.  They picked up the trail a few minutes later, but
by then it was too late -- she was heading for Shadowlord's fortress,
and they couldn't reach her in time to head her off.  So here they were,
Siege-Gun thought, playing hide-and-seek in the hallways, with
Shadowlord and Megatron elsewhere in the very same building.  If
only they could trap her and kill her before disaster stuck, he thought
desperately.
     Sabotage.  Her reputation preceded her -- she did
indiscriminate damage to Decepticons and Autobots alike, now and
again managing to kill a high-ranking military commander or
territorial ruler.  And now, here, she undoubtedly saw her chance to
assassinate the one Decepticon who commanded all others:  Megatron.
No wonder she had fled toward the fortress!  Even an unsuccessful
assassination attempt, here in what was supposed to be a secure
stronghold, would make Siege-Gun look like an inept bungler, since
he was in charge of security -- and by extension, would undermine
Shadowlord's power.  Siege-Gun cursed himself for his lack of
foresight, but there was nothing to be done now.  Only blind chance
could still save him from Shadowlord's retribution.
     Chance, one last chance, it seemed, was on his side.  Up
ahead, he caught a flash of silver-white as Sabotage broke cover and
dashed across an intersecting cross-corridor.  "After her!" Siege-Gun
commanded, dodging into the intersection to follow.  But Sabotage
had too great of a lead, and it seemed that, as fast as he ran, he
couldn't close the gap.  But at least he could see her now, up ahead,
and keep track of her twists and turns.
     She dodged into a wide hallway leading off to the left.  With a
sudden, sickening horror, Siege-Gun realized she was heading for the
throne room.  There was perhaps one final opportunity to corner her in
the entrance hall before she blasted her way into the main chamber.
As she disappeared through the entrance, Siege-Gun put on a final,
desperate burst of speed and surged in after her, all lasers ready to fire.
He skidded to an abrupt stop at the sight that met him -- a sight that
made his fuel run cold.  The guards rushing in behind him nearly
collided with him.  Siege-Gun stood oblivious to them.
     Shadowlord stood in the entrance chamber with one hand
wrapped around the vigilante's throat, holding her up and away from
him so that she struggled in the air, clawing frantically at the vise-like
grip that held her.  Shadowlord's impressive wings were unfurled
behind him, framing him as he turned his head slowly to regard Siege-
Gun with his icy, dispassionate gaze.
     "Your efficiency, and I use the term loosely, leaves much to
be desired," he said.  As he spoke, he slammed Sabotage down and
brought up one knee to gouge the venomous spike at its tip into her
stomach.  Indifferent to her shriek of agony, he threw her forcefully
against the wall.  She crumpled to the ground and convulsed into a
tight ball, pulling her legs up against her.  "I gave you specific
instructions," Shadowlord continued to Siege-Gun, and kicked
Sabotage viciously so her head snapped back from where she had
curled it against her chest.  "I told you, no incidents were to occur
while Megatron was here."  He punctuated this with another kick.
     "But -- she didn't get in," Siege-Gun pointed out.  "She didn't
do any more damage...?"
     "Yes."  Another kick, even harder, though Shadowlord's
expression never changed.  "And that is the only reason why you still
function.  But you've failed me, Siege-Gun, and I won't forget it."  One
final kick.  "Now, take her and melt her down.  I assume you can do
that much, at least."
     "Of course, Commander," Siege-Gun assured him quickly,
and turned toward Sabotage.  She lay against the wall, knocked nearly
senseless.  This was the first time Siege-Gun had gotten a close-up
look at her.  She was in bad shape, not only from the beating she had
just taken, but from older injuries as well.  Her right arm and leg were
dented and battered, her shoulder-joint torn open so that some of the
internal wires showed.  These gave off intermittent sparks --
something deeper inside was torn loose as well.  Her left wing had an
entire chunk missing, the edges ragged and coated in corrosion.  It was
amazing that she could have caused so much damage in her time, or
moved so quickly to elude the guards.
     Siege-Gun reached down and pulled her up by her
undamaged shoulder, and her head lolled backwards.  The ruined face
had been beautiful once, but now the entire right side and part of the
helmet was molten into a shapeless mass.  An empty, malformed
socket took the place of her right eye-lens.
     He placed the gunbarrel on his arm against her throat, and
prepared to fire.
     "Drop her!" came a sharp command from behind him.  Siege-
Gun jumped, but kept his grip on Sabotage's shoulder; this was not the
voice of Shadowlord, and Shadowlord had given him different orders.
He turned to see Megatron striding towards him out of the open
doorway of the throne room.  "I said let her go!" growled the
Decepticon leader, letting his eyes flash dangerously.  Megatron was
perhaps the only Decepticon of Siege-Gun's acquaintance who was not
in the least bit intimidated by Shadowlord.  That said a great deal for
his personal power.  With an apologetic glance at his commander,
Siege-Gun let Sabotage sink back to the floor.
     Shadowlord's expression remained indifferent.  The matter
was closed to him -- the vigilante was Megatron's problem now.
     The Decepticon leader crouched down on the floor next to
Sabotage, cupping her chin in one hand to tilt her ruined face upward.
"*Selenia*," he murmured.
     Her one working eye-lens flickered dimly back on.  "M-
Megatron?" she whispered uncertainly.  Then the light faded back to
black.
               * * *
     Sabotage/Selenia lay in the repair ward, too stunned by her
own churning emotions to do any more than passively let the
repaireons swarm over her.  Up until the moment she had struggled
back from the brink of unconsciousness in the entrance hall, she had
known exactly who she was, exactly what she wanted.  What she had
wanted was Megatron's death.  This was her perfect opportunity, she
remembered thinking as she had maneuvered out of Siege-Gun's trap
and toward the fortress -- her big chance to take out the driving force
behind the Decepticon army, and possibly Shadowlord as well, a likely
successor.  When she was caught in the entrance hall -- when her
electronic defense field had failed to activate, as it sometimes did, to
ward off Shadowlord's touch -- she had known it was all over.  She
had failed in her mission, and it would cost her her life.
     And then -- Megatron.  Seeing him, hearing the name he
addressed her by.  Something had snapped inside her, some barrier
broken by a flood of memories that seemed at once alien, not her own,
but also familiar, undeniably true.  The shock, more than her injuries,
had overwhelmed her and caused her to lose consciousness again.
     The next thing she knew, she was lying on a table in the
repair ward.  She barely noticed the hum and whine of equipment, the
hissing of blowtorches and clatter of replacement parts that went on
around her.  Without protest she sat up when she was told to do so, for
a new left wing to be fitted into place; again without a word she lay
back down for continued work on her new right eye.  She felt none of
it -- the repaireons had given her a destimulant that deadened all pain,
though even without this, she probably would barely have noticed.  It
had been centuries, millennia even, since she had allowed another
Transformer to touch her for repairs.  Now she hadn't the strength to
protest, even though the repaireons were restoring her and already she
felt physically more powerful than she had in a long time.  But her
external senses were numb, her reeling thoughts focused inward.
     The repaireons were adding a final coat of polish, moving her
unresisting limbs as they lubricated the joints, then coaxed her to a
sitting position again.  She let her legs dangle from the table and
stared blankly ahead as they filed out of the room, leaving her alone.
For a moment she floated in a void of dead silence, her surroundings
fading around her.  Then her attention focused forward.  Megatron
had entered the room.
     He regarded her for a long moment, then nodded approvingly.
"Much better.  We couldn't have let Soundwave see you like *that*."
     She caught her breath, hearing another name that triggered a
rush of indefinable emotion.  "Soundwave lives?" she said.  "After all
this time?"
     "But of course.  What's more, you have a whole flock of
siblings that you've never even met."
     Siblings.  She'd had a brother, Ravage--
     "You were too busy cutting a swath of destruction through my
forces," Megatron interrupted her thought, his tone suddenly cold, his
eyes like hard crimson shards.  "*Sabotage*."  Megatron spat the
name derisively.  "What was the meaning of all that?  Who were you
getting back at?  *Do you know how many times I sent out the order to
have you killed?*"  He had moved forward and seized her wrists,
pulling her off the table and to her feet, his eyes burning into hers.
     She tried to pull away, but his grip was unyielding.  As
Sabotage, she loathed his touch -- he was everything she hated most,
the ultimate embodiment of the warrior, who would stop at nothing,
who would overrun entire cities, to get his way.  As Selenia, she
shivered with the remembered thrill of his effortless power, the
unexpected delight of being so close to him again.  The mental conflict
was too much.  She twisted desperately, crying out, "I don't know,
alright?  I don't know why I did what I did, why I lived the life I did!
I'm not even sure who I really am!"
     Her voice had risen in panic, and Megatron let her go.  She
pulled back from him, pressing herself back against the repair table, as
far away from him as possible.  "Alright," he said, taking a more
soothing tone.  "We'll try another approach.  When you were captured
by the Autobots, Soundwave said you started a self-destruct sequence.
Shortly thereafter, he lost his mental link with you.  We assumed you
were dead.  Obviously you were reactivated at some later point.  Why
didn't you come back to us then?  Why did you take on this Sabotage-
persona?"  It ended up sounding like an accusation.
     Selenia shook her head.  "I don't remember any of that.  I just
don't know."
     Megatron regarded her skeptically for a few moments.
"Fine," he said.  "We'll let your creator sort this out.  Come on."  The
door to the repair ward slid back as he stepped through.  Selenia
hesitated for a fraction of an instant, and then followed.
     A small, armed shuttleship was parked before the entrance to
Shadowlord's fortress.  Siege-Gun and a troop of guards were there to
see Megatron off, and they snapped to attention when the Decepticon
leader appeared.  Shadowlord himself was nowhere to be seen -- an
implied hint of disrespect, Selenia wondered?  Before she followed
Megatron into the shuttle, she gave Siege-Gun a defiant look, worthy
of Sabotage:  she had survived.  But once inside the shuttleship, she
was Selenia again, and lost.  She curled herself into the co-pilot's seat
and stared fixedly out the window while Megatron lifted off.  On the
journey to Polyhex, halfway around the planet, she didn't say one
word.  Megatron glanced at her oddly now and again, but she was
grateful that he let her be and did not attempt conversation.
               * * *
     The Black Fortress at Polyhex was the home base of the
Decepticon high command.  Impregnable and bristling with
armament, it was here that the war against the Autobots had its true
origin; even when Megatron was off-planet, he filtered most of his
orders through whomever he had placed in command of these twisted
spires.  The base had vast underground reserves of stored energon,
immense labs and test-facilities for the ongoing development of ever-
more-deadly weapons, and a computer and surveillance system second
only to Shockwave's computer at Watch Central, the Guardian's
residence.
     Selenia had never been within the dark walls of the Fortress.
Megatron ushered her without ceremony from the landing bay and
through a maze of narrow corridors, finally leaving her in a small,
partially empty storage room.  "Wait here," he instructed, and was
gone again.
     Selenia looked around.  Assorted pieces of machinery and
weapons littered the floor and shelves.  Almost instinctively she sifted
through some of the equipment, picking out, with a skill born of long
practice, those pieces she might at some point be able to use.
Surreptitiously she stashed them in her chest-compartment, behind the
now-repaired opaque glass of her cockpit.  Her fingers brushed the
new, shiny-purple Decepticon symbol that had been burnt onto its
surface.  For some reason it bothered her.  Some feeling she could not
explain protested that it was a badge she ought not wear.
     The mental confusion that threatened to overwhelm her again
was cut short by the sound of the door sliding back behind her.
Megatron entered, followed by Soundwave.  The Decepticon leader
barely glanced at her, but instead stood aside and watched Soundwave
closely.
     For a moment Selenia stood transfixed.  What could she say
to her creator, after all these centuries?  Then she felt his thoughts
reach out to her -- the old, familiar telepathic touch, carrying with it
the sense of everything he was -- his calm self-assurance, loyalty and
courage, warmth, wisdom, and patience.  The mental link, which had
been so violently snapped, re-established itself with surprising ease;
the frayed connections mended themselves.  Selenia barely realized
that she rushed forward and flung her arms around Soundwave's neck
-- barely noticed when Megatron, apparently satisfied that she was
truly not an impostor, left them alone -- she knew only that
Soundwave held her tightly and, at this moment, all the pain and
confusion that tormented her vanished into insignificance.
               * * *
     For a while, Selenia thought her joy could have no bounds.
Soundwave took her down to a huge, complex laboratory facility that
doubled as a repair bay, for a tempestuous reunion with Ravage.  Her
older brother, usually so reserved and aloof, practically climbed all
over her in his delight, and threatened to lap off her entire new coat of
polish with his raspy tongue.  Selenia sat on the floor and hugged him
and laughed until she was out of breath.  She found, after she and
Ravage had regained some measure of composure, that their telepathic
mind-link had re-established itself as easily as it had with Soundwave.
Selenia felt a new completeness inside, as though a few missing pieces
had been returned to her soul.
     Soundwave introduced her to her other siblings.  Megatron
hadn't been exaggerating when he'd described them as "a whole flock":
Selenia's eyes went bright with amazement when it seemed there was
no end to the cassettes that leapt out of Soundwave's chest
compartment and transformed into small robots or animals.  Selenia,
who had gone up against some of Cybertron's deadliest warriors, found
herself suddenly at an uncomfortable loss for words under the
skeptical, yet curious, scrutiny of her brothers.  "I'm -- I'm your sister,"
she stammered finally.
     "We don't have a sister," said the little blue robot whom
Soundwave had introduced as Rumble.  He and the others had
apparently never known about her.  He glanced uncertainly at
Soundwave.  "But we don't *have* a sister...?"  Meant to be a
statement, it came out as a question.
     "You certainly do," Soundwave replied.  "We thought she was
destroyed long ago, before you were created.  I did not know otherwise
until today."
     Selenia reached out mentally to Rumble's mind, to all of
them.  She didn't know for certain if she'd get through --
     "Hey!" another one, Frenzy, yelped in amazement.  He and
the others looked at Soundwave, at each other, at Selenia.  They had
all felt her telepathic contact.  After that, their initial shyness
dissolved, and they all came crowding around her, all seemingly
talking at once.
     Selenia found that she had a limited mind-link with each of
them -- not as clear as the one she had with Ravage, and not anywhere
near as strong as her link with Soundwave -- but she could send and
receive thoughts and emotions, in a general way, quite easily.
Soundwave, as was his custom, stood back and let events take their
natural course.  Finally, though, he interrupted and ushered his entire
brood out of the lab, assuring them they could get together with their
newfound sister again later.  "You too, Ravage," he added when the
robotic feline remained firmly rooted at Selenia's side.  "Selenia and I
have much to discuss."  Slowly, with unhurried elegance, Ravage rose
and padded noiselessly after the others, who left the lab amidst half-
hearted protests and complaints.
     "Amazing," Selenia breathed when the doors slid shut behind
them.  "However do you keep them from driving Megatron crazy?"
She giggled at the thought -- the Decepticon leader was not known for
his patience, and she couldn't imagine him happily enduring a horde
of laughing, shouting, rambunctious children.
     "Sometimes it's not easy," Soundwave admitted, but smiled
fondly.
     Selenia, too, smiled and clasped his hands in spontaneous
happiness.  "I didn't know I had such a large family."
     Abruptly the expression in Soundwave's eyes turned serious.
"You didn't know you had a family at all, for the past four million
years," he corrected.  "Come over here."  Selenia felt a vague sinking
sensation inside as Soundwave led her to the diagnostic equipment in
the repair ward part of the lab.  "I want to check you over," he said.
"Make sure that Shadowlord's repaireons did a good job."  Obligingly
Selenia hopped up on the table.  She felt suddenly tense and wary.
     Soundwave began by testing her right shoulder, where some
of the worst damage had been.  She relaxed a bit under his touch -- in
addition to being a communications and computer expert, and third-
in-command of Megatron's forces, Soundwave was also a highly
skilled repairs specialist.  Selenia let him move and rotate the shoulder
joint.  He then brought out a tiny diagnostic scanner, which he ran
closely over the newly repaired surface.  The scanner hummed an
almost inaudible, soothing tone.
     "Sabotage," Soundwave mused, almost casually.  "How did
you end up that way?  Tell me what you remember."
     Just beyond the newly healed fragments of her soul, Selenia
sensed a yawning black chasm of terror.  Her happiness had been a
superficial thing, a veneer that chipped and flaked away at the
slightest provocation.  "I don't remember anything," she whispered,
her body gone rigid.
     "Yes you do," Soundwave persisted calmly.  He tilted her
head up so she met his eyes.  "You're just afraid of facing it."
[Selenia], he said, and she realized he was no longer speaking, that the
words formed in her mind, "[Selenia, remember, you're safe now.
Whatever happened, however painful it might be to remember, you
need to face it so it can no longer hurt you.  I'm here -- I'll travel into
your memories with you.  I won't let anything harm you]."
               * * *
     <BEGIN FLASHBACK>

     Selenia restlessly prowled the perimeter of the great
chambered cavern which had been hollowed out deep beneath the
Bismuth Mountains, and served as a temporary base camp.  The others
had all gone off into battle -- she was the only one there.  She was
frustrated, verging on angry.
     She circled back to the conglomeration of hardware and
software that had been strung together to form a makeshift
surveillance computer, in an alcove of the main chamber.  "Stay
behind and guard the computer," Megatron had said, "it's the only
equipment we have."
     Guard -- from *what*?  Their base was so well hidden, with
both entrances holographically disguised, that an entire army of
Autobots couldn't find it -- let alone the ragtag rebel bands that
crawled around this sector of the planet, and spent almost as much
time fighting each other as they spent fighting the equally ragtag
Decepticon bands.  But Megatron had said stay behind, and stay
behind it was.  He made her angry sometimes, with his imperious
manner, as though he were already Supreme Commander of all
Decepticons instead of just a minor warlord.  But Soundwave and
Ravage were convinced that was merely a temporary situation, and
Selenia found that she had to agree.  With his driving ambition,
fearlessness, power, and cunning intelligence, Megatron was already
beginning a meteoric rise through the Decepticon ranks.  His latest
ploy was to unite the scattered and feuding Decepticon bands that
roamed these mountains, and consolidate them under his command;
he had already systematically gained the loyalty, or at least the sworn
allegiance, of much of the Decepticon-controlled southern hemisphere
and equatorial regions.  Now, having left the bulk of his army camped
on the equator, he was pushing his influence north.  Even Straxus,
from his fortified position in Polyhex, had reason to be wary of the
fiery young warlord who would, no doubt, soon challenge him for
power.
     Selenia found it hard to stay angry with Megatron when she
thought of him like that.  He was, after all, the most exciting and
attractive male she had ever met; he had introduced her to pleasures
she hadn't thought possible, both physical and emotional.  When his
attention was fully focused on her, she felt like the luckiest female in
the galaxy.  And then again he could be so -- so condescending.
"Guard the computer, indeed," she muttered, her annoyance flaring
again.  Megatron just didn't think she could hold her own on the
battlefield.
     And Soundwave -- Soundwave was just as bad.  Selenia loved
her creator dearly, but he could be so overprotective that she
sometimes felt suffocated.  She'd been amazed and pleased that he had
even condoned her relationship with Megatron; but then, Soundwave
thought the world of Megatron.  And, like Megatron, he didn't think
she could hold her own in battle.  "You don't have enough training
yet," he'd say, to which she'd shout back, "How can I ever *get*
training if you never take me along?!"  Even Ravage had to put his two
chips in, trying to tell her how dangerous things were, out there, and
she'd only be injured.  "Chauvinists!" she screamed at them,
"chauvinists, that's what you are!"  And she'd stalked away to sulk in a
corner of the cave.  Later she'd felt guilty for screaming, realizing
intellectually that Soundwave's, Megatron's, and Ravage's reluctance
to let her join battle was motivated by concern, not malice -- but, that
didn't make it emotionally any less frustrating.  Finally they had
reached an uneasy compromise, with Selenia being given bombing
missions that usually kept her at high altitude or only within enemy
firing range for the briefest possible time.  It still wasn't what she
wanted, but at least it was a start.
     And this time they'd left her behind again.  One step forward,
two steps back.  She sighed and sat down at the computer, letting her
wings droop dejectedly.  There was movement on the surveillance
screen, but that was nothing unusual, and she turned her eyes to it
with little interest.  A small band of Autobots poked around in the
vicinity of one of the disguised entrances.  They suspected there was a
base around here somewhere, but they didn't know exactly where.
They'd never find it.  They were already turning away, heading in the
wrong direction.
     Selenia suddenly straightened in her chair as a thought struck
her.  "Guard the computer," Megatron had said.  So, what if those
Autobots turned back, and by chance did find the entrance?  What if
they came down here and destroyed the computer, or captured the
base?  Wouldn't it be much better to destroy them now, before they
even got close?  Selenia grinned.  When the others got back, she would
lead them to the corpses of the Autobot squadron that she had
destroyed all on her own.  *She'd* show *them*!
     But she had to hurry.  Soundwave periodically "checked in"
with her mentally, not in an intrusive way, but just to make sure she
was alright -- though at such moments he could usually tell what she
was doing.  Hopefully he would be otherwise occupied for a while.
Selenia quickly powered up her lasers and leapt out the aerial access
portal, out into the night sky.  Engines howling, she raced off in
pursuit of the Autobots, who had already moved out of visual range.
     She swooped low, between the jagged mountain peaks that
glimmered with eerie flickers of color.  She rounded a ridge and saw
the squadron up ahead.  She closed on them quickly and released a
barrage of laser fire that concentrated on the unsuspecting robot
nearest her.  He managed to turn halfway toward her, cried out,
staggered, and exploded into a brilliant fireball.  The others had
whipped out their weapons, lighting the dark sky and metallic peaks
with a criss-cross of multicolored beams.
     Selenia spun out of their path, climbing high, twisting, and
diving toward them from a new angle.  Her first, effortless kill had
exhilarated her, and she was ready to do more damage.  She activated
her electronic force field, which sparked and crackled around her, and
shot high-voltage electrical bolts from its perimeter.  Two found their
mark -- one Autobot damaged, the other incinerated beyond repair.
     Again she climbed clear of their return fire.  What was so
difficult about all this?  Autobots died easily -- even Megatron had said
so.  A snatch of argument drifted through her mind:  "You always say
they're not real warriors," Selenia had protested, "so why can't I help
you fight them?"  "Not real warriors, no, but treacherous, and
sometimes they get lucky," Megatron had replied.
     She dived, firing electric bolts and lasers.  Something clipped
past her wing, rattling her balance; an instant later she felt a searing
pain along the edge, which startled her into ceasing fire.  She pulled
out of her dive.  Another bright bolt flashed past her, narrowly missing
-- not from the ground, but from halfway up the nearest mountain!
While the main group had kept her busy, one or two others had
scrambled to a new vantage point.
     Selenia peppered the dark mountainside with laser fire,
randomly hoping to hit something.  Fire from the ground increased,
making it necessary for her to respond.  Her attention was being
divided, making it hard for her to fully concentrate on either target.
Her exhilaration had vanished, replaced by anger and a growing spark
of fear.  She realized she had lost control of the situation, and logic
told her to pull out -- but she so desperately wanted to prove herself
that she decided to forge ahead.  These Autobots weren't so tough, they
were just---
     An impact struck her in the back with such force that she lost
engine power.  A moment later there was searing pain, like before, but
over her whole body.  Fighting a blackness that threatened to close in
over her, she forced herself upward in the air, tilting her wings back.
Her engines made an unhealthy whining sound as she continued to
drop in altitude, despite her efforts.  She realized with a shock that the
bolt which struck her had come from yet a third angle, halfway up the
opposite mountain.
     "... treacherous, and sometimes they get lucky...."  Selenia
lost consciousness an instant before she crashed to the ground.


<END FLASHBACK>

     [Continue],  Soundwave told her, running his scanner over
her newly-replaced left wing.  [What's the next thing you remember?]

<BEGIN FLASHBACK>

     Selenia found herself held immobile to a smooth vertical
surface, locked in place by magnetic clamps.  The laser-impact on her
back burned like liquid fire.  She flickered her eyes carefully to
brightness, afraid of what she would see.  She had barely glimpsed
light, and behind it shadow, when the back of a fist slammed across
her face.  She cried out with the shock and pain, then mentally cursed
herself for having made a sound.  She brightened her eyes fully and
stared unwaveringly ahead.
     A bright light-source hung above her, though behind it
gathered the formless shadows of a subterranean cavern, much like
that of Megatron's base.  To both sides of her, computer equipment
and machinery hummed and blinked.  A large green-and-silver
Autobot stood before her, menacing and powerful.
     "Welcome back to consciousness," he said coldly.  "You're a
bit young to go ambushing my warriors, aren't you?"  He slammed his
fist across her face again, once, twice.  "That's for Torque and Fusion,"
he snarled.  Selenia had this time forced herself to make no sound.
Even through the bright haze of pain that pounded behind her eyes,
she took pleasure in the Autobot's confirmation that she had indeed
taken out two of their number.
     "You've bitten off more than you can shred, little female," the
Autobot continued.  He leaned very close to her, grasping hold of her
chin and turning her head roughly from side to side.  "I didn't think
the Decepticons could turn out such attractive females."  He laughed
unpleasantly, reaching up with his other hand to caress the side of her
helmet.
     Selenia felt a surge of revulsion at his touch, but there was
something chillingly familiar about his manner.  She had seen
Megatron treat prisoners in similar ways, worse even, switching back
and forth between violence and almost kindness during the course of
an interrogation, toying with them, enjoying it.  Watching him, she'd
thought it fascinating; finding herself on the receiving end now was
altogether different.  She barely managed to clamp down on the panic
that rose within her.
     "Commander Typhon," came a voice from the shadows.
     The green-and-silver Autobot snatched his hands away from
Selenia with an annoyed snarl.  "What is it, Circuit?"
     A slender, bright yellow Autobot with cyan accents moved
into the light.  "Don't you think we should extract information from
her first, before you -- uh, damage her?  She won't be able to tell us
anything once she's dead or traumatized beyond sanity."
     "I won't tell you anything anyway!" Selenia hissed.
     Typhon clamped his hand around her throat.  "Oh, but you
most certainly will," he said, his eyes gleaming with a dangerous
anticipation.  He tightened his grip painfully.  "For starters, where is
the entrance to your hidden base?"
     "Stick it in your audial sensor," Selenia replied.
     The grip tightened.  "One more time.  Where is your base?"
     "Go find it," Selenia gasped.  Her vision was going black.
Furious, Typhon pulled his hand away, and Selenia gulped air.
     "Circuit," Typhon ordered,  "go bring me that blowtorch you
were using earlier."
     Circuit looked vaguely uncomfortable.  "Sure, Commander,"
he said, and disappeared into the shadows.
     As Typhon regarded her with a twisted smile, Selenia
realized for the first time that she would very probably die.  They
would have to kill her, since she would tell them nothing.  The
realization that she would never see her friends and family again was
as painful as any damage that had yet been inflicted on her.  She
suddenly felt a poignant affection for her fellow warriors, even
Starscream with his obnoxious attitude, and Shockwave with his
infuriating logic, and Ruckus who rattled and clanked and leaked all
over the floor ... and Ravage, and Megatron, and Soundwave, the
males she loved most in all the galaxies.  She regretted all the time
wasted in friction and arguements, and fought back tears -- she would
not fall apart in front of her enemies.
     Circuit returned, carrying a blowtorch in one hand and an
unusual-looking helmet with dangling wires in the other.  Typhon
eagerly reached for the blowtorch, but Circuit spoke up quickly, "Why
don't we just hook her up to the mental probe?"  He held out the
helmet.  "Once activated, the probe will display any of her thoughts
visually on the computer screen, and she can't lie or refuse to answer.
It would save a lot of time -- and energy."  He watched his commander
hopefully.
     Typhon glowered at him.  "You're so damn practical
sometimes, Circuit," he growled, and reluctantly reached for the
helmet.
     Selenia's fuel pump raced with a renewed burst of panic.  She
would have preferred the blowtorch.  Now, because of her own
stupidity and recklessness, because she had foolishly defied orders in a
vain attempt to prove herself, she would end up costing the
Decepticons far more than just the loss of one warrior.  The Autobots
would be able to pick and choose among her thoughts and ferret out
the minutest details about Megatron's plans, the strength of his forces,
and their exact location.  She had perhaps doomed them all to
destruction.
     Circuit was helping Typhon connect the helmet's dangling
wires to the blinking outlets in the computer.
     There was one thing, Selenia realized, that she could do to
prevent this.  Dimming her eyes, she activated a complicated series of
mental commands.  When she brightened her eyes again, she felt
rather than heard the beginning of the steady countdown deep inside
her, felt the heat slowly building in her power core as the overload
gathered.  She only hoped she had begun the self-destruct sequence in
time.  There was no way to speed up the countdown.
     The helmet was hooked up, and Circuit was keying up a
diagnostic program while Typhon waited impatiently.
     Selenia almost gasped aloud as she felt a familiar mental
touch.  Soundwave, "checking in," casually at first; there couldn't have
been a worse time for it.  Selenia tried to pull away from the contact,
but it was too late -- he knew immediately that something was wrong,
and intensified the link.  Selenia felt his start of horror when he sensed
the countdown and realized what was going on.  Swiftly his thoughts
entered her neural pathways to abort the sequence.  Selenia tried to
block him, but against his telepathic skill her untrained efforts were
less than useless.  Nevertheless it was too late -- the countdown was
past the point of no return.
     Typhon approached her with the helmet.  Selenia barely saw
him.  Despite all her efforts, tears streamed down her face.
"Soundwave I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," she whispered.  She tried to pull
away from his mental contact, to spare him what came next.  She
never knew if she was successful, for the heat that had built inside her
exploded outward to envelop her entire perception in a molten red
fireball.  It shrank quickly into blackness and utter silence.

<END FLASHBACK>

               * * *
     Selenia leaned against Soundwave, shaking, drawing strength
from his presence.  It seemed a long time before she could pull back
and look up at him.  "You were still in contact with me, weren't you,
when I -- when the sequence ended," she asked.
     "That is unimportant now," he replied.  Selenia saw the barest
flicker of remembered pain flash through his eyes.
     "I can't believe I could have been that stupid," Selenia said
angrily.  "To attack a whole squadron by myself--!"
     "No more recriminations," Soundwave stopped her.  "It was
long ago."
     "Yes," Selenia sighed.  "But that still doesn't explain how I
became Sabotage."
     "I think I know.  Obviously the Autobots were able to
reactivate you after your power core overloaded.  You were, for all
intents and purposes, dead for at least a few minutes, since our mental
contact was broken ... but tell me, what's the earliest memory you have
as Sabotage?"
     "It's not all that clear anymore.  But I can still vividly see the
ruins of the city in front of me, the city that was -- that I *thought*
was, my home.  I remember dragging myself through the smoking
rubble, coming across the bodies of my neighbors and friends, finding
my creator half-buried under tons of steel, dead, and vowing at that
moment to spend the rest of my life destroying those who had caused
this.  Even when I think of it now, it feels like a true memory -- I can
still smell the acrid smoke from the fires.  It's as though there are two
entirely separate beings living inside my body, each of whom lived her
own life."
     Soundwave nodded thoughtfully.  "But think for a moment,
Selenia.  What was the name of your city?"
     She looked at him blankly.  "I -- I don't know."
     "Did you ever know?"
     "No -- no, isn't that strange?  I guess I never thought of the
city by any particular name.  It was just 'my destroyed home city'."
     Soundwave was putting holes into her "true memories,"
pointing out places where the logic didn't fit.  "Your 'dead creator'," he
continued, "what was his name?"
     Selenia shook her head in confusion.  "I don't know that
either.  But you know, Soundwave, when I picture him, he looked like
you.  When I remembered him, as Sabotage, he was a skilled telepath,
like you.  The pain of losing him was real.  Isn't it strange, though,
that I never questioned why I didn't have names for anyone or
anything in my past?"
     "Not so strange," Soundwave replied, "when you're dealing
with false memories that were programmed into your mind.  In such
mental manipulation it's always more effective to add real events to the
false memories, to make things ring true.  Real emotions are used as
much as possible, and bonded to the false memories.  But to use real
names can endanger the whole process, because real names can trigger
real memories and lead the subject back to their real identity."
     "So basically, I was implanted with a command to sabotage
any military operation -- only I thought I was doing it for my own
sake, for the sake of vengeance!  Soundwave, I can't believe how many
years I wasted trying to vindicate a false set of memories!  It's as
though someone took my whole life away from me and manipulated
me into living an enormous lie!"  It seemed to Selenia, at that moment,
the most heinous of crimes.  She remembered living with the
vengelust, the bitterness, the painfully friendless and solitary life she
had led as Sabotage, and felt utterly violated.
     An unpleasant suspicion took shape in her mind, something
that she didn't even want to think about ... but she had to know.  "How
do you know so much about this process," she asked softly, hardly
daring to voice the question.
     "I've used it," he answered matter-of-factly.
     For a moment she was horrified, to think that her creator
could have done this deplorable thing to someone else that had been
done to her.  But it made sense, in a twisted sort of way.  For all his
empathy and gentleness, Soundwave believed strongly in the
Decepticon cause, and could be a ruthless fighter -- a fact that never
failed to surprise his fellow Decepticons, some of whom mistakenly
considered him almost a pacifist.
     Soundwave was not currently reading her thoughts, but he
guessed at what was going through her mind.  "This is war," he said.
"We do what we have to."
     Selenia nodded and dimmed her eyes for a moment, ridding
herself of the revulsion.  "You think you're an individual," she
muttered, more to herself than to Soundwave.  "You think you're
secure in your personality, that this is who you are.  And then to
realize how easily it can just be blanked out---"
     "It's not always so easy.  In some individuals, their original
inclinations can't be totally overridden -- merely expanded.  For
instance in your case.  You attacked Autobot installations as well as
ours -- that was your original nature coming through.  No doubt the
Autobots who programmed you realized you would do some damage to
their own side, but felt it was worth the cost, in return for the damage
you would do to our side."
     "Now that I think about it," Selenia mused, "I don't remember
hating one side any more or less than the other, but I do seem to
remember attacking more Decepticon installations than Autobot ones.
At the time, it seemed like those just came up more frequently in my
random path -- but maybe it wasn't so random?"
     "That makes sense," Soundwave agreed.  "Memory
manipulation can be very subtle, so you never suspect you're acting on
someone else's instructions.  In fact, you may still not be entirely free
of it.  I'm still sensing mental blockages in your mind.  But I think the
worst is over, and we can deal with any other problems as they come
up."
     Selenia offered him a shaky smile.  She very much wanted to
believe that the worst was indeed over.
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