First of His Name

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by peteynorth, Dec 15, 2014.

  1. peteynorth

    peteynorth TFW2005 Supporter

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    Cosmos



    “No.” The yellow and blue robot continued down the hall, his pace quick and intense, indicating that Cosmos’s initial ‘no’ had gone ignored. Cosmos waited until Nightbeat entered his office and shut the door before continuing with his refusal. “I said no.”


    “I haven’t asked you for anything yet.” Nightbeat replied.


    “You’re about to.” The short green and yellow robot replied as he stood up from his chair and started walking around his desk toward his visitor. The office was small, one tucked into the second floor corner of the Honorus Spaceport in central Iacon. “And I have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to be.”


    “Oh, and what’s that?” The detective asked.


    “How’s this for deductive reasoning?” The rotund robot with a yellow face covered by a red helmet as well as a yellow plate covering his mouth and nose began. “My pal Nightbeat, who I haven’t seen or even heard from in over a decade, who until a few years ago had been given carte blanche from Prime to gain access to whatever resources he wanted, who utilized those resources to go on more off-world trips than anyone else since way before either of us was born, a friend who not only had that carte blanche seemingly revoked but who also wound up being blacklisted from Guardian Spaceport, now shows up unannounced in my tiny hidden office in this secondary spaceport…”


    “More like tertiary.” Nightbeat interrupted.


    “Really?” Cosmos barely managed to cross his arms over his rounded torso as he came to a stop before his taller guest and leaned back onto the front of his desk. “Perhaps my assumption was wrong. You wouldn’t be an insulting dick were you coming here to ask for an impossible favor.”


    “Uhm, well…”


    “How about you let me finish my game of play detective then, huh?” Cosmos continued. “Whatever Sentinel wanted you to do with all those classified off-world jaunts, it appears you failed. But I know you well enough to know you don’t just let things go, sooooo, you’re here to finish whatever it was you started.”


    Nightbeat smiled. “Maybe Sentinel should have chosen you. You seem to be a better detective than I am lately.”


    “Yes, it required all my powers of deduction to figure out what you were up to.” Cosmos batted back sarcastically. “You’re persona-non-grata in every spaceport in Nova Cronum, and you’re thinking good ol’ Cosmos is just going to loan out a starhopper to you?” The short, rotund robot shook his head. “Look Beat, we’re friends and all, but Prime would have me on orbital trash detail were I to do that.”


    Nightbeat just stared evenly at his friend for a moment before responding. “Look Cosmos, there’s been an event in The Torus Heights that will have Sentinel Prime distracted for the foreseeable future, and I know for a fact that you have a starhopper that’s been collecting dust in the sub-basement levels for over three million years.”


    “So, and, so?” Cosmos replied. “The election of the kid in the frozen wastes is barely a blip, and even under feet of dust, a starhopper is extremely valuable and off limits to you.”


    “It’s not just the election of a kid, it’s that the election of THAT kid serves as an excuse for Sentinel to initiate hostilities with The Heights.” Nightbeat replied as he backed up and took a seat on a chair that was against the wall next to the door he had walked through moments before. “He’s been praying for an opportunity like this for years. Trust me, there’s nothing outside his impending attack on House Pax that’s going to catch his attention.”


    “I’d be risking my career, my very station in life, on that assumption.” Cosmos replied.


    “Actually, you might be risking more than that.” Nightbeat corrected with a lopsided grin. “But it’s a safe assumption. Nobody knows or remembers this thing exists; the only reason I do is because I went looking through old inventory files for a craft that would likely have been forgotten. And it really will be a quick excursion. I should be there and back before Prime’s invasion even begins, much less afterward when he has time to focus on anything else.”


    “Uh-huh.” Cosmos replied as he looked down at the floor for a moment and chuckled lightly, before turning his gaze back up at his visitor. “Not that it matters, because I’m going to say no, but where exactly is ‘there’?”


    “That’s classified.” The detective replied, knowing full well that answer would never be accepted.


    “Bunk, pal.” Cosmos responded as anticipated. “It WAS classified when you were operating under the authority of Prime. But you’ve been shit-canned, meaning nothing you do is classified anymore.”


    Nightbeat paused, knowing that the true answer was not going to sway Cosmos into helping him any more than his attempt at stonewalling had. “That’s not really how it works, Cosmos, I’m still bound to keep my trap shut, but slag it, it’s called Helios-3.”


    “Never heard of it.”


    “Not surprising, it isn’t on any of our star charts.” Nightbeat replied. “It’s a wholly organic world in the outskirts of the galaxy. Jhiaxus considered it for…colonization.” The detective decided to hold back on the legendary scientist’s actual intentions for the planet.


    “Jhiaxus?” Cosmos planted his hands on the edge of his desk and asked with genuine surprise. “As in, THE Jhiaxus? Guardian Prime’s scientific advisor? Inner circle? Mad scientist super-genius…Jhiaxus?”


    “Yes, Jhiaxus.” Nightbeat answered.


    “What the hell did Prime have you working on?” Cosmos asked with enthusiasm.


    “That truly is classified.” Nightbeat explained. “I didn’t complete my mission quickly enough for Sentinel, but I know that I can complete it. I’m confident that Helios-3 holds the key to achieving my goal, but I have to get there first.” The blue and yellow detective studied his friend as Cosmos peered back down at the floor, deep in thought. It was too much for him to ask Cosmos, the risk really was too great to his friend. But he was nearly done, and should he return with the Matrix, Sentinel Prime would forgive any trespass. And should he return with a revived Guardian Prime, then Sentinel Honorum’s displeasure would amount to less than nothing. He felt dirty doing it, but Cosmos needed to be manipulated into doing what was necessary. “Look Cosmos, I should not have asked. You’re a good friend, better than I deserve. Much better. I’ve withdrawn, not just from you, from everybody. I’ve been a self-centered jerk. And here I come, not to patch up a neglected friendship, but to ask a favor, a favor that can get you into a tremendous amount of trouble.” Nightbeat stood up and turned toward the door. “I’m sorry Cosmos, please forget I came today.”


    “Wait.” The word came out just as the door started opening. “Shut the door and sit back down.” Nightbeat nodded and did as he was told. After a long pause Cosmos continued. “You’re right about that ship. Totally forgotten, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one aware of it. I’ll arrange for you to take it, but you need to promise that you’re exit and re-entry will go unnoticed. Starhopper 24837 may be forgotten, but it’s not untraceable.”


    “Thanks pal, I owe you one.”


    “You’re damn right about that.”



    ***



    Militus Macht



    He was not Jugatus. Some could see this banquet and the rewards he was about to bestow upon Megatron as an attempt to buy him off; he himself saw it that way. But while he would make Megatron a lord, grant him a title and lands, lands vast and possessing veins of energon, with no less than thirteen hotspots from which he could choose to build House Megatronus upon, he would not be granting the gladiator entrance into House Macht. This justification swirled about his head as he looked upon the servants finishing their preparation of the great ceremonial table of Castle Macht’s main dining chamber. It would only be the two of them, he and Megatron, but this was to be seen as symbolic. Not only the elevation of a commoner to the level of high lord, but the creation of a great house. It was a high price, but if the rumors of the Pentiathan convocation were even the least bit true, either a great offering or a great intervention would be required. Militus Macht needed a better understanding of what he faced before intervening, so for now, he was buying Megatron off.


    “Emir Macht?” The servant’s voice drew Militus’s gaze up toward the door. Upon confirming Emir Macht’s attention, the servant, File, smiled and bowed her head. “Megatron of Tarn is here.”


    “Show him in.” Militus responded as he turned back toward the table and gave it one last evaluation. Flavored energon, chips and fluid, both pure and tainted engex, lined the table on immaculate crystalline plates and in goblets. Two small statues depicting Megatron in combat stood on either end of the table. A moment later Militus heard the door being pushed open and turned to greet his guest. “Hand hold us, he’s found religion.”


    Megatron of Tarn continued into the room and looked down at the purple engraving of the Warrior’s face on his chest, smiling as he did so. “Not much fear on that account, Emir Macht. I’ve just always admired the look of it, and the attributes of the Warrior, courage, ruthlessness, perseverance, resourcefulness, and an unbending will, have always been the greatest of traits in my estimation. It’s as if the symbol were created specifically for me.”


    Militus eyed the gladiator warily. “There are many a religious authority who would take issue with that statement.”


    “I think I’ve committed transgressions far more worthy of their attention than this.” Megatron said as he approached Militus, noting the statues of himself with a subdued smile. “You wished to speak with me, Emir Macht?”


    “Yes, thank you for coming, Megatron.” Militus smiled as he reached out and clutched the gladiator’s wrist in greeting. “You may not realize it yet, but what I just said is historic.”


    “Oh, how is that?” The chrome warrior asked as the two released their grasp of each other’s arms.


    “That was the last time you will be addressed without the title ‘Lord’ coming before your name.” Militus replied before turning away from him and walking toward the table, grabbing a data pad as he got to it.


    “Emir Macht?” Megatron questioned.


    “I name you Jarl of the Southeastern Octant of Polyhex, an octant that includes your home Tarn.” Militus announced as he grabbed a goblet of engex with one hand and handed the data pad to Megatron with the other. “You will be lord over one eighth of my emirate, answering only to House Macht. You will collect tithes from those that live there, and you will provide me with tithing, as well as providing a portion of the energon mined in your octant and any military aid I request.”


    Megatron studied the data pad, one listing all of his new lands and possessions, his face almost giving an air of indifference. “This truly is most generous, Emir Macht.”


    Noting the lack of gratitude, Militus leaned in toward his guest. “I don’t think you realize how significant this is, Lord Megatron. You are now one of the wealthiest beings on the planet. You are in a position to establish your own house, and have the resources and influence to make that house as great as some of the royal houses.”


    “I know.” Megatron looked up from the pad and met Militus’s gaze. “Properly managed, the ruler of the Tarnian Octant could amass more wealth than Houses Nexus, Maximus, Ambus and possibly even Modus. I would be lying to you were I to tell you that I wasn’t tempted to accept this. But ultimately, my ambition is far greater than an eighth of an emirate answering to a house that answers to a Prime. Yes, this Jarl-ship has already been presented and requires no further effort, while it will require a tremendous amount of work and risk to attain my true goal, but I have never been one to be afraid of work or risk, nor have I ever been one to settle.”


    The enraged, and slightly unnerved Militus backed away several steps, snarling out at his guest with venom in his voice. “I invite you to a magnificent feast, I present a gift of title and land unequalled in the history of Cybertron, I would make you more powerful and respected than any common born Cybertronian in history, and you dare to spit on my offering?”


    Megatron shifted his head slightly as he considered the Emir’s accusation, answering flippantly a few moments later. “Yes.”


    Militus continued backing away from the table, toward the door that Megatron had entered through moments before. “This has to do with the mass gathering in the badlands, doesn’t it? You’re involved with that group, don’t bother to deny it!”


    “Involved with that group?” Megatron chuckled as he slowly started taking ominous steps toward the emir. “Emir Macht, I AM that group.”


    “You…you’ve abused my charity, you’ve turned the many gifts I’ve given you against me, you’ve worked to undermine me!” Militus snarled as he reached the door and opened it.


    “Guilty on all counts.” Megatron smirked as he continued to slowly follow after the retreating emir. “Though the term charity is laughable. I was an asset used to make you money and win you prestige. It was an honest exchange, you offered me training, access to knowledge, physical enhancements, and an opportunity to prove myself in the gladiatorial circuit, and in return I won for you, garnered a fortune for you, I put on a tremendous show, I organized events, virtually ran the organization in this and other southern emirates, and earned you honor for your house and for you personally. All that you have provided me has been more than repaid.”


    Militus exited the room and started down the hallway. “Guards! To me!” The emir turned and sprinted, but relaxed as he saw four well-armed House Macht guards turning into the hallway to attend to him. “In there!” He slowed down and pointed back in the direction of the dining hall doors, which were just now being pushed open. “Megatron! Stop him! Cut him down, but leave him alive! I want to be the one to kill him!” The guards all nodded and raised their rifles as they advanced quickly toward the gladiator that was now exiting the dining chamber and fixing a broad grin upon them. Arrogant whelp, even as he was about to be cut to pieces he displayed an overconfidence unbefitting a noble, much less a chunk of pond scum that crawled out of a Tarnian Caverns subterranean hotspot. Militus turned back around and glared at the treacherous bastard, the emir was going to enjoy watching this jumped-up miner suffer.


    Weapons-fire erupted from behind Militus, lots of it, but only two rounds zipped past him, only one of which connecting with the advancing chrome warrior, a hit to the left shoulder which only seemed to annoy Megatron. Militus turned to see what was happening to his guards and to berate them for their shit aim, but he shuddered in horror to see them being cut down from shots originating from the hallway that they had emerged from moments before. A gray, red and blue blur shot out from that hallway and transformed, the momentum propelling Starscream into the wall, which he planted his feet against and pushed off, finally landing gracefully in the center of the hallway, pointing his arm-mounted rifles down at the injured guard and opening fire one by one into their cranial shells. He looked up at Militus and displayed a smirk. “They were originally running to you to alert you to the fact that Castle Macht is under attack. That the perimeter has been breached.”


    Militus was initially drawn to the large, purple Warrior faces etched onto Starscream’s wings, but finally noticed the sounds of muffled weapons-fire in the distance, coming from other parts of the castle and outside. “Lord Starscream, what is happening? Why have you done this?”


    “This is the opening salvo of a revolution that will upend our world.” Megatron announced from behind the emir, his advancing footsteps intermixed with his words and the sounds of combat going on throughout the complex. “And by our world, I’m referring to myself, Starscream, and other Decepticons. Our world is upending, your world is simply coming to an end.”


    Militus turned and looked at the advancing Megatron in horror. He was getting close, and Starscream was standing between he and the most accessible exit. From where he stood the only open hallway led him deeper into the castle. True, he would pass several hallways that would lead him out, but they would take him away from the bulk of his forces and require him to outrun these two over a greater distance. He knew Megatron’s tank mode to be faster than his, and Starscream might very well be the fastest being on the planet. But did he really need to escape? Surely this assault would be put down in time; there’s no way that Megatron could have gotten more than a few dozen conspirators anywhere near Castle Macht without them knowing well in advance. The Macht security forces would repel this attack, or at the very least the other Polyhexian great houses would come to their aid within hours; Militus only needed to remain alive for that long. He didn’t need to escape, he only needed to find a secure place to wait this out.


    Castle Macht was full of secure rooms, but Megatron was proving to be far more clever and resourceful than his mental test scores and early conversations would suggest. Militus had frequently considered the possibility that he had tanked his test scores, but he had always dismissed those considerations as ridiculous. They were no longer so ridiculous to him. Megatron was smart and powerful enough to gain access to all of these secure rooms within the castle…all save one. Militus turned and sprinted away from his assailants, down the hall away from where Starscream had emerged and transformed to tank mode, hitting the polished floor with treads spinning.


    Megatron and Starscream followed after him casually, not bothering to transform or even to run. Within seconds Militus had turned down a side corridor and was grinding his treads over the polished metal floors as quickly as he could. Not much farther. In moments he’d be in the most secure room in the southern hemisphere, one that these upstart common-born bastards didn’t have a prayer of penetrating. And if they did manage to find a way inside, they’d immediately regret it. Housed within, waiting for the Emir of Polyhex, was the most potent infantry weapon ever conceived. Infantry weapon…it only qualified as such due to it being portable and usable by a single warrior, but in every other regard it was a weapon of mass destruction, one he would be more than happy to weild against Megatron, Starscream and any other Warrior-tattooed fool that dared to rise up against him.


    There it was, up ahead, through Castle Macht’s Heritage Hallway, the thick metal door protecting his House’s greatest treasures, and soon himself as well. “Defenses activated!” He called out as he transformed and stood before the door. Ion cannons dropped from the ceiling as red identification lasers swarmed over his frame, lasers which quickly turned green at recognizing him. “Militus Macht ordering the revocation of access to all others beside myself, and that defensive systems obliterate anyone approaching this door!” The only other members with access to this vault were his Vice-Emir Caustus Macht and his Secretary of State Affairs Manglus Macht, and if they hadn’t made it to safety by now, they wouldn’t be finding it here. He certainly wasn’t going to allow them to be used by the invaders to gain their way in.


    “Affirmative.” The automated voice replied as the door rolled open.


    Militus lunged in and spun around, staring back out into the empty hallway. “Seal the room!” The door rolled, and as soon as it sealed shut Militus whipped around and ran to the display case in the center of the room. “Cannon of Machtus case open.” He called out, and the transparent metal hood rolled back to leave the great weapon exposed. Militus reached for it, but a wave of blue flame washed over him, sending him stumbling back and falling to the ground. “Whaaa!” He jerkingly moved his hands from the protective position over his face and glanced about, trying to ignore the stinging pain and figure out what was happening. Unfortunately for him the blue flame and even more agony than before returned, this time over his legs. “Arrrrggggghhhhhh!!!” The flames stopped, and he looked down at his legs to see that they were unusable, but could be repaired easily enough given a few hours in the infirmary.


    “I’m sorry, Lord Macht, did that hurt?” A familiar feminine voice sang out. Militus whipped his head toward the sound and saw his beautiful assistant standing to the side of a case housing the memoirs of Machtus, a large military-grade pyro-emitter in her hands.


    “File?”


    “I was.” She circled ominously around the fallen emir, the flame-thrower cradled threateningly in her arms. “File was a loyal servant of House Macht. A submissive commoner happy to accept the abuse hurled upon her by the royals that she worked for.” She stopped next to a display, a pair of feet stretching out past it momentarily drawing Militus’s attention away from File. Her optics darted down toward the feet and she smiled. “Ah, yes. Not all members of House Macht were interested in abusing me. Lord Caustus found me most appealing. He was kind, generous, he longed for my attentions and was willing to shower me with gifts to get it. His only requirement was that you not find out, which I agreed was best. I allowed him to use my body however he wished, but his generosity extended beyond just energon and baubles, he wanted me to feel pleasure. He wanted me to desire him as he desired me. It was an easy role for me to play, and his generous nature enabled me to talk him into bringing me here for our trysts. Not only did it offer privacy, but it’s common knowledge that nothing is as arousing as power.” She momentarily released the weapon with her left hand and waved it around at everything held within the vault. “With the suggestion that I would be open to mingling our sparks in the midst of Machtus’s personal possessions, he immediately agreed to meet me here. And we have, for over two months now. Where you’re laying right now is where we laid together, embracing with exposed chests, our life-energies washing over each other and becoming one.” She gave a sad smile. “Truth be told, it was beyond pleasant. I plan to do it again, but with one I find worthy, one I’m genuinely attracted to.” She stepped back to better look upon the remains of Caustus. “I came to like Caustus, he was a good being, something unheard of in House Macht, but at no point was I ever attracted to him.” He peered sorrowfully down at the corpse that was hidden from Militus’s view. “Despite that, I took no joy in killing him.” She turned back and leveled her headed gaze on the Emir of Polyhex. “As I killed him, I realized that I was killing File as well, and her, I enjoyed killing. As I would enjoy killing you as well, you bastard.” She smiled and backed up toward the door. “But that is not my right.”


    Militus watched as her hand lifted up to open the door. “File, wait, please, don’t do this. I apologize for mistreating you. I will make you wealthy beyond imagining. Just, please, keep that door sealed and place the pyro-emitter on the floor.”


    The armed femme merely chuckled. “I told you, File was dead, and Flamewar has no interest in entertaining your pleas.” She opened the door and casually aimed her weapon up at the ceiling mounted cannon to the left of the door. The cannon turned, but was unable to aim into the room. Flamewar let loose with a string of blue destruction that enveloped the cannon and melted it to the point of being inoperative. She then casually stepped over to the other side of the doorway and repeated her destructive acts with the other cannon. She then melted down the identification scanner and other security features outside the door. She raised her wrist to her mouth. “The vault has been made safe, my lord. The prisoner awaits your judgment.”


    She walked back over and stood over Militus with a smile on her face for several moments, meeting his hateful glare with her cruel grin. Footsteps could be heard approaching them from The Heritage Hall. Seconds later Megatron marched into the vault with Soundwave of House Torrent at his side, the purple face of the Warrior etched onto his chest. “Soundwave?” Militus painfully gasped. “But you’re high-born! A true royal! How can you stand here with this mud-born piece of shit Megatron, or that jumped-up common bastard Starscream?”


    Soundwave nodded. “Megatron is the greatest Cybertronian I have ever had the privilege of knowing, and Starscream is no longer here to stand with.”


    “I sent him off with your fastest shuttle to spearhead the destruction of House Nexus.” Megatron smiled. “Should be easier than the destruction of your house. He can walk right in, sabotage whatever pathetic defenses they have, and smoke out all their members for easy extermination.” The chrome gladiator stopped next to Flamewar and smiled down on her. “We never found a Macht worth recruiting, but I was able to find a trusted insider that was.”


    “I am honored to have been found worthy to serve one such as you, Lord Megatron.” The former File replied with a bowed head and smile. “You gave an empty shell named File the opportunity to be so much more, and allowed Flamewar to be born.”


    “You will make a fine Decepticon, Flamewar.” Megatron turned back and grinned malevolently back down at Militus. “Our movement was fortunate enough to find two worthy and trueborn sons of House Torrent to join us, so I left the destruction of that house to Shockwave so that I could keep Soundwave with me.” The gladiator then turned and fixed his optics upon the Cannon of Mactus. “Are there any further security measures that I’m not aware of?”


    “I’m telling you nothing!” Militus snarled, hoping that Megatron’s uncertainty regarding the cannon might buy some more time.


    “No, all security measures have been removed, mighty Megatron.” Soundwave’s harmonic voice called out. “Macht is merely hoping to delay as much as possible.”


    “A foolish and incorrect guesss, Soundwave!” Militus snarled.


    “Lord Megatron?” A voice called out from the doorway behind them. Megatron turned his head to see Straxus standing in the doorway, clutching Rossum by the upper arm and two large robots bearing faces of the Warrior, the new Decepticon sigil, behind them bearing rifles. “I’ve found Doctor Rossum.”


    “And you, Straxus?” Militus growled.


    “Straxus follows strength.” Megatron cocked his head toward the doomed emir as he smiled at the captured doctor. “You didn’t expect genuine loyalty from him, did you? I certainly don’t.” The chrome gladiator then looked to Straxus. “But you’ve performed well, Straxus.” He looked back at Rossum. “Doctor Rossum, I’m going to give you a choice. Join my Decepticons, perform whatever task I demand of you, and you will be wealthy beyond your dreams and have the freedom and resources to explore any scientific research you desire, or don’t, and you will simply…”


    “Stop.” A broadly smiling Rossum interrupted. “Don’t ruin this with threats. I will happily join your cause, Megatron of Tarn, and I don’t require any fear of death or torture to do so.”


    “Excellent.” Megatron replied. “When giving me my current armor and press enhancements you mentioned to Emir Macht that you had theoretical enhancements that I would be a suitable candidate for.”


    “Oh yes, I certainly do, and you certainly are.” Rossum answered. “It would be a pleasure to enhance you further, but I am obliged to inform you that there will be pain involved.” He smiled at Megatron’s rolling of the optics. “I know it’s a non-issue for one such as you, but professionalism dictates that I warn the patient.”


    Megatron nodded before turning back to Militus. “Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a matter that needs to be resolved.”


    “You can’t possibly think you’ll succeed.” Militus spat up at Megatron. He only needed to stall a bit longer. “Attacking a royal house, murdering royals, laying claim to our planet’s most precious artifacts! Spare me and I can see that you live…I might even let you disappear. But kill me, the Emir of Polyhex? You’ll be tortured for years before finally having your pretty green spark snuffed! You’ll be overwhelmed and bound in the back of a prison transport within the hour!” Manglus must certainly have gotten word out of the attack. Assistance must only be minutes away.


    “I personally killed Manglus before he realized House Macht was in any danger.” Soundwave replied to MIlitus’s silent considerations. “No assistance is en-route. You are the last surviving member of House Macht.”


    “Flamewar,” Megatron muttered as he opened a panel on his right forearm, lifted the cannon out of the case, and mounted it over the newly exposed circuitry. Brackets snapped down into place over his arm, and immediately drilled into the living metal of Megatron, securing the ancient weapon as the inner circuitry of the weapon linked and interacted with his living circuitry. “Please change Emir Macht’s status.”


    Flamewar smiled broadly up at Megatron. “With pleasure, my lord.” She then turned both her gaze and her weapon back down at Militus. The downed emir raised his hand to plead with her, but a wave of blue shot forth before a word could be uttered.



    ***



    Red Alert



    “Yes sir, preliminary reports indicate that several hidden troop positions and mounted weapon emplacements near our westernmost border with The Torus Heights were hastily uprooted and relocated what looks to be toward the southern Heights.” Red Alert listed off into the communications console. “But while their existence can be considered threatening, the removal away from the troops on our western border cannot. This re-allocation seems to indicate that they no longer wish to oppose us.”


    “I’m guessing they’re anticipating this assault and are pulling their forces closer to Polarus.” The voice of Sentinel Prime came through the speaker.


    “But sir, the forces are heading south, Polarus is northwest of their position.” Red Alert replied.


    “Probably to throw us off.” Sentinel snapped back. “It seems to be working on you.”


    “Sir, perhaps we should lift the communications blockade over the emirate and speak with them.” Red Alert suggested, hoping, futilely in all likelihood, that Prime could be calmed and be made to see reason.


    “Negative, I’m through listening to their assurances, pleas, and any other disingenuous nonsense they wish to convey to me. The election of that little shit is all the proof I need of House Pax’s treachery.” Prime replied authoritatively. “There will be no opportunities for Tyger Pax to be warned, the assault will proceed, and it will proceed silently.”


    “Sir, once again, I must…”


    “Shut up Red Alert!” Prime snapped. “Inform the western border forces that we will be at their position in minutes, and they are to follow us into The Torus Heights, obliterating any opposition they face between them and Tyger Pax.”


    “They are aware of their orders, and I’ve forwarded your ETA to them just now.” Red Alert replied.


    “Good. Now monitor the rest of the planet.” Prime ordered. “You’ve proven to lack the mettle for dealing with The Torus Heights.”


    “As you command, Prime.”



    ***



    Dwight D. Eisenhower



    “Sooooo,” the American President muttered as he considered his next move, “I never had the chance to play Harry, which of us is better?” He slid his Bishop a few spaces.


    “Difficult to say.” Alpha Trion replied as he studied the board. “One of the few things the two of you had in common is that you are both quite good at chess.” They were in the same large cell housed within the same vast subterranean chamber that had held the giant alien for fourteen years.


    “Do we really seem that different to you?” Ike asked, eyes glued to the board.


    “Not in all matters, it’s just an impression I get due to the fact that there are a few critical issues that you both were very divergent upon.” The alien replied.


    “Such as?”


    “The one that stands out more than the others is your criticism of his choice to use atomic weapons.” Alpha Trion mentioned.


    Eisenhower nodded. “Yes, I consider that to be a regretful mistake on our country’s part.” He raised his eyes up a the robot. “You think I’m wrong in that belief?”


    “No.” Alpha Trion replied, but continued hesitantly. “Well, I’m not sure. I see both sides I suppose.”


    “We used a weapon of unimaginable destructive power against a nearly vanquished enemy, on civilian targets.” Ike replied, a slight hint of venom in his voice.


    “Based on what I’ve read on the matter, just how near that actual vanquishing was is open to contention.” The robot replied.


    “Harry did mention to me that you enjoyed playing devil’s advocate.” The President muttered as he turned his gaze back at the chess board.


    “I’m afraid I do.” Alpha Trion grinned slightly. “Perhaps I view it as an act of insubordination that you can’t justifiably punish. Or perhaps I just like testing you humans.”


    “Hmmmm, well, it is my genuine belief that the Japanese were looking for an honorable out. I know Harry and Douglas felt otherwise, and I respect their opinion, I just happen to believe they were wrong.” Ike explained.


    “How certain were you that a full scale invasion would not have been necessary?” Alpha Trion asked.


    Ike looked back up and exhaled. “I believe it could have been avoided. I can’t say for certain we could have found a better way, but I genuinely do believe we could have ended the war without either an invasion or by dropping the bombs.” He shook his head. “Especially the bombs. Yes, had it come to an invasion I realize that the death toll would have been similar, possibly greater, but history would not record us as being the first to use such an evil device, especially against civilians.”


    “Hmmm,” the robot mused, “this aspect really troubles you?”


    “Of course it does!” President Eisenhower snapped. “How could it not?”


    “You’re a religious man, aren’t you?” Alpha Trion asked. “A follower of Yahweh?”


    “Uh, yes. I am a Christian.” Ike replied, a little confused. “A Presbyterian. Growing up I referred to him as Jehovah, but they’re different names for the same God. Why?”


    “I’ve read your bible, various Christian bibles, as well as different versions of the Torah and the Koran.” Alpha Trion began explaining. “In all, they describe the same one God who is the omnipotent, all-powerful creator of all things, as well as describing the events leading to the freedom of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Moses demanded freedom for his people, the Pharaoh refused, and your God implemented an escalating series of punishments against the Egyptians intended to convince the Pharaoh to release them. Yahweh apparently galvanized Pharaoh’s resolve, hardened his heart, so that that he would remain resistant through the first nine plagues, thus justifying Yahweh’s implementation of the tenth, most horrific and devastating punishment.”


    “Thank you, I’m quite familiar with Exodus.” President Eisenhower replied dryly. “And I’m fully aware of where you’re going with this. You can’t possibly compare God to Harry, Douglas or anyone else.”


    “Of course not.” Alpha Trion answered. “Neither President Truman nor General MacArthur were capable of knowing the thoughts of Emperor Hirohito, and they certainly would have done nothing to discourage him from surrender just to intimidate the world with a display of their power. Nor would they have specifically targeted children who had no influence over the decisions of the monarch claiming divinity that ruled over them.”


    “Enough!” Ike grumbled. “Harry really was right about you.”


    Alpha Trion smiled. “OK, perhaps we can discuss Genesis then. What do your religious historians put that time period at? Five to ten thousand years ago? Have I mentioned I visited your planet a million years ago, already formed and teeming with life? You know, there was this British naturalist named…”


    “Ughn, sports, let’s talk about sports!” Ike interrupted. “You have any sports on your world?”


    The giant alien nodded. “Of course. Like on your planet, popular sports vary by region, but they certainly have followings.”


    “Which is most popular?” Ike asked.


    “I’m ashamed to say that in the years leading to my departure, the gladiatorial combat sports had been making a huge resurgence.” Alpha Trion answered. “Illegal, but becoming incredibly popular throughout the entire planet nonetheless.”


    “Hmm, and they say football is violent.” The President mused.


    “I understand you played.” Alpha Trion stated. “The American version, not what the rest of the world considers football.”


    “In college.” The President answered as he scrutinized the giant prisoner’s chess move. “Thought about going pro, at least until I had the damn fool idea to try and tackle Jim Thorpe.”


    “I’ve read of him.” The alien muttered as he watched his opponent consider possible moves. “The most naturally gifted of your human athletes.”


    “The man was a force of nature.” Ike replied. “So strong, so fast, so graceful and perfectly balanced. His instincts, his reaction, his reflexes…all just perfect. He didn’t need to practice to be the best at any given sport, just explain the objective of the game and the rules, and he’d go out there and win.” The President looked up at the alien. “You have anyone like that on Cybertron?”


    Alpha Trion smiled lightly. “Yes. Every few pulses there comes an individual like that. I’ve known several. One comes to mind right now, an individual that has been on my mind a great deal over the last fifteen years.”


    “A giant, robotic Jim Thorpe.” Ike muttered. “Scary thought.”


    “Imagine a robotic Jim Thorpe with the mind of Benjamin Franklin.” The alien replied.


    “An even scarier thought.” Ike replied. “I’m assuming you’re talking about this Guardian Prime you’re trying to protect the universe from.”


    Alpha Trion frowned. “I wasn’t, though I fear the description applies to him as well.” The giant robot looked up over the President’s head deep in thought, and his optics flashed for a moment as if something caught his attention.


    Ike turned to see what had seemed interesting to the alien, and caught sight of the tip of a rat’s tail disappearing into the shadows behind an array of equipment on the far side of the fortified laboratory. Based on the tip of the tail, the rat would have had to be as big as a large dog. “Mercy!” He turned and looked up at the prisoner. “Did you actually see that thing? I barely got a glimpse of the tail, but it must have been huge.”


    “I…I only saw movement, Mr. President.” The robot replied. “Vermin is an issue even on my planet, I really didn’t mind it there, and I do not mind it here.” He then nodded back down at the board. “Shall we continue?”


    Ike hesitantly nodded and looked back down. “Yes, of course. We’ll need to get this place swept for rodents.”


    “Whatever you decide to do, sir.” Alpha Trion answered. The robot smiled lightly before continuing. “I will say one thing for Harry, he didn’t take this long to move a piece.”



    ***



    Orion Pax



    He gazed out into the dark night sky, and once again let his optics glide over the celestial shapes that he had long since committed to memory. The distant star of the Junk system was giving the limited heat it provided to the other hemisphere of the planet right now, leaving Junkion Prime to be lit only by vastly more distant stars. Orion heard the footsteps coming up the stairwell leading to the roof of the Capital Building and smiled. He’d come to be alone, but after several minutes of solitude he was open to some company. “Hello Wreck Gar.”


    “Every night that I’ve been in your company for the last fourteen years I’ve found you staring up at the stars much of the time.” The leader of Junk commented amicably as he sidled up next to his friend. “If I had to guess, the evenings when I wasn’t in your company were probably no different.”


    “Missing home, my Gar, just missing home.” Orion replied before turning and smiling at Wreck Gar.


    Wreck Gar continued staring up at the sky, clearly deep in thought, about to share some of those thoughts, hesitating, but finally giving them voice. “Is Cybertron still truly your home, my friend?” The leader of Junk turned and smiled at Orion. “You lived one year there, you’ve spent fourteen here. I know many here saw you as an outsider at one time, I’m sure some still do, but most of us have come to accept you as one of our own. Many of us have come to think of you as family.”


    “We are family, Wreck Gar.” Orion replied, looking down at the roof they were standing upon. “But I have other family, and I fear for them. And much of that fear is due to their link to me. My existence has put them in danger, and I must see to their safety.” He looked back up and met Wreck Gar’s gaze.


    Wreck Gar smiled and nodded. “And you miss them as well.” He watched Orion display a small smile and shrug, prompting Wreck Gar to place his hand on the new adult’s shoulder reassuringly. “Having personal desires does not make you selfish or any less noble, Orion. Your entire life you’ve put the needs and desires of others well before your own, and that makes you a good and honorable man. Wishing to achieve those desires at some point doesn’t undo the good you’ve done. Elita, Torenia, Roller, Ratchet, Ironhide; missing them, wanting to be with them, that is not selfish. It does not undermine your intent to put others first. If anything, having desires makes putting others first a greater and more noble sacrifice.” The Gar then put his other hand on Orion’s other shoulder and broadened his smile. “That said, I still think you should make Junk your home, and know that your friends and family will always be welcome here.”


    Orion chuckled. “I will definitely keep that under advisement.” He then looked back up into the dark sky. “Not that leaving is an option. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me for the time being.”


    Wreck Gar lowered his arms and stepped back. “I can’t think of anything better for Junk. And it’ll be interesting if nothing else for me to be a regular ‘zen again.” He noted Orion turning and fixing a questioning look on him. “Obviously that incredible naiveté will need to have worn away before it happens, but there’s no question that if you stay, you will be Gar of Junk at some point. You’re the greatest leader I’ve ever known, and you’ve only just reached adulthood.”


    “You flatter me, my Gar, but Junk will never have a better, more dedicated leader than you.” Orion replied humbly.


    Wreck Gar shrugged. “A matter for another time I suppose. Tonight, we relax. The rebuilding effort can allow us this evening.”


    Orion stared back up into the sky. With the war over, and apparently with Wreck Gar’s approval, he could wish for things again. At that moment he wanted to be with his brother.



    ***



    Kup



    A fourth wheel would have made this so much easier. He’d have likely made it to Tyger Pax by this point with a fourth wheel. But the Lord Commander of the Tartarun Gates was more than capable of making due with three. He had no choice, failure to get there and warn the emirate, warn the entire planet, was not an option. The gates had been breached, the Wardens had fallen, the Guardian was likely dead, and the army of death would soon be upon them all. For fifteen million years the beasts had been contained, and it had been on his watch when it had all fallen. “Stupid old fool.” Kup grumbled to himself. “How could I have let this happen?”


    Finally the vast Tyger Pax came into view, and several minutes later a small shuttle approached and landed a quarter mile in front of him. Kup transformed painfully and limped the rest of the way toward the transport, which was opening to reveal the Pax House guard Inferno. “Lord Commander?”


    “Inferno, please get me to Olnius Pax immediately.” Kup muttered as he allowed Inferno to assist him into the shuttle. “Our greatest fears have come to pass.”


    “Of course sir, but Olnius is no longer Emir of The Torus Heights or head of House Pax.” Inferno replied. “That honor has passed on to Roller Pax.”


    “Roller?” Kup grumbled as he fell into a seat and Inferno leapt into the pilot’s seat. “Has he even reached the age of self-determination yet?”


    “Got there a few days ago sir.” Inferno replied as he lifted the craft into the air. “Sir, are there any other survivors? Should we organize a search and rescue force?”


    “Negative. Just get me to Tyger Pax. The Gates and the Wardens are lost.” Kup growled through the pain. “We need to evacuate the northern Heights, maybe even the entire emirate, organize our forces, ALL our forces, and strike back as a unified planetary army to drive these monsters back.”


    “I’ve alerted Emir Pax that you’re inbound and that it’s an emergency.” The large red pilot called back as the shuttle glided over the outer walls of the vast city-sized keep. “He’s on his way to the landing pad.”


    “Good.” Kup muttered. “Once we land, I need for you to be ready to spread the word. Tyger Pax needs to spearhead the evacuation and communication with the other great houses, and as one of House Pax’s most trusted guards, much will fall on you.”


    “I’m ready for the challenge, Lord Commander.” Inferno replied as he set the craft down on the tarmac. Kup stood up to see Roller, Olnius, Stronghold and several other members of House Pax approaching with a quick pace. “Sir, let me…”


    “I can exit a shuttle on my own, Inferno.” Kup interrupted as he threw open the door and leapt painfully to the ground. “Emir Pax, congratulations on your new appointment. You’re about to regret that it happened.”


    “Why is that?” Roller asked with all seriousness. “What has happened?”


    “The Gates…we were beset by a…a swarm of…of bio-mechanical insectoids.” Kup stammered out in an attempt to convey what had happened. “They were like beast modes commonly found in Nyon, but they were mindless creatures, no robotic form. But they were not organic animals, that is certain. And there were thousands of them…tens of thousands.”


    “Even with tens of thousands of those things, it should still have taken them days to breach the mountain defenses!” Olnius replied almost frantically.


    “We were betrayed by one of our own.” Kup snarled. “A bastard of a Warden named Mindwipe. He silenced our perimeter defenses, opened the front gates, and allowed the vile swarm into the mountain, followed by a small group of Cybertronians that seemed to pick off what the swarm left behind.”


    “But the Gates themselves! And the Guardian!” Roller muttered.


    “Mindwipe used the confusion to get through the Gates. Omega Supreme was unaware of his treachery, and only saw him as a comrades when final level was breached.” Kup peered down. “I can only guess what happened next, but it involved a near-nuclear level explosion. I was still fighting remnants of the swarm in an upper level when it went off, so I survived the blast and the subsequent cave-in. It was enough to breach the final gate though, because as I came to I was surrounded by the screams of my fellow Wardens as the monsters of our nightmares fell upon them to feast. I was buried, but they failed to notice me, and I managed to get away.” He looked down. “I wished to remain and fight, but Cybertron needs to be warned.”


    Roller stared dumbfounded for a moment, but only a moment as he immediately seemed to collect his bearings. He turned to Olnius and Stronghold. “Contact Sentinel Prime, alert him to what’s going on here and let him know that we are going to be evacuating as much of our population to our southern border with Nova Cronum as possible.”


    “Sentinel Prime? Are you sure, Emir Pax?” Stronghold asked.


    “No choice, this is far too big to let whatever petty animosity that exists between us to get in the way.” Roller snapped back. “He may choose not to believe you, if that’s the case, let me know and I’ll put Kup on there. He may think I’d try to deceive him, but he’d have to have a screw loose to challenge the word of the Lord Commander of the Wardens. Now go!”


    “Aye Roller.” Stronghold turned, transformed and sped back toward central Tyger Pax along with the other members of House Pax that had accompanied him aside from Olnius.


    Roller then turned to Inferno. “Inferno, gather the rest of the guards and make them aware of our various weapons caches. They are to be brought south as well. It kills me to just hand them over to Sentinel Prime, but every asset needs to be pooled to push the demons back into hell.”


    “Aye my Emir!” Inferno replied before turning, transforming and following Stronghold toward the structures of Tyger Pax, a gathering of people starting to form between the buildings and the tarmac to see what was going on.


    Roller and Olnius drew closer to Kup. “If Omega Supreme truly is lost, then you may be the only living being to have laid optics on these things.” Roller muttered. “I don’t expect you to have observed much, but whatever you did see is all we have on these monstrosities beyond legends.”


    Kup nodded. “I didn’t see much, what I did manage to take in of the sparkeaters only seemed to confirm the legends.” Kup muttered. “But it was more than just sparkeaters. They had…servants…slaves. Most were like…like us. Different, mutants of sorts, but I think if I looked past the situation, the filth, the savagery, the mutilations, they were just members of our species born beneath the surface. Cybertronians that the sparkeaters couldn’t or wouldn’t turn for whatever reason.”


    The two Pax’s stared in horror for several moments before Roller prodded. “What were the ones that weren’t like us?”


    “Demons.” The Lord Commander muttered as he stared at the ground. “Mindless creatures that the sparkeaters found a way to control and to turn on us.” He then looked up and locked optics with Roller. “And I fear there is something more. One of the sparkeaters took a moment from his gluttonous feast to mutter to another about his disappointment that Omega Supreme was not opposing them. That he had hoped to see the Dweller devour him.”


    “The Dweller?” Olnius asked. “None of A-Three’s lessons ever mentioned that.”


    Roller lowered his gaze and stared intently at the ground. “Word needs to spread, preparations need to be made. Let’s go.” Just as he turned they saw Stronghold speeding back to them in his bulky ground transport mode.


    Upon nearly reaching them he transformed and stumbled the remainder of the way. “Emir Pax, we’ve received reports of an invasion from Nova Cronum. Primarily government forces, but House Honorum forces were reportedly mixed in. We’ve verified via our long range scanners and have attempted to contact them, but they’re blocking our hails.”


    “Damn it!” Roller growled. “Of course this is happening now.”


    “Sir, what do we do?” Stronghold asked.


    Roller paused, but after a moment shook his head as he came to a decision. “Continue with the evacuation effort. Get as many of our citizens south as you can. I will remain here and confront Sentinel Prime.”


    “Sir, no, he’ll kill you!” Stronghold protested.


    “He’ll torture me for information on Orion first.” Roller laconically stated with a smile. “He may be an unfit bastard, but he is the Prime; he’s the only one that can alert and summon the forces of the entire planet to stand against this threat, and since he won’t pick up our calls, he’ll need to be told in person when he gets here.” Roller turned to the battered blue Lord Commander of the Wardens of the Tartarun Gates. “I ask you to remain with me, Lord Commander. He will expect this to be a trick on my part, but as I mentioned before, he will have to believe your word.”


    “Of course, Emir Pax.” Kup replied.


    Roller then turned back to his fellow House members. “Now go, get our people to safety!”



    ***



    Nightbeat



    Legends depicted Jhiaxus as reckless, perhaps mad, possibly sociopathic, but damn if the bot didn’t draw a good map. Well, a good stellar map anyway. There was no trace of the artificial island that Nightbeat found mention of in some of Jhiaxus’s old notes. Nothing but ocean existed in the coordinates listed as the site of Jhiaxus’s island sanctuary, so either that was inaccurate, or there had been some significant changes over the last 1.2 million years. Either way, the fact that this Helios-3 existed and that Nightbeat had found it without any difficulty was a great start. There were other ways to track down the lab, and hopefully The Manifest. Nightbeat scanned his environment as he emerged from the ocean and stepped onto Kent Island, Maryland, and carefully made his way to Bayside Drive, making sure he was not seen, and transformed into the alternate mode he had programmed into the small ship’s infirmary chamber for his shell mode to be modified to. A moment later a glisteningly new 1959 Pontiac Parisienne pulled on to the road and made his way to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.


    Thorough scans of the planet had detected several traces of Cybertronian technology, significant bits in the Arctic Circle, smaller traces throughout the planet, but one near the seat of power for one of the planet’s two super-powers that lacked any attempts at energy masking beyond the native technology, almost as though the local fauna discovered and laid claim to something Cybertronian. This particular fauna, humans as they called themselves in the most common local language, was higher level, but organic and vastly behind Cybertron technologically. They had been in existence in their current specie form for at least a hundred thousand years, but civilization had only occurred in the last ten thousand years, and progress even after that point had been extremely slow up until recent centuries. But they had reached the point of accurately recording most of their accomplishments for future generations and could communicate and share ideas with members of their species from all over the world, so Nighbeat expected their progress to swell greatly over the next few millennia…provided they didn’t get wiped out in that time.


    Their progress would explode were they to actually possess and reverse-engineer any Cybertronian technology, which could create problems for the humans, for Cybertronians, and likely for numerous other species throughout the galaxy. Even if it wasn’t linked to the Manifest, Nightbeat needed to find out what was going on in this Aberdeen, Maryland, United States of America, Earth. Going at speeds typical of human vehicles on local roads, it would take him almost an hour and a half to get to his destination, and for the first hour of the trek the estimate seemed accurate. But a flare-up on his sensor equipment, one still set to seek out Cybertronian technology and energy readings, caused him to veer off as he got close to the waterway known as Big Gunpowder Falls and seek out the surge in energon signatures.


    He exited the roadway and drove along the river until continuing on in car mode was no longer an option, at which point he transformed and continued on foot, moving hastily but as quietly as he could. He finally found the disturbance, though even at seeing it he wasn’t sure what he was dealing with. Prior to landing his starhopper in the bay, he had sent several drones to scan the writings confined to bound paper collections in local libraries, their scanned data providing him with what he hoped would be an adequate degree of knowledge regarding the planet. He peered through the thick grove of trees lining the river to see what looked to be a Rattus norvegicus the size of a large dog darting through the forest avoiding energy-weapon’s fire emanating from a Culicinae that was as big as Nightbeat. The size of both creatures seemed to defy their normal size parameters, especially the mosquito. Even the furthest outliers for both species would be nowhere near this size.


    Nightbeat chided himself for making a case for why these weren’t native creatures; one was firing energized rounds at the other, of course they weren’t native creatures! He pulled out his own rifle but continued watching silently to get an idea of what was going on. The rat made for the river bank, perhaps to submerge and hide, but a Manta birostris, one large but still within viable anatomical parameters, burst forth from the water to set upon the rat, which immediately darted to the side to avoid the lunge from the manta ray.


    “Bzzzzzz, Rat-Trap, surrender.” The giant mosquito demanded in between shots. “You cannot ezzzzzcape us, either be taken or be killed!”


    “Actually rat, I’d prefer if you fought.” The feminine voice of the manta ray grumbled out as it transformed into a bulky thirteen foot tall femme.


    The giant rat transformed as well, standing shorter than the average human male, but wielding a pistol that provided a bit more threat than his stature. “Ehhh, sorry, think I’ll go with option number three; poke a few holes in the two of you and get the hell outta here with my fur intact.”


    The mosquito transformed as well, turning into a horrific looking eighteen foot tall slender but powerful looking robot. “Forget it rat, zzzzzzero chance of zzzat happening. Drop your weapon, zzzzzubmit to uzzz, and tell uzzz where the Manifest izzz located, and maybe we’ll let you live.”


    Bingo, the rat knows. Nightbeat leveled his rifle at the larger mosquito-bot; he didn’t know who the players were, he didn’t know the stakes, he only knew that they believed this Rat-Trap knew where the Manifest was, so he picked a debilitating but non-lethal target and squeezed the trigger. The tall mosquito-bot was falling to the muddy banks before the manta-bot heard the discharge. By that point Nightbeat had targeted her was well and was opening fire. The rat-bot froze, terrified but hopeful at seeing his attackers laid out in the mud groaning in agony, but wondering if he was next. The fifteen-foot tall robot pushing through the trees gave him a clue as to what he was dealing with. The rat-bot looked up and gave a hesitant smile, his buck-teeth fully on display. “Ehhh, I’ll thank you for this as long as I’m not next.”


    “I don’t know who you are, nor do I know who they are.” Nightbeat answered, keeping his firearm aimed at the four and a half foot tall robot. “Frankly, I don’t care. Don’t care about what you’re fighting about, who started it, who’s right or who’s wrong. I was sent here by Sentinel Prime to retrieve the bodies of fallen heroes, and it appears you know where they are.”


    The rat groaned almost inaudibly, but suddenly raised his pistol and started to aim in the general direction of Nightbeat. Nightbeat moved to fire on the rat, but noted that the rat-bot fired while aiming well below his torso. The round shot by him and impacted something behind him, eliciting a groan. Nightbeat spun to see an Anthonomus grandis even bigger than the rat had been on the ground with a smoking hold in his side. “That’s Drill Bit.” The rat-bot stated, then continued as Nightbeat turned his attention back to him, noting that the pistol was now aimed at his face. “Big skeeter is Transquito, and the fish is Manta Ray.” He then displayed a crooked grin. “There will probably be more of them soon, so why don’t you transform and get us out of here. Guessing by the chunks on your frame you’re a Buick?”


    “Pontiac.” Nightbeat replied. “I’m assuming your name is Rat-Trap, or was that an insult based on your alternate mode?”


    “Yup, and what’s your name?” Rat-Trap asked as he flicked the gun indicating he expected the much bigger Cybertronian to turn and walk back in the direction of a road.


    “Nightbeat.” He replied. “And despite the gun, I’m calling the shots here.”


    “Whatever pal, just keep marchin’ toward civilization.” Rat-Trap muttered. “I have a report to deliver. One regarding another one of you homeworld jerks.”



    ***



    Sentinel Prime



    “I don’t get it, we know we’ve been seen.” Sentinel Prime growled over the head of the pilot as he stooped in the cockpit peering straight through the windshield as they zipped over the desolate northernmost emirate. “They should have engaged us by now!”


    “Sir, they clearly know we’re here, they’ve been hailing us for the last couple hours.” The pilot, Kick-Off, stated. “We’re about to fly over Polarus, and there’s something weird. All my scans seem to indicate that it’s deserted.”


    A broad grin spread over Sentinel’s face. “They’ve fled in fear. They know their ruling House is misleading them and they’ve chosen to abandon the Pax’s.”


    “Don’t know about that, Prime.” Kick-Off replied. “They tend to be pretty loyal to the Pax’s in the Heights.”


    “Then their sense finally overpowered their insipid loyalty!” Prime growled. “How soon til we reach Tyger Pax?”


    “Just a couple more minutes, Prime.” The pilot replied.


    “Be prepared for their anti-air ordinance.” Prime warned, though he seemed increasingly doubtful they’d come under attack. Seconds later the gigantic fortress appeared ahead of them, still no sign of resistance. As they drew near they saw two lone figures on the landing pad, the only sign of life in the entire region. “Target them, but hold off on firing until I give the order.”


    “Should I hover, fly over and circle around, or land, Prime?”


    Prime stared quietly through the windshield for a few moments as he considered the question. They were close enough now so that he could make out the new emir, Roller Pax, standing next to what appeared to be a battered Lord Commander Kup. “What the hell is Kup doing here?” He whispered to himself before finally addressing his pilot. “Order the other ships to encircle Tyger Pax and hover in position. You are to land and let me out with my personal guard.”


    “As you command, Prime.” Kick-Off answered as he sent out the silent command to the other pilots via the wire jacked into his neck connected to the communications console and directed the attack craft down toward the landing pad.


    Prime turned and marched into the main section of the craft, taking his massive rifle from one of his personal guards and walking toward the door. The ship rocked as it touched down and he opened the door and marched out. “With me.” He ordered his ten guards, all nearly as tall, hulking, armored and well-armed as he was. Two quickly set out in front of him to protect him against any attack that House Pax may have had waiting for them. Once within sixty feet Prime called out. “Congratulations on willing the election, Emir Pax!”


    “Thank you for that, Prime, and for this visit.” Roller shot back defiantly, marching fearlessly toward Prime despite the ten large rifles pointed threateningly at him. “It would have been nice of you to answer our hails though. We have an emergency here.” They both stopped with about twenty feet between them.


    “Yes, you do.” Sentinel Prime snarked back. “You’re about to be executed and your house may very likely cease to exist after today.”


    “Enough!” Kup growled. “Prime, I appreciate that you may not be happy with Emir Pax here, but that’s going to have to wait.”


    Prime was taken aback by the intrusion, but maintained a predominantly professional and cordial demeanor with only the slightest bit of venom in his voice. “Lord Commander, I was wondering what you were doing here. I hold you in great esteem, Kup, but mind your tone when talking to your Prime!”


    “I apologize, Prime, but the Tartarun Gates have fallen. Taenarus is swarming with sparkeaters, mutants and what appear to be demons of legend.” Kup stated respectfully but with authority. “As far as I know, I’m all that remains of the Wardens. Even Omega Supreme is likely dead.”


    Sentinel Prime stared at Kup dumbfounded for several moments before finally mustering a reply. “What?”


    “This is not a trick, Prime.” Roller stated. “I know you would not believe me were I the one to tell you this, even with the northern Heights all but evacuated, but I doubt even you would question Lord Commander Kup.”


    Prime just shook his head, unable to fathom what they were talking about. “What? No. That’s all just myth. We maintain, equip and man the Gates for the sake of tradition.”


    “What?” It was Kup’s turn not to believe what he was hearing. “My Prime, I assure you, these vile creatures are very real, and they are once again roaming our world looking to consume our life-forces!”


    “Prime, our differences are insignificant compared to this common enemy!” Roller asserted. “We must come up with a defense! You must rally the planet, gather our forces, and lead us to push these things back into the depths of hell!”


    “Prime, be advised, there are eleven shuttles approaching from the south. They appear to be transport and freight ships, but we’re scanning a multitude of weapons in each of them.” Kick-Off’s voice came through Prime’s wrist communicator.


    “A trap, young Pax?” Prime asked with a knowing smirk.


    Roller was genuinely stunned. “I have no idea of who or what that is.”


    “I think you’re attempting to lull us into a false sense of security.” Prime’s smirk broadened into a smile.


    “To what end?” Roller snapped back. “To unleash eleven freight transports upon your fifty-some warships? Believe me Prime, I have no idea who that is.” Roller then pulled a small communications console around that had been strapped to his back and pressed a few buttons before nearly barking into it. “Eleven shuttles that are inbound to Tyger Pax, identify yourselves.”


    A moment later a familiar voice was responding. “This is Lugnut of House Boltax, coming to support House Pax.”


    “This is Emir Roller Pax.” Roller immediately shot back. “Turn around, and take all subjects from Boltax lands, along with assets, particularly military assets, south to the boarder. Taenarus has fallen, the sparkeaters are free!” Roller turned off the communicator and looked back up at Prime. “Sorry for the interruption. Believe me, this was not something I planned.”


    Sentinel Prime merely stared down at Roller, but Kick-Off’s voice came through his wrist communicator before he could respond. “Prime, the ships are still in route to our position.”


    “What the hell is wrong with that big, stupid jack-ass?” Roller snarled.


    “Roller Pax,” Sentinel said calmly, “instruct Lugnut Boltax to set his ships down on your landing pad.”


    “As you wish, Prime.” Roller replied as he re-opened a channel with Lugnut. “Lugnut, since you apparently can’t do as I’ve instructed you, please continue here and land. I will meet you personally.”


    “Excellent news, Emir Pax.” Lugnut replied, a hint of mirth in his voice. Within two minutes the eleven ships had come into view, but seemed to slow to nearly a hover upon seeing the armada of government warships hovering several feet off of ground all around Tyger Pax. They finally started moving forward again, and a little while later all eleven shuttles were settling down on the landing pad. Lugnut hesitantly peered out through the opening door and slowly made his way down the ramp to the ground. He finally made it to Sentinel Prime, his personal guard, Roller and Kup. “Sentinel Prime, I was not aware that you’d be here.”


    “Lord Boltax, it is good to finally meet you.” Prime replied. “I’ve enjoyed watching footage of your fights for several years now.” The leader of Cybertron smiled as the nearly featureless face of Lugnut moved about nervously. “Don’t bother to deny it, the identity obfuscation technology doesn’t work on one as unique as you.”


    “Primus, he’s found religion!” Roller muttered, nodding to the large purple face of the Warrior etched into his chest.


    “The wrong religion.” Prime muttered in disgust. “You’ve abandoned Primus and become a poly, Lugnut of House Boltax?”


    Lugnut turned down and looked at the face, seeming nervous. Roller noted that the Warrior face was on all of the other brutal looking robots that had accompanied Lugnut, and that they were quite nervous looking as well. “Uh, no, no Prime, it’s just kinda…kinda a symbol for us gladiators. Kinda like how those pissant Autobots use the Common Man face. Lots of them are of the Primus faith, but they still bear the face.”


    Prime took a step toward Lugnut and peered up at the more massive robot. “You’re hiding something Lugnut, there’s no question about that.” Prime turned his gaze back at Roller, delivering a heated glance, before finally locking optics with Kup. “Lord Commander, are you absolutely certain of what you’re claiming?”


    Kup peered intently at their leader. “My Prime, I swear to Primus that all I’ve told you is the absolute truth, and that our planet is in greater danger now than it’s been in fifteen million years.”


    “Prime, be advised, we’re getting…unusual readings coming from the north.” Kick-Off’s voice once again came through Prime’s wrist communicator. “No vehicles, it looks to be thousands of individuals.”


    Prime nodded and turned to Lugnut. “Lugnut of House Boltax, take your ships, take your thugs, and do as your emir instructed you to do. You will be granted permission to take your assets and your people across the border into Nova Cronum.” Lugnut nodded and turned, heading hastily back to his ship. Prime turned back to Kup. “Lord Commander, please come with me. I will need your expertise on these creatures.”


    “Of course, my Prime.” Kup replied.


    Prime then turned to Roller. “Emir Pax, unless you’re willing to discuss the whereabouts of a certain fugitive, I’m ordering you to remain here and defend Tyger Pax against the armies of hell.” The Prime displayed a cruel grin. “What’s it going to be?”


    Roller returned a forced smile. “Prepare the planet, my Prime. I will do all I can to hold the north for you.”


    Prime shrugged and turned to return to his attack ship.
     
  2. batmanprime

    batmanprime Omega-con

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    Christmas came early. Thanks Petey! Another amazing installation.
     
  3. Blam320

    Blam320 Assembly Inventor

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    At last! Great work as usual.
     
  4. peteynorth

    peteynorth TFW2005 Supporter

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    Rabattus Decimus



    Finally, there it was in the distance, Castle Fluctus, home of House Torrent and where he had been assured by Soundwave that Megatron would be to meet him. It was time to have a ‘come to Primus’ meeting with the devious, mutinous gladiator. Reports were flying in from all over the planet; groups of well-armed, well organized and well-trained thugs, all bearing the face of the Warrior, were eradicating members of high houses in every emirate, including several royal houses. There were rumors that Megatron himself had executed Militus Macht, and had his band wipe out every Macht in Polyhex. To only add to the confusion, there were reports that the Tartarun Gates had been breached, that the Wardens and their pet Guardian had fallen, and that the armies of the undead would soon be sweeping south to consume their very sparks.


    Rabattus had seen and heard enough to know the rumors were true…well, the rumors regarding Megatron’s underground movement rising up anyway, the talk of sparkeaters scurrying across the frozen wastes was utter nonsense. The senator from the House of Decimus was outraged at Megatron for acting behind his back, for having the audacity to act against his betters, and to use the weapons and other resources Rabattus had funneled to him through the years against anyone other than the supposed victims of the Autobots. But, truth be told, this chaos could act in Rabattus’s favor. He didn’t know Megatron’s end game, the gladiator was a loose cannon and had to go, that much was clear, but the dismantling of several high and royal houses, the utter destabilizing of virtually every emirate on the planet…these weakened Sentinel Prime’s position, and with the right manipulations, could accelerate Rabattus’s designs on the Primal Throne.


    But first things first. Megatron needed to go. The gladiatorial champion was targeting the high-born, Rabattus was as high-born as they came and knew he was in Megatron’s cross-hairs. Perhaps not today, he still had access to resources the rebel needed, but at some point Megatron would have him killed, so Rabattus was intent on beating the lowborn shit to the punch. But even if Megatron planned on letting Rabattus live for some time longer, there was no doubt that he would be awaiting him in force at Castle Fluctus. Soundwave seemed to have sold out his social equals, perhaps Shockwave had as well, so the sanctuary of House Torrent was by no means a sanctuary for the arriving senator, and as such, precautions had been made. That idiot Red Alert had informed him that Sentinel Prime was exceptionally busy dealing with occurrences in The Torus Heights, but had agreed to forward Rabattus’s coded message immediately after the senator had emphatically, and more than a little insultingly, made it clear that what he needed the Prime for was of far greater importance than dealing with the upstart shit that had just gotten himself elected Emir of some shitty polar emirate. With any luck, Prime was on his way now, which was good as Rabattus would like a few minutes to talk with Soundwave and Megatron before the Prime’s arrival. If at all possible, he hoped he could convince Soundwave to abandon Megatron and continue working with him; the blue bore was far more clever and useful than he let on.


    The shuttle descended through the spiraling towers of the city-sized castle, allowing Rabattus to admire the ancient and beautiful architecture up close. He had always considered Fluctusian artwork to be too subtle for his tastes, it was majestic, there was no question, but it just wasn’t majestic enough compared to what he had been raised to prefer. He was accustomed to the more grandiose styles favored by the ancient members of House Decimus that had preceded him, styles that the majority of the planet considered to be overly extravagant, but the opinions of those raised in squalor and surrounded by mediocrity were of no concern to the members of House Decimus. That said, while inferior to the art favored by his house, Rabattus still enjoyed studying the Fluctusian towers and spires as he descended through them onto the landing pad in the vast central courtyard. This landing pad was large enough to hold up to 15 mid-sized craft or two troop transports. There were currently three shuttles on the ground, Rabattus’s would make the fourth; still enough space to put down Prime’s attack craft and a troop transport with ease. Rabattus smiled confidently as he felt the shuttle rock to a landing and he stood up to exit the craft.


    In the courtyard waiting for him were Soundwave and Megatron, the latter appearing haggard and bearing what looked like new body armor and possibly some further enhancements, as well as an enormous weapon of sorts on his right forearm, one whose likeness to certain ancient legends was more than a bit unnerving. Various House Torrent servants and guards moved about the compound attending to their duties as the dark senator exited the craft. Time to exude some authority, make these two and all those milling around aware of who was in charge. “Have the two of you lost your Primus-damned minds? What the hell do you think you were doing?”


    Megatron smiled. “It’s good to see you too, Senator Decimus.”


    “Don’t be blasé with me, you glorified miner! Tell me what happened at Castle Macht!” Rabattus snarled. “Tell me what happened at The Nexus! What happened at the Crystalline Palace? Ambustion Point? Word is the attacks failed at The Maximirium and Citadel Magnus, though not for lack of trying on the part of the Warrior-branded bastards killing everyone! And those are just the royal houses that I’ve gotten word of! There are dozens of other high houses that according to rumor, have been wiped from the face of Cybertron! Explain yourselves!” Rabattus then pointed at the cannon on Megatron’s arm. “And that had better not be what I think it is!”


    Megatron smugly looked down at the weapon on his arm. “This is exactly what you think it is, and as for our unfinished business, we’ll complete what we started at The Maximirium and Citadel Magnus, have no fear of that.” Megatron peered intently into Rabattus’s optics and smiled broadly. “Our attack on the Draconyx Lair has begun, though Hun-Grr has reported that Emir Ogrus has evaded their detection thus far. Fortress Modus is being over-run as we speak, the attack on the Solarium is imminent, I’ve received a report that the march on Tyger Pax had begun…” the gladiator paused, “though we’ve received no updates.” Megatron turned to Soundwave. “Have Rumble contact Lugnut for a status report. And while you’re at it, instruct Shockwave to report to Simfur and track down Ogrus. We don’t want to leave the emir unaccounted for.” He then turned back to the aghast Rabattus. “Anyway, who’s left? Oh, Castle Fluctus fell to our forces several hours ago, you’re welcome to go in and pay your final respects to Lightwave, I’m sure his frame is still warm, and we’re saving the Honorium for last.” He smiled and peered deeply into Rabattus’s optics. “Did I forget any?”


    Rabattus was frozen with terror, and unable to speak, but Soundwave said the two words that were repeating through his head at that moment. “Mount Decimus.”


    “Ahhhh,” Megatron cooed with a grin. “that’s right. Mount Decimus.” He turned to Soundwave. “What are our plans for Mount Decimus?”


    “Intention, raze it to the ground.” Soundwave replied. “Status, progressing as we speak.”


    “NO!!!” Rabattus roared, but his rage only caused Megatron to chuckle and got no visible reaction at all out of Soundwave.


    “Yes, my dear Senator, yes.” Megatron replied amicably. “Your physical house will be rubble, and those sharing your name will be exterminated.”


    “You…you…you bastard!” Rabattus hissed. “How could you? After everything I’ve done for you!”


    “You’ve done nothing that wasn’t intended to further your own personal agenda, Lord Decimus.” Megatron sneered.


    “Lord Megatron.” Soundwave interrupted. “Inbound craft approaching. Nine attack craft and three troop transports. About thirty miles out.”


    “Hmmmm, guests.” Megatron nodded, almost giddily.


    “Yes, guests.” Rabattus sneered with a malevolent grin etched across his fearsome face. “Guests that are going to squash your rebellion here and now! I shall enjoy watching Sentinel Prime crush your spark!”


    “Do a better job of biding your time, Senator.” Megatron replied with an utter lack of concern. “They’re still minutes away, more than enough time for me to pull your head from your shoulders. But do not fear, I have no intention of harming you yet. I want you to see this.” Megatron then turned to Soundwave. “Has Starscream returned from Vos yet?”


    “Negative Megatron.” Soundwave replied. “Remember, you reassigned…”


    “Oh that’s right.” Megatron muttered and turned to Rabattus with a grin on his face while raising his wrist to his mouth. “I have a lot of balls in the air right now, it’s a bit tricky keeping track of them all.” The chrome gladiator turned to his wrist communicator. “Thundercracker, come in.”


    “Yes Lord Megatron.” The voice replied through the wrist speaker. “I was expecting your call. Incoming hostiles have been detected.”


    “Scenario Alpha has been confirmed.” Megatron stated. “Lay waste to the oncoming force with the other fliers, but the lead attack craft and at least one of the troop transports will need to arrive here intact. I don’t want them to be discouraged.”


    “Of course Lord Megatron.” Thundercracker chuckled back. “The Royals have tread on us for millions of years, the day of reckoning has finally arrived!”


    “That’s nice, Thundercracker, just do what I told you to do.” Megatron grumbled right before switching off the channel and looking at Rabattus. “A zealous one, that Thundercracker. Been shit on by you highborn for so long, he leapt into the Decepticon cause with more enthusiasm than most.”


    “Exceptional flier as well.” Soundwave added. “Almost the equal of Starscream.”


    “More than adequate for this task.” Megatron muttered just as the explosive sounds of the aerial battle in the distance cut through the air. The unseen battle raged for several minutes, the smoke and flaring illumination from the explosions the only visible sign until three craft darted ahead and circled over the vast Castle Fluctus estate, two attack shuttles and one troop transport, all of which descended down into the courtyard and landed. Within seconds government forces were marching out of the shuttles and driving in vehicular mode out of the transports, transforming into armed robots as they came to within sight of Megatron and the others. Hundreds of soldiers created a semi-circle around Megatron, Soundwave and Rabattus, their weapons trained on them and ready to fire, the servants that had been milling around immediately disappeared into the castle. It was at that point that a hulking forty-foot tall form emerged from the lead attack craft, marching menacingly down the gangplank. Behind the thick transparent armor covering the front of the helmet was the face of Sentinel Prime. Megatron offered him a smile. “Sentinel Honorum, how good it is of you to save me the trouble of tracking you down.”


    “You are the one behind this?” Sentinel Prime’s boosted voice called out from the mechanized armor suit. “The champion gladiator Megatron, pride of Polyhex, pet of Militus Macht!” The heavily armored Prime snarled as he reached the ground and continued striding toward the rebellious gladiator. “You will suffer greatly for your treachery!” Prime then turned to Soundwave. “And you, Soundwave of House Torrent, I know you’ve befriended this bastard! Do you stand with him in this? Are you a traitor to your House, your station, your kind?”


    “I have, do now, and will continue to stand with Lord Megatron of Tarn until the day my spark ceases to glow.” Soundwave replied.


    “Then that day will be today!” Prime roared as he raised his right arm and a myriad of weaponry emerged from various slats in the metal, in particular one large cannon that was powering up. That cannon suddenly exploded and the right arm was pushed wide away from Soundwave.


    All optics turned to the massive fusion cannon mounted on Megatron’s outstretched right arm. “Decepticons, attack!” The chrome gladiator roared, as several shots from the soldiers lanced out toward him. Weapons’ fire from every direction shot out at the soldiers, and Decepticons swarmed over the walls and out the doors, blasting away. Megatron had sustained a half dozen shots to his torso, but weathered them without any apparent injury, and the little discomfort he did display seemed to be more due to the attacks agitating the wounds of whatever procedure he had endured recently.


    Sentinel Prime turned his attention back to Megatron and charged him, the strides of his massive suit cutting the distance in a couple seconds and he swung widely, smashing Megatron, the force sending the Tarnian back and against the ground, bouncing up and hitting the metal wall of the castle hard. “Your unbeaten streak ends right now, gladiator!”


    Megatron straightened up and sneered at Prime. “In that suit you hit almost as hard as a middleweight.” The enraged leader of the planet roared before charging and slamming into the rebel, driving them both through the metal wall and into the castle. Rabattus had dived low as soon as he had seen Prime’s weapons emerging from his armor, and was now crawling to refuge behind a series of large, ornately arranged stones in one of the side gardens. As soon as he found some degree of protection, the giant boulders he was hiding behind were thrown into and over him by a vast explosion from the landing pad. Rabattus was dazed, he rolled his head to one side, barely getting it out of the dirt, to see soldiers and small pockets of flaming debris laying everywhere. He tried desperately to make sense of what had just happened, and finally noticed that the giant troop transport was a fiery wreck, and that nearly a dozen Cybertronians with aerial alternate modes were swooping down, raining missiles, laser rounds and other ordinance on the government troops.


    Rabattus twisted his body and managed to attain a sitting position, watching these Decepticons, a group he had thought to be made up of disorganized, undisciplined brawlers, descend on the soldiers in an ordered and efficient manner, cutting down these professional soldiers with ease. There was a sound of impact to his left, but the sound was ignored; it was the small piece of metal wall smacking him in the side of his head that broke him from his stupor. He turned and saw immediately what had happened. Sentinel Prime was skidding across the ground, a slight turn of the neck more and Rabattus could see Megatron emerging through the new hole in the wall that he had just pummeled Prime through. “You’re a very well trained warrior, Sentinel Honorum, Bludgeon has taught you well, as I instructed him to do, and in that suit you are stronger than me, even with my new enhancements. Though to be fair, these enhancements are more a detriment than an asset this soon after the procedure, but I’m stronger than I was, and you’re stronger still. My compliments to your armorer, but your exceptional strength and durability will not be enough to offset my speed.” Megatron sprinted impossibly fast at the downed leader, leaping up and coming down to drive a fist into the center of the chest armor. “Or my ferocity!” Megatron mounted his torso and battered the upper chest and helmet mercilessly, breaching it and sending pieces of shattered screen flying in various directions. “Or my superiority!” He roared just before being batted off by Prime.


    Sentinel lurched back up to a standing position, but Megatron recovered even quicker and was on him again, leaping up repeatedly to deliver hammering punches to the best recreation of the mythical Apex Armor Cybertronian science could muster. Chunks of the dense metal, circuitry and sparks of electricity were send spraying away with each strike, sending the heavily protected Prime staggering back. Prime did manage to lower his shoulder and shove back against the Decepticon leader, moving him back and creating a bit of space between the two. He then shot out multiple strikes, various elaborate combinations involving fists, feet, elbows and knees, all making the most of his superior strength and reach, but apart from a tiny few strikes that the miner weathered quite well, most were avoided, blocked or parried, and Megatron was quick and skilled enough to repeatedly dart into striking range and deliver counter punches that were far more damaging than Prime had expected from him.


    The hand to hand combat continued for several minutes, and soon evolved to the point where Megatron was avoiding Prime’s strikes with apparent ease, while reducing the effectiveness of the armor noticeably after each exchange. Prime pushed him back, putting several yards between the two. “This blasted shit armor is more a impairment at this point, damnit!” Sentinel quickly shuffled back to increase the space between them even further. “Commence ejection from Apex Armor!” The panels on the back of the suit opened, and Prime shot out of the back of it. Whereas the now-collapsing armor suit was battered to the point of being nearly worthless, Prime appeared fresh and pristine. He snarled at the battered gladiator slowly marching toward him. “Time to end this, Megatron!”


    “Oh, I agree, Sentinel, I agree.” Megatron growled at the still-larger opponent as they ominously strode toward one another, but glanced over toward Soundwave watching from the side of the courtyard. “Do not miss a moment of this!”


    “Of course, Lord Megatron. Both myself and Laserbeak are documenting these events fully.” Soundwave replied just before Megatron and Prime engaged one another. They were perhaps the two most well trained hand-to-hand combatants on the planet, yet they unloaded on each other with unrefined brutality.


    Sentinel was virtually unharmed and almost fully charged at the outset, but within moments any advantage those factors provided him seemed to fade away. After several minutes Megatron was clearly on the offensive, repeatedly battering Prime to the ground and good-naturedly allowing him back to his feet. “Come now, Lord Honorum, you are letting a lowborn, southern, common, cavern-whelped shit from Tarn get the better of you. Not just in this hand to hand bout, but my forces of laborers and other disposables have routed your highly trained professional war-force. I expected better of you. Cybertron deserves better than you.” Megatron taunted right before delivering a backhand across the jawline of Prime, sending him back to the ground. “You are no Prime. You never were a Prime. Hell, a Prime is nothing more than a worthless, meaningless fop given an air of importance by some pointless bauble, and you don’t even measure up to that low bar.” Megatron reached down, grabbed Prime by the ankle, and whipped back, hurling the leader of Cybertron into the center of the landing pad that was laden with flaming wreckage and corpses. The Decepticons, having their battle won and with only the elimination of the wounded or surrendering government soldiers, gathered around Sentinel and the approaching Megatron, but leaving them a wide enough berth so as not to get in Megatron’s way.


    Rabattus felt strong hands gripping him under his arm pits, and looked up to see Soundwave’s face. “Laserbeak, complete the recording, I have another matter to attend to.” The blue member of House Torrent didn’t bother waiting for the sentient aviaton’s reply as he half-carried, half-dragged the senator over and made their way to the front of the group surrounding the two respective leaders. The other Decepticons cleared a path for him, giving him nearly the same respect they gave Megatron. Rabattus watched as Megatron stood over Prime for several moments, allowing the battered royal to take in his surroundings, and recognize the hopelessness of his situation. He looked up at Megatron, a hate-filled glare. “Do you have any idea of what will happen to you?”


    “When I hovered over Militus Macht, his life in my hands, he asked me a similar question, and then he provided me with an answer to it. His answer was that you would put our movement down with little to no effort, torture me for years, and then kill me.” Megatron replied with no discernable emotion. “I probably could have guessed that’s what he would say even before he said it. But you, I genuinely have no idea of what you think is going to happen to me. There’s nobody above you. Is Primus going to be so enraged that you were murdered by a commoner with a poly symbol etched onto his chest that he’ll come down to smite me?”


    Sentinel Prime’s resolve was fading from his facial features. “You will be stopped. You will be punished for this.” Prime painfully forced himself to his feet, Megatron made no attempt to stop him. “And that punishment, it will be unimaginably horrible for you.”


    Megatron pursed his lips and nodded, as if truly giving the words some consideration. “I suppose it’s a chance that I will just have to take.” He then glared deeply into Sentinel Prime’s optics. “Your world will die with you. Your elitism will make way for those that truly are superior. And I will enjoy every second of killing you.” With that Megatron rushed Prime, his silver arms and black balled fists a blur of gray as he rained down destruction on Sentinel Prime’s body. Megatron mounted the downed Prime, his strikes never ceasing, until nothing remained of the planetary leader but pools of fluid and unrecognizable pieces of metal and bio-circuitry.


    “Lllll,” Rabattus Decimus stammered in terror, “Lord Megatron, please have mercy upon me. I swear to you my absolute allegiance.”


    Megatron turned his fluid-streaked face halfway toward Rabattus, peering up from his perch upon Sentinel Prime’s mid-section. “Lord…” He muttered. “I always hated lords. I guess we all are destined to become that which we hate, at least in some form or another.” He then twisted around more to better take in the senator, but his optic traveled off to the side, where Rabattus saw a slender predominantly blue and gray robot with a red helmet smiling at Megatron. “Doctor Rossum, Senator Rabattus Decimus hates rats and bats. See that he becomes what he hates.”


    “Of course, Lord Megatron.” The doctor replied with a grin before turning and nodding toward the Decepticons nearest Rabattus, who grabbed him forcefully and pulled him away from Soundwave’s grasp.


    “No, Lord Megatron no!” Rabattus pleaded loudly as he was dragged away. “Please, don’t do this, I will serve you well! Please Lord Megatron, pleeeeeeeeeeeaaaaassssseeee!” His cries continued without answer as he disappeared into the castle.



    ---



    Mindwipe



    The agonized cries of his former fellow Warden Borebit cut through the frosty and debris-filled air, cries as the painful metamorphosis he was undergoing rearranged his body…that lucky bastard. “You promised me…” Mindwipe muttered dejectedly to the god looking over the screaming mess writhing at the base of the pile of rubble they were perched upon, “you promised me that you would do that for me, and that he would be at my mercy.” The dark, winged former Warden was kneeling, lowering his head to peer vacantly into another dip in the pile of rubble that was once the outermost portion of their cavern-built bastion, but slowly re-raised his gaze to look up at the vast creature standing several feet to his right. He had to twist his neck to the point of it hurting in order to view up at the vast being’s head. He knew better than to question a god, but all he had done, all he had sacrificed, was to become one of them, and his most fervent desires seemed destined to be denied. “All I did, I did to become one of you.”


    “You are one of us.” The forty-foot giant muttered, losing the interest he had in the writhing Borebit at the base of the pile of rubble he and Mindwipe were perched upon and turning to look at the thousands of loyal minions scurrying around the debris-covered field that had once served as the lone bit of clearing in front of the now-decimated cavern holdfast of the Tartarun Gates. “Look around at my army, Mindwipe.” The giant muttered out of the mouth mounted on the central face of his head; two separate, equally monstrous faces flanked it on either side. He waved out over the mass of unkempt robots, demons and monsters. “Less than a third of my followers are Sparkeaters. The others, the Mutants and the Demons, are no less a part of us, our movement.”


    “The mutants are slaves and a food source, and the demons are just attack dogs you’ve managed to bend to your will.” Mindwipe muttered dejectedly.


    “They are more than that, as are you.” Violen Jiger replied disinterestedly as he took several steps, descending from the pile of metal and rock they had been perched upon and striding out toward another mound of former holdfast, giving no visible acknowledgment of the winged former Warden scurrying after him.


    “But I wish to be like you, not like them.” Mindwipe managed to gasp out as struggled to keep up with his master’s long strides.


    “You cannot be like me.” Violen Jiger replied flatly. “I suppose no one can be like me, but you cannot be a Sparkeater. One must have the potential to become one, a spark compatibility that allows for it and the metallico surrounding it to undergo a metamorphosis. It is something that we can sense; your friend Borebit has this trait, you do not.” The giant smiled as he peered ahead at what they were walking toward. “But do not envy him. I can choose to exert the power to change them to a fully sentient being losing nothing of what they were, or I can simply put forth a minimal effort to create a beast that has little thought beyond quenching its hunger for sparks…and doing whatever I or my generals want it to do. Your former brother Warden will be the latter.”


    Mindwipe glanced over to see a Mutant, a being that looked very similar to a standard Cybertronian, but even beyond the physical and psychological wear it seemed far rougher, more brutish, and lacking any hint of any sort of organized alternate mode. The Mutant was dragging a mortally wounded Warden toward three ravenous Sparkeaters of the mindless beast variety. The withered servant of the monsters pulled the groaning Warden into the center of the group, looked up at the snarling recipients of his gift and quickly scampered away, warily regarding the Sparkeater who snapped at him but then descended upon the helpless Warden and tore his chest apart to pull out the glowing blue spark, only to then tear into it greedily, rending its energies free and fighting with each other to suck in the escaping lifeforce. Mindwipe peered intently into their blank optics, shifting from one monster to the next, but on the third the optics turned up and locked back onto his gaze. The beast started toward him; the Mutants were not to be set upon without permission from Violen Jiger or one of his generals, and the Demons were too powerful for them to subdue, but Mindwipe and the other surface collaborators, they were an unknown. “My Lor…”


    “No!” The growl emerged from the mouth of the monstrous visage on the left side of Vilen Jiger’s head, in a voice that was noticeably different than the one to emerge from the front face. The creatures snarled and snapped in frustrated anger, but they turned and went back to suck any residual energy out of the corpse of the Warden.


    “Will that command last?” Mindwipe asked nervously, still staring intently at the trio of creatures tearing the frame to shreds. “How do I know they won’t set upon me the moment you walk away?”


    “Just as they leave the Mutants alone, they will leave you alone.” The massive creature replied dismissively as they approached the side of the mountain. “I have commanded it.”


    “But they know to leave all Mutants alone, whereas they’ll be attacking my kind. Perhaps they’ll fail to make the distinction between me and the rest of my kind.” Mindwipe nervously muttered.


    “The know the distinction, and mutants ARE your kind.” The towering leader grumbled. “Sparks find their way to deposits of sentio metallico, just as they do with your species, but it takes place in the catacombs below the surface. They are robot, they have a shell mode, but there’s no culture; there was none even before my kind was locked down there with them to enslave them, so they never bothered to learn to alter their shell modes into something useful. But wash them off, throw on some tires, wings or claws, and you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart from most surface dwellers.” He peered up ahead where six of their Demons were surrounding something, snarling at it threateningly. All ranged from fifty to ninety-six feet in height and were completely savage and bestial looking. “The Demons, however, are completely unlike you. Primordial, savage and instinctive creatures. True, they possess sparks; most green like precious few of your kind possess and a few even gold, like the Guardian’s, but they bear traits both organic as well as mechanical, they lack shell modes, and while not mindless, their thought processes are quite simple. I warred with their alpha for eons, he was a powerful brute. I finally wore him down and feasted on his spark as his kind watched. That victory won their submission; well, that victory and a…kinship of sorts I share with them.”


    “Kinship?” Mindwipe grumbled in disbelief, gazing upon the savage creatures that in many ways seemed just giant sparkeaters with any trace of the former Cybertronians they used to be wiped away. “What kinship could you possibly shared with those…things?”


    Violen Jiger stopped and turned on the vastly smaller Nyonian, glaring down at him. “So much was done to me to make me what I am. Thousands upon thousands of experiments, procedures, tests, and even tortures with no purpose beyond simply creating agony in those that would become…me. Over one hundred thousand years the former masters of this world used many as a test subject for every curious thought that entered their many faced heads. They seemed obsessed with combining things; given what they were I suppose that makes perfect sense. And one creature, the core being of what can be considered ‘me’, that poor brute seemed capable of surviving whatever experiments they could conceive of. They captured a warlord of the machine race, a chieftain of the Shanidar Cliffs Tribe, as well as several of his generals, and based on his great size, as well as the number of their soldiers killed in apprehending him, they assumed him to be powerful.” The massive creature touched his chest protectively without realizing it. “They found a green spark within, and…pushed it to its considerable limits. They tried to make his two most loyal generals a part of him…and succeeded in a sense. Their sparks faded, but their thoughts live on in me.”


    Violen Jiger turned and continued on toward the demons. “The masters managed to capture some of these subterranean monsters, the Primordials is the term used by the masters, and did their best to meld their test subject with these creatures, altering CNA, performing spark altering experimentation, and even grafting internal organs and mechanisms. More changes would take place, but it was at this point that I consider myself to have been born. The emergence of what I am; a collection of tortured bodies and souls imbued with tremendous power and an insatiable lust for the energy of living mechanicals, one far greater and more insistent than with the Primordials that I had inherited the trait from. I was not what the masters were intending when they began their hideous experimentations, in truth I don’t think they had any real intentions on what I would become, but when it was completed they found me repellant, a beast that should be put down, but their curiosity kept me alive, as well as the thought that perhaps, maybe, some day, they would find a purpose for me.”


    The pair reached the demons, Mindwipe looked up at those closest to him in terror, but they had no interest in him, too focused they were on the limbless battered Guardian laid out in the center of them. Omega Supreme still lived, but he was at their mercy. His arms gone below the shoulders, his legs gone just a few feet below his waist, his visor shattered, all weaponry shredded to scraps, he peered weakly up at his tormentors fearlessly, but with nothing more than frustrated anger to back up his courageous glare. His weak optics settled upon Mindwipe and a snarl poured out from his barely functioning mouth. “Traitor.”


    “No, old friend, he is loyal.” Violen Jiger snickered as he stood on a jagged outcropping of rock and metal over the downed giant. “Loyal to me, his god, the god of unlife. The god of Cybertron.” The forty-foot monster leapt down and landed upon the chest of the Guardian, who despite being near death, showed no sign of discomfort caused by the landing. “You aren’t going to die here. I want the world to see to see you die, and the technology exists to enable that now. My subjects are on their way to claim the home of Paxus, your fellow defender of the Gates here,” the beast thumbed back at Mindwipe, “informs me that they have the equipment necessary to record and broadcast your demise. It is there that I will be taking you, it is there that I will be killing you. It seems a proper violation of Paxus’s sanctuary.” Mindwipe watched as he leaned in closer to Omega Supreme’s face. “Don’t worry, I will be sure to desecrate the sacred lands of the other bastard Knights, but you seemed most impressed with the polar Knight, so it’s fitting that your yellow spark dissipate where his metallico both emerged from and returned to the ground.” He stood back up. “In the most agonizing ways possible, and borne witness to by the entire planet.” He looked up at the demons surrounding them. “Prepare him for travel!”



    ---



    Elita Solus



    “Chromia, make sure that shuttle is full.” Elita called out to her blue friend over the hum of activity caused by the throngs of people gathered upon the House Solus landing pad, nestled in the center of The Grove of Solitude, which itself spanned the distance between Citidel Solus and The Forge. The vast majority of Hyperion civilians were at the central airfield or at various ground transportation depots throughout the city, but House Solus had opened up their compound and provided access to their vessels and aircraft for the evacuation effort. Their attempts to keep the populace calm in the face of the news coming from the north was thus far successful; Taenarus was nearly fifteen hundred miles away after all, but the apprehension was still palpable, and the urgency to get the civilians south and the warriors north was on the forefront of every mind of not just the emirate of Axiom, but the entire planet. “It doesn’t need to be packed to the point of discomfort, but we don’t have enough ships to be wasting space.”


    “Aye, my lady.” Chromia called back from the open door of the luxury craft she was overseeing the loading of. She turned her head into the craft to verify that everyone was filing in, then turned back to the line of frightened, but still calm and organized robots waiting to board. She casually gazed over them, but caught sight of someone heading through the crowd toward her friend. “Lady Elita, it appears you have company.” She noted Elita’s confused look and nodded off to the side in the direction of the approaching visitor.


    Elita turned and caught sight of the finely tapered form of Starscream, his perfectly formed face and sleek athletic frame contrasting against the boxy, unrefined features of most of the commoners he was gracefully navigating through to get to her. But unlike every other time she’d seen the adopted royal, he was not completely pristine and polished, he even seemed to possess some light scorching and even a dent or two. But he still glistened compared to those around him. “Lord Starscream, to what do we owe the pleasure?”


    “My dear Lady Elita, your beauty inspires one to continue the struggle in these dark times.” Starscream called out, the rays of the brightly shining sun dancing off his painted metal.


    “You flatter me Lord Nexus.” Elita replied with a subdued smile. “But I fear that we are quite busy here, so I would ask that you state your business.”


    “Yes, I wish to cut directly to it, but I need for you to gather every member of House Solus and meet with me within the private confines of the Citadel.” Starscream replied with cordial urgency. “The threat from the north is not the only threat we face.”


    “I have heard of the assaults on the high houses.” Elita replied, returning her focus to the evacuation.


    “And yet you throw open your gates to the unwashed masses.” Starscream judgingly replied. “Perhaps I need to be speaking with Exponum One.”


    “He’s in the control center organizing the launches.” Elita replied.


    “I’m not as familiar with the Solus estate as you seem to think I am, nor would I simply wander around uninvited.” Starscream replied with a smug smile. “Perhaps you could escort me to him. You do have servants that can attend to things while you’re gone, don’t you?”


    “Aye,” Elita grumbled before nodding to the guard to her right, “this way.” Moments later they were in the landing pad control room, where Exponum One was overseeing the controlling of the air traffic. “Emir One, Starscream of House Nexus is here to see you. He claims to have business with our entire house.”


    Starscream lowered his head slightly as he greeted the leader of Axiom. “Emir Solus…One. Sorry, the changing of one’s name to reflect a title seems odd to me.”


    “I would not let Sentinel Prime hear that.” Exponum One replied as he turned away from the control screens and fully toward his guest. “What business to you have with House Solus, Lord Starscream? I assume it’s related to the attacks on the high houses. How fares House Nexus?”


    “We were besieged,” Starscream indicated to the various scorches and dents on his frame, “but we were fortunate to repel the attackers. Based on your decision to open your gates, I fear you may not fare as well when they come for you. And make no mistake, they will come for you.”


    “And you’re in a position to aid us?” Exponum asked suspiciously.


    “I am, though I fear it may be too late to make the necessary precautions.” Starscream answered. “I ask that you assemble every member of your house in the primary Citadel ballroom.”


    Exponum measured Starscream for several moments before nodding and turning to Elita. “Please round everyone up and have them gather there.”


    “Just members of House Solus.” Starscream replied. “Servants and guards of House Nexus were in the number of those attacking us; some were our most trusted subjects.”


    Exponum once again considered Starscream’s words with hesitance, but finally nodded at Elita to make it so. A half hour later the tasks that members of House Solus had been undertaking had been transferred to trusted subordinates, and they were gathered in whole in the vast ballroom of the main level of the giant Citadel Solus. The southern and western facing walls were both transparent, the southern window-wall looking out over miles of pristine wilderness, the western view covering the Grove of Solitude, the landing field nestled within it, and just beyond the famous Forge of Solus, where according to legend the greatest of weapons and armor had been made. Of all the super-weapons carried into battle by the Knights of Cybertron, only the Cannon of Machtus was not forged there. Solus had been an unequalled genius, an engineer and smith of unparalleled inspiration, devotion and skill.


    According to legend, an orphan femme born to a previously barren metallico pool in the outskirts of Hyperious had drawn the attention of those attempting to fight off a horde of spark-devouring creatures that had emerged from the badlands spanning the borders of the Tagan Heights, Nyon, Polyhex and Tyrest with her acclaimed weapon-making skills. The beasts slaughtered all they came across, but early on in their assault had specifically targeted the most respected and influential house on the planet. The few surviving members of that house were so impressed with her talent and craftsmanship that they gifted her with their house’s most treasured relic, and object that legend has it they took from the treasure vaults of the multi-faced overlords that had ruled the planet with an iron fist until the members of this house led a revolt that freed them all. The sensed this relic to be a source of inspiration for them, and that one as gifted as the young Solus was could possibly achieve impossibly great things with it.


    No legend depicts the item that one day would be known as the Matrix communing with Solus, but she did seem to draw inspiration from it. In time her skill as a craftsman was overshadowed by her skill as a leader. In a few short, dark years she found herself governing all of Axiom, leading her people in battle against the vile hordes of sparkeaters, and soon forming a coalition with twelve other orphans from twelve other formerly barren metallico pools in the twelve other regions that would become emirates. They became comrades, they became friends…to varying degrees, and they became the beacons of hope for the rest of the living. They became the Knights of Cybertron, and they led their forces to victory against the forces of the undead; and according to legend, did so in no small part due to the divinely inspired weapons forged by Solus in the ancient structure on the other side of the Grove of Solitude. For her friend Honorius of Iacon, she fashioned a great sword, one of the few objects capable of striking the ravenous sparkeaters dead. The same held true of the spear she gifted Paxus of the north, a weapon potent enough to injure the king of the devourers upon their final push into polar depths that would become their prison, but which unfortunately was destroyed in that final battle. For the mighty Magnus, she created the Chimera Stone, an object capable of energy and possibly power transference from one entity to another, a device that saved them all as the dying Magnus was able to transfer the last of his great strength to the few surviving knights in their final battle to defeat the king of the dead. Legend depicted Nexus as the recipient of the Cyber Caliber, a conglomeration of five separate and vastly powerful bladed weapons that could combine to form a weapon the equal of Honorus’s Star Saber, but like with the Spear of Paxus was lost in the final battle. The last of the mythical objects created in the great Forge of Solus, an item Exponum had assured her was very real and housed within the Citadel’s great vault, was the Apex Armor, a nearly indestructible yet exceedingly malleable protective shell that made a warrior nigh-invincible, but could only be worn by one the at least somewhat-sentient armor found to be worthy. Of course, neither the armor nor the weapons were enough to keep the Knights from sustaining terminal wounds, but they did enable a victory against a seemingly invincible foe. Though long lasting, the sanctuary offered by that victory seemed to have come to an end.


    The murmurs of the ninety-seven children of Solus created a loud, indecipherable hum, but ceased as Exponum One raised his hand to silence them so that the ninety-eighth occupant of the room, Starscream, could address them and say what he had traveled so far to say. The handsome common-born royal smiled and nodded graciously in thanks to the Emir of Axiom before turning and addressing the rest of the House, casually looking over their heads from time to time to admire the view of the southern wilderness. “Lords and Ladies of House Solus, most, if not all of you have gotten word of the attacks on the high houses by what appears to be gladiators who had been a part of an underground criminal fighting circuit. I am here to confirm these as actual events, and not just rumors. Some of you have noticed some of the scorching and denting on my frame, and yes, I received these in battle when House Nexus was assaulted yesterday.” Starscream said, eliciting a few gasps and whispers from the crowd of House Solus. “It is only a matter of time before House Solus experiences an attack as well.”


    Exponum, who was standing next to Starscream, turned to him urgently. “Lord Starscream, it pleases us all to see you safely away from the attack and in good health, but what of the rest of House Nexus? How did they fare? Was anyone hurt or killed?”


    Starscream shrugged. “They were all killed. I’m all that’s left of House Nexus.”


    “Impossible!” Exponum One gasped. “Pathos Nexus is dead?”


    “I killed him myself.” Starscream replied quietly to Exponum, but Elita and others in the first row were just close enough to hear as well.


    Exponum took a step back, his optics wide with disbelief. “No, you couldn’t have. He loved you.”


    Starscream shrugged as housings on the outsides of his upper arms fell away to reveal what appeared to be folded up rifles mounted to them. “So?” Starscream snapped his arms forward a bit and the rifles flipped into shape, which he aimed directly at Exponum One and fired into his upper torso, four rounds cutting into the Emir of Axiom.


    “NO!” Elita and nearly every other member of her house cried out in shock, anguish and rage, but the sounds of the House alarms erupted, immediately followed by an explosion of shattering transparent metal behind them, drawing their attention away from the assault on their leader. The rounds that had shattered the floor-to-ceiling window of the southern wall impacted with the wall behind Starscream and the collapsing Exponum, exploding and sending stone and metal debris throughout the room. Elita fell to the ground with everyone else around her, but quickly managed to turn her head and peer back from whence the attack came. A white aircraft with light blue wings and two strips of lavender under the wings zipped toward them, slowed before entering the ballroom, transformed into a powerful robot and landed between them and Starscream, immediately turning and firing into the crowd of Soluses. Elita rose to her feat to charge, but heard more commotion behind her, and turned to see a black feraliton leaping at them from behind and tearing into them, followed by an aviaton swooping over them and adding to the carnage with a pair of cannons mounted to its back. “What?” She then noticed at least two score more metal attackers coming at them from the forest line, several in treaded tank modes, but most sprinting in robot mode. Four more jets swooped in and transformed, landed and continued the assault on the unarmed members of her house.


    House Solus security charged into the room, but were picked off quickly by what had to have been snipers in the tree line. How could they be so well armed? How could commoners, even gladiators, be so well trained at conducting a highly organized military raid? Just as soon as these questions popped into Elita’s head, she pushed them away and looked to Exponum. He was on the ground, holding his wounds, but he was moving, he was still alive. He could still be saved! She transformed to ground cruiser mode and sped toward her leader quickly, her profile low enough in vehicular mode so that no shots connected with her. She transformed back to robot mode while still moving and skidded along her side two dozen feet before stopping next to Exponum’s agonized frame. She chanced a glance up at Starscream, but fortunately the bastard had worked his way toward her other kinfolk, laughing maniacally as he unloaded his smuggled rifles into them. She caught sight of her sleek blue and orange broodmate Streamline Solus attempting to charge Starscream, but the charge was cut short as his torso was shredded by an armor-penetrating missile, the damage beyond catastrophic as Streamline bore no armor. Elita watched as the blast nearly tore him in half, shards of dermal plating and internal organs flew through the rain of fluids blasting away from his obliterated frame. His optics were dark even before his remnants hit the fluid-soaked floor. “Brilliant shot, Thunderwing!” Starscream bellowed out laughingly toward the white and blue robot with lavender arms that had murdered her broodmate. The one called Thunderwing only provided sadistic laughter as a reply.


    “Come, my Emir, we must get you safe and me a weapon.” Elita gasped quietly but forcefully, pushing her arms under her downed elder to lift him.


    “Th…th…the Armory.” Exponum muttered weakly and painfully, a mist of energon and other internal fluid exiting with his words.


    “Which one, my Emir?” Elita asked as she quickly raised them both to their feet and began shuffling quickly toward the door at the back of the room.


    “Nnn…no, THEEEeee Arm…THE Armory.” Exponum gutted out as they approached the open doorway.


    “The Armory of Solus?” Elita replied skeptically. “We keep treasured relics there, no weapons.”


    “Thunderwing,” she heard Starscream call out to the powerful flier just as she reached the doorway, “the Emir and the pretty Elita are trying to leave. Please see that they’re returned. Take Kaboom’s squad with you, there may be surprises deeper in the Citadel.”


    Elita tightened her grip on Exponum, ignoring his grunt of pain, and sprinted down the hallway. She displayed a weak smile as a half dozen security soldiers were charging toward them. They were armed; nowhere near as well armed as the invaders, but at least they may provide enough of a distraction to get Exponum safe, wherever that may be. “House Solus is under siege, defend us, save who you can, and either kill or drive out these monsters!”


    “Aye, my lady.” The lead guard replied as they charged past her, but he stopped and turned back and stopped before her, offering one of his side arms. “Take this my lady, just to be safe.”


    Elita hesitated, these guards would need every advantage they could get, but he thrust it into her one free hand and was off after his comrades before she could object in any way. Within a moment of the lead guard passing her she could hear the weapons fire of their engagement with the group of invaders that were pursuing she and Exponum. She swore she would join the battle as soon as her Emir was safe, but for now her duty was to get away from the fight. “Are you sure you want us in The Armory?”


    “Yes…*cough*, yes.” Exponum barked out weakly. “It’s the best place for us. Trust me my dear.”


    Elita didn’t agree, but merely nodded and headed where he had instructed her go take then, hearing the cries of her guards and gleeful cheers and laughter of their attackers cutting through the sounds of weapons’ fire as she turned down a corridor, running as quickly as she could. They cut around a corner, half-sprinting, half-limping as they made their way through corridors toward the center of the vast Solarium, the ancestral home of those to emerge from the Pool of Solus. The footsteps coming from behind them were getting louder, closer, and Elita instinctively ducked and twisted back, firing as a shot zipped by overhead where her upper back had been a half-second before. Her shot penetrated the forehead of a dark orange and gray colored attacker, killing him instantly, but he falling body revealed two more attackers turning the corner behind him with an aviaton zipping around over their heads. Elita took one more shot before turning and continuing her sprint down the hallway, her target being the wing of the aviaton; she had a chance of outrunning the other two, but not the bird. Fortunately her second shot was as accurate as her first, and the metal bird spiraled down to the ground. “Leave it!” The third robot, Thunderwing, yelled out as he rounded the corner after them with four more attackers in tow. “There’s nowhere safe for you to bring the Emir, bitch!”


    “Leave me, Elita.” Exponum gasped out, fluids sputtering out with his words.


    “Not a chance, my Emir.” Elita replied as she ducked around another corner, narrowly missing a shot. Up ahead were the massive double doors leading into The Armory, a sacred collection of most of Solus’s surviving works. Elita considered the location to be little more than a museum; well secured, but not the most secure location on the estate, and lacking in any practical weaponry. It contained relics, fascinating, beautiful and precious, but of little use in fighting off a battalion of well-armed killers. The sounds of their pursuers’ footsteps bounced off the walls as they entered the same hallway that she was sprinting through, and a round impacted the back of her left shoulder, forcing her to drop Exponum. “Ahhhhhh!” She cried out in pain as the round penetrated her shoulder dermal plating, her inner presses and workings, and blasted out the front of her shoulder plating. She spun around, staying on her feet, and leveled her gun-wielding right hand at her pursuers, unloaded on them. The white, blue and lavender Thunderwing dove to the side, avoiding the shots, but the green and black robot behind him caught a round to the abdomen, forcing him to the ground, but his thick armor appeared to weather it well enough for him to start getting back up within seconds. Of course, before he started to rise again Elita dropped her firearm and snatch Exponum’s wrist. She lurched back, dragging him a third of the remaining eighty feet to the vaulted double metal doors. “Elita of House Solus requesting admittance to The Armory!” She called out desperately. “Doors to be sealed and locks engaged as soon as Exponum One and I are inside!”


    “Affirmative.” The feminine voice replied, a voice that Elita and Exponum both had been told was a near match for the original Solus.


    The doors began opening and Elita painfully jerked the two of them through the entrance and collapsing onto the floor inside The Armory, one of the dozen rounds fired at them cutting through her outer right thigh. “Ahhh!” She rolled over Exponum One to protect him from any of the shots. “Seal the Hand-condemned door!”


    “Affirmative.” The response was followed by the deafening sound of the thick metal doors slamming shut immediately followed by the whirs and clicks of the locking mechanisms.


    Elita painfully pulled herself off of Exponum One. “Exponum, are you alright?”


    “Nnn, no my dear.” The emir replied, prompting Elita to gaze intently at the wounds in his chest. They didn’t appear to come from large caliber rounds, but the placement was perfect, and while the entrance holes weren’t that large, it appeared as though they were designed to detonate after penetration. “I can feel my spark fading.”


    “No.” Elita pled with a whisper, audible over the sounds of yelling from without and the pounding on the doors.


    “There is a reason I had you bring us here.” Exponum painfully forced the words out. “The Apex Armor.”


    “The Apex Armor?” Elita shook her head, utterly confused. “It hasn’t worked since the war with the sparkeaters…and that’s assuming its abilities were ever anything more than myth.” The pounding on the doors ceased, and was quickly replaced by explosions against it as various weapons were used to try and gain access.


    Exponum smiled weakly. “It is good that Ratchet, and later Orion forced you to question some of your long held assumptions, but it is important that you still have faith in certain things.” He reached up and cupped her cheek gently. “The brilliance of Solus, and the effectiveness of her creations were real. You must believe that. The Apex Armor was the pinnacle of her works, it made the wearer nearly impervious to harm, it amplified the wearer’s strength five-fold, it held an armory’s worth of weaponry,…*cough*…but…*cough*…but it would only allow access to its protection and gifts to the most worthy of us. Only the most courageous, noble, compassionate and honest could bear the armor. It was a safeguard, one meant to keep a weapon of such power from ever being used for evil or the self-service of any individual.” He broadened his smile. “I never met the mark to gain entrance to the armor, nor did any of the Axiom Emirs or Solus elders that preceded me. We all stood before it at one time or another, holding the disk reverently and hoping it would find us worthy and open for us, but it never did. You however, are different from all of us, you are worthy. You possess the traits Solus wanted those using her creations to possess. You care not for self-aggrandizement, or to intimidate or batter others for any reason other than justice or protection, or to take what is not yours. You are everything we should all strive to be. Hold the disk, submit yourself to its consideration and ask for it to accept you, and let me see the armor form and open for you. Let me finally see what I’ve known would happen since I first sat down with you as a protoform and got to know you.”


    “I…” Elita hesitated, knowing nothing would happen as she stood before an ancient relic that she’d never even laid optic on, and that the lack of whatever magic Exponum had been counting on would likely crush him. “I will try, my One.”


    “Oh…*cough*, yes, that must be addressed as well.” Exponum muttered, but then called out as loudly and clearly as he could muster. “Computer, a transfer of power needs to be arranged.”


    “A prudent decision, Exponum One,” the bodiless feminine voice replied, “I have detected that your spark will fail within moments. You have my condolences.”


    “I name Elita Solus as my successor, to be elevated to Emir of Axiom and have the title One bestowed upon her.” Exponum commanded.


    “No.” Elita gasped, it almost coming out as a sob.


    “Are there any other Solus’s to object to the appointment?” Exponum asked fearfully, knowing what the answer would be.


    “I regret to inform you that there are no other living Solus’s.” The computer voice replied. “Elita will be the One in title, and sadly, in truth.”


    “There will be more.” Exponum smiled.


    “My Emir,” Elita started, but was interrupted.


    “Nay, my dear, it is you that is Emir now; you that is One.” Exponum gasped out.


    “Exponum, I am not worthy of being One.”


    “Bah!” He snarled. “By any measure save experience you are my better, you will make a great One. But for now, you must make an unstoppable warrior.” His optics shifted to the back of the chamber, and Elita turned to follow his gaze, knowing what she would be looking upon. “Go now, let me see it happen while I am still able.”


    “Nothing will happen.” Elita muttered dejectedly while keeping her gaze upon the large gunmetal gray disk hanging on the wall. She had never seen it before, but the tales were familiar.


    “We will see.” Exponum whispered out. “Now arise, Elita One, as you were always destined to, and take what is rightfully yours.”


    Elita nodded, but her optics remained fixed on the ornate hanging disk that legend told could turn into invincible armor for the right individuals. She rose to her feet, not even realizing that she had stood or that she had begun taking steps, but the next thing she realized she was standing before the shield-like disk, an object larger than her chest, and was reaching out to grasp it. She was doing it without conscious thought, she didn’t realize what was happening until her fingers were wrapped tightly around either side of it. She felt her spark surge, sending out energy, or power, or whatever it could be, but whatever it was, it was surging through her chest, up through her shoulders, down her arms, through her hands and into the disk. The flow of whatever energy from her into the disk caused highlights to glow spark-blue and tremendous power emanated from the disk. She turned around, stunned at what was happening and looked to Exponum for some sort of clarity. She was met by his brightly glowing optics and a near-ecstatic grin on his face.


    The disk suddenly opened and waves of power washed over Elita. She felt herself rising as matter seemed to grow beneath her feet, she was engulfed by the indefinable substance, but soon it seemed as though a second skin, despite its bulk. Her vision was obscured by the whirl of substance emerging from nothing to cover her, but her vision quickly returned, as clear as before despite being behind some transparent shield, and through this shield she gazed upon Exponum, his optic now dark, but the grin still on his unmoving face. Around her periphery there were various read-outs, including one she instinctively knew to be a measure of Exponum’s spark status, now flat-lining. She stared at her friend, kinsman and mentor for several moments, ignoring the pounding on the heavily dented and weakening doors. “Good-bye…father.”


    Without conscious thought she had once again traveled across the room, and was now standing before the besieged doors. “Elita One of House Solus ordering the opening of The Armory doors.”


    “Affirmative.”


    The doors swung open, allowing Thunderwing to come barreling in, off balance due to the sudden removal of the obstacle he had been expecting. Startled to suddenly be in the room, he looked up upon the hulking twenty-eight foot tall armored form standing before him. “What the…”


    Elita was reacted instinctively, whipping a backhand to him, one she expected would push him back a few feet to provide her an opportunity for a more destructive follow-up attack, but the mere backhand sent him sailing back into the hallway, bouncing off the wall, and skipping further down the hallway. Six other attackers charged into the room, but paused, several seeming to smile, and then they stepped aside to allow a huge mechanical aurochabull a clear path at her. The horned beast mode of the invader snorted and seemed to grin at the opportunity to charge her down, completely unintimidated by her armored form or the display of strength against Thunderwing. He had undoubtedly been backed up, awaiting his turn to ram the doors, and was in a perfect position to barrel through her. He lowered his head, stamped his right forepaw, and charged.


    All of Elita’s training told her that in a situation like this, against an opponent such as this, and evasive move would be best, but she disregarded her training, braced herself, and delivered a straight right punch between the two horns of the beast, her fist battering through his skull, smashing his brain module between the knuckles on her gauntlet, and driving it forward until it battered through his spark chamber. The damage was immediately fatal, the attacker’s death was final before he knew contact had been made. Upon recovering from the surprise of her unbelievable strength and destructive capability, Elita swore to herself that this would be the most merciful death she would be delivering today.


    A purple and red slender robot looked at the mangled mechanical form the armored warrior was pulling its fist out of. “Concuss? Damn.” He looked up at the helmet just as Elita raised her right arm to him and several cannon’s emerged from the forearm. “No, wait!” His final words echoed through the hallway, along with the sounds of the rounds that cut him to pieces. Elita engaged the others, and looked down the hallway at the one called Thunderwing, who seemed to be studying her appraisingly before rising back to his feet and running back in the direction of the main ballroom to join the rest of his vile comrades. Elita made short work of those in The Armory before following after him.



    ---



    Roller Pax



    “Computer, how long before the sparkeaters arrive?” Roller called out as he continued studying the screen in front of him, one of several in the vast control room that Olnius had walked him through just the day before.


    “Based on their current rate of progress, twenty-four minutes, twelve seconds.” The bodiless feminine voice replied.


    Roller nodded absently, but was aware enough to recognize the pointlessness of thanking a lifeless computer and therefore refrained from doing so. He continued scrutinizing the screen, one that laid out the coordinates of where a missing ship of House Pax had stopped and the duration of each stop, and the designations for those coordinates by the most recent pilot, Alpha Trion. “Computer, what does the designation CCJ1 represent in relation to extra-cyber coordinates?”


    “Cybertron Colony Junk is the most probable meaning.” The voice returned.


    “That’s where he stopped first.” Roller muttered to himself. “Probably where he dumped Orion.” He continued studying the other coordinates listed. “Computer, in the same context, what is H3?”


    “There is nothing in my records or the records of the accessible planetary government that is a likely match for H3, in that context of extra-cyber locations.” The lifeless voice answered.


    Roller pursed his lips and nodded. “I suppose that makes sense. Computer, same context, what is CCE1?”


    “There is nothing in my records related to that location. Upon attempting to scan the data files provided by the planetary government, I have reached a classification restriction.” The feminine voice explained.


    “Classified?” Roller muttered in surprise, but the surprise on his face faded immediately. “Guess that also makes sense. Computer, the CC prefix indicates a Cybertronian colony, correct?”


    “In this context, yes.” The computer replied.


    Roller stood up and began pacing. “Slag it, what am I even doing? I can’t retrieve them, Prime will have them killed the moment word of their return gets out.”


    “Emir Pax, there is another incoming transmission from Lord Olnius Pax.” The computerized voice announced.


    “Ughn, again? Fine!” Roller marched back to the console and opened a channel with the flip of a switch. “Yeah, I know, I’m leaving now!”


    “You should have left some time ago,” Olnius grumbled, “but that’s not why I’m contacting you. I mean, yes, you need to leave now, it’s insane that you’re still th…”


    “What’s the purpose of your call, Olnius?” The exasperated Roller interrupted.


    “Sit down lad.” Olnius tried to prepare the youth.


    “Out with it!” Roller snapped.


    “Sentinel Prime is dead.” The announcement froze Roller to the spot, his hands braced on the top of the console he was leaning over silently. “Did you hear me Emir Pax?”


    “Aye.” Roller sputtered out. “Are you certain?”


    “It’s possible that the news and the footage that accompanied it are false, but it appears genuine.” Olnius explained. “And in light of the extermination of the High Houses…”


    “What?” Roller once again interrupted. “What are you talking about?”


    “Initially it was thought to be the work of the Autobots, but it seems there’s a new group responsible. A group made up of gladiators in the underground fighting circuit, ones bearing the face of the Warrior of the religion of The Hand.” The former emir explained.


    “The face of…” Roller gasped, “Olnius, Lugnut of House Boltax bears such an emblem, and arrived here in force moments after Sentinel Prime’s forces arrived. He claimed it was to aid us; in light of what’s happening,”


    “He was there to attack us…” Olnius finished.


    “Lugnut is not to be trusted! Shit, Orion was right…again.” Roller grumbled.


    “Orion? When…”


    “Never mind.” Roller cut him off. “Or rather, save your question for Orion. With Prime dead, my course of action is clear.”


    “What?” Olnius all but yelled. “Roller Pax, I realize that you may be the new emir, but you must…”


    “Sorry Olnius, gotta go!” Roller switched off the communications channel. “Computer, prepare the Stellar Spear for launch. Destination, Cybertron Colony Junk.”



    ---



    Prowl



    Prowl hustled through the corridor, the distance he needed to cover wasn’t quite enough to justify a transformation, but it was a tempting option if for no other reason than the confusion of a rapid transformation and drive off would shut Cliffjumper up. “Seriously Prowl, how is this not good news?”


    Prowl turned and eyed the short red Autobot as if he’d lost his mind. “What?”


    “No, not the Tartarun Gates, I’m talking about these gladiators, these…Decepticons!” Cliffjumper clarified. “Even High Magistrate Gnofin has to admit we’re innocent of the terrorist acts now.”


    “Ekim Gnofin’s dismissing of fourteen years’ worth of exculpatory evidence isn’t going to be wiped away by the Decepticon’s attacks on the High Houses.” Prowl replied flippantly as they turned the corner and started down a far busier hallway. “Though, if Prime truly is dead, the good Magistrate’s primary reason for railroading us is gone.”


    “Yeah, can’t believe the bastard is dea…” Cliffjumper noted a slight wince out of Prowl, “yeah, look, I hated him and all, but I know you two were once friends, so…my condolences.”


    “We don’t have time for that right now.” Prowl muttered, but his attention sharpened at seeing Senator Xaaron at the far end of the hall. “Xaaron!”


    The senator turned and started walking toward him. “Prowl.”


    “I assume since you’re here in person that the news is true.” Prowl didn’t ask.


    Xaaron nodded. “I’m afraid so. All our experts claim that there’s no reason that they can see to doubt the authenticity of the footage sent by these…Decepticons is it?”


    “That’s what I’ve heard.” Prowl replied. “I’ve known of their existence, who many of their members were, who much of their leadership was, it’s finally nice to have a name to place to their group.”


    “And a face.” Cliffjumper muttered. “Totally stole the idea of taking a Hand societal aspect face from us.”


    “You’re certainly welcome here, my friend.” Prowl said to Xaaron as he placed a hand on his shoulder, busy Autobots pushing past them on either side. “You likely revealed yourself as a supporter by coming here, but I believe that members of the Senate may be targeted as well as the nobility, so it’s good you’re here.”


    “I doubt the Decepticons would think to look for me in Petrex.” Xaaron replied sadly. “And an official member of the government being here might be explained away; your secret safe house is no longer much of a secret, nor is it safe anymore.”


    “Not my decision.” Prowl grumbled in agitation.


    “No, it was ours.” Jazz called out as he, Blaster, Wheeljack and Metalhawk marched toward them from the direction Prowl had originally been headed. “Some things transcend our cause; what’s happening in the north is one such thing.”


    “The planetary government can organize resistance, evacuation and whatever else is needed.” Prowl snapped.


    “We claim to represent the people.” Blaster replied. “To champion both their rights and their safety. It’s time to dedicate more than just words to that. Our decision to reveal our position and make our resources available to aid those who need it was a difficult one, but it was the right one.” A commotion from a side hallway drew their attention, and they looked as the crowd of bustling Autobots in that hallway all turned to look at something, and then made way as it approached them. “What’s this?”


    Mirage of House Decimus cut through the last of the crowd and entered the hallway that they were in, stopping as he caught sight of the Autobot leadership. “What the hell is he doing here?” Cliffjumper snarled.


    “He’s…he’s not our enemy.” Prowl replied as he approached Mirage. “He’s been helping us for years, anonymously, and in a limited capacity.” The white and black former second to Sentinel Prime stopped in front of Mirage. “But Cliffjumper’s right, you shouldn’t be here.”


    Mirage was a sight, scuffed, slightly battered and scorched, and nervous to the point of being frantic. “You need to come! NOW! My House has been attacked! There may be survivors, I got away, maybe others managed to hide!”


    Prowl nodded. “Yes, we’d heard the gladiator group had been targeting the high houses. I’m sorry my friend, but we aren’t in a position to help.”


    “No!” Mirage snarled. “I’m not your friend, Prowl!” He then turned to the other Autobots. “You four know me, you know I’ve been advocating for you, arguing the evidence of your innocence! You want to prove you’ve been innocent all along? Defend a High House! Defend House Decimus!”


    “Sirs!” Bumblebee charged out into the hallway from the command room at the end of the hall. “There’s a personal shuttle landing in the street outside, it looks to be from House Torrent, and there’s a government troop transport holding position just outside the city!”


    Prowl looked to the others and shook his head in a scolding manner. “You idiots should have listened to me!” With that he drew a large pistol and headed in the direction that Mirage had emerged from. Moments later he and other Autobots were streaming out of the building and witnessed Megatron, Soundwave and others descending the plank onto metal ground. Prowl shook his head, he had been expecting government soldiers, not the Decepticons. “Oh shit.”


    Megatron caught sight of the Autobots and smiled, holding his hands up in a non-threatening display. “Relax, Prowl,” he caught site of Mirage exit and pushed past Prowl, who turned and noted the royal just in time to wrap his arms around Mirage before the blue and white royal saw the purple symbol of the Decepticons on Megatron’s chest and lunged in his direction.


    “Bastard!” Mirage roared, nearly pulling free of Prowl’s grasp.


    “I want him dead too, but…” he nodded toward the other Decepticons emerging from the craft, all heavily armed, “they’ve got bigger guns than we do.”


    “You shouldn’t want me dead, Prowl.” Megatron stated as he casually made his way toward them. “I certainly don’t want you dead. I don’t agree with many of your Autobot philosophies, but your decision to put aside your own personal best interests to help others in the wake of the news in the north is nothing short of inspiring. At least, it’s inspired me.” Megatron smiled. “I’ve put my destruction of the high houses on hold for now. It may take time for that order to trickle to some of my soldiers, but for the greater good I will stay my hand against the living and lead our combined forces to counter the monsters crawling out of the polar depths.”


    Prowl stared intently and disbelievingly at the hulking gladiator, stunned almost to the point of releasing the still struggling Mirage. “Did…did you just say LEAD our combined forces?” He released Mirage as other large Autobots stepped in to keep the surviving member of House Decimus from attacking the Decepticons and starting a fight they had no chance of winning.


    “Yes.” Megatron replied. “Decepticons, Autobots, government forces and what’s left of the high houses’ personal guard.” The chrome warrior beamed a broad grin. “I think I’ve more than demonstrated my strategic acuity and leadership skills.”


    “You’ve displayed nothing but a penchant for mass murder!” Jazz snarled, but directed his attention toward Prowl as the former Security Chief raised his hand to stop him.


    Prowl, his hand in the air to silence the opposition of his fellow Autobots, continued his stare into Megatron’s optics. “We could definitely use your help, your forces and your input, but we will not be propping you up as our new leader, certainly not after all the murder and mayhem you’ve done in our name over the last decade and a half. And I know for sure that the powers that be certainly won’t bend the knee to you.”


    “My dear Prowl,” Megatron responded almost sweetly, “I AM the power that be.” He looked to the Autobots behind Prowl, Jazz and the others, all gripping their weapons tightly and just waiting for the moment to engage the intruding gladiators. “But for the good of the planet, I am willing to compromise. We all bring something to the cause, and any in-fighting between us will only significantly weaken that cause.”


    Prowl nervously looked Megatron over. He couldn’t be trusted, that much was certain, but if he wanted to wipe them out, based on the reports of this group Prowl was certain he could do so without the need for subterfuge. “For now, we need each other. Come in, but just you and Soundwave.”


    Mirage gasped at Prowl’s offer of admittance, but then turned at the sound of Soundwave’s name and glared at the other royal. “Traitor!” He hissed as Megatron marched by and into the facility with his blue confidant.



    ---



    Rattrap



    “Their defenses and weaponry are primitive to say the least.” The big dumbass known as Nightbeat muttered from his swiveling captain’s seat in the ship. Rattrap still technically had the drop on him, and could probably take control of this ship, but it could just as easily go the other way and have things wind up with him in this blue and yellow tin-head’s brig…which was probably nothing more than a storage closet with a pad-lock. Something he could undoubtedly break out of with relative ease, but not worth chancing at this point, especially as he seemed to be far less of a threat than most of the recent off-worlders were. “We should just go in and break him out.”


    “Ya’ don’t get how things work here, doya?” Rattrap muttered in an intentionally disrespectful way. “The Convoys wanted us to go unnoticed by the humans. Granted, two of them died before da’ humans became the humans we know today, and da’ third, well, he let a bunch of them inhabit the island, even build a civilization…uhm…so, yeah, disregard what I just said. But Polarclaw, our boss now, he wants us to go unnoticed. Totally ripple free.”


    “So you’re suggesting that the humans that are currently in possession of a Cybertronian prisoner…don’t know we exist and we’re to keep it that way?” The sarcastic jackass replied with a smile.


    “Ehhh, I see where yer goin’ with this, but like with Cybertron, the governments here don’t tell the people diddly squat.” The buck-toothed robot shrugged. “And we’re good with that. And as we wanna keep the public ignorant, we’re gonna be discreet.”


    Nightbeat shrugged. “I guess we can try to do that. But I need to know the players. What’s going on here, who were those Cybertronians you were fighting, and how significant is the threat posed by these hairless apes?”


    Rattrap sighed. “The Cybertronians are just the latest batch of colonists to come here laying claim ta’ the Manifest, the Ferrotaxis, the resources of this planet, or whatever else they want here. This group is from Eukaris, as was the group from da’ first Beast Wars. They tend ta’ be more organic animal based with their alternate modes, as you saw with the three scumbags that were attacking me.”


    The blue and yellow homeworlder looked Rattrap over intently. “So the Manifest truly is on this world then?”


    “Nice try, diphead, but I ain’t sayin’ squat about the Manifest or any of dat other stuff!” Rattrap grumbled, a bit angry at himself over the slip.


    “Fine, then tell me of these Beast Wars.” Nightbeat asked as he gently swiveled back and forth a bit in the pilot chair.


    Rattrap considered the request, wondering whether revealing this information would be any sort of violation to his fellow Maximals or provide this clown any sort of advantage over them. He shrugged as he failed to see any reason not the divulge the history. “We’ve been here a very long time, and for the most part it was very uneventful, but about two-hundred forty thousand years ago a criminal from Eukaris named Cryotek commandeered a prisoner transfer ship on his world, getting a crew of scumbags, and then hijacked one of the few faster than light space craft they had. He’d somehow come across information about Earth, or Helio-3, as well as other barely known Cybertronian colonies, and came here seeking safe haven for his crew of scumbags. We noted their arrival, we spied on them for a few months, and through no fault of mine, they discovered us as well. They swore up and down they just wanted to be left in peace, their only interest in the planet was that they thought it was uninhabited, and figured they could live their lives. Da’ Convoys never trusted Cryotek or his group of Predacons…”


    “Predacons?” Nightbeat interrupted.


    “Yeah, da’ Convoys explained how Nyonian legends talked of ancient animal-warriors named Predacons, and that these guys named themselves offa them.” Rattrap explained.


    “Yes, I’m familiar with the legends, but very few other are, at least not anymore.” Nightbeat replied. “Even in Nyon the Predacon legends have faded from memory.”


    “Yeah, well, most of the bots and protoforms Guardian Prime chose to stick on the colony worlds were from Nyon;” Rattrap answered, “figured their natural inclination toward animal shell-modes would help them blend in and adapt to the organic worlds. Anyway, Big Convoy, Lio Convoy, Rhinox, Polar Claw and the other Maximal muckity mucks didn’t trust ‘em, but didn’t have grounds to attack ‘em and they definitely didn’t want to alert anyone…even if we could alert anyone. So we left them be and they left us be…more or less. At least they did for a few decades, until Cryotek found out about…stuff on this world, stuff he hoped to either use to make him more powerful or sell to make him rich. So, the first Beast Wars started. It lasted a few centuries, and ended as Cryotek and his main piece of muscle, a big-ass goon simply named X, fell into a magma pit in a volcano and were assumed dead. We rounded up the survivors, placed ‘em in stasis, and that was that for over a thousand years.”


    Rattrap sighed deeply. “Then came Magmatron. He was a Eukarian warlord, governor, king, chief, whatever, but he was big, and powerful, and smart and unrelenting. He was an accomplished general on Cybertron prior to coming to Eukaris, Big Convoy had known him. BC told us Mags was originally from Polyhex, but due to his shell form lending itself to an animalistic shape he left for Nyon and came into the service of the Onyx’s or something. He and Big, they had one of those respectful hatreds for one another. Anyway, when Magmatron came…the first time, he wasn’t looking for trouble. His only interest in this planet was that it was an unlikely, but possible destination for Cryotek and the other wanted criminals that he had escaped here with. Big handed over the surviving Preds, and Magmatron left. We hoped that would be the end of it; it wasn’t. One of the Preds we handed over was this nitwit named Waspinator. Poor dumb sumbitch musta spent more time in the repair bay during the Beast Wars than out. Anyway, dumb as he was, he apparently not only found a way to escape the pen, but even found a way off of Eukaris. Made his way to another colony, one called Beest.” The small Maximal peered down at the ground, an uninvited and unexpected wave of overwhelming sadness filling him. “He came to the attention of another warlord, some king of Beest. Don’t know what his original name was, but he must have been able to receive news from Cybertron because he was well aware of Galvatron having been missing for well over seven hundred thousand years at that point and figured like everyone else he was dead, so this king laid claim to the name. So that jackass Waspinator fills in this new Galvatron about…whatever was here that Cryotek had wanted, and Galvatron musters a small but potent force of armed killers to take it, and the Second Beast Wars started.” Rattrap shook his head. “By the Hand he was powerful, just so powerful, and every bit as crazy and cruel. We fought that war for over forty thousand years. I used to think how ridiculous it was as a youth when I read about the wars against Deathsaurus and the war against Galvatron each taking hundreds of thousands of years. That second Beast War though, just a few hundred warriors involved, stretching for four hundred centuries…it was unimaginable. We won, but we lost Lio Convoy. He died to defeat this Galvatron, but…well, we won.”


    Rattrap stood up out of his oversized seat, casually allowing his weapon to hang loosely at his side, no longer bothering to keep it on the large blue and yellow robot. “So, forty thousand years of war was followed by forty thousand years of peace, but around a hundred and fifty thousand years ago ol’ Magmatron came knocking again, and this time it was all about conquest. Ya’ see, he’d finally gotten around to tracking Waspinator to Beest. He met resistance there, or maybe he didn’t, hell, I don’t know, but he eventually was able to rifle through pretend-Galvatron’s stuff and figure out what Waspinator had told him. Ya’ see, Mags accepted the story of Cryotek and crew setting up here to escape at face value…probably because itinitially it was true. He accepted Big Convoy’s reason for being here at face value as well.”


    “What did Big Convoy tell him his reason for being here was?” Nightbeat asked. “For that matter, what is the real reason you’re here?”


    “Easy buckaroo, need to know your reason for being here before I tell you ours.” Rattrap snapped back. “Back to the story, when Mags first visited, BC told him he, LC and us Maximals came here to get away from hatred and plots against House Convoy on Cybertron.”


    “Hatred and plots?” Nightbeat asked skeptically. “House Convoy was as respected as any of the Royal Houses.”


    “You’re an idiot.” Rattrap grumbled, his grip on the gun reasserted. “You claim to be a detective, but clearly you’re not one to think things through.”


    “Then explain what I’m missing.”


    Rattrap sneered. “I don’t have time to go into all of it with you, but think about it, Mr. Detective-Man, Deathsaurus traveled with an army from Simfur along the border of Tyrest for thousands of miles. Do you really think the Ambus’s didn’t take notice? Or the Magnus’s when that army breached the borders of Tyrest and the Tagan Heights? Yeah, the Onyx army moved fast, but not that fast. Finger-One wasn’t lifted until it was all over. Explain that, smart guy!”


    Nightbeat nodded. “Yes, I have pondered the terrible reaction time in aiding House Convoy. But I always attributed some of that to the sheer ancientness of the event. That was over twelve million years ago. I assumed that the tales have changed and many of the details lost over such a span of time.”


    “Big Convoy and Lio Convoy were alive when it happened, and while they were away from Convoy lands at the time, they knew all the gory details of what happened, and their tales never changed!” Rattrap snapped. “I was born millions of years after that, shortly before we launched for this mudhole, and I don’t give two shits about high houses or nobles or royals or whatever, but I knew those two and I respected the hell out of them, not because their name was Convoy, but because they were worth respecting. And Primal…” Rattrap turned away, once again overwhelmed with sadness.


    “Primal?”


    “We’ll get to him.” Rattrap snarled. “Anyway, while not as old as the Convoys, Magmatron was old enough to know concerns of the last two Convoys being targeted by high houses was not so outlandish. He knew royals think they’re gods among us, and that they get pissed when a house not founded by a Knight is spoken of with as much or sometimes more reverence than theirs. Which is why he left us alone the first time. But this time he knew what was here…”


    “The Manifest.”


    “Sure, the Manifest.” Rattrap replied as if there was another reason. “Anyway, knowing what was here, he felt it his duty to continue where Guardian Prime had left off; i.e., conquer the whole Primus-damned universe and plant Cybertronian flags on every planet worth setting foot on.” Rattrap continued. “So he came to Helios-3 and thus began the Neo War.” The Maximal let himself get lost in his thoughts for a few moments before going on. “This one lasted for twenty-five thousand years, and when it was over, both Big Convoy and Magmatron were among the dead, having killed each other in the final battle.”


    “So House Convoy…” Nightbeat muttered, an odd sadness coming over him as well.


    “Yes, but not that day.” Rattrap replied quietly. “Not sure how good your history is, but it’s a little known fact that Deathsaurus attacked the House Convoy lands during a birthquake. A spark came to the Convoy metallico pool, a protoform was born, and it was immediately placed into stasis and spirited away from the Convoy lands. Its existence was kept secret, Big Convoy and Lio Convoy would not take the chance of it being targeted by those that may want to see their House wiped from Cybertron. For twenty five thousand years we remained here without a Convoy, Rhinox and Polar Claw sharing leadership, but around one hundred thousand years ago Polar Claw removed the protoform from stasis.”


    “Primal Convoy?”


    “Aye.” Rattrap muttered. “I really didn’t get to know him for a very long time; we were spread throughout the planet monitoring for any new threat of incursion from Cybertron or its colonies and frankly, I had no desire to meet this thing with a Convoy name and a Convoy helm but lacking a Convoy upbringing. He’d never measure up to BC or LC, and would only water down my memories of them.” A wan smile cut through the gloom of Rattrap’s face. “Except he did measure up. You see, we never did recover the body of pretend-Galvatron, nor that of Cryotek. The reason we never found Cryotek’s corpse was that he hadn’t died. He had managed to drag himself out of the magma pool, and lay in stasis for over two hundred thousand years, slowly healing. When he awoke again he laid low for thousands of years, somehow finding the body of pretend-Galvatron and cannibalizing every ounce of scrap and tech that frame possessed, and came back more powerful than before. He didn’t have the physical power of either Galvatron or Magmatron, both of whom likely had green sparks, but he was smarter than they were, and managed to free the surviving prisoners we were holding in stasis, lead them against us, and actually gained access to the Manifest and possession of…something else. Primal rose to the occasion, this final Beast War whittled our numbers down to near nothing, and there were some incidents that changed some of the geologic features of this planet, but he won. He had to sink the island to stop Cryotek and…what Cryotek had set in motion, but he did it, sacrificing himself and killing Cryotek in the process.” Rattrap’s optics darted to the ground. “Shit, I think I may have told you more than I was supposed to tell you.”


    “Don’t worry, I don’t think there’s anything you told me that can be used against you.” Nightbeat said, but his attention was turned back to the control panel by a flashing light. He turned and flipped a switch, staring at the screen, a look of confusion coming over him. “Prowl?” He whispered.


    “What?” Rattrap asked, not having heard what he whispered.


    “Huh? Oh, nothing. Just an all-points bulletin from someone no longer in a position to send an all-points bulletin. The blue and yellow robot punched in the acceptance code to receive the notification in text form, and would up re-reading the message several times, unable to process what it said.


    “What, what’s the message?” Rattrap pressed after patiently waiting for over a minute.


    Nightbeat rotated back around in his seat so that he faced the small Maximal, but his optics were off to the side, thinking deeply as he pondered what he just read. “Sentinel Prime…he’s been killed.”


    “Wow, that’s kinda big.” Rattrap stated.


    “Huh?” Still distracted, Nightbeat finally looked at Rattrap. “Oh, Prime dying, yeah, I guess that is big.”


    Rattrap was confused by the homeworlder’s reaction. “Was there more to the message?”


    “Huh? Oh, yeah.” Nightbeat answered, lost in his own thoughts. “The Tartarun Gates have fallen. Sparkeaters walk the surface of Cybertron once again.”



    ---



    Red Alert



    The Capital Spire’s main control center was always a flurry of activity, but never more so than right now. Prime’s death, the attacks on the high houses, the emergence of this new underground group responsible for both of these things, and the apparently unrelated news that the Tartarun Gates had fallen and Sparkeaters had returned had caused complete chaos in the planetary capital. Red Alert found himself in the unenviable position of trying to keep it all together, attempting an organized evacuation of civilians from Cybertropolis while gathering the military and peace-keeping forces and preparing them to ward off anything coming out of The Torus Heights. Fortunately Sentinel Prime had already made certain preparations in regards to possible threats coming from the polar emirate, but none of those anticipated threats involved super-cybertronian mythical cybervores. Even now Red Alert was beyond skeptical of the reports, but with the exception of their new emir, House Pax has evacuated Tyger Pax and Emir Roller Pax and Lord Commander Kup had convinced Sentinel Prime of the news that the Gates had been breached.


    Of course, at the moment he was focused primarily on the details regarding the evacuation of House Honorum from Iacon. They had been under attack up until two hours ago, when these Decepticons seemed to suddenly stop and withdraw and disappear. Many of the Honorums were killed, but many more seemed to have survived the onslaught and were being collected now by government forces. Being in Cybertropolis, Red Alert was way too far away to be involved in the search and rescue efforts going on in Iacon, but he was still in constant communication with his Iaconian counterparts. “Have you found Emir Acumenus yet?”


    “No word yet sir,” a nervous voice came back through the speaker on the control panel, “but no call to lose hope yet, the guards are finding survivors all the time.” There was a long pause. “Red Alert, there’s a commotion, wait, yet, it’s the Emir, he appears unhurt. Hold and I’ll find out what I can.”


    “Aye, Rollout, I’ll be here.” Red Alert replied with an affirmation common in the northern parts of the planet.


    Several moments passed before Rollout came back. “Well sir, seems the good Emir had gone down to one of the lower vaults to retrieve something when word of the Tartarun Gates collapse came in, and was there when these Warrior-branded bastards attacked. He rode out the attack there. He’s carrying some large case with him, I’m guessing it’s whatever he went down there to find in the first place, and he’s not letting anyone come near it, whatever it is.”


    “Fine, fine,” Red Alert muttered, “just see that he gets on the transport and that it’s away shortly. Iacon is barely a thousand miles from Taenarus, The Emir of Nova Cronum should have been away to safety hours ago.”


    “Uh, yeah, you did know we were under attac…”


    “Got it, just get he and the other Honorum survivors to safety now.” The white and red robot grumbled into the speaker. “Cybertropolis out.”


    “Sir, we have an incoming craft.” Hopper, the green robot manning one of the sensor arrays on the far side of the room, called out. “Scans identify it as a Class 5 small freight hauler, the serial number given lists it as a craft owned by a rental agency based out of Simfur.”


    “Simfur?” Red Alert questioned as he quickly crossed the room and leaned over the screen to scrutinize the data scrolling across it. “Why didn’t we receive word from the southern checkpoints?”


    “It’s based out of Simfur, but it’s coming to us from The Torus Heights.” Hopper replied, but turned his head up in a questioning way. “What the hell is a Nyonian freighter doing coming out of The Heights? Especially an old, low-end rental that’s undoubtedly marketed toward commoners?”


    Red Alert let out a quiet, humorless chuckle before replying. “Prime searched for years for evidence Roller Pax was smuggling weapons and supplies into The Torus Heights, and Prime is killed right before some of Pax’s smugglers land in our lap.”


    “They’re hailing us sir.” Hopper announced as a signal on the control board lit.


    Red Alert reached forward and opened the channel. “Guardian Spaceport Control Center, identify yourself.”


    “Name’s Shokaract, from Nyon but came to visit a friend in Polarus.” The harsh, gravelly voice came through.


    “Did you make it to Polarus?” Red Alert asked.


    “Yep, was there when we got word the Gates had fallen.” This Shokaract replied. “Considered it bullshit and kept imbibing at the pub, laughing at the cowards as they took off and abandoned the bar, then the whole damn city. Heard the Pax’s ditched Tyger Pax too, but still weren’t buyin’ that the spark-suckers were back. Hell, didn’t think they ever existed truth be told.” There was a long pause. “Know they exist now.”


    “You’ve seen them?” Red Alert excited asked.


    “Yeah, when we finally got bored of ingesting free, abandoned engex, we made our way to this friggin’ pile of crap and were going to head out.” The incoming visitor explained. “As we lifted over the city, we saw a long line of…something, making its way toward Tyger Pax from the north. We flew toward it, realized it was some sort of army, then as we got closer we realized that while most seemed to have two arms, two legs, a body and a head, they definitely weren’t like us. They were the monsters of our fairy tales.”


    “They’re traveling on foot?” Red Alert asked, but turned to Hopper and whispering prior to getting an answer. “That gives us a bit more time.”


    “Yeah, they’re walking. They seemed so lurchy and awkward, not sure they have alternate modes.” Shokaract replied. “But in the robot modes they seem faster and stronger than most of us. Not sure what else you want to know.”


    “I want to know it all!” Red Alert snapped before again turning to Hopper. “Direct him to land in front of the Control Center. I want to talk to this Shokaract.” With that Red Alert turned and made his way to the lift. Within minutes he was on the ground level walking toward the main doors that exited to the various landing pads, and within visual range he saw a beat-up looking old craft lowering to the ground. They were landing about a quarter mile from the doors, about as close to the building as a craft could safely land. It was predominantly orange, with bestial graffiti all over it, something to be expected from a low-end Nyonian rental, and looked to hold thirty normal-sized passengers comfortably; or a little over a dozen weapons crates should that have been the cargo, which given these guys were likely smugglers for Roller Pax, was what was transported to the polar emirate. Red Alert exited the building as the landing ramp of the craft touched the ground and a large, hideous black, yellow and dark blue robot with numerous bestial limbs jutting out of its back marched down and took several steps away from the ramp.


    Red Alert stopped and stared at the supposed-smuggler; something wasn’t right. His body was gyrating slightly, as if he were laughing, which was difficult to tell as the mouth of this Nyonian was non-standard to say the least. Shokaract stopped chuckling and leveled a gaze at Red Alert that left the security chief completely unnerved, announcing in a loud voice apparently to anyone close enough to hear. “Cybertropolis, I bring you a gift, the gift of Violen Jigr’s embrace!” From behind Shokaract emerged forms even more hideous and ungainly than his, being straight out of Red Alert’s nightmares. They charged out in all directions, causing panic to the dozens all around them. Red Alert froze for a moment, but only a moment, then turned and charged back into the building, transforming as he cleared the doors and sped down. He instinctively knew he had little chance of escaping this swarm of monsters, but it was his duty to get the word out that Cybertropolis was under attack.



    ***



    Wreck Gar



    “Whatya be seein’?” After fourteen years with Orion Pax living on Junk, Wreck Gar had resorted to speaking proper Common-Era Cybertronian almost entirely. For millions of years the Pidgeon dialect of Junk had been a source of pride for the Junkions, a differentiation from the homeworlders and a reminder of them shrugging off the shackles of colonial occupation. Orion Pax had respected their ways from the moment he arrived, and had even adopted a few of their customs, but while he never looked down those using it, and had always understood and replied to the Junkion way of speaking, he had always spoked proper Cybertronian, and in so doing had influenced many a Junkion to do the same, the Gar included. But sometimes Wreck Gar used the Pidgeon when around the other citizens.


    The two soldiers turned and looked upon Wreck Gar and their comrade who they had sent to summon their leader. The three had been out on patrol, the war was over, but there were still soldiers that had fought for Detritus that were still unaccounted for, likely no longer loyal to the dead would-be usurper’s cause, just fearful there would be those seeking retribution should they reveal themselves, but still potentially dangerous. Armed three-soldier patrols had been sent out in possession of writs of absolution signed by Wreck Gar, guaranteeing those that revealed themselves and turned in their arms safety from any retribution stemming from their actions during the war. Only Arclight, the last surviving general of Detritus’s, would be held accountable.


    When one of these three-man teams returned in great haste seeking Wreck Gar, the leader of Junk fears that this team had come upon some of the former insurrectionists and violence had ensued. Instead it was an echo of the past, the relating of an observation reported to him over fourteen years before that had led to so many changes on his world. He instructed Pinion to alert any generals and Lo-Gars in the capital and set off, only a slight nagging in his head wishing that he had not instructed Pinion to spread the word.


    Of course, he had to give that order. The scout had come back and reported a flash in the distant night sky, something that seemed to be a rupture in space. Fourteen years ago that flash turned out to be a wormhole forming just outside Junk’s orbit, and within a few hours a ship had landed and two visitors from the homeworld had gotten off; one conscious and the other unconscious. Wreck Gar was certain that this time, like with fourteen years ago, it was another wormhole, and what forces he had left had to be on alert in case it was an attack from the homeworld. But deep down he knew it wasn’t an attack, deep down he knew it was Atrium of the Crystal City here to bring Orion back home, and it was with great shame that he acknowledged that he would almost prefer it to be an attack. He couldn’t bring himself to say Orion had become indispensable to the people of Junk, but he had come to be the greatest asset their planet had, and even he had been hearing the whispers of ‘Pax-Gar’. He chuckled at the first time he had heard such whispers, as they came not as a surprise to him, but an affirmation; he himself had made such suggestions to Orion several times recently.


    A war he could fight. True, he’d undoubtedly lose a war against Cybertron, and lose badly, but parting with his dear friend and advisor would be almost as hard. Ultimately he knew his actions were correct, and could only hope that word wouldn’t be reaching his Pax Lo-Gar anytime soon. But as luck would have it, Orion was in Junkion Prime finishing the oversight of the solar harvester he had planned to have orbiting their star from a safe distance and collect energy to be retrieved and brought back to Junk for usage. The retrieved energy would still not be energon, but it would enhance their lives considerably and could be refined into sustenance far better than the swill they subsisted on.


    There was no question Orion would be getting word tonight, Wreck Gar’s only hope was that he could come up with a good enough case for Orion to stay here by choice; to stay here away from his brother, his other family, his friends Ratchet and Ironhide and his new friend Jazz, and of course away from his love Elita Solus. He put these considerations aside as the two other scouts dipped their heads at seeing him and started toward him.


    “Space be lightin’.” One stated.


    “But just a sec.” The other added. “Blurry, then be lookin’ like space again, all blacky.”


    “Look.” The scout that had returned to Junkion Prime to fetch Wreck Gar called out and pointed skyward. An object was cutting through the sky, no longer in space but high above them in Junk’s atmosphere and approaching them. Wreck Gar suddenly realized another similarity to the events of Orion Pax’s arrival, they were in the same clearing that Atrium’s ship had set down all those years before.


    He tried to remember exactly where the craft had touched down, thinking that it would be likely for some reason that this ship would do the same. He honestly believed that this would be the same ship, but as he scrutinized the shape of the still distant but rapidly approaching object, it seemed just a bit different, somehow larger and sleeker. Despite the difference, he still thought that it would land in the same spot, so set out to direct the three soldiers he had around that spot. He looked to where his memory was telling him the spot was, and there, still slightly scorched from the prior landing years before, was the landing spot. “Debris, Refuse, blend in there and there!” He pointed out the positions and the two soldiers immediately complied, running to the spots and collapsing to the ground and sinking below the top layers of garbage, blending in perfectly. “Goat, with me.” Wreck Gar then turned and positioned himself and the third soldier a few dozen yards from where he expected the ship to touch down. Both of them collapsed into the debris strewn about the surface of the vast clearing and waited.


    It took nearly a half hour for the ship to settle into place, and as Wreck Gar suspected, it was not the same craft that Atrium had piloted to their world before. Atrium’s ship had been a very nice small transport, larger than a starhopper and of far greater quality and craftsmanship than anything Wreck had ever boarded, but this new ship was finer still. Roughly the same size, but sleeker, almost spear-like in appearance. It settled down, and a little over a minute later the hatch near the ground opened and a stranger stepped out. At least, it was a stranger to the three soldiers, Wreck Gar recognized him instantly, despite having never laid optics on him before. Shorter than average, but not to the point of being considered short, stocky but athletic, predominantly dark blue, possessing a U-shaped crest over his silver face, and armed with a mid-sized rifle. He slowly walked out, eventually passing between where Debris and Refuse were positioned, he was now only a second from being killed should Wreck Gar give the order…possibly even if he didn’t give the order if either of this soldiers considered the newcomer a threat. A consideration passed through Wreck Gar’s head just for a moment, one asking him if that would truly be such a bad thing. This could be covered up, and Orion would stay, likely forever. The Gar of Junk immediately cast that thought aside and silently chided himself for even creating that thought.


    He made a choice and rose from the garbage, his quad-bladed axe in his hand. The newcomer turned and directed his rifle toward him, prompting the two Junkions on either side of him to rise from their hiding spots and make to strike him. “Hold!” Wreck Gar called out to his soldiers, who the newcomer nervously twisted his head around noting them and realizing that he could be killed very easily should things head that direction. To defuse the situation, he raised his axe high above him, and tossed it to the ground. “Goat, ‘veal self.” With that his third solder arose a few feet from him, short sword in hand. “Junkions, toss weapons.”


    Debris, still glaring at the intruder, verbally objected. “Gar, tell we we not bein’ surrendin’ here.”


    Wreck Gar nodded. “No, we are not surrendering. This visitor is not here to conquer us, are you Lord Pax?”


    “Pax?” The three guards muttered in surprise together, followed by an immediate change in their demeanor and the tossing of their weapons. The two Junkions flanking the visitor stepped toward him, giving him gentle slaps on the back before continuing on to stand with their leader. “Kin o’ da Pax Lo-Gar bein’ kin o’ da Junk Folk.” Refuse stated with a smile to the blue newcomer as he walked toward Wreck Gar.


    A goofy smile came over the visitor as his rifle-wielding arm wend slack and the weapon pointed harmlessly toward the ground. “You know Orion? Thank Primus. And he’s safe?”


    “Orion.” Goat scoffed. “He bein’ da’ Pax Lo-Gar!”


    “PAX LOOOOO-GAAAARRRRRR!” Refuse and Debris howled loudly in unison before giving into a bout of laughter.


    “Mayhap Pax Gar?” Wreck Gar stated, causing his soldiers to freeze in place and stare nervously at him with wide optics. He noted their fear and smiled. “Orion Pax make good Gar. Wreck suggest Garchoice in future.”


    “Wreck bein’ Gar of Junk.” Goat stated nervously.


    “Pax great Lo-Gar, none be doubtin’,” Debris added, “but Wreck only Gar o’ da’ Junkfolk.”


    “Gar means ruler?” The newcomer asked. “King, Prime, something like that?”


    “Aye.” Refuse answered.


    “Then I must agree with your friends.” The newcomer stated as he slowly started walking toward them. “Orion is brilliant, but he is not meant to be here.”


    “He is!” Wreck Gar snarled, causing his men to take threatening stances toward Lord Pax. “Junk is his home! You betrayed his trust! You cast him away, Roller of House Pax!”


    “I did what I did to protect him!” The blue robot snapped back defensively.


    “All the more reason for him to stay!” Wreck Gar shot back.


    “Sentinel Prime is dead!” Roller stated, his words freezing Wreck Gar’s vocal processors for a moment. “It’s time for me to take him home.”


    “Junk is home of Pax Lo-Gar.” Refuse growled, finally realizing why his Gar’s mood had turned against the newcomer.


    Roller stared at the four of them individually before finally settling his optics on those of Wreck Gar. “He is your prisoner then?”


    “No!” Wreck Gar objected. “Never.”


    “Pax Lo-Gar bein’ our friend!” Debris retorted.


    “Orion is my brother.” Roller shot back.


    “Orion o’ da’ Paxes bein’ a Lo-Gar.” Refuse grumbled back.


    “In time, Orion will be Gar.” Wreck Gar added, the statement silencing his men once again, but no looks of shock or words of protest followed this time.


    Roller sadly looked at them all, then down and seemed to give a short nod before looking back up at Wreck Gar with sympathetic optics. “I understand, but Orion isn’t meant to be Gar…he’s meant to be Prime.”


    Wreck Gar stared at him with wide optics. “They wish to make him their Prime?”


    Roller looked away. “No,” he paused, “no, they don’t. Not now anyway. But it’s what he’s meant for.”


    “Who is to be Prime then?” Wreck Gar asked, noting the doubt and secrecy within the newcomer.


    “I…I know not.” Roller replied. “Sentinel only just died. Under ideal circumstances it would take months to select a new Prime without the Matrix, and right now…well…circumstances are not…ideal.”


    Wreck Gar stared heatedly at Roller. “Explain yourself! What would you be bringing Orion back to?” He took a step forward toward the visitor, now less than a dozen yards separating them. “Is Cybertron truly safe for his return? Answer truly!”


    “No.” Roller replied, looking emotionlessly into Wreck Gar’s optics. “The Tartarun Gates have fallen. Sparkeaters walk the surface once again. I don’t seek Orion because he can return, I seek Orion because he must return.”


    The other three Junkions exchanged confused glances. They were protoforms born on Junk, intended to be ready-made colonists having never stepped foot on the homeworld. All three were born after the revolt and the tossing off of their homeworld oppressors, and were taught very little of Cybertron beyond the threat that it posed them. But Wreck Gar was of Cybertron, was well aware of the legends, and glared with the intensity Roller Pax’s intentions deserved. “Madness.” He growled. “You smuggle him here to avoid danger, then plan to return him to certain death. Utter slagging madness.”


    “He’s meant to be our savior.” Roller replied, his gaze unwavering.


    “He’s a child.”


    “Nay, we have reached the age of self-determination.” Roller retorted. “And as such, the choice is his.”


    “You will not be seeing Orion.” Wreck Gar snarled.


    Roller’s gaze immediately turned to a heated glare. “You mean to keep me from him?”


    “I will not let you betray him a second time!” The growl was accentuated by the other three Junkions moving forward in a threatening manner.


    Roller looked at all of them, then back to Wreck Gar. “You are loyal to him…I’m pleased, grateful and unsurprised to see this. You clearly are protective of him, this also warms my spark. But you must let me meet with him, you must let me say what I came to say to him, and we all must let him make his own choice, to do otherwise would mean that we do not respect him.”


    The words did sink home to Wreck Gar, but still he leaned toward keeping Roller from Orion. Perhaps in time he would have changed his mind…in fact he knew that at some point he would have acknowledged Roller to be right and allowed him access, but the lights cutting over the hill and the sounds of others driving toward them made it all moot. In seconds a dozen vehicles rounded over the top of the last hill and headed toward them, led by a familiar red and blue form. The vehicle continued toward them until they all stopped about thirty yards out, holding their position in vehicular modes for a few moments before the red and blue freight hauler transformed into Orion Pax and the Junkions accompanying him transformed to robot mode as well. Orion took a few steps toward them, glaring intently at his adoptive brother. The silent stare continued for over a minute before Orion finally spoke. “I thought the planet was smelling worse than usual.”


    Roller kept his optics locked on Orion’s, his face as impassive as it had been, but he took a step in Orion’s direction. “You probably want to know what’s been going on since you’ve been gone. The main thing is that about fourteen years ago everything just got…better. It’s like a new golden age. Not sure what triggered the change, but everyone’s been so much happier the last fourteen years.”


    Orion, equally impassive, maintained his stare and took a few steps forward as well. “How many crates did you need to stack on the pilot’s seat to fly that thing?”


    “Just two.” Roller replied in a deadpan manner. “Did you know that I get thank you cards from the Autobots every year on the anniversary of your disappearance.”


    “I would expect no less from them.” Orion replied, barely suppressing a grin. “A-Three and I used to go over your tests and laugh for hours at your answers. It’s a good think you’re highborn.”


    “You know Torenia had a ceremony where she burned all your stuff?” Roller replied, the slow steps bringing the two closer.


    “Don’t remember having that much stuff to burn.” Orion answered.


    “She went to great effort and expense to find stuff you used to own, or even just touched, just so that she could burn it.” Roller stated, still stone-faced.


    Orion however finally broke and chuckled, and the two immediately closed the gap between them and embraced. “I missed you brother.”


    “Missed you too, O.” Roller stated.


    They finally released one another and Orion turned his optics up to the Stellar Spear. “Olnius is going to eject you from the House once he finds out you boosted this.”


    “I’m sure he would were he Emir.” Roller replied.


    “He wasn’t chosen?” Orion asked in surprise. “I just assumed he would be chosen.”


    “He was shortly after you…left.” Roller answered. “But we had another election recently and he lost.”


    “And the new Emir is OK with you taking House Pax spacecraft out on joyrides?” Orion asked skeptically. “I highly doubt that.”


    “I swear it’s true, he’s totally OK with it.” Roller answered with a shrug. “Hold on, I’ll double check with him.” Roller stepped back and called out into the air. “Hey, Emir Pax, you’re OK with me having taken the Stellar Spear, right?” He paused a moment. “Yup, no problem Roller, enjoy the ride.”


    Orion stared at him in disbelief. “Get the slag out of here! They picked you?”


    “Yup.”


    “Really?”


    Now Roller displayed an almost genuine look of hurt. “You don’t think I could be Emir?”


    “I knew you’d be Emir at some point, just not for another twenty years or so.” Orion replied. “You, we’re, barely old enough to sip engex…legally anyway.” He looked at Roller as the smaller bot shrugged. “Congratulations brother.” Orion then nodded back to the ship. “So, my Emir, to what do we owe the visit?”


    “Primus, don’t call me that.” Roller grumbled before answering him. “I’m here to take you home.”


    “What’s changed?” Orion asked intently.


    Roller smiled. “Sentinel Honorum is dead.” His smiled broadened. “Great news, huh?”


    Orion was stunned by the news, and seemed to drift into his thoughts a bit. “It…it…” He turned and gave an almost scolding look at Roller. “I’m sorry my brother, while this removes a threat to me and likely to you as well, I cannot take joy in the death of another, not even an enemy.”


    Roller looked at him in surprise, then a sour look came over him. “Fine, then take joy in the fact that a terrible leader is no longer abusing his tremendous power, take joy in the fact that life without him will be better for most of the population of an entire planet, including people that mean a great deal to you, and take joy in knowing that you can return home to see those people. Can you take joy in those things, all of which are facilitated by the death of our enemy, you sanctimonious shitbag?”


    Orion looked him over appraisingly and shrugged. “Yeah, I guess I can do that.”


    “Asshat.” Roller grumbled.


    “Tell him, Lor…Emir Pax!” Wreck Gar growled, having watched all that transpired and knowing that he and Junk were losing a dear friend. “Tell him what awaits him on Cybertron!”


    Roller stared at Wreck Gar almost angrily. “Roller?” Orion’s questioning voice directing his gaze back toward his brother.


    Roller looked down and nodded. “All is not well on Cybertron. Despite Sentinel Honorum’s death, it is less safe for you than it ever was. Less safe for any of us.”


    “Tell me.”


    “Warriors from the underground fighting circuit have been organizing for years. The terrorist acts blamed on the Autobots have been their work all along, and they just now revealed themselves and started attacking the high houses, trying to kill all highborn and royals.”


    “Megatron!” Orion growled.


    “Who?” Roller asked, clearly not familiar with the name.


    “Gladiatorial champion, and as of fourteen years ago the leader of an underground group of fighters intent on upending the world. I’m assuming his group is one in the same as this group that has recently attacked.” Orion explained. “Lugnut was with him.”


    “Yep.” Roller answered. “Can’t say anything about this Megatron, but Lugnut is definitely one of them. They’re all branded with the face of the Warrior, much like your Autobot buddies have the Common Man. But that’s really not the big thing.”


    “There’s a greater danger than this?” Orion asked in disbelief.


    “Aye brother,” Roller replied, “the Tartarun Gates have fallen. Sparkeaters walk the land again. I barely launched before they overran Tyger Pax.” Roller noted Orion’s optics and mouth opening wide “No, I was the last one to leave. All other members of our House are safe, brother.”


    “You cannot return to such a situation!” Wreck Gar stated as he approached the two of them. “You cannot make a difference in such turmoil, against so many enemies!”


    Orion looked to Wreck Gar. “I believe I made a difference here.”


    “No question my friend, you were the most impactful presence of our war.” Wreck Gar stated as eloquently as he could. “But you were the most powerful warrior on the battlefield here. Against sparkeaters, you’re nothing. Nothing but another meal to strengthen them.”


    “Orion Pax is far more than just muscle!” Roller snapped. “You didn’t make him a low Gar because he can lift a lot! You’re not planning on making him Gar because he can take a punch! He’s brilliant, and fearless, and charismatic, and inspiring, and a born leader!” He squared up across from Wreck Gar. “Tell me I’m wrong! Tell me he’s not the greatest natural leader you’ve ever seen!”


    “Aye, he is!” Wreck Gar snapped. “And I will not see such a Cybertronian lost to a sinking ship, one filled with traitorous bastards who look down on him for his low birth.”


    “The ship is still afloat as of now, and I truly believe he can keep it that way.” Roller snapped back. “And most of those on this ship are as low born as he is, but look up to him as a hero…if not now, they soon will. Or do you think that they won’t?”


    “Corpses can’t call another corpse hero!” Wreck Gar retorted.


    “There is hope!” Roller snarled, then turned to Orion. “Cybertron needs you, brother.”


    “We need you, Orion.” Wreck Gar pleaded. “Look at what you’ve done for us. The solar harvester alone will change so much for our planet.”


    “The sparkeaters are amassing in our home.” Roller stated. “They will soon be marching south and spreading out over the planet. There is no negotiating with them, there is nothing we can offer them other than our sparks. I’m going back to fight them. I’m probably going to die in the attempt, as will Torenia, Ironhide, Inferno, your Autobot friends…and Elita.”


    Wreck Gar sagged. With those words he knew the fight was lost. Orion looked to Wreck Gar, and made to say something, but Wreck Gar beat him to it. “Go my friend. Save them, save them all.” Wreck Gar paused as he thought of something. He turned to Roller. “I can promise nothing, but we have space-faring craft here, believe it or not, and…well, just don’t be surprised if you receive a transmission with an offer of help.”


    “My Gar, you cannot make such an offer!” Orion protested. “The Junkions are too thinned out, you cannot sacrifice any more, especially for a planet that has done so many wrongs to you and your people.”


    “I am still the Gar of Junk, my friend, and if my people are willing to fight for Cybertron, we will fight for Cybertron.” Wreck Gar replied. “We will fight for your home, as you fought for ours.”


    Wreck Gar felt and hand grip his should and squeeze lightly, and looked down to Roller smiling up at him. “I see why Orion holds you in such high regard, Gar of Junk. Know that if we survive this, The Torus Heights will always be your ally.” Roller then turned to Orion. “So…shall we?” He asked, motioning his head to the spacecraft behind him.


    “Lead the way, Emir Pax.”
     
  5. Blam320

    Blam320 Assembly Inventor

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    Brilliant work, as usual! Infinitely better than 99% of the garbage heap that's in Fanfiction.net.
     
  6. omegamagnus

    omegamagnus Well-Known Member

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    believe me or not, some of them are nice, even funny sometimes.....
     
  7. peteynorth

    peteynorth TFW2005 Supporter

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    Shockwave



    Hun-Grrr and his soldiers had almost done an excellent job, members of House Onyx as well as their loyal servants and soldiers lay dead throughout the Draconyx Lair. The job would easily have qualified as excellent were there one more corpse somewhere in the vast estate built into the volcanic mountain, but the primary target, the one Onyx they truly could not afford to let get away, had gotten away. Emir Ogrus Onyx was nowhere to be found. Spies had observed him to be present in the Lair just prior to the assault, but by the time the Decepticons had penetrated the inner sections of the fortress, all trace of the emir had vanished. Hun-Grr’s beasts were not up to the task of tracking down their emir, so it fell to Shockwave to succeed where they failed.


    Shockwave looked over the battle-pocked throne room, interested not in the carnage filling it, but in any indication as to where Ogrus could be. He transformed into a huge purple cannon and began emitting various forms of radiation, some of which bounced back as they penetrated different depths of the metal and stone behind the walls. The results came back with several secret chambers, but none housing anything beyond treasure and weapons, and none appearing to continue on to anywhere else. Of course, there was much more to the Draxonyx Lair than this throne room. Shockwave, in cannon mode, used various vents to emit radiation that propelled him off the ground, across the vast room, and up to and out of a large window, the ornate semi-transparent metal that used to cover the opening blown out during the earlier battle.


    Shockwave continued into the air, turned and directed his large hexagonal-shaped barrel down toward the mountain housing the estate. Once again he emitted his waves of various forms of radiation, as broad a wave as he could to cover as much of the structure as possible, narrowing his search as readings came back with intriguing results. There were several possibilities, but one stood out. A series of secret rooms in the lowest levels of the mountain fortress appeared to lead to a series of secret tunnels that stretched for miles away from the Lair, under and around the mountain to the next peak of the Nagaxas Range that ran through southwestern Nyon. The subterranean tunnel continued on beyond another peak before seeming to come to an end underneath the third mountain stretching away Wyvern Peak, which the Draconyx Lair was built into. Shockwave knew this mountain covering wherever the tunnel led to be called the Wruen, a shorter but long stretch of a peak. The purple Harmonexian determined that the tunnel reached its end at it connected with a moderately sized chamber underneath the Wruen, and targeted the portion of the tunnel just short of the mountain’s start. A powerful blast shot forth from his barrel and cut through the metal, rock and dirt of the planet’s surface, boring deep through the ground until it cut into and through the tunnel. The expenditure of energy would have drained him to the point of stasis lock even before his blast reaching the tunnel were it not for the fusion reactor in his torso. As it was within his body, he had chosen the safest but also one of the most potent of fissionable power sources, a chemical element known in the north as Primordium, named for their sole god Primus, and in the south as Amunium, for Amunus, the Light-Giver and Life-Giver of the Guiding Hand. Shockwave cared nothing for religious nonsense, but the radioactive actinide metal was tremendously valuable and reasonably abundant, and with it he was capable of achieving feats considered to be impossible for the Cybertronian physiology.


    Still in cannon mode Shockwave descended toward the ground and transformed to robot mode as he entered the hole he had created. Moments later he was within the tunnel his scans had revealed to him, the section he was in was dark save for the sparks shooting out from the battered overhead lighting his blast had destroyed. He proceeded onward, through the dark section, into the next section of tunnel where the lights were functioning. He continued on foot for another mile before nearing what he knew to be the end of the tunnel. As expected, he came upon a dozen guard standing for the door of the chamber at the end. One guard stepped forward, a golden and red brute that appeared to transform into some sort of bear-like creatue. “You…you traveled here alone?” He turned to his eleven companions and burst out laughing. “Let Full Tilt know that the Emir is in no danger.” The other guards chuckled as well.


    For the slightest sliver of a moment Shockwave considered replying with some sort of sarcastic remark, but the consideration was shelved and he simply advanced and began firing on them with his wrist cannon. The gold and red bear-bot took a shot to his throat, the blast cutting all the way through and leaving him to drop to the floor heavily. With medical attention he could easily survive, but for the moment he was no longer an impediment to Shockwave so the purple Decepticon continued through the barrage of weapons’ fire and proceeded to target and destroy his comrades. As Shockwave got to within one hundred feet of the door automated defenses sprang to life, whirring to target him. He immediately transformed to cannon mode and blasted the first cannon mounted over and to the right of the door. He shot himself forward and to the right ten feet to avoid the shot from the second cannon, targeted that one and destroyed it as it turned to follow him.


    The surviving guards were frantically firing on him, but he had spent years honing his armor and enhancing his martial capabilities, and their standard weapons were doing little more than scratching him and leaving small dents. He transformed back to robot mode and spend the next two minutes eliminating the insufficient defense. As the last guard fell to the ground dead, Shockwave transformed again and blasted the door to pieces, revealing a dimly lit chamber beyond. His scans had revealed that there were no more passages; this room was the end of the line, and even before the bear-guard’s arrogantly-stupid comment Shockwave knew that Ogrus Onyx was within. Shockwave stepped into the chamber and looked around, taking in the vast array of medical equipment, but settling his gaze on the two large robots standing next to a third robot laid out on a medical slab. The third robot appeared ancient, and looked like he had recently passed on. Shockwave looked to the large robot with dragon pieces hanging off of him. “Hello again, Emir Onyx.” He then nodded his lone optic at the downed form. “I assume that this is Triptych, the brain-template.”


    “You traitorous bastard!” Ogrus growled in a low grumble. “You attack high houses, your own house, in the name of that slagging Macht miner?”


    “Yes.” Shockwave replied. “I follow Megatron on Tarn, I am one of his Decepticons, and yes, I am a part of the destruction of the high houses, even House Torrent.” The purple Decepticon turned to the other large purple robot in the room. “Who are you?”


    “I am Full Tilt, Captain of House Onyx Guard and defender of its assets.” The robot replied, though there was something in his voice that made it seem as though he was not overly dedicated to his function. Shockwave then took in his features.


    “You possess features indicating a ground-racer alternate mode.” The Decepticon observed. “I would expect a Nyonian, much less a captain of House Onyx’s Guard to bear a bestial alternate mode.”


    Full Tilt turned to Ogrus, regarded him for a long moment, and then turned back to Shockwave to deliver his answer. “You are right, I chose not to cut my shell mode into a beast, as is the custom here. I was born in Simfur, I was large and strong so I came into the service of House Onyx, I was capable so I got promoted, but I never loved House Onyx.” He looked harshly at Ogrus. “I was a meager servant; a slave truly, despite receiving pay. Yes, I received pay, but a servant has the right to leave, a servant has the right to some determination of his fate; I had neither. But fortunately I found a task I could enjoy, I found a master I did not abhor serving.” Full Tilt stepped away from Ogrus and stood between Shockwave and the inert Triptych. “Do what you wish to Ogrus Onyx, I will not do anything to stop you, but I will die before I allow you to desecrate the frame of Triptych.”


    “Traitors!” Ogrus roared. “This truly is an age of treachery, and age of deceptions!”


    “Full Tilt,” Shockwave called out after regarding Full Tilt’s words for several moments, completely ignoring Ogrus, “I accept your terms, though I need for you to recognize the difference between study and desecration.”


    “You refer to the plan to have him live on in the body of the dragon?” Full Tilt asked.


    “A simplification of the details, but yes,” Shockwave explained, “that is the plan that I would need to study his frame for. Specifically his brain.”


    “He will live on?” Full Tilt pressed for details.


    “In a sense.” Shockwave replied, looking closely at the graying frame on the table. “He is dead, his spark has passed on, I cannot change that. But I plan to imprint his memories and personality onto an enlarged brain altered to mimic his.” Shockwave turned his attention back to Full Tilt. “But it will not be exact. I intend to keep all of his memories, but alterations must be made to diminish his loyalty to House Onyx.” Full Tilt stared at Shockwave for nearly a minute before nodding and stepping to the side.


    Ogrus stared hatefully at the guard, and then at Shockwave, before he transformed into a four-legged dragon with a pair of arms, a pair of wings, and a long neck carrying a massive saurian head. The beast charged forward toward Shockwave, his jaws lined with dozens of razor-sharp teeth, all pointed at the purple intruder. Shockwave seemed unimpressed, simply staring at the oncoming beast before finally transforming and letting loose with a single shot. The energized blast darted into the dragon’s mouth and blew the head to pieces. The beast slumped to the ground, and began a very painful transformation back to robot mode, a robot mode without lower legs, legs that had been made up of the dragon’s head and upper neck. Shockwave transformed as well and walked over to stand above the downed emir. Ogrus looked up, ready to plead or rage or negotiate or whatever. It didn’t matter, Shockwave had no interest in whatever Ogrus Onyx had to say, he simply leveled his wrist cannon to the emir’s forehead and blasted shards of his brain module out the back of his cranial shell. Ogrus’s upper body, held up by his hands, collapsed to the floor.


    Shockwave looked over to Full Tilt and noted the guard staring down at the dead robot, a sense of subdued elation seemed to be coming off of him. Full Tilt, still staring at the dead emir, spoke. “Tell me of these Decepticons.”



    ---



    Delta Magnus



    Decepticons, what a stupid name. A reference to some grand deception they played on Cybertron’s highborn masters, or so the claim went. A grand deception consisting of their bombings and other terrorist attacks over the last fourteen years done in the Autobots’ name that kept highborn and commoner alike focused on the previously annoying but harmless ragtag group while those truly responsible were able to grow powerful under everyone’s noses, culminating in the attacks on the high houses, wiping many of them out of existence, and their execution of the Prime. The execution of Sentinel Prime had been broadcast, as was an almost nonstop barrage of gloating and threats. Of course, these Decepticons had nothing to gloat over to House Magnus; they had done their worst and been found wanting, very wanting. Yes, Magnus’s had perished, as had many of their loyal subjects, but when all was said and done, the number of corpses bearing the Face of the Warrior outnumbered those that did not, and House Magnus remained standing and the unquestioned masters of the Tagan Heights.


    Delta had lead the defense personally; Emir or not, he was not one to relay orders from the safety of a secured chamber. He was out in the thick of it, taking shots, killing the invaders, and providing an image of power and inspiration for his clan and their loyal retainers to rally behind. And ever at his side was his younger kinsman Ultra, providing almost as great an example of courage and power as he had. Delta looked over the aisle-way of the luxury transport at Ultra Magnus, sitting directly across from him still sporting scorches, lacerations and other battle damage from the defense of Citadel Magnus. Delta had repaired and cleaned himself prior to the trip, Ultra felt it unnecessary to do the same. They had differed on so much over the last fifteen years, ever since the Mistress of Flame, who was seated to Delta’s right, had sought him out and informed him he was a prophesy come to life, ‘The Devourer of The Devourer’. He had dismissed it, at least initially, but deep down he knew there was something to it. Ever since his birth he had been special. He was unquestionably brilliant, easily within the top five percentile of their species in terms of raw innate learning ability, retention and creative problem solving, he was exceptionally durable even prior to his incomparable armor being grafted to him, and was the strongest Cybertronian that anyone around him had ever known. He was completely unique on the Hydrax Plateau, and over the years he found no one else remotely like him in all the Tagan Heights. He had heard legends of others possessing super-Cybertronian abilities like him, terms like ‘point one percenter’ and talk of green sparks flowed, but his protoform had emerged from the hotspot with a completely encased spark, so he knew not the color of his life-force, and he had met many thousands of other Cybertronians without meeting another like him, so the nomenclature of the point one percenter term was not in statistical accuracy.


    He was completely alone, until Ultra emerged from the pool. Ultra was as big, his frame accepted the vaunted Magnus Armor just as Delta’s had, and he was unquestionably powerful. Far more powerful than the still young Delta had ever encountered, and strong enough to offer Delta a challenge in the training range…but he fell short of Delta’s raw strength. He had heard the visiting polyhistor of House Ambus mutter the term ‘load-bearer’ when observing Ultra overpowering other challengers in the sparring ring but falling short against Delta. Ultra was brilliant as well, but again, not quite at the same level as Delta. But the slight inferiority of Ultra compared to himself mattered not to the young Delta, Primus had given him a kinsman, a brother, a comrade that could finally push him, who could finally keep up with him. They became inseparable, brothers in every sense, each other’s most cherished and trusted friend.


    House Magnus was not nearly the isolationists that the Maximus’s were, but at the same time the Tagan Heights tended to keep to itself for the most part. Delta vowed to change that. They would become a part of the world, he would become known to all, his destiny was more than could be contained within a single emirate. He would be a great man, perhaps the greatest. There were many in House Magnus who knew Zeta Prime, and all said that Delta would in time be far more worthy of the title than the noble but unexceptional member of House Decimus. The only thing holding Delta Magnus back was his youth and inexperience, and that was fading with each quickly passing year. But the first true opportunity to claim what was truly his presented itself before enough years and inexperience had fallen away. He was still too young to be seen as a serious leader by anyone outside of the Tagan Heights when Zeta Prime was murdered. The ‘obvious’ choice to all but those outside of Magnus lands was the imposing and charismatic Sentinel Honorum, and because of Delta’s youth and large-scale anonymity, Sentinel was swiftly ushered into the role of Prime.


    It was during the funeral for Zeta Prime that Delta Magnus first met the movers and shakers of Cybertron outside his own emirate, and first came into contact with the Mistress of Flame. It was she that removed the distortive veil from his optics and revealed the true expectations their creator Primus has for his creations, as well as Primus’s expectations for Delta Prime in particular. Though it was a shrouded revelation, the prophecies were ambiguous to say the least, as they always are, but she was without doubt that the prophecies were about him. His tremendous natural gifts and advantageous birth were given him for a reason. He was to be the savior for his people, Primus’s champion. In what capacity, and what the challenges that faced him were unknown, but positioning himself in the most powerful, influential post seemed the best course of action. In a matter of months, Delta had easily gotten elected as Emir of the Tagan heights. The Mistress of Flame merely regarded it as a good start, and Ultra, despite his doubts regarding the Mistress of Flame, remained his most loyal and devoted comrade, and agreed that in time Delta Magnus should be Prime; though his convictions stemmed from more tangible and measurable criteria than those used by the Mistress.


    But there were times when Ultra’s lack of faith pushed even Delta’s patience with his younger sibling. His choice to present himself to the rest of the beleaguered planet in an unwashed, unrepaired, and battle-scarred frame was more an annoyance than a true point of contention for Delta Magnus, but the Mistress of Flame did nothing to hide her disapproving glare of him as she looked his scorched frame up and down. “You are a representative of not just your emirate, but of your Emir himself, The Devourer of the Devourer, The Eroder of Chaos, The Prime of Salvation. You should have taken time to repair and clean yourself, Ultra Magnus.”


    Ultra displayed a disinterested grin as he replied. “There were injured to attend to, defenses to rebuild, dead to remove from the streets, and countless other tasks of far greater value than my appearance to attend to, my lady. And frankly, showing up as pretty as I can be while the rest of the planet is suffering may be seen as…well, I’d rather be seen as one of them than as above them, at least right now.”


    “Then I suppose it’s good that Primus chose your kinsman, and not you.” The Mistress replied disdainfully.


    “Enough, the both of you!” Delta spat. “Ultra’s appearance truly is a minor thing. And Ultra, repairs may have required more time than we had, but a quick wash would have done our cause good.”


    “I disagree.” Ultra Magnus once again decided to run counter to the Mistress, seemingly just to run counter to the Mistress. “We need to show the other houses that we were bloodied too, but that despite sacrifices, a consistent defense can achieve victory. We need to inspire them.”


    “Yes, but to inspire them we should present ourselves as leaders, and leaders should look the part.” Delta replied.


    Ultra smiled. “You’re the leader, I’m just a soldier, and I think I look that part adequately.”


    Delta wanted to smile, he truly did miss the playful banter he often shared with Ultra prior to him having to take on the role destiny had in store for him, but the Emir of the Torus Heights and the rightful Prime had to be above the silly and inappropriate retorts of his kinsman. He had to be Primal in every sense; given the state of the planet, there was a strong possibility that he’d be named Prime by day’s end. The planet needed a Prime now more than ever, and there was now nothing to hold him back from taking his rightful place. Discarding the playful rapport with Ultra Magnus was a small price to pay, so he turned toward the cockpit, looked through the open door and through the windshield at the approaching Petrex.


    The capital city of Ankmor and seat of House Decimus had been selected as a staging point for government forces primarily due to its location, the selection done by the outlawed Autobots, but their innocence in regards to the murderous terrorist acts was now nearly universally assumed, their assistance was needed, and their reasoning for choosing the staging point was sound. It was roughly one thousand miles directly south of where the mid-point between Polarus and Iacon lay, and fifteen million years ago, as now, Iacon was the largest and most influential city on the planet, and the likely target of the sparkeater army. Petrex presented an ideal location for the government to consolidate its military assets and prepare them to push north, and it also was a good location to assemble a large percentage of the northern civilians and move them south in an organized manner. And a strong, foreign military presence was necessary in Ankmor; of the seven truly northern royal houses, three had emerged from the Decepticon attacks strong and three had been nearly wiped out. House Decimus was one that had been nearly wiped out; according to the latest intel, only Mirage Decimus had survived, though Senator Rabattus Decimus remained unaccounted for, and was rumored to be a Decepticon sympathizer, if not a full out member of the group. Houses Solus and Ambus had not fared any better, for Ambus only Dominus and Minimus appeared to have survived, their survival being owed to them being in another emirate at the time of the Decepticon attack, and for House Solus, only Elita had survived, being named Elita One, Emir of Axiom by the dying Exponum. Her survival, at least according to reports, was far more interesting, a story involving her fighting off the Decepticon attack single-handedly by donning the legendary Apex Armor her ancestor had forged during the first sparkeater invasion. Aid had been sent to both Centurion and Hyperious, and the expectation was that the surviving Ambus’s and Elita One would join them in Petrex at some point. House Honorum had sustained many casualties, but nearly half their house still survived. House Pax had been the beneficiaries of fortuitous timing from what had been reported to Delta Magnus, Tyger Pax had been evacuated at word of the sparkeaters breaking free shortly before Sentinel Prime arrived to attack them in force. Prime had been convinced of the sparkeaters, and it was while he and his forces were there that the Decepticons arrived to attack. At seeing the superior government forces the leader of the group of Decepticons, Lugnut Boltax, claimed to have been there to support House Pax and then left before word of the uprisings spread. Apart from Emir Roller Pax, who foolishly decided to remain at Tyger Pax, all other Pax’s were unharmed and safely south. The remaining northern royal houses, Magnus and Maximus, repelled the attacks against them, House Magnus suffered the loss of a handful of their members and many subjects, as had House Maximus according to reports, but overall they remained firmly in control of their emirates.


    House Torrent was considered a northern house, but the emirate of Praxus straddled the equator and over the ages they had come to be seen as ‘too southern’ for other northern houses but had never been accepted by the southern houses. But even if they’d been regarded as one of the north’s own prior to the Decepticon attack, all Waves were confirmed dead with the exception of Soundwave and Shockwave. Soundwave, the traitorous bastard, was a confirmed Decepticon, and Shockwave, well, enough questions had been raised regarding him to make him suspect at the very least. The surviving descendants of Knight Fluctus could burn in the Pit for all anyone of worth cared.


    The shuttle settled down and Emir Delta Magnus stood without a word and proceeded to the opening door, starting down the ramp as it was still descending toward the ground. He heard the heavy but controlled footsteps of Ultra following him, and the lighter and even more controlled footfalls of the Mistress of Flame taking up the rear. Ahead, through the sea of Cybertronians gathered on the outskirts of the city, he saw what had to be the command center with a large gathering of highborn standing just outside the main entrace, surrounded by their various guards, all seemingly focused on one individual in the center of the group, but as Delta Magnus got closer the members of the group would notice him and then regard him with great interest, until all had stepped to face him, moving enough to reveal Torenia Pax and Emir Accumenus Honorum in the center of the gathering, a large case cradled in Accumenus’s arms. Delta delivered a sad and respectful nod to both before addressing the Emir of Nova Cronum. “Emir Honorum, you have the deepest sympathies of House Magnus, and all of the Tagan Heights at the tragedy that has befallen your house, and the loss of your many kinsmen and kinswomen, including Sentinel Prime.” He looked to both Torenia and Accumenus. “It does my spark good to see you two together, the tensions between your houses have been a point of great sadness and concern for all of Cybertron. We must all come together in this time of great tragedy, great uncertainty, and extreme peril if we are to survive as a people.”


    “Aye, my friend.” Accumenus replied with a sad smile to both Torenia and Delta before stepping to stand directly in front of the Emir of the Tagan Heights. “Despite your youth, you have proven to be an inspiration to us all. House Magnus was attacked like the rest of us, but accounts of your valor and leadership winning the day are being trumpeted all throughout the north.” A wave of sadness washed over him, and he started to choke up. “When accounts of the sparkeaters’ return reached House Honorum I set out to retrieve this,” he gently raised the case in his hands, “our most precious artifact. I had intended to give this to Sentinel Prime, but alas that will never be.” Emir Honorum started walking toward Emir Magnus. “You are not of House Honorum, but I can think of none more worthy to honor our house by wielding this, the greatest weapon of the Knights of Cybertron.” Stopping before the much larger Delta Magnus, Accumenus Honorum opened the large case to reveal a glorious broadsword housed within. “The Star Saber, forged by Solus to kill the sparkeaters, and wielded by Honorius against their king as he and his fellow Knights drove them down into the steaming depths. You, Emir Delta Magnus, are the one to bear this weapon and lead us to victory over the ultimate evil, as our ancestors did so very long ago.”


    “Aye!” A few voices, Ultra Magnus’s mixed in, rang out, and followed by all around them “Aye!” Another random voice called out. “Delta Prime!” The anonymous call caused silence and everyone to look around at one another, but was soon followed by more cries repeating it. “Delta Prime! Delta Prime! Prime! Prime!”


    The calls attracted the optics of the crowds surrounding the group and the command center, and even caused many to walk out of the command center to see to the commotion, but they were silenced as Delta Magnus raised his hands. “My friends, I appreciate the trust and support, but now is not the time.” He announced with what appeared to be genuine humility and surprise.


    “No, now is not the time!” A gravelly voice called out from behind a large wall of citizens, who parted to reveal a large group walking toward them, and Delta Magnus tensed as he caught sight of the speaker leading this approaching group. “The time for Primes is over!”


    Delta Magnus gripped the sword tightly and raised it to a defensive position as the rocket launchers mounted to his shoulders whirred upright to target the oncoming horde, the sound of the whirring echoed by the identical sound coming from the same weapons mounted to Ultra Magnus’s shoulders. Delta glanced around him, most of the other highborn were stunned by their terror, only their guards and Ultra seemed ready to meet the threat head on. Delta stepped forward. “Megatron, I was hoping it wouldn’t be long before I could deliver justice!”


    “Justice its first step when I ended Sentinel Prime’s life!” Megatron called back, now one hundred yards away. “Or are you going to tell me that he was a good leader that did not deserve the fate that awaited him?”


    Delta shook his head and lied. “He most definitely did not! Mistakes were made, but he WAS a good leader. He was new to the pressures of being Prime, and in time could have become great!”


    “Enough with your false humility and attempts to look magnanimous!” Megatron called back, looking to his Decepticons to the sides and behind him and nodding for them to stop and appear non-threatening. He then turned back to Delta Magnus. “You opposed what he stood for and you were jealous of his position. Had you been born even a pulse sooner you’d likely have been in a position to challenge him to be Prime, but alas, you were born in the birthquake that spawned me, and were too young, unknown, inexperienced to effectively challenge him.”


    “And fifteen years later so much has changed?” Delta barked back.


    “It’s been a tumultuous fifteen years.” Megatron grinned, noting the military forces lining up against his own but doing nothing to stop them from taking position in front of his Decepticons. “There was nothing to test your mettle against until the Autobot terrorist acts and Sentinel Prime’s pathetically childish and ineffective railing against them.”


    “You mean your terrorist acts, don’t you?” Delta snarled back. “One of the few mistakes Sentinel Prime made was overlooking the evidence that clearly pointed not at the Autobots, but at another underground group, one linked to the illegal southern fighting circuit, one unknown to us until you broadcasted Prime’s murder! His inability to move past the humiliation suffered at the hands of the Autobot-aligned Orion Pax kept him from seeing the truth! But it’s all so clear now! In the wake of the monsters of our past resurfacing, you choose to attack us in force! Well, not all of us were easy prey! House Magnus still stands, the biggest impact of your attack on us is that our estate is covered in Decepticon corpses!” He grinned at the former miner from Tarn. “I’d order you to go and clean them off my lands, but instead it’s time to administer your due punishment!”


    Megatron quietly chuckled at the threat and raised his hands to calm the enraged emir down. “Delta Magnus, not that it holds any weight with you, but I give you my word that I was unaware of the events in The Torus Heights when I ordered my attacks, and when I did hear about the sparkeaters, I ordered my warriors to withdraw.”


    “We’d already finished withdrawing your Decepticons from the Hydrax Plateau for you by that point.” Ultra Magnus called out with a grin on his battle scorched face.


    Megatron nodded at the other large Magnus. “Yes, Houses Magnus and Maximus acquitted themselves well. But I’m not stupid enough to have thought every battle would end in success, or that I wouldn’t suffer casualties.” Megatron then turned to take in the forces that stood to either side and behind him, and then looked back at Delta. “Emir Magnus, you boast that you and your forces will overwhelm mine today. I doubt that you could accomplish that, in fact, I’m certain my Decepticons would end the lives of every last one of you today, but for the sake of argument, let’s say that you do attack my Decepticons, and that you do win, wiping us all out and achieving what you consider to be justice. What price do you think that you would pay for such a victory?”


    “Whatever the cost, it would be worth it!” Delta Magnus growled back.


    “Would it?” Megatron asked genuinely. “You’re assembling your forces here to prepare to take the fight to the sparkeaters. If the legends are even remotely accurate, then each sparkeater will be worth at least ten of your soldiers. At best, at BEST you would retain half your forces after combatting me. Those forces you have left would prove to be nothing but food for the sparkeaters. Remember, while you despise me, and while you do not trust me, the fact is that upon hearing of the sparkeater threat I ended hostilities with the highborn oppressors. Unlike you, I recognized the greater evil and set aside my fight with the lesser enemies, hoping that we could join and fight the common foe.” Megatron crossed his arms, clearly displaying the shining black fusion cannon mounted to his right forearm. “So I ask again, given that you have the option of facing the sparkeaters with twice your current army, or at best facing them with half your current army, would the cost of attacking the Decepticons truly be worth it?”


    Delta Magnus grinned malevolently as he tightened his grip on the Star Saber and took a step toward the Decepticon Commander, but before he could advance further a white and black robot came running out of the command center. “Emir Honorum…” he paused at seeing Delta Magnus and the stand-off with the Decepticons, Magnus chanced a glance and immediately recognized the robot.


    “Prowl?”


    “Yeah, I thought my joining up with the Autobots was pretty much a known thing by now.” Prowl replied, quickly running forward to position himself in front of Delta Magnus, blocking his path to Megatron.


    “Yes, it is,” Delta Magnus replied, “but it’s still surprising to see you here.”


    “Yeah, well, if you remember, we’re the ones that sent out the invitations to this party.” He answered. “And in regards to Megatron and the Decepticons…”


    “Tell me you didn’t form an alliance with them!” Delta roared. “The recent surge in goodwill toward the Autobots will immediately vanish if that’s the case!”


    “Not an alliance, a truce.” Prowl replied. “Though given the odds against us, an alliance is definitely worth considering.”


    “What is it that you want, Prowl?” Emir Honorum grumbled the interruption impatiently.


    “Huh? Oh, right.” Prowl replied to the Emir of Nova Cronum. “My Emir, we’ve just started receiving a feed from Tyger Pax.”


    “Emir Roller?” Torenia gasped hopefully.


    “I fear not, my lady.” The former planetary security commander replied. “It depicts sparkeaters walking over the compound, and attempting to string a giant, limbless robot to the Spear of Paxus. Lord Commander Kup has confirmed that the giant robot is Omega Supreme, still alive, but severely wounded.”


    “They’ve overwhelmed and tortured the Guardian of the Gates.” Megatron called out. “They’re toying with him and boastfully broadcasting their victory to shatter our nerve. So Emir Magnus, I ask yet again, twice your army, or half?”


    Delta Magnus glared at Megatron for a moment, then shifted his glare to Prowl, who only nodded, prompting Delta to glare back at Megatron and eye him for several moments before grumbling. “Stay your ground Megatron! We will never trust you, but for now…for now we will hold off on killing you and your vile Decepticons.” He then took another threatening step toward the former gladiator. “You will come no closer to our encampment though! Confine yourself to the outskirts, or this tentative peace will end violently.”


    Megatron smirked. “Wise choice. We’re here to help.”



    ---



    Roller Pax



    “Much better.” Roller muttered to Orion as the red and blue robot returned to the cockpit and took the seat next to him. “You’ll thank me for telling you to hit the chemical wash, we’ll be over The Torus Heights in moments, and probably with the rest of House Pax a few hours later when we get further south, and you don’t want to make that reunion smelling like you’ve been living on a planet-fill for the last fourteen years.”


    Orion nodded as he looked through the front windshield at the planet of his birth. He had seen orbital views of the world on various screens during his lessons with A-Three, both in person for the first few months of his life and remotely in the months that followed, but this was the first time he had actually seen it from orbit. Roller liked watching the look of awe coming over his brother’s face, though to be fair, the first time he had seen the planet in such a way was as he was leaving it a couple days before. Orion must not have realized the newness for Roller, as his comment seemed to be more to someone who was accustomed to the view before them. “It’s magnificent!” He whispered. “I had come to believe I’d never be here again, but to actually see it…” He trailed off.


    Roller grinned. “A stunned silence from the eloquent Orion Pax? Will wonders never cease?”


    “Our planet is a gift, Brother, we must cherish it and see to it that all have the right to enjoy its gifts.” Orion said as he continued to view the planet in amazement.


    “You truly are a cheese-rod.” Roller muttered. “Seriously, by all means have those thoughts and aspirations, but put them through the dork filter before actually giving them voice.”


    Orion’s face took a grim appearance as he leaned back in his seat. “Tell me again about these terrorist acts and why the world thinks the Autobots are guilty of perpetrating them.”


    Roller shook his head. “The first occurred right after you…left.”


    “Interesting way of putting it.” Orion growled.


    “Yeah, well, due to the timing, you know, right after you interrupted the execution of a bunch of Autobots and me kidnapping you in front of some Autobots, it seemed like there was motive for the Autobots to lash out.” Roller explained. “And, frankly, you guys were the only organization we were aware of that had the network to pull all these coordinated attacks off.”


    “If I had still been on Cybertron I could have made everyone aware of Megatron, his group and his aspirations.” Orion snarled at his brother.


    “Maybe, but maybe not.” Roller replied back defensively. “Sentinel Honorum wanted you dead. Any claims you made would have been declared the lies of a traitor, an Autobot trying to push blame away from himself and his comrades, and unfortunately, until the last few years, nobody would have doubted him. Even Prowl wasn’t believed by anyone for several years, and even now he’s considered a crackpot by most.”


    “What evidence was there to implicate the Autobots?” Orion asked.


    “Faces of the Common Man at every scene.” Roller replied. “And, as I mentioned, there was no other group capable of this on anybody’s radar.”


    “So the belief was that we signed our work, and then immediately made public denials that we were responsible?” Orion grumbled in disbelief.


    “It’s a loosely knit organization of individual cells.” Roller replied. “The populace figured first that it was a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing, and then later they considered it to be attempts at mis-information. And by several months in there were so many killed and wounded, so much of our society disrupted, it didn’t matter, everyone hated the Autobots and would not listen to any talk of exculpatory evidence.” He stared his brother in the optics. “Look, apart from a few seconds of doubt at hearing the first reports a few days after kidnapping you, I never believed they were guilty. But it was years before I could think of any alternative group to blame.”


    “And who was investigating it on the government’s end?” Orion grumbled.


    “Prowl at first, but within a few years he knew it was all bullshit, finally stood up to Prime to tell him as much, and was shitcanned for his honesty.” Roller replied. “There were others that followed suit, but Sentinel finally settled on a High Magistrate, Ekim Gnofin.”


    “Ughn. Of course he did.” Orion grumbled. “The short time I operated in Iacon was enough for me to recognize Gnofin as the amoral opportunist that Prime could trust to look the other way on anything non-incriminating. I can only guess at the mountains of exculpatory evidence that he either locked away or destroyed.”


    “Yeah, he’s a piece of garbage alright.” Roller agreed. “He made claims that the Autobots were attempting to try the case in the media, that once he was selected they wouldn’t want to go up against him, and other nonsense. Eventually some reporters started evaluating the facts of the case, actually grew some bearings, and confronted Gnofin on the facts of the case against the Autobots. He actually covered his audio receptors and yelled that he didn’t want to hear it. But now with Sentinel Prime dead, he’s probably shivering in a corner somewhere.”


    “With the sparkeaters walking the planet again, I fear most Cybertronians are shivering in corners.” Orion added, looking out the windshield and seeing the seemingly endless stretch of land separating Taenarus and Polarus. He looked down and noted the groupings of oddly shaped forms marching south, barely visible from their altitude. “Are those them?”


    “Yeah, freaky, awkward looking suckers, but according to Kup, they’re crazy fast and crazy strong.” Roller muttered as he too looked over the groups their ship zipped over.


    “You know, now that you’re the Emir, you should probably improve upon your vocabulary.” Orion quipped with a grin.


    “I’m not addressing the Senate, jerk, I’m talking to my brother.” Roller replied. “And honestly, crazy is an apt adjective when describing their strength and speed from what I’ve heard.”


    “Scan to see if they’re capable of transmitting communications.” Orion suggested.


    Roller did as requested. “Nope, nothing. Don’t think they have any real tech.”


    “Probably not, but I’m sure we were seen by some of those things, so we needed to be sure they can’t send word to Tyger Pax or any other outpost with weaponry that might be able to down the Stellar Spear.” Orion replied. A light on the control console shown red, and Orion leaned over and pressed several buttons. “This may be my first spaceship, but I’m pretty sure that means something’s being transmitted.”


    Roller quickly looked to the screen and relaxed. “Aye, but it’s transmitting FROM Tyger Pax.” He hit a couple buttons. “Autopilot on, let’s take a gander.” Roller replied before sending the transmission to a small screen between them on the control panel. They immediately recognized the Spear of Paxus, and Roller recognized the form of Omega Supreme, scorched, battered and sans limbs, chained to it. “Shit.”


    “Is that who I think it is?” Orion asked.


    “Yup.” Roller replied.


    “How do you know, have you seen him?” Orion asked skeptically.


    “Yup.” Roller replied, watching the hideous sparkeaters walking around the courtyard he had spent so much of his life in. “Went to him awhile back to enlist his help against Sentinel Prime on your behalf. He felt being at the Gates was more important.”


    “We need to get him out of there.” Orion stated, his tone making it clear that it wasn’t a suggestion.


    “Uh, sure, good idea.” Roller replied sarcastically. “This way they can broadcast the execution the Emir of The Torus Heights and the hero cop of Rodion along with that of the Guardian of the Gates.”


    Orion turned at looked intently at his brother. “We’re not letting monsters murder a Guardian in our home.” Again, it wasn’t a suggestion. “NOT in our home!”


    “Yeah I know!” Roller grumbled. “Do you really think I argue with you expecting to win? You’re right, I know you’re right, and I’d follow you into the Tartarun Pits…even back when these monsters were still in the pits. I just find bitching about it to be cathartic.”


    “Good.” Orion smiled at Roller. “Now, any suggestions you might have on how we can achieve this would be most welcome.”


    “Oh no, this is your slagging endeavor, Orion, you best put that top tenth of one percent intellect to work and figure this out.” He noted the look of confusion on his brother’s face. “I figured your gifted brain module would remember me telling you I read your test scores.”


    Orion shook his head and grumbled. “Remind me to report you to the Emir for that.” The red and blue returning Pax looked forward out the viewport as he thought. “OK, as Emir I’m assuming you still retain control, even remotely, over the computers, security and environmental settings and other facets of Tyger Pax, right?”


    “Yup. You ever want the air conditioning kicked up in your suite, I’m your man.” Roller replied, reaching forward to insert a cord emerging from his wrist into the control panel of the craft to begin remotely accessing Tyger Pax.


    “I’m not complaining, but by no measure could that closet be considered a suite.” Orion replied. “And we’ll worry about the AC some other time. Right now I would like all cameras to transmit everything, not just what the sparkeaters intend to show. Maybe some weakness or intention of theirs could be revealed, and if there does happen to be a straggling civilian somewhere in Tyger Pax, we’ll need to know. Also, have all the guns ready to go online and target the monsters,”


    “Already doing that.” Roller muttered.


    “Yeah, suppose that was obvious.” Orion replied. “I doubt there’s any sort of self-destruct function…”


    “Nope, just for our data, and I already wiped all that clean prior to launch.” Roller explained.


    “Yeah, didn’t think so. But alarms, lights, water jets, chemical washes or anything else that could serve as a distraction, get those prepped.” Orion continued. “And we should see if we can access the armory.”


    “Not much left there.” Roller answered. “When I gave the word to evacuate, I sent most of our weapons out with the other Pax’s and our guards. But I’ve got a lot of weapons in the cargo hold we can use, including a collapsible ion cannon that I had especially made for you.”


    “I do like me a good ion cannon.” Orion smiled.


    “You’ll really like this one.” Roller shot back with a smile. “Erector outdid himself with this thing. Obviously thermal blooming isn’t an issue,”


    “Blooming? Plasma breakdown doesn’t occur with even shitty ion blasters.” Orion interrupted.


    “I did say ‘obviously’, didn’t I?” Roller snarked back, eliciting a grin from his brother. “As I was saying, the toroid rounds are non-blooming, non-deflectable, and travel at nearly five percent the speed of light, packing a seventeen megajoule explosive force and a confined electromagnetic emission that disrupts electronics within a few feet in each direction, provided those electronics weren’t already obliterated by the blast. All in a hand-held…at least for you, weapon that can fold up and fit in a compartment in your back…once we build and install that compartment.”


    “Fantastical,” Orion quipped, “I’ll bring my axe too. Never know when a good melee weapon will come in handy.” In the distance they finally caught sight of Tyger Pax, just northwest of the much larger Polarus beyond it. “We should put down behind the northern outcropping and make our way home by wheel.”


    They made their way to the jagged projection of metal just to the north of Tyger Pax, the closest extensions to Tyger Pax of The Crown, the ice-capped polar mountain range that nearly covered the top of the planet, and after ensuring that there were no spark-based lifeforms more advanced than a cyberfox, put the ship down and began arming themselves. An hour later they were on the outskirts of the city-sized Tyger Pax and transformed to work their way in on foot. It had been over fourteen and a half years since Orion had last stepped foot in Tyger Pax, but he remembered every detail of the dark halls and the dozens of courtyards. The two silently but rapidly made their way to a supply building overlooking the main courtyard, across from the towering Spear of Paxus.


    They carefully peered out a window to see Omega Supreme, still alive but battered to the point where were it not for his size, he wouldn’t be identifiable. Throughout the courtyard were a multitude of different creatures. There were roughly two dozen of what appeared to be standard Cybertronians, very poorly maintained and not appearing to possess any sort of functional shape or equipment molded into their shell modes, scurrying about performing tasks and cowering at the other two ‘species’ that were snarling at them. Next were what appeared to be six sparkeaters, creatures that may have at one time been Cybertronians, but now horrifically altered, snarling and snapping at the slaves and at Omega Supreme, but otherwise leaving them unmolested. And last there were a pair of large beasts, smaller than Omega Supreme but at roughly sixty feet in height towering over the other creatures, completely savage, bestial creatures with long snouts lined with razor sharp teeth like a saurian predator. These were all that were visible in the area around the courtyard and the Spear, but they both knew that other monsters were spread throughout Tyger Pax. At the very least they knew there was someone at least somewhat technically adept in the communications center broadcasting the signal.


    “Can’t explain it,” Roller whispered, “but I feel the urge to transform when I look at those big guys.”


    “Feel it too.” Orion replied. “Might be some innate instinct, maybe these aren’t so much monsters as primordial predators that hunted our distant ancestors, and maybe our shell modes were used for hiding or protection.”


    “You’re such a nerd.”


    Orion ignored the playful insult and took on a look of deep contemplation. “Begin transmitting signals from every camera detecting any sort of motion, and be prepared to slam them with every bit of illumination, chemical spray, water spray and weaponry Tyger has. We’ll observe these guys for an hour, see if there’s anything predictable about them, any weakne…shit.”


    Roller followed Orion’s gaze toward the ground below and noted that something was agitating the sparkeaters nearest them. They were glancing around, seeming to be sensing something, and whatever they were noticing was directing their attention toward the building Orion and Roller were in. “What’s going on?” Roller whispered.


    “My slagging spark!” Orion grumbled quietly as he stood up and got his ion cannon and large axe ready for action. “They can sense it. Time to engage, but you stay here and direct Tyger’s defenses as best you can. Hopefully they won’t realize you’re here too.”


    “Yeah, my pathetic blue spark is beneath their notice.” Roller grumbled.


    “You said it, not me.” Orion chuckled as he took two steps back and charged through the window, sending glass spraying down. Three shots left the cannon before he landed, and all three scored head-shots on startled sparkeaters. Their heads virtually exploded, their lifeless frames went down hard, and Orion effortlessly hit the ground and rolled into the midst of the other three, subduing his surprise at the destruction caused by his cannon and cleaving the head off of one with his axe, sending a snap kick into the chest of another that sent it to the ground, and leveled his ion cannon at the face of the third sparkeater, firing on it at point blank range, incinerating the head and sending the frame crumbling to the ground.


    Roller wanted to cry out with a victory cheer. He had often wondered whether his memories of Orion’s physical formidability were accurate, or if maybe he had built them up to be exaggerated over what really happened. Seeing Orion kill five sparkeaters in a span of 2 seconds while knocking the sixth on its ass made it clear that there were no rose-tinted optics with those memories. Maybe the terror the planet was feeling was unfounded. Perhaps the destruction these creatures rained down on the planet fifteen million years before was due to technologically simple Cybertronians living in isolated tribal groups caught off guard? Perhaps…shit. They weren’t dead. As Orion hacked up the sixth sparkeater and leapt toward the advancing…mutants, not sure what else to call the standard but brutish Cybertronian looking guys, the sparkeaters with head wounds started twitching and moving, the damage to their cranial shells stitching together before his optics. Even the decapitated sparkeater’s body started moving, its disembodied head’s optics glowing to life and mouth moving as the headless hands grasped it and planted it back on its neck.


    Orion was tearing through the mutants, and unlike their sparkeater masters, once killed they seemed to stay killed. But one of the giant demons was advancing on him, the other was still obsessed with the captive Omega Supreme. Roller leveled his own ion cannon at the head of the demon marching toward Orion, ready to ignore Orion’s command to remain hidden and…oh yeah! Roller engaged the anti-aircraft cannons of Tyger Pax and directed them inward, unloading one of them into the Demon a moment before he was within striking range of Orion. The explosive shells blasted the demon across the courtyard, but it remained in one piece. They were deep enough within Tyger Pax that the heavy perimeter cannons were too far and could not get a shot this far within, but the high towers did have anti-aircraft cannons mounted to them that could target ground based threats from both within and without, though there were limitations to what they could target within the walls of Tyger Pax due to the angles, proximities and structures.


    Orion watched the demon bounce across the ground, but was immediately tackled to the ground by two sparkeaters that he had though he had killed. “Orion!” Roller yelled out as he jumped out the window to help his brother, hitting the ground and losing his footing, but keeping his weapon in hand and recovering to fire on the closest sparkeater. He turned his weapon toward the two creatures on Orion, but couldn’t get a clear shot due to the struggle. And a struggle it was; each of the monsters appeared to be as strong as Orion, and there were two…now three of them. Roller fired a shot at the third one, hitting it between the shoulder blades, but the shot did little damage and the damage it did do seemed to be healing as soon as the smoke cleared away. He then noted the other three sparkeaters that had been making their way toward Orion now turning to look at him. They seemed torn between continuing after the subdued Orion, or charging the threatening but less enticing blue-sparked Roller. A shot to the face of one of them convinced the still-standing two to go after Roller. “Defenses, target and destroy every moving target that is NOT Roller Pax, Orion Pax or Omega Supreme!” With that the other anti-aircraft cannons mounted on the walls of structures surrounding the courtyard turned inward and down and began picking off sparkeaters, demons and mutants, but those currently on Orion were not targeted due to their proximity to him.


    But the red and blue robot blasted one of his assailants off with a thunderous straight right and grappled his way out from underneath the other, the creature tearing a portion of his outer armor off of his shoulder as he pulled free. He rolled to his axe and whirled around, raising it and immediately driving it down to split the head of the sparkeater he had punched. He then raised it again, allowing that sparkeater to drop to the ground and drove it down on the other sparkeater, who was advancing on him with his torn piece of shoulder armor still in the creature’s long and clawed gray hand. The blade cut open the front of the creature’s torso from throat to crotch, but the beast just gave a cruel smile as the massive gash in his body began stitching itself back together before their optics. It almost seem to be zipping itself up starting at the crotch and working its way up, the outer armor of the stomach started coming together to conceal the massive internal damage already being repaired, zipping up to conceal the cleaved fuel pump and the opened spark chamber emitting a blue…Orion’s fist blasted through the cut before the armor could come together over the chest, the sparkeater let out an audio-receptor-shattering cry as Orion seemed to grasp and squeeze something, and then yank his fist out, a glowing orb clutched in his fluid-soaked hand.


    The sparkeater stared down at his own spark in Orion’s fist, it was a grotesque and polluted looking thing, glowing blue like most sparks, but dark, moving tendrils of…energy, chemicals, pure evil, whatever the tendrils were made of, they slithered over and through the spark, causing it to almost look purple at first glance. The creature kept his optics on it as Orion backed away, a stunned look on the fifteen year old’s face at noticing the sparkeater very much still alive, though the repairs to his frame seemed to have ceased. The creature stepped toward Orion, his hands outstretched to recover his dis-embodied spark. Orion side-stepped him, lunged toward the other, now fully healed sparkeater and drove the spark into his chest, releasing it and prompting the still dizzy sparkeater to clutch it. It looked down at it, recognized what it was and raised it to his mouth, but was immediately assailed by the now frantic owner of the spark. As they started to snarl at one another Orion recovered his ion cannon and leveled it at the tainted blue orb, pulling the trigger and causing the spark to explode in the hands of the two sparkeaters.


    The sparkeaters, Orion, two mutants and two other sparkeaters trying to attack Orion were all thrown to the ground by the blast, three sparkeater and Orion quickly getting back to their feet with the mutuants slowly getting back up as well. But one form remained unmoving on the ground. The owner of the detonated spark lay dead, its various scorches, laceration and other wounds now remained unchanged, the dark power keeping the creature alive seeming to have abandoned it. “This is being broadcast, right?” Orion yelled out.


    Roller forced his optics away from the dead monster and up at Orion, barely whispering his answer. “Huh, uh, yeah.”


    “Yes,” a deep voice boomed out to intercept the answer, “what goes on here is being broadcast, at least that’s what my thrall tells me.” A forty foot, three-faced terror called out from the viewing deck overhead before leaping out and landing gracefully on the metal ground. “Much of this technological world is yet unknown to me.” He grinned at them with all three faces. “But rest assured, your friends out in the world now know that destroying the spark of a sparkeater is the only way to kill one. It won’t be enough to keep them from my swift and brutal devouring of them, but it will offer them hope. To whom do they have to thank for that hope?”


    “Defenses, stand down.” The smaller blue robot called out hesitantly, taking a chance that they may learn something that would be of value to those receiving what was being transmitted from Tyger Pax. “I am Roller of House Pax, Emir of The Torus Heights, and Lord of Tyger Pax, and you are intruding in my home!” Roller announced loudly as he stepped forward and stood next to Orion. “This is Orion of House Pax, Lo-Gar of…Refurb…” Roller looked to Orion for clarification.


    “I think they’d prefer not be mentioned.” Orion replied, keeping his optics fixated on the forty-foot monster.


    “Pax?” The beast asked. “Of Paxus, you were spawned from the metallico that spawned him?”


    “And the metallico that he was returned to after his noble death fighting you monsters.” Roller replied, his voice devoid of fear.


    “He died fighting me personally, and I enjoyed killing him.” The creature smiled through his fanged teeth. “I see the resemblance.” He said as he looked at Roller, but his face changed as his gaze shifted to Orion. “But not with you.” The giant inhaled deeply through all his bestial nostrils. “You,” he pointed at Roller but continued looking at Orion, “you are definitely of Paxus, but you,” his clawed finger twitched to Orion, “you are something else entirely.” He then looked down at one of the battered but still living mutants. “You, go retrieve the thrall Mindwipe!” The mutant scurried away into the building to do as he was bid.


    Orion watched the mutant leave before nodding. “Yes, I’m adopted.” He then looked to Roller. “Well, not yet, but I was given the name.” He then looked back at the leader of the beasts. “And who do I have the honor of addressing?”


    The beast smiled. “Still gathering intelligence for your fellow Cybertronians?” He chuckled, nodding to the various security cameras mounted throughout the courtyard. “No matter, they will know the name of their god or destroyer one way or another, so I might as well share it now. I am Violen Jiger. Apparently the name has been lost over the last fifteen million years to all but the Wardens, but my role as King of the Sparkeaters is remembered in myth and legend.”


    The king of the enemy turned his head as a winged Nyonian came running out of the building behind him. “You summoned me, oh great one?”


    “Mindwipe, you told me that the house founded by Onyx had exterminated the House of Convoy.” Violen Jiger accused.


    “They…they did, my king.” Mindwipe nervously replied. “I am of Nyon, it was one of the earliest truths to be thrust upon me, though I believe two survived. But as I understand it, those two have not been see in in over a million years.”


    The three-faced beast nodded toward Orion. “Is this one of the survivors?”


    “I…I don’t know.” Mindwipe replied. “I know nothing of the survivors, or of…wait, I know this one.”


    “You do?” Violen Jiger asked, genuinely intrigued.


    “He is Orion Pax,” Mindwipe answered, “he was a cop, a police officer, one born in the last pulse. He humiliated Sentinel Prime…twice. He vanished fourteen years ago.”


    “If he was born in the last pulse, he could not be one of these survivors, now could he?” Violen Jiger asked condescendingly.


    “I’ve been told I have the look.” Orion called out. “I am not born of the metal that formed Paxus, but I am not a Convoy either. I was born…well, that doesn’t matter, but I only look like a Convoy.”


    The king of the sparkeaters regarded him with a long stare before inhaling again, his gaze dropping to the ground where the piece of armor torn earlier from Orion’s shoulder lay. “You more than have the look.” Violen Jiger nodded to one of the sparkeaters and then to the chunk of metal, the beast immediately gathered it up and delivered it to his master. Violen examined the piece, smelled it closely, and then put it into his mouth and slowly ate it, savoring the flavor. “Wherever your spark emerged, you were born the old way, like me.”


    “The old way?” Roller asked, more curious than scared.


    “His spark is strong, strong enough to pull non-sentio metal and alter it to make it life-compatible.” The creature explained, staring intently at Orion. “It’s how the giants were made, their star-colored sparks could pull in lifeless chunks of planet and form their bodies with ease, but the strongest of the green sparks could manage it as well. Over millions of years the would giants die, almost always killed by other giants, usually by energy-sucking cyber-predators like my demons, over time their bodies decomposed and rejoined the planet, but their remains mixed with certain metals, and what we know as sentio metallico came into existence, providing weaker sparks compatible material with which to form bodies. Though formed the old way, like with me Orion did have trace amounts of sentio metallico to shape his frame. And I’ve tasted that metallico before. It was the first I ever tasted. I was created, I was released, but prior to my release I was given advice. There was one tribe that was responsible for organizing the mechanicals of this world against their semi-organic masters, one tribe that led them to victory over my creators, one tribe that could possibly be seen as a threat to me. I may not have sought the destruction of their birthing pits the way the one called Deathsaurus did, but I fell upon the Convoy and wiped out every last one of them, feasting on both frame and fire. I tasted spark and metallico from all over the planet before being sealed beneath the frozen mountains, and over the last fifteen million years I’ve devoured many a subterranean cousin of yours, but Convoy has always remained my favorite flavor, and I thank you, Orion Pax of House Convoy for bringing it back to me.”


    “Look, I don’t know what to tell you.” Orion stated emphatically. “Your description of being born the old way, that makes sense. That fits what I know of my origins perfectly. But me being a Convoy…”


    “Corallium Furvus.” Roller whispered.


    “What?” Orion looked at him questioningly.


    Roller looked to Orion and then back to Violen Jiger. “Nothing, let’s stay focused on this guy.” He then looked to Mindwipe. “Or maaaaayyybe, this guy.” Roller stepped forward and pointed at the dark Nyonian. “Hey Wings, you’re the guy who was operating the equipment in the control room, right? You’re responsible for broadcasting the signal of the cameras out here?”


    “Yes.” He replied. “Though someone else activated all the other cameras and started sending signals from them.”


    “Yeah, that was me.” Roller replied. “But you’re the guy, right? You’re the most technologically adept monkey in this travelling zoo, right?”


    “Yes.” Mindwipe shot back, but gave a sarcastic grin. “Are you hoping to get an army here unnoticed and unmolested by the perimeter cannons while I’m away from my post?”


    “An army?” Roller replied, looking at Orion as if sharing a joke of his own. “We don’t have an army.” He then took a more serious look and started tapping some buttons on his wrist panel. “We do however, have an air force.”


    “Kill the Pax, subdue the Convoy!” A suddenly bored Violen Jiger called out to his minions and leaned back against the wall expectantly.


    “Defenses, re-engage!” Roller yelled out as he and Orion sprang back into defensive action. Orion started firing his ion blaster, scoring head-shots on the sparkeaters, causing their bodies to fall, though only temporarily. He then directed his aim up at an advancing demon, landing a round in its left optic and causing it to roar back in pain, clutching its damaged optic. Unlike the sparkeaters, the damage didn’t seem to be immediately under self-repair, but the creature was also vastly more powerful and continued on toward the much smaller red and blue robot. Orion lunged away, whipping his axe at another sparkeater that was making his way toward him, decapitating the creature with the powerful swipe and landing into a rolling position to spring back up to his feet and continue firing on the oncoming killers.


    The blasts dropped his attackers temporarily, and Orion used that time to turn and cleave the already decapitated sparkeater near him nearly in two, splitting his torso from its headless neck to its abdomen. Once again Orion reached in, wrenching out the entire spark chamber, and whipped it at a pair of sparkeaters recovering from the shots he had downed them with a second before. The spark chamber landed between them, and Orion pointed his ion blaster and fired, the blast of his round and the exploding spark scorching the sparkeaters slightly and causing all movement from the decapitated body and bodiless head to cease. Orion started to move, but it was too late to avoid the swipe from the one-eyed demon’s left claw, a blow that sent Orion bouncing across the ground, but he still held tight to his weapons and was on his feet a moment later, whatever impact the blow had seemed to be ignored.


    Roller watched this happening but quickly realized he had his own problems demanding his attention. Two sparkeaters and two mutants were working their way toward him, so he raised his smaller but still very lethal ion blaster and squeezed off four rounds. His aim was true, but only the mutants went down, both still alive by writhing in pain and would no longer be a threat to him. The sparkeaters were merely thrown back by the rounds, and as they recovered and continued forward toward Roller the blue emir could see their gaping wounds stitching themselves shut. “Shit.” He muttered, realizing that as potent as his weapon normally was, it would be of little use to him right now, nothing more than a way to buy a few seconds. Of course, that’s all he really needed. He directed his weapon at them again and began firing repeated shots, eventually knocking both creatures to the ground, knowing they’d be getting back up, but no before the sound of the approaching Stellar Spear could be heard through the mid-afternoon air. Roller raised his wrist communicator to his mouth. “Open fire on every spark-based lifeform excluding Orion Pax, Omega Supreme and Emir Pax!”


    “You already gave that order.” One of the injured mutants grunted from the ground.


    “Not to this.” Roller replied as the Stellar Spear shot overhead and began strafing every moving thing in the courtyard other than the Pax’s and the Guardian. The ship targeted the two demons with its most potent cannons, but smaller cannons rained down ordinance at all other hostiles. Even the unmoving Violen Jiger was targeted, but he leapt to avoid it with astounding speed and agility for his size. The few remaining mutants in the area were killed quickly, the sparkeaters would rise again, but it would be minutes for their bodies to pull themselves together after being blasted by ordinance meant for destroying ships or fixed fortifications. The giant demons were sent sprawling and bouncing away by the blasts; they were far more resistant to the barrages than the sparkeaters, though they didn’t heal supernaturally quickly like the smaller beasts, and though durable, they were normal, natural creatures that could be killed by conventional means. They were also on the receiving end of the ship’s most powerful weaponry, and after the initial strafing run, the one-eyed demon lay dead, the other wounded but able to fight on.


    “Roller, give me authorization to command the ship!” Orion yelled out.


    “Emir Roller Pax providing Orion Pax authorization to command Stellar Spear and Tyger Pax defenses!” Roller commanded the artificial intelligence systems of the ship and estate.


    “It will do you no good, Convoy!” Violen Jiger roared as he lunged out and slammed Orion, a bot barely more than half his height and nowhere near his mass, into the metal ground. Orion started back to his feet, but a lightning fast kick from the giant forced him to drop his weapons and sent him flying back and slamming through the wall of the building that he and Roller had been hiding in prior to their engagement with the monsters. “Submit, become a thrall, surrender that ship, and I will let the two of you live!”


    “Eat shit, Triplebagger!” Roller yelled as he unloaded his blaster at the vastly larger creature. Violen Jiger laughed off the rounds and started to march ominously toward the emir. Orion burst forth from the hole he and created a moment before and ran directly for the forty-foot monster. “O, what the slag are you doing?” Roller called out in shock.


    “Tyger, target the chains holding Omega Supreme!” Orion called out as he reached Violen Jiger and looked to lunge at him, but instead dove to the creature’s side and rolled into a run to the side and behind him, reaching down to scoop up his weapons one at a time before turning and targeting the monster. Only one of the defensive cannons could target into the courtyard, and then it could only hit the chains on one side of the Spear of Paxus that was holding the Guardian up, but the cannon spit forth several rounds and a moment later Omega Supreme was dangling by a pair of chains, the two both linked to a post drilled to the tower one hundred-thirty feet off the ground. “Spear, unload everything you have on three-faced intruder!” The ship returned, whipping around the Spear of Paxus and opened fire on the huge creature. “Release hooked tether in proximity of ground in front of Omega Supreme!” Orion called out as he added his firepower to the ship’s barrage on Violen Jiger. A deep thud could be heard at the base of the Spear of Paxus as the released hook and thick tether landed. “Roller, get the hook, shimmy up there and securely attach it to Omega!”


    “He’s still chained!” Roller yelled back as he charged for the hook to do as ordered.


    “I’ll take care of that!” Orion answered as he began charging the besieged invader. “Spear, cease fire!” The ship stopped it’s attack just as Orion leapt up at the head and upper torso of Violen Jigere, maintaining his fire as he slashed at the beast’s head. His axe blade sliced through the left optic of the creature’s central face, but the wound was healed almost immediately. Orion’s leap carried him up high enough for him to plant his left hand on the giant’s right shoulder and vault him past and behind the creature, narrowly missing the beast’s clawed grasp. Orion somersaulted on his way to the ground behind the beast and landed in a run, again narrowly missing a back-hand strike from the invader. Orion whipped back around, his axe-blade swung in a wide arch, and sliced off a finger of the reaching hand of Violen Jiger. The beast’s face took on a surprised look at the speed and power of the strike, but seemed unaffected by the damage caused by it, and smiled as they both watched a new finger grow forth from the stump. Orion’s optic-blow arched upward, a display of being impressed, but he immediately shot back into a blur of motion as he called out again. “Spear, re-engage!” He leapt up as the ship’s ordinance slammed into the back of Vilen Jiger, Orion took full advantage of the creature’s surprise and suddenly divided attention to plant his foot on one of the creature’s wrists and leap over him, narrowly avoiding shots from the ship and flinging his axe toward the Spear of Paxus.


    The axe spun end over end through the air until its blade thunked into the metal of the tower, cutting through the post and the two chains linked to it. Roller had just gotten the hook slid into an opening torn into Omega Supreme’s armor, and was completely surprised as the giant limb-less Guardian dropped toward the ground. He clutched the giant tightly as they started downward. “Spear, lift off!” Roller heard Orion call out as he stared down at the rushing metal ground with the Guardian falling after him to crush him, but just as he was about to hit the ground moved quickly away, and he then watched a red and blue blur shoot up and latch onto the Guardian a few feet from him. “Fly south, a fifth the speed of sound!” Roller looked over and saw Orion peering back at the king of the sparkeaters for several moments as the ship pulled the three of them quickly away from the enemy. Orion then looked back at Roller. “When we recover Tyger Pax, I expect to get my axe back. I worked pretty hard on that thing.”


    “Sure.” Roller smiled. “Are we going to be hanging like this all the way to Polyhex?”


    “No, let’s put about thirty miles between us and them, then we’ll set down and get back in the ship.” Orion grinned.


    “I greatly appreciate the rescue,” the booming voice of Omega Supreme called out, “but when you set down, could you remove the hook and reattach it in a less painful manner?”


    Orion smiled. “Of course, Lord Guardian.”



    ---



    Bumblebee



    The evacuation was a Primus-damned mess. House Honorum still survived, but it had taken large casualties and those that did survive, including Emir Accumenus, had left Nova Cronum to rendezvous with the remaining heads of Cybertron in Petrex. They had left a handful of Honorum guards, and there were some government forces, but ultimately it was the Autobots that were leading the evacuation of Iacon. Hated, hunted, maligned pretty much since their inception, and especially since the first terrorist attacks attributed to them fourteen years ago, the outlaw group was now the only chance these civilian masses had at getting away from this would-be feeding ground before the sparkeaters arrived en-masse. Word was that Guardian Spaceport in Cybertropolis had fallen to sparkeaters. That was only sixteen hundred miles away, and Polarus was even closer. The last thing these poor, ungrateful jerks needed was to be sandwiched between two armies of cybervoric monstrosities.


    Bumblebee drove through the tetra-level subterranean autobahns verifying that the residences were empty. Iacon went down a total of seven subterranean levels, each more vile and unlivable than the level above it. Blaster, Sideswipe and Sunstreaker had spent their formative years in subterranean Iacon, and even thousands of years later still called the lower levels their home. Bumblebee had initially thought that due to their familiarity with the area one of them should be down here, but Blaster was in Petrex with Prowl, and even if he was in Iacon, his alt mode would not be adequate for high speed area sweeps. The siblings were needed muscle to keep things in order at the transit terminal, and while a surface dweller, Bumblebee was an Iaconian and reasonably familiar with how the subterranean levels worked. He couldn’t check house to house, that would take weeks at best, but he had spent the entire day zipping through the main streets of each level blasting a pre-recorded evacuation announcement. Most residents had gotten word from friends on the surface about what was happening, but the Honorum government had done nothing to get word down here. Even prior to the Decepticon attack there was no effort to spread the word to these lowborn of the lowborn. It fell to the Autobots to get the word out and get them out of here.


    Most Bumblebee had encountered were resistant to leaving, but he had managed to convince nearly all of them he was telling the truth. But there were many that didn’t trust him, the Autobots as a whole, the Honorums or the planetary government at all and just drifted back into their ghettos. There was nothing more Bumblebee could do for them, nothing other than pray that Primus kept them safe. He had cleared, as best he could, levels seven through five and was almost down with the fourth. Just three more to go…his estimate put that at another seven hours. “Ugh.” He wished he had the tools to be ‘needed muscle’ so that he could at least be on the surface with others. “BZZZ” A comm-request was coming through. He examined the source point, saw Petrex and opened the channel. “Bee here.”


    “Hey Bee, Prowl.” The former head of planetary security announced.


    A lot of Autobots didn’t like Prowl, for various reasons. Some couldn’t get past his prior relationship with Sentinel Prime, some didn’t like that with a head’s up of a Decepticon attack and facilitating the recruitment of Grimlock’s group he could just join…and let’s be honest, Grimlock’s group never really joined the Autobots, they were more along the lines of the enemies of the Autobot’s enemies. But mostly many Autobots didn’t like Prowl because he was a bit of a jerk. Of course, all these reasons seemed kind of petty given Prowl’s contributions. The guy was very smart, one of the smartest guys Bumblebee knew, and he was more aware of what the government forces were going to do that even the government forces were, and he was great at figuring out where their assets needed to be placed, though that probably falls under the very smart umbrella…, anyway, better reply. “Hey Prowl, what do you need. I’m away from the Iacon HQ, going through the subterranean levels wrangling up stragglers.”


    “Well get out of there and head to Petrex with the rest of the Autobots. We need to organize with the other forces here.” Prowl ordered.


    “But what about…”


    “They’ve been told. Everyone in the catacombs has been informed of what’s heading their way.” Prowl cut him off. “They either believe it and are on their way out, or they don’t and anything you have to say to them won’t amount to a bucket of slag, so head to the surface. If it makes you feel better, continue playing the message as you go, but you’re to head topside and get south now.”


    “Those that stay won’t stand a chance.” Bumblebee grumbled.


    “No, but if you do happen upon anyone unwilling to run, let them know that there are three distinct species they may have to contend with.” Prowl explained. “Lowest rung on the monster scale are what we’ve taken to calling mutants, and from what we can tell they’re just standard Cybertronians born in the pits beneath the polar mountains, trapped into servitude or being prey to the sparkeaters. They can be killed just like we can, and they don’t appear to have any useful alt modes beyond their initial shells. Next group are the sparkeaters, from what we can tell they used to be Cybertronians, but they’ve been changed significantly, and those changes make them stronger and faster that we are, along with an unsatiable hunger for sparks. Oh, and it appears they can sense sparks, and are drawn to stronger ones. And they recover from virtually any injury, even the most fatally damaging wound heals in moments – they’re almost un-killable.”


    “How do you know this?” Bee asked.


    “They’re inhabiting Tyger Pax, and transmissions showing them have been sent.” Prowl answered.


    “How much stronger and faster are they than us?” Bee sped toward the closest ramp leading to the tertiary-level.


    Prowl chuckled. “You remember Orion Pax, don’t you? Pretty strong, right?”


    “Yeah, pretty strong is a ridiculous understatement.” Bee cut back. “Why?”


    “Some of the footage out of Tyger Pax showed him fighting these things.” Prowl explained.


    “Orion is alive?” Bee cheerfully yelled out.


    “Yeah, anyway, it looked like basic, run of the mill sparkeaters were at least as strong as he was.” Prowl continued. “About at fast too, and having overseen much of his academy training, that’s probably more impressive than matching his strength. But they seem stupid, and aside from their natural gifts they don’t appear to use weapons.”


    “They’re strong and fast like Orion and are un-killable,” Bumblebee grumbled, “doesn’t sound like they need weapons.”


    “Almost un-killable,” Prowl retorted, “Pax found a way to kill them though. Tear their sparks out of their chests and destroy the spark. They drop dead and stop getting up.”


    “Oh, that’s all?” Bee quipped sarcastically as he zipped around the autobahns three levels below Iacon’s surface.


    “Yeah, so tell anyone you come across to just cut them open and kill them that way.” Prowl joked back. “Next species is something we’re calling demons, some of us anyway, others have taken to the name primordials. Big monstrous creatures, range from forty to nearly one hundred feet in height from what we can tell. Perceptor thinks they may have walked the surface in our very distant past,”


    “Yeah, Orion told me something about giant creatures killing off the dracosaurs dozens of millions of years ago or something.”


    “Yeah, great, we’ll let the nerds figure out their origins, but they’re big, they’re incredibly strong, they’re faster than you’d think given their size, and we believe they can syphon energy from spark-based lifeforms, but we’ve yet to confirm that.” Prowl explained. “But they appear to be mortal, at least as mortal as we are. They can be killed with powerful weaponry. Nothing that the commoners you’re trying to warn would have, but if you are able to kill one, you only have to do so once.”


    “OK, sounds awful.” Bumblebee spotted signs for the secondary level ramps. “So that’s it, just the three kinds?”


    “Well, there’s actually a forth, but we think this guy’s unique.”


    “Great. What makes this guy special?” Bee asked as he sped toward the ramp, many of the overhead lights flickering.


    “He’s their king, and, yeah, we don’t know where to begin countering this thing.” Prowl explained. “We’ll worry about that when you get here. The rest of the Iacon team has been apprised and should be ready to depart once you arrive.”


    “What about the rest of the surface evacuation?” Bumblebee protested.


    “They’re either leaving or they aren’t.” Prowl grumbled. “Right now, we need to focus more on the fight than the flee. Do you understand?”


    Bee hesitated, wanting to do something to ensure those still in Iacon got evacuated, but realized they didn’t have time to do everything. “Yes sir.”


    “Good. Prowl out.”



    ---



    Trepan



    He was close, but ‘close’ was a matter of interpretation. Given the scale of what was being asked, and the fact that nothing like this had ever been done, three to six more years of work wasn’t that much. But by Megatron’s timeline, it was very, very late. He had arrived to the project thinking Shockwave was almost done…mainly because he had been told, by Shockwave no less, that they were almost done. But despite his absolute brilliance, Shockwave wasn’t as familiar to the fine-points of neuro-reconstruction as Trepan. Oh, he could whip something together if need be, but to do it right, to make it perfect, it would take time. But given what they were doing, what was another half decade? Trepan continued studying the two holographic images of brains, the one depicting what the brain in question currently looked like, the other depicting what Shockwave had determined it should look like. And at an aggregate level, Shockwave’s approximation was accurate, but when dealing with brain modules, the aggregate level meant little, everything had to be drawn down to the finest detail. Heavy but controlled footfalls echoing through the hall just outside the Fortress Trypticon control room let Trepan know that Shockwave was approaching. That must mean that the matters at the Draconyx Lair had been resolved. Trepan waited for the large purple scientist and warrior to enter. “Greeting’s Shockwave.” Trepan noted that his fellow Decepticon was carrying a corpse, one fully grayed out, its life having passed at least a day before.


    The hulking Shockwave walked over the table in the center of the room and laid out the inert frame in his arms. “Greeting’s Trepan, I bring you an asset to help expedite your work here.”


    “Is that who I think it is?” Trepan muttered, marveling at the frame that was likely older than any other frame on the planet.


    “It is Triptych, the template for our brain module.” Shockwave stated.


    “It’s too bad he’s dead. There are so many questions I would ask of him.” Trepan mused as he leaned over the body on the table in the mid-sized room. “Oh well, I guess I’ll have to save my questions for several year when I can ask Trypticon.”


    “Several years?” Shockwave asked ominously. “You’re still holding to that?”


    “Yes, I’m afraid I must.” Trepan answered. Were it Megatron, or to a much lesser degree, Soundwave, he would have been frightened. But Shockwave was a fellow scientist, he understood not only that Trepan’s timeframe was reasonable and that the mnemosurgeon had only just gotten started with the great beast, but he knew that no one was more eager to see this finished than him.


    “That’s unfortunate. Please let me know if there’s any asset you need to improve the timeframe.” Shockwave responded.


    “I could use your input on a few matters.” Trepan suggested. He probably didn’t need Shockwave’s help, but it was always good to let colleagues feel appreciated, and ultimately it would be well within the realm of possibility for Shockwave to come up with suggestions that would be beneficial.


    “That is acceptable, what can I assist you with?”



    ---



    Elita One



    She walked into the sea of cybertronity, her newfound companions on either side of her and hordes of commoners pushing and shoving all around them trying to protect their position in the multitude of lines leading to shuttles, ground transports, energon-kitchens or the hastily made recharging beds laid throughout the hastily made and quickly overwhelmed Petrex refugee camps. Even her own shuttles were swarmed when they landed, the masses hoping they could be used to get them farther south. Elita had been gracious in trying to let them know that the shuttles were to be used for the military effort against the sparkeaters, but the masses weren’t having it. She attempted to reason with them, but they continued shouting over her. Her patience was worn thin to begin with, she had just spent the last several hours prior to the launch returning every other member of her house back onto the Pool of Solus and covering each of them with the ceremonial shroud of House Solus. Thirty new shrouds had to be created to fully accommodated the dead members of her house, never before had so many of her name perished at once. It would be years before the last of them fully degraded and rejoined the metallico from whence they came, but they were all laid to rest, and Elita, last living member of House Solus, had no patience for irrational and demanding commoners, nor did the surviving House Solus guards.


    Fortunately, just as things were about to turn ugly the reclusive House Maximus intervened. Emir Pious arrived with his own house guards as well as a couple dozen of his Maximal vassals, but it was the presence of his kinsman Fortress that truly got the unruly horde to back away and disperse from the plains serving as one of several landing fields away from the cluster of camps. He was massive, just a bit smaller and slightly less hulking than the Rodion criminal Overlord, and like with Overlord, his body moved with the grace of a much smaller bot. His frame exuded power, and the heated glare in his optics let the commoners know he was ready to spring into violent action. It was merely a matter of moments before they had all vanished.


    Elita was now being escorted by Emir Pious and lords Helonix and Fortress, a mixed conglomeration of House Maximus, House Solus and Maximal security forces followed after them at a respectful distance. The commoners parted as they noticed the approaching royals, their optics possessing a wide range of emotions, from admiration, to fear, to relief, to outright hostility and contempt. Elita could not care less. She was there to do her duty to Axiom and Cybertron, and to demand justice. Almost as though sensing her thoughts, Fortress Maximus’s voice cut through the loud hum of activity around them. “Elita One, you have my deepest condolences for the horror that has befallen your house. It boils my energon pump that the other houses have entered into a truce with these bastard Decepticons.”


    “Fortress, it is a necessary evil, and no member of House Maximus will break the peace, distasteful as it is.” Pious scolded. “Emir Elita, you have the deepest condolences of all of House Maximus as well as Fortress’s. I knew few, but I treasure having known Exponum One and having had the honor of calling him friend.”


    “Thank you Emir Maximus.” Elita replied, catching sight of a handful of unwashed robots marching toward them bearing smirks…and Warrior brands!


    She started toward them, but Pious Maximus caught her arm. “Elita One, do not let them goad you!”


    “Goad her?” One of the Decepticons, a gray and black twenty-five foot beast of a robot with a rectangular, box-like helmet covering his head, cruelly snickered. “I just wanted to give the pretty lady a shoulder to cry on.”


    Fortress Maximus charged forward, towering nine feet over the large Decepticon. “I’ve slain twenty-seven Decepticons over the last thrity hours, what’s five more?” He smiled malevolently at the large speaker and then to the other four members of the group, all mid-sized and bearing vastly brighter coloration than their apparent leader.


    “Fortress Maximus!” Pious called out. “We will not break the peace!”


    Fortress stood his ground, glaring hatefully at the Decepticons for nearly a minute before finally emitting a low growl. “Get the hell out of here or I will kill you all.” The group of Decepticons gave him defiant glares, but they turned and left as ordered.


    “It is an unfortunate state,” Pious muttered as they watched the instigators leave, “but we are in need of them. Even in light of the bit of hope we received today.”


    “Hope?” Elita asked, but tensed as she noticed another dozen robots pushing through the crowd and approaching them.


    “Emir Maximus!” The head of the group, a mid-sized gray robot with maroon shoulders and upper arms, called out. “A word, if you would.”


    “Of course Ramulus.” Pious Maximus smiled at the approaching group. “What can I do for you?”


    “My Emir, in light of…the news…the…possibility anyway, I…I” Ramulus paused, uncertain of how to proceed.


    “House Maximus has always been aware of where the true loyalty of the Maximals lie, and should this possibility turn out to truly be news, you and your people may choose your destiny.” Pious replied in a rassuring manner. “And the lands provided you by House Maximus will remain your lands. Our friendship was given not just to your people, but to your liege lords as well.”


    “Excuse me, Emir Pious,” Elita interrupted, “I apologize, but I will continue on to the command center.”


    “Of course Elita One.” Pious replied, pointing out ahead toward a makeshift facility that was significantly larger than most of the others. “That is it right there. I will join you shortly.”


    The Maximal Ramulus continued as Elita walked away. “If he’s anything like his ancestors, he won’t be comfortable being referred to as a liege lord.”


    Elita pushed through the crowds, her House Solus guards catching up and making sure no harm came to her. She was seconds away when a familiar voice called out. “Elita!” Elita turned to see Torenia Pax running toward her through the crowd. Elita could not control the emotions from flooding out of her, and wept tearlessly as she ran forward and embraced her friend. “Easy Elita, you need to do this, but let’s get you into private.”


    “No,” Elita immediately composed herself, “no, I’m fine.” She forced a smile.


    “You poor thing.” Torenia hugged her again but pulled back quickly in a show of decorum. “I heard Exponum died in your arms.” Elita nodded, prompting both femmes to look down sadly. “I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine such pain.” She looked back up at Elita. “But despite this horrific tragedy, House Solus will recover. New protoforms will emerge from your pool, and those protoforms could hope for a better One. Exponum always knew you would lead your house one day.”


    “Perhaps, but not like this.” Elita grumbled.


    “No, my dear sweet Elita, not like this.” Torenia replied, raising her hand to gently cup her friend’s face. “I almost feel ashamed for feeling joy on a day like this.”


    Elita stared at the ground. “What could possibly bring you joy today?” The younger femme’s gaze lingered on the metal ground for a bit longer before finally raising to meet the stunned optics of Torenia.


    “You don’t know?” Torenia whispered, a smile spreading slowly over her face. “You haven’t heard?”


    “Heard? Heard what?” Elita asked. “Pious Maximus said something about hope…”


    Torenia reached forward and grasped Elita’s hand, pulling her toward the command center. “Elita, no one needs good news right now more than you!”


    In moments they were inside the quickly assembled facility, dozens of robots marched around full of purpose, many of them high lords or royals, and many others manned a wide array of equipment spread throughout the expanse. Torenia marched them around the busy individuals, finally stopping behind a large orange, red and yellow robot seated at a control panel with a large screen in front of him. He turned his head as he heard them approaching, his helmet possessing a visor that covered but left visible his optics, and left his lower face exposed. He chuckled lightly at seeing Torenia, the expression inviting and almost sharing in the joy Torenia seemed to be feeling. “Another viewing Lady Pax?”


    “It’s not for me this time.” She replied cheerfully, prompting the robot to turn and look upon Elita.


    His smile immediately vanished and he bowed his head. “Elita One, I’m so sorry to hear what has befallen your house. The Autobots always respected and admired House Solus; were other house like those of Pax and Solus, my group would never have needed to exist.”


    “I thank you, Autobot.” Elita smiled at him. “I also have great admiration for your group. I agree with your goals, and as One, I will strive to see them achieved.”


    “Blaster, please play the footage.” Torenia asked politely, but insistently.


    “Of course my lady,” Blaster turned back around, his smile returning slightly, “any starting point in particular?”


    “Quit teasing me young bot!” She grumbled playfully, delivering a light slap to his shoulder. “It’s the same starting point as it’s been for the last couple of hours!”


    The screen came to life, a courtyard, it took Elita a moment to recognize it as the courtyard laid out before the Spear of Paxus. She had been there once years ago while visiting Torenia, but now instead of Pax’s and other northerners walking about the beautiful yard, there were hideous creatures, two massive, and attached to the Spear itself was an even more massive form, one battered and missing all of its limbs. She was completely confused as to why Torenia would show her this until it happened. A red and blue blur shot out of the building and began fighting the creature. “Orion!”


    Blaster turned and looked at her at the sound of her exclamation, then turned his gaze to Torenia. “She didn’t know?”


    “Sweet Primus, no!” Elita spat out, ignoring Blaster, and watched as the creatures all seemed to descend toward Orion.


    She felt Torenia’s hand squeeze hers reassuringly. “I would not bring you in here to watch him die.” Torenia stated, prompting the worried Elita to look to her and see the equally reassuring smile. Her head snapped back to the screen and she continued watching the violence that was occurring…or rather had occurred. When had this occurred?


    “Lady Torenia, there you are!” A voice called out from behind them. Torenia turned, but Elita could not take her optics off of the fighting on the screen.


    “Yes Roadbuster?” Torenia asked.


    “My lady, you asked to be informed when the Stellar Spear was inbound.” He stated.


    “You’ve got them on your sensors?” Torenia asked with frantic excitement.


    “We had them on our sensors several minutes ago.” The deep-voiced Roadbuster replied. “I couldn’t find you. I believe they’re landing in one of the southwestern fields as we speak.”


    Elita turned her head to see Torenia’s head drop and felt Torenia’s hand pull away from hers. She looked down to see the ground cruiser that Torenia had transformed into speed away, through the large facility, weaving through many robots and even bouncing against a few as she sped toward and then out the exit. It finally dawned on Elita what had just happened, and she immediately transformed and followed after her friend.


    It was tricky maneuvering through the crowd inside the command center, it was virtually impossible making her way through the throngs outside in vehicle mode while at their knee level. She tried for nearly a minute before transforming back to robot mode and pushing through on foot. She could see the landing field in question a mile and a half ahead, as she got closer she saw a ship with an appearance worthy of the name Stellar Spear; it looked like a smaller, flight-capable version of the Spear of Paxus. A few seconds later she could make out the crowds surrounding it, and the vast, bulbous form of the creature that had been strapped to the Spear of Paxus in the footage. She finally pushed through enough to see Torenia get allowed through by the security forces keeping the crowds back from the ship and the limb-less giant it appeared to have towed there. Torenia ran forward and a moment later she was embracing Roller Pax. Elita finally made it through most of the crowd and could hear much of what they said. “Oh thank Primus you two are alright!” Torenia nearly wept out.


    “You sound like there was some doubt as to our success.” The cocky Roller shot back, and grinned as he caught Torenia stealing glances up toward the open doorway of the ship. “What? Is there something other than me that has piqued your interest?” Elita pushed through the guards as she watched, and they must have recognized who she was because they let her through.


    Torenia slapped his shoulder. “It’s been over fourteen years, damn it, where is he?” Elita slowly made their way toward them, looking up at the open doorway as well.


    Roller chuckled and jerked his thumb back toward the giant. “He was helping to secure Omega Supreme. Apparently he thinks himself a doctor as well as a cop, a regional governor, a general and the greatest prisoner rescuer of all time.”


    “Ratchet taught me a few things.” The voice caused everything within Elita to freeze. It was deep, and kind, and reassuring, and confident, and powerful…it was perfect, and it awakened feelings long buried in her. Elita One’s optics watched as Torenia pulled away from Roller and darted out toward Orion Pax, as gorgeous…and battered as she remembered him. Torenia threw herself at him, and he caught her as though she weighed nothing, the two embracing each other tightly. It was whispered, not meant to be heard by any other, but Elita barely made out “mother.”


    Elita watched intently as the two embraced tightly, her feet slowly carrying her toward them, passing Roller as she went, until finally she felt it, her spark tingled, and she saw him raise his head, his glowing azure optics locked on to hers, and they silently stared at one another. “Are you going to go to her or not?” Torenia’s voice broke the lock they had on one another, and a moment later they were throwing themselves at each other, an embrace, a deep kiss, an action so alien yet so familiar. The world stopped, nothing else existed but the two of them…at least until their bodies shuddered under some sort of mild physical blow. They broke off their kiss and looked over to Roller, the hand he had just slapped against Orion’s shoulder still clutching the shoulder. “Way to go O, that’s the Emir of Axiom you’re kissing!” He then looked to Elita and grinned. “And you too Elita, you’re kissing the mayor of a heap of garbage.”


    Orion ignored his brother and peered deeply into Elita’s optics. “We heard about House Solus flying in. And…about Exponum. I’m so…” Orion froze as he caught sight of something behind her in the crowd. Elita scrutinized his face, and noted a transition in them from a flash of recognition, deep contemplation, and then what appeared to be one of resolve on some course of action, all of which occurred in the span of less than two seconds. Orion gently but authoritatively directed her to the side and then behind him with his hands on her shoulders and started toward the crowd, and as the confused Elita looked up she saw what had drawn Orion’s attention. She had caught footage of Sentinel Prime’s death as she flew in to Petrex, and clearly recognized the murderer of the Prime. Megatron stood near the front of the crowd surrounding the make-shift tarmac, dozens of his Decepticons pushed in around him, shouldering their way through the civilians but otherwise seeming to behave themselves. Orion marched straight toward this gladiator turned rebel.


    “Officer Pax, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that you’d turn up right after Sentinel Prime’s death, but I am nonetheless.” The chrome warrior called out with a grin. “I am honestly glad to see you alive, and I hope fourteen years’ worth of maturity has made you more receptive to my offer, because it still stands.”


    “Over seven hundred acts of terrorism murdering tens of thousands of innocents, just to throw the government off your scent!” Orion roared as he drew near the Decepticons, all of whom tensed and several stepped forward to intervene, but Megatron waved them down. “An unprovoked coordination of attacks on high houses and their subjects, murdering tens of thousands more, including those actively trying to increase the rights of commoners!”


    Megatron shrugged. “You seem surprised. I’m pretty sure I remember telling you, in a general sense anyway, what I was planning on doing.” Megatron gave a slight grin as the irate Orion finally reached him and stopped before him. “Did you think I was joking?”


    The hundreds surrounding them watched in nervous anticipation as Orion looked up and glared deeply into the twenty-four foot tall Decepticon Commander, all around them, civilian and Decepticon alike backing away from the two. Though every optic was glued to the two of them, none of them, not even Megatron, saw the blur of a blue fist that knocked the Decepticon into the air, back several feet, and onto the ground. To his credit, Megatron reacted immediately and was back on his feet sending his own black right fist in a blur, but Orion was expecting that and ducked under, sending both fists forward as he did so landing two distracting punches, one to the abdomen, the other to the nose. Orion immediately came up swiping his right fingers across Megatron’s optics and following right away with a left cross to the distracted warrior.


    Megatron was sent staggering back but again recovered immediately with a swipe of his own, his right balled fist catching Orion in the chest and sending him back to the ground. Megatron stepped toward the downed foe, but almost impossibly Orion sprang back up, seemingly using only his upper back to propel himself off the ground, and drove his helmet crest into the bridge of Megatron’s nose. Megatron once again stumbled back, and was sent to the ground again by a blur of a snap kick. Elita had been trying to push through to help, but spectators had lined up in front of her, allowing her to see but not to get to the combatants. She suddenly lunged through as she witnessed an enraged Megatron level the giant black cannon on his arm at Orion. “No!” She yelled as she ran to get between the two fighters, Roller at her side with the same intent.


    They barely got in front of Orion when they felt his hands clamp on each of their chests and push them back behind him. Elita stared in horror as Orion, an almost look of victory in his optics, thrust his chest forward toward Megatron and hold his hands out to the sides. “Do it!” Orion roared over the gasps and protests from the crowd. “Do it, coward! Show these people your superiority! Show them the might of your expensive weapons, armor and enhancements! Drive home the FACT that your ideology and dogma and propaganda is utterly without merit, that it’s nothing but ruthless savagery that makes you worth following!”


    “Without merit!” Megatron roared back as he stood, lowering his weapon to the ground. “You stand with the Prime, the royalty, the nobility and a senate that exists solely to enforce their will while making a show of placating us? You deny their corruption and stand with them?” Megatron’s face made it clear that he immediately realized his error.


    Orion grinned. “Some of my last memories of being on Cybertron were of standing before the Prime, before the Senate. But I think I made an adequate job of demonstrating that I did NOT stand with them! You may have missed the broadcast, you were likely in Militus Macht’s dungeon for failing to have murdered me the day before, but I opposed the senate, I opposed the Prime. And someone I treasured paid the ultimate price for it!” Orion snarled. “So if you choose to once again suggest that I am aligned with what Sentinel Prime stood for, I suggest you follow it up with a shot from that cannon, because I will be over there in a flash to knock you on your ass again!”


    “Enough!” Prowl charged through and stood between the two brawlers. “Megatron, you promised to keep the pe…”


    “I have kept the peace!” Megatron snarled. “It was Orion Pax who attacked me without provocation!”


    “You have a truce with this bastard?” Orion asked, though Elita could sense that his surprise was a bit less than genuine.


    Prowl turned, looked Orion up and down and then nodded. “Aye, we do. A necessary evil, Orion Pax. And where in the Pit have you been all these years?”


    “Hiding from you.” Orion snapped back, but then looked down and noted the face of the Common Man on Prowl’s chest. “What the hell?”


    “Things tend to change over the course of fourteen years.” A new voice called out, and the crowd continued to part to finally let Blaster and several other Autobots into the inner circle. He walked over and wrapped Orion in an embrace, which the returning hero accepted and reciprocated. “Great to have you back, kid.”


    Prowl looked intently at Megatron. “I think everyone can agree that Orion Pax has been out of the loop regarding the situation here in Petrex, and that you cannot blame him for feeling salty over what you and your band of…Decepticons have done, right?”


    Megatron glared at Orion for several moments before a forced smile came over his face. “I suppose so. It’s to be expected that Orion would be confused by what the Decepticons have tried to do while he’s been in hiding.”


    “Of course I’m confused.” Orion replied. “You’ve existed for at least fourteen years in some form, but from what I’ve been told you’ve addressed no grievances publicly, you now claim to fight against the highborn hierarchy, but you’ve spent nearly a decade and a half murdering lowborn and blaming a group truly out representing the commoners, and your first action you publicly undertake is to attack any semblance of authority at the moment of the planet’s greatest peril.” Orion turned and started walking toward the structures in the center of the outer Petrex camp. “Yes Megatron, it’s hard not to be confused.”


    Prowl, Blaster, Elita, Roller and others followed after Orion, but just before clearing the circle Roller turned to Megatron. “Megatron, round two goes to Orion.”


    Twenty minutes later what constituted the leadership of the various groups was gathered in a smaller structure, the main control room still needed for the constant communication and surveillance of other parts of Cybertron, and would have proven too loud and distracting for the discussion that was about to commence. Orion and Megatron sat across from one another at the oval-shaped table, other leaders regarding them carefully, clearly afraid that hostilities could start again between the two. But Megatron bore a genuine grin as he looked upon the red and blue robot, who had Elita at his right and Roller Pax at his left. “It’s hard to imagine, but you fight better than you used to. Both your hand to hand combat and your rhetoric seem a bit…dirtier.”


    Orion half shrugged and gave a half-smile. “Too much at stake to risk losing at either.”


    “You would have us believe that what happened out there wasn’t just you lashing out like a child?” Emir Accumenus Honorum questioned almost laughingly from the center of one side of the oval, seated directly across from Emir Delta Magnus.


    “Whether you believe it or not means nothing, Emir Honorum.” Megatron replied, his optics still fixed on Orion’s. “Everything Orion Pax did and said out there was a calculated move. Wasn’t it?”


    Orion shrugged. “I needed for two things to happen. I needed for everyone to see through your lies about what your group stands for, and I needed to demonstrate that you could be beaten.”


    “You didn’t beat me.” Megatron stated in a way that invited argument.


    “No.” Orion nodded in agreement. “But I wasn’t trying to beat you, only show the people that it could be done. I think I succeeded. I guess I’ll know in a few hours after the gossip has had a chance to spread.”


    “He’s not dirtier,” Elita stated, glaring at Megatron as her hand laid upon Orion’s, “he’s savvier. He’s no longer the child you tried to murder.”


    “Enough.” Prowl, sitting farther down the table, put an end to the sniping. “We’re here for a purpose, and bickering with each other will ensure that we fail.”


    “True Prowl,” Emir Honorum stated, but was staring heatedly at Orion, “but before we get started, I would know where Orion Pax has been for the last fourteen years.”


    Orion met his stare and nodded. “I have been off-world. It was not by choice, but it was done…” he sent a side-ways look to Roller, “with my best interests in mind. Or so I was told.”


    “I too have a question for young Orion Pax.” Emir Pious Maximus asked from the other end of the long table. “Is it truly Pax, or are you to be called Orion of House Convoy now?”


    “It’s Pax!” Roller answered insistently.


    Orion looked over at his brother and gave an odd smile, but then looked back at Emir Maximus. “It’s Pax.”


    “The sparkeater king seemed quite sure.” The enormous Fortress Maximus, standing behind his emir, stated as he peered intently at Orion.


    Orion looked over to him and shrugged. “I’ve been told I have the look. I suppose it was enough to convince Violen Jiger.” A look of confusion came over the young returning expatriate as he shifted his gaze around the table at the interested looks on the faces of the others. “I’m sorry, why is this a topic? None of you can seriously be considering this as possible, can you? Convoy metallico was removed from existence over twelve million years ago.”


    “It likely is impossible, Orion,” Delta Magnus answered, “but it was pointed out that the surviving members of House Convoy, Big Convoy and Lio-Convoy, disappeared without a trace roughly one million years ago, and the possibility was raised that perhaps one or both of them died and that their frames were on Insula Avalonius at that time or moved to it sometime later,”


    “I can definitely see House Onyx murdering them and placing the bodies in a cave on an uninhabited is…”


    “That’s enough, Fortress!” Pious scolded his younger kinsman for the snarled outburst.


    “You’re suggesting that the trace metallico in my frame came from the corpse or corpses of the two surviving Convoys?” Orion asked. “I know it’s tradition for many houses to place their dead into the metallico sources that spawned them, and that their elements can go on to future generations, but they’re more…an additive to the material, disintegrated frames can’t become viable life-metal on their own.”


    “We know,” Accumenus Honorum stated emphatically, “but scientific fact seems to hold little weight against Maximus sentimentality.”


    “Hold your tongue, Honorum!” Fortress Maximus snarled, this time Pious was not inclined to chastise him for the outburst.


    Emir Accumenus glared at the huge and powerful looking robot and was about to emit a snarl of his own, when Torenia Pax, who had been standing behind Roller and Orion, stepped forward and made her voice heard. “Enough! These insults and threats will cease now!” She stared down the table inviting a challenge, but after several seconds of silence she allowed her stern glare to soften and she continued. “The metallico that partially went into making up Orion’s frame did not come from the corpses of Big or Lio Convoy.” She smiled. “We have evidence that it was placed there.”


    “What?” The question was blurted from nearly every mouth, including Orion’s.


    “Lady Torenia,” Roller harshly whispered, “now is not the time for this discussion.”


    Torenia glared at Roller, a look of disbelief mixed in with the anger. “Emir Pax, I could forgive an oversight given all that’s happening, but willfully keeping this from your brother?”


    “Yes, my brother!” Roller hissed. “He’s a Pax. He’s been a Pax since you led him into Tyger Pax, and he’ll be a Pax until his dying day, and he will be laid upon our birthing grounds with full honors in hopes his traits continue on.” He slowly turned his head toward the other members at the table, and addressed them. “This is an internal matter for House Pax, it concerns none of you.”


    “If he is a Convoy,” Pious Maximus started.


    “You’ll what?” Roller interrupted. “Demand he serve you as a vassal?”


    “The Convoys were NEVER our vassals!” Fortress snapped. “They were friends, equals to us all, though only House Maximus believed such! They were our guests, and we have several hundred Maximals out there wondering if their rightful lord has reappeared.”


    “I am nobody’s lord.” Orion stated. “I have no idea what Emir Roller and Lady Torenia are discussing, but it matters not. I am to be judged by my words and deeds. Where the metal that makes me originated from is of no consequence.”


    “Those of the land, and those of a house,

    be born of equal worth.

    A mech’s value set by words and deeds,

    not by the spot of its birth.”


    Megatron’s haunting and somber voice silenced the room as he lightly sang the words well known even outside of Nyon. Orion glared at him, but his angry look was only met with a smile.


    “To be the last surviving Convoy,” the tall, mysterious Mistress of Flame took that moment of silence to saunter forward from behind Delta Magnus, “that would make you a high lord, the last of an ancient line that our legends as well as the monster king depict as the driving force behind the expulsion of the five-faced demons that killed and enslaved our kind, and are likely the basis for the false religion of the southerners. As Convoy you would be far more than you ever would as an adoptee into an inconsequential polar house.”


    “Inconsequential?” Torenia snarled at the tall, beautiful femme.


    “You would no longer need to continue your affiliation with the Autobots.” Megatron commented, glossing over the sudden animosity between Torenia Pax and the fiery priestess, and maintaining his smug smile at Orion. “As Lord Convoy, your every desire would be granted. The commoners would love you, north and south, the lowborn have always romanticized House Convoy. As the last of your kind, that kind being a Convoy, you’d be treated as a royal by the royals. Should it all be true, it would be most fortuitous for you that it all came to light prior to getting the face of the Common Man branded into you.”


    Orion stared evenly at Megatron for a moment before replying. “My convictions are my convictions because I believe them to be true, not because they are advantageous to me.” His optics narrowed. “I am NOT a Decepticon.”


    Megatron lost his smile and a dangerous look came over his face. “You suggest I am less than sincere in my beliefs?”


    Orion displayed a slight grin. “Would you hold with your current ideals were you born a weakling? A simpleton?”


    “I wouldn’t have been able to come up with my ideals were I born a simpleton.” Megatron sneered. “And were I weak, I’d have honed some form of usefulness. And should I have failed at that, then so be it, I’d have been forced to acknowledge my inferiority and accepted whatever justice my betters…my true betters, chose for me.”


    “I don’t believe you.” Orion stated. “Your own braggadocio makes you out to be the greatest deceiver on the planet, and I can’t for a moment imagine you offering yourself up for another’s greater good.” Orion then looked to the other leaders at the table. “I apologize for continuing to keep us off course, but I believe we should discuss our defense against the sparkeaters.”


    “Orion Pax is right.” Delta Magnus took charge, but seemed to be distracted a bit as he glanced up to see the Mistress of Flame staring intently at Orion. Elita failed to notice Delat Magnus’s slight faltering as she too was a little put off by the priestess’s attention on the newly returned Pax. “It is essential that we devise a strategy to fight these creatures.”


    “I think our course is clear.” Emir Honorum cut in. “We intercept them on their way to Iacon, likely at Peptex, our soldiers cut them open and then blast their exposed sparks.”


    “Ha!” Megatron emitted. “You think that because you saw Orion Pax kills some sparkeaters, that your soldiers will be capable of doing the same?” He shook his head. “You’re a fool, Emir Honorum, and those that follow you are doomed. The footage from Tyger Pax was extremely useful, but it is not to be seen as a ‘how-to’ for the common foot soldier. I can kill sparkeaters, Shockwave can as well, Delta Magnus, Overlord, Grimlock, possibly Ultra Magnus, and from what I hear from the few Decepticons that survived the assault on Protihex, Fortress Maximus likely can as well. And beyond them, maybe a handful more warriors on the planet. But a dozen lesser soldiers, even marginally lesser, going at a sparkeater will just wind up as food.


    “He’s right.” Delta Magnus agreed. “Ultra Magnus and I have spent some time in the training ring with Orion, and he easily held his own against the two of us.”


    “He didn’t hold his own,” Ultra Magnus chimed in, “he flat out beat me.”


    “It appears I should remove Ultra Magnus from my list of sparkeater-killers.” Megatron snidely added.


    “It did take a great deal of force to cut them open.” Orion added. “With all due humility, I am quite strong, and quite fast as well, and after nine years of melee warfare against enemies with multiple redundancies built into their frames making them very difficult to kill, I’m quite battle-hardened. And even with my physical advantages, battlefield sharpness, and the aid and weaponry of Emir Pax and the Tyger Pax defenses, it took everything we had not to get killed. So yes, we will need to devise something more elaborate that just cut and shoot.” He looked them all over. “But I don’t disagree with Emir Honorum about intercepting them at Peptex. Guardian Spaceport has fallen, but the reports we have is that it was only a single small aerial freight hauler that delivered the sparkeaters, and that their numbers in Cybertropolis are tiny…to the point where we’ve received no reports of them outside the spaceport. So barring that small number likely sent solely to take command of the planet’s primary spaceport and possibly the Capital Spires, the bulk of their army is still north of the Mithril Sea. Emir Pax did a good job of evacuating most of House Pax’s personnel and assets, and while there are other aerial transports in and around Polarus, they are few, small, and for the most part quite modest. But should the sparkeater army reach Iacon, they’d find more than enough transport methods to get them quickly south of the sea, and once done there are no more natural barriers to confine them. As far as I know there haven’t been any ships leaving Guardian Spaceport since it fell, my guess is that’s due primarily to a lack of pilots to bring the ships that are there back to Polarus or Taenarus, well, just Polarus I guess, there isn’t enough space to put multiple ships in front of what’s left of the Tartarun Gates. But whatever the case, we also need to send a force to reclaim Guardian Spaceport, or at least take or destroy every ship there so that they can’t use them once they get their pilot shortage sorted out.” Elita gently squeezed Orion’s hand and smiled at him, causing a nervous look to come over him. “I did not intend to speak out of turn, nor do I mean to presume anything. I will be silent as the proper authorities discuss matters and only answer questions asked of me or provide any insight into our enemies that I may have observed at Tyger Pax.”


    “Do not apologize, Orion Pax.” Megatron replied in an almost scolding manner. “Even prior to your exchange with this Vilen Jiger and his forces, your voice should carry far more weight than those of anyone else at this table. You, Shockwave, Soundwave, Delta Magnus, Ultra Magnus, Fortress Maximus, Roller Pax and Elita One are the only royals to have shown themselves to be of any worth in battle, and Elita One’s inclusion is based solely on the magical armor in her possession.”


    “Am I to understand that you stole that cannon on your arm from a common armory?” Elita hissed back.


    “Touché.” Megatron chuckled. “But back to my point, Orion, should you have something to say, do not hesitate to do so. Your birth, whether low or high, means nothing in the coming war, or ever now that I’ve put an end to the hierarchal status quo. Do not look for permission from the likes of Accumenus Honorum, Dominus Ambus or Pious Maximus before adding your valuable contributions.”


    “Enough!” Delta Magnus growled. “This meeting has been overrun by not-so-passive aggressiveness, and it ends now! Orion, you have more than proven yourself worthy of contributing, and I completely agree with your assessment. What we need to do first and foremost is to devise a chain of command, unite our various forces into a single army with a single goal.”


    Megatron chuckled, prompting all to look at him. He provided a shrug and rolling of his optics along with a sardonic grin. “Decepticons, government forces, Autobots, surviving high house guards, leaderless southerners, northerners and everything in between all bowing before Delta Magnus, or Delta Prime, or whatever your aspirations may be?” Megatron shook his head. “I agreed to cooperation, not assimilation. You come up with plans involving coordination, or joint strikes, or any other form where we rely upon one another to destroy the common enemy, absolutely. I would even be willing to place Decepticon warriors temporarily under the command of competent non-Decepticon officers should the need arise. But we will not be joining you. Your dominion over me and my followers has come to an end.”


    “We will not defeat these creatures with various fractured forces!” Delta grumbled back. “I’m not suggesting bent knees, but a unified front is essential.”


    “My lords?” A small predominantly blue robot entered the structure. “I apologize for interrupting…” He stopped talking as Soundwave pushed past him and walked right up to the table, his optics on Megatron the entire time.


    “Lord Megatron, we have received word from Tyger Pax. Violen Jiger requests a parlay with our leaders.” Soundwave stated to his leader, ignoring everyone else in the room.


    “Good, I would like to get the full measure of this demon king.” Megatron replied with a grin. “Though I don’t think us leaders would be willing to go to Polarus without our armies at our backs.”


    “He claims to have the means to travel to a neutral area.” The blue robot chimed in as he took a step further into the large room.


    “Thank you Eject.” Emir Honorum said, reasserting himself at the table. “I have no doubt this beast has some sort of treachery in mind.”


    “There are many islands on the Mithril Sea.” Delta Magnus added. “It would be impossible for him to get his monsters close to us there without our knowing it.”


    “He has already stated where this neutral meeting place is to be, and yes, it is an island in the Mithril Sea.” Soundwave replied, turning his gaze to Orion Pax. “He wishes to meet at Insula Avalonius.”



    ---



    Polar Claw



    “You do understand what I just told you, right?” The arrogant blue and yellow homeworlder asked condescendingly, as though stunned that Polar Claw’s instant reaction to his statement wasn’t to jump up, gather the troops and follow this guy into the jaws of death…literally.


    “I understand completely.” Polar Claw politely but firmly replied to this Nightbeat. They were on the bridge of the long-downed Axalon, the starhopper that he had arrived to Helios-3…or Earth as the natives referred to it, was parked out on the polar ice a half mile away. “But what do you expect from us. Our numbers are a few dozen. Our ship is inoperable, our knowledge of Cybertron is a million years out of date and our knowledge of sparkeaters is damn near nothing.”


    “I don’t expect anything from you and your Maximals!” Nightbeat snapped. “Nothing beyond telling me where to find the greatest warship, leader and warriors Cybertron ever produced!”


    Polar Claw looked Nightbeat up and down. “I have no idea of what you’re talking about.”


    “Cut the shit, Polar Claw!” Nightbeat growled. “The Manifest is here, on this planet! You’ve been guarding it for over a million years! You’ve fought wars over it for a quarter of those years!” Polar Claw glanced over to Rattrap standing near the entrance of the bridge between Bonecrusher and Cybershark, who just shrugged apologetically in return. “You want to remove or destroy the Ferrotaxis, fine! You want to remove Jhiaxus from the ship and keep him in your custody should he still be alive, then fine! I don’t care! I have no interest in the galactic ambitions Guardian Prime may or may not have had. All I’m interested in is the ability to destroy sparkeaters that ship has. The hope and inspiration the population of Cybertron will be filled with, whether deserved or not, by the return of Guardian Prime. Galvatron, Cyclonus, their army! They may be the only thing that can save our home world, and you’re going to let us all die because you were told that Guardian Prime’s astounding and unequalled contributions were all offset because he was allegedly getting a bit too ambitious in his later years!”


    “We have orders.” Polar Claw growled back.


    “By a dead house following a former Prime who in all likelihood orchestrated all this just to become Prime again!” Nightbeat snapped. “None of whom could have imagined the sparkeaters re-emerging in the midst of some sort of southern commoner uprising powerful enough to kill the sitting Prime!”


    “You know nothing.” Polar Claw replied.


    “I’m right, Primus damn it all!” Nightbeat yelled. “Tell me I’m wrong, I slagging dare you!”


    Polar Claw stared silently at the homeworlder for nearly a minute before looking past him toward the entrance of the bridge at his three soldiers standing there. “Bonecrusher, Cybershark, take Nightbeat into custody and place him in the brig.”


    “You’re dooming your world.” Nightbeat hissed.


    “I’m cooling you down, and giving me time to think this through.” Polar Claw angrily explained. “Though frankly, given all that the home world has done, this may just be their rightful comeuppance.”


    “You can’t possibly believe that!” Nightbeat protested as the hands of Bonecrusher and Cybershark clamped onto his upper arms and started dragging him away. “Even if you are that myopic, there are other Maximals still on Cybertron!”


    Polar Claw looked away as the prisoner was led off the bridge, leaving him alone with Rattrap. The imposing Maximal knew that it was only going to be a second or two before the little twerp chimed in. “You know he’s right.”


    The white and red robot turned his head and glared at the much smaller Maximal. “You suggest we simply release them? Ignore our vows to Big Convoy? Unleash the Ferrotaxis on the universe?”


    “Destroy it, like Nighbeat said.” Rattrap replied.


    “They’ll just make a new one!” Polar Claw roared. “Even if we make sure Jhiaxus is dead, they have enough of his notes to piece together another one.”


    “Chances are they’re all dead, even Guardian Prime and Galvatron.” Rattrap muttered. “We go in, do a sweep, verify their dead…one way or another, and give Nightbeat the ship. The ship alone can wipe out cities, it should have no problem mopping up a few thousand spark-suckers.”


    “I…I cannot kill those in stasis.” Polar Claw grumbled quietly. “Either by my hand or hands under my command. Nor can I wake them and give them a chance to defend themselves. It would be an option were it anyone else, but I cannot hope to defeat Guardian Prime or Galvatron. Even Cyclonus would likely be more than I could handle. And the stakes are too high to allow a possibility of them getting free.”


    “Ya’ need to shelve that honor of yours.” Rattrap stated. “You can’t acknowledge the stakes, and then let your honor hold you back from what needs to be done.”


    Polar Claw thought silently for a few moments before shaking his head. “No, that’s just it.” He looked intently into Rattrap’s optics. “Nothing needs to be done.”



    ---



    Orion Pax



    “Black coral?” Orion whispered as he stood at the mouth of the cave looking into the darkness.


    Torenia, Roller and Elita were gathered behind him, Elita reaching forward to grasp his right hand with hers. “The scientific nomenclature is…”


    “Corallium Furvus, yes, you whispered it at Tyger Pax.” Orion interrupted as he continued gazing into the darkness within. “I’ve heard of it, how it used to be used to fashion urns or casks to hold sentio metallico, but twelve million years?” Orion muttered, getting them back on track. “Black coral’s preservative properties aren’t anywhere near that potent.”


    “I know, buddy.” Roller said as he walked past the others and entered the cave, shining a light from his frame to illuminate the cavern, but then focusing it on the ground. He leaned over and began brushing away dirt, finally revealing a piece of the black coral jutting out of the ground. “I tested a piece I broke off of this one. It dated to over twelve million years since it was removed from the sea, and it was definitely fashioned into a shape, it was some natural bit of coral brought up here by some animal, something intelligent fished it from the sea, shaped it, and put it here.” Roller shut off his lights and walked out of the cave, stopping in front of Orion and peering up into his optics. “Whatever you are, wherever you came from, it changes nothing. I know what I said earlier, but if you’re a Convoy, and you want to take the name, then do so. We’re still brothers, we’ll always be brothers.”


    Orion smiled and placed his hand on Roller’s shoulder. “Of course, that will never change. Nor will my name. I am and always will be Orion Pax.”


    “Well hold one there…” Roller grinned, “I’d be OK with you changing it to Orion Prime some point.”


    “Ha!” Orion let out a genuine laugh and pushed his brother away playfully. “That’s a big step up from mayor of a garbage heap. That’s more in line for an emir…” he looked to Elita and grinned, “or a One.”


    “Not a chance.” Elita grinned as she squeezed Orion’s hand, but they all looked up as a shadow fell on them. The skies over the island had been abuzz with the jet modes of two dozen flying Cybertronians, all but three of them Decepticons. It seemed Megatron had spent a fair bit of time, energy and expense finding, recruiting and altering those with shell modes that would be flight compatible with the right alterations. The fliers were there to monitor for the arrival of the sparkeater king or any treachery that he may have in store. The flier descending upon them now was a dark blue jet transforming into a sleek robot nearly identical in shape to Starcream. Orion noticed Elita wince, recognizing the similarity to the orchestrator of her House’s demise was beyond unsettling to her. “Who the hell are you and what do you want?” She snarled at the flier as he landed gracefully on the rock, dirt and metal ground.


    “I am Thundercracker of Centurion, and Lord Megatron send me to retrieve you all.” The blue robot stated indifferently. “Three large insect-like creatures were detected flying at a high rate of speed toward the island.”


    “I thought he was to come alone.” Torenia stated.


    Orion looked to his companions. He wanted them off, but as emirs, Elita and Roller were expected to be there. “Roller, please arrange to have Lady Torenia returned to Petrex.”


    “Absolutely not!” Torenia growled back. “I came with you three, I will be leaving with you three.”


    “Is there any sign of anything coming here beyond these three bugs?” Elita asked, her tone less threatening than before.


    “No, but we will remain vigilant and alert you should that change.” Thundercracker stated. He turned to take off and leave, but paused and shifted his head back slightly in their direction. “I’ve overheard some Autobots mention that Exponum One provided them aid.”


    “It’s true.” Elita replied. “We had to do it quietly as they were an outlaw group, but Exponum and I funneled resources and information to them when we could. Why?”


    Thundercracker looked her over a bit, something resembling uncertainty in his face for just a moment. “They are expecting you on the beach.” With that he leapt to the sky, transformed and shot away.


    The four robots made their way down the mountain, through the jungles, and were soon approaching the beach that Torenia and Elita had first set foot on more than fifteen years before after their ship went down. The crowd of Cybertronian leaders stood on the beach, looking out over the ocean facing the northwest expectantly looking for the three forms they’d been informed of to arrive. Orion sent a mental command to the compartment hastily built for him by a pair of smiths back in Petrex while they waited for their transports to Avalonius to be arranged, and at feeling it open reached back and took hold of his collapsed ion blaster, snapping it into shape as he pulled it forward to the front of his body. “Lady Torenia, I must insist that you stay back, off of the beach, as far from…”


    “You do as I say, Orion Pax, NOT the other way around!” Torenia insisted. “And that will be the case even when you truly do become Orion Prime.” She whispered playfully as they drew near the assembled Cybertronians, her comment too low to be heard by anyone, but the Mistress of Flame turned and peered intently at them the moment it left her mouth, as though she knew exactly what was said.


    The four joined the others, and turned their gaze to the horizon like the others, finally catching sight of three tiny pinpricks in the distance. But as the seconds passed the shapes grew larger, until finally they could make them out clearly enough to take in the terrifying features of three insectoids, each the size of a very large Cybertronian, each with dark blue/gray shells and monstrous heads lined with horns and teeth. The crowd tensed collectively as the beasts reached the beach and converged into one giant and familiar form. Violen Jiger stood tall in the sand, and pulled out a long cloak the color his bestial shells were and wrapped it around his shoulders, and attached it making a cape that went down almost to the ground. He provided the group a hideous smile. “I may have started life as a tribe-less Pentiathan spawn, but I do enjoy my finery at times.”


    “Yes, you look quite regal.” Roller stated.


    “So nice to see you again, Emir Pax.” The massive enemy said.


    “Violen Jiger, I am Delta Magnus, Emir of the Tagan Heights, and the agreed upon foreman of the leaders of Cybertron.” Delta called out waving his arm toward a large table with many chairs arranged around it, the chairs ranging in size to accommodate the smaller than average all the way up to the massive king of the sparkeaters. “We have a table and chairs arranged for this discussion. While we all have our doubts, each one of us genuinely hopes to come to some sort of mutually agreeable accord here today.”


    Violen Jiger smiled and nodded. “That is excellent to hear.” The massive creature made his way toward the largest chair at the table, and the rest of the group took their places at the table as well. Just as the last seat was filled Violen Jiger continued. “I wish to unleash myself and my minions upon Cybertron, conquering all and devouring most, but recognizing the need to ration what’s consumed and allowing your population to replenish itself. You all wish for me and my army to cease to exist, or to at least return from whence we came and never bother you again. You cannot simply sit back and allow me to accomplish my goal, and I have no intention of allowing what you would have happen come to pass. So I’ve conceived of a compromise that I feel to be acceptable to all sitting here.”


    Accumenus Honorum smiled broadly. “That is wonderful to hear. We should have known that the legends of our forebears had depicted you unfairly. You truly seem reasonable and fair-minded.”


    “Let’s hear the compromise.” Prowl stated, almost cutting Emir Honorum off.


    Violen Jiger leaned forward and seemed to stare them all down with all six of his demonic optics. “You will all remain in your positions of power. You will pay homage to me and do as I say, but otherwise you will rule your lands or groups or whatever as you do now. I will even allow each of you to select one hundred individuals to remain unmolested by myself, my sparkeaters, my demons and my thralls, and another thousand who are not to be killed. The land and possessions of these one thousand will be fair game to my thralls; the demons and sparkeaters care nothing for land or possessions, but their lives will be protected. But all others on the planet not on these lists will be fair game, and the hunts will not be interfered with. I will even allow you one offspring per pulse at each of your spawning grounds.” The monstrous central visage of the creature settled on Orion and smiled. “For you Lord Convoy, I will allow you to choose a hot spot as your own. I chose this island for our meeting to see if it would suffice as a hot spot for your future generations, but even my senses can’t detect more than the most minimal of trace elements of metallico on this rock beyond all of you and the other Cybertronians you brought with you. So I will allow you to choose any site you wish and lay claim to one protoform per pulse from that location.” He looked away from Orion and scanned the rest of them. “And that’s it. I suppose there may be details to iron out, but I don’t see anything that could pose a problem should you choose to accept my generous offer.”


    “It is most gracious, your grace,” Accumenus offered with a slightly bowed head, “but please allow us to confer amongst ourselves.”


    Violen Jiger smiled and started to offer a nod, but was stopped by “No!” All optics turned to Orion, who was glaring down at Emir Honorum. “Are you insane? You would offer up over ninety-nine percent of our population to cybervores? You call that a fair and reasonable compromise? I do not speak for House Honorum, I do not speak for anyone by myself, but I will not be accepting that offer.”


    “Nor will I.” Megatron stated calmly but authoritatively. “Cybertron will have a master, but that master will not be you.”


    “House Magnus and all of the Tagan Heights rejects your offer as well.” Delta Magnus asserted.


    “As does House Pax!” Roller followed.


    “Your offer is rejected, Violen Jiger.” Elita One announced. “We take our stewardship of the people seriously, and we will not be offering them up to you.”


    “Not a single spark.” Orion stated.


    Violen Jiger smiled and nodded. “So be it. I’m not entirely surprised. After my run in with Emir Pax and Lord Convoy, I knew there were those of you with courage. I had just hoped there were more of you with sense.”


    “Sorry to disappoint you, asshole.” Fortress Maximus stated with a grin on his face.


    Violen Jiger stood from his chair and nodded to them all. “Very well then, at least I know that I tried. What happens now is entirely due to you and your intransigence.”


    “And what is to happen now?” Delta Magnus asked as he too stood.


    “I return to Tyger Pax.” The monstrous giant announced. “Then tomorrow I lead my army to Iacon and decimate what’s left there. I’m assuming the city will be evacuated for the most part…” Violen Jiger paused and looked up, seeing a gray, red and blue jet drop down, transform, and land on the beach. Starscream nervously walked toward the group, specifically toward Megatron. Everyone noted the strange way the demon king was studying Starscream, but couldn’t fathom why. “What is your name?”


    Starscream stared at him in terror, then looked to Megatron, who shrugged and nodded. Starscream looked back at the giant. “Starscream…of House Nexus.”


    Violen Jiger cocked an opticbrow and inhaled deeply. “Another adoption I assume. What faction do you fight for Starscream?”


    “I am a Decepticon.” Starscream replied nervously.


    Violen Jiger nodded and smiled. “I will see you again, Starscream of the Decepticons.” The huge creature then turned toward the water, ripped off his cape and made to separate, but a voice calling out stopped him.


    “Violen Jiger!” The giant turned and gave a look of annoyance at Orion’s voice. “My axe, is it still embedded in the Spear of Paxus?”


    Violen Jiger chuckled, not bothering to turn around as he answered. “Yes. It’s a nice axe, would you like me to send it to you?”


    “No.” Orion stated. “Leave it there. I’ll get it myself after we’ve taken back Tyger Pax.” With that Orion turned and started marching back toward the clearing that they had landed their transports in. He heard Violen Jiger chuckle before the sounds he assumed to be his transformation into the three insects. This parlay had been a waste of time, as he knew it would be, and they had a lot of preparations to make if they were going to defeat these creature on the morrow.
     
  8. Anodythe

    Anodythe Well-Known Member

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    Oh boy...lots to read. I will make my reading last for many days.
     
  9. Blam320

    Blam320 Assembly Inventor

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    Can't wait for the next installment!
     
  10. fb111a

    fb111a New Member

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    Loving this story after re-reading it.
     
  11. batmanprime

    batmanprime Omega-con

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    just bumping this so anyone who hasn't seen it can be exposed to it's greatness
     
  12. peteynorth

    peteynorth TFW2005 Supporter

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    Grimlock



    The shuttle was crowded, not dangerously so, there was enough space to allow a wide berth for the table that he, Slag and Snarl were sitting at, but it was undoubtedly packed tighter than the nobles who used to own it ever had it. Not that they cared how this band of Autobot outcasts were treating their craft; they weren’t in a position to care about anything anymore. House Karkas was a lower house of Nyon, but apparently not beneath the attention of the Decepticons, who swept through the estate and slaughtered every Karkas, guard and servant on the premises in their recent purge of the highborn. Swoop was a fair tracker, good enough so that when he told Grimlock that nobody had gotten away, Grimlock believed him. As callous as it was, this was good news for Grimlock; Autobots weren’t thieves, at least that was one of the many rules the outlaw group had been hammering him with over the last nine years, and it was one of the few that he tried to abide by. But if all the Karkas’s were dead, then it really wasn’t theft. He did consider the wealth of the highborn to be ill-gotten and undeserved, but the Autobots were trying to make a point, and stealing stuff would kind of negate that point, or so they claimed. Of course, it all seemed pointless over the last fourteen years as the planet considered them to be indiscriminate, murdering terrorists, but in light of Megatron going public with his band of thugs and it becoming apparent that they were the true terrorists, the Autobots’ innocence was slowly being accepted by much of the planet, so maybe now, in light of the slowly receding hatred, the Autobots’ good citizens campaign might amount to more than a hill of shit, though Grimlock still doubted that very much. The Autobots would always be hated and disregarded by the powers that be, they just currently happened to be less a threat to them than the Decepticons.


    Grimlock leaned back in the undersized chair bolted to the floor in front of the undersized table holding three engex bottles that they had taken from the Karkas’s supply room, and raised one of the bottles to an intake slat on his lower face, sucking the tainted fuel into his frame. It was the strongest drink the murdered nobles had, but it did little more than tickle the gladiator’s throat. The gray and yellow warrior slammed the bottle back down on the table and listened to the final verse of the bawdy tune the drunken bestial Autobots under his command were belting out, swaying with their own found engex bottles in their hands.


    “So the fowl will strut,

    And the beast will rut,

    But I’ll always take a mingling femme!

    By Hand, I’ll always take a mingling femme!”


    “Morons.” Grimlock grumbled across the table to Slag and Snarl, the other two in better spirits than their leader. “We’re bigger, we’re immortal, and billions of things that kill organics are nothing to us, yet they sing a song implying the main reason it’s better to be a mechanical is that spark-mingling is more fun than organic mating.”


    “How would they even know it’s more fun?” Snarl asked, intentionally avoiding Grimlock’s point and making a valid conversation out of the insult.


    Slag chuckled. “Singers are deviants, my guess is that one transformed into some male beast, his conjux transformed into a female of the species, and put the two methods to the test. Makes sense, it’s a Nyonian song, whoever made it up was probably a beast.”


    “I don’t think it’s an accurate test.” Snarl continued, no doubt aware that the discussion was annoying Grimlock but continuing anyway because he found it amusing to do so. Grimlock would have to find a pretext for beating his ass sometime soon. “Sensory receptors of metallico and nerve endings of flesh work differently, especially on the erogenous zones of fleshies.”


    “It creeps me out that you’ve put that much thought into this.” Slag grumbled. “And whether it’s accurate or not means nothing, degenerate singers would do it for the giggles if nothing else.”


    “Would you two shut the hell up?” Grimlock snarled. “I can’t believe you morons are talking about this.”


    “What, spark mingling, or animal mating?” Snarl egged him on with a grin.


    “Grimlock’s not into femmes I guess.” Slag was blunter with the insults.


    “I’m attracted to femmes like most, and the idea of mingling…yeah, it’s appealing.” Grimlock grumbled as he snatched the bottle back and took another pull from it. “But it’s fighting I love, and getting into fights is easy, getting a femme to open her chest is hard. So you idiots can waste your time doing what’s appealing but impossible while I’m out there doing what I love.”


    “If you love fighting so slaggin’ much,” Slag grumbled, “why’d you get us kicked out of the circuit?”


    “You slaggin’ morons did that!” Grimlock snapped. “I still can’t believe you bought into Soundwave’s bullshit and came charging in, as if I’d ever need you pussies to save me.”


    “Even Swoop bought into it, and he’s smart.” Sludge, who had wandered through the eleven other Autobot beast-bots in the cargo hold of the freighter to be closer to Grimlock, Slag and Snarl, chimed in.


    “Just because Swoop isn’t as dumb as you three doesn’t make him smart!” Grimlock growled back, slamming the bottle back down on the table, this time hard enough to shatter it, sending the remaining fifth of the contents spilling over the round table-top and causing most Autobots in the shuttle to look his way.


    “OK, fine, but getting us on the Autobot shit-detail list was more than just us!” Slag shot back.


    “We’re Nyonians, they stuck us in Nyon, what’s the slaggin’ problem?” Grimlock growled defensively, fully aware that they had been isolated from the bulk of the Autobot forces since shortly after hooking up with them, and the primary reason for that being his inability to deal with others.


    “We’re not in Simfur, or Gygax, or anything resembling civilization, no, we’re stationed in the slaggin’ Toraxxis Plains.” Slag growled back. “And they stuck us with this collection of miscreants, head-cases and half-asses!” The former gladiator nearly yelled, causing the rest of the robots in the cargo section of the craft to go silent and glare at him. “All because you have to be an asshole all the time to everyone!”


    “Are you kidding me?” Grimlock was stunned. “The only one on the planet unfit to refer to me as an asshole is you!”


    “Oh, I know that!” Slag snapped back. “I’m a huge asshole to everyone all the time too, a bigger one than you, but I’m not the leader! I’m an asshole, they reprimand me, or throw me in the brig, or whatever. But when you’re an asshole, we all get stuck in the Toraxxis Plains with a shit crew!”


    “Hey!” Repugnus, a large red, orange and gray brute called out. “Watch who you’re calling a shit crew!”


    “I’m calling you all a shit crew. I’ve watched you being a shit crew for years now, which justifies me calling you a shit crew.” Slag replied challengingly, a grin spreading over his face. Grimlock had faced off against both of them, both in the pits and in personal brawls, and while he knew Slag would win, the horned dumbass wouldn’t be walking away from it unscathed.


    Grimlock stood, determined to quell this confrontation, but Swoop’s voice came through the intercom. “Hey boys, we’re being hailed. Decepticons telling us to put down.”


    “We’re still in the Toraxxis Plains, right?” Grimlock asked, not sure why the ‘Cons would be interested in them, but then realized that they were flying a craft that belonged to a clan on the Decepticon hit list. But that left the question of what the Decepticons were doing in the boneyards of Nyon. “Hold on, I’m coming to the cockpit.” A moment later the hulking Grimlock was squeezing himself through the small door and into the co-pilot’s seat. The room and chairs were even a bit tight for the smaller Swoop, but both made due. “What the hell are these guys doing in the boneyards?”


    “They didn’t bother to explain that to me, just barked an order to identify ourselves and put down in an area sixty miles ahead.” Swoop replied.


    “What’d you tell them?” Grimlock asked, noting through the windshield the approaching squadron of Decepticon fliers heading out to escort them.


    “Just that we’re Autobots.” Swoop replied. “Look boss, normally I’d be up for a fight, but we’re in a bucket, those fliers look like they know what they’re doing, and everything we’ve heard about the Decepticons suggests that they own the skies, so let’s do what they say until we’re on the ground. We have a chance there, but up here, we’re cooked.”


    “Such inspiring bravery from the team flier.” Grimlock grumbled.


    “Yes, THE team flier. As in the only one.” Swoop replied. “And they have thrusters, I flap. Good for domed arenas, but in an open sky, the jets have the overwhelming advantage over the bird.”


    “Whatever, just put us down and prepare for a fight.” Grimlock replied, studying the terrain closely, scrutinizing the general area that they were being instructed to put down. There were mountains in the distance, but too far to offer any cover. No vegetation or other objects beyond sporadic boulders that were too small to be of any use for effective protection in a firefight. He was finally able to make out a cover designed to look like the terrain below it, a very good camouflage masking some structure, one covering a few hundred yards squared. The Autobots would be outnumbered, out-gunned, and out-positioned the moment they set down, and despite his bravado, Grimlock knew the odds against them were likely too great. As they drew near the landing spot and the camouflaged structure not far from it, he saw a sight that made the odds against them significantly worse. “Shockwave.”


    “Oh, I remember that guy.” Swoop stated as he took in the landing zone. “Let’s hope you two play nicer than you did last time.”


    “Me too, looks like he’s been enhanced since our previous meeting, a lot bulkier.” Grimlock replied. “I’m sure I can still take him hand to hand, but he’s probably nearly at my level in terms of strength now, and his firepower is like nothing I’ve ever seen…or felt.”


    “That’s right, he shot you in the back, didn’t he?” Swoop muttered, studying the purple royal waiting for them on the ground. “And from what I hear he and Soundwave apparently murdered their own house. Not sure we should be trusting this guy.”


    “No choice at this point.” Grimlock stated. “If he wants this ship down, he has enough firepower on his person to take it down, not to mention the squad of flying shitbags you’re so afraid of. We put down, if he pulls anything at that point, we’ll react accordingly.”


    “Meaning you’ll kill hi…”


    “Meaning I’ll kill him, yes.” Grimlock interrupted in impatient annoyance.


    “Might be tougher than you think,” Swoop commented as he started lowering to the ground, “Razorclaw’s and Hun-Grrr’s tribes are with him, along with those green and purple…”


    “Yeah, I see ‘em.” Grimlock grumbled. “Just put us down. I’ll make it clear that despite the numbers, and the fact that they’ve got a few elite warriors in their mix, most of them will be dying should they pull anything.” A moment later they were on the ground and Grimlock was barreling his way out of the cockpit and toward the door. “Slag, Snarl, Sludge, with me. The rest of you stay put, but be ready to come charging out weapons blazing.” Grimlock lead his squad sans Swoop down the steps and onto the dry, rock and ore covered ground. Shockwave merely stood his ground, ten bestial robots and six green and purple robots with construction vehicle parts arrived and stood behind the cycloptic Decepticon. “Been a long time, Shockwave, looks like you added some bulk along with that Warrior’s face on your chest.”


    Shockwave stared at the newcomers for a moment before replying. “Megatron had been a bit vague in how to deal with non-noble, non-government affiliated potential combatants.”


    “We’re called Autobots.” Snarl responded.


    “So your pilot claimed.” Shockwave replied. “I’d heard that your gladiatorial squad had joined them, though reports of your standing with them have varied.”


    “You just need to know we’re Autobots.” Grimlock grumbled. “And that we’ve got a score to settle with you for the carnage you’ve caused in our name over the last fourteen years. Not to mention my personal score to settle regarding the bullshit that went down in my fight against Megatron. But we’re willing to overlook that for now.”


    “Personal score; against me?” Shockwave asked. “I took no part in anything that transpired in the arena that night, and it was I that was left critically wounded in our confrontation afterward. If anything, I should be the one with a score to settle, were I petty enough to consider such things.”


    Grimlock, still more than a dozen yards away from the Decepticon, stepped forward and pointed. “You attacked me, slag-face! Your attempt to kill me from behind not working out in your favor isn’t something you get to hold a vendetta over. You start a fight and lose, guess what, you’re still the asshole that started the fight. Me winning doesn’t make me the asshole.”


    “Valid point, but irrelevant as I’ve already stated that I don’t hold grudges.” Shockwave replied. “If anything, I suppose I should be grateful. My failure to subdue your team is what prompted me to realize the value in physical abilities and enhance my frame.”


    “Let me guess,” Grimlock grumbled, “this is where you tell me that the outcome of any fight we have now would be very different.”


    “No, I was not going to say that.” Shockwave replied. “My goal is not to instigate a fight with you, something that I would assume would cause you great relief given how hopelessly outgunned you are. No, a situation has arisen to the northwest that has taken precedence over our prior objectives and prompted us to find common ground with our enemies. Neither you nor the other Autobots qualify as our enemies, at worst you would be seen as a potential nuisance, and your northern affiliates have already entered into an alliance with the Decepticons, so instead of antagonistic remarks, perhaps we should make arrangements to possibly consolidate resources and transport our troops to Petrex in the most efficient manner possible.”


    Grimlock sensed Snarl stepping forward to address the purple Decepticon. “So we’re not going to die right now? Good.” Grimlock’s groan was barely audible, he’d have to give Snarl a solid kick to the skid plate later. He groaned again as he sensed Slag stepping forward as well.


    “What are you guys doing here anyway?” The horned gladiator pressed, his question creating an uncomfortable stir amongst the Decepticons. “There’s nothing out here but hundreds of miles of rock and ore in every direction.”


    “That’s not your concern, Autobot.” Shockwave replied before turning to the green and purple robot with a wide shovel mounted on his back. “See to the arrangements.” The robot nodded and turned, his team following after him back toward a previously unnoticed cave mouth that led into the ground. Shockwave turned back to Grimlock. “We can refuel the House Karkas craft that you’ve taken possession of.”


    “We topped off before leaving the Karkas estate. There was plenty of fuel and other swag still there, you guys need to work on your pillaging.” Grimlock replied.


    “Our objective was to purge the nobility, not steal their assets.” Shockwave replied as he turned back toward the camouflage structure. “We will be taking off momentarily; as you have adequate transportation and fuel, you will be taking off now.” Shockwave and his Decepticons marched back toward their hidden building.


    Grimlock watched them leave for a few moments before turning and grumbling to his own soldiers. “Let’s go.”



    ---



    Fortress Maximus



    The makeshift airfield on the outskirts of Petrex had continued to expand over the last several hours, now that the assault on the army of sparkeaters was just hours away there was no more delaying commitments to the cause. There had been no putting off such commitments on the part of The Decagon, but the organizing and moving of their forces truly had just been completed a couple hours ago. Fortress Maximus looked up proudly at the descending freighters and troop transport carriers. Many fools considered their reclusiveness attributable to cowardice; when this war ends, those fools will know the truth, the truth that the line of Maximus and its vassals have no peer on the battlefield. A smaller transport ship separated from the rest of the House Maximus ships, this one bearing the wolf-like sigil of the Maximals. Fort Max…he pondered when he had started thinking of himself with the nickname Pious had given him for a moment before going back to realizing that these Maximals, some of House Maximus’s most loyal and effective retainers, might be leaving their service to follow the one claiming to be a Convoy. No, this Orion Pax had never once made the claim. The young returning fugitive brushed it off and tried to find fault with the evidence others used to foist the claim upon him. He genuinely seemed to be uninterested in being the last Convoy, something that would make him a high noble, perhaps the highest noble short of royalty, and in the considerations of many commoners and low nobles on the planet, higher than the royal houses. By all discernable measures he was content being a commoner, but hell-bent on improving the lives of commoners. Fort Max grumbled at realizing that his pushing aside of the evidence all but confirming his Convoy heritage was perhaps the most Convoy thing he could possibly do. Ramulus was already convinced, Pious was on the cusp of believing as well, and Fortress…? He shelved the thought as his soldiers began filing out of the transports.


    Two generals strode out from the disembarking soldiers and marched toward him, both tall and powerfully built, but dwarfed by the great Maximus. “Hail Fortress Maximus, greatest warrior of The Decagon and all of Cybertron!” The silver, slightly larger of the generals belted out, eliciting a smile from Fortress Maximus. “Welcome to Petrex Steelhaven, and to you as well Cerebros. Cerebros, please lead a battalion to assist in the evacuation of the civilians and the damaged Omega Supreme.”


    “Of course my lord.” Cerebros replied. “It will be an honor and a privilege, not to mention the sating of a long held curiosity to see the Guardian of the Gates.” With that the predominantly gray and blue robot set out to do his duty while Fortress Maximus and Steelhaven turned back to their forces to organize the assembling. It seemed pointless to have the troops disembark now, as the dawn was coming and with it the start of their attack on the sparkeaters, but these warriors had spent hours fighting the Decepticons, only to reassemble for the trip to Petrex and prep for a battle…nay, war, a war with an enemy so dangerous that fifteen million years later they still inspired terror in the entire planet. These warrior needed and deserved the few hours of downtime here in the safety south of the Mithril Sea that he and the other lords of Cybertron could provide them.


    “Fortress Maximus, my lord, a word please?” The voice was both familiar and expected.


    Fort Max and Steelhaven both turned to look upon the red, tan, silver and light green Maximal. “Of course, Apelinq. You fought with exceptional valor against the Decepticon raiders. You have the gratitude of House Maximus.”


    “It was an honor, Lord Maximus.” Apelinq nodded. “And I look forward to fighting by your side in the war to come.”


    “But you wish to follow another into it.” Fort Max cut to the chase, noting the look of surprise and then a bit of sadness coming from the Maximal.


    “I mean no disrespect my lord.” Apelinq replied. “But we have always been pledged to House Convoy. And the possibility that it still exists…” he looked down, then back deeply into Fortress Maximus’s optics, “I have great respect for you, and I trust your word. Do you believe this Orion Pax to be of Convoy metallico?”


    Fortress Maximus nodded and pondered that for a moment before answering. “I have never known a Convoy, both lords Big Convoy and Lio Convoy had long since gone missing when I was forged. But both of them have been described in great detail to me by members of my house, and I have been told of other Convoys by both Maximus and Maximal. I know of how they behaved, how they presented themselves, the tone and wisdom of their words, and I know of their physical traits. I have been studying this Orion Pax, I have been interested in him since the farce of his trial and even more so since his interruption of the Autobot executions and his subsequent disappearance. I know not whether the claim is true, but everything I’ve observed of him,” he paused a moment and looked intently at Apelinq, sighing before continuing, “everything I’ve observed matches what I know to be true of House Convoy.”


    “My lord, I too greatly admire the lad, but his courage, humility and service to others are traits of many great houses.” Steelhaven interjected. “In particular, House Pax. Many of the traits used to describe Big Convoy were every bit as true of Arlon Pax, the man who raised him.”


    “Yes, Arlon Pax was a tremendous emir and lord, worthy of comparison to Great Convoy himself,” Apelinq started, “but Orion’s…well, his look, he didn’t get that from Arlon or any Pax. Many have blue helmets and silver crests, but his, well, his traits aren’t Magnus or any of the others frequently likened to House Convoy. His look, it’s uncannily Convoy.”


    “True, he does have the look.” Steelhaven conceded.


    “There’s more than just his resemblance.” Fortress Maximus stated. “In the cave of his birth, on Insula Avalonius, black coral was found, polished and shaped, not something naturally occurring, and dated to over twelve million years ago. I was not aware until it was explained to me today, but supposedly black coral has preservative properties for sentio metallico, though twelve million years is far beyond the capability of any preservative.” He shook his head further. “But the demon king claimed Orion’s metal tasted as though he was born the old way. None of us was familiar with the term, but when we returned to Petrex Omega Supreme confirmed it was a real thing. A strong enough spark can forge non-sentio compatible metal into a viable protoform. If the black coral was what remained of a cask filled with Convoy metallico, and it seeped into the metal of the cave, then it’s possible the traits live on in Orion Pax.” The huge robot shrugged. “It’s thin, but it’s possible. And it’s enough to have convinced Ramulus.” Fortress Maximus nodded solemnly to Apelinq. “See this Orion Pax for yourself. Speak to him. Come to know him. If you believe him to be the last of the Convoys, then you have my blessing, and I’m sure the blessing of Emir Pious Maximus as well.”


    Apelinq nodded humbly. “You have my thanks and eternal friendship my lord.”



    ---



    Nightbeat



    The cell he was being kept in, nothing more than a small storage shed really, was just deep enough for him to lay down in and wide enough for him to sit against one wall with his feet just shy of touching the opposite wall. It would be adequate for a dormancy chamber, but was a bit claustrophobic for anything more. But apart from his confinement, these Maximals were treating him well enough. He was provided energon rations; daily, which seemed impossible for anywhere other than the home world. On Cybertron he’d usually only consume roughly twice a week unless there was some atypical exertion. And the energon they gave him was high quality. It seemed almost pure. True, there was an odd taste to it, energon emerging from different regions of Cybertron had its own flavor, but this stuff had a piquancy that Nightbeat had never encountered, which was to be expected. The fact that it didn’t taste synthetic in any discernable way was not expected. It seemed to be slightly processed, but its potency was greater than anything he’d ever consumed…to the point where he wondered if any processing done to it was to thin it down.


    The mystery of the rations he was being given would have to wait as the majority of his focus needed to be dedicated to finding a way out of this ship and off this planet. What was left of his focus was going toward a conversation with the Maximal on the other side of his door. Rattrap was a pain in the ass who looked out for himself, who, despite there being traces of evidence to suggest he had a good spark deep down, Nightbeat was certain would sell out a friend to advance his own agenda or well-being. A flash of his last meeting with Cosmos and the realization that the Maximals were dismantling the starhopper he’d pressured his little green friend into lending him made Nightbeat realize that he wasn’t fit to judge anyone, even Rattrap. And even despite the little Maximal’s character flaws, he was actually growing a bit fond of him, and continued listening to the whiny voice coming through the door he was leaning against. “So, in light of all that’s happened and what’s been thrust on him and all the shit he’s taken, Polar Claw really isn’t as bad as ya’ think he is. Unless ya’ think he’s an overbearing…hey, didn’t even plan that pun, joyless jerk who comes across as way too serious. Then ya’d be dead-on. Kinda reminds me of Big Convoy in the way-too-serious department, but I guess it makes sense as they were best friends and all. But at least he’s keeping you here, instead of in the brig with the Preds we got.”


    “He’s holding me without formal charges and has confiscated my ship.” Nightbeat grumbled back through the narrow slit between the floor and the bottom of the door. “But yeah, I’m sure I’m judging him too harshly.”


    “Actually, funny you should mention that.” The deep, booming voice of Polar Claw announced, the sound accompanied by his footsteps. Nightbeat slid up, pushing against the door to get to his feet and stepped away from the door. A moment later it slid open and the hulking red and white Maximal Commander was standing next to Rattrap, a tray in his hand with a few small crystals of energon on it. “We’ve come up with a formal charge for you. Enemy operative.”


    “Enemy operative?” Nightbeat chuckled incredulously. “I am an agent for the legal government of Cybertron, therefore I’m to assume you view Cybertron as the enemy?”


    Polar Claw glared down at him. “I am loyal to House Convoy. With their…demise I remain loyal to the ideals they held and championed. They fought to save this world from a weapon created by an agent of the Cybertronian government…well, no, the Senate forbade what he was doing, his sanction was in secret, but from an authority even greater than the Senate.”


    “Yeah, yeah, Jhiaxus was working on his Ferrotaxis on this Earth with the full but secret support of Guardian Prime.” Nightbeat muttered. “I’ve heard it, hell, I believe it, but you have to know I had nothing to do with any of that. I’ll help you dismantle the Ferrotaxis and eliminate all plans for it, as well as compiling the evidence against Guardian Prime and his crew prior to making the Manifest flight capable and getting it back to Cybertron. After the sparkeater threat has been taken care of, I’ll testify all I know, and I will not be coerced or intimidated by Guardian Prime or any successor should he not survive, nor will his legend or any heroic action on his part against the sparkeaters influence me from withholding any damning testimony. You have my word.”


    “Your word.” Polar Claw grumbled, but his facial features softened a bit. “Here’s the thing, I might be inclined to believe you, but it really doesn’t matter. The fact is that all you can testify to is that Guardian Prime appeared to allow development of the Ferrotaxis to continue after the Senate ordered it shut down, and I say ‘appeared to’ because frankly, neither you nor I have proof that he knew what Jhiaxus was up to here. I know that Big Convoy believed Guardian Prime was aware and supportive of Jhiaxus using this world as a testing site for his cyber-forming endeavor, and Big Convoy being convinced was enough for me, but it won’t be enough for the Senate or anyone else to level charges against the great Guardian Prime. But for the sake of argument, let’s say it was enough to convince them; would it even matter? You mention Prime’s legend, I’m assuming it hasn’t diminished in the million years since his departure from Cybertron, and if it hasn’t, he can get away with whatever he wants. He’s viewed in an almost godlike way, and not without good reason. Frankly, had anyone other than a Convoy told me to act against him, I’d have told them to piss off. And what he’s done, and what he allegedly planned to do…I really don’t see that causing outrage on Cybertron.” The red and white Maximal nodded down at the energon crystals on the tray in his hands. “Jhiaxus’s device was activated, and ran for a matter of hours, and in that time managed to alter this planet’s geology to the point where it produced energon. Not some synthetic garbage the other colonies are forced to manufacture to survive, but real, naturally growing energon. And not just energon, but an energon with a potency greater than anything on the home world. We have to water it down to consume it without there being certain…side effects, but side effects that damn near everyone would be more than happy to contend with.” Nightbeat suppressed his smile at having already figured that part out on his own. The hulking robot shook his head. “I’m in charge of the group keeping he and his crew from rescue, and even I see the appeal in what Jhiaxus is doing. Throw the Ferrotaxis on any planet falling within certain parameters, and even if you don’t fully cyber-form the thing, you at least have a new, large-scale source of energon. Enough so that no Cybertronian will ever know hunger again, ever.”


    “But at what cost?” Nightbeat asked, partly to counter the argument, but mainly because he genuinely didn’t know the full impact of the Ferrotaxis’s activation.


    Polar Claw regarded Nightbeat with a long look before finally nodding. “Significant seismic events that were felt around the planet caused by the initial modification wave. It was that wave that contained the geologic…overwriting, for lack of a better term, that caused the changes that would lead to this energon being produced. Human settlements all over the world were ravaged by earthquakes, coastal civilizations were decimated by tsunamis, and many of those closest to our island, where the Ferrotaxis was stored and activated, mainly southern Europe and northern Africa, were wiped from existence. Our island, which we’d allowed a human civilization to establish itself on and which had grown into a population numbering in the hundreds of thousands, began to cyber-form in earnest, turning metallic, producing an even more heightened form of energon than what started sprouting in other parts of the planet. The native islanders…” Polar Claw looked down, “well, it claimed an unfathomably high toll, and that was just with the Ferrotaxis on for a matter of hours.” The Maximal Commander turned his head back up and locked optics with Nightbeat. “But it’s not a cost Cybertronians will have to pay, so they won’t hesitate to support Guardian Prime’s usage of that damn device, and you know it.”


    Nightbeat nodded. “But we can’t let Cybertron die.”


    Polar Claw shrugged. “Maybe they can fend for themselves. They managed fifteen million years ago.” With that he thrust the tray into Nightbeat’s hands and backed away, allowing the door to shut and the locks to engage. “Enjoy your meal.”


    Nightbeat looked down at the glowing pink embers on his tray, studying them as best he could. He wasn’t a chemist, but even protoforms knew energon was essentially just concentrated energy…well, perhaps an oversimplification, but it was an exceptionally dense and potent energy source, and as such, well, boom. Well, it was more complicated than just ‘boom’, igniting energon was not as simple as many thought, even in its most volatile liquid state; if it were, every Cybertronian in existence would be a walking explosive. The crystalline form, its natural state, could be ingested through a Cybertronian’s ambient absorption circuitry, the energy shifted from physical to a near-gaseous form and drawn into the frame. The processed liquid form could be ingested faster, the energy introduced to the frame quicker, and was an overall more enjoyable form for consumption, but it was also less stable. “Wait!” He called out, taking a chance, placing the tray of energon crystals on the floor before standing back up.


    “What?” Polar Claw’s voice replied from the other side of the door.


    “Look, you’re holding me here against my will, on bullshit trumped up charges, for reasons that, while I don’t agree with, I get. But I think we can all agree that I’m not being held here as punishment for anything I’ve done, right?” Nightbeat responded.


    “What’s your point?” Rattrap asked.


    “Just that I’m not a criminal, I’m just someone you guys can’t let leave.” Nightbeat shot back. “So given that this Earth has plenty of energon, at least that’s the gist of what I took away from our last conversation, can I request that I get some in liquid form? I prefer to drink mine more than drop it down my gullet or absorb it through the air, I’m sure you can understand.”


    The door slid open and Polar Claw glared at the smaller robot. “OK, I’ll grant this request,” the hulking Maximal replied grumpily, prompting Nightbeat reach down and pluck the crystals off the tray, leaving the tray on the ground, and offering them to his captors, “but if you think that you’re going to grind us down with whining and demands to the point of letting you go, you’re going to be very disappointed. Your pal Rattrap here has ‘squeaky wheeled’ me and everyone else in our crew to the point of being completely numb to complaining twats.”


    Nightbeat smiled. “I just prefer liquid energon, that’s all.”


    Polar Claw reached forward and snatched the crystals out of the prisoner’s hand, paused, and then reached his other hand behind his back. “I just so happen to have a vial I was saving for myself later.” He revealed a small sealed tube with the glowing liquid substance within. “Here, now shut up and enjoy.”


    “Thank you.” Nightbeat replied as the door slid shut again. He stared hungrily at the liquid in the vial, but his frame wasn’t low at this point, Maximal hospitality had seen to that, and given that this Earth was now an energon-producing world thanks to Jhiaxus’s modifications eleven to twelve thousand years before, Nightbeat could afford to skip a meal…provided he could actually get out of this heap. He listened to the two sets of footsteps grow quieter as Polar Claw and Rattrap retreated down the hall before even considering what needed to be done.


    This Axalon appeared to be just a standard exploration vessel. Perhaps a bit on the large side, but otherwise standard, and certainly nothing here to suggest any sort of special reinforcement. He looked around the small room and based on what he saw, it was likely he was the first prisoner to be kept in here, so the walls and floor of this closet should definitely not have had any additional buttressing. He couldn’t pound his way through it…even Sentinel Prime, Primus rest his arrogant spark, probably couldn’t batter through the walls or floor of the room. Well, maybe he could, but there’s no way these Maximals would think reinforcing the small room would be necessary for someone with Nightbeat’s level of brawn. Of course, brains was a different matter, and one they completely overlooked.


    He studied the vial of the native lifeblood he had been given for several minutes. It wasn’t much energon, but if ignited it could definitely blast through the seams at a connection point in the floor and wall. And in liquid form, hitting that ignition point would be tricky without certain tools, but it would be possible; certainly far more possible than with crystals. In lieu of tools, all he had were non-essential anatomical components from his own frame. His visor and several redundant components he’d had installed prior to his initial open-ended off world mission were soon removed and cobbled together into a detonator of sorts. Well, a detonator was probably too fancy a name for what was essentially just a flare, but whatever he chose to call it, it should theoretically burn hot enough to ignite the energon.


    He laid the vial on the floor against the wall opposite the door, propping it up just enough so that he could remove the vial cap without any spilling out, then arranged his makeshift flare, detonator, whatever, and once all that was in place he gently laid the overlooked metal tray on top of it all. He leaned over, paused before initiating the timer he had built into the detonator, and went through what he needed to do. He had paid attention when traveling here, he was roughly one hundred miles northwest of what the local humans called the Queen Elizabeth Islands, a part of the nation of Canada. That would be his first target once he got out of this ship. Unfortunately, getting free of this Axalon, even once he broke out of this room, was something he would have to play by ear. But delaying his escape attempt over concerns that he was unable to mitigate was pointless, so he leaned forward and activated the timer.


    He had allowed himself thirty seconds to fully position and brace himself for the blast, but realized that five would have been more than enough. The subsequent twenty-five seconds seemed an eternity, but finally the flare activated and every sense he had was immediately overwhelmed as the energon ignited. His feet were braced against the metal tray, but the blast was still significant enough to send him hurtling backward into the door, leaving him momentarily stunned. He was dazed, his audio receptors were ringing, his movements slow and sluggish, and he was quickly feeling pain throughout his entire frame, but he was still conscious and aware of what needed to be done. The tray was in charred pieces, his feet were scorched and heavily dented as well but appeared to still be assembled as they should be and he was able to move them through the pain that was getting progressively worse as his senses slowly grew less dull. He scrambled to the blast point and smiled as he saw the metal seams torn apart. He immediately set upon the tear, bashing and pulling at the damaged metal to make the hole large enough for him to slip through. He bent it just enough to finally slide his body to the room below whatever was housed behind his ‘cell’. He fell through and landed on the floor of the dark room with a thud, knocking over various tools as he jumped up to a standing position. He hobbled to the door and it opened at sensing his movement, leading him out into a well-lit hallway.


    Twenty yards down the hall to his right a door on the opposite wall opened, and out trotted a very confused and worried Rattrap. “Predacon attack!” He yelled before catching sight of Nightbeat. “Oh, thank Prim…wait, what’re you…” Nightbeat charged him and drove them both back into Rattrap’s room, Nightbeat’s left hand forming a tight seal over Rattrap’s mouth.


    “Sorry Rattrap, I do like you,” Nightbeat said as he pulled his right fist back while pushing Rattrap against the wall of his room, “but, well,” his fist drove into the much smaller robot’s face and slamming the back of his head against the wall, leaving the small robot unconscious, “you know, escaping.” Nightbeat carefully lowered the small Maximal to the floor and turned to leave, “Ahhh!” The mangled appearance of half of a monstrous green and yellow face startled the escaping prisoner, a shock exacerbated by the ship’s alarms going off right at that moment. Nightbeat stumbled back away from the macabre mounted trophy and into the closet across the room, where he bumped into the contents causing more green and yellow body parts to fall on top of him. They were an odd mix of robotic and insect pieces, and he panicked to get away from the ghastly avalanche of frame parts. “Primus!” He growled to himself as he got to the center of the room and turned to look at the pile of components that appeared to have come from the same individual, though given the sheer number of pieces, this individual must have been mutilated, repaired, and mutilated again many times for there to be this many pieces. Nightbeat finally regained his composure and looked down at the dormant Rattrap. “You’ve got issues, pal.” He looked back at the pile of parts one last time, but this time noted that mixed in with the grisly pile were several demolition charges. “Oh thank Primus.” Nightbeat muttered as he scooped up two of them and headed out the door, cautiously making his way down the hall.


    The blue and yellow robot limped his way quickly but stealthily down the hall, the alarm almost painfully bouncing against the walls. He had a rough knowledge of the layout of this type of ship, and made his way to the rec room. He knew the normal exit points would be sealed and guarded, but with these charges he’d poached from Rattrap, he should be able to make his own exit should he come across a weak point in the hull. Ports were made of transparent metal, which while strong, lacked the density to be truly durable. They almost always had a more traditional metal ‘curtain’ that could come down if there was any threat of breach, but for a ship long on the ground, there seemed no reason to have the shades drawn in the rec room. He saw it on the opposite end of the hallway he had just entered and hobbled faster toward the doorway. Fortunately the room was empty and the large transparent window was clear, the view of the artic north clearly visible. Nightbeat set the charges to 5 seconds each and planted them a few feet apart on the window. “There he is!”


    Nightbeat turned to see a lean, athletic fifteen foot robot predominantly covered in bluish fur glaring at him from the door. Nightbeat looked back at the charges just feet away from him to see them down to four seconds, and then back to the blue Maximal before sprinting away from the window. The blue robot shot toward him and grabbed him, flinging him over a couch and to the floor. Nightbeat looked up at the grinning Maximal standing on the other side of the couch glaring down at him and raising his wrist to his face to speak. “In Rec Room Alpha, prisoner sec…”


    Boom!


    The blast sent the robot hurtling over the couch and into the wall opposite the now shattered window. Nightbeat, protected from the blast by the overturned couch, was immediately on his feet and sprinting toward the now exposed frozen wastes, but the opening would not be there for long as the breach had caused the safety protocols to draw the solid metal protective shields to close. Nightbeat dove through just before the top and bottom shields came together to seal off the outside. The Cybertronian fell ninety feet into a snowbank and rolled down and through it to the icy ground. He looked back at the Axalon before transforming and zipping around it to head south to the Queen Elizabeth Islands.



    ---



    Roller Pax



    He had never had anything against House Ambus, he had always liked them more than most houses, but after learning that Orion may be a Convoy he’d started taking up grudges that he felt a Convoy should have; Orion certainly wouldn’t adopt and harbor these grudges, so it fell to Roller to do it for him. Obviously House Onyx was now even more on his shit list than they had already been…or at least they would have been were there any Onyx’s left. But according to some historical interpretations, House Ambus was in a position to have detected Deathsaurus’s march into their emirate on his way toward the Convoy lands that straddled the borders of Tyrest and the Tagan Heights, and chose to do nothing to aid the ancient and beloved house that long pre-dated the Knights. Despite this recently formed negative bias, Roller was pleasant to the tiny bearded green and white robot sitting across from he and Orion at their table against the wall of the pub they were in for one last, and in Orion’s case, first vial of engex before the war began. Being pleasant seemed the least he could do in light of the fact that this robot was one of only two surviving members of House Ambus, even though he had hopped onto Elita’s vacant seat a moment ago without invitation. “Everyone’s looking to you.” Minimus Ambus stated before taking a swig of his engex that he had carried over to their table with him, the container smaller than one Roller or Orion would use, but which was comically large in the hands of the diminutive royal. “You were common born, or so the initial assumption was, but raised by what most Cybertronians consider to be the most honorable House on the planet. At the very least it was an honorable house led by an Emir that ALL Cybertronians considered to be the most honorable Emir on the planet. Even without an actual birthright, or a formal adoption into House Pax, you were loved and respected enough to prompt afore mentioned most-honorable Emir Arlon Pax to defy the laws, social norms, and the Prime of Cybertron, knowing full well the likely outcome, to not only support you, but to say that you were a better example of all that is right and good and honorable than even he was.”


    “What’s your point?” Roller said, noting the look of sadness and regret coming over Orion’s face at the memory of Arlon’s murder.


    Minimus smiled sadly into his drink. “Just that I felt Orion Pax was worth meeting. And also, Emir Pax, I feel the need to point out that your…”


    “Brother.” Orion clarified at Minimus’s brief pause and stretched left optic.


    “Yes, your brother’s very existence is…polarizing.” Minimus replied. Roller had always been a bit self-conscious about his fourteen foot stature, but Minimus was barely half that height. Roller was just short enough to recognize an overcompensation due to small size, in this case it was Minimus’s desire to be seen as smarter than everyone else. “He has great appeal to the masses due to his perceived common birth, galvanized by his affiliation with the now-vindicated Autobots. He also has great appeal to many of the more enlightened nobles and royals due to being raised by, respected by, and even loved by Arlon Pax. His brief but impressive attack on Megatron has also earned him the sparks and minds of many highborn, none more so than me…” The tiny robot stared sadly into his drink for a moment before continuing his thought. “And now there’s the belief that he is born of Convoy metallico…”


    “That barely qualifies as a rumor.” Orion muttered.


    “A rumor that’s spread quickly and is widely believed.” Minimus answered. “And a Convoy, the most ancient and beloved of Houses, the House that led the way in ridding us of the five-faced demons,”


    “A myth.” Orion muttered again.


    “Violen Jiger kinda confirmed it though.” Roller interjected.


    “Thought we established he was at best an unreliable source.” Orion quietly grumbled in reply.


    Minimus smiled at the quiet bickering as he continued, “a Convoy that is born in recent times in an impossible place, in an impossible way, an event that defies everything we know to be true, and found by just the right member of just the right house…” Minimus Ambus paused dramatically and shook his head, “it’s nothing short of awe-inspiring.”


    “Don’t forget the green spark.” Roller chimed in jokingly, giving the uncomfortable Orion a playful elbow to the side.


    “Yes, of course, there is that as well.” Minimus added with another sad smile.


    Orion looked up, though just slightly, and peered intently into Minimus’s face. “None of this sounds anything like a point, my lord.”


    “My point is, everyone is going to be looking to you, Orion Pax of House Convoy, or whoever you choose to be.” Minimus replied.


    “Orion Pax of Iacon.” Orion replied. “It’s who I am, it’s how I would choose to be called.”


    “Ah, an interesting compromise; honoring your adopted family while still trying to sound like a commoner.” Minimus mirthfully responded. “Very Autobot of you, but it doesn’t quite work.” The tiny robot rolled his head thoughtfully. “It does have a catchy ring to it though.”


    “Point.” Roller grumbled.


    Minimus smiled, cognizant that he was wearing on the nerves of the Paxes and then looked directly at Orion. “They will be looking to you for inspiration, they will be looking to you for leadership, they will be looking to you for protection and guidance and justice and everything else under the sun. And maybe they’ll be right to do so, maybe they won’t be, I genuinely have no idea. But if they ARE right to be looking to you, if you really ARE worthy of this attention and devotion on any level, it won’t be because of destiny, or birthright, your metallico, your spark or whatever name you bear. It will be because you AREN’T good enough, but you strive to be.”


    “Excuse me?” Roller growled, outraged by the statement.


    “Oh, he’s beyond good enough in my optics and in yours, but it’s his own optics that matter.” Minimus replied, his optics locked onto Orion’s once again, but continuing to answer Roller. “And for the good of our planet, I pray that the goal forever remains ahead of Orion, just outside his grasp. He will always drive himself to be better, to be braver, to be more intelligent, prepared, noble and self-sacrificing.”


    “Any more self-sacrificing and I’ll be laying his corpse on the Pax metallico pool!” Roller snarled.


    “It may come to that.” Minimus replied, still staring intently at Orion. “It likely will come to that unfortunately. I pray it doesn’t, he may not be the most fun drinking companion I’ve ever had, particularly since he doesn’t seem to be drinking, but fun or not, I desperately want Orion to live through this ordeal. I want us all to live through it, but Orion strikes me as the type to put the survival of the rest of us before his own, so I’m less than optimistic for his continued existence. And it saddens me, even more so than I already am to think on it. Cybertron is a better place with him in it, and not only because he’s proven adept at killing sparkeaters.” The tiny royal looked back up at Orion’s face, a look of sadness etched clearly on Minimus’s mustachioed and bearded face. “But if Cybertron is to survive, Orion Pax and others like him must continue to do what he’s always done. What you did at Tyger Pax you must continue to do, and be seen doing it. Put yourself in harm’s way, inspire others to do the same, and maybe some of us will be alive at the end of all this.”


    “You want him to live, but you’re telling him to die.” Roller grumbled.


    “I want him to always live to see another day, but we need for him to continue to be the hero he’s been, and more importantly, to be the motivating figure everyone sees him as.” Minimus clarified. “We’ve been fortunate that so many of your exploits have been recorded and seen by the masses,”


    “Not punching Lugnut.” Roller chuckled quietly.


    “Thank Primus for that.” Orion replied with an equally quiet chuckle.


    Minimus looked from one brother to the other and smiled, allowing them their private joke before continuing. “Through no intent of your own, you’ve become an inspiration to so many on this world, to the point where a fifteen year old, barely a legal adult, who’s spent fourteen of those years exiled off world, will be leading hundreds, possibly thousands into battle in mere hours.”


    “I’m not leadi…” Orion sighed in exasperation, “look, I’m part of the attack planning committee, I offer insights into the sparkeaters as Roller, Kup, Omega Supreme and I are the only ones to have faced them and lived, and I may be given command over a squad, or maybe even a platoon, but there’s no way I’m lea…”


    “I’ve heard whispers that the Autobots are planning on naming you their military commander.” Minimus shot back with a smile.


    “What? I’ve spent a combined total of a few days in their ranks!” Orion protested.


    “Plus it just seems unnatural for a commoners-rights organization to be led by someone named Orion Pax of House Convoy.” Roller chuckled.


    “I thought we’d covered what my name is.” Orion grumbled quietly at his brother.


    “It’s just what I’ve heard.” Minimus shrugged. “And I’ve heard other whispers that you may have a few hundred Maximals on the cusp of swearing allegiance to you as well.”


    “Even I predicted that would happen.” Roller chuckled.


    “So you will have armies of your own, and even outside of Autobots and Maximals, people will be looking to you.” Minimus continued. “Millions will think of you as special in some way.” The tiny robot stood up on his chair and then stepped onto the table, crossing it and pointing directly into the crest of Orion’s post-protoformal helmet. “But in here, make sure that you’re not. By all means, be confident in your considerable abilities, but great people stop being great the moment they realize how great they are, so continue to focus on your shortcomings and how to remove them.”


    “Why is Minimus Ambus standing on our table?” Elita asked as she arrived with a tray containing three mid-sized vials of engex.


    “He’s punctuating his request for Orion to stay humble by touching his head.” Roller replied with a smirk, the comment causing Minimus to turn and smile at him before looking to Elita.


    “Elita One, I…” his face lowered for a moment before looking back into her optics, “House Ambus, what’s left of it anyway, sends its sympathies to…” his voice cracked, he couldn’t go on.


    “I know my lord.” Elita sadly replied, her hand finding its way to his tiny shoulder and gently cupping it. “There’s no need for words, just know that House Sol…that I offer the same condolences. In time both Ambus and Solus will rebuild, and House Ambus will always have a friend in Hyperious.”


    “Thank you, my One.” Minimus looked up at her. “If I may ask…what was it like to kill them?”


    Elita stared at him intently before answering. “I didn’t kill them all. I didn’t kill enough, but…I’m ashamed to say that killing those I did get ahold of was…it felt good.” She turned her head.


    “Thank you my lady.” Minimus turned to look across the bar at a large, predominantly blue robot with a mustache and beard identical to his own. “It appears my Emir and kinsman Dominus has finally pulled himself away from Delta Magnus.” The tone was less than approving.


    “You’re not fond of Emir Magnus?” Elita asked as she took her seat. “You know that if we get through this, he’s likely to be named Prime.”


    “I’ll not be the one to nominate him.” Minimus replied as he leapt from the table to the floor. “I’m not particularly fond of religious zealots. I bid you all a fine day.” With that he walked across the pub to the powerfully built blue robot that was roughly three times his height.


    “That’s gotta be tou…” Roller started saying before realizing the surviving Ambus’s loss was no different than that of the femme seated to his left at the circular table. “Oh, sorry El.”


    “I know, and it is tough.” She replied sadly, Orion reaching over to cover her hand on the table. She smiled up at him. “But we’re not dwelling on that now. We’ve come from a period of death, and we’ll be diving into another period of death. Right now, we celebrate life.” She raised her glass, prompting the other two to do the same. “And the return of dear friends.”


    “I think this is a bad idea, we’re planning on leaving in a few hours for battle.” Orion stated as he held his glass in front of him.


    “You’re not going to imbibe that much.” Elita replied.


    “I think he’s scared of it.” Roller joked.


    “I consumed nothing but Junkion swill for fourteen years, believe me, I’m not afraid of this dainty slush.” Orion chuckled back.


    “Just be warned, you drink enough of that and Elita will have no problem getting into your spark casing.”


    “You’re disgusting.” Elita snapped at Roller.


    “Roller!” Orion snarled.


    “What?” Roller shrugged. “You’re old enough to do it, we’re all definitely old enough to joke about it.” He then looked at Orion. “You do realize that it’s really a thing, right?”


    Orion’s optics grew wide. “Of course I know! I’ve seen the damage it can do.”


    “Damage?” Roller was genuinely surprised. “Yeah, there’s a bit of disorientation afterward, I wouldn’t suggest racing through the streets immediately after you’re done doing it, but there’s really no damage.”


    “Roller,” Elita calmly replied as she understood the confusion, “while we were in Rodion one time, our first meeting actually, Orion and I came across a situation where it was forced on someone.”


    “Forced?” Roller answered in surprise. “How could they tear through the plating? Was there a hatch? I couldn’t do it. Heck, you’d have to be almost as strong as Ori…”


    “It was Overlord.” Orion stated.


    “That giant shitbag with the Decepticons?” Roller shot back startled, then shrugged. “Yeah, I can see that.”


    “But Orion,” Elita turned to the red and blue returning former fugitive, “it’s not always forced. In fact, I’ve heard it can be wonderful.”


    “It is.” Roller chuckled as he raised his glass to his lips, imbibing a nice long swig before putting his glass back down on the table and noticing the other two looking at him with an unsaid question in their optics. “What?”


    “It is?” Orion mimicked Roller’s comment with a questioning twist at the end.


    “Something you wish to elaborate on, Emir Pax?” Elita asked.


    Roller looked back and forth between them as a smile slowly started to spread over his face. He finally shrugged. “Well El, you and I have never really been ones to share deepest and darkests,” he turned to Orion, “and you’ve been incommunicado for fourteen years.”


    “Whose fault is that?” Orion grumbled back good-naturedly.


    “That’s open to debate, but if you’d like to change course and discuss that…”


    “No!” Both Elita and Orion nearly shouted back. Elita continued with an incredulous grin. “We’re not changing the subject, now spill.”


    “You’d better do it, she’s an emir.” Orion stated.


    “I’m an emir!” Roller replied.


    “Yeah, but she has the Apex Armor, so just do as she says.” Orion finished with a wide grin.


    “Fine,” Roller feigned displeasure, pointing at Orion, “but I need you to be clear on something, absolutely clear, OK?”


    “Uhm, OK, what do I need to be clear on?” A confused Orion asked.


    “You’ve got one girl, Elita, right?” Roller pressed. “Everyone else on Cybertron is fair game, right?”


    Orion was even more confused, and distracted as he fielded an almost accusatory look from Elita. “Of course, I’m not interested in anyone else.”


    “I don’t think he even knows any other femmes.” Elita replied, half joking but half worried. “Seriously, what other femme has he ever cared about?”


    “Holy Primus!” Orion snarled, then lowered his voice so that even the other two had trouble hearing him. “Don’t tell me Torenia!”


    “Tor…come on Orion, you’re a scumbag for even imagining that!” Roller shot back, genuinely offended.


    “Well who else is there?” Orion questioned. “One of the seventeen other Pax femmes? You never met and I don’t remember mentioning any of the femmes I worked with in Iacon or Rodion.”


    “Nope.” Roller replied, a grin sliding slowly across his face. “This is a Polarus girl.”


    Orion pondered that. “I don’t know any Polar…ohhhh.” A look of realization dawned on him and Roller started laughing. “No way, Ariel?”


    “Ha! Yep!” Roller replied heartily.


    “Damn Brother, good job!” Orion slapped Roller on the shoulder.


    “Who’s Ariel?” Elita asked, still slightly suspicious despite Orion clearly bearing nothing akin to jealousy.


    “Ariel, well, she’d have been you in a different life.” Roller chuckled. “Orion’s girlfriend that is.”


    “No, she was very pretty and very sweet, but I was never interested in her.” Orion replied calmly, but still sent a nervous look toward Elita to gauge her reaction.


    “Well, she was interested in you.” Roller replied. “I snuck out a lot while you were in Iacon and later Rodion, and Dion and I would frequently wind up at the Wolf at the Door, and every slagging time Ariel would ask how you were and when you’d be back. And after…well, you know, I kinda went on weapons acquisition mode, which involved Dion, and we did a lot of our planning at the Wolf, and eventually Ariel got on board and helped us out, and she did ask about you from time to time, buuuutttttt, well, over the years she and I started to get closer, we started to share things, lingering stares, suggestive playful comments, and then one night we were kissing. No big deal, but a few nights later we were kissing again. And then every time we saw each other we’d find some time to make out. And then we started scheduling meetings that had nothing to do with Sentinel-busting preparation, we were just meeting to meet, and then she mentioned it, and after a lot of time and discussion,”


    “Bullshit.” Orion interrupted.


    “OK, fine, it was the next day, and the only reason we waited that long is because she chose to bring it up two minutes before I needed to head back to Tyger Pax.” Roller shook his head at Orion. “Know-it-all jackass.”


    “Never claimed to know it all, I just know you.” Orion chuckled.


    “Shaddup.” Roller snapped. “You want to hear the rest or not?”


    “By all means, please continue.” Orion raised his hands defensively.


    “Holy weld slag, it’s true!” A voice unknown to Roller called out from the doorway of the bar before he could continue. Orion and Elita reacted immediately to it, their head’s twisting in a blur to view the speaker, and based on their reactions it was clear that they knew the voice well.


    “Ratchet!” Elita called out as she sprung from her seat, toppling her chair, Orion right behind her. She threw herself into Ratchet’s awaiting arms and they embraced tightly.


    “I’m so sorry to hear about Exp…your entire House.” Ratchet muttered, his nearly whispered comment was heard by most as the pub had gone silent at Elita and Orion charging across the large room.


    “You were his dearest friend.” She whispered back sadly.


    “He always knew you’d be able to activate the armor.” Ratchet replied as he pulled back and kissed her gently on the forehead. His optics darted over to catch the sight of Orion Pax. “Damn it boy, I mourned you every day for fourteen years.” He released Elita and pulled the larger Orion into a tight hug, one that Orion reciprocated with equal intensity. “I never was religious until word came in yesterday that you were still alive. Thank any and all gods you weren’t taken from us.”


    “I missed you too, old bot.” Orion replied as they pulled back, he looked over his friend and his optics settled on a feature on his shoulder that hadn’t been there the last time they had seen each other. “You’re an Autobot now?” He asked loudly as he pressed his fingers against the red face of the Common Man etched onto his shoulder.


    “Yeah, seeing you take a stand against Sentinel Prime kind of spurred something in me.” Ratchet said, then reached over and flipped a piece of thin dermal plating above the brand that fell over it to hide it. “Though until word it was the gladiators behind the terrorist acts gained widespread acceptance a few days ago, I needed to be cautious about who saw this on me.” A quick tap and the plating receded back to re-reveal the red face.


    “I’d like for you to put one on my shoulder.” Orion stated. “It’s long past due.”


    Ratchet smiled. “Glad to hear you say that. Very appropriate actually. There’s a bunch of Autobots outside right now, they know we used to be tight,”


    “Still are.”


    Ratchet smiled even more broadly. “Yeah, anyway, they want me to ask you something.”


    “You mean Ambus was right?” Roller said as he approached the three.


    Ratchet pulled back from Orion and gave Roller a quick once-over. “Nice to finally meet you, Emir Pax.”


    “For you it’s just Roller.” Roller offered his wrist in greeting. “You’re family to Orion, you’re family to me.”


    Ratchet smiled and nodded as they shook wrists. “Always room for more family, though I think I’ll hold off on taking the Pax designation, don’t want people thinking of multiple packages of ratchets when they hear my name.” He gave the shorter emir a light-hearted slap on the shoulder before getting a bit more serious. “Not sure what Ambus said, or even which Ambus you’re talking about, though unfortunately there’s only a fifty-fifty chance of me guessing wrong.”


    “You’re going to ask him to be military commander of the Autobots, aren’t you?” Roller asked.


    Ratchet shrugged. “Yep.” He turned to Orion. “Don’t know where you’ve been these last fourteen years, but according to Blaster, wherever it was you were a general in a war.”


    Orion nodded. “Something like that.”


    “There’s the experience. That was the only missing ingredient. You’ve always had brains and grit galore.” Ratchet said. “Come on out, I think the boys want to be the ones to formally offer you the position.”


    “I don’t even know most of them.” Orion protested lightly.


    “You asked for the brand, so it’s no longer them, it’s us now, boy.” Ratchet said as he took Orion by the arm and led him to the door. “And even after well over a decade, I still don’t know most of us.” They stepped outside into the rising sunlight, and there to greet them were over two hundred robots, all bearing the faces of the Common Man, or what had taken to being called the Autobrand in recent years. In front were Prowl, Jazz, Blaster, and Wheeljack. “Something you lowborn lads wish to ask Lord Pax of House Convoy?”


    “Don’t call me that.” Orion grumbled quietly, eliciting a laugh from Ratchet and the other Autobots close enough to hear the comment.


    “There is.” Jazz replied after his light chuckle, stepping forward. “On paper, this is a terrible idea. Taking your fourteen year hiatus out of the equation, I can count the number of days you’ve been our ally on the fingers of one hand, and that’s as an ally; you’ve never become an Autobot.”


    “About that, Jazz,” Ratchet cut in, “he asked me to give him the brand in there, before he knew you were here waiting to discuss something.”


    Jazz nodded. “Good to hear, that makes this a little less insane I guess. It’s still insane, but slightly less than before.” He then looked intently at Orion. “So despite you only recently deciding to join us, and your age, and your affiliation with one or possibly two high houses, and the fact that you arrested several of us, kicking my ass in particular,” light laughter wafted through the crowd, “despite all that, we Autobots would name you our military commander for the coming war with the sparkeaters. That is, if you’d be open to the responsibility.”


    Orion looked over the assembled Autobots, despite being forewarned by Minimus Ambus of this possibility he seemed stunned. Ratchet leaned in close. “It’s a lot to take in Orion, but we need you.”


    Prowl stepped forward and leaned up to whisper to Orion as well, though Ratchet, Elita and Roller were all close enough to hear his words. “It’s more symbolic than anything, Lord Pax. You will have command, your words will carry the weight of your position, but you will have many advisors, myself in that number, so you won’t be on your own by any means.”


    “Symbolic?” Roller asked.


    Prowl shifted his gaze to take in the Emir of The Torus Heights. “Yes, symbolically Orion is of great value to the Autobot cause and the war effort as a whole. The status of his origin is a mystery, and his perceived indifference to a potential high birth reinforces the legitimacy of our stance for total legal equality. If someone as intelligent and respected as Orion Pax puts our cause ahead of ascending to the head of an ancient and celebrated house, our cause cannot be ignored. And let’s not forget that Arlon Pax’s dying words were praising his actions and supporting our cause. And while all this would normally cheese off the highborn, his actions against Megatron seems to have won them over as well. As for the coming fight, he’s the only one in fifteen million years to have killed a sparkeater, and he rescued Omega Supreme while doing so.”


    “Hey, I helped with that, thank you very much!” Roller protested jokingly.


    “That’s right, thank you for the reminder, Emir Pax.” Prowl answered. “Having an unshakable relationship with the only royal house not to have been decimated by the Decepticons is an added boost to Orion’s symbolism. Then there are the non-symbolic reasons; namely that I’ve seen his post-protoformal test scores and had a hand in training him.” He looked up at Orion. “So what is your answer, Orion? Will you lead us?”


    Orion looked over the Autobots for a few moments before finally nodding. “Aye, I accept the honor of being your military commander.” He looked over to Ratchet as the Autobots started to applaud. “Guess there’s no backing out of that brand now.”


    The applause quickly subsided as another large group approached, a group made up of a few dozen Cybertronians mixed evenly between humanoid robotic modes and bestial shell-modes. At the front were two robots, both with a lighter shade against a dark red, one with a very light gray covering most of his moderate frame along with the red, the other a cream and little bit of pale green mixed with the red of his hulking frame. They were immediately recognized as Maximals, legend had it that their ancestors were lowly and discriminated Nyonians who House Convoy offered sanctuary on their lands. Leaving the torment suffered under House Onyx and finding themselves welcomed as equals by an influential house on fertile lands was overwhelming to the ancestors of what would one day become Maximals, and their loyalty to House Convoy never diminished, even after the destruction of their breeding pool and holdings. Only two Convoy and several hundred Maximals survived after Deathsaurus’s assault, and they were once again given sanctuary, this time by House Maximus of The Decagon. They were given scenic and abundant lands to the east of Protihex, lands with four hotspots for the refugees to claim as their own, three of which have gone barren and four new ones have come in to being in the twelve million years since they settled the land. To honor their saviors they took the name Maximals, but their true loyalty has always been to House Convoy.


    “We would have words with the one called Orion Pax!” The hulking red and cream Maximal called out as they came to a stop next to the group of Autobots.


    “I am Orion Pax.” Orion replied.


    “We know who you are.” The other lead Maximal, horns jutting out of his right forearm, called back in reply. “And more importantly, we know what you are.”


    “And here it comes.” Roller whispered.


    “We can speak in private if you’d like.” Orion replied to the Maximals, ignoring Roller’s comment.


    “Nay,” the powerfully built robot replied, “as the Autobots declared publicly for you, so shall we.” As one, all the Maximals dropped to their knees, even those in beast modes. “We Maximals have waited over one million years for a Convoy to return. You, Orion Pax, are undoubtedly of Convoy metal. We pledge ourselves to your service, we will fight and die for you.”


    “Please stand for me!” Orion protested, then looked to everyone gathered near the front of the pub, dozens of observers who were neither Autobot nor Maximal had been drawn in by their curiosity at the expanding crowd. “As an Autobot, as a Convoy,” he looked over and placed his hand on Roller’s shoulder and smiled, “and as a Pax, I will make it my goal to create a world where nobody ever need kneel before another.”


    “A very noble aspiration, Orion Pax.” A voice called out before the crowd could react. Everyone turned to see Ultra Magnus standing off to the side of the building. “But it’s going to have to wait. We’ve received word that the sparkeaters are on the move. If we’re going to be entrenched near Peptex when they arrive there, we’d better move now. So get the Autobots, and the Maximals, and whoever else has sworn loyalty to you in the twenty four hours you’ve been on world, and prepare to move out.”


    Orion smiled. “Aye sir, we’ll be ready to ship out within the hour.”


    Magnus looked to Roller and Elita. “You too, Elita One and Emir Pax, have your forces ready for travel.”


    “Yes Lord Magnus.” Elita replied, then looked to Orion with a sad smile.


    “Well O, looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you.” Roller piped up as he slapped his brother on the upper arm. “Two armies to organize, I suspect the Maximus’s will help with transporting the Maximals, and the Autobots are better equipped now than most high houses, but still, you’re going to be a very busy boy from this point on. I’ll send Torenia your love.” Roller turned and headed off toward the side of the building, hoping Orion and Elita would be granted a moment in private to say good bye, but he knew that was a long shot at best. “Hey Lord Magnus, wait up!” He trotted quickly to catch up to Ultra Magnus. “Think we’re headed in the same direction, and was wondering what sort of plan your Emir has come up with.” The two high-born transformed and drove off.


    The ride back to the command center was uneventful, Ultra Magnus’s description of Delta Magnus’s plans had not changed in the few hours since their last meeting. The base was chaos around them as warriors of all sorts were preparing to go north and civilians were preparing to go south. Roller even caught sight of Omega Supreme being strapped to the hull of a civilian freighter bound for Hyperious. The dark blue emir lamented that they couldn’t make use of Omega Supreme for this battle, but thanked the miracle that he was still alive. With the engineers and smiths of Hyperious working on him, he’d be battle ready in a few months, possibly several weeks if they were lucky. And hopefully they wouldn’t even need him to win this war. He and Orion acting alone had dealt the monsters a significant blow, the combined forces of Cybertron should make short work of the beasts.


    As expected, the soldiers of The Torus Heights were ready to go, and they wound up having to wait for the other houses and organizations before taking off an hour later. Several of the decimated houses had to use what transports they had to ferry any surviving assets to the south, so some of those willing to fight requested a ride to Peptex aboard one of the House Pax ships, so Roller found himself once again sitting across from Minimus Ambus, this time aboard the Stellar Spear and with Dominus Ambus seated to Minimus’s left. Roller studied the Emir of Tyrest, the brilliant Dominus Ambus, perhaps the only individual his kinsman Minimus would concede was smarter than himself. Dominus Ambus bore a powerful blue frame, similar in many ways to Orion’s, just a couple feet shorter, a bit less bulky in the chest, shoulders and limbs, and less tapered through the mid-section, but still an imposing and impressive physique. Even their vehicular modes were similar. But facially, they were very different. True, he and Minimus both bore the traditional Ambus post-protoformal helmet and head crest which was not vastly different from the Convoy helm that Orion bore, but their beard and mustache adornments, as well as Dominus’s dark yellow optics were very different from Orion’s facial features. “We appreciate you providing passage to us and our retainers, Emir Pax.” The bearded Dominus stated.


    “Of course, Emir Ambus, it was the least we could do.” Roller replied. “Though I had thought you to have been in the company of House Magnus.”


    Dominus nodded and gave his kinsman a sideways glance that conveyed a sense of frustration. “Lord Minimus took it upon himself to offend Emir Magnus’s priestess, and we felt it best we find a different way to Peptex.”


    Roller nodded and gave a subtle smile to Minimus. He too was not fond of the tall priestess. “I understand. It’s a short trip anyway, we should be there soon.” Roller turned to gaze through the window. The sky was cluttered with large freighters, mid-sized passenger craft, a handful of smaller ships, with the occasional military vessel coasting north through the clouds with them. Zipping through the transports were several dozen Cybertronians in jet modes, most, to Roller’s chagrin, bore the face of the Warrior on their wings. Another hour and a half later they were coming upon the plains outside of Peptex, and the landing and disembarking began. Roller never did catch sight of Orion prior to the battle, but he would not have had time for anything more than a quick ‘hello’, as the battle preparations were daunting and rushed, as he had no doubt they were for Orion and his two factions. But they were eventually as prepared as they could have hoped to be, just as the sounds of thousands of marching feet could be heard. “Here they come.” He called out to the Pax forces and others around them.


    From the northwest they came, tens of thousands of forms marching along the coast. “Your orders, Emir Pax?” Stronghold Pax asked as he walked up to Roller from behind.


    “You’ve mounted the long range cannons, right?” Roller asked.


    “Of course sir, though it seems beyond odd that these weapons we’ve procured over the years are mounted in Nova Cronum and pointed toward The Torus Heights.” Stronghold chuckled, his statement getting a short laugh out of Roller as well.


    “Yeah, this is not how I envisioned us using them as I smuggled them into our borders over the years.” Roller replied. “I know they’re a ways out, but see about targeting the giants. The demons, primordials or whatever they’re called. They have a dermis like the walls of Tyger Pax, but if you kill them, they stay dead, and they’re too powerful to let get close to us.”


    “And what if the sparkeaters get close?” Roadbuster asked as he too approached from behind them, his optics locked onto the distant mass of enemies.


    “We need them to get close.” Roller replied. “Can’t kill them if they’re not close. Need to penetrate their armor and destroy their sparks. Anything else will just leave them to heal and continue their attack, and whatever ordinance we used on them will have been wasted.” Explosions began going off within the enemy ranks, and it was quickly apparent that fliers, likely Decepticons, were attacking the oncoming horde.


    “Let’s hope Megatron isn’t wasting ordinance.” Stronghold muttered.


    “Megatron may be the most vile piece of shit on the planet, but if the last few days have taught us anything,” Roller replied in a grumble as he pulled out some view-enhancers and put them over his optics, “he’s beyond competent in military matters.” Roller studied the scene in the distance his enhanced sight was offering him, and noted that yes, the fliers were targeting the giant monstrous demons. The creatures were weathering the assault quite well unfortunately, and three of the more daring Cybertronian fliers flew close enough to be impacted by the beasts energy-draining abilities, two wobbling away back into the clouds, but one unable to overcome the drain and crashing to the ground, immediately set upon by vicious sparkeaters.


    Roller then noticed four shapes burst forth from the rear of the mass of creatures and shoot into the sky, two dark sleek winged forms engaged the Cybertronian fliers, as did a bright yellow and white winged jet similar in shape to the modern Cybertronian fliers, and a black helicopter of sorts. The Cybertronian fliers engaged the four fliers of the demon army and pelted them with various ordinance, but the attacks did little good against them. The aerial demon’s returned fire, but their ordinance was minimal and after several ineffective strafes they started bearing down on and colliding with the Cybertronians. The long wings of the largest winged-enemy sliced into the coalition fliers and made them drop from the sky, and to Roller’s horror, he saw the damage done to the opposing jet seem to immediately heal itself. “Slag, they’re flying sparkeaters! At least that one is!”


    “Thought they didn’t bother with alt modes.” Roadbuster questioned.


    “Never said they didn’t have them, just that outside Jiger’s bug modes we didn’t see any.” Roller snapped as the Cybertronian fliers turned away from the fight and returned to their comrades, allowing the sparkeaters to continue their march toward the rest of them. “Doesn’t matter, vehicle modes or not, we’ll take them. We outnumber them, we’re far more technologically advanced than the armies that beat them fifteen million years ago, we already know how to kill them, and there’s only one direction for them to go right now. We’re gonna win, trust me, we’re gonna win. Now, once their fliers get into range, target them and bring them down.”


    “Thought it was a waste of ordinance.” Stronghold replied.


    “You blast their wings to shreds, and they’ll heal, but not til after they crash.” Roller answered. “Once they’re on the ground, we can gut them and take their sparks.”


    “Works for me.” Stronghold responded before nodding to a Pax guard mounted on a long range cannon. Aside from the helicopter, the demon fliers returned to the ground, transformed and marched onward with their comrades. The black helicopter continued over their army, keeping pace with the monsters below it.


    They didn’t have to wait long, within a few minutes the monsters had covered nearly half of the distance separating the armies and the fight was just minutes from commencing in earnest. “Sprocket, are you and the other ships ready?” Roller asked into his wrist communicator.


    “Yes sir, the Stellar Spear is primed and ready, and all other pilots here are champing at the bit awaiting Emir Magnus’s order.” The voice came back.


    “I’d expect it to come through any moment.” Roller answered.


    Not ten seconds passed before… “All craft, take to the sky and obliterate them. They’re now too close to make an effective retreat, so soften them up for us!” The voice of Delta Magnus erupted through all channels. A few seconds more and the sounds of various attack and armed transport ships were heard approaching and then shooting overhead toward the enemy forces. They immediately laid into the sparkeater army with enough ordinance to devastate cities, causing hundreds of mutants to die within the opening minutes of the barrage and half of the few dozen demons to drop to the ground. The hundreds of sparkeaters broke ranks and charged forward maniacally toward the army of the living, causing the Cybertronians to open fire on the charging beasts. The handheld weaponry had minimal effect on them, and within moments the monsters were leaping into the ranks of the Cybertronian warriors, wreaking havoc.


    Roller charged forward toward a pair of sparkeaters that had breached the Pax lines, grenade launcher in one hand and an irradiated dagger in the other. One of the sparkeaters had pounced upon the House Pax communications specialist Playback, a Nova Cronum commoner who had spent vorns in Iacon working for a vidfeed service but had come to Polarus for a fresh start six vorns ago, and had proven competent enough to work for the royal house of The Torus Heights. He cried out in pain as the sparkeater tore his chest open, but the beast paused before tearing further into his chest, sniffing the open wound before looking up and letting out a terrifying shriek. The creature then turned away from the injured Playback, who was reduced to clutching his mangled chest and moaning in agony, and leapt toward the hulking Roadbuster who was charging toward it. Its attack on Roadbuster was interrupted by a round from Roller’s grenade launcher impacting the beast’s chest and sending it sprawling across the ground. Immediately Roadbuster and Inferno were hacking at it with irradiated swords in an attempt to cut it open. The blade did slice through the metal dermis of the horrifying creature, but the beast fought back, smashing the both of them away and then charging Roller, the wounds stitching back together as he charged.


    Roller stabbed at it, but while the blade cut into its abdomen, the beast seemed not to notice at all as its fingers tore into Roller’s upper chest armor. “Argh!” Roller cried out in pain, but weapons fire from different directions forced the sparkeater back a few steps, giving Roller to raise his grenade launcher and fire it at point blank range into the creature’s face. The explosion sent Roller flying back, momentarily knocked unconscious, fluttered back in and out of consciousness as he bounced across the ground. He looked up to see the headless sparkeater thrashing about on the ground just a few feet from the still groaning Playback as Pax warriors swarmed it, hacking and slashing. A second sparkeater leapt upon the soldiers assaulting his comrade and tore Inferno’s arm off at the shoulder socket. The soldiers began combatting the second monster, leaving the headless first on the ground writhing next to Playback as its body stitched itself back together. Roller, still quite dazed, saw the shredded chest and immediately pulled himself up and lunged at the wounded beast, dagger in hand.


    He swatted away the creature’s mangled left arm and drove his irradiated blade into the creature’s chest, pulling back and hacking away until enough of the chest cavity was open and exposed for him to reach in and grab the spark chamber. Orion had made it look so much easier than the task actually was, as his most powerful yanks proved nowhere near sufficient to jar the most critical of organs loose. Roller looked up at the quickly reassembling face of the creature, and knew his time was about up, but looked over and noticed several handheld demolition charges on a belt strapped around Playback a few feet away. Roller lunged toward his comrade, ripped two charges from the belt, activated them, thrust his hands back into the sparkeater’s chest, pulled his empty but gore-covered hands free of the monster’s chest, and lunged back toward Playback, lifting him as best he could and dragging him away from the healing beast as quickly as he could. They were roughly thirty yards away when the mangled but nearly reformed sparkeater got back to his feet and managed to peer at them with a partially reformed optic. That optic stretched wide as it felt something, and a moment later his torso exploded, sending chunks everywhere, and throwing Roller and Playback to the metal and rock ground. Roller looked over at various pieces of the sparkeater, terrified they’d start being pulled back together, but this time there was no movement.


    “Ya…you killed it.” Playback muttered through his pain as Roller pulled himself back up and started to help Playback up as well.


    A huge gray foot came out of nowhere and slammed into Roller’s back, sending him bouncing across the ground again. “Yes, he killed it.” A deep voice grumbled a reply to Playback’s observation. Roller twisted his head and peered at the owner of the foot that had left a big painful dent in his back, and felt the fear well up at recognizing the creature as the sparkeater that had transformed into the largest of their jets. The creature possessed nearly the same stature as Delta Magnus, but impossibly he seemed to exude even more power, and unlike any sparkeater Roller had seen other than Violen Jiger, this one’s optics, that were now boring into his own, possessed intelligence. “It makes its discovery of you nothing more than a wash.” The hulking gray creature, a massive but odd sword that bowed out like an axe blade at the tip clutched tightly in his right hand, turned down toward Playback. “Unless of course you can prove to me that you’re brilliant in the next five seconds.”


    “Whah?” Playback stammered out, then turned to look at Roller. “Emir Pax, I don…”. He turned back to the monster standing over him as Roller pushed to get back to his feet, but the agony in his back forced him to stop. “Wha, I…I, I’m smart. I mean, smarter than average.”


    “Not smart enough!” The hulking and talking sparkeater roared impatiently as he drove the clawed fingers of his left hand into the much smaller robot’s chest, and into what Roller knew to be his spark chamber.


    “No!” Roller yelled as he forced himself up through the pain and started stumbling over to the assault. He looked around on the ground for a weapon, and caught sight of a rifle. He leaned over to pick it up, but watched it explode before his hand got to it. He looked back up at the giant sparkeater, just now noticing that in addition to the oddly shaped sword in the creature’s right hand, it also had a small fusion cannon on his right forearm. Worse, it was a portable fusion cannon Roller recognized, one that he had bought years ago for the defense of Tyger Pax and one of the few weapons he had left behind when he had needed to evacuate the compound.


    The hulking creature grinned at him with yellow fangs lining its mouth. “Emir Pax, is it? Then I should thank you for this cannon, folds up nicely in the jet the master had my shell mode built into in the medical facility at your home. You wiped nearly everything from Tyger Pax’s databases, but our new thralls were able to pull up adequate specifications from…the Cybertronian Datanet, is that it?” The creature looked down at Playback, the struggling ceased and waves of energy rolling across his optics, a low murmur coming from his lips but otherwise he seemed catatonic.


    “Get off of him!” Roller growled as he continued to march toward the beast.


    “If I stop now, he’ll linger somewhere between his previous state and what could have been his future state…if he’s lucky. Part prey, part predator, but less than either. Perhaps if the master were interrupted making him into something like me, well, he’d be far less than Aswang, but he’d be more than you. But for either scenario he would have to be very fortunate. In all likelihood, he’d just be a tremoring wreck that would never recover in any discernable way.” The creature nodded at his victim below before raising his head toward Roller. “It’s best for him if you allow me to finish. It will only be a moment or two more.” The beast then started chuckling at seeing Roller continue his slow, painful advance. “You must be joking. You were healthy, had allies and powerful weapons, and barely were able to kill the mindless Vrykol that brought this one to my attention. What chance do you think you have against not only an Aswang, but the master’s most powerful commander?”


    “I said,” Roller stumbled toward the massive creature and raised his fist in a futile show of aggression, “get off of him!”


    The creature laughed as he rose to his full height, drawing his fingers from Playback’s chest. “You get your wish, spawn of Paxus, finished I am with your former servant, in moments he will rise to serve my master.”


    Roller looked down at Playback, and could see the metamorphosis taking place. “What have you done to him?”


    “Gave him the means to live up to his potential…” the beast shrugged, “well, some of it anyway. Those with the ability to accept the gift can theoretically become Aswang, but only Violen Jiger can create the greater of our species, and only those worthy are chosen for the honor. Otherwise, they become a soldier in our ranks of Vrykol, virtually mindless, but powerful and virtually unkillable.”


    “I think we both know that claim to be inaccurate.” Roller snarled as he looked back up at the massive creature. “Well Aswang,”


    “I did say ‘virtually’, didn’t I? I am Bloodron, right hand of the master.” The giant who stood twice Roller’s height, folded his arms as the battle raged around them. “This is more discussion than I normally give those I’m about to kill, but you are apparently ruler of your territory, you are a descendant of a warrior I respected, and you’ve shown great courage.” A screech identical to the one emitted by the sparkeater that had first pounced on Playback was heard across the battlefield, prompting Bloodron to look up and toward the direction it came from. “I’ll let one of the others turn that one.” He then looked back down at Roller and raised his odd sword high above his head, but he was set upon by fourteen northern warriors before he could bring it down. Stronghold Pax and a one-armed Inferno grabbed Roller to drag him away.


    This Bloodron easily battered away his assailants, slicing the torsos of two northern soldiers in half with a single massive swing. “We must get you back, Emir Pax!” Inferno muttered as he and Stronghold pulled the struggling Roller away.


    “No! I fight with my army!” Roller protested, but looked up as two more shrieks came out from different points on the battlefield. Those two were followed by two more at other points in the chaos.


    Bloodron swatted away several other northern soldiers before letting out a snarl, leaping to the air, transforming and shooting out toward the sparkeater that emitted one of the shrieks. “Where the hell is he going?” Stronghold asked.


    “The sparkeaters, the dumb feral ones, the…Vrykol, they made that noise when they find one of us that can be turned into one of them.” Roller explained as he pushed against his protectors, who were no longer pushing against him, and started walking back toward the chaos. “One of those super-sparkeaters, Aswangs, then turn the Cybertronian into a sparkeater. I guess they can only make the feral kinds, but Violen Jiger can make more of the super-sparkeaters.”


    “So there was someone here for him to ‘make’?” One of the soldiers that had been fighting Bloodron asked.


    “Yes,” Roller replied, realizing something and looking beyond the soldiers to see a hideous form standing beyond them, a hideous form that had once been Playback. “Watch out!” Roller yelled, but Playback was already pouncing on one of the soldiers, tearing his back open and wrenching his spark chamber out, then tearing it open and swallowing the blue orb within. “Take him down!”


    While their numbers had been insignificant to Bloodron, the remaining eleven soldiers surrounding Playback were able to tackle and subdue him, while Roller, Stronghold and Inferno charged forward to help. Stronghold raised a sword high above his head. “Clear a path, boys!” The soldiers split to give him access, and he drove his blade into the newly born sparkeater’s chest, piercing his spark chamber, but not fully destroying the spark, leaving Playback as savage and snarling as before. But his arms and legs were still pinned, and Stronghold twisted his blade while other soldiers proceeded to hack away as well. Roller twisted further, finally overwhelming the spark and causing it to explode, sending the northern soldiers and Playback’s bodyparts flying in all directions.


    Roller gingerly pushed himself back to his feet and turned to look out over other portions of the battlefield, and despite the pain coursing through him, was hit with a wave of optimism. The sparkeaters had broken through their ranks, the horrific Vrykol tearing through Cybertronians, the brutish Mutants savagely attacking fearlessly but held back for the most part and sustaining heavy casualties, and the occasional higher-functioning sparkeater, these Aswangs, directing their soldiers and battering back the Cybertronians they encountered with the ease of their feral counterparts, though none seemed to be as formidable as Bloodron, at least from what Roller could tell. But despite this, the Cybertronians were rallying, their organization and superior numbers seeming to stem the tide and providing them an edge in the battle. The huge demons, savage energy suckers, were being kept at bay by the targeted firepower of the dozens of ships zipping overhead, and behind them all, nonchalantly watching the proceedings from half a mile away, stood Violen Jiger, unmoving and almost enjoying the show.


    In addition to their numbers and organization, the Cybertronians had several stand-out warriors cutting through the monsters. Megatron, as much as Roller hated him, was proving to be the most inspiring of their warriors. His forearm mounted weapon, the legendary Cannon of Machtus if what the Decepticon propaganda claimed was true, obliterated the disorganized ranks of nearby Mutants before engaging sparkeaters with his sword. He killed two feral monsters before a black helicopter dropped from the sky, transformed to a spider, killed a couple of Decepticons before transforming to a feminine robot and engaging Megatron. She was clearly intelligent, she fought with strategy, and as she had not just one, but two effective alternate modes, she was clearly an Aswang. But despite being an upper tier sparkeater, Megatron soon proved to be the more powerful of the two, and beat her into a retreat. A resounding roar erupted from not only the Decepticons, but all Cybertronians in the vicinity watching as the black helicopter sped away to a section of combat with less dangerous opponents.


    Elsewhere other Cybertronian heroes were galvanizing their forces with individual acts of courage and battle prowess. Delta Magnus cut through many of the feral mindless sparkeaters with the legendary Star Saber, and there seemed to be something to the legends as the blade cut through them with great ease, and if that cut was at or near their spark chambers, they remained dead. His kinsman Ultra lacked magical weapons, but with his hammer, rifle and shoulder rockets, he disabled several long enough for blade wielding soldiers to swarm, subdue, and sometimes cut the sparks out of the monsters. Not far from them were the Autobots, led by Orion, who as always was distinguishing himself heroically. Roller watched his brother obliterate the head of a sparkeater with his ion blaster, then immediately cover the distance separating them to cut through the upper torso with an irradiated sword he’d gotten somewhere, and then pluck out the spark chamber with that sword and hurtle it into the midst of a squad of mutants, take aim, and blast the chamber, the detonation of the spark combined with the ion blaster’s ordinance sent the mutants flying and scorched. A bit closer to House Pax’s position were the forces of Axiom, where a dark gray form with glowing blue highlights led them against the monstrous hordes. Roller peered intently at this hulking twenty-eight foot tall robot, who tore through sparkeaters and mutants alike with unbelievable strength, excellent speed and tremendous skill. The most appropriate weapon for the situation the warrior happened to be in seemed to arise from the armor itself as new opponents and threats approached it. The monsters could do nothing to hurt it, and only at seeing their futile attempts to hurt the blue warrior did Roller realize that it was the Apex Armor, exactly as Elita had described it, but still completely amazing to behold. She started to tear through the enemy more efficiently than even Megatron at this point.


    There were many other warriors standing out in their fight, but as Roller charged to re-engage the enemy, his optics landed on Fortress Maximus fighting a yellow and white creature, one that Roller recognized it as the lightly colored jet he had seen earlier. The sparkeater, who was somewhat similar in appearance to Starscream in this mode as well as his jet mode, moved with intelligence, and Roller surmised that like with Bloodron, it was an Aswang, but like with the helicopter/spider creature and other Aswangs he’s observed, this one was nowhere near as powerful as Bloodron had been. Fortress was exceptionally powerful, his size, his enhancements, and in all likelihood a green spark like Orion’s contributing to his tremendous might, but even with all that he never would have been able to do what Bloodron had done to Roller’s squad, and Bloodron had done it without showing the slightest bit of exertion. Against this yellow and white creature though, Fort Max was definitely holding his own. It seemed an even match until Delta Magnus, wielding the Star Saber, joined him and sliced right through the creature’s upper back. The beast let out a roar of pain and anger, but the two massive warriors continued until Delta Magnus raised his sword with the blue, tendril-streaked spark skewered on it.


    “Sunstorm!” A thunderous and familiar roar carried over the battlefield, prompting Roller and many others to turn and look at its source. Violen Jiger, no longer looking relaxed, was finally moving forward at seeing one of his Aswangs in peril. Roller looked back at Delta Magnus, and noted the energy humming across the sword seemed to increase in intensity, and a moment later the spark exploded, throwing Delta Magnus and Fortress Maximus back several yards in different directions. “Enough!” The sparkeater king roared as he leapt into the air, covering half a mile with his leap and landing in the midst of the living army, several yards from the corpse of the creature that had been known as Sunstorm.


    Delta Magnus, Fortress Maximus and hordes of other soldiers swarmed Violen Jiger, all seeing an opportunity to eliminate the enemy leadership and win the war just as it began, but as impressive as Bloodron’s power had been, Violen Jiger’s was so much more. He battered away Delta Magnus, sword and all, with no effort. Fortress Maximus as well as a half dozen soldiers were sent flying back with a mere swat. Megatron and the criminal Overlord charged in with the throngs of others, but they too were battered back with minimal effort. Even Orion made his way over and attacked, and was just as effortlessly hammered away, his chest armor torn by little more than a graze of Violen Jiger’s knuckles. The armored Elita One charged through the masses, and all cheered as she hammered her right fist into the small of Violen Jiger’s back, forcing him to stumble forward a couple steps, a follow-up punch sent him stumbling forward a few more, but her third swing was evaded as Violen Jiger gracefully sidestepped and brought his left backhand down across her head and torso. He then pounced upon her and started battering away, throngs of Cybertronian warriors came to her defense, but they were ignored for the first few seconds, and then swatted away by two quick and violent swipes of the sparkeater king’s arms. He immediately went back to hammering away upon the armored emir of Axiom, rock and metal from the devastated ground spraying up with each blow. “Cursed blacksmith and her vile creations!” He roared before standing up, hauling the limp blue form up with him, and hurling it away, sending Elita careening into dozens of her own soldiers. The armies once again charged him, but Roller’s optics were still on Elita, her armor remained in place but she was completely unmoving. He then scanned back to the progress of the Cybertronian swarms against the enemy leader, and noted that they could do nothing to cause him harm. His bestial hordes took full advantage of the distraction caused by their leader, charging the Cybertronian forces that were no longer focused solely on them. “This is not going to end well.” Roller muttered.



    ---



    Trepan



    Nine wall-sized computers hummed as they analyzed the latest projection of the enlarged version of Triptych’s brain module. There was so much to this, it was daunting even to the brilliant Trepan. Nobody on Cybertron knew the intricacies of brain modules nearly as well as him, but for this undertaking, even he would have considered it inconceivable half a vorn ago. Enlarging a brain module to a larger version of itself was staggering to consider; there was so much more involved than just a simple ‘scaling-up’. And this, this was orders of magnitude more complex than that. To take an existing, albeit heavily damaged brain module of a vastly larger, simpler and astoundingly different species, modify it so that it could be remotely receptive to being overwritten by an existing personality and memories of a far more intellectually complex creature a tiny fraction of its size…impossible, completely impossible. At least, for anyone else, even Shockwave, it would be impossible. Even for Trepan it would be the greatest challenge of his life, but scientists tend to love challenges; Trepan more than most.


    It wasn’t pessimism telling him that the analysis would find flaws in his latest rendering, it was simple reality. He had not been lying when he told Shockwave that it would take years, and he was completely comfortable with that timeframe. And while the computers conducted their scans, evaluations and simulations, he familiarized himself with Shockwave’s pet project. Giving serious consideration to the old myth about enhanced performance due to spark compatibility and proximity seemed like a joke when Shockwave had first described it to him. The idea that certain individuals got marginally ‘better’ around those with kindred sparks had always existed, but any reasonable individual had discarded the notion. To hear that Shockwave had been conducting serious experimentation on it was beyond surprising, so see Shockwave’s results that all but proved that the ancient myth possessed merit was jaw-dropping. And his hypothesis regarding physical modifications that could capitalize on and enhance these enhancements further, to levels almost absurd to consider, was beyond fascinating. What he was proposing provided a sort of fallback should things with Trypticon not work out. Trepan traced his finger over the projected design changes to Hook and Scrapper on the data pad before having his attention diverted to the beeping communications console on the far end of the subterranean chamber.


    He traversed the metal and rock covered ground, stepping over lumps and small outcroppings of geological and metallurgical clumps that served as reminders that this state of the art facility was embedded in the untamed subterranean caverns of Nyon’s boneyards. He rounded on last table covered in tablets illuminating data from various inquiries, equations and experiments and reached the console, switching open the channel. “Yes?”


    “Trepan, we’re coming up on the battle.” Shockwave’s emotionless voice cut through. “It appears to be going poorly, I don’t have enough data to formulate accurate odds, but in all likelihood the sparkeaters will not be contained. Prepare evacuation and relocation of all assets.”


    Trepan grumbled more in annoyance than disappointment or fear. “As you command. We will be away from this location by day’s end.”


    “See that you are. Shockwave out.”



    ---



    Shockwave



    The transmissions from the ships on site over the battle had initially been positive, but only for a very short while. Within the first hour the transmissions grew bleak and began depicting a quickly losing battle, a chaotic breakdown of the Cybertronian forces against the smaller army of vastly more powerful sparkeaters, a breakdown initiated by their leader’s advance into the fray. What Shockwave’s Decepticons, and the Autobots traveling slightly ahead of them were coming upon was the rout one would assume to be the aftermath of such a battle, with Cybertronian forces frantically trying to reorganize, but thinning out greatly as many of their numbers transformed and started to flee. The Decepticons were easy to spot, they were still fighting effectively and were by far the most disciplined of the warriors on the field, but even they soon would be facing inevitable defeat, especially as their allies were wiped out or fled.


    Shockwave stepped forward into the cockpit and leaned over the pilot, Razorclaw’s flier Divebomb, and pointed out over the center of the battle. “Take us there and hover.” Shockwave turned to Razorclaw who had been standing behind him. “Order Onslaught to ready his team.”


    “Sir, my Predacons are the best melee combatants we have.” The hulking black, red, orange and yellow warrior replied from the door linking the cockpit to the passenger section. “Perhaps we should be the vanguard.”


    “Predacons?” Shockwave asked. “You’ve taken beast modes, but you are of Altihex. Why choose a designation based on Nyonian legend?”


    “Initially it was to piss off the Nyonian gladiators,” Razorclaw replied, “but we came to study the legends and found that in our new forms we fought, and hunted, and dominated much the way the Predacons of legend did, so we embraced the name.”


    “So be it.” Shockwave replied disinterestedly. “We have no chance at victory, I have no doubt that you and your team would kill several of those things down there, but you would eventually be overwhelmed and be repelled, or more likely killed. Our best course of action is to facilitate an effective retreat for Megatron and the other Decepticons. That involves ranged combat, firepower; Onslaught and his team are better able to provide that than you.” Shockwave explained as he straightened up and turned to leave the cockpit.


    “Understood sir, I will get him immediately.” Razorclaw answered before turning to find his fellow Altihexian.


    A moment later the tall, lean Onslaught and three other warriors were assembling in front of Shockwave. “Sir, what are your orders?”


    “Dispatch Blastoff and Vortex to provide aerial support for a Decepticon retreat.” The purple commander replied. “You, Brawl and Swindle will do the same from the port hatches.”


    “Sir, about the Polyhexian…” Onslaught muttered, “he’s very bright, he’s beyond resourceful, but he…well, he just doesn’t fit in. Soldiers require some measure of honor and discipline, but he, well, he still has not made his way here despite receiving the order to do so.”


    “Swindle may not share all of the traits you feel members of your squad should have,” Shockwave answered, “but the spark evaluation results of the five of you suggest that you would be an ideal match. Do you not drill well together?”


    “Actually sir, yes, we do. But…”


    “You are his commander, you are free to discipline him in whatever manner you wish,” Shockwave interrupted, “but he is a member of your team, so find him and instruct him to carry out my orders.”


    “Yes sir.” Onslaught snapped back obediently and turned to instruct his team. Moments later Blast Off and Vortex were airborne, as were numerous other fliers from the other transports under Shockwave’s command, and all of those transports had their most well-armed and most skilled marksmen firing down into the soldiers of the dead that were threatening to surround or block off their Decepticon comrades. A huge, dark gray sparkeater transformed into a jet that almost seemed worthy of space travel, and shot into the sky, opening fire into the cockpit of one of the rear-most transports. It transformed back to robot mode and landed on the cracked windshield of the vessel, a massive oddly-shaped sword in his hand, and he brought the melee weapon down to obliterate the barely functional windshield. Shockwave could only watch as he climbed into the ship across the sky and it started to plummet down, crashing into dozens of soldiers that looked to be fighting for House Magnus.


    “Divebomb, contact Megatron, go through Soundwave if you need to, and let him know he must retreat now.” Shockwave called into his own cockpit. “We have only minutes here before we too are over-run.”


    Shockwave then marched over to the open doorway of the passenger section where Onslaught was in his mobile artillery mode firing down at the enemy. He stepped over Onslaught’s shellmode and fell into the air, dropping a couple hundred feet before activating the propulsion systems he had built into his frame, hovering high in the air, then transforming to cannon mode and opening fire on the huge gray sparkeater as it emerged from the flaming wreck of the ship he had downed. The blast sent the creature skidding across the ground, but what little damage it did sustain seemed to heal immediately. The beast grinned at his distant attacker as he got back to his feet, but was quickly swarmed by Magnus retainers. Shockwave turned his attention to the rest of the battlefield, his goal to stifle any further air power the sparkeaters may have, but as he scanned the scene he realized how lost their cause truly was. The armies of Cybertron had devolved into nothing more than disorganized rabble. Even the Decepticons were starting to fray. A large scale retreat was beyond the realm of possibility. Shockwave had always believed himself to be devoid of emotion, but for the first time he was not only feeling fear, but despair. And then it happened.


    The ground rumbled once. Then again. And again. Shockwave accessed sensor equipment in Harmonex and the lab in the Nyonian boneyards, both thousands of miles away, and verified that they were experiencing the same seismic upheaval. It had been fifteen years since the last Vectoral Surge, but there was no doubt that this was another birthquake. The sparkeaters screeched joyfully as one at sensing the immeasurable life-force pushing its way to the surface. It was a horrific noise, one that infinitely increased the dread in the already terrified Cybertronians. Even the sparkeater-allied mutants, the few that still survived, were completely unnerved at the shrilled cries of joy, likely knowing and rightfully fearing the feeding frenzy that was soon to ensue.


    A soft glow emerged a mile northing of the battlefield, something that surprised Shockwave as there were no pre-existing hotspots in that region, but new ones formed every few centuries. The new hotspot was a tremendous boon to the armies of Cybertron, as even Violen Jiger seemed unable to rein in his army and prevent thousands of them from charging the new, and going by the glow’s growing intensity, very fertile hotspot. The location of the hotspot, while beneficial to the Cybertronian warriors, would be the doom of those newborns unfortunate enough to emerge there. But Shockwave was not one to miss an opportunity just because it emerged due to another’s misfortune. “Megatron,” he insistently barked through a channel he hoped the Decepticon leader was accessing, “this is our only chance to retreat!”


    “I am aware of that!” Megatron belted back before opening every frequency and continuing. “Decepticons, retreat!”



    ---



    Elita One



    Optics came back online to register the fading light of day. It was a clear view, despite her last memories being of a spider web of cracks forming under Violen Jiger’s assault right before descending into total blackness. The Apex Armor was apparently not impervious to all manner of punishment, but it did seem to have a very effective self-repair system as any and all cracks were completely gone. Elita felt her body jostle a bit, then a bit more, and finally realized that she was being carried. “Release me!”


    The movement stopped, and she was carefully but quickly placed down onto her feet. “My Lady, good, you are awake!” The largest of four guards, a stout orange warrior named Brightforge, addressed her with a broad but nervous grin. “Transform my One, we all must, and retreat from this place. The battle is lost, our generals are seeing to the withdrawal of our soldiers, but we must get the One safely away.”


    “The One does not abandon her troops!” Elita snapped back, then turned back toward the fading sounds of battle. “We will return to our forces, to all of Cybertron’s forces, and continue the fight!”


    “My Lady,” another guard, a smaller, lean soldier by the name of Rapier, replied, “our forces are already in retreat, most are farther from the sparkeaters than we are, as is the case of all Cybertron’s forces.”


    “Every army is evacuating, my One.” A blue and yellow guard named Nightstreak added. “We will regroup at some point, but we must see you safely away.”


    “My Lady, we must move now.” Brightforge stressed, and smiled in relief as a nod came from the armored Elita.


    Elita stepped back away from her soldiers and held her arms straight ahead of her. With a mental command the armor retracted away from her body, along her arms and gathered into the ancient oval-shaped shield-like disk, now clasped in her hands. She released it, transformed immediately into her ground cruiser mode, the shield dropping and landing on her hood, some clasps emerging from her hood to hold it. Her guards transformed as well and she led them further away from the battleground, toward the thick forest a few miles away that ran for hundreds of miles along the northern coastline of the Mithril Sea, the infamous haunted Mechigahara Forest. Organic trees grew in such density that the interior rarely saw sunlight, and even smaller Cybertronians had extreme difficulty in traversing through the dark forest. An odd mixture of ores running beneath the ground of the area disoriented many navigation devices, and legends depicting evil animal spirits and demons doing harm to intruders went back many millions of years.


    It would be difficult for Elita and her guards to get through, but hopefully it would be just as difficult for the sparkeaters to get through after them. Upon reaching the coast she would attempt to contact other Cybertronians, or if still being pursued, they could submerge into the depths of the Sea, which hopefully would allow them to shake any persistent sparkeaters, and from there, well, she supposed she could find her way back to Insula Avalonius. Up until a few million years ago there had been dozens of thriving port cities along the shoreline at the edge of the forest, port cities that had served as the primary launch point to for Nova Cronum vessels traversing the Mithril Sea. But according to legend, the demons of the forest had over time driven the denizens from each of the numerous port villages and towns. So perhaps, while unlikely, a craft may have been left behind, one made of true Cybertronain ore that could last the ravages of millions of years’ worth of erosion and neglect, that she and her soldiers might be able to get to working order and set sail. A million to one shot, but positive thoughts made it easier to continue on after such a defeat.


    The metal ground soon gave way to a mixture of metal and rock, then to rock and dirt, and soon the vegetation escaping out from the forest was popping up around them. They were weaving around the occasional tree, the arboreal wall of the Mechigahara Forest was now only seconds away, the tree line representing the end of their use of alternate modes until they would be able to finally emerge from the forest. The sound of rotor blades cutting through the air drew her attention away from the forest ahead, and she directed her attention to what her rear-facing cameras were directing into her brain module. A black helicopter darted toward them, then over, then dropped to a nearby tree, transforming in the air as it fell. Elita and her team transformed as well, but just as she attained robot mode and started to reach for the Apex Shield, a thick web slapped it and pulled it away a half-second before she could grasp it. Elita’s optics immediately shot to the giant, hideous metal spider in the tree one hundred yards away sucking the shield toward it, and emitting a cruel, feminine laugh as it did so. “Tsk tsk tsk, too bad, my Lady. With Solus’s special little suit there would be very little chance of me stopping you from reaching the forest and battering a path for yourself. Of course, I’d still have killed your comrades, but you’d likely have made it to safety.” The multi-eyed beast snickered at them. “But now, well, you’ll be as much my prey as they will, and I’ll have this as a trophy to present to Violen Jiger.”


    “Kill it!” Brightforge yelled out.


    “Protect the One!” Nightstreak called out as well as he and Rapier placed themselves between the creature and their Emir, each bearing a sword in one hand and a rifle in the other.


    “I need no protection!” Elita snarled back. “We kill it, reclaim the armor, and retreat into the forest!”


    “Yes, come kill it.” The spider laughed as it leapt from the tree and hit the ground running toward them. The Cybertronians fired upon it, their aim true, but like with all other sparkeaters, the spider’s wounds healed almost immediately and her progress was not slowed in the least. The beast leapt upon the smallest of her guards, the quiet one named Cauldron, and tore into his chest as they hit the ground. Her bestial head dipped, and then jerked back up, Cauldron’s pulsing blue spark gripped in her mandibles.


    Brightforge roared out in rage and drove his shoulder into the beast, barely pushing it back at all as it absorbed Cauldron’s spark into its monstrous body, barely aware that it was being struck. The creature swatted Brightforge away with one of its eight limbs, then transformed into a feminine robot and prepared to engage the other three attackers, the Apex Shield still firmly clutched in her left hand. They were well trained, but their melee assaults were just as fruitless as the shots fired from their rifles and cannons. She was stronger than any one of them, but not so strong as to be able to overwhelm all of them with her strength alone. Elita and Rapier shoved her back and Nightstreak battered her head with the butt of his rifle. The sparkeater only laughed and smacked Nightstreak to the ground with the Apex Shield. As he fell she delivered a snap kick to Elita’s abdomen, sending the Emir of Axion bouncing across the ground. She then punched Rapier in the face, knocking him down, and she was immediately upon him, bashing his face to metal bits with the stolen blue disk in her hands.


    Brightforge was upon her, too late to save Rapier, but hammering her with every bit of strength he had. His blows did cause her to stumble back a few steps, but at no point was she ever disoriented or in trouble. At least until her lower left arm, the one clutching the Apex Shield, was suddenly detached. The sparkeater looked down to see Nightstreak’s sword dripping with her fluids, and his other hand reaching to grasp the Shield. He grabbed it as she leaned down to allow her stump of an upper arm make contact with her detached lower arm and allow them to reconnect. Nightstreak leapt to her side and flung the disk toward Elita. The Shield almost reached Elita’s waiting hands, but once again a web shot out an intercepted it, one launched from the creatures uninjured right arm. The two remaining guards lunged into the beast, causing her retrieval yank to send it wide and past her. Nightstreak’s sword once again flew into action, slicing through the web and sending the flying Apex disk toward the forest. It clanged against a tree and fell to the ground within the shadows of the ancient and ominous forest. The femme sparkeater snarled and turned on Nightstreak, thrusting her fingers into his face and tearing it open. Elita was nearly upon them, ready to defend her countrymen.


    “Lady Elita!” Brightforge roared. “The Armor!” Elita halted, looked at him and realized he was right. She turned to the shadow of the forest and saw the blue disk on the rocky ground. The distance was just at the point where running would get her there as quickly as a transformation and drive, so she sprinted toward the tree line, away from her likely dying guards, to get to the one thing that could save them all. She heard pained grunts coming from Brightforge behind her, knowing that in all likelihood those would be his final utterances, but she was almost to the Apex Armor, almost to victory.


    It was only twenty yards away when suddenly a dark form landed between she and it. Elita’s spark dropped as she looked up to see the fluid streaked face of their assailant, a hideous smile stretched across her face. Her optics lowered to see a soundless scream coming from Brightforge’s detached head clutched in the sparkeater’s right hand. “Soooo close.” The creature mocked. “Your soldiers were valiant, but alas, their cause was lost from the start, their chosen leader simply not worth following.”


    “I’m not dead yet, foul beast.” Elita snarled as she took on a combat stance. “Come finish the job.”


    “With pleasure.” The dark feminine form growled as she took a step forward, just as the trees behind her exploded, a gray and red blur blasting through them and slamming into the back of the sparkeater.


    Elita was stunned as the predominantly gray form charged the sparkeater past her, a red blade-like horn thrust through her dark, spindly body and jutting through the front. “You insult beasts, highborn!” A gravelly roar thundered from the gray form. Elita stared, taking it in, and finally realized what it was. A giant metal rhinokeron had the sparkeater gored and pinned to the metal, rock and dirt ground. “Retrieve your weapon, fool!” The voice belted out, snapping Elita out of her stunned motionlessness.


    Elita turned and sprinted to her disk, finally reaching it, gripping both ends, and willing it to engulf her. She turned as the process began, and watched as the sparkeater recovered and threw the rhinokeron off of her. The creature was roughly fifty percent larger than the flesh and blood version of the creature, and being a mechanoid was vastly stronger, but the metal beast was still not strong enough to knock over the sparkeater a second time. Its second charge was met by a punch to its thick skull, sending the rhino to the ground with a thud. The sparkeater snarled before turning toward the now-sprinting Elita, shock in its optics as a speeding blue fist battered her face and sent the black creature skidding across the ground. Elita didn’t pause to admire her blow, her battles with Decepticons and sparkeaters had made her fully aware of the power she wielded while donning the Apex Armor. It had come up short against this creature’s master, but it would be sufficient to kill her.


    Elita fell upon the other femme, her fists already a blur of motion before she even settled upon the creature. The head was pulverized in moments, so she continued to the upper torso. That was battered within a few strikes, but the regrowth of the cranial structure made Eliat realize that the beast was not destroyed, and would never be destroyed as long as its spark existed. She considered leaving the beast alive for a time, subjecting the creature to the torture of bodily destruction, regeneration, and further bodily destruction for hours before finally ending the monster’s misery, but as furious and saddened as she was by the death of her guards as well as all the soldiers that had fallen in battle, she was not a sadist, and would derive no sense of satisfaction from needless inflicting of pain. She decided to end it, drove her fingers into the creature’s chest until she penetrated the spark chamber, and wrenched the torso open to reveal the pulsing blue spark, covered in black tendrils. Elita grasped it, tore it free and hurled it into the air. Using weapons that emerged from the forearms of the Armor, she targeted the spark and opened fire. The explosion marked the end of the creature’s twitching beneath her, but she knew it would also draw the attention of its comrades.


    Her gaze turned to follow the sound of movement behind her, and she saw the metal rhinokeron slowing walking back toward the hole in the tree line that it had created moments before. It stopped just short of entering the forest before turning back and fixing eerie yellow optics on her. “Well, your majesty, you comin’ or not?” The beast then turned back and continued into the blackness of the haunted forest, and, nowhere else to go and aware that the sparkeaters would be arriving at some point, Elita rose to her feet and followed him in.



    ---



    Kup



    The withdrawal, much like the battle, had been a chaotic mess. Kup had started the battle fighting with the forces of House Pax, which seemed the best fit as the descendants of Paxus had always proven to be the truest friends of the Wardens. But as the battle raged he found himself pulled by the combat toward the forces hailing from Tyrest, specifically those from the city of Damaxus, those following Thunderclash, a vassal to House Ambus that had been awarded title and lands by Dominus Ambus for his good work as Chief of Security for the royal house. While unquestionably deserved, the elevation to lord for Thunderclash had come to be seen in recent days as an unfortunate event, as it meant he had moved away from Centurion to the lands granted him in Damaxus, and was therefore not there to defend House Ambus when the Decepticons attacked.


    In all likelihood the presence of one individual, even the legendary Thunderclash, would not have made a difference in the slaughter, but seeing the warrior fight was inspiring none the less. But despite the skill shown by Thunderclash, and Megatron, and Delta Magnus and others, the tide turned irreversibly once the sparkeater king joined the fray. They were routed, they were defeated, they were doomed; until Cybertron sacrificed newborn to save them. The planetary pulse had changed everything, and the emergence of a hotspot just north of them had drawn the majority of the sparkeaters away from the battle for a gluttonous feast. Kup looked on to the glow in the distance with horror and pity, but had resigned himself to not being able to do anything for them. Thunderclash however felt less resigned to the newborns’ fate, and ordered his followers north to do whatever they could. The Damaxus noble was brave and heroic, but he wasn’t stupid, there would be no driving the sparkeaters away from the hotspot, or protecting it from them, but perhaps they could save a few of the newborn, gather up the sentio metalico that surrounded a few of the newly surfaced sparks and maybe it would be enough to give that new life a chance. The odds weren’t with them, but Kup and every warrior under Thunderclash’s command felt it to be their duty.


    By the time they reached the hotspot the sparkeaters were already tearing into the sacred life-ground, pulling up blue orbs and swallowing them whole. But the hotspot was huge, the largest Kup had ever seen, and there were eruptions on the outskirts that the sparkeaters had not yet gotten to. Twenty-seven soldiers had managed to abscond with twenty-nine blobs of metal that would hopefully ripen into protoforms; each soldier carrying one, Thunderclash carrying three. It was painful to leave behind the dozens at that point undiscovered by the monsters, but they could only carry what they could carry, and they sadly left those still in the ground to their fate and quickly made their way northeast toward a small cluster of mountains that led to a road on the other side of them, a road that would take them, eventually, to Iacon.


    “You fought well, Lord Commander,” Thunderclash commented once they were far enough away to feel conversation was safe, “and your assistance in saving what few protoforms we could was heroic. All Cybertron will sing your praises once we’ve rallied and finally defeated this unnatural evil, and that one in particular,” the hulking noble nodded to the emerging protoform in Kup’s arms, “that one will love you for the entirety of his life.”


    “It’s a her,” Kup replied, holding out the developing gray blob to show the emerging curves and other shapes normally associated with Cybertronain femmes, “and I don’t deserve praises or love, and I’m certainly no longer worthy of the title Lord Commander. On my watch the Gates were breached, the monsters released, and the Wardens destroyed.”


    “None could have prevented what came to pass.” Thunderclash replied solemnly. “I know this to be fact, and in time even you will come to accept the truth of it.”


    “That certainly won’t be this day.” Kup spat. “It is you that proved to be a hero today, my lord.”


    Thunderclash laughed. “I will never be comfortable being referred to as a lord, and I was no more heroic than any of my soldiers.”


    Kup smiled and looked to the peaks of metal and rock inviting them in the distance. “We’ve got a helluva trek ahead of us.”


    “Yes, that we do.” Thunderclash replied. “But once off this terrain and through those mountains, we’ll find roads and be able to traverse the remainder of the way in vehicle mode.” He gently shuffled the three protoforms he was effortlessly carrying. “I suppose it’ll give me time to put some thought into the names for these three.” The twenty-six and a half foot tall hero looked back down at the protoform in Kup’s arms. “You should probably come up with a name for that one.”


    Kup smiled, and remembered approaching Orion Pax in Petrex the day before to thank him for his rescue of Omega Supreme. The returning outlaw was with Elita One, and at approaching them Kup had greeted her first, offering his condolences for the tragedy that had befallen her house, and then remarking about her beauty. Orion had smiled and agreed, adding that she was quite ‘cee’, and explained that the term was used by those he had been with as an analogue to beautiful. Kup had found the term quaint, but wound up taking a liking to it. “I’ve already done that.” He turned his smile up at Thunderclash. “Her name is Arcee.”
     
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  13. fb111a

    fb111a New Member

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    Very pleased to see a new part!
     
  14. Blam320

    Blam320 Assembly Inventor

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    Definitely worth the wait!
     
  15. batmanprime

    batmanprime Omega-con

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    Holy hahaha! Best one yet. When Kup got a spark I expected it to be Hot Rod, when it turned out to be a femme I was like nope Arcee. Awesome!
     
  16. ChErikS

    ChErikS Well-Known Member

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    Great chapter!
     
  17. MatrixOfWumbo

    MatrixOfWumbo I see you

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    I liked what I read of the first bit! I'll have to check out the rest, but not right before I go to sleep.
     
  18. ChErikS

    ChErikS Well-Known Member

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    Any new chapters coming up?
     
  19. peteynorth

    peteynorth TFW2005 Supporter

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    I wrote act 1 of the next chapter (8 acts per chapter) a couple months ago, but haven't had a chance to get back to it since. I'll try to get on it in the coming weeks, but there's a lot going on.
     
  20. crystalarcee

    crystalarcee i exist i guess

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    I love where this is going