Ultra Magnus This couldn’t be real, this had to be some sort of off-line vision he was having. He’d wake up, Delta would be meeting with his witch and ever-ready to deliver a scowl at his younger kinsman, a scowl that Ultra once hated but would now give the world to see again. The Grand Convocation, Delta’s death at the hands of Megatron, it all had to be a dream. But it wasn’t…he knew, he just knew it wasn’t. Delta was dead, his body missing, likely dismembered and dishonored by the Decepticon hordes, never to be laid upon the sacred pool deep within Citadel Magnus, and this chaos going on around him, the frantic shuffling to treat the countless wounded and save lives, this panicked horror of indecipherable busy and frantic noise and desperately purposeful movement; all of it was all too real. Magnus stepped back and pressed himself against the infirmary wall to allow the Autobot medic First Aid and the hulking former Decimus security captain Rook rapidly carry a listless and wounded femme to a table to his left, his optics still locked across the room on Ratchet working on the head of the Emir of the Torus Heights, the Autobot Commander standing on the other side of the table his brother was laid upon, frantically watching and ready to do anything he could to assist in the all but certainly impossible attempt to save Roller’s life. Magnus was both envious of, and relieved not to be the young…so very young Orion Pax. The panic that Magnus had been riddled with prior to acknowledging Delta was gone was currently flowing through the not even two decade old Autobot leader, just one of the many things the leader of the only remaining non-Decepticon living military was now forced to bear. It had to be overwhelming, but even from his brother’s bedside he still met with his sub-commanders and issued orders and instructions for the regrouping forces. The various triages were set up, the countless patients all seemed to be accounted for and their prioritizations assigned based on severity of their injuries, scouts sent out to monitor the progress of the Decepticons, other scouts sent to scan for dangers from other directions, and even more scouts sent out to analyze potential escape routes and destinations should that be necessary. Countless details, more so than even Delta dealt with on a regular basis as the Autobots had made the salvation and care of civilians a far greater priority than the Unified Forces ever had, and yet Orion took in all the data and replied with astoundingly effective solutions and orders within moments, never taking his optics off of his dying brother. Ultra Magnus had always known the youth was gifted, but this, this brilliance and professionalism in the midst of such overwhelming personal and global tragedy…this was something he had never seen before. “What do you think he’s going to do?” The voice coming from low to his right pulled Ultra Magnus out of his deep contemplations and he looked down to see that Minimus Ambus had somehow come to a standing position next to him and was also staring at the Autobot Commander. Magnus turned back toward Ratchet and Orion trying to keep Roller alive before answering, sensing through his periphery as two more forms, both incredibly tall, came to a stop on the other side of Minimus Ambus. “He’ll do what’s necessary.” Magnus looked over again and saw that the almost impossibly massive Fortress Maximus was standing next to Ambus, and on the other side of him stood the Mistress of Flame. It probably looked odd, the twenty-eight foot tall Magnus standing next to the seven foot tall Ambus, next to the thirty-four foot tall Maximus next to the thirty foot tall Mistress of Flame; Minimus Ambus barely came up to any of their knees. “What’s necessary is the absolute eradication of the Decepticon shitbags.” Fortress Maximus growled. “It’s odd, but…” Minimus Ambus started in a far less enraged tone, “I knew, somehow, that it would be Orion that would be the most effective of our leaders. I just assumed that in the course of his heroism he’d get himself killed, undoubtedly sacrificing himself for the greater good.” “I wouldn’t rule that fate for him out just yet.” Magnus replied. “Orion Pax must not die.” The Mistress of Flame chimed in. “Not yet, not until he fulfills his destiny, and certainly not to save others who bear no importance to Primus’s greater plan.” “Ah, I see, now that Delta Magnus is dead it’s time for a new messiah, is that it?” Minimus Ambus blurted out with a bit of venom in his voice. “I…” the Mistress paused before providing her answer in full, “I recognized greatness within Orion Pax the moment I was in his presence, though I sensed greatness in Delta Magnus as well, that never changed. I suppose I allowed more practical, worldly concerns to impact my judgement on the matter. Delta was born into in a great house, Orion was merely a foundling, Delta was elected Emir shortly after I came into contact with him, Orion had provoked the ire of the Prime within months of his forging, and was an outlaw fugitive at the age of one year. All this occurred before I ever saw Orion Pax in person, and even years later, after the death of Sentinel Prime, the likely link to Convoy metallico, and my recognition of his greatness, well…I suppose I’m as flawed as anyone. It’s difficult to admit a mistake.” “Your assertions that Delta was some chosen one, some messianic savior,” Ultra growled, “all that nonsense! All of that contributed to him believing he was infallible, that he was invincible! And those delusions played a large role in getting him, and most of those that followed him, killed!” “I…I was wrong about him.” The Mistress muttered, casting her gaze at the fluid spattered floor below, but raising her optics back up to lock upon the young Autobot Commander once again. “I know that I am not wrong about Orion Pax of House Convoy though.” “It’s Orion Pax of Iacon.” A youthful voice shot out as its red owner trotted past them, brushing against the Mistress of Flame, and cut down the aisle leading to Orion Pax. Following closely behind him was Blaster as they made their way to their leader, and Magnus noted that the Mistress of Flame seemed uncharacteristically unsettled by the contact with the mid-sized red robot. “Who…” the Mistress pointed at the smaller red robot stopping before Orion, “who is that?” “I believe his name is Hot Rod.” Fortress Maximus answered. “Young, doesn’t know his exhaust port from a hole in the ground, think I heard he was whelped in the last birthquake, but he’s fast and has good instincts on the battlefield. He aided in the withdrawal of some of the Maximus forces, acquitted himself quite well and I saw him personally save at least six of my soldiers. So I think that any anger you’re harboring at him bumping your arm, you should probably let go.” “No, it’s not that. It’s something else…” The Mistress replied, but Magnus tuned her out as he was far more interested in whatever news Hot Rod and Blaster had for Orion and had started walking in that direction with Fort Max and Minimus Ambus walking with him. “Sir, we’ve gotten word back from Cosmos on the Decepticon advance into the Pentiathan,” Magnus could hear Hot Rod reporting, but then the red youth paused and looked to Blaster to pick up, apparently ill at ease with some aspect of Cosmos’s report. “Yeah, something’s come up.” Blaster continued. “The ‘Cons are well on their way to gaining access into the valley, they’re winning pretty handily against the sparkeaters, but there’s been no sign of Violen Jiger on the battlefield.” “You think he abandoned his monsters and slaves?” Ratchet asked absently as he continued to work on Roller Pax’s cranium. “I doubt that’s the case.” Orion replied as he focused on Ratchet’s work, but still shooting an anguished stare every few seconds over to a slab on the far side of the room that held the dead Torenia Pax. “Yeah, we think we may have tracked him down.” Blaster muttered, handing a data pad to Orion. “Something grabbed Cosmos’s attention a couple hundred miles northwest of the Pentiathan. Something gigantic. Something being led by a high speed craft. My guess is Jiger is on that bait craft.” “Something gigantic?” Orion asked quietly as he gazed intently at the data pad’s screen. “This…by Primus, this can’t be right.” “Cosmos made sure he was seeing what he was seeing.” Blaster replied. “He knew full well that he’d better be absolutely sure before presenting something like this, and Pax, he’s sure.” “This will likely offset the Trypticon advantage…but will it be in time?” Orion muttered absently before a surge of energy seemed to go through him and he looked directly at Blaster. “How much damage have the Decepticons inflicted on the sparkeaters thus far?” “They’ve decimated them.” Blaster replied. “Almost all of the demons are dead, probably less than a couple hundred vrykol remain, and likely only a handful of aswangs. As for mutants, bit hard to say for sure as they scan just like baseline Cybertronians, so a bit tricky to differentiate them from the ‘Cons, but I can’t imagine many of them remaining in fighting condition.” “So Megatron is on the cusp of wiping them out…” Orion muttered as he thought deeply. “Decepticon casualties?” “Heavy.” Blaster replied. “They’re winning, at least they are prior to the introduction of King Worm there, but they’re paying a huge price.” Orion looked down at the floor for several moments before turning his gaze upward slightly to meet the optics of the diminutive robot standing next to Magnus. “Minimus Ambus, I need you to arrange the evacuation of all civilians from this base. Blaster will provide you the details of where you will go, I will need you to oversee the transport of all healthy non-combatants and arrange the preparation for the moving of all wounded and their caregivers immediately if word comes in of our defeat.” “Your defeat?” Ambus questioned, but Orion shifted his gaze to Magnus and Fort Max. “You boys up for a fight?” Orion asked. “Slag yeah!” Fortress Maximus enthusiastically replied. Orion turned to Blaster and nodded. “Open a channel to the base; all of it.” Blaster nodded and held a speaker for Orion to take, which he did and raised it to his mouth. “Autobots, Maximals, United Forces and everyone else, this is Orion Pax. The last twenty four hours have been a period of horrific violence, tragedy and betrayal. Unfortunately, the violence is not over. Right now the Decepticons are assaulting the Pentiathan, and with their titanic beast, they’re laying waste to the sparkeaters. But we’ve received satellite footage of what appears to be a second titan, some sort of serpent shaped creature of equal size to Trypticon, being led to the Pentiathan as well, and will likely be there shortly. Our assumption at this time is that this second beast is being brought there by Violen Jiger to combat Trypticon.” Orion paused and looked around the infirmary before continuing. “I intend to advance our military forces, Autobot, Maximal, and willing Unitied Forces, to a position twenty miles south of the Pentiathan and maintain our position there.” Orion looked down at Roller on the slab next to him, and caressed the side of his brother’s face. “For those of you who do not know, Arlon Pax served as an early mentor to me, laying the foundation of much of my moral code and values. He taught me that justice was worth fighting and dying for, vengeance was not.” Orion paused a moment, continuing to stroke his brother’s cheek. “But there are times, rare occasions, where justice and vengeance might find themselves aligned. We will act as champions of Cybertron, doing whatever we need to do in the interest in her and her people, which means that despite what has been done to us, we will not act against the Decepticons until the threat of the sparkeaters has been removed. The destruction of Violen Jiger and his sparkeaters must be our priority;” Orion paused for a beat, “but should the Decepticons appear to be overwhelmed by the monsters, we will not be wasting our lives on such a lost cause. We will observe from our southern position, and will only advance once it becomes clear that the sparkeaters are falling or will likely fall with our assistance. If and when we advance, we will do so treating the sparkeaters with extreme prejudice, and treating the Decepticons with extreme caution.” A hard look came over the young Commander’s face. “But the long term good of Cybertron involves a future without Decepticons, so once the sparkeaters fall, should we find ourselves in a position of superiority over the Decepticons, we will turn on them. We will be swift and decisive in our attack, we will offer mercy to those that ask, but we will not take chances, and any duplicity will be met with lethality! Until a senate and government can be rebuilt, we will have to serve as the planetary authority, and as such we will offer Megatron and his officers a chance to surrender and stand trial at a later time, but that offer will be made once, and only once. And should he and his advisors refuse, we will kill them. And knowing Megatron as I know him, he will not be surrendering.” He looked to the others in the room. “Autobots and Maximals are to assemble in their pre-assigned hangar bays with their respective platoons. Those United Forces willing and capable of fighting, find Autobot officers and they will assign you per your rank and abilities. Shuttles launch in one hour, prepare to move out!” Orion cut the transmission and handed the speaker back to Blaster, looking at Ultra Magnus and Fortress Maximus. “I could use your leadership and expertise out there. I would bolster your remaining forces with Autobots, I will make sure that they respect your authority, but you in turn must acknowledge that the respect they give you will be due to your rank and experience. No Autobot will submit to you based on your name, social status, or any perceived birthright, and you both must accept this reality before I place Autobots under your guidance. Is that understood and accepted?” “Slaggin Convoys.” Fort Max retorted with a broad smile across his face, placing his massive hand on Orion’s shoulder. “I’ve never met one, but there’s no doubt that your ancestors would be proud. As am I to accept your trust and your terms.” They all then turned and looked at Magnus. Ultra Magnus smiled and nodded, looking deeply into Orion’s optics. “Of course. In fact…” this was insane, it went against everything he’d been raised with and would cause Delta to assault him from beyond the grave, but, “I agree with not only your terms, but your philosophies. Brand me, have me swear an oath, whatever you require to be an Autobot. I take pride in adhering to reason, and the goals and ideals of the Autobots are nothing if not reasonable and right. I hereby renounce…” “Don’t.” Ratchet interrupted, causing all optics to turn to him. His head was still down, his optics still locked onto Roller’s injured cranial shell, but he continued speaking. “Keep the name. The other Autobots get giddy whenever we recruit a highborn.” “But we’d all be honored to have you as one of us.” Orion picked up. “We’ve long been friends, Magnus, I’m thrilled we’ll finally be brothers.” “Speaking of brothers…” Ratchet said as he closed a hatch on the side of Roller’s head and looked up at Orion, “there’s nothing more I can do. The damage…well, the odds are definitely against him, but there’s still hope.” He saw Orion’s optics dim slightly, his gaze go to the floor, but then the Autobot Commander gave a weak nod. Ratchet reached out and placed his hands on Roller’s frame, seeming to prepare for some sort of manipulation, but Orion’s hand gently went out and grabbed his wrists. “No, my friend, let me.” Orion said, sending another mournful glace to Torenia on her slab before looking back down at his brother. Ratchet removed his hands, and Orion took over, gripping Roller and adjusting him, bending his body, reshaping him. The sound was familiar, but far slower and lighter than Magnus had ever heard it before. ‘TSCHE’, Orion shifted some more, ‘CHU-CHU-CHE’, more shifting, ‘TSCHE-CHU…CHU-CHU…TSCHE-CHU-CHU-TSCHE’. --- Nightbeat There was no shortage of negative things to say about Sentinel Prime, but at least his intel was good, and Nightbeat was most thankful for that fact as he stepped into the ancient ship, likely the first person to do so in over one million years. A remote transmission of the admittance codes provided by the deceased Prime had kept the Manifest’s defenses from obliterating him as he started across the ocean floor, and entering them into the hull computer by the port he had just passed through had gained him entrance. The ship didn’t seem to be wanting to kill him anymore, at least not overtly enough for Nightbeat to notice with any of his senses, but as he walked through the dark hallways he couldn’t help but feel as though the vessel itself was sizing him up and determining a way to end him. He shook these nonsensical feelings off and made his way to the bridge. He had been studying this vessel for over a century, every file he could get his hands on, the schematics, the crew manifest, photos, video footage of its construction, the documentary of the tour Guardian Prime gave journalists prior to the launch; Nightbeat knew this vessel and within moments he was standing in the middle of the bridge. He froze in the darkness, aware of the legends all around him, but unable to see them yet, and terrified to illuminate the room and allow him to do so. They were likely dead. There was really no way that any of them could still be alive after all this time. He made the necessary adjustments to his optics to allow him to see in the dark and hesitantly made his way toward the captain’s chair, knowing that the dark form sitting in it would be the greatest hero in his planet’s history. Granted, a bit of Guardian Prime’s polish had been worn off in Nightbeat’s optics due to what he’d uncovered over the last several years, but as he rounded the corner and looked upon a face he’d seen thousands of times in recorded images, but which had been lost forever long before he’d been brought online, the blue and yellow detective felt nothing but awed admiration…and a wave of discomfort at the facial and crest similarities to Sentinel Prime. Guardian was clearly an Honorum, the crest extending forward farther than most, similar to a Magnus crest, wider at the top and tapering down, just like Sentinel’s, and bearing a handsome silver face. The entire helm was nearly identical to Sentinel’s, only instead of orange it was a deep maroon. The body was also roughly similar in shape to Sentinel’s, but was orange instead of yellow, with maroon arms and crotch that matched the helm in color, and legs that matched the torso’s orange, as opposed to Sentinel’s red limbs with yellow accent colors. But despite the similarities, this was not Sentinel Honorum, this was a champion to rich and poor alike, and a Cybertronian to be selected by the Matrix…the last Cybertronian to be selected by the Matrix. A true Prime. A true Prime that had likely joined the Matrix long ago. Nightbeat quickly brushed aside his awe and the slight misgivings he had, as well as the desire to look around at the other heroes and legends that surrounded him, and set to work on his evaluation of the long lost leader. Layers of dust fell away as he jostled the frame a bit and connected a series of scanners he had stored in various compartments on his body. No brain activity, energon distribution systems were long dry, all hope was lost…wait, what? Spark sensor readings were…impossible. They were displaying weak…but viable. According to this, despite his frame being shut down for countless millennia, his spark was still hanging on. But this ray of hope was tinged with frantic desperation. Even if Prime were somehow alive, Nightbeat had no idea of what to do to keep him that way or revive him. The good news was that, as far as he knew, he hadn’t disturbed whatever it was that had kept him alive for a million years, so he could take the time needed for a thorough evaluation and hopefully come to a solution. The time needed for that thorough evaluation was roughly four hours, and while still confused about a great many aspects, Nightbeat was somewhat confident he had a roundabout idea of what was going on. The Manifest had indeed been sabotaged, a tranquilizing agent of sorts that had been dispersed throughout the entire ship had incapacitated the crew shortly after arriving on this planet. All measures designed to awaken or protect the crew were disabled, whether before the sedation or after Nightbeat had not yet determined, leaving the crew in their dormant states. It seemed that the tranquilizing measures were designed to remain in place for several hundred thousand years, a measure to ensure there would be no recovery by the crew, or that any outside rescue attempt would be thwarted or severely hampered until long after the crew had expired. But it seemed that deeply hidden emergency measures, ones not on any ship schematics that Nightbeat had come across, and something overlooked by the saboteur, had kept the command crew alive. Some deeply embedded and hidden protocol, one involving simple miniature servant droids apparently beneath the notice of the sabotaged systems, had prompted the ship to siphon energon from the lowest ranking soldiers into the highest ranking officers, but only the most trace amounts to either avoid detection or keep the command crew alive for as long as possible. Or perhaps it was for both reasons, but whatever the reason, this hidden function had succeeded in allowing Guardian Prime, Galvatron, Cyclonus and everyone else on the bridge to survive. How many of the rank and file soldiers had died to enable this, Nightbeat had not had the time to determine. He had devoted every second so far to discerning the cause of Guardian Prime and his crew’s disorder, and a possible solution. Ultimately, it seemed simple enough; disengage anything in the Manifest that could remotely be tied to the sabotaged systems, and pump some energon into the dormant crew. Nightbeat was well fueled when they had arrived at the human air force base, and even now he had more than adequate reserves, enough to provide one or two individuals with the sustenance to bring them out of their long-forced stasis. As to which one to start with, well, there was no real decision to be made. The blue and yellow robot, one whose colors weren’t really visible in the dimly lit bridge of the ancient ship, slid out from under the control panel at the front of the bridge and slowly and carefully made his way across the large command room, stepping over the dormant form of who he knew to be Bulkhead, an Iaconian that was the oldest member of the crew, who if everything went well, would soon awaken a million years older in what to him would be the flicker of an optic. Nightbeat lifted his feet over the predominantly green form, being careful not to step on any of the rotor blades attached to his back, and started shuffling around the orange Landmine, a Tagan Heightsian that was almost as old as Bulkhead. The next body in his way on the floor belonged to Tailpipe, but the white robot was small enough that Nightbeat simply hopped over him. He slowed as he approached two chairs, each holding far more recognizable Cybertronians. Nightbeat turned sideways and shuffled between chairs holding the legendary Cyclonus and Scourge, both peacefully leaning back, partially slid off of their seats. The detective was beyond careful in making sure he did not disturb their slumber, before walking toward a hulking dark form on the floor, one with an orange fusion tub tucked under him. He stared down at the inert legend, a warrior that started a revolution and killed a Prime, a war that rocked Cybertron as brutally as either of the uprisings of Deathsaurus, one that this legend seemed destined to win, a victory that would have made him the unquestioned overlord of the planet Cybertron. Nightbeat looked down at Galvatron, a hated monster to everyone in the north, a hero to most in the south, and someone who had inadvertently caused the creation of the modern age. The histories were careful to record the end of the war as a stalemate, a peace reached by two willing sides, but the post-war world, one that they still lived in, was definitely not what the purple would-be conqueror would have wanted. But even a Northerner like Nightbeat recognized the essential role that Galvatron played, and looked upon him reverently as he walked around his frame. A moment later he was standing before Cybertron’s greatest legend, their greatest leader, the one that rallied a defeated planet to an impossible vic…well, they couldn’t call it a victory, but it was a victory, a leader who brought a brutal conqueror to heel, and who created the closest thing to an egalitarian society their world had ever seen and ushered in a golden age that lasted until his departure. Nightbeat stood before Guardian Prime’s dormant yet regal form once again and raised his hand toward the Prime’s head. A tube extended out from Nightbeat’s wrist and jacked into a small port on the thick neck of Guardian Prime, his flawless but dust-covered silver face showing no reaction to the external stimulus. “I hope I haven’t overlooked anything.” Nightbeat muttered before forcing energon from his body, through the tube, and into the long inert frame. Each second that passed seemed painfully slow, as they rolled into minutes the fear and anticipation was nearly more than the blue and yellow Cybertronian could handle, and as his internal chronometer reached twenty minutes with no discernable change to the ancient leader, all hope started to fade. By his calculations, more than enough time and energon had passed for Guardian Prime to have awoken, but there he continued to sit, unmoving, optics as dark as when he had first entered the ship, the layers of dust over his frame undisturbed by any movem… “URGH!” Nightbeat gurgled out as a hand shot up and gripped him by the throat. --- Megatron “Decepticons, ATTACK!” The Decepticon leader roared as he charged forward toward the returned Violen Jiger, his feet pounding against the shredded metal, circuitry, tubing, fluids and other gore completely covering the ground of the valley. His forces did the same, following behind the massive Trypticon as he lumbered toward the serpentine Dweller of the Depths, or whatever that three-faced demon called it. What remained of the sparkeater forces and the heavily bloodied but still strong Decepticons charged at one another in a final surge to eradicate the enemy once and for all, but the armies were thrown down or back by the impact tremor and shockwaves of Trypticon and the Dweller savagely slamming into each other. They were all quickly back up and laying into the opposite forces with brutal fury, Megatron focusing on Violen Jiger, blasting him with his fusion cannon as they charged each other. Shockwave, Overlord, and Black Shadow fell in beside Megatron, and the four super-warriors barreled into the three-faced king of the sparkeaters and their subterranean allies. They pushed him back, causing Megatron to grin as they started overwhelming the monster, but that smile disappeared as all four of the Matrix-caliber enhanced Decepticons were thrown back by the horrifically powerful Violen Jiger, Megatron himself catching a backhand to the chest that caused all his senses to flicker and fling him hurtling through the air. Megatron hit the ground hard, shattering and spraying the carnage-covered stone embedded over the metal and leaving dents in both cyber-firma as well as his frame. While aware of it before, the smell of the death and shredded corpses nearly overwhelmed him as he gathered his wits. For organics, the smell of rot was either a warning to herbavores and those carnivores with more delicate digestive systems, or a beacon to carrion feeders, but for the mechanical species of Cybertron, it was a message that this was a place of danger and destruction, so advance at your own risk. He quickly shook off the disorientation caused by the impact and the sense of dread caused by his surroundings and crawled back up to his feet. The Decepticon Commander looked up to see both Devastator and Heretech trying to engage Bloodron, but making little headway against him. The aswang was too fast for the gestalt, and was both too fast and too powerful for the only Warrior Elite not engaging Violen Jiger, but they were keeping the devastatingly powerful sparkeater general from impacting the other Decepticons, who were still suffering losses, but effectively laying waste to the remaining enemy forces. Ultimately it would come down to the battles between Trypticon and the Dweller, and between Megatron’s Warriors Elite and Violen Jiger. Megatron turned with a snarl and charged back to re-engage the smiling sparkeater king, who easily wrestled Overlord off of him and beckoned the Decepticon Commander with his finger. --- Cybershark It was only a matter of time before one of Sky Shadow’s scouts discovered this deposit of enhanced energon, or as Polar Claw had taken to calling it, Ore-13. This particular deposit, one roughly at the half-way point between southern Florida and Cuba, was a densely packed cluster of crystals jutting out of the ocean floor and possessing enough raw power to run multiple cities for years, or obliterate them in moments. Fortunately the unnaturally large fiddler crab firing on him now seemed to recognize the raw destructive power of their environment and was choosing its shots wisely. It had gotten the drop on Cybershark, patiently waiting until the shark-shelled Maximal was swimming directly above it before opening fire, but Cybershark’s bestial shape and the armoring beneath the nanite-created dermis had sent the shot glancing off with minimal damage, and the careful firefight had commenced. They both had been smart enough to not use the glowing stalagmites as cover, at least unless desperate, and then the enemy was smart enough not to fire until they were clear of the jutting post of raw, mutated energon. They had maneuvered around each other for nearly an hour, firing their selective shots until finally they were just yards apart, peering at each other through the murky depth’s from behind moss-covered boulders practically right next to each other. Cybershark fired around one side of his rock and charged around the other, catching a glancing shot against his shoulder but ignoring the pain as he tackled the smaller Predacon and drove it to the ground. The two hammered away at one another, their firearms being dropped shortly into the hand-to-hand combat, Cybershark saw an opportunity and drove his head down toward the horrifically ugly robot’s face. The smaller robot was quick, and dodged the head-butt and used Cybershark’s forward momentum against him, rolling the Maximal up and over him, through the murk and into the mud behind him. The Predacon pulled himself through the water toward his gun, gripping it and turning it on Cybershark, who was moving toward his own weapon but knowing full well that this crab-bot had the drop on him. The Maximal could only watch as the Predacon prepared to open fire, but was stunned as the Predacon’s gun-wielding right forearm was blasted to pieces. The Predacon’s cry of pain was almost entirely muffled by the water, the blast of the shell destroying his forearm far less so. Cybershark turned to see two dark forms about seventy feet away through the murky depths, but as they walked closer across the ocean floor the glow from nearby energon stalagmites illuminated their forms, and to a barely adequate extent, their faces. Faces that he’d familiarized himself with from database files and then forgotten repeatedly over the last million years, but with the renewed interest from both other colonies as well as Cybertron itself in recent years, these faces were fresh on his mind. “Cyclonus…Scourge.” He whispered through the muddy and now bodily fluid streaked water. He immediately turned, transformed to shark mode, and cut through the water, pumping his tail at a rate impossible for a biological shark to do to reach a speed impossible for any aquatic animal, but it evidently wasn’t enough. He put miles between he and the disputed energon field, but his sensors made him aware that a rounded yet flat shape was cutting the distance between them. Cybershark cut toward the direction of the Gulf, but within moments the craft was back on his tail gaining on him. The Maximal suddenly transformed and turned to face his pursuer, weapon drawn, but the craft open fired before he could get a bead on it. His weapon was instantly destroyed, and a shot to his shoulder sent him back, pain overloading his systems for a moment and threatening to remove him from consciousness, but he struggled to remain online, and watched as the long half-oval shaped vehicle transformed into the robotic form of the ancient warrior Scourge. The legend trudged through the murk of the ocean floor, ominously and slowly bearing down on the wounded Maximal. He finally reached him, stopping just a few feet away and glaring down at Cybershark. “You will be more informative alive than dead, so don’t make me kill you.” He then raised his wrist to his mouth. “The fleeing Cybertronian has been detained, I will return to your position momentarily with it.” “Good.” The deep voice replied through the speaker. “I’ve gotten some preliminary information out of the one I shot, and if what he has to say is true, the one in your custody will have a lot to answer for. Return them to me, I’ll see to the prisoners, you transport as much of this energon-like substance back to the Manifest.” “Of course, Cyclonus.” Scourge replied, motioning with his rifle for the lean Maximal to get up and move. --- Thundercracker It was likely the most awesome display of power and destruction in the history of the planet, possibly the history of any planet, but Thundercracker was too busy keeping himself and other Decepticons alive to really take in the battle between Trypticon and Violen Jiger’s titanic worm, though the absolute chaos they were making of the rest of the battlefield was unavoidable at the time, their stomping and rolling and thrashing killing more troops on either side than the other combatants’ efforts, which was truly terrible for the Decepticons as the crushed sparkeaters eventually came back to life. Thundercracker banked away from another jet of flame coming from Trypticon’s mouth, a stream that impacted the worm but also went wide and nearly incinerated Thundercracker and four other Decepticon fliers trying to provide support to their comrades. He shot down toward the scurrying ants below, each ant a warrior trying to remain alive and kill other warriors. A sparkeater was overwhelming three ground jockeys that Thundercracker was pretty sure were named Motormaster, Drag Strip and Dead End. Motormaster was a clumsy moron, but he was strong as hell and had a broad sword, so a quick diversion, something to shift momentum just a bit, could give he and his guys just enough to shift things in their favor. The pair of pit-fire missiles Thundercracker sent into the back of the sparkeater should suffice; if not it was on the ground-jockeys, there was nothing more the blue flier could do for them. He cut away and went on a strafing run that nearly cut another sparkeater in half, an injury that should provide enough time for Decepticons in proximity to it to perform a sparkectomy and destroy it. The blue flier cut away again and saw Violen Jiger batter Megatron and Black Shadow to the ground before leaping toward his super-sparkeater general Bloodron going at it with Devastator and Heretech. Heretech turned just in time to see Violen Jiger’s fist barrel into his face, sending the pink Decepticon super-soldier into the viscera-covered metal ground clinging to consciousness. His efforts to remain awake proved pointless as the sparkeater king continued after him and first tore his head from his torso, and then thrust his fist into the heavily fortified frame to pull out Heretech’s pulsing green spark and devour it for all to see. The horrified Thundercracker directed himself toward this atrocity, something he was beyond surprised he was doing, especially as he watched the juices still flowing out of the massive monster’s central mouth, a mouth grinning with glee as it turned toward Devastator and leapt. Devastator’s strength and durability proved to be greater than Violen Jiger’s, but not by enough for him to remain unharmed by the combined attacks of the two most powerful sparkeaters. Violen Jiger was too fast for the green and purple behemoth to strike, catch or effectively counter in any way, and the monster’s strength was enough that his strikes actually did cause damage to the prototype gestalt. Devastator was sent reeling back by a thunderous thrust-kick that shattered his optic. Jiger kept his assault up, even as Overlord and Shockwave joined in to counter him, continuing with his pummeling of Devastator’s head until the giant collapsed and fell to the ground. Only Shockwave’s transformation to cannon mode and his unloading on Violen Jiger forced the sparkeater king to cease his attack on the gestalt, but the damage done healed quickly and the forty foot tall monster continued after the other Warriors Elite. A world-shattering animalistic cry cutting through the atmosphere brought a momentary end to all of the fighting and forced everyone to look toward the battle of the titans. The shredded midsection of the dying super-worm was crunched in Trypticon’s jaws, but the head of the worm was buried within the massive mechanical dracosaur’s torso, obliterating Trypticon’s insides with its bladed maw. Trypticon released the creature, which fell hundreds of feet to the abattoir floor below, sending countless tons of rock, metal, corpses and robotic gore into the air. Thundercracker rejoiced at seeing its unmoving form, its dead form, but his joy was short lived as Trypticon let out a weak whimper and collapsed himself, an unmoving mountain likely just as dead. “The Dweller has served its purpose, Decepticons!” Violen Jiger roared joyously. “Your end is here!” Thundercracker’s fluids ran cold as the massive sparkeater king looked up and locked its optics onto him, following the blue jet’s movements through the sky. Thundercracker banked away from the monster, increasing his speed to put as much distance between he and the creature as possible, but the monster merely lifted a discarded cannon off the ground, took aim, and fired a shot. Thundercracker attempted to evade it, but the shot clipped his wing and he felt himself spinning and plummeting to the ground below. No! As a flier he could escape this oncoming slaughter, but grounded, he’d be food to the monsters within the hour. Thundercracker struggled to stay aloft, but he recognized immediately that the damage to his wing was just extensive enough to ensure that there would be no chance of success with that. He leveled himself as much as possible, enabling his jet-configured frame to skip across the ground as opposed to being pulverized on contact with it, which while successful and creating a crash landing that he would survive, the impact and grinding across nearly a half mile of metal and rock ground caused him extensive damage and brought him to the point of going offline. Blackness encroached, but he fought it off, he had to remain awake, he had to continue his escape. With Trypticon out of commission, the Decepticons were doomed. Sparkeaters were probably already crawling over the dracosaurian titan looking to get into its body, dig through its guts, and feast on its massive sun-colored spark. Perhaps that would provide a big enough distraction to the sparkeaters to allow Thundercracker to get away. All he had to do was transform and move his ass. Transform. Transform! TRANSFORM! Finally his agonized body started to respond, his normally quick and enjoyable transformation now a slow, painful series of brutal parts shifting that seemed to take far longer than the actual two minutes it was really taking and causing him to cry out in pain more than once. Finally he was laid out across the ground, resting on his left elbow, a slow trickle of energon and other fluids oozing out of his mouth, his dim optics looking down at his seemingly intact hands. His optics then traveled a bit, slowly over the rest of his frame, heavily battered, dented and scraped portions, some minor lacerations, and obviously a wrecked wing, but nothing crippling, at least outside his ability to fly. He could feel the nose of his jet mode pressed against his upper back, fully cognizant of the front cone crunched, but apart from his wing that seemed to be the worst of his injuries. The short flight from battle and the subsequent crash had put him on the outskirts of the battle, where the valley opened up into the empty metal wasteland south of the Mountains. He raised his gaze out to where he would need to start fleeing, and wasn’t sure his optics were relaying an accurate picture to his brain. A line of vehicles nearly a mile wide and seemingly dozens of rows deep was arrayed across the horizon and speeding toward him, a wall of kicked-up dust in their wake. Fliers; jets, freighters, helicopters and other assorted craft, including the massive combined space freighter mode of Omega Supreme cut over the oncoming line of vehicles and were soon speeding over Thundercracker’s position. The Autobots had come for their justice; there would be no escape for Thundercracker today. The blue Decepticon painfully forced himself to his feet, determined to meet his fate with honor, and finally getting upright moments before the line of speeding vehicles reached his position. He clenched his teeth and waited for shots to lance out…but the Autobots seemed to be more concerned with reaching the battle than firing on him. So be it, he’d be beaten to death. But Orion Pax, his red form leading the charge and moving far faster than a bulky ground jockey should be able to move, just shot by him, as did dozens of others, the wind and dust whipping against Thundercracker’s frame and they sped by. “Git yer ass back ta’ tha’ fight, shithead!” A red cargo transport with the voice of Ironhide snarled out as it whipped by him, trying to keep up with his faster moving comrades. Thundercracker turned and peered quizzically at the Autobots, noting that within their ranks were not only Maximals, but even Unified soldiers as well, he even saw the robotic form of Delta Magnus’s fire priestess riding on a large freighter for some reason, yet none of them had stopped to deal with him or assaulted him in any way. He didn’t fully understand what was going on, but he heeded Ironhide’s call and started to painfully run back into the fight. --- Rattrap “Where the hell are you?” The rodent peered around to make sure that no humans were around to have heard the enraged deep voice coming from a speaker embedded beneath its faux fur before calmly replying. “In Florida.” “Florida?” Polar Claw’s confused growl shot back. “You’d better be there to help Cybershark in securing the Ore 13 deposit off the southern coast! If you are…how did you know we got a sensor trip? If you’re not..” “I’m not.” Rattrap interrupted. “Look Claw, you’re not gonna be happy ta’ hear this, but, well, I may have done somethin’ kinda stupid.” A low grumble preceded “Damnit all to the Pit, what did you do?” Rattrap gulped. “Well, ya see…I…well…I kinda helped Nightbeat.” “YOU WHAT?” “Look, he’s on da’ level!” Rattrap shot back with completely fabricated piss and vinegar. “The sparkeaters are back on Cybertr…” “You can’t trust him!” Polar Claw snapped back. “Shit! Florida? You better not be doing what I think you’re doing!” “Uhhh, yeah, about that.” Rattrap replied. “We did try to find it. In fact, pretty sure we did locate it correctly, but when we went there…well, it found us. We stole a plane, and when we got over the coordinates, we got blasted out of the sky. I swam back, I have no idea what happened to Nightbeat.” There was a long pause. “I genuinely had nothing against him, but frankly, it’d be for the best if he was killed.” “That’s a shitty thing to say, regardless of whatevah your reas…wait.” Rattrap looked off into the distance over the Atlantic, some unidentifiable form seemed to be rising from the surface very far away. “Holy smokes, something’s coming out of the water. Very far away, hard to tell, but it seems…huge.” A low growl came through the speaker before “Give me whatever details you can.” Rattrap enhanced his optical settings and ran the numbers in his head. “My best estimate is that it was about twelve thousand, eight hundred feet above the surface of the water when it came into view for me.” The low growl grew louder and more ominous. “That puts it at about one hundred thirty nautical miles away from your position.” “Oh shit.” “Oh shit is right.” --- Starscream “What in the Pit is going on out there?” The prisoner growled from the floor of his cell at the filthy mutant guards just down the hallway. By the Hand, they’d been on the surface for years, yet they still looked like they’d just crawled out of the muck. Starscream understood that they were the bottom rung of Violen Jiger’s totem pole and their existence was to be constantly treated like tarpanicus shit, but how could they not have at least the tiniest shred of pride compelling them to bathe from time to time? He crawled to his knees as rubble tumbled around him and the entire mountain shook, his strength had been slowly eking back into his battered and still sick-feeling frame, enough that he believed he was capable of standing now. Doubt surged through him as he started to stumble, but he caught himself and pulled himself upright to defiantly glare at the pathetic, non-useful-alt-mode-bearing morons who apparently thought that ignoring him was a viable option. “Assholes, what is going on out there?” “Silence prisoner!” One of them, a tall, slender robot that almost seemed like what Starscream might look like, were he ugly, disgusting and lacking wings, barked back at him. “No, I will not be silent, and had you a functioning brain module in that rusted and shit-covered cranial shell of yours, you’d realize that this brief moment where you’re in a position to treat me like garbage will be very short-lived, and will determine how the rest of your life will be.” The Decepticon snarled. “Either your demonic masters win, and your god-king finishes what he’s doing to me, thus making me a demi-god that you will have to worship and answer to, or the more likely scenario of Decepticon victory, in which case your fate will be completely dependent upon whether I ask Megatron to allow you to live or die.” The threat was punctuated by another tremor rocking through the ancient mountain fortress. The guard turned to face Starscream, seemingly unimpressed, and was about to speak when another voice cut in from the hallway accompanied by footsteps. “Violen Jiger has made it clear to all of his thralls that once you become a sparkeater, we are to answer to you as we do to any aswang.” Mindwipe walked into the room, nodding to the mutants and then smiling at Starscream. “But until that time, you’re just a prisoner and you are to be treated as a prisoner. These loyal thralls can’t physically harm you, but otherwise, you’re nothing to them. And our Lord King has assured us that as you are to be considered separate individuals before and after the change, he will not tolerate any acts of vengeance against any of us for things done to you while you’re a mere mortal.” Starscream glared at the hated traitor, but the words seemed to tickle something in Starscream’s mind. He felt compelled to look down at his hands, and then the rest of his body. He was in pain, granted, it had been ebbing consistently for hours, but despite the pain and utter lack of any sort of medical treatment, his body looked good. Yes, unforgivably dirty, but it appeared completely uninjured despite the savage beatings he’d gone through over the last couple days. Could it be…? The prisoner scanned his cell and looked over at a bent and jagged piece of metal that had been wrenched from the first tremor to have shaken the mountain, walking up to it, and after only a moment’s pause, slammed his wrist into the pointed jutting metal strip, cutting into his wrist. “AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!” Shit, what a stupid idea! His pain threshold wasn’t any different. “What in the Pit are you doing?” Mindwipe roared, the other two guards clearly unsettled by the act. “Whatever self-inflicted damage you do won’t result in us getting in trouble, idiot!” Starscream yanked his arm free of the metal chunk, now with his energon and other fluids running down it, and brought the wound before his optics. He looked at the jagged, gaping cut and sparking circuitry below, but gasped as he saw it slowly, very slowly stitching together. Nowhere near the rate of healing that the sparkeaters displayed, but no creature should heal so quickly that their optics were able to register the changes. “Mere mortal?” Starscream muttered, caught Mindwipe’s optics and nodded for him to come closer. Mindwipe paused for a moment, but then walked to the outside of the cell’s bars and looked closely at the damaged wrist that the prisoner was now so focused on. He looked away as another external impact caused the mountain fortress to shudder, but he started to scrutinize the wound as the prisoner was, and while it took some time, he finally did notice what had garnered Starscream’s shock. “Guards, the master has returned with an answer to the Decepticon’s titan. Get out there and assist him in any way you can. I will deal with the prisoner.” --- Ratchet “Yes Huffer, get six more patients in there, there should be more than enough room in that freighter, then take off.” Ratchet instructed the small predominantly orange Autobot. “Yes sir.” Huffer replied before setting off to direct the final loading for one of the nine remaining ships that needed to take off. Ratchet had been overseeing the evacuation for the last few hours, and so far everything had gone pretty well, which was fortunate as for the most part he was phoning this in and delegating a great deal of the work. His main focus had been, and still was, on the treatment of the Emir of The Torus Heights. He walked back to the now almost empty central infirmary where the vehicular form of Roller was sitting on the central slap strapped to a wide array of sensors and other equipment. “How ya doing kid?” Ratchet asked, knowing full well there would be no reply. He checked the monitors as he gently stroked the top of the dark blue six-wheeled vehicle. “You know Roller, you and I never really got to know each other very well, but I’ve heard he talked about me to you, and I can’t tell you how often he told me about you. To the point where I do know you, to the point where I am very fond of you. It hurts me to see you like this, it’s painful for me to know you may not pull through. This is tough for me…it’s agony for Orion. So pull through, but not for me, pull through for your brother. He needs you.” “Ratchet, come in.” Ratchet jumped at the voice, but settled and chided himself as he knew it was Ironhide’s voice coming through his wrist speaker. “I’m here Ironhide.” “We’re actually making headway against these slaggers, most of ‘em anyway.” Ironhide reported. “Can’t seem to do diddly squat against Violen Jiger. Pax and a few guys are engaging Bloodron, as always the kid’s doing better than anyone could have predicted, but he’s seriously outclassed. Anyway, continue with evacuation, can’t say we’re gonna lose, but sure as hell can’t say we’re gonna win either.” “Evacuation is almost complete.” Ratchet replied. “Nine transports remain, they’ll all be gone within the hour. I’ll be taking Roller in a small shuttle after the last one leaves. All craft are or will be en-route to the pre-assigned facilities for two hours after arrival, then will jump to locations no one on your end know, as discussed.” “Well done.” Ironhide replied. “Time ta’ git back ta’ crackin’ sparkeater skulls.” “Good luck old friend. Ratchet out.” The physician severed the connection and returned his focus to his patient. “We need some good news kid.” The white and red Autobot shook his head, almost ashamed of himself. “When you’re ready.” After one more check of the monitors Ratchet turned and walked over to an array of computers, clacking at several keyboards and downloading files into a portable drive he had installed earlier in the day. “Beep.” Ratchet turned and scanned the room for whatever had made the beep. “Is anyone there?” Nothing but silence met him for nearly a minute, before Ratchet started to turn his head back to the computer array, but before his head twisted more than a couple inches “Beep.” “Roller?” Ratchet was immediately at his side. “Was that you kid?” Several moments passed before “Beep.” Ratchet let out a laugh. “Thank Primus you’re as stubborn as your brother!” “Beep!” --- Orion Pax He hit the ground hard kicking up a spray of bodily fluid that was floating on the ground, the impact and the blow that preceded it causing a slight flicker to go through his optics, but he was immediately back on his feet and charging at the aswang that had swatted him away. Up ahead he watched Ultra Magnus swinging the large Star Saber, its blade awash in energy, but the swing was just too slow to catch the evading sparkeater general, who leapt back and then forward again to land a thunderous punch to Ultra Magnus’s chest, sending the heavily armored warrior skipping across the ground. Orion locked optics with the huge Bloodron, whose grin of oil-lust vanished and his face shifted to a look that was indecipherable, almost…hesitant. But that look quickly vanished to one of malice. “Stay down! Stay back, fight another!” Orion didn’t slow down his charge, scooping up a fallen proton emitter and opening fire on the large sparkeater. “You can’t possibly be afraid of me, Bloodron!” Orion roared as he closed the gap between he and the monster. “It isn’t fear!” Bloodron snarled as he swung heavily at the charging Autobot, but the young robot blurred into a duck under the massive swing and came up behind him to slam his right fist into the giant’s side. Bloodron twisted around savagely with another swing. “It is respect! I couldn’t save Premius, nor will I be able to save you, but I would rather not be the one to extinguish House Convoy! So fight another!” “I know of no Premius, House Convoy had no direct influence in my upbringing!” Orion roared his reply, the words interspersed with a flurry of blows to the lower body of the sparkeater. “Idiot!” The frustrated and angry Bloodron roared as he flung another fist at Orion Pax, but once again missing. “All that is good of your precious House Pax, of House Honorum and Magnus and Maximus and the rest; all that they have that is not self-serving arrogant posturing, they learned from House Convoy!” “Orion!” Magnus’s voice called out as he tossed the Star Saber toward the Autobot Commander before barreling into the equal-sized aswang, but barely forced Bloodron back a couple steps. The Autobots had done their best to quantify as much as they could regarding the sparkeaters, and the general assumption was that in addition to being huge, prior to becoming an aswang Bloodron had been a Point One Percenter, which explained his tremendous power and durability, even among aswangs. But Magnus’s impact provided enough of a distraction for Orion to catch the handle of the blade unimpeded. The intent had been to catch it and immediately parlay the catch into a swing at Bloodron’s thigh, with the swing continuing through, around, and then back into the rear of Bloodroon’s head, but at Orion’s touch the surface of the blade exploded into a tapestry of green and blue and orange flames. It had glowed with other wielders, specifically Delta and Ultra Magnus, but this was different, this was vastly more, and it was momentous enough to leave Bloodron stunned. “By Primus!” Bloodron exclaimed. “Not even in the hands of Solus did it burn like that!” Orion’s momentary surprise ended and he shot into action, bearing down on the much larger Bloodron with the flaming blade. “Magnus, clear out, I have no idea what to expect from this thing, but with flames like these, it’s not going to be surgical!” The flaming broadsword came down hard, slicing right through the fusion cannon mounted on Bloodron’s right forearm and cutting halfway through his arm before stopping. The aswang wrenched his arm back trying to yank the flaming blade from the hands of the Autobot Commander, but Orion kept his grip and was pulled back with the sword, flung eighty feet behind Bloodron as the blade dislodged from the monster’s forearm, but Orion twisted to get his legs under him and landed skidding on his feet, sword in hand and ready to re-engage. “Vrykol!” Bloodron roared out. “Kill the Convoy, feast on his green spark, and bring me his sword!” At the command throngs of mindless cybervores came barreling from all sides, through combatants and over the dead, dozens of the nightmares made real converging on Orion Pax’s position. Orion watched them charging at him and for a moment felt his mind scrambling to formulate a way out of his situation, but he’d spent countless hours fighting these creatures, he’d spent even more engaged in melee combat on Junk, and the most clear, undeniable course of action all of his experience had taught him in this type of situation was to let go and let his instincts guide him. His combat training would be utilized to the fullest, but it would be a nearly subconscious utilization. It was something that he hated about himself, an undeniable truth he had no choice but to accept; he was a killing machine with few if any peers, and the realization made him sick. But the unleashing of his dark, unwanted gift against sparkeaters was something that gave him no pause whatsoever. The first of the beasts heedlessly launched themselves at him, and were shredded to pieces in a series of movements most would have trouble seeing even without the other-worldly flames of the sword blurring it all. Several of the dismembered torsos exploded as they hit the ground, the blade cutting into their sparks and killing the beasts. Others hit the ground and shuddered, as their sparks were spared but the body parts cleaved from them did not grow back as they did when injured by other weapons. They lived on…in their way, but they no longer posed a threat to Orion as he continued slaughtering their brethren without pause. Orion didn’t see what he did as others did, and had he, he’d have not shared the reactions that it elicited in those watching this happen. A glorious, horrific, terrifying yet mesmerizing dance of mutilation and destruction. His movements were so fast, so perfect, his balance, his spatial awareness carried him over the slick, uneven and even shifting terrain without any stumbling, faltering or slowing down. So often he hesitated, so often his compassion, even empathy for enemy and possible civilians had slowed his hand, caused him pause. But here, against these monsters, he let go. No hesitation, no compassion, no pause. This blade, now nothing more than an extension of his own body, carved through those that would kill those he loved…the few that remained, as well as those whose lives were still salvageable. He hated that he loved this feeling, he hated that he was so comfortable destroying bodies, but regret was for later, right now he allowed himself to give into his guilty pleasure, and for nearly twenty minutes he gleefully obliterated the monsters foolish enough to come at him. But soon there was an end to what had been an endless horde, and Orion stood, covered in gore, in the center of an abattoir of his creation. He raised his optics, eager for more, but his surroundings and morality came rushing in to replace the berserker he had been, and the way those around him, friend and foe alike, were staring at him, terrified and sickened him all the more. Absolute awe from many of his Autobots and all of his Maximals, shock from most Decepticon and Unified Forces, a look of almost concern coming from Ironhide and Ultra Magnus, looks of terror from many of the others, and, most disturbing, looks of appraising respect from Megatron and Violen Jiger. The battle had momentarily stopped to watch him slaughtering the vrykol, dozens of vrykol, and for that to have happened, he must have been a truly terrifying thing to behold. His optics finally worked their way back to Bloodron, whose reaction was perhaps most perplexing of all. “You…” the massive aswang general sputtered, “you are not Premius reborn. You…you are something more. You are…Cybertron’s justice.” Bloodron started walking toward him, stopping forty feet away. “You are what I’ve been fearing, yet…longing for. What I knew was waiting for me.” Bloodron dropped to his knees and held out his arms. “It is time for the reckoning I’ve deserved through my atrocities for fifteen million years! For the evil I’ve done, for the good I’ve refused to do, for the lives I’ve eradicated, administer your justice!” “NOOOOO!!!” The roar from Violen Jiger echoed from across the battlefield. Orion sensed the sparkeater king battering away those around him as he made his way toward Orion and the kneeling aswang. It was a perfect opportunity to be rid of their second most dangerous enemy, but to kill a defenseless enemy, to act as the weapon in what was essentially a suicide…but ultimately, the good of Cybertron and its people outweighed his conscience by an unfathomable margin, and he drove the legendary flaming black through Bloodron’s chest, through the polluted green spark beneath, and out his back. Bloodron’s fanged mouth twisted into a smile. “Thank you, Convoy.” “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” The roar was closer now, but Orion barely registered the noise. He could only stare into the red optics as they suddenly went black, and a moment later the chest embedded around the flaming blade erupted. The blast sent Orion hurtling back, the power of the spark evidently had a direct correlation to its explosion, but while dazed, Orion seemed unharmed as he propped up onto his elbows and looked up from the ground to see the Star Saber still in his right hand, and the flaming wreck of Bloodron a dozen yards away. But the ground shuddered as Violen Jiger landed heavily next to the corpse, reaching down mournfully as if to touch the corpse, but stopping mid-way and twisting his head so that the central face, one displaying a look of absolute hatred, now locked onto Orion Pax. “You will suffer as no one has ever suffered before!” With that the beast leapt from his friend and onto Orion, his brutal barrage of punches raining down the moment his feet touched down. Everything went black for a moment, but Orion came back on to see the horrific face glaring at him repeatedly. The pain was agonizing, he heard commotion all around him but blackness soon took him more securely, but still only temporarily. He came to some time later, possibly seconds, possibly days, he did not know right away, but turning his head to follow the closest sounds of chaos, he saw Megatron, Magnus; again wielding the Star Saber, Elita in the Apex Armor, Fort Max, Shockwave, Overlord and Black Shadow all trying to overwhelm Violen Jiger ninety yards away. Orion painfully twisted his head and saw Ironhide looking down at him. “How in tha Pit are ya’ awake already?” “What…what…” Orion stuttered. “Jiger was beatin’ ya’ ta pieces,” Ironhide explained “so we charged him and I dragged ya outa there.” Orion struggled to get to his feet, Ironhide gently pushing him back to discourage the effort. “No way, Pax, you’re done.” “No!” Orion growled, pushing his way to a seated position and then getting to his knees. “Need to stop him!” “Ya should be dead!” Ironhide barked. “You’re done in this fight, we need to get you away so you can fight another day!” “There won’t be another day!” Orion roared as he got back to his feet, the last of the fogginess fading away. He looked over to the fight and witnessed something that scared him to his core. Violen Jiger skipped forward a few steps and swung savagely in an open-handed uppercut, a blow capable of disemboweling an eighty-foot primordial, and caught the armored Elita One in the chest. The blow caused her to cry out in pain and sent her hurtling through the air and landing heavily a hundred feet away. Orion transformed and sped to her, transforming back to robot mode and skidding to a kneeling stop next to her armored frame, noting the slash marks across the armor slowly stitching itself back together. “Elita!” Orion cradled her head, still covered in the gray with glowing blue accented helmet, in his hands as hell continued on around them. “Elta, are you alright?” “I…” she sputtered, her slightly amplified voice coming through the mask, “I’m fine.” She started to stir and then forced her self to a sitting, then kneeling, then standing positon, with Orion following her up at each stage. “I’m fine, I need to get back!” “Yes, me too.” Orion turned, but stopped as a gray armored hand gripped his arm. He turned at looked at the nearly featureless facial armor. “What?” “I’m not strong enough to make a difference against him, even in the armor.” She replied, the armor peeling away from her and forming a disk that she held in both of her hands in front of her. “You’re the strongest warrior we have!” Orion snapped in shock. “Put it back on, now! You’re exposed, they can kill you like this, and if you’re lost…” “It wouldn’t matter!” She belted back, thrusting the disk out toward him. “My strength magnified fivefold barely gets his attention! But yours…” “You tried this with Delta Magnus!” Orion snapped back. “It didn’t work, now put on the armor!” “He wasn’t worthy!” She once again pushed the disk toward him. “Neither am I!” The protest garnered a slight twist of Elita’s head and an annoyed but not unkind smile. “We don’t have the luxury of indulging your fucking humility anymore, Orion. I know it scares you…not the fight, not death, not pain or injury or humiliation; none of that frightens you. You fear being special. I’m sorry my love, but the one thing you fear is the most undeniable truth I’ve come across in my life. I…we…Cybertron, needs you to be who you are, and if that scares you, well, tough shit!” She thrust the disk into his chest, prompting him to grasp either side of it. He looked down at it, the ancient gray relic held in his hands, and he felt nothing. “See, only you…oooohhhh”, the power suddenly surged into his fingers, through his hands and up his arms, followed by the gray armor. In seconds he was completely engulfed in the material, and he felt his core extending outward into it, making the both he and the armor one entity. But unlike Elita, he noticed that what had been blue highlights glowing through the armor on Elita were green for him. He peered through the visor and saw Elita notably lower than he was used to. “Go kill that fucking thing!” She whispered as she jumped up, grabbed his shoulders and kissed the armor over his cheek. “Yes, my warrior queen.” Orion replied before whipping around and charging at the fray of leaders ahead of him. Ultra Magnus swung down hard with the Star Saber, but Jiger used amazing quickness to palm away the flat of the moderately flaming broadsword and then lay the hulking blue, red and white robot out with a cross, knocking him to the ground. Megatron and Overlord shot at him with a coordinated effort, Overlord driving into Jiger’s upper torso while Megatron shot to his legs and abdomen; neither of them accomplishing much as the sparkeater king tossed them aside, but they did capture his attention enough so that he didn’t see the thirty-foot tall hulking gray form charging at him until a right cross was already connecting with his face. All present who were not already fighting off other sparkeaters or their allies gasped as the sparkeater king was sent flying back and skidding across the ground. The sense of hope was short lived as the giant creature shot back to his feet immediately and started toward the armored warrior that had struck him. “I assume that’s you, Pax! The ancient weapons apparently like you! I wanted a bit more resistance to killing you than you provided before, so my thanks to Solus for providing you with these slight enhancements!” The two charged each other, hammering away with similar speed and skill, but while his strength was vastly enhanced and enough to hurt the sparkeater king, the armored Orion Pax was still not as powerful, and was soon being battered back and to the ground. Orion headbutted the larger warrior and jumped back a bit to put some distance between them and regroup, but Violen Jiger kept on him, unrelentingly hammering at the young commander. Others tried to intervene on Orion’s behalf, but the brawl was so savage and quickly moving that nobody was able to really get involved in a way that would benefit the Autobot. Jiger reached high and came down with a hammer strike and grunted with exertion as it impacted Pax so heavily that armor was torn away and his left shoulder was sheared completely off. “Arrrggghhh!” Orion cried out in pain, but instinctively connected his right fist with Jiger’s jaw, forcing the beast back. The armor repaired itself slowly over Orion’s armless shoulder, but nothing could be done to stop a snap-kick that impacted his chest and sent him back two dozen yards. With Orion thrown clear, other combatants charge in to buy the young armored warrior a little recovery time, but with a missing left arm most hope was fading quickly. As Orion climbed to his feet a large hand gently but firmly clamped down on his right shoulder, and he looked up to see Magnus smiling up at him, a bit shorter than Orion for once. “You’re doing great, Commander, but here,” Magnus kneeled and presented Orion with the hilt of the Star Saber. Orion nodded and gripped it, setting the smoldering blade awash with multi-colored flames again. “Thanks Magnus, but get up. We Autobots don’t abide anyone kneeling.” “Aye, Commander.” Magnus said with a grin. “Let’s go kill that bastard.” “No, once I start swinging this thing, anyone close is going to start losing parts.” Orion muttered as he charged forward with the sword in his remaining hand. All optics turned toward Orion charging with the flaming Star Saber, even the skirmishes around them seemed to pause to watch this final battle. Those who had been engaging Violen Jiger knew to back away, they’d be nothing more than obstacles to their young and unlikely champion, and the two warriors met head on. Flames cut through the air, and a cry of agony echoed out as the blade came down and sliced the left face off of Violen Jiger’s head, the monstrous visage hitting the ground. The monster replied with a cross that sent Pax stumbling back, but he immediately regained his bearings and charged forward once again, slicing at his enemy. There were some missed swings, some missed punches, but Orion finally thrust the blade into the side of the creature, the blade penetrating through the left portion of the creature’s abdomen and causing him to roar out in pain, but Jiger then stomped down hard on Orion’s planted right leg, tearing through the armor and then through the leg, amputating it just below the waist. Orion cried out in pain but possessed the wherewithal to wrench the blade from Violen Jiger’s torso, causing enough pain in the beast to allow Orion to hop away quickly and prepare as best he could. The enraged beast peered down at the wound in his side, and like with his missing face, it didn’t seem to be healing immediately the way all other wounds he’d received since becoming what he was had healed. “Time to end this, Convoy-spawn!” He leapt through the air, barreling into Orion and battering him to the ground. Orion slashed up, cutting into Jiger’s left side and causing the beast great pain, but not enough to keep Violen Jiger from planting his foot onto Orion’s armored abdomen, clamping down on the armor of his chest, where the outline of the original disk-shape could be seen, and yanking upward violently. The armor held, but Jiger continued wrenching the chest armor up, over, and over, and over until it tore, and as it came apart, the disk that held the fabled Apex Armor started to reform, but then shattered, the chunks of metal that had made it up falling down to the gore-covered ground and disappearing beneath the flowing bled fluids. Orion’s abdomen, now exposed, was crushed under the tremendous pressure Jiger had been exerting down on him. The monster reached down and clamped his clawed hands onto either side of Orion’s chest and hoisted him up, tearing away everything below the abdomen where his foot had been planted. Orion’s head wobbled from the excruciating pain that overwhelmed his body, his remaining right arm dangling off to the side as he was lifted up for a final taunting prior to his execution, the handle of the Star Saber teetering upon his outstretched fingers. His mind wandered, forcibly set adrift by the pain. As his consciousness faded in and out, the words of A-Three came into his head, words from an early lesson he’d been given a lifetime before. ‘You asked why you are gifted with so much that you feel you do not deserve.’ The flow of his ancient teacher’s voice was the only cohesive thing running through his head. ‘Well young one, deserve them! Don’t refuse the gifts you’re given; accept them, appreciate them, and use them to better yourself, so that in time, you can better the world!’ “Stay with me, Convoy-spawn, I want you awake for this!” Jiger’s enraged voice cut through the darkness. ‘Well young one, deserve them!’ The words faded as the pain came roaring back, the light of the afternoon sun came roaring back, the central face of his soon to be killer came roaring back. “Good, you faded away for a moment, I was afraid I wouldn’t get to say good-bye.” The beast growled into Orion’s face. “Iiiii…it’s time.” Orion whispered in his weak, heavily labored voice, fluids spurting out from his metal lips. “Time for what, Pax?” The beast asked with a malevolent grin. “Time for me to me to deserve it.” Orion growled before gripping the wobbly blade handle tightly, savagely twisting and thrusting the Star Saber into the center of Violen Jiger’s massive chest. Jiger roared in pain, clamping down on Orion’s torso and crushing the portions he was gripping. The flames from the sword erupted even further as Orion channeled all the strength he had remaining and wrenched his arm upward, the blade tearing through Jiger’s chest and blasting out between the monster’s neck and left shoulder, revealing the flaming blade with a large, green polluted spark speared by it. Jiger looked at his own spark in terror, releasing his grip of Orion’s chest with one hand to desperately reach out for it. Orion pulled the blade away from the monster, he turned his head to stare at the glowing green orb impaled by the flaming broad sword, dark tendrils flowing through the outer portions of it, and he gave one final mental command that seemed to manifest with his remaining strength flowing out his arm and into the sword. “Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrggghhhhhhh!” The desperate cry caused the flame to burn impossibly brightly, and then… BOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!! Blackness, silence. He’d think he was dead, but the pain, the intense, unyielding, all-encompassing agony came rushing back into what was left of his body. The noise, like the light, started forcing their way in as uninvited blobs of undecipherable sound and color. Physical blows of sound to his audio processors, and sharp stabs of light to his optics…or rather, to one optic. His right one was non-functioning. Final memories came rushing back, staring at an enormous polluted green spark detonating like a massive explosive just feet from his face. Finally images started taking shape, or rather, one image. Orion found himself staring into the scowling face of Violen Jiger and panic overwhelmed him for a moment, but the optics were black, the face unmoving; the monster…dead. His body was being shaken, lifted and twisted now, the face of his enemy disappearing as he was lifted and moved, and in the place of Violen Jiger’s horrible features were those of this friends and his love. He was set down, looking upon him from above he saw Ironhide, Magnus, Blaster and Elita. He tried to smile at them, but it felt like portions of his mouth had been torn away. Their faces told him the story; fear, horror, desperation. He was dying. He was dying, he felt it, and based on the reactions of his loved ones, he looked like it as well. He could hear Elita yelling at him, making demands… “By the Hand, you’re going to pull through this! You hear me Orion? You hang on!” “Hang on there, kid!” Ironhide grumbled as his hands frantically worked below on Orion’s torso, likely trying to push his guts back into his frame. From over Ironhide’s shoulder he saw the Mistress of Flame standing above him, looking down on Orion with…was that worry? Sadness? How had she even gotten here? He knew she had tagged along for the battled, but he’d assumed she’d have remained in the outskirts of it. Ultimately it didn’t really matter, and was definitely not what Orion wanted to devote his final thoughts to. Orion’s head rolled to the right…was part of his neck missing? His optic took in the area around him, and his fading spark froze as he saw sparkeaters approaching them…approaching his friends! He lifted his arm toward the approaching monsters, pointed his index finger toward them, one of only three remaining, desperately hoping his friends would see the threat and get away. He was already as good as dead, get away. Get away! Get the hell away from me! He desperately needed them to understand, he somehow managed to get his head to look back upward, and he was relieved as he saw both Magnus and the Mistress looking toward the oncoming monsters, Magnus rising from his previous kneeling position and taking a threatening posture toward the beasts. Thank Primus! Now grab the others and get away! Don’t just stand there… “We have company.” Magnus stated. Ironhide twisted his head and saw the creatures, Elita’s optics were fixed onto Orion’s lone remaining optic and wasn’t turning away for anything. Ironhide stopped working on Orion for a moment and stood as well, but instead of facing the sparkeaters, he turned back to where the bulk of their forces were. “Autobots! Maximals! Rally on your commander!” “NAY!” The Mistress of Flame contradicted loudly, her voice a thunderclap against Orion’s audio processors. “Cybertron! Come defend your PRIME!” NO! What in the Pit was she talking about? Worst of all the outlandish nonsense was immediately met with nods and signs of obvious affirmation by his friends. Orion tried to call out, tried to correct the crazy witch and his friends who were suffering from grief-induced psychosis, but his voice wouldn’t work. They needed to get the hell out of there! Why were they still here? He could hear the sparkeater approach now, the slavering of their gluttonous jaws, they’d be upon them in moments! Why were his friends not running? They were doomed. He’d come so close to saving his friends. So close, but like with his family, he'd failed to protect them. He’d failed. ‘Please, Primus, please get them out of this. I’m ready to die, I’ve served my purpose, but please protect these noble souls who’ve fought and suffered for your children.’ Then he saw something he hadn’t been expecting. As his vision was starting to fade to black, as his systems seemed to be running their final course, he saw something large cutting through the few fluffy clouds above. A vast, metal shape, a…familiar shape. He’d seen that shape before. His lessons from years ago, Cybertron’s greatest vessel, one that carried their greatest non-Knight legends. It was impossible. It was…The Manifest.” Orion now painfully raised his hand upward and tried to point at the ship, their salvation. His face was destroyed, his body for the most part unresponsive, but he could feel himself smiling as bright lights burst forth from the ship, and around him he heard explosions. His optic shifted over his friends, all of them staring up or around them at the chaos in confusion, all save Elita, whose gaze had never left him, but whose face was now riddled with despair and panic. He saw this as blackness overtook him, the last thing he saw was her face, the last thing he heard was her terrified voice call out his name.