A TRANSFICTION Project
Issue Three: "Beyond the Space Bridge!"
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 world without peace, at war for nine million years. It is a wonder that this enormous planet has not been completely destroyed by the war between two factions of its populace, the Autobots and the Decepticons. Four million years ago, the Autobots launched one final, desperate effort to save themselves--an effort met by the greatest offensive they had ever seen, led by Megatron himself, leader of the Decepticons. They were driven underground, forced into hiding, their sustenance stolen from their enemies and their battles a pathetic guerilla movement.
The Autobots have known defeat for four million years. They have lived with it, struggled to not accept it, but with the death of their former leader, Sentinel Prime; the loss of their last source of power, Iacon; and the disappearance of their current leader, Optimus Prime, there is little else for them to do but waste away, ending their lives in futile war against the Decepticons.
It is into this environment that we return to Cybertron. The Decepticons, under the leadership of Governor Straxus, have rebuilt their forces and now dominate the Saturn-sized world. The Autobots, numbering barely in the thousands, do their best to hide from the millions of Decepticons, sabotaging them where they can. Under the leadership of Alpha Trion and Emirate Xaaron, the Autobots have rediscovered their ancient religion, and not a day goes by without them praying to their god, Primus, to deliver them from the Decepticon evil. Under the leadership of the Generals Ultra Magnus, Fortress Maximus and Elita-1, the Autobots have managed to succeed in enough battles against the Decepticons to still make them a force to be reckoned with. Even still, though, they are in constant search of a way to gain the upper hand on the Decepticons, to keep the conquerors from spreading fear across the universe.
And now, they may have found it.
"Ultra Magnus! Ultra Magnus, I must speak with you without delay!"
Ultra Magnus sighed, then turned around to face the Autobot running down the corridor after him. "What is it now, Perceptor? I’ve got better things to do that to listen to your scientific gobbledygook."
Perceptor stopped dead in his tracks, a hurt expression passing quickly over his face. "I regret you feel that way, Ultra Magnus, because while you’ve been leading hardly-successful raids against the fuel depots of the Decepticons, I have been searching for the source of energon which lead Optimus Prime and many of our greatest warriors off into space. Should we find the one, we find the other, and the key to victory will lie in our hands."
"Yes, yes, Perceptor--that’s exactly the kind of logic that’s kept your search going--you may have Alpha Trion and Emirate Xaaron convinced, but I’m just a soldier, and I know the only thing that’s going to win this war is good fighting."
"Yes, I’m certain. That’s why you’ve refused to mount a rescue operation for Spanner."
"He’s a neutralist scientist, not one of our own. We’ve had this argument before, Perceptor. Just because he’s your friend doesn’t mean we can head off half-cocked and shoot up Polyhex looking for him!"
Perceptor cleared his throat, frowning slightly to indicate his distaste for Ultra Magnus’s attitude. Arguing would get him nowhere, so he decided to change the subject. "As you know, my search has led to little over the past four million years. Five days ago, however, I was running a routine search for Cybertronian energy signatures when I discovered one. It was extremely faint, but nevertheless active. Here are its coordinates."
Perceptor handed Magnus a datapad.
"Lord Straxus, the delivery is about to be made. Do you wish to see our warriors off?"
Straxus, the Lord of Darkmount, Scourge of Cybertron and Master of the Decepticons, stared blankly at the unnamed soldier standing before him. It was certainly true that under his leadership the Decepticons had been able to rebuild their army--over four million years, he had increased the population of Decepticons on Cybertron from barely a thousand to in the millions. However, without the power of either the lost Creation Matrix or the deactivated Vector Sigma, he had not been able to create sentient soldiers for the war against the Autobots. Nor had his forces had the energy required to make full-sized Transformers.
Straxus, Lord of Darkmount, Master of the Decepticons. . .captain of a horde of forces no larger than his own foot. The humiliation of it burned within him, until he remembered how efficient they were--under his command, the Decepticons had united Cybertron in a way Megatron had only dreamed of--Megatron had bee the conquering warrior, but every empire needs an administrator to survive, and that administrator was Straxus. After all, he had already held the Decepticon Empire together for four million years--now, with their expansion plans gaining momentum, he would finally expand it in ways Megatron never could.
All these thoughts and more passed through the mind of Straxus the Tyrant as he stared at the messenger by his foot. It was one of only a few models of drone built--this one could transform into a fast, armed aircraft, and was particularly useful when accompanying a squadron of Seekers.
"I will be there momentarily." Straxus watched the Skybolt drone transform and leave, no doubt to deliver another message. Always another shipment, always another delivery--always more warriors departing his realm and traveling on to parts unknown, perhaps never to be seen again. Straxus had never been off-planet; most likely, he never would. This was his domain; and with every Decepticon who left to expand the empire, his domain shrank by comparison. But Megatron, fortunately, was long since disappeared; and without that impediment to his power, he could rein unchallenged.
Straxus transformed into his artillery mode and engaged the powerful thrusters he could call upon in that mode. It was safest for him to travel as a living weapon; even with the Decepticon Empire stretched across Cybertron and, now, into the stars themselves, the Autobots were still extraordinarily effective when it came to sabotaging his plans. With the firepower he could muster in his alternate form, no Autobot would dare attack him.
As Straxus flew out of his Citadel, he did not notice the Autobot below, shadowing his every move through the ruined streets and buildings of Polyhex.
Straxus stood on one side of the enormous bridge spanning an artificial chasm in the Cybertronian landscape. Standing before him were three of his most powerful warriors--Blitzwing, Octane and Astrotrain. Their presence was demanded far from Cybertron, and Straxus knew he would not be seeing them again. In one way, that was a good thing--they would not remain to possibly challenge his throne. In quite another way, though, he would feel their loss. They had done excellent work as his enforcers, and they would be greatly missed.
"Are you prepared?"
The three triple-changers nodded. "We are, Lord Straxus," Astrotrain said.
"Very well. May you find satisfaction on this world of. . .fleshlings. Conquer it in the name of the Decepticons. . .conquer it in the name of Straxus."
The triple-changers nodded and saluted their master by banging their right fists on their left breastplates. Straxus, satisfied by this show of loyalty, turned away and looked at the engineer at the bridge’s operating console.
"Activate the trans-dimensional reactors."
The reactors built into the space bridge began to whir, and the entire structure was surrounded in an electrified haze, as if it were warping the very bounds of space and time itself. Of course, that’s exactly what it was doing, thanks to the extraordinary mind of the captured neutralist scientist Spanner. Soon enough they would be developing a propulsion system based on the space bridge that would be capable of transporting ships through the vast reaches of space without the need of the clumsy space bridge or the frustratingly complex space-time coordinate system it used.
But, for now, it was functioning quite well. . .well enough to take many of Straxus’ best warriors away from him. As if in time with the thought, the three triple-changers step onto the bridge. . .and disappear. The cycling hum of the reactors dies down, and silence once again descends upon the Cybertronian surface. The gathered troops dissipate and Straxus returns to his citadel, leaving behind only a few guards for the Space Bridge.
A few guards, none of whom notice the hidden surveillance device transform and slink away from Darkmount, to the hidden headquarters of the rag-tag Autobots.
"Blaster! Report!" Ultra Magnus crossed his arms and stared down at the Autobot, only now returning from his reconnaissance mission into the heart of Decepticon territory.
"It’s just as you feared, Magnus. The Decepticons are leaving Cybertron in droves thanks to something called a ‘Space Bridge.’ I watched the Triple-Changers leave myself, just before I left. Straxus is only sending out his best troops, though--the drones are staying here. He mentioned something about them going to a world of. . .what was it he said?. . .that’s right--fleshlings. You know what a fleshling is, Magnus?"
Magnus frowned. "No. No, I don’t. But this is definitely terrible news. If the Decepticons have found a way to leave Cybertron, to try and conquer other worlds. . .I fear the worst. We must stop them, immediately."
Emirate Xaaron stepped into the entrance hall of the hidden Autobase. "Ah, Blaster, you’ve returned. What news?"
"The Decepticons are heading off for other worlds," he said unenthusiastically. Then, he brightened. "Say, you wouldn’t happen to know what a fleshling is, would you?"
Emirate Xaaron’s optics narrowed.
The Autobot Council chambers was in an uproar. The 12 Autobot Elders, the oldest and wisest of the Autobot civilian leaders to survive to the current day, were debating the news laid out before them. First, they had learned that Optimus Prime and the Autobots he had taken with him to hunt energon in the stars 4 million years before, just as the Decepticons attacked and destroyed Iacon, were apparently alive and recently reactivated. Hope! At last, hope!
Then, they learned from Blaster that the Decepticons had found a method of travel to those selfsame stars, a method which allowed them to circumvent space travel and arrive instantly at their destination--a method which gave them the power to colonize the universe, to conquer everything in their path. A method which allowed them to bypass the Autobots entirely, and continue on the mission which the Autobots had for so long tried to stop. Chaos! Despair! Doom, and failure!
Emirate Xaaron, the oldest of the Autobot Elders and the High Councilor, rapped his knuckles on the podium before him three times. The other Elders quieted out of respect for Xaaron and sat back in their seats, their discussion concluded. Xaaron’s optics passed over the eleven Elders, then nodded.
"Fellow Autobots, you’ve heard the information that our scout and our scientist have given us. You know the threat the Decepticons at large pose to the universe. . .you know that Optimus Prime may still be alive, and the Matrix with him. With the Matrix is the key to defeating the Decepticons, once and for all. But there is more.
"If Optimus Prime and the Ark live, then there is the possibility that Megatron and the Nemesis live, as well. And if this is so, our mission is all the more imperative. Straxus has been our enemy for the last four million years, but even with the new development of this Space Bridge, he has not been the threat to either us or the universe as was Megatron. Now, that dynamic may very well change.
"Even with this, though, is something more disturbing. Blaster has overheard that the Decepticons are traveling to worlds of fleshlings. Many of you here do not know what that means--but I have summoned Alpha Trion here to inform those of you who do not understand."
The Council Chambers, with the 12 Councilors at the center and the hundreds of remaining Autobots in the base in the observation gallery along the outer walls, went silent as the entrance doors on the far side of the room opened for the oldest and wisest of the Autobots.
Alpha Trion, he who built Optimus Prime from Orion Pax, he who refused a position on the Council, he who--alone--carried the ancient secrets of Cybertronian theology. His very name commanded respect. His presence inspired awe. His calm voice was heard by all Cybertronians, and could instill reason and compassion even in a Decepticon core processor. He was an Autobot--but he was much more. He was the voice of Primus, the last remaining priest of the Cybertronian religion. Everyone in the chamber bowed their heads as he stepped into the central circle of light, a fighting staff in his hand, and looked out over the assembled crowd.
"Before our recorded history begins, Primus lived. Primus lies still, at the core of this world, dead but dreaming. Primus created us; He is our Father, the Father Of All. He is life, that which He has given, that which He is made from. We praise Him, and honor Him. His is the Holy Metal; from Him we are born, to Him we return, until All are One. Amen."
"Amen." Each single, tiny voice combined with its brethren to produce a sound like a roar; a holy invocation sure to awaken Gods.
"But we are a corrupted people. For Primus could not create us himself, lest he draw to us the Chaosbringer, the Master of the Void. So he summoned others to do his Holy Work; the Quintessons, pure of heart and noble of spirit. They came to our world, the world of Primus, and from him drew forth the essences of Vector Sigma. With Vector Sigma there was life; with Vector Sigma, we were born. I was among those thus created; I live on, 13 million years later, that you may know of this truth.
"But the Chaosbringer was not so blind as Primus would believe. From afar, not able to attack Primus Himself, the Chaosbringer corrupted His servants, and the Quintessons in turn corrupted the dream of Primus, that His glorious creation would be made mere slaves, consumer products for the consumption of those rich enough, and powerful enough, to be able to purchase them. In this Primus grew angry, and sought to punish his servants.
"Then came to us Prima, the Son of Our Father and the Light of the Matrix. In him Primus was well pleased, for Primus was with him, and Primus was in him, and Primus was him. Prima taught us the evil of the Quintessons, showed us the Dream that Primus the All-Father sought for us. For this, Prima was killed by the Quintessons, and we, in turn, rose up against the Quintessons and drove them from our world. We became the masters of our own destiny. . .or so we believed.
"For hundreds of thousands of years ever after, we were the servants of the universe around us--its protectors and its guardians. Until Megatron rose from the ranks of the warriors, and demanded that we not serve those around us, but rather enslave them, as they had once done to us. It was then that the Great War began. . .nine million years ago, we Transformers split ourselves over issues of philosophy, becoming Autobots and Decepticons, fracturing the Primus Dream that we could make war upon His world.
"For four million of those years, we have laid in wait, underground, seeking out what small existence we could muster in order to continue our quest to end the Decepticon threat. Because of the destruction of Iacon in Megatron’s final assaults against us, all knowledge of where Optimus Prime, Bearer of the sacred Creation Matrix, was lost. Without the Matrix, we fought a losing battle, confident only in the prophecy that the Matrix would return one day, and lead us from our darkest hour.
"Now that Matrix has returned. . .and so, too, have the beings of this universe returned to our consciousness. For millennia, we have fought a war over whether those beings should be conquered or served. Know now that, with contact once again established, this war will only escalate--and with that escalation, more than Cybertron will be at risk. All things that touch upon the Matrix, the divine essence of Primus, are now immediately threatened by the Decepticons. Know this, that you know also the added importance our Great War has now gained. May Primus watch over you all in the dark hours ahead. Amen."
The Autobots murmured another "Amen" in one voice, and Alpha Trion left the way he came.
Emirate Xaaron stood, passed his optics over the crowd. "Ultra Magnus, pick your team. Your mission: to infiltrate Darkmount, read the datatracks of the Space Bridge’s travels, and destroy the Space Bridge, no matter the cost."
"Hold on, let me get this straight. We’re being used as a diversion? You can’t be serious, Magnus."
The Wreckers murmured their agreement with Springer as he frowned at Ultra Magnus.
"Look, Springer, I can’t deal with this right now. If you don’t like your assignment, that’s too bad--right now, you and the Wreckers are not what I need. You’re to make a frontal assault on Darkmount, but a careful one. We can’t afford to lose any of you, you’re the best warriors we’ve got." The flattery worked; the Wreckers stood down, began thinking about the Decepticons they could lay waste to in the upcoming battle. "While you’re making your attack, my team and I will sneak into Darkmount, read the Space Bridge’s destination coordinates, sabotage the Space Bridge itself, and then escape. Once we’re out, you’ll get the signal to retreat. Is everything clear?"
The Wreckers nodded, as he knew they would. He had hand-picked them, trained them, honed them to the same deadliness as the micro-millimeter edge of an energon blade. They would do well in the upcoming battle. Before he left, he patted each of their shoulders--Impactor, his second-in-command, the most powerful of the Wreckers standing before him; Rack and Ruin, the twin Autobots, unparalleled at melee combat; Topspin and Twintwist, the Jumpstarters; Springer, perhaps the toughest-minded of the Wreckers; Whirl and Roadbuster, masters of air and land. They would fight the good fight, win, and live.
But Ultra Magnus had the sneaking feeling that he would not fare so well.
The spire of the citadel of Darkmount rose high into the Cybertronian sky, casting a shadow over the landscape that served as an appropriate symbol of the oppression Straxus, master of Darkmount, had cast upon the denizens of Polyhex. Darkmount had never been attacked directly, and with good cause; it was guarded by nearly a quarter of the Decepticon army, with enough combined firepower to wipe out the rest of the Autobots on the planet. It was impossible to attack Darkmount and succeed--it was a great source of contentment to the Decepticons of Polyhex that they had such a secure capital.
Which is why they were so very stunned when Darkmount shuddered under a massive explosion at its base, collapsing one of its mighty spires and causing the giant Decepticon Sigil on the Great Spire to hang askew. Dozens of drones moved toward the attack point, only to be cut down by laserfire from within the cloud of dust and debris kicked up by the explosion. The destruction of the drones caused ever more to be summoned to the spot, automatically attracted to their fallen, mindless comrades, only to be destroyed by the same hidden enemies.
In his chambers in the great spire of Darkmount, Straxus looked out over the battlefield. So, the Autobots finally attack me here. So be it; let them come to their own doom. He activated his internal communication system, keying it automatically to the frequency he wanted.
"Spinister," he said, "disperse the debris cloud immediately south of Darkmount."
"Yes, Lord Straxus," came the immediate reply.
Straxus watched as the Decepticon helicopter flew out of an exit port on the side of one of Darkmount’s towers and hovered over the sensor-jamming cloud of metal filings, the power of his rotor blades dispersing the Autobots’ cover. He was shot several times from below, but he stayed on hovering until no trace of the cloud remained--he knew very well that he would be thrown to the smelting pits if he failed in his mission. Once the cover was blown, though, he began to flee back toward Darkmount--only to be finally shot down by Springer.
Straxus felt no sadness when he watched Spinister crash into the side of Darkmount and explode. If he could be salvaged, then all was well--an effective warrior would be restored; if not, then he had served his purpose, and the energon used to power him would be used on other warriors who would be more difficult to destroy. He did, however, note that this battle could have potentially devastating consequences. The majority of his sentient Decepticons were away from Polyhex, and the Skybolt, Deathtread and Cycler drones that were left to defend Polyhex were not nearly as effective warriors as true Decepticons.
Activating his inter-Decepticon radio, he called out to the greatest of his generals. "Scorponok, this is Lord Straxus. The Autobot Wrecker Squadron is attacking Darkmount. Return here immediately and dispatch them."
"And so shall the Autobots be destroyed!" came Scorponok’s ever-enthusiastic reply. As Straxus cut the link between them, he thought about the danger Scorponok would pose to his position should the larger, more powerful Decepticon ever decide that his political aspirations were more important than quenching his all-powerful bloodlust.
As Straxus stared down into Darkmount’s courtyard, watching the battle with all the casual interest of a giant swatting away an insect, swarms of drones flew and drove in from nearly every direction, surrounding the Wrecker squadron with a hail of fire and light that would have dazzled any less seasoned warrior. The Wreckers continued in their attack, though, engaging the drones and actually pushing the hordes back. Straxus knew they couldn’t win, though--already they had taken enough hits from the drones to assure that. No matter how many drones they destroyed, they would eventually have to fall back. He could tell that they knew it, as well--they were protecting their route of escape, a waste disposal access shunt near the long-dead energon fountain that had once flowed rich in glowing energon before the Great War. This was not an attack to gain ground, then--merely something to take out many of his troops, to occupy their time for a while. . .
To occupy their time. This attack was a diversion, then. But for what?
"What are you after, Autobots?" Straxus growled.
"The Space Bridge control center is right up here," Blaster said, leading the Autobots further into Darkmount, ever deeper into the lions’ den. Following him were Perceptor, Cosmos, Beachcomber, Powerglide, Seaspray, Warpath and, taking up the rear, Ultra Magnus.
Once they got inside the control center, Perceptor went immediately to the controls while Ultra Magnus took up a position as sentry. The others stood guard over Perceptor as he worked, ensuring that no attack could come from outside Darkmount even as Ultra Magnus ensured that none could come from within. Beachcomber whistled quietly when he saw the massive Space Bridge outside the command center windows.
Perceptor’s hands went to the controls, his fingers dancing over the keys with the rapidity of a master at his craft. As he worked, the frown on his face deepened to a scowl.
"I recognize this technology. The Decepticons did not develop the Space Bridge."
"Who did, then?" Blaster asked.
"Every engineer designs in certain ways--it is the engineer’s signature, a recognition of his art. After analyzing the structure of this device, I have come to the conclusion that it represents a pinnacle in neither Autobot nor Decepticon technology--rather, it was developed by neutralist science, in particular that of Spanner."
"Zowie! Your buddy?" Warpath asked.
A shadow passed over Perceptor’s face. "My captured ‘buddy,’ you are quite correct."
The conversation was not lost on Ultra Magnus. Even though he stood outside the door, watching out for approaching Decepticons, he heard every word Perceptor spoke, as well as the unspoken accusation that, had he allowed a rescue mission to recapture Spanner, the Decepticons would not have the technology of the Space Bridge, would not be travelling across the universe in triumph.
He leaned in the door. "Perceptor, we can’t deal with that now. Just grab the information, set the charges, and let’s go."
"Yes. . .sir," Perceptor said, turning back to the controls before him. After a quick search through the datatracks of the Space Bridge’s use, he gasped.
"What is it?" Cosmos asked.
"These coordinates. . .they’ve only been sending their troops to a single planet!"
"Well, that’s a good thing. . .isn’t it?" Seaspray murmured in his bubbling voice.
Perceptor paused, running some calculations through his head. "It is both good and bad, Seaspray. Good, in that we do not have to worry about massive colonization. It is extremely bad, though--because if my calculations are accurate, then the planet they have been reinforcing is the same that Optimus Prime and the Ark currently inhabit!"
"You’re not serious." Magnus said, abandoning his post and stepping into the room, frowning. "If that’s the case, then our old comrades are in dire trouble."
"Oh, indeed they are, Magnus. And now, so are you."
The Autobots turned around. Standing in the doorway to the control center, his armor gleaming in the light of the stars outside the window, stood Lord Straxus, ruler of the Decepticons, his energon axe at the ready.
In the courtyard of Polyhex, the Wreckers stared in horror as the drones they were fighting were joined by Scorponok and his finest warriors.
"Autobots, tremble at the power of Scorponok!" The massive Decepticon thundered.
"Well, guys--I can’t say it was nice knowin’ ya, but it sure as slag was fun!" Whirl cried.
"Fear not, fellow Autobots--Fortress Maximus will not let you die this day!" Fortress Maximus appeared at the opposite end of the battlefield from Scorponok, ignoring everything but the enemy general. Behind him, surging onto the battlefield, came the cavalry: nearly every warrior Autobase could muster, guns blazing, turning the tide of the battle even as the arrival of Scorponok seconds before had.
"Deus ex machina?" Topspin asked no one in particular.
Twintwist glanced at his twin. "Does it matter?"
Topspin shrugged and fought on.
"You could fire those," Straxus said, his optics passing over the weapons the Autobots had drawn on him, "but I can assure you that the majority of your blasts would only be deflected back at you. You see, I have maintained my post as leader of the Decepticons through my intelligence and my strength. So fire, please--it will mean fewer of you that I will have to deal with myself."
The Autobots stared at him silently, and all but Magnus lowered their weapons.
"Excellent. Tell me, whose idea was it to send the vaunted Wrecker squadron straight at Darkhold? Yours, Magnus? I sincerely hope not--it demonstrates such a total lack of strategic ability that it embarrasses me to admit that I had to spend more than half an astrosecond to realize your ploy."
Magnus growled, stepped forward. In response, Straxus pointed his axe straight in Magnus’ direction, the glow of its energon-enhanced blade a deadly barrier between the Decepticon leader and the Autobot general.
"I suppose that even now they are being ground to metal filings under the assault of my drones coupled with Scorponok’s insanity. I’m certain you can hear the echoes of distant battle; feel the rumblings of faraway destruction."
Straxus was right; Magnus could indeed feel the tremors of the battle. He balled his free hand into a fist, his optics moving between Straxus and the axe before him and the empty space to his sides, gauging how difficult it would be for him to find an avenue of attacking Straxus without first being torn apart by him. Even as he worried that he would find none, his internal battle computers calculated the most probable course. . .
"That destruction won’t be far away for long--already my drones come to me, my loyal Decepticons, reinforcements to mop up what I don’t finish in time. After all, one must keep the rabble happy. . ."
Before Straxus could finish, Ultra Magnus ducked forward, tossing his gun to one side of Straxus and rolling to the other. Straxus swung the axe to intercept the gun instinctively, slicing cleanly through it and shattering it in a powerful explosion, knocking him off-balance just as Ultra Magnus came out of his roll and, turning on one heel, leapt at Straxus. Both fell into the hall to continue their fight, and Perceptor turned back to the control array for the Space Bridge.
"What are you doing, Perceptor? We’ve got to get out of here!" Beachcomber’s voice betrayed his fear of the incoming drones. He wasn’t a warrior by choice--few of the Autobots were. But they had a job to do, worlds and innocent lives to protect from the Decepticons and Perceptor wasn’t willing to shirk that duty.
"I’m setting the charges and powering up the Space Bridge. I intend to cross it."
"You’re out of your mind!" Blaster cried.
"No, I’m not. Someone needs to be a messenger from us to the Autobots stranded on that planet--perhaps even warn them of what’s coming. My purpose here on Cybertron is finished--for the last four million years, I’ve been searching for Prime and the others. I am not a warrior--what else can I do?"
"What about Spanner?" Beachcomber asked.
Perceptor frowned, looked away. "The Decepticons got what they wanted out of him. I have no doubt that he is already dead."
Blaster stared at him, then, raising his gun to his shoulder: "I’m going with you, buddy. You’ll need somebody to fire a gun if you ain’t gonna."
The others chimed in their agreement, and Perceptor nodded, setting the final charges.
In the hallway, the battle of the titans proceeded apace. Straxus had lost his axe and Magnus had sacrificed his gun, and the only thing between either robot and a successful mission was the other. They grappled, Magnus just as tall as Straxus, just as powerful, neither powerful robot giving or taking so much as a centimeter of space. Steel muscle cables groaned with the effort of the battle, shell plating buckled, and still each stood his ground.
Magnus realized the stalemate, knew that he would have to break it in order to gain any advantage. He relaxed his grip on Straxus and the Decepticon leader, feeling it, took the initiative and raised Magnus over his head, ready to throw the Autobot general. Magnus anticipated this, though, and swung his legs around behind Straxus, shifting his balance enough to throw Straxus into the far wall.
The throw didn’t even phase Straxus. He slammed into the wall, landed on his feet and, using the momentum of his fall, sprang back at Magnus, taking him in the midsection and slamming him into the ground. Magnus clawed at Straxus’ face, tearing at the smooth metal there, finally grabbing onto it with one hand and slamming his other fist into it repeatedly. Straxus howled in pain and rage, releasing Magnus and trying to pull free from the Autobot’s grip. When that failed, he reached out, grabbing at the ground, trying to find his dropped axe.
His hand closed over it.
"I don’t like it. We’re too open, too exposed." Cosmos glanced around, seeing the Decepticon citadel behind them, the Space Bridge in front of them, and he and his fellow Autobots in the center of the plain between the two.
"We’ll be on the bridge shortly--what we need to worry about is what we’ll find once we get on the other side." Perceptor said.
"We’ll find Prime, Perceptor. And nothin’s gonna stand in our way once we do." Blaster grinned.
Warpath called out an enthusiastic string of onomatopoeia, and Perceptor couldn’t help but smile. He wasn’t so sure about the future fate of the Autobots, but then Blaster always did know how to boost morale. And, strangely enough, Blaster’s predictions usually had a way of coming true, despite all odds.
"Uhm, guys? I don’t think we should celebrate yet." Beachcomber muttered.
"Why no--" Blaster asked, then stopped as he stared ahead at the Space Bridge. Perceptor looked up, out of his own thoughts, and saw what was perhaps one of the most unpleasant things he had ever seen.
Gathering between the Autobots and the Space Bridge, like an armada of tiny, deadly insects, were hundreds of Straxus’ warrior drones, weapons at the ready.
Ultra Magnus screamed with the pain of the axe buried deep in his chest, howled in greater agony as Straxus rose, planting one foot firmly on Magnus’ abdomen, and tore the axe back out, only to slam it back down with twice as much force as before.
Magnus had felt pain before, but nothing as deep, as gut-wrenching, as this. He felt as if his very laser core were about to give out, and that thought, the idea that Straxus would win, that Straxus would first kill him and then take down his Autobot allies, was unbearable to Magnus. It lent him strength of will; that strength gave him power.
Even as his energon reserves were draining, leaking out of the massive holes Straxus had torn in him, Magnus reached up with both hands and grabbed hold of the axe. Confusion crossed Straxus’ optics for a moment, then he realized what Magnus was about to do. A nanosecond too late, however: Magnus, holding onto the shaft of the axe, holding it within his chest, swung his legs underneath Straxus’ open body and kicked upward and outward, knocking the Decepticon leader off him with a scream of pain and effort.
Straxus fell, stunned, and Magnus rose, yanking the axe out of his chest, shutting down all his internal damage warning systems. He had to; otherwise, he would not be able to find the strength to go on. He might very well die this day; so long as he could save Perceptor and the others, and perhaps even destroy the Decepticon leader, then he would not die in vain. He could die in peace, knowing that.
He drove the axe down hard into Straxus, blinking his optics against the sparks flying against his face from the hole he punched into the Decepticon. He raised the axe again, smashed it down again, this time tearing apart the cables and wires attaching Straxus’ left arm to his body. Straxus roared, more in anger than in pain, and reached out to grab the axe as Magnus brought it down a third time. The axe shattered Straxus’ hand, driving deep into his forearm and exploding an energon packet there. Straxus’ optics flickered and went dark, but Magnus knew the Decepticon wouldn’t be dead. After all, he wasn’t, and he had taken more critical damage.
He turned, stumbling, back to the control center--and saw the charges set, his team gone. He saw the timers, the control panels set to activate the Space Bridge, and understood immediately. They were going to cross the Space Bridge, to try to get to Optimus Prime and the others, if they were still functional. He saw the plan immediately, understood the reasons behind it, and agreed with it--he wished only that they had told him about it first, but at the time he had been rather preoccupied.
Not that any of that mattered at the moment--as he gazed out the window of the control center, he saw a horde of drones moving in around Perceptor and the others, and knew he had to do something, and quickly, or else those drones would take out the team, and all hope of communication with the Ark would be lost. He looked around, thinking of what he could do. . .
The laserfire surrounded them like a blanket, and they were trapped, pinned in the open while the drones circled them, firing inward. They had already taken major damage but, fortunately, the drones did not have firepower equivalent to the blasters the full-sized Transformers carried, relying instead on massive amounts of fire to damage their enemies. So, while the trapped Autobots had taken a lot of damage, it wasn’t as much as it could have been, and for that they were grateful.
"Decepticons, to me! I shall finish these Autobot fools!" The drones broke off immediately and headed for the control center for the Space Bridge where, Perceptor was shocked to see, Straxus stood, badly beaten but still functional, standing up and almost seeming to float in the air.
"He looks damaged. We may be able to take ‘im," Blaster murmured.
"It would be a fool’s errand. Straxus may be damaged, but his drones are not. We would never be able to get past them, even if we were able to beat Straxus. We do have one chance, however--we can run as quickly as we can to the Space Bridge. On my mark--go!" Perceptor and the Autobots around him broke into a dead run, hauling skidplate to the Space Bridge before Straxus could catch up to them, before the trans-dimensional generators shut down, before the charges could blow.
Ultra Magnus, holding the unconscious Straxus between him and the drones, watched his fellow Autobots leap onto the Space Bridge even as the generators cycled up and the entire structure began to glow with unparalleled energies. Those energies built to a crescendo along Perceptor’s pre-programmed timetable and then, with a flash of light, they were gone, the Space Bridge was still, and the badly wounded Ultra Magnus was face-to-face with a legion of drones.
He grinned as he focused on the charges he had strapped to Straxus’s back. The Space Bridge would have survived their assault; they had brought only enough explosives to destroy its control system, but the Decepticons no doubt had blueprints of that. No doubt they had blueprints of all of it--no, it was better to destroy their leader, for whom they could have no blueprints.
He threw Straxus into the Vehicon drones and ducked back into the safety of the walls of Darkhold, feeling only the heat and the rumble of the explosion that had surely torn apart the Decepticon leader and his troops. Then, wounded, Ultra Magnus clutched at his chest to keep his insides from falling out, then stumbled his way out of Darkhold through the Autobots’ long-concealed secret entrance, back to Autobase, to tell the others that the battle was won, that Straxus was dead.
On the other side of the Space Bridge, Blaster looked up to the blue sky filled with white clouds in amazement. He had never seen something so extraordinary as a planet with an atmosphere lightening the black void to blue; he had never imagined anything like clouds. He gaped in awe, and would have cried, had he the capability--such a pure place, untainted by war, its atmosphere unburned by eons of war, was what every Autobot fought to preserve, though it had cost them their own homeworld. He felt as if he had been lifted into the very dreams of Primus, and his spark rejoiced.
And then he looked down from the sky, to the ground before him, and he saw an enormous city of purple and black towers, silver and steel glinting in the yellow light of this world’s sun. In the city walked robots every bit his equal in size, moving equipment and weapons of war into place. And on the highest spire of the city, emblazoned as great as in the largest stronghold on Cybertron, stood the ancient symbol of the Decepticons.
Next Time: "Enter: The Nemesis!"