Two men came out on stage, flanked by two armed guards, and dramatically handcuffed to a steel briefcase. They met Fredbot at the podium. Each man had a key to the other man's handcuffs and each had a key to one of the three locks on the brief case. They unlocked the locks and gave the case to Fredbot, who placed it on the podium and removed a key from his pocket and held it up. The crowd began to cheer louder and louder as he unlocked the case and removed a sealed envelope.|
"Here we go," said Fredbot as he began to open the envelope. "And the 2040 Alcove of Honor inductee is…ERECTOR!" The sheet covering the new plaque fell away, revealing a plaque bearing Erector's face and name.
The cheering stopped and the air became so still and quiet, that all Erector could hear was the hum of his own fuel pump. He turned to look at Optimus.
Optimus looked at Erector with a similar look of shock to the one he was receiving. He nodded toward the stage, and Erector headed slowly up the center isle toward the stage.
Confused chatter started to rise from the crowd. 'Who's he', 'never heard of him', 'what's happening?' and other things could be heard through the mass of convention goers, both human and Cybertronian alike.
Someone in the crowd stood up. "Who voted for him?" he bellowed. "How could anyone do that? This is serious, this isn't a joke."
"Shut up, Archie," yelled Fredbot. "Stop taking everything so seriously. Come on everybody, show some love for the newest member of the Alcove of Honor, Erector!"
Slowly, the crowd began to cheer louder and louder. In the back corner of the crowd, Starscream wasn't taking the turn of events well.
"How could this happen?" said Starscream, just loud enough for Megatron to hear him, over the din of the crowd. "How could someone with such a beautiful voice betray me? He said the virus would work. He said I'd be elected to the alcove."
Beside him a stunned Megatron soaked in Starscream's words and turned to Soundwave. "Do me a favor," he said in an icy cold voice. "Get me an energon, I could use a boost."
Soundwave stared at him for a moment, not at all liking the look in Megatron's optic sensors at all. He knew the look, and he wasn't going to disobey him for all the energon in the world. He nodded, and headed toward the concession stand.
"Starscream, could I have a word with you," said Megatron.
In his anger, Starscream had completely forgotten that Megatron was there. "Oh…sure," he said confusedly.
Megatron nodded toward the trees behind them, and both vanished through the dense foliage.
Hot Rod noticed Starscream and Megatron's departure. "Optimus, something's up," he said. Before Optimus could say anything, Hot Rod headed down to the corner of the event field where Starscream and Megatron had been standing, and stepped through the trees after them.
Optimus was concerned about Erector, who was still heading up the main isle to the stage looking bewildered, but knew he needed to see what was going on with Megatron. He headed after Hot Rod.
He reached the spot where Hot Rod had disappeared into the trees, just as Hot Rod stumbled out from between the trees and fell to his knees.
"Don't go back there, Optimus," said Hot Rod. "I think I'm going to lose my oil."
"Why?" asked Optimus. "What's happening?"
Hot Rod looked up at him with a look like he'd just seen something horrific. "Have you heard the human expression…stick it where the sun don't shine?" he asked. Optimus nodded. "I don't think Megatron knows it's not meant to be taken literally. Starscream…fusion cannon…I can't unsee it. Dear Primus, I can't unsee it. I think I'm gonna be sick." Optimus helped him to his feet, and he stumbled away toward the parking lot.
"Devastator's balls…Primus damned f*cking fanfic writers…anything to get a laugh, no matter how stupid it is," mumbled Optimus, as he stepped through the trees. He found Starscream with his face down in the grass, Megatron leaning over him with the barrel of his fusion cannon firmly implanted in Starscream's tailpipe.
"Take it out," whimpered Starscream. "Please take it out. I'm stupid, I'm stupid…and I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
"Quiet…or I'll pull the trigger," growled Megatron. He looked up at Optimus with murderous rage in his eyes. "I promised no intelligent being would be harmed today." He glanced at Starscream and back up to Optimus. "I've kept that promise."
Optimus really couldn't argue with that. "Very well," he said. "Proceed…or…um…whatever." He headed back to the ceremony. As he emerged from the trees, Soundwave was their holding two glasses of energon.
"Have you seen Megatron?" asked Soundwave.
"Yeah…he's back there," said Optimus, nodding toward the trees. "I really wouldn't go in there if I were you. It's not pretty."
Soundwave was about to go through the trees, but stopped. "On principle, I should ignore the advice of an Autobot," he said. "But…I think you're probably right. Energon?"
"Sure," said Optimus, taking the glass. "Why not?"
Erector walked slowly toward the podium as the cheers became louder and louder. He appreciated Fredbot's attempt to make him feel honored, but he knew very well that the only reason they were cheering was because that's what they were supposed to do. No different than clapping politely for a really bad stand up comedian. It meant nothing.
Erector nervously ascended the stairs to the stage.
"Congratulations," said Fredbot, shaking his hand. Erector could barely hear him over the crowd.
"Thanks," said Erector. "I don't understand how I could have been elected…I'm nobody."
Fredbot shrugged. "I'd hardly say you're nobody," he said. "You're the only surviving member of The Forgotten. I'd say that makes you a hero."
"You know about that?" asked Erector, their conversation still private, unable to penetrate the crowd noise.
"Of course I do," said Fredbot. "I'm something of a student of Transformers history. I've actually been voting for you for years."
Erector was stunned. "But…how could I have been elected?" he asked. "There can't be that many who know."
"I agree," said Fredbot. "I don't have a clue how you got elected. But…ask yourself this. Does it matter how you got elected? Think about that. In the meantime, you have a speech to give."
Erector hadn't even thought about that. "I don't know what to say," he said. "I didn't prepare anything."
"It doesn't matter what you say," said Fredbot. "Most of them won't even be listening unless you do something to really get their attention."
"Moo?" came Heffer's response from off stage, clutching his convention exclusive souvenir moo-trix mug.
Fredbot rolled his eyes. "I gotta go," he said. "I'll be back when you're done with the speech. Take your time." He headed away. "Shush, Heffer!"
Erector moved to the podium and the crowd began to quiet. "Hi," said Erector into the microphone, causing it to feedback and shriek loudly. "Um…sorry."
He looked out over the crowd. Fredbot was right. Most of the crowd was doing anything but listening to him. Some were reading the convention comic while some talked on their phones or checked their e-mail. People were opening toys and talking. Even if he were some kind of big shot, he doubted they would care any more than they did about him.
Erector looked out toward the back of the crowd, where Optimus Prime stood beside Soundwave. He stared at him for a moment, and Optimus nodded slowly. He really hoped they were thinking the same thing.
Erector decided Fredbot was right about something else, too. How doesn't matter.
Erector left the podium and went to the alcove behind the stage. He put his hard on top of his plaque, and used his welding torch to melt the anchors. He pulled hard, and it came away from the wall and he let it crash to the floor. The heavy bronze plaque hit the ground with such force that the crowd was silenced by the noise. He started to burn names into the wall. Wideload. Roadbuster. Eject. Gears. Skyhammer. Kup.
As Erector walked back to the podium, the only sound that could be heard was his footsteps, but Kup's last words echoed in his mind far louder.
"I don't know why I was elected to the alcove," said Erector, his voice echoing over the silent crowd. "I don't deserve to be in the Alcove of Honor." He pointed to the names on the wall. "But they do. They are heroes. They gave their lives for all of us and for what? To be remembered by few as The Forgotten? None of us wanted fame. None of us wanted to be heroes. None of them wanted to die…but there was a job to be done and we did it…and they died for it…and every day since…I've let them down."
The silence hung thickly over the crowd. Erector spied Krystal sitting off to the right. She gave him an encouraging smile.
"One of the last things my commanding officer said before he died, while saving my life, was that someone's gotta live to tell the tale," said Erector. "I've never been able to do that. I've never been able to honor them by not letting them be The Forgotten, and I've lived with that shame for twenty-five years, mourning them while I should have been reminding everyone who they were and what they did. That ends today. It's time I tell their story, so you can all remember them."
And tell them, he did.