Transformers: Legacy of the Ancients

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by uklangor, Dec 13, 2010.

  1. uklangor

    uklangor Active Member

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    This is my attmept at a bit of fanfic.

    It's set inthe Marvel G1/G2, Alignment, Beast era continuity. However, it takes place in the distant future.

    The Transformers from that continuity have long since vanished and the Transformers that now inhabit the universe are of the G1/G2 variety. They continue the war, but also need to unravel their own origins and why the original Transformers vanished.

    Hope you like it:

    Transformers: Legacy of the Ancients
    Cro was a desolate world flooded with a planet wide ocean. Life had once thrived in the waters an age ago. Fish and crustacean analogues ruled the realm from Cro’s infancy and had even climbed from the depths and adapted to life outside of the water on the small rocky outcrops that dotted the surface of the world-sea. Life for Cro’s inhabitants had been tough, the waters in which they lived and depended on would have been fatally toxic to any other organic creature; yet Cro’s natural inhabitants flourished and lived in perfect balance.
    Unfortunately for the indigenous species, the currents that swept through the ocean, and the undersea volcanoes that warmed the depths provided a means to produce huge quantities of energy; the thick seams of minerals layered through the planet’s crust were ripe for harvesting for use in equipment and weapons. Cro was taken, the energy was sapped from it, the raw materials were stripped; the native life forms died. Huge towers were sunk into the planet, at first providing a means to tap these resources, then to refine them into the lifeblood of the Great War: energon and ammunition.
    Eventually the Great War ended and all trace of the two opposing armies disappeared from the galaxy. Ages passed and the deep scars the Great War had wrought across the battleground of countless planets and systems began to heal. Life once again started to emerge on Cro, even hardier now to beat the waste pumped into it’s water. Life once again spread to the rocky outcrops and the base of the alien towers and new animals, never before seen on Cro, watched as the kin of the Ancient armies from the Great War eventually returned to the planet. At first the visitors watched and observed and analysed, then again started taking the planet’s riches. Ages spent in suspension meant the machines were unreliable and inefficient. But the visitors were desperate for Cro’s produce, so they persevered and were grateful of the pickings they could gather. This time, however, the hardened life forms did not die. Instead they continued to flourish evolving to be harder and stronger than before. Though still in their infancy compared to the visitors in the towers, they remained in the water, watching and waiting.

    The transport decelerated around star G-711 and quickly dropped through the atmosphere of the fourth planet, Cro. The last remaining functional Resource Extraction Site was cited in the northern hemisphere and as the transport touched down brilliant sunlight broke through the angry clouds as the storm that had raged for the past two orbital cycles finally started to break up. A welcoming committee waited patiently on the landing pad and watched as the transport’s access hatch opened and Ingeneous lead his team out of the confines of the craft. Ingeneous was a large chassis-framed Autobot that stood taller than any of his own detachment and most of the waiting bots on the landing pad. Ingeneous sought out the one other large mech, who welcomed him to the RES.
    ‘Greetings Ingeneous.’ The bot was as tall as Ingeneous, but from the configuration of his body, clearly had a different altmode. Ingeneous silently scanned the ident-sig emitted from his companion.
    ‘Greetings, Sir.’ Ingeneous replied reverentially, the ident-sig revealed that this bot was of a greater rank and a more capable mech than Ingeneous. Besides, he would have been briefed about Ingeneous’s previous ‘condition’; Ingeneous needed everything to go smoothly. ‘My detachment is ready to relieve your force.’
    ‘Thank you Ingeneous. I have left a report of our deployment here logged in the central RES node, standard alpha-elite encryption. I hope your stay here is without … crisis. Primus be with you.’
    ‘Primus be with you too’ Ingeneous replied, he’d surprised himself by not wincing at the other bot’s turn of phrase.
    He and his detachment watched as the others entered the craft and the auto-loaders filled the transport’s hold with energon and ammunition. As the hatches finally closed and the ship lifted off, Ingeneous silently linked with the central node of the RES. The node was very old, built at the time of the Ancients and brought back online in the recent past. It had been updated and modified with current software, but the age of the node pressed against the back of Ingeneous’s mind like an alien presence, until he felt the node actually recognise him and embrace his presence like a friend. Ingeneous knew that other bots found it difficult and tiring interfacing with the systems used by the Ancients, as if they had to fight every step of the way, even to access very basic systems. Ingeneous had no such problem, the node shunted the report into his databank and he didn’t even have to use his access code to unlock it, the node had opened it for him. Ingeneous was in no doubt this was as a result of what had happened to him, but was not going to reveal that to his comrades, he needed them to forget all about the ‘incident’.
    The transport rocketed through the atmosphere and broke into orbit disappearing from optical sensor view. Ingeneous reviewed the report; scanning its salient points for anything he should be aware of first. Satisfied he regarded his detachment. The tech team comprised of two scientists and three engineers, all were standard sized chassis-framed mechs, though one of the scientists was a sleek standard-light while two of the engineers were bulkier standard-heavy sized. The team was freshly put together, with little experience away from the Source. This mission too was a chance for them to prove themselves. Like Ingeneous, they were eager to make the right impression.
    ‘Energon factory 2 in spire delta is underperforming by 29%, please make this your priority. The sub-node governing the drill housed in spire omega is offline and should be assessed and rebooted following your initial assignment. Once complete, follow the routine maintenance program written by the previous detachment. Roll out.’ The tech team acknowledged Ingeneous’s order and then transformed and left the landing pad to carry out their work assignments.
    The second group of Autobots on the platform were six mini chassis-framed mechs, all about half as tall as Ingeneous. Their leader, Burnout, was a veteran scout-sniper and he had brought his team to Cro to run training missions across the facility.
    ‘Thank you for letting my team come along commander, we won’t get in the way of your duties.’
    ‘You’re welcome Burnout. The previous RES commander has logged the arrival of a Master’s ship two orbital cycles ago. They landed at spire epsilon, but haven’t been in contact. My guess is that they want to be left alone.’
    ‘Understood commander, we’ll steer clear of spire epsilon. Autobots, move out!’ Burnout commanded and the mini-bots activated their cloaking emitters and left to start their training exercises, they were in high spirits and almost below Ingeneous’s audible range, he caught snippets of their chatter,
    ‘… yeah, it is him…’
    ‘…crazy! Well, that’s what my old commander told me…’
    ‘…possessed by some Ancient…’
    ‘…Opti- something Prime, whoever he was…’

    The comments caused Ingeneous to freeze, for a moment his limbs were locked. Maybe they were right, maybe he wasn’t ready for an assignment and maybe he wasn’t cured after all. The moment slowly passed and Ingeneous could feel the optic sensors of the only other bot on the landing pad bore into his back. Wildfire was a strategist and had been assigned to Ingeneous once he had been cleared to return to service. While the standard and mini chassis-framed mechs could choose from any number of functions to follow, large mechs were expected to command and it was not unusual for young, inexperienced commanders to be paired with junior strategists to provide advice. However, Wildfire was a veteran. He’d seen action in countless engagements and had even been fitted with some omni-upgrades to match that experience. While predominantly Wildfire fulfilled the role of advisor, Ingeneous was in no doubt the standard-tactical chassis-framed bot was there to keep an optical sensor on him in case of a repeat ‘episode’.
    ‘Masters, huh?’ Wildfire asked.
    ‘Yes, there’s not much more in the report. Their transport is in the auxiliary hangar in spire epsilon. That is as much detail as there is.’
    ‘That’s Masters for you. They’re all too secretive, makes me suspicious of the whole slagging lot of them.’
    ‘They’re still Autobots though Wildfire.’
    ‘Have you ever met one?’
    ‘No, though I’ve seen the node-feeds about their abilities on and off the battlefield. The presence of Masters has helped win some desperate engagements and the technology they’ve developed has helped us utilise many of the Ancient’s facilities.’
    ‘But then they expect every other bot they meet to be eternally grateful for everything they’ve ever done. As soon as they become Masters they forget we’re all created from the same Source.’
    ‘Is not that reverence necessary? They have done great things for the Autobot cause after all; their numbers are made up of some of the greatest Autobots that have ever functioned.’
    ‘But that just adds to the problem, mechs have to be invited to get the Master upgrade. It’s too much of an elitist, secret society; they need to be more open.’ Ingeneous inwardly sighed; there was no getting through to him.
    ‘I’ll bear that in mind if I ever meet one. Let’s get into the control room; I need to review this log’.

    Half an orbital cycle later Burnout was incredibly proud of his team’s performance. The scout sniper team had suffered two fatalities in their last engagement, but the two replacements were performing better than expected and the new team was working well together. The RES facility proved an excellent training ground for the team, the interconnecting walkways webbed between the colossal spires were much better than any virtual simulation for them to practise on.
    All the mini-bots were cloaked and under communicator silence. Burnout had retuned an autoloader to emit a slightly different proximity warning ident-sig. The rest of the team had trained to recognise subtle differences in ordinary data emissions and were using it as a beacon to home in on Burnout’s position. One by one Burnout’s superior sensors were aware of his cloaked team mates converging around his position on the upper walkway connecting spires lambda and mu. They were all low on energon from the persistent use of the cloak, but all were too professional to let that hamper their effectiveness.
    Then in the darkness, something caught Burnout’s optical sensor; movement! On top of spire lambda something was there. Burnout watched as it crouched and then leapt across the gap to perch on spire mu. In mid air Burnout recognised immediately what it was, he altered the ident-sig on the autoloader knowing his team mates would recognise the signal to hold position. Another shape leapt from the top of spire lambda and Burnout knew some of his team mates had seen it too.
    The shapes were tall and fearsome and while standing upright like a Transformer, did not appear robotic in nature. A third joined its companions on the top of spire lambda; there was no mistaking what they were: Pretenders and clearly all Decepticons. The first Pretender leapt from the spire onto the top of a support arch above the walkway that connected lambda to the next spire, more Pretenders followed. Burnout’s team watched in silence, either holding position as commanded to do, or frozen in fear; Burnout had watched all the node-feeds about the Decepticon Pretenders and he was struggling to keep the panic down himself. Analysing their route, they were headed for spire epsilon.
    The sixth and final Pretender leapt from spire mu after its companions, who had continued in silence. However, it had badly misjudged its jump and landed on the very edge of the spire’s pinnacle. Its weight was too much, crumbling the side of the tower and dropping down to the walkway beneath, and to one of Burnout’s team.
    Being so close to the Pretender, Flashshot’s cloak was ineffective. In the time it took the Pretender to regain it’s composure after the fall and then to notice the terrified mini-bot, Flashshot hadn’t even taken a step away. All the Pretenders that Burnout had seen on the node-feeds only ever carried melee weapons; this one was no exception; it spun the sleek crimson spear it carried catching Flashshot in the face with the blunt end of the staff, knocking the scout to the ground. Then pinning him under one of it’s monstrous feet, the Pretender drove the wicked energon blade at the tip of the spear into Flashshot’s chest and then up through his head. The blow was instantly fatal, severing Flashshot’s spark core, vital cerebro circuitry and his databank.
    Burnout’s team were stunned and that lapse of concentration caused two of the team to let their cloaks fizzle out, revealing their location. The Pretender knew it was surrounded, but the sight of its opponents didn’t dissuade it in the slightest. A grin spread across its monstrous face; it was going to relish the slaughter it imagined it was going to wreck; it didn’t even bother to communicate this to its colleagues.
    ‘We’re going to have to take him out.’ Burnout ordered over the secure comm. No one objected and Burnout was glad; he was going to need them all to trust him to get this to work. From his position at the end of the walkway attached to spire mu, Burnout aimed and fired his sniper rifle. The shot hit the Pretender in the right shoulder, causing it to stagger backward under the force of the blow.
    ‘I’ve got its full attention now. Quickly before it notices, fall back. As it crosses the walkway, bring the support arch down on its head. Let’s see if we can bury it. Steelrain, transform and get back to HQ, alert Ingeneous, tell him the other Pretenders are,’ Burnout paused to fire another shot at the Pretender. The weapon wasn’t causing any damage to the Decepticon’s Pretender armour, but then Burnout wasn’t expecting it to, ‘on their way to spire epsilon. Tell Ingeneous to get his exhaust over there, we’ll handle this one.’
    Steelrain transformed to his jet mode and blasted off. The Pretender turned its head to watch the mini-bot streak away, but a blast in the face from Burnout regained its attention. Furious, it charged over the walkway at a blistering speed. All four remaining members of the team fired in unison at the support arch, while the standard ammo they were only equipped with wouldn’t damage the Pretender, it was more than enough to shatter the support arch. Ruined steel-crete sections fell onto the Pretender, the walkway groaned under the loss of the support, but remained in position. The monster swatted the sections away or broke them up with a deft wave of its energon spear; it reached Burnout and knocked the mini-bot flying with a back handed smack. Rounds from the other team members hammered into the Pretender’s back, allowing Burnout to regain his feet and then dodge as the monster pounced. The spear tip missed by a micro-filament and pierced the walkway, Burnout stabbed out with his small energon blade missing the Pretender’s face, but blackening its shoulder. A kick from the monster sent Burnout on top of the rubble in the centre of the walkway; now that he was clear of the Pretender, his team mates kept up a salvo of rifle fire to hamper its movement and allow their team commander to get back up again.
    ‘Boss,’ Flashstorm, the team’s saboteur, called over the secure comm. ‘keep him in the centre, I’ve got a plan.’
    ‘Good, but hurry, I’m going to be spare parts any time soon.’ Burnout replied scrabbling over the rubble as the Pretender approached, he was also proud that his team had another plan after his had failed so amazingly. He ducked as the monster thrust the spear, the tip sliced against the top of his arm and then down into the rubble. Burnout rolled down the support arch wreckage as the walkway groaned painfully. More fire from his team mates hammered against the Pretender as Burnout circled around him and fired into its back. The monster swung the spear in a deadly arc, Burnout dipped away, but the tip effortlessly sliced through his chest. Luckily the wound was not fatal and major systems were missed, the nanobots inside his system would eventually start to repair the damage; if he survived that long.
    The Pretender slipped on a piece of broken steel-crete under its foot, spoiling its aim and saving the mini-bot’s life as the tip sailed above his head.
    ‘Boss, get outta there. Now!’ Flashstorm shouted over the comm. Burnout used the last of his energon reserves to fuel a powered dive away from the Pretender and toward spire lambda. In mid leap Flashstorm activated the explosives he had strapped to the underside of the walkway during the fight. The explosion was not harmful in the least to the Pretender, it smiled in self satisfaction. However, Flashstorm was a demolitions expert. The blast did just enough to shatter the strained walkway, which then collapsed under the Pretender and the support arch rubble. They dropped down onto the walkway below, destroying that too, before eventually splashing down into the sea. The water continued to roil as the native life-forms swarmed to investigate the intrusion into their realm.

    Topspeed had been in spire epsilon, along with his companions, for nearly three orbital cycles now and he watched in awe as Liberaticum completed the input of the last of his modified program into the spire’s main node. All the spires in the RES facility contained huge items of machinery: harvesters for drilling down into the planet’s surface and extracting the rich minerals found there, refineries for processing the material, factories for the manufacture of ammunition from the refined material, tidal generators and thermal vent mines to tap into the energy present in the sea, and also energon processing units to convert that energy into energon cubes; the energy source for Transformers and their equipment.
    However, unique to only this particular RES facility was spire epsilon. It contained no such equipment or machinery, other detachments stationed on Cro would logically have assumed that it was a redundant spire, included by the Ancients to meet a structural requirement or aesthetic function. However, a more enquiring mind upgraded with an advanced full sensor suite would detect some anomalies with the spire. The first would be that it didn’t quite fit the rest of the facility. The joints, the angels, even the purity of the material used in its construction were all slightly ‘different’. They were very close to the original and the difference was very easily missed, but once seen it was glaringly obvious that spire epsilon just did not fit. The second anomaly was that it wasn’t built by the Ancients. Dating techniques on the materials used in its construction proved it to be considerably younger than the rest of the RES, in fact, spire epsilon was constructed and attached to the RES a full vorn and a quarter after the disappearance of the Ancients. Little information was known about the Ancients and the timelines of their existence were constantly updated upon discovery of new artefacts, but the rest of the RES facility was dated to having been constructed towards the end of the reign of the Primary Ancients, who were responsible for all the large facilities left scattered throughout the galaxy as monuments to their legendary Great War with each other. The smaller Secondary Ancients with organic-like altmodes had left surprisingly very little behind. But the structures that the Secondary Ancients had built were no where near the same scale as spire epsilon.
    The disappearance of the Ancients had been very sudden and very swift, with multiple sources pinpointing almost the exact same instant, no matter where in the galaxy the Ancients had been at the time, all of them had disappeared at the same moment. The likelihood of any Ancient having survived the Disappearance Event and then constructing spire epsilon was almost infinitely remote.
    Therefore the facts suggested that spire epsilon was designed by beings other than Ancients at a time when Ancients had long since disappeared from the galaxy but was disguised to resemble Ancient architecture. The deception was so good, that every other modern Transformer stationed on the RES had missed it.

    The expedition at spire epsilon had been challenging, but also exciting; Topspeed’s databanks had amassed deca-units of new data. If things went well Topspeed would qualify for his next upgrade by the end of the expedition. Liberaticum was a very skilled scientist and also very meticulous in his work. Along with Chromaspark’s assistance they had uncovered a hidden node within spire epsilon before the end of the first orbital cycle. Liberaticum had hypothesised that the node would allow access to the lower level of the spire, which Chromaspark’s sensors had indicated existed.
    Finally after all of his long work, Liberaticum had cracked the node’s programming. The node had been constructed very hastily by the Unknown Architects and the corruption and decay had been present in most of the node’s systems. The construction and programming mirrored a lot of the Ancient’s systems, which Liberaticum was familiar with. Unfortunately most of the data stored within the node had been lost, even though Liberaticum had painstakingly rebuilt the program a line at a time. Resigning himself to the fact that the node had no secrets left to reveal, he executed the instruction for the node to open the access way into the lower chamber. With a low murmur of straining machinery, the floor in the centre of the room began to fall away and transform into a spiral walkway leading down into the level below. Liberaticum led the way onto the walkway, quickly joined by his two micro-bot companions, as the lights started to blink on at the bottom of the ramp. Chromaspark followed with her two micro-bot partners. She turned to Topspeed and beckoned for him to follow, then rushed after Liberaticum into the depths. However, Topspeed was stopped by his own micro-bot partner, Irontop.
    ‘There’s something outside, trying to hide its presence.’ It said over their private comm.
    ‘Ok, let’s unite and check it out.’ He replied. Topspeed had long ago received the Masters’ upgrade and Irontop had been his companion ever since. Like most other upgrades available, Masters were based on technology used by the Ancients, but had been modified somewhat. Topspeed opened the cranial ports on the top of his head and then retracted the appendage into his body, leaving nothing visible between his shoulders. Irontop transformed into a new head and connected to Topspeed via the exposed cranial ports. The two were connected as one physical being, greater than the sum of its parts. Topspeed enjoyed greater sensor ability, increased dexterity and a fantastic weapons accuracy. He drew his rifle and proceeded to the main entrance of the chamber. He could indeed sense a presence outside, definitely a Transformer, but the signal was weak, perhaps partially hidden or shielded.
    The intruder entered the chamber and Topspeed was instantly aware of his mistake. The Transformer life sign he had detected had been shielded, but was also accompanied by five others, all masked by terrifying Pretender armour. They were monstrous in appearance and while they resembled twisted organic creatures encased in armoured suits, Topspeed knew better. These were not organic creatures, but merely lifeless shells composed of the strongest alloys known to the Transformer race. Inside which lay a Decepticon, safely cocooned away knowing the Pretender shell could absorb the level of punishment that would incapacitate any other being. The Decepticons used their Pretenders as assassins, which meant one thing: they knew what spire epsilon really was and had come to steal the secrets for themselves. Topspeed tried to contact his companions via their secure comm., but couldn’t hail them; the chamber below must be heavily shielded.
    Topspeed let off a burst from his rifle striking the first Pretender in the chest and knocking it backwards without any damage. The other four swarmed in around him. Topspeed knew that the Pretender armour, while under mental command of the Transformer inside, hampered targeting and accuracy of any ranged weapons used. Therefore all Pretenders carried energon melee weapons, relying on the strength of the armour they wore to stop ranged attacks while they then got close enough to their prey to use them. The trick, therefore, was when confronted by Pretenders to keep them at range and then rely on very heavy weapons to stop them.
    Unfortunately Pretenders were also very agile. Topspeed’s shots found their targets, but did little to keep them at bay: they quickly surrounded him. He fired at the Pretender in front and an energon blade swung down and sliced his arm off below the elbow. Topspeed’s mind reeled at the pain feedback messages from the severed limb; Irontop’s mind was swimming in panic. A Pretender’s taloned hand grabbed Topspeed’s head from behind and squeezed, killing Irontop instantly. The same hand twisted and pulled, ripping Irontop free. The unplanned and violent removal of Irontop caused an overload of pain feedback to burn through Topspeed’s mind, shutting him down into stasis lock and dropping him limply to the ground.
    Arriving too late after being alerted by Topspeed’s shooting, Liberaticum and Chromaspark re-entered the chamber and were aghast at the grisly scene that greeted them. Chromaspark’s two companions had transformed into her weapons and were mounted on her forearms: a particle rifle and a laser beamer. Liberaticum’s companions had transformed into a plasma blaster and an engine mounted on his abdomen. The two Masters started firing into the group of Pretenders, the withering fury they unleashed knocked the Pretenders unlucky enough to be caught in it to be violently knocked down, and the shots that missed ripped into the chamber the battle was held in.
    ‘Take care, we must not allow the underground chamber to be damaged.’ Liberaticum commanded, and the two halted their hail of destruction. Some of the monstrous Decepticons were wounded; their armoured shells could withstand some of the damage they were taking, but repeated hits would be fatal. However, the lull was just the break they needed; the Decepticons were all experienced warriors and had stormed head first into Autobot weaponry on many occasions before. They had learnt to wait for lulls in incoming fire due to weapon reloads or to regain targets, and to then make the most of it. As one monstrous force they sprang forward, easily closing the distance to the two Autobots and removing the only advantage the Masters had. Two were on Chromaspark before she had chance to take aim again, clawed hands crushed her micro-bot companions against her forearms, destroying them and her limbs. Effectively neutered, her attacker stepped away as she staggered forward in shock, while a second Pretender severed the Autobot’s head with a fatal swipe of its energon weapon.
    The other three Pretenders were trying to pin Liberaticum, they slashed with their weapons, but the large Autobot was able to dodge the fatal blows and suffered only minor damage. His micro-bot engine was speeding the flow of his energon supply to the nanobots in his system to repair the light damage far faster than normal, to keep his fighting prowess up. With a surge of strength, boosted by the engine, Liberaticum knocked two of the Decepticons away with a powerful sweep of his arms; he caught the third around its throat with one of his powerful hands and then cast it like a lifeless drone into the far wall of the chamber.
    With a silent mental command, the micro-bot that was attached to his chest was jettisoned and then combined with his second micro-bot partner. The resultant weapon was a tremendously powerful instrument that now took up most of his arm. The sudden loss of the power supplied through his companion was disorienting, but Liberaticum had been expecting that and fought against it. He turned to the two Pretenders who had felled chromaspark and with a roar he fired at the closest. The blast hit the Decepticon square in the chest sending it flying backwards in a spray of shattered shell and shredded metal, killing the Decepticon. Instinctively the blast re-invigorated the Pretenders’ attack. After years on the battlefield they had always targeted the heaviest weapon used against them, knowing that it would be the only challenge to their armoured shells. Liberaticum, however, was used to Decepticons fleeing in terror from the unworldly destruction of his combined firepower. Faced with the charge of the four Pretenders directly at him, Liberaticum only had enough time to fire once more, disintegrating the arm and weapon of one of the monsters, before the remaining three were upon him. The deadly weapon was ripped free of the mountings on his arm and destroyed and his body pierced with energon blades. Liberaticum thrashed with his huge arms, but without the strength boosting effects of the auxillary engine provided by his micro-bot companion, he was unable to fight them off. Like savage beasts the Pretenders lashed into him, landing blows with fists and energon weapon, even long after Liberaticum ceased to function.

    Ingeneous reached the entrance to the chamber in spire epsilon with Wildfire, the mini-bot Steelrain, the scientist Roadstalker and the engineer Groundking, both from the tech team. Burnout was stood at the entrance and watched as the five Autobots transformed back to their robot modes.
    ‘We’re too late.’ Burnout said in a grave voice as he led the others into the chamber. The room was the site of a devastating carnage, the walls had been gouged by punishing weapon’s fire and the floor was littered with debris, some of it Transformer. The rest of Burnout’s squad were spread out around the chamber.
    ‘Looks like there were three Masters here,’ Burnout started, his voice cutting into the misery of the chamber, ‘The Decepticons really did a number on them. Ripped one bot’s head clean off, killed another mech with their energon weapons and over there near the ramp to the lower level, they literally tore that bot to pieces. He was big, probably the Master’s commander here. Must have really annoyed the Decepticons, it’s hard to recognise even what he was, let alone who he was.’
    ‘Looks like they managed to put up quite a bit of a fight before he bought it.’ Wildfire said.
    ‘Yeah, he blasted that ‘con in two.’ Burnout replied.
    ‘He winged another one as well, look here,’ Wildfire knelt in the rubble and lifted some fragments, ‘looks like he took the arm off one of them.’ Despite of what Ingeneous thought privately about Wildfire, there was no denying the strategist’s skills. A good strategist was a valuable tool on the battlefield, not only were they able to provide excellent tactics for assaults and defensive actions to their commanders and team mates, they also made excellent investigators away from the front line of warfare.
    ‘They must have had quite an arsenal at their disposal.’ Burnout solemnly replied.
    ‘Unfortunately, not quite good enough.’ Wildfire said, dropping the shell fragments and getting to his feet. A shout caused the group to turn to Flashstorm.
    ‘This one’s still alive!’ he shouted, almost falling over as he backed away from the body of Topspeed. The Autobot sat up and his original head emerged from his chest cavity, the damaged cranial ports still open. He slowly looked around the room, seeming to take a long time to realise what had happened.
    ‘Take it easy, don’t get up too fast, you’re injured.’ Ingeneous stated, stepping close to Topspeed, ‘You’re safe now, the Decepticons have left. However, your colleagues…’ Ingeneous was unable to continue, Topspeed got to his feet, barged past him and ran to the underground chamber.
    ‘Burnout, have your team establish a defensive perimeter around this chamber, the Decepticons might come back and we can’t afford to be unprepared.’ Ingeneous ordered.
    ‘Yes Commander.’ Burnout replied and gathered his mini-bot team mates to assemble the perimeter. Ingeneous along with Wildfire, Roadstalker and Groundking took the ramp down into the underground chamber.

    The room was as large as the one above it, but dimly lit by florescent cells in the floor, but otherwise the walls, floor and ceiling were all smooth steel-crete with no lines, imperfections or joins; as if the whole room was one single piece of material.
    ‘This room is heavily shielded, if it wasn’t for that ramp, we’d never have known it existed.’ Roadstalker said. She was an elegant standard-light chassis-framed bot and crouched to place one of her delicate hands against the floor of the room. The standard-tactical bots were the most common size variants of the Transformer race and made up the majority of the population. A standard-light mech had better speed, agility and sensor ability, but at the expense of armour. Being slightly smaller there were limits to the amount of equipment they could carry, but not to the functions they could take.
    ‘Yeah, fascinating I’m sure.’ Groundking replied from her side. He was a standard-heavy, almost as tall as Ingeneous, but much more bulky. Bots of his chassis-frame were at the other extreme of the standard size. Taller than a standard-tactical they had thicker armour and could carry much more equipment, but were slower and used much more fuel than the other two variants.
    ‘But what about all of that?’ He asked her indicating the far end of the room. Into the far wall was a blisteringly complex array of equipment. Unlike the rest of the room, this appeared as if it had been assembled in a hurry. No care had been taken in its construction, there had been no attempt to conceal the joins or hide the imperfections on its surface panelling; it rudely stuck out like a colossus chassis-framed Transformer in a team of micro-bots. Its size was staggering, easily dwarfing every mech in the chamber. The bulky equipment was comprised of huge slabs of the blue-grey steel-crete, and cabling thicker than any chassis sized Transformer Ingeneous had ever seen. Numerous blank crystal displays and physical node interface points dotted the machine. The height of these components from the floor indicated that although the design did not match other Ancient constructions, it was for use by Transformer sized beings. Topspeed was stood before it in awe; his gaze flitting over every panel, switch, cable and component.
    ‘What… what is it?’ Roadstalker asked.
    ‘Magnificent.’ Topspeed replied, almost in a whisper. The equipment was silent, but somehow seemed to suck sound in toward it. It appeared to be dormant, but gave Ingeneous the impression that it was waiting for something. He ignored that particular thought; he doubted that this machine was sentient. But then, could he be wrong about that, or maybe…
    ‘Huh, it’s just a piece of junk.’ Wildfire’s remark snatched Ingeneous away from his reverie, he was almost glad the strategist was there. Topspeed turned on him,
    ‘How dare you?’ He spat out, with his back to the machine his voice carried easily to the audible sensors of the assembled Autobots. Topspeed strode to Wildfire and with a look of anger shot out a finger from his remaining hand to jab against Wildfire’s chest. Unluckily for the Master, Wildfire caught the hand and twisted it around, struck the bot in the face with his elbow and then with a kick, brought him to his knees.
    ‘Enough!’ Ingeneous commanded. Wildfire released Topspeed’s hand and pushed the mech onto his back.
    ‘Next time, I’ll rip it straight off.’ He warned and then stalked off to the base of the ramp.
    Ingeneous helped the Master to his feet.
    ‘Have you any idea what this is?’ Ingeneous asked.
    ‘It’s a marker. It was placed here for us to find when as a species we were enlightened enough to understand it.’
    ‘By the Ancients?’
    ‘It doesn’t matter, there’s a piece missing’
    ‘What? Where? How can you tell anything’s missing from here?’ Roadstalker asked.
    ‘Just there.’ Topspeed replied pointing to an area of the machine. On closer inspection it was clear that a piece of the machine had been disconnected, the chaotic design of the equipment had masked its disappearance.
    ‘Will it not function without it?’ Ingeneous asked. Topspeed was running his hand over the surfaces around the missing component.
    ‘Maybe. The Decepticons removed it so delicately; none of the other parts have been damaged.’
    ‘Decepticons? Delicate? Now I’ve heard everything!’ Groundking remarked.
    ‘What’s been taken? What did it do?’ Ingeneous inquired, almost puzzled at his own interest.
    ‘It’s a control module; it’s responsible for a lot of the high end abilities of the machine. All the data and the other functions are still there intact. But without the control module, we’ll never access them.’
    ‘Can’t we just replace the control module?’ Groundking asked. ‘There’s a load of them in one of the stores.’
    ‘It isn’t that simple, our tech just doesn’t match theirs.’ Topspeed snapped.
    ‘The control modules in the store are all Ancient types. A lot of them were ripped out of the RES facility when it was upgraded; they’ve just been left there, redundant.’
    ‘Hmm, I’m not sure…’
    ‘This whole place is built into an Ancient structure, to mimic it. Surely, they’ll be using similar tech right?’ Roadstalker asked. ‘You know these systems, Groundking and I are familiar with some of the Ancient technology. What do you say?’
    ‘Maybe…’ Topspeed replied hesitantly.
    ‘It’s worth a go. Come on, you’ve got this far, don’t give up just yet.’ Groundking added. ‘Ingeneous?’ Ingeneous didn’t need any time to think about it. He felt an unusually strong compulsion to get the machine operational.
    ‘Very well. You two take Topspeed back to the stores and pick up some of the spare control modules and see if you can get this thing working.’ With that order, the excited trio left the chamber. Ingeneous was left alone with Wildfire, even though they were on opposite sides of the chamber, disgust burned in Wildfire’s optics.
    ‘This facility is too inefficient; we’re here to improve that. That is our objective here, not fixing broken junk.’ Wildfire stated. He stood, holding his commander’s gaze, waiting for a response. There was none. With a sigh, he turned his back and left.
    Ingeneous was alone and furious with himself. He should have rebuked Wildfire for that remark. All the Autobots based at the facility were under his command and should follow his advice without question. But then, if he had said something, would Wildfire question that too? Would he have seen an argument between them as an indication that Ingeneous was relapsing into his illness? Perhaps his inability to control his strategist was an indicator that Wildfire had already noticed and was pushing it as far as he could? But then…
    Optimus
    ‘What?’ Ingeneous was snatched from his thoughts, ‘Who’s there?’ He asked looking wildly about, but he was still alone.
    Optimus
    ‘No, that’s not me! No!’ He shouted, clamping his hands around his head, blocking his audio receptors.
    Optimus It said again and Ingeneous knew it wasn’t a sound. It was being sent direct to his mind. Impossible, he told himself. He looked at the machine.
    Optimus. It called again. Ingeneous knew he really was losing his mind. The machine was still dormant, he could see no light on any of its surfaces, could detect no energon flow within it, or hear the whir of any of its internal mechanisms. But it was calling to him.
    Optimus.
    ‘That’s not me.’ He replied and very slowly he reached out to the machine. A tremendous, optic scorchingly bright light filled the chamber from outside. An unworldly concussive force along with a deafening roar thrust Ingeneous into the machine with a system jarring speed. At the exact instant his body connected with the machine, the machine’s consciousness connected with his. The cold, vast strength of the alien presence flooded his databanks and chilled his spark core. The vastness of the machine was incalculable to Ingeneous; numerous mental safeguards broke down instantly. Ingeneous tried to fight back, to reassert himself over his own systems. The effort was futile, resigned to the overwhelming force, Ingeneous’s mind shut down.
     
  2. uklangor

    uklangor Active Member

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    Chapter 2

    The Bastion was built at the time of the Primary Ancients and orbited a red giant star in the Gamma Section of the galaxy. Its only companions in the system were a solitary gas giant, two tiny frozen dwarf planets and a meagre asteroid belt. The resources in the system were scarce; there was little energon or ammunition to be manufactured here, resulting in a quandary as to why the Ancients would choose to build a structure the size of the Bastion in such a redundant system.
    To class the Bastion as huge would have been an understatement. The central hub was a spire so gargantuan that it could pierce a planet to the core; it dwarfed any ship that docked, the largest Transformer was insignificant next to it. The radial arms that protruded outwards from along the length of the central spire could dock hundreds of star ships, but the scale was so huge it had clearly been designed to allow ships far larger than any current Transformer vessel to berth. Some mechs had argued that the existence of the Bastion indicated that the Ancients had at one time possessed a fleet of Warworlds, in contradiction to the mechs who claimed that the solitary existing Warworld found was but a prototype and represented the pinnacle of the Ancient’s technological capacity; a feat unmatched by the current generation.
    The stores of the Bastion were empty upon discovery, but the facilities the structure was capable of suggested that it required constant re-supplying. It was designed to be able to refuel and rearm all berthed craft, but inside were factories, refineries and automated provisions that could process raw materials into weapons, ammunition and energon, extensive service bays that could handle mech repairs and upgrades, communication arrays that could pick up and pin point weak signals from the surrounding section of the galaxy, but also dampened the emissions of the Bastion to shield it from prying sensors. Whole floors were engineered to allow hundreds of mechs to gather, plan and organise themselves. Others were designed to allow mechs to train and practise their skills. The Bastion had been an important structure for the Ancients, survey teams had determined that the number of mechs that had passed through was staggering.
    The capabilities of the Bastion were astounding, but there was only one problem with the station: no local resources. It was in a remote system and would never be able to be resource effective. It required a considerable amount of energon to get there and required astonishing amounts to keep it operational; when it had been discovered, it had long since powered down after running out of energon. The Bastion would never be more than a staging post, so when the Decepticons captured it, the Autobots were faced with the realisation that it simply just wasn’t worth the effort to take it back, there just simply wasn’t any resource or strategic benefits to reacquire it.
    Once the Bastion had been taken it was quickly brought up to full efficiency by the Decepticons, with the reactivation of the security network; protecting the Bastion from any external attack, but also neutralising any combatants in an armed conflict inside. The Bastion was a location in which cons could meet peacefully, to forge alliances to fight engagements, to request help with defensive actions, or conduct any number of business matters.
    The Bastion, therefore, was the perfect venue for Revaxus to conduct his meeting. Revaxus was a large chassis-framed Decepticon whose armour was so dark green to be almost black, appearing at odds with the violent violet splashes that highlighted his joints. The weapons he carried had been safely powered down to allow him to walk the halls of the Bastion without triggering the defences, yet he was still an unnerving sight.
    Revaxus led his two companions to an observation lounge and through the armoured observation port that spanned in an arc across their heads; they watched a ship come in and dock.
    ‘Is that them boss?’ asked Clawkill. The standard-tactical sized con was a warrior and had fought at Revaxus’s side since their construction. The two had been brought online at the same time, but were the only two cons from that construction batch still to function.
    ‘If they’re on schedule, then that ship must be them.’ Skyline replied instead. The standard-large mech had served Revaxus through several engagements, where his function as Fueler had considerably bolstered Revaxus’s small team’s effectiveness.
    Silently Revaxus led them to the meeting room he had acquired to conduct the business. Revaxus took the centre of the room, under the solitary illumination source, with Skyline at his commander’s side and Clawkill next to the door. They waited in silence until the door opened once more and four cons entered, one of which was missing an arm. Clawkill quickly locked the door behind them, the clunk of the bolts breaking the silence in the room.
    ‘Did you retrieve the item?’ Skyline asked.
    ‘We got it, where’s our payment?’ The speaker’s ident-sig identified him as Kraken, like his three companions, he was a standard-tactical sized mech.
    ‘Autoloader B-17, ready unload into the cargo bay of your vessel.’ Skyline replied. Kraken mentally interfaced with the Bastion’s node and checked the inventory of the autoloader; it was indeed laden with energon cubes and processed metal-alloy.
    ‘Now, I’m not one to turn down a bonus, but what’s the deal here? There’s more than we asked for’
    ‘Give us that processor and we’ll tell ya.’ Clawkill said. Kraken turned to one of his companions who then held out the processor to Clawkill. He snatched it from him and tossed the item to Skyline. The Fueler opened one of the storage units fitted to his bulky frame and removed a piece of equipment and plugged the processor into it.
    ‘It may take several moments to run the diagnostic I’m afraid.’ Skyline reported back.
    ‘What happened to your friend, run into a couple of Autobots or something?’ Clawkill asked of the con with the missing arm.
    ‘Bad intel, there were Masters at the site; they put up some … resistance.’ Kraken replied. ‘We trusted your information; we weren’t expecting to run into any serious opposition.’
    ‘I thought Pretenders were supposed to be some sort of big deal.’
    ‘We are. Look we got that bit of Ancient junk for you. We going to get our payment Revaxus?’ Kraken asked the large mech, but he kept silent, the only sound was the faint hum of the processor attached to the diagnostic tool that Skyline had produced. Revaxus held the con’s gaze and Kraken took a step back, his companions at his back. Skyline at last broke the silence,
    ‘The item is as we requested and functions optimally.’ The Bastion’s node informed Kraken that Autoloader B-17 had then deposited one third of its contents into the main hold of Kraken’s ship, but then stopped.
    ‘Hey, that’s not even our payment! You ripping us off? Is that why we had to meet here, so we’d have to leave our Pretender shells behind and you could short change us and not worry about us tearing you guys limb from limb?’ Kraken bellowed.
    Revaxus laughed. The sound was a quiet rumble, like distant thunder.
    ‘Even if there were still six of you and I had no weapons, your shells would not protect you. Others have underestimated my power, but do not now function. No, I have other business to conduct here; the Bastion is a unique venue for conducting a variety of matters. I am here to present you a choice, you may leave now with what is in the cargo hold of your transport, or you can have the remaining amount on completion of a second job.’ The commander said.
    ‘Look, we got what you asked for, we even levelled that place afterwards, no bot would have survived. No one’s coming looking for that processor. We’ve done our job, just pay us what we originally settled for and we’ll be on our way.’ Kraken replied.
    ‘Look, the boss’s given you your options, just pick one, there ain’t no third choice.’ Clawkill replied.
    ‘If you wish to walk away, do so. There are now only four of you, split four ways, the cargo in your hold is more for each of you than the original price split six ways.’ Skyline added.
    ‘That’s just not enough! We need repairs not only to Cutback, but also to his shell! You know how expensive that is? We can’t settle for the amount we’ve already got in the hold, after our running costs, there’s not nearly enough for us to keep operating in this area!’
    ‘Unfortunately, that problem is not ours. If you wish the full amount, speak now. However, once you accept, there’s no option to then back out of the deal.’ Skyline stated. Kraken looked back at his companions; none of them objected.
    ‘Ok, we’re in.’

    Clawkill stood aboard the bridge of Kraken’s ship, displayed on one of the view screens was Revaxus’s ship Nighthammer. Kraken’s vessel followed closely behind it, hidden in Nighthammer’s engine exhaust. Pulsar, Revaxus’s communications specialist, had enlisted the service of more Decepticons during Revaxus’s meeting with the Pretenders. Along with Revaxus, Skyline and Pulsar were a team of two omni-upgraded cons and a five mech mercenary Gestalt team. While those two teams’ loyalty was assured as long as they received the energon and unprocessed metal-alloys they had been promised; the Pretenders were the liability. They were reluctant to come along, but the remainder of their payment was waiting for them at the Bastion after the mission had ended. That should keep them in check, Clawkill knew, but now that they were back in their Pretender armour, Clawkill wasn’t too sure if he could stop them if they decided to leave.
    ‘You ever been there before?’ Kraken asked, standing next to Clawkill. He nodded to another viewscreen
    ‘The base? Yeah sure, loads! This’ll be easy.’
    ‘No, I meant that planet it orbits.’
    ‘Cyberton? Nah, no way. You?’
    ‘Never, not even in orbit. I’ve not even viewed it over the node-feeds. Isn’t it supposed to rip you apart it you land on it?’
    ‘Yeah, it does that. I’ve seen it. Not a nice way to go. Pretender armour can stand it, but you spend too long down there, it fries your database.’
    ‘What? Even through Pretender armour?’
    ‘Yup. It’s the voices. They’re stronger on the surface. It’s not quite an audio emission, it more of just appears in your mind. You hear it on the base too, but after a while you just try to function with it as best as you can. But down on the surface, it’s stronger. Like shouting, rather than whispering. No mech can take that for long, most self-terminate. If restrained, it just burns out their entire cerebro circuitry.’
    ‘What do they say? The voices?’
    ‘There’s too many to make out. You hear the odd word, doesn’t make much sense really. Apparently, if you hear your own name, you deactivate.’
    ‘Get scrapped!’ Kraken turned a worried optical sensor on Clawkill’s solemn face, before the warrior started laughing. The Pretender shook his head.
    ‘How’d you know all this anyway?’
    ‘Shockwing, the base’s commander, well, we used to work for him. Well, we still do, I guess.’ Kraken laughed.
    ‘So Revaxus has a commander? That is very … amusing.’
    ‘I hope you’re not having second thoughts; you know what we said about that.’
    ‘Don’t worry, I gave my word. And I break my word for no mech. We’re in this one hundred percent.’
    ‘Good.’
    ‘So what exactly has Shockwing done to make Revaxus want to take him down?’
    ‘Well, this whole thing is nothing personal, just that Shockwing is only the start.’
    ‘The start of what?’
    ‘Something bigger than either of us. When it happens, you’ll be glad you picked Revaxus’s side.’
    ‘Just what do you mean…’
    ‘Communication from Nighthammer.’ Cutback interrupted. The freshly repaired warrior was piloting the ship, which required him to be the only Pretender not to be wearing his armour.
    ‘Ok’ Kraken replied. Cutback was secured to the ship by the physical interface in the pilot’s pod; with a silent mental command he connected the communication from the Nighthammer and Pulsar’s face appeared on the main viewscreen.
    ‘My scans indicate that Shockwing’s facility has recently been attacked by an unknown force. No ships are docked, or remain in system, but there could still be enemy mechs left behind in the facility. Unfortunately the facility’s stabilisers have been deactivated and it is now adrift. Calculations show that it will eventually crash into the surface of Cybertron. The plan will remain the same. There are no functioning communication or sensor grids on the exterior of the facility; there is no longer a need for stealth, but approach the facility with caution.’ The communication then ended.
    ‘You heard him’ Clawkill said after the viewscreen had reverted to its previous image.
    ‘Cutback, take us in.’ Kraken ordered the pilot, then to Clawkill he added ‘I see things never change, statics still telling animechs what to do.’
    Clawkill punched Kraken with a viscous uppercut, sending him crashing into a bulkhead. The other Pretenders readied their weapons, as Clawkill raised his blaster, but a look from Kraken stopped his warriors from advancing.
    ‘I’m just saying …’ Kraken started
    ‘Well, I don’t like it!’ Clawkill snarled.
    ‘Look, I knew Pulsar back from before I was a Pretender. The con’s a typical static, looks down on every other mech with a mobile altmode, if you’re unlucky enough to have an animech second form, well, he hates even having to look at you.’
    ‘He’s loyal to Revaxus, that’s all you need to be concerned about. Get your warriors ready, we’re nearly there.’

    Shockwing’s facility appeared from a distance as a hemispherical dome of dull grey metal alloy. It was constructed not by the Ancients, but by the current Decepticons. It maintained a position close to Cybertron and attracted some of the best Decepticon scientists and engineers hoping to unlock hidden Ancient weapons and technology from its surface. However, it was quickly discovered that the Ancient’s homeworld was completely inhospitable and the station was all but abandoned. After the re-discovery of Pretender technology the station saw a renewed interest, with Pretender teams sent down to the surface. But the physical protection provided by the armour was still not enough and after the numerous short missions made to its surface failed to find any new discoveries, the facility was all but abandoned again. Leaving behind Shockwing and his team.
    The station was now pockmarked with holes, weapon systems were now merely space junk; no further work would ever be conducted here again.
    As per Revaxus’s plan, The Nighthammer docked in the Cybertron facing hanger, while Kraken’s ship blasted its way into the hanger at the rear of the facility.
    Clawkill watched as Cutback announced that sensors showed that the hanger was clear of any threats and then powered down the engines. The distant voices from Cybertron were dripping through into their databanks. Whispers, shrieks, screams, it permeated through every block the cons tried to activate internally. It was disorientating and demoralising, Kraken had been unprepared just for what it would be like. With a clunk the pilot’s pod split in half, revealing Cutback at its centre. The multitude of physical interfaces, restraining clamps and other assemblies retracted away from Cutback and into the recesses of the pilot’s pod. The warrior’s Pretender armour followed his silent mental command and opened up, to allow Cutback inside. Sealed back up again, Cutback joined his comrades by the forward hatch and Kraken solemnly led them out into the hanger. Clawkill immediately transformed into his animech altmode. He stood on four legs, with a tail at his rear for balance. His head formed a snout filled with strong, sharp metal alloy teeth. His animech head was also equipped with superior sensors to his robot mode, mounted either side of his face and on the end of his snout. Clawkill was a standard-tactical size and his animech mode reflected that, strong and fast he could take down a mech of a greater size, even a large chassis-frame. Clawkill was able to relax in this mode; it became easier to ignore the persistent voices. He silently promised himself that he would not leave it so long before he transformed again.
    ‘There’s been fighting here.’ Clawkill reported to the others as the data flooded his sensors, his voice almost a growl in this mode. ‘But no one is close by. Follow me.’ Clawkill bounded out of the hanger with the Pretenders running to keep up.
    They found their first dead cons not too far from the hanger and Clawkill examined their bodies. Two he recognised, the third he didn’t.
    ‘Looks like other Decepticons beat us to the fight.’ Clawkill said.
    ‘Not Revaxus’s allies?’ Kraken asked.
    ‘No, but it looks like they’ve done our job for us.’
    ‘Are you saying we should be thanking them?’
    ‘No, we still destroy any con we find.’
    ‘I was hoping you’d say that.’

    The main cargo hold was Clawkill’s first objective and he led the Pretenders down the main passage towards it. He was sprinting and his companions were only just keeping up. The sense of power and frenzy he always felt in his animech mode was in danger of taking over. With an effort he slowed somewhat, while maintaining that fast pace was easy for him, he was in danger of going faster, which would mean he’d start burning through his energon reserve, something the Pretenders must have been doing to keep up. The power supply that was activated within every Transformer on the orbital cycle of their creation was enough to keep them functioning for millions of stellar cycles; longer than any Autobot or Decepticon was likely to function for, given the fatality rates of the war. However, for any feat outside their original design specification, a Transformer needed energon, for powering special abilities, energy weapons, combat routines, or travelling at high speed. When Clawkill was last at the base, the cargo area had been full of energon and metal alloy ingots, an obvious objective for any invasion force. There would surely be fighting there and Clawkill needed his companions at full strength.
    Before they closed in, Clawkill could sense the cargo hold contained other cons; their signals were registering through his enhanced sensors. He struggled to stop himself from sprinting to start the attack.
    ‘Prepare … for combat.’ He managed to growl over their personal comm. before bursting into the cargo bay. The first con had his back to him; Clawkill pounced onto his back, bringing him down hard to the flooring. The con’s companion had the briefest of instances to react; but no time to raise his weapon before Clawkill had bounded from the prone con under his metal paws and onto the surprised mech. Clawkill brought him down and clamped his jaws around his head. He felt his metal teeth pierce through the unfortunate con’s armour; he twisted and ripped the head away. The first con was struggling to his feet now; Clawkill swiped one of his forepaws at him, cleaving huge tears in his chest with his metal claws. The mech staggered and Clawkill was upon him to inflict the same fate as his companion.
    The Pretenders were in the cargo hold now and weapons fire slammed into them from the remaining cons. The shots did little to halt them, or inflict any damage. As the Pretenders continued their charge, the Decepticons ceased firing, fearful of a stray shot igniting the energon cubes in the cargo bay. They prepared their own energon melee weapons and valiantly joined the Pretenders in hand to hand fighting with a defiant war cry. The Pretenders were expert hand to hand fighters and had faced more overpowering odds in countless conflicts across the galaxy. It was a slaughter. A single con dropped his blade and turned and ran, but Clawkill brought him down before he’d even got to the far exit. For his cowardice, Clawkill toyed with him first, allowing the mech to suffer as he ripped one system after the other from his chassis. Kraken’s energon sword ended the poor mech’s suffering.
    ‘Enough.’ Kraken uttered the word, only slightly distinguishable above the ghost whispers from the dead planet. Clawkill stared back at him, planning his attack, imagining ripping the Pretender apart. He growled, a low guttural sound, which was felt as much as it was heard. He readied to pounce.
    ‘Clawkill.’ Kraken simply said and it pierced the rage. Clawkill shook his head and transformed. Turning his back on Kraken, he sent a message to Pulsar,
    ‘Cargo bay secure, no casualties.’
    ‘Acknowledged.’ Came the response. Clawkill ended the communication and punched a wall; he was furious at himself for nearly losing control. He’d been so close to attacking Kraken; nothing wrong with proving his strength, but he was under orders, he still had a job to do and ripping apart his own troops wouldn’t accomplish it.
    ‘Cutback, you and the others stay and hold this position.’ Kraken ordered the other Pretenders and then to Clawkill he said ‘Come on; let’s get to the secondary objective.’ Once they had left the cargo area and were out of audio sensor range of the others, Kraken continued talking.
    ‘No mech ever said mainstreaming was easy.’
    ‘That’s not what I’m doing.’
    ‘Oh yeah? It looks a whole lot like it to me.’ Clawkill pushed him aside and led the way along the passage way. The grey, solid walls were pockmarked from weapons fire; they had to step over the non-functioning bodies of attackers and defenders. The passage way had been the scene of heavy fighting.
    ‘There’s a reason why animechs stick together you know, you just proved it. They don’t mind the rough and tumble with their comrades; it lets the rage burn out safely, makes you a better unit. Mobiles, statics, they just don’t understand. They’ve no idea that sometimes you just have to transform, to go smash stuff up, to run, to go a bit crazy. Before just then, how long has it been since you’d transformed?’
    ‘Mind your own business. We’ve got a job to do.’
    ‘A long time huh? It shows. The problem with mainstreaming is you hold that part of you back; the statics and mobiles don’t have that problem. So that means you don’t transform, just to fit in. But that’s the problem; it makes it worse when you finally do. When you mainstream you try to forget the real you, but that’s the problem, it never forgets you.’
    ‘Shut it, I told you, I ain’t mainstreaming.’
    ‘So what is it you are doing? You’re trying to be a good soldier so the mighty Revaxus notices you and throws you a little energon for not being some feral primitive? That’s mainstreaming in my databank, what’s wrong with your own kind?’
    Clawkill transformed and leapt at Kraken. The Pretender had had enough chance to realise the attack was coming as Clawkill transformed and was able to sidestep enough so Clawkill’s jaws missed his head. However, they clamped around his arm instead. Clawkill pulled violently, twisting his head about and slamming Kraken against the walls of the passage way. Kraken was stunned and Clawkill let his grip go and pounced for Kraken’s head. The Pretender had managed to recover quicker than Clawkill had been expecting and dodged out of the way of the jaws and punched Clawkill savagely in the head and launched a kick into his side that spun the animech over. Kraken lunged with his energon sword, but Clawkill scrabbled out of the way and the blade sunk harmlessly into the deck. Clawkill lashed with his claws leaving deep marks in the Pretender’s shell and causing Kraken to let go of his weapon. Clawkill pounced again, sinking his teeth into Kraken’s shoulder, sending them staggering into the wall behind the Pretender. Kraken retaliated with heavy body punches as he registered that Clawkill was almost ripping the shell open at the shoulder with his metal fangs, but the animech’s bite wasn’t loosening. Burning energon, Kraken lifted the two of them up and charged into the opposite wall, with Clawkill’s back taking the impact and the shock causing him to lose his hold on the Pretender’s shoulder.
    ‘Good.’ Kraken simply said. He’d taken a step back from Clawkill, his defensive posture at odds with his choice of word. Clawkill watched him and lazily got back to his feet, keeping a neutral stance. Despite the violence, he was feeling calmer, more in control.
    ‘Thank you, I see your point, but I ain’t mainstreaming.’
    ‘Then what is it?’
    ‘I’ve known Revaxus since creation and we’ve worked for Shockwing nearly as long. We’ve busted a few heads over the stellar cycles, but just recently, things have changed a bit’
    ‘Like how, he wants you to forget your true nature?’
    ‘Nah, nothing like that. He’s got this, uh, ambition I’d guess you’d call it, to unite the Decepticons.’
    ‘Huh, every Warlord from here to the Foundation wants that. All a con wants is a little energon and something to shoot. Warlords are the same, they just hand out the energon, which by the way is the only reason I’m here.’
    ‘Revaxus is different, every other Warlord competes with the others, they’re just as likely to fight each other. But Revaxus sees the bigger picture, the Decepticons must unite behind one leader, then we can destroy the Autobots once and for all and take the galaxy, it’s what we were designed to do, what our creator wanted!’
    ‘You don’t buy into all that creator scrap do you?’
    ‘Don’t you? How else did we come to be?’ Kraken paused after the question, then turned his back to Clawkill and stalked off down the passageway.
    ‘Let’s get to that next objective.’

    Revaxus tore into the command room through the locked blast door, leading his troops: Skyline and the omni-upgraded pair of cons recruited from the Bastion, inside. The room was a scene of utter destruction, non-functioning mechs lay where they fell, the walls were crisscrossed with holes and tears from weapons fire and ruined machinery destroyed by heavy fighting littered the room.
    The omni-upgraged mechs called themselves the Electracons; their jet altmodes had general upgrades of speed and fuel efficiency, but their offensive omni-upgrades made them invaluable for finishing off the survivors that the group had come across. The upgrades had given them control over electricity; Bolter was equipped to use this control to turn his arms into powerful electromagnets which could be used to magnetise other metallic objects and then either attract or repel them, while Tremor’s ability allowed him to store a massive electrical charge which over a close range, could be dissipated into another mech, overloading and disabling circuitry. The upgrades, like all the omni-class upgrades, had their origins in Ancient technology rediscovered from the facilities left standing, but only experienced mechs with access to considerable energon were the only candidates for upgrades of this nature. For the two standard-tactical warriors to have such abilities suggested they were very good at what they did, Revaxus was pleased that Pulsar had obtained their services.
    ‘The command room is the most logical place where Shockwing should be found.’ Skyline reported, surveying the wreckage of the room.
    ‘Shockwing!’ Revaxus roared, ‘Where are you hiding?’ The others were silent, but could hear nothing, and then over their personal communication channel Pulsar broke the silence.
    ‘Commander, Clawkill has now reported that he has secured his two objectives, I have also taken the control room. My unit have repaired the internal sensors and I have now sent them to dispatch the remaining resistance. Commander, you should know that the sensors have detected Shockwing’s ident-sig. It is very weak, but is in his personal chamber.’
    ‘Very good Pulsar, once your team has eradicated the resistance, have them work on restoring the other functions of the base; I don’t want to lose it to Cybertron.’
    ‘Yes commander.’ Pulsar replied and ended the conversation. Revaxus crossed the room and stood facing the door to Shockwing’s personal chamber. He motioned to the Electracons and Bolter approached the thick, locked door. He casually cocked his head and raised his arms. Using his personal energon reserve, Bolter powered up his ability and magnetised the doors before him and then with his command over magnetism, he wrenched them from their holdings and then repelled the wreckage to the far side of the room behind him.
    Shockwing was lay on the floor, he’d taken several hits and had lost a leg, the large mech was only just functioning. Bolter’s partner Tremor stepped into the chamber; his sensors were heightened to electrical signal outputs. However, he could not detect any electrical system powering up; Shockwing had not rigged the room with weapon defences or traps. But there was an oddity about Shockwing himself though…
    A part of Shockwing’s armour over his chest smoothly broke away and transformed. Shockwing’s microcon companion’s jet mode fired its thrusters and streaked towards Tremor. But the Electracon activated his own offensive ability and struck the microcon with the maximum charge of electricity his installed omni-upgrade was capable of. The small jet crashed to the floor, small systems still held the massive electrical charge and the microcon spasmed on the floor and Tremor crushed it under foot. Shockwing limply lifted his rifle, but Bolter snatched the weapon away with his magnetic field capability.
    ‘I’ve got the part you wanted, Commander, now give me the Artefact it was intended for and I promise I’ll make the end swift.’ Revaxus said, coming into the room and standing above Shockwing.
    ‘Revaxus?’ Shockwing asked, confused. Then he looked back at the Electracons and laughed. The sound was tortured and laboured; his vocal emitter had taken damage.
    ‘Laugh all you want. You will cease to function by my hand.’ Shockwing continued laughing.
    ‘I have prepared myself for that; soon my spark shall re-join the Foundation. But Revaxus, your troubles are only just starting.’
    ‘Where is the Artefact?’ Revaxus hissed as he knelt over his former commander, but Shockwing only continued to laugh.
    ‘Tell me now!’ Revaxus roared. ‘Electracons, rip him apart.’
    ‘You don’t even know what the Artefact is! Do you know what it does? You’ve led this pathetic mutiny for something you have no idea about. Electracons are you? Revaxus is a fool, a weak fool. I guess you only follow him because he’s promised you energon. This base’s hold is full of it. I’ll pay you double to destroy Revaxus. Scrap, take it all, I’ve not got long now.’
    The two Electracons stood where they were, momentarily uncertain of what to do.
    ‘Do it quick,’ Shockwing said, ‘You might then have enough time to then get off this base before your troubles really start.’ The Electracons continued to hold their position, clearly weighing up the option in their minds, trying to judge whether or not they could best Revaxus and Skyline, then escape with the energon. Revaxus could almost see their thought processes and cursed himself for not having foreseen this event. Shockwing was a manipulative mech, very accomplished at getting his own way.
    ‘Commander, you need to see this.’ Pulsar’s voice came over the base’s communication network, breaking the silence in the command room. Every available viewscreen flicked to life, Pulsar’s voice continued over the communication system.
    ‘The remaining resistance of these other Decepticons was quickly dispatched and I reassigned some maintenance duties for the Engineer in the team with me, when he made a startling discovery.’ The image on every viewscreen was of an external view. In the bottom right hand corner of the screen the edge of the base was clearly visible, only with the image of the planet Cybertron in the distance. Pulsar continued:
    ‘While the base’s weapon systems have been completely destroyed by external weapons and the internal sensors were damaged, I discovered that the external sensors were not damaged at all.’ Between the image of the base and the distant planet, five shapes could be seen. As Revaxus watched, the shapes were gaining in size, clearly headed for the base.
    ‘The external sensors were merely switched off; upon reactivation I discovered this scene. It seems that the resistance we met was surprisingly weak for a reason, to keep our attention away just long enough from the real threat.’ The five shapes were Decepticon transports, from the scarring in their hulls they had appeared to have recently been engaged in a conflict, clearly with Shockwing’s base before they had destroyed the facility’s weapon systems.
    ‘Analysing their course suggests that they were hidden around the far side of Cybertron, they would have been invisible to our sensors when we approached. It would appear we have walked straight into a trap.’ Pulsar said.
    ‘Are the base’s weapon systems salvageable?’ Skyline asked
    ‘No, there is nothing to salvage. The guns have been completely destroyed.’
    ‘Commander, let me get back to one of the ships, maybe I can take a few out, and you could escape in the Nighthammer.’ Clawkill said over the communication system.
    ‘A wasted effort, just leaving the base’s dock would allow the attackers sufficient opportunity to destroy your vessel and that would have not brought us any time.’ Pulsar replied
    ‘Commander, the transports have not fired upon us, even though they are within optimum range. Perhaps, a violent confrontation might be avoided. They have taken great pains to ensure we remain on board this base: the weak resistance, the untouched energon in the hold. All of it orchestrated to keep us here long enough to approach.’ Skyline suggested.
    ‘You have a point Skyline.’ Pulsar conceded.
    ‘Scrap that, they’re going to be annihilated.’ Bolter said.
    ‘Silence.’ Revaxus commanded, and then over the base’s communication channel he said. ‘Decepticons, the cowards dare not fire upon this base, we hold the upper hand. If they board, we will crush them without effort. Refuel and rearm yourselves and then return to your objectives; we will not fail.’ No Decepticon responded, they carried out Revaxus’s order, even Shockwing remained silent.

    Pulsar watched the transports’ slow journey towards the base, but kept one optical sensor on the Gestalt team with him in the control room. They were veterans of numerous conflicts, their success a reflection of the mental bond they all shared, as a result of the Gestalt process. When not combined as their singular Super-chassis framed mech form, they worked exceptionally well together as a team. Pulsar could see them exchange glances; each recognized the unspoken words between their colleagues. Pulsar wondered if part of their success was from also knowing when to cut their losses and run. They were faced with a large opposing force, their contract had just turned from challenging to very difficult, and he wondered how much they actually wanted the energon promised to them. If they decided to flee, Pulsar knew he wouldn’t be able to stop them. However, he wondered whether perhaps he should go with them.

    The transports were almost within touching distance of the base, no mech on board had dared utter a word, they all solemnly watched the monitors with a grim fascination. The image suddenly crackled and was replaced with the face of a large chassis-framed Decepticon, his ident-sig bled out of the transmission too. Decatron. He was very powerful; his ident-sig screamed in the databanks of all the base-boarded cons, the numerous engagements he had won, the Autobots he had destroyed, the rank he held was all displayed personally to every member of Revaxus’s team.
    ‘Revaxus!’ Decatron roared over the communicator. ‘I come for the processor you have scurried back to Shockwing with. Your pathetic commander gave me no resistance; I already have the Artefact he hoped to unlock. Your commander should have been more careful to keep his secrets hidden; the Artefact will allow me to crush all my enemies, I will stop at nothing to activate it. Give me the processor now and I may spare some of your followers. But do not expect mercy, I would just as well destroy you and your deluded troops in this base. Another processor will be found eventually.’
    Revaxus saw the Electracons backing towards the door, he knew he was about to lose the very little he had accomplished. He was angered at the thought of all the more he had yet to accomplish still. Something else had once burned through his circuits, something that made him the mech he was now. That something wouldn’t ever let him give up so easily. With a mental command, he opened up a channel to Decatron.
    ‘Very well, I will give it to you.’
    ‘A coward, just like your commander. You have made the right choice Revaxus.’
    ‘However, you must first best me in one on one combat.’ Decatron roared with laughter.
    ‘You will be destroyed utterly, little mech, just give me the processor and I may spare your existence.’
    ‘This base’s hold is full of energon, I have rigged it with explosives.’ Revaxus lied. ‘Refuse my offer and I will detonate it and destroy this base and everything onboard. Fight me one on one and my troops will give you the processor. If you are as mighty as your ident-sig claims, you will expend less energy besting me, than scouring for another Ancient site with a functioning processor. Besides, I would prefer to be destroyed by the great Decatron, than an energon explosion.’ Decatron laughed again.
    ‘You amuse me little con. Very well I accept, but when I win I will also take the loyalty of your troops.’
    ‘Very well, but promise me the same.’
    ‘Yes, my army is yours to command if you destroy me. But if you do, you will also command their respect.’
    ‘It honours me that you accept my challenge.’
    ‘That will not save you, where would like to meet your end?’
    ‘Below, on the planet Cybertron.’
    ‘What trickery is this? No con can stand on the surface without being destroyed utterly. We will both meet our end and then my army shall destroy yours and your end will have been for nothing.’
    ‘There is a substance, Rheanimum, that used as a coating will make us invulnerable to the J’nwan that pollutes the planet. I will transmit its formula and the production parameters for it, along with a suitable site of the planet for our clash. Have your scientists analyse the substance and you will see this is no trick.’
    ‘Very well, I agree to your terms.’

    In the control room, Pulsar looked at the specifications of the Rheanimum that Revaxus had also transmitted to him.
    ‘What the scrap is that?’ The Engineer from the Gestalt team asked, looking at the data alongside Pulsar.
    ‘I have no idea; it isn’t even anything Shockwing was working on. My guess is that it’s some sort of Ancient technology, but I have no idea how Revaxus would know what it was. Can you synthesize it?’
    ‘Of course I can! What do you take me for?’ He asked; the other members of his team bridled at the irritation.
    ‘Forgive the question. Let’s get to work.’

    The one mech escape pod carrying Revaxus hurtled towards the planet Cybertron, the one carrying Decatron was visible through the pod’s exterior sensors; both were headed to the same point on the surface as they bucked through the dead planet’s atmosphere. The pods only contained enough fuel for one and a half trips, as previously agreed. The victor from the fight would have to combine the fuel from the other pod to theirs before being able to take off from the planet again.
    The Rheanimum was working better than Revaxus had expected, it had already cut out the constant chatter of voices emanating from Cybertron; he had no doubt it would protect him from the destructive effects of the J’nwan that covered the world.
    Revaxus’s pod landed in the centre of an arena in the northern hemisphere of Cybertron, the preselected venue for the subsequent fight.
    Revaxus left the confines of the pod and stood in the center of the arena, the first mech to have done so since the end of the Ancients. The arena was a perfect circle around him, surrounded by walls that would dwarf any super chassis-framed mech. Above the walls were rows and rows of seats and a grid of walkways; Revaxus could only imagine how once those seats were filled with thousands of mechs. Now only dust and grit sat there, deposited by the storm winds of the J’nwan. The walls around the arena were pockmarked where gladiators had fought. The edges of the holes were now badly corroded, the alloy having been stressed and battered over the subsequent time. Two doors in opposite sides of the arena that had once allowed combatants into the pit remained shut. After all the vorns that had passed since they had first been closed, Revaxus doubted they would ever open again. He turned his head skyward to watch Decatron’s pod thunder in; it narrowly missed the solitary observation tower built into the arena wall, before it impacted into the seating area, ripping gouges through the metal alloy before coming to a halt. The pod was ruined, meaning that Revaxus’ was the only one capable to returning back to orbit.
    Decatron kicked his way out of the pod and dropped down into the arena. He was a Triple Changer and Revaxus had heard many stories about their combat effectiveness. The process of adding a third mode to a Transformer improved the mech’s strength, armour and speed, with transformation times close to that of a Battlecharger. But the tactical advantage of having three modes greatly outweighed the other byproducts of the process. However, Revaxus hoped this meant Decatron suffered with a common trait amongst Triple Changers: over confidence.
    With the drama of Decatron’s escape pod landing, silence resumed around them. A stillness was in the air, as if the arena was in the eye of a storm. Decatron lumbered through the dust of the arena floor, particulates accumulating against his green armour. He was a large chassis-framed mech, but the Triple Changer process had left him slightly taller and bulkier than Revaxus.
    ‘A fitting place.’ He conceded and raised his battle rifle and fired. The Rheanimum coating had added extra mass to the combatants, something that Decatron hadn’t accounted for, allowing Revaxus to dodge away from the hail of ultra-dense solid slugs. Decatron followed it up with a volley from his shoulder cannon, but Revaxus was already in motion and leapt away, but was just caught in the blast radius and flung to the ground, his own battle rifle flung from his grasp. Decatron transformed into his aerial weapon platform mode, adjusting his thrusters he fired a full strength blast into Revaxus’s position. A cloud of dust and a storm of splintered metal alloy showered the arena and Decatron gained height and prepared for another blast to ensure his victory. However, Revaxus had managed to dive away from the first strike; Decatron had not completely recalibrated to account for the Rheanimum. Under cover of the dust he transformed to his jet mode and accelerated up out of the fog of scrapped alloy, firing his fixed guns.
    Revaxus had miscalculated Decatron’s position but the salvo caused the Triple Changer to evade the volley, allowing Revaxus to rocket past. Decatron pitched around and powered after him, away from the arena. Revaxus banked randomly through Cybertron’s atmosphere, to ensure Decatron could not get a weapon lock on him. Revaxus flew fast, easily faster than the aerial weapon platform mode of Decatron, forcing the Triple Changer to burn energon to keep up.
    Decatron’s shots at first appeared wild and Revaxus was easily able to evade them, but when he tried to bank hard in an effort to return to the arena, he realized Decatron’s purpose. The shots were keeping Revaxus on a fixed course, chosen by the Triple Changer. Their flight was rapidly taking them towards an Ancient city, flying through the towering skyscrapers would cause Revaxus to slow down and allow Decatron to catch him. The shots were coming heavier and wilder now as Revaxus flew through the forest of buildings. Metal alloy fragments from the empty buildings, struck from Decatron’s weapon mushroomed into the air around Revaxus. He’d slowed as much as he dared, turning hard he avoided a falling spire, but flew into a shower of debris. Large blocks thumped into him, stealing all his momentum. He transformed back to robot mode and dropped, eager not to make himself an easy target in the air. He landed hard on a wide walkway below, instinctively rolling forwards and avoided a scattering of low powered blasts from Decatron. He abruptly changed his direction and leapt off the side of the walkway, just as it erupted around him. From the next walkway, he risked a glance behind him just in time to see Decatron transform from his aerial weapon platform mode into a hulking animech form. The swift movements in this mode seemed at odds with his bulky, powerful four legged stance. Decatron bounded through the remains of the walkway and dropped effortlessly down. Revaxus continued his decent until at last he was stood on the ground, he spun around, his mortar cannon armed, but he was too late, Decatron dropped on top of him. Revaxus staggered under the weight as Decatron’s metal teeth dug deep into his arm. Revaxus flung a few punches into Decatron’s side, but he couldn’t loosen the Triple Changer’s hold. He felt his armour begin to fizz and pop, as though the Rheanimum had been burned through and he was about to be consumed by the J’nwan. Decatron’s grip loosened and Revaxus could tell his opponent felt it too, and was at last able to throw him off. The wind picked up and the two of them were hammered by dust and loose pieces of metal alloy, Revaxus aimed and fired, but his shot went wide as his arm was struck by debris as the wind strengthened. He staggered against the force and he felt his spark flutter, his databank reported it had crashed and was struggling to restore itself. His opponent was having problems too; Decatron had tried to use the time to transform, but his cerebro circuitry had become confused and the process was taking painfully too long. Revaxus raised his cannon, but has hit hard in the back by a scrap of the torn walkway from above having been carried by the storm around them. On his knees, he tried to aim again, but he just could not compute the angle to use to hit his target. Decatron was in mid transformation still, a situation that made any Transformer vulnerable to the smallest attack. Revaxus activated the small energon blade he carried and half staggered half crawled towards his opponent, but then his optical sensors failed.
    Revaxus flailed about with the weapon, groping forward, eager to find his opponent. Impacts from storm blown debris ceased and Revaxus got back to his feet and readied his cannon. His spark had strengthened and all he needed was for his optics to function, then he would quickly dispatch his foe. But he was wholly unprepared for the sight that greeted him when they did.
    Cybertron had changed. Completely. The walkways, the skyscrapers, the metal alloy buildings, were gone, all of them. Revaxus and Decatron were stood in a field. The ground was a rich green, covered in organic plant forms that Revaxus had seen on countless other carbon based organic worlds. In the distance were buildings made from stone, presumably crafted from the material in the ground. The sky was a rich blue, with white cloud formations visible above them.
    Decatron looked around in shock, almost unable to comprehend what had happened. Unfortunately, Revaxus had spent many breems in the service of Shockwing around Cybertron and after the shock of his system failures had ended, he knew instantly what had happened. He raised his cannon and fired at Decatron, now fully in his robot mode. The impact sent him onto his back, digging through the organic plant material and revealing the thick carbon based soil beneath it. Revaxus fired again. And again. At such close range the shots tore through Decatron’s armour.
    The J’nwan had resulted from a fissure in the space time fabric in one location of Cybertron many vorns ago; Shockwing had been obsessed with it. His studies had shown that it had slowly mutated and then spread to consume all of Cybertron. He’d monitored the storms that blew around it, recorded the reality distortions that they caused. The green, organic world was a common sight for Shockwing, as well as for Revaxus. One of Shockwing’s hypotheses had been that the J’nwan had started as a repair function, to fix the planet after many vorns of heavy fighting. But somehow that had become corrupted. A massive error had occurred, possibly as a result of a large decisive battle on the planet, or a cosmic event. The J’nwan had over time spread across the planet, creating pockets of different realities; all inhospitable to any form of life Shockwing had sent to the surface. He had recorded three common Cybertron realities contained within the J’nwan: a dead, war scarred metal world, a rich organic planet where carbon based plant matter remained untouched by the destructive J’nwan, and a final metallic Cybertron untouched by the fury of war, possibly the goal of Shockwing’s hypothetical repair function. There were other realities, but their appearance was too fleeting to catalogue. However, Revaxus knew that as soon as this current reality bubble was blown past by the J’nwan winds, his previous location would return.
    Revaxus crouched over Decatron’s body and raised his energon blade.
    ‘Know that your death will start a new era for the Decepticons. Your troops will now serve me, the messenger for my new master. Megatron.’ He plunged the blade down into the Triple Changer and removed his head. Lifting his prize, Revaxus roared his triumph at the wispy clouds far above him.
     
  3. uklangor

    uklangor Active Member

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    Chapter 3

    Ingeneous came back on-line suddenly like a switch had been flicked inside his cerebro circuitry. The effect was instantaneous and he sat up from his prone position. He recognised that he was in some sort of repair bay; monitoring equipment was attached to the inspection table on which he was lay, while other machinery was fixed to the walls. With her back to him, Roadstalker was the only other occupant of the room. She appeared deep in study at a console.
    ‘What happened?’ Ingeneous asked, his voice surprisingly strong and clear. Roadstalker whipped round in shock and looked alarmed to see that Ingeneous was functioning. She quickly recovered and dashed to his side to stop him getting up.
    ‘I’m fine.’ He declared.
    ‘No, no. You’ve been off-line for some time; you need to be careful…’ She said as she checked the data from the monitoring equipment. ‘Actually, you’re right. You are fine.’ She said and backed away to let Ingeneous stand.
    ‘What happened, where are we?’ He asked again.
    ‘Those Decepticons on Cro, well they got back to their ship and then they bombed the whole RES facility. It’s just a bunch of scrap now sinking into the ocean. We managed to escape on the Master’s ship.’
    ‘I need to get to the bridge.’ Ingeneous said, striding towards the exit. Roadstalker stepped in front of him.
    ‘Ingeneous what happened to you?’ We dug you out of the rubble, that Ancient machine was destroyed, but you were untouched; not a scratch on you.’
    ‘I don’t remember. I must have just been lucky.’
    ‘Something happened to you. While you were off-line, you, um, you were mumbling something. I didn’t recognise anything you said, but it sure freaked out some of the others.’
    ‘Let me guess: Wildfire.’
    ‘I’m not going to name any ident-sigs, but I’m sure you can imagine. I’ve seen the reports about your, um, previous ‘episode’, well we all have. I told them that your vocal emitter was damaged, which seemed to calm them down. But, you were off-line, it was impossible for you vocal emitter to even be active, let alone malfunctioning in that way.’
    ‘Roadstalker, I can’t explain what happened. I just remember being in the chamber and then coming back on-line here.’
    ‘Hmm. There’s something else as well. What can you tell me about the functional cycle of a Transformer?’
    ‘I’m sorry; I really should get to the bridge. Can we do this later?’
    ‘Ingeneous this is important. Please, just answer my question.’
    ‘Ok, well, we are constructed by the Source as Protoforms and then we become Transformers.’
    ‘What’s the difference between a Protoform and a Transformer?’
    ‘Physically? Nothing.’
    ‘But in terms of mental computational processing power, a Transformer is more mature?’
    ‘Yes, a Protoform has to adapt to their surroundings, understand their place in society, develop an idea of what their function should be.’
    ‘And how do they do that?’
    Ingeneous was silent for a moment while he considered Roadstalker’s question.
    ‘To be honest, I’ve never really thought about that.’ He replied at last.
    ‘Most bots don’t. The answer is data.’
    ‘Data?’
    ‘Yes. Every sight, sound, electrical input, every thought, every experience a mech has is stored as units of data inside their databank.’
    ‘Okay, I’m with you so far.’
    ‘As a Protoform’s databank starts filling up it eventually reaches an initial size limit, something that we call a rank. Upon reaching this limit, or rank, the Protoform’s databank transforms to enable it to store a larger amount of data units; the act of the databank transforming also has a knock on effect of transforming other systems inside the Protoform. The Protoform is then locked onto its chosen function, but is also now able to adapt easily to new situations, challenge its original program and system limitations. It unlocks the Protoform’s true sense of identity and sentientism. It is then classed as a Transformer.’
    ‘The Right of Autobranding.’
    ‘Correct, we celebrate the transformation of the Protoform, but the maturation process doesn’t stop there.’
    ‘It doesn’t?’
    ‘Have you ever been upgraded?’
    ‘Of course, most bots have. Just a few general system upgrades, a little enhanced strength, stronger armour, not much else.’
    ‘What has stopped you upgrading further?’
    ‘Well the amount of energon and metal alloy needed to run the equipment.’
    ‘But what else?’
    After a moment’s thought Ingeneous replied.
    ‘Usually the bot operating the equipment, or the equipment itself if fully automated. I just pick from the options available. I’d thought it had been regulated by Command.’
    ‘It’s regulated by your own databank. Even as a Transformer you still fill your databank with data, as you reach new storage size ranks within it, your databank has to transform and evolve too. This still causes other systems within you to transform and evolve. Before long, your system has evolved enough to be able to handle modifications or upgrades. Not just general upgrades either.’
    ‘You mean the omni-upgrades?’
    ‘Yes or even one of the four Reconfigurations. But normally you must have passed several ranks and skipped a few general upgrades for your system to handle a Reconfiguration. We use the level of rank inside a mech’s databank as a guide to the age of the bot. The higher the rank, the older the Transformer.’
    ‘Ok I get it, so that’s why older Transformers might have had a Reconfiguration or omni-upgrades; they’ve collected more data and their systems have evolved enough to handle it.’
    ‘Exactly.’
    ‘I’m sorry Roadstalker, but what does this have to do with me?’
    ‘While you were off-line I ran a diagnostic on your databank. I was able to monitor its historical upload of data. In between you walking into that chamber at the RES facility and then being dug out of the rubble, your databank received a massive volume of data and has evolved past six ranks. Such a feat would take a frontline soldier involved in continuous combat, or a scientist conducting solid research several vorns to achieve. For it to have happened to you in such a tiny fragment of time is unheard of, and I’d like to know just exactly what that data is.’

    Wildfire glowered across the bridge of the Master’s ship, the Sparkhaven, at Topspeed’s back. The Master had refused any treatment from Roadstalker and stood next to the Pilot’s Pod, his missing arm and damaged cranial ports acting as a reminder of his dominance. He claimed he didn’t want to leave the bridge, but Wildfire suspected that Topspeed didn’t want a non-Master scientist attending to his wounds. He also guessed that Topspeed was afraid of Wildfire taking command of the ship in his absence.
    After the attack by the Decepticon ship, Wildfire led what survivors he could immediately find to the Sparkhaven, Steelrain was the only functioning bot with a pilot-plug upgrade and so connected with the Pod and started to take the ship up. Wildfire ordered him to pursue the Decepticons; whatever they had stolen was worth a great deal to them and therefore he couldn’t allow them to escape with it. Topspeed had ordered against it. He told Steelrain to instead use the Sparkhaven’s sensors to find other survivors in the rapidly sinking RES facility. Frustratingly, Wildfire couldn’t blame the mini-bot from following the Master’s orders. But once he’d followed one, he had to follow them all and they were now on course for the Master’s adopted world.
    Wildfire reviewed again the transmission he’d sent using Sparkhaven’s communication array, and the reply. He’d sent a private message to his previous commander, briefing him of the situation. The reply was simple: Proceed with current course. Resume contact upon landing. Wildfire didn’t like his situation, but he’d always followed orders. He’d just sit tight and contact the commander when they got there. At least it looked like his Ingeneous assignment was over. It was some comfort as he watched the viewscreen and saw their destination slowly coming into view: the planet Earth.

    ‘I’m sorry Roadstalker, but I don’t know what the data is you’re talking about.’
    ‘Ingeneous your databank has increased by six ranks; you’ve absorbed a lot of data in a very short space of time. Are you telling me you have no idea what it is?’
    ‘I wish I could tell you, but I can’t.’
    ‘Something happened in that chamber didn’t it?’
    ‘Nothing, except-‘
    ‘Except what?’
    ‘The machine, it called to me I think.’
    ‘It called to you? But its processor was missing; it shouldn’t have been able to.’
    ‘Just before the Decepticon ship attacked, it called to me. Well, it thought I was someone else.’
    ‘Who?’
    ‘I don’t know, some Ancient I think. I’m not familiar with the name. But, I felt some sort of connection. Just for a briefest moment we were joined. But I don’t remember anything else.’
    ‘Hmm. Can you review the data in your databank? See what it is? The machine must have given you some sort of information.’
    ‘No. I’ve been trying since you told me about it. I can’t access it. If you hadn’t told me it was there, I would never have noticed.’
    ‘Well, maybe when we get to Earth the Masters might be able to help us find out just what is in your databank.’
    ‘We’re going to Earth?’
    ‘Yes. Topspeed took command of the ship.’

    Wildfire watched as Earth grew bigger on the viewscreen. The planet had once been home to a race of organic creatures the size of microbots, but had long since vanished from the planet. Archaeological examinations of other Ancient sites had suggested the planet Earth had been significant to them; indeed, the planet had several Ancient constructions dotted over its surface. Research conducted here had revealed a traumatic history for the planet since the arrival of the Transformers. The Earth natives had actively been involved in the Great War, but the planet had suffered great disasters as a direct influence from the Transformers. The planet had eventually become inhospitable for its people; exploration of the planet had shown billions of the natives had perished, its cities burned and its greatest achievements destroyed. Yet at several locations on the larger land masses ship yards were discovered. The natives of Earth had had time to evacuate some of its population before they had all perished.
    The doors opened and Ingeneous stepped onto the bridge.
    ‘Why are we headed for Earth?’ He asked of Topspeed.
    ‘My mission on Cro failed, I need to return home.’
    ‘Mine has too, we should have returned to the Source for debriefing.’
    ‘Don’t worry. I’ve sent my superiors a report. They’re expecting you. In fact Emirate Zusasson is on Earth and will debrief you personally.’
    ‘What? The Emirate never leaves the Source!’ Wildfire snapped.
    ‘Emirate Zusasson regularly tours the home planets. The Emirate is a frequent visitor to Earth; and is in fact the only one of our leaders that bothers to make the trip.’
    ‘But it’s not safe for the Emirate to travel so much.’
    ‘Emirate Zusasson is perfectly safe on Earth.’
    ‘Enough.’ Ingeneous commanded and Topspeed and Wildfire kept an angry silence. ‘Who made it off Cro with us?’
    ‘The three of us, obviously.’ Topspeed began, ‘Steelrain along with Burnout and Flashstorm are the only mini-bots we were able to rescue. Then there was Groundking and Roadstalker, we did several sweeps of the RES, but we couldn’t find any other functioning bot I’m afraid.’
    ‘Thank you, I owe you my life.’ Ingeneous replied. Topspeed waved his hand indifferently and turned his attention back to the viewscreen. They all watched silently as Sparkhaven descended through Earth’s atmosphere, before soaring over one of the planet’s continents towards its destination of the largest Ancient location on the planet, identified by the absent natives as Mt St Hilary.

    The site of the dormant volcano had once held a great Ancient base at its foot, but now it and the surrounding lad were covered by new buildings and constructions. The Masters newly arriving on Earth were keen to protect and study the site, while making it accessible for others. It had soon become an area of great interest to many bots with even a passing interest in the Ancients, and City One had soon been built over it, acting as a space port and a place of study; eventually becoming the capital city of the Masters on their adopted homeworld.
    Sparkhaven gently landed at the spaceport at the pinnacle of City One; refuelling umbilicals quickly attached themselves, while a disembarkation tunnel slotted into place against the forward hatch of the transport. A small group of Masters greeted them; Topspeed was escorted away to be repaired, Ingeneous was taken to an audience chamber and the rest of the Autobots were taken to a communal lounge and given full access to the services the room provided.

    The audience chamber was located deep in the bowels of City One, after being led into it; Ingeneous was left alone by his escorts. The room was large and was fitted with varying equipment; numerous terminals and communication and sensor access points were connected to the various workstations of the room. The wall opposite to the entrance door was made entirely of a transparent alloy giving Ingeneous a view of the sacred volcano at the heart of City One.
    Even after all this time since its discovery, Ingeneous was amazed to see still so much activity in the Ancient structure built into the base of the volcano. Numerous mechs of different sizes and functions were busy down there; running sensor scans, excavations, equipment extraction and repairs, the Masters still seemed convinced that there were more secrets to be found.
    The activity reminded Ingeneous that he had failed in his own mission at the RES. The tech team under his command should have been able to carry out their duties as much as the bots at Mt St. Hilary. Such a simple duty, but many of them now ceased to function. He should have been prepared, he should have requested sensor sweeps before starting the work duties, maybe have ordered Burnout’s scout team to have patrolled the facility. This all proved Wildfire right, he was unfit for command, his ‘episode’ had made him unsuitable for his function. Ingeneous could just now imagine the survivors of the RES were being debriefed; their information would be proof of Ingeneous’s failings. Maybe he should just volunteer to be returned to the Source?
    The door to the audience chamber smoothly opened and two mechs entered. The first was a large mech; his ident-sig told Ingeneous that this was Stronghold, the Masters’ leader and the commander of City One. Stronghold was very old and very accomplished. His devotion to the Master’s Reconfiguration was total; his head, engine and the two weapons mounted on his arm and shoulder were all his personal microbot companions. The microbots, along with Stronghold, were swollen with a great number of general-upgrades, giving the commander a majestic appearance; indeed he entered the room with a regal stride.
    His companion, however, had a more humbling effect on Ingeneous. He didn’t need to access her ident-sig to recognise Emirate Zusasson at Stronghold’s side. She looked fragile next to his bulk and her standard-light frame appeared unassuming and inconspicuous as she matched his pace across the room.
    Ingeneous bowed his head reverentially as he humbly greeted them into his presence.
    ‘Commander Ingeneous, thank you for meeting with us.’ Emirate Zusasson said, her voice as gentle as she appeared.
    ‘The honour is mine, Emirate.’ Ingeneous replied, his head still bowed. Stronghold laughed.
    ‘No need for that formality here Ingeneous. You’re among friends.’ He said. Ingeneous relaxed his posture and tried to meet the Master’s optics. Even though they were both large mechs, the upgrading that Stronghold had received meant he was the tallest bot in the room.
    ‘I apologise for what happened on Cro. It was entirely my fault; I should have done more to ensure the facility was secure.’ He started.
    ‘I sympathise with you, and I feel sorrow for the brave Autobots who perished. However, they are now one with the Source; we shall meet them again when we finally return, too. But Ingeneous, do not worry about your actions there, you could not have known the Decepticons would attack.’ Zusasson said.
    ‘Thank you Emirate.’
    ‘Ingeneous, while the loss of any Autobot life is cause for sorrow that is not why we have requested an audience with you.’ Stronghold replied.
    ‘It isn’t?’ Zusasson and Stronghold shared a glance between them, almost as if unsure how to proceed with the subject. After a brief pause, the Emirate spoke.
    ‘Do you know the name Optimus Prime?’

    Wildfire watched the other mechs solemnly from his corner of the lounge in which they had been left. City One was the last place in the galaxy in which he’d ever want to visit and now he was stuck there. He’d checked the doors and they were all locked, it looked like they weren’t going anywhere. He’d tried occupying himself with scenarios for escape; perhaps Roadstalker and Groundking could maybe break the locks, Burnout and the other two minibots could scout their path and they could sneak back to the Sparkhaven, maybe even take off. But he doubted they’d be allowed to get far, it also meant they might have to bust a few heads on their way. None of the others were armed, but Wildfire’s triggerbot omni-upgrade meant that he sported some serious concealed weaponry; he could certainly shoot his way out. But Masters or not, they were still Autobots and Wildfire followed the Autobot Code, besides, he doubted the others would follow. Roadstalker was busying herself accessing the historical information of the Ancient sites on Earth and Roadking seemed to be marvelling at the equipment present in the room. Burnout was more Wildfire’s type of mech, but the minibot and his two companions were huddled together, the loss of the other members of their team seemed to have taken a greater toll on them. They didn’t look ready for action; they’d refuelled at the energon point in the room, now they seemed to be defragmenting their databanks; their silent, immobile forms appearing more like statues.
    With a loud click, one of the doors opened. Wildfire, Groundking and Roadstalker turned to watch as standard-tactical sized Autobot stood in the doorway.
    ‘Wildfire?’ He simply asked and the strategist pushed away from the wall against which he was leaning and stepped forward.
    ‘This way please.’ The bot said and Wildfire followed him out of the room, the door closing silently behind them. He noticed that it didn’t lock; he guessed that their hosts weren’t worried about his companions trying to escape.

    ‘Optimus Prime?’ Ingeneous repeated.
    ‘Ingeneous relax. We know you know the name; we’ve read the uncensored report about your ‘episode’. Stronghold replied.
    ‘We also owe you an apology,’ Zusasson started, ‘what happened to you has happened to other mechs, but that fact has been hidden from general knowledge to prevent civil unrest. You are the first junior ranked Autobot it has happened to; your commanders had no knowledge of what was happening to you at the time. We couldn’t directly involve ourselves or we would have risked revealing the truth, which would have had disastrous consequences. I’m sorry you were subjected to so many treatments and such intensive study. I used my influence from afar to try and quash some of the reports and proposed procedures, but I know you suffered greatly.’
    Ingeneous turned from them and paced back to the transparent alloy. Different feelings and thoughts chased themselves through his mind, was this good news or bad? He was not alone in what happened to him, but he’d been left to suffer at the scrutiny of others. Surely that was not the Autobot way! His clenched fist came up, his arm shaking with rage. He slowly computed how much force and the location he’d need to land the blow to shatter the clear barrier before him. The old doubts came back; this will only show them you clearly are unbalanced. Indecision gripped him; he needed to let his anger out. But Emirate Zusasson’s delicate fingers wrapped themselves around his arm, she applied the tiniest of pressure, a force unable to compete with Ingeneous’s strength if he so chose, but he let her guide his arm back to his side, his anger melting, as if her touch chased it away.
    ‘I’m sorry.’ She whispered, and he realised he would forgive her anything.
    ‘So who is he?’ Ingeneous finally asked, turning back round to face Stronghold.
    ‘He’s an Ancient, one of their leaders. Many of the records from their time are damaged or lost, after the Disappearance Event many Ancient sites were attacked by other species in an attempt to completely purge Transformer kind from the galaxy. However from what data we have uncovered, it seems that once Optimus was given the role of Prime he vanished from the records for a very long period of time. When he resurfaced he was based here, on Earth, and was involved in some of the most serious conflicts of the Ancient period. He finally perished after conflict with a powerful Decepticon Ancient.’ Stronghold said.
    ‘But that doesn’t explain how he did what he did to me.’ Ingeneous replied.
    ‘Optimus Prime has taken direct control over several high ranking commanders in the Autobot army throughout our own history. This usually coincides with important battles and war efforts; he normally takes control, issues commands, fights engagements and then leaves. His involvement is enough to ensure victory; every other mech possessed by the spirit of Optimus is returned back to normal functionality and are always unharmed. We see it that Optimus is trying to lead us in our plight against the Decepticons, he is our creator and is watching over us.’ Emirate Zusasson said.
    ‘Optimus Prime is the Source?’
    ‘Well, some believe that.’ Stronghold said, ‘but I have my doubts. If he is capable of doing this, why not just create a new body for himself, take permanent control over the Autobots?’
    ‘Studies have shown that during possession events, the power of the Source increases exponentially. It absorbs greater amounts of energon and alloy, but no Protoform is produced. The energy flares are noticeable from neighbouring systems. He limits his manifestation to limit the energy flares; he has to hide his presence.’ The Emirate replied.
    ‘Those energy flares could be the result of anything, we do not fully understand just what the Source is or what it is capable of. The flares might just be a natural occurrence.’
    ‘But if Optimus Prime is the Source, is it not reasonable that the Decepticons’ Foundation is similar in nature? The Source creates Autobots, we are created by Optimus’s design and specification, he was one of the greatest Autobots in Ancient times. So then surely, the Decepeticons are created by the will of an Ancient too! If the Decepticons were able to monitor and trace the energy flares to their origin, then we lose. He hides to protect us all and only intervenes when entirely necessary.’
    ‘That’s a lot of assumptions, Emirate. But that doesn’t explain why he possessed Ingeneous here.’
    ‘Please forgive our argument Ingeneous. But Stronghold does have a point; your case does not fit the model of Optimus Prime’s previous interventions. Every other mech who has felt his spirit has been an experienced commander, with hundreds of bots under their command.’
    ‘When it happened to me I was leading a strike force against the Decepticons in the Voranik System. I’d punched through their defences and we’d taken hold of the objective. But I’d made an error, I’d timed the attack too early and reinforcements were still too far out. The Decepticons had regrouped and we were going to be slaughtered. But Optimus took over; it was like I was semi off-line. I was functional, but I had no control over my body. Optimus did it all for me. He took charge, issued commands, organised my troops, I just watched. But he did it, we held out until the reinforcements got there and the Voranik System is still under Autobot control.’
    ‘You were responsible for reclaiming the Voranik System? I had no idea, I didn’t realise Masters were that involved in frontline actions’
    ‘Masters aren’t. That’s the thing, when Optimus takes over, you realise that you’re just not as good as you thought you were. If he hadn’t intervened, we would have lost many many good mechs. I hadn’t been Reconfigured before then, but afterwards, I realised I was not good enough for command. So I became a Master, like every other bot who’s been possessed, I felt that I was destined for something else, that I could help in other ways. That’s why we’ve asked to meet with you.’
    ‘You’re inviting me to become a Master?’
    ‘I’m afraid not Ingeneous.’ Zusasson replied. ‘We believe your destiny lies elsewhere. When Optimus intervened with yourself, your situation was vastly different to every other time he has intervened. We think it is a sign from Optimus.’
    ‘A sign for what?’
    ‘That you are to be our next Prime.’ Stronghold said.

    Even though the bot was masking his ident-sig, Wildfire could tell he was a warrior by the confident and powerful stride he took as he led the two of them deeper into the bowels of City One. Wildfire covertly glanced at his companion; the oversized energo-sword held at his back suggested that the warrior had received the Laser class omni-upgrade, while the retracted blade assembly housing on his left forearm hinted that he had the Rotor-force omni-upgrade too. Wildfire hypothesised that this meant several things: he was a very skilled melee combat fighter and he was of considerable rank to be able to utilise two omni-upgrades. Wildfire also noted that the warrior was not a Master. He deduced that he was a messenger from his previous commander, pretty soon all this would be over; he just needed to debrief and then he’d soon be reassigned.
    The warrior unlocked a small audience chamber and let Wildfire inside.
    ‘Here.’ He said and tossed a hand sized cube to him and then let the door shut between them. Wildfire looked down at the item; it was an info-cube with the face of Ultra Extremus on four of the sides. Wildfire looked at it in astonishment; Ultra Extremus was the head of Autobot Defence and Security, why would he record a message specifically for him? Wildfire was confident about his performance on the assignment, but surely it didn’t warrant a personal message from the Ultra. Surprised, he thumbed the button on the top of the cube and the recording began to play.
    ‘Wildfire,’ the sombre tones of Ultra Exremus began, ‘your assignment with Ingeneous is not yet complete and although I know it is a mission far below your abilities, I need you there now more than ever.’

    ‘The next Prime? You’re wrong, I’m not good enough!’ Ingeneous remarked.
    ‘Your refusal merely adds strength to our statement. I think Optimus has chosen wisely.’ He replied with a smile.
    ‘But if you’re looking for the next Prime, then does that mean…’
    ‘No, he still functions, praise the Source, and he still leads our armies. Optimus has never possessed a Prime; he knows that to do so would bring doubt to the mind of the Prime once he left the host, it would cause wide unease and panic through the army. We think Optimus was intervened with yourself as a sign, to let us know that you should be our next Prime.’ Zusasson said.
    ‘But I’m not ready, I’ve only commanded a few mechs before, what do I know about leading the Autobot army?’
    ‘That’s just it. Optimus has shown us that you have the raw talent, we just need to make sure we hone your talent, to make you into the Prime He knows you can be.’

    ‘I wish I did not have news as dark as this Wildfire, but you need to hear it to understand the severity of the situation.’ The recording of Ultra Extremus continued. ‘I fear that at the very highest levels of Autobot government there is a plan to overthrow Prime and replace him with a puppet of their own design. As you know rulership of the Autobots is split between four mechs: the Alpha, the Emirate, the Ultra and the Prime. You know as well as I do that the areas that these mechs are responsible for should be kept separate, but with a puppet Prime, one mech will control half our government. To ensure fairness and equality to every Autobot, you know this cannot be allowed to happen. Wildfire, I fear that Emirate Zusasson is embarking on a plan to groom the mentally unstable Ingeneous to be her own puppet and then with the support of the Masters she will engineer Ingeneous to become the next Prime.’ Wildfire paused the recording, he needed time for what he’d just heard to sink in. He had little respect for Ingeneous and his mental instability was well documented. But the Emirate planning on over-throwing Prime? He couldn’t believe it, but if it were true, that would only lead to civil war.

    ‘But I can’t just become the next Prime, there’s so much I need to learn first. I just don’t compare.’
    ‘Humility is just one of the virtues of a good Prime. Ingeneous you’ll be fine.’ Zusasson said in her soothing voice.
    ‘Don’t worry, there’s much we need to do before then.’ Stronghold began. ‘We’ve got our work cut out for us with all the bad data floating around about your ‘situation’ but we’ll guide you. We’ve got an assignment for you that will win you a lot of credit.’
    ‘You’ve got a lot of faith in me.’ Ingeneous replied.
    ‘Yes we do, but so does Optimus. You need to believe in yourself too.’ Zusasson said, with a smile.
    ‘Ingeneous the actions of the Decepticons on Cro are troubling. On Earth we found an area in the Ancient facility that wasn’t built by the Ancients. We don’t know exactly who they were, but they had left behind a device that indicated the location of several more of these mysterious artefacts. The equipment left behind at these areas are of several types; the one at the RES on Cro was indicated to be some sort of data store, other locations are supposed to hold maps or keys to some other location, where we think these mysterious builders have left some sort of weapon. Unfortunately many of the locations the builders have left an item have been affected by the purge following the Disappearance Event. The location on Cro was the first intact data store we had uncovered, but the actions of the Decepticons are very troubling. They took the processor from the unit, presumably to power another device left by the builders. This means that the Decepticons have uncovered something too. If they find this weapon we believe to exist, there’s no telling what they could do with it and what it would mean for our war effort.’ Stronghold said.
    ‘Ingeneous, we need you to travel to the remaining locations the mystery builders have left, see if you can uncover another data store or one of the keys, see if you can beat the Decepticons to the weapon and secure it.’ Zusasson said.
    ‘We need to keep that weapon, if it really exists, out of Decepticon hands. But if we possess it, we could end the war once and for all. Now the bot who does that, well, surely he’s going to gain the backing of every mech. Come on Ingeneous, what do you say?’ Stronghold asked. Ingeneous looked from face to face of his two companions, weighing up their words. He realised he didn’t really have a choice, but then it just might help everyone accept him after his ‘possession’ especially if he were able to reveal the truth about it all.
    ‘Ok, I’m in.’ He replied.
    ‘I’m pleased to hear it. Of course you can’t do this alone, so the bots who came here on the Sparkhaven will be assigned to your command. I will brief them myself. Good luck commander.’ Zusasson said and left the room. After the doors had shut, Stronghold spoke.
    ‘Just before you get underway Ingeneous, City One has got a gift for you, follow me please.’ He then led Ingeneous out of the room too.

    There wasn’t too much of the recording left, but Wildfire listened and accepted his orders silently. When it had finished, he crushed the cube effortlessly to ensure the message couldn’t be replayed and left the room.
    ‘You Reload?’ Wildfire asked the mech who had shown him to the room.
    ‘Yep.’
    ‘You been briefed?’
    ‘Yep.’
    ‘Good, don’t do anything unless I say first. We need evidence before we do anything. Understood?’
    ‘Yep.’

    Ingeneous has stood in front of a mech sized Rapid Formatter in an engineering room in City One, two Masters were busying themselves powering up the equipment while Stronghold looked on.
    ‘What upgrades have you had?’ Stronghold asked.
    ‘Only basic general upgrades.’
    ‘I’ve heard you could take some serious improvements since you were dragged out of the rubble in Cro. The report says you could even handle a Reconfiguration.’
    ‘Are you inviting me to become a Master?’
    ‘Unfortunately no. You’d make a great Master, but most mechs will only follow a Prime who hasn’t been Reconfigured; Multi-changers are seen as too arrogant, Gestalts only care about their own team, Pretenders are seen as cowards who hide behind their armour, and Masters, well, I’m sure you know. All narrow minded, bigoted views, but alas, too many share them. To be a Prime, we need you to remain in your Classic format.’ A beep from the Rapid Formatter interrupted Stronghold. The equipment sprang into life and started a full scan of Ingeneous; Stronghold studied the results with interest.
    ‘Ingeneous, we’ve got many omni-upgrade options available, but I was thinking of something pretty substantial. You ever heard of the Obliterator upgrade?’
    ‘Sure, it’s transformable equipment.’
    ‘Correct, the exact nature of it depends on your chassis frame size, but for a large mech like yourself, you’ve got three options. You can have a repair and command deck, a heavy weapon platform, or a set of apex armour. Anything take your fancy?’
    ‘Surprise me.’ Ingeneous replied.

    Topspeed was the last to board Sparkhaven, dashing inside the hatch closed behind him. He found the others on the bridge: Burnout, Steelrain and Flashstorm looked unhappy, but Topspeed guessed that was nothing to do with him. Wildfire had a companion with him who looked just as dangerous; the two of them stood watch over the other occupants of the bridge. Groundking and Roadstalker actually looked happy though; Groundking turned to him and said.
    ‘Good to see you back; you look a little different though.’ Topspeed’s head detached itself from his shoulders and transformed into his new microbot partner, with his own head emerging from his chest cavity.
    ‘This is Blip.’ He said by way of introduction.
    Ingeneous was stood at the centre of the bridge, the focus of the assembled Autobots; Topspeed got the suspicion that he’d just interrupted something.
    ‘We all know why we are here.’ The commander said, ‘we need to beat the Decepticons to a location that may contain some sort of doomsday weapon which could spell the end for Autobot kind if they get to it first. To be successful, we all need to work together, only then can we hope to triumph. Every one of you has proven themself and that is why you have been included in this mission. We have the support of the Emirate herself, and the Masters. But, it will be down to us and us alone when we get out there. Take the time to refuel, rearm, schedule in some maintenance; it may be some time before we get the chance to again.’

    Refueled and heavy with supplies, the Sparkhaven slowly climbed from the City One hanger and through the damaged atmosphere of Earth, before blasting into space.
     
  4. uklangor

    uklangor Active Member

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    Chapter 4

    Chapter 4

    Pulsar was busy at the comms array control unit onboard Shockwing’s space station. Normally he would have been able to mentally command such a piece of equipment, but the constant buzz of voices from Cybertron disrupted the action. He was physically interfacing with the unit, guiding the transports of Decatron’s previous troops into dock.

    ‘I don’t know if I trust ‘em.’ Tremor said. The Electracon was stood in front of the view port, watching as the ships deposited their mechs into the base.

    ‘What do you think Pulsar? Can we trust them?’ He asked. For once his partner was not at his side. He crossed the room to stand next to the Communications Specialist.

    ‘Pulsar? Did you hear me?’
    With reluctance Pulsar looked up from his work.

    ‘I did hear you, and we probably can’t trust them.’

    ‘So what should we do? Should we get outta here?’

    ‘No, they’ve given their word to Decatron that they will follow Revaxus. They will stay loyal for now.’

    ‘And then what?’

    Pulsar looked back down at the console.

    ‘Pulsar? What do we do if they stop being loyal?’

    ‘Pulsar?’
    The door hissed open and Revaxus strode in, freshly repaired following his return from Cybertron.

    ‘I’d best be off.’ Tremor said and scampered out of the room.

    ‘The last transport is docking, commander.’ Pulsar reported after the door had closed again.

    ‘Join the others in the hanger.’

    ‘Yes commander.’ Pulsar replied and left immediately. As he passed, he risked a sideways glance at Revaxus, but the large mech looked distracted.
    The room was empty; Revaxus gripped the handrail in front of the viewport overlooking the hanger. He watched the new arrivals pityingly try to form themselves into ranks; some of them were badly injured and were almost dragged by their comrades, others lumbered slowly into position, either reluctant or low on energon. A few fell to the ground and lay there.

    ‘I know you’re here.’ He announced to the room. He swung round, staring into every corner.

    ‘Only cowards skulk about.’ He announced to the silence. For Revaxus, there really was silence; the impervious coating had been removed during his repair but the ghost voices had not returned.
    A spare console node dropped to the floor from the top of a storage bin, Revaxus sprang forward at the noise, his mortar cannon aimed and primed. But no one was there.
    ‘Coward!’ He called again.


    The main hanger was crowded with the new arrivals, Greygrip, Decatron’s second, hissed a few commands and his troops lined up; he was surprised they still listened to him. Some of them blamed him for not attacking, or for not taking their fleet away. But he’d promised Decatron this one thing, the rest would be up to Revaxus.
    On a pole at the foot of a platform in the centre of the hanger Decatron’s head was displayed, the dead optical sensors watched his former troops, his silent gaping mouth open as if he were issuing some final command. Greygrip wondered what Decatron would say if he knew he would have lost before accepting Revaxus’s challenge.

    Greygrip observed with dismay how few troops Revaxus led. At their new commander’s order they had all come unarmed, Greygrip could see why, Revaxus only led a small force. There were a few Pretenders and a Gestalt team that had combined into their super robot form, and five other cons. Fully equipped and at full strength, Greygrip and the others would have crushed them. Not for the first time, he cursed Decatron’s sense of honour.
    A door high up in the hanger opened and Revaxus strode out onto the walkway fixed into the wall. Every mech watched as he descended, heard every echoing footfall on the metal alloy gangway. Without warning Revaxus swung himself over the handrail and dropped down into the hanger landing with a booming thud onto the erected platform in front of the new arrivals, the vibrations from the impact were felt by every con there. He stood silent, watching the ranks of his new troops.

    ‘Who speaks for you?’ One of the other mech’s asked, a static called Pulsar, according to his Ident-sig. Silence greeted the question and for a brief instant Greygrip pictured himself leading a charge against them anyway. A nudge in his back broke Greygrip away from his thought.

    ‘I do.’ He replied out loud.

    ‘Step forward. Transmit the inventory.’ The static commanded. Greygrip did as he was asked. They were sure to be disappointed, Greygrip consoled himself. A lot of their force had been deactivated when they had attacked Shockwing’s base, their injured list was long and they were too low on energon and alloy to carry out all their repairs; Revaxus had just inherited a huge drain on his resource.

    ‘And the item?’ Pulsar asked. Greygrip approached further, holding out the artefact just as he had been instructed to bring. A heavy price had been paid for this thing, Greygrip noted, he hoped it was worth it.

    A standard heavy mech took the item from him. Skyline, his Ident-sig informed him, turned the cylinder over in his hands; he guessed that Skyline was a little disappointed with the unimpressive object too. The con took out a device from one of his auxiliary storage units and connected it to the artefact. The humming from the device filled the cavernous room, before eventually several lights gave a soft blue glow. Skyline turned back towards Pulsar and nodded.

    ‘A gift for our new commander.’ Greygrip added. Skyline turned back to the mech and took the weapon he held out to him. Skyline was momentarily shocked that Greygrip had followed the ages old protocol, but then knowing how honour bound Decatron was, he shouldn’t have been surprised.
    The fueler turned it over in his hands; it was a liquid gun, very old but in very good condition. As a fueler Skyline was really a jack of all trades; he functioned to assist his comrades in more ways than just providing extra energon. He could make simple repairs to equipment, handle wounds suffered on the battlefield and even relay orders and strategies. The term fueler didn’t really describe Skyline’s abilities accurately; but given his experience spent first serving Shockwing, and then Revaxus, and the knowledge he had built from his wide skill set Skyline’s optics hungrily ran themselves over the weapon and he could appreciate it for what it was: a work of art. It had had one previous owner and hadn’t been fired for a long time, it was very valuable and he instantly wished he could keep it.

    ‘Very good.’ He replied. Briefly he met Greygrip’s optics and saw how hard it was for the mech to hand over something so valuable. It pleased the heavy mech and he turned back to the platform and nodded at Revaxus; who then signalled for him, Pulsar and Clawkill to leave with him.

    Greygrip returned to the ranks of his fellow Decepticons. Every functioning optic was on him, he felt their anger burn into him. Decatron’s power had once kept them in line and his rank as second was never questioned. Now he felt all that start to slip away; before they had been true Decepticons who took what they wanted, when they wanted. Now they were just scrap. That transformation had happened very quickly, but only now was the realisation sinking in. Decatron was gone, that meant they only had Greygrip to blame.


    Revaxus’s personal chambers were expansive, but sparse. Apart from a personal energon recharge point and a communication node, there was one other item in the room: Shockwing.
    The former commander’s damaged body was strapped to an inspection plate, held horizontally to the floor on six sturdy metal alloy legs, bulky equipment hung underneath it like a bloated animech. For all intents and purposes the large mech was non-functional.
    Revaxus led Clawkill, Skyline and Pulsar towards it, the overhead illumination sources blinked on as Revaxus’s presence was detected, bathing Shockwing in a cold blue light.

    ‘Wake him up.’ Revaxus commanded and Skyline activated the equipment underneath the inspection plate. Connections were made between Shockwing and the plate, energon flooded through and an electronic signal passed through his cerebro circuitry awakening his mind.

    ‘Mighty Shockwing.’ Revaxus sneered.

    ‘What do you want?’ Shockwing’s weak voice replied.

    ‘You might still be of some use to me, just watch.’ Revaxus replied.

    ‘Why do you think I’ll help you? Traitor!’

    ‘You believed in Megatron’s words as much as all of us, you still want to see this through.’

    ‘Strapped to an inspection plate? Grant me the honour of a quick death, you owe me that much at least.’

    ‘Now, now, Decatron did this to you, luckily we returned when we did, or you’d be in a much worse condition.’

    ‘You would have done the same to me anyway, you only came back to steal the artefact from me, traitor. As we’re having this little chat I presume there’s nothing to worry about from Decatron?’

    ‘I rendered him non-functional, his troops now follow me. Enough talk, I just want you to watch.’

    Revaxus held out his hands and Skyline passed him the artifact and the processor. He slotted the processor into the unit and at first nothing happened for several disappointing moments where no mech dared speak. But then a humming built from the small artefact, growing louder and louder causing the cons in the room to erect audio barriers to prevent blowout. Revaxus felt the gravity somehow change around the item, a numb tingling sensation built in his hand and then radiated into his arm, the motors in his limb were on the verge of spasming and so Revaxus dropped the artefact for fear of accidentally crushing it.

    The cylinder hung in the air, suspended by some other means not instantly recognized. It aligned itself perpendicularly to the floor and then started to rotate about its axis. Lights winked along its surface and it started to spin faster, the lights getting stronger and the noise louder.
    Pulsar was amazed by the signals emitted from the artefact. They were not just random sounds and lights, be could detect patterns there; there was a definite message, it just needed decoding. Pulsar’s sensor net, the most advanced of any mech on the station, picked up other signals transmitted in other non-visible sources too: radiowaves, microwaves, there was so much information his internal recording equipment was running flat out trying to capture it all. This would take time to decipher.

    The artefact was spinning so fast now that to unenhanced optics it appeared as a blur.

    ‘Look!’ Clawkill shouted, but under the noise, it was barely a whisper. Solid balls of light hung around the Decepticons, filling the room.

    ‘Is this some kind of map?’ Skyline asked.

    ‘It’s this star system.’ Shockwing announced. ‘But how would it know it’s here? Look, that blinking light is my base.’ Shockwing said.

    ‘You mean my base.’ Revaxus replied.
    No sooner had he said that then all the lights ran into each other, forming a single, blinking dot. If the image had been a map of their local star system, then the effect was that of zooming away from it, rapidly. Other dots of light filled Revaxus’s chambers, the image the artefact now cast was unmistakably the galaxy in which they inhabited. Revaxus understood, it was a map and it was showing them where to go. Megatron’s words were as true as he had expected; the Mysterious Builders had left something behind, something that could unite the Decepticons and destroy the Autobots, just like he had been promised.

    Another blinking dot of light caught their attention, clearly the destination of this object. The perspective zoomed in closer and closer, revealing the star system in which the object was located. They all watched intently, but the perspective didn’t change further.

    ‘Pulsar, did you get all that?’ Revaxus asked.

    ‘Yes commander.’ Pulsar replied. The communication’s specialist’s voice seemed to signal the end of the light show as the artefact abruptly stopped spinning and dropped silently to the ground.

    ‘That is where we should go.’ Revaxus said. Shockwing merely laughed.

    ‘No vessel, Decepticon or Autobot can travel that far!’ He roared with laughter. ‘No engine in existence is powerful or efficient enough to be able to power a craft that far, without every Autobot and every Decepticon working together for the next 20 Vorns producing energon to fuel it! And that would only get you one way, you’d never return.’

    Revaxus kicked the inspection plate, smashing the delicate equipment and sending Shockwing’s battered body to the ground. With the connections severed, Shockwing hit the deck in his previous comatose state.

    ‘Is that true?’ He demanded.

    ‘It’s not as severe as that, but yes, no current ship can travel that far.’ Skyline replied.

    ‘Then all of this is for nothing!’ Revaxus shouted.

    ‘However, we may have a solution. There is one ship that could make the journey.’

    ‘But you just said no ship can.’ Clawkill replied.

    ‘No current ship can. But there is an Ancient vessel that should be able to. From the reports I’ve seen they’re still a long way from understanding its technology, it’s far more advanced than anything we currently have. It should be able to get us there’

    ‘Where is it?’ Revaxus demanded.

    ‘That’s the problem, the Autobots have it.’



    The doors to Revaxus’s chambers opened and Greygrip strode in trying to keep a powerful gait to his stride, even though he was sure he’d soon be rendered non-functional. He’d been waiting in the hanger with the rest of his comrades under the watchful optics of the prowling super mech and the four Pretenders. While the combined form of the Gestalt team had been unable to keep still, the four Pretenders kept a rigid vigilance over them all, like scavengers waiting for their prey to finally give up and die. The fear of looming death stripped away the need of any chatter and they all waited patiently for the end, only occasionally throwing Greygrip accusatory looks which the mech did his best to ignore.

    The other two cons that Revaxus had left in the hanger were perched atop the platform that their commander had used. They had aeronautical mobile alt-modes judging from their body configurations and their ident-sigs informed Greygrip that they were Electracons, he wondered briefly if he was supposed to have heard of them.
    The pair seemed as if they couldn’t care less about anything in the hanger, they chatted and joked as if unaware of the broken battalion at their feet. Greygrip kept his focus on them in an effort to stop him thinking of his comrades and their hatred for him. He knew they all blamed him for this and he knew it was only a matter of time before he died, either at the hands of his new master or his old comrades.
    The Electracons stopped talking; Greygrip could tell they were receiving a personal communication. One of them, Bolter, turned directly to Greygrip and beckoned him to follow as the standard-tactical sized con led him to Revaxus’s chambers. The door opened and with an almost cheery wave Bolter watched him enter.

    Silently, Revaxus, Pulsar Skyline and Clawkill watched Greygrip approach; behind them he could see Shockwing’s body discarded on the floor like so much scrap. He knew he was next. The animech approached him and forcefully slammed him against the wall, pinning him there with one hand. Greygrip knew it would be pointless to fight back; his fate was the same no matter what he’d do.

    ‘So, why did your old boss want this then?’ Clawkill asked, he held the cylinder that Greygrip had given them in the hanger and gently tapped Greygrip on the head with it, before letting the con free of his hold.

    ‘He didn’t at first.’ Greygrip replied straightening up. ‘We’d heard about this base when we were last at the Bastion, heard a few stories that it might be full of energon, but was very lightly defended. We’d suffered some losses from a while back, we’d been raiding some Autobot supply lines, but it hadn’t worked out efficiently to cover the damage we took. We, Decatron that was, decided to come here and take the base and the energon. Shockwing put up quite a resistance, but after we had neutralised the defenses, he was going on about this artefact he’d found. A few holes in his side and we couldn’t shut him up, said all we had to do was wait for you to come back with some sort of missing piece and we could have it. I think he actually believed we’d spare his life.’ Greygrip knew there was no point in lying, the truth might just earn him a quick death rather than having to go through torture if he lied.

    ‘So you set the trap. Why did you believe him about the artefact, why not just take all the energon; you had him at your mercy.’ Skyline asked.

    ‘Well, as soon as we got the artefact, all those damn voices just stopped.’ Greygrip paused briefly, noting the shared glances between the three other mechs.

    ‘We knew it was special; we’d tried everything to block out those voices, but nothing worked. If it could do that without the missing piece, complete, we, well Decatron, just had to find out what it did.’ There was silence as all the mechs looked to Revaxus. Greygrip watched the large chassis framed mech just as intently, he seemed to be weighing all this information up. Greygrip noted that the liquid gun was now fixed to Revaxus’s other arm and he wondered if his present would be the death of him.

    Finally the commander nodded his head and then Greygrip was the center of attention again.

    ‘The artefact is actually a map. It pinpoints a location on the other side of the galaxy.’ Skyline said. Greygrip was not expecting this, why were they revealing their secret to him?

    ‘There is only one ship that can get us there and unfortunately the Autobots have it.’ Skyline paused, but Greygrip didn’t respond.

    ‘That means I finally have a use for you and your rusting comrades that are littering my hanger.’ Revaxus spat.

    ‘Your scientists can use the main repair bay to repair and refuel Revaxus’s new troops, and then you can get them to work repairing Revaxus’s new fleet. Then we all go to take the ship from the Autobots.’ Pulsar added.

    ‘Thank you, Commander.’ Greygrip humbly replied. Relief washed through him; it was not yet time for his execution.

    ‘Greygrip, never forget that you all function by my will alone. Every one of your fellow Decepticons will follow me loyally and without question. If I find displeasure with any of them, you will pay with your life.’

    ‘Understood.’ Greygrip quietly replied.



    Kraken’s Pretenders had been sheparding the new Decepticons down to the repair deck five at a time and then lining up the returnees on the other side of the hangar. The Gestalt super robot, Saberus, was patrolling around the hanger, watching the Decepticons for any sign of unrest. Kraken had seen a few Gestalts in the past and most had been walking mounds of rage, unable to restrict their brutal urges. Saberus was different; he seemed fairly lucid, could cope with detailed instructions and was handling the boredom of the hanger very well, considering the never ending stream of chattering voices coming from Cybertron. Every so often Saberus would twitch with the rage that Kraken knew was there, but the constant pacing kept it at bay. The Assaultacons, the team of mechs that comprised Saberus, seemed very experienced to be able to hold it all together so well. Not for the first time Kraken was thinking he’d been wrong about Revaxus; he’d hired the right mechs for the job and now his force had been bolstered by just over a hundred strong with the death of only one Decepticon.

    ‘So do we stay or what?’ Cutback asked. Kraken had been too absorbed with his thoughts that he hadn’t noticed his pilot approach.

    ‘Revaxus hasn’t got things too bad has he?’ Cutback continued.

    ‘I was just thinking that. We could do worse than stick around for a bit, it
    might be quite profitable. If not, there’s still all that energon and alloy waiting for us at the Bastion.’

    ‘If we did go it alone again after this, we’d need to recruit. The four of us just aren’t enough to operate, we need six.’

    ‘We’ll stay with Revaxus for a while longer, then we’ll split. See if we can’t take a couple of the others with us. Keep your optics focused for any likely candidates that could handle the Pretender upgrade.’ Kraken said.

    ‘Sure.’ The two stood for a while watching the new cons, it was astonishing to think that only a few breems earlier they had been enemies. The access door to the hanger opened and five fully repaired and recharged cons joined their comrades. Kraken watched the growing group of revitalized mechs and saw them whisper as Saberus had passed; Revaxus had not won them over just yet, even though he was using all the spare energon and alloy to get them back to full strength.

    Cutback selected the next five cons and herded them over to the doorway to where Tremor was waiting, and then walked back to Kraken’s side. The two studied the mechs in front of them for some time in silence. Eventually the door to the small audience chamber opened and Revaxus and his officers exited.

    ‘I wonder what happened in there.’ Kraken remarked.

    ‘I think they’ve used that part we stole for them.’ Cutback replied. ‘I tried getting close earlier, I could make out some lights and another voice.’

    ‘Another voice? No kidding, it’s from Cybertron.’

    ‘No, another voice coming from the room; definitely not one of the mechs that went inside.’

    ‘It’s probably their old commander, Shockwing. I saw Skyline strap his body to an inspection plate. Maybe they needed his advice.’

    ‘That’s strange, if it wasn’t for those other cons, Revaxus would have had Shockwing killed anyway.’

    ‘Perhaps Revaxus isn’t as in charge as I first thought.’


    The inventory that Greygrip had supplied had been quite revealing about how close Shockwing’s base had come to repelling the invading Decepticons. They had suffered heavy losses and taken great damage to their ships. One had been completely destroyed by the automated defenses and its wreckage had fallen to Cybertron, while another two transports were too badly damaged to repair.
    Skyline now led the engineers from the combined Decepticon force, and one of the scientists from the repair bay, in the reclamation of the damaged ships. They worked outside in space on the vessels; the scientist had been able to redesign Shockwing’s old reclamation units to be able to be used on the starships. The reclamation units worked a lot like the Rapid Assembly kit that most engineers had. That was used to construct weapons, ammunition or equipment that an engineer had the design specifications for by constructing it a layer a time, held in place by an epoxy scaffold which degraded after construction was complete, leaving the crafted item. The Rapid Assembler was fed by the energon and alloy reserves the engineer carried, but could also be used to break down items into alloy ingots or could be used to convert existing energy sources into energon. The huge reclamation units worked like the second function of the basic Rapid Assembler and were being used to break down the two derelict ships. Skyline guided the engineers as they scrabbled over the hull of the wrecks, the alloy ingots that they could harvest from them would be used to repair the remaining ships, while the weapon systems and other useful components still intact were removed in one piece ready for transplanting onto another vessel.

    Skyline replayed the previous meeting back in his databank and the decision that Revaxus had finally made; they had a considerable journey to make soon and their time was short to get the ships ready in time. Wistfully he looked across at one of the other ships, it had suffered heavy damage too and again he reviewed his decision to repair it. The transport was a borderline case; it would take as much effort to repair it as break it down into alloy ingots. Skyline reviewed the inventories again in his databank, troop numbers, energon reserves and the journey distance. Again he came up with the same result; to transport all the troops with enough energon at the end of the journey to fuel combat, they needed that ship. Without it, the other ships would all have an increased mass from the greater number of cons and supplies onboard and therefore would burn more energon to accelerate and decelerate. That just wouldn’t leave enough to fuel their assault at the other end. He reminded himself to be satisfied with his decision. He berated one of the other engineers who was slacking in his efforts, then got back to the task at hand.


    The lower levels of Shockwing’s base had been stripped and gutted of anything useful by Skyline’s work force and were now a series of large, empty rooms joined by a branching corridor dimly lit with red emergency lighting. The lift had already been reclaimed, so Kraken and Clawkill had just dropped down the empty shaft. They landed with a dull metallic clunk; their leg assemblies effortlessly absorbing the impact. Clawkill looked back up into the darkness above; it was going to be a long climb back.

    ‘Is this necessary?’ The animech asked.

    ‘Of course.’ Kraken replied. ‘Some of Greygrip’s troops are down here, but all work in this section has been completed.’

    ‘So they’re just trying to get out of working. I’d do the same…’

    ‘Revaxus hasn’t won them all over yet, if he wants to avoid a mutiny you must stamp out this sort of behavior.’

    ‘How many are there?’

    ‘Cutback said he only saw a few.’

    Kraken led him to the largest chamber on the level, even before they entered, they could tell it was full. Chatter, shouts and growls echoed from the room even before they reached the door.
    As they entered, silence greeted them. Twenty seven pairs of optics watched Clawkill and Kraken walk in as the assembled Decepticons focused their attention on them. They were all bathed in the red glow of the emergency lighting, their body configurations suggested that they were all animechs; ranging in size from mini up to standard heavy chassis framed cons and all seemed to have contempt burning through their systems.

    ‘What this?’ A heavy con called Blasthammer said from near the back.

    ‘Silence!’ Clawkill roared. Kraken felt himself tense; he cursed himself for not briefing Clawkill more; if they decided to attack now they would not stand a chance.

    ‘I’ve been thrown the task of getting you useless, simple cons back to work.’
    There were growls and shouts from the assembled mechs, a standard-light con near the front called Switchkill hissed at him, her hands clenching and unclenching.

    ‘We don’t take orders from you.’ She spat.

    ‘You do now. Get back to work, all of you.’ Instead, the crowd spread itself out, surrounding Clawkill and Kraken. The Pretender let his hand rest on the hilt of his energon weapon, at least he could take a few out with him. The cons were all shouting now, some were taking a few steps forward. A mech barged into Kraken, who heavily shoved him back against the crowd. He was met with angry stares and so the Pretender drew his weapon. The others were unarmed and kept their distance, luckily he was still ignored by the bulk of the animechs in the crowd. He could almost feel the fury build up, could almost feel it press against him. For the first time since he had undergone the Pretender reconfiguration, Kraken started to feel the burning savage fury build within his own animech form.

    ‘What stop us ripping two of you apart? When anyone knows you missing, we long gone.’ Blasthammer said.

    ‘You’re leaving?’ Clawkill asked.

    ‘You’re not as stupid as you look.’ Switchkill replied.

    ‘You’re going to steal a ship and go?’ Kraken asked, he watched the others glance at Blasthammer, and knew that was their plan. ‘That’s stupid; Revaxus won’t let you get far. He’ll hunt you down and destroy you, then he’ll kill every one of your other comrades, who have got nothing to do with this.’

    ‘Doesn’t matter, they not like us. Besides, we’d all rather die than be kept like this. Better to try get away, start out fresh.’ Blasthammer said.

    ‘You don’t get it do you? Revaxus will lead us to glory! Soon we will all go; there are many Autobots to kill, and you know that’s a job for us.’ Clawkill replied, indicating himself and the other animechs.

    ‘Us? You not one of us! You try to be like others, like stupid static Pulsar and stupid flying mechs. You no one of us.’

    ‘Let me prove it.’

    ‘Prove, how?’

    ‘Me and you, one on one. You win, you go. I win, you stay.’

    ‘Ok, agree to your terms. I warn you, I not los…’ Clawkill’s punch landed on the side of Blasthammer’s face, causing the heavy con to stagger into the arms of his fellow animechs. The hands steadied their champion and Kraken saw a heavy metallic maul thrust into his grasp, before Blasthammer was launched back towards Clawkill. He swung the maul downwards at his smaller opponent, but Clawkill deftly dodged its path, letting the weapon smash into the floor, ringing it like a giant bell, which almost drowned out the voices from Cyberton. The circle of animechs closed tighter around the two and when Blasthammer swung the maul again in a savage back handed stroke, Clawkill has easily able to duck underneath it and see the weapon impact into the face of an onlooker. Clawkill scrambled round behind and shoved him further into the crowd, who were now chanting Blasthammer’s name. The heavy con knocked a couple of them down as he crashed into them. His loyal comrades again laid their hands onto him, spun him round, straightened him and launched him back into the ring. However, Clawkill had used the time to transform and the returning Blasthammer was met by Clawkill’s alt-mode in mid-pounce catching him in the chest.

    Clawkill kept his opponent pinned to the ground and with his forelegs he rapidly ripped and tore with his metal talons, carving into face, chest, arms. Blasthammer tried to speak, but his vocal emitter was quickly shredded, armour was gouged and circuitry ruined.

    ‘Enough!’ Kraken shouted and Clawkill stopped his attack, only realizing that Kraken had been shouting for some time. The fury drained out of him and he got off his opponent, transformed and was greeted with silence as he looked around at the other animechs.

    ‘You all stay, now.’ Clawkill ordered. He took their silence as an affirmation. Looking down at Blasthammer, he felt pity; he never had stood a chance. Illogically he thought he saw movement.

    ‘Get him fixed up.’ Clawkill ordered, the crowd stood silent, their optics fastened on Blasthammer’s body.

    ‘Nooooo’ The cry filled the room as a mini framed animech launched himself at Clawkill’s back. In mid leap he was cleaved almost in two by a single swipe from Kraken’s energon sword. Two other animechs tried to enter the fray, but Clawkill was ready for the attack. He countered their blows with ease and replied with excessive violence; leaving one non-functional and the other immobile. Others stepped forward in groups of two or three, but Clawkill and Kraken easily cut them down. Their opponents attacked almost as an afterthought, with little planning to their strategy making Clawkill and Kraken’s job almost too easy.

    The fight and anger left the crowd after their number had been reduced to eighteen mechs; they’d at last realized they had no choice but to serve. Kraken finally sheathed his weapon and looked across the carnage he had help bring; the dead and dying lay at his feet but he felt no joy; he hated fighting fellow Decepticons.

    ‘That’s enough.’ He said.

    ‘You fight like Autobots.’ Clawkill commented. ‘Kraken, instruct these worthless mechs how real Decepticons fight. The Autobots wait for us and I want us to collect more heads than any mobile or static. We must make Revaxus proud.’


    Revaxus’s fleet left Cybertron with Nighthammer at the head; Shockwing’s base was left as a stripped out husk, its decaying orbit would soon send it crashing into the dead planet below. Once out of range of the planet and its ghost voices, Pulsar retired to his chambers on board one of the new vessels in Revaxus’s flotilla. He’d had it fitted with most of the equipment he’d had on Shockwing’s base, along with a few upgrades.
    He began by copying the data recordings he’d made from the artifact earlier; better to have a backup in a secure location, he always told himself. He wanted to have an unaltered version before he started decrypting the original.
    He opened up the recordings made in the repair bay of Revaxus’s new troops and prepared himself to begin cataloging behavior and personality characteristics to see how many of the new mechs he could begin to bend to his will. But something made him stop; a half memory raised itself from his databank. That was it: Rheanium! Just how did Revaxus know about it? It must have come from Megatron, but he had no memory of that, unless Revaxus had had a private audience with him.
    Pulsar selected an older folder in his data store; video and audio logs from their time with Megatron and set about carefully reviewing them all again.


    ‘Are they ready yet?’ Clawkill asked.

    ‘They’ve come a long way; they’ll be ready in time.’ Kraken replied. They were in the hold of one of the repaired transports and at Clawkill’s insistence it had been fitted with the combat training equipment from one of the scrapped vessels and bolstered with Clawkill’s own personal collection from Shockwing’s base. The two of them walked by the tight formation of assembled animechs, apart from two fatalities they were freshly repaired, although some bore new scars from earlier training. Blasthammer stood at the head of the troops; he was scarred more than most.

    ‘We ready now.’ He growled.


    The journey was long and it had given Revaxus plenty of time to issue his orders, ready for the attack to come. He stood in his quarters on the Nighthammer, just the dull emergency lighting illuminating the chamber. The other mechs onboard were readying themselves for the assault to come. He felt that now too familiar presence next to him.

    ‘Why don’t you show yourself?’ He asked, but the silent room didn’t answer back.

    ‘I said show yourself!’ He roared.

    ‘I’m here boss.’ Tremor replied from the entrance.
    Revaxus turned to the Electracon, annoyed at the interruption.

    ‘You okay boss?’ Revaxus watched as he approached and wondered which weapon he should use to destroy him.

    ‘What do you want?’ He finally asked. He’d let Tremor get closer and then render him limb from limb with his own hands.

    ‘Um, you wanted to know when we’re there.’ He said pointing past and mentally activating the viewscreen.

    The fleet had entered a small asteroid field that was home to an Autobot research facility. Even at this distance the object of the Autobots’ research was visible: the Ancient’s super sized vessel called the Warworld.
     
  5. mrprime95

    mrprime95 autobot <3 :)

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    sweet!!!!!!!!!
     
  6. uklangor

    uklangor Active Member

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    Chapter 5

    The Autobot spacecraft Sparkhaven silently travelled through space. The vessel was constructed by the Masters on Earth and was a typical modeled to their design specifications. Externally it appeared as a long needle cutting its passage through the darkness; as a Master vessel it was extremely fuel efficient and equipped with advanced stealth systems which would render it un-detectable by any long range Decepticon scanners.
    Steelrain was interfaced with the ship via the Pilot’s Pod; the craft merely felt like an extension of him. He welcomed the feeling of power and strength he got when he piloted craft; but the feedback from Sparkhaven was of a different magnitude entirely. The throb of the power core was euphoric, the force of the engines were spark-stopping and the weapons system made him feel unstoppable; he almost longed for the sensors to return a signal of another craft, just so that he could test his power.
    Steelrain took the vessel in system towards their destination. Flashstorm scanned the planet Lithone as Sparkhaven passed close to its orbit. The large planet had a ring system that shone brightly in the local star’s illumination and was once home to a race of mechanical beings that possessed transformation abilities. The Lithonians were prevalent at the time of the Ancients, but had disappeared too; yet not in the same way. The ring system around the planet was caused by the remains of booster rockets left in orbit that had then collided with the numerous satellites already there creating a wide debris field around the planet. The Lithonians had apparently decided as a race to leave their home planet, rather than suddenly vanishing like the Ancients. They were scientists and had existed to further their knowledge; to all intents and purposes they were peaceful beings. Yet exploration of their deserted home world showed that they had suddenly decided to construct huge space vessels; construction yards and even databases remained on the surface suggesting the vessels were equipped for combat as well as for science. Little of use remained on the planet, the structures and buildings had long since fallen to ruin; many of the newer constructions appeared to have been only designed to be temporary, the engine wash from the spaceships’ simultaneous launch had had a terrible effect on the more robust buildings, as if the Lithonians had not cared about preserving anything of their heritage; they were too concerned with just leaving the planet. The reason for their exodus was still unknown; the planet and its home system would still be capable of supporting their existence. In fact their destination, the planet Aurous, was a premium site for renewable energon production utilized by the current generation of Autobots and assumed to be just as lucrative during the time of the Lithonians.


    Wildfire lurked in the main cargo bay; he kept the illumination low as he ran his hand over the single piece of equipment he found there. Outwardly it appeared as a trailer extension unit that would fit to the ground mobile alt-mode of a large chassis-framed Transformer, which ruled out all Autobots aboard Sparkhaven except Ingeneous. When it came to the Masters there was always more than met the optic sensor with them. The extension unit was clearly a weapon used to bolster Ingeneous’s power somehow. However, he couldn’t tell if it was a payment to Ingeneous for his services, or if it would be used against Prime when the Emirate and the Masters decided to move against him. Either way he needed to find a way to neutralise it. When the time came to take down Ingeneous he’d need to tip things in his balance. He had no doubt that Reload was a powerful warrior and would follow orders, but Wildfire might just have to get his hands dirty.

    The main illumination source powered up to maximum and Wildfire cursed himself for allowing his focus to be taken up purely by one subject.

    ‘What are you doing?’ Topspeed asked entering the cargo bay.

    ‘Just examining this; what is it?’

    ‘It’s Ingeneous’s.’

    ‘Yes, but what does it do?’

    ‘It’s untested. It’s only recently been built; so all it’s going to do is run some diagnostics for me.’

    ‘Were you this difficult with your old head, or is this a new skill?’

    ‘Watch your tone.’

    ‘Tell me about this bit of equipment. Strategically I need to be aware of the full capabilities that this team has at its disposal.’

    ‘Capabilities? But we’re just going to visit some old installations; the only capabilities you’ll need to worry about are those that reactivate very old technology. Something which I assure you will be out of your skill set specification.’

    Before Wildfire could reply Ingeneous’s voice sprang from the audio emitters in the cargo bay ordering all Autobots to assemble on the Bridge. Topspeed left immediately, glad to be away from the strategist.


    ‘As you all know,’ Ingeneous said addressing the Autobots on the Bridge, ‘Our first destination is the planet Aurous. We’re almost in orbit, but we have a problem. Steelrain report.’ The mini-bot’s voice droned out of the audio emitters on the Bridge; he was still connected via the Pilot’s Pod and his body was held immobile while his mind was interfaced with the ship.

    ‘The station on the planet does not respond to my communication. The weapon platforms in orbit are still operational and will fire upon me if I approach.’

    ‘Can’t we just destroy the weapon platforms?’ Groundking asked.

    ‘That would leave the planet undefended and left open for any Decepticon attack. They’ve been to at least two such installations that we know of, they may visit this one.’ Ingeneous replied.

    ‘But the weapon platforms on Cro were fully operational and the Decepticons still managed to land.’ Flashstorm said.

    ‘They would have got through when the platforms were disengaged when we arrived. Pretenders usually have stealthed, fast ships. They’d probably been waiting for a long time before we got there.’ Wildfire added. Topspeed’s head disconnected and transformed into the microbot communications specialist Blip. Topspeed’s original head emerged from his chest cavity; that particular function was only one of a few that his generation of Masters had modified from the Ancient Master configurations.

    ‘I am familiar with the sensor system specifications used here. They are an old design with a weak spot near the planet’s natural satellite. If we approach the satellite from its far side and then orbit the satellite at a very low orbit, we should be able to approach to the planet side undetected. From there we should still be invisible to the sensors out to the Lagrange point between it and the planet. From there it is possible that there will be a sensor lock on us; I suggest we then travel with great haste to the surface from there.’ Blip said.

    ‘I may be able to modify Sparkhaven’s forcefield signature to give temporary invisibility to external sensors. It won’t work long, but it might just give us enough time to get to the surface, past Blip’s Lagrange point.’ Roadstalker said.

    ‘Very well, make preparations.’ Ingeneous ordered after considering their suggestions.

    ‘Such a flight will be very demanding on the engines; we’d better hope there’s some energon down there for us to refuel.’ Roadstalker added.

    ‘The station will be fully equipped, the active sensors prove there is no Decepticon activity down there; refueling shouldn’t be a problem.’ Topspeed said.

    ‘Agreed. Anything to add Wildfire?’ Ingeneous asked.

    ‘We should assume that ground level sensors and weapons are still functional. When we reach the surface we should land away from the facility; we may have to approach on foot.’

    ‘Very well. Blip, plot with Steelrain and Wildfire a suitable landing zone with Steelrain and Wildfire and then take us is.’ Ingeneous ordered. He watched his Autobots get to work, glad to have something to take his mind from the words of the Emirate. He knew he wasn’t the next Prime; he’d foolishly allowed himself to be carried away with her belief. He wanted nothing more than to put the whole ‘Optimus’ situation behind him.


    The Sparkhaven swiftly approached Aurous’s natural satellite, a large rocky body that had once been volcanically active, but had long since cooled. Its surface was twisted and cracked from millions of years’ worth of activity; fissures, mountains and craters covered it, almost disguising its spherical form.
    The approach had taken a long time, Steelrain had to take Sparkhaven back out towards the system’s star to then ensure that Aurous’s moon masked their arrival to the satellite. Steelrain expertly kept the craft in a low orbit, not only negotiating the natural formations of its morphology, but also combating the gentle tug of the moon’s low gravitational pull; the maneuvers burning quickly through the low energy reserves of the ship’s fuel tanks.
    Steelrain took them as slowly as he could out to the Lagrange point between the satellite and the planet; the distance was so great it felt unnatural to still be hidden from the defensive sensors. As soon as the ship reached the point where the gravitational pull of the moon and planet cancelled each other out, Roadstalker was able to activate her forcefield modification. The scientist kept her gaze fixed rigidly to the viewscreen aboard Sparkhaven’s Bridge, fearful that it wouldn’t work and at any moment they’d be destroyed. From the periphery of her optical vision she could see Wildfire and Reload exchanging glances; Burnout paced nervously; no one spoke. She knew they were doubting her as much as she was. Then she saw Ingeneous; he was stood at a spare data node busy with other matters, unconcerned with any impending disaster. The sight somehow helped her lessen her worries and ignore the unease of her colleagues.
    Sparkhaven entered the atmosphere of Aurous without incident and as directed by Wildfire, the craft made planetfall on the opposite side of the world to the ground station.
    Steelrain quickly traversed Aurous and brought the craft down with a mountain range between them and the facility.


    Burnout and Flashstorm stood beneath the grounded Sparkhaven with Ingeneous and Roadstalker.

    ‘Have you uploaded the facility’s specifications to your databanks?’ Ingeneous asked.

    ‘Of course.’ Burnout replied. ‘Are you sure you can’t spare us Steelrain too?’

    ‘He needs to stay with the ship, as soon as you have disengaged the sensor suite he’ll need to bring the ship to the spaceport ready for refueling.’

    ‘Very well.’

    ‘The atmosphere has a caustic effect; prolonged exposure can cause external degradation to some structures, but should only pose a very limited risk to us. However, the wind carries a large number of solid particulates at ground level and they will have a noticeable degradation effect following prolonged exposure, not to mention severely limited optical visibility. The particulates will scour any exposed surface, I’ve detected some that could act as a catalyst for the caustic effects of the atmosphere. You will be protected through the mountain range, but you will need to move as fast as you can across the open ground on the other side.’ Roadstalker said.

    ‘Understood; we’ll have the sensor grid down in no time.’ Burnout replied. The area around the ship was calm, thick dense winds blew over the top and around the vessel. Burnout led Flashstorm away from the ship and were quickly lost to sight as they passed through Sparkhaven’s influence curtain.

    ‘Does the atmosphere pose the same problem to Sparkhaven?’ Ingeneous asked, looking up at the ship above him.

    ‘Yes,’ the scientist replied, ‘however, I’ve been able to configure the engines to charge the atmospheric particles around its circumference; the particulates carried by the winds are naturally repelled and so the accelerated degradation effect is minimized. The ships plating is too thick for us to worry about the natural caustic effect of the atmosphere while we wait for Burnout and Flashstorm; we will be fine inside.’

    The main hatch to the ship buzzed quietly and then rumbled open. A single Autobot was stood there; the strategist Wildfire. He didn’t wait to be acknowledged before speaking.

    ‘No Autobot at the facility answered Steelrain’s hails; we should plan for the worst. I’ve drafted a list for outside patrols, two bots per watch. You and Roadstalker take the first one. I’ve also started a timer; I’ll let you know when we should assume Burnout and Flashstorm are both non-functional.’ The strategist said and then returned to the ship.


    Burnout was thankful that Aurous was such a rocky world; the troughs and valleys provided some shelter from the relentless gales. He and Flashstorm had made slow progress from the ship and had taken longer than expected to reach the foot of the mountain range. The thick gaseous atmosphere interfered with their secure inter-Autobot comm. and the winds were too loud for vocal-emitters so they had to rely on standard radio communication. Burnout, and any other mini-bot worth their mass in energon, knew that they could be overheard. Burnout’s typical policy of communication silence was forgotten; visibility was so bad he and Flashstorm had to keep in constant contact to prevent them from separating. He just had to hope that the atmosphere would mask them from any eavesdropper.

    He caught up with Flashstorm trying to shelter in a gulley big enough to hide Sparkhaven. The demolitions specialist was looking up at the mountain range before them.

    Found a path? Burnout asked over the comm.

    Maybe, but we’re going to have to climb out in the open for a while first Flashstorm pointed out his route.
    A climb over a large slab of rock led to a deep gouge wrought up through the middle of one of the higher peaks. They’d be exposed on the rock, but the groove would protect them for the rest of the climb. Burnout fired a transponder from his rifle into the base of the cavity: even if visibility worsened they’d still be able to follow the transponder’s signal. Burnout realized that the use of such equipment was reckless in an unknown situation, but he was willing to risk it to minimize exposure; he didn’t want to end up stumbling about lost on the rock as he was slowly digested by the wind.

    Me first Burnout ordered as he sprinted out of cover, the blast of the wind hammering over the exposed slab nearly knocked him from his feet. He dug his left hand down over the smooth rock, his fingertips brushed against it before finally finding grip. Steadying himself, he regained his balance.

    Be careful when leaving cover, the crosswind out here is surprising he communicated. He regained a fix on the transponder; the normally strong signal was weak and intermittent as it struggled to penetrate the oppressive atmosphere. With slow, determined steps he traversed the rock face with care. Exposed in the open, visibility was almost nil. He forced himself onwards towards the signal one step after another, waiting in place when the wind’s ferocity spiked and continuing once it had calmed to its previous level. In this haltingly slow way Burnout made it at last to the transponder and entered the cavern the signal had led him to. It provided welcome shelter from the gale outside and he turned and waited for Flashstorm. The other mini-bot was nowhere to be seen, Burnout tried hailing him but worryingly there was no response. He looked at the dark cave behind him and at the storm outside; he didn’t rate his chances in either direction on his own. He closed the damage report and warning messages from his databank and climbed onto the ledge of the cavern and took a step outside again. The wind was even stronger; even braced with one hand on the opening of the cave he was nearly dragged out. He hailed again and again, still no response. The mini-bot commander took another step into the open and was rewarded by a rare break in the thick gas to see a figure lay prone on the rock face; limbs straining at the effort of keeping position in spite of the hurricane about them. Instantly gladdened at the sight, Burnout lay against the rock too and carefully crept out to the figure.

    Flashstorm at last received Burnout’s hails and as directed, began to crawl towards his commander. The two eventually met and Flashstorm was helped to the safety of the cavern. The welcome calm allowed them a moment to relax after the climb, Burnout looked over his companion; his armour was strangely discoloured from his exposure outside, the toxic winds and particulates had wrought more damage to them both than he had expected.


    The Sparkhaven being a Master’s vessel was equipped with a high specification science lab. It was outfitted with plasma mass spectrometers, laser sample collection and preparation units and several banks of data processors, among other numerous items of equipment. The work space was crowded with Topspeed, Roadstalker, Groundking and Ingeneous.

    ‘What is known about the nature of the equipment left by the Mysterious Builders on Aurous?’ Ingeneous asked.

    ‘Little.’ Topspeed replied. ‘The map uncovered on Earth suggests its location here, annexed in a Lithonian facility housed on this planet. However, the Autobot garrison here should have been unaware of its presence, unless…’

    ‘Unless what?’ Ingeneous asked.

    ‘They could have found it by accident.’

    ‘Could they have done? The one on Cro was very well hidden.’

    ‘That’s true, however we need to remember the history of this site is a little different to Cro.’

    ‘In what way?’ Groundking asked.

    ‘The main Autobot base here is new, this generation. When our exploration teams entered the system they recognized the benefit of Aurous. The high winds are capable of driving the huge turbines of our surface energon plants that have now been dropped around the planet, which is how the Lithonian base was discovered; it had remained hidden from initial scans by the exploration teams when they were planning on the site of the new Autobot base here. Lithone is present in this system, but many of the buildings and technology have been left to ruin. The base they constructed here is intact and its presence has attracted many research teams to volunteer to be stationed here to allow investigation of the Lithonian race. The Lithonian base is likely to have been subjected to a higher level of examination than Ancient facilities; the hidden Mysterious Builder’s component could have been discovered.’

    ‘That may explain why there are no Autobots at the main base.’ Ingeneous said. ‘They could all be at the Lithonian facility, left the main database routines to manage the function of the Autobot base.’

    ‘But surely they would have left some sort of relay in place between the two, to alert them of a spaceship in orbit.’ Roadstalker added.

    ‘Possibly, but this atmosphere makes communication difficult; it is also quite hazardous and could have rendered the relays non-functional.’ Topspeed replied.

    ‘Let us hope that is the case and that nothing else has befallen them.’ Ingeneous intoned.


    ‘What do you think?’ Burnout asked his companion. The two were stood at the mouth of a dark pit high up in the mountain range. Burnout had fired a small probe into the pit; the signal returns indicated a passage heading in the right direction.

    ‘Let’s risk it.’ Flashstorm replied and dropped down into the void. Mid fall he activated the illumination sources from his alt-mode revealing the craggy walls around him. The mini-bot landed with a splash, a dark liquid gently gurgled past his knees. He dipped the compact analyser he carried into the fluid and ran a simple analysis of the sample. It came back as non-corrosive.

    ‘Looks good.’ He shouted back up to Burnout, who promptly jumped down too. The pair started walking upstream, their lights playing over the walls of the tunnel, the ceiling arcing way over their heads. The flow of the liquid must have once been considerable to have carved the passage through the mountain, but Burnout was glad they had found it. Flashstorm’s voice echoed around them,

    ‘Steelrain would have hated it in here.’

    ‘Yeah.’ Burnout retrieved his probe from its impact point in the rocky wall and stored it back in his equipment compartment.

    ‘The probe indicates it goes fairly straight like this for some distance. We might be lucky.’

    ‘If not, we could always blast our way through...’

    ‘Hah, yeah.’

    The shelter of the tunnel gave Burnout a chance to run personal diagnostics. Readings appeared in his vision summarizing the damage he had taken from the exposure to the wind outside. Prioritising three of the more serious reports he diverted some of his personal energon supply to his internal nanobots and instructed them to make repairs as best they could.

    ‘Good to be out of that wind.’ Flashstorm said.

    ‘Yeah, let’s hope that was the hardest thing about this mission.’


    ‘So, what’s the plan?’ Reload asked. He and Wildfire were taking their turn on patrol outside of the ship. Reload held his deadly energon sword in his right hand, cutting through the acidic gale blowing against them. From the casing on his left forearm four energon blades were protruded that spun about the axis on his arm at an incredible rate, which to the unenhanced sensor appeared as a shield of energon. The rotor was able to deflect melee weapons and solid projectiles, but was working just as well in repelling the particulates carried on the wind. Both of these upgrades made Reload a very deadly warrior and like a growing number of mechs, he was keen to broadcast it. He liked to have his Ident-sig on wide-cast so every bot and con on the battlefield knew who he was, while his loud neon paintjob ensured he was always noticed. Reload functioned to fight: he was good at it and everyone near him knew about it.

    ‘What do you mean?’ Wildfire replied. He came to a halt next to the warrior.

    ‘Ingeneous. We take him out here?’

    ‘No. I need evidence first. You seen that Obliterator equipment he’s got? I need to determine exactly what that is first. It could give us a problem.’

    ‘Doubt it.’

    ‘Whatever. As soon as I’ve got the evidence, I’ll give you the word. Wait until then.’

    ‘What about the others?’

    ‘Expendable. Any of them a problem?’

    ‘No, but the Master might be a bit tricky.’

    ‘When it comes to it I’ll have your back’.


    Burnout climbed out through a narrow fissure and back out into the open, he was immediately assaulted by the relentless wind. Retrieving his probe again he silently remarked just how useful it had been in guiding the two of them through the subterranean tunnels. Flashstorm squeezed out after him, both their cloaks were activated but struggled against the particulates slamming against them. Any optical sensors would spot the interference pattern given off by their cloaks as they fizzed against the strain of the wind, but the thickness of the gas would mean that they’d have to be on top of any sentry to be spotted.

    They had emerged in the low foothills and according to the data Topspeed had supplied them, the Autobot base was located in the plains before them. As they had prearranged they kept complete silence as they made their way down over the remaining hillside. The plain itself had long since been worn smooth by the ceaseless wind. Transforming to their alt-modes of ground based mobile vehicles they made steady progress out ever further away from the mountains until they were lost from view by optics and sensors. The wind restricted vision to a small circumference around them. As a scout Burnout’s sensors were better than most bots, but he was forced to keep a steady speed as they struggled to read the terrain around him. He couldn’t detect any sensor in operation within their vicinity and hoped that was a good sign.

    But then all of a sudden they had reached the base; dark, silent and weather worn.


    ‘Ingeneous, it’s them.’ Topspeed announced as he entered the Bridge. ‘The signal’s just come through, they’re at the base. They’ve activated the homing beacon and reporting that it’s safe to enter.’

    ‘That’s great news.’ Ingeneous replied. Although it had been some time coming; Wildfire had been arguing that the mini-bots must have been rendered non-functional and was urging a more aggressive approach to the base. He silently thanked the Source for the good news.

    ‘Steelrain, is everyone onboard?’ Ingeneous asked.

    ‘Yes commander.’ The mini-bot was still connected to the ship via the Pilot-Pod and his voice came through the vocal emitters on the Bridge.

    ‘Lock on to the beacon and take us to the base.’

    ‘Acknowledged.’

    Steelrain locked the external hatches and powered up the engines lifting Sparkhaven from the ground. He’d had the ship ready for take-off ever since they had touched down and had been running theoretical flight plans to compensate for the wind ever since. He smoothly took the craft through the mountain range, pleased that his assumptions for the wind vortexes around the peaks were correct; he only needed to make minor corrections to his flight plan. The other bots were unaware of the skill of his planning and all enjoyed a smooth flight; which he considered reward enough.

    After his successful navigation of the peaks it was simple to follow the burning signal intensity of the beacon to the base. Sparkhaven’s sensors informed him of the layout of the base even though optical visibility was extremely poor, he flew across it and homed in on the waiting docking bay.

    Steelrain gently lowered the craft into the dock and touched down onto the metal surface; a warning signal was emitted and the external bay doors noisily shut above them, cutting out the howl and bite of the wind. At last he completely powered down the engines and emerged from the Pilot-Pod, Steelrain then quickly joined the others on the disembarkation hatch.


    Ingeneous led his Autobots out into the docking bay, without the wind borne particulates visibility was not a problem, but already he could tell it was bad. On the second platform lay the ruined remains of the ship belonging to the bots stationed at the base. It was almost unrecognizable; the blackened, buckled walls of the bay on that side of the dock had taken the brunt of the explosion once the ship’s engines had exploded; the rest of the bay was pockmarked with impacts from the high velocity wreckage.

    ‘By Primus…’ Roadstalker gasped, the scientist was unable to finish her sentence.

    ‘Unsurprising.’ Wildfire commented, surveying the damage.

    Burnout and Flashstorm entered the dock, the two looked almost as battle damaged as the bay; they were littered with scratches and Flashstorm walked with a slight limp, while Burnout sported damage to one of his optic sensors.

    ‘Report.’ Wildfire ordered. Ingeneous kept his chagrin at bay, but was then immediately angry with himself. He should have rebuked the strategist for ordering his troops; Wildfire was making him look weak. Burnout didn’t even look to the commander before answering.

    ‘From the parts of the base we’ve seen it looks abandoned, damage everywhere. Looks like there was heavy fighting. We haven’t searched the whole facility, but we haven’t found any sign of the Autobots stationed here, or any attackers. The whole base was powered down, but the orbital defenses were fully operational.’

    ‘How do you account for your damage?’ Ingeneous asked.

    ‘This is from just being outside.’ Flashstorm snapped. Ingeneous was wrong footed by the demolition expert’s anger, he needed a moment to think; this was not what he had expected to find, what should they do now?

    ‘We need to locate the Mysterious Builder’s artifact.’ Topspeed announced to his commander.

    ‘Commander..?’ Groundking asked.

    ‘What needs to happen is…’ Wildfire began, before Ingeneous cut in.

    ‘What we need to do is locate the base’s crew, if there are any, secure this base and treat our wounded. Roadstalker,’

    ‘Commander.’

    ‘Take Burnout and Flashstorm to the repair deck and get them back to full strength. Groundking, go with them too. Topspeed, Wildfire, I want you to review the base’s databank and the communication log; see if you can find out what has happened here. Reload, secure the armory and take an inventory; Steelrain and I will search the rest of the facility and see if we can find anyone. Dismissed.’


    The repair bay was a mess; Groundking lifted aside a large piece of twisted alloy rubble from the floor to allow the others to pass. A quick diagnostic revealed that most of the equipment was still functional; he selected the appropriate items from the repair bay’s databank and had them activated.

    ‘Do you think there are any survivors?’ Roadstalker asked. She was probing some of Burnout’s damage with her Portable Analyser.

    ‘Doubt it. Looks like they were fighting corridor to corridor. If anyone was left they’d have come find us; we powered the base back up, they’d know we were here.’ The scientist then turned her attention to the mini-bot’s damaged optic sensor.

    ‘Hmm, don’t think we need to replace it.’ She muttered selecting the appropriate instruments from her arsenal.


    ‘Nothing.’ Wildfire said after reviewing the general log held in the Command Centre.

    ‘Maybe they didn’t have time to record anything?’ Topspeed suggested.

    ‘I’m going to have a look at that wrecked ship; go through all the non-command logs and inventories. Let me know of anything.’ Wildfire said and left.

    Topspeed’s head transformed back to Blip once the doors had shut again.

    ‘Might be quicker if we work separately for once. I’ll take the terminal over there.’ He said cheerfully.

    ‘I hate him.’ Topspeed said, his own head back on his shoulders.

    ‘I know. Hopefully he might get trapped under that wreckage when he starts poking around.’

    ‘Or he finds who attacked this place and they get him too.’

    ‘You know we don’t have to stay here, if it’s getting too much?’

    ‘No, I owe it to the others; Liberaticum, Chromaspark.’

    ‘And Iront…’

    ‘Don’t say his name!’

    ‘Ok, ok, I’m sorry. He’s in your thoughts a lot; it takes a long time to get over a loss like that. No one would blame you if we returned to Earth.’

    ‘We’re stuck here for the time being aren’t we? Let’s just get on with our ‘assignment’.’


    The main ground level access gate was to the south of the complex and Ingeneous and Steelrain reached it without any sign of the Autobots who were stationed at the base. The lock around the gate was in ruins however. The gate had been torn open, along with the field repairs and makeshift barriers erected over it. Damaged sentry guns lay amid the rubble underfoot, walls were pockmarked from weapons fire and spent casings crunched beneath the two Autobots’ feet as they were blasted by the biting wind howling through the damaged gate.

    ‘This looks like how they got in.’ Steelrain replied.

    ‘Yes, but still no bodies.’

    ‘Look at this.’ Ingeneous examined where Steelrain indicated. The remaining sections of the gate bore large claw marks.

    ‘Animechs?’ Ingeneous asked.

    ‘Possibly, whatever they were ripped the gate open from the outside.’

    Ingeneous activated the base’s communication system, ‘Groundking, report to the South lock, repairs are needed to the gate.’

    ‘Acknowledged.’

    ‘Commander.’

    ‘Yes Reload.’

    ‘Armoury’s been ransacked. There’s more weapons onboard Sparkhaven.’

    ‘Transfer what’s left to the ship, then report to the South lock.’

    ‘Understood.’


    ‘Still nothing.’ Blip announced looking up from his station.

    ‘Huh?’ Topspeed asked.

    ‘Haven’t found anything yet. You?’

    ‘No.’

    ‘What do you think’s happened in the South lock?’

    ‘Don’t know. I just need to check on something in one of the stores. Might be nothing too.’ Topspeed quickly left. Blip returned his attention to his station and opened up another log.

    Wildfire’s voice came over the comm.

    ‘Ingeneous, report to the docking bay.’ Blip almost considered not going, but deactivated the station he was working at and made his way to the bay.


    ‘I’ve found five bodies in the ship’s wreckage.’ The strategist said to the assembled Autobots in the hangar. Crouching by the remains at his feet he indicated two.

    ‘These are Autobots stationed at the base. The debris of the ship suggests that the explosion started inside. Looks like it was deliberate, likely to destroy the others I found.’
    The attention shifted to the remaining bodies.

    ‘Guardian drones?’ Ingeneous asked.

    ‘They look different, modified.’ Blip suggested.

    ‘Correct. The modifications are strange, which may be a result of the explosion, but the Guardian drones look malformed.’ Wildfire replied.

    ‘The long claws on them match some of the damage in the South lock.’ Ingeneous said. ‘If that’s how they got in we need to be ready for another attack.


    Blip finally tracked down Topspeed to a small storeroom on the west side of the base. The room was small compared to the others and the entrance way had been obscured from visual optics.

    ‘Come on, everyone needs to be in the South Lock.’

    The room looked like a storm had torn through it, crates were overturned, stored machinery lay shattered, even the walls had taken a battering. Topspeed was crouched in a corner, his back to the micro-bot.

    ‘What was so important about this room?’ Blip asked, ‘looks a mess to me.’

    Topspeed remained quiet and still. Blip approached closer, but still no movement. Then he saw the container Topspeed was crouched over.

    ‘Oh no.’

    ‘I… I couldn’t help it…’

    Blip then knew it had been Topspeed who had smashed up the room.

    ‘Why?’

    ‘I… I couldn’t handle things…’

    ‘I thought you were over this.’ Blip said as he picked up the Nucleon container from in front of Topspeed, a ten percent dose had been taken. Blip started to eject the rest into the junk littering the floor.

    ‘What … are you doing?’ Topspeed asked, he’d gotten to his feet, but some of his motor units were glitching; he looked unsteady and twitchy.

    ‘Getting rid of this poison.’

    ‘It’s mine, I need it.’

    ‘We both know that’s not true. You’ve beaten this before…’

    Topspeed snatched the container from his companion, almost knocking him off his feet. He opened his energon port and activated the container, ready to take another dose of the nucleon.

    ‘Please.’ Blip said meekly. Topspeed stopped and watched the cowering form before him.
    At last he shook his head and crushed the container. Scooping up the micro-bot they left the store room.

    ‘Sorry.’


    The Autobots worked quickly to seal the damage to the gate in the South Lock, Topspeed helped with small tasks, but the others were too busy to notice his glitches. Reload and Wildfire set up a weapons cache with spare ammunition and assorted ordinance, while Roadstalker and Blip constructed a temporary relay connected to the base’s sensor net and database.

    The mini-bots entered the South Lock after a thorough search of the base.

    ‘Nothing, no sign of any bodies, Autobot or otherwise.’ Burnout reported.

    ‘We should assume that they were able to escape the base. Roadstalker, can you examine the link to the Energon stations, perhaps they took refuge there.’ Ingeneous ordered. Roadstalker activated the newly installed node in the South Lock, after a moment she made her report.

    ‘Negative, all the stations are unoccupied. However, I was able to determine something interesting. An unidentified source is consuming a large proportion of the produced Energon; possibly the Lithonian’s facility.’

    ‘Perhaps they are there. Blip, see if you can raise a communication channel with that location.’

    Blip got to work at the node.

    ‘We might have a problem; I can’t contact that location, or it is ignoring us. But five non-Transformer functions are traveling this way.’

    ‘Looks like something knows we’re here.’ Wildfire said.

    ‘We don’t know that they’re hostile.’ Ingeneous replied.

    ‘The modified Guardians I found had been hostile enough to mean destroying their ship.’

    ‘Blip, can you raise communications with them?’ Ingeneous asked.

    ‘Negative,’ Blip replied after a moment’s work, ‘They’ve now increased their pace.’

    ‘We should prepare for the worst.’ Wildfire muttered.


    The thump against the outside of the lock signaled their arrival.

    ‘Everyone ready?’ Ingeneous asked.

    The first set of claws emerged through the repaired lock with a dull squeal. The Autobots confirmed their readiness one by one from the positions Wildfire had marshaled them into. More claws punctured the lock and large chunks were ripped away, the thick blinding winds poured through the gap.

    ‘Hold.’ Ingeneous ordered. They waited as more of the lock was ripped away and then one of them came through. It had been a Guardian unit at some point, but the wind and other twisted appendages hid it. Raising its long claws it charged.

    ‘Fire.’ Wildfire ordered and the mini-bots opened up with their precision rifles. The anti-pretender attachments to the weapons allowed them to fire high powered, high caliber kinetic ammunition. The attachments made the weapons almost unwieldy, but the stopping power they provided was worth the pay-off. Heavy slugs pierced the ex-Guardian’s chest armour and lifted it from its feet. The other four barged past, each as twisted as the fallen unit. The mini-bots reloaded and fired again from their hastily assembled firing positions towards the rear of the lock; another was sent crashing to the floor. By now the others had closed on the rest of the Autobots, who were assembled just in front of Burnout’s mini-bot team; they opened fire on another ex-Guardian, but merely made it stumble.

    Two of the twisted units closed on the Autobot line, one swung its claws wildly sending Groundking flying; shredded parts of the engineer’s torso splattering against the floor. Ingeneous slammed into it, sending the two to the ground. The last ex-Guardian swiped at Roadstalker, but its claws splintered against Reload’s spinning rotor shield as he thrust it in the way. A back handed swipe from his laser energon sword decapitated it.

    ‘One down’

    Ingeneous wrestled against the ex-Guardian he had challenged. The unit writhed in his embrace, frantically struggling to unpin its arms from the commander’s grasp. Topspeed threw himself onto the construct’s back and savagely tried pummeling it, the illegal Nucleon not having quite purged itself from his system he was feeling unstoppable.

    ‘Aim … fire!’ Burnout called to his mini-bot team. The salvo shredded the damaged chest plating of the first ex-Guardian, ending its functionality. ‘Reload’ he calmly called.
    Wildfire was shoulder to shoulder with Roadstalker as they fired on the closest ex-Guardian to them. The strategist had powered up all his Triggerbot enrichments; laser beams, shrapnel rockets, anti-mech grenades and plasma bolts slammed against the construct, adding to the fire from his rifle; yet still it kept coming. He led the scientist back another two steps closer to the mini-bots; his plasma-caster was close to overheating and his grenade launcher ran empty.

    Topspeed was flung to the floor and two metal fists followed him down, impacting against his chest, cracking the armour there. Ingeneous lined up his rifle and fired point blank against the ex-Guardian’s head. The blast toppled the construct, falling to its knees. Ingeneous reached out a hand and pulled Topspeed to his feet; the Master nodded his thanks as their opponent pressed its attack yet again.

    Burnout and the mini-bots joined Wildfire and Roadstalker; their precision rifles left in their firing position, the ex-Guardians were too close to use the weapons without fear of hitting another Autobot.

    ‘Concentrate fire on its right shoulder.’ Wildfire ordered. The focused fire zeroed in on the damage already inflicted there; severing the arm and halting it’s advance. ‘Now its left knee.’

    Claws splintered against Reload’s energon Rotor shield; but swinging with the sword just sent the construct dodging back out of range. Tiring of the exchange, Reload fired the rotor and the spinning disc sliced through the air and the construct. Standing over the spasming ex-Guardian, the warrior brought his sword down two handed into the mechanoid’s chest section, ending all movement.

    Topspeed had the construct’s arms pinned against its back, but it bucked about trying to throw him off. The ex-Guardian’s claws nicked against his legs, but he was still too charged from the nucleon to notice. Ingeneous closed in, darting one hand in against the damage his earlier shot had caused in the unit’s head; he used the fingers on his other hand to pierce the ex-Guardian’s optic sensors. Ingeneous crushed and twisted and the construct thrashed about even more.

    ‘Quick’ Topspeed uttered as he struggled to hold the ex-Guardian. With a squeal of metal Ingeneous tore its head off, rendering it non-functional.

    ‘That must be the last of them.’ Topspeed said, letting the metal corpse drop to the floor. The room was filling up with the winds from outside, visibility was rapidly falling.

    ‘Status?’ Ingeneous asked.

    ‘I think we’re all ok.’ Roadstalker replied.

    ‘Groundking’s gone’ Wildfire reported solemnly.

    ‘What?’ Topspeed asked, almost incredulous. ‘He shouldn’t be walking after that blow, never mind walking off.’

    ‘That’s just it, he didn’t walk anywhere; we’re one of those things unaccounted for, he must have been taken.’
     
  7. uklangor

    uklangor Active Member

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    Chapter 6

    The Kirton system was relatively uninteresting; a handful of planets, a meager asteroid belt and a red giant star at its heart that had already consumed the inner most worlds. Transformer scientists had predicted the eventual release of the outer shell of the star to form a White Dwarf in 23 Vorns time to be the most significant natural event. However, the most significant un-natural event for the Kirton system occurred thousands of Vorns in the past. Still now orbiting the star, even after all that time, was an example of the Ancients’ superior engineering skills. A small Autobot Resource Analysis Team (RAT) had entered the system to catalogue the abundance of natural sources of material for construction materials or conversion to energon; but was astonished to make such an extraordinary discovery.

    That it still had a functioning magnestoshield since its abandonment was testament to the abilities of the Ancients. The shield had protected it from impacts from the other bodies in the system and the stream of charged particles emitted by the dying star; that had also made it easier for the RAT to find it.

    Upon further investigation the RAT had easily gained entry and found most systems powered down and almost out of energon. However, they had discovered perhaps the pinnacle of the Ancient’s capabilities: a Warworld.


    The Warworld saw hundreds of Autobots flock to it, to study its design, to try and coax the reluctant Databanks to give up their secrets, or to even walk through its labyrinthine passageways. However, the inevitability of the Kirton’s star’s cycle was not lost on the scientists. Unwilling to risk possible damage from the release of the planetry nebula when the red giant finally loses its grip on its outer shell; scientists and engineers began their laborious work to reactivate long non-functional systems and replace damaged components in an effort to be able to fly the Warworld away. The work had successes, but the intensity of it required permanent garrisons of science and engineering teams, but also the establishment of resource extractors, metal refineries, workshops and energon harvesters. A command Head Quarters was quickly set up on one of the barren moons of the closest gas giant, which orbited the star almost as slowly as the Warworld. The planet’s eternal spinning hurricanes and electrical storms provided more robust harvester units seeded throughout its atmosphere enough sources to generate a steady supply of energon to power the repair mission. However, the moon’s orbit of the gas giant once every 86 326 Breems meant for at least a quarter of that time the HQ constructed upon its surface would be on the other side of the gas giant to that of the Warworld.


    Having calculated this orbit, Kraken’s ship in full stealth function approached the far side of the moon and fired five small objects, before leaving for the far reaches of Kirton’s system to rejoin Revaxus’s fleet in hiding amongst the asteroids at the periphery of the system and interstellar space. Four of the objects were smaller and faster than the fifth as they streaked in towards the moon. Caught in its limp atmosphere the objects aligned themselves to reduce friction and to prepare for impact; too small to be noticed by any sensor they made their approach undetected.

    After braking, one object splashed down into a lake of methane liquid around the north pole of the moon. Immediately Darkjet jettisoned his Atmospheric Reentry armour and transformed to robot mode. Checking his chronometer and navi-system, the mini chassis framed Decepticon began a fast walk along the bottom of the lake bed; his reentry had been slightly off course, putting him behind schedule. Darkjet was furious.
    Emerging from the liquid with his cloaking emitter activated Darkjet could not detect any Autobot patrols. He transformed to his air-mobile mode and blasted off. Behind schedule, he burned more of his energon reserve to hit a higher speed and flew close to the ground through gulleys and along dried up river beds in an effort to avoid any active sensor close by.

    Arriving at his predetermined site ahead of schedule, Darkjet settled down and reviewed his energon levels, re-calculating how long he could use his cloak and / or maintain top speed in his alt-mode. Satisfied, he readied his precision rifle and waited. Annoyingly, three tenths of a breem behind schedule came the encrypted message: Pulsar had been the fifth member of the team to reach the surface and was present to coordinate. The communications specialist had finally reached his specified position.

    Darkjet signaled back his readiness using his own personal encryption. Another short encrypted message from Pulsar indicated that all the team was in place and they were to proceed.

    With his precision rifle, Darkjet covered the south side of the Autobot’s HQ. Slightly ahead of schedule he watched another mini chassis framed Decepticon, Highbolt, approach the south entrance. His cloak was down as he interfaced with the lock on the door; his Databank could not operate the emitter and his code breaking systems at the same time. Darkjet scanned the surrounding area for Autobots, but Highbolt was alone.
    The door sprang open and Highbolt retreated from the opening and readied his rifle as Darkjet joined his fellow mini mech. Activating their cloaks, the two entered the squat building. The HQ was a very simple design with an expected very low occupancy of Autobots, but Highbolt and Darkjet took it in turns to advance along the functional corridors, with the other covering the movement with a precision rifle.

    Pausing at an intersection, Darkjet spotted an Autobot moving away from them. The standard-tactical bot was headed in the approximate direction of the HQ’s generator room; the destination of the second team of minicons. Consulting his chronometer Darkjet pushed on, eager to make it within the mission time. However Highbolt stopped, raised his silenced rifle, and fired. The single shot impacted against the bot’s back; however, that mech’s particular altmode meant that a number of functional components were folded over its rear. Highbolt’s shot made a mess of the impact area, but apart from rendering the Autobot’s altmode useless, he was still very much functional. Highbolt watched in surprise as the bot stumbled to its feet, but then Darkjet was by his companion’s side and fired into their victim’s chest. The shot penetrated the mech’s armour, sending him flat on his back. Darkjet rushed to their fallen prey and with his small energon blade quickly pierced the likely spots on the Autobot to severe its Sparkcore and Databank. The Autobot didn’t get up; a quick check determined that he was now non-functional. Darkjet glowered fiercely at Highbolt, before dragging the fallen bot back into the corridor they had travelled along. Highbolt did a brief sweep of the surrounding corridors; but no further Autobots had been alerted by the confrontation.

    Behind schedule because of Highbolt’s actions, Darkjet rushed the two of them along; luckily Highbolt was either unaware or uncaring of the risk Darkjet put on them by his haste by foregoing their previous cautious approach.

    Their luck held and they reached the Control room without meeting any more Autobots. However, their destination contained two of them; a standard-light and a large, probably the base’s commanding Autobot. But they were late; no sooner had they reached the room when the power went off; the other team had obviously completed their part of the mission. Following a brief exchange between the two Autobots, the standard-light left, presumably to check on the generator. Highbolt lined up his rifle onto the bot’s back as she ran past them, but this time Darkjet knocked his rifle away. He shook his head vigorously and forcefully pointed at the large mech, still unaware of their presence. Understanding took a while for Highbolt, but eventually the mini mech nodded. Darkjet tried to signal a pincer movement action to Highbolt, the Decepticon shrugged, so he repeated it again. Highbolt didn’t respond, but as Darkjet moved into the room, Highbolt did too, but around the opposite side. Darkjet would have to hope that he could rely on Highbolt and that the others in the generator room could handle the standard-light Autobot.

    Silently the two Decepticons circled the lone base commander as he repeatedly tried to activate controls and sensor readings. Darkjet looked him over; the bot was not broadcasting his Ident-sig, so it was difficult to determine how powerful he would be. His armour looked in excellent condition with no obvious extra storage ports carrying weapons or additional equipment. He could be wrong, but this looked like a low ranked, young commander.

    Darkjet lined up his rifle, if the commander was still young and new to battle, he most probably would not have considered altering the location of his Sparkcore to avoid fatal wounds; this should be simple…

    Highbolt’s shot instead hit the commander lower in the abdomen; the Autobot fell to his knees with ruined body casing and circuitry dropping from the wound. Although the damage appeared extensive, it was not fatal. The commander had readied the pistol he was carrying and fired at Highbolt’s location, catching the minicon in the leg. The Autobot was shouting for help and struggling to his feet; Highbolt had dropped his weapon and was floundering on the floor.

    Darkjet considered letting the Autobot dispatch his partner, certainly Highbolt had made the mission more complicated and had threatened the schedule. Yet appearing incompetent in Revaxus’s optical sensors was not a good thing.

    Darkjet’s first shot took out the wounded Autobot’s vocal emmiter; it also caused the mech to turn towards his new attacker, exposing his chest. Darkjet had advanced closer and was able to fire, almost point blank, into the commander’s chest. The shot tore through armour and shredded the Sparkcore it passed through, before leaving the mech and penetrating the floor.

    With their adversary destroyed, Darkjet sent an encrypted message to the second team, they responded that they had control of the generator and had dealt with the Autobots there, including a standard – light framed bot that walked in on them.

    Power was restored, now in control of the Autobot’s HQ, Darkjet signaled Pulsar, who, now that the sensors were in Decepticon control, was able to approach the base.
    Darkjet helped Highbolt up.

    ‘You’re still a liability.’

    ‘But no con can pick a lock like me.’

    ‘Get to the med-bay; we can’t have Pulsar seeing you like that.’


    ‘Casualties?’ Pulsar asked upon entering the control room.

    ‘Only Autobots’ Darkjet replied.

    ‘And almost to schedule as well. Revaxus will be pleased.’ Pulsar transformed to his static altmode of a sensor array. He was then able to interact with the HQ’s systems and take control. After first assessing that no Autobots remained in or around the base, Pulsar signaled Revaxus using the Autobot’s own systems. The HQ allowed Pulsar to manipulate the sensor readings of the other Autobot buildings, allowing Revaxus’s fleet to approach and then land undetected.


    Revaxus led Greygrip, Clawkill, Skyline, Kraken and the Assaultacons into the captured HQ; the rest of the Decepticon force remained on the ships. Entering the control room, Pulsar transformed back to his robot mode.

    ‘Everything went as I planned Commander.’

    ‘Good, what about the other Autobot facilities I see scattered around?’

    ‘Mostly fully automated with a few Autobots left behind at each one. The metal refinery situated on the opposite hemisphere to our current location on this moon is the only densely populated facility. Small teams sent to each will wipe out the Autobots, but leave the facilities for us.’

    Revaxus nodded, Pulsar selected teams and issued orders.



    From his lofty position Tear’s sensors locked onto the Autobot refinery easily. The facility was a simple collection of units, but the heat it was generating was melting the solid methane ice packed around, sending spumes of the gas up through the atmosphere. The base had clearly needed modifications; the tops of sturdy anchor points were visible, suggesting colossal metal pinions had been driven into the moon, keeping the facility in place as it constantly refined drilled ore and manufactured the alloys required for construction. Vast chasms had opened up around it as the ice had first melted and then evaporated away in the thin atmosphere.

    The refinery’s effect on the local environment made it very easy to find, but also easy to approach undetected. Tear wistfully regarded how easy it would be to destroy the entire place, a few charges placed along one of the pinions and a few more in the surrounding ice could bury it. But, orders were orders.

    Shredder’s mobile-air altmode came streaking up to join his own. Shredder formed a sleek all-purpose interceptor, adaptable in any atmospheric conditions; his speed and shape allowed him to escape detection by many enemy sensors. Shredder slowed his air speed to match his commander.

    ‘Charges in place.’ He reported calmly. Shredder had busied himself by planting explosives under the Autobot constructed roadways spanning the chasms.

    ‘Are the others in place?’ Tear asked, the three remaining members of the team were cursed with mobile-ground altmodes; while he pitied their affliction, they were still reliable and dependable troops.

    ‘Yes commander.’ While Vision was lightly armed, the communication specialist’s altmode of a mobile sensor utility vehicle was often able to deflect enemy scanners and allow the ground stricken members to approach installations undetected.

    ‘Blow the charges and follow me in.’ The explosions sent the roadways tumbling down into the methane ice chasms; sealing the Autobot refinery off from the surrounding areas and trapping the occupants inside. Tear banked and thundered into the base, releasing part of his payload on several non-critical structures and to make sure they really did get the Autobots’ attention.

    Shredder followed him down into a central hexagonal courtyard, where the others were just emerging.

    ‘Assaultacons, unite!’ Tear ordered. The commander changed form into the torso of Saberus, the super-mech that his team formed. The others followed suit, transforming into the limbs of Saberus, as startled Autobots poured out of manufacturing units and away from workstations to find out what was happening. The occupying mechs were largely engineers or scientists, many unarmed, very lightly armoured and low on rank and energon. All were unaware of the Decepticon invasion of the moon, their shock at the sound of so many explosions was only magnified by the sight of Saberus, for some it was the first, and unfortunately last, time they had laid optics on a Decepticon Gestalt. Saberous, now united, was awe inspiring, weapon systems protruded from shoulders and knees, a rifle was brandished in Its right hand, while Its left gripped a wicked Cybertanium sword. For some of the beleaguered Autobots, the most distressing thing was not the sight of so many weapons, but the look of sheer pleasure across Its devilish face; the wane light from the system’s red giant star painting the super-robot in somber crimson beams, with shadows flittering across its form as the methane vapour spumed over head.

    Saberous was the combination of the minds of all five Assaultacons, a unification perfected by Decepticon scientists over the vorns. Saberous was almost unique; young enough to have escaped the Unified-Mind issues of the older Gestalts, but old enough to have participated in so many actions to have achieved a respectable rank, Saberous was a valuable asset. While the individual Assaultacons invariably suffered disagreements and grudges with each other separately, together, unified as Saberous, the resultant mind surprisingly had only one flaw. Saberous believed It was the deity of murder.
    The super-robot’s first sword swing decapitated and halved those Autobots closest to It, the silvered blade slicing through the mechs, powered by Its vast strength.

    ‘Tremble before the Harvester of Sparks!’ Saberous bellowed, Its Ident-sig was cranked up too, any mech receiving it close by was momentarily paralyzed by its ferocity.
    Saberous believed that It would rejoin Its fellow deities within the Omniversal Matrix as soon as It had extinguished enough sparks. This belief gave Saberous purpose; that purpose gave Saberous a form of stability. It knew that Its destiny was assured, It just had the simple task of collecting every Autobot spark It happened across.

    ‘Fear the Bane of Autobots!’ Saberous fired Its rifle into the back rows of the fleeing Autobots in the courtyard. Those caught in the centre of the blast were shredded, with those on the outskirts flung away by the resulting concussion wave; part of the wall crumbled burying the wounded and the slow. As the rifle recharged, Saberous opened up with Its secondary limb mounted weaponry; kinetic rounds, short range lasers and grenades ravaged the Autobot numbers.

    Several Autobots reentered the courtyard now armed after a hasty visit to the facility’s limited armoury. Saberous was easily over twice as tall as the largest Autobot, so the mechs blasted away on full auto and at full power without fear of hitting their own; others desperately tried to contact the HQ, only to find communications were down, a few fled.

    Saberous laughed at the minimal damage the returning fire caused Its armoured hide. Recharged, his fearsome rifle quickly dispatched the attackers, while Its sword made short work of the rest.

    The deserters made it onto the main roadway from the facility, but ground to a halt at the gaping hole the Assaultacons’ explosives had left. Transformed back to robot mode, the bots didn’t have time to even devise of ways to escape before the ground violently shook as Saberous landed behind them. It was still laughing. A desperate mech tried to jump the gap; the distance was clearly too great and the hapless bot was lost to the yawning chasm.

    ‘The sparks of cowards taste sweeter.’ Saberous proclaimed, calmly laying down Its sword and rifle, the five remaining Autobots watching in thrall.

    ‘I reserve a special punishment for cowards.’ It rumbled.
    Saberous grasped the first one in its mighty hands, lifting the mech up. The bot was held level with Its own optics, before slowly all four limbs were removed, one by one.

    Satisfied, Saberous then pounded the body against the ground, shattering the mech’s head, before being tossed into the canyon.

    The other four mechs had run past It, back towards the refinery.

    ‘There is no escape, I shall find you all.’ It shouted at the fleeing forms.


    As Revaxus’s teams took to liberating the local Autobot facilities, Pulsar took the time to visit their Science Unit along with his four mini Decepticon minions. It was a squat, dull building a short distance from the HQ. The walls were thick and robust with an Autobot insignia above the main entrance; the roof featured a collection of sensor arrays which Pulsar stopped to admire as he sent Darkjet and the others in before him. The Autobots sometimes featured fascinating designs in their architecture, as if construction were engineered to meet their aesthetic tastes, as well as functionality. Such a thing was largely absent from Decepticon constructions, the communication specialist lamented.
    Darkjet reported that the Unit was deserted and so Pulsar entered. The usual laboratories and equipment dominated the interior rooms, but Pulsar ignored them and entered the storage area for the building’s Node. He regarded the quietly humming machinery; already he was mentally probing its encrypted access. Almost distractedly, he ordered two of the mini-cons to stand guard on the main entrance, with Highbolt posted to the smaller rear door and Darkjet stationed just outside the Node housing; there were a few scientists amongst Revaxus’s new troops and Pulsar did not want to be disturbed.

    Transforming to his static-array altmode, Pulsar mentally connected with the Autobot’s machine and quickly overcame the security features. His mind raced into the new networks opened up to him, millions of units of data on the Warworld were suddenly available: schematics, operational instructions, travel capabilities, weapon options, sensor designs. All of which he hungrily copied into his own databank, before deleting it from the Autobot’s equipment; Skyline had found favour with Revaxus following his suggestion about the Warworld and now with the Autobots leaving a large number of facilities poorly protected allowing the Decepticons to refuel before the main attack, meant the Fueler was held with even higher regard. Pulsar needed to remain indispensible.
    With the data copied, Pulsar jealously examined the processors and components of the vast data banks, which far exceeded the equipment he’d had installed within the fleet. The Autobots had used the most sophisticated programs and tools to analyse the data from the numerous experiments they had conducted either aboard the Warworld, or within the neighbouring laboratories. Pulsar immediately put them to work decoding some of the information he’d recorded when emitted from the Artefact. With the work assigned he was surprised to find still more processing power spare! He quickly put it to work on his own personal project; reexamining all the recordings of Megatron’s appearance to himself, Skyline, Clawkill, Shockwing and Revaxus.


    The Autobots’ spaceport on the small moon consisted of five large landing pads, three smaller pads, a fleet of storage hangars and a squat cluster of service buildings. The Autobot insignia on each of the landing pads was blackened in places, almost completely faded in others; a sign that it had seen constant use transporting crew and supplies to the Warworld and back. It was a well stocked facility, the buried energon supply tanks beneath each landing pad were full, as were the reserves securely housed in the supply building. In the hangars were two large Autobot supply transports and a smaller personnel shuttle; all fully fueled and flight operational. Ready crafted replacement engine parts were found in one building, while another stored a Rapid Assembler big enough to manufacture any other ship part from the mountain of alloy ingots kept in the neighbouring shed.

    From the Control Tower, Kraken watched as another ship from Revaxus’s fleet came in to land on a spare landing pad as another taxied into the hangars for another maintenance check. Kraken looked across the collection of Decepticon vessels to his own ship, the Anion, nestled against the refueling umbilical attached from the landing pad below. A sleek design of silver and maroon, its prominent quintet of spines protruding from the fore of the craft gave it an ominous appearance and a hint as to some of the actions it was capable of. The spines themselves housed weapon systems and sensor arrays along their length, but the reinforced struts were designed to pierce the skin of larger crafts and following close range fire allow the passengers to rapidly board another vessel. The Anion featured the latest stealth technology making it almost undetectable from a pleasingly high percentage of sensors.

    Clawkill entered the Control Tower, after a moment’s hesitation, he strode along the main room to stand by Kraken’s side.

    ‘Switchkill, report to your Commander!’ Kraken barked. The light framed mech turned from the console she had hardpointed herself; the established Autobot control Node was being very resistant to the Decepticon’s subversion, requiring a hardpoint connection to utilize the systems around the facility.

    ‘Our last vessel has just landed and will begin refueling. All Autobots captured are being held in Hangar Eight. No casualties to our forces.’

    ‘You mean Clawkill’s forces.’ Kraken corrected.

    ‘Yes Lieutenant.’ She hissed and transmitted the specifics to Clawkill.

    ‘What shall be done with the Autobot prisoners, Commander?’

    ‘Um,’ Clawkill tried to reply. ‘What do you think Kra … Lieutenant?’ He managed after a brief pause.

    ‘Execution. Switchkill, see to it personally.’ Kraken ordered.

    ‘Yesss Lieutenant.’ With a cheerful note to her hiss, Switchkill left.

    ‘Thanks.’ Clawkill simply said when he was at last alone with Kraken.

    ‘You’ll get there.’ Kraken replied. ‘Command is difficult. The trick is to look like you know what you’re doing. They’re animechs, just like you; they respect strength and power. All that mainstreaming you’ve been doing has blinded you to your true self. Give in to your instincts, you’ll be fine.’

    ‘What if I get it wrong?’

    ‘You need to believe that you won’t ever be wrong.’ Outside Switchkill could be seen crossing the spaceport on her way to the hangars; she’d taken two other cons with her.

    ‘They’re a good team.’

    ‘Yes, they expect to be commanded, it’s what they’re used to, it’s become ingrained into their function.’

    ‘You’re a good Commander.’

    ‘I’ve got my own team. You’re their Commander, whether you like it or not.’

    Switchkill reached Hangar Eight with her two companions. From the Control Tower she could be seen passing orders to the two sentries at the door. The five of them, weapons ready, entered. Flashes from their attacks could be seen spilling out as the door slowly shut behind them.



    Skyline led a squad of engineers to the refinery; clouds of heated methane hung low casting a purple tinged shadow over the complex. From the air Skyline could tell it was bad; fires burned in several places, tops were missing from the taller buildings and some walls lay as rubble. Banking as he descended he quickly reached the main courtyard and transformed, it was even worse on the ground. Deactivated Autobots had been nailed to the walls surrounding the courtyard with varying lengths of alloy beams; atop the highest remaining wall their heads were attached on spikes like grim crenellations; in one corner a make shift altar had been built from several of the larger bots to hold a burning cauldron. From the intensity of the heat and the colour of the flames, Skyline could tell the blaze was fed from energon, he guessed it probably came from the Autobots.

    The Assaultacons stood scattered throughout, silent witnesses to the misery of the place. Most of them held their heads low, or kept their photoreceptors fixed on the clouds above. Tear approached, he almost looked ashamed of the devastation.

    ‘Does anything remain intact?’ Skyline asked.

    ‘No bots. Not sure about anything else.’ Tear replied.

    Skyline probed the facility’s Node and was pleased to find it still functional, yet in hibernaton. It had tried to summon help during Saberous’s attack, but the interference signals prepared by Pulsar at the HQ had made the attempt futile. He ordered the engineers to work: crack the Node, determine the refinery’s inventory and capabilities, to continue operations where possible and to get a road passage constructed across one of the chasms. On the flight to the refinery Skyline had caught some chatter amongst the engineers; they were unhappy at being put to work again so soon after their efforts with Revaxus’s fleet, however, Skyline was pleased to see that their current surroundings were suitably motivating.

    ‘What about us?’ Tear asked once the engineers had left to complete their jobs. Skyline looked from one sorry member of the Assaultacons to the next, then slowly to the dismembered Autobot corpse decorations.

    ‘Devise a way of preventing Saberous from performing such unpalatable actions.’ The Fueler said and left them to their misery.


    Pulsar was amazed at the sophistication of the Autobot Node he now controlled. He’d been able to transfer copies of all his personal data from his backups aboard the Nighthammer and begin analysis. While the data transmitted by the Artefact were still being examined he was gaining ground with his Megatron project. The Node replayed the first meeting with Megatron aboard Shockwing’s base around Cybertron. Pulsar’s recording devices had been installed everywhere and now he watched again as himself, Revaxus, Shockwing, Skyline and Clawkill cowered before the magnificence of Megatron for the first time. He recalled that first meeting; Megatron had appeared as a translucent magnificence, his brilliance piercing their sensors, gripping their very sparks, leaving no doubt as to whose company they were in. Pulsar had reviewed the recordings numerous times since, but only a faint blur appeared on the sensor feeds instead of Megatron’s infamous being. But now the Autobot Node had enhanced the feedback; the images showed a deep warping where Megatron had stood, the audio returned a whispering hiss where before only silence had been captured when Megatron had ordered their search for the Artefact and their quest for the weapon it surely led to.

    He reviewed the other findings from the Node; already it had selected several recordings of note showing Revaxus alone with a now familiar warped visual image and a whispered hiss. Pulsar’s speculations ran rampant; had Megatron ordered the execution of Shockwing after all? Had he provided the details of Rheanimum too? What other orders had only Revaxus been privy to?


    From the safety of the makeshift construction site, Skyline watched as Tear, with the last expanse of alloy roadway harnessed underneath his alt-mode, carefully lifted if from the central courtyard of the Autobot refinery. Teams of engineers on either side of the chasm swarmed over the remains of the bridge, Rapid Assemblers extending the carcass of the previous roadway.

    ‘Is that the last piece?’ One of the engineers asked.

    ‘It is. Proceed to the bridge, help the others fix it into place.’ Skyline replied.

    ‘Why did we have to work so far away from the bridge? I’m going to have to refuel before I get there!’

    ‘Consider yourself fortunate!’ Skyline snapped. ‘The wasteful heat energy produced from our inefficient Rapid Assemblers is enough to melt the methane ice around the chasm. Working on these large items would have resulted in it falling into the chasm along with those assigned to its construction, including myself. The team at the bridge has already seen one casualty from such carelessness. Console yourself that I chose to include you in this work detail.’ The chastised Decepticon paused.

    ‘Fear not, the remaining work at the bridge is located at the centre of the expanse, away from the ice. You will not fall.’

    Skyline followed the departing mechs part of the way before climbing one of the walls affording him a vantage point over the bridge assembly. Work on cracking the Node had been difficult, requiring a hardpoint access. Unfortunately the Node specialist engineer had a ground mobile altmode and was stranded on the far side of the chasm. Reluctantly Skyline had had to reassign all engineers to the bridge, before they could progress any further.

    Finally with the last piece in place, Skyline watched as the Assaultacons left and the ground based engineers crossed the bridge into the refinery complex. They assembled in the courtyard; Skyline eavesdropped on the bits of chatter that filtered up to him as he made his way to join them.

    ‘…finished at last, let’s hope we actually get left alone for a bit.’ The Node specialist was saying.

    ‘Fat chance of that.’ Another added.

    ‘What’s with this mech anyway? It’s been none stop since Decatron. First all that work on those ships, barely enough time to refuel or data compact and then its straight back to work!’

    ‘Yeah, at least Decatron respected what we did.’

    ‘Exactly! Someone needs to say something.’

    ‘Is that someone yourself?’ Skyline asked the Node specialist, finally emerging into the courtyard. The other cons parted, as if he were infected with scraplets. The Node specialist was similarly abandoned, but he did not reply.

    ‘Vocal emitter malfunction?’ Skyline enquired.

    ‘No Sir.’

    ‘Good. You and you,’ Skyline indicated the other outspoken engineer, newly arrived from the opposite side of the canyon. ‘The Node awaits your attention; see that it is turned to our control.’

    ‘Acknowledged.’

    Skyline waited for the twosome to depart before issuing orders to the remaining engineers. There was still much to do, including disposing of the Autobot corpse decorations the Assaultacons had left behind. With all Decepticons assigned new work details he received a communication from the Node specialist.

    ‘The Node is in hibernation mode.’

    ‘A previously known fact’

    ‘I need to access it via a hardpoint.’

    ‘Again, previously known.’

    ‘The Node is hardwired to the rest of the facility, but Autobot safety protocols have rendered these non-functional.’

    ‘Do you recall my previous answer?’

    ‘The elevator is locked at the ground level, the hardwire and energon feeds run through a narrow channel along the side of the lift shaft, far too small for even a micro-framed con to get down.’

    ‘Am I correct in thinking you are our Node specialist?’

    ‘Yes.’

    ‘Via a hardpoint, you will be able to subvert the Node?’

    ‘Well, yes. Probably.’

    ‘Cut through the base of the elevator and the two of you drop down to the Node chamber.’

    ‘But if I can’t hack the Node, we’ll be stuck. We’re both ground mobiles!’

    ‘I suggest that you do not fail then. I’m travelling to your location; you may need assistance cutting through.’

    After a lengthy pause the Node specialist responded

    ‘That’s ok, we can manage.’



    ‘Pulsar, report.’ Greygrip’s contact broke the communication specialist’s concentration on his own work.

    ‘I’ve almost subverted the Autobots’ science Node. I’ll have access to all the Warworld’s details shortly.’ He lied, while pausing the playback of his personal Project-Megatron. Stationed next to the Node, he reviewed reports from his mini-framed cons outside; no mech was approaching.

    ‘Hopefully the Commander won’t slag you then.’

    ‘Quite.’ Pulsar was taken aback by being addressed by Greygrip, how had the strategist found favour so much to now be demanding reports from him?

    ‘You are summoned to the spaceport. Don’t keep the Commander waiting.’ Greygrip cut the connection. Pulsar was furious; how had Greygrip become the voice of Revaxus? Why had Revaxus not contacted him personally? Already he was minimizing the applications the Node was performing for him and analyzing the specifics of the machine. He was loathe to lose the computational power of the equipment. Quickly he ordered his minions to prepare the Node for transport and installation aboard the Nighthammer.

    ‘The deadline is tight, but it will be done.’ Darkjet replied, after reviewing his instructions.

    ‘Once you’re removed the Node, destroy this place, nothing left, no salvage.’

    ‘No problem.’ Highbolt responded.


    Within the Autobots’ refinery complex, the Node was housed within a large spherical vault deep within the facility. The Autobots had wisely been concerned about interference from the violent processes of the foundry around it and had shielded the delicate Node excessively. Located at the far end of the complex away from the drilling sites, the Node was only accessible via a single elevator. With the Node in a state of hibernation following Saberus’s attack, the lift had remained at ground level. Skyline boarded the stationary platform adjacent to the hole cut through its base. Under his mental command the lift started to descend. Even though the elevator platform was large enough to have two super-framed mechs stood easily upon it, the mechanism was surprisingly swift. Low level illuminations zipped by, but the alloy lined shaft was altogether un-noteworthy.

    Alighting at the bottom, Skyline was faced with large green alloy double doors more than three times his own height and wide enough to allow a tactical team of mechs stood shoulder to shoulder to pass. The door was adorned with the all too familiar Autobot insignia, along with written instructions and warning symbols; Skyline was still astonished at the simple backups the Autobots always put in place. He spotted security and monitoring devices in the lobby, which presumably would broadcast the same information much like a Transformer’s Ident-sig. The printed information would only be useful if that system failed and if the mech had had his Databank wiped so they had no idea where they were on a complex they had access to. Autobots, so typically energon cube is half empty.

    Passing through the hole cut through the door to permit access, Skyline joined the two Decepticon engineers in the Node’s vault. Like the room it was housed in, it was spherical, supported in position by a web of alloy poles, the machine squatted in the centre of the chamber, a mess of wires hung beneath it which then disappeared in the floor below. The Node was clearly active, but Skyline could feel no vibrations through the floor, thanks to the support beams installed to lovingly caress the machine.

    The two Decepticon engineers were stood precariously around the room, the steep curves of the room making it difficult to maintain a solid footing.

    ‘Report.’ Skyline ordered.

    ‘I’ve taken control directly,’ The Node specialist began. He was stood closest to the Node, wires connected him to the hardpoint access of the giant machine in front of him, his voice seemed to emanate from the Node itself. ‘Subversion is taking longer than thought. I’m in control, but if I disconnect the Node will revert back to hibernation.’ He continued.

    ‘I had been assured you are a Node specialist.’

    ‘He is.’ The other con replied, he was nestled amongst the supports above the Node, wires similarly attached him too, yet his voice was his own. ‘There’s still options open, we’ll crack it.’

    ‘Good. Now that the refinery is operational again, Revaxus has recalled us to the spaceport to begin some modifications on the Autobot transports. The time of our attack fast approaches, however, you will both remain here. Complete your work with the Node, oversee production of the alloy ingots here; inevitably we will require repairs.’

    ‘Acknowledged.’ The Node specialist responded, his disembodied voice filling the chamber.

    Skyline turned to leave, but with a direct personal communication he contacted the second con.

    Learn everything from your colleague, ensure you master all his skills, then terminate him. You will now be our Node specialist.

    But… He tried to respond.

    Following our engagement we will be in possession of the most advanced starship known to either Transformer species. It will be simplicity itself to destroy this entire complex with you still inside. With the Warworld Revaxus will have a diminishing need for a large army. Ensure that we still have reason to include you in our force.


    The lead Autobot transport had been refitted and modified as per Revaxus’s instructions, it now led the other captured vessels as it left the moon, leaving behind only a minimal force to maintain operations at their captured resources.

    In Revaxus’s chambers, Greygrip finished recounting his plan for the second time to Revaxus, Clawkill, Skyline and Pulsar.

    ‘Victory is assured.’ Pulsar uttered.

    ‘Quite. Don’t forget what to do.’ Greygrip replied.

    ‘It’s easy, we smash Autobots.’ Clawkill added.

    ‘Make preparation, attend your troops. I still have much to discuss with Greygrip.’ Revaxus said. They filed out, Pulsar paused and turned back to his Commander, but he was already in deep discussion with Greygrip.
     
  8. uklangor

    uklangor Active Member

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    Chapter 7

    Chapter 7

    Through the tumbling wind carried particulates, Ingeneous at last laid visual optics on his destination. Pausing, he briefly turned back towards the way he had come. Of course there was no sign of Steelrain now; he hoped the mini-bot would make it back to the base without mishap after acting as his guide.
    Ingeneous marvelled at the thought of the Lithonian construction never having been discovered by the original exploration team on Aurous; its size was staggering.
    Deep gold tinged metallic walls towered over him, through brief respite in the driving winds; Ingeneous spied towers and covered platforms high up within the complex, suggesting a collection of buildings lay within, protected by the surrounding golden wall.
    The main archway could have permitted the Sparkhaven access, Ingeneous noted in wonder. Laying a hand against the arch, the metal underneath was smooth and unblemished, unlike the pitted external walls of the Autobot base he had just recently left, yet of the two, this golden building was far, far older. The Lithonians were thought to have existed around the same time period as the Ancient Transformers, who had also suddenly vanished from the galaxy too. For their building to still survive unscathed was clearly testament to their technological prowess.
    There were no doors held within the archway, yet once through the mighty entrance way the fierce wind did not follow. Clearly some sort of charged field or pressure curtain was in operation, yet Ingeneous had felt nothing as he had travelled along the tunnel from the archway within the golden walls. The Sparkhaven had created such an effect with its engine when they had first landed, but the effect had a limited distance and crossing the boundary registered through a mech’s sensors, whether they were active or passive.
    Roadstalker would have enjoyed being here just to see this Ingeneous thought. Thoughts of the scientist reminded him of the Autobots he had left behind, had he been foolish on deciding to do this alone? He steeled his resolve: if he were an efficient commander, Groundking would not have been taken in the first place. It was his responsibility to get him back and his alone.
    The entrance tunnel brought him out in a cavernous courtyard, created with more unblemished gold coloured walls and towers that pierced the sky above. His sensors couldn’t detect any functional mechanoid in his vicinity, but the walls seemed to be naturally blocking his somewhat limited scan-ability. Steelrain’s abilities would have been useful. Choosing an exit at random, Ingeneous transformed to his bulky ground-mobile altmode and thundered off.

    Wildfire stormed into the repair bay like an over-fueled mech with energon to burn. The room had been tidied up considerably since their arrival and was almost at full functionality following repair of the remaining Autobots.
    ‘He did what?’ Wildfire bellowed. Steelrain was in the process of a treatment from Topspeed: resealing armour abrasions and cementing weak spots caused by his exposure to the turbulent winds outside.
    ‘He went to get Groundking back.’ The mini-bot answered back with defiance.
    ‘Alone?’
    ‘Yes.’ Topspeed watched the exchange, unwilling to interrupt the two bots.
    ‘He meet any one there?’
    ‘No. Well, I didn’t see. I just got him close. He travelled the last part by himself. He told me to turn back.’
    ‘So you don’t know if he went inside?’
    ‘Where else would he have gone? There was nowhere else to go and this planet isn’t suitable for a mech to just go off for a stroll.
    ‘You didn’t answer my question.’ Steelrain paused. He looked back to Topspeed.
    ‘Please continue the treatment.’ Angrily, Wildfire knocked the apparatus out of Topspeed’s hands.
    ‘You didn’t answer my question.’ Wildfire repeated. He stood closer, towering over the mini framed mech, Wildfire stooped so they were optic to optic.
    ‘No,’ Steelrain answered at last, ‘I didn’t see him enter. I guided him so far, pointed out which direction to travel to reach it, then he ordered me to come back here.’
    ‘What’s happening here?’ Only Topspeed turned in surprise to see Burnout stood at the entrance. ‘Is there a problem?’ The mini bot commander demanded.
    ‘No, I was just finished.’ Wildfire replied and then, barging past Burnout, he left.

    The complex was huge, Ingeneous was beginning to realize; he’d thundered along the passageways leading off from the main reception area after the entrance and taken new routes at random. He’d only just found his way back to the original entranceway, the journey had taken far too long. Transforming back to robot mode, he reassessed his surroundings. The work that had gone into creating his surroundings was awe inspiring; from archaeological research, the Lithonians were supposed to be skilled scientists, with little interest in architecture that didn’t serve a function or need. Yet the place in which Ingeneous now stood, while un-decorative, must surely be as close to a work of art as the Lithonians were capable of achieving. The number of passageways and dead-ends made no sense; they served no logical purpose. Ingeneous remembered that the Lithonians were capable of transformation, though as a race they were believed to only take air-mobile altmodes, and wondered that if viewed from above there was a pattern to the construction. But then with so many covered walkways and concealed tunnels he had driven along, the building was perhaps just as inaccessible from the air.
    Ingeneous started to wonder how anything left behind by the Mysterious Builders could be found here, when it was so difficult to even find a way in. But a way in had been found, and of course a way out too. There must be markers, or some sort of sign, left behind from those that had previously found their way. Trying to ignore the almost overwhelming need to quickly find Groundking, Ingeneous forced him to pause and look around the courtyard again. The walls were smooth, unbleamished; reaching out he placed one hand against a golden wall. There was a blinding spark and then nothing.

    ‘But this is just what we need, right?’ Reload asked. He was stood along with Wildfire in the hold of Sparkhaven. The strategist had asked the warrior to meet him there after learning of Ingeneous’s departure.
    ‘Let’s just leave him, he won’t last long against those … things.’
    ‘No. The weapon might be here. If he gets it, then we’ve failed. His other traitors could arrive, pick him up, we’ll have missed our opportunity to stop this, here, now.’
    ‘This ship’s fully armed; let’s get into orbit, level the place.’
    ‘No, we need to be certain. We need to prove the weapon is here and make sure he’s deactivated. For good.’
    ‘So what are you saying?’
    ‘We need to go after him.’
    ‘I thought you were going to say that.’
    ‘Not worried are you?’
    ‘Huh, of course not.’
    ‘Some things we need to take care of first.’ Wildfire replied. He then contacted Flashstorm and asked the demolitions expert to meet them. The mini-framed mech didn’t keep them waiting for long.
    ‘Yeah?’ He asked.
    ‘What do you know about Obliterator tech?’ Wildfire asked.
    ‘Powerful, blows stuff up. You brought me down here to ask me that?’
    ‘Obliterator technology was a tipping point for us. Once we’d discovered it, transformable equipment meant even lower ranked Autobots had the speed and firepower to hold their own against stronger cons, like their Source-damned Gestalts and Pretenders. It held them back, it still holds them back even now, do you know why?’
    ‘Why?’ Flashstorm replied, unimpressed by the history lesson.
    ‘We found out how to build it and they haven’t. They still don’t know, because we don’t let it fall into their hands. Now, this,’ Wildfire approached Ingeneous’s trailer, placing a hand on its side. ‘Can not be allowed to fall into Decepticon hands. Ingeneous is missing, presumed deactivated. This Obliterator tech is useless without him, it will only respond to him. It needs to be destroyed when we leave; it’s pointless taking it with us.’
    ‘But, he might still function.’
    ‘True, we’ll go look. But …’
    ‘But, you need me to take care of this?’
    ‘You’re the demolition expert, rig it with explosives. If Ingeneous is gone, blow it, if not he can still use it.’
    ‘No problem.’ The mini-bot replied. Wildfire and Reload exchanged surprised glances at Flashstorm’s eagerness. Picking up on the moment, Flashstorm continued.
    ‘Look I ain’t stupid. There’s something going on, something you’ll not tell me. But I’m guessing it’s important. I wear this with pride,’ he tapped the Autobot insignia on his chest, ‘if I can do anything to help the Autobot cause, I’m in.’

    Ingeneous was in space, dark and silent, pin pricks of star light fell against his optic sensors. He’d never been deployed in a vacuum before, but he knew it was bad. Without any inbuilt thrusters or propulsion from a suitable altmode he was going to spend the rest of his functional period in space, slowly drifting and waiting for his powercell to finally run out.
    And yet he didn’t feel panicked. Even though he had only just been within the Lithonian complex, Ingeneous felt almost at peace; with no memory or idea of how he had been transported into space he serenely tried lifting his hands up to make sure he was still in one piece, but he couldn’t move. He felt himself transform; limbs shift, parts move and retract, assemblies shift into new positions, even the jolt to the circuits that accompanied a transformation, but it wasn’t his. He’d not wished to alter his mode, it just happened, yet it still didn’t alert any worry.
    Cybertron, the home planet of the Ancients, rose into his view before him and an arm extended towards it. The planet was different; there was no flicker in its appearance, no schism, no whispering voices. This was how Cybertron looked in the time of the Ancients, worn, battered and on the brink of destruction; he was looking at it through the optics of someone else, reliving another mech’s memory.
    Ingeneous’s vision buzzed, torn away from his original place of perception, he was forced at impossible speeds away from his host. From a lofty vantage point he was at last able to behold a scene of previously questionable validity; something proposed and denied by countless Transformers, embraced by so many as fact, but rejected by just as many as impossible, Ingeneous was witnessing the arrival of the planet-eater, Unicron.

    Wildfire had gathered the Autobots in the south lock of the base; the doors had been repaired and reinforced following the attack.
    ‘We should all go with you; we all saw what those things are capable of.’ Burnout said.
    ‘No,’ replied the strategist. ‘Every Autobot shouldn’t risk their life to save a bot who has acted foolishly.’
    ‘He’s gone to get Groundking back.’ Roadstalker shot back.
    ‘Without the right equipment or back up.’ Wildfire replied. ‘Reload and I will have to save him. The rest of you be ready to leave in case we don’t make it back.’
    ‘At least let me guide you there.’ Steelrain said.
    ‘No, your directions will suffice. You’re the only bot who can fly the Sparkhaven; if we fail; report back to the Ultra himself.’ Reload cycled the external door open and the assembled Autobots were suddenly engulfed by the howling dust storm from outside. When the door finally shut and the maelstrom died down, Reload and Wildfire had gone.

    Records of Unicron were popular in Ancient databases, both Autobot and Decepticon. Most Ancient databanks had decayed over the breems; a complete record of Unicron was yet to be found. The near extinction event was seen as a myth by some but fact by others. The skeptics would often cite other ‘records’ such as the Liege Maximo or Underbase-Starscream and claim that the destruction of the Ancients by a single titanic being was a recurrent literary device for entertainment, or even a metaphor that once united with a common interest, the Ancients would destroy themselves. The believers, however, argued that there simply was too much detailed information for it to not be fact.
    Yet fact or fiction, Ingeneous watched as Unicron tore into the planet beneath him. The scale was circuit-stopping, he knew his vantage point was so far away to just be able to see Unicron and Cybertron side by side, but the enormity of the planet-eater was staggering. Its hands were as big as continents, its head the size of a large moon; Unicron was unstoppable.
    Ingeneous’s perception in the constructed memory violently lurched and shifted down to the doomed planet, as he travelled he passed through energy beams, missiles, air borne Transformers and attack ships. In every instance he was undamaged, the object passing harmlessly through him.
    The surface was swarming with Ancient Transformers, desperately trying to fight back against their impossibly big foe. And then there, at last, the one thing he had hoped to see. Optimus Prime himself. Side by side with Scorponok; issuing orders, shouting commands, rallying the weak. From the ground the task looked overwhelming, how did you fight something so big? Yet Optimus Prime didn’t waver in the Ancients’ retaliation. But so close to the legendary Ancient and no one noticed Ingeneous, indeed Hardhead and Bomb-Burst literally charged through him as if he were made of photons.
    Ingeneous then once again unwillingly took flight and ascended to perch on Unicron’s shoulder. That was when he was aware fleetingly of the being’s thoughts. The sensation was overwhelming and debilitating; alien impulses poured through his consciousness, blunting every other sense or thought. Caught within the web of Unicron’s mind, Ingeneous was blind to the battle that raged on, but through the multitude of thoughts that swarmed through his being, Ingeneous was able to piece together facts and events; how Unicron was alerted to the location of Cybertron by a psychic scream, an eons long desire to destroy his enemy, fleeting regret at passing other worlds populated by mechanoids and organic beings, the delectable taste of the children of Primus. But there were also other thoughts; a counter attack by another entity possessed by the tainted essence of Primus had given Unicron a moment to pause.
    The planet-eater tried to cast his memory forward, searching possible futures. Far too many of them resulted in his destruction. His vast mind began planning for eventualities, of how to ensure his own survival in case he should fail. The monster pressed on with his attack; using a tiny portion of his will, he gathered five fallen Ancients and took them within. He repaired and recast them to his own specifications. Unlike previous heralds, he bestowed upon them a fraction of his power and quickly jettisoned them out into the vacuum behind him, safely away from the ensuing conflict.
    Ingeneous’s perception followed Unicron’s spawn; away from the monster’s influence his own senses returned. The five figures huddled together; their thoughts too permeated Ingeneous’s own. The spawn realised that together they could rebuild Unicron if he were destroyed, together, united, they shared his abilities. Deciding to wait and hide for now, the spawn fled; their new altmodes able to propel themselves through hyperspace.

    Transforming, Wildfire and Reload approached the Lithonian complex. It was shrouded in the angry dust storm that raged across the planet, but Steelrain’s directions had been accurate, its golden walls were glimpsed here and there through small respites in the growling winds.
    ‘How do we get in?’ Reload asked, but Wildfire silently pressed on leaving the warrior with no choice but to follow.
    Blindly stumbling across the entrance, they followed the entrance tunnel into the courtyard that Ingeneous had previously found himself in.
    The courtyard was peacefully dust free; the unblemished walls towered above them.
    ‘Was it wise just the two of us coming?’
    ‘Your orders were to follow me; I suggest you do not question my strategy.’ The numerous tunnels stood expectantly before them, each identical to its neighbour, Reload was still uneasy.
    ‘Those mini-bots would come in handy about now, figuring out which way to go. Scrap, even that Master could be useful, maybe follow some signal or something.’
    ‘Just be ready.’ The strategist warned, but made no effort to choose a tunnel. Reload impatiently checked the entrances leading away from the courtyard, examined the surrounding walls, scanned the upper limits as best as he could.
    ‘Do you hear that?’ He asked after a while.
    ‘I warned you to be ready.’ Wildfire replied. A twisted guardian unit exploded from a tunnel, all claws, enhanced limbs and hardened armour. Wildfire took aim with his shoulder mounted launcher he’d taken from the armoury and fired the single anti-pretender round that the mini-bots had been able to fashion for him. It was an ugly piece of munitions, bastardised from one of the rounds from the mini-bots’ precision rifles and a high explosive propelled grenade designed for the launcher. It was just a prototype with severely limited range and only a slim likelihood of success. However, it worked perfectly. The round penetrated the ex-guardian’s chest armour and detonated within, tearing the thing to pieces.
    ‘How did you know they’d come?’ Reload asked, astounded.
    ‘Your kind just can’t help broadcasting at full strength, or course they’d come.’
    ‘My kind?’
    ‘Neon redeco, annoying Ident-sig; yes your kind.’ Wildfire strode over the wreckage into the tunnel the ex-guardian had emerged from.

    The images and memories were strobe like now, almost random in their intensity: The spawn spread through the galaxy; patiently waiting, concealed in empty solar systems, aware of each other through the mental connection they all shared; time passing, the Ancients suddenly vanishing; the circumstances unknown, but the event predicted through the spawn’s future sense.
    Meeting up, realising that the second coming of Unicron would only mean destruction, but reuniting made their future sense stronger, a far greater future evil detected and a resolution to fight it made. Travelling again, as ambassadors, destroyers, conquerors and ideologists; rallying others to their cause. Strange vistas washed before Ingeneous’s senses, the spawn recruiting others; stood upon a metal world with legions of mechanoids bowing before their might, lecturing on science and reason within a continent spanning university to another transformable technological species, extending the hand of friendship to another surrounded by the waste of an entire world, liberating hordes of enslaved mechs while exterminating their unwilling keepers. The species seen in the visions were new, yet familiar at the same time. But Ingeneous understood that the spawn had assembled an army of galactic proportions.
    The exploits of the spawn played out before Ingeneous, their campaigns flickered through his senses, their trials and tribulations staggering in their complexity. But one thing was clear, they had brought peace to the galaxy; hundreds of worlds were now able to take a sigh of relief and concern themselves with their own problems, the Age of Starfaring for many was over, home planets were repopulated, civilisations were allowed time to rebuild, rather than rearm.
    The spawn led the united species to a region of space once long ago abandoned, it was linked by hundreds of technoformed worlds and was put to use again. Ingeneous was treated to the sight of the spawn overseeing work on a staggering scale, every mechanoid willingly building for their new masters.

    The surrounding walls had taken a battering; explosions, missed shots and impacts turned aside by dense armour. Yet they still remained unscratched. Wildfire allowed Reload to progress first along their current corridor; the warrior turning aside attacks with his spinning Rotor shield and slicing through the twisted guardians with his Laser energon sword. Wildfire helped where he could, firing over Reload’s head, sending a grenade against attackers, but he mainly conserved his ammunition. The ex-guardians had attacked in waves of two or three and while their tactic of rushing headlong into their foes to engage in hand to hand combat would have worked extremely well along the tight corridors against troops armed with ranged weapons that did little to their thick armour, against a hand to hand specialist like Reload that tactic was quickly made obsolete. Yet they still continued with the same tactic; soon the frequency of the attacking waves slowed and Wildfire began to notice that some of the twisted mechanoids would limp away if damaged, instead of fighting until non-functionality.
    They were wearing the attacking forces down, which meant they had to wait longer at intersections before being able to head for the source of the ex-guardians’ attack. They made steady progress and soon Wildfire had to encourage Reload to not be as vigorous and allow some to escape; the same twisted mechanoids were coming back following a hasty repair.
    ‘Reminds me of Metro-763.’ Reload said, Wildfire didn’t reply. The warrior glanced over his shoulder to see that the strategist was still there.
    ‘It was an Ancient city, newly discovered. Some almost intact databanks, supposedly, command was hoping to make a big discovery. This was from before we had the Obliterator tech; we were being punished by the cons’ Gestalts at nearly every engagement along the border. We were being hurt bad, command was desperate to finally get lucky.’ Reload looked again to make sure Wildfire was still there.
    ‘You don’t talk much, do you?’
    ‘You do.’
    ‘Anyway, that Ancient city, full of long, tight corridors. The cons had got through the external defences, their flyers were tremendous. We pulled back into the city, knowing they’d have to change form to come and get us, maybe take out a few of the dumbest ones as they transformed. The corridors weren’t too high either, we figured we’d be safe from their Gestalts too, thought we’d have a fair fight for once.
    We thought wrong, by retreating into the city it allowed them to land a bunch of transports. They were full of cons with beast modes. You ever fought against that type?’
    ‘Animechs? Yes.’
    ‘Not too good in the open, when you’ve got time to line up a shot, use your altmode or whatever; they don’t have any decent ranged weaponry. A beast mode is good for just one thing, hand to hand. Those things poured through the corridors like a flood, you didn’t have time to get more than a couple of shots off before they were ripping you apart. We ended up leaving the planet, left it to the cons in the end; just wasn’t worth the losses. I was low rank in those days, killed my first con with my standard issue energon blade; saved my spark. I stood on that transport as we left Metro-763 and I decided that never again would a con pull that trick on me.’
    ‘We’ve got company.’ Wildfire warned as a single ex-guardian limped into view. ‘Don’t kill this one, we’ve seen it before. Wound it; slow it down enough so we can follow.’
    ‘With pleasure.’

    The images abruptly changed, time had clearly passed, but how much Ingeneous did not know. Before him lay the building he had only moments ago entered. It was clear of any dust storm and Ingeneous was able to appreciate the majesty of the place. There was very little functionality to some of the passages revealed to him from his lofty sky high vantage point. The golden walls arched high over uncovered passages, but just as many were covered over. He began to notice patterns and shapes in the architecture before him in the seamless construction; curves and concentric spirals stood in stark contrast to abrupt angles and fierce corners. Focussing on one area alone looked haphazard, but the entire complex was built to be regarded as a single entity. He could now see that the function of the building was to instil a sense of awe in the observer. There was an aesthetic movement in Autobot architecture, but nothing on the scale of the building before him. In fact ‘building’ was wrong, ‘temple’ seemed more appropriate.
    Movement attracted Ingeneous’s attention below him. Through some of the uncovered walkways mechanoids travelled hurriedly. Some disappeared under the covered areas only to be seen again further along. He caught only glimpses of them, but he was certain they were some of the species assembled by the spawn. After passing into a larger covered section of the temple, Ingeneous lost them again. Brief moments passed when Ingeneous was aware of sonic energy cascading out from below him, the temple was vibrating too. Suddenly walls parted, roofs sprang away and a rounded long cuboidal section of the temple broke off. Under its own propulsion it took to the sky. The ship accelerated into orbit and out of Ingeneous’s view; below him, without the energy field of the nestled spaceship holding them back, the dust storms once more rolled over the temple.

    Tracking the wounded ex-guardian was impossibly easy; Reload had almost entirely removed one of its legs and damaged the other to the extent that the pitiful twisted creation now dragged itself along the floor, often needing a sympathetic kick from Wildfire to help it on its way. They continued through passageways covered and open, across expansive terraces and down narrow tunnels. Turns at intersections were taken, all of which Wildfire noted.
    ‘You see any action?’ Reload said, eager to break the silence. The wounded mech at their feet paid them no attention.
    ‘Plenty.’ Wildfire replied.
    ‘What planets? Maybe we were in the same engagement one time?’
    ‘Possibly.’ The ex-guardian paused at a cross section and turned right; its trailing leg caught on the corner of the wall and was stuck. It struggled until Wildfire pulled the limb free of the wall, allowing it to continue.
    ‘You don’t think it’s just leading us round and round do you?’
    ‘No.’
    ‘Maybe it’s leading us to a trap?’
    ‘Unlikely, this is the last one of its kind.’
    ‘I guess hiding behind me while I tear them apart is really working out for you.’
    ‘Tactics. Rushing down narrow passages at a high ranked Autobot warrior with Laser and Rotor omni-upgrades does not work. Swarming over Autobot scientists in a large, open facility does. The controlling entity doesn’t seem to be learning from its mistakes.’
    ‘Whatever… By the Source, is that it?’
    The crawling mech had led them out into another terrace. Like the others, it was dotted with golden pillars, linked with towering lintels. Unlike the others, this area was colossal, big enough to act as a spaceport. Reload had spotted something different too. Towards the centre of the space stood an unmoving figure; though not as tall as the surrounding pillars, it was at least as tall as a super-sized chassis framed Transformer. The ex-guardian continued to crawl towards it.
    ‘I guess you’d better get behind me again.’ Reload mumbled, taking cover against a pillar.
    ‘No point. Whatever it is, it’s non-functional. With your annoying Ident-sig, it would have known we were here long before we saw it.’ Wildfire led the warrior forward at a jog, past the wounded ex-guardian.
    The figure stood on a raised circular dais, made of the same gold coloured alloy as the rest of the facility. It was slightly larger than a super-sized mech and stood with an arm raised, clutching a golden globe in its hand. The other arm hung by its side, with its head tilted down to look upon those before it with an almost benevolent sneer across its face. The statue too was golden and appeared to resemble a Transformer, faction unclear. The statue’s segments were smooth and rounded its visible altmode components sleek and majestic.
    ‘Who do you think it’s supposed to be?’ Reload asked.
    ‘Irrelevant. That’s our destination.’ Reload followed Wildfire’s outstretched finger to the floor on the other side of the golden altar. Or rather, the lack of floor. Reload had caught the walls and floor of the gold building with his weapons, even some of Wildfire’s munitions, when he had decided upon using them, had struck the surrounding area. However, they had never left any sort of mark; the gold alloy appeared almost impervious to any sort of weapon they carried. Which made the hole in the floor seem almost spectacular. It was a jagged wound cut through the alloy revealing a smaller chamber below. The alloy used in the floor was thick, thicker than the height of the statue above it. The type of weapon capable of carving through the floor was almost inconceivable, but the sight through the angry sharp edged lesion ended any mental speculation as to the nature of the cut. Below was a tangle of machinery and knots of thick wire; nested within were the missing Autobot scientists, Groundking and Ingeneous.

    The vision blurred and shifted, once settled Ingeneous realised that a long time had passed. Below him the temple remained hidden within the storm of tiny rock particulates, but now he noticed something else, a team of Autobots approaching. Scenes and memories flashed by, from numerous vantage points and with different time frames. It was hard processing them all, but Ingeneous could recognise the Autobots exploring the temple, the equipment they carried suggested they had found something interesting. The Autobots gathering around a large golden statue, then returning with some sort of weapon Ingeneous didn’t recognise. The Autobots cutting into the floor; the weapon overheating forcing the Autobots to wait each time for it to return to safe operational tolerances. The excavation taking a long time, then the lower chamber revealed. More equipment brought down, connected to some sort of giant database, almost a twin to the one Ingeneous saw on the planet Cro.
    He was aware of very ancient routines meeting and regarding the newer processors of the intruders. Recognition led to fusion, which led to birth. The resulting entity gaining sentience, becoming angry with the intrusion, the culprits captured, their databanks penetrated like they had penetrated its sunken chamber. A hunger for more information, reformatting the mindless guardian units the intruders had with them, capturing others on the planet, seeking knowledge…
    The resultant entity, like a parasite, was there, sharing the visions and Ingeneous’s own databank. It had been there all along, sharing the experience, only now choosing to reveal itself, a passenger in his cerebro circuitry. Its hunger forgotten as soon as Ingeneous’s hand had made contact with the wall of the temple.
    ‘This unit has waited for you for so long.’ It said its thoughts hard and brutal, inside his own. ‘Welcome Optimus Prime.’ And then, with a sorrowful scream, everything switched off.

    Painfully and abruptly Ingeneous was aware again. He was lay on his back in a brightly lit chamber, the ache through his circuits suggested he was no longer caught in a vision. Next to him stood Roadstalker, once again she appeared worried.
    ‘Where am I?’ Ingeneous asked, sitting up.
    ‘Aboard the Sparkhaven,’ she replied. ‘I’d ask you to stay down, but I know you won’t listen.’
    ‘The temple, I’ve got to get back....’ Ingeneous said getting to his feet.
    ‘Temple? Oh, the Lithonian building. There’s not much point, Wildfire said he and Reload pretty much destroyed all the machinery they found there.’
    ‘But, I was so close. It was communicating.’
    ‘What happened?’
    ‘The Autobot scientists stationed here, they found the temple and the marker left behind by the Mysterious Builders. They tried connecting their own equipment to it, something happened, some kind of fusion of the systems. It created some sort of amalgamated intelligence I think. This resultant entity, it captured the scientists. Did you…?’
    ‘Wildfire came back for us, to help retrieve the scientists. All non-functional; I’ve seen the rest for myself, your resultant entity is gone.’
    ‘Wildfire found me?’
    ‘Him and Reload. They found you and Groundking too.’
    ‘Groundking? How is he?’
    ‘Not good, Topspeed is with him in the repair bay. What happened to you?’ Ingeneous hurriedly told her about the visions, Unicron’s spawn, an army of transformable mechanoid species, a huge construction project in preparation to tackle a future evil. He kept the Optimus Prime bit to himself though.
    ‘So that’s who the Mysterious Builders are then, the statue, it must have been…’ Topspeed’s voice over the intercom interrupted the scientist.
    ‘Is Ingeneous functional?’ He asked.
    ‘Yes, why?’
    ‘Get him down here at once.’

    The repair bay was crowded; Topspeed had obviously called the others too. In the middle of the room was stood Groundking. He was different, his body frame had been twisted like that of the guardian units; extra components covered his chassis, new compact units of hardware protruded from his face, a network of golden cabling nestled along limbs connecting external alien modules to internal components through newly created vents in his armour.
    The heavy mech was kept at bay by the drawn weapons of Wildfire and Reload.
    ‘This unit means no hostility, its purpose is clear.’ Groundking’s voice was twisted too.
    ‘Prime,’ it continued, addressing Ingeneous. All the assembled mechs turned to look at him too, some barely able to stop the surprise showing at the use of the title, the others looked angry instead.
    ‘Haste is needed; this unit will lead you to the weapon to destroy your enemies.’
     
  9. uklangor

    uklangor Active Member

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    Chapter 8

    Chapter 8

    In the small transportation capsule Pulsar transformed to his sensor array alt-mode and took control of the vehicle; everything, he considered, was going to plan. With a captured Autobot cargo transport at the head of their fleet and Pulsar effectively jamming their active sensors, they had been able to enter the main hangar of the Warworld without any bot seeing that there was a Decepticon attack force in their midst.
    The doors to the capsule closed shutting Pulsar and his four mini-framed companions off from the main hangar. The pod lurched as it ascended the mountainous wall of the hangar.
    The Autobots had assembled a work force to meet their arrival, believing Pulsar’s faked communication about a bonus supply run. The assembled engineers only stood and watched the Decepticon ships land; shock and surprise had kept them rooted to the spot when they should have been running for weapons or an alarm. Revaxus had led the first squad; the cavernous hangar had filled with the dread sound of Decepticon engines as their mobile air modes thundered above the heads of the Autobots, raining destruction on them.
    With a dull clunk, the pod connected to the main line that ran along the spine of the Warworld. It also carried some of the hardwired systems installed by the occupying Autobots too, allowing Pulsar to mentally tap into the routines. His mental vision was immediately filled with sensor readouts, diagnostic reports, internal communications and enough datalogs to fill the databank of a Colossus; Pulsar had to rapidly organise all this new input or risk being overwhelmed.

    ‘C’mon, let’s go.’ Highbolt whined. Pulsar tried to respond, but a new alarm was triggered sending a torrent of enquiries and communication flooding into the Warworld’s data-net. Like a broken dam, the deluge of new data poured through the gap in the Warworld’s routines that Pulsar had created, threatening to flood his own databanks.


    The serviceways were tight and restrictive, difficult for a mech to walk down with any ease, but in his animech mode, Clawkill felt like it was his lair. They had caught several Autobots completely unaware and the warrior had taken great delight in ripping them apart.
    He paused at a larger junction; it was difficult to wait for long, his savage side wanted to press on, go further and further. This was the side of him he had repressed for so long.
    Kraken, Switchkill and six others caught up with him. Respectfully they all waited for Clawkill to decide which way to go. But Clawkill looked to Kraken, still quite unsure of how much to trust his savage nature.

    ‘We’ve still not heard from Pulsar.’ The Pretender reported, the dull lighting throwing sinister shadows over his already monstrous synth-organic, armoured shell.

    ‘Sssso? Don’t trussst the ssstatic.’ Switchkill hissed. ‘Let’sss go on.’
    Clawkill didn’t reply; he was desperately trying to work out what to do.

    ‘We should remember our orders.’ Kraken replied. ‘We’re supposed to stay between the Hangar cluster and the Powercore, if we go any further we’ll be too far to help. Our forces are already spread too far through these tunnels.’

    ‘Ssso?’
    They both looked at Clawkill, what should he do?

    ‘What do you recommend Kraken?’ He asked instead.

    ‘Send two runners to patrol through these tunnels, send our other teams back. We should return to the hangars, with no communication from Pulsar, they may be in danger. Blasthammer and Cutback should have had the sense to rendezvous with Skyline at the Powercore’.

    Clawkill selected his runners and then started back towards the hangar cluster towards the middle of the Warworld, referring to the layout Pulsar supplied every con on the mission. This time, however, he let Switchkill take the lead, she was smaller and faster. Most of his Animechs had to learn how to move through the tunnels silently without striking the side at the top of their run; Switchkill had no such problem.
    They eventually caught up with her at an open duct looking out over one of the ancillary hangars. Her animech mode was a lithe quadruped beast with long sabre like metal fangs and pointed audio-receptors either side of her head, though compact they housed delicate sensors making her an admirable scout. She was impatiently pacing in a circle in the larger opening.

    ‘What is it?’ Clawkill ordered.

    ‘Sssee for yourssself.’ She replied.

    Even though classed as only an ancillary hangar, the storage area before them dwarfed many spaceports. The Autobots had used it to store a lot of equipment, machinery, even spare parts for some of the transport and cargo ships they used. However, amongst all the neat piles of components and boxes of alloy ingots a fierce fire fight was taking place. A sizeable Autobot resistance had been mustered and was keen to take back the hangar from the small force left by Greygrip.

    ‘Well?’ Switchkill asked. Clawkill looked to Kraken, but he remained silent. Clawkill looked out over the vast store before them; the fire fight was on the other side, they’d be able to sneak right up on them, bring the Autobots down one by one in the labyrinth of storage boxes. By the look of the fight, the Autobots knew how to get through, the defending Decepticons were getting cut off, trapped and destroyed; it was time to turn the maze of equipment against the bots.
    Clawkill outlined his plan to the others, as they silently dropped down to the floor below he was sure he’d seen Kraken’s beastly visage smile.
    On the ground they split up, Clawkill let more of his savage side take over and put his trust in his sensors; he could taste the weapons’ fire, smell the Autobots’ sparks. The twisting pathways through the stored junk was of no concern, he simply honed in on his prey. His first victim was a straggler, reloading his weapon with his back towards a rack of spare powercore covers. Clawkill allowed him to turn, to see his hulking metallic beast form in all its dread glory, he allowed the hapless Autobot to at least consider whether to run or fight, before he pounced. The others he found, he didn’t even allow them to see him, he simply took them down. Attacking one by one like this played to the strength of an animech, close quarters, hand to hand, a mech in robot form didn’t stand a chance.


    Revaxus had been leading the Electracons and Assaultacons towards the front of the ship; they had departed before the rest of his forces had deployed in the main hangar and had been making excellent progress. Revaxus planned to lead his strike force in a lightning raid, to capture the bridge as the Autobots busied themselves to tackle the bulk of the Decepticons at the middle and rear sections of the Warworld. None had dared to question his haste. Skyline would lead a force to the ship’s Powercore, Greygrip would hold the main and ancillary hangars, with Clawkill and Kraken skirmishing between the two and harassing any Autobot force. Pulsar was to take control of internal sensors, the installed databank and manage communications between the groups. So far he’d heard nothing from Pulsar, but had to assume that everything else was going to plan

    ‘Incoming!’ Tremor shouted; the others dove to the ground, scrambled for cover or tried to flatten themselves against the wall of the passageway, except for Revaxus who didn’t even flinch when a rocket the size of a small shuttle thundered from behind, narrowly missing them all. Bolter stayed down, waiting for the detonation; he knew this was going to be bad. He selfishly extended a manipulated magnetic field around him in the vain hope of being able to deflect any debris from the explosion. Yet it didn’t come; the rocket must have malfunctioned.

    ‘On your feet.’ Revaxus ordered. Bolter scrambled upright from amongst the Autobot corpses in which he was lay. He realised why there had been no explosion and reluctantly dropped his magnetic field. He and his Electracon partner Tremor, the Assaultacons and Revaxus had been headed for the bridge, only stopping to destroy any Autobot in their way. They’d been making good progress and amassing a good number of kills, perhaps it had been going a little too easily.
    The rocket was hovering in the cavernous chamber in front of them, as they watched a support gantry that had previously looked to be part of the compartment broke away from its anchor points. The gantry twisted and opened up, components warped and rotated; the rocket too began a transformation, splitting almost into two pieces that began to merge with the gantry. A resultant figure was taking form amidst the whirring pieces: torso, limbs, weapons. A compact, wheeled buggy blasted out of a utility hatch high overhead, falling, it too shifted and clicked into a different configuration before attaching to the amalgamated gantry and rocket.

    ‘Great.’ Bolter lamented; with some of the Assaultacons still behind him, there was nowhere to flee.
    The Multi-component bot stood before them, as tall as a super-sized chassis framed mech, but much broader; it’s ruby red Autobot insignia almost glowing across its burnished bronze chest, heavy armaments and weapon nacelles glittered in the ambient lighting.

    ‘Decepticons; you shall go no further.’ Its voice boomed around them; vibrations from it trembled through the floor.

    ‘We’ll handle this.’ Tear said, barging past the Electracon.


    Skyline picked up a kinetic-round battle rifle from a fallen Autobot, checked its functionality and ammunition and then ditched his depleted plasma-caster. His force was assembled over the observation balconies overseeing the Warworld’s unique Powercore. He realised that calling the component before him a Powercore was really an understatement. The fueler estimated it to be far larger than any of the ships in Revaxus’s current fleet and watching it he could see why the Autobots had been unable to reverse engineer it and install something similar in their own ships.
    The outer casings were spherical, but he could not see how it was connected to any of the surfaces of the Warworld, or how the power could be harnessed. The casings encompassed the Powercore, but their surfaces did little to obstruct his view of the internal components. He could see rotating rings of alloy spinning around another spherical set of casings within. The rings, he counted seven, were again unattached to any other part of the Powercore and all rotated about a different axis. The inner sphere was still of a size that would dwarf even one of the fabled colossus-chassis framed mechs of legend, that too was not completely covered either; he could see further movement inside.

    ‘Sir.’ The voice distracted Skyline from the Powercore, a squad of three cons stood next to him. Two Standard-Tacticals and a Standard-Heavy; all three had mobile-ground alt-modes and sported the usual shoulder mounted weapons in addition to the rifles they carried.

    ‘Yes?’

    ‘We’ve finished the sweep, no surviving Autobots detected.’

    ‘Explosives?’

    ‘Five packs, looks like they’d planned to destroy it’. The con replied indicating the Powercore. ‘All disarmed.’
    Skyline unhitched an auxiliary storage unit from his body and handed it to the mech who had spoken. It was full of energon and was just one of a number of spares that he carried.

    ‘Organise a defensive formation around the entrances, see to it that every con has at least a fifty percent energon supply.’

    ‘Yes sir.’

    He looked again back toward the Powercore. Somehow the machine siphoned the energon in the storage tanks locked away in the walls of the engine room and used it to create conventional thrust, focussed through the exterior exhausts. It was a very efficient system and used less fuel than any modern craft, but what was really unique was its Hyperspace capabilities. It created an exotic energy field that allowed the entire craft to fall into Hyperspace and travel through it. Modern craft had to rip through normal space-time to access Hyperspace requiring tremendous energy expenditure, before attempting to traverse it. Hyperspace existed just out of sync with regular space-time and actively tried to eject any foreign matter from it; space ships had to battle against the natural repulsion from Hyperspace, trips through it were all too short before being rudely dumped back into space-time. The Warworld was different; the Powercore’s exotic energy field was able to negate the repulsion from Hyperspace, tricking it into thinking the Warworld belonged there and allowing an almost indefinite stay. At least that was the theory. What Skyline knew had been intercepted from Autobot communications, tortured prisoners and captured databanks; made available through regular Decepticon publications, yet seldom accessed by most. The Warworld supposedly had an unlimited range, fuel allowing, but the Autobots had never bothered to test it, instead they had preferred to run diagnostics and simulations.
    Skyline suddenly wondered if the Autobots had managed to plant any explosives in the Powercore itself. Even though it was in the relatively un-energetic stand-by mode, Skyline’s senses were awash with energy readings from the machine. He signalled one of the more senior mechs in his force to assemble the mini and Tactical-Light frames on the main observation deck.
    Access through the exotic energy field was theoretically impossible, yet he had to assure himself that the Powercore was not rigged with any explosive. The smaller cons might be able to get through the gaps in casings and the giant rings, if they survived crossing the energy field. Very unlikely, but he had to be sure…
    The Decepticon signalled back, reporting that he was unable to contact two suitable cons for the mission. Skyline angrily instructed to physically find them.
    There was no wonder the Autobots hadn’t been able to reverse engineer the machine, Skyline pondered, just how did one even access it? According to the reports he’d accessed, the Powercore was fully functional when the Warworld had been discovered, the resulting magnetosphere generated by the exotic energy field had protected it during all those breems in isolation. Yet the energon tanks were empty, prompting some Autobot scientists to claim the Powercore to be a perpetual engine in its stand-by mode.
    Skyline impatiently signalled the Decepticon again, still no reply yet.
    The Powercore was truly fascinating, yet Pulsar seemed to be the sole occupant of all the data discovered at the Autobots’ small moon base. The static didn’t seem to want to share either, obviously in dire need to curry favour with Revaxus. As soon as he was sure the Powercore was safe, he’d begin his own tests.
    He received a signal, not from his Decepticon, but Pulsar! It seemed the communication specialist had at last established himself, yet the message was heavy with interference.

    ‘Skyline, there’s…unique spark-trace …of the Powercore… keeps…’ The message cut out, but it made Skyline turn away from the Powercore. He signalled his troops, less than fifty percent signalled back; he left instructions to check on the positions of the silent cons.
    Was there something wrong with the Powercore itself?

    ‘Sir…’ Skyline turned to the voice. It was the Standard-Heavy mech from earlier. Well, most of him at least. His shoulder weapon was gone, so too his right arm and several slices from his face and chest. He stumbled forward two more paces before collapsing onto the deck, revealing the figure behind him.
    He was an Autobot Pretender. Encased in an armoured and synth-organic composite shell, meaning he was every bit as deadly as his Decepticon counterparts. His appearance was greatly different though, while Decepticons favoured monstrous looks, the Autobots were all rumoured to wear humanoid coverings, as did the one before him. He didn’t know why they did, as humans and Nebulons had vanished along with the Ancients, but right now Skyline didn’t care.
    The Autobot Pretender’s shell had been sprayed carbon-black all over, including the face. A large, white, Autobot insignia spread proudly across his chest. Here and there the shell’s original colouring could be seen through scratches and scrapes, a blazing energon sword held in his hand cast dancing shadows over his figure. His second hand held a severed head, which he bowled to Skyline’s feet.

    ‘Leave. Now.’ The Autobot ordered, his Ident-sig masked by the shell. Skyline frantically signalled Pulsar, backing away into the safety rail overlooking the Powercore.
    The Pretender slowly approached, but paused and turned his head. Skyline turned too and saw the hatch to one of the service tunnels iris open. Blasthammer, Cutback and their animech and Pretender troops poured through.

    ‘What up?’ Blasthammer rumbled, Skyline turned his head again, but the Pretender had gone.

    ‘Receiving.’ Pulsar at last replied over the comm..


    Pulsar listened with little interest to Skyline’s report. The communication specialist had long since mastered his control over the systems he’d hacked into. The Autobots hadn’t been expecting any sort of interloper into the network they’d installed throughout the Warworld, once Pulsar had limited the raw information hurtling through the connection it had been simple to subvert it.
    The capsule was slowly progressing along the spine of the Warworld, it journeyed through serviceways, hangars, repair bays and storage holds; slowly but surely it progressed towards the bridge. The mini-framed cons accompanying him were itching to fight with their comrades; Highbolt cradled his rifle at the aft of the capsule, watching the Autobots below through his scope. He whined on and on about taking a shot and Pulsar would have long ago ejected him from the carriage, if it wasn’t for Darkjet cooling his companion’s impatience. Instead, Pulsar mentally stored the exchanges between the two in the appropriate files deep within his own primary databank.
    The control he now had over the Autobots’ electronic infrastructure had allowed him to find the solo Autobot Pretender with ease; to close passageways and open other doorways and hatches had been taxing, but he’d been able to guide the bot to the Powercore and towards Skyline. He’d watched with excitement through hidden sensors as the fueler’s end fast approached, and then with frustration as the coward Pretender fled when Blasthammer arrived. The same sensors showed him Blasthammer and his troops stationing themselves around the Powercore as Cutback and the Pretenders rallied what remained of Skyline’s troops. With dismay, Pulsar realised there was no way he’d be able to guide the Autobot back for another attempt and instead allowed the bot to skulk away. Pulsar reassured himself that there would be another opportunity to rid himself of the fueler.
    However, another problem was pressing. If the Autobot Pretender was captured, he may be intelligent enough to let his captors believe he was led to the Powercore, which could then implicate Pulsar, who had infiltrated the network. Indeed, he had the Autobots’ commander and chief scientist locked in the bridge, awaiting the arrival of Revaxus; the communication specialist had clearly revealed his current abilities to their leader, who still held Skyline with some esteem. Pulsar didn’t rate his chances against Revaxus; he needed a permanent solution to the Pretender.
    Decepticon Pretenders had a special hatred for their Autobot counterparts; with some guidance Pulsar could be sure his problems were terminated. He opened communications with Kraken.


    Saturnos opened his primary weapon nacelle mounted on his shoulder and launched a small salvo of high explosive rockets at his opponent and with his leg mounted grenade launcher he fired a full magazine on a wide spread. The smaller Decepticons had fled like cowards before him, as expected, but it now fell to Saturnos to stop the Gestalt.
    As predicted, Saberous darted out of the way of the rockets, but into the damage radius of two of the slower grenades. Saturnos registered a hit on the lower legs of the Gestalt, but was surprised to see that he hadn’t managed to slow his opponent down at all. Saberous dashed towards him, very agile for a Gestalt and swung the blade it carried. Saturnos was considerably slower, but still tried to reel away. The blow registered a clean hit against his primary weapon nacelle, regrettably ending its functionality; but it had managed to save his head. With Saberous so close, Saturnos calculated he would not be able to retreat beyond the range of Saberous’s hand weapon, severely limiting his chances of survival. However, with all his components merged into his robot form, Saturnos often experienced a speed in his mental processes. While all three components were him, even spread throughout a planet, he often felt a small resistance in forming thoughts when separate; a slight drawback to the Multi-component Reconfiguration he guessed. However, as one united form again, he had been able to ready the twin chain-railguns housed in his chest. The barrels spun at a staggering Revolutions Per Klik, sending hyper-velocity, super-dense kinetic slugs into the armour of the Gestalt. Such a barrage would have shredded a squad of standard mechs, but against the thickened armour of a Gestalt, it merely pushed Saberous back.

    ‘This is fun.’ The con snarled. ‘I will enjoy taking your spark.’

    ‘You speak too soon, Decepticon.’ Saberous fired his weapon, but Saturnos had been able to turn and take the blast on his side, most of the damage soaked up by his armour. With Saturnos’s aim now off, he fired a full salvo from his knee and shoulder mounted weaponry; plasma grenades, kinetic slugs, laser beams and even a short range electro-scrambler all scored direct hits on the Autobot, sending him staggering back into the wall of the cabin. Saturnos returned fire with the twin cannons mounted on his fore arm. The crumpled boom of the weapons reverberated through the chamber, but his aim was wide and the blasts destroyed the wall above an entrance tunnel.
    Saberous was able to get close again; his blade sliced and Saturnos was on his knees, a kick sent him on his back, another swipe and he was disarmed. Saberous was laughing now as he straddled the prone Autobot and rested the point of his blade on Saturnos’s chest, above his internal spark-holder.

    ‘Your spark will pay for my ascension Autobot.’ Saberous giggled.

    ‘Blindly following your mad cause will only result in your destruction. I do not fear mine.’

    ‘Spoken like a fool. I will have my fun with you first. I hate your kind most of all, the Autobots call you Gestalt, but you’re not. You’re not even close.’

    ‘We’ve long since given up trying to find our own Gestalt technology; you are a prime example of the instability it can wreck on a mind. The drawbacks are too much.’ Saberous laughed again.

    ‘I think not, we Gestalts are rightly feared, we are battle-winners. Proven once again right now. Now you, Multi, we don’t have your particular technology. Rest assured, once I have your spark, our scientists will have your body. Your death will birth new Decepticon warriors with your ability. Your own spawn will cause the destruction of your allies.’ Saberous laughed again, a gurgling deep cackle. ‘If I leave enough of your body intact.’

    ‘Decepticon?’ Saturnos asked.

    ‘Yes?’ The Autobot fired all the explosive munitions he still had access to, triggered the rounds still in his functioning weapons, but cut the propellant or closed the gun ports. Saberous’s attack had opened up his thick armour and while the Gestalt had been talking he’d dumped all the spare energon onto the ground around them both. As a Multi-component Autobot he was only too aware of the danger of the Decepticons utilising that technology for themselves; as such he was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.

    ‘This…’ He replied. The explosions tore through his body, shredding his remains instantly, one of Saberous’s legs was similarly atomised, while the remaining members of the Assaultacons were forcibly un-combined and swept away by the tremendous concussive blast and peppered by flying shrapnel. The blast engulfed the chamber, destroying the floor and shredding the walls; debris and Decepticons rained down into the chamber below before being buried beneath another avalanche of wreckage as part of the ceiling tore free along with the equipment and supplies stored above.


    ‘You sure?’ Clawkill asked. The warrior was in his robot mode and stood with Kraken. After wiping out the Autobot attack force, they’d stayed behind to help refortify the position in the hangar. The hangar was a hub connecting several different passageways and service ducts; any sizeable force might conceivably pass through on their way to the rear of the Warworld. Kraken had been keen for them to stay and under his optics had constructed a sentry point armoured with the equipment stored close by and raised up on sturdy, heavy supports. The remaining members of Greygrip’s squad occupied fire positions with excellent views over the maze of stored supplies before them, Switchkill had taken two cons and were finishing laying explosives around some of the approaches.

    ‘I must.’ The Pretender replied solemnly. The two had been checking some of the closed off routes and dead ends set up through the trails amongst the tonnes of stored equipment in the hangar when they had received the communication from Pulsar.

    ‘All Decepticon Pretenders are sworn to destroy any of the remaining Autobots that share our ability.’

    ‘But Cutback and the others, can’t they handle it?’

    ‘Of course, but I’m their commander. We must face this together.’

    ‘But…’

    ‘You have your own squad now. This is something you will learn. As you rely on them, they must rely on you too. You have their respect and they follow you, but you need to show them why.’

    ‘But…’

    ‘Apologies, but I must go.’ The Pretender turned from the Animech, with a graceful flurry of steps, he’d climbed atop the wall of cargo pods before them and effortlessly raced from stack to stack leaving Clawkill on his own.

    ‘But what do I do?’ The warrior whispered to the back of the departing mech; the hangar, though vast, now felt even bigger. Quietly he made his way back to the outpost at the centre of the hangar, his silent arrival surprising the Decepticons from Greygrip’s force.

    ‘Why aren’t you at your posts?’ He growled.

    ‘There’s nothing to shoot at.’ One of the mechs replied and returned to his previous conversation with his squad mate.
    Leaning over one of the firing positions, Clawkill watched Switchkill return. The light framed mech quickly reported that the explosives were in place and handed the triggers over. The other animechs were prowling along some of the guard routes, most were looking impatient.


    With a loud click the door to the bridge swung open as Revaxus and the Electracons approached, remotely Pulsar then sealed it behind them. The Decepticons were locked in with the two lonely Autobot occupants. The bridge was cavernous; littered with countless service consoles, science stations, sensor controls, weapon interfaces and the manual flight controls favoured by the Ancients. Yet it didn’t appear crowded. Most of the space was unused, the smooth metal alloy surfaces reflecting the myriad points of light from the star-scape visible through the transparent canopy encapsulating the bridge. It appeared fragile, yet it was reported to be as strong and durable as the rest of the Warworld’s hull.
    Though as empty as it appeared, Revaxus did not pause to capture his bearings, Pulsar had provided excellent commentary and floor plans for this area, even providing updates to the exact locations of the two Autobots trapped within. The Decepticon commander kept up his restless charge, the feeling of the proximity of the other had been stronger once they had approached the Warworld. Ever since he had left Cybertron its unseen presence had plagued his thoughts, yet had remained frustratingly out of sensor readings.
    Revaxus was almost glad to at last meet the room’s occupants. He expected the fight to be brief, but welcomed the distraction from brooding on the other.
    The Autobot scientist was a Standard-Heavy frame with a mobile-air altmode, judging from Pulsar’s descriptions. He was mainly white with flashes of cobalt blue covering his limbs. His head featured a single optical sensor strip horizontally bisecting his face, with two sensor blisters either side; almost featureless but his surprise at the Decepticons’ entrance was clear. The commander, a typical Large chassis framed mech, was a different story. Coloured almost uniformly in crimson and gold, he was clearly angry; a fully formed scowl plastered over his fully rendered features. Pulsar had reviewed both their Ident-sigs revealing both were of a respectable rank; the scientist had worked within several respected Autobot institutions and specialised in Hyperspace sciences; the commander was capable on the battlefield, with several victories on record, but a passion for the Ancients had won him the assignment to be posted to the Warworld. To Revaxus though, the details hardly mattered.
    With a wave of his hand, Bolter extended a magnetic field around the beleaguered scientist, slamming him onto the ground and pinning him against it. Tremor fired a fully charged electric bolt at the commander; though it did little to permanently damage the bot’s systems through his upgraded armour, it did neutralise his ranged weapons and temporarily neutered his ability to transform.
    Bolter backed away and Revaxus launched a monstrous blow, connecting with the commander and sending him crashing into an auxiliary sensor unit. Disorientated from the electrical shock and Revaxus’s savage punch, the bot took a while to get to his feet, though he did well to draw his energon blade, even though depleted of power, it could still cause damage.
    Mounted on his left arm, Revaxus readied his liquid-gun, the weapon presented to him after defeating Decatron and taking control of his forces. Of the options available, Revaxus selected the liquid nitrogen option and encased the commander’s arm and weapon in ice. The bot struggled to smash the ice, allowing Revaxus to close to point blank range. Revaxus’s mortar cannon was powerful, but his battle with Decatron on the surface of Cybertron had taught him that against opponents with upgraded armour, he had to be close to score a kill shot. He rested the cannon against the chest of the Autobot, the commander struggled, tried to twist away as Revaxus fired. The explosion tore the cannon from his arm, but sent the bot spinning away. The round had torn open much of his chest and removed his left arm. He lay stationary on the ground, his spark still flickering, close to permanent shut down.
    Debris from the fight suddenly started to dance around the room and a horse whispering filled the silence. Bolter struggled to keep his concentration and his magnetic field up and cowered back, Tremor was immediately by Revaxus’s side, charging up his electricity generation units. The air above the fallen commander thickened and turned night black, the whispering ratcheted up to a splitting scream. The blackness took on shape, to look at it directly caused painful sensor feedbacks to cerebral circuitary, yet snatched glances revealed it to be roughly the size and shape of a Large framed mech. Black nothingness still seemed to cloak it as it crouched down over the fallen Autobot. It extended part of itself down into his chest cavity and enveloped the fluttering spark, finally extinguishing it and giving the consumer a slightly more definite image.
    It was certainly Cybertronian in appearance, but monstrously altered by writhing tentacles, a thick armoured carapace and a twisted face. Its consumption finished, it stood, blackness caressing its presence.
    Tremor fired a bolt of electricity at the other, hitting it squarely. The attack caused it to squirm inside the electrical embrace, but it quickly passed and Tremor was suddenly encircled by dark ethereal appendages and dragged towards it. Within its embrace Tremor’s chest was torn open by dark claws, his spark revealed and feasted upon. The other, satiated, cast the body aside, its form even more solid.
    The piercing screaming coalesced, before it had appeared as random words and sounds, but now a clear message could be discerned.

    RETURN WITH ME, the screaming clearly said. NONE CAN LEAVE.
    It was addressing Revaxus.


    ‘There is nowhere else to run!’ Kraken shouted. He’d met up with the other three Pretenders and had led them after the Autobot. Pulsar had tried giving them directions, but they preferred to use their own sensors, particularly when this hunt would be so rewarding.
    The Autobot Pretender had stopped up ahead, he’d clearly come to the same conclusion. They’d tracked him to the internal mechanism that opened the external doors to the vast main hangars. The hydraulic assembly, like everything else aboard the Warworld, was gargantuan. Each of the units coiled like a metallic snake through the expansive housing, minimal lighting filled the arena like compartment, the Autobot stood at the end of a single assembly, close to where it was anchored to the solid bulk of the Warworld. Kraken and his troops fanned out into a line; Cutback accompanied him on the same hydraulic piston as the bot, the others spreading out onto the neighbouring ones.

    ‘Come and get me.’ The bot beckoned, adopting a relaxed, open pose, his energon blade held at the ready by his side.

    ‘Which one are you?’ Cutback asked; the bot’s Ident-sig could not broadcast through his armour.

    ‘Shortfuse.’ He shouted back. ‘Were you on the Pz-Zazz?’

    ‘Unfortunately, we weren’t.’ Kraken replied. ‘But fear not, we are every bit as deadly as the ones who were.’

    ‘I destroyed many in that attack, you probably knew them. I’ve destroyed even more since.’

    ‘We will be putting an end to that. You’ve been so long without energon now, you must be really taxing your powercell. But please, at least try to fight back. We’ve met some of your kind before; most of them welcomed the end. Satisfying to destroy them, but not much fun when your prey gives up.’

    ‘Shall we get on with this?’ Shortfuse asked.
    Swiftly, and as one, the Decepticons darted forward, lashing out with their energon weapons. Shortfuse parried, dodged and ducked through the attack, before pressing his own attack against Cutback, then shoulder barging another out of the way and jumped from hydraulic ram to hydraulic ram, creating room around him. The Decepticons pursued, but Shortfuse feigned his next movement, sticking to the ram he was stood on. The trick worked, leaving the Pretender that had hoped to follow in mid jump before realising that Shortfuse hadn’t fled. The con couldn’t react in time, allowing Shortfuse the opportunity to hack across the con’s midsection, splitting armoured shell and internal mech open.
    Kraken stopped at a distance, the other two regrouped by his side.

    ‘Impressive.’ He grudgingly admitted, as his fallen warrior crashed down between the hydraulics and was lost beneath.

    ‘Face me in single combat.’ Shortfuse offered. ‘I will let your two warriors leave afterwards.’

    ‘You know that is not possible.’ Kraken replied. ‘You shall be destroyed. Every Decepticon Pretender has sworn it; your very presence offends us all. Autobots were never meant to have our technology.’

    ‘If that were true, then Deephunt would never have allowed himself to be captured.’ The name of that Pretender still hurt and its effect was exactly what Shortfuse had hoped for. All three Decepticons charged forwards in a berserker rage. Their blows rained down without precision or skill, just anger and strength. Shortfuse parried and landed a score of hits on his attackers, but the enraged cons were oblivious to the sensor feedbacks of the damage they suffered. Shortfuse’s hasty plan had failed; their haste to destroy had left gaps in their attack, which Shortfuse did his best to utilise. But, their fury had allowed them to soak it up. Shortfuse fell under the rain of blows, shell splintered and inner mech savagely revealed and dragged out. It was the first time since he had undergone the Pretender process he had been without the shell. So intricately entwined with the shell was his own internal systems, that his cerebral circuitry fused and blew, sparing him consciousness as the Decepticons busied themselves tearing him system from system.


    The bridge was a swirling dance of broken panels and mechs, filled with the screaming voice of the other. Darkness cloaked it and sensors stung to gaze upon its form, yet it advanced toward Revaxus.

    ‘Quick, your magnetism, use it on that!’ The Autobot scientist shouted at Bolter, pointing at the other. Bolter had been so scared, he’d let his field drop, freeing the bot, he shook his head in disbelief. He was only too aware of what had happened to Tremor when he had dared confront the other.

    ‘You can do it! That electricity dazed it, magnetism should entrap it!’ The scientist implored. Revaxus was backing away from it, firing bursts from his liquid-gun; but they passed harmlessly through without any effect.

    ‘We’ve got to work together!’ The bot shouted, but still Bolter did nothing.

    ‘I’ve got a plan. You just need to contain it, let me get to a weapon’s console, we can destroy it!’ But Bolter kept looking from the other to Revaxus and back.

    ‘Come on!’ The Autobot shouted again. But it was too late; the other had its claws around Revaxus. The Decepticon commander was lifted up and held close. The other began to retreat towards the transparent canopy, its claws piercing Revaxus’s chest compartment, inching towards his spark chamber. Even though a purge had been attempted, traces of Rheanimum still remained within Revaxus following his duel with Decatron on the surface of Cybertron; its presence prevented the other’s claws from probing deeper. He tried to grab the other’s claws, to prize them apart, but his hands passed through them as if they were made of smoke.

    ‘Bolll—tur!’ Revaxus’s shout snapped the Electracon from his stupor, he at last raised his hands as the other was phasing through the transparent hull, dragging the still struggling Revaxus with it. Bolter paused again and Revaxus’s legs were through the hull now, having phased seamlessly along with the bulk of the other.

    ‘Now!’ The bot shouted and Bolter threw his magnetic field around the other, completely encapsulating it. Immediately the errant gravity effects in the bridge from its presence ceased and a rain of broken parts and smashed machinery rained down. The other immediately dropped Revaxus too, but once free of the phasing effect of the other, Revaxus was severed in two; his legs were left drifting in the vacuum outside of the Warworld, while the rest of his torn and ruined chassis slammed back down onto the floor of the bridge.
    Bolter was trembling; normally exerting the field allowed him to sense inside it, allowing him to examine whatever he had captured from the way his magnetic field passed through its very matter. The feedback from the other was of a magnitude so far in excess of what his systems could handle he was at risk of burning out his databank.

    ‘Push it all the way outside!’ The bot was ordering as he rushed to an undamaged console.
    The other was struggling back, eager to break free. It writhed within the magnetic field; Bolter was running dangerously low on Energon keeping it active. It still hurt to look at the other with his optic sensors, the feedback was excruciating.

    ‘M-much longer?’ He stammered as his right optic finally gave up and shattered. The concentration was sending miniature shockwaves through his body, his leg servos were at risk of seizing up.

    ‘Almost there.’ The bot replied. ‘One of your lot has taken command of our systems. I’m having to access the Warworld’s original interface directly. Your friend hasn’t even tried to break into that one. It’s not very user friendly.’

    ‘Hurry.’ Bolter pleaded. His databank flagged a critical message inside his cerebral circuitry: his energon supply was exhausted, meaning his powercell was running the magnetic field, a process outside of safe tolerances.

    ‘Ok, try to push it away from the Warworld, and then you can relax.’ The Autobot said. A Transformer’s powercell fuelled their spark, basic operational functions inside their cerebral circuitry, and motor units; it came with an operational lifetime that far exceeded most Transformer’s expected operational lifetime given the war. It essentially meant that while energon was used to fuel other abilities, the powercell would ensure that the Transformer always had enough energy to function, even in a mode-locked unresponsive state. Using it to power any other functions severely taxed it. Bolter was fading fast; other internal systems were burning out or shutting down. With his last dregs of will, he hurled the other, now fully phased out of the Warworld, away from the ship and then slumped in a heap.
    The other tumbled momentarily outside, away from the Warworld, before the munition that the Autobot scientist had launched rocketed into view. As long as a Colossus chassis, the missile hit the other and detonated. An exotic weapon, it carried a smaller version of a ship’s hyperdrive engine with just enough power for a one way trip. Space-time was ripped open with the explosion, dumping the other into Hyperspace, the plane that existed just outside of normal reality. The weapon was an anti-starship munition; most things were quickly expelled naturally from Hyperspace, but even a small time spent there could result in a re-emergence point a few thousand light years away in regular space. It allowed the Warworld to remove opponents completely from an engagement with one shot, unless appropriately shielded.
    The Autobot whooped as space-time re-knitted itself over the hole he had caused. He scrambled over to Bolter and lifted him up.

    ‘I didn’t really know it would work. Well, in theory it should, we’ve studied them all, but hadn’t been able to build any models ourselves to try out. Well, I’d written a report outlining what I thought could happen and that’s only just gone and proven I was ri-‘ The jubilant Autobot was cut short as a kinetic round tore through his head, shredding cerebral circuitry and vocal emitter instantly. At the door to the bridge stood Darkjet, his precision rifle still held in his shooter’s stance.

    ‘We’re right on time.’ He reported back to Pulsar behind him.


    On the small moon orbiting the gas giant in the Kirton system, the communication came through to the skeleton Decepticon force holding the captured Autobot base that the Warworld had successfully been captured and was on route to pick them up.
    Deep within the mining and construction facility the communication was picked up by the two Decepticon engineers working at the Node. The apprentice reluctantly readied his gun, only too aware of what Skyline had ordered him to do. He’d just about learned everything he could from the Node Specialist, he’d even felt guilty at the con’s eagerness to teach him. As he turned he was surprised to find the barrel of the Node Specialist’s gun pressed against the side of his head.

    ‘The Node had recorded some of Skyline’s orders, I never trusted that mech. I know it’s not your fault, but hey, no hard feelings.’ The Node Specialist said as he fired.
     
  10. uklangor

    uklangor Active Member

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    Chapter 9

    Aboard Sparkhaven Ingeneous entered his private quarters, mentally engaging the locks on the door behind him. The forward observation port spanned most of the space-ward wall of the room; the sight of his reflection in the transparent material caused him to pause. Just what am I doing? He pleaded with the image. The events were still savagely fresh in his thoughts. Not for the first time he questioned his own actions. Steeling himself, he at last silently activated the recording equipment. Cameras winked and flashed as they ran start up calibrations, their motors whirred as they extended into position. A reply from the equipment indicated the recording had started.

    ‘Emirate Zusasson, noble Stronghold, my mission is progressing, but with some startling events…’

    He re-countered everything for them that had happened on Aurous, finding the Autobot base deserted, the attack by the twisted-Guardian units and his discoveries in the Mysterious Builders’ habitat. He reported that they were closer to identifying who the Mysterious Builders actually were – different races of sentient mechanical species led by the spawn of Unicron – thanks to the visions shared with the sentient construction he had encountered beneath the surface, and that they were still on the trail of the Super Weapon indicated to exist by the Mysterious Builders in some of the artefacts that had left behind.

    It would have been easy to finish the report there. In fact he even paused and had begun to issue the command to end the recording. Do they even need to know everything? Will this show them that I’m unfit to be the next Prime? But of course, he knew he should keep nothing from them, the two mechs who believed in him the most.

    With head hung low in shame, he explained about Groundking. The heavy chassis framed engineer was their latest casualty; he was aboard the Sparkhaven but kept within a hastily constructed brig. Twisted, engorged and disfigured, little remained of the mech as they had known him. The Emergent Sentience encountered below the temple on Aurous had insisted on coming along, to the objection of most of the other bots under his command. If I can’t lead a hand full of mechs, how am I supposed to be able to lead our entire race?

    Ingeneous finished his report, hurriedly signed off and instructed the equipment to encrypt the message and then send the recording to Earth. The machinery powered down and Ingeneous was once again left with his reflection. He knew he had things to do, but he just couldn’t quite bring himself to move just yet.


    The Sparkhaven was originally captained by the Master, Liberaticum, and crewed by Topspeed and Chromaspark and as such Topspeed knew the ship better than any of the newer additions to its crew roster. Being aboard the ship was a constant reminder to Topspeed of his failure. He’d failed to warn them of the Pretenders on Cro and had then failed to stop the attackers stealing from the vault left behind by the Mysterious Builders. The memory caused him to stop.

    He looked around; no one had followed him down into the bowels of the ship.

    Relax Blip silently suggested. No one’s followed us.

    The two had united as one being, Blip forming the head of the two again now that the transformation inhibiting effects of the Nucelon had completely purged from Topspeed’s systems.

    It’s just that I don’t trust Wildfire one bit. As for that mech who’s with him, the others seem to buy the story that he was sent by Ultra Extremus himself to help, but I’m not too sure.

    He does seem an odd choice; a bot of that rank should be guarding our leaders, or helping out on the front lines instead of following us around.

    Topspeed continued on his journey through service ways, passages and finally to the sub-decks and his destination.

    Liberaticum had converted the storage rooms on this level into a repository devoted to the Ancients. The lock acknowledged Topspeed’s presence and with a click of deactivating security bolts, he entered into the chamber within. It had been untouched since his last visit, back when Liberaticum, Chromaspark and dear Irontop, his previous micro-bot partner, had still functioned. The loss still troubled him, as Headmaster partners, Irontop and Topspeed knew each other on a level that no other two beings could know. Equally, Topspeed was grateful for Blip, his new partner had given him the strength to continue and the will to finish what Liberaticum, Chromaspark and all their micro-bot companions between them had started.

    The repository was like a museum, originally devoted to the Ancients, but then once the existence of the Mysterious Builders were uncovered on Earth a new suit of chambers had been added to house those discoveries, artefacts, treasures and data stores. Liberaticum, even though designated as commander, had a passion for history. Once of a rank to be able to requisition his own star ship, Liberaticum had moved his entire research and substantial collection of historic artefacts to the Sparkhaven; along with Chromaspark who had been his assistant for vorns. Topspeed had joined not long after his own Master reconfiguration process and subsequent arrival on Earth. It was almost by accident that he met Liberaticum; the commander had needed an engineer to correct a glitch on some of his stasis storage capsules and Topspeed had been in the right place at the right time.

    Walking past the exhibits of archaeological finds, Topspeed mentally ran system checks and performance scans of the various stores and equipment. He remembered how impressed Liberaticum had been with Topspeed’s original repair work, how the two had talked for several cycles about the Ancients afterward. Joining Liberaticum’s team had been the easiest decision Topspeed had ever had to make.

    Reaching his desired sub-section, Topspeed accessed the relevant node and requested several articles in the collection. The machinery whirred as automated racks slid over rails and manipulators plucked items to satisfy Topspeed’s request.

    Being in Liberaticum’s museum took Topspeed back to the early millivorns after the three Masters had left Earth for their first archaeological dig. The Mysterious Builder site had been destroyed by the purge following the Disappearance Event, but the little remnants they had found had only fuelled their thirst for more.

    A polite system message informed Topspeed that the items he had requested were ready to be viewed. Ingeneous’s recounted tale of his vision had intrigued Topspeed, especially the descriptions of the mechanical races adopted by the Unicron spawn. He’d asked Ingeneous for clarification, one of the descriptions in it jogged a memory and Topspeed had felt a sense of curiosity that he hadn’t noticed since his time with Liberaticum. Now before him held up by numerous autonomous manipulators were the tattered remains Liberaticum, Chromaspark and Topspeed had been able to salvage from an early dig. They looked exactly as Topspeed had remembered. Even though there were many missing pieces and the whole was no where near functionality, Topspeed was certain he had been able to identify one of the races from Ingeneous’s vision. Before him were the remains of a Lithonian and Topspeed, now looking at them, had no doubt the Lithonian race had been recruited by the spawn of Unicron following the Disappearance Event of the Ancients. Spurred on by feeling so close to at last identifying the Mysterious Builders, and Liberaticum’s memory, Topspeed began hastily rechecking the logs and appendices of the repository’s archive; he had three more species to identify.


    Leaving his personal chambers Ingeneous made his way to the main corridor running along the spine of the Sparkhaven, Roadstalker was waiting for him. The light-framed scientist appeared agitated; she took to his side, almost having to jog to keep up with his pace.

    ‘Are you going to see him?’ She asked.

    ‘I’m on my way now.’

    ‘Did you report on the developments?’

    ‘Yes.’

    ‘Even about Groundking? They won’t be happy.’

    ‘Of course’

    ‘They won’t be happy you know!’ She said and stopped. Her hand grasped his elbow and he stopped too. Why do I let them do this? Why can’t I get them to accept my judgements without question?

    ‘Roadstalker, it won’t change anything. This mission is so important; it’s bigger than any one of us.’

    ‘That sounds like typical High Command spiel! Every mission is bigger than any bot on it. But Groundking is my friend. As a commander, you’re sworn to protect all those under you.’

    ‘Yes but…’ He’d never seen Roadstalker get angry before.

    ‘You don’t need me to tell you that the Autobot code states that “Freedom is the Right of all Sentient Beings”?’

    ‘Of course, but…’

    ‘You have to help him! He’s trapped by that thing’

    ‘The Decepticons are after the same weapon we are, but we don’t know how far ahead of us they are. This weapon could win us the war.’

    ‘You don’t know if it even exists.’

    ‘No, but the possibility that it does means that we have to at least try. It’s what the Emirate has asked for; therefore it’s what we must do. I don’t like it any more than you do, but this Emergent Sentience, or whatever it is, knows how to get us there. We could beat the cons.’

    ‘But at what cost? What is it doing to that brave Autobot? An engineer, who fought by your side! He was at Cro too, remember? He followed your orders, helped where he could. Now he’s suffering; possessed by something…something unnatural.’

    ‘You don’t know he’s suffering.’

    ‘And you don’t know that he’s not. You have to help him.’

    ‘I’m sorry, I can’t.’

    ‘Please.’

    ‘The information that the Sentience has, it’s too important.’

    ‘More important than Groundking? So you’re happy to sacrifice him then?’

    ‘Of course not.’ Roadstalker stayed silent after that. Ingeneous stood motionless; the two had locked optic sensors. For a while only the background sounds of the ship filled the corridor. Ingeneous racked his databanks for something to say, but couldn’t come up with anything. She knows my position, knows how important the mission is, surely she’s thought about the risks too. Neither of them said anything, they just stood there watching the other.

    At last, Ingeneous broke the look and turned away.

    ‘Please.’ She pleaded his back now to her. The soft word froze him to the spot.

    ‘Maybe when we get to the weapon there’ll be some way to separate the Sentience from him.’

    ‘He can’t wait that long.’ With an eruption of fury and frustration Ingeneous spun around, towering over the scientist he angrily looked down at the standard-light framed mech.

    ‘What would you have me do?’ He bellowed. Meekly, she looked back up with defiance as strong as his fury.

    ‘Kill him. Now.’ She whispered. Ingeneous was shocked to silence and again they stood still, watching the other. The background cacophany of ship sounds now seemed almost deafening in the corridor. I’m losing control! They were wrong to pick me for this, I’m not good enough.

    This time when he at last turned to leave, she didn’t try to stop him.


    Groundking’s personal quarters had been hastily turned into a brig. Wildfire had overseen the work, even helped out with some of it too. Reload stood on guard, his laser energon sword in hand, his rotor a blur as it spun on his forearm mounting. The close combat specialist even held a pistol in his free hand, so Flashstorm could tell he was serious.

    The exGroundking stood against one corner of the room behind two forcefields and a ring of explosive charges laid by the mini-framed bot. Flashstorm, the demolition expert, had taken no chances. He knew that forcefields were a proven technology and the power supplied by the Sparkhaven was enough to keep them active indefinitely, but after what he saw on Aurous he didn’t want to take any chances. He doubled up on the charges, if they blew the ship would be crippled, but exGroundking would be atomised; he didn’t want it getting lose, he didn’t want to be possessed too.
    It seemed to Flashstorm that Wildfire was braver than either him or Reload, the strategist was stood as close to the forcefields as possible, watching exGroundking.

    ‘What do the Mysterious Builders want?’ Wildfire was asking.

    ExGroundking didn’t reply. He had been a standard-heavy mech to start with, but had now been swollen to a greater size. Extra mechanical units and electronic devices had been fused to his chassis, extra limbs had sprouted from his frame sporting manipulators or tools or something Flashstorm couldn’t figure out. Bands of metal crisscrossed his body with odd protuberances here and there, light of a multitude of different wavelengths leaked out of him, making exGroundking visible to any type of sensor. A twisted new mask half covered its face and it stood half hunched over, Groundking was almost unrecognisable under it all. The thing had stayed silent throughout all of Wildfire’s questions.

    Interfacing the inner forcefield controls directly, Wildfire moved it closer to exGroundking.

    ‘What is the Super Weapon for?’ The strategist asked and was again met with silence. He moved the forcefield closer, to within a quarter of a mechanometer of exGroundking. The thing stood passively, uninterested in the approaching forcefield.

    ‘What do the Mysterious Builders want?’ Wildfire asked. Yet again he was met with silence. With a pop, the forcefield moved even closer. When it winked on this time one of the extra limbs was lopped off, the end of another fizzed loudly as it touched the energy field that now virtually enshrouded it.
    ‘Prime.’ It finally said and the doors to the brig hissed open, admitting Ingeneous to the room.

    ‘Wildfire, that’s too close.’ The commander ordered after taking one look at the forcefields. With an almost inaudible sigh, Wildfire returned it back to its original position. ExGroundking picked up the severed limb from where it had fallen, then holding it in place another limb streaked across the grid laced around his chassis, the tool at its tip sparked up and the thing quickly worked to reattach it.

    ‘Prime, this unit would know why you delay.’

    ‘I’m not Prime…’ Ingeneous replied, nervously looking round at the other three mechs in the room.

    ‘Not if we can help it.’ Reload whispered to Wildfire.

    ‘We’re not going anywhere just yet. We need to know if we can trust you.’ Ingeneous continued.

    ‘Prime showed this unit that Decepticons seek your goal too. This unit can get Prime there fast. This unit give you a new destination.’

    ‘We’re going nowhere.’ Wildfire threatened.

    ‘I need to speak to Groundking first.’ Ingeneous said instead.

    ‘This unit would know why you delay.’ It repeated.

    ‘Groundking first. Is he still… in there?’ With a whine the forcefields flicked off, along with the lights.

    ‘Blow it Flashstorm!’ Wildfire yelled. In the darkness they could hear exGroundking take a step forward.

    ‘It’s not working!’ Flashstorm shouted back, furiously retrying to ignite the explosives ringing exGroundking’s cell.

    ‘Autobots, get behind me.’ Ingeneous ordered. ExGroundking took another few steps, each one ringing loudly in the small brig: the background ship noises had stopped too.

    ‘Get back.’ Ingeneous ordered.

    ‘The door won’t open!’ Flashstorm almost wailed.

    ExGroundking took a few more steps and then without warning everything came back on, the forcefields, the lights, even the door sighed open. ExGroundking was back on the correct side of the forcefields.

    ‘Everyone alright?’ Ingeneous asked turning round to the others. Flashstorm gingerly came back into the room away from the now open door, Wildfire’s additional weapon ports were open, but with exGroundking now back behind the forcefields the Triggerbot quickly retracted them. Reload hadn’t moved.

    ‘What was that?’ Steelrain’s voice came over the internal comm.. The mini-bot, the only pilot in the crew, was connected to the Sparkhaven via the pod housed in the bridge.

    ‘Topspeed, you weren’t recalibrating some system again without telling me were you?’

    ‘It wasn’t me; I had a power cut down here, everything ok?’ Topspeed replied over the ship wide channel.

    ‘It was our new…passenger. Steelrain, are all systems functional?’ Ingeneous asked. The wait for Steelrain’s report was only short, but enough time for Ingeneus to again review everyone’s objection to exGroundking, am I going to have to fight to stop them throwing him out an exterior port?

    ‘There’s something new in my, er, Sparkhaven’s databanks, a new navipoint.’ Steelrain replied at last.

    ‘Where abouts?’ Wildfire asked.

    ‘About three jumps away. One of the outer reaches of the galaxy.’

    ‘Decepticon territory?’ Ingeneous asked.

    ‘No, definitely Autobot. Away from the front lines though, not much in that sector. So, how exactly did that thing put that in my, er, Sparkhaven’s databanks any way? I thought it was locked up.’

    ‘That’s what I’d like to know.’ Wildfire replied.

    ‘Prime’s new destination.’ ExGroundking said.

    ‘How did you do that?’ Ingeneous asked it.

    ‘This unit would know why Prime delays’

    ‘Before we do anything, we need to establish some ground rules. Firstly, you do not go into this ship’s databanks like that.’

    ‘This unit would know why Prime delays’

    ‘It’s not listening.’ Wildfire said. ‘Give me some more time, I’ll get it talking.’
    Ingeneous glared at the strategist, and then back at exGroundking. This isn’t going to be easy, but worth a shot.

    ‘Prime delays because this unit needs to follow my order first.’ Behind him, Ingeneous could feel the others stirring; they weren’t happy that he’d referred to himself as Prime.

    ‘This unit will capitulate.’ ExGroundking replied at last.

    ‘Good, now tell me, what’s so special about this destination?’ ExGroundking paused a moment while one of the additional limbs, a short stubby appendage with a thick bulbous point, whirred across the network of tracks over its bloated body. Piercing pink lights lit up as small points along its length and the brig was filled with a room sized holographic representation of the star system in which they currently were.

    ‘How is it doing that?’ Reload whispered to Wildfire. ‘Forcefields are supposed to block projections like that surely?’

    As the assembled Autobots watched the star system rapidly shrank, other systems and stars came into view, but they shrank as well. More and more rapidly shrinking systems whizzed through the room until it was clear that the brig was filled with a hologram of the galaxy. A red square appeared in one section of the galaxy.

    ‘Prime’s destination.’ ExGroundking stated. The projection rapidly zoomed into the red square, systems appeared and grew, but as the projection continued to zoom into the red square, the other systems were lost to sight.
    The expansion finally ended, the room was filled with a holographic representation of a single system; the second planet from the centre star was framed by a red square.

    ‘Galaxy gate will take Prime to final destination.’ ExGroundking said. The image again started to shift, the red square remained behind as the star systems began to shrink. When the image of the galaxy finally appeared this too continued to shrink until another galaxy appeared in the room. In one of its spiral arms a bright yellow circle shone; clearly the final destination exGroundking had mentioned. The image faded altogether, the lights along the stubby appendage winked out.

    ‘This unit would know why Prime delays’

    ‘Let’s go.’ Wildfire said. Ingeneous spun round to look at the strategist, he couldn’t believe his audio receptors he’d be the last one to want to go there! Wildfire merely nodded at his commander.

    ‘Steelrain.’ Ingeneous announced over the comm. ‘Take us there.’

    ‘Acknowledged.’ The mini-bot replied after a brief pause.


    The brig soon emptied, Ingeneous had a meeting with Topspeed. Flashstorm, Wildfire and Reload left too, but after sealing the doors to the brig.

    ‘Won’t do any good.’ Flashstorm remarked.

    ‘Makes me feel better.’ The warrior replied. Heavy bolts slid into place inside the makeshift cell’s door with a satisfying clunk. The three Autobots were now alone in the central ship’s walkway.

    ‘I was waiting for a good time to ask you something.’ Flashstorm said.

    ‘What?’

    ‘About this.’ The mini-bot said brandishing a remote control trigger. ‘The explosives in Ingeneous’s trailer. I suppose I should remove them.’ Wildfire and Reload merely exchanged glances. ‘Or do you think I should leave them there. You know, just in case?’

    ‘In case of what?’ Wildfire asked.

    ‘We all know what that thing in there,’ Flashstorm said pointing to the brig, ‘Is capable of. It seems pretty fond of Ingeneous too. If it, you know, possessed him too, we might need some sort of way to stop him.’

    ‘Strange, your Ident-sig doesn’t mention anything about paranoia…’

    ‘I’m serious, what should I do?’

    ‘It does make sense to keep them in. I’ll handle the trigger, it’ll make you feel better.’

    ‘No way, I don’t trust you either.’ The mini-bot said and then skulked off.

    Soon the strategist and the warrior were alone.

    ‘You’re changed your tune haven’t you?’ Reload said at last.

    ‘About?’

    ‘You were on its side, wanting to head off to this planet that freak in there wants us to go to.’

    ‘Things just need speeding up.’

    ‘You’re not changing your mind are you?’

    ‘Do not question me; you’re here to follow instead. You heard him in there, already calling himself Prime.’

    ‘I think that was just to get that thing…’

    ‘Doesn’t matter, he still did it and it’s in my databanks. It adds to his guilt and the others on Earth. Once we get to the weapon, we can end it. It looks like Flashstorm has just given us the means to do it.’


    The lower levels were new to Ingeneous, even though technically the Sparkhaven was his ship now, large parts of it were completely unknown to him I’m a poor captain too. I need to know every micro-mechanometer of this ship.

    The lighting here was dim, but having looked through the ship’s manifest had hinted that there was nothing much of interest to be found on the sub level. Ingeneous took the solitary corridor; the ceiling was lower than elsewhere in the ship, being a large chassis framed mech meant him having to hunch over slightly to fit. The walls around him were crisscrossed with scratches and rough grooves; clearly a lot of bulky equipment had been transported along the passage.

    The door opened up at the end as he reached it and Ingeneous entered. The lighting was even dimmer here and once the doors closed behind him he felt the usual background noises and vibrations through the ship’s fabric disperse; the room was clearly shielded in some way.

    Before him were racks and racks of equipment, detritus and junk, from what Ingeneous could make out. From the spaces between the racks he could see that the room had been extended out into the neighbouring chambers, making the space larger than any of the designated cargo holds. The contents didn’t appear on any official record stored in the Sparkhaven’s databanks, clearly their owner deemed them to be too important.

    ‘Commander!’ Topspeed called out. Through a gap between some odd looking storage capsules Ingeneous could see the Master waving an arm. Winding his way through the racks and display cases, Ingeneous finally reached Topspeed. The engineer was positioned at a work station; around him held up on autonomous manipulators were the remains of mechanical cadavers arranged like grim hunting trophies. Parts were clearly missing from each set of remains, but their nature as mechanoids was clear, Ingeneous was suddenly aware how isolated he was from the others.

    ‘By the Source, what’s happened here?’ Ingeneous demanded.

    ‘It’s what you’ve told me about your vision, it got me thinking.’

    ‘Who are they?’ Ingeneous asked indicating the remains held up around the work area. ‘Why are they here?’

    ‘What? Oh, don’t worry, relax. These are all archaeological remains that Liberaticum, Chromaspark and myself were able to uncover. Liberaticum was fascinated by the Ancients and the Mysterious Builders and as you can see he was able to amass quite a collection.’

    ‘But what’s it doing here?’

    ‘The Sparkhaven was to be a mobile museum devoted to his research; we had grand plans. All of the ship would have been refitted, so visitors would embark in an area devoted to items from the time of the Disappearance Event. As you descended you’d find yourself going backwards in time to more and more distant finds and data, while ascending would take you to our Mysterious Builder displays. Once we complete this mission I plan on continuing Liberaticum’s dream and you’ve helped me realise just what I should be displaying.’

    ‘Topspeed, back on Aurous you were acting a little strangely in the lock when we made a stand against those Guardian units. You weren’t bonded to Blip, you seemed… different. I care about the welfare of every single Autobot on this ship.’ and I need all the allies I can get, whatever their mental state.

    ‘Oh…that. Yes I’m fine now, thank you.’ Suddenly Topspeed’s head detached itself, flipped and transformed back into Blip. The micro-bot landed perfectly on his feet as Topspeed’s original head re-emerged from within his chest.
    ‘Ingeneous, I know what you’re thinking; this whole place appears quite grisly.’ Blip was saying. ‘But it was Liberaticum’s mission; it was what this ship was originally designated for. There are hundreds of Autobot ships like this out there. It’s a testament to how varied the Autobot race can be, while one army is out fighting the Decepticons along the front lines, another is out uncovering the past. None of us are created to look alike or programmed with the same personality; it’s the will of the Source, variation is our strength.’

    ‘Ingeneous, you’ve helped me with a significant discovery, the ramifications are quite profound. I wanted to share it with you; it might help.’ Ingeneous took another couple of moments looking at the remains hung around him a commander needs to be able to deal with any situation.

    ‘Okay, what have you found out?’ He asked at last. Mentally manipulating the control interface Topspeed illuminated one of the cadavers where it was suspended.

    ‘These are remains collected from several different worlds,’ Topspeed was saying. ‘But I’ve been able to arrange them into an almost complete body. A lot of the internals are missing, but the outer body frame is just about complete.’

    The mechanoid was roughly the height of a Standard-Heavy Transformer, but almost as slight as a Standard-Light. Underneath the grime it appeared to be coloured purple and orange and judging from the assembly of auxiliary parts about the body it looked capable of transformation.

    ‘I’ve seen this before.’ Ingeneous said, although unsure.

    ‘Yes, good. I believe one of the species you saw in your vision back on Aurous was a Lithonian. Their planet, Lithone, is in the same system as Aurous but nothing of any size has been found intact there. The planet’s orbited by a huge ring of scrap; old booster rockets, engines, satellites and other types of craft. Although, most of them have been smashed up from the millions of vorns they’ve spent crashing into each other.

    ‘It appears the Lithonians became quite a space faring race, remains have been found on a number of worlds, dating techniques indicate they were very active after the Disappearance Event. We’ve found old Lithonian databases; they’re even mentioned in a few Ancient ones too. They were renowned for their scientific prowess, the way you described your vision, it seemed like the Unicron spawn were recruiting races for this big mission of theirs. If they needed to figure something out, the Lithonians would have been the mechs for the job.’

    ‘So what happened to them?’ Ingeneous asked, he was stood at the foot of the body looking up into cold lifeless optical sensors.

    ‘Not sure. The junk around their home planet suggests maybe a mass evacuation of Lithone, the rockets in orbit could mean that they boosted anything and everything of importance up into space and then on to who knows where.’ Topspeed replied.

    ‘There are other theories too.’ Blip added. ‘It might be they were wiped out or had their own Disappearance Event too. The rockets could be from other species plundering a deserted Lithone and stealing all their knowledge.’
    ‘But the point is the Lithonians were involved with the Mysterious Builders. That gives us an idea of where to start looking for more clues, if we focus on Lithonian sites, who knows what we will uncover.’ Topspeed added. Ingeneous let the engineer’s words sink in. He was clearly excited, but he needed reeling in, they didn’t have the luxury to be able to go off on an archaeological hunt based on a hunch.

    ‘The other bodies look familiar too.’ Ingeneous said turning away from the Lithonian. Topspeed activated the lights on the three other cadavers.
    Although they were not as complete as the Lithonian, they were all about Transformer size and appeared capable of transformation. The remains looked very old, muck and dirt still clung to them, weapons fire had left its mark too, yet they were all familiar to Ingeneous from his vision. Topspeed walked along the row, indicating each in turn.

    ‘Junkion from the planet Junk, again records suggest they were allies to the Ancients. A race of superb engineers; very useful to the spawn if they needed something building.

    ‘Sharkticon. A race of warriors, not too bright but in large numbers they were deadly. Records indicate they were the slaves of another mechanical race called the Quintessons. It looks like the spawn might have needed an army and these mechs would have been just right, but how they got them away from the Quintessons isn’t clear.

    ‘This last one is strange. Their designation in the records varies. Liberaticum took to called them Imperialists, but some sources called them the Cybertronian Empire, others called them Decepticons.’

    ‘What?’ Ingeneous asked, taking his gaze away from the body in front of him to look at the Master.

    ‘At some point in their history, a slightly different branch of Transformers evolved on Cybertron with their own way of reproducing. Believing themselves to be superior they departed and established a colony in a region of space they called the Hub. Little remains there now, I think it was a prime resource for whatever the spawn of Unicron wanted to build. However, they were enemies of the Ancients and while they were ultimately defeated in a decisive battle in the Hub, that war brought about the unification of the Ancient Autobot and Decepticon factions.

    ‘Liberaticum had thought that due to their relation to the Ancients, the Imperialists were caught up in the Disappearance Event. But your vision suggests that they weren’t.

    ‘So the others were scientists, engineers and warriors. What speciality did the Imperialists bring?’ Ingeneous asked.

    ‘They were as varied as our own race, but due to the ways in which they reproduced a lot of their kind had skills that were somewhat diluted. Their commanders were deadly warriors, tacticians and scientists, but most were killed in the war. It’s unclear what the survivors brought with them, but the spawn of Unicron obviously believed in them.’

    Ingeneous continued inspecting the remains, once or twice he even reached out to touch them, it helped him focus on the vision. It also brought back a conversation he had with Roadstalker following the incident on Cro. She’d told him that his own personal databanks had been expanded, information had been downloaded inside him, but it was blocked to his querying mind. He wondered at the nature of the vision he had had on Aurous now, maybe it was a fragment of the data dumped in him instead, finally unlocked by the Emergent Sentience he had encountered. Connection with the bodies before him failed to trigger any visions or memories at all.

    ‘Great work Topspeed.’ He said at last. ‘What do you think it all means?’ The engineer was clearly pleased with himself; that reminded him of Groundking, he’d enjoyed what he did too.

    ‘They needed an army. Weapons too. The Unicron spawn took what they could get. At least we know who our Mysterious Builders had to be; your vision had to be a message, a history lesson.’

    ‘But why leave all those databanks and buildings behind anyway? How would that help them fight this ‘future evil’?’

    ‘Maybe as a warning? In case they fail?’

    ‘It seems to be a map, guiding us to this weapon. They had Unicron’s Future Sense, perhaps they foresaw us.’

    ‘You think we’re being recruited?’

    ‘Who knows?’

    ‘Groundking.’ Topspeed replied solemnly. ‘What’s happened to him?’

    ‘He’s still in there I’m sure. But this thing that’s taken over, it seems to want to guide us. It’s not very talkative.’

    ‘Maybe it was some sort of device created by the Mysterious Builders, designed to take control of a mech that came near, lead us to the weapon?’

    ‘I’m not sure about that. The equipment the Autobots on Aurous had set up had tapped into the Mysterious Builders’ machine. It seems corrupted somehow, I’m not sure it was even meant to be sentient.’

    ‘Can you be sure?’

    ‘I just don’t know Topspeed. It believes that I’m Optimus Prime and you saw what it did to those Autobots. It accessed the ship’s databanks and seems almost oblivious to reason. I don’t think we’ve any choice but to go where it wants us to go.’

    ‘How’s Roadstalker taking things, she and Groundking were pretty close.’

    ‘Not good.’

    ‘I was in one of the cargo bays earlier with her, we were securing the bodies of the Autobots from Aurous. She… she wasn’t very happy.’

    ‘No…’ Another Autobot who I’ve failed. ‘I’m calling a meeting on the bridge; can you be there in two breems?’

    ‘Oh, sure. I’ll be there, I’ll just finish here first.’
    Ingeneous left or am I fleeing? Topspeed had brought up too many difficult memories I need to just concentrate on the mission.


    Ascending back up to the main spinal passageway Ingeneous quickly met Roadstalker again.

    ‘I’ve been looking for you.’ The scientist said.

    ‘What is it?’

    ‘Have you figured out what to do with Groundking yet?’

    ‘We’ve already been through this…’

    ‘Have you forgotten about all the things he’s done for you? He deserves your help!’

    ‘You know as well as I just how important this mission is.’

    ‘You can’t just leave him like that! He’s been loyal to you, despite…’

    ‘Despite what?’ Ingeneous said heatedly.

    ‘The whole Optimus Prime thing! He followed you without question.’

    ‘He was an Autobot; he was following orders without question. I’m beginning to see that as a rare quality within this crew.’

    ‘Stop trying to twist things. What do you mean- he was an Autobot? So you’ve given up on him already?’

    ‘No; you should remember what badge you wear. You’re an Autobot too and I’m your commander. You need to respect my word.’

    ‘Not if you don’t see reason!’

    ‘I’ve done arguing. Be on the bridge in one breem’s time.’ Ingeneous savagely added, turned his back to her and strode away.

    ‘Optimus Prime made a mistake; there’s nothing special about you!’ She shouted.

    ‘At last, something we can both agree on.’ He shouted back.


    The bridge slowly filled up with the crew of the Sparkhaven. As it was a Master’s ship, the design of the space accommodated their aesthetics; light, muted colours for the equipment and panelling, with a view-screen giving a panoramic view out onto the space-scape before them. It gave the illusion of space within the compartment, and while there was room for more than twice the assembled bots, Ingeneous felt almost claustrophobically trapped. Wildfire and Reload looked blank, stern as usual; Roadstalker wouldn’t meet his gaze, Burnout and Flashstorm huddled together by the Pilot Pod containing Steelrain, muttering together almost sub-audibly. Topspeed, alone in a corner, looking jovial, but clearly wrapped up in his own research.

    ‘You all know we’re in transit again.’ Ingeneous started. ‘Our, um, guest,’
    Roadstalker turned away at that, to look out of the view-screen into space

    ‘…has provided us with a new course. One which should provide us with a short cut to the weapon of the Ancient Builders.’

    ‘What? We’re trusting that thing now?’ Burnout spat.

    ‘We’re investigating. The destination is away from the border, firmly in Autobot territory.’

    ‘That doesn’t mean it’s safe! We need backup at the very least.’

    ‘We’ll go in, scout around…’

    ‘…which means us.’ Flashstorm added.

    ‘We’ll proceed as necessary, according to the situation on the ground.’

    ‘Great, so we’ll be going in blind then.’ Burnout said.

    ‘I don’t need to remind anybody on this ship that we are all Autobots. We’ve got a mission to do and we’re going to do it. I also do not need to remind anyone of the importance of what we’re doing. If we secure this weapon, it could win the war for us. We are all aware that the Decepticons are most likely in pursuit of the weapon too. We don’t need to think too hard to imagine what would happen if they get there first. We do what needs doing to get it done.’

    ‘And we’re all expendable.’ Roadstalker muttered. Ingeneous let the comment hang in the air for a moment. They’re all thinking it; I guess, in a way, she’s right too. Why can’t they see how important this is? The moment stretched on, no one spoke.

    ‘I’ve got an update about the Mysterious Builders.’ Topspeed said at last.

    Grateful for the distraction, Ingeneous let the Master excitedly tell everyone else about his theories of who the Mysterious Builders were: Lithonian, Junkion, Imperialist, Sharkticon. Spawn of Unicron. They’re not listening to him, they’re all too angry. They think I’m making a mistake. How can I get them to understand?

    Topspeed went on; he even projected images of his grim cadavers from his museum collection onto the bulkhead to back up his ideas. He at last finished, the others left pretty quickly; there were no questions. He doesn’t notice, he’s too wrapped up with all of this. At least I’ve got one ally.


    Ingeneous found Roadstalker in the lab. The room was a mess, she’d started several tasks and it looked like none were finished. Upon Ingeneous’s entry she was busying recalibrating the Plasma Mass Spectrometer; the High Gain Electron Microscope had been stripped down to its component parts awaiting repair, the common-metal storage rack had been emptied ready for re-cataloguing, even the view screen had been dismantled. She paused very briefly before continuing with her work. He waited patiently.

    ‘What do you want?’ She asked at last while checking the results from her work; the recalibration had taken a little longer than usual to run.

    ‘To see you.’

    ‘Not interested. Goodbye.’ Ingeneous didn’t leave; she tried to continue working, she selected another tool to help with a second recalibration; the previous attempt had been 0.003% out of tolerance.

    ‘Roadstalker, I’m sorry.’ He said at last. The scientist whirled around, the interface unit in her hand held as if she was going to throw it at him.

    ‘You’re right; this mission is more than just finding the weapon. I’ve … I’ve been blinkered. The mission relies on the crew and the crew haven’t been able to rely on me. That’s wrong.’

    ‘Go on…’

    ‘I’ve let myself get caught up in this mission; I’ve missed what’s important.’ That was hard to admit

    ‘That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.’ She replied, setting the interface down alongside the calibration tools. ‘You need to remember to listen to your crew.’

    ‘I promise; we’ll find a way to get Groundking back. It’s not right to leave him like that. When we get to our destination we’ll get him back. I need you to start working out a way to get that thing out of his head in case I can’t persuade it to leave quietly.’

    ‘Okay.’ She simply said. He waited for a couple of silent moments, but neither of them said anything. At last he turned to leave.

    ‘I’m sorry too.’ She added quietly. He stood still, half turned back to her.

    ‘About earlier,’ she added, ‘about Optimus Prime making a mistake about you. I’m sorry.’

    ‘I’ve often thought that he had made a mistake too. Back on Earth, before we left, Emirate Zusasson sent me a document detailing all the other reported cases of Optimus Prime intervening in a bot’s life. Mine is so different, she claimed it made me special, unique almost. All the other accounts are from ground battles, space confrontations, sector conflicts, all military engagements. Optimus Prime took over, guided the Autobots there, led a charge, held an objective, kept moral up during the wait for reinforcements. But not for me. He just made me late.’ Ingeneous at last turned back to her, she was watching him intently.

    ‘I thought that he’d taken control, realised his mistake and then gone. A great mind surely is capable of making great mistakes, just like a mortal. I never looked at what else had happened until the Emirate’s datafile. The transport I’d missed, it was charted to go to the High Berry system. Nothing unusual about the destination, just an Autobot outpost away from the border. After Optimus Prime had taken control, I’d sought psychiatric advice and was institutionalised, I’m sure you’ve heard the story.’

    ‘It made it into the regular news feeds, hidden away under the headline stories. You didn’t go quietly I remember.’

    ‘I never made it to the High Berry system, being locked away I never had access to news feeds or data archives. I never found out what happened.’

    ‘What?’ She asked puzzled.

    ‘The transport got to the High Berry system, but upon landing there was a malfunction in the engine. A shielding unit had become worn and had been overlooked during maintenance. It had escaped notice in two engine inspections by two different engineers. By all accounts a very easy mistake to make, normally it shouldn’t have mattered. Even past operational life times, engine shielding is normally extremely robust. However, there was a design flaw in this unit, a freak of probability during its manufacture, almost unheard of before. As the transport can in to land the pilot powered down the main thrust, the pressure difference inside the engine manifold, while well within normal operational tolerance, was too much for the tiny flaw in the engine shielding. It snapped; shredding the engine manifold and causing a flashback into the energon reservoirs, the transport was due to make a return flight so the tanks were still over half full. The ship exploded, vaporising all on board. The Autobots already stationed at the base had assembled at the spaceport, they were all destroyed too.

    Optimus Prime knew that was going to happen,’ Ingeneous added, a touch of fervour in his voice now, ‘surely that means something! He knew it was going to happen, no one else did, it had been missed, it was a freak accident. He knew it was going to happen, yet he only chose to save me. Why not make the pilot not take off, maybe make an engineer have another look at the engines? He let all those other mechs perish, but not me.’

    ‘I … I didn’t know any of that.’ Roadstalker replied weakly.

    ‘It’s got to mean something, it has to! I think that maybe the Emirate is right, I’m meant to follow this trail, I’m meant to get this weapon. But if she’s right, that means I’m meant to be the next Prime too.’ The look on her face was chilling as his words registered I’ve said too much. He quickly left, cursing himself what if they’re all wrong?
     

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