The visitors HAD heard about those two people. When Optimus relayed Skyfall’s report to everyone, Richard slammed his hand onto the table. “Hiro!” he snarled. “I always knew he was power-hungry! Adding Megatron and a scientific genius proved it!”
“When did they set up shop with the Decepticons?” asked Hanako.
“The earliest sighting was yesterday,” replied Optimus.
“Megatron must be desperate if he’s siding with someone who’s supposed to be part of a terrorist group,” remarked Prowl.
“Apparently, one of the stipulations,” continued Skyfall, “was that Hiro would recognize the sovereignty of Megatron and Dr. Borg’s respective borders until it was declared they would join Hiro. I wouldn’t exactly call that siding with anyone.”
“More like testing them out,” remarked Ratchet.
“That leaves them an inroad for this planet,” reported Prowl. “Robotropolis has been reported abandoned. They may use that as a way to infiltrate us when we’re off planet.”
“We MUST stymy their efforts!” declared Swalmu as he fanned himself.
“That’s exactly what we’re going to do,” replied Optimus. “G.U.N has agreed Robotropolis is too risky to leave alone. We’re going to close off that route.”
“How?” asked Ironhide.
“We’re going to mine it,” answered Optimus.
“I don’t know much about this world,” interjected Hanako, “but, where I’m from, there are two meanings to mining something. One is to deter enemies, the other is to gather valuable minerals.”
“Same with us,” replied Flora softly.
“And here,” answered Optimus. “We’re going for the former option.”
“That’s going to make Megatron mad,” remarked Prowl.
“And cause him to make a mistake,” supplied Optimus.
“I just hope he makes one that gives us the edge,” muttered Richard.
It was all hands on deck as the Autobots and their allies mined the now abandoned Robotropolis. They made sure the Space Bridge gateway was located and mined first. They move outwards from there. Prowl approached Richard, Hanako, and Optimus with a message. “Gentlemen, I believe we’ve provoked a response. They’re demanding to speak with us. Specifically, Megatron wants to talk to Mr. Saunders.”
“Me?” asked Richard. “Why me?”
“He mentioned that you would know a Ms. Megumi Hishikawa,” replied Prowl. Richard became more tense.
“My wife,” he whispered, fearing for her life.
“What will you do?” asked Optimus.
“Do you bots mind watching over my meeting with him?” requested Richard. “I’d feel a little more comfortable knowing Autobots have my back.”
“A healthy concern,” agreed Optimus. “I’ll cover you and so will Prowl.”
“When and where does Megatron want to see me?” asked Richard.
“In an hour, at Emerald Coast,” answered Prowl.
Richard looked like he was alone, but Optimus and Prowl had hidden themselves behind large rocks that formed a natural divider between the tourists and the residents of the beach. He stood there, looking around for any telltale signs of the Decepticon Leader approaching him. Just then, a Space Bridge portal opened. It was more intense than the Autobots’ Ground Bridge. A grey tank then hovered out of the portal as it closed. The pilot, a grey hedgehog in a suit with a tube on his right arm, came out. This was Megatron’s holo-form. “Nice to see you again,” remarked Richard.
“Why don’t we drop the pleasantries?” barked Megatron. “I’ll make this brief. You overlooked cameras within Robotropolis. Once he was returned to us, Soundwave gave me all of his information on the mines you’re helping the Autobots set up.”
“I figured you would know soon enough,” muttered Richard.
“The way I see it, you have two choices,” growled Megatron. “Either you remove the mines or we take Robotropolis and remove them ourselves!”
“I appreciate your being blunt,” replied Richard. “Now, let me be blunt with you: the mines stay. I will not permit any of your alliance to use Robotropolis to gain the upper hand on us!”
“YOU will not PERMIT?!” roared Megatron.
“Your audio receivers are working correctly,” confirmed Richard.
“…I can see how that might be your first impulse,” Megatron continued softly. “However, I’ve met Megumi, as I’ve mentioned in my message to you. She is a reasonable woman and must have married a reasonable man. I like to consider myself a reasonable mech, so surely we can reach some mutually acceptable compromise?”
“I didn’t think the Decepticons believed in compromise,” muttered Richard. A pained look crossed Megatron’s features.
“I can’t tell you how deeply it wounds me to hear you mouth Autobot propaganda,” he sighed. “All my alliance wants is to secure our own power and peacefully coexist with you and your allies. Besides, Megumi has made a truce with us that was mutually acceptable as it resulted in Starscream returning to us.”
“So answer me this,” snarled Richard, “why would you side with Hiro?!”
“…He feels a little…undermanned,” replied Megatron. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased to call him an ally, but, as you can vividly tell me, he lost a lot of men three years ago.”
“Vivid would be an understatement,” remarked Richard as he recalled the incident with the Apocalypse Riders’ Sources.
“As such, he feels a little…nervous,” continued Megatron.
“Like you said, it’s been three years,” reminded Richard. “Surely, he’s built up his armies by now. He must have more than enough manpower.”
“You may think that and I may think that,” answered Megatron, “but Hiro…”
“Yes, I know,” interrupted Richard. “He’s nervous.”
“You see my dilemma,” observed Megatron.
“I’m beginning to,” muttered Richard.
“What if,” offered Megatron, “you limit your mines to the periphery of Robotropolis, keeping their locations secret from us, and we use Robotropolis as a storage barn for construction units, civilian aid, medical supplies, all various tools to get economies back on their feet?” Richard arched an eyebrow at that. “I suppose you haven’t heard, but there are worlds in Hiro’s empire that have starving children. It’s Spark-breaking.”
“I had no idea things were so bad for Hiro’s subjects,” sympathized Richard.
“He’s a very proud man,” replied Megatron, “he doesn’t want to admit to anyone how dire the situation is. As someone who’s fought in a war before my current one with Optimus and witnessed the horrible aftermath, I can see it all too well. So, are we agreed? You limit the mines to Robotropolis’ periphery and we limit our use of it to storing supplies relating to medical and economic assistance.”
“It sounds reasonable,” mused Richard. “I’ll have to discuss it with Optimus and the rest of our allies first, of course.”
“Optimus has a tendency to do whatever his soldiers and allies recommend,” assured Megatron. “For my part, I will personally speak with Hiro and secure our part of the bargain.”
“What about Hiro?” asked Richard. “Or Dr. Eggman, if he exists in this world.”
“He does,” answered Megatron. “As to both his and Hiro’s reactions, I’m willing to bet they’ll be furious at first. But, our relationship is a fine, working, stable one. I’m sure I can help them to see the wisdom of this arrangement.”
“…Then I will leave it in your capable hands,” replied Richard.
“I predict you will be satisfied with the outcome,” purred Megatron. He then activated a communicator. “Soundwave, I require a way home.”
“Got it, Lord Dude!” cheered Soundwave.
“What did I say about calling me that?!” snapped Megatron. The comms switched off as the Space Bridge opened. Megatron’s holo-form began climbing into his vehicle mode before he looked back. “Mr. Saunders, I was right about you. Megumi DID marry a reasonable man. This is a momentous day for both of us. You and I have just taken the first step towards turning a mere truce between my alliance and yours into an ever-lasting peace.” He sped off through the Space Bridge Vortex before it closed. After a few seconds, Richard motioned for Optimus and Prowl to break cover.
“I’m not so sure I can agree to that,” remarked Prowl. “Our mines are set for the ground. They’ll take advantage of the air.”
“Prowl, what are the rules about a periphery?” asked Optimus.
“There must be a clearly established boundary both for the ground and in the air,” answered Prowl.
“And did Megatron say to place our mines on the actual periphery line or the total periphery?” asked Richard. Prowl soon realized the logic.
“He’ll see any air mines,” he remarked.
“I wouldn’t worry about that,” assured Optimus. “Before he was taken, Perceptor told me how he had perfected mines of all types with a cloaking device and could self-replicate. He gave credit to Rom.”
“Thank you, Deep Space Nine,” chuckled Richard.
“Then we should inform the rest of the change of plans,” declared Prowl.
“Assemble everyone so we can discuss this,” ordered Optimus.
“Yes, Sir,” obliged Prowl.
“Why couldn’t you have just shot him?!” shouted Hiro when Megatron returned.
“I would rather not have Megumi fly at us in a rage,” replied Megatron calmly.
“Did you mention that they should limit their mines only to ground mines?” asked Dr. Borg.
“I felt as it that would only make our adversaries consider breaking the current peace,” remarked Megatron, “so, no.” Dr. Borg rolled her eyes. “Besides, we have other priorities. Namely, what that ‘Transmetal’ spider did.”
“You’re right, Tarantulas has abandoned us,” replied Hiro. “I’m ordering our ships to find him.”
“No, divert them to Skaro,” countered Megatron.
“Why?!” snapped Hiro.
“We need them to fortify our position there,” explained Megatron. “Tarantulas absconded with valuable data and given the time we’ve wasted; he’s probably telling Megumi about our plans.”
“Aren’t the Daleks sufficient enough to protect Skaro?!” argued Hiro.
“This is Megatron’s base,” advised Dr. Borg. “Perhaps we shouldn’t question his strategies.”
“A wise decision,” agreed Megatron. Hiro glared before transmitting the necessary orders.
“I wonder what would prompt such a response from Tarantulas?” mused Dr. Borg.
“He’s not exactly on anyone’s side, not even his fellow Predacons,” replied Hiro.
“And you kept him?” scoffed Megatron.
“We both know everyone needs to be kept on our toes,” countered Hiro.
“At the risk of a security exposure?” quizzed Dr. Borg.
“We have enough grunts to punish him,” answered Hiro. “At least, we SHOULD!”
“If you have something to say, say it,” invited Megatron.
“…Do you have any idea about the current strategy we’re employing?!” snarled Hiro. “We’ve not made a single attack against our allies!”
“I assure you, the current siege defense strategy,” replied Megatron, “has not been adopted lightly. We will attack our adversaries soon.” Hiro rolled his eyes and poured himself some alcohol.
“Wouldn’t human alcoholics consider this a little too early?” snarked Dr. Borg.
“I need something to warm my bones,” griped Hiro. “It’s freezing here!”
“I DID ask Dr. Eggman if this was too cold for him,” interjected Megatron. “He said ‘no’.”
“Besides, it’s just right for a Fae,” supplied Dr. Borg.
“I don’t see why I should suffer!” hissed Hiro. “Besides, I haven’t seen Dr. Eggman for days!”
“Feel free to dress warmly,” offered Megatron. Just then, a Combatman entered with a data-stick in his arms. It was meant to fit in a Cybertronian’s hand. “Ah, the maps!” cheered Megatron. “Splendid, you have done well! I’ll see to it that Hiro at least considers you for promotion.”
“I aim to please,” replied the Combatman as he saluted, then left. Megatron inserted the data-stick into a table and it projected a map of the multiverse.
“Let’s see, there’s our fallback position,” he muttered as he pointed to an area on the map, “there we are, and there are the three sub-dimensions that make up Dr. Borg’s home.”
“And right there,” chuckled Hiro as he pointed to another area, “is our prize: Vorton!” He then raised his glass. “To the conquerors of the multiverse!” he toasted before he sipped his drink.
“Aren’t you being a tad premature?” asked Dr. Borg.
“Not in the slightest,” chuckled Hiro. “Not when we have 2,800 Dalek ships on standby.”
“Those ships won’t be used for some time,” reminded Dr. Borg.
“Besides, a lot can happen in the time you’re quenching your throat,” continued Megatron. “Perhaps if you didn’t talk more than I do, your throat wouldn’t be so dry.”
“I DO like to talk,” conceded Hiro. “It can be a failing at times.”
“Especially when you’re not fully studying the enemy and their borders,” muttered Megatron as he and Dr. Borg returned their gazes to the map. A groan escaped Hiro’s mouth.
“Tell me, Megatron,” he sighed, “have you ever been diagnosed as anhedonic?”
“I CAN experience joy, thank you,” growled Megatron. “I’m just cautious right now, hence why I’m studying our adversaries’ territory.”
“We didn’t defeat our enemies by being cautious,” sighed Hiro.
“We didn’t defeat them YET!” snarled Dr. Borg. “Even if we did, holding on to a prize as vast as our enemy’s area of influence isn’t going to be easy! It’s going to require numerous ships, massive occupational armies, and constant vigilance!”
“I look forward to it!” chuckled Hiro.
“I’m sure you looked forward to controlling Earth,” remarked Megatron, “back in your universe of birth. We all know how Hongo stymied Shocker’s efforts.”
“Must you?” grumbled Hiro.
“What was it you wanted to talk to me about?” Richard asked Optimus.
“I got an invite recently,” replied Optimus. “Did you ever hear about the Verse Vs. Verse Rumble Royale?”
“…No, can’t say as I have,” answered Richard.
“Apparently it’s a fighting tournament,” recalled Optimus. “I’m supposed to be fighting against other champions, your wife included.”
“Did you accept?” asked Richard.
“Not yet,” answered Optimus. “The Chizarans, the people hosting this whole thing, need my decision when I meet Megumi and someone called Arsha Royana.”
“…Maybe one of the Horsemen knows about it,” mused Richard. Just then, a call came through. It was Ironhide.
“Prime, we’ve got a new situation!” he called. “We’ve got more Kamen Riders fighting the Joker and Sauron in the Downtown area!” Optimus sighed.
“On my way,” he replied. “Richard, mind helping out again?”
“Don’t mind at all,” replied Richard as he fastened his belt.
“Vortex Driver!” called the belt as he drew his i.d. tag.
“Henshin!” he announced as he inserted the tag and spun the wheel, forming his suit and becoming Kamen Rider Guard. “Let’s roll out!”
“Hey, that’s MY line!” shouted Optimus.