I don't usually do this, but Kickback's thread motivated me. I can't remember the last time I wrote something, if I even have, but I put genuine effort into this and would like to put it somewhere where someone other than my future forgetful self will read it. I made this to go alongside the actual Beast Wars/Machines series', and take as few liberties as possible. I wrote this in chapters butsince it's finished I'm just uploading the whole thing. So, pretty much my only finished fanfic ever: Note "*****" indicates Chapter end, "______" is time transition/scene change ___________________________________ “So I say, I say there I was now, just hiding under that there wad ‘o’ scrap, see?” Razorclaw went on. “And he walks up, I say he walks up, and just hovers, hovers over me, see, and I think I’m done for…” Lazorbeak leaned in. “And?” He said. Razorclaw did a double take on both sides, then raised his good hand cross his chest to the right of his face. “And then I say, then I swear he starts to crouch down, like he knows where I am, understand son? He just about has me, and then…” Razorclaw moved closer. “And then he just…” Lazorbeak had both hands on the table as his eyes widened. “Then!?” “Nothin’.” “Nothing?” Razorclaw leaned back and drooped his arms over the chair back. “Nothin’, En Oh- uh, thing.” “Wow…” Lazorbeak mimicked his posture. “You must’ve been shunting bricks out your aft. How many cops were there again?” “At least I say, at least a dozen, all in this one tiny mill.” Razorclaw downed the last of his barley mixed coolant and oil and dragged his arm across his face. “And son I say that was the closest I’ve come to being thrown into the big, I say big house. Back in mah rookie days.” He then turned in his chair and waved to a waitress down the bar. “Honey, I say sweetheart? Be a doll and fetch me and my friend, I say my friend here another round, wouldya now?” Lazorbeak ran his finger around the brim of the glass, then leaned back and began to teeter in his chair. “I wouldn’t last two days in Kaon. Some burly four-wheeler’d have me in a wig and skirt by next morning.” “Don’t, I say don’t underestimate yourself, boy. You’d make a fine, I say fine fembot!” Razorclaw bellowed laughter, nearly tipping over. He dropped his massive claw-arm on the table and giggled into his elbow. “So tell me, I say tell me, what was your closest time?” Lazorbeak flung his head back and thought “I can’t say, really. Nobody’s come close to catching me. I’m just too slippery.” “Ya see now, ya see that’s why we make such a good team, I say team son. We’re untouchable. The day the police, I say the fuzz take us in is the day we let them.” Lazorbeak slammed his fists down. “Pit yeah! And we’ll only let ‘em when we’re dead!” The two stood up, howled and smashed their fists together, then fell into their chairs. “Waitress, I say little missy, where’s our drinks, I say beverages now?” The waitress rolled up, but instead of a plate with glasses, held a pistol. Just as Lazorbeak and Razorclaw nervously tripped and fell backwards, every patron in the bar stood up and levelled a weapon directly at the two. They froze, and slowly rose their hands. “If this is about that tab, I can explain…“ Lazorbeak nervously muttered. A tall robot, hands clasped behind it’s back, strolled toward them. Grinning ear to ear, the ‘Bot stood smug and self satisfied before he bent down to the criminals on the floor. “Untouchable, huh?” The smiling robot said as it extended a finger to Razorclaw’s forehead, and with force poked him between the eyes. “Not anymore.” ***** The bar was on fire, or at least that’s how it looked from the outside. Inside, it was much worse, but outside, the strobe light-show cast harsh, demonic shadows on the alley and streets outside the building for a split second every time. Then through the glass dove two Predacons, who got to their feet and started running. “I blame you!” Lazorbeak cried as he ran, tripping and swerving from the amount he had drank just minutes ago. “You and you’re “we’re untouchable” scrap!” They dived into an alley, only half-aware of the mob of armed Maximal officers hot on their trail. They ran, heads back, arms flailing down a semi-steep slope between apartments. “I say…” Razorclaw huffed. “I say, I recall… I recall you bein’ th’one who went an’ said, I say boasted how “slimy” you are or some garbage.” “Whatever, we’re both referbs, now lets just get out of her before our tough talk becomes nothing more than just that!” Lazorbeak scurried over a low wall, Razorclaw clumsily followed. “I say, why don’t you make, I say make like a fly an’ jet outta here?” He slurred. “Oh right” Lazorbeak said, and attempted to transform while running, only to trip and fall. Razorclaw stood over him panting. “We gotsta, I say have to keep movin’ son!” Lazorbeak looked up to Razorclaw, his face like stone, and Lazorbeak nodded. “We have to sober up,” Lazorbeak stood. “Hit me.” “Excuse, I say pardon me?” Razorclaw said. “Slap me,“ Lazorbeak hiccupped. “Snap me out of if it.” “I don’t…” “Slap me hard, on my face.” Lazorbeak stood straighter and closed his eyes. “I don’t know if we-” Razorclaw turned towards the sound of voices and sirens. “Do it now, we need to have our heads in the game if-” Lazorbeak’s world spun, went dark, and when he came to, Razorclaw stood over him, snapping his fingers in Lazorbeak’s face. Lazorbeak stood up and held his throbbing head. He surveyed his surroundings. They were in a room, a garage or workshop of some sort. Tools, hover-dollies and other equipment lay scattered. He heard muffled noises outside. The Maximals were closing in. Razorclaw stood by an elevated window, peeking just over the edge. “They’re comin’, I say they’re comin’, son!” “You brought us in here?” “Yeah, when I, I said when I slapped you I must’ve knocked something’ afoul.” Lazorbeak slapped Razorclaw across the face, who grabbed his head and yelled. “What’d you do that for!?” “I’m sorry!” Lazorbeak held up his hands. “I’m sobering you up!” “You dumbaft, I’m already out of it! I dragged your big, I say fat end in here, didn’t I?” “Oh,” Lazorbeak said. “Yeah I guess you did. So what’s the plan? Can we take them?” “Hardly, I say hardly.” Razorclaw ducked as a beam of light swept over the window. “They brought, I say they brought in backup. At least a dozen more plus spotlights and tracker bots.” Lazorbeak crossed his arms and thought. “We could make a break for it?” “For what, I say what would we be makin’ a break for?” Razorclaw walked up to him. “As much as you, I say you’d like to just melt them to scrap and bolt, this situation calls for stealth and, I say patience.” Lazorbeak almost objected, but knew they both had points. They couldn’t just wait, and they couldn’t gun it. They had to break even, as they usually did. “Misdirection?” Lazorbeak proposed. “Followed by some, I say some guerrilla tactics?” Razorclaw cocked his head to the side. “Not our usual solution, but we’re not usually... well, this.” Lazorbeak glanced at the hover-dollies. “I say, I say it’s time to do what we done best, son.” “Make a mess and waste taxpayer credits…” ***** K-9’s expert eyes darted back and fourth among the buildings and sheds in what was during the day, a small supply and refit station for space cruisers. Now it is a maze. They were somewhere. Lazorbeak and Razorclaw they were called. Two of Cybertropolis’ most notorious crooks. Their reputation for causing trouble was getting around. Usually gangs and other groups were the talk of the underworld, but this was just a couple of yahoos who liked to steal and break stuff. Short of war-crimes, they’ve somehow managed to rack up every major and minor charge any robot could be given in this sector, and a few from others. Even the Tripredacus Council seemed to have it out for these ruffians. K-9 couldn’t believe his optics when he read the catch report from Prowl himself. When a council elder, a former Autobot wanted these two taken down, that had K-9 more than interested. He jumped at the chance to bring these guys in. He might make commissioner if things went well, as his colleagues were more than eager to remind him. Not to his face, of course, behind his back, where everyone thought that’s all he wanted. But no, he just wanted justice, to see law-breakers tried and punished. Regardless, things hadn’t gone well. As soon as his trap was sprung, despite melting half the bar and losing two of his in the scramble, the misfits had slipped out and made a break for it. But they hadn’t gone far. The area was swarming with Maximal officers, with more coming. “Captain?” Another officer pointed to one workshop. Lights flickered inside. Bingo. K-9 thought. “All squads regroup on workshop B-77, but don‘t enter. Wait for my signal.” K-9 drew his own cannon. As the Maximals surrounded the building, machine noises and heavy thumping resounded from the structure. Weapons trained, an eerie and uncomfortable silence blanketed the area. K-9 heard his spark pulse, and counted the beats. One. Two. Three. Four… The door of workshop slid open. A grinding, painful squeal as the outdated motors struggled to move the mass. Out shot a hover-dolly mounted with ignited torches. Maximals dived out of the way, some were knocked aside or pushed to the ground under the dolly’s weight. It crashed to his right and caught fire. Behind the warehouse K-9 heard cries and screams of shock and anger as smoke came from both sides. “They’re splitting up, break into squads and follow!” He shouted. He aimed his cannon into the workshop, hoping to glimpse the two. Over his right shoulder he heard several metal clunks as his soldiers dropped, out cold or dead. The shadows pulsed, and he knew he had been flanked. Before K-9 could turn and react, he felt a sharp pain in his legs as he was run over by something treaded. The miniature tank rolled away. K-9 tried to rise, but a foot to the back of his head kept him down. “I wouldn’t.” A gravely voice said. When he felt the pressure leave he looked up. In the distance he saw his ‘bots limping through the smoke, fellow officers thrown over their shoulders. Behind him were lines of writhing and moaning officers, tank tracks everywhere. K-9 punched the ground and screamed. He looked to the sky to see a purple jet screech away with another robot hanging from it upside down. Though no one else could see it, K-9 could clearly make out the hanging robot making obscene gestures with it’s arms. K-9 got to his feet, not impressed. _____ “Slag-faced or not, we always got it!” Lazorbeak laughed. Razorclaw, hanging by his legs around Lazorbeak’s nosecone, pumped his fist. “You got, I say you got that right!” The two laughed as Lazorbeak soared towards the sunrise. “Y’know, I really thought, just for a second, that maybe we wouldn’t get out of there as easy as usual. Guess this is a lesson in humility.” “Humility? Guess that sounds, I say sounds better than ‘not getting drunk off our afts and surrounded by cops on the same, I say same day.’” Razorclaw pulled himself upright. “Though on the plus side,” Lazorbeak said. “I now have a ‘close call’ story!” Right on,” Razorclaw leaned back against Lazorbeak’s fuselage. “I said in-deed my brother!” ***** The two crouched down behind the InfoCore Management building. Razorclaw carefully guided a small laser over diodes in a circuit board attached to a door control. Lazorbeak leaned on the wall above Razorclaw, and tapped his foot repeatedly. If Razorclaw was bothered by his partner’s impatience, he didn’t acknowledge. His gaze was fixed to a small screen above the circuit. The screen flickered, turned yellow, and beeped. Razorclaw carefully placed the small cutting laser down on the claw on his right arm, which had other tools laid out. He picked up a small pair of cutters. Lazorbeak watched as Razorclaw moved carefully to cut only the wires that wouldn’t set off a silent alarm or magneseal the door. Lazorbeak watched as the red glow from Razorclaw’s eyes lit his workspace, then again grew bored and looked around. “I though you said this door had the least security!” Lazorbeak said under his breathe. “That don’t mean, I say it don’t mean it has no security!” Razorclaw whispered. “Besides this isn’t my cup of, I say my area of expertise, son.” Lazorbeak rubbed his head and peered around the corner. “Waiting for a freaking door to open ain’t mine.” He groaned. “You’d rather, I say I say you’d prefer to go through highly trained and heavily armed guards?” Razorclaw scoffed. A click, followed by a hiss resounded from the door, and it quietly glided open. “Done, happy now?” Razorclaw packed his tools away in a small plastic box and slipped it into the compartment in his back, and drew a pistol. “Very, thanks.” Lazorbeak in turn drew his own laser pistol, and took up a fighting stance. The two slowly entered the dimly lit storage room of the InfoCore Management centre. Cybertron’s InfoCore held detailed files and information on just about everyone and everything the Transformer race has ever experienced. A worldwide network of Cybertron’s history, people and economy. Most of it was available to the public, but information like personnel records, bank statements or military and police datatrax were naturally only available to select few, or no one at all. What Lazorbeak and Razorclaw were after, however, was something else, and something potentially far more powerful. Days before, a criminal mastermind going by the name of Megatron, stole a ship and one of Cybertron’s most carefully guarded and revered artefacts: the Golden Disk. A relic from Earth, the information on it was kept top secret. That’s all most really know. Megatron disappeared into transwarp space, possibly back in time, after stealing the disk. The disk was gone, but Lazorbeak and Razorclaw had figured if Megatron went to all that trouble of stealing the disk and a transwarp ship, it must’ve been for a good reason. That’s what they were here to find out. “Guard!” Lazorbeak said in a loud whisper. The two ducked behind terminals just as a Maximal guard turned into the room. He peered down towards the open door. “Somebody there?” The guard called out. He walked slowly down the room, eyes darting left and right, making sure nobody would get the jump on him. As he thought he saw a glimmer of purple armour, he lost all feeling in his body and collapsed. Razorclaw stood, his paralysing stun gun smoking from the tip. Lazorbeak stood, and loomed over the fallen guard. “Move it, when he fails to check in…” Razorclaw understood. He scampered to the door, pulled out a small device, and aimed it around the corner into the long white hallway. “I’m getting’, say I‘ve got lasers, boy.” “What?” “Laser grid…” Razorclaw pulled back into the room. “Lasers weren’t part of the plan…” Lazorbeak crossed his arms. “Looks like it’s run-and-gun.” “Now hold, I say hold on now,” Razorclaw held up a hand, pausing Lazorbeak. “Let’s, I say let’s try it my way.” Razorclaw went back to the paralyzed guard, and returned with a card in his hand. After waving it in front of Lazorbeak’s unimpressed face, he poked around the corner, and saw a card slot. Quietly, he made his way over to the slot, and slid the key card home. Lazorbeak entered the hall as Razorclaw walked towards the middle and stretched out his hand. He waved it around, and satisfied, turned back towards Lazorbeak. “I say, I say not too shabby!” But Lazorbeak had on only a face of contempt. Razorclaw looked puzzled, until he realized Lazorbeak wasn’t looking at him. Following his friend’s gaze, he spotted a blinking red light on the ceiling down the hall. A security camera. ***** Things had fallen apart. In seconds guards had swarmed them. They only managed to hold them off by diving into an office. As Lazorbeak used his laser pistol to melt the door, Razorclaw furiously typed on a computer. “Well?” Lazorbeak asked. “No, I say no good.” Razorclaw said. “I can’t get into the mainframe from here.” Lazorbeak was about to retort, but a loud thump on the door stopped him. The Maximals were trying to break in. “Why not!?” Lazorbeak shouted. “Same reason, I say same reason why we can’t get the info we need from the street terminals.” Razorclaw threw the monitor aside. “It’s blocked. Most likely, I say probably so the wage slaves don’t leak the dirty dealings of the Council.” “Fabulous.” Lazorbeak moaned. He surveyed the room. “Lets get out of here first.” Razorclaw looked for another door, but found no way out, until he spotted a vent. “Now how’s about, I say how’s that for a exit?” Lazorbeak stared at the vent, and a feeling of intense discomfort washed over him. “No way. This ain’t the movies,” He said, shaking his head. “They’re cramped, dirty, all the screws and bolts poke you-” Another loud thump came from outside the room, and a bulge appeared on the door. “And I’m fine with that.” Razorclaw quickly pried the vent cover off with his claw, and Lazorbeak, after taking a moment to prepare himself, slipped into the vent. Razorclaw followed, and placed the cover back after him. As they crawled through the uncomfortably tight space, the duct creaked, and Lazorbeak knew this was not a good idea. They pressed on, however, until they heard the echo of voices from behind them, and knew the Maximals realised where the two had escaped to. “We have to get out of here!” Lazorbeak told Razorclaw. “Now hold on,” Razorclaw began to object. ‘If we go on a little further. “No time for discussion!” Lazorbeak drew his pistol began cutting the vent. “Wait, we can-!” Razorclaw was cut off. The vent broke free and tipped forward, and the two slid out. As they landed hard on the floor, they realised immediately the room was large, almost cavernous, but not empty. Around them were rows of oblong terminals. “Oh, sweet.” Lazorbeak said. “Could you get the info from one of these?” “I might,” Razorclaw said. “I say I very well could.” He got up and inspected the terminal. He removed his tool kit and used a small screwdriver to remove a panel. He then took a small fibre-optic cable and attached one part to a jack on the terminal, and the other to his head. “Are your sure that’s safe?” Lazorbeak asked. “You see, I say you see a keyboard anywhere, boy?” Razorclaw snapped back. Lazorbeak held up his hands and back off. He was about to apologize, but a noise from down the room caught his attention. The Maximals had found them. “Well,” Lazorbeak said. “Took them long enough.” The door swung open, and in rushed five Maximals brandishing rifles. “You gotta, I say you must keep them off me, son!” Razorclaw said, not taking his gaze off the beeping terminal. “If they get me while I’m in…” “Copy that.” Lazorbeak said. He began walking slowly towards the Maximals. He slowly reached into his back and drew his laser pistol. “Okay, then. Time to bring out the only good point of the Maximals…” Lazorbeak flicked the safety off. “Their melting point.” ***** The vast room was on fire. Lasers and bullet cut the air between combatants. Lazorbeak ducked behind computer terminals. The Maximals in kind took to cover, dodging the steady stream of Lasers, only poking out to return fire. Lazorbeak ran towards them, screaming and firing his pistol has he did. The Maximals scrambled for cover to dodge the light storm. Lazorbeak jumped and converted to his aerial form, and rocketed towards them. One Maximal was unwise enough to jump out of cover, only to be struck head-on. They both went flying through the door and landed in a heap down the hallway. Lazorbeak stood, drew his pistol, and prepared to charge again. He noticed that two of the Maximals were already moving towards Razorclaw, and he leapt off and flew down the hall again. As the Maximals closed in on Razorclaw, they noticed he was attached. One motioned to the cable that connected Razorclaw to the terminal, and drew a small knife. As he leaned in to cut the cable, the guard was hot backwards and landed paralyzed in a smoking pile. Before the other Maximal could react, he felt his midsection being crushed, and went into stasis lock. Razorclaw stood, breaking the cable that no longer mingled his intelligence with the mainframe. Lazorbeak ran up, panting and dented. “We got it?” “That and, I say and so much more!” Razorclaw had a deranged, almost psychotic grin on his alien face. “Ooh,” Lazorbeak groaned. “I’d be more excited if I wasn’t about to shut down.” “Our exit, I say our escape plan?” Razorclaw asked. As if on cue, dozens of guards and officers poured into the room from previously unseen entrances. Lazorbeak looked up to a glass skylight. The Maximals opened fire, and soon the room was alive again with streaks of multicolour. Lazorbeak grabbed Razorclaw by he collar, and activated his robot mode jets. They blasted off like a ballistic missile through the ceiling. Their troubles had just begun, however, as two police force VTOLs hovered towards them. Lazorbeak looked down to Razorclaw, who gave an enthusiastic thumbs up. Lazorbeak primed himself, then rocketed towards the nearest aircraft. With what strength he had left, he chucked Razorclaw over his shoulder towards the VTOL. Razorclaw extended his pincer, and it scraped along the hull until it found purchase. Lazorbeak pumped his fist. “Yes!” Razorclaw pried open the ship’s door and scurried inside. The small aircraft jerked side-to-side, and Razorclaw dived through the forward window as the ship exploded. Lazorbeak swooped down to catch him by the arms. The second VTOL swooped down, the guns on the nose firmly aimed at the Predacon duo. Lazorbeak groaned. “I’m nearly out of power…” “Then I say, I say it’s time we got ourselves a ride outta here!” Razorclaw looked up and nodded. Lazorbeak grunted and started to spin in the air. He spun until Razorclaw was outstretched before him, and just when the time was right he let go. Razorclaw soared towards the Maximal vehicle, and pulled his claw back for a punch, then with everything he had, smashed through the cockpit window and slugged the Maximal pilot right out of the driver’s seat and out cold. After tossing out it’s former pilot, Razorclaw assumed control and glided the small aircraft over to his friend, who climbed through the broken glass and into the small space behind the driver’s seat. The craft accelerated out of the area. Lazorbeak leaned on the seat and panted. “Please,” He huffed. “Tell me you found it.” “That,” Razorclaw answered. “That and I say so much more, my dear boy.” Razorclaw reached into his back and retrieved a small electronic reader. “This, I say this is a text overview.” Razorclaw said. “You’ll have to excuse, I say pardon my language, but the computer didn’t want to play nice.” Lazorbeak lazily plucked the reader from Razorclaw’s hand. He began to read, and as he did, his eyes widened, his gripe tightened, he sat straighter. “No…” Lazorbeak gasped. “Shut your aft!” “Your eyes don‘t, I say they do not deceive you, my friend.” Lazorbeak scrolled down the page. “Energon…” He muttered. “raw, untapped, natural energon! This is, like, the promise land, man!” “And you will never guess where,” Razorclaw bobbed his head elatedly. “Or when!” Lazorbeak relaxed as the read the last descriptor. His eyes narrowed, and a smirk overtook his face. “Earth…” ***** “More precisely, 4 millions years into Earth’s past.” Razorclaw said to Lazorbeak, who had his on the table edge with his fingers interlaced. Razorclaw sat slung over the side of his chair, pointing to the information scrolling across the screen embedded in the table. “So we’ll need a Transwarp ship…” Lazorbeak’s gaze drifted off. “Easier said than done. Only ships that have transwarp cells these days are frigates and exploration cruisers. We’d need a crew of at least four for either one.” “I though, I say I thought about that, I did…” Razorclaw said, tracing his finger across the screen, he opened a series of files, each with a small block of text and a picture of a robot. “I compiled, I say I threw together a few potential… candidates for our little mission.” Razorclaw said, clearly not thrilled with the concept himself. Lazorbeak scrutinised the choices, then dejectedly slumped back in his chair. “We can’t trust any of these losers.” He said throwing his hand out. “I know, I say I’m well aware of that fact.” Razorclaw rubbed his chin. “We could always ask your cousin Rockbuster…” Lazorbeak suggested. “I mean, if he wasn’t a slag-sucking piece of Maximal scum.” “I hate, I say I loathe to say it, but we may need… profession help.” Razorclaw said. “You mean like a bounty hunter?” “I was thinking, I say I figured more a mercenary type, son.” Lazorbeak frowned at Razorclaw. “Can we afford that?” “Listen to yourself, boy!” Razorclaw jumped to his feet. “If we pull this off, I say if we do this we’ll never have to worry about money or energon again, I say ever! We could own this city!” Lazorbeak was stunned. He’d never seen Razorclaw so enthusiastic before a score, usually he waited until after things had gone brilliantly to celebrate. This was different, and Lazorbeak liked it. “First, let’s get the crew, then we’ll get the ship.” Lazorbeak put two fingers to the table. “This mercenary, you know him?” “Know him?” Razorclaw chuckled. “Boy, he I say he owes me.” Razorclaw typed in a name on the table screen, and up popped an image of a broad, red-armoured robot. “Name’s Volfang,” Razorclaw stared at the screen. “ I saved his sorry plate back when he was new, back when…” Razorclaw’s gaze floated to his claw arm. Then as if a switch was hit, his whole mood changed. “Back when, I say back when I could juggle with the best of ‘em!” He laughed. Lazorbeak laughed with him. “One down, one to go.” Lazorbeak pondered. “And I believe I know just the ‘bot. A former intelligence agent-turned info junkie. Y’know, the guy you go to when you don’t want to go to all the trouble of hacking the InfoCore.” Razorclaw chuckled, then paused. “We don’t need dirt, son, we need, I say we need a soldier.” “Don’t worry,” Lazorbeak said, he pulled up a photo of a blue and green clad Predacon with a face like a gremlin. “And you trust, I say can count on this guy?” Razorclaw asked. “Him and me go way back.” Lazorbeak smiled. “On more than one occasion we’ve covered for each other when the heat was on. Insecticon.” Lazorbeak leaned back and stared out the window of the dirty apartment. Cybertropolis was such a beautiful city, he thought. And it could be all theirs if this worked. Whether or not he picked his old buddy would make or break this operation. He trusted Razorclaw with his life. They were like brothers now, and anybody Razorclaw trusted was okay in Lazorbeak’s books. But Insecticon Lazorbeak hadn’t seen in years. “We’ll get your guy first.” Lazorbeak said. “Insecticon is… hard to find.” “Well then,” Razorclaw stood up and stretched. “Let’s, I say let’s get going.” “Yeah…” Lazorbeak said, looking outside once more. “City’s not going to take over itself.” ***** Lazorbeak and Razorclaw came up to the front steps of the tavern. It’s architecture was extremely outdated for the area, with blocky, cubism-style arches and a very basic, polygonal shape, juxtaposed by the angular, organic shapes of the more modern buildings of the street. They walked to the door, which didn’t open. Strange, if it was supposed to be a public place. Lazorbeak looked to Razorclaw and shrugged. He reached out an knocked, and the door swung open. Lazorbeak was surprised. “Hinged doors?” He put his hands on his hips. “What is this, the pre-industrial times?” Razorclaw shook his head. “He’s, I say he’s very set in the old days, I say the olden times.” Razorclaw gestured towards the open door, they entered. Inside the bar was dusty. A haze filled the establishment, and the gaps in the window shutters cast lines across the room. Two patrons sat quietly at a table in the back, another was slumped over at the bar. The fourth robot their was tall, had a red gleam, and cleaned a glass with a rag. His deep blue eyes didn’t even look up as the two Predacons walked over to the counter and each took a seat at one of the stools. Razorclaw gave a subtle glance at Lazorbeak, indicating he do the talking. Razorclaw dropped his claw arm on the counter. “One, I say anti-freeze, barkeep, and some, I say some oil for me and my friend.” The bartender’s eyes fixed on Razorclaw’s pincer arm. He blinked, turned around to the shelves behind him, then returned with two glasses and two bottles. After he poured the drinks, he moved them over the counter to the two patrons. “On the house.” He said. “I see, I say I see your sense of hospitality hasn’t changed.” Razorclaw said. “I hear you still got, ‘I say’ got that speech problem.” The red ‘bot said. Lazorbeak chuckled, Razorclaw shook his head and reached for the glass with his pincer, then over dramatically palm-smacked his head with his left hand. “Silly, I say how foolish of me,” He said. “Almost forgot I’m left-handed now.” He took the glass with his head and downed the contents in one gulp, then slammed the glass down with a sour look on his face. Lazorbeak remained silent and took a sip of his oil. The red robot stood straight and crossed his arms. “You never come here.” He said. “It’s a bit, I say a bit out of the way.” Razorclaw said. “But I figure it was, I say was about time I stop by and check on my old bud, I say pal.” “Who do you want me to kill?” The red robot said. Razorclaw laughed so loud it made Lazorbeak uncomfortable. “My dear, I say my dear sweet Volfang,” Razorclaw was suddenly serious. Lazorbeak then recognised the bartender as the robot Razorclaw suggested. “I want your… assistance in acquiring, I say becoming the proud owners of a rare substance.” “What kind?” Volfang said. “I’ll give, I say I’ll give you a hint,” Razorclaw said. “It starts with an ‘E’, and ends with this city in our hands.” Volfang became alarmed. “In the back.” He snapped. “Pitstop,” The slumped patron down the bar slowly looked up at Volfang. “Watch the till for me.” The patron’s head returned to his arms. The three made their way to the back room. Stacks of drums and boxes covered a window, and only a thin crack of light bled through. “Energon.” Volfang said. “And not the cheap, factory-made stuff.” Razorclaw pointed for emphasis. “I’m talkin’ real, naturally grown crystals.” Volfang tilted his head back and thought, then let it fall forward. After a moment his eyes looked up, and he turned to a locker at the far end of the back room. He opened it, and inside hung a gleaming blue-silver shield with gold detailing. Next to it, a large cannon, and below two anchor-shaped missiles. Lazorbeak let out a slow whistle at the uncommon sighting. Volfang collected it all and stored it on his person. “The Pax Cybertronia may take our right to bear arms,” He said. “But never our will.” He turned to face the two Predacons. “When do we leave?” ***** The three headed for the slums. Razorclaw and Volfang raced along the freeway, while Lazorbeak flew above just ahead. Volfang had been successfully “bought” with the promise of energon and power in return for his help procuring them. Now they just needed to get the fourth member of their “crew” before moving to “phase two” as Razorclaw called it. The steel-blue roads were busy, and Razorclaw and Volfang had trouble keeping up with the unencumbered Lazorbeak, who steadily moved ahead. As the two ground-based Predacons struggled to keep up, Lazorbeak followed the running lights of the off-ramp into the city streets below, the others just barely able to make the turn off on time. “Slow down, I say wait up, son,” Razorclaw barked over the built-in communications link. “You‘re going too far ahead!” Lazorbeak sighed and transformed to robot mode, landing on a sidewalk. He waited for the other two to roll up and meet him in robot form. “This the place?” Volfang said. He scrutinised the tall, oblong-shaped building. He went to open the door, but Lazorbeak held out a hand to stop him. “You guys wait here, I’m be right back.” Lazorbeak pushed the buzzer on the door. It slid open, and he walked into the dark. The door closed behind him and Razorclaw and Volfang waited. About five minutes passed before they heard shouting inside. Then banging and crashing. The noise got louder and more violent. Razorclaw was about to do something, when Lazorbeak came crashing through a window into the street. The two Predacons were aghast briefly, until Lazorbeak stood up, brushed himself off, and strolled over nonchalantly. “He’ll be out in a moment.” Lazorbeak said. The three waited for a full minute, then out strolled a lean, blue and green robot with a disinterested look on his gremlin-like face and a plastic case slung over his shoulder. He slid the door close behind him with his foot and looked up at the three. “Alright, let’s go.” ***** It was time to get a ship, and the four criminals made their way towards the shipyard. Security in the Predacon shipyards was upped after Megatron stole the Predacon ship. Somebody up in the Predacon government figured another group would pull the same stunt, which they technically were. The four Predacons knew this, and so they needed an inside man. That’s where Insecticon came in. Thanks to him, they now had a ship and a captain procured for them. “If we can get in without drawing attention,” Lazorbeak said, as the four stopped outside the loading dock. “They said we can have the ship.” “How’d-?” Insecticon began to ask, but a spotlight swept towards them. They all ducked behind cover as the streaks of light. Insecticon lowered his voice. “How’d you pull that off?” Lazorbeak turned to face him. “Well, I got in touch with the Captain…” He shrugged. “You‘re welcome.” Insecticon said. “A bout ten thousand upfront got his cooperation.” Lazorbeak finished. “By God, I say Primus!” Razorclaw gasped. “Energon doesn’t grow- well, I guess on Earth it does.” Volfang smiled and shook his head. Everyone readied their weapons and Razorclaw held up a hand. He waited for the spotlight to move to the far side of the complex, and pumped his fist. They all scurried for the watchtower. They huddled near the base and Lazorbeak motioned to Insecticon. Together they each quickly poked around the corner of the tower base and each shot a security camera, Lazorbeak with his laser pistol and Insecticon with his plasma crossbow. “Hurry!” Razorclaw barked. “To the barracks, before they get a chance to, I say chance to react!” The four quickly made their way to a small bunker and crouched by the door. A Predacon guard walked out, and Volfang grabbed him, covering his mouth and dragged him into the shadows. Only Volfang returned. All four stood in front of the door and Lazorbeak nodded to them. “Remember,“ Volfang said. “These my be Preds, but they’re anything but our comrades. No mercy.“ “No mercy.“ They all whispered in unison. He then kicked the door in. Inside sat many Predacon guards. They all sprang up, weapons armed and aimed at the four intruders. The four pointed their weapons at the guards and cocked them. ***** Time stood still in the guard house. Four Predacon interlopers stood crouched and poised for combat outside the doorway, six guards in a rough delta formation inside the room, weapons aimed for kill-shots. When time picked up again, it was Volfang who ran into the room. Everything around him seemed to move in slow motion, even his allies. He jumped to the left and pushed off a wall with one leg, sending him spinning in flight. He pulled his cannon and fired three mid-air shots into the nearest guard to the left. As he landed, he pulled one of his missiles from his back, loaded, and fired it in one swift move. It spun and arced like a boomerang into two Predacon guards and they fell. Just as he caught his missile the other guards finally opened fire, and Razorclaw dived into the room, using his thick-armoured back to deflect some of the shots as he rolled. When he righted himself he pulled his massive claw back and grabbed one of the guards, crushing his midsection. Lazorbeak and Insecticon both jumped into the room and each shot one of the two remaining guards, in the head. Four Predacons stood, six lie in stasis lock. With the reserve guards out of the picture it was time to get to the ship. They mad their way through the small building to the rear entrance. The dry-dock with their ship was just ahead. It was a mad dash over open area with little cover until the dock entrance, so they all transformed and gunned it. A shrill, wailing noise filled the air. An alarm had been tripped. They’d been spotted. Bullets and laser fire rained down on them. Lazorbeak evaded easily, but his ground-base companions were straining to keep up. A bullet punctured one of Volfang’s tires. He groaned as he tried to keep up. Sparks flew as the tire tore away and swerved. A laser hit right in front of him an a cloud of dust and fire was turned up. None of the others stopped, but Razorclaw looked back, and was relieved when Volfang reappeared, sparking but keeping pace just behind them. Lazorbeak cursed and pulled up. “Where are you going!?” Insecticon shouted of the comm.-link “To get the flak of us.” He said back. Lazorbeak accelerated to his fullest and headed straight for the source of the fire, a watchtower with gun emplacements. He transformed and drew his pistol. Dumping his reserve energy into his weapon, he charged it to full and fired. Not at the guards, but at the base of the platform they stood on. His weapon at full charge could cut through most metals save ship armour, so it was easy enough to cut the tower’s head off. As it fell, the guards fired pot-shots at the empowered Lazorbeak, he took a hit to his wing and started to fall. The other Predacons saw this, and Razorclaw showed concern. However Lazorbeak was able to make a less-than-graceful landing nonetheless, which the guards didn’t, as their platform crashed to the ground and exploded, silhouetting Lazorbeak in flames for a moment. “This was, I say was supposed to be a stealth mission.” Razorclaw crossed is arms. When Lazorbeak started to waver Razorclaw held him up. “We still have to move.” Razorclaw said. Lazorbeak politely waved off his support and the four ran. Vehicle modes were pointless as it was a short jog to their ship, and as the rounded a corner they caught their first glimpse. It was huge, a cruiser-class. It had a fluid, bulging look, like a deep-sea creature. It ahd many fins, the most prominent was one large dorsal on the top. On the sharp nose was a stylised drawing of a tooth-filled maw and small, predatory eyes. At the top of the loading ramp waved a pearl, blue and yellow-trimmed robot. As the four ran up Volfang collapsed, his leg sparking, and Insecticon helped him to his feet. When they got to the top of the platform the robot stood, hands on hips, in an authoritive posture. The robot was much taller than he appeared, even taller than Volfang and dwarfing the other three. His left hand was a hook, and his chiselled face had an eccentric, wide-eyed look complete with huge toothy grin. He held out his hand. “Captain Sky-Byte of the Summer’s Repose,” He did a quick wave of his hand and bowed completely. “At your service!” ***** It didn’t take long for the guards to form-up and come after them. Captain Sky-Byte had graciously helped the injured Volfang into one of his ship’s four CR Chambers. The group quickly moved to their stations they had assigned each other beforehand, save for Lazorbeak who moved instead to weapons, which is where Volfang was supposed to be. Insecticon turned around. “So, wait,” He said. “Who has flight control?” “Me!” Sky-Byte said, dropping his leg onto an empty seat near the captain’s chair, he stood heroically with his hand on his knee. “I always fly this beauty myself! You just tell me where to go, and I’ll get you there!” He beat his chest with his right hand and jumped into the captain’s chair. Razorclaw began setting a flight plan with the transwarp coordinates from the police files. Insecticon managed the ship’s vitals, everything from life-support to hull integrity to the transwarp cell power levels shown green. Sky-Byte turned on the exterior cameras to see flying Predacons and tank-based units coming towards the ship. “Well!” Sky-Byte said in a hammy fashion. “It would seem we have company, better not waste any more time!” He tapped a button on his chair and a pedestal with a large, wheel rose from the floor. He stood and several small handles radiated from it. Razorclaw shot a confused look to Lazorbeak, who shrugged. Sky-Byte grabbed the handle and turned the wheel violently and the massive ship jerked to the right, everyone flailing in their chairs. Sky-Byte then stomped on a pedal on the floor and the ship lurched forward out of the dock. “Swabbie!” Sky-Byte pointed with his hook at Lazorbeak. “Reward those land-lubbers for their hard work and dedication!” Lazorbeak grinned and nodded, he typed in commands and an infrared view of the Predacon attackers appeared on his screen. They were lining up artillery to attack the engines, so Lazorbeak dragged his fingers across the screen to lock-on. The exterior guns tracked his movements and pointed at the enemy as the ship rose. Lazorbeak slammed on the fire button and shells rained down on the Predacons below. They managed to get some shots off, but most missed and the rest only hit against the thick hull of the ship. Reinforcements arrived, and Lazorbeak pounded on the fire button again, screaming as he did. The hull shuddered from the guns firing and the attacks from below, the ship spun and knocked into cranes and other docked ships as Sky-Byte manoeuvred it straight up out of the dock. He sung a not-so-sweet tune and recited poetry as he leaned with his ship and spun the wheel. “The enemy below, freedom beckons above us, we rise to meet her!” He said to no one in particular. Insecticon smiled and looked over to Razorclaw. “You believe this guy?” Insecticon thumbed over his shoulder to the still singing Sky-Byte. “He’s too good to be true!” The two laughed amidst the chaos. Shouting, crashing, singing, banging, screaming their way up, the five Predacons in their cruiser drifted up into the clear night sky. Not a cloud was in sight, so the light from Cybertron’s two moons illuminated everything in a cool, blue hue. “We’re clear, I say we’re out of the docks!” Razorclaw said. “Then forward, matey’s to…!” Sky-Byte paused and thought, then shrugged. “Who cares? Adventure beckons to us, and we must seek her out!” “Transwarp, I say transwarp coordinates locked in.” Razorclaw said. “Hull integrity at ninety-eight percent and holding,” Insecticon said. “Engines at maximum.” “Weapons exiting cool-down cycle.” Lazorbeak reported. “Then tally-ho!” Sky-Byte pointed forward. “Engage transwarp drive!” Razorclaw typed in a sequence then hit enter. A low buzz became a rumble as the ship accelerated, space wavered, and a bright flash of light consumed the ship. It was over as quickly as it started, and no one seemed phased. Earth filled the view screen and they moved towards it. All seemed fine, until they spotted something on the horizon. A blue-white wave of energy streaked towards them. “Transwarp wave!” Razorclaw shouted. “Massive, coming from just above Earth!” Sky-Byte pointed to Insecticon. “Raise the shields!” Insecticon furiously typed away, and a hum indicated the shields were on fully charged. “Brace yourselves!” Sky-Byte shouted, and the wave hit. It rocked the ship, the lights dimmed and computer screens flickered, but the shields held just long enough. Insecticon sighed. “Shields are toast, but the ship itself was barely touched.” But his relief was short lived, as they neared Earth, another wave of energy came, this one different. Streaks of tiny particles, like a mini galaxy, sped towards them. ***** The bizarrely random transwarp wave was successfully deflected, but the next assault on the transwarp cruiser came in the form of more energy. This was a more violent, pulsing wave front filled with tiny particles. The crew were aghast. “Raise the shields again!” Razorclaw yelled. “I can’t, they’re dead!” Insecticon said. Sky-Byte grimaced. “What is that, another Transwarp wave?” He asked. “Negative,” Insecticon reported. “Quantum surge, huge and coming at us fast. We can’t evade!” Lazorbeak and Razorclaw locked eyes, their faces fearful yet determined. “We have to do something!” Lazorbeak shouted. Sky-Byte stood and pondered for a split-second, then looked up, his face steely resolve. “Get to the CR Chambers.” He said. “They’re lead-lined and charged to deflect EMPs.” The three other Predacons exchanged looks, then scurried for the chambers, Insecticon held up. “What about you?” He asked. “Fear not, Swabbie,” Sky-Byte stood fast. “ I’ll fly the ship. Somebody has to land this thing.” Insecticon hesitated a moment than got in the last CR chamber. Sky-Byte grasped the steering wheel and braced himself. He counted his spark beats until the wave hit. Just as it neared his shut his eyes and floored it. The ship went right through the wave. It rocked, sparked, alarms flared and debris fell from the ceiling. Sky-Byte opened his eyes, the interior was bathed in cobalt blue, and tiny particles, one after another, shot past. Then the few particles became a rushing torrent of energy. Sky-Byte covered his face, but then realised his arm was glowing bright white. His entire body lit up, and pain overtook him. He screamed and was knocked back into the captain’s chair. Writhing, his reached for the emergency stasis button on his chair. His hand was bubbling, mutating right before his eyes. He managed to push the button, and a chamber closed around the captain’s chair just as he blacked out. The ship continued, pilot less, to the far side of the planet. As it got caught in the atmosphere it heated and tumbled, it became a ballistic fireball. The ship shook violently, then righted itself and glided down to the planet. It streaked through the sky, cut clean through a hill. Debris and parts of the ship flew off and scattered. The ship flattened trees, scorching the forest. It hit a lake and bounced out like a rubber ball, flipping, spinning, before coming to rest on a cliff by the shoreline of the ocean, upside down and on fire. But the ride wasn’t over. The cliff began to crack, and the ship fell once more, landing upright half-submerged, it’s nose jutting over the beach. Inside the CR Chambers were untouched. Within one Lazorbeak stirred and awakened. He looked around and remembered what had happened. He opened the CR speaker screens to the other three chambers. Everyone else appeared, even Volfang, awake and moving. Good, the core team survived at least. Lazorbeak looked to everyone. “We all still here?” He asked. “One piece,” Razorclaw cracked his neck. “I say all together now.” ‘I’m fine.” Insecticon said. “Me, too,” Volfang added. “CR Chamber even fixed my leg while I was dozing.” “Guess the nap’s over,” Lazorbeak rubbed his neck. “We got work to do.” Everyone nodded, they moved to exit the chambers, but Insecticon stopped them. “Wait!” He said. “I’m reading lethal levels of Energon radiation with what’s left of the scanning equipment. We spend ten minutes unshielded we’re dead.” “Solutions?” Lazorbeak asked. “We’ll have to scan local life forms as alternate modes.” He said. “Shouldn’t be hard, Earth’s crawling with them. Just make sure to pick something you like since I doubt the regenerators can do this twice.” Insecticon tapped on the small keypad in the chamber. Outside, a tiny craft shot out of the ship, and a dull purple beam shout out of it’s emitters. It scanned the entire area for a hundred miles. On the screens of the CR Chambers, different animal profiles appeared. Birds, bugs, mammals and even fossil samples flashed by. One caught Lazorbeak’s eye, and he selected it. Insecticon reappeared on the screen. “Everyone ready?” They all nodded. “Okay,” Insecticon readied himself. “Scanning and replication…“ He flipped a switch. “Begin.” ***** Lazorbeak awoke from the replication. Everything was dark. He felt odd, cramped when he wasn’t before. Unusual sensations racked his brain. Heat, from him, a tactile discrepancy, skin. He had skin, scaly, leathery hide. His arms were pulled up to his sides. He had less fingers, and something came down from where he remembered his wrists being. His legs didn’t reach the ground, and his head felt different. The chamber hissed open and he climbed out on all fours. His eyes opened, slowly. The experience was odd, violating at first, but then became comfortable as his internal computer rewrote his movement algorithms to match his new form. His vision was blurry, but he made out other unfamiliar shapes. As he focused, he saw more animals. Everyone came to and inspected themselves. Volfang spoke first. “I like.” He said. He inspected his white paws, and saw his fur faded to a light brown up his arms. He smelled the air, twitched his ears. “Wolves are cool.” He said. He looked at Insecticon, now a blue and green crawler, his carapace was reflective, showing rainbow colours in certain light. His pincers clicked, and his six legs fidgeted. “How original.” Volfang mocked Insecticon. The beetle wobbled and Insecticon hummed smugly. “A fiddle crab!?” Razorclaw bemoaned. “I say I resemble that remark!” He clicked his claws and looked himself over. “I could’ve sworn I picked a bunny.” They all laughed. Finally Lazorbeak inspected himself. He stretched his wings. His purple skin had red stripes, and his beak stretched out a good foot from his face. The others looked at him with varying expressions. “Figures mister center-of-attention picks an extinct chicken.” Insecticon joked. “What?’ Lazorbeak shoved him. “I wanted something that could fly, and I’m not picking a canary.” The group walk towards the bridge. It was a wreck. Everything sparked, and a steel beam had smashed a row of consoles. The others still flickered, and Insecticon went over to one and typed with his skinny legs. “Ship diagnostics are still active.” He said. “Would you believe it’s not as bad as it looks?” “Really?” Razorclaw gasped. “Nah, it’s all scrap.” He said, doing the insect equivalent of a shrug. “Engines are offline or missing. No reading at all. Hull isn’t breached, but most support beams and lining has come loose. Navigation…” He motioned to the crushed consoles. “Yeah, and the rest is pretty much the same, save weapons which at first glance is mostly just superficial damage.” Lazorbeak hung his elongated head. “So it won’t be flying any-” He suddenly remembered. “Sky-Byte! I wonder if…” they alls scampered to the captain’s chair. Around it the stasis chamber was intact, but smoking from the inside. Volfang pawed the release, and the chamber screeched open. Inside was an indefinable mass of flesh and mechanics. The monstrosity flexed and it seemed as thought whatever it was had curled up. Nobody recognized it as any kind of animal or robot. Razorclaw poked it with his claw. An ye shot open, glowing red and the creature screamed and flopped out onto the bridge, everyone jumping back to give it space. It was more easily identified as a shark now, huge, half organic, half mechanical. It lay there, broke out of it’s panic and looked around. “Who are you weirdoes?” It said in a familiar voice. “Sky-Byte?” Lazorbeak asked. The shark’s eye darted, then blinked. “By Jove, it’s you!” He wiggled with excitement. “We survived, huzzah!” He wiggled some more. ‘Why can’t I move?” He asked. “Because you’re of the aquatic, I say fishy variety now, son.” Razorclaw said. Sky-byte tried to move, but instead small boosters popped out from behind his fins and he lifted off the deck. “What happened to you?” Volfang asked. “I’m not quite sure,” Sky-Byte said. “All I remember is intense pain and then, well, this.” Lazorbeak shook his head. “Focus people, we still have a job to do.” Lazorbeak immediately took charge. “Remember, we’re here for Energon, this planet is bristling with it. With what this much has we can fix our ship and have enough to own all of Cybertropolis!” The motley crew of animals nodded in unison. It was harvest season. ***** Lazorbeak scanned the horizon from the air. The surrounding area was lush and green, but far in the distance he saw dark clouds, smoke and fire. It stretched for miles. Possibly a natural disaster, but he also knew they were not the only Transformers on this planet, and wouldn’t rule out Megatron or the Maximals who chased him here as considerable threats. For now they would keep to themselves. This gave them an edge, in addition to knowing that this was, indeed, Earth. They’d keep these facts a secret as long as they could. Lazorbeak did one more sweep before swooping down to their wrecked ship and joining the others. Insecticon typed on a small computer with his insect legs hooked up to the ship hull, and Volfang towed a piece of equipment with Razorclaw carrying out some boxes. Lazorbeak heard rattling and cursing inside the ship, and figured Sky-Byte was trying to fix the ship. His suspicions were confirmed when he heard him bemoan the sorry state of his ship and how difficult it was to work with fins. It seems not even disfiguring mutation, albeit with benefits, could faze Sky-Byte. Everybody was in Beast mode, they all agreed due to the high radiation on this side of the planet they would use their robot forms extremely sparingly. “The other side is on fire.” Lazorbeak crawled over to Insecticon, who’s beady eyes remained fixed on the computer’s screen. “How’s things?” “Crummy,” Insecticon said. “Most of the mining equipment survived untouched.” He pointed a skinny leg at Razorclaw and Volfang. “Those two did a good job protecting it. Unfortunately….” He clicked his pincers nervously. “Some of it’s missing.” “Missing?” Lazorbeak didn’t understand. “Remember when I said there hadn’t been a hull breach?” Insecticon sighed. “Well I was wrong. The cargo bay doors busted open and we lost everything in bay two…” He looked out into the distance, Lazorbeak looked with him. “Half our digging equipment, the Energon converters and repair gear is scattered out there.” “Good news,” Lazorbeak shook his head. “I need good news.” “Well, everything has an emergency beacon,” Insecticon thought. “And there’s no reason they shouldn’t work. We could look for them, but…” “But…?” Lazorbeak grew impatient. Insecticon looked down, his small dot eyes looked up to Lazorbeak. “But are you sure it’s worth it? I mean we could be stranded. We should be thinking of a way to escape this rock. We should contact the Maximals, if they survived-” Lazorbeak grabbed Insecticon’s pincer with one claw and extended his wing to cover their faces. “No backing out, not this time, not like before!” Lazorbeak growled. Insecticon pushed him back. “Back off, beak-face!” He snapped. Lazorbeak almost attacked, but composed himself, let his adrenaline leave. He was calm. “We have not come this far to give up.” He said in a loud whisper. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I need you, buddy.” Insecticon looked worried, then nodded understandingly. Lazorbeak couldn’t cross his arms, so instead he just sat and looked out into the distance. “I need a handheld beacon-tracer.” Lazorbeak said, his mood completely mellow. “I’ll take Volfang and try and recover some of the equipment.” Insecticon nodded again, and scurried to put parts together. As Razorclaw and Volfang finished unloading the last of their energon mining gear, Lazorbeak crawled over to meet them. “Volfang, I need your help.” Volfang’s ears became alert and he looked at Lazorbeak. “We lost a bunch of gear on the landing, since you’re the best tracker and I can fly, we’re going to find what we lost.” Insecticon scurried over with a device in his pincers. He dropped it by Lazorbeak’s feet. “This will home-in on beacons. When you find them, tag them with these.” He pointed to a small stack of metal disks. “Sky-Byte got the radar working, so me and Razorclaw can come collect the gear when you find it.” Lazorbeak picked up the device, a strap hung off it, so he attached it to Volfang’s foreleg. “Long range comm.?” Lazorbeak asked. “Not yet. Radiation makes it an uphill battle, but we have the parts to get it back up.” Insecticon said. “Then what are we waiting for?” Volfang said. He flipped the switch with his snout and it beeped. He turned and ran into the jungle, Lazorbeak took off an followed overhead. Razorclaw waved them goodbye and scuttled off to the ship. Insecticon watched a moment longer, then scurried after him. ***** K-9 had been standing in front of the office door for close to five minutes. His hands were balled into fists. He didn’t want to face the commissioner. Polar Claw had a history of being a no-nonsense hardaft, and when he requested, or in K-9’s case, demanded your presence, the only way to walk out of his office with your job was to hope you caught him in a good mood. According to the receptionist, this was not one of those days. Finally K-9 decided his chances were better if he was at least on time, and slowly pushed the door release. It jumped open, and Polar Claw sat at his desk in a poorly-lit office, rubbing his head. He looked up, his red eyes burning bright. He slowly composed himself. “So,” He interlaced his fingers. “Lets not waste any time. Sit.” K-9 occupied a chair. “I’m gonna get right to the point,” Polar Claw, hands still clasped, extended his index fingers up. “You’re off the case.” He said, pointing them at K-9. K-9 was about to object, but Polar Claw held up a hand. “Be glad I’m not firing you. Do you know what those punks did after you let them get away?” K-9 said nothing. “I asked you a question.” Polar Claw said. “I didn’t let them get awa-” K-9 was cut off by Polar Claw slamming his fists down. The single light above casting harsh shadows across his scowling face. “They broke into an InfoCore Building, stole top-secret information, stole a transwarp cruiser and…!” Polar Claw relaxed his fists and pulled them out of the dents he had just put in his desk. “It would seem…” He grabbed the bridge of his nose. “They’re no longer in Cybertron space, maybe not even this time period. K-9 was mortified. He’d let common crooks steal top secret information and vanish into time. “What’s worse…” Polar Claw said. “We can’t track them. No ships were close enough or able to lock onto the warp signature. We tried getting a copy of the data they stole to get the coordinates, but they wiped it clean.” “No…” K-9 said. “Yes, which is why I’m taking you off this case and suspending you for two weeks.” Polar Claw said. K-9 looked up, emotions flaring. Anger, sorrow, regret, contempt, but he saw Polar Claw’s face was no longer fierce as it was before, but calm, almost… accessible. “You’re our best tracker,” Polar Claw said. “But even you couldn’t find a way to track them… legally.” K-9 became inquisitive. “I want you to turn in your badge,” Polar Claw gave a bitter grin. “And don’t do anything stupid or rash, like I know you’re capable of.” Polar Claw leaned back out of the light, his red yes glowing in the dark. K-9 nodded, placed his badge on Polar Claw’s desk and stood. “Yes sir.” He said, and walked out. When the door closed, K-9 held his fist up. Again emotions swelled, but this time more positive. Joy, retribution, prospect, but they were all instantly overtaken by one, overpowering want: Justice. On that spot, he vowed to bring these crooks in or die trying. He knew just where to start. _____ K-9 kicked down the door to the building, weapon armed and pointed inside. Outside he noticed the bottom-most window of the bizarrely shaped structure was smashed outward, and took no chances there could still be someone armed inside. He moved slowly through the room. It was messy, lived-in of course, but this looked more like there was a brawl. He heard noises from the next room and walked up to a partway open door, he grabbed the edge and slide it open. A green and red robot who was laying on a couch watching TV jumped and screamed. “What’s going on? Who are you!?” The robot yelled. “Who are you?” K-9 demanded. “Who want’s-” The robot started, but K-9 shot above his head. He screamed. “Snapper, my name’s Snapper!” “Okay, Snapper,” K-9 kept his gun aimed at him. “Where’s Insecticon?” “I can’t, I don’t-” K-9 walked up and stamped on Snapper’s leg. Not enough to break it, but enough to hurt. “I dunno I dunno!” Snapper cried in pain. “Know.” K-9 pointed his blaster at Snapper’s face. Snapper covered his face. “T-the shipyard, east side spaceport!” Snapper screamed. K-9 pulled the trigger, but the blast merely scorched the wall behind Snapper. K-9 turned and left, leaving Snapper rubbing his leg. ***** K-9 piloted the Starhopper spacecraft into orbit and activated the long-range scanner. There had to be some trace that the Maximal detectives for this sector either couldn’t or were too lazy to look for. He delicately attuned the scanner from inside the cramped driver’s seat inside the tiny one-man transwarp vessel. Starhoppers were named as such because they didn’t so much as access transwarp space as sneak in through temporal-spatial anomalies or wakes left by larger ships. This suited K-9’s purposes just fine. The computer beeped once. Nothing. He set the system for a quantum scan. He was motionless as he watched the status screen, then a hit. “I’ve found you…” He said. K-9 locked onto the signature and engaged the Starhopper’s engines. He didn’t know where, or when, he was going, only that he wanted justice. Justice, was it? He wasn’t sure. As he stared into the void ahead, it struck him that perhaps there was more to this, but shunned the thought and gunned it. He braced himself against the g-forces as the transwarp mini drive locked onto the faint trail. The space outside the ship brightened, typical of transwarp travel, but then it shimmered, dulled and began to crackle. Something was wrong, the transwarp wave was too unstable, a temporal flux, suspended in time and space, had sucked him in. The world around him caught fire and as quickly as it had begun, it ended, and through the cockpit glass K-9 glimpsed a planet. Blue with patches of green, one moon, violent storms raged across one side, and small partings in the clouds showed scorched land below. A bizarre planet, his ship still functioned, however, and he activated the quantum scan. He read unusually high levels of energon radiation and a bizarre blend of ionization and quantum particles in the atmosphere. He engaged the regenerative shielding and plotted a course for the computer to take to the surface, and slipped into stasis. The ship followed it’s path quite smoothly until it came into contact with the atmosphere of the planet. The regenerative shielding inside the pod protected K-9, but the exterior shields flickered and died. The ship buckled and swayed lazily through the clouds, smoke and sparks flying off. The charged atmosphere was too much for the little ship to handle, and it careened out of control towards the surface. It clipped hills and trees before coming to rest in a small field. For a while it lay still. A pack of wild dogs encroached on the smoking wreckage, curious. The beasts stopped a good distance away, sniffing the air. They were startled when a flash of yellow light emerged from the metal mass and glided over the. They barked and growled, and the light ceased. They carefully approached the downed vessel, and as they did a creaking sound escaped it. A large piece fell to the ground with an appropriate thud, and out emerged a creature. Another of them. It looked at the pack, and the dogs stood their territory. The interloper tilted it’s head, then turned and bounded away. The pack of dogs watched as the other fled, then likewise ran when the smouldering wreckage to on new, more violent life. It burst into flames, then exploded, stranding any who might have hoped to use it again. _____ Lazorbeak sat perched on the wrecked cruiser. Repairs were slow coming, but most of the mining equipment had been recovered and they were amassing huge stockpiles of energon. The band of thieves had struck pay dirt, and they could not be happier. But Lazorbeak was troubled by what he had seen. A streak, meteor maybe, but unsettling, from space. Had they been followed? Not impossible. Razorclaw had made sure nobody would be using their coordinates, but a skilled tracker with the right equipment would find them without much effort, however they had planned on being quick, not shipwrecked. Lazorbeak’s anxiety grew, and he could not stand the uncertainty. With what was possibly an all-out war waging on the other side of the planet, he was taking no chances being discovered by more Maximals. He jumped off the ship and swooped down below. The majority off them were out mining energon, only Razorclaw remained, and he was busy assembling a hover-dolly. He scooped up tools and parts with his claws with ease. They had all grown accustomed to their beast modes quite well, to the point where none had even transformed since reformatting. That might change if Lazorbeak’s worries proved true. “I’m going out to check something,” Lazorbeak told Razorclaw, his beady eyes looking up from his work. “I’ll check back in fifteen minutes.” Lazorbeak flapped his wings and took off. “Where, I say where are you going to?” Razorclaw shouted. “Hopefully,” Lazorbeak hovered in place a moment. “Not to war…” He turned and flew away, leaving Razorclaw puzzled and worried. “Guys,” He said over the comm.-link. “I think we may have trouble." ***** Lazorbeak glided over treetops, ponds, swamps and green plains. Hard to believe, he thought, that just over the horizon the planet was wasteland. He didn’t really care, though, just let his thoughts run wild. The planet could burn for all he cared, as long as he and Razorclaw weren’t on it. Then something caught his eye. “Speaking of burning…” He swooped down. In the middle of a small grassy plain a thick trail of smoke rose up. He landed ungracefully and waddled up to the wreckage. “A Starhopper.” He muttered. His suspicions were true, someone had followed them. However, it seemed they perished in the crash, until Lazorbeak noticed that his skin felt prickly. An energy surge. The same wave that marooned them had hit this vessel. He remembered Sky-Byte, and pried open the canopy. Sure enough, there was no one inside, and the stasis shielding was still in place. There was a survivor. Somewhere. Lazorbeak was suddenly stricken with paranoia, he backed away, and was about to raise his wings to take off when he was pounced upon. Something large and vicious landed on his back, it growled, biting and clawing at his skin. Lazorbeak let out a screech then mustered enough strength to push it off. He scramble upright, the beast was a native, large, hairy, a wild dog similar to Volfang. He growled, saliva dripping from it’s exposed teeth. It’s eyes glimmered blue, and it barked, diving at Lazorbeak. Lazorbeak screeched and lunged at his attacker. They collided and a ferocious battle was waged. Blood, hair and skin flew as they clawed, bit, kicked an pecked at each other. Lazorbeak was losing. He was smaller, not meant for this kind of fighting, and the dog quickly got the upper hand. Lazorbeak swiped a desperate blow to the dog’s head, hitting hard. Sparks flew, but not from Lazorbeak, but from the animal. Lazorbeak was stunned a moment, the dog looked back at his, it’s eye unnaturally illuminated. “You’re no dog!” Lazorbeak proclaimed and kicked the best off with his tiny hind legs. The canine rolled upright and stood poised, Lazorbeak stood, wings stretched. “Lazorbeak,” He shouted. “Terrorize!” Lazorbeak leaped into the air, chunks of flesh pulled away to remove metal and gears. The sounds of muscles flexing overtaken by mechanical clanks and hydraulic hisses. He flipped and turned and landed. He stood gleaming in the sunlight. He was purple. Bright read highlighted his lean body. His eyes glowed a bright yellow. Out of his back shot a small block which he caught, and unfolded into a pistol. He took aim. “Now let’s see who you really are…” Lazorbeak fired, but the dog dived out of the way. “K-9,” It yelled. “Maximize!” The beast reeled back, becoming upright. It unfolded origami-like as blue and white metal was exposed beneath black and yellow fur. K-9 flexed his robot arms, his beast mode legs sitting atop his true limbs. He reached behind his back and pulled out a large cannon and riot-style shield. His dim, green eyes glared. “I know you…” Lazorbeak said. “You’re that beat cop who tried to take us in the night in the bar!” Lazorbeak doubled over and laughed, patting his leg. “You chased us across time and space because…” Lazorbeak looked up and studied the expression of K-9 dark face. “Because you got burned, and want payback?” “Not payback,” A yellow, bestial mask slid down to cover his face. Bright, burning red eyes flashed to life. “Justice.” Lazorbeak crossed his arms and sized up his adversary. “Justice, eh?” Lazorbeak said, bringing up his hands in a humorous manner suggesting they do fisticuffs. “Then come at me, copper!” K-9 raised his cannon and charged. Lazorbeak in turn raised his pistol and ran at his foe. They screamed, firing wildly at each other, shots flying everywhere, grazing their armour or missing outright. Lazorbeak leaped into the air and did a roundhouse kick to K-9’s face. He staggered, then in one motion dropped his shield and grabbed Lazorbeak by his ankle, tossing him aside. Lazorbeak recovered, and unleashed a fury of laser blasts from his pistol. K-9 reached for his shield but was too late, and was put down by the blasts. Lazorbeak readied for another assault, but K-9 swiftly shot Lazorbeak in the chest from the ground. Lazorbeak staggered back, his chest smoking and sparking. Just as he was about to return fire, pain washed over him. Blue arcs of energy criss-crossed over him, and he realised he’d wasted all his energy. He leaped into the air and returned to beast mode. The pain and sparks left, and without hesitation he flew away, leaving a damaged K-9 cursing at him from a distance. ***** Razorclaw scuttled back and fourth, or rather side-to-side, impatiently. He looked up to the sky, then to the tree line, awaiting his comrades. “Come on,” He said. “What’s taking, I say holding everyone up?” He clicked his claws together impatiently. Finally Lazorbeak came into view and landed, panting. “We got trouble,” He said. “Trouble with a capital ‘M.’” Lazorbeak limped over to a rock and sat down. “Maximals?” Razorclaw said. “Maximal.” Lazorbeak corrected. “It’s that same beat-cop that tried to bust us that night at the bar.” “I say, I say,” Razorclaw said. “that is mighty unexpected. Shouldn’t be too much fuss, I say trouble to take him out.” “I don’t know,” Lazorbeak said. “Something about this guy has me worried. The Maximals wouldn’t send one guy out to bring the five of us in.” Lazorbeak looked out into the distance. “This guy’s got a vendetta against you and me.” Lazorbeak spotted a black mass approaching. It quickly revealed itself to be Sky-Byte, rocketing towards them. The shark stopped and hovered in mid-air above them. “What ho, fellows!” He shouted. “I have answered your call!” “Where’s the others?” Lazorbeak asked. “They’re on their way,” Sky-Byte twirled around. “I came ahead to see what was the problem.” “A Maximal followed us,” Razorclaw said. “We can’t, I say we have to deal with him.” “Child’s play!” Sky-Byte scoffed. “I will defeat him myself!” Razorclaw held up a claw to stop Sky-Byte. “No,” He said. “We take him together, I say all together.” Lazorbeak twitched nervously. The battle was waged, and now it was their turn to strike. Near the tree line there was a rustling in the bushes, and for a moment Lazorbeak thought K-9 ahd caught up, but it was Volfang running towards them. Insecticon buzzed through the air behind him. The five joined. “We were followed.” Volfang said, as if he knew the whole story already. Lazorbeak fidgeted and looked towards him. “Yeah, one…” He said. “A cop from Cybertropolis.” He looked paranoid into the air, anxiety overtaking him. Razorclaw picked up on his friend’s anxious behaviour. “Then let’s, I say lets not waste time.” Razorclaw said. “We better, I say we better fortify this place outright. He’ll be wanting us and our ship to get off this rock.” “I’m not so sure…” Lazorbeak mumbled. “What say you, Lazorbeak?” Sky-Byte asked. “Nothing.” Lazorbeak shook his head clear. “Let’s hurry.” Everyone nodded and got to work. They worked until the late hours. The cruiser’s guns were re-aligned so as to fire into the foliage better. They removed all driftwood, rocks, any cover along the beach and dug trenches near the ship to hide in. It took hours, but just as the sun was setting and everything became a sea of orange and black, they were ready. K-9 would surely attack at night, using the darkness and shadows to his advantage. The single moon in the sky replaced orange with blue, and night fell. All five Predacons still lay in their hiding spots, motionless save Lazorbeak’s eager twitching and stirring. Insecticon and Razorclaw had two of the ship guns, Sky-Byte lay half buried. Apparently he could shoot rockets out of his mouth in his new shark body, which Lazorbeak had no choice but to take in stride. Flying rocket-spitting sharks could hardly be a bad thing, after all. Lazorbeak gently stretched his wings as he watched the moon ever slowly drift by. Razorclaw tapped his six feet in a rhythm behind his gun control. Insecticon clicked his pincers. Even Volfang shifted or scratched himself impatiently. The wait was killing them. Lazorbeak thought. Was this his plan? Bore them to death? Or maybe they were wrong and he was trying to contact the forces on the other side, or salvage parts for a transmitter from his wrecked ship? Lazorbeak couldn’t take it anymore. ‘”I can’t take this anymore!” He shouted, flapping his wings frantically. “I gotta do something or I’ll short circuit! I’m going in!” He took off and flew over to the trees. “Not alone, you aren’t!” Insecticon opened his elytra and hovered off after Lazorbeak. Razorclaw began to scuttle after them, but Volfang held up a paw. “No,” He said. “Let them flush the Maximal out, and we’ll take him out.” Razorclaw shook his body to nod. “You get that, I say you copy, fellas?” He said over the comm. “Loud and clear.” Lazorbeak responded. He and Insecticon flew towards the trees and entered the brush. From the ship, Razorclaw saw his friends disappear into the jungle, then a few seconds of silence, followed by rustling, then weapon fire. A tree toppled over, and then… silence. ***** Lazorbeak and Insecticon entered the trees and landed. Flying was pointless in the dense jungle, and they‘d never spot him from above. They looked around. Lazorbeak snapped his fingers towards a stone. Something furry moved behind it. Insecticon nodded and scampered over and slowed as he approached. He crawled up to the stone. Behind him Lazorbeak quietly transformed to robot mode and readied his pistol. Insecticon was just about to peer over when a monstrous, brown-haired behemoth stood up. Long claws extended from the end of it’s paws, it’s short snout opened to reveal long, sharp fangs. The beady eyes on it’s round head squinted as it stared them down. “Bear!” Insecticon screamed and dived away. Lazorbeak stepped back from the monster that bellowed at them. He aimed his pistol at the creature, but it lunged at him and with one powerful swipe knocked him aside. Insecticon jumped onto it’s back, wrapping all six legs around the bear, but the animal shook him off easily. The beetle landed on his skinny legs and turned to face the creature. “Insecticon,” He said. “Terrorize!” The blue stag beetle folded up, it six limbs mounted to lanky robotic arms. Legs unfolded from the underside, and the body broke in half to reveal a demonic, red-eyed face with a mouth full of fangs. The elytra on his back spread open and two small bars flung over his shoulders. He caught them and combined them together, and they unfolded into a plasma crossbow. He took aim and fired at a tree behind the bear. It roared and ran off. “Freaking bears!” Lazorbeak said as Insecticon helped him up. “Nice robot mode, by the way.” “Thanks,” Insecticon said. “Shame the face is still messed up.” Lazorbeak chuckled. “Guess that makes us even?” Insecticon said. Lazorbeak’s smile diminished. He turned away. “So you think it’s that easy?” Lazorbeak said. “No, I just…” Insecticon was about to continue, but stopped. “You know what? No, I’m done trying to make you forgive me for something that wasn’t even my fault.” “Not your fault?” Lazorbeak scoffed and turned to Insecticon. “You tried to turn me in!” “I wasn’t…” Insecticon began, but a rustling behind them caught both their attentions. “Maximize!” A voice cried out. K-9 leaped out of the darkness and kicked Insecticon in the back. He fell forward into Lazorbeak who pushed him aside and took aim at K-9. K-9 dived out of the way, ran up a tree and back flipped over Lazorbeak, who all the while fired frantically trying to hit the Maximal. Before the purple Predacon could turn around, K-9 had him in a headlock. A dazed Insecticon got to his feet and shot K-9 in the shoulder and he released. K-9 dropped down and swept Insecticon’s legs out from under him with his own, and with one powerful punch knocked the bug backward into a rock. K-9 then pulled his cannon and picked up Insecticon, using him as a shield. “Surrender, Predacon!” K-9 barked. He planted the barrel of his cannon at Insecticon’s head. Lazorbeak stood and scowled. Insecticon’s big red eyes pleaded with his fellow Predacon. Lazorbeak’s glare shifted from Insecticon to K-9. “Or else?” “Or else,” K-9 said. “Your friend goes to the pit! Now call your troops into the jungle, have them leave their arms and surrender.” Lazorbeak laughed. “My friend? My troops?” He said. “Dude, you expect way to much of me. Go ‘head and kill ‘em.” Insecticon’s eyes widened, as did K-9’s. “What?” he said. “Kill him if you want.” Lazorbeak said. “Means we only need to split the profit four ways.” K-9 scowled, he ground his teeth, then angrily pistol-whipped Inspection to the ground. Lazorbeak quick-drew his pistol and fired, but K-9 drew his shield and blocked the shots. He fired at Lazorbeak, blasting a tree beside him into splinters and causing him to shelter himself. “This isn’t over, Predacon scum!” K-9 spat. “Beast Mode!” K-9 did a back flip as he transformed, landing on all fours, he snarled and dove into the jungle. Insecticon stood up groggily and shook his head. “How’d you know he wouldn’t shoot?” He asked. Lazorbeak shrugged. “I didn’t.” He transformed and flew off towards the ship. Insecticon looked down, wondering if that was just him exaggerating, then transformed and scampered after him. ***** Razorclaw and Volfang patrolled the jungle. K-9 couldn’t take both Lazorbeak and Insecticon, so it seemed safe to travel in pairs. While all the mining equipment had been recalled and put to good work stockpiling energon, the piece of their engines the two plus Sky-Byte had been trying to recover earlier before K-9 interrupted. The two entered a clearing that led to a shear cliff. In the distance Volfang saw overcast where raging storms had been, and the green stretched on longer than before. The planet was slowly healing. He felt strangely at peace. Sometimes he wondered… “What if we never left?” He said. Razorclaw scuttle around to face him. “Left what?” Razorclaw said. “Cybertron?” “No, here. What if we never leave, what if we stayed?” “Now that’s just, I say just plain crazy talk. We have ourselves, I say amongst us a golden opportunity. We could live like, I say like royalty! You’d give that up for some dirt and trees?” Volfang thought a moment, then came back. “No, I wouldn’t.” He said. “You taught me better.” “Damn right, I say right I did!” Razorclaw bounced. “You literally cost me an arm and a leg! Though we were able to find the leg, Ha!” Razorclaw laughed, but Volfang, perhaps because of his new animal features, or because he merely wanted to, showed actual emotion for an instant. “I’m sorry…” He said. Razorclaw waved his pincers in front of him. “No no!” He said. “I’m sorry, boy I didn’t mean it, it’s just…” Razorclaw steeled himself. “Ah, forget it. We gonna talk about our feelings some more like some prissy boys or are we gonna get off this planet?” Volfang smiled and shook his head. “Thank you for finally reminding me why I ever liked you, old timer.” He said. Razorclaw attempted what could be described as crossing his arms. “Now hold, I say hold on just a minute,” He said. “I ain’t that old, ya hear?” Razorclaw looked at Volfang, who was suddenly alert. “We’re being watched.” He said, twitching his ears, searching for a noise that didn’t fit. His eyes darted, looking for something out of place. “You go on, I’ll catch up.” Volfang gave a slight tilt of his head. Razorclaw understood. He scuttled down the cliff face. Volfang looked around once more then slid down after him. The cliff was very steep, but the fastest way down. He didn’t so much slide as fall with his paws touching the side. Eventually it angled up some and he was able to slow down enough to jump and land at the bottom. It was sandy, shells and other aquatic remnants. This whole area was under water not long ago, but has recently been drained. Trees and ferns encroached on the canyon. There have been weather an tidal anomalies ever since they got here. Insecticon had surmised it was caused in part by the quantum surge, but said there must’ve been a huge lunar anomaly to effect the planet so drastically. Whatever it was, Volfang just hoped it didn’t go away and flood the canyon while they were still in it. Volfang looked around. Razorclaw was nowhere to be found. Something was not right. He heard a whizzing noise behind him. “Volfang,” He said. “Terrorize!” He twisted and turned inside out. Dull brown fur replaced by glistening red and gold metal. He went from four legs to two, and in one motion drew his shield and turned, dropping down on one knee. The missile was barely deflected, it spun in the air and landed, detonating and sending sand and shells raining down on Volfang. He didn’t flinch. From above landed a white, blue and black robot in front of him. They stared each other down. Volfang’s blue eyes locked onto his attacker’s. The white robot flipped down a yellow mask, red eyes flaring to life. Volfang frowned, and likewise donned his own drop-down battle mask. His face was covered by a blue-silver, and bright white eyes burned. Volfang drew his cannon, and the other robot drew it’s own shield. Both crouched to one knee, poised to strike, they were motionless. A gust of wind kicked up sand and leaves. The sun bore down on them. Ripples of heat appeared over they’re robotic components. They each tightened the grip on their weapons. Volfang moved a millimetre, and his foe launched himself at him. Volfang likewise charged. ***** K-9 jumped from the ground as he ran, then performed a flying kick. Volfang ducked, but K-9 turned in the air and delivered a boot to the back of Volfang’s head. Volfang staggered, but recovered. An anchor-shaped missile popped out of his back and in one swipe of his arm he loaded it into his cannon and fired. K-9 dodged and fired his own, similarly-shaped missile. Volfang leaned back, the projectile flying just an inch above him. They stared past each other, watching their own missiles arcing through the air like boomerangs. They then caught each other’s gaze and simultaneously turned on their heels to shoot the spinning ballistic out of the air. Volfang back flipped, K-9 laid back and pushed against the ground, sliding across the sandy terrain. They paralleled one another and fired. Each scoring hits. K-9was pushed into the soft sand, Volfang sent spinning in the air. He landed on one knee, sparking and clutching his chest. K-9 rolled over and spun around, likewise damaged. They aimed at each other, but K-9 was just a moment faster. He fired and knocked Volfang’s cannon away before he could get a shot off. K-9 was about to fire again, but the sand beside him blasted away. A giant claw emerged from the dust storm and grabbed him around his waist. K-9 screamed in pain, then elbowed the claw as hard as he could. It released him, and he rolled to safety. As he righted himself, the sand kicked up again. Razorclaw stood as high as he could on his six legs, claws snapping. “Razorclaw,” He yelled. “I say Terrorize!” His shell segmented, unfolded, and he leaped into the air, flipping over and landing on two legs. Orange armour offset his deep blue carapace. His right arm was one massive claw. He raised his left arm, which was a smaller claw. It popped open and a gun barrel slid out. He fired at K-9, who raised his shield to block it. K-9 fired at Razorclaw, who turned to protect himself. The blast pinged off his armour, but when he turned around K-9 was gone. Razorclaw glowered, then turned to held Volfang up. He outstretched his small claw, and Volfang grabbed it, Razorclaw pulling him up. “For a second I thought you abandoned me.” Volfang said. Razorclaw patted Volfang on the arm. “Never.” They transformed. “I think he’s testing us.” Volfang said. “How?” Razorclaw asked. “He’s seeing how we fight, what our weaknesses and strengths are.” Volfang wondered. He felt restrained. Like he didn’t want to destroy me outright. He knows what we are...” Volfang looked at Razorclaw. “Now he knows who we are. “Mighty inconvenient.” Razorclaw said. Just then a rumbling came from the distance. A blue light streaked down from the sky. And landed somewhere beyond the horizon. “What in the pit!?” Razorclaw gasped. “Something’s happening…” Volfang’s optical scope engaged, and he studied the electric blue beam. “That’s not a Cybertronian signal.” He said. “We better get back to base.” _____ Back at the cruiser, Lazorbeak paced in beast mode. He waited for Volfang and Razorclaw. He was about to raise them on the comm. When they both came out of the trees. They ran up to him. “That signal.” Lazorbeak said. The blue beam was still there. Insecticon buzzed down to them. “Think it’s the other Transformers on the planet?” “I don’t think so.” Volfang said. “That’s not Cybertronian.” Above them, Sky-Byte poked his head out of a hatch on the cruiser’s hull. “Long range quantum scanners are working!” He shouted. They all rushed inside. Once assembled on the bridge, they all gathered by the scanning console. Most of the ship was fixed already, so if they had to they could leave that day. If they had to. Insecticon typed in different frequencies. “I don’t believe it,” He said. “There’s no match to any known frequency.” “Is the system corrupted?” Lazorbeak said. “No, it’s working fine, and this ship was just refitted when we stole it. That includes up to date signal and energy wave frequency logs, this…” Insecticon turned to face them. “is a completely alien frequency.” Everyone looked aghast amongst themselves. Aliens? None of them remembered the last time that word was used in proper context in their society. As they all muttered the possible ramifications, the signal stopped. “Absurd!” Sky-byte declared. “A signal of such strength ceasing so quickly!” “This is weird…” Lazorbeak stated. “You, you guys don’t think the other guys triggered this?” “I don’t think we should wait around to find out.” Insecticon said. ***** Much to the dismay of Lazorbeak, who believed they weren’t finished until the planet had been picked clean of all energon, the Predacons had decided to leave Earth to it’s devices. They had amassed huge of energon, both in it’s liquid energy state for consumption and power, but many crystal samples for dealing and mementos. They got what they want, and now they were leaving. Sticking around was what got you busted. Lazorbeak knew that. As they finished preparations for flight, everything was go. They used parts from the now defunct mining robots to replace the missing piece of the engine, much to Sky-Byte’s irritation. To him leaving a part of his ship behind was the same as leaving a friend behind, but when the others reminded him about the growing danger he decided the engines looked better this way. “Transwarp cells are good to go.” Insecticon said. “Hull integrity at eighty-nine percent. Good enough to get through the atmosphere.” “Return coordinates are standing by, I say getting’ cold now, “ Razorclaw said. “So lets get a move on!” “Y’know,” Lazorbeak said, kicking his feet up over the weapons console. “If we can’t go back to Cybertropolis, what with us probably topping their most-wanted charts, we could always buy some northern city-state.” “We could call it Insectopolis!” Insecticon joked. Sky-Byte hovered up from his chair, the steering wheel rising up from the floor. “All systems are go, we begin our voyage home…” Sky-Byte said in tune. “To grandeur we sail!” He placed his fins on the wheel. The engines hummed to life, the ship moaned and creaked. “She lives!” Lazorbeak through up his hands. The cruiser slowly pulled itself out of the sand and water, mud and moister dripped from the nose. The engines scorched the ground, kicking up dust and rocks. It slowly accelerated up. “Hull breach,” Insecticon said. “Nothing major, just a loose hatch on the lower decks. Sealing now.” “And yet it’s still smoother than our last takeoff.” Volfang said. He looked out the view screen, Lazorbeak caught his glance. “Everybody wave goodbye to Earth, now.” He mockingly waved. “Bye, Earth!” Volfang shrugged him off. Lazorbeak chuckled. “Entering sub-orbital burn.” Insecticon reported. The ship rumbled. “More hull breaches. Top decks this time.” “Are we good?” Lazorbeak sat properly, suddenly worried. “We should be,” Insecticon said. “They’ve stopped, and we’re out in the, two…” The rumbling ceased, and the view screens showed nothing but stars. “One,” Insecticon said. “We have officially left the planet.” “Excellent work!” Sky-Byte said. “Gentlemen, engaging transwarp drive.” The space outside turned white, and even with the gravity controls everyone felt a sense of weightlessness, then the view screen darkened. Hanging in the center, a shimmering silver ball. Cybertron. “We made it!” Lazorbeak sighed. Insecticon and Razorclaw cheered. Volfang’s shoulders dropped, a sign of relief. Sky-Byte hovered still, his toothy mouth in a grin. They had done it. It was all easy-living from now on. They moved toward the planet, the sun sank behind it, and the lights of the millions of cities traced lines and patterns across it. “Now,” Lazorbeak said. “We start living!” Everyone smiled. They could have anything they wanted now, and it was all thanks to some dude named Megatron for coming up with the idea. But where he failed, they had succeeded. “Congratulations.” A voice from behind them said. Standing in the bulkhead to the bridge was a damaged, sparking, and very upset K-9. ***** K-9 fired at Lazorbeak. The Predacon dodged just as his console exploded. They all jumped at K-9, save Sky-Byte who continued carefully piloting the damaged vessel towards the planet. Razorclaw opened his right claw and un folded three long spikes. He grabbed at Volfang, who kicked him aside. Lazorbeak fired his laser, but K-9 was quick to raise his shield. Razorclaw recovered and fired his paralysing cannon at K-9, who dodged, the blast hitting Insecticon instead. K-9 then roundhouse kicked Razorclaw in the head. Volfang ran up the side of the bulkhead, pushed off the ceiling in an attempt to tackle K-9, who fell back onto his hands, grabbed Volfang’s head between his legs and attempted to slam him into the floor in one move, but Volfang flipped over and fell elbow-first into K-9’s stomach. K-9 wheezed. Lazorbeak dived over Volfang, pistol aimed at K-9’s head, but K-9 moved too quickly. He tucked in his legs and kneed Volfang off and into the line of fire. K-9 pushed Volfang up with both legs, slamming both he and Lazorbeak against the ceiling. Razorclaw got up and transformed to crab mode, grabbing K-9 by the legs with his larger claw and threw him onto the bridge. Insecticon, who had recovered from the paralyzing blast, jumped-kicked K-9 as the flew towards him. The Maximal lay damaged and exhausted on the deck, sparks flying from his chest and legs. Lazorbeak and Volfang walked over, the former rubbing his back, the latter his midsection. “Hold him.” Lazorbeak said. Volfang and Insecticon grabbed K-9’s arms and held him restrained. He came-to and started writhing, but their hold was too strong. Lazorbeak tilted his head side to side to loosen his neck. He cracked his knuckles. He drew back and punched K-9 with all his might in his gut. Then began a relentless assault of punches and knee-kicks to the stomach. Lazorbeak grabbed K-9’s elongated chin with his left hand and held up his head. He then punched K-9 in the face as hard as he could with his right. He grabbed K-9’s head again, and was about to deliver another brutal punch when the ship rumbled and groaned. ‘Hey!” Lazorbeak turned and shouted to Sky-Byte, who frantically steered the ship. “I’m trying to-” K-9 jumped and kicked Lazorbeak with both feet hard in the back. He flung Insecticon off, and punched Volfang in the neck. He staggered back, and K-9 punched him in the gut. A flash of light and sparks hit K-9, and he dropped to the deck, motionless. Razorclaw stood, paralysing cannon smoking. “That is one, I say one damn determined Maximal.” He said. The ship rocked again. “We’re under fire!” Sky-Byte said. Razorclaw turned to him. “By who?” “Cybertron’s orbital defence system,” He said. Plasma bolts streaked by the ship. “We’re being targeted.” Lazorbeak stood up, aching. “They must’ve programmed our ship’s signature into the system.” Lazorbeak got to weapons, but saw that it was smoking and broken. He grabbed a piece and threw it angrily at the paralysed K-9. The shipped rocked again. “If we get hit,” Insecticon said. “The energon will detonate!” He sat down at his station, Volfang and Razorclaw manned theirs. The fire didn’t relent. The ship groaned and shuddered. “Shields are up, I say and running, but not for long.” Razorclaw said. A creaking and loud thump reverberated throughout the cruiser. “And there go our engines…” Insecticon said. “We’re not scrap yet!” Sky-Byte shouted, he spun the wheel. Manoeuvring thrusters ignited along the bottom of the hull. The ship lurched into a spiral. Yellow blasts streaked by, the ship corkscrewed through the fire. The ship barrelled past the defence perimeter, the small orbital guns doing their best to track the ballistic mass. Sky-Byte’s fins clasped around the steering wheel tighter. He struggle with all his might to get the ship out of the spiral, but his efforts were in vain. They survived the defence grid, only to crash into the planet below. ***** From Cybertron streets the night sky was clear. Stars twinkled and the moon lit the planet in a blue glow. Then there was a light. A small, yellow streak which erupted into a fireball, rocketing uncontrollably towards Cybertron. Inside, Sky-byte struggled to turn the wheel to correct their flight. He gritted his teeth and placed his rear fin on the floor for support. Lazorbeak ran up to help him move the steering wheel. The ship wobbled, but it was no good. It clipped skyscrapers, knocking off their antenna and ducts. The ship lowered below building, obliterating chunks of Cybertronian architecture, street signs and billboards. It scraped along the freeway below. Everyone inside held on for dear life. Sky-Byte screamed angrily as he tried to halt the ship. He and Lazorbeak pulled back on the emergency brake with all their might. It snapped free and they fell backward into the captain’s chair. The ship bounced off the freeway and into a park. It slid sideways, utterly demolishing half a neighbourhood, but still it slid, until finally it stopped on a highway, miles from where it first made landfall. There was a scorched cater filled with debris and flame across the district. The cruiser was on fire, damaged beyond repair, sparking, creaking, debris falling from it’s hull. Lazorbeak stirred, he slowly opened his eyes. He lay face down in an open area, fire and scrap surrounded him. He slowly stood up, his legs were severely damaged. He fell, then transformed to beats mode. He was able to stand up fine, now, and his beast mode would effect internal repairs. He shook his elongated head and scanned around. He was outside, away from the cruiser, which lay burning behind him. The bridge must have been compromised. He was ejected out onto the highway. He looked around for his fellows. Nowhere in sight. Before he could even move from where he had landed, floodlights blinded him. He shielded his eyes with his wings. A deep, mechanical hum assaulted his ears from above, jets kicked up air around him. A massive, triangular ship hovered above. Lazorbeak tried to fly but he couldn’t. Pain lanced up his back, so instead he ran. Difficult in a body purely designed for flight, but he had no choice. The ship slowly gave chase. Lazorbeak gave up running. As painful as it was, he transformed and drew his pistol and fired once at the machine. His hot hit, and a puff of fire jetted out from it’s side. It wailed. A Maximal? Lazorbeak didn’t know they came so big, until he realised it wasn’t a wail, but a signal. Off in the distance he heard thrusters. As he slowly turned towards the noise, a phalanx of sleek blue jets accelerated towards him. They had long nose cones, flat, curved reverse-delta shaped wings and left long blue exhaust trails. They all moved as one, incredibly precise, and jetting right for Lazorbeak. Lazorbeak cursed and transformed, taking off. It hurt like nothing he’d ever experienced, but he wasn’t going to let the Maximals take him in. He could fly circles around anyone. He barrelled towards the cityscape. From behind him came a flash of light so bright it made his eyes hurt even though he faced away, then came a deafening boom, followed by a powerful shockwave. The energon had exploded. All that work, all that time, for nothing. He’d make the Maximals pay, but first he had to loose the jets that still chased him despite their proximity to the explosion. He swooped towards two buildings connected by a lattice of bridges and beams. He glided, corkscrewed and dived nimbly through the tight channels. The jets did so as well, but one by one clipped or flew straight into a bridge or beam, until only one left. Lazorbeak swooped down to one bridge and flew inside, hoping to loose the jet in the tunnels. As he flew in he noticed it was blocked of. He transformed and screeched to a halt on the floor, he turned to leave but the jet swooped down and transformed. It was an unorthodox design. It had two large, bulbous arms and no legs, instead having a large protrusion like a spider’s abdomen. The wings were straight and sharp now, mounted on the back. It’s head was long and featureless, save a visor with two squinting eyes. Definitely not a Maximal, but not a Predacon either. It angled it’s arms forward, small barrels sliding our from the shoulders. It was about to fire when a noise filled the night. A high-pitched howling. On the building behind them a silhouette of a wolf sat. The jet Transformer turned to see it, and Lazorbeak wasted no time. He tackled the jet, drew his pistol and shot it point-blank in the head. It twitched and died. From above leaped down a brown and white wolf. He was covered in soot and ash. “Welcome back.” Volfang said. He transformed and helped Lazorbeak to his feet. “Thanks for the distraction.” Lazorbeak said. “This psycho nearly had me.” Volfang looked grim. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but you may want to come see this.” He said. Volfang turned back towards the building he’d come from, and two turned and ran across the bridge towards it. After a few flights of stairs they emerged on the roof. Lazorbeak stared at the city below, mouth agape. The city was fine, but there was something missing. Movement. People, vehicles, ships, all gone. The it was a ghost town, save the two of them now. ***** Lazorbeak and Volfang walked down the streets of Cybertron. It was bizarre. The lights and neon that ran up and down building and roads was still lit, and save the swath of destruction behind them, untouched. They turned into a plaza, the automatic doors slide open. The city was still perfectly functional, there was just nobody there. It’s as if everyone just left. The two had pondered the idea of an evacuation, but if teat was true who were the jets that chased them? More importantly, where were the others? Volfang had come too far away from the ship, and was chased almost immediately as well. “Let’s assume everyone survived,” Lazorbeak said, hoping up into a chair and letting his short hind legs dangle. “Where could they be?” “Razorclaw would head for one of your old hideouts,” Volfang said. “That was always our fallback.” “We’ll check there,” Lazorbeak said. “Then Insecticon’s probably in hiding, too. I don’t really know where Sky-Byte would go.” “What about the Maximal?” Volfang said. “I hope he fried.” Lazorbeak said. “We have enough problems without that nut chasing us.” A low rumbling came from outside. The two scurried over two a window, peering over. They saw nothing directly outside, so they stepped out to look around. The rumbling persisted, and got louder, then off in the distance they saw lights. Lazorbeak used his optical enhancer to zoom in. Lights flickered, then grew. “Tanks!” He shouted. The two bolted away from the plaza just as the energy bolts struck. They ran and flew down the highway, the tanks following. Lazorbeak looked over his shoulder. At least seven. They were flat and broad, large cannons were affixed to their right side, next to a long, rectangular head, a glowing red light rolling back and fourth across the front. They gained on them. The leading tank’s cannon discharged and energy rained down on them. Lazorbeak twirled and flipped to avoid them, Volfang zigzagging below. Lazorbeak rolled and transformed midair. He turned and fired his pistol at the tanks, the shots deflecting off their thick armour. “It’s not enough!” Lazorbeak said to Volfang, returning to beast mode. “Give me a lift!” Volfang said, Lazorbeak swooped down to above him. Volfang jumped into the air, Transformed, and landed upside down and backwards with his legs wrapped around Lazorbeak’s neck. Lazorbeak struggled to stay airborne, while Volfang drew his cannon and took aim. He fired, and the first tank buckled, but relented. He drew a missile from his back, but the tank was faster, and blasted before he could load it. Lazorbeak dodged, but in doing so caused Volfang to drop his missile. Two more tanks drove up to flank the leader, and all three took aim, their barrels rotating as they charged their cannons. Volfang fired again, but it was no good, as they prepared to fire, explosions echoed behind them. The two tanks in the rear caught fire and swerved off the road, then two more. From underneath the smoke the road cracked and broke, a blue fin tearing through the road. It shot forward, slicing the leading tank underneath and causing it to explode, knocking the other two off kilter. Their shots fired but missed. The fin streaked up the road. The highway exploded, out of the smoke and rubble a giant shark appeared. It opened it’s razor-filled maw, and two missiles streaked out, passing Lazorbeak and Volfang and obliterating the two remaining tanks. Volfang dropped from Lazorbeak, landing on his feet. Lazorbeak hovered down and Transformed. The shark descended. “Sky-Byte,” Lazorbeak said. “I’ve never been so happy to see a mutant fish in my life!” “Sky-Byte, Terrorize!” He flipped, panels exploding outward, shifting, flipping. His entire body unfolded them compressed, and what stood was a massive blue, white and yellow half-organic, half-robotic patchwork titan. He was lean, with a broad torso, massive shoulder plates, and his left arm was what looked like a gigantic four-pronged inverted anchor. His grinning visage remained, albeit now his teeth were fangs, and his asymmetric eyes burned a bright orange. Lazorbeak let out a low whistle. “Fancy,” Lazorbeak said. “Also, nice job on the tanks. Any idea exactly what is going on?” “I have my suspicions.” Sky-Byte said. “After we crashed I searched the wreckage for you all. They came, the large ships, and attempted to collect me.” “Collect?” Volfang said. “Yes,” Sky-Byte said. “I saw inside them, how they work, their purpose. They were carrying people.” Sky-Byte looked away. “And Lazorbeak…” He put his hand on Lazorbeak’s shoulder. “They got Insecticon…” Sky-Byte locked eyes with him. “And Razorclaw.” ***** Lazorbeak wasted no time. Together the three of them formulated a way to board the ship that had taken Razorclaw and Insecticon, but they needed to get them close. So they did what came natural to them. They wrecked stuff. An explosion rocked the city as a skyscraper tipped over and hit the ground. Their plan was to have Sky-Byte distract the jets and tanks while Volfang got the collector’s attention. Lazorbeak would then find a way inside and free Razorclaw and Insecticon as well as any other Maximals or Predacons that were inside. The first phase was well underway, as jets swarmed the area. Sky-Byte used his flying shark mode to goad them into chasing him. The large ship hadn’t shown up yet, so Lazorbeak hid in an office building while Volfang pretended to be injured on the streets below. He lay still in beast mode, waiting, until finally it showed. It was massive, roughly triangular with floodlights and large, cylindrical engines in the sides. It lowered, and long, spindly arms stretched out towards Volfang. Lazorbeak leaped into action, jumping onto it. He drew his pistol and started cutting through. Below, Volfang transformed and grappled with the arm, resisting it’s grip. Lazorbeak knew his time was short, and once he finished cutting he kicked the panel inward. He dropped down and expected resistance, but there was no one. He moved towards the front, but there was a window, but no driver or controls. It was a drone. Those jets and tanks were probably drones, too. He pushed the thought aside and checked the compartment. There were rows of racks, each held pods dangling from them. Most of the racks were empty, until he here a mumbling. Lazorbeak ran to the back and sure enough, two of the pods moved. He gripped the seam and torn it open, and out fell an orange and blue robot. “Razorclaw!” Lazorbeak said. He helped him up. Razorclaw shook himself out of it and looked Lazorbeak up and down. “You’re alive!” He said. “It’s good to see you, old man.” “I ain’t, I say I ain’t that old yet.” Razorclaw nodded to the other pod that stirred. He opened his large claw and three blades unfurled. He sliced the pod open, and Insecticon jumped out. “Thank the mighty!” Insecticon breathed. “I think I’m a claustrophobic now!” “Volfang’s holding this thing off.” Lazorbeak said. “We gotta move.” The three jumped through the hole Lazorbeak made and jumped down to the ground. Volfang still struggling with all his strength not to get captured. “We’re good!” Lazorbeak yelled to him, pointing to Razorclaw and Insecticon. Volfang nodded, then swiftly grabbed the armatures with his left arm, pulled his cannon with his right and fired at the point of origin on the ship. The mechanical arms dropped down, and the ship wailed and smoked. Volfang holstered his cannon. “I know that noise…” Lazorbeak said with a sinking feeling as he listened to the wail. A light buzzing filled the air, then off in the distance he spotted lights. “More tanks?’ Volfang said. Lazorbeak zoomed in on the distance. “Looks like,” He said. “Bikes?” “Bikes?” Razorclaw said. Just as he did dozens of maroon-purple motorcycles barrelled own the street in droves. “Move!” Lazorbeak shouted. The four turned and ran, but the bikes sped towards them to fast. Razorclaw motioned to Insecticon and Lazorbeak. “Go! You two can fly, I say out of here!” “No chance.” Lazorbeak huffed. As they ran he looked to Insecticon who nodded. They both transformed and took flight. Lazorbeak picked up Razorclaw while Insecticon grabbed Volfang by the shoulders. The cycles were gaining, but Lazorbeak wasn’t running. Far from it. ***** Lazorbeak Looked down to Razorclaw. He looked back, and nodded. Lazorbeak back flipped mid-air, winging Razorclaw over and launching him at the incoming cycle drones. He twirled and was poised to land on one. He outstretched his claw and aught one of the leading cycles. He flipped over the back and hit the highway, kicking up sparks as his carapace was dragged across the steel road. The cycle wobbled, trying to keep control. Razorclaw was able to get on though, and mounted it as if it were a real vehicle, but when he searched for handle bars, there was only a flat, oval head with drafting fins on the side. It’s glowing pink eyes remained fixed on the road ahead, So Razorclaw took the opportunity, grabbed the fins like handles, and steered the bike away. It resisted, but he managed to control it. Behind him Volfang pulled a similar move, standing atop the cycle as if he were surfing with it. He pushed off, and the cycle careened into two of it’s fellows, which exploded and caught two more in their wake. Volfang landed on another bike effortlessly, and positioned it for another attack. The speeds were increasingly dangerous, Lazorbeak and Insecticon struggled to keep pace. They transformed and activated their robot-mode flight systems, which were less manoeuvrable, but faster. A selection of the cycle drones popped wheelies, and from the front wheel axles yellow laser blasts fired. The road was peppered, and Razorclaw and Volfang wobbled on their drones to avoid the fire. The fire ceased, and just when they thought they had dodged danger, the drones they were riding began beeping, then exploded. The two were tossed forward. Razorclaw landed unconscious on the road ahead, Volfang landed on his feet The cycles bore down, and he drew his cannon. He fired multiple bursts, and managed to destroy a good chunk of the incoming bikes, but there were just to many. Lazorbeak and Insecticon landed and fired as well, with similar results. Before they could move, the bikes surrounded them, driving in alternating circles around them. At least two dozen. Razorclaw came to, and the four stood back-to-back in a radial pattern, ready. Every bike stopped, then spun around until it balanced on one wheel. The robots were thin, with long, tubular arms that ended in claws, long, boxy heads and the same dimly-lit glowing eyes. Each one raised and arm, the claws springing open. They charged, firing. The four Predacons fired, kicked, punched, shoved and hammered their way through the swath of unicycle drones. Razorclaw fired with his left claw and smashed with his right. Lazorbeak ducked, dodged and sprayed erratic bursts of fire into the tight clusters of drones. Insecticon judo-chopped and high-kicked the drones, then finished them off with blasts from his crossbow. Volfang used his shield to keep fire off him and his fellows, blasting away with precision shots from his cannon, before long the drones were defeated, and in the center of a circle of destruction stood four battered, but functional, Predacons. From up above a cheery call sounded. Sky-Byte descended and Transformed before them, scorched but intact and smiling. “Excellent!” He patted Razorclaw and Insecticon on the shoulders. “You made it out, well done!” “We’re still no closer to answers.” Lazorbeak said. “But I think I know where to get them-” He was cut off my his arm sparking from damage. “If we make it there.” “By the way, we never got to tell you.” Insecticon threw an arm over Razorclaw’s shoulder. “How we got caught.” “The Energon,” Razorclaw said. “We managed to save, I say rescue a few cubes and a tank before the ship blew.” Razorclaw pointed just north of the yellow glow in the horizon. “We were the only ones who didn’t get tossed out of the bridge. So we acted as quickly, I say as quickly as we could to get the Energon out before it blew and took us all, I say all to hell with it, but we were… distracted.” Lazorbeak smiled, knowing Razorclaw would never admit to being caught. They all transformed and headed as quickly as they could for where Razorclaw and Insecticon had stored the Energon. The way was clear, and they made it to a small workshop garage. “Remember this?” Razorclaw said. It was the workshop they held up in the night they almost got captured. They all transformed, and Razorclaw pushed the door to open the garage. As it creaked open, Razorclaw turned to Lazorbeak. “Oh, and by the way,” He said. “There’s something I outta tell you…” When the door was fully open, sitting in the glow of the energon cubes was K-9, hunched over and staring at the floor. He looked up, one of his green eyes was dimmed from damaged. Lazorbeak was stunned a moment, long enough for K-9 to walk up, draw his arm back, and clobber Lazorbeak so hard he blacked out. “No hard feelings,” K-9 said. “But I, or rather, you needed that.” ***** After refuelling with what Energon they had, the group reassessed. K-9 had, after witnessing the indiscriminate nature of the drones, agreed to join forces with the Predacons, for now. They had decided that if there was one place they could get answers, it was the Maximal Council Citadel in their home city of Cybertropolis. They would travel across the globe to the capital, then once there, use K-9 as leverage to get answers. However getting there was a problem, since above ground travel proved hazardous. It was Sky-Byte who suggested using the abandoned cities and catacombs beneath Cybertron. A few of them were sceptical such places existed, but he was certain and they were out of options. Sky-Byte had led them down a sewer, where they all transformed to beast mode and began the long journey down. “Smells like…” Lazorbeak commented. “ Ugh, everything.” “It all ends up down here.” Insecticon joked. They waded through the dirty water until they reached a dry, elevated pipe entrance. “This way.” Sky-Byte hovered inside. The entrance was small, and he barely fit through, but inside it was large and dark. They walked, scuttled, waddled and hovered down the dark hallway, the light behind them dwindling as they went. After what seemed like and eternity of walking in darkness, they reached the end of the pipe. It connected to another larger, vertical shaft, and they all peered down. Razorclaw let out a low whistle. “Only one way to go from here.” Lazorbeak said. He picked up Razorclaw with his hind feet, Volfang hopped onto Sky-Byte’s back, and Insecticon popped open his elytra and buzzed over to K-9, hoisting him up. They all slowly descended the shaft. After a while they came across a buried underground city. “What is all this?” Insecticon asked. “Remnants of times lost,” Sky-Byte lamented. “Pages turned and forgotten, civilization.” “The old layers of Cybertron’s past society.” Volfang said. “You were right” He patted Sky-Byte with his paw. They went by more and more of the forgotten eras, before settling on one. “This is it.” Sky-Byte said. “This is where I, when I was but a guppy, learned of these smuggling routes. It takes time, but we are sure to evade the watchful eyes of our oppressors.” They flew into the city. What looked like rock and dirt covered the ground. Ruins and debris lay everywhere. Eventually they began to tire. “Are we there yet?” Lazorbeak groaned. “My wings hurt.” “Mine, too.” Insecticon said, rubbing his forehead with a free limb. “Just hold on, my friends.” Sky-Byte wearily said. “We shall be…” He began to wobble in the air. “There… soon…” Sky-Byte dropped out of the air, Volfang yelping as they plummeted. Lazorbeak struggled to stay up, but the shock knocked him off kilter, and he fell, he and Razorclaw flailing about. Insecticon dove after them. They landed, scattered amongst the ruins. After shaking themselves awake, they regrouped, save Sky-Byte and Volfang, dazed and sore, but alive. Lazorbeak spotted Volfang climbing out of a ditch and they met, Sky-Byte lay by a large hole in the wall. “F-found it!” Sky-Byte muttered. K-9 shook his head, then slapped Sky-Byte across the face. He snapped out of it. “Ah, yes,” He said. “This is it. Smaller than I remember, but this leads straight to the lower docks of the Cybertropolis shipyards. They hurried in. The tunnels were like a maze, winding, sloping, confusing and all dark, save for the blinking diodes across Sky-Byte‘s body. The Shark glided through the tunnels with purpose until they reached a dead-end. “Great, now we’re lost.” Lazorbeak said. “Far from it!” Sky-Byte said. He stuck a fin into a crack on the wall and felt around. There was a click, and the wall shivered, then shook violently as it lowered. Lights flickered on, illuminating a cavernous tunnel. Gouges and drag marks on the stone walls and floor told the tale of many vehicles and robots who passed through at one time. Once again, the group continued through the maze, until they reached a much more finished-looking tunnel with supports and braces. ‘This tunnel leads to the shipyard.” Sky-Byte said, and they started down the cavern, until Razorclaw was stopped by a noise. He recognized it, and slowly turned around. Barrelling down the tunnel were more of the motorcycles, but this time they had backup. ***** The cycles raced towards them, but this time they were followed by huge blue-steel drilling tanks. They fired over the cycles, bullets whizzing over the group of beasts. They turned and ran, as big as the tunnel was, there was no room for fighting so many enemies. “Up ahead!” Sky-Byte declared. “A cavern where we can engage!” Lazorbeak and Insecticon picked up Razorclaw and K-9, Volfang jumped onto Sky-Byte and they flew down the tunnel at top speeds. Bullets still assaulting them, they reached the cavern. It was vast and dome-like, with a flat floor and pieces of old, rusted equipment around. The flying Predacons dropped their cargo and landed, Sky-Byte pointing up to the ceiling. “That’s the surface access.” He said, pointing to a seemingly small hole. “But first…” The six of them turned poised to fight. “Terrorize!” The five shouted in unison. “Maximize!” K-9 followed. They all transformed and drew their weapons. The cycles entered the cavern, twelve, followed by two of the boring vehicles. The Predacons, and Maximal, split up and picked their targets. Lazorbeak and Insecticon were first to engage, firing side by side with their weapons to take out the bikes before they transformed. They got two before the others transformed and started firing. Volfang and K-9 stood back to back firing their cannons and blocking incoming fire with their shields. Razorclaw was too slow to hit any of the fast moving drones, and none would come close enough for him to strike with his claw. Frustrated and taking fire, he turned to Sky-Byte who was using his missile launcher to keep the drill tanks at bay. “Ever play, I say dabble in disc wars, son?” He asked. “Those tanks probably haven’t!“ Sky-Byte nodded. Razorclaw jumped and converted to crab mode, and Sky-Byte plucked him out of the air with his anchor claw. Razorclaw tucked in his limbs and braced himself. Sky-Byte, with all his strength, whipped Razorclaw like a boomerang towards the tanks. They tried to adjust to the incoming projectile, but Razorclaw transformed and as he flew by, gouging out chunks of the tanks as he did. They exploded. Sky-Byte then turned his attention to the remaining drones. He waited for the right moment, then fired his anchor at one. It shot out on a cable and caught the cycle, and he then flailed his anchor, drone attached, towards the remaining bike transformers, obliterating them all. He let his anchor slowly retract as the rest walked up. “Badaft.” Insecticon said, patting him on the arm. “No bad, for a Predacon.” K-9 said. “Now let’s get moving, we’re wasting time.“ Lazorbeak scoffed at him. “If we’re going to be working with you, Maximal, there’s gonna be some ground rules.” He said. “First of all, no more smart aleck stuff. Second, we decide what’d done and when, third…” He paused, thinking g. “Well, I’ll wait for you to do something I don’t like before I decide you cant do it.” K-9 frowned, but scanned the angry faces of the Predacons around him, then said nothing. “Now,” Lazorbeak said. “If there’ll be no further interruptions, let’s, uh, let’s get moving.” they all transformed, paired up again and flew towards the ceiling. It was a long ascension, the hole that seemed so small was actually quite large, it just seemed so tiny from below. As they continued upwards Sky-Byte explained how it used to be an elevator shaft that would take contraband from the depths up to ships to be smuggled across systems. As they reached the top they came to a loading ramp. The surface couldn’t be much farther. The exited the ramp, K-9 and Volfang running ahead to scout. They were in a large warehouse. Moonlight poured in from windows in the ceiling. K-9 and Volfang got to the door and Transformed, they poked their heads around the corner and were shocked. K-9 fell to his knees. When the others came up they saw. Cybertron was a graveyard. As far as they could see lay bodies. Corpses slumped over rails, benches and each other. Some lay splayed open, some were scorched, couples lay entwined, some lay up against doors, their last moments spent desperately trying to escape. Hundreds of the triangular ships collected the bodies and flew off. Thousands of jets and tanks patrolled the cityscape. The group were horrified, Insecticon looked away, Volfang balled his fists, K-9 yelled vengefully. There were no longer Maximals or Predacons. Whatever or whoever did this took everyone, regardless of faction. Lazorbeak snapped out of it, and turned to the north. A large, flat circular structure stood out. Spotlights shown upward and slowly bobbed back and fourth. The Council Citadel. ***** They wasted no time. The six headed straight for the Citadel, keeping to the shadows and avoided the swath of drones that swarmed the area. They remained in beast mode, since Insecticon theorized the organic shells that blocked energon radiation would also block the energy signal scanners in place around the Citadel. So far he was correct, since none of the drones seemed to have noticed them. They pulled around a large container and halted. The only way into the Citadel was by a large, open pathway, devoid of any real cover. However it seemed the area was clear, so they took their chances. They all bolted for the door. As they neared it seemed it would be so easy, until the bulkhead opened. Out drove a squad of tank drones. They all lined up and simultaneously transformed into thick, hulking robots, the cannons taking place beside each of their heads, the single red scanner on them weaving back and fourth. This was either a very well-laid trap or extreme coincidence. Whichever, the group had bigger concerns. They transformed and Sky-Byte took point. As the tank robots charged their cannons, he fired his anchor, which dug itself into one of the robot’s thick chest armour. Small thrusters on Sky-Byte’s back ignited and he rocketed to the side, ensnaring another of the tanks. Insecticon and Razorclaw ran towards the other two, firing their weapons. The tanks were large, but slow, and the smaller Predacons easily out manoeuvred them. Lazorbeak, Volfang and K-9 took the opportunity to make a break for the Citadel. They ran inside and down the long, ornate hallway, never breaking stride. As they neared the Elders chamber, a light buzzing sounded. Volfang spun around and dropped to one knee as he drew his cannon and fired on the incoming cycle drones. “Go!” He yelled, flipping down his battle mask. K-9 waved Lazorbeak forward and they ran together to the chamber, Volfang holding the drones at bay. The hall ended in a large metal door. “Now what?” Lazorbeak said. K-9 walked over to a panel on the wall and typed on the touch screen. “I have emergency access to the Council chamber,” He said. “If the computer is still online…” The door thundered and ascended just high enough for them to enter. K-9 looked to Lazorbeak who nodded and drew his pistol. They entered slowly, guns armed, into the darkness. Behind them the massive door closed, shaking the ground. They stood in the pitch black room. In the center a red light winked to life, and dim lights from above illuminated a jigsaw-detailed walkway in front of them. They walked across, bearing down on the red light. As they reached the end they stopped. All seemed quiet, until a blinding light originated from the platform in front of them. Silhouetted in the light was a demonic winged creature. Jagged, torn wings splayed out from it’s back. One arm ended in a clawed hand, the other was long and serpentine, with a beasts face on it. The entities’ face was obscured, only it’s glowing, glaring red eyes were visible. “And who,” It said in a deep, malevolent voice. “Are you?” Lazorbeak and K-9 said nothing, still not understanding anything that was happening. “It does not matter,” The being continued. “Soon Cybertron will be mine, and your meaningless existence will mean nothing.” K-9 saw cables attached to the figure’s head that ran down to the floor. Small, barely visible terminals sat behind him. Through the light K-9 saw monitors with point of view perspectives from the drones fighting their comrades. Was he controlling them? K-9 aimed for the boxes, but the serpent’s head on the being lifted up and fire plumed from it’s mouth, scorching K-9. Lazorbeak went to intercept, but the head swung around and attacked once more, this time spraying ice with encased Lazorbeak. He couldn’t move, the ice was too thick, and his systems were already shutting down from the intense cold. “You will meet the same fate as the rest of Cybertron’s… impurities.” The entity said. From above the ceiling parted, and one of the triangular hunting drones descended. Lazorbeak only remained conscious for a few more moments while he and the burnt K-9 were picked up and stored inside the drone. In his last awake seconds he glimpsed the one who caused this. He was all red, half organic, half technological. His face was dark and harshly defined, and it scowled as Lazorbeak and K-9 were taken away. He recognized him from somewhere, something before they went to Earth. Who was he? Lazorbeak blacked out.. ***** Lazorbeak couldn’t move. It was dark and he felt vertigo. He struggled, but had no freedom to even flinch. His systems were still rebooting, he didn’t even fully comprehend what was going on. He felt the pull of momentum. Wherever he was he was moving, and as his audio receptors cam online, he heard a rumbling. Thrusters, he remembered, he was in the ship. Next to him a muffled voice came through. “Lazorbeak?” It was soft, familiar, yet unwelcome. The Maximal K-9. “Yeah?” Lazorbeak said. “How’re you holding up?” K-9 said. “Oh just fine,” Lazorbeak said. “Aside from the being abducted and restrained parts.” “It’ll take more than being a smartaft to get out of this one.” K-9 continued. Lazorbeak said nothing. He felt a disturbance and a tug forward. They were slowing down. A feeling of weightlessness took over. Decent, wherever these ships took the robots they captured, this was it. They shook, and the feeling of momentum left. He felt pulling and shifting, then a line of light. The pod he had been enclosed in was opening. He squinted, his eyes not adjusting to the harsh light. Next to him K-9 was likewise bound and inside a pod, he too tried not to look at the light. From in front of them a monotone female voice spoke. “Two sparks detected.” A large, rounded scanner rose, a glowing green scanner flickered to life. “Initializing extraction sequence: Omega.” The voice continued. Large four-pronged armatures extended and locked into the pods, raising them both. A small panel in the center of each of their pods opened, exposing their chests. “Preparing to extract sparks.” The voice said. That was enough for Lazorbeak, he struggled violently, K-9 also trying to break free. From inside the armature a cylindrical device appeared, closing in on their chests. Four claws unfolded in a radial arrangement around the end, and an aperture slid open, energy pulsing inside. Lazorbeak panicked, and tried to transform. He couldn’t. He desperately struggled. Beside him K-9 got one of his arms free and tried to stop the extractor. Lazorbeak got an idea. “Catch!” He shouted. Lazorbeak dislodged his pistol form his back. It flew into the air and K-9 caught it, blasting both extractors. He then fired at the sensor, it exploded. “Error:” The female voice said. “Catastrophic malfunction in extraction.” Both arms let go of the two’s pods, they fell and broke up on the floor, freeing Lazorbeak and K-9. “Lock on targets disrupted,” The voice continued. “Scanners disabled: Error.” K-9 tossed Lazorbeak his pistol and drew his own weapon. Together they opened fire on the machine, disabling it. They turned and fled reaching a door. It didn’t open. “Look for a control panel.” K-9 said. Behind them a rolling, scraping sound. A row of containers on a track approached the door they stood at, but what was in them horrified the two. Bodies. Mounds of dead bodies, just tossed into the cart. The door opened and the cart rolled out. Lazorbeak snapped out of it and waved to K-9. He shook his head then nodded. They scurried out before the door closed behind the containers, and before them lay more atrocities. Piles of bodies, they went on for miles. Some were just lazily stacked on the ground, others in bins, yet more on giant shelves. Lazorbeak was aghast. K-9 dropped his cannon, unable to process what he was seeing. Lazorbeak walked over to a body and knelt down before it. He didn’t recognize this person. Whoever they were, they were young, athletic in build. Not somebody who would just fall over and die, that’s when Lazorbeak saw. A hole in the chest. Their sparks. These Transformers weren’t dead, they had their sparks removed. Technically a Transformer’s spark could survive without a living body, for a very brief time. They needed external protection, a container of some kind to sustain it. Someone, some sick monster, was collecting sparks, and using those ships and machines to do it. Then it hit Lazorbeak. “Him…” Lazorbeak said. K-9 almost missed it. He pulled himself away from the horror and knelt next to Lazorbeak, examining the body. “You know this guy?” “Not him.” Lazorbeak gestured to the body in front of him. “The red robot from the Citadel. I’m not sure.” Lazorbeak looked K-9 in the eyes. “But I think that’s Megatron.” ***** “Who’s Megatron?” K-9 didn’t understand. “Megatron was the one who stole the Golden disk…” Lazorbeak said. K-9 held his head. “The one you…” K-9 said, realizing. The robot who’s plan Lazorbeak and Razorclaw stole, had conquered Cybertron and stolen the entire population. K-9 glared at Lazorbeak and grabbed him, throwing him to the ground. “I didn’t know!” Lazorbeak pleaded. “I couldn’t have known! I thought he just wanted energon I swear!” “You could have stopped him!” K-9 yelled, but his posture loosened. He let go of Lazorbeak. “I could have stopped him. We were there. If I hadn’t had been so… petty and vindictive, I could’ve stopped him.” K-9 fell to his knees. Lazorbeak sat up. “We didn’t know,” He said. “You didn’t know, how would you?” Lazorbeak begrudgingly went to put a hand on K-9’s shoulder. He didn’t know how to be nice to Maximals, so he was a little relieved when K-9 shrugged him off. K-9 stood and looked off into the distance. “We can’t be thinking about what-ifs.” Lazorbeak stood and shrugged. “This is the here and now. We-” Fire and debris sent Lazorbeak flying. He landed in a pile of sparkless bodies. K-9 looked in the direction of the blast. Tank drones fired at them, explosions rocked the world around them. K-9 drew his weapons and donned his battle mask. He fired at the nearest tank. His blasts pinged off. He then spotted one of the shelves and fire dat the base. “Sorry guys.” He said under his breathe. The shelf toppled and bodies rained down on the tanks, followed by the crushing force of the shelf itself. They had only delayed them, already some of the tanks managed to drive over the mounds of corpses. K-9 transformed to beats mode and ran over to Lazorbeak, digging him out of the bodies. Lazorbeak pulled himself out. “Come on,” K-9 said. “We have to keep moving!” Lazorbeak climbed onto K-9’s back and the latter took off, the tanks fumbling over the mess they made. He hurried out of the graveyard towards a train station. Buzzing came up behind him. Cycle drones. He ran towards the station. Trains sped back and fourth out of control. K-9 decided to risk it and ran across the tracks. He narrowly avoided the ballistic trains. The cycle drones entered, also avoiding the trains. Once K-9 got out of the station he realized there was no cover, just open space. The drones caught up and transformed, weapons fixed on the dog. Lazorbeak slid off and struggled to rise. K-9 transformed and helped him up. The drones closed in, their lasers charging. One of the drones prepared to fire, but was crushed by a blur, then pulled away. It returned, knocking two other away. “Tally ho, comrades!” Sky-Byte said. He jumped down from an overarching bridge and fired his anchor again, this time snaring two drones. The remaining four turned and fired, Sky-Byte holding them up as shields. From behind K-9 and Lazorbeak Volfang, Razorclaw and Insecticon fired at the four drones. The drones got hit and rolled back, returning fire. The three walked past Lazorbeak and K-9, who drew their weapons and fired as well,. Advancing towards the drones, the cycles backed onto the train tracks. The group stopped firing. Next to the drones came a thundering, and as they turned to look a train ran them down. Razorclaw turned and ran over to help Lazorbeak. They all gathered. Insecticon looked at the damaged Lazorbeak and scorched K-9. “What happened?” He said. “You’d never…” Lazorbeak coughed. “Believe it.” The six sought shelter in a nearby building, they all returned to beast mode to heal as Lazorbeak and K-9 recounted what they saw, and what conclusions they drew. It took a while for everyone to take in what they were just told, but eventually they all came out of it. “I don’t, I say I don’t believe in a higher power,” Razorclaw said. “I believe we all make, I say decide for ourselves our own fates. But If I did, I say I did believe in the divine, I’d say I say it was fate we weren’t here, and fate that brought us, I say brought us back here.” “You’re saying…” Volfang said. “That as the only ones left functional,” Sky-Byte interjected. “It is our duty to save Cybertron and it’s people!” They all approved. Like it or not, they were Cybertron’s only hope. But as they began to plot a course of action, a yellow light from the window tinted the room. From the sky a fireball descended. They rushed outside, and K-9 focused in. His jaw dropped. “An Autobot shuttle…” ***** The shuttle spun and tumbled across the night sky. The five Predacons and their Maximal ally raced along a highway bridge to catch up with it. Autobots could turn the tide if they survived, and while they couldn’t stop the ship from crashing, they could hopefully rescue the crew. Above a squadron of jet drones streaked by, and on the freeways below swarms of tanks moved towards the falling vessel. Lazorbeak flapped his wings faster. They had to get there first. The shuttle was still some way out of view. They had to get their attention. Insecticon flew up beside Lazorbeak, holding Razorclaw. “I say, I say it would appear we have competition.” He drawled. “We distract the jets first.” Lazorbeak said. “Good idea,” K-9 said as he ran below. “The tanks are slow and have the terrain to deal with. Sky-Byte?” The shark nodded and broke off from the group. The panels his fins were attached to extended and flipped over, rocket boosters sliding out from inside his body. His tail fin split into four stabilizers. He accelerated forward, on a collision course for the jets ahead. They flew in a perfect delta formation, there ten total. They moved as one between buildings. Sky-Byte weaved and bobbed past billboards and over antennas, closing in. When he was right above the middle jet in the back of the formation he opened his mouth. Twin rockets extended out and fired. The jet exploded, knocking the two aside. The jets broke formation and scattered. Sky-byte began evading as the jets transformed, fired, and returned to jet form to continue their flight. Two came up behind him. Sky-byte pulled around, backing them up against a building. He transformed, braked and fired his anchor. The two jets dodged and the anchor shot past them harmlessly. He laughed, then grimaced as he pulled with all his effort. The jets spun around just in time to be crushed by the building Sky-Byte had grappled and pulled over. He quickly transformed and took off after the other jets. Seven remained. He readied two more missiles, fired, and two more jets became ballistic masses of scrap. The remaining five transformed and formed a single file line. They dived. Sky-Byte followed. He fired two more missiles. Another jet exploded. They flew at breakneck speeds, then ducked around a building. Sky-Byte was right behind them, but as he rounded the jets hovered in a row and fired. He was peppered with blasts. One of his boosters exploded. He fell. The jets pursued. In freefall Sky-Byte was able to transform and spread himself out in an attempt to slow his fall. the jets closed in for the kill. Sky-byte aimed and fired his anchor, the recoil sent him spinning midair, but the anchor struck. Sky-Byte fed into his spinning, winging the jet around, taking out one of it’s fellows and smashing it into a building before retracting his anchor. The final two jets opened fire. Sky-Byte couldn’t dodge and was hit, chunks of his armour breaking off. He drew his missile launcher and fired both shots at the incoming drones. One was destroyed, but it’s explosion sent the other barrelling towards Sky-byte. They grappled and fought as they plummeted. Sky-Byte reared his anchor back, then stabbed it through the drone’s wide chest. He roared in anger and spun his anchor, shredding the drone into metal shavings. Sky-byte tossed the mess aside and laughed. He continued laughing until everything went black. _______ “No sign of the jets,” K-9 said as they ran across an open spaceport. “Sky-Byte must’ve got them all.” Lazorbeak’s optical zoom didn’t reach as far as K-9’s, so he let him do the spotting. They had outrun the tanks once they hit uneven ground. Even on the metal world of Cybertron their beast modes still proved effective at traversing difficult terrain. However in this flat open surface not only would the tanks soon catch up, they’d spot them. Lazorbeak was worried. Without Sky-byte to back them up they wouldn’t be able to fend off the tanks. “Any sign of fish-face?” Lazorbeak asked. “Nada.” K-9 responded. This was bad, he should be back by now. The flare they chased had gotten bigger and faster as they approached. It was about to land soon. “There she blows!” Razorclaw said. The ship crashed. There was a bright flash, followed by a moment of silence swiftly overtaken by deafening thunder and what felt like an earthquake. The Autobots were home, but in what state. As they neared the crash sit they came up on the trail the ship had left. They all stopped to transform before running down the jagged fire pit. They weren’t near the ship yet, but already signs of life emerged. Lazorbeak and K-9 both saw what appeared to be Maximals exiting. They were odd, though. But most intriguingly was what followed them. It was tall, massive. A multicoloured titan of orange, blue and maroon armour. Silver wings adorned it’s blocky, robust arms. An Autobot. They were saved. ***** Time was short, they needed to make contact with the Autobots before the drones caught up with them. The five ran towards the shuttle but stopped when it was engulfed in light. The clouds above slowly parted. From out of them something massive descended. It was huge, a bloated square shape. A giant sized version of the ships that had captured Razorclaw and Insecticon. It was beyond massive, easily five times the size of the shuttle in encroached on. Four blazing white jets shifted back and fourth controlling it’s decent. Around it swarmed the smaller, triangular ships. The group was frozen in place as they watched the armada bear down on the ship. The Autobot looked confused, he waved to the ship’s interior, and out ran at least five more robots. But these were smaller. A crew of Maximals? On an Autobot shuttle? It didn’t add up, but there would be time for answers later. “We have to help them!” Lazorbeak shouted. K-9 ran ahead, gun pulled, and though helping Maximals went against everything they had known, the other three Predacons quickly joined. They were still far away, but they fired regardless. Two of the collectors peeled off and flew towards them. They fired. “Get me up there!” K-9 barked. Lazorbeak transformed and grabbed the Maximal in his claws. He flew up to the nearest ship. Panels on it’s side slid open and thin barrels slid out. It fired and hundreds of bullets whizzed their way. Lazorbeak did his best to dodge, but the bullets peppered his wings, leaving holes. He flapped harder to compensate and was able to steer onto the ship. They crashed on top, Lazorbeak convulsed on the hull. K-9 wasted no time and blasted his way inside. He ran up to the front and ripped a panel away. He theorized that these may have been pilot able ships once, and his theory proved true. Underneath was a terminal. He wrenched it free and poked around inside, finding a lever. The original joystick. He grabbed it and spun the ship around. On top Lazorbeak came to. His systems must have gone into spasm from the pain, but he was awake now and returned to robot mode. He jumped down and found K-9 doing his best to steer the ship. It wobbled and lazily turned to it’s fellow. “This is gonna suck,” K-9 said. “But I can’t get this thing to fire. I need you to go out and persuade it.” Lazorbeak understood. He leaped out of the ship and transformed. Crippling pain shooting up his wings and diagnostic warnings blaring in his ear, he flew to the prow. The ship bore it’s guns and fired. Lazorbeak dived, and the fire cleanly missed him and continued onto the other ship, destroying it. “Round two,” Lazorbeak said over his comm. “Take out the big one!” Lazorbeak flew over to between the small ship and the large. The Predacons below positioned for a combined assault. They all fired. Bullets and lasers harmlessly pinged off it’s hull. The ship continued descending on the shuttle, it’s crew still pulling themselves out of the crater, long armatures lowered from the hovering vessel towards the Maximals. “Keep firing!” K-9 said. “We have to bring that thing down before it gets them!” K-9 looked for a firing control, still nothing. He had complete control over the ship bar it’s weapons, and while the Predacons still fired, it was plainly not enough. He sat and thought. Then realised what he could do. “Move out of the way,” He said to Lazorbeak. “I’ve got this.” “Wait,” Lazorbeak said. “No, you can’t be serious!” K-9 would have no more of it, and gunned the ship directly for one the engines. “Stop, Maximal!” Lazorbeak screamed over the comm. “Do you want to get yourself killed?” “No, I don’t,” He said. K-9 kept his grip on the throttle, but let himself relax. He looked through the cockpit window down below, the Maximals were inches away from capture as they tried to get away. “But I need to do this.” Lazorbeak headed for the ground and made a haphazard landing. The other Predacons formed up. “What’s going on?” Insecticon asked. Lazorbeak transformed and began to explain. “It’s the Maximal, he’s-” There was a deafening boom. A fireball erupted on the side of the titanic ship. The Predacons watched as the ship lurched and began to fall uncontrolled. The arms attacking the Maximals were pulled away and not questioning their luck, scrambled out of the crater and towards the city. Behind them the massive square ship fell, leaving a trail of smoke. The Predacons stood by, captivated. Insecticon took a step forward, hand outstretched as if he could somehow stop what had already happened. Volfang looked away. Razorclaw hung his head. Lazorbeak stood for a moment, then brought up his hand in salute. They may be of different factions, but they were warriors, and in that moment they were no longer enemies, they were brothers. ***** The Predacons had no time to pay their respects to the fallen Maximal. Explosions echoed in the distance. The Maximals were in danger once more, and they didn’t know the drones like the Predacons did. They four took off towards the sound of battle. There was a lot of open area with no cover, but it seems the Maximals were outrunning the tanks. It was now Lazorbeak got a close look at them. They were different. He shoved aside the thought when more tanks appeared in front of them. The Maximals dodged fire, splitting up. The Autobot and two others ran ahead, while another group of three pulled to the left. The Predacons followed them in, but the tanks pursuing spotted them. The four Predacons stopped and pulled their weapons. The tanks transformed and fired. Insecticon and Volfang veered left while Lazorbeak and Razorclaw ran to the right, firing. The tanks were unfazed. Without Sky-byte they couldn’t dispatch them easily, and they had gotten out of comm. range. One of the tank drones pulled out a canister and pulled back to throw it. Lazorbeak spotted it just in time. “Grenade!” Lazorbeak shouted. Volfang dived and rolled to his feet. He fired and the can exploded, but not into fire, but into green smoke. The green cloud engulfed the drones. They glowed green and began to spasm. They fell to the ground, paralyzed. Once the smoke cleared the Predacons moved up. “A new gimmick?” Insecticon said. He knelt down and inspected the drones. A small probe extended from one of the insect legs on his arms. “A virus of some kind, localised and carried in the gas. Nasty.” “Come on,” Lazorbeak said. “Let’s keep moving. We may still be able to catch up with the Maximals.” “And if we can’t?” Volfang asked. “Then may the Matrix help them, because we can’t.” Lazorbeak said. The four ran after the Maximals. They ran down the streets following the tank tracks on the ground, until they rounded a corner. The Autobot and two other Maximals were surrounded. Lazorbeak went to engage, but Razorclaw held his arm with a claw. “It’s too late!” He said. The tanks tossed canisters at the Maximals and Autobot, green clouds covering them. The Autobot struggled them warped. The virus looked like it was dissolving him. He glowed bright green and disappeared. Lazorbeak and the others turned away, they couldn’t watch. From around the building they heard the pained screams of the Maximals. There was no use. The Predacons fled, giving silent prayers to the lives they had just condemned. It was time to do what they did best: look out for themselves. However Insecticon couldn’t. “We can’t just sit here!” He growled. “These lug nuts have been pushing us around since we landed, time to push back!” He darted out into the street, charging the tanks. Lazorbeak cursed and the remaining three followed. Lazorbeak fired his pistol and the beam cut right into the back of one of the drones heads. It collapsed. “Hit them in the back!” Lazorbeak turned and said to Volfang and Razorclaw. “It’s where they’re weak!” He briefly glimpsed Razorclaw pointing past him before he was struck by a drone. Lazorbeak went flying and smashed through a window. He landed hard, glass and bits of purple metal surrounding him. His head throbbed and he couldn’t move. His gun wasn’t in his hands. He lay broken for what seemed like only seconds before he was turned over. One of the tank drones loomed over him, aiming it’s arm at Lazorbeak’s chest. The claw at the end retracted and a blue cylindrical device with four prongs slid out. A spark extractor. Lazorbeak tried to move but he couldn’t feel his limbs. The end lit and the aperture opened with audible sharpness. He felt a jerk, then pain. He managed to look down and saw his chest armour heat and peel away as his spark was being wrenched free from it’s chamber. He refused to give up, but his systems were shutting down, his brain functions were flatling, and he felt cold. Just as his life faded, it all came rushing back. The feeling of life jolted him away, and with all his strength he pulled in his legs and kicked the drone off. It stumbled back, it’s left arm smouldering. Razorclaw and Insecticon hung onto it’s head and cannon as it flailed. Lazorbeak rolled up and fly-kicked the drone through the window. Insecticon tossed Lazorbeak his pistol. He caught it and all three fired at the tank drone’s head. It exploded, sparks and bits of metal plumed up from it’s neck. They walked outside, down the street Volfang stood over a wrecked tank. He was covered in scorch marks and scratches in his paint. “Two got away,” He said. “I think they went for backup.” Lazorbeak held his chest. It was still warm from his own spark. The flesh of his beast mode was burned away and the metal underneath was warped. “That was too close,” Lazorbeak said. “Now let’s get out of here before-” Razorclaw cut off Lazorbeak. “Incoming!” He shouted, pointing to a squad of jets closing in. They opened fire on the group. Amidst the flurry of blasts Volfang was struck. He fell to the ground and exploded. ***** It was over as soon as it had begun. The jets swooped overhead in a hit-and-run and flew off. Volfang was hit, and his chest exploded out. He lay on the ground, motionless. Gears and wires lay strew around his body as Razorclaw ran over and slid down to help him. There’s was a large hole in his chest, inside were sparks and small fires. Razorclaw held Volfang’s head in his claw. Volfang’s eyes were dark, but he coughed. He was alive. Razorclaw held his hand with his other pincer and talked softly. “Come on, I say come on son,” He said. “Don’t go out like this.” Lazorbeak and Insecticon knelt down next to them. Insecticon patted Lazorbeak’s shoulder and pointed at the jets coming around for another attack. Volfang tried to move, he felt around for his gun, Lazorbeak placed it in his hand. “I was,” He wheezed. “I was raised better than that.” He put his arm over Razorclaw’s shoulder and they stood. The roar of the jet drone’s thrusters distracted them all and they turned to face it. Behind them Lazorbeak heard a buzzing. He turned and a formation of cycle drones sped down the street. “Oh we are so dead…” Lazorbeak muttered. Insecticon turned and saw the drones. “What’s the plan?” He asked. Lazorbeak turned, the eyes his worried face begging for suggestions. “Here’s the plan.” Volfang said. “You guys run, I take care of them.” He buckled and dropped to his knees. Razorclaw grabbed Volfang’s arms and held him up. “Now listen here!” He yelled. “No way, I say no way in the inferno am I lettin’ you die like this!” Razorclaw gripped him tighter. “Please,” Volfang said. He put his hand on Razorclaw’s shoulder and stared him in the eyes. “I’m ready, old man.” Razorclaw hung his head, then wrapped his arms around Volfang. He let go, then patted him on the shoulder. Insecticon grabbed Razorclaw’s arm and pointed to cover. He dragged Razorclaw away. Lazorbeak followed, then stopped, turned, and saluted. Volfang gave a half salute in return. Lazorbeak ran after the other two and the disappeared into the shadows. Volfang stuck his hand into the hole in his chest and felt for a small box. He grabbed it and yanked it out. He looked at the writing on it. Self-diagnostic unit it said. He crushed it in his hand, sighed, then stood. The jets were right on top of him now. He heard the buzzing of the cycles behind him. He levelled and fired at the jets. Five shots, five direct hits. Four of the jets crashed into the streets, the other dived kamikaze towards Volfang. It transformed and tried to tackle, but all it grabbed was Volfang’s gun. It crashed behind him and exploded. Volfang turned to the incoming cycles. He pulled out two of his boomerang missiles and clutched them by the ends. The cycles came, and he took of like a streak towards them. He jumped off the wrecked aero drone and brought the missile held in his right hand down on the leading cycle like an axe, slicing it’s head off. The other six cycles began to transform, Volfang cutting into two other’s with a swing from his left. He roundhouse-kicked one of the two into another. It exploded and took it’s comrade with it. The remaining three drones dived toward him and he lodged his missile into the leader’s torso. The missile detonated, engulfing the drone in flames. One of the other’s grabbed Volfang’s arm. He punched with his free hand into the drone’s face. The drone fell back, but the other grabbed Volfang from behind. He reached over and grabbed the cycle and flipped it over him, spinning around at super-speeds and kicking it into the other. He through his remaining missile and it buried itself in the drone’s face, exploding and taking the two drones with it. Volfang stood for a moment, motionless, surrounded by burning drones. He buckled and clutched his mortal wound. He fell to his knees. Burning chunks of metal and circuitry dropped to the ground. He tried to stand, but trembled. Then he realised he was trembling, the ground was. He looked up and looming over him were three of the tank drones. He struggled to rise, but one of the drones hit him on the back. He fell, but tried again to stand. Again he was beaten down, but again he defied them. The drone went to hit again, but he grabbed it’s optics and pulled it out, the drone flailing back. The other two moved in, but Volfang rolled between the legs of one, turned and jumped onto it’s back. He pulled back his fist, and screamed as he drove it into the back of the drone’s head. He ripped out it’s processor. The tank stopped moving and began to tip over. Volfang jumped down as it crashed behind him. He lunged for the last drone, but a jolt stopped him. He felt cold, and he went limp. He struggled to move, but he fell to his feet. He collapsed to the ground, the world began to dim. He felt emptiness as he saw the tank standing above him, something glowing in it’s claw. As he looked up to the night sky, he saw the tank drone lift it’s foot above his head, then everything was dark. ***** Razorclaw, Insecticon and Lazorbeak sat in the tunnel. They had dived down through a sewer to avoid the drones. Lazorbeak leaned against a wall, Insecticon held his head in his hands, rubbing it. Razorclaw sat on a box. It was quiet. The only noise came from the occasional dripping pipes, or a gust of wind through the grate that let moonlight shine in from above. Razorclaw screamed and grabbed the box he sat on. The through it at a wall, denting the wall and busting the box. He stood motionless and quiet after, Lazorbeak and Insecticon didn’t look at him. “First the Maximal,” Lazorbeak said. “Now this?” He leaned forward, his hands hanging between his legs. “And Sky-Byte,” Insecticon said. “I think it’s safe to say he’s gone, too.” Insecticon’s hands balled into fist and he slammed them down onto his knees. Lazorbeak looked over to Razorclaw and stood. He walked over and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” He said. “Were you close?” Razorclaw sighed and sat down. “I’ve known Volfang since he was a Protoform,” Razorclaw said. “He was like, I say like a son to me. I taught him everything I could, how to fight, how to, I say run. We’ve been friends since, I say since as long as I could remember.” Razorclaw looked at his large pincer. “I couldn’t, I say could not have been prouder…” He stood and walked over to the corner, than turned to face Lazorbeak and Insecticon. “He was fast, and with my, I say my planning and patience and his skill and agility, we became unstoppable, until one day I let him make the plan.” He flexed his right arm. Lazorbeak understood now. “We were gonna highjack a truck hauling tyronium plating.” Insecticon reeled back. “Yeesh,” He said. “That stuff’s pretty volatile.” “And it melts circuitry.” Lazorbeak added. “We thought it was gonna be, I say a big score,” Razorclaw continued. “But things went, I say haywire. A unit got spilled, completely melted off my right arm.” Razorclaw let his right arm dangle. “Volfang left. He couldn’t bear the guilt. I could forgive him for my arm, but not for quitting. I found out, I say came to hear later he’d been doing some solo work as a hired gun.” Razorclaw stood tall. “But we all, I say we all have our own path to shuffle on down, and I admire that he made somethin’ of himself.” He looked at Insecticon and Lazorbeak, he had their attention. “Let’s not make his sacrifice for nothin’, I say in vain.” They all nodded in agreement. It was time to be proactive. “You know the only way to win this,” Insecticon said. “Is to go for the big boss himself.” “Megatron…” Lazorbeak cursed. “He’s the cause of all this.” “Breaking into the Citadel again?” Razorclaw said. “You know, I say you are aware how hard it was the first time, it’s gonna be even tougher now.” “Do we have a choice?” Lazorbeak said. “We finally have something worthwhile to fight for. If we die, well, is this really a Cybertron you want to live on?” Insecticon and Razorclaw thought it over, then both looked to him. “No.” They said together. It was agreed. They were going to destroy Megatron or die trying. They began to lay out a plan, but we interrupted by a shambling and banging sound. A hulking mass shuffled towards them. It was smoking, sparking and moaning. It looked like a zombie, until it looked up. Orange-red eyes flickered, a half-grin half-grimace showed sharp, sparkling white teeth. “Permission to come aboard…” Sky-Byte said. “Cap…tain…” He collapsed. The three other Predacons rushed over to him. He was badly damaged, but alive. His left arm was mangled and most of his armour plating was gone or wrecked entirely. He was blackened and dented. It was a miracle he could walk let alone the distance it must’ve taken him to find them. Lazorbeak didn’t understand. “Sky-Byte?” He held the shark’s head in his hands. Sky-Byte shook his head. “How did you find us?” “You left…” He coughed. “Quite a trail to follow.” A horrified look washed over Lazorbeak’s face. Before he could give the order to move, the ceiling collapsed. ***** Lazorbeak had been stupid. He never factored in that the drones could track them. First rule of war was never underestimate your opponents. The drones came in droves. Clearly they sought to put an end to this resistance now. The Predacons had other ideas. While Razorclaw hauled Sky-Byte out of the sewer, Lazorbeak and Insecticon dealt with the drones. They were the jet types. The fastest but weakest. The two drew their weapons and blasted the drones away from the hole in the ceiling. More came, but the brief opening was enough for the Predacons to shoot up and take aim. They didn’t aim for the drones, instead they surveyed their surroundings. They were in some kind of space dock. Large ships and cranes towered around them. Lazorbeak spotted the closest crane’s base. “Bring it down!” He yelled to Insecticon. They opened fire. The supports blew away and the crane began to teeter. The two dodged shots fired from the drones around them. As the crane came down the two Predacons transformed to beast mode and flew off, leaving the jets to be crushed or blown away by the crane. They flew clear of the collapse and scanned around. Razorclaw waved to them from behind a cart. They flew down and transformed, Razorclaw knelt next to Sky-Byte. “You’ve got to see this.” Razorclaw said pointing to Sky-Byte’s damaged arm. They watched as the purple sphere in his chest glowed. Tendrils of energy reached out and crept towards his arm. They engulfed it, then vanished. His arm was completely healed. “He’s been doing this the whole time, look.” Razorclaw pointed to Sky-Byte’s legs, which were spotless against his still damaged torso. “I don’t know what that, I say that quantum surge did, but it seems to have lasting, I say continued benefits.” The bizarre display continued until he was completely healed, and then Sky-byte awoke. “What ho, fellows?” He said, chipper as ever. “To what do I owe the honour?” Lazorbeak and Razorclaw exchanged looks. “You came to us,” Lazorbeak explained. “Don’t you remember?” “Not hardly,” Sky-Byte leapt to his feet. “Per chance I was sleep-walking? Never mind, I would wager we have a semblance of business to attend to…” Sky-Byte pointed to the smoke and flames behind them. “Or have a missed it all?” Lazorbeak snapped his finger. “Actually,” He said. “You’re just in time. I think you’re our key to getting into the Citadel.” “Again…” Razorclaw added, dejectedly. Lazorbeak patted him on the shoulder. “Yeah…” Lazorbeak leaned against a crate. “I didn’t really want to ask you guys. I mean, there’s a good chance we’re not all gonna make it.” Sky-Byte groaned, flexed, than dropped and arm around Lazorbeak. “Tell me, then, comrades…” He leaned in. “Would you rather die fighting for your freedom, or live without it?” The four exchanged looks. They were in this until the end. Lazorbeak removed himself from Sky-Byte’s hold and stood in the center of their group. “Then we go in hard and fast. Don’t give the drones time to find us.” He turned to Sky-Byte. “You’re our spearhead. You’re the biggest, toughest and you can regenerate. We’ll approach the citadel from overhead, land in the coliseum and move to the Elder’s Chamber from there.” “That’s mighty risky…” Razorclaw said. “Afterall the sky’s will be heavily, I say heavily patrolled.” “Not likely.” Lazorbeak said. “Chances are Megatron will have the streets and perimeter guarded, with cycle and tank drones, but if we go in from above it’s just the jets.” “What flawless math…” Insecticon scoffed. Lazorbeak glared at him. “Problem?” He said. “Megatron’s no fool, he’s not going to go light on any security.” Insecticon said, his posture tense. “We should go in through the tunnels again. “Oh yeah, because that worked so well last time.” Razorclaw defended Lazorbeak. Insecticon was about to pipe up again when Sky-Byte got between the two. Lazorbeak looked at the two and eased Sky-Byte back. Insecticon relaxed and said nothing. “What now, fearless leader?” Sky-Byte asked Lazorbeak. Lazorbeak was taken aback by this statement. He hadn’t really considered himself leader. He’d never lead anyone, he and Razorclaw always acted together. He looked to Razorclaw, who waited for Lazorbeak to speak. He, too, saw Lazorbeak as the one with all the answers. Lazorbeak’s gazed shifted and dropped, he pondered what to do, then realised there was only one option. He stood straight, looked up and addressed is followers. “We end this.” ***** Lighting ripped through the night sky. Clouds swirled overhead, obscuring the light of the glimmering ball of steel that was Cybertron’s first moon. The circular Citadel looked like a gateway to damnation in the twilight, and the storm gave it’s already sinister appeal and edge of true danger. As if you cut yourself on it. The storm covered the decent of four individuals, they landed in the bottom of the coliseum, then marched towards the door. They were there to do one thing and one thing only: kill Megatron and save Cybertron. A grand task, and none of them believed they could do it, but they would try. They’d try because despite their different choices in life, they all loved their home, and it was all they could do to protect it. The clouds consumed the sky, drenching everything in dark. All that was visible of the four would-be warriors was their red, orange and yellow eyes, dimly lit in the dark. As they marched the skies rumbled. Forks of lighting punctuated each step until they stopped at the massive Citadel doors. They stood motionless, then more thunder from below. The heavy doors parted, and standing in uniform lines were rows of tanks. The combatants stared each other down. Finally, the lead intruder made his first move. “Break ‘em.” Lazorbeak said. Sky-Byte fired his anchor arm into the first tank drone’s head. He crushed it, then wrenched it off. The other tanks levelled their cannons and fired. Insecticon, Lazorbeak and Razorclaw bounded away. Razorclaw fired his paralysing blaster furiously, hitting drone after drone dead in the center of their scanners. He opened up his massive right-claw, razor-sharp spikes extended, and he bisected another tank down the center. Insecticon rolled in front of two drones, both poised to crush him underfoot. The insect legs on his arms twitched and angled forward, the tips splitting and each revealing a gun barrel. He opened up with a barrage of machine gun fire and the drones twisted and fell. Lazorbeak pulled his pistol and supercharged it. Sparks escaped his joints, his power levels blared, but he didn’t falter. His gun glowed bright red, his hands trembled. He yelled and fired. A narrow, wavering beam shot form the barrel, slicing through a row of tanks. The drones melted and writhed before collapsing into slag. Lazorbeak moved his gun and cut through more tanks. He screamed, his hands began to warm and distort, melding together and fusing. His gun exploded, and he was sent flying back. He hit against a distracted tank and fell to the floor. The tank turned it’s attention to him, but it jerked, tipped over and expired. Insecticon stood behind it, crossbow smoking he grabbed Lazorbeak by his shoulder and picked him up. “Go!” Insecticon yelled. “Now, I’ll cover you guys.” Insecticon said. Lazorbeak looked at him puzzled, but Insecticon held up a trembling thumb, that’s when Lazorbeak realised part of Insecticon’s midsection was missing. Lazorbeak looked up in horror at Insecticon, who stared with a bitter smile. The blue robot patted Lazorbeak and looked back. He shouted for Sky-Byte and Razorclaw who were backing towards them, trying to keep the tanks at bay. When Razorclaw turned around to see Insecticon, he grimaced, then nodded and ran towards the Council Chamber. Sky-byte gave a salute and followed. Lazorbeak stayed. “Please go…” Insecticon coughed. “Avenge us.” Insecticon dropped to one knee. Lazorbeak knelt down, his face stern. “I’m sorry.” Lazorbeak said. “I know.” Insecticon said. Lazorbeak turned to Sky-Byte and Razorclaw who beckoned from a doorway off the side of the large hall. Insecticon turned to continue fighting, but four tanks towered over him. He looked up with despair as one of the tanks extended a blue-steel cylindrical device. It’s end began to glow, and Insecticon felt cold, then saw only black. His lifeless body slouched over, then collapsed in a pile. A tank brought up it’s massive treaded foot and crushed what remained of Insecticon into the ground. Lazorbeak didn’t look back, he knew the fate that had befallen his former friend, and shoved the grief aside. He ran, ran past Razorclaw and Sky-byte, ignoring their calls. He just ran, tired of it. Tired of people he knew dying, tired of seeing these atrocities, tired of fighting for a world. He wish he could just go back to being a crook, just a regular conman, but it was all over. Cybertron was no more, and he knew he was fighting in vain. He finally slowed his paced and put a hand to a wall to catch his breathe. Razorclaw and Sky-Byte caught up. Razorclaw put a claw on his friend’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.” Razorclaw said. “His sacrifice was noble.” Sky-Byte said. “Death in the fires of battle is all we can hope for. It is a time to anticipate, not fear.” Sky-Byte patted Lazorbeak on shoulder. Lazorbeak’s hands balled into fists, he looked to his two remaining soldiers, now brothers, his face blank. Very dryly, he said. “Then what are we waiting for?” ***** Lazorbeak, Razorclaw and Sky-Byte, now the only free-thinking beings left on the entire planet besides Megatron, ran down the council corridors. The halls they tread were old, before the Council was the fortress it is today, the eyes and ears of Megatron would not reach them here. They stopped, out of breathe, at a small recess in the wall where supplies would be kept. Sitting on a rusty bench, Lazorbeak coughed and grabbed at his chest, still warped from the drone’s attack. His hand, too, was in poor shape, and even if he wasn’t running on fumes, the cramped hallways meant no beast mode for repairs. “Did we lose them?” He asked Razorclaw. Razorclaw opened up his smaller pincer, his paralysing pistol retracting and replaced with a small node. He held it up against the walls. “No vibration anomalies.” He said, returning his claw to normal. “Even the bikes are too large, I say hefty to squeeze down these here tunnels.” “We need to formulate a plan!” Sky-Byte said. “The thought of my planet falling to that tin tyrant’s whim is unbearable!” He crossed his arms and “spat” for emphasis. “Me, too.” Lazorbeak said. He rubbed his temples, trying to think of anything they could do. He felt defeated in every way. As pathetic as it sounded, he almost hoped he’d been killed like the rest, to be spared these atrocities. His eyes widened, then squinted into a scowl. “I say we not give him the satisfaction.” He growled. Razorclaw was puzzled, as was Sky-Byte. “What might you be implying?” Razorclaw said, suspicious of Lazorbeak’s meaning. “I say we not give him Cybertron,” Lazorbeak elaborated. “I say if he wants it so bad, he can find it in the deepest fires of the pit!” Razorclaw stood with a start. “Destroy, I say, blow up Cybertron, our home?” He said aghast. Sky-Byte did a triple take. “What do we have to live for!?” Lazorbeak yelled. “Our home, everyone we knew, all our ambitions destroyed by that lowlife!” Razorclaw backhanded Lazorbeak with his smaller claw. Lazorbeak reeled, he looked as Razorclaw, his face a mix of shock, anger, and sadness. “Are ya, I say are you mad, boy?” He yelled back. “Cybertron’s the only thing that degenerate hasn’t torn from us!” Lazorbeak grabbed Razorclaw by the collar and shoved him down. “And look what state it’s in!” He screamed. “It’s worse then it was during the great war, and there’s no last minute save by a miracle Matrix templar this time.” Lazorbeak stopped, mortified he’d struck his closest friend and mentor. He knelt down. “Razorclaw, I’m sorry,” He said, offering to help him up. Razorclaw violently shrugged him off, and looked like he was about to cave Lazorbeak’s head in, but relaxed. He’d never go that far. All the while Sky-Byte had been watching, frantic and unsure of what to do. He stepped in. “If I may…” Sky-Byte knew he was the odd one out. He had no relation to any of the group members. He was only along because he knew how to fly the ship. But it was time he weigh in. “The way I see it, we’re all to meet gruesome and unremarkable deaths regardless, either dying from lack of fuel or picked off by one of those drones. I suggest if we go out, why not do so with a bang?“ Lazorbeak and Razorclaw looked to him, then to each other, and nodded. “How do we do it?” Razorclaw asked. “Cybertron’s core.” Lazorbeak answered. “Seems like a good place to start.” “Not likely.” Sky-Byte said. “Even if we got there we have no weapons large enough to destroy the core. However I know of another way.” Sky-Byte squatted and started carving lines into the rusted floor with his anchor. “Shipyards.” He said, and drew a circular pattern. “I don’t follow.” Lazorbeak said. “Transwarp ships are constructed all over the planet, but I know what few do.” He scratched what Lazorbeak determined was a transwarp cell. “Every Transwarp ship needs a Transwarp engine, and said engines need many Transwarp cells. For this they have massive production houses that make these delicate and volatile marvels of science. If one of the factories were to blow, entire city-states would be wiped out. If they were all to blow…” “Cybertron would be just a cloud of dust in the void.” Lazorbeak muttered. “But how do we blow up dozens of factories, all over Cybertron, at the same, I say instantaneously?” Razorclaw said. “This is where it gets complicated.” Sky-Byte said, he started tracing lines towards a single point on his map. “Every factory will most likely be somewhat dangerous without any crews to maintain such delicate systems, so all we have to do is start automatic production and fate will see to the rest. The only problem is automatic production can only be initiated from…” “The Council Citadel.” Lazorbeak finished. ***** The plan was set. This time tomorrow, Cybertron would be a memory. They began their return to the Council’s chambers, only this time Razorclaw suggested they look for a direct route to the area they sought. Indeed it seemed the catacombs below the Citadel could take you anywhere. As they continued around they came upon a small hatch. Initially ignoring it, Sky-Byte pointed out there was light coming from the cracks. Lazorbeak held his good hand up against the door. It was unusually cold, almost frozen. This was odd, since if anything it should be warm in the bowels of the largest, most active establishment on Cybertron. Lazorbeak felt something else. And odd pull. Not physical, but maybe, he couldn’t tell. He went to open the door, Razorclaw grabbed his hand. “We don’t know what’s in there!” He cautioned, but Lazorbeak was compelled. He swung open the bulkhead, and was surprised by what he saw. The room was absolutely crammed with bizarre machines. They were cylindrical, suspended by tendril-like cables about three feet off the ground. Lazorbeak inspected one, and it popped open, as if on a spring. It was empty, whatever it was. The pull tugged at him again, this time deeper into the room. He was afraid to venture, so he instead just peered around. Through the cracks in the rows he discovered the room, while cramped, was positively titanic. By peering over the cans he saw it stretched for at least a mile, and there were billions if not more of these canister devices. He felt another pull, this time by Razorclaw. Razorclaw looked uncomfortable, and they left. They continued on, upwards now, as they did the halls got newer, cleaner, more modern. Finally they got to a more open corridor. Rumbling was coming from down the hall. Tank drones drove back and fourth across hallways down the way. This was it, now to get inside without being noticed. The corridor backed onto a wall. On it was a small recess with an access door. They knew this was a back door of sorts because of the do not enter sign. Ignoring it, Lazorbeak eased the door open, poked his head out, and satisfied, stepped out, only to be pulled back by Razorclaw. Lazorbeak looked down. There was only the smallest of edges to stand on, and his wide gait nearly plunged him into the depths below. But that was the least of his worries, hovering in front of him was a small drone. Oblong, with two thin eyes and short arms ending in spindly fingers. Lazorbeak had only a look of shock, but to his even greater surprised, the drone merely titled it’s “head” and flew away, uncaring. Lazorbeak relaxed and eased his way back out onto the ledge. He looked to the suspended platform in the center of the gargantuan room. That’s where Lazorbeak last saw Megatron. If they were going to active the Transwarp production lines, they need to do so from there. He looked back to his fellows, they nodded. This was it. One final effort to avenge their people. He looked down the ledge, and sure enough, there was a barely visible service hover crane tucked into the wall not far from them. Razorclaw and Sky-Byte followed and they shimmied along the ledge towards nearby hover crane. “Guess it’s not programmed to snitch.” Razorclaw remarked at the tiny drone. Lazorbeak counted his blessings, and they made it to the crane. Disengaging it, they hovered below the Council meeting platform. That’s when Lazorbeak heard the low, harsh tones. Fluent, yet devious in his delivery, Megatron spoke above them. Lazorbeak kept his rage in check and prayed the simple-minded drone wouldn’t mind them borrowing a crane, and that he wouldn’t tell his boss. They slowly inched towards the platform. Above Megatron hovered, suspended by a length of cabled and wires like some kind of deranged puppet. Around him swarmed hovering monitors, some were black, hovering near the floor. If Lazorbeak could sweat he would be. He needed to sneak in behind Megatron and grab one of the monitors not in use, so Sky-Byte could quickly do what he needed to. Lazorbeak reached up and grabbed the edge of the floor. Megatron was still talking, but to whom? It sounded to casual to be mere troop deployments. Did he have associates? The rumours did say he left with a crew. Lazorbeak squelched the thoughts. This was the crucial moment. Don’t lose focus now. He looked over the edge. Megatron faced away, he conversed with a synthetic-sounded voice with a crisp accent. Strange, but changed nothing. He reached for one of the monitors. “Is everything ready for my debut?” Megatron said. “Nearly, eminence,” The voice responded. “The drones are nearly done herding them here.” Them? Herding? What was he talking about? Lazorbeak froze. On the monitor he was flashes. It looked like… battle. Other survivors? This changed everything. Something happened. He saw a large explosion, then the monitor went to static. “It seems there may be a slight delay my liege,” The voice said. Lazorbeak saw now. The other person, it was the drone. It spoke intelligently. It looked at him. “But in the mean time, your other esteemed guests have arrived.” Megatron turned around, his body was clad in a cloak, and his face was obscured by a mask. “Welcome.” He said. ***** Megatron stared at Lazorbeak, who still hung halfway off the edge of the platform. His face, maddening, was unnervingly calm, as if he’d been expecting Lazorbeak to come. Lazorbeak had no idea what he wanted, but the look in Megatron’s eyes was not encouraging. They held each other’s gaze for a moment, then Lazorbeak grabbed a monitor and fell off the edge into the crane. “We’ve been found out!” He said, just as tendrils snaked from the ground. They lashed out at the group, splitting their crane in two. Lazorbeak mustered all his strength to transform and fly off. Sky-Byte followed in kind, catching Razorclaw. They flew up past the platform. Megatron laughed below. “You cannot run from me!” He bellowed. “I am everywhere, I am Cybertron!” Lazorbeak stooped towards Megatron, then transformed in a barrel roll, poised to kick. From below geometric blocks shot up and intercepted Lazorbeak, knocking him away. Razorclaw fired what energy he had left at Megatron, who held up his left arm and fired bolts of red energy towards him. The bolts absorbed Razorclaw’s blasts and stuck him, knocking him off towards the void below. Sky-Byte turned to look, but the tendrils struck him. He rolled and Transformed, firing his anchor at a cluster of three tendrils that raced to attacked. It smashed through them, and continued on to the far wall. He swung down and caught Razorclaw. Megatron roared in anger and fired again, hitting Sky-Byte’s anchor and jarring it loose. Razorclaw jumped out of Sky-Byte’s arms and fell towards Megatron. Tendrils surrounded him, but he sliced through them with his razor-sharp claw. Halves o his shell sprung open and he glided down towards Megatron’s platform, tucking and rolling on landing. Megatron turned to attack, But Razorclaw leaped first, bringing his massive claw down on Megatron’s head, knocking the face mask off. Lazorbeak exhaustedly flew back up and landed next to Razorclaw at the edge of the platform, transforming and poised for combat along side his brother. Megatron, furious, yelled. His yells sounded more like animal cried, and his eyes burned red. From inside his cloak red light glared. Megatron started to convulse. He grabbed onto his harness in desperation, only for his arms to go limp. His cloak flared out, revealing claws, moving organic parts, and a claw-tipped tail. The harness ripped off, ranged, techno-organic wings flared out. Before them landed a huge red beast, half organic tissue, half circuitry and metal. It roared in Megatron’s voice. Lazorbeak and Razorclaw were shocked. The creature’s elongated face scowled and opened it’s mouth. A jet of flame shot out, and Lazorbeak and Razorclaw barely dodged in time. The creature, or rather Megatron, flapped his large wings, lifting itself off the ground. He readied for another attacked, and this time there was no dodging. From behind Lazorbeak he heard a terrifying roar, and a blue-metallic blur swooped in and tacked Megatron. Sky-Byte bit into Megatron’s long neck. Megatron dug his hind claws into Sky-Byte’s soft underbelly, pushing him off. Sky-Byte turned around and slapped Megatron across the face with his tail. Megatron grabbed it with his mouth and flung Sky-Byte across the abyss. The shark corrected himself, and flew around for another run. Megatron fired another flame blast at him, and Sky-Byte fired two missiles out of his mouth. The flame caught the projectiles and they exploded. Through the smoke Sky-Byte emerged. He spun around to hit Megatron with his tail, but this time his tail fin unfolded into a four-pronged claw, it spun rapidly and hit Megatron in the face, knocking him out of the sky. Sky-Byte swooped down to the platform. “I will keep him at bay,” He pointed at Razorclaw with his fin. “You must activate the factories. Password is THATSME, now hurry!” Sky-Byte turned and dived into the black. Roaring and fighting were heard below. Razorclaw grabbed one of the monitors and started making his way to the Transwarp factory database.” He typed as fast as he could, Lazorbeak standing over him, alternating his gaze between Razorclaw and the void below. “Is it working?” He said. “Almost…” Razorclaw said. There was an explosion, and Sky-Byte flew up from the depths, Transforming and landing next the them. He was scorched, sparking and missing parts, but standing. “Did you…?” Lazorbeak asked. Sky-Byte held up his hand. “I-” He began, but as he did Megatron flew up from the shadows, and unleashed a blast of ice on Sky-Byte, freezing him solid. Megatron then spun around and shattered him with his tail. Lazorbeak screamed in shock as the fragments scattered off the edge, the largest chunk being of the shark’s exposed spark chamber. He turn to Megatron who landed on the platform with a thud. Lazorbeak charged at Megatron, who easily knocked him aside. He then turned to Razorclaw, who still typed away. Then finally, Razorclaw turned, holding the Monitor up. “Hold your horses, Megatron!” He exclaimed. “I push this button and this planet, I say our world comes crashing down around us!” “Do it!” Lazorbeak groaned from the ground. Razorclaw tapped the enter key, but nothing happened. Razorclaw was dumbfounded, but Megatron just laughed. “Did you really think that plan was going to work?” Megatron said, pointing with his short arms. “I control this planet, I know all it’s secrets. You think I’d let it fall into disrepair, especially it’s most sensitive systems?” He waved forward. Tendrils unsnarled Razorclaw, binding his arms. One faced his chest, it’s tip opening up into one of the device used on Insecticon. Spark Extractors. Razorclaw struggled, but to no avail, the extractor latched onto his chest, and he felt his life drain away. Lazorbeak got to his feet and sprinted for his friend, but Megatron grabbed him with his tail’s pincer. He held Lazorbeak’s head up, forcing him to watch his friend die. Slowly, Razorclaw’s spark was sucked into the device, and his body went limp. Lazorbeak cried out in pain and anger. From the floor below shot up one of the cans he saw before. The tendril deposited the spark into the container, and it shot back down into the dark. Megatron violently tossed Lazorbeak aside. He then leaped into the air, Transformed and wrapped his wings around him into a cloak. His harness descended from above and attached. Whole again, Megatron hovered over Lazorbeak, silhouetted by harsh lights behind him, Lazorbeak laid broken and weak on the floor. Megatron waved his hands, and the section of the platform Lazorbeak was on detached and floated up to him. Megatron stared down the diminutive Predacon. “I must say, your efforts were amusing,” He drawled. “In another time, another place, I may have had use for your tenacity. But your kind must be purged for the sake of my new world.” “I came this far…” Lazorbeak began to talk back, but Megatron interjected. “This far? Ha!” He boasted. “You think you were the first to oppose me, even here? You are nothing. You are merely a wretched beast that thought itself a man.” Megatron grabbed Lazorbeak by the throat. And held him up to his level. Lazorbeak struggled and grasped at his arm. “Any last words before I liberate you from your miserable little existence?” Lazorbeak looked into Megatron’s eyes, the eyes of a madman, the eyes of someone he wasn’t sure was doing what he thought was best or worst, and wasn’t sure Megatron knew either. “Yeah,” Lazorbeak said, he chuckled weakly. He gazed at his friend’s dead body, then back to the smug face of his enemy. He relaxed, let go of Megatron’s arm and went limp. He opened his mouth one last time. “I let y-” Megatron tightened his gripped, crushing Lazorbeak’s throat. He held him for a second, then dropped his lifeless body to the floor. The diagnostic drone hovered up to him. “Put it with the rest.” Megatron said. Diagnostic drone bowed and flew away. Megatron returned to his work. EPILOGUE Lazorbeak awoke. Brightness filled his fuzzy vision, but it slowly focused into a blue sky. He groggily sat up, he felt strange, in a good way. He felt more fluid. He part a hand on the ground, it was soft, with texture. Grass, like Earth. He looked down, his hands were different. He looked at them closely. They were organic, but not. He recognised tissue, but saw metal plating and joints. He gazed forward. Grass and trees were before him, tall buildings in the background. He saw streets lined with green bushes, dots of green trees on balconies on distant buildings. It was beautiful, like Earth and Cybertron combined. He felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up. Razorclaw was beside him. He, too was different. “Welcome back,” He said. “We were wondering when you’d get up.” Lazorbeak stood and turned around. Sky-Byte, Insecticon and Volfang were there, as well. Around them other reformatted Cybertronians ran past, cheering as they went over the hill behind him, Lazorbeak even thought he spotted K-9. “But how?” Lazorbeak asked. Insecticon walked over, he was leaner, taller, and most of all, happier. “Let’s go welcome the heroes home.” He said. “Heroes?” Lazorbeak asked. Sky-Byte walked up to him. “Come, my friend. You have must to get caught up on.” He said. They joined with the rest of their people. On the other side of the hill, six particular Maximals stood, ready to welcome the planet.