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.