Vos is a city-state on Cybertron from the Transformers: Extinction fanon.
- "Vaporised. Ashes in the wind."
Shrapnel and ash. Rubble and ruin. The detritus of destruction, and the cinders of slaughter. This is Vos, home of the brave, land of the valiant – the city that raised its young on steel and obeyed no law but natural selection. This city of shadows, a vast wasteland of creaking debris and craters like weeping sores, is all that remains of Cybertron’s famed gladiatorial nation, a testament to the sheer brutality of nuclear war. The sun has not seen this pitiful husk for centuries, leaving its dust-shrouded wastes in perpetual darkness, save for the eerie glow of irradiated carcasses and the occasional flicker of small-arms fire between skirmishing treasure hunters. It was not always like this. In Cybertron’s Golden Age, long before the ravages of the Great War tore the planet asunder; Vos and its neighbouring city-state Tarn were the homes of the greatest gladiatorial games history had known. Warrior fought fellow warrior, or pitted his skills against fearsome beasts brought to the city by its famed galactic explorers, in valiant displays of martial skill and prowess. In the city’s prime, stories concerning legendary gladiators were passed from generation to generation, most famously that of Il Millione, the swashbuckling hero who explored two scores worlds in Cybertron’s name, each time bringing back the fiercest animal he could summon to personally slay in Vos’ arenas. However, no two cities could both call themselves home to the planet’s greatest warriors, and bitter enmity developed between the people of Vos and those of Tarn. Each sought to outdo each other, their games becoming less and less about martial pride and more about producing the most savage spectacle possible for the increasingly bloodthirsty populace – something which Vos, the larger of the two city-states, was able to do, churning more and more of its children into the meat-grinder that the arena system had debased itself to. However, much of this ruthless progression was in fact driven by the Republic, a secretive union of the most ferocious and violent survivors of Vos’ blood sports. The Republic had long existed, even in the glorious and proud days of the pits, beginning life as a trade union of sorts, ensuring that the fighters remained free men and not slaves sent to die. However, greed and savagery soon found a home in its ranks, and once the rot had set it, its spread was irreversible. Within decades of its inception, the Republic had become a private enterprise, a faceless force running the pit fighting – and, through the combination of its vast coffers and the willing puppet they found in an ambitiously political-minded scientist named Starscream, they soon found themselves running the city-state of Vos. While the people of Vos remained ignorant to this fact – or, in light of the prosperity the games continued to bring, kept their heads in the sand – the military dictatorship ruling Tarn were well aware of it; and feared that their arenas would breed a similar result. As such, Shockwave, the callously logical figurehead of Tarn’s junta, openly declared war upon Vos. At first, the conflict was intended to divert the Republic’s attention from the pits to the war effort – however, when the ferocity of Vos’ army, mostly conscripted from the murderous pit fighters, overwhelmed Tarn’s military zones, the junta began firing their stockpile of thermonuclear artillery at their sister city without warning. At first, the burning and broken Vos seemed as though it would capitulate, but a last minute decision was made by Starscream, seemingly pressured by a force other than the Republic, to launch a retaliatory strike. Any hopes of a victor in the struggle were dashed, and within two months of the war’s commencement, neither of these once-glorious cities could boast of so much as a three-storey building left standing.
Vos was one of the last cities to be founded before the Golden Age of Cybertron is generally considered to have begun. As such, its streets and squares were still young and vibrant when those of Iacon were crumbling relics, allowing for much outwards expansion without fear of disturbing or destroying antiquated ruins; a development which soon led to Vos being even larger than the nearest city to it, Tarn, whose founding predated it by several generations. Even before the days of its gladiatorial splendour, Vos was renowned a city of commerce and culture, often sending its scions to explore the last untamed reaches of Cybertron, and even to survey distant worlds once Cybertron had been tamed. The actual founding of Vos was begun by a warrior named Tertius, though little certifiable fact about this figure is known. Legends about his lifetime, however, abound, even after the fall of his grandest creation. The most popular of these myths, the Saga of the Beginning, manages to encapsulate the majority of the truth known about him, embellishing it only slightly. According to the Saga, the land where Vos was eventually to stand had once been little more than acidic marshes, miles of pitted steel and corroded bronze – testament to the fickle nature of the Quintessons who shaped the planet. However, Tertius, an intrepid hero of unknown origin, was to stumble upon this inhospitable wasteland whilst fleeing with the remnants of his family from a renegade war-band, whose intentions differ between accounts from simple robbery to the rape of Tertius’ unnamed young sister, who by most accounts had scarcely been budded twelve years prior. Seeing little chance of outrunning the group, Tertius bade his family flee without him, and stood his ground at the edge of the marshes, prepared to sell his life to buy them time. As the pack approached close enough for him to pick out its individual members, Tertius grew disheartened when he realised how badly outnumbered he was. However, his resolve did not waiver, and he stooped but once to pick up an oddly spherical piece of scrap metal, hoping to bludgeon one or two of the interlopers before being taken out himself. Scarcely had he gripped his fingers around the object when it began to pulse with a sickly green light, and become enveloped in a cloyingly sweet mist. Tertius watched in horror as the group’s leader stepped ahead of his henchmen, eager to finish off the lone warrior himself. Somehow, though, the arcane article began to hum, the light pulsing more intensely, threatening to blind all present. Frightened, Tertius threw the orb ahead of him. It missed the approaching marauder, landing a few feet ahead of the remaining crowd. The leader lunged, grabbing Tertius by the throat and drawing a knife in one well-versed motion. Before he could strike further, however, the orb pulsed once more, brighter than ever before, and when the all-consuming light faded, Tertius found himself alone in the swamps – the brigands had been incinerated; but so, it transpired, had his family. The legend skips ahead of itself at this point, and next we hear of Tertius, he has mastered the application of the sphere, whose pulsing energies he learned to harness to create, destroy, and reshape matter. Grieving for his lost family, his first act was to build a shrine in their memory – a shrine which later became the foundation for the Mausoleum of Tertius, now the largest surviving structure amidst the ruins of Vos. Following this, he cleared the swampland around the area, creating a pristine canvas upon which he was to create his madman’s paradise. When the first settlers came to the region, they found an entire village, empty but for the unhinged Tertius. Imparting his tale to the travellers, he bade them stay, to occupy his empty creation. With these parting words, he left what was to become known as Vos, named for the ancient Cybertronian word vauss, “to disappear”. He would not see the realm he founded again for another two hundred years, when he returned flanked by scribes and bearing swathes of arcane wonders, only to collapse dead that day at the foot of the shrine he had once created. From these origins, Vos soon grew to be a major economic power in Cybertron’s Golden Age, its many assimilated cultures offering a planet’s worth of diversity within one city, and its arenas offering a spectacle of valour and spirit. It is from here, however, that Vos’ story becomes the old, familiar tragedy…
In the years leading up to the war between Vos and Tarn, many of the citizens of Vos began to feel resentful towards the large number of immigrants from other areas of Cybertron living in their city, and sentiment regarding the racial superiority of those budded of ‘pure’ lines of ancestry began to grow. The most important figures in this belief are the Republic, who often organised arena fights between warriors from Vos and those of rival cities, rigged heavily to sway public opinion towards the supremacy of the people of Vos. Another major group in this movement was Action Vos!, a militant group officially labelled as a terrorist organisation by Starscream’s puppet government, but covertly funded by the Republic. Initially, Action Vos! remained solely a political entity, espousing their radical views to stir up public sentiment. However, it was not long before an armed campaign started, targeting the ‘undesirable’ foreign elements of society. Scare tactics and lynchings were used at first, with immigrants from Tarn, Kaon and Iacon being the main victims. Before long, bombings became the main approach being utilised, often aimed at slum areas towards the outskirts of the city. Casualty rates were alarmingly high, and the efficiency of the killings in eliminating only foreigners was startlingly precise. Within four months, almost six hundred were dead, and more than two thousand displaced. Various show trials were conducted at Starscream’s behest, as his shadowy backers were determined to keep their hands clean as much as possible. It is estimated that almost thirty innocent civilians, mostly anti-blood sport protestors, were publicly executed in connection with the bombings. Despite the effectiveness of the campaign against the slums, Action Vos! were to step up their approach once more. The seventh month of the bombing campaign saw what was briefly known as the “Ten Days of Terror”, in which three ambassadors to Vos from other regions of Cybertron were publicly assassinated by individuals disguised in the traditional appearance of Tertius, legendary founder of Vos. The tenth day was witness to the single most lethal and controversial action taken by the group, though, as seven bombs simultaneously exploded at various points in the embassy building for Tarn in the city centre of Vos, killing all seventy-eight inhabitants of the building instantly. Included in this death toll was Thunderblitz, then the Governor of Tarn. The aftermath of this bombing had serious consequences in both cities as Tarn’s military; led by the callous Shockwave; acted quickly, seizing control in their city-state in a bloodless coup in order to resolve the power vacuum Thunderblitz’s death had created. Shortly after this coup, the leaders of Action Vos! were apprehended with suspicious rapidity, and sentenced to serve the remainder of their lives as arena slaves, unpaid gladiators owned by the pits. This was not enough to appease Shockwave and his military junta, however, and the bombing of the Tarn embassy, as well as Shockwave’s own fears over the Republic and the possibility of a similar phenomenon occurring in his own city’s gladiatorial arenas, are often cited as the catalysts for the beginning of the war between Vos and Tarn.
Tarn was not the only city-state against which Vos has gone to war. When the first of its gladiatorial arenas was opened, word quickly spread across Cybertron of the new spectacle, and opinion on its worth and morality was greatly polarised. Relations grew strained between Vos – at this time still ruled by a legitimately elected Governor – and Iacon, whose conservative government felt that the fighting pits were an aberration in the eyes of Primus. At first, the antagonism was confined to petty bureaucratic squabbling and sternly-worded political addresses. Eventually, though, the resentment both states harboured towards the other grew to encompass commerce and immigration, with mutual trade embargos set in place, and a uniform denial of the movement of individuals from Vos to Iacon, and vice versa. Iacon’s border patrols even adopted a shoot-to-kill policy on all refugees and immigrants suspected of coming from Vos. After a few months, it seemed that this status quo would remain, with both sides locked in a sort of ‘cold’ war. However, when a foiled arson attempt on Belligerum, the largest of Vos’ arenas, was traced back to a covert operations unit of Iacon’s military, Vos declared war on the polar city in full. Initially backed with munitions and funding by Tarn, Vos’ air-strikes on the infrastructure of Iacon dealt heavy damage to the city and the morale of its inhabitants. However, fearing future retaliation from Iacon and its allies, Tarn was quick to withdraw its support, something which the people of Vos would remember for generations. With the loss of bombing supplies, the meagre industries of Vos were forced to commit themselves entirely to the war effort, with jewellers manufacturing bombsights and jewelled bearings, public transport diverted to the production of jet engines, and fireworks firms pumping out warheads. However, even with the entire city-state working at maximum capacity, the doctrine of total war was not enough. Iacon recovered swiftly, and its retaliation was brutal. Hundreds of highly trained soldiers were landed in the residential and financial areas of the city, holding these sections hostage and declaring them a new exclave of Iacon. Faced with what seemed to be an inevitable defeat, Vos’ Governor, Shotmaker, formulated an emergency plan as a last-ditch effort. The four prisons which served Vos and its surrounding area were free from the Iacon occupation forces, and were swarming with convicted murderers, thugs, rapists and spree killers. Knowing that life in these crowded prisons could only have made these criminals even more dangerous than they had been to begin with, Shotmaker made the difficult decision to release the most vicious convicts in the city, drafting them into a savage militia. Their effectiveness was alarming, as years of harsh conditioning and power struggles had drilled a prison hierarchy into them which continued to exist on the outside, while the resourcefulness and malice they had learnt whilst incarcerated proved all too deadly for the occupying forces. Within two months, the invaders were routed, but the cost for Vos was high. Most of its infrastructure was in ruins, leaving only the arenas to sustain the economy, something which was to shape the evolution of the city for centuries. Following the success of the prison militia, Shotmaker declared an amnesty, allowing the surviving prisoners to regain their freedom by taking part in the reconstruction effort. This was followed by the prisons being closed, and converted into new arenas – Shotmaker’s logic being that criminals would be sentenced to serve in the pits rather than serve time in prison, forever maintaining a standing force of trained soldiers desperate to fight for their freedom should the need ever arise for them again.
The Havocon Division
- Main article: Havocon Division
During the later stages of the Vos-Tarn war, Governor Starscream was faced with a crisis. The armies of Vos were being rapidly depleted by Tarn’s superior military might, and even with outsiders coming to join the war as mercenaries, Vos’ manpower would not last much longer against Tarn. Considering his options, Starscream’s hand was eventually forced by the shadowy figures of the Republic, and he issued the Second Prison Bull, directly mimicking the earlier declaration by Shotmaker, the earlier governor who had conscripted Vos’ prison populations in order to fight a war against Iacon. However, by this time, Vos no longer had a standard prison system, instead sentencing its criminals to a life of fighting in its gladiatorial pits, which meant that this new penal legion lacked the rigid prisoners’ hierarchy of the first legion, but more than made up for this with far greater martial skill and unfettered brutality. The unruly nature of the pit fighters provided Starscream with a modicum of doubt as to their effectiveness, but the Republic was able to conveniently convict several of the army’s surviving officers on trumped-up war crimes charges, forcing them to serve in this new militia, officially dubbed the ‘Havocon Division’. Appointed as commander of this outfit was Misanthropy, a gladiator championed and sponsored by Starscream himself, who had carved a name for himself as Vos’ most brutal and unflinching combatant. Consisting in equal parts of glory seekers, murderers, rapists, arsonists, terrorists, and gangsters, the Havocon Division proved to be the most effective shock troopers Vos had ever deployed. Combining Misanthropy’s tactical genius with their unique brand of terror tactics, they began to push back the forces of Tarn past the border and beyond, reaching far into Tarn’s militarised quarter. Already accustomed to the notion that each day in the pits could have been their last, the Havocons soon took this morbidity one step further. Choosing new pseudonyms for themselves, often reflecting the crimes they had committed, they began to refer to each other as having already died, throwing themselves recklessly into suicidal missions, often with surprising success. Most historians now believe this to have arisen from the belief that they would be retried, possibly even executed, after the war, and had little to live for as a result. After the war, the Havocons boasted the highest percentage of survivors amongst all the units involved in the war, though its casualties were beyond counting. Granted amnesty by Starscream, they returned home to a ruined city, devastated by Tarn’s nuclear assault. Seeing their rulers flee to Kaon, the Havocons prepared for what they saw as inevitable – the invasion of the crippled city of Vos by another force. Although no such invasion was to come, they were dealt another crippling blow by Misanthropy’s disappearance, commandeering one of the last remaining starships in the city, vowing to seek revenge on Tarn. Misanthropy had been considered the interim ruler of Vos, and in his absence, the most brutal of the Havocons struggled amongst themselves to claim the title for themselves. Many powerful fighters joined the power struggle, though most are now remembered simply by their names – Slaughter, Vivisection, Blackmail, Treason, Sedition, Battery – all forgotten to those bleak times. The eventual victor was to be Genocide, a sadistic individual who even most of the Havocons shunned for his savagery. Under the rule of Genocide, Vos began to take shape once more, although its inhabitants were now almost entirely the survivors of the Havocon Division. An economy based mostly around the salvaging of scrap began to form, and Genocide was even able to devise a judicial system – though it was little more than a case of summarily executing those who displeased him. This empire of ash was to last for several centuries, until the death of most of the remaining Havocons during a large invasion of Vos by forces fighting during the Great War, which finally saw Misanthropy return to Vos. Upon his slaying of Genocide, and several of the higher ranking Havocons, the Havocons rallied behind their fabled leader, eager to lash out against the world.
After the devastation which the war with Iacon wrought upon the city of Vos, public opinion as to the worthiness of its gladiatorial pits was bitterly divided between those who felt that retaining the arena system was necessary in the wake of those lives lost in the war sparked by their existence, and those who felt that their retention would only lead to further hostilities in the future. Forever the diplomat, Governor Shotmaker declined to rule either way on the debate, instead seeking to wait until he was able to decipher the majority view within the public opinion. However, this approach was soon to prove costly, as gangs of street militia were beginning to form in the slum areas of the city. At first, their function seemed to be little more than intimidation, threatening citizens to side with their beliefs under the promise of violence. Within weeks, though, armed clashes began between these gangs, as pro-arena and anti-arena territories grew and began to overlap. Casualties were initially scarce and wholly confined to the gangs themselves, allowing Shotmaker to turn a blind eye to their activities. However, it was not long before civilian casualties began to mount, mostly within the areas controlled by the anti-arena groups. Seeing this as the best opportunity to choose sides, Shotmaker order a crackdown on all of the paramilitary groups, sentencing all of those arrested to a life in the pits, which he now officially sanctioned. Within the pits, though, sentiment soon grew against Shotmaker, with those who had been condemned to spend their lives in blood-sport combat growing to resent the leader. Public support, however, was on his side, as most of Vos saw him as the epitome of the ideals of the benevolent dictator, adoring his philanthropy and selfless devotion to Vos. Knowing that they could not sway the public against Shotmaker, nor could they escape the pits to enact a coup d’etat, the revolutionary elements within the pits congregated together, organising bets on fixed fights and establishing connections with promoters and underworld figures on the outside, soon beginning to raise sufficient funds to overtake and topple the existing organised crime networks in the city – all from within the cages of the arenas. This new organised crime syndicate adopted the moniker Republic, as a direct affront to the autocratic nature of Governor Shotmaker’s rule. Keeping secret their identities and their base of power, they were able to issue statements through the media, declaring their manifesto untraceably from the shadows. Within less than a year, the power they were able to wield was sufficient enough to order the deposition of Shotmaker, who fled to relative safety of Polyhex in order to avoid execution at the hands of this new regime. Stormseeker, the most powerful of the thugs that had been hired to enact the coup was soon installed as a figurehead governor, manipulated entirely from the shadows of the pits by the Republic. Centuries later, by the time the war with Tarn erupted, the Republic had grown corrupt beyond imagining; becoming a mockery of the ideals they once held. At this time, Stormseeker had become a source of consternation for the Republic, and had since been replaced by his subordinate, Skycross – who would in turn be replaced by the young upstart Starscream, who was to be the last Governor the Republic would ever install.