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A Geological Report from Polyhex (Cybertron)

[A Geological Report from Polyhex (Cybertron)]

by A.Appleyard

[I wrote this story for my own interest a few years ago, before either Primus or the Quintessons had become part of the Transformers scenario as makers of the first Transformers.]

War of liberation came at last to Cybertron. After organized Decepticon resistance ceased, or fled off-planet, reconstruction and rebuilding started. The fighting in Polyhex, the Decepticon capital, had been long and fierce, and not much still stood or had hope of easy repair. But one thing remained and functioned, the thing the Autobots were the least happy to see still there: the Smelting Pool.

What on earth was to be done with it? Its heat seemed to come from deep in the planet and not from an artificially generated source. In Straxus's former seat of power overlooking it sat Inferno, alone of Transformers able to survive immersion uninjured in it for long as routine. There he had stayed as lifeguard, and had saved many who had fallen in it during liberation fighting or in skirmishes after when holdout groups tried to hit back. Far too many had died in it for it to be kept as an ordinary metalworking furnace thereafter, and its power supply, once found, was quickly diverted to better use. So in the end was decided and done. It was drained, and its lining and associated melt pumps and molds were cut up and removed. They had to dig deep to remove it, and over a wide area.

To the Autobots' surprise, they found that it had been built over one of the few places on Cybertron where volcanic activity had made it unsafe to build (until Straxus found how to tap the volcanic heat at last, driven by need of shortage), and in a wide shallow lake some semblance of a geological sedimentary record had accumulated, whereas over most of Cybertron the surface had been dug and processed and recycled and rerecycled miles deep to retrieve metals by millions of years of Transformer life. The sediment was of course mostly the solid part of drainings from the city areas about and layers of volcanic ash, and the chemical traces of Transformer life about.

At the level of 4 MYBP (= millions of years before the present) the sediment was full of shrapnel and wreckage and spent shots, as was to be expected. Below that there were no war traces, only the slight chemical traces of peaceful Autobot life around the Polyhex Lake where the volcanic vent was the only unruly intrusion before the arising of Megatron. They still dug down. But when they got to 17 MYBP, they found war traces again, and above it many thousand years of rust washed in from uninhabited corroding city areas abandoned and depopulated in the fighting. No memory of that war survived after so long, that could be distinguished from creation legends and tales of gods and devils at the making of the world, for in memory the remoter past is telescoped. Who had fought who over what? What courages and cowardices and mercies and cruelties had been enacted? Who won? There was no way of knowing, except for what the sediment could tell. Why were there signs of a rebuild immediately after the war ended, then life signs faded while uninhabited city areas crumbled into an empty landscape of metal oxide hills?

Rust and scale and fragmented circuitry washed down arroyo beds and made outwash fans over low areas and into the lake. It was long before final clearance and rebuilding. Did the ancient pre-Decepticons, fearful of slave-revolt or coup, leave too few with freewill, until something broke down leaving most of the Transformers unable to repair it or make more of themselves, until a few who had kept freedom alive in hiding came out at last and repopulated the area? No tale remains of ancient Optimus Primes and Megatrons, and Bumblebees etc, or their likenesses, who took part. As Virgil wrote, "fortes ante Agamemnona". Will the same happen again in the far future, when the maw of Time has consumed and recycled all trace and memory of those who took part in the recent wars? Metal rusts, brain circuitry deteriorates, but the mind can be copied into a new brain; but old memories are steadily diluted by new memories till they are gone; to the recycler all must return some time.

They kept digging down, through 9 million years accumulation of sediment with merely the slight chemical traces of peaceful life, while generation succeeded generation without fear, and no fire ash or spill from bombed storage tanks, but at 26 MYBP they found another war layer. Suddenly an electronic probe found something that returned a signal briefly. They dug down to it and found, to their astonishment, that it was, among yet another litter of wreckage of a flying body, a still viable Cybertronian brain whose hard casing and the airless mud had preserved it through the ages. The fossilized scraps of the old body were unrepairable, so they put it into a new F15 type body, like Starscream's, one of the meny left at Blackrock's works at Seattle on Earth by Shockwave's occupation there.

26 million years change language much, even at Cybertronian rates, and their find's speech was incomprehensible to modern ears; but he gradally learned modern speech. His name was Hastrdhaghos, which means 'Starspeed' (although some tried to pronounce his ancient name, as Astrodagger), and he said he had been shot down over the lake in a fight against the tyrannical usurping of "The Boss" (who did not let his proper name be commonly known or used). Starspeed at first thought that Megatron was the same, and took some time to realize that geological ages had passed and that he was the only memory of what had happened. The general history of that war was much the same as the Megatron war. The Boss gathered followers and suddenly attacked, and war swayed to and fro until Starspeed was shot down and the tale ended. Iacon had played a major part in that war. Its factories kept at work despite The Boss's many attacks on it, and as a reward it was renamed Hayweygonos, 'ever producing', whence the modern name by the long slow alterations of speech down the ages; whereas before it was called Triklnis, 'three hills', a name which itself was ancient, for long since the three hills had been quarried away in building operations and digging basements and tunnels.

In his modern F15 body, Starspeed has a habit, when nervous or excited, of sometimes reverting to his ancient language. A bit later, he had a reunion beyond hope, for another ancient brain was found. It was damaged, and Ratchet had to labor long to mend broken circuit boards before it could be put into another new F15-type body. It turned out to be Starspeed's friend Diwkamps, who had been shot down a bit previously in the 26 MYBP way. His name means `Sky-warp': these names recur sometimes, through the depths of time and the millions of Cybertronians needing names. The two took off and has a reunion mock combat and their onboard radios sent signals to each other in a language not heard for over a score of millions of years, while the rest continued to dig down.

At 31 MYBP, below a layer of washed-in blowtorch spatter while wreckage was cleared, was yet another layer full of war debris. How many times will Cybertronians, or men, forget the lessons of the past and fall to blows again? At 54 MYBP there was a rare find, a plastic sheet with a street scene on it. It showed Transformers, and one of them was halfway transformed as if about to set off on a journey. Not even Starspeed could read the text on the back, as it was even further before this time than his time was before the present day. They still dug down. At 56 MYBP all signs of electromechanical life started abruptly with no sign of how it had arisen or got there. Below that level, the nature of the sediment changed, telling of a Cybertron totally different from the planet-wide sheath of artificial constructions which made up the known world later: no cities, no factories, no chemical traces, merely much sand and grit and stones washed in from bare eroded hills and blown in from wide desert plains and ever-marching dunes like one of many other barren planets found orbiting other stars. Some wondered how the first robots came to Cybertron. Stranded? Came as settlers? Left to establish a space-base and their owners never returned? If the last was true, how long did it take for the idea of waiting for their masters to fade among their descendants which they manufactured on Cybertron as their cities covered the empty landscape? How to find out now, after 56 million years? And where did they come from? Whence the first robot? For a robot must be intelligent enough to understand intelligent robotics and much else to make another; unlike flesh life, they can't evolve from scratch. Somewhere, long ago, flesh life crawled out of a sea on some other planet far away and evolved to intelligence and made sentient robots. They still dug down, for curiosity, for they had dug out all of Straxus's constructions some time before. After many variations on the theme of empty barrenness they found at last, at about 300 MYBP, a foot-thick layer of unusual clay with much iridium metal, the debris of a massive asteroid impact into a deep sea somewhere. Below that, fossils of native Cybertronian carbon-based life! Somewhat like on Earth: worms; shellfish; fishlike; torpedolike forms that could jump out of the water, gradually changing to true flyers, so that Starspeed found himself looking at a carbonized image of himself the size of his hand; seaweeds, and some leaving the water on the way to become land plants; but all ended when the asteroid impacted, darkening the sky and preventing photosynthesis for many years, like, but far worse than, the end-of-Cretaceous disaster on Earth that killed the dinosaurs and much else and stopped a line of evolution that would have led to sentient reptiles instead of sentient mammals. What might have happened on Cybertron if the asteroid had not come?