A World Transformed - Cover
Issue One: "The Coming Of Giants"
Written and Illustrated by Bryan Richard Shipp
The Transformers: powerful warrior robots waging a neverending battle across space and time. Autobots and Decepticons, fighting a war of long-forgotten ideologies, now trapped in a cycle of violence that threatens to consume them all. They have traveled across the ages from their homeworld of Cybertron to a blue-green orb we know as the Earth. But this is not the Earth we know; it is a world transformed, a place of mutants, superheroes, and villains. It is a world where nothing is as it seems. . .and these alien robots will soon find that those they thought were allies and enemies are not. They will find that there are greater threats than each other. . .
Cybertron. A vast, Saturn-sized world with a surface entirely of metal. This place was once, long ago, a merely Earth-sized world. Over the millennia, enormous factories were built up upon its surface, its streets and buildings growing taller and ever-taller. And on this world upon which no bare rock can be found underfoot, no cloud to be seen in the black, star-spotted sky, no fragrances to be breathed in the near-vacuum of its atmosphere, a war as old as the planet itself rages unstoppably.
An explosion tore through the eastern bunker complex at Iacon City, the last bastion of the Autobots on Cybertron. Shrapnel tore through nearby walls, leaving enormous scars in the already battle-marred metal there. The flames in the bunker died quickly for lack of oxygen to support them, leaving only a black, twisted crater where once stood the strongest of the early-warning centers in defense of Iacon.
From out of the rubble stood several enormous robots, their finishes marred by the explosion, their armor smoking faintly, but otherwise in excellent condition. Their leader, standing at the head of the group and wielding an enormous black cannon on his right arm, pointed at the large, domed complex at the center of Iacon City.
Six of the robots, each with large intake vents on their shoulders, transformed behind him into pyramidal flying machines and flew up into the sky over Iacon City, strafing with hidden lasers the streets of the city, clearing it of the Autobots there, who fled for their lives before the onslaught.
"Shockwave," the gray leader of the Decepticons said, looking over at the one-eyed, purple robot next to him, "I want in the capital. Make a door for me."
"As you command, Megatron." Shockwave transformed into an enormous, purple flying cannon. He aimed himself for the side of the domed structure in the center of the city and fired. The purple beam that lanced out from the barrel of his cannon cut through the smoke of the shattered bunker across nearly five kilometers of space, to strike squarely at the base of the enormous dome and explode outward with a force that shook the ground as far away as Megatron’s position.
"Excellent, Shockwave. Your power remains. . .almost. . .unparalleled. . ." Megatron stared at his fellow Decepticon as he transformed, his optics narrowing. Do not think that I am not aware you seek my position among the Decepticons, Shockwave. I am keeping my optics on you, and rest assured I will destroy you when your usefulness to me is finished!
"Megatron! Autobots approaching on attack vector!" A blue, mouthless robot spoke in a ringing monotone next to the Decepticon commander. Megatron followed his gaze, saw armed, hovering vehicles bearing down on their position. They were waiting until they were in range to fire at the Decepticons standing in the crater, so they wouldn’t waste any energon on failed shots.
"Excellent, Soundwave! Decepticons, destroy them!" Megatron transformed, his body twisting and shifting, to form an enormous, double-barreled cannon. Soundwave grabbed the cannon in mid-air with his left hand and, bracing himself against its recoil, began firing at the Autobots with his commander. The other Decepticons in the crater also opened fire, and the space between the advancing Autobots and the Decepticons was filled with light. Megatron himself was what destroyed each Autobot in turn, however, the extraordinary power of his fusion cannons targeted them and tore them apart with only a few well-placed shots.
Megatron transformed, leaping out of Soundwave’s hand to land, his feet crushing the wreckage of the destroyed Autobots, and laughed. "Now come, my Decepticons, and let us achieve final victory over these damnable Autobots!"
The Decepticons leapt into the sky, repulsorlifts in their enormous bodies kicking to life as they flew toward the dome at the center of Iacon City. Autobots fired at them from hiding places in alleys and burnt-out buildings, but the Decepticons only paused long enough on their way to their goal to obliterate their attackers. As they neared the domed structure that was the headquarters of the Autobot resistance, the six tetrajets rejoined the main body of the Decepticons.
"Our task is completed, Megatron!" The lead tetrajet, a white vehicle with red and blue highlights, spoke with a high-pitched voice. "We have destroyed three Autobot armories and five of their repair centers! Even if we fail in this mission, they will be hard-pressed to stand against us for much longer!"
"Starscream, you’re an idiot. We will not fail! We will destroy the Autobots once and for all by destroying their leader, Sentinel Prime!" Megatron barked at his Air Commander. "With Sentinel Prime gone, no Autobot in their ranks will dare stand against us--he is the most powerful Autobot, without him they have no chance of victory!"
The Decepticons landed in the enormous chamber blown open by Shockwave. Multiple catwalks criss-crossed the room, enveloping like a cage the gigantic and powerful fusion reactor at the center of the chamber. Megatron gazed at the generator with hunger-widened optics and grinned.
"Have you come here for our energon as well, Megatron? Have you squandered the resources of the rest of Cybertron so badly that now you need to steal from us?"
"What?" Megatron looked away from the reactor to see where that challenging voice had come from, and looked up to a balcony on a higher level.
There, standing tall in defiance of Megatron and his Decepticons, were the most powerful of the Autobot warriors: Sentinel Prime, the golden-black supreme leader of the Autobots; by his side, Optimus, second in power and position only to Sentinel Prime; Ultra Magnus, in body and spirit as indomitable as a Prime; Prowl, the Autobots’ greatest tactician; and the virtually indestructible Grimlock.
"Autobots, destroy the Decepticons!" Sentinel Prime leapt off the balcony, the jets in his legs bracing his fall, firing the twin cannons on each of his forearms at the Decepticons below. Two of the tetrajet seekers fell under Sentinel Prime’s barrage, while several more of the Decepticons were felled by the fire coming from the balcony behind him, covering his descent.
Sentinel Prime landed on the floor of the generator chamber, his massive form shaking the metal plating. He pointed at Megatron. "Your insanity has gone too far for too long, Megatron! The time has come to end it!"
Megatron smiled. "I wholeheartedly agree, Sentinel Prime!" Megatron brought his fusion cannon to bear on the Autobot leader and fired. Sentinel dodged the shot, which traveled into the center of the room and struck the reactor there. Bolts of lightning arced across the surface of the generator, then disappeared. The hum filling the room from its internal cycling grew louder.
Sentinel leapt forward and tackled Megatron, knocking his cannon aside and dealing a devastating roundhouse punch to the Decepticon’s jaw, knocking him backward into Shockwave, Soundwave and Starscream. With those four on the floor, Sentinel glanced up at the troops that had entered the room with him.
"Autobots! Protect the reactor! Initiate full-scale counterassault!"
As soon as the words were spoken, warrior-Autobots leapt into the room from various doors, taking up defensive positions around the reactor and firing at the Decepticons with everything they had. The Decepticons returned fire, and several Autobots deliberately leapt in front of blasts to keep them from striking the reactor. Others rushed forward to wrestle with their Decepticon adversaries.
Seeing four Autobots rushing forward to tackle him, Soundwave depressed the eject button on the top of his torso. "Rumble, Frenzy, Laserbeak, Buzzsaw, eject, eject, eject, eject! Mission: annihilation!"
Four rectangles flew from Soundwave’s open chest, transforming into the two humanoid robots Rumble and Frenzy and the two flying, almost bird-like Laserbeak and Buzzsaw. They rushed forward to meet the attacking Autobots, and Soundwave was left to his own devices. Unnoticed, he began to sneak his way along the outside wall of the room toward the reactor.
Optimus leapt down to the main floor of the chamber, joining Sentinel Prime in the fight. "Sentinel, there may be more of us than them, but we’re outgunned by far, and we’ve got to protect the central reactor!"
Sentinel nodded as he brought the cannon on his back forward over his shoulder and blew a hole straight through one of the Decepticons. "I know, Optimus--believe me, I know! But we’ve got no choice--there’s nowhere we can retreat to. If we lose this reactor, we’ve lost the war! We must fight on, no matter the cost!"
Starscream fired his null-rays straight into Optimus’ chest, causing the Autobot to wince in pain. He returned fire with his rifle, its double-ratcheting sound echoing in the chamber, its energy nearly tearing the Air Commander to pieces. "You’ll get no argument from me, Sentinel!"
On the other side of the battle, Ironhide noticed Soundwave approaching the reactor and snarled. "Oh, no ya don’t, you lousy Decepticreep!" He tackled the Decepticon, and they both went sprawling on the floor.
They wrestled, back and forth, rolling over and over and over, until finally Ironhide found himself on top of the Decepticon. He pulled back his right arm to deliver a roundhouse straight into Soundwave’s optics, when Soundwave’s shoulder cannon locked into place, targeted Ironhide, and blew his arm off, knocking him backward and off Soundwave in the process.
Soundwave stood and, his stealth forgotten, ran straight for the reactor, dodging those Autobots who tried to tackle him and shooting those Autobots who were targeting him with their weapons. He made his way to the reactor, depressed his eject button, and from the chamber in his chest flew a bomb that attached itself to the reactor.
Soundwave then touched his audioreceptor-panel, activating his inter-Decepticon radio. "Megatron, bomb emplaced. Evacuation within one thousand astroseconds imperative."
Megatron heard, though he could not reply because he was deep in single combat with Sentinel Prime. His armor was battered and chipped from the intensity of the conflict, while Sentinel Prime had barely been scratched. Looking at his varnished surface built a rage within Megatron, and he threw a punch with his left hand. Sentinel dodged it, but he wasn’t paying attention to Megatron’s right arm--which was aimed directly where Sentinel had to dodge the punch. Megatron fired.
The power of the fusion cannon struck Sentinel Prime point-blank in his abdomen, blowing a hole through his armor, leaving an enormous and ugly exit wound in the Autobot leader’s back.
Optimus saw this, but was too far away to help his leader. "Sentinel!" He screamed, shocked at what had happened.
"Decepticons, fall back!" Megatron yelled to his troops. The Decepticons immediately retreated from the ground they had won in the reactor chamber, fleeing back toward the tear in the side of Iacon’s capital complex that Shockwave had opened. As the Decepticons gathered, appearing to flee, the Autobots rushed forward to their stricken leader.
Sentinel half-stood, the strain he was putting on his circuitry evident by the quivering in his legs. "Megatron, where are you going, you coward? Stay here and be destroyed--as you should be!" He aimed his arm cannons and his back-mounted laser cannon at Megatron and fired them all. Megatron’s shot had badly damaged his energon pump, though, and his shots were weak--weak enough that Megatron could brush them off, laughing.
"Now, Decepticons! As I instructed! Fire!"
All the Decepticons opened fire on Sentinel Prime, their shots tearing through him like electroknives through oilpaste. Hull plates bucked, armor melted, and exostructure was destroyed. Their shots spent, the Decepticons paused in their retreat only to watch Sentinel Prime, his body a smoking ruin, collapse.
"Sentinel, No!" Optimus rushed forward, throwing his rifle aside to kneel beside the fallen Autobot leader. He put his hands on the battered Sentinel, as if he could heal him through the laying of hands, and stared into the closed, lifeless optics. "Sentinel, please, speak! Say something!"
Sentinel Prime opened his optics, revealing a faint blue glow. "I’ve. . .had better days, Optimus."
Relief flooded through Optimus. "Ratchet!! Somebody get Ratchet! Sentinel lives!"
The Autobots assembled in the reactor room cheered. Ratchet, a non-combatant and the Autobots’ greatest healer, was summoned. Meanwhile Wheeljack, the mad Autobot inventor, tried to help his friend Ironhide to his feet.
"Ironhide, you all right?"
"Ah function, Wheeljack, an’ that’s about the best ah kin say. But none of us will fer very long--Soundwave planted a bomb on the reactor, an’ if we don’t get outta pronto, we’re gonna be fried!" Ironhide pointed to the bomb on the wall of the reactor, and Wheeljack saw that they had only 10 astroseconds to evacuate the reactor room.
"Everyone evacuate!" Wheeljack cried, both over his inter-Autobot radio and with his vocoder module. "There’s a bomb on the reactor, and it’s gonna blow!"
The Autobots in the reactor chamber immediately scattered, each heading for the nearest exit. Only Optimus did not move--he remained with Sentinel.
"Come on, Prime, we’ve got to get out of here." Optimus started to help Sentinel up.
"No, Optimus, you’ll never make it with me. Go, get out of here."
"Never! We’re Autobots! We don’t leave each other behind--no matter what! Now help me help you, Sentinel, or we’re both going to be destroyed for no good reason!"
Sentinel, if he had had a mouth, would have smiled at Optimus’ stubbornness. Optimus was the greatest of the Autobot generals--he had defeated the Decepticons at thousands of battles, and had lost very few of his own troops in the process. It was this tenacity for making certain his own warriors were safe that Sentinel Prime was seeing in him now. Pushing past the pain, Sentinel locked his gears into motion and stood, supported by Optimus. They moved as quickly as they could to the nearest exit, Sentinel’s badly damaged left leg dragging along behind him while he tried to support as much of his weight as he could on his right leg to ease Optimus’ burden.
They had almost gotten to the door when, behind them, the bomb exploded, sending a gout of flame pouring outward from the now-cracked reactor containment barrier. The cracks in its surface spread, and the reactor wall began to crumble, exposing the delicate electrical balances inside. Such exposure changed the nature of the reactions, and power began to build up, and build, filling the reactor room with an impossibly loud, piercing hum.
They were at the door when the reactor exploded.
Sentinel Prime heard the subtle shift in the whine of the reactor, knew what it meant, and took his arm off of Optimus’ shoulders, putting his weight fully on his own feet.
"Sentinel, what are you--"
With all his remaining strength, Sentinel pushed Optimus through the doorway into the narrow corridor beyond. "I’ll not be the cause of both my death and yours, Optimus!"
The shock wave, heat and debris struck Sentinel Prime all at the same time, and he had to pull energy from his deepest reserves to keep his wits enough to reach out and grab the sides of the doorway, using his large body to fill the opening and shield Optimus from the blast.
On the outskirts of Iacon city, Megatron watched at the fires of the explosion tore Shockwave’s hole wider, brightening the perpetually night sky of Cybertron with an enormous fireball that dissipated quickly in the thin atmosphere. He smiled.
"It is done. The Autobots are finished."
The circular arena was empty but for a shining spot of light at its center, where Ratchet, First Aid, Perceptor, Wheeljack and Hoist were working intently on the battered body of Sentinel Prime, doing their best to repair him as best they could. The entire hall was filled with Autobots, all sitting in silence, waiting intently for the report on their leader’s condition. At the edge of the circle of light stood the greatest of the Autobot generals--Optimus, Ultra Magnus, Elita-1, Grimlock, and Fortress Maximus--and the Autobot Elders--Alpha Trion, Kup, and the Emirate Xaaron--all awaiting Ratchet’s report with grim expressions. Optimus was tracked with the damage the battle and the explosion had done to him--but he had refused repair, knowing his place was here, by Sentinel’s side. Elita-1 placed one hand on his shoulder to comfort him. He placed one of his own over hers, to show his appreciation.
Finally, Ratchet stepped forward, away from Sentinel Prime, to face the Autobot Elders and generals. The expression on his face was one of lost hope. The Autobots knew what he was going to say before he said it--but it needed saying anyway, to make it real. "I fear the worst. Sentinel Prime is too badly damaged. His wounds are fatal."
A quiet rustle rippled through the crowd, of Autobots lowering their heads in grief and respect. The generals and Elders, led by Ratchet, approached the prone form of Sentinel Prime. Hoist moved over to control panel next to a bank of life support equipment and turned a knob. Sentinel Prime’s repair berth rotated and rose, so that he could face his followers erect in death, just as he had led them in life.
Sentinel stared out at them with his single remaining optical sensor. The time had come for the most ancient, most sacred ritual of the Autobots--the passing of the Matrix. He could feel his circuits failing, knew he wouldn’t have much time to pass the most precious relic of the Transformers.
"At the beginning of time," he spoke, his voice modulated by amplification circuits in the berth surrounding him, "Primus spoke, and the universe listened. Primus angered, and the universe trembled. Primus created, and the universe wept with joy. For what he created was Cybertron, and who he created were the Transformers. And in those golden days, all was good.
"But then the Quintessons came, and our world was plunged into darkness. . .we were rebuilt as slaves, almighty Vector Sigma was polluted and used to create perversions of our kind. . .but our people rose up to throw off the shackles of our oppression, and peace once more reigned on Cybertron, through the wisdom of Primus. Peace remained, until the current war, and the renewed darkness it has brought to our people.
"Through all the bleak ages we have faced, a single bright star has guided us, its shining light a beacon of hope to us all. It is the Matrix of Leadership, the Autobot Matrix. The Matrix of Light, of Wisdom, of Life. It is the Creation Matrix. The final spark of Primus left to us, our connection to the Matrix which resides in all things. The greatest wisdom of our noblest warriors and our most extraordinary philosophers resides within the Matrix and, since the loss of Vector Sigma, it is the only way for new Transformer life to be created.
"The Bearer of the Matrix has the most serious charge placed upon him--his is to safeguard the Matrix, to protect it from those who would exploit it, and use it to further the cause of the Autobots, of freedom, throughout the universe. Such is the responsibility of the Matrix-Bearer, handed down from Primus, to Alpha Trion, to Primacron, to Prima, to Prime Nova, to me. . .and now to you, Optimus. Step forward, Optimus Prime."
Another rustle made its way through the crowd as Optimus stepped forward to face the dying Autobot leader. "Sentinel, I--I’m not worthy. I’m a warrior, I--"
"No one is worthy of the Matrix when they are chosen to bear it, Optimus Prime. All the Bearers grow into their roles, are fulfilled by it. You have always shown the wisdom and compassion that is the soul of the Matrix, Optimus. You have the determination, the skill, and the strength to lead the Autobots after my deactivation. I cannot think of a prouder successor."
The twin panels in Sentinel’s chest opened slowly, working with labored grind of gears taxed beyond their limit. The casing within his chest which held the Matrix pushed outward on hidden drivers from deep within Sentinel’s chest, where it had been kept safe and free from harm. Once fully extended, it opened, revealing the orb-shaped Matrix within. With his one semi-operational arm, reinforced by a supporting exoskeleton by his healers for just this purpose, Sentinel reached into the casing and removed the Matrix. Optimus stepped forward, took the Matrix from him, and placed it within a similar chamber in his own chest. He kneeled before Sentinel as the dying robot’s chest closed up once more.
"Arise, Optimus Prime." Sentinel spoke. Optimus stood. "It is said that, one day, an Autobot shall rise up from the ranks to light our darkest hour. It has also been foretold that the Bearer of the Matrix will, on the day of the end of the Cybertronian Wars, make the perilous journey to the core of Cybertron, where the Matrix will open the Plasma Energy Chamber and restore golden life, both to Cybertron and to almighty Vector Sigma. Until that day. Till all are one."
"Till all are one," Optimus Prime replied, bowing.
Sentinel rested his head on the cushioned interior of the repair berth, his single surviving optic content as he closed it for the final time. The life support monitors on the berth showed their curves for the final time, then no more--what remained of Sentinel Prime’s body grew cold, and gray, and Sentinel Prime was no more. Elita-1 stepped out of the shadows, touched Optimus Prime’s arm gently.
As if he didn’t notice, Optimus Prime turned to the assembled Autobots. "Sentinel Prime has joined the Matrix. He was the greatest of us. He will be missed."
Megatron watched Sentinel Prime’s death on the viewscreen of Soundwave’s transformed mode.
"Ah, what a pity, Sentinel Prime is dead. And he’s given the Matrix to this. . .Optimus. Very well. We must take the Matrix of Leadership from this Optimus Prime while he is still young in his command and unsure of his abilities. The Autobots are in a time of crisis--they have lost their leader, they have lost their only source of energon. They will be confused, helpless. Shockwave!"
"Yes, Megatron?" Shockwave stood at attention, his single glowing eye regarding Megatron appraisingly.
"You will create a plan of attack. We will make our final strike on these Autobots when Nexus [Ed. Note: the star of Cybertron] rises."
"Of course, mighty Megatron."
"Wheeljack. Status report." Optimus Prime stood tall next to the inventor and mechanic, whose height did not exceed Optimus’ abdomen.
"Well, Optimus, I gotta tell you--it doesn’t look good." Wheeljack extricated himself from the debris of the destroyed fusion reactor, brushed himself off, and walked over to a floating tool-carrying platform to grab some pliers. "The reactor’s totaled, I can tell you that. It can’t be salvaged. And our energon supplies are pretty weak--with the current population of Iacon, if everybody remains fully active, we won’t be able hold out for more than half a stellar cycle. Less, if we actually have to deal with the Decepticons during that time."
To light our darkest hour. Optimus looked around the ruined chamber. The Autobots were out of power. The Decepticons were not. The Autobots were scared, confused--Optimus could feel that much through the Matrix within him. The Decepticons were not--indeed, under Megatron, they were probably more assured of victory now than in the last five million years of war. Optimus could not think of a darker time in Autobot history.
"Is there any way you can build another generator, something to keep us going?"
Wheeljack looked around, looked down at his hands. "Optimus, you’ve known me for close to twenty thousand years now. I’m probably the best engineer we’ve got." His voice shrank to a whisper. "Primus, I wish there was something. Anything. The craziest risk, I’d try it. But I can’t think of a thing."
Optimus rested one hand on Wheeljack’s slumped shoulders. "I know, old friend. But there is something we can
do. . .it’s up to me to find it."
Optimus stood in the observation room of the capital dome of Iacon City, surveying the last remaining Autobot city on Cybertron. He looked up to the stars above, saw Cybertron’s twin moons in their never-ending orbits. It had fallen to him to find a solution to this latest crisis--and he wasn’t certain one would appear to him.
He heard a scraping behind him, turned to see Elita-1 step into the chamber with him. He turned back to the stars.
"I am. . .troubled. The Decepticon threat surrounds us, and we no longer have the capability to defend ourselves. Megatron’s band of raiders has done more to destroy us than any single battle of the last five million years combined. I fear for the Autobots. I fear. . .for you, my love."
Elita-1 stood next to him, looking at his face though he would not turn it to her. "Together we have cheated death for those millions of years, Optimus. The Autobots have kept the Decepticons to reaching their grasp to the stars--we shall continue to do so. Together." She folded her hand into his.
Optimus finally looked down at her. "What did you say?"
"We’ll defeat the Decepticons together."
"No, no--before that. The stars. . ." Optimus turned his optics to the white-spotted sky above Iacon. "Of course! The stars!" Turning back to Elita-1, Optimus touched the side of her face gently with his powerful hand. "You are still my better half, Elita. Come, we must inform the other Autobots!" With that, Optimus ran out the door.
"Wait! Optimus!" Elita-1 ran after him. "Optimus, inform them of what?"
"Yes, Optimus. It is a star system only 5.93 light-years from our own. Composed of eight planets, four of which are small and terrestrial and four of which are gaseous planets roughly the size of Cybertron. These groups are divided by a dense ring of debris, and a larger, thinner ring of debris surrounds the system’s outer edges." Perceptor said, in answer to the Autobot leader’s unasked questions about the system on the astronomical data chart Prime had pointed to.
Perceptor checked his data tracks. "On the third planet, the energon readings are off the scale--it appears as if at least one-third of the entire planet is composed of energon. Its two moons do not have similar readings. The asteroid belt dividing the system also registers high in energon, Optimus, though not as high as the third planet. Our probes have detected no sentient life in that system."
"Those probes are also five million years out-of-date, Perceptor." Optimus turned away from the screen. "Who knows what may have appeared there since the Great War began?" He rested his chin on his hand, thinking. "Still, what choice to we have? While we have kept the Decepticons from plundering the energy resources of the universe, we find that we now need them. Let us pray that we do not open new doors for Decepticon conquest by doing so. Wheeljack! Hoist! Grapple!"
"Right here, Prime," the three Autobots said, stepping forward.
"It has been a thousand years since our mightiest starship has been needed--but now, I fear we have little choice. You have one day to get the Ark ready for launch."
"Right away, Prime." The three Autobots rushed off.
"Let us hope it is enough."
The next day, the ancient starship dock within Iacon City was ready to launch the greatest, the most powerful vessel of the Autobot space fleet. The golden Ark stood erect on the launch pad, and the greatest of the Autobot warriors stood, arrayed on the deck, looking up at the beautiful ship in the dawn sunlight of Nexus.
Optimus Prime stood in front of the ranks of Autobots. "Our people are in dire need of energon. With the destruction of our last generator, we have less than a year’s supply of energon, and our search for other sources of energy here on Cybertron has failed. Which means we have to find energy out there, among the stars. We have found just such a source.
"But our journey will be a perilous one. The Decepticons will surely notice our departure, and will follow us--we will no doubt do battle with them in the dark reaches of space, and many of us will not return home to Cybertron. That is why I ask only for the bravest volunteers to come with us, and help us gather energon for our cause."
The Autobot army, as one, stepped forward. Optimus Prime felt pride in his troops well up from deep within him. "You’re not going to make this easy on me, are you? Very well--Brawn, Bumblebee, Huffer, Cliffjumper, Windcharger, Gears, Wheeljack, Trailbreaker, Ironhide, Ratchet, Hound, Mirage, Sunstreaker, Jazz, Sideswipe, Bluestreak, Prowl, Grimlock, Sludge, Swoop, Snarl, Slag, Crash, Roll, Burn, Camshaft, Downshift, Overdrive--you’re all with me. Fortress Maximus--you are to remain behind with Ultra Magnus to guard Iacon City. Elita-1, even though Vector Sigma has chosen to deactivate itself, it is still in great danger--you must remain behind to guard it. Now, Autobots--let us go, And for those who stay behind--pray for our well-being."
The Autobots began to file into the Ark, and as Optimus turned to follow them, Elita-1 reached out to him. "Is there no chance I can convince you to take me along with you?"
"Elita, I couldn’t forgive myself if I put you in the line of danger. Do not worry--we will return shortly. My thoughts will be with you every moment we are apart."
"And mine, with you."
Prime stepped into the side hatch of the Ark. It closed, and a countdown echoed from the pad control tower, warning everyone away from the ship’s massive, and powerful, engines.
As the Autobots streamed out of the launch bay, a massive explosion rocked Iacon City. The Autobots scattered--then, Fortress Maximus spotted what caused the explosion.
"Decepticons! Autobots, we’re under attack!" Maximus called, unsheathing his weapons and running toward the Decepticon armada attacking the city. The rest of the Autobots followed their general, and the sky over Iacon City was lit with the streams of laserfire between the two armies.
In the Ark, Optimus Prime stared at a viewscreen. "No! We have to abort the countdown! We must help our fellows!"
Prowl, at the helm of the great ship, turned around in his chair. "We can’t, Optimus! The engines are already fully cycled up--the control tower’s been retracted! If we stop now, the Ark’s engines will back up and blow, and the entire ship’ll collapse--die cast construction or not, we’ll lose the ship!"
"But the other Autobots--!" Prime stared at the monitor in his control console, watching the Decepticon attack, seeing Autobot after Autobot fall before a united Decepticon onslaught, knowing he could do nothing about it. He felt the icy hand of helplessness creep over him.
"Five. . .four. . .three. . .two. . .one! Liftoff!" Prowl called, and the Autobots in the Ark were pressed back against their seats as the Ark’s engines burst into full thrust, providing the heavy ship with the velocity it needed to escape Cybertron’s powerful gravity. The Ark lifted off from Iacon, from Cybertron, while explosions and laserfire skipped through the air all around it.
Prime, helpless, watched the battle below on the monitors built into his central command chair. "Elita. . ."
Megatron stood, victorious, on the streets of Iacon. His Decepticons had routed the Autobot forces, and Iacon City was now theirs. He looked around the deserted, battle-damaged streets, pleased with his victory. The shattered bodies of Autobots were strewn about, and Megatron trod on them as if they were a carpet laid out for his arrival.
"Soundwave, we have succeeded! After five million years of war, the Autobots are finally, at long last, wiped out!"
"Negative, Megatron." Soundwave, standing next to his commander, said. "Optimus Prime has not been found. The Creation Matrix remains lost to us. Most of the highest-ranking soldiers in the Autobot army have disappeared--fled, no doubt, to create an underground resistance."
"What? No! No, this cannot be!" Megatron screamed. "How is this possible?"
"Simple, Megatron. Your incompetence as a leader has led us down a path of not ending this war, but prolonging it as long as possible. There is only a 21.3% probability that the Decepticons will actually win this war with you in command." Shockwave said, his voice calm.
"How dare you speak to me in such a fashion, Shockwave? I will destroy you for that!" Megatron leveled his fusion cannon at the purple Decepticon and fired, the blast tearing a hole in Shockwave’s broad chest and throwing him a hundred meters into a wall, which collapsed on the tactician.
Megatron let out a wordless roar and leapt at where Shockwave fell--only to be blocked by Starscream. He grabbed Starscream’s throat.
"How dare you? I will destroy you, as well!"
"No, Megatron--I mean not to betray you. But Shockwave is a powerful ally, and it would be wasteful to destroy him before we have found and captured the Autobot Matrix. I noticed a ship leaving in the midst of the battle--perhaps that is where our missing Autobots are!" Air Commander Starscream stared at Megatron, his optics pleading for his life. Megatron threw the robot to the ground.
"Yes, Starscream, there is a certain. . .logic in your actions. But do not cross me again--you may find that next time, I will be less forgiving." Megatron walked over to face Soundwave directly. "Summon our greatest warriors. Instruct the Constructions to ready the Nemesis for launch. If it is not ready when I arrive at Polyhex, they will be destroyed."
"Of course, Megatron."
The Nemesis. The most powerful vessel of the ancient Decepticon space fleet. In the thousands of battles fought between the Autobots and the Decepticons in space, the entire space fleet was destroyed but for the Nemesis. This was Megatron’s proudest vessel, his flagship--and he had let it sit in dry-dock and rot for fear that it would be destroyed by the Autobots should he ever launch it again.
But the time had come for just that occasion. And with the Autobots defeated on Cybertron, only a single ship of their space fleet to deal with, the Nemesis would triumph!
Megatron stood, gazing up at his vessel and smiling, his army arrayed behind him.
"Yes, my liege?" The squat blue robot spoke.
"You shall remain here, to guard Cybertron in my absence. Should I return, and our victory lessened because of your actions, know that I will destroy you slowly, relishing every moment of your death."
"Now, my troops--enter the Nemesis. Shockwave, Soundwave, Starscream, Thundercracker, Skywarp, Thrust, Ramjet, Dirge, Reflector, Constructicons--together, we shall wipe out the Autobots once and for all!" And I shall tear the Creation Matrix from the heart of Optimus Prime to become myself a God!
Megatron stepped into the Nemesis, the door closed, and within a few astroseconds the mighty engines roared to life, and the last vessel of the Decepticon fleet took to the stars, to hunt the Ark and destroy it.
"Autobots, we all saw the carnage on Cybertron as we left it. The Decepticon assault was fast and devastating--without us there to aid in repelling it, the chances of our fellows having won that battle are slim. I pray that they were able to make their way to safety, to hide from the Decepticons. . .but we have to face the terrible truth, that we may be the last band of Autobots anywhere in the universe."
The Autobots began to speak amongst themselves, and Prime could hear the worry in their voices, for themselves, for their friends back on Cybertron. He silenced them with a wave of his hand.
"I know your fears, and your worries. I have them myself. But, for now, I think it’s best if we hope for the best, that our fellows are still alive and well, though hiding in the dark and running low on energon. Our mission remains! We must gather energon from our destination and return to Cybertron with it to power our ongoing struggle with the Decepticons!"
"We’re coming in on the Asteroid belt now, Prime." Prowl said from the helm.
"Slowing down and coming up on a big, juicy asteroid fulla the good stuff," Jazz said, sitting next to Prowl. "Mining lasers and docking clamps ready, Prime."
"Excellent. Autobots--let’s get to work!"
And the Autobots do--mining lasers cut their way through rock like surgical scalpels, powerful hands reach their way into exposed crystal and pull them apart, dragging the raw energon crystals to the Ark’s cargo bay, where they are sorted and secured and packed together as tightly as Hoist can manage.
All is going smoothly, and the cargo bay is almost filled to capacity, when the Ark shudders from the impact of unknown energies. Prime ran from the cargo bay to the command deck, to find out from the robots stationed there what had happened. He was expecting an asteroid collision, an energon surge--not
"The Decepticons!" Jazz shouted, pointing out the window at the enormous black vessel hovering there, firing its cannons lazily at the Ark.
The Ark shook again, knocking Jazz to the floor. Optimus remained standing, but barely. "Stop the mining operation! Everyone to battlestations!"
Aboard the Nemesis, Megatron sat in his command throne and laughed. "Now, Prime! Now you will see that no one can flee the wrath of Megatron!"
"Shall we destroy them now?" Thundercracker asked at the weapons control panel.
Megatron glanced at him, stared at the Ark pulling away from the asteroid outside the main windows. "No! I want to savor their deaths by my own hand! Move in on the Ark, and prepare a docking tube! I wish to tear the Matrix from the chest of Optimus Prime!"
"Our cannons are having no effect, Optimus!" Prowl cried.
"Then we’ll just have to get crazy, Prowl. Ramming speed!"
The Autobots paused for a moment to look at their leader.
"But Prime, the chances of us surviving with a hold full of raw energon are--" Prowl started.
"Don’t quote me the odds, Prowl, unless you’ve got a better idea." Prime cut him off.
"Well, at least this way Megatron won’t survive to terrorize the universe." Ironhide said, strapping himself into a chair.
"My thoughts exactly, old friend. My thoughts exactly." Optimus sat in his command chair and braced himself for impact as the Ark’s mighty engines roared to life at the rear of the ship. Elita, forgive me for breaking my promise. . .I shall see you again on the other side of the Matrix. . .
"Megatron! They’re powering up their thrusters--course heading, us!" Starscream cried from his station. "Do something! They’re going to ram us!"
If they ram us, we will not be able to respond--the explosion would likely kill us all. Megatron stood. "Full power to the engines! Change course heading to vector 020 mark 330! Do it now!"
The Nemesis turned to starboard slowly and dipped down, its engines giving their full effort to push the ship out of the way of the advancing Ark. Even with all the power of the Nemesis, the Ark had a head start and did not need to turn its position--it simply had to fly straight forward to destroy the Nemesis. Megatron’s commands were given in time, though, and the Ark missed the Nemesis by the breadth of an optic cable.
Optimus Prime, aboard the Ark, saw the Nemesis’s movement, and told Prowl not to change course to intercept. Rather, he and other Autobots took control of the Ark’s weaponry and, as the Ark flew past the Nemesis, fired everything they had into the side of the Decepticon vessel. Enormous holes were torn open in the armor plating of the ship as the Ark flew onward, unharassed, toward the center of the star system.
On the bridge of the Nemesis, Megatron coughed as he waved the thick smoke which poured into the room away from his face. "Shockwave! Report!"
"Our weapons are down and our engines are at half power! Vessel structural integrity down fifteen percent. You have botched a certain victory once again, Megatron." Shockwave’s even voice said from somewhere on the other side of the bridge.
"How dare you!" Megatron screamed, firing his fusion cannon in the direction of Shockwave’s voice. He heard Ramjet scream in pain, followed by the sound of a collapsing body.
"Megatron! Cease this at once! We’ve got more important things to worry about--like getting this ship back under control!" Thrust said, appearing out of the smoke to grab Megatron’s gun arm.
Megatron stared at the seeker, then nodded. "You are right, of course. Get the ship under control, then turn us around and follow the Autobots!"
Thrust nodded, turned to return to his station. Megatron leveled his fusion cannon at the seeker’s back. "And never speak to me in that tone again!" He fired, and Thrust fell, sprawled, on the deck.
There was silence on the bridge of the Nemesis as the Decepticons worked to regain control of their vessel, silence in fear of angering Megatron. Finally, the ship was under way and following the Ark’s escape course.
As they sped past the fourth planet in the system, a small, red orb with stark white icecaps, the Nemesis finally caught up with the fleeing Ark. On the bridge of the Nemesis, still running at only half its power and without weapons, Megatron roared with rage.
"We are this close to them and we cannot destroy them! I will not stand for it! Is that docking tube ready?"
"Yes, Megatron." Dirge said quietly.
"Excellent! We will board the Ark, and destroy its occupants ourselves! Move in on it, Starscream! We attack at once!"
On the Ark, Jazz noticed the Nemesis getting closer and closer. "Prime, looks like they’re gonna try and board us!"
Optimus stood. "Autobots, prepare for battle! If Megatron wants a fight, then he’s going to get one!"
The Autobots unbuckled themselves from their seats, unsheathed their weaponry and stood ready to attack the Decepticons. The hull of the Ark shuddered as the docking tube latched on, then shuddered again from the detonation of explosive bolts that tore it open.
On the other side of the hole, Megatron stood with his Decepticons. "Attack, attack! Leave no Autobot alive!" Both sides met in the center of the Ark, and the battle raged. But the Decepticons were freshly fueled, ready for battle, and fought with the spirits of warriors. The Autobots were scientists, miners, civilians fighting a war for the sake of freedom and justice.
They were completely outmatched.
As the Autobots fell before the Decepticon onslaught, Prowl, Optimus Prime’s second-in-command for this mission to the stars, fell next to his leader. Optimus fired his rifle at Soundwave, who was about to fire into him again, and kneeled next to his fellow Autobot. "Prowl, are you all right? Can you stand?"
"I--I think so, Optimus." Prowl started to stand with the help of his leader, but was shot in the back and slumped over, offline.
Behind Prowl, staring at Optimus Prime, his fusion cannon smoking, stood Megatron, laughing. "It now comes to you and me, Optimus Prime, one warrior to another warrior."
"I am a soldier only by necessity, Megatron. You are a soldier by choice, a tyrant and a bloodthirsty lunatic! Any comparison between us is surface at best!" Optimus fired into Megatron, blackening the silvery surface of the evil robot. Megatron returned fire, and Optimus dodged. The blast flew past Optimus into the Ark’s control console, shorting it out.
Optimus and Megatron grappled with each other, two enormous robots wrestling in the midst of a battle between guns and blades and feet and fists.
"I will destroy you just as I destroyed Sentinel Prime, Autobot!" Megatron bellowed as he placed Optimus in a devastating headlock. "Just as I destroyed your fellow Autobots at Iacon City!"
Elita! My beloved Elita, can it be? "NOO!!" Optimus reached behind him, grabbed Megatron, and hurled him away, over himself and into the Ark’s control panel. Megatron landed with a crash, and the controls exploded, jolting the Decepticon leader with the energy crackling from open circuits.
Optimus picked up his gun from the deck, aimed it squarely at Megatron. "Now, Decepticon trash, now I end this once and for all. You have murdered far too many of my comrades for me to allow you to live any longer!" He fired.
Megatron, with his last ounce of strength, rolled off the control panel.
Optimus Prime’s shots tore through the navigation center of the ship, destroying it completely. Explosions then began rattling through the Ark’s computers, destroying many of its functions. The Ark immediately began to spin out of control.
"Prime! We’re gonna crash into that planet below!" Jazz called.
Prime’s optics widened with dawning horror, then narrowed as he looked down at Megatron by his feet. "And so we destroy each other, Megatron. I take pleasure from the fact that the universe will never know your evil again!"
And with that, he sat down in his command chair and watched on the monitors around him as his ship crashed headlong into the atmosphere of the third world from the system’s star, the front of the ship burning with the heat as it fell, ever further, toward the surface of the planet, knowing that he and everyone aboard were doomed.
And when the ship finally crashed with a force explosive enough to level a mountain, Optimus Prime knew no more.
The Ark and its inhabitants were quiet, virtually dead, for nearly four million years. Then, one day in the year the inhabitants of that planet dubbed 1999, the mountain around it erupted in an earth-shattering blast. The energies released by the volcano, Mt. St. Hilary, energized the Ark and its powerful computer, Teletran-1, with enough power to once more come alive.
The Ark, sensing the damage to itself and its inhabitants, begins repairing itself and those within it. It is not aware that not all of its inhabitants are Autobots. It is aware only that there has been significant damage, and that its programming necessitates repair. It launches a probe from a hatch which has remained closed for millennia to seek out the native life on this planet, and adapt its inhabitants accordingly.
Knowing only what it has encountered, it seeks the mechanical life of this planet, ignoring all the organic creatures which scurry across the planet’s surface, co-existing with their mechanical masters. The probe reports back to Teletran-1, which determines that this is not a world within Cybertron’s own star system. It also relays data back to the Ark on the identity of the planet’s life, that the Ark’s repair systems can retrofit the damaged robots within it to be able to fit in with the native life perfectly. These robots were built to transform--and now their alternate modes are reconfigured to blend in with the new world they have encountered.
And, after four million years of inactivity, the robots within it awake! And the silence which hung about the Ark like a tomb is broken with a laugh.
Megatron lives again!
Next Time: The Awakening!