katharos: (science wheeljack)
[personal profile] katharos
[personal profile] hellkitty posted a really interesting question about femmes, and how different fans interpret them. It got me thinking about my headcanon on Cybertronian reproduction and history more generally and I started to write it down. It, er, got very long. In fact it's a history of Cybertronian society from the Quintesson revolt to the Civil War from a reproductive perspective. oops. 

If anyone's interested I'd really love to hear what your head canon is for these issues!

I have multiple head canons. This is the one with no sexual reproduction.

The Quintessons established the basic Cybertronian frame, based on consumer preference, which was produced in factories. The main division was between the labourers and the soldiers who also had little chance to intermingle culturally before the revolt, with the result that Cybetron never quite managed to loose that fault line from their culture.

After the revolution one of the first things the former slaves did was seize the means of their own self reproduction. There was a huge desire to reject anything Quintesson which resulted in a lot of experimentation and a proliferation of new frame types and operating systems. A lot of infrastructure had been destroyed in the war as well so there was practical as well as ideological reasons for why the next several generations were hand crafted.

Building and programming a new frame was labour intensive, required a lot of skilled labour, and also a lot of expensive resources. For this reason groups of Cybertronians would get together to invest in the development of a new frame, and then the raising of the young mech. These groups began to set up 'frame-line compounds', in which members all lived together and contributed to the 'line's well being, and shared in the raising of the new person. When that person had gained maturity (defined as when they became economically independant) they would contribute to the development of the next new person. Ocassionally groups would leave and join up with others to create new compounds.

The range of frames and OSs were extremely diverse. There was the prototype for the mech frame, femmes, seekers, carriers, cassettes but also frames specialised for swimming, for burrowing through metal, microscopic frames, frames with what we'd call an arachnid structure, 'centaurs,' frames with multiple arms, frames with no legs or arms, frames with seemingly no central processing unit, just a mass of tentacles, mechs that could break apart and reform... Just about the only frame type that didn't appear during this period was city formers because they didn't have the resources or infrastructure to build a mech that large. There were hundreds of different frame types, and the number kept growing - and they all had a different OS, each optimised for their frame type.

This diversity fuelled a scientific, artistic, and philosophical revolution - the Cybetronian renaissance. Scientific expeditions were sent into space and the resulting discoveries had further impacts on frame development. Most of Cybetronian culture was developed in this period. However, they had no codified system of government. In the beginning their population size was too small to really need one. Now, in practice, they were more like a collection of city states with each frame type governing themselves through an informal combination of democracy and matriarchy - except that the frame types all mingled together in the same cities, not isolating themselves geographically.

The diversity of frames and OSs were also beginning to cause problems. The most extreme experimental lines couldn't even speak to each other anymore they'd diverged so far. Almost everyone needed to use software patches to communicate and work together in any but the most basic ways - and there was a whole medical industry grown up to deal with the bugs those patches caused. Because components were so specialised and therefore expensive population growth was slow, and economic growth was slow. Joint ventures were difficult. If you were injured while away from your frame-line you were likely to die before compatible components could be found. There was also growing tension between framelines as different OSs encouraged ways of thinking and worldviews alien to other OSs, and social interfacing was no longer a workable way of understanding and resolving those differences. A hierachy was developing as well, in which some framelines were perceived as better than others. Attacks occurred.

A move was beginning towards centralised government. At the same time, an OS and frame type was being developed based on the 'mech' prototype. OS and components emphasised redundancy, compatibility, flexibility, adaptability. This development group and the fledgling government adopted each other and became the foundation of the Towers. The government offered the new Mech frames as a free medical service to those whose own frames had been damaged beyond repairs, and offered to subsidise Mech sparkling frames. Many mechs who had chosen to leave the frameline compounds for whatever reason took them up on it, reproduction being highly valued in Cybetronian society. A counter culture to the framelines and the compounds began to develop.

The Towers made the Mech OS and specs freely available, and encouraged other developers to take them on. (In contrast, framelines guarded their secrets fiercley.) The advantage of the Mech package was its flexibility and compatability. Frames could be built specialised for a hugely diverse number of tasks - with the software to match - but the key components and underlying OS would be the same, and compatible. It also meant that new mechs were much cheaper, because the components could be massed produced. It couldn't be long before someone thought of mass producing the mechs themselves.

There was an enormous backlash when the first mech factory opened - cultural memory hadn't forgotten the Quintessons. However, there was a large population of mechs by then, and a lot of powerful people with investments in the frame type. The frame-lines and compounds still made up a large proportion of the population but their power was much less. Some frame-lines had even begun to disappear as the components they needed became even more expensive and rare, and young people impatient with their elders chose the mech route.

The Towers were clever and there was an enormous media campaign showing how well the batch mechs were treated, how many choices they had, how their batch was their family - like a compound but a compound of peers. The image appealed to a growing young, and independently minded, population. The Towers also set up a system whereby an individual or group could invest a small amount in a 'sparkling fund.' A batch of mechs would be produced for the investors to adopt, with the only provisio being that the young mechs would be indentured to the government for a number of years to earn back the rest of their reproduction costs. This meant reproduction was quicker, cheaper and easier than ever.

The factory mechs fuelled an economic boom. Everything was expanding. Upwards mobility was easy - a batch mech might spend only a few vorns on the factory floor or as an army grunt before moving up. Cybertron was a galactic power. The luxuries of the galaxy were in every shop. You had only to start a business and you were guaranteed to make a fortune. This was the Cybertronian golden age.

Just don't think too hard about the fact that the Towers/Government owns practically all the factories making Mech components. Don't think about the fact that all the programmers are Towers trained.

The remaining frame-lines were hanging grimly on, but they still had a lot of social and cultural 'soft' power. The Towers decided it was time to stamp out - I'm sorry, 'integrate' them. They unleashed a barrage of policies, laws, media campaigns, economic sanctions at them - they thought thmselves superior, they were isolationist, they were holding Cybertron back - some succumbed. Some hot heads fought back and the Towers had the excuse to use military force on the 'terrorists.' Gradually the framelines disappeared as their numbers became too small to fund their reproduction, and the Towers appropriated their 'line secrets where they could. For example, one 'line took their highly developed sensors to the Praxus regional government where the Praxian mech frame was developed. In the end, only a few framelines remained.

The Seekers formed their own city state - the only frame line to do so - early on in history when they built and launched a flying city. Economic sanctions failing the Towers attacked them militarily only to be beaten back. In the end a treaty was signed with Vos become an independent principality within Cybertron - a source of intense nationalistic pride to Seekers. The Towers developed their own mech flyers but never matched Seeker frames or coding - an area of fierce industrial espionage. Carriers and Cassettes had always been a bit odd - the only truly interdependant frame types - and they had always reproduced slowly. They were also able to adapt their frames to include many mech components and avoided the worst of the Towers attentions by sinking into the background.

The femmes were the only other frameline who survived. They weren't one of the more extreme designs but what they were was extremely sophisticated and refined. They also had a lot of politically savvy elders. They were extremely energy efficient which helped them survive the economic sanctions forced on them. They had developed an OS which, while highly specialised and designed to get the most out of their specific frame type, was also capable of interfacing with the mech OS. Their energy efficiency had meant they were some of the first Cybertrons to venture off planet during the renaissance, and they had capital stored off planet they could draw on. Unlike other framelines when the Towers started targetting them they didn't band together - they dispersed. The societies and industries they joined were very eager to protect their new investment - femmes in popular culture were seen as the pinnacle of Cybertronian development. (and while everyone was shouting about the usefulness of the mech frame, no one would argue the same for it.) They also moved to much smaller frames in order to reduce the cost and started to offer to 'adopt' certain qualified mechs. (Elita laments the fact that Alpha Trion got his hands on Orion before she could get him to her own Designers. Optimus agrees.) Meanwhile the 'line's elders started a game of political cat and mouse with the Towers which didn't stop until the Towers fell. It helped, perhaps, that though all the Towers nobles were in mech frames for political reasons they all secretly wanted to upgrade to femme frames.

The Golden Age was fuelled by unrestrained growth but that has its price. A galactic economic recession halted growth but the factories kept churning out new mechs. People still wanted children so reproduction continued - it was the government's main source of revenue after all. With no growth, society began to petrify. Cybetronians live for literal ages, and the 'birth' rate was several times the death rate. No dead men's shoes. Social castes solidified as it became all but impossible to move out of the role you were created in to. Prejudice developed against batch factory mechs as opposed to mechs commissioned and raised by 'civilian' individuals or groups. Factory conditions, and the conditions of mechs in the lower social strata, worsened. The Towers became fretful of their power and insular, isolating Cybertron from the galaxy and worsening the economic problems. The population size began to put a strain on resources, in part because the mech frame was energy inefficient due to all its redundant systems. The energy crisis just made tensions worse. A multitude of opposition, protest, and pressure groups sprung up. As many people who wanted to bury their heads in the sand there were as many who wanted to something to be done. Just no one knew what. A nostalgia for the framelines appeared. Compounds as a social unit had never truly disappeared but now these new groups started adopting shared paint schemes, sigils, crests, or eye colours.

And still new mechs were created. In part because this was one of the government's main sources of revenue, and main sources of ideological power. And in part becuse it was a tenant of Cybertronian culture that reproduction was a right. That self reproduction meant freedom. Even though it really didn't anymore.

And then the spark called Megatron and Orion happened and there were geological ages of civil war.

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