[G1/WfC AU] Camouflage
Characters: Choosing not to list so it will be a surprise (though people who watch my LJ might be able to figure it out early)
Warnings/Advertisements: Mentions of past attempted genocide; very vague mentions of past dubcon; extremely misogynistic society; vague mentions of tentacles
Summary: One femme chooses to pretend to be something she's not in order to find her place in a society revolted by her existence.
This is a combination response to three things: my AU Bingo card's wild card (which I assigned as alternate history: different gender) and two kink meme prompts: Of Hidden Femmes and Misogynistic Mechs and All Mechs Have Naughty Tentacles. This was written as the start to what I hope will become a larger story some day as I have time, but it reads just fine stand-alone. No tentacles actually being naughty in this part, unfortunately, but if I can continue this, there will be. Attitudes of mech society in this story do not reflect my own personal views.
She looked up as the transport glided through the maze of spires, bridges, and towers decorating the landscape of Iacon. There was a haze of pollution in these lower levels that made it difficult to see the details of the large city save for bars and beacons of light decorating each structure. Moving her gaze down, she could see the lower bridges closer to the dregs of the undercity. The industrial safety glass surrounding the bridges was invisible from the haze save for when mechs flew down the road in their alt modes. They streaked by so quickly in a flash of light, it was difficult to tell which direction they were headed - it was only by the helpful arrow beacons illuminating the road that she could finally determine which side of the road lead which direction. The higher roads and bridges were similar, she saw as the transport passed under one. Above the pollution, she realized she could see through the roads to the undercarriages of alt modes driving them. The same safety glass, probably a high-density plexiglass, which made the walls of the bridges also comprised the roads themselves, decorated with brightly lit microfilaments to cut through the fog and Cybertron's endless twilight. She knew it had to be loud - so many mechs coming and going and passing each other, all in their alt modes, had to create a lot of noise, but the transport was blessedly soundproof.
It was fascinating. She had only ever heard of Iacon in stories, had only ever seen glorified pictures in news reels. She had never imagined she would one orn see the city for herself. It was huge, larger than she could have ever imagined, and she was still only on the outskirts. She knew her little, underground town was tiny, but it was difficult to imagine just what "tiny" meant without something to compare - now, she understood.
Of course, Yuss was small for a reason - only a certain type of Cybertronian lived there, and there were not many of them. It was basically a reservation, a place for her kind to live where they would not offend mechs with their presence and could be forgotten. Her kind were seen as abominations, primitive relics from a bygone era and reviled as imperfections in an otherwise perfect race. However, the High Council of Cybertron thought themselves above genocide, so rather than simply destroy the imperfections, they simply sequestered her and her sisters to a forgotten corner of the planet in the hope that they would fade to myth and legend. As far as the rest of Cybertron was concerned, femmes did not exist.
Millennia ago, they were greater in number and stature, one to every ten to twenty mechs. Femmes had once been a pillar of creation, designed by their entire species' long forgotten creators to ignite, carry, and bear new Cybertronian life. A mech took a femme to berth, and together, they fostered a new generation, and that was simply how the Cybertronian species propogated itself. However, when the Creators were overthrown, and their long tyranny finally put to a glorious end, Cybertronians began to govern themselves. They burned old cities and monuments and built new ones in their place, erasing the existence of the Creators and the terrible memories of their oppression. Everything which reminded them of the Creators was destroyed or changed...including how they created new life.
Entire generations of mechs attempted to become celibate and purge their base urges, but the need to couple, the need to take a femme, was too deeply ingrained in their programming. But so too was the disgust and hatred and disdain of the act which they had been forced to complete for so many millennia for their Creators' gain. Desperately, mechs worked to find another way, any other way, and finally, after centuries of bitter failures and revolting relapses, Primus saw to grant a team of mechs the wisdom and insight to create Vector Sigma. Vector Sigma tapped into Primus himself and offered brand new sparks with no ties to other Cybertronians, and he also drew on the energy of existing mechs to meld together into new life in much the same way mechs had with femmes before but without the need to rut like common beasts.
But the need was still there. Femmes called to their masculine counterparts whether they chose to or not. It was a remaining stain of the Creators. Every few stellar cycles, femmes released a signal which called mechs to them in droves, and they were unable to stop themselves from once again rutting like organic filth. The disgust only grew, and mechs saw only one solution to finally break free of the last chain tying them to the Creators' oppression: femmes were no longer needed - thus, they no longer needed to exist.
No one was certain exactly how femmes escaped total annihilation. Unable to procreate with each other, their numbers continued to dwindle even after mechs ceased hunting them. They learned the areas of Cybertron where they could hide, far enough from mech society that their periodic mating calls were not heard, but as mech society grew, femme sanctuary dwindled. In the dawn of what mechs called the Golden Age, femmes were discovered once more, and they tried to flee again, but now, there was nowhere to run, no place left to hide. They were still seen as obscenities, but mechs proclaimed themselves "enlightened" and above their base, carnal urges - at least, until the first femme called again. No matter how many new sparks and generations had passed, the need to mate was still a part of all Cybertronians. Femme kind knew this was the last straw, that they were going to finally be wiped from existence.
However, Guardian Prime, the bearer of the Matrix and Primus' chosen, stepped forward. He offered femmes a choice: continue their futile attempts to hide or let him and his scientists delve into their coding to see why so many countless vorns had still not broken their species from the Creators' hold. The choice was easy, and through the combined efforts of many scientists and the Prime himself, the calling signal, the periodic, mind-numbing need to mate, was finally silenced. It was too much a part of femme kind to be completely removed, written into their very sparks, but it could be "muted", and finally, the only difference between mechs and femmes was their frame.
Unfortunately, even that was too much. The disgust and hatred of their Creators was still deeply felt even so many generations later, and femmes, by simply existing, were still an unwitting reminder. The risk of forcing a mech to surrender to his base urges was gone, but the simple idea that she could make a mech revert was enough. They were banished to the outskirts of the cities and beyond. The old femmes scraped by as they could, but their number continued to decline. It was during this time of desperation that they learned they were not alone - Vector Sigma was flawed. It occasionally, not often enough to make mechs wish to rebuild or replace it but occasionally, spawned a femme spark. It happened when combining two mechs' energies as well as when creating a completely new spark. By now, Guardian Prime had fallen, and Nova Prime stood in his place, and by the violent Prime's decree, when a new femme spark was detected, the mechs supervising Vector Sigma destroyed it.
Some old femmes took it upon themselves to save their infant sisters. They hid in the walls and the floors of Vector Sigma's chamber and broke in when they felt the presence of a new femme, stealing the spark to raise themselves. They were fought back at first, and a few old femmes lost their lives trying to save the life of a new sister until Nova Prime's exploration mishap off-planet. When Zeta Prime took his place, he put a stop to the destruction and offered the femmes another choice. They could have a section of Cybertron to call home, and they could have any new femme sparks which ignited in Vector Sigma's chamber.
They just had to disappear. They could no longer interact with mech kind in any way. They did not exist - they were a myth. A legend. A ghost story told in dark rooms by dim light to perfect mech sparklings with bright futures. Disappear and they would be left in peace.
It was presented as a choice, but there was truly no choice to it. Life or death - they chose life. It was a life as pariahs, but it was still life, and it was an agreement they had maintained even as Zeta Prime fell and Sentinel Prime arose. The Council and the Prime supplied them with everything they needed to continue existing and routed any new femmes which appeared, and for many quiet vorns, femmes stayed in their quiet, underground city of Yuss.
It was not fair, but her sisters had more or less accepted it as the way of the universe. They were too few in number, barely over two score total now, to make more than a half-sparked protest. Under half a dozen of them were original femmes - the rest had been rushed away from Vector Sigma's chamber. In exchange for their silence and cooperation in staying isolated from the rest of Cybertron, the Council supplied them with the energon and materials they needed to be self-sufficient, supplies which were delivered by a single mech the Council either trusted or threatened to maintain his own silence. The courier was Yuss' only connection to the outside world and the only mech she had ever met until recently.
Shame still burned through her. She had betrayed her sisters, betrayed the Matriarchy, the circle of six elder femmes who lead them all. Matre Elita-1 had looked at her in horror when she first requested permission to leave the confines of Yuss. She wanted to see the world she called home and find her place in it, and she knew her place was not a pariah of Yuss. Elita-1 had been terrified of retribution by the Council, and rightfully so. Sentinel Prime maintained their agreement only because the system had already been established. No one believed he would not finally wipe them out if given reason. She was forbidden to ever speak of leaving again, but Matre Elita had apparently not considered that her desire was greater than her loyalty. She continued to dream of the outside world, and finally, during the quiet cycle, she escaped.
She was an outcast of both worlds, now. She could never return to Yuss, and she knew, if her true nature was revealed, she would likely be killed. That was why she had gone to such lengths to ensure that would never happen.
The courier had always been awkward around them but mostly polite when he made his deliveries. They made him nervous, and she knew it. It had been remarkably easy to corner and question him about the outside world. She pressed him for answers but tried not to frighten him, and eventually, he grew a little less jumpy around her, and she was able to talk with him more casually. He never realized he was preparing her for what she would see and experience when she finally left Yuss, not even when he gave her the name and location of another mech who would be able to help her.
"My, aren't you a rare breed?" the smarmy mech had asked her when she finally fled Yuss and found his workshop. It was precisely where the courier said it would be: the outer dregs of Kaon. Getting to Kaon had been tricky; finding his workshop without others realizing her true nature was even harder. But she was determined, and she succeeded, just as she was confident she would succeed in her new life as a whole.
"You know what I am?" She had been amazed. As far as she knew, only the Council and the Prime knew of them anymore.
"Oh, I know a lot of things," Swindle snickered. "I trade in all manner of things, information chief among them. You're one of the greatest secrets I've ever had the privilege of acquiring, though I've never been able to crack the secret of where you've been hiding. Oh, I know what you are, but I never thought I'd see one of you." He began to circle her, violet optics inspecting every micron of her large but smoothly-plated frame. "You're a bit bigger than I thought your kind were, but I suppose it makes sense that your frames would vary just as ours do." She felt one of his tendrils brush over her shoulders and down her back, and though she thought it was just him assessing her and taking measurements, it still made her frown. The tendrils were the one aspect of the Creators mechs never abandoned. The Creators had built mechs first and femmes second, and while no one remembered exactly what the Creators looked like, all knew that a mech's tendrils were the Creators' mark - a sign that mechs were favored and modeled after their masters. The tendrils offered mechs a versatility femmes didn't have. They could function as extra hands or data cables, be reformatted into specialized tools, and perform a multitude of other tasks...in addition to the function that made mechs hate femmes so much. Femmes did not have them - only mechs did. However, no matter the connection to the hated Creators, the tendrils were useful; femmes were not.
"Can you do it or not?" she finally demanded and turned to face him. "If you know what I am, then others might too. I can't risk that."
Swindle's grin widened just a little, and she had to force herself not to squirm. "I can do it...for a price."
"I'm not telling you where I came from," she snapped. Desperate as she was, she was not going to betray her sisters any further than she already had. This mech made her uncomfortable - she would not give him the means to find the others.
Swindle sighed. "Fine. You want to play mech? It's going to take a lot of work. You're of a decent size - that makes it a little easier. But we need to add density, more angles, thicker armor. And, of course, cables." He flicked another tendril at her, brushing down her arm. "The frame is the easy part. I do frame alters all the time. It's the cables that will be the problem." He circled her again. "You simply aren't designed, in frame or processor, to support them, but you'll never pass for a mech without them. I can install them once your frame is sufficiently modified, but whether or not you'll be able to...handle them is up in the air."
"They're just like another appendage, aren't they?" she questioned, genuinely curious and confused. "So I just have to get used to having another few hands." The look of incredulity Swindle gave her made her pause.
"My dear femme," he said slowly, as if he was speaking to a newly ignited sparkling, "cables are more than just 'another appendage'. We hold and manipulate things with them, yes, but we also use them to uplink to consoles...and each other. They are laden with sensors from the tips to half their length. Plus, there's always the..." He grinned. "...special one." A third tendril coiled out of him, shorter and thicker than the others. It moved stiffly from lack of use, and when the tip bloomed, she looked away on impulse before she could see it unsheath its hidden component, the component that ancient mechs had once used to create life within her kind. She honestly had not known mechs still possessed that particular tendril - she thought, surely, they would remove it or otherwise phase it out of their frames since it was the one thing that still tied them to their primitive, base urges. It was not fair - she had to have a program pressing against her spark every nanoklik of her life, suppressing her mating signal while mechs only had to remove a single part of their anatomy in order to resist them.
Maybe it was not that easy. Maybe removing it would damage their very sparks the way attempting to remove her mating program would damage hers. Maybe it was not tied to that particular tendril at all and they would still succumb even without it. She did not know.
"Do I...have to have that?" she questioned uneasily, and she dared not look at him again until she heard his tendrils retract, all of them disappearing into his plating.
"Not a functional one," he answered. "I don't think you could ever truly wrap your mind around a functional one, and it's not like we use it for that purpose anymore anyway. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of mechs' coupling cables have atrophied to the point of being useless. But you do need a cosmetic one and at least two standards. No mech has less than three." He looked over her again. "You probably need five, though, considering your size. Most mechs your size have four or five. You'll also need your voice modified. You sound passable as a mech, but better to be safe than sorry, yes?"
"You can do all that?" She shifted her feet uneasily as he grinned at her again.
"As I said - for a price." He made a vague gesture as if to indicate himself, widening his stance showily. "Fear not - your modifications will be impeccable. I may be greedy, but I don't stint on quality. Your modifications will be well worth the price."
She frowned. "That depends on the price. I...don't have a lot to spare." The light of her optics narrowed. "And I'm not telling you where we're hiding."
Swindle waved a hand dismissively. "Yes, yes - I heard you the first time. And monetary units, while wonderful, are not all I deal in - sometimes, trades in other sources lead to much bigger sums in the end." Violet optics looked to her again. "I also trade in parts, supplies, and information...and I just so happen to have a client who would pay a very high price for first-hand information on just how you femmes work." He held up both hands in a placating gesture when her frown deepened and she took a step away from him. "Nothing bad, I promise. You see, while my client is certainly no undercity vagrant, he's not exactly Council and, as such, isn't privy to the kind of information they hold tightly to their sparks. He knows you femmes exist, no doubt, and you fascinate him. He wants to know more, but, as you know, public information is...lacking, at best. He wants facts, not legends." Swindle flashed his best used transport dealer smile. "Simply allow me to make a thorough copy of your schematic before your modifications are made, and we'll be even."
She paused to consider the proposition. It was true she had very little currency - Yuss was either fully supplied by the Council or self-sustaining, so they had no need for currency. They had no businesses, only chores and obligations. The very few chits she had on her were found in her journey from Yuss to Kaon, gathered from the very ground on which she drove. She knew she was going to need them in order to begin her new life as a mech and literally could not afford to part with them even now. Truthfully, this was her only chance - it was this or roll back home and hope her sisters forgave her indiscretion...which was unlikely. Her schematic, however, seemed innocuous enough. As far as she was aware, there was nothing about her schematic which said anything more than "I'm a femme" - she was Sparked from Vector Sigma and built a protoform in which to grow in his chamber before she was taken by the courier to Yuss. Save for the courier, there was no way to trace her path back to the hidden town, especially not via her basic structure.
"Just my schematic?" she asked warily. "My frame schematic? Not my programming or anything?"
Swindle nodded, his smile never wavering. "Just your frame schematic. It's a simple, four-layer scan - plating, wiring and piping, circuitry, and protoform - that will take five breems at most. Completely non-invasive."
"And whoever you're...selling my schematic to...he won't know what I'm going to look like?"
"Of course not. No one beyond me, my team, and you will ever know."
"I...suppose that would be okay."
She knew she did not imagine his smile widening. "Excellent."
That had been two long stellar cycles ago. Swindle's team - a metallurgist, a medic, a welder, and an engineer - had been sworn to secrecy; she knew not how and decided she did not want to know. Perhaps they were coerced in the same way the Council coerced the courier's silence. Perhaps they were simply that loyal to Swindle, though she highly doubted it. Whatever their motives, they maintained their silence and worked together to build her new frame and, with it, her new life.
She grew in both height and girth. Her plating was made thick and heavy, her protoform strengthened to carry it. Her shoulders, already broad, were squared off with sharp angles as was the plating of her arms and legs. Her chin was squared, her cheeks angled, and her optics removed to make way for a visor. Her hands and hips remained mostly unchanged in their dexterity and flexibility and were only enlarged to match the rest of her new frame. Deep within her, a second processor was installed to help her properly control her five new appendages. The coupling cable remained hidden and non-functional as promised; its only purpose was to aussuage a medic's suspicions should she ever need an examination or repairs. The remaining four tendrils were hidden in the thick plating of her back, two on either side, and with a few coats of paint in a new, darker color, a femme finally became a mech.
The transformation took the better part of the first stellar cycle. The second stellar cycle was spent among Swindle and his team learning how to move and use her new body in order to put on a convincing show. She learned to use her tendrils, learned to walk with a heavier, less elegant gait, learned what she could of the culture mechs had established in their large cities, and learned of the many, many different paths now paved before her.
Now, two stellar cycles later, she looked out of the transport in wonder as it coasted into the higher reaches of Iacon. Vibrant colors dazzled over the city in every conceivable direction, and all her preparation felt inadequate. How could she have possibly prepared for this? Kaon was large and imposing and bustling as well, but Iacon was like something out of her brightest dreams. It was pure opportunity and bright futures personified in crystal spires and glowing auras. She knew she was beaming like a simple-minded drone, but she did not care. Her wonder only grew when the transport finally reached its destination and she and the mechs aboard stepped off.
The Iacon Academy campus spread before her in a field of immaculately polished silver and gold-colored metal and black glass. Lights in the mirrored finish of the ground directed all visitors to their intended destinations in the form of paths, signs, and text, and each building was just as pristine and luminescent. She and the other mechs with whom she had ridden, other prospective students, were all milling about the transport landing pad when a burst of blue light flashed before them, drawing their attention. The light rose from the black floor and coalesced into the holographic image of a mech who gestured down the path before them just before a speaker in the ground relayed the mech's voice.
"Please, continue down the path and take the first right to find the admissions office. From there, your information will be documented, and you will be directed to enrollment where you will meet your general studies advisor. Financial aid is, of course, available, and your advisor will direct you to the financial aid office, should you need it. Should you require assistance, please feel free to ask any nearby faculty or staff member. All faculty and staff bear this badge on their shoulders." The hologram held a hand out, and the badge of the Iacon Academy flickered into his upraised palm. It was a circular symbol of Cybertron with two smaller circles parallel to one another at the larger circle's northeast and southwest curves, simulating the Moon Bases. Behind the circles was a jagged star with thirteen points to represent the Council.
"May your future be bright and prosperous, and may your studies benefit all of Cybertron. Thank you for choosing the Iacon Academies of Science, War, and Medicine, and good luck in your studies."
As the hologram finished speaking, it dissipated into a dazzle of light and vanished, and the floor lit before the prospective students to draw their path in welcoming blue light. Excited and amazed, they bustled down the path and into the admissions office as instructed. The throng of excited mechs was a little overwhelming, but her large size helped her secure a space near the middle of the line once they were inside. She waited her turn patiently and occupied herself by watching mechs pass through. Seeing the badge via the hologram made it easy to differentiate students from faculty and staff. Students also sported a badge, usually somewhere on their torsos depending on where their alt modes' glass lay - there were three different kinds, corresponding to the three main fields of study, she supposed. They were similar to the faculty badges but did not bear the star of the Council.
She looked up when the admissions clerk called for the next mech, and she stood to enter the office. The chair she settled into was comfortable, and as she waited for the clerk to finish switching over programs on his computer so he could enroll her, she reflected on how she arrived here and how very uncertain but bright her future seemed. She could hardly believe it - she was really here. She was in Iacon in a mech's body with a mech's name. She was a femme hidden among mechs. She could never again return to her sisters, and she would miss them terribly - already did - but the whole of Cybertron was her playground now. It would be worth it, she told herself. She was her own femme - her own mech. Her life was no one else's to control.
"Designation?" the clerk finally asked her as he rested his fingers on his keyboard.
She gave him her friendliest smile and answered in her new, rumbling, undeniably mech voice.