Transformers: Human in Disguise

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by Philister, Nov 13, 2012.

  1. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
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    A fanfic idea I had a while ago when I was considering how a Transformers live-action movie could have been with the action not set on Earth (at least mostly) while still featuring a human lead. So here's what I came up with. I'm trying to write a story that would fit into the length of a movie, but it's in prose form, of course, not in script form. I'm up to chapter 6 right now and I'll be posting more as it develops. Hope you like it and I'm always up for constructive criticism.

    Oh, and not set in any specific continuity, though strong influences from Generation 1 and the WfC / FoC games.


    Prologue: New Posting


    Office of General Sven Eisenhardt
    NATO Base near Tromso, Norway
    October 12, 2005

    “Captain Marissa Fairborn reporting as ordered, sir!”

    General Eisenhardt of the Norwegian military, currently assigned to a joint NATO task force, looked up from the seemingly never-ending mountain of paperwork that always cluttered his desk to look at the new arrival. A crisp and spotless United States Air Force uniform was the first thing he saw, the rank insignia of a captain along with several ribbons decorating the chest. Further up he saw the face of a good-looking woman in her mid-thirties, red-brown hair cut to regulation length. Her salute was text book perfect and didn’t waver in the slightest as she waited for his acknowledgment.

    “At ease, Captain”, he said, speaking English with but the faintest trace of a Scandinavian accent. “Please sit down.”

    She took the seat in front of him and waited as he rummaged through one of the piles on his desk until he finally found her file. Opening it, he gave the contents another glance, though it was more for show than anything else. He had long since memorized the important parts.

    “So, Captain,” he began, “degrees in advanced engineering and aeronautics, certified for several types of combat aircraft, saw some aerial combat in Afghanistan, and recently applied for the United States space program.”

    Looking up, he smiled. “I’m certain you are wondering why you’ve been assigned to the middle of frozen nowhere instead, and in a foreign country to boot.”

    “The thought crossed my mind, sir,” she replied evenly.

    Tromso in Norway was about as far north as you could get in Europe while still having solid land under your feet instead of just ice. The official reason for having a NATO base here at all was to serve as a training ground for joint combat operations in subzero conditions. Of course polar combat wasn’t rated nearly as important as it had been before the collapse of the Soviet Union, but there were still the occasional joint forces exercises in these parts.

    It wasn’t the real reason for this base’s existence, of course.

    “Then I don’t want to keep you in suspense any longer than necessary, Captain,” the general said, rising. “Now there will be a rather lengthy briefing where you’ll get all the important and not so important details regarding your new posting and the responsibilities that go with it, but it has been my experience that the best and fastest way of bringing new personnel up to speed is a simple... how do you Americans call it... show and tell. Please follow me.”

    Captain Fairborn dutifully rose and followed the general as they left his office behind and walked down several flights of stairs into a large subbasement. Eisenhardt couldn’t quite suppress a smirk as he saw Fairborn unconsciously rub her arms. Even the best heating couldn’t quite keep out the chill of the permafrost this far north. Most Norwegian officers were used to it to certain degrees, but Captain Fairborn was, as he knew from her file, from the American Mid-West. Certainly not her kind of climate.

    “This here is one of the longest running joint NATO operations you’ll ever hear conspiracy theories about, Captain”, he told her as they walked. “It was first put together in 1978 and has been in operation ever since. We don’t have an official name as such, only a very long file number, but most of the people here like to refer to us as Project: Utgard.”

    “Utgard?” Fairborn asked.

    “Home of the Ice Giants in Norse mythology. Literally it means ‘Outside the World’, everything that is not part of the lands populated by men and gods. Which is quite fitting, all things considered.”

    They arrived in front of a huge set of armoured gates and the general stopped. He’d done this a few times since taking over command of this place and he did like to draw out the suspense at least a little bit. Being the commanding officer of a base in a place where the sun was mostly conspicuous by its absence, he had to appreciate the small pleasures.

    “What you’re about to see, Captain Fairborn, was found in 1977 several hundred kilometres north of here, frozen inside a piece of glacier that had broken off from the polar ice shelf. The Norwegian military originally believed it to be some kind of new Soviet weapon system, so they called in NATO for a joint analysis. As it turned out, though, the Soviets had had nothing to do with it.”

    “It?” Fairborn asked.

    The general smiled and entered the necessary combination into the wall-mounted keypad. The gates began to open. Behind it was a huge room, the ceiling at least ten meters above them, and its centre stood... something huge.

    “Captain Fairborn, allow me to introduce you to your new best buddy. His official designation is N.B.E. 1, but we like to call him... Thrymir, our very own Ice Giant.”

    Captain Fairborn just looked up... and up... and further up. Her mouth fell open.

    End Prologue
  2. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
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    Chapter 1: When Marissa met Thrymir


    Underground Briefing Room
    NATO Base near Tromso, Norway
    October 12, 2005

    Marissa Fairborn leaned against the glass window and couldn’t tear her eyes away from the giant object situated in the cavernous room behind it. Thrymir, General Eisenhardt had called it. An Ice Giant of Norse myth. Well, this particular Ice Giant certainly didn’t look all that mythological, but that didn’t hamper its impressiveness in the least.

    The giant figure stood roughly ten meters tall, she estimated. It was humanoid in appearance. Two arms, two legs, a torso with a head on top. The head even had something resembling a face, though instead of eyes there was a single visor that glinted in the flood lights that lit the room. The gargantuan figure was made from gleaming metal and something that looked like wings were fastened to its back.

    Marissa’s thoughts were racing. She would really have liked to believe that this was some kind of prop, that someone was playing a very elaborate joke on her. Certainly this metal giant had been built in some laboratory somewhere. She knew there were ongoing experiments with robotic soldiers. She knew that something very much like this could probably be built in any number of laboratories around the world.

    The details were wrong, though. Such as the way the metal, despite being polished and gleaming, just looked... old. Worn. More like the hull of an ancient battle ship in a Naval museum somewhere rather than something fresh of the assembly line. Then there was the face, if it could be called that. It seemed humanoid, but not quite. The proportions were slightly off. The same went for the rest of the body.

    Marissa had been assigned here by people that weren’t in the habit of playing elaborate pranks on their subordinates. This entire setup was much too big to be here simply for fun’s sake. General Eisenhardt had said this thing had been found in 1977 and while Marissa wasn’t a historian, she was pretty certain that no nation on Earth had possessed the capabilities to build something like this back then. Hell, they probably didn’t today. Which really left but one possible explanation.

    “It’s alien, isn’t it?” she asked, turning around to face General Eisenhardt.

    The big Norwegian had obviously waited for her to overcome her shock, something she was grateful for. She really hadn’t wanted to begin her first day at her new post by blabbering incoherently or something like that. Now he motioned for her to sit down at the briefing room’s table.

    “Very good, Captain. Most of the people who see our friend Thrymir for the first time take a while to arrive at that conclusion.”

    “I don’t know what else it could be,” she replied.

    “You’d be surprised at the number of theories I’ve heard over the years, but yes, our friend here is of alien origin. All doubt about that has been erased over the last two and a half decades. He’s built from alloys we don’t even have names for, he comprises elements that aren’t in our periodic table and the technology housed in that big frame is centuries ahead of anything currently in development on Earth. Carbon dating doesn’t work on the stuff he’s made from, so we have no idea how old he is.”

    He tapped a key on the laptop in front of him and the big screen on the far side of the room lit up, showing a photograph with the characteristic red-brown tint of the 1970s. It showed a huge chunk of ice floating in the ocean. A big, humanoid shadow could just barely be seen inside it.

    “This is what those sailors found in 1977. Thankfully someone had the presence of mind to preserve some of the ice he was packed in, so we’ve managed to date that, at least. The innermost layer of that huge ice cube was formed about 12,000 years ago, so he’s been here at least that long.”

    A click on the laptop and a different picture appeared, showing a thawed-out Thrymir lying on his back in what appeared to be some kind of airplane hangar.

    “That picture was taken a few weeks later, after they’d towed the big chunk here and melted it down with flame throwers. As you can see, our buddy was in pretty bad shape back then.”

    Marissa nodded, her eyes taking in the detail. While the present-day Thrymir in the room beyond looked whole and gleaming, the figure in the photo had obviously gone through quite an ordeal. Metal plates were torn, internals exposed. A decent-sized portion of the head appeared to be missing and numerous other damages littered the body.

    “Like I said, the original belief was that the Soviets had created some kind of super robot tank, so NATO was called in. Still, the Norwegian government claimed full salvage rights and has maintained the lead on the joint investigation ever since. It was determined rather quickly, though, that this thing here was most definitely not of Soviet origin. Or human origin at that.”

    He cycled through quite a few more pictures, showing Thrymir in changing locations with different people working on different sections of him. There seemed to be a steady rate of repair done to the huge figure, but little else changed.

    “Over the years there was a lot of discussion about what Thrymir actually is, of course. A remote-controlled weapon? Some kind of probe droid? The real answer, as best as we can determine it anyway, was found only about five years ago, though.”

    The picture changed again, showing some kind of half-destroyed, orb-like apparatus lying on a laboratory table in front of several scientists. It was about the size of a bowling ball and had clearly seen better days.

    “What is that?” she asked.

    “That, my dear Captain, is – or better, was – Thrymir’s brain.”

    Marissa blinked, staring at him.

    “Are you trying to say that this thing was... alive?”

    “Basically, yes. We’ve had several experts for artificial intelligence research go over that thing and they all agree that this bowling ball there was, and I quote: ‘an electronic processing unit that nearly perfectly mimics the function, layout and general setup of an organic brain’, end quote. The gist of which is, that thing was at least a thousand times as complex and smart as the best supercomputer we can build today. I’ll leave the question of whether that made it just a super-smart toaster or an actual sentient being for the philosophers to decide, but it was certainly operating independently and almost certainly capable of making its own decisions.”

    He shrugged. “As you saw on that first picture, though, whatever our friend went through, it caved in a good portion of his head and damaged his brain module beyond repair. Almost everything in his head was trashed, including what we believe to be his memory banks. So basically he’s been lobotomized, no chance of bringing him back online. Not that we were in any way certain that’d be a good idea anyway, but it’s a moot point. Whatever he was like when he was still ticking, we’ll never know. Which brings us to the major problem we’re facing.”

    He clicked again and Marissa watched various pictures of what were quite obviously weapons.

    “Our friend Thrymir was loaded for bear... or more likely mammoth, given the timeframe he was frozen. We have identified at least five different weapon systems on his body. Now we’ve got a pretty good idea what they do, if not how. Hand a soldier from Napoleon’s army a modern-day firearm and he’ll have no clue how it works, but if he’s got any brains he’ll quickly figure out the whole ‘point-and-pull-the-trigger’ thing. Same here. Only problem is, we had a very hard time finding the triggers.”

    Marissa was not surprised, of course, that the reverse-engineering of the alien’s weapons was obviously a major focus for this operation. It would have been even more of a priority during the cold war, of course.

    “I assume you did eventually find them then?” she asked.

    “In a way, yes.”

    Another click, a new picture. This time it showed a stylized picture of Thrymir’s entire body with something that very much looked like a human nervous system highlighted.

    “Thrymir here didn’t need any triggers. His weapon systems were hardwired directly into his body and connected to his nervous system. The scientists tell me it’s not really like a human nervous system and functions very differently, but in terms of what it does, it’s the same. So basically Thrymir just had to think about it and the weapons fired. Which, considering the state of his brain module, left us at a bit of a loss.

    “A lot of effort has gone into finding some sort of alternate method of actually using these weapons, but the long and short of it is, they require a neurological impulse in order to work. Or to put it simply, we need a new brain for Thrymir.”

    Marissa was feeling somewhat uneasy at that comment.

    “Sir, ...” she began.

    “Now don’t worry, Captain,” the General said, “you’re not here to have your skull cut open and your brain extracted. No one except a few of our more... eccentric scientists ever really considered such an option.”

    Marissa gave a nearly imperceptible sigh of relief.

    “But the problem remains that Thrymir is but a brainless husk right now. We’re still a long way away from understanding his systems well enough to build our own versions, along with more conventional means of using them. So in order to get some use out of this guy, a parallel branch of research and development has come up with this.”

    Yet another new picture showed on the screen and Marissa needed a moment to recognize the object on it as Thrymir’s head. The ‘face’, for lack of a better word, was flipped upwards, exposing... a cockpit?

    The General smiled, seeing the understanding dawning on Captain Fairborn’s face.

    “Yes, Captain. That’s why we need a hotshot pilot, who also happens to be a top-notch engineer. We’re just about at the point were the eggheads feel confident that we can give old Thrymir a test drive and after going through long lists of candidates from pretty much every NATO country, the top guys decided that you’re the best woman for the job. So what do you say, Captain? Interested?”

    It was all Marissa could do not to drool on the table in front of her. She’d always loved flying, loved feeling huge machines respond to the motions of a control stick. The thought of sitting inside that huge machine and making it obey her commands, making it move...

    “Just one question, General,” she finally said.


    “Given that it has wings, that thing can fly, too, right?”

    The General smiled broadly. “Welcome aboard, Captain!”

    End Chapter 1
  3. Hosta

    Hosta Banned

    Aug 3, 2010
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    it's very good in literature form! but trying to translate that into something more animated, can be a logistical nightmare! & only showing the human story side, without Transformers in it....may not go down too well with everyone within the TF Fandom.
  4. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
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    There will be Transformers in it, don't worry. This is just part 1. And I didn't say I'd only show the human side, just that the story will center on a human lead.
  5. Hosta

    Hosta Banned

    Aug 3, 2010
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    ah right, by what means at your disposal have you got, to portray those TF characters onscreen? stop-motion? modelwork? CG? or a combination of all of those?
  6. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
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    Eh, none? This is a prose story. Just with the underlying thought that the story should be such that it would be possible to tell it in movie-form as well.
  7. Hosta

    Hosta Banned

    Aug 3, 2010
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    ah right, so basically it's a script waiting for a movie to happen! let's hope that Michael Bay is perusing this thread. btw..maybe you should get it copywrited, in case someone else tries to nick your ideas
  8. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
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    Chapter 2: Test Drive


    N.B.E.-1 Hangar
    NATO Base near Tromso, Norway
    October 26, 2005

    “Okay, try it now!”

    The voice hailing from inside an open panel near Thrymir’s shoulder, where nothing but a pair of legs remained visible of the engineer currently crawling through the giant’s guts, was muffled almost to the point of unintelligibility, but Marissa got the gist of it. Taking a deep breath, she slipped her right hand back into the gauntlet that was part of the cockpit’s control harness. She’d done this more than a few times these past two weeks, but still felt a bit uneasy every single time.

    Like General Eisenhardt had told her, Thrymir had been a living being, or at least close enough that it didn’t really make a practical difference. His body required nerve impulses from a brain in order to respond. Marissa was to replace the wrecked module that had originally served that purpose.

    Thankfully nerve impulses were really nothing but electricity and they either fired or they didn’t, so in essence it was the most basic of binary systems imaginable. Ones and zeros. Of course the sheer number of nerve impulses required to operate a human (or giant, near-humanoid) body, not to mention the coordination required, went far beyond the capabilities of any computer ever built by humans, so only a real brain would do. The hard part, of course, was the interface.

    It started with small things, such as the fact that a human body had five fingers, while Thrymir only had three, one thumb and two longer, almost claw-like digits. The translation software included in the binary interface the resident scientists had constructed had to bridge such inconsistencies. In this case, Marissa would control Thrymir’s fingers with her thumb, index and middle finger. The remaining two fingers, on the other hand, would be required to control body parts that Thrymir had that humans didn’t. Such as the big ray guns strapped to each upper arm.

    Marissa snapped the gauntlet shut around her arm and activated the interface. It was limited so far, seeing as they were still in the test phases. If everything worked she’d do nothing today but move her arm and...

    “Watch out!” someone yelled as Thrymir’s giant right arm shot out to the side, knocking over part of the scaffold that had been erected around him. The movement caused the man who’d been halfway inside Thrymir’s shoulder to topple fully inside, a yelled curse hailing from inside a second later. Marissa quickly deactivated that gauntlet again, afraid that another movement on her part would crush the man.

    “You all right in there?” she asked, leaning out of the cockpit inside Thrymir’s head.

    Still muttering curses in his native German, Harald Walde, chief engineer of the Thrymir project, emerged from the open panel. His face was smeared with grease and a bruise was quickly developing on his right temple.

    “I assume you did not intend to punch an invisible opponent somewhere on your right, Captain?” he asked.

    “Not as such, no. I only twisted my wrist.”

    “Scheisse! I thought the computer geeks had fixed those interface translation problems by now.”

    Seeing as nerve impulse patterns were as different per individual as finger prints or DNA, the project’s computer experts had spent several days measuring Marissa’s nervous system, made her jump through all sorts of hoops, and had her go through just about the full range of human movements. In theory a simple mapping should have followed, basically saying “if Marissa’s nervous system says ‘A’ then Thrymir does ‘B’”. In practice, though, the process was still very much prone to error.

    “Maybe during the next test you shouldn’t be halfway inside his shoulder,” Marissa told the engineer, with whom she’d quickly formed a friendship during the past 14 days. Despite their difference in age, Harald being nearly sixty years old, they had a similar mindset. Both liked to get their hands dirty when it came to the machines they built or operated. He actually reminded Marissa of her first engineering teacher, who’d told her that it might be the big-head scientists who came up with the ideas, but it was the engineers that figured out how to make them work in the real world.

    As if summoned by magic a young man in a white lab coat appeared right next to the laptop that was connected to Marissa’s control harness and started hacking away.

    “Sorry about that,” he muttered, fully focused on the screen in front of him. “There was still a glitch in the... ah, here it is. There. That should do it. Try it now!”

    Marissa and Harald shared a look and the older engineer quickly walked across the scaffold over to Thrymir’s left side, as far away from the right arm as possible. Marissa waited a moment, then reactivated the gauntlet on her right arm, careful to keep it completely still for the moment. Then she slowly raised her arm and flexed her fingers.

    Wide-eyed, she saw Thrymir’s huge arm mirror the movement exactly.

    “That’s more like it,” she said, smiling.


    N.B.E.-1 Hangar
    NATO Base near Tromso, Norway
    October 28, 2005

    “I feel like a fly in a spider’s web,” Marissa complained.

    Today was to be the first real test drive for Thrymir and its new brain, Marissa Fairborn. After having spent the last few days testing the control harness in a limited way – arms, hands, legs – it was now time to put the whole body to work. And as a result, Marissa found herself in her current situation. For Thrymir’s cockpit had very little resemblance to that of a jet fighter or anything else she’d ever piloted and while it did have a seat, she wouldn’t be sitting in it much.

    Pretty much her entire body was encased by the control harness, the only thing not covered was her lower face. She hung suspended in the middle of the cockpit, the contraption allowing her to move her body as if she was walking in an open space. Myriad cables connected the full-body harness to the walls of the cockpit, transmitting her nerve impulses into the much larger frame. The visor across her eyes was currently transparent, but would connect to the outside sensors built into Thrymir’s head once the harness was fully activated.

    An almost tangible air of nervousness surrounded the entire huge hangar. After all, nearly thirty years of work would culminate today. For the first time ever Thrymir was fully functional (or as close as human science and engineering could make him) and would be brought to full power. So far they had only ever energized the parts of him they were currently working on, never the whole thing. And even though every perceivable precaution had been taken and everyone kept assuring her that nothing could possibly go wrong, Marissa was the one actually strapped into the alien machine. So yes, she was nervous. But also excited. Very, very excited.

    “Okay, girl, everything is ready,” Harald said from the still-open cockpit. “Anything seems even slightly wrong, you press that big red button in your palm and Thrymir shuts down.”

    “I know, you told me that ten times already. Now get out and fire me up!”

    “Brat,” he muttered good-naturedly and stepped outside. Moments later the cockpit canopy, really Thrymir’s face, slid down and locked into place, leaving Marissa with only the faint glow of an emergency light. Static crackled in the speaker near her ear and she could hear General Eisenhardt’s voice.

    “Everything’s ready on this end, Captain Fairborn,” he said. “Last chance to bug out.”

    “I think the people who spent the last two weeks fine-tuning everything to my nervous system would be slightly offended if I jumped ship now, sir” she replied. “Ready as can be in here, too.”

    “Okay then, we’re turning him on... now!”

    Much like in a human body, a pump-like mechanism near the centre of Thrymir’s torso distributed fuel through a system of arteries, very much like blood. Seeing as this fuel-blood, what little had been left in Thrymir’s system by the time he’d been found, defied all analysis, the matter of powering up Thrymir could very well have turned out to be an insolvable problem. Thankfully someone – be it Thrymir himself or whoever had built him – had apparently foreseen the difficulty of finding compatible fuel in an alien environment and equipped the giant robot with a kind of universal converter. The scientists were nowhere close to figuring out how it worked, but whatever energy source was put into this converter – a cube-shaped opening near Thrymir’s belly – was turned into a kind of substitute fuel sufficient to keep the giant running.

    Right now three different generators pumped raw current into this converter and all around Marissa the giant’s systems began to come to life. Her visor lit up, showing her the hangar outside as if she was seeing it with her own eyes. Slowly turning her head, she could feel Thrymir responding, his head turning as well.

    “Optics are working,” she reported, “neck controls responding.”

    Next she carefully began moving her arms, once again feeling the metal cocoon around her moving with her. Concentrating, she moved her arms through a simple Tai Chi movement she’d learned in basic training.

    “Looking very good, Marissa,” Harald’s voice said in her ear. “Thrymir’s arms are moving fluidly. No sing of any hic-ups so far.”


    Next she moved her legs. It took a certain measure of training to produce a natural walking movement when you were basically suspended in mid-air, but she had it down by now. The floor of the hangar shook slightly as one titanic foot was set before the other, Thrymir moving under his own power for the first time in at least 12,000 years. Through the external audio pickups Marissa could hear a cheer going up from the assembled project team.

    “Everything looks good so far,” Harald said, keeping a close on everything. “Ready to take our buddy out for a spin beyond the hangar doors?”

    “You think I got all prettied up just to take two baby steps, old man?” she asked teasingly.

    “Okay, Captain,” General Eisenhardt cut in. “Take Thrymir into the freight elevator. We got nice cloud cover topside, so no one should be able to take any unauthorized peeks. Let’s see how our boy handles outside the womb.”

    Excitement running through her body, Marissa quickly moved the colossal robot towards the far side of the hangar, where the doors of a massive freight elevator cycled open. Two minutes later she was standing under an open sky – for the first time in two weeks, even – and looked out across the barren landscape.

    “Very well, Captain,” Eisenhardt said. “Don’t overdo it, but put our boy through a light workout. It’s been a while since he was able to stretch his legs.”

    “Will do, sir!”

    A moment later the Earth shook as Marissa put Thrymir into a run. Humongous legs ate up the distance as the robot easily reached a running speed of more than 100 kph. Marissa barely managed to suppress a manic laugh, the feeling of this giant metal body under her control was almost intoxicating. Not even flying an F-16 gave one this level of direct control over a powerful machine.

    She could barely wait to take this boy flying.

    “Still looking good, Captain,” Eisenhardt was on the channel once again. “How about a nice little loop around the base before you take our boy back home.”

    “Yes, sir!”

    Her body almost humming, her mind flush with excitement, Marissa failed to notice something very important. Not that she would have had much chance to notice it anyway. A single, autonomous system that had lain dormant since the robot called Thrymir had first arrived on this world however many years ago had just become active. It was, in essence, little more than a transmitter, though operating on a frequency human scientists had never even imagined.

    Unnoticed by anyone, the tiny little transmitter sent a single transmission burst skyward before turning off again. Its work was done.

    End Chapter 2
  9. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
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    Chapter 3: Fantastic Voyage


    Outside NATO Base near Tromso, Norway
    October 29, 2005

    After having successfully tested many of Thrymir’s basic systems yesterday, the second day would finally see two things that Marissa was even more excited about than running around inside a huge metal giant. More specifically today she would not run, but fly around inside a huge metal giant. That, and blow stuff up with Thrymir’s onboard weaponry.

    While there had been numerous tests done with Thrymir’s weapons, no one yet knew how effective they would really be, as they hadn’t yet been able to actually fire them. Seeing as it required nerve impulses to do so, it would only work now that the Ice Giant once again had a working brain, though it had taken the form of a human being. As for his flight capabilities, so far the scientists only knew that, yes, he had once been able to fly and, yes, as all systems were more or less restored, he should be able to do it now, too. Testing it, of course, fell to Marissa.

    “Okay, Captain,” General Eisenhardt’s voice once again sounded through her ear piece. “Don’t pull any Top Gun moves on me today! Just try to get our boy airborne a bit and take him back down. No fancy flying on the first try, understood?”

    “Yes, sir,” Marissa replied, though she wanted nothing more than to put Thrymir through his paces right now. She understood, of course, that taking a completely untested aircraft – though it was shaped very differently than any jet she’d ever flown – to its limits on the very first test flight was sheer stupidity. So she would take it easy today... grudgingly.

    “Skies are clear of aircraft, cloud cover is holding. Whenever you’re ready, Captain!”

    Seeing as human beings had no in-built rocket boosters, the scientists had wired the controls of Thrymir’s jets to respond to Marissa’s toe movements. How the actual steering was going to work was a bit of an unknown quantity yet, as Thrymir apparently had nothing in the way of control surfaces. Marissa would have to literally wing it here and she could barely wait.

    Slowly flexing her toes, she felt Thrymir begin to rumble as the boosters built into his feet and back begin to activate. A moment later the giant robot began to lift off the ground on plumes of fire. Marissa had never flown a VTOL aircraft before, but she imagined it might feel very much like this.

    “Looking good, Marissa,” Harald’s voice came over the com. “Now try if you can get our boy to float sideways a bit.”


    Given the placement of the jets, Marissa kept her legs extended straight toward the ground, while tilting her upper body to the side. Thrymir wobbled, but obediently moved sideways while maintaining his current altitude about ten meters off the ground.

    “Very good, Captain! Now one more test before we end this flight. Try to attain forward movement!”

    This would be the hardest part, Marissa knew, because it would require trading her uplift for horizontal thrust. Deciding to go at it like Superman, she tilted Thrymir’s body forward, extended her arms above her heads and finally levelled out her legs. The result was instantaneous.

    “Whoooo!” Marissa couldn’t quite suppress her exhilaration as the giant robot shot forward, parallel to the ground. She had no idea what speed she was travelling at, but it was certainly more than enough to negate gravitational pull and keep her on a level flight path. A strange feeling tingled across her back and she realized the wings on Thrymir’s back were responding, somehow stretching sideways to increase updraft. At the same time a buzzing went across her forearms and with a start Marissa realized that Thrymir’s arms were... changing?

    “What are you doing, Captain? Thrymir’s arms are reconfiguring in some way.”

    Steering fins, Marissa realized. Thrymir was growing steering fins on his arms and – she double-checked – on her legs, too.

    “It seems to be some kind of automatic reconfiguration when in flight mode,” she replied. “Something akin to reflexive movements in an organic body, Thrymir’s body knows how to handle flight without conscious input from the brain.”

    “Amazing,” Harald whispered. “They really managed to build all the complexities of an organic being into a machine.”

    Marissa carefully tried her hand – or arms, more precisely – at steering. Moving her arms and legs caused the steering fins to shift as well, giving her flight control. Steering left and right, as well as up and down, was almost intuitive. Oh, she wouldn’t be up for complex flight manoeuvres or dog fights anytime soon, but she could fly.

    Damn, she could fly!

    “Okay, Captain, take him for one loop around the base, then bring him in for a landing. I don’t think the people here can restrain themselves much longer from taking a look at those transforming arms and legs of Thrymir, we’ll handle the weapon tests later.”

    “Understood, sir!”

    She carefully manoeuvred Thrymir into a gentle curve and made him fly a wide arc around the base. Damn, this was fun. She hoped she’d get the chance to really put this guy through his paces soon. That, and fire off the big guns, too. While all this careful testing was no doubt necessary and sensible, she really longed for some more actions.

    Captain Marissa Fairborn of the United States Airforce really should have remembered the old adage of being careful what you wish for.

    A buzzing sound drew her attention and a display screen opened in her field of vision. Thrymir was equipped with a full range of sensory equipment, much of which the various scientists of Project: Udgard didn’t fully understand yet. Something similar to radar was present, as well as thermal and motion sensors. It was not one of these, though, which called for Marissa’s attention, but rather one of the still-unknown sensor apparatuses. The interface built into her visor translated it as a bright dot directly in front of her, coming closer.

    “Some kind of bogey in front of me,” she called in. “I’m taking evasive action.”

    “Radar shows nothing, Captain! Are you certain?”

    “Thrymir seems certain. No sense taking chances!”

    She put the flying robot into a steep descent and took him to the right, trying to evade whatever it was by a wide margin. The attempt was not successful, though.

    “Bogey is still coming toward me!”

    “Radar is still empty, but we’re picking up some kind of weird radiation reading. Bring Thrymir down to the ground right now, Captain!”

    Marissa quickly cut all forward motion and made Thrymir drop earthward, bring the robot’s legs down so the boosters in the feet could decelerate her. The display screen in front of her screamed a warning, the whatever-it-was coming closer at high speed.

    “It’s going to hit me! I’ll attempt to...”

    Much faster than she could react the universe suddenly went mad around her. There was a flash, almost like some kind of explosive hitting her, but no feeling of impact. All motion stopped, she was no longer dropping down to earth, but felt weightless. Her visor went dead, showing nothing but static. Marissa tried to move, but everything felt remote and distant, as if she (or Thrymir, rather) was wrapped up in cotton.

    There was a beam of light in front of her, shining directly before her eyes. Some instinct made her focus on it, as the inky blackness on either side of it seemed threatening and deadly. There was a pulling sensation, as if she was being hauled in by an invisible fisherman’s line, and nothing existed but the beam of the light and the blackness around it.

    Marissa wasn’t sure how much time had past. Maybe just seconds, maybe hours. The sense of discontinuity faded and she felt able to move again. Her visor flickered and once again showed a picture of the world outside Thrymir’s head. Only it wasn’t the picture of cloudy skies and permafrost landscape she’d seen earlier. Instead she seemed to be inside some sort of building, there were metal walls all around her.

    For a moment she wondered if she’d blacked out and they’d towed her back into the hangar, but she quickly banished that notion. After the last few weeks she was very familiar with Thrymir’s hangar and this wasn’t it. No, she was most definitely somewhere else.

    She briefly considered her options. She could exit Thrymir and have a look around on foot, but without the scaffolding she’d not only be forced to make the rather hazardous climb down the robot’s huge body without any aid, she would also not be able to plug herself back into the cockpit without help. It had taken three members of the support staff to fit her into the control harness; no way could she do it by her lonesome. So if she left the robot, she wouldn’t be able to get back in.

    Okay, so the best bet was to remain inside for the moment and take a look around from the dubious safety of her cockpit. A quick check showed that whatever might have happened, it hadn’t damaged the control harness any. Thrymir still responded to her body’s movements, so without further ado she got the giant robot moving toward what appeared to be the exit of the huge room she was in.

    It was a door built to Thrymir’s scale, an automatic one at that. It slid open before her and Marissa made Thrymir step outside.

    End Chapter 3
  10. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
    News Credits:
    Trophy Points:
    Chapter 4: Brave New World


    Location: Unkown
    October 29, 2005

    For almost a full minute, possibly more, Captain Marissa Fairborn of the United States Air Force could do nothing but stare straight ahead, her brain refusing to compute. The entire landscape before her was metal, stretching from horizon to horizon. Metal walkways stretched across vast canyons, part of the sky was blotted out by yet more metal structures that arched out high above her. Even the ground under her feet (or Thrymir’s, rather) was nothing but a seemingly endless pattern of metal plates.

    Her brain refused the inescapable conclusion for quite some time until disbelief finally surrendered to common sense. This place... it wasn’t home. It wasn’t Earth. Wherever she was, however she had gotten here, she was certainly not in Kansas anymore. Nor Norway, for that matter. Looking up, Thrymir’s eyes showed her patches of dark sky visible through the metallic jigsaw and while Marissa was no astronomer, she was fairly certain that none of the constellations she could see had any place in Earth’s skies.

    Fighting down the rising panic she could feel in her chest, she tried to approach things rationally. Okay, first thing first. She was obviously in an alien environment. Short term survival? Thrymir’s cockpit was hermetically sealed with its own air supply and heating. A quick check showed that both were working. Her air supply would last the better part of a day, at least. Second, the outside. Temperature gauges showed that it was cold, but not lethally so. Not really that different from a chilly Norway afternoon. Sadly no one had thought it necessary to install anything to check the breathability of the atmosphere. Leaving Earth hadn’t really factored into the plans of Project Utgard. So for the moment she had no way of knowing whether or not she would be able to breathe here once her air ran out. When the time came that her air supply was empty, she’d just have to hope for the best.

    Medium term food would become a problem. She had taken along two bottles of water, as exercising the full body movements to control Thrymir were exhausting, but no food. She’d fully expected to be back in the base mess hall for lunch. Well, if and when she survived the lack of stored air, she’d worry about food.

    Fascination at being in an alien world aside, her first priority had to be to return home. Turning around, she looked at the building she’d just stepped out of. It seemed to be a huge tower, shaped somewhat like a flower with a long ‘stem’ and a huge, roughly circular construct on top. Some kind of antenna or focusing device? As best as she could say she had arrived here by some form of mass transit or teleportation, so it stood to reason that some kind of energy broadcast was involved.

    Looking closer, the building seemed old and abandoned. There were no lights on and the metal walls looked dirty and dull. She also saw what appeared to be scorch marks on the surface. Traces of an explosion? Weapons fire? She had no way of knowing. Well, the outside seemed to hold no answers for her, so she decided to head back inside. With any luck there’d be a big red button somewhere labelled ‘automatic return’ or something. A girl could hope, couldn’t she?

    Before she could put that thought into action, though, Thrymir’s automatic system opened up a new display in her field of vision, showing the equivalent of a radar screen. Three objects were rapidly approaching her position. Marissa turned around, searching the skies for the bogeys, and finally spotted them. Two were clearly fighter craft of some kind, though their design reminded her more of some kind of flying pyramid than any Earth-style aircraft. A close-up clearly showed weapon barrels of some kind.

    Between these two fighter craft was something utterly alien. It flew and was somewhat aerodynamic in shape, but the thing it most resembled in Marissa’s mind was a huge gun barrel with wings. Some kind of flying artillery module? She wasn’t sure. The only thing she was sure of was the fact that all three bogeys came directly towards her.

    Uncertain what to do, Marissa slowly backed up towards the door she’d come out of. It was clearly too late to hide, as these things were zeroing in on her with unerring accuracy and if her sensors had seen them, odds were theirs had seen her, too. She was still debating what course of action to take when she experienced yet another moment of shock.

    Roughly 200 meters away from her, still at least 50 meters up, the three flying objects suddenly contorted in mid-air. Their outer shapes seemed to fall apart and rearrange in a way Marissa had never even imagined and less than two seconds later three giant robots struck the ground ahead of her, knees slightly bending to cushion the impact. Three giant robots, her stumped mind kept repeating. Three flying craft had suddenly... transformed... into three giant robots.

    The two robots that had been fighter craft moments ago superficially resembled Thrymir, Marissa noted. Did that mean... no time to think about that now. The middle robot, the one that had been that huge flying gun thing, stepped toward her. It was at least a full head taller than the other two and more heavily built. One of its arms ended not in a hand, but rather in a huge, really huge gun. Its head was featureless expect for a single cyclopean eye that seemed to pulse with some kind of purple light.

    Thrymir’s audio pick-up came online and broadcast a gargle of alien noises into the cockpit, making Marissa wince. She needed a moment to process, finally guessing that the alien robot things were trying to communicate with her. Was this some kind of language? Computer code? A simple “Hi, how are you doing?”. She had no way of knowing and no way of answering, either. While Thrymir did have speakers capable of transmitting her voice outside the confines of the robot’s shell, she doubted anyone here spoke English.

    After a few seconds the alien noises were repeated and the big thing with the gun arm looked distinctly impatient. Hoping that she wasn’t about to do something really foolish, Marissa made Thrymir raise his arms and show his empty hands, hoping that the gesture for “I mean no harm” was at least somewhat universal. The big guy seemed confused for a moment, then stepped closer, practically getting into her – or Thrymir’s, rather – face, once again repeating his alien address.

    Seeing no other option, Marissa activated the speakers and spoke. “I am very sorry, but I can’t understand you!”

    The big guy stepped back, clearly surprised at the – to him – alien words. Despite not having anything resembling facial features it seemed puzzled and cocked its head. A moment later its hand – not the one with the gun – came up and some kind of light ray skimmed across Thrymir’s body. Was he... scanning her, somehow?

    Whatever he had just done, the big guy didn’t seem happy. He motioned to the two Thrymir look-alikes by his side and they spread out, clearly intending to surround her. The big guy’s gun arm also came up, pointing towards her. An eerie glow emerged from the muzzle.

    “Please, I mean you no harm,” she stated, making Thrymir raise his arms even further in a basic “I surrender” gesture. Even if she had any idea what Thrymir’s weapons were capable of, she had no intention of starting a fire fight with the very first aliens the human race had ever met. Besides, if she wanted to return home, these guys were probably her best bet.

    She couldn’t say whether the big guy understood her intentions or not. He came closer again, his weapon arm still pointed at her, and his single cyclopean eye was focused on her, or rather Thrymir’s head. Had his scans, if that was what they’d been, revealed that an alien creature was hidden inside the robot’s head? If so, she certainly expected him to be surprised, but was unsure what other reactions to expect. Angry? Curious? Deeply offended? There was no way to know. Though she didn’t like how he flexed those very claw-like fingers on his non-gun-hand in her direction.

    Suddenly one of the Thrymir-clones flanking her was violently taken off his feet by the explosive impact of what appeared to be artillery shells. The robot was propelled into the side of the tower and slid down, a hole blown clean right through his torso. Marissa involuntarily ducked, which was a good thing as more shells whistled through the air close by.

    The big guy screamed something in his alien language and his gun arm moved away from Marissa. She had half a second to spot some shapes half-hidden among some lower buildings close by before she was nearly blinded. The big guy’s weapon arm lit up in a flash of purple and something that Marissa could only call a huge laser beam arced across the distance, blowing up one of the smaller buildings.

    Marissa was frantic, no idea what to do. She was clearly in some sort of conflict zone here, but she didn’t know the players or the stakes. Considering that the robot she was inside was a dead ringer for the one that had just been blown to bits, she had to assume that the other side, whoever they were, would be shooting at her, too. Big gun guy and his goons hadn’t shot her yet, but they hadn’t seemed too friendly, either. And she had no way to tell anyone that she was just here by accident and not interested in fighting.

    Ideas flashed through her head in quick succession. Get out of Thrymir, as he was clearly a target. Stay inside, so she wouldn’t be stepped on. Run away, or better yet, fly away. Stay close, as the building was her most probable way home. Marissa was a veteran of combat, but right now she was so far out of her depth that she was completely frozen.

    The choice was taken from her. The second Thrymir-clone zigged when he should have zagged and was riddled by some kind of blaster fire, exploding in a shower of sparks and flame. The big gun guy, while still firing those devastating blasts toward what appeared to be the enemy line, apparently decided that discretion was the better part of valor. His body contorted again and moments later he took off in his flying gun mode, quickly putting some distance between himself and the melee.

    Marissa carefully straightened, careful to keep Thrymir’s hands up in the hopes that no one would be shooting at her as long as she kept passive. Several shapes were detaching from the nearby buildings, some as huge as the big guy with his gun arm, while several others were a good deal smaller. All of them kept weapons trained on her, but so far no one was shooting.

    One of the new robots, a really big guy in red and blue with a huge black rifle in one hand, approached her cautiously. There was that alien noise again, though it did sound a whole lot friendlier somehow.

    “I’m sorry, but I can’t understand you, either,” Marissa said, hoping against hope that these guys might just be a bit friendlier than the others had turned out to be.

    A somewhat smaller robot in white stood next to the big red guy and gestured toward her with some kind of gizmo in hand, talking excitedly – or so it sounded to her. He and the big red guy apparently got into some kind of argument or discussion. Marissa really wished she understood what they were saying.

    What happened next went down so fast that Marissa reacted completely by instinct, no conscious thought involved. A display popped up, showing the flying gun thing again, rapidly coming towards them. Apparently it had circled around and was now heading right towards the big red guy’s back. The muzzle of the gun lit up and Marissa moved instinctively. Weapons were raised, alien voices shouted, and Marissa propelled Thrymir forward, right into the big red guy, who fell to the ground.

    A moment later a huge purple flash of energy enveloped Thrymir. Marrisa heard the sound of screaming metal, felt the heat of an explosion, and then her world drowned in darkness and pain.

    End Chapter 4
  11. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
    News Credits:
    Trophy Points:
    Chapter 5: Meet the Alien


    Place: Unknown
    Time: Unknown

    Marissa awoke, feeling pleasantly numb. The last thing she remembered was pain, tremendous pain, and she hadn’t really expected to wake up again. For a moment she considered that everything had been some kind of fever dream. Maybe there’d been an accident during Thrymir’s test run and she had just hallucinated the entire episode on that alien world. Yeah, that had to be it.

    Opening her eyes quickly demolished that theory.

    She was in a room that clearly hadn’t been built to human scale, the ceiling high above her. She was lying on some sort of surface, wrapped up in some kind of bandages and held immobile, and from the fuzziness inside her head she assumed that she’d been doped up with some kind of painkillers. Still, she doubted that the huge white robot she could see on the other side of the room was yet another hallucination.

    The thing was huge, though the scale of the room made it hard to judge its size accurately. There were some red highlights scattered across its body and Marissa could make out wheels on his legs, too. Dimly remembering the shock of seeing a vaguely fighter-jet-shaped aircraft transform into a giant robot made her assume that this thing, too, had some kind of alternate configuration. Cool!

    The fuzziness somewhat keeping the panic at bay, she opened her mouth to say something. The only thing that came out, though, was a scratchy cough. It did gain the attention of the robot, though, who turned to look at her with kind-looking blue eyes. It quickly said something in its alien language. When it approached her, though, that changed.

    “How do you feel?” it – or he, rather? – asked in perfect, accent-less English.

    She was shocked yet again, but somehow managed to make a sound that seemed to convey the idea that she needed some water. Despite having hands that were half as big as her entire body the robot gently lifted what appeared to be a bottle from somewhere outside her field of vision and moved it carefully towards her lips. She greedily drank, not really stopping to think whether or not whatever was in that bottle might be poisonous. It tasted like... well, nothing. It was water, probably, but it was the most tasteless water she’d ever had. Still, right now it was like pure ambrosia to her poor, scratchy throat.

    “Thank you,” she managed when the robot moved the bottle away.

    “Do not try and speak too much,” the robot said. “Your body has suffered tremendous damage from that hit you took. It will take time until all your functions are even close to nominal again.”

    She blinked, trying to wrap her fuzzy mind around his words. Speaking of words...

    “Why can I understand you?” she asked dazedly.

    “We recovered data from the systems you installed in the Decepticon’s body. It gave us a basic understanding of your language. A limited number of words, only, but we can talk.”

    “Great,” she said, feeling tired. “Where am I?”

    “Our world is called...” a jumble of alien noise followed. It sounded somewhat like ‘Saibatron’. “Right now you are in the city state...” more alien noise, something like ‘Iacon’.

    “And you are?” she asked.

    “My name, in your language, would be... Ratchet, I think. I am a doctor.”

    Marissa suppressed the urge to giggle and ask “What’s up, doc?” Those were probably the painkillers talking. She really did feel very giddy and fuzzy and oh, what pretty colours...

    She suspected she had blacked out for a while, because next thing she knew there were two other robots standing with Ratchet and the light level in the room had changed, being brighter than before. Also, she didn’t feel quite as fuzzy as before. Still numb, but more clear-headed.

    “I hope you are feeling better now,” the robot… Ratchet… said. “I am sorry, but you are an unknown species to us, so finding the right level of anaesthetics is still a bit of trial and error at this point.”

    “I feel a bit better, yes,” she managed, her throat feeling less like raw sandpaper now. “I... assume I have you to thank for still being alive?”

    The robot to Ratchet’s right moved forward and she recognized him as the big red and blue guy she had seen briefly on the battle field. Her memory of those last few seconds before she had been hit was fragmentary at best. He was a good deal taller than Ratchet and most of his face was hidden behind a mouth guard of some kind. Despite his enormous physical presence, though, he somehow managed to give off a gentle air.

    “I am the one who should be thankful,” he said, his voice deep and resonant. “If not for your quick action on that battle field, Shockwave might very well have killed me.”

    Shockwave? Oh, he probably meant... yes, now she remembered. That big guy with the gun hand who turned into a big flying gun had circled around and tried to shoot the big red guy in the back. She didn’t know why she had reacted the way she had, but she had tried to push him aside. Apparently to her own detriment.

    “My name, as it translates into your language, is Optimus Prime.”

    “My name is Marissa Fairborn,” she returned the favour. “Nice to meet you.” She tried to raise her hand to wave at him, but her body refused to move.

    “Look, I know you don’t know me or my species or anything, but there really is no need to restrain me. I... wouldn’t know where to go anyway.”

    The robots seemed to share worried looks and Ratchet moved forward again, leaning closer. It was unnerving to see so big a face up close, but it was one her smaller worries right now.

    “I am very sorry, Marissa Fairborn. As you said, you are an alien species to us and when you were brought here, you were heavily damaged. I did the best I could, but I am afraid some of your parts were beyond repair.”

    “Some of my parts...” Marissa began, her voice trailing off as a feeling of cold dread spread through her mind. For the first time since coming awake she raised her head and looked down her own body... what was left of it. One leg ended mid-thigh, the other shortly below the knee. For a moment she refused to believe it, certain that she could still feel sensations from her feet quite clearly, but her eyes refused to reconsider. Looking left, she gave a small sigh of relief when she saw a whole arm complete with hand there and she wiggled her finger. Looking right, though, just brought more horror. There was nothing there except a piece of shoulder. Her right arm, just like her legs, was just... gone.

    “Now don’t worry,” the third robot, who had so far remained silent, said. “I’m already looking into replacement limbs for you. It won’t be easy; interfacing organic nerves with cybernetic systems isn’t exactly an established science, but...”

    “Wheeljack,” Ratchet interrupted him. “Now is not the time, I believe.”

    Marissa barely registered the words. She kept staring at her missing limbs. This had to be a dream. She wasn’t really stranded on an alien world and reduced to a helpless bag of flesh. No, that couldn’t be. This couldn’t be real. It just couldn’t.

    “Let me adjust that a bit,” she dimly heard Ratchet say and her mind grew fuzzy again. A part of her registered that he was probably upping her pain killer dosage again to mitigate the effects of shock, but most of her didn’t care. As consciousness faded, all she could think of was the fact that three of her limbs were gone and she was helplessly stranded on an alien world. No, this really couldn’t be real. No way.

    End Chapter 5
  12. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
    News Credits:
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    Chapter 6: Marissa’s Journal


    Journal of Captain Marissa Fairborn, United States Air Force
    Earth Date November 12, 2005 (approx.)

    It’s been two weeks since I’ve arrived on this alien planet, one week since I’ve regained consciousness and found myself a cripple, and I’ve decided to write down my experiences here as a way to keep from going insane. Maybe putting everything into words (with the added challenge of writing left-handed) is going to help me keep my wits together in the face of things that are so far outside human experience that they might as well be fever dreams. And seeing as there is currently very little hope that I will ever be able to get back home, maybe this way someone back on Earth will eventually learn what happened to that Air Force Captain who just vanished into thin air one day. You never know.

    I’ve spent most of this last week I’ve been conscious recovering from my injuries. Well, recovering as much as you can when you have lost three of your four limbs. Looking down at the stumps where my legs used to be, not to mention the one where I used to have a right arm, is still hard, but at least I can manage without descending into despair by now. I have very little coherent memory of that first day here in Iacon after finding out that I was a cripple. I think I cried myself to sleep eventually.

    Anyway, being unable to do much of anything, I spent the time learning about this world I’m currently stranded on. The Autobots, the name of the group I’m staying with, seem very open and not once have I gotten anything like “classified” or “need to know” from them. Well, most of what they’ve told me so far would be common knowledge among their people, I figure, and I don’t plan on asking them about any details concerning their ongoing war anytime soon.

    I should try and get this into some sort of order, so let’s start with the current state of affairs on Cybertron, which is the name of this alien world. From what little I’ve seen before being injured and the information provided by the Autobots, Cybertron seems to be a ‘made’ world, comprised completely of metal and technology. I’m not sure about its size when compared to Earth. Gravity appears to be a tad higher here than back home, I’d say by roughly five percent, so the planet must have more mass than Earth. It’s not so much a single solid sphere, though, but rather a huge, roughly sphere-shaped jigsaw puzzle. There are canyons as wide and deep as continents, layers upon layers of criss-crossing hexagon-patterned walkways the width of countries, and cities seem to be built up- and downwards as much as sideways. The entire architecture here is incredibly alien.

    Just like their world, the inhabitants are intelligent machines. General Eisenhardt told me that they suspected that Thrymir was in fact a sentient being or so close that it didn’t make a practical difference. Well, he was right. The Cybertronians are machines, but they are alive by any definition that I’m privy to. They are individuals, they make their own decisions, they get downright emotional at times, they procreate (though I’m not up on the methods so far) and they wage war. In fact this entire strange, alien planet is currently involved in a civil war.

    Apparently the war has been going on for over 50,000 ‘Vorns’, a Vorn being the name for the Cybertronian year. As best as I can determine this planet takes about 80 Earth years to orbit its sun, so apparently the war has been going on for no less than 4 million Earth years. The first time I heard that I was completely incredulous, but considering that every single inhabitant of this world is – in theory, at least – immortal, it does become a bit more credible. A species that doesn’t age will, of course, take a much longer view regarding pretty much anything and that seems to extend to warfare.

    The two sides of this civil war are called ‘Autonomous Robots’ (or Autobots, for short) and ‘Conquerors through Decepticon’ (Decepticons). The main reason for the war seems to be an ideological dispute about the Cybertronians’ purpose in the universe. The Decepticons apparently believe that the Cybertronians, as the most highly advanced and powerful race in the known universe, should rule over the lesser races. The Autobots disagree, believing that every sentient being has the right to freedom. At least that is what I was told by the Autobots. I have yet to hear the Decepticon side of the argument, but considering that my sole encounter with Decepticons so far involved being shot at and losing three of my four limbs, I am somewhat partial to the Autobot side at the moment.

    From what I’ve learned the civil war has ground to a stalemate a long time ago with both sides very evenly matched and firmly entrenched in their respective positions. So despite the fact that the war is officially ongoing, the number of actual engagements is relatively low, both sides unwilling to commit any significant resources to a major assault. Resources being the key word here, apparently, as the number one problem for both sides is lack of energy. Apparently the war has consumed the largest part of this planet’s resources a long time ago.

    Which leads me to how I got here. Cybertron is just one of several planets settled by Cybertronians. I haven’t been given an exact number, but I’ve heard mention of at least three other planets and they are connected to Cybertron by something called a Space Bridge network. Which is a very good thing for me, by the way, seeing as Cybertron itself is all-metal and doesn’t have anything in the way of water or organic foodstuff. Thankfully one of the connected worlds seems to be relatively Earth-like and the Autobots have brought in water and some kind of edible plant fibre from there to feed the organic alien that is stranded on their world. Not exactly tasty, but enough to survive on.

    So, Space Bridges. The Cybertronians have apparently found a method of faster-than-light travel a long time ago that is more or less akin to teleportation. The scientific theory behind it goes far above my head, I’m sure, and so I haven’t asked. On the practical side it involves some kind of terminal device on both ends of the journey, a transmitter and a receiver. In the past the Cybertronians would send out star ships that would travel to new planets, taking however long it took to get there at speeds below light. Again, being a species that doesn’t age, they can easily afford to take their time. Once at its destination, the ship’s crew would set up a Space Bridge terminal and be instantly connected back to the established worlds.

    Since the beginning of the war, though, no new planets have been connected to the Space Bridge network, seeing as neither side has the resources to spare. No new planets means no new resources, of course, hence the current stalemate. Recently (by Cybertronian definition, meaning about 20,000 Earth years ago) one of the Decepticons apparently discovered a way to improve the Space Bridge technology to the point where you only needed a terminal at one end, not both. Explorers were sent out into the universe via this new technology, their mission to find planets rich with resources which could help tip the scales of war. From what the Autobots learned, though, none of these explorers ever returned, the project was deemed a failure and eventually mothballed.

    Only it seems it was not, in fact, a failure. Thrymir, or Skywarp as he’s actually called, was one of these explorers. He made it to Earth. Something must have happened to him, though, either during the journey or on arrival, seeing as he never called in his discovery. When we repowered him, some kind of automatic recall was activated and brought him -and me- here.

    Which leads me to some very uncomfortable conclusions, of course. One, seeing as it was a Decepticon project which brought me here, only they will have the means to send me back home. Two, the Decepticons would probably be very eager to accommodate me in this, not out of the goodness of their hearts, but rather because, three, Earth is exactly what they were looking for, a planet unclaimed by the Autobots and rich in resources. Meaning that, if they find out Earth’s location, my home will become another battle field in this war. Something that must not happen.

    So where does that leave me? I really see but two options available to me. One, I resign myself to spending the rest of my life here, never to see the Earth again. Or two, I hope against hope that somehow, someway this civil war that has raged for over 4 million Earth years ends within my lifetime and with an Autobot victory. Not much hope, maybe only a fool’s hope.

    Tomorrow Wheeljack will give me my legs back, he says. Once I can walk again, I will ask Optimus Prime to let me help them win this war.

    End Chapter 6
  13. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
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    Chapter 7: Learning to Walk


    Iacon, Planet Cybertron
    Earth Date November 13, 2005 (approx.)

    “Go ahead,” Wheeljack said. “Give it a try!”

    Marissa gave the towering robot a sceptical glance, but decided she had little to lose. From what she had gathered Wheeljack was the Autobots’ resident mad scientist and the main driving force behind everything connected with that fascinating alien visitor called Marissa Fairborn. He had managed to find the data that allowed the Autobots to speak her language, he had scavenged the remains of Thrymir / Skywarp for the binary interface system the people of Project Utgard had constructed and now he had built her something she had been missing these last two weeks: legs.

    Marissa had never considered herself a restless person, but after two weeks of basically being an immobile blob of flesh she was more than willing to try out anything that might restore mobility to her. Even if it looked disturbingly like something cooked up in Dr. Frankenstein’s lab on a B-movie budget. Basically it looked like a metallic pair of pants with suspenders, only the ‘pant legs’ were only hollow to the point where her leg stumps ended. Ratchet, who was supervising the whole thing with a critical eye, had carefully lowered her onto this contraption and she had felt a slight sting as whatever interface these things used connected with her nerve endings.

    Now Wheeljack had turned on the power and her legs hummed slightly. Keeping her fingers crossed, Marissa tried to walk.

    She promptly fell over as her right leg moved when she had actually tried to move her left.

    “Sorry about that,” Wheeljack muttered, quickly adjusting something on some sort of data tab he had in hand. “There was still a glitch in the... ah, here it is. There. That should do it. Try it now!”

    “Please do remember that organic creatures bruise, Wheeljack”, she muttered as Ratchet carefully set her back on her feet. This time she tried just the slightest of movements and the robotic legs did indeed respond. Jarringly, mechanically, but they did. She had legs again. She could walk.

    “The binary interface is still crude,” Wheeljack explained, “but it’s a self-adjusting system that learns and improves. The more you use it, the more natural the movements will become. I wouldn’t try running for a day or two, but after that...”

    “Thank you, Wheeljack,” she just said, her eyes brimming with tears of relief. “You don’t know how good this feels!”

    “Oh please,” Ratchet scoffed. “Wheeljack has blown himself up so many times, I doubt more than 20 percent of the body he was protoformed in remains. He has lost more limbs than any other three patients I’ve had combined.”

    “Yeah,” Wheeljack mused nostalgically. “There’s nothing like giving a new set of legs a spin after a proton missile mishap.”

    Marissa barely listened to the two Autobots going back and forth – something she suspected the two of them enjoyed doing - she was too busy enjoying being able to walk again. Okay, just baby steps for now, but it was more than she’d expected after waking up in this place. It would take some time to get used to these new legs, but at least she had legs. She was no longer helpless. She could move again.

    “Ready to become two-handed again, too?” Wheeljack asked after a few minutes, having let her get a ‘feel’ for her new legs for a while first. He held up a – compared to him – very tiny mechanical arm.

    “Sure thing,” Marissa said, eying the new limb longingly. She wasn’t a south paw, so doing everything left-handed these last two weeks had been a bit of a chore. Nowhere near as painful as having no legs left at all, but still. It would be nice to have a second arm again, too.

    Wheeljack handed the limb to Ratchet, who had insisted on being the one to actually perform any procedure necessary on Marissa’s fragile human body. Apparently Wheeljack, while brilliant, didn’t exactly have the gentlest touch.

    Ratchet carefully applied the new arm to Marissa’s ruined shoulder and there was a slight sting again. A metal band emerged from the limb’s socket and wrapped itself around her shoulder joint, hugging it tightly. Ratchet’s surprisingly nimble fingers carefully performed some minimal adjustments, then he took a step back.

    “Okay, power it up, Wheeljack!”

    The scientist nodded and pressed a button on his pad. The arm hummed slightly, somewhat less intense than the new legs, and Marissa could almost feel as it came to life. Carefully, remembering her first step a few minutes ago, Marissa tried to move her new fingers. Amazingly everything responded correctly, though the movements were once again rather stiff and jerky.

    “Same deal as with the legs,” Wheeljack explained. “The interface will learn the more you use it. You’ll be able to fiddle with microchips before you know it.”

    Marissa spent the next two hours getting used to her new limbs. As Wheeljack had promised, the cybernetic appendages moved more and more fluidly the more she exercised them. They were still a far cry from the limbs she’d lost, of course. There was almost no tactile sensation involved, just the barest impression of touching things. As a slight trade-off, though, Marissa discovered that her new arm was a good deal stronger than her old one had been when she accidentally bent the back of the chair the Autobots had provided for her.

    “We’ll need to adjust that, too,” Wheeljack said, seeing her handiwork.

    “Don’t want me to bench press ten times my own weight?” she asked teasingly.

    “I wouldn’t have a problem with that,” Ratchet answered in his stead, “but I think your still-organic shoulder might object, not to mention your collar bone and spine.”

    Sobered, Marissa nodded. Despite the extent of her injuries, most of her was still flesh and blood and just as fragile as before when compared to a world where pretty much everything and everyone was made of hard steel. Speaking of which...

    “Do these limbs need any kind of maintenance?” she asked, her inner engineer more than curious. “Battery replacement, oil changes, anything of the sort?”

    “The limbs are powered by miniature Energon cells,” Wheeljack explained. “Their power requirement is miniscule when compared to the average Cybertronian, so I estimate the cells will last you at least half a Vorn before we’ll need to replace them, depending on how much you use them, of course. Everything else is self-adjusting, so unless you sustain damage, you should be fine.”

    “You should take them off during your rest cycles, though”, Ratchet interjected. “We’ve made the connecting pieces to your organics as comfortable as we could, but prolonged use will still cause wear to your outer organic layer.”

    “If a little chaffing is the worst of it, I’ll be able to deal,” she replied, smiling. “Thank you both. I really don’t know what I would have done had I been forced to remain that way.”

    Wheeljack gave her what was probably meant to be a smile.

    “First off, Marissa Fairborne, I very much enjoyed the challenge. And second, I don’t know whether you realize this, but we very much consider ourselves in your debt, considering that your actions probably saved the life of Optimus Prime, who is not only our leader, but the bearer of our sacred life force. So it was very much our pleasure.”

    Marissa nodded. Among the things she had learned while being confined to immobility these last two weeks was that Optimus Prime was not only the supreme commander of the Autobots, but also apparently a kind of religious figure. Apparently the suffix Prime was a title that had, before the war, been less of a military rank and more of a religious term, making him something like the Pope. He was the chosen protector of something called the “Creation Matrix”. She hadn’t gotten a straight answer as to what exactly that was so far, but it seemed pretty important. It was only when the war had wiped out Cybertron’s civilian government that Optimus Prime had ended up in charge of the Autobot war effort as well.

    She doubted any human holding not one but two highly important positions would ever personally step on a battle field back home, but apparently Optimus was more of a hands-on kind of leader.

    “Still, thank you. And speaking of Optimus, do you think it’d be possible for me to see him? I’d like to discuss what I’m gonna do with myself, now that I’m mobile again.”

    The two robots shared a brief look, giving her the distinct impression that the Autobots had already had several discussions about what to do with the alien visitor to their planet. She’d have been surprised if they hadn’t.

    “Why don’t we head over to HQ right now,” Wheeljack finally said. “I’m not sure Optimus will have time for you immediately, but I think after being cooped up here for so long, you wouldn’t mind a bit of sight seeing, would you?”

    Without waiting for a reply, Wheeljack transformed. Marissa had seen them do it a few times now, but it still amazed her. The sheer number of moving parts, everything shifting and reconfiguring so smoothly, the processing power required to make sure everything ended up where it should... it was mind-boggling. Within seconds Wheeljack had become something that would probably have been a sports car back home, sleek and fast-looking. A compartment opened, showing her that there was a human-scaled seat inside Wheeljack’s reconfigured body.

    “Be sure to compliment him,” Ratchet stage-whispered. “He spent nearly a full day reconfiguring his vehicle mode so that he could offer you a ride this way.”

    “I did not,” Wheeljack protested humorously. “It was no more than 10 Earth hours at the most, I would have you know.”

    Marissa laughed and carefully took a seat. Before the door closed Ratchet handed her a little gizmo that turned out to be a breather unit. Cybertron’s atmosphere, while not lethal, was a bit too different from Earth’s for long-term comfort. Outside her environmentally tailored hospital room she’d need some extra oxygen content and trace gases at least every few minutes or so.

    Moments later Wheeljack accelerated, only narrowly missing Ratchet as he sped out of the hospital room. The medic’s good-natured complaining quickly faded into the distance behind them.

    End Chapter 7
  14. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
    News Credits:
    Trophy Points:
    Chapter 8: Path of Courage


    Iacon, Planet Cybertron
    Earth Date November 13, 2005 (approx.)

    In a way the city state Iacon reminded Marissa of some of the war-torn cities she had seen during her stint in Afghanistan. Not that the alien architecture in any way resembled anything she’d ever seen on Earth. Rather, it was the way the city was beautiful even in ruin, with some places where you could still easily see past majesty. It must have been a magnificent place once upon a time, before the horror of war had blackened it, and that old glory still shone through here and there.

    The centre of the city was a shattered tower that, according to Wheeljack, had once housed Cybertron’s central government, the Council of Ancients. Only a few members of that once venerated body remained and were apparently in hiding somewhere, their location known only to Optimus Prime and his inner circle. The current Autobot headquarters was located close by in a building called “Stellar Galleries”. Before the war it had been an elaborate observatory, in essence.

    “I wish I could have seen this place when it was whole,” Marissa confided to Wheeljack.

    “Iacon was the most beautiful place on Cybertron,” the Autobot told her sombrely. “I hope I’ll function long enough to see it look that way again.”

    It was a beautiful day outside and vehicles – or more likely robots converted into vehicles, she reminded herself – were buzzing along the elevated highways of the city. Everywhere she looked, though, there were signs of the ongoing conflict. Gun emplacements were everywhere, their barrels constantly pointed skywards. Armed guards stood at most buildings, their eyes roaming back and forth to look for threats. They passed several fields where military exercises seemed to be held.

    When they approached the Stellar Galleries, Wheeljack slowed so the guards standing watch could scan him. They waved him through a moment later and he drove into the main hallway. Far above Marissa could see a ceiling that was covered in star maps. Metal carvings depicting towering robotic figures lined the walls. Lots of robots were busy walking to and fro, carrying data pads, equipment containers, and weapons. Always weapons. Everyone was armed.

    Strangely enough, Marissa felt almost comfortable. In many ways this reminded her of most military bases she had ever been on. If you replaced all the humans with giant robots, that was.

    A commotion drew Marissa’s attention. Someone was yelling, quite loudly so, and enthusiastically smashing something to pieces at the same time, it seemed. Wheeljack muttered something she didn’t quite understand and changed directions, heading toward the commotion.

    Turning a corner, Marissa saw the familiar form of Optimus Prime standing beside a huge table with some kind of holographic map hovering above it. The Autobot leader had a data pad in hand, while the huge black rifle Marissa had seen him hold during their first encounter rested on the table beside him. He seemed calm, at least to her untrained eye, despite the fact that he was currently being yelled at.

    The yeller was another robot and stood even taller than Optimus Prime’s already impressive frame. Marissa estimated he was at least 12 to 13 meters tall and bulky as hell. His colouring was grey, with gold and black highlights. Wing-like plates emerged from his back, while his huge legs were adorned by tank threads. A giant sword was strapped to his back as well. The towering robot was getting into Optimus’ face, yelling something in Cybertronix, as Marissa knew the language was called.

    “I assume this is not a good time,” Marissa proposed as Wheeljack came to a stop.

    “As good as any time when Grimlock is in the building, I believe.”

    “That the big guy? What’s his problem?”

    “Oh, I almost forgot. I built something into your cybernetic arm that might help you get around a bit better here. Let me just turn it on.”

    Before Marissa could ask what he was talking about, something buzzed in her new arm and suddenly the torrent of alien words coming from Grimlock faded, to be replaced by English. Apparently Wheeljack had just invented the universal translator. Just one more miracle the mad scientist had pulled off on her behalf, it seemed.

    “...will never see any advance if you continue to play it safe! We could easily have overrun that position if you had just...”

    “That’s enough now, Grimlock!” Another robot stepped onto the table. He was nearly as big as Grimlock, coloured blue and red and with a nearly human-looking face. Huge white fists were clenched as the newcomer stepped between Grimlock and Optimus.

    “Get out of my face, Magnus,” Grimlock growled. “Or do you fight all of Prime’s battles for him now?”

    “Enough, both of you,” Optimus said, causing the two to edge slightly apart. “Grimlock, I appreciate your candour, but the order to withdraw was given because you could NOT have overrun them. Decepticon reinforcements had already been deployed and would have flanked you within a few cycles. Your entire unit would have been crushed.”

    Optimus gestured toward the hologram above the table, which showed – Marissa assumed – some data regarding whatever battle they were talking about. Grimlock studied the display for a moment, still not happy. Finally he turned away.

    “We still could have crushed them,” he muttered, walking out of the room before anyone else could comment, his heavy stomps leaving faint dents in the floor plates.

    “That disrespectful piece of...,” Magnus muttered, but Optimus’ hand on his shoulder apparently calmed him down.

    “Let it go, Magnus. You know Grimlock.”

    Looking in her direction, Optimus let go of Magnus and came over to them. “I see we have visitors.”

    Wheeljack opened his door to let her out, then transformed back into robot mode.

    “It is good to see you mobile again, Captain Fairborn,” Optimus said, squatting down to be closer to her.

    “It is good to be mobile, Optimus. Wheeljack and Ratchet have worked a small miracle here.”

    “I am glad to hear it. Allow me to introduce you.”

    He rose, gesturing toward the robot called Magnus. “This is Ultra Magnus, my second-in-command. The robot who just left is Grimlock, commander of our heavy ground units. Over there,” he pointed toward a black and white robot sitting at a computer terminal, “is Prowl, our chief strategist. And this,” he pointed to a red and yellow robot on the far side of the room, who was apparently plugged into some kind of console, “is Blaster, our chief communications officer.”

    Ultra Magnus still seemed somewhat steamed over Grimlock’s disrespectful tone and gave her but the briefest of nods before walking back to whatever he had been doing before. Prowl reacted with just a glance in her direction before he turned back to his computer screen with what appeared to be a frown on his face. Okay, maybe it was too soon for her to try and interpret alien mannerisms. Blaster, though, was apparently very interested and came over to stand beside Optimus Prime.

    “I am glad to meet you, Captain Fairborn,” he said. “Ever since Wheeljack here gave me your data to decode, I’ve wanted to learn more about your world. Especially this.”

    Suddenly the sound of music filled the air, music that was clearly from Earth. Marissa needed a moment to recognize it and smiled. One of the engineers working on Thrymir’s cockpit had thought it really funny to upload the soundtrack to “Top Gun” into the system for the robot’s first test flight. Right now Blaster was playing “Mighty Wings” from Cheap Trick. Damn, hearing music from back home was almost making her tear up.

    “What is that?” Wheeljack asked, sounding distraught. Not a fan of 80s rock music, it seemed.

    “It’s music,” Marissa explained. “Audio entertainment from my home world.”

    “It’s beautiful,” Blaster said, nodding his huge head to the beat. “There hasn’t been much in the way of arts here since the war began. It’s great to hear something new.”

    Marissa opened her mouth to tell him that there was a lot more music where that came from, but quickly sobered up.

    “Optimus Prime, do you have time to talk for a few minutes?” she asked.

    The Autobot leader nodded and dismissed his fellow Autobots. They made their way over to a corner of the large room which apparently doubled as Optimus’ personal office. Optimus sat down in a chair scaled to his size, and offered her a hand up to the surface of his desk, so they were as close to eye level as they’d ever be.

    “I assume you wish to talk about your future, Captain Fairborn.”

    “Exactly. You told me that I was brought here by an experimental Decepticon Space Bridge. I assume you have made further investigations during my recovery.”

    Optimus nodded. “We investigated the building where you appeared. Apparently it was a covert laboratory used by Shockwave before being abandoned. It was heavily damaged in the battle you were injured in, deliberate damage we believe. What little in the way of equipment remained intact didn’t offer up much new information. We don’t know how Shockwave’s receiver-less Space Bridge works. Apparently the automatic recall that brought you here simply zeroed in on a subspace transmitter in Skywarp’s body. We do not believe the coordinates he – and you – came from were recorded or if they were, the relevant parts of the system were destroyed.”

    “That is good news, in a way,” Marissa said. “It means the Decepticons don’t know where I came from and can’t just jaunt over there and invade.”

    “I feel I must be honest with you, Captain Fairborn,” Optimus Prime told her. “Even if we were to find out how Shockwave’s technology works... I could not in good conscience send you home. Both sides have the technology to track space bridge travel, which is why we arrived so quickly when you came here. Sending you home would be the same as lighting a beacon for the Decepticons to follow. It would expose your entire world to the risk of becoming involved in our war and...”

    “I know that, Optimus, believe me. I have thought the exact same thing. As much as I long to return home, the risk is far too great.”

    Optimus nodded. “I am glad that you have accepted...”

    “Optimus, I want to help you win this war,” she interrupted him.

    For a long moment Optimus just stared down at her, apparently not quite believing what the little flesh creature before him had just said.

    “Captain Fairborn,” he began. “While I applaud your determination, I do not believe you grasp the scale of...”

    “Probably not, no,” she interrupted him again. “Optimus, we have an old saying back home. It goes something like this: ‘Grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to tell the difference.’ I do know this: I want to go back home. I want to see the Earth again before I die and I know that it can only happen if and when your war is over. Now wisdom tells me that one little human like myself won’t be able to help change the course of this war, but seeing as I lack the serenity to just sit here and wait until I die of old age, the only thing left to me is...”

    “The path of courage?” Optimus asked, sounding somewhat amused.

    “As pompous as it may sound, yes. Optimus, if there is even the slightest hope that something I might do or say could help end this war of yours within my lifetime...”

    The Autobot leader looked at her for another long moment, his bright blue optics seeming to look right through her. Marissa returned his gaze evenly; resolve shining in her own eyes. Finally, he gave her a nod.

    “Sometimes hope is the most precious thing we have.”

    End Chapter 8
  15. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
    News Credits:
    Trophy Points:
    Chapter 9: Gearing up


    Iacon, Planet Cybertron
    Earth Date November 19, 2005 (approx.)

    Almost a full week had passed (as best as she could tell) since Marissa’s talk with Optimus Prime and while little had changed yet, she rose from her bed every morning with renewed purpose. Optimus had agreed - in theory at least - to let her help. So in order to do that, she first needed to get back into shape.

    Every day she exercised both her three new and one original limb. Wheeljack’s learning interface routines were getting better all the time and she almost had her full range of motion back by now. She still had trouble with fine motor control, mostly due to the near complete lack of sensation in her new fingers and feet, but she was getting better.

    When her body needed a break from exercising, she soaked up every bit of information about Cybertron and the ongoing war that the Autobots were providing her with. It was mostly historical data, nothing on current operations, but she had expected as much. She was still too much of an unknown quantity for the Autobots to trust with military secrets. Still, she was learning fast, feeling that every little bit helped improve her chances of maybe, possibly one day seeing home again.

    Optimus had assigned two Autobots to her as her... well, companions, guides, friends, keepers, all of these things combined. One was a rather small Autobot called Bumblebee, barely more than twice her own height, and quite young for his race (just over 200,000 Earth years, she had calculated). He served as a scout in the Autobot forces and among other things he was teaching her Cybertronix (she didn’t want to be dependent on Wheeljack’s translator all the time) and about the local geography.

    Her other companion was Rewind, who was even smaller than Bumblebee, being just about a head taller than her. He was working in Blaster’s communications department and seemed to be historian, data management expert, and master of pointless trivia all in one package. Whatever questions Marissa had, he had answers for her. Plus lots of things she didn’t ask for, as it was almost impossible to get him to stop dishing out facts.

    There were two ways Marissa saw herself contributing to the Autobots’ war effort. One was the fact that, as an outsider, she might be able to uncover blind spots in the Autobots’ strategy. Considering that they’d been fighting the same war against the same people for such a long time, there was a distinct possibility that both sides had become rather set in their ways, so maybe she could see something that they couldn’t.

    The other was, of course, physically. And for that she once again needed the Autobots’ resident mad genius to come through for her. A challenge Wheeljack had simply laughed at (somewhat manically at that) before immediately going to work.

    Entering Wheeljack’s work shop with Rewind and Bumblebee by her side, Marissa was surprised at how welcome the sight before her was. Thrymir - or Skywarp, as he was really called – stood before her, looking gleaming and new, sporting a new paintjob with bright red Autobot symbols on his wings... and no head.

    “Ah, there you are,” Wheeljack greeted them as he came around from behind Thrymir’s body, which still towered over him quite a bit even without a head. “I’m almost done.”

    “Eh, I hate to break this to you, Wheeljack,” Bumblebee said, “but it seems to me you forgot something there.”

    Wheeljack seemed honestly confused until Bumblebee pointed to the empty place where Thrymir had once had a head. Then he laughed.

    “Yes, I can see how you might think that, but no, I didn’t forget. I just put some more thought into it.”

    Motioning for his three visitors to follow, Wheeljack led them further into his workshop until they arrived before something that appeared to be an exo-suit of some kind. Back on Earth Marissa had seen schematic designs for powered battle armour for infantry soldiers, but so far no one had actually put such things in the field. The technological hurdles were still too great to make it feasible. Wheeljack, apparently, had solved it in less than a week. The suit was about three meters tall, very bulky, and she spotted what appeared to be weapon barrels on the arms, too.

    “I was thinking of what you told me, Captain Fairborn,” Wheeljack told her, “about how you needed support from several other humans to strap yourself into the control harness your people constructed. That would be a severe liability in the field, I think, so I came up with an alternate solution. Allow me to introduce: the Headmaster unit.”

    Rewind scratched his head, a kind of nervous tick the small Autobot seemed to have.

    “I am uncertain how to interpret the designation, Wheeljack.”

    “Easy,” Wheeljack explained, taking great relish apparently. “Marissa, would you mind standing in front of the unit?”

    Feeling a little uneasy, Marissa stepped forward. “Shouldn’t Ratchet be here for this?” she asked.

    “Don’t worry, he did a full check-up and deemed it safe. Besides, I’ve installed numerous safety features. Nothing will go wrong. Now, I know your scientists wired certain functions of Skywarp that do not translate easily onto a human body to finger and toe movements. Considering the... situation, I thought it easier to use voice commands. It’s keyed to your vocal signature, so it won’t go off when someone else talks. Now, stand with your back to it and say ‘Suit on’. Go ahead, give it a try!”

    Marissa still looked at him nervously. “I hope you installed a safety word of some kind, too?”

    She was sure Wheeljack would have rolled his eyes had he been capable of it. “No worries, Captain. If anything goes wrong – and it won’t – you just say ‘Shut-Down’ and everything will stop.”

    Taking a deep breath, Marissa turned her back on the suit, mumbled a brief prayer, and then said “Suit on!”

    The by-now familiar sound of Cybertronian technology transforming sounded behind her and moments later the suit began to wrap itself around her body by itself. She was lifted off the floor and encased in armour. The suit was a good deal taller then her, so her entire body was situated in its torso, the arms and legs being fully mechanical. A helmet encased her head, leaving her face free. The whole process took but a few seconds, but now she towered over Rewind and was only about two heads shorter than Bumblebee.

    “Impressive, Wheeljack,” Rewind commented. “Does the suit use the same binary bonding interface you adapted for Captain Fairborn’s cybernetic limbs?”

    “Pretty much,” Wheeljack answered. “Captain Fairborn, the suit is connected to your nervous system via your new limbs. As long as you are in it, all nerve impulses will translate to the suit instead of your normal limbs. Go ahead, try it!”

    Marissa nodded and moved. Amazingly the suit moved just as smoothly as her cybernetic limbs did by now. She briefly hesitated with the left arm, considering that it was still flesh and blood on her, but the suit apparently translated those nerve impulses easily as well. There was no noticeable difference to moving her normal, smaller body. It was almost as if she was really 3 meters tall and just wearing armour over her actual limbs.

    “That’s really cool, Wheeljack”, Marissa said, getting a feel for moving in the much larger suit. “I don’t understand what it has to do with Thrymir, though.”

    “That’s step two of my genius design,” he preened. “Let’s visit your old friend Skywarp, shall we?”

    They trooped back to the front of the workshop, where Thrymir’s headless body was still waiting patiently.

    “As I said, I considered it a great liability that you would need help – and a lot of time, too – to get in and out of your cockpit. So I thought, why not make the cockpit itself mobile.”

    He looked down at her, obviously waiting for her to get it. Headmaster unit, she mused. Of course. Everything on this planet seemed to transform in and out of at least two different forms, so why not...

    “What’s the voice command?” she simply asked. It was probably reckless of her, but suspecting what was going to happen made her very, very eager to try it out.

    “Just say ‘Head on’, Captain.”

    “Here goes! Head on!”

    The armoured suit around her contorted and folded, her actual body being shifted into a sitting position as best as she could tell. Thrymir’s headless body bent over and reached down, huge metallic hands gently lifting the transformed suit up and onto his shoulders. A plate slid into place before Marissa’s face and for a moment she was completely blind and immobile. Then something clicked into place and her senses returned.

    She found herself standing nearly 10 meters tall, looking down on the three Autobots before her. This constant perspective shifting would take some getting used to.

    “You outdid yourself, Wheeljack,” Marissa said, carefully putting Thrymir’s body through some moves. There was no comparison to the crude Earth-constructed interface harness she had worn the last time she’d been plugged into this body. Thrymir moved like the two of them were one person. There was no gap, no minimal lack in response time, nothing. She thought, he did. It was awesome.

    “The potential of this new process you have developed is enormous, Wheeljack,” Rewind said, sounding rather excited. “It opens up lots of possibilities. Autobots could downsize their actual bodies to preserve energy and simply link up with bigger shells for combat only. It might even be feasible to utilize the gestalt protocols this way and...”

    “One step at a time, Rewind,” Wheeljack interrupted him. “Everything working, Captain Fairborn?”

    As stupid as it sounded, being back in this huge metal shell she had actually spent less than two days in almost felt like coming home. And whereas everything had been haphazard and awkward before, now it moved as smoothly and elegantly as no machine she had ever seen before.

    “It works beautifully, Wheeljack,” she told the engineer. “You really are a genius.”

    Wheeljack was obviously pleased and Rewind kept chattering excitedly. Only Bumblebee seemed somewhat reserved as he looked at her.

    “Is something wrong, Bumblebee?” she asked, stopping her ‘stretching’.

    The yellow Autobot shook his head. “No, it’s... sorry, it’s just strange for me. I met Skywarp on the battle field quite a few times and now...”

    Marissa scolded herself. She really should have thought of how strange this had to be for the Cybertronians as well. To her Thrymir had never been more than an amazing machine that she got to test drive. These robots here had known the sentient being it had once been, though. And despite the fact that it had been an enemy, it had to be weird to see ‘Skywarp’ now being used to ferry around a strange visitor from another planet.

    “I hope this isn’t going to be an issue,” Marissa said after some consideration. “I mean, I know I would find it strange if the dead body of a human were to be used as a host body for some alien being back on Earth.”

    Wheeljack patted her – or Thrymir, rather – on the arm. “You should be fine after the initial weirdness with most of the Autobots, Captain Fairborn.”

    “Cybertronians do not have a particular attachment to the lifeless remains of their fellows, Captain Fairborn,” Rewind explained to her. “We know that after the spark has left, all that remains is but dead weight. Fallen soldiers are usually recycled so that even in death their parts can still serve a worthwhile purpose. However, there are certain elements among Cybertronian society that are quite organophobic, you might say. They even refuse to visit the non-cyberformed planets in the Space Bridge grid. These robots might react... negatively to your presence.”

    “Well, considering that my presence here is supposed to be top secret, I hope that won’t be a problem.”

    Optimus Prime had apparently decided that the fewer people knew about Marissa the better. The Decepticons knew, of course, and would probably be looking for her to get their hands on the location of her home world. So the fewer Autobots knew about her, the better the chance of them never learning her location. At current count there were just 10 Autobots that knew of her and ideally that should be it.

    “Ready to try out one more thing, Captain?” Wheeljack asked.

    “One more... oh, right.” She had almost forgotten, but of course Thrymir / Skywarp was not just a big robot that she would now form the head of. He was a transforming robot and she had already seen two other robots of very similar design transform into a kind of fighter jet when she had first arrived here on this world. Naturally Thrymir had a second form as well.

    “Another voice command, to keep it simple. Just say ‘Transform’!”

    Marissa smiled, a hungry look in her eyes.


    End Chapter 9

    NOTE: Posting has now caught up with my writing, so further updates might take a bit longer than they have so far. The final chapter of this story (or at least the first part of a roughly sketched-out trilogy) is already written, though, so it's just a matter of filling in the gaps.
  16. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
    News Credits:
    Trophy Points:
    Chapter 10: Unfriendly Skies


    Please Note: I know very little of aerial combat, but I hope that my descriptions here in this chapter make a certain amount of sense regardless. If any of you are more familiar with the subject matter and spot any glaring errors, please let me know.[/B]


    Iacon, Planet Cybertron
    Earth Date November 21, 2005 (approx.)

    Flying an airplane, flying a robot, and flying an airplane that was actually a transformed robot, were all entirely different things, Marissa mused. She’d been near the top of her class in flight school and scored multiple kills during her stint in Afghanistan. She knew her way around Earth-built aircraft as well as anyone and could say without boasting that she was an expert pilot.

    Flying Thrymir back on Earth had been a strange exercise, though very enjoyable. She’d gone at it like Superman and it had worked, more or less. The robot form was too clunky for complex aerial manoeuvres, but she’d managed a decent flight her one and only time in the air. Now, though, Thrymir was no longer robot-shaped. Instead he had been converted into something that was certainly recognizable as a sleek fighter craft, though the design was quite clearly alien.

    The Headmaster unit, as Wheeljack had called it, had transformed along with the larger robot and now formed a different kind of cockpit for her to sit in. She hadn’t really thought about it at first, but naturally there were no manual controls to be found. No control stick, no pedals, nothing. Converted like this, she was not merely sitting in an airplane. She was the brain of an airplane.

    Her first attempt at flying in this form had nearly ended in disaster. Wheeljack, with some assistance by Ratchet, had had to make multiple adjustments to the binary bonding interface. Of course complex flying manoeuvres couldn’t be steered by voice commands, so through trial and error they had managed to tie Thrymir’s control surfaces, manoeuvring thrusters and main engines to her nervous system. In essence it gave her a virtual control stick. Her hand would never actually move, but the nerve impulses that translated into the movements she’d normally make on an Earth-built control stick would allow her to steer Thrymir through the air.

    She was sure the scientists who had constructed her first interface harness on Earth would have taken at least another year to make it work. Wheeljack had needed a day.

    “Not bad,” a voice hailed her through the com system. “You’re tilting a bit to the right, though.”

    Focusing back on the present, she did as her flying instructor told her. Powerglide, as the red flying Autobot was called, was trailing in a standard wingman position slightly behind her to her right. By Prime’s orders he was not in the know about her true identity as an organic alien from another world. As far as he knew, she was a normal Cybertronian who’d recently undergone massive reconstruction and been refitted for flight mode. Apparently the Autobot forces were notoriously short on flyers, as the largest part of what had once been Cybertron’s air force had gone over to the Decepticon side.

    She suppressed a chuckle, remembering how he addressed her. Apparently Rewind and Blaster had really taken a liking to the Top Gun soundtrack they’d found in Thrymir’s Earth-built systems and after she’d told them a bit about the movie of the same name, they’d selected a codename for her to use when around Cybertronians that weren’t in the know.

    “Okay, Maverick,” Powerglide told her. “Now let’s try some more complicated flying. We’re heading into that gap between buildings just ahead. Let’s do it at one quarter speed for now and follow me in!”

    The next hour passed quickly as Powerglide put ‘Maverick’ through a highly accelerated version of flight school. The red Autobot was obviously highly skilled and more often than not she could barely keep up with his complex flight patterns. Also, Cybertron’s air was thinner than Earth’s, making for unfamiliar aerodynamics, and Thrymir’s jet form was far more capable than any Earth-built aircraft ever built. Still, she was rapidly improving.

    “Not bad at all,” Powerglide complimented her some time later as they lazily cruised over Iacon. “You sure you’ve never flown before?”

    “Not on my own,” she replied, having gone over her ‘cover story’ multiple times with Rewind and Blaster. While most Cybertronians had vehicular modes, that didn’t mean they didn’t use larger vehicles still. Maverick, as the story went, had been piloting transport shuttles before being retrofitted. “It’s quite a bit different this way.”

    Powerglide’s reply was suddenly cut off as air raid sirens sounded below.

    “Attention all Aerialbots,” a general alert went out over the open frequencies. “A squad of Seekers is coming in low from the direction of Tarn. Intercept!”

    “Typical,” Powerglide complained even as he accelerated. “First Deception raid this Vorn and it’s happening when I’m up with a rookie. You feeling up to it, Maverick?”

    “I don’t think I have much choice,” she replied, checking her sensors and seeing that the bogeys were heading directly for them. “Let’s get them!”

    Truth to tell she was terrified. So far she had never used any of Thrymir’s weapon systems and her last actual bout of combat flying had been several years ago. Still, at the speed they were coming in she’d never make it safely to the ground before they were upon them.

    Sensors showed 6 enemy aircraft coming in at what she estimated was at least Mach 3. She accelerated herself and positioned herself at Powerglide’s right wing. She spotted several other Autobot flyers converging on their position, so the odds looked about even. She could do this, she resolved. Piece of cake!

    The first exchange of fire happened so fast she barely had time to register it. Two groups of fighter jets passed each other at several times the speed of sound and laser weapons flashed. The weapons, too, were tied to Marissa’s nervous system, otherwise she’d never have managed to get a shot off in time. Her salvo still went wide, coming nowhere near the enemy flyer she’d targeted. Thankfully no one had managed to hit her, either.

    “Stay close, Maverick,” Powerglide told her as they went into a tight curve. “We’re going after the two blue ones.”

    Target designations flashed in front of her eyes, painting the targets Powerglide had selected. Two blue fighter jets of similar design as Thrymir were straight ahead, in the process of reversing course as well. Some tight rolls later the two of them were behind the enemy flyers and opened fire. Powerglide scored hits on the right one. Marissa’s shots clipped the wing of the left one before the two jets broke formation and headed off in different directions.

    “We stay on the right one,” Powerglide ordered. “Don’t stray!”

    Time ceased to have meaning as they matched the enemy flyer move for move. Marissa needed every single bit of concentration just to stay close to Powerglide, who seemed to defy aerodynamics and gravity every other second or so. Without even knowing how much time had passed the red Autobot finally scored a direct hit on the blue Decepticon, who exploded in a glaring fireball.

    “One ‘Con scrapped. Now where...?”

    “Look out, Powerglide!” one of the other Autobot flyers warned them, but it was too late. Laser blasts flashed between them and Powerglide’s left wing disintegrated in purple flame. A scream of pain accompanied the Autobot flyer as he started spiralling downwards.

    “Maverick, he’s behind you!” someone screamed and Marissa banked sharply to the left. Sensors screamed warnings to her as the enemy flyer she had grazed earlier was now directly behind her and filled the sky with explosions. She banked, she swerved, she performed every flying manoeuvre she had practiced with Powerglide this afternoon, but the Decepticon stayed right behind her.

    “Something’s wrong here,” someone said over the com. “They’re all converging on Maverick.”

    All converging... a horrible thought entered her mind. They knew. Somehow they knew that the tiny alien who had come here from a strange, potentially resource-filled world was inside this metal shell. It was no coincidence that this attack had been launched the first time she left the relatively safe confines of Iacon to go flying. Somehow they knew.

    The shock almost cost her, as a blaster round passed less than a meter away from her cockpit. Okay, head back in the game, Fairborn, she reprimanded herself. So the bad guys were here for her? Okay, she could use that.

    “Let’s play follow the leader a bit, shall we?” she mumbled and pushed her imaginary control stick forward, sending Thrymir into a steep dive.

    “Maverick, what are you doing?” She really needed to learn the names of the other flyers.

    “Iacon control, this is Maverick. I’m coming in with several Decepticons right behind me. Prepare to open up with all flak batteries on my mark.”

    “Are you crazy? We’ll hit you.”

    “Not if this works. On my mark...”

    She silently thanked Wheeljack for excellent padding as the acceleration forces pressed her fragile body hard into the seat of her cockpit. The sprawling cityscape of Iacon loomed ever larger just before her, the alien-scaled architecture making it hard to judge the actual distance. A display in her field of vision counted down unfamiliar height measurements (she needed to talk to Bumblebee about learning Cybertronian numbers, too). Friend / Foe displays showed a streak of enemies right behind her with Autobot flyers also in pursuit. She had to be in range of the flak batteries by now… she hoped.

    “Iacon control, open fire on the enemy flyers... NOW!”

    She yanked hard, performing a manoeuvre she prayed Cybertronian flyers had never seen before. She pushed Thrymir into a steep ascent and at the cusp of the curve she rolled, completing the Immelmann and shooting off at a sharp angle to the surprised Decepticon flyers.

    Explosions filled the air as the enemy jets suddenly found themselves completely exposed to Iacon’s air defence batteries. Marissa nearly blacked out from the G-forces, but her sensors showed her that at least two of the bad guys were destroyed, several others damaged. Then the other Autobot flyers caught up with them and the Decepticons were suddenly right between two converging fields of fire.

    A minute later the skies over Iacon were clear again. Only one of the six enemy flyers had managed to break off and escape. The others were all scrap.

    “Great piece of flying, rookie,” she heard Powerglide over the com. “You sure this is your first bout of aerial combat?”

    “Powerglide, are you okay?” she yelled, having feared the worst for her fellow flyer. Her sensors finally located him. He was in robot form, missing one of his arms and a large piece of wing, but floating down serenely on something resembling a parachute.

    “I won’t be giving you any further lessons for a while, but otherwise I’m great. That was a very fancy manoeuvre there. Where did you pick that up?”

    “I... I think I saw it in some historical record or something. I’m just glad I’m still in one piece.”

    “Maverick,” the familiar voice of Ratchet suddenly cut into the channel. “Head to the repair bay immediately for a full check-up! What the slag were you thinking pushing yourself this hard on your first flight? There is no telling what damage you might have done to yourself with this reckless...”

    Marissa laughed, maybe a bit hysterically as she felt the adrenalin boost slowly taper off. “I guess I’m in for some major scolding.”

    “Better get moving,” Powerglide advised. “The doc gets even crankier when he’s kept waiting.”

    “Don’t you have an arm and a wing you need reattached, Powerglide?” Ratchet grumbled.

    “Didn’t say a thing, doc!”

    “On my way, Ratchet!” Marissa said, still laughing manically in the way only people who had just managed to cheat certain death did.

    End Chapter 10
  17. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
    News Credits:
    Trophy Points:
    Chapter 11: Meat Puppet


    Iacon, Planet Cybertron
    Earth Date November 22, 2005 (approx.)

    “How did they know?” Optimus asked, looking around the table.

    “It was my fault, Optimus,” Wheeljack said, sounding chagrined. “I underestimated the thoroughness of Shockwave. I removed the subspace transmitter from Skywarp’s body that sent the original recall signal that brought Captain Fairborn here and mistakenly assumed that was all. As a matter of fact, though, there were three more independent transmitters hidden in various spots.”

    “I went through all data traffic logs,” Blaster added from his place near a big computer terminal. “At least one of the transmitters had been sending a continuous locator beacon on a scrambled frequency ever since Wheeljack repowered Skywarp’s body. It was masked by the city’s general signal noise, but when Captain Fairborn went airborne, well, they probably picked it up the moment she rose above Iacon’s skyline. By the time I noticed it, the battle was already in progress.”

    Optimus nodded, obviously deep in thought. Marissa was not sure what he would make of this development. While she thought she had acquitted herself quite well in that brief aerial battle (no matter the shakes she’d gotten mere hours later), the fact that the Decepticons were obviously gunning for her could just as well sway him to put her in some kind of protective custody for the rest of her life.

    “Ratchet and myself did a very thorough scan of Skywarp’s body,” Wheeljack reported, “and had First Aid and Fixit do an independent one later on. There are no further transmitters or other hidden surprises. We won’t see a repeat of this.”

    “Let us hope so,” Optimus said. “Too many Autobots have paid the price for underestimating the thoroughness of Shockwave.”

    Marissa nodded, having read a lot of material on the Decepticon scientist. Not only was he among the most powerful Cybertronians in existence, he also seemed to be one of the smartest and most ruthless besides. A dangerous combination if there ever was one. Marissa had only met him for a few minutes, but she would be more than glad if she never had that ‘pleasure’ again.

    “Speaking of the battle, though,” Optimus continued. “From what I have been told you did quite well, Captain Fairborn.”

    Marissa slightly ducked her head for the praise. “Thank you, Optimus. Not exactly how I planned to spend my first flight here on Cybertron.”

    “Powerglide is singing your praises all over Iacon,” Blaster added. “I believe the first thing he’ll do once Ratchet’s gets him flying again is practice the ‘Maverick Manoeuvre’, as he’s already named it.”

    “I hope Max Immelmann will forgive me for usurping his copyright,” she mumbled.

    “So I assume that Powerglide and the Aerialbots judge ‘Maverick’ ready for combat duty?”

    “Silverbolt said something about target practice, apparently she has a shoot / hit ratio of less than 4 %, but otherwise...”

    “Hey,” Marissa interjected humorously. “It was the first time I tried shooting things with laser cannons. Give me a little credit here.”

    “And it’s still a better ratio than Strafe, I might add,” Blaster added with a smirk.

    Optimus nodded, then turned to look at Prowl and Ultra Magnus.

    “Your thoughts?”

    “We can always use more flyers,” Prowl simply said. “Measures need to be taken to ensure that the Decepticons do not connect the new Autobot ‘Maverick’ with the alien visitor Marissa Fairborn, but apart from that...”

    “I concur,” Ultra Magnus said. “Light assignments for starters, as she still needs more practice, but she has already proven herself a fast learner.”

    “I don’t believe this,” a deep voice grumbled to her left.

    Grimlock also stood at the table, being one of the highest-ranking Autobots and in the know about Marissa’s existence and situation. And he seemed far from happy.

    “You have something to add, Grimlock?” Optimus Prime asked.

    The giant Autobot, who commanded what was basically the Autobots’ tank divisions, growled under his breath. He hadn’t given her so much as a single glance so far, ignoring her existence. Now, though, it seemed that he had reached his limits.

    “Don’t believe we’re honestly thinking of allowing little meat puppets into fight. Puts our own forces in danger.”

    Marissa, despite being vastly smaller than the giant warrior even wearing her Headmaster unit in suit configuration, stepped up to him (for convenience sake she was on top of the table) and got in his face.

    “What is your problem with me, Grimlock? Did you get bitten by an organic critter when you were a little robot or what?”

    Part of her couldn’t quite believe that she was dishing out sass to a 12 meter tall alien robot that obviously didn’t like her much, but from what she had gathered from the various stories she’d heard about Grimlock, he respected but one thing: strength. So cowering before him, letting others fight her battles, that wasn’t going to work with him. Thankfully she had a bit of experience dealing with these types. The US military, including the Air Force, was still largely a boy’s club. To garner any respect, she’d had to out-macho quite a few men in her time.

    “Don’t need any help from fleshling that will break the first time it gets hit by a Minicon.”

    “You obviously do need help, because unless I missed something you haven’t won the war yet, have you?”

    For a moment Grimlock tensed as if he was about to strike her and she could see both Ultra Magnus and Prowl ready to jump in. From the corner of her eye she watched Optimus, though, who seemed unworried. That gave her confidence – a little at least – that she was on the right track.

    “Shockwave looking for you, meat puppet,” Grimlock growled at her, his giant face so close she could almost touch it. “Even one of my ‘bots get hurt because of that, you answer to me!”

    With that the giant Autobot turned around and stomped out of the command centre, which seemed to be a habit with him.

    “You seem to have made an impression,” Ultra Magnus remarked. “I am not sure what kind of impression, but an impression.”

    “We should make sure that Grimlock and ‘Maverick’ don’t serve in too close proximity,” Prowl concluded.

    Marissa caught Optimus Prime’s eyes and he gave her a barely perceptible nod. Marissa jumped off the table, an exercise made easy by the enhanced capabilities of her exo suit, and quickly made her way out of the command centre down the same corridor Grimlock had taken. It took her but a few minutes to find the large Autobot commander, who was busy polishing his huge sword. Probably a nervous habit, she concluded.

    She approached him. “A word, Grimlock?”

    The huge Autobot turned his head and gave Marissa what she was sure was a rather disdainful look.

    “What is it, meat puppet?” he asked, still polishing his sword.

    “Just one thing. What you said in there…, you are right. The Decepticons will try and capture me if they can. I don’t know if they have any way of learning the coordinates of my home world from me, considering that I’m in no way an expert in astronomy or interstellar navigation, but still, ... if things should turn sour out there... make sure they don’t take me alive, all right?”

    For a long moment Grimlock said nothing, appearing deep in thought, the only sound the rhythmic screeching of the grindstone (or whatever the Cybertronian equivalent was) on his sword blade. Then he finally stopped, briefly inspected his sword, and stashed it on his back once again. Rising, he looked at her.

    “If it comes to it, I will blow your tiny organic body into sticky paste myself.”

    Grimlock left and Marissa looked after him. She couldn’t be sure, of course, but to her that sounded almost as if Grimlock had just gained the tiniest bit of respect for her. It was a start.

    End Chapter 11
  18. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
    News Credits:
    Trophy Points:
    Chapter 12: War for Cybertron


    Journal of Captain Marissa Fairborn, United States Air Force
    Earth Date January 17, 2006 (approx.)

    It’s been two months (or thereabouts) since I’ve become actively involved in the war for Cybertron. This is probably every peace-loving Science Fiction writer’s bad dream: an American soldier gets to be the first human to meet aliens and she has nothing better to do than shoot them. Well, to be fair, they shot me first.

    I’ve quickly come to realize one of the major hurdles I’m going to have to overcome here if I want to retain any hope of ever seeing home again. The hurdle being that the Cybertronians operate on a vastly different time scale. These beings don’t age, so there is none of that same sense of urgency that humans operate under most of their lives without really noticing. Humans, we know we won’t be around forever (or at least most of us realize this at some point near the end of our teenage years), so we want to get things done now while having a really hard time caring about the long term.

    Here on Cybertron, it’s just the other way around. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the Cybertronians approach everything in slow motiong, far from it. In the midst of battle they move so fast that I often have a hard time keeping up. In most other areas, though, they take their time. The Autobots have waged this war for roughly 4 million Earth years and are fully prepared to keep at it for another million years if necessary. I’m sure they’d appreciate a quick victory, but they’re fully prepared for the long haul and have mapped out their strategy to match.

    It’s been an interesting discussion with Optimus Prime, Ratchet, and Wheeljack, making them understand that I don’t have that kind of time. Oh, they understand in theory that organic beings have a limited life span, but they don’t really ‘get it’. So among all the other things I’m gonna have to overcome if I want to see Earth again, there’s this inertia, I guess you could say, of getting ageless beings to just hurry up.

    I can’t complain too badly, though. While death of old age is not a factor here, the Cybertronians are aware that their time is running out. The war has already drained the largest part of this planet’s resources, plus whatever they can take from the established colony worlds. I’ve seen several data models and most of them say that the current level of hostilities can’t be sustained much longer. Again, on a Cybertronian time scale. Models that predict an end to the war due to sheer lack of energy within the next 25,000 years don’t avail me much.

    Interestingly enough it seems the Decepticons have been gripped by some kind of urgency as well. The number of attacks has increased as of late. Optimus believes it might be related to Shockwave’s search for me and him knowing that I won’t live forever. Should I feel flattered that little old me might just have accelerated the pace of this war? I’m not sure.

    So the thing is, I’ve been here over two months and so far I’ve seen action exactly three times, which includes my first bout of aerial combat over Iacon. Which is apparently quite a bit of action by the standards of this war. It’s not enough, though. Not if I want to get back home before I die. So however selfish it may seem, I need to find a way to further accelerate this war without becoming a liability to the Autobots as a result. How? I’m not sure yet. But if there’s one thing I have in abundance here, it’s time.


    Journal of Captain Marissa Fairborn, United States Air Force
    Earth Date February 22, 2006 (approx.)

    I’ve found an unexpected ally in my ‘accelerate the war’ campaign. Grimlock, of all people. He still has little positive to say about the ‘meat puppet’, but he is definitely among those few Autobots who’d like nothing better than to charge Polyhex (the Decepticon capital) right now with all available forces and damn the torpedoes. So whenever I find myself arguing for quicker, more proactive action, Grimlock is there to second me. If he hasn’t already alienated everyone else in the room and stomped out, that is.

    It’s still not easy, though. Optimus Prime is a very careful general, reluctant to put the lives of his people at risk unless he sees a definite advantage. Apparently he used to be much more of a firebrand in the early days of the war when it seemed the Decepticons would overrun the planet in a matter of months, but ever since the war has gridlocked, he has started playing things safe. I understand him, of course. In a delicate balance such as this, one misstep could turn out to be fatal. No one has ever won a war, though, by playing it safe, at least not when the sides are so evenly matched.

    Another potential ally on my side, though, has recently turned up. Jazz, as he calls himself, is apparently the local equivalent of James Bond, international bot of mystery. What he does is simply called ‘Special Operations’, basically he does SpecOps and all sorts of dangerous stuff behind enemy lines. Optimus has briefed him about the alien in their midst, though Jazz remains unaware that ‘Maverick’ and ‘Marissa Fairborn’ are the same gal. Blaster has managed to addict him to Earth music, though (the small sample of it which they have) and he seems interested in helping me get back home, if for no other reason than to experience more of Earth culture. I’ve lost count of the number of stories I’ve told him about home.

    I miss the Earth. I miss it so badly. The Autobots are wonderful and are really going out of their way to make me feel at home here. Bumblebee is a wonderful friend, Wheeljack and Ratchet are like a really strange set of surrogate parents, and Optimus Prime really goes beyond the call of duty to accommodate me. Still, it’s not home. I miss you, mom and dad. I wonder what they told you about my disappearance. Am I officially dead by now? Did someone turn up on their doorstep with a nondescript letter? Did they have to bury an empty coffin? God, I hope not.

    Back to Jazz, though. Apparently he’s heard rumblings that there is dissent in the Decepticon ranks about the overall strategy of the war. Not the first time, mind you. Apparently Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons, has weathered at least half a dozen coup attempts (that the Autobots know about) in the last 4 million years. Still, Jazz thinks there might be more to it this time. And once again my favourite Decepticon of them all, Shockwave, seems to be in the thick of it.

    Jazz believes that Megatron’s stranglehold on the Decepticon leadership might finally be slipping. Considering that he apparently promised his people a quick victory and dominion over all they surveyed, they have to be feeling somewhat disappointed 4 million years later with no definite victory in sight. Most seem to be following him out of fear, but rule of fear doesn’t last forever, either. If the Decepticons were to fracture, that would tremendously benefit the Autobots, of course.

    I’ve talked with Jazz about subversive tactics, sowing unrest, basically stirring things up. While I’m still a novice when it comes to Cybertronian culture, concepts such as misinformation campaigns and propaganda are apparently not the Autobots’ forte. Jazz seems fascinated with the ‘dirty tricks’ us humans regularly pull on each other and I’m sure I’ve given him quite a few ideas.

    Maybe subterfuge will accomplish what force of arms hasn’t. Wouldn’t be the first time, at least on my world.


    Journal of Captain Marissa Fairborn, United States Air Force
    Earth Date July 3, 2006 (approx.)

    Jazz’ ongoing campaign to sow discord among the rank and file of the Decepticons has apparently born first fruit. We have received reports of a pitched battle between Decepticons near the space bridge terminus that leads to the planet Animatros, an organic world that is largely held by Decepticon forces with only a small Autobot guerrilla presence. Apparently Razorclaw, viceroy of Animatros, has considered breaking away from Megatron’s control and Megatron got wind of it. Which has led to a fight for control of the terminus, the main connection between Cybertron and Animatros.

    While still cautious, Optimus has decided to quietly reinforce the Autobot presence on Animatros, hoping that a falling out between Megatron and Razorclaw could lead to opportunities.

    Interesting side note: apparently Razorclaw is a close ally of Shockwave. And while there is not even a bit of intel regarding any sort of tension between Megatron and Shockwave, the fact that a close ally of his seems to openly oppose Megatron... it has promise, I think.


    Journal of Captain Marissa Fairborn, United States Air Force
    Earth Date August 29, 2006 (approx.)

    For the first time since I came here, nine months now as best as I can tell, I have the feeling that things are really moving forward. Jazz’ reports turned out to be true. Razorclaw has now openly broken with Megatron and declared Animatros independent. He and his people are now calling themselves Predacons, not Decepticons anymore.

    We’re expecting Megatron to respond fairly quickly. He has to, otherwise more of his high-ranking allies might smell blood in the water, so to speak, and decide that it’s time for a new commander-in-chief. Prowl has cooked up numerous scenarios of how he might respond and quite a few of them would offer up great opportunities for the Autobots. Ultra Magnus stands ready to charge any position where Megatron might withdraw troops to send them to Animatros, while Grimlock is set to take charge of the Autobot forces on Animatros. Best case would be that Predacons and Decepticons thoroughly trash each other, then we can swoop in and take the planet, along with maybe a good-sized chunk of Cybertron, too. Reality is never best-case, of course, but there is an almost giddy atmosphere here in Iacon. Apparently quite a few Autobots have grown tired of the eternal stalemate and look forward to things finally taking a turn for the better, if that is what’s happening.

    And even better? Optimus is sending ‘Maverick’ to Animatros as well. Apparently the planet is nearly Earth-like and quite a few of the Autobot flyers have trouble coping with things like the thicker atmosphere, natural wind patterns, and thermals from the large number of active volcanoes. Maybe Maverick can teach them a thing or two regarding that.

    I’m off packing my things. No telling how long I’ll be away from Iacon. It’s almost become a second home by now and I’m certainly gonna miss Wheeljack, Ratchet, Bumblebee, and Rewind. Still, it’s a step forward. A step in the right direction. A step on my journey home. Certainly far from the last step, but still a step.

    Final Destination: Earth. First stop: Animatros.

    End Chapter 12
  19. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
    News Credits:
    Trophy Points:
    Chapter 13: Beast Wars


    Planet Animatros
    Earth Date August 30, 2006 (approx.)

    It really shouldn’t have surprised Marissa much. After all, by now she’d become more than familiar with the fact that all Cybertronians had at least two distinct forms, sometimes more. She had also seen Autobots ‘customize’ themselves for certain missions, applying extra arms or shielding, that sort of thing. Still, though, the next logical step hadn’t occurred to her until now.

    Animatros was nothing like Cybertron. It was a world as Earth might have been millions of years ago. Tectonically active, an aggressive fauna and flora, and very little infrastructure. Before the war the Cybertronians had mainly used this world for mining and power generation, it had never been much of a population centre due to the planet’s tectonic activity. The war hadn’t really changed that, except that the former mining operations had been heavily fortified. Much of the planet was still in a primal state. Which meant, of course, that the usual car-like alternate modes most Autobots had were rather useless here.

    Coming out of the Space Bridge, Marissa had quickly noticed that Grimlock looked different. The tank threads on his legs were gone and other details on his body had changed as well. It wasn’t until he transformed, though, that she realized what exactly he’d done. He – as well as many of the other Autobots here – had adapted their alternate modes to the terrain. Grimlock now transformed into something that resembled a giant Velociraptor or maybe a T-Rex, with vicious-looking claws, a swishing tail, and a huge maw. It was still quite clearly robotic in nature, but apart from being made of metal it looked exactly like some kind of B-movie dinosaur monster from outer space.

    “Finished gaping, meat puppet?” Grimlock growled, wrenching Marissa out of her fugue.

    “Sorry, just... admiring your new ‘do, Grimlock.”

    “Animatros not Cybertron, meat puppet. Change our nature, we adapt, we conquer. Time to stomp Decepticons. You ready?”

    Marissa had already bonded with Thrymir’s body, as most of the Autobots on this mission were unaware of her true nature. It would be quite a chore, as she’d have little opportunity to shed her disguise while on this mission, but if being constantly sweaty and chaffed raw was the price she had to pay for getting one step closer to home, then she would pay it gladly.

    “Ready and eager, Grimlock. Let’s kick the bad guys off this planet!”

    All the ground-based Autobots had assumed beast-like forms and went stampeding off into the foliage. The Predacons’ main base, which was currently under siege by Decepticon forces loyal to Megatron, was quite a distance away, but they weren’t in a hurry. For now they were here mainly to observe, pick off stragglers, and wait for the opportune moment to strike. They had timed their space bridge transfer to coincide with that of the Decepticon force, so with any luck neither side was aware of their presence just yet.

    “Aerialbots, form up!” she commanded, transforming Thrymir into his jet mode. This was the first time she’d actually be in charge of a group of Autobot flyers and she was feeling very nervous, truth to tell. She was also excited, though. Very much so.


    Planet Animatros
    Earth Date September 12, 2006 (approx.)

    Nearly two weeks on Animatros and so far they’d been very, very careful. The first few days (by her measure, Animatros had a mere 14-hour day, which was part of the reason the planet was so volatile) she spent getting used to the new environment and putting her squadron (which her second in command Swoop had named ‘Maverick’s Maniacs’) through training. Initially a lot of them had trouble with the thicker air and volatile thermals, but they learned quickly. They adapted, Marissa reminded herself. Change was the Cybertronians’ nature and they changed into whatever was needed to prevail. As did she.

    So far the Autobots had done little in the way of aerial operations on this planet. The Decepticons (or Predacons, as some of them called themselves now) had always ruled the skies here. Marissa was looking to change that. So far they restricted themselves to ambush tactics, picking off Decepticon and Predacon patrols, occasionally leaving the odd clue that pointed toward the other bad guys being to blame. As best as their scouts could tell no one was aware of their presence yet.

    So far ‘Maverick’ had amassed six kills on Animatros. Her squadron combined had blown over three dozen Decepticon and Predacon flyers out of the sky. Grimlock and his ground troops had taken down nearly five times that number. And all the while the fighting between Predacons and Decepticons near the planet’s important installations intensified. Their scouts only observed from afar, but it seemed they were grinding each other down.

    It was just a matter of time before they would strike and take out whomever remained.


    Planet Animatros
    Earth Date October 3, 2006 (approx.)

    Marissa clenched her teeth hard to keep from screaming in pain. They’d just returned from an extended scouting mission and she’d spent far, far too long in her exo suit and with her cybernetic limbs attached. Her entire body felt raw and the stumps of her legs were actually bleeding. She barely managed to get out of the suit, but standing on her cybernetic legs sent waves of pain through her and blood ran down the glittering metal limbs. Unable to bear it any longer she simply collapsed on the floor and triggered the sequence that made her legs and arm detach. Finally the agonizing pressure fell away and she simply remained there on the ground, panting in relief. Maybe this had been a really bad idea. She wasn’t ready for this. She was just a tiny, damaged human amidst hordes of fighting robots. And look where it got her.

    Knowing her limitations, she’d been given a private room near the outskirts of the Autobots’ hidden base deep in Animatros’ jungle. The official explanation was that Maverick hadn’t originally been designed as a flyer and needed special maintenance. Only one Autobot currently on Animatros knew her identity and of course he chose this very moment to walk in unannounced.

    “Meat puppet, where...”

    Grimlock trailed off as he saw her. Thrymir stood off to the side, linked up to a recharge unit. Her exosuit stood open beside it. Marissa was lying on the ground before it, her three cybernetic limbs scattered all around her, the connecting ports red with blood. Her entire body was sweaty and stinky, her hair was plastered to her face. In short, she didn’t look her best.

    “I’m not really dressed for company right now, Grimlock,” she said, embarrassed that he was seeing her this way. Grimlock respected strength and only strength. These last few weeks she seemed to have gained his respect. But now...

    Grimlock knelt down beside her, putting his huge sword aside.

    “Need help with anything?”

    She stared at him, open-mouthed. Was Grimlock... was he actually...?

    “I thought you were disgusted by organics,” she blurted out before really thinking about it. “I mean... look at me. I... I can’t even sit up right now.”

    Grimlock seemed to consider her words for a moment, then nodded. “True, don’t like organics. Weak, break easily. You, though: not weak. Fight on, even when limitations of body hold you back. Even strongest bots fall down and need rest & repairs. Then get back up and fight on. As you will. Today, you rest. Then, we kick Decepticon skid plates again. Now, need help with anything?”

    Marissa laughed, even as fresh tears of pain ran down her face. Who’d have thought that Grimlock, of all people, would be giving her a pep talk the likes of which she hadn’t heard since she’d nearly quit the Academy after her first flying lesson had been... less than stellar.

    “If you could help me onto that bed where the medical supplies are, I think I can handle the rest.”

    With surprising care Grimlock picked her helpless body up in one giant hand and deposited her on the bed. From here everything she needed was in easy reach. Using her remaining hand she quickly applied some self-sealing bandages to her bleeding leg stumps and then poured half a bottle of water over her head. There was a small shower unit she could use later, but for now she was just glad she was lying down.

    “Thank you, Grimlock.”

    “Would do same for me,” he simply said, rising. “Will inform others that ‘Maverick’ needs time in CR chamber. Won’t disturb you.”

    With those words, he left. Marissa laughed again, feeling glorious as the pain slowly started to ebb. Yeah, today she would rest. And then she’d kick Decepticon skid plates again. Sounded like a plan.


    Planet Animatros
    Earth Date December 20, 2006 (approx.)

    Nearly four months of fighting and finally a winner had emerged. Transmissions from Blaster had informed them that Megatron had decided not to reinforce his troops on Animatros, as he was already hard-pressed by Ultra Magnus’ forces along the Hydrax Plateau, where most of the loyal Decepticons currently on Animatros had been withdrawn from. As a result Razorclaw and his Predacons had managed to push their enemies back.

    They didn’t have an exact count how many Decepticons had retreated into the Animatros jungle, but it couldn’t be many. The Predacons were regrouping near Axalon, their primary base that was situated near a very large volcano and also contained a truly humongous geothermal power plant. It was the single most strategically valuable position on Animatros.

    Today, they would take it.

    “All units, call in,” Grimlock’s voice rumbled over the coms.

    “Aerialbots ready!” Marissa announced.

    “Dynobots ready!” she heard from Slag, Grimlock’s second in command.

    “Wreckers ready!”

    The Wreckers, the Autobots’ elite special forces unit, had space bridged onto Animatros specifically to take part in this mission. They’d be needed elsewhere immediately afterwards, but for the moment they supplied much-needed firepower. Their leader, Springer, was an impressive bot and from what Marissa had heard many Predacons might take off running the moment they saw him and his group.

    “Attack!” Grimlock yelled.

    Moments later the beast-formed Autobots exploded out of the jungle and rushed toward the unsuspecting Predacons. Marissa transformed and a moment later her Aerialbots were on their first strafing run, targeting what little remained of Axalon’s fixed fortifications after four months of bitter fighting.

    Marissa nearly lost herself in the chaos of combat. On an instinctual level she remained aware of her squadron mates, heard the commands issued by Grimlock over the coms, but everything else was drowned out by the frenzy of laser blasts, the ever-shifting G-forces of aerial combat manoeuvres, and the sheer terror of being in the middle of a fight between giant alien robots. This was nothing like those ambushes they’d been doing for the last four months. This was sheer, mad, rush’em-and-pray combat where even the slightest mistake could cost you your life.

    No, she resolved. She wouldn’t die here! Not today! Not on some alien world far away from home! She intended to die on Earth, in her bed, of old age. Not here!

    Blast after blast, explosion after explosion. She heard a terrible scream off to her right side and briefly noted that Airazor, a fellow Autobot flyer she had grown to like quite a bit these last four months, was torn apart by enemy fire. A moment later she banked and had Airazor’s killer in her sights, extracting payback in a hail of blaster bolts. She briefly had the ground in sight, saw Slag spew fire that melted a Predacon soldier into a puddle in moments. Then she was off into the air again.

    A Predacon flyer reconfigured to look almost like a giant eagle was before her suddenly. Thrymir’s system identified him as Divebomb, Razorclaw’s aerial commander, and she her wingman Swoop were immediately upon him. The fight took hours or maybe seconds, she wasn’t sure. Finally Divebomb broke off, one of his wings shredded, and headed toward the ground.

    The skies were clear, she realized with a start, so she immediately ordered her remaining Aerialbots to give ground support. She briefly paused in awe, seeing Grimlock in T-Rex mode take on a Predacon transformed into something resembling a humongous lion. That had to be Razorclaw. The two giant robotic beasts tore into each other with a fury that seemed so much more intense here in this primal jungle setting than on the cold steel landscapes of Cybertron.

    There was more blaster fire, more explosions, and finally someone called for the Predacons to retreat. Marissa transformed, landing on the ground beside Grimlock on Thrymir’s metal feet, and looked to her commander, who was back in robot mode and looked like he’d been through a trash compactor but didn’t really care much.

    “Skies are clear,” she reported. “I’m keeping Swoop and Fireflight up there as lookouts. They’ll warn us if the Predacons come back.”

    “Good. Will have less-damaged bots do perimeter detail. Rest will make use of Decepticon CR chambers and...”

    With a screech of tortured metal his right arm, which still held his giant sword, fell off and crashed to the ground. Grimlock looked at his mangled shoulder, where Razorclaw had gotten a particular good lick in, as if he didn’t quite get what had just happened.

    Marissa smiled. “Need help with anything?”

    Grimlock stared at her for a moment, then threw back his head and laughed.

    “Maybe pick that up and bring it to CR chamber.”

    End Chapter 13
  20. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

    Jul 12, 2005
    News Credits:
    Trophy Points:
    Happy new year everyone and after some time-out during the holidays, here comes the newest chapter of Transformers: HID. Enjoy!

    Chapter 14: Industrial War


    Journal of Captain Marissa Fairborn, United States Air Force
    Earth Date February 21, 2007 (approx.)

    The victory on Animatros sadly wasn’t the huge step forward I’d hoped for. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it did move things forward. It was a huge boost to Autobot morale and, if Jazz is to be believed, the dissention in the ranks of the Decepticons has grown by leaps and bounds, too. The gain in territory, especially the taking of Animatros’ geothermal power plants, has given the Autobots much needed resources, too. On the other side, though, it has also lengthened the front lines for them. A permanent Autobot presence is now required on the planet, as the Decepticons have already launched multiple attempts to retake it, not to mention that Razorclaw’s Predacons are still there and operating as a guerrilla force now.

    So while things have improved, the war is still far from over. I didn’t expect it to, of course, but after the decisive victory we achieved… well, I probably got my hopes up a bit too far. Anyway, Grimlock and I returned to Iacon after things had settled somewhat. Ratchet scolded me something fierce for the way I’ve abused my own body. He actually confined me to bed rest for a week and had Wheeljack turn off my cybernetic limbs to make sure I actually stayed put. He’s worse than mom was the time I accidentally released the car breaks when I was ten and let it roll into the picket fence.

    Anyway, the war goes on and returning home still seems far, far away. Closer than before, but still out of reach. Well, nothing else for me to do but carry on. Jazz and I spend a lot of time together drawing up plans for his subversive activities. Which also led to one of the more embarrassing moments of my life when he and Blaster found out that the Top Gun soundtrack they both so adore is but the tiniest, tiniest part of what Earth has to offer in terms of music. They cornered me and… forced me to sing. I don’t sing. But they held my Headmaster suit hostage and wouldn’t give it back until I did. So I sang. Let’s just leave it at that.

    After careful consideration – and a lot of nagging from both Grimlock and myself - Optimus Prime has decided that it’s time for the next big push. We have a slight advantage now and we need to make use of it before Megatron manages to put his house back in order. So it’s time to go planet-hopping again. Apparently there is this place called Gigantion, a planet where pre-war Cybertronians outsourced most of their manufacturing plants to. It’s also one of their main sources of ore. Currently the planet is pretty much split down the middle by the two warring sides. Optimus now sees an opportunity to change that.

    So no more jungles for this city girl. Time to go and blow up some factories instead.


    Planet Gigantion
    Earth Date March 7, 2007 (approx.)

    Two weeks on Gigantion and Marissa still wasn’t used to this place. She had barely managed to get used to the fact that she was usually the smallest creature in any given room, at least when she wasn’t in her Headmaster suit or linked up to Thrymir. Everything on Cybertron was scaled to extra-large.

    If that was the case, though, then Gigantion was scaled XXXX-large.

    Gigantion was the largest non-gaseous planet the Cybertronians had ever encountered and gravity was at least five times that of Earth. Which made warfare here a matter of short blitzes and stinging attacks, as both sides could only operate in the high gravity by burning energy at a much higher rate to compensate. Marissa could not set foot on the surface outside being linked up to Thrymir, as her Headmaster suit alone simply didn’t have the energy stores necessary to keep her from being squished. 98 percent of both sides’ forces operated from orbital stations, where nice standard gravity could be maintained.

    The exception were the big guys. Coming to Gigantion had given Marissa a whole new definition of what constituted a big guy, actually. So far the largest Cybertronian she had encountered was Grimlock, though Shockwave might just run a close second. On Gigantion, though, Grimlock fully deserved the nickname “Shorty” (though she doubted anyone would ever call him that to his face). The Cybertronians who had permanently settled here before and after the start of the war had upgraded their bodies to deal with the giant planet’s deep gravity well. It made them giants in the truest sense of the word.

    “Attack: Imminent!”

    Case in point, Omega Supreme. From what Marissa had gathered he was among the oldest Cybertronians currently online, having served as a guardian of the peace as long as anyone could remember. He was at least ten times as big as Grimlock, probably bigger, and towered over just about every battlefield she could imagine. He was even less eloquent then Grimlock, too, barely speaking more than two words at a time. No one knew much about what went on behind his ever-stoic face plate, but from what Jazz and Bumblebee had told her, he carried a serious grudge against the Decepticons in general and a certain group of Decepticons in particular.

    “Maniacs, form up!” Marissa ordered, grouping her squadron around the huge bulk of Omega Supreme. They were spearheading an assault on one of the major industrial sectors currently under Decepticon control. Omega would supply the brute force for this incursion, flanked by Grimlock’s heavy units, while she and her squadron would supply air support.

    “Launch assault!” Grimlock commanded and they surged forward.

    The sector in question was mainly used for weapon and ammunition production, so every shot was liable to set off huge explosions and fires. Flames in high gravity were a strange sight, as they seemed to squat and lie low on the ground. Marissa had no time for sightseeing, though. Flying in these conditions was a big challenge and one always had to keep one eye on the energy reserves. The attack was timed at roughly seventeen minutes (or two Breems) and by then they’d have just enough power left to make the climb back to high orbit.

    “Main objective: sighted!”

    Marissa turned and saw Omega heading straight toward the main ammunition plant that was the primary target of this operation. Moments later she spotted six lime-green shapes that had apparently assembled near the factory’s main entrance. Her IFF scanner identified them as the Constructicons, the aforementioned favourite enemies of Omega Supreme. Oh boy.

    “Constructicons, unite!” one of them yelled.

    Marissa had already heard stories of the so-called Gestalt-protocol, a way for groups of Cybertronians to combine their bodies, minds, and energies into a single, greater whole. So far, though, it had all been dead information or endless scientific big talk by Perceptor, whom she tended to tune out ten seconds into any conversation because she didn’t understand two thirds of the words he used, universal translator or not. Now, though, she saw it in action.

    Six shapes, every single one of them already quite big, combined into something humongous. In fact, it almost seemed as if every individual robot had grown as well, because the resultant combined robot was almost as big as Omega Supreme.

    “Prepare to meet your doom!” a strange voice, sounding like six people speaking all at once, thundered over the battle field.

    “Challenge: accepted!” Omega answered, rushing toward the lime and purple giant.

    Marissa concentrated on her task, wrecking the factory while Omega kept the heavy hitter busy, but again and again her eyes were drawn to the titanic tussle between two robots that were as big as buildings.

    She felt very, very small. Hopefully this mission on Gigantion would be over soon and she could get back to just feeling normally small.


    Journal of Captain Marissa Fairborn, United States Air Force
    Earth Date September 5, 2007 (approx.)

    Six months of fighting on Gigantion (as far as I can tell, apparently the high gravity makes time go wonky a bit, too) and very little to show for it. A lot of factories got blown up, Maverick’s kill count has risen quite a bit, but no major advances worth mentioning. Prowl and Perceptor have calculated that the Decepticons’ manufacturing capabilities have dropped by roughly ten percent due to the widespread destruction we unleashed on Gigantion, but that will only have long-term effects.

    Just about the only positive thing about the whole campaign was Jazz’ reports of even more dissention in the Decepticon ranks. Some guy called Ratbat - apparently the Decepticons’ main logistics guy and responsible for keeping tabs on energy, resources and stuff – threw a very public hissy fit about the lack of proper defences on important locations like Gigantion and the generally wasteful way the Decepticon forces are currently deployed, especially considering the ongoing energy famine. Jazz was unable to get a lot of details, but there was some kind of throw-down between Megatron, Ratbat, and two other high-level guys called Straxus and Overlord. No further splitting of Decepticon forces yet, but no one has seen Overlord since.

    Prime and Prowl have decided to step back the campaign on Gigantion, given the meagre returns, and instead focus their forces elsewhere. And not on some other planet for once, but rather right here on Cybertron. The Tagan Heights were once the planet’s main centre of industry before much of it was outsourced to Gigantion. With much of Gigantion’s industrial infrastructure wrecked by the recent upsurge in fighting, Optimus believes that the Decepticons will try and secure it to make up for lost production capacity. While many of the factories there have apparently been mothballed due to lack of energy, they remain functional and could presumably be started up again in no time flat.

    Prowl sees this as a major opportunity to lay a trap for the Decepticons. He especially hopes to bag Ratbat, believing that without him the Decepticons’ logistics will suffer quite a bit. So as many Autobots as can be spared from other fronts will be lying in wait there. Including Maverick’s Maniacs.


    Tagan Heights, Planet Cybertron
    Earth Date September 9, 2007 (approx.)

    “Wreck and Rule!”

    Marissa banked hard to the right as the air in front of her was filled with hails of laser fire. One of the Wreckers, a huge gunship-like helicopter called Whirl, shot by her, firing with abandon from his many, many gun barrels.

    “Watch it, you idiot,” Marissa cursed. “You almost hit me!”

    “Better leave this to the pros, newbie,” the Wrecker replied. “Wreckers don’t have time to watch out for amateurs.”

    “Shut up, Whirl,” Springer cut in over the com line, his own helicopter shape strafing Decepticon ground troops nearby. “I don’t care how many ‘Cons you’ve popped, if you cause one more friendly fire accident I’ll personally ship your carcass to Garrus 9, you hear me?”

    “You’re just jealous because my helicopter blades are longer than yours!”

    Marissa shook her head, once more fully convinced that most of the Wreckers – and Whirl especially – were completely insane. Still, she couldn’t argue with their effectiveness. As Prowl had predicted, a major Decepticon force led by Ratbat had indeed attempted to take the Tagan Heights and while they hadn’t exactly run blindly into their ambush, they obviously hadn’t been prepared to find quite this many Autobot forces waiting for them. They were entering the second day of fighting now and so far the Decepticons were getting the short end of the stick by a significant margin.

    “Attention Aerialbots,” Ultra Magnus’ voice came over the com. He was in command of this campaign. “Scouts have sighted Decepticon reinforcements coming in from Decagon. Do a flyby and give me the best estimate you can as to troop strength and composition.”

    “Will do, Magnus,” Marissa replied. “Swoop, Dogfight, Cloudraker, you’re with me!”

    The four Autobot flyers formed up into two flights and sped towards the direction Magnus had indicated. The Tagan Heights were a veritable jungle of industrial facilities, warehouses, and docking ports, making it hard to accurately spot targets from the air. The reinforcements were still on the Decagon planes, though, so they easily spotted them.

    “Scanners pick up at least three squadrons of Seekers,” Cloudraker reported, he and Dogfight flying in front. “Ground troops seem to be a mixed batch, probably whatever they could scramble on short notice. Trying to identify field commanders.”

    “I think that’s Thundercracker leading the Seeker squadrons,” Dogfight added.

    “I’ve got a fix on the guy in charge, I think,” Swoop said, gliding low over the buildings with Marissa on his wing. On Cybertron he usually took the lead, as he was far more familiar with the landscape than she was. “Scanning... yeah, it’s him alright.”

    “Him? Who?” Marissa asked.

    “The mean purple machine himself. Shockwave!”

    A moment later Marissa spotted the achingly familiar flying gun shape hovering just ahead of the advancing Decepticon force. Shockwave!

    Her blood ran cold.

    End Chapter 14