This is a piece from a Twilight Heroes quest, but stands well on its own. You are a superhero who has been fighting a series of robots who have been invading Earth's space station, which was constructed using an ancient alient space gate.
Hey, There's Nobody Driving that Canoe!
Your first view when you step through the portal and into the space station is stunning. Where before there had been a handful of robots, or a small mass of them, now there is a swarm. They fill the air, the water, and the ground around the water. Scores of them are fighting each other, and smoking slag piles attest to scores more that have fallen by the wayside. You're suprised to notice that there are still a number of people up here, all of them wearing blue jeans, white shirts, and yellow hard hats. Must be the construction crew trying to patch the worst of the damage and keep the station from disintegrating around the robots.
You brace yourself for yet another impossible fight. Some of these robots seem, if anything, even bigger than the last wave, which nearly finished you off. You're not sure how much more of this you can take. None of the robots really seem to care about you though, and you walk all the way to the central pond without being disturbed. An empty canoe drifts by, and you wonder how it got there. Then, to your amazement, the two paddles start moving, apparently on their own. "Hey!" you shout, even though you're not sure why, "there's nobody driving that canoe!"
Well, maybe it's a robot, you think to yourself under further consideration. You've seen motorized boats, why not a motorized canoe?
Even with this in your mind, you're still a little surprised when a hatch opens in the side of the canoe and a barrage of missiles fly out, demolishing some sort of nearby flying craft. The canoe then spins and starts paddling in the other direction. What really throws you off your stride is it seems to be humming to itself. Before you can stop yourself, you find yourself shouting again, "Hey, there's nobody driving that canoe!"
Oh, wait, robots. Yeah. Robots.
About that time one of the men in yellow hard hats approaches you. He starts to ask a question but then stops and gawks over your shoulder. "Hey!" he shouts, "there's nobody-"
"Yeah," you say, "I know."
More than Meats the Eye
A boat the size of a cruise liner pulls up beside you. A voice echoes from the boat. "Greetings, human. Stay your weapon, I wish to talk."
"You know me?"
"We have seen you fight. For a human, you are surprisingly durable."
"Thanks, I think. What do you want to talk about?"
"The time has come to talk of many things."
"What are you?"
"We are Paddlebots, also known as Row-bots, because we row upon the waters. We're from Aquatron, a planet far from Earth."
"Another planet? That's awesome! I mean obvious! The interstellar gates kind of tipped us off, you know."
"Those who fight us are called Fordicons. We must stop them before they destroy your world."
"Yeah, I kind of noticed. The fact that you're not shooting at me is promising, though. Who are you, anyway?"
"I am Alpha Prime, leader of the Paddlebots." A strange whirring and grinding of gears begins, and as you watch the cruise liner transmogrifies ... no, transmutes ... no, transitions (yeah, that's the ticket!) itself into a large bottle of ... "Steak sauce?"
"I am Alpha Prime. I copied this form to blend in with your world."
You stifle a chuckle. "Yeah, I see. Anyway, if you're willing to cooperate, can I help you put the other guys out of commission?"
"We are the only ones who can stop the Fordicons. Humans are weak. We do not wish to harm humans, in fact innocent humans should be protected. Humans must go down the ... hey, are there any stairs around here? A space elevator maybe?"
"Very well. Please go about your business. We will take care of the Fordicons ourselves."
"Fine, have it your way. See if I care."
A Bridge Over Troubled Waters
You see a handful of the men in yellow hard hats get trapped under some falling rubble and run to help them. In a few quick moments you have them free, and they run for safety across a metal bridge that spans the river. Strange, you never noticed the bridge before. You're about to cross it, too, when it speaks to you.
"Wait, hero. I would like to talk. I am OmegaTron, leader of the Ford-bots, also known as Wade-bots, because we wade in the rivers and streams."
"Ford-bots? Don't you mean Fordicons?"
"Ha! You've been speaking to Prime, haven't you? He always was the arrogant one. No, we are just Ford-bots, they are the Paddlecons. It's a rivalry we have."
"I'm not sure how to say this, but you sound sort of, uh, rational, for a mortal enemy."
"When you have been warring for as many millennia as I have, you get some perspective. And with a pompous stick in the mud like Prime as an adversary, you have to have a sense of humor."
"But he told me you wanted to destroy our world!"
OmegaTron chuckles. "Look, we don't have any real interest in your world, other than maybe finding a nice stream to dip our toes in now and then. But the lost transporter gate drew the Paddlecons here, and once they came here we had to come, too. I will prepare a projection cube for you. Come back to this place later and my lieutenant, ScarStream, will deliver it to you."
Plot Exposition in 60 Seconds
Some sort of aircraft zips out of the sky towards you. In the blink of an eye it twirls and turns in upon itself, and a robot is standing in the place where the aircraft was. "I am ScarStream. I understand you have met OmegaTron, our 'leader.'" You can almost hear the quotes around the word. "One day, Omegatron, I will rule, and then you will see what the Fordbots can be."
"Did I say that out loud? Nevermind. Here's the projection cube that OmegaTron--rackin', frackin', grumble grumble--ordered that I give to you."
The robot drops the cube and leaps into the air. Within seconds he's gone. What a weirdo, you think. But now for the cube. It's a milky translucent material, with a single black button on the top, labeled "PUSH."
You push the button. Light shines from the cube, and what looks like a 3-D movie is projected into the air in front of you. A deep, gravelly voice begins to narrate.
"An ancient world. Full of streams. Two types of robots, living peacefully side by side for millennia. Paddlebots and Ford-bots. Paddlebots row across and down the river, staying mostly out of the water. Ford-bots wade right through, getting plenty wet. Still, for millennia this difference means nothing, and peace rules the land.
"Then, on a day lost in the mists of time, a Fordicon called a Paddlebot a hydrophobic fraidy-bot. Or maybe a Paddlecon called a Wade-bot a 'moss-legged dampwalker.' Nobody can agree how it really started. But everyone agrees that the two factions have been at odds ever since.
"Name-calling escalated to newspaper editorial writing, fanning the flames of intolerance. There were arguments. Then protests. Then peace talks, which seemed promising for a while before a ranking member of the Ford-bots called the leader of the Paddlebots a 'rusty bucket of floating bolts' and the talks broke down. Then war. Then peace talks again for a few millennia. Then more war. Vicious, unending, civil war. Paddler against wader, robot against robot, brother against brother.
"Now their world lies ravaged, blasted. The many streams, from the mightiest of rivers to the daintiest of rills, lie dusty and dry. No bots paddle the waters anymore, no bots wade the barren streams.
"Thousands of years ago the Paddlebots launched a lifeboat of sorts into the emptiness of space, in search of a watery world where they could paddle again in peace. Their flight brought them here, to Earth, a watery paradise, a paddler's dream. But something went wrong during the landing (some whisper it was Fordicon sabotage, some believe it was utter incompetence) and the ship crash-landed in a cataclysmic collision, killing every bot inside and nearly demolishing the entirety of the ship.
"Re-activating the portals, even after all this time, called both the Row-bots and the Wade-bots to this place, and now they both vie for control of the first stream either bot has seen for millennia."
Well, that explains things, you think. Kind of.
Elementary My Dear OmegaTron
You catch Alpha Prime and OmegaTron locked in a "duel to the death" for something like the fiftieth time. Because they're completely oblivious to anything else but each other, it's an easy task to sneak up behind the two behemoth robots and knock them flat on their respective afterburners when they're not looking.
You say, "Look, this is silly. This is our space station, our stream. It doesn't belong to either of you and no matter how much you fight over it, frankly, you can't have it, unless-" Both robots start to object, but you cut them off. "Unless! You agree to my simple terms. Do you want to hear the terms?" They bicker for a bit, but eventually agree to listen. You explain that there's plenty of room for both sides, and outline a means of sharing the waterways in the space station, where the warring robots can take turns using the water while earning their rent rebuilding the station and teaching their technology to humans.
Shortly you have both sides nodding in agreement, and they're practically ready to sign a peace treaty, when a glowing pinhole of light appears directly above the middle of the pond. The light grows quickly in size and brightness, and then a swarm of aquatic creatures comes pouring out of it and splash into the water. One of the creatures swims across the pond and surfaces mere meters from where you stand with the two robot leaders.
The creature that comes out of the water looks something like a spherical alligator, if such a thing is possible outside of a mathematical posit. It also appears to be robotic. "I am Pentacron, leader of the Aquassons! I hereby claim this water in the name of the Aquassons! Guilty!" it shouts.
The Only Thing Worse than a Love Triangle is a Hate Triangle
"What? I'm sorry, but this belongs to the humans. I mean us," you say. "And what's that about being guilty?"
The round bot continues, "You are all guilty of possessing what we want. This water is now ours. Ford-bots and Paddlebots, I command you to relinquish the water at once. Innocent! Obey me!"
Prime and OmegaTron draw their weapons, alternating between pointing the guns at Pentacron and each other.
OmegaTron says, "Is this some kind of Paddlebot trick, Prime? Did you do this?" while Alpha Prime asks the round robot, "What right do you have to command us?"
Pentacron says, "The Aquassons created both the Paddlebots and the Wade-bots, we are your masters. Innocent! We are the dark terrors in the water that make the Paddlebots row on the surface, we are the menace that drove the Fordicons to the shores where they wade. We are the masters of the murk, the dukes of the depths, the shadowy lords of the shallows. We are the things that go splash in the night. Inno-inno-guilty! You will obey, or you will die!"
You try to be a voice of reason, but you can feel the truce slipping away. "Look, why don't we all talk about this for a bit. I'm sure we can make a three-way arrangement and-"
A scream from OmegaTron cuts you off. "Never! Don't be a fool! There's no negotiating with them. Ford-bots, retreeeeeeeeeeat and regroup!" He launches himself into the air and turns into some sort of flying bridge.
You turn to Alpha Prime, pleading for him to be reasonable, but he shakes his head. "I'm sorry, but that's not how I row. Paddlebots! Transmute and row out!" He turns back into a cruise liner and splashes across the pond at top speed, where his allies gather to his side. Not surprisingly Pentacron also shouts for his minions to come to his location, and a third group of robots forms. Within a matter of minutes all three groups are building fortifications, and small spying and raiding parties are zipping back and forth between each group. Fairly soon a three-fronted battle has begun, with Aquassons fighting Paddlebots in "Quadrant Delta Delta Delta Force," Paddlebots fighting Ford-bots on a "Row vs. Wade battlefield," and Ford-bots fighting Aquassons in a sector referred to as "7-Gamma."
You try to imagine how this could possibly have gone any worse, but nothing comes to mind.
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