Location: Neutral Territories - Eastern Equatorial Cybertron (site of the proposed New Harmonex)
Date: March 30, 2020
Summary: Incognito gives Optimus a piece of his mind, but in a surprisingly constructive manner.
As logged by darksabrz
Optimus Prime stands on a low hill overlooking a flat plain, with a large cybermesa rising behind him. Before him, Wheeljack directs a team of construction bots as they clear the land for the establishment of a new city. Prime is silent and contemplative... his camerabot sidekick has gone elsewhere for the evening. Off to the side sits Fortress Maximus, into which the science team has moved with their harvest of broken crystals.
"You realize this isn't going to end well."
Incognito steps out into view, moving up towards Optimus Prime's overlooking vantage point. While not strictly the first time he's met the Autobot leader, it is the first time that he's been close enough to actually speak to him.
Optimus Prime turns slightly at Incognito's approach, although he doesn't go for his rifle's subspace holster yet. Instead he merely fixes his optics on the visitor. "You must be Incognito," Prime says in a low voice, turning the rest of the way to face the scientist/sage. Prime gestures to the construction efforts below. "Here to add to the list of grievances laid at the feet of my decision to seal off Harmonex?" Prime asks with a touch of self-effacing humor.
"That depends greatly on how you intend to take any such constructive criticism; and believe me, I've spent the last several cycles trying to figure out the best way to put my personal issues with the matter to you without being offensive." Incognito moves up beside Prime, looking down over the work so far. "Dust Devil did mention you were interested in finding a way to grow the lithic crystals of Harmonex outside of the city proper, but I've yet to get a sample to analyze."
He pauses briefly, looking over at Optimus for a moment before looking back out over the view. "Understand this: I have no personal, vested stake in Harmonex, unlike many of the players of this particular drama. I've had my hands full trying to remain Switzerland at the behest of the admittedly all too few neutral refugees who comprise the current population of Tyger Pax and trying to maintain a strict hands-off approach. So, what I say is from as objective a standpoint as can be, which is likely a great deal more objective than you've likely had from those more intimately involved in the situation." He glances over again. "Fair enough?"
"We are planning to grow the crystals here," Prime acknowledges. "Sadly, Starlock prevented me from harvesting any living crystals to study, or I would offer them to you as well," Optimus Prime continues. "As for your advice - at the moment, I am at an impasse, and will accept any advice or criticism genuinely offered - especially from a seeming outsider like yourself," Prime adds, studying Incognito closely.
Incognito nods slowly. "An outsider with a unique perspective... one that does, admittedly, include the likes of Alpha Trion." A brief pause. "He says hi, by the way."
Another pause, and then he dives in. "I do take issue with certain particulars of your decision. Starting with that." He points down towards Fortress Maximus. "There was a reason Tyger Pax was effectively the antithesis of Harmonex -- Tyger Pax is open to any and all neutrals, but specifically closed to the factions. All of them, without fail, don't like the Decepticons, but they'd rather stay out of the war entirely than choose a side, because no matter how they would decide, it means one thing: they, and Tyger Pax, become a target. They don't want to be targets. They just want to live.
"Harmonex, by contrast, was the exact opposite: let's let in all the Autobots and Decepticons we want, within reason and limiting numbers with the shield in place... but let's also completely ignore the neutrals and bar them from entry, even though it was all but preached from a mountaintop that it was 'for everyone'. Funny how 'everyone' included only those who chose a side."
He pauses again. "You've made this project a target for the Decepticons, in more than one way, but your Titan down there is the most obvious display of that." He looks at Prime. "Maybe you should have opted for the bright neon-letter signs that say 'Target here', except in all caps."
"By choosing to administrate and protect the new colony, we are a target anyway," Optimus Prime insists. "Megatron isn't going to acknowledge any 'peaceful neutrality' without something to back it up. If Fortress Maximus makes us more of a target, well... we'll have to defend it as we would any other target. However, we have chosen this site carefully. It offers no value in terms of resources or strategic value. Attacking here would cost the Decepticons with nothing in return."
"Because of the fact that your 'New Harmonex' isn't really a neutral city-state," Incognito counters. "It's Autobot-controlled, Autobot-administrated. It doesn't matter how much you claim this is for the neutrals... it isn't. It's another Autobot city-state in the making. That's concerning, speaking as a neutral myself. Sure, you'll likely have neutrals come in, but it'll be Autobot-leaning neutrals to begin with. And speaking of..."
He turns now to look at Optimus Prime directly. "You possess the combined wisdom and experience of every Autobot leader before you, stretching back as far as Prima himself. It concerns me that, from all outward appearances, you didn't draw upon that collective knowledge. Now, maybe you did, I can't say with any certainty. But by making the announcement you made, the decisions concerning the logistics since, with Fortress Maximus and all... you've set a very troubling precedent, Prime. It smacks of arbitrary capriciousness, of an overweening pride that 'only the Autobots know best'."
He shakes his head, looking back out over the vantage point again. "I've heard plenty in my time who have made those same erstwhile judgments. The same arbitrary 'I know better than anyone' sort of decision-making. And the moment I mention names, you'll immediately grasp the obvious, but it's not to accuse you or try to stand in judgment, but to warn you of the road you're traveling." He shrugs. "Like I said... plenty of names of those who thought they knew better. Names like... the Fallen. Straxus. Megatron." He looks back at Prime. "Do you understand now? Do you truly understand my concerns? Because your 'New Harmonex' is the same kind of arbitrary 'I know best' decision that they used to justify their actions. Pride... it's what started all the wars past the Great Revolt, and it's what will continue to fuel those wars until the stars themselves dim and die."
Optimus Prime powers on his vocalizer to argue, but finally just stops and listens to what Incognito has to say. "Perhaps... I did let pride dictate my actions. But I am listening now. Your criticism rings true, but what now? Remove Fortress Maximus and leave the builders undefended? Withdraw Autobot administrative support, and see the new city descend into just the sort of chaos that almost brought violence to Harmonex?"
"What's done is done now, for better or worse," Incognito responds, a somber tinge to his voice. "The consequences, whatever they may be, will be on your shoulders to bear." His lips twitch a little. "Funny how that works... I'm still bearing the weight of my own decisions from the past. But either I let them drag me down and leave me feeling completely hopeless for the future... or I look ahead to the future I want to help bring about, and do my part to make it so, as long as it's a brighter future for all of Cybertron."
He sighs quietly. "I thought I could be Switzerland, that I could be the neutral's neutral... that I could truly be hands-off and keep both sides off my back and the backs of those I wish to protect and nurture. And, in true old-mech fashion, Alpha Trion had to go and totally ruin it for me. He said he couldn't stand on the sidelines, that he had to act, and so he became one of the first Autobots. I thought that was a mistake, that there should be some dividing line, some 'neutral zone' between Autobot and Decepticon, where I could try to make both sides see reason." He lets out a snort. "I used to hate being wrong... now, I have to accept it as a matter of course."
He shrugs. "But you don't want to hear about my personal issues. As for this..." He pauses, gesturing out towards the plain below. "If you want this New Harmonex of yours to work, then it has to work as a truly united venture. Autobot, Decepticon and Neutral. Otherwise, we're still going to risk that drama coming back down on us all. Alternatively... well, you could have rebuilt Crystal City." That last, said with a bit of depreciating humor.
"If you wish to act as a neutral agent, then help me establish that blended government," Optimus Prime entreats. "We offered a balanced council for administration of the old Harmonex, and the offer was resoundingly rejected by all sides. Convince the Decepticons, the Valvoluxians, and any former Harmonexians you can find to help us administrate, and I promise you I will share power and protection equally. I don't WANT the responsibility of another Autobot-led colony. I have merely stepped in where others have failed."
"Trying to get the Dominicons to agree with anything the Decepticons are involved in would be a miracle in and of itself," Incognito replies. "What you would need are voices who will all have minds of their own, and you have to include /everyone/. Like I said earlier: the first problem with Harmonex was the fact that neutrals didn't have a voice, that they were specifically excluded from entering the city at all, thanks to that shield. You can't exclude anyone." He pauses momentarily. "For the Autobots... I would suggest someone not involved in the previous drama. I don't know Imager's story, but I know Starlock seems to cling to Soundwave's every spoken word as if it were the Covenant of Primus itself -- that is unwise. As it is, she's juggling a lot of things already. The Decepticons... are the Decepticons. Megatron, from all indications, seems to be in a scorched-earth mindset right now, to the point where some are, as I understand it, questioning his leadership. They're chaotic... but if you're going to petition a Decepticon to take part... I'd say Banshee. There's sadly not any neutral voices worth having as part of a council -- I have my own concerns as I mentioned earlier, and the Dominicons..." He shakes his head. "I don't think they should have a voice -- not because I think exclusions should be made, but because of the fact that 1) they were involved in the previous drama, and 2) they have Valvolux to worry about, they don't need to have another city-state on that list. I've heard enough rumblings of the thought that Illarion and her sisterhood have ambitions of their own, and I'd prefer to quash that entirely."
Optimus Prime nods. "Banshee we can work with, despite what's she's done to our side in the war. Starlock has shown she is not ready to lead, and after sealing off Old Harmonex, Imager will have burned too many bridges to have a command role in the new city. Perhaps Windblade? She works well with Banshee and has shown management potential as well. As for neutrals - I would prefer to establish the city and allow those who could run the town naturally take command, rather than arbitrarily pluck someone from obscurity and place them in power."
"I'm admittedly unfamiliar with Windblade," Incognito admits. "Aside from her reputation, anyway. Though, at the same time, she and Banshee both might be busy with other matters... like a certain Titan who just woke up? The Dominicons had me over at Valvolux earlier -- one of the Mini-Cons living there is apparently hearing the voice of this reawakened Titan in their head. They did talk some with Solus Prime about it, though I tended to keep a bit quiet there."
"Yes. Titans," Optimus Prime says gravely. "Perhaps we can both gather more information and speak again? You've given me much to think about, Incognito. I appreciate you coming to me."
Incognito nods. "I'm glad you were willing to listen and not simply discount me out of hand because of my hermit-like ways," he murmurs with a faint chuckle. "The more information we have, the better. It's... always something, isn't there?" That asked more rhetorically than literally.
Optimus Prime chuckles. "Always, my friend. Always."