Brothers in Arms
Part Three of the S.P.A.R.C. Trilogy
Chapter One – Fractured Reality
Kojima Miharu slid quietly out of bed, careful not to wake the slumbering form who lay snoring gently beside her. Glancing at her watch she saw that it was just after midnight. She bent down and scrabbled around on the floor for her discarded clothes, swearing under her breath in Japanese when she discovered that one of her shoes had been kicked under the bed at some point during the previous evening’s activities. Still being as quiet as possible she lay on the floor and groped under the bed until she managed to snag the shoe with one of her long pale fingers. She pulled it out from under the bed and as quickly as she could began to get dressed in her blue business suit.
As she did up the button on her skirt a couple of minutes later she looked around for her briefcase which lay discarded at the foot of the air-conditioning unit. She bent to retrieve it, rummaged inside and brought out a hairbrush. Moving over to the mirror that hung on the wall by the window she ran the hairbrush five times through the tousled raven black hair that cascaded down her back. She then tucked it behind her right ear revealing a golden earring in the shape of a leaping dolphin. She looked at herself in the mirror, her dark eyes were large, and had a faintly oriental look to them. Dark circles, due to lack of sleep surrounded them.
She turned back towards the bed, replacing the hairbrush in her briefcase as she did so. Tony was still sleeping peacefully, Miharu was glad to see. That would make her life easier. She looked around the room and saw Tony’s jacket lying in a crumpled heap at the foot of the bed. Keeping her eyes on Tony to make sure he didn’t wake up, she knelt down and riffled through the jacket pockets until with a clink she found his car keys. She slowly withdrew them from his pocket, clasping them firmly in her hand to avoid jingling. Returning to the jacket she extracted his wallet and slipped it into her pocket. Turning she walked to the door of the small motel room. Opening the door she hung the Do Not Disturb notice on the outside handle. The longer Tony slept in the morning then the more distance she could put between them.
She gave a final glance back towards the bed; Tony still hadn’t moved. She felt no guilt for what she was doing to him. After all he had been a typical ignorant Westerner and had spent the whole of the previous evening since the moment they met calling her Kojima, oblivious to the fact that the Japanese, like the Chinese placed the family name before the given name. Even as they had made love he had called out her family name. Although she was only Japanese on her father’s side Miharu was still very proud of her heritage and had been somewhat insulted by his ignorance. Still she had to grudgingly admit that he had been good in bed, but then so had she and in her opinion that more than repaid him for the inconvenience she was about to cause.
She pulled the door gently closed behind her and walked briskly across the darkened parking lot until she reached Tony’s red Mazda RX7. It gleamed palely in the light of the nearby streetlights. Miharu had met Tony in a bar the previous night. He was married of course, of that she was in no doubt, she had been with enough married men in her time to recognise the signs. She smiled when she thought about how he would explain to his wife how his car had come to be stolen from a cheap motel. Still it was no more than he deserved.
She unlocked the door and climbed into the driver’s seat, placing her briefcase on the passenger seat. She turned the key in the ignition and the engine roared to life, before becoming a soft purr as the car idled in the parking lot.
Miharu glanced at her watch and considered her options. She had several hours before her meeting with her employer. The first thing she needed to do was retrieve her own car, Tony’s was nice but far too conspicuous for her tastes. Then she’d get herself some breakfast and then maybe some new clothes, the blue business suit she’d been wearing for two days was starting to crease and was in urgent need of a clean and she didn’t relish having to go all the way home for a change of clothes.
Pulling Tony’s wallet from her pocket she opened it to find a number of hundred dollar bills. She smiled, that should just about cover it and give her a bit extra too. Her decision made, she put the car into gear and pressed down hard on the gas pedal. With a screech of tyres the car leapt forward, screeched around the parking lot and headed North onto the main highway.
* * * * *
Overdrive grimaced in pain as the searing heat burned through his shoulder. He had expected this to be painful but hadn't fully appreciated just how much.
The heat and the pain abated and he looked down to see the fresh Decepticon insignia that was now engraved on his shoulder. A faint purple light shone from the freshly branded lines, but even as he watched the glow began to fade.
The door to the branding chamber slid open with a hiss and Overdrive stepped out into a small room, bare except for the squat branding chamber. The chamber itself was covered in cables and machinery that were connected to a control console on the side. The console operator, a small and thin Decepticon called Backflash, looked up and gave Overdrive a sneering look, but Overdrive ignored it. His attention was on the black and red Decepticon standing in front of him, the current Decepticon leader, Devil Spawn.
‘So Overdrive you've finally got what you wanted,’ he said in a honeyed tone. ‘Was it worth all the Autobot lives?’
‘Revenge is worth any cost,’ Overdrive replied.
‘Quite,’ Devil Spawn said with a cruel smile. ‘What are you going to do about that?’ He pointed to the Autobot insignia that was still emblazoned on Overdrive's chest.
Overdrive scowled down at the symbol that he had come to despise. ‘I want it removing of course, but you know as well as I do that you can't just paint over them.’
‘Watch your tone. I expect all my Decepticons to show me the proper respect,’ Devil Spawn said his voice hard.
‘Forgive me commander,’ Overdrive said bowing his head slightly. ‘I just want this hated symbol off my chest.’
‘Perhaps I can help,’ Devil Spawn said and before Overdrive could respond, there was a rapid blurring of metal sinews as Devil Spawn transformed into a double-headed dragon, huge bat-like wings spread wide. Overdrive took a step back as Devil Spawn lunged at him with one of his short forearms. A set of vicious claws raked across Overdrive's chest, gouging three deep grooves through the centre of his Autobot insignia and causing him to cry out in agony, falling to his knees as he did so.
‘Your Autobot heritage has now been scratched away,’ said Devil Spawn, his voice eerily echoing from both dragon heads at once. Overdrive said nothing as he clutched his chest in pain. With a click and a whirr Devil Spawn transformed back to robot mode. He looked down at Overdrive and continued, ‘You are now a true Decepticon and in honour of that I have your first mission for you. A mission that requires your unique skills. Come with me.’
Overdrive looked up at Devil Spawn, his optics narrowing, ‘You promised me a city,’ he said trying to keep his voice as respectful as possible.
‘And I will keep my promise,’ Devil Spawn said. ‘But that doesn’t mean that you are free do as you wish for the rest of your life. You wanted to be a Decepticon and that means that you follow my orders…without question. I want you in my command room in ten nano-cycles.’ And without a backward glance Devil Spawn swept from the room leaving Overdrive glaring after him.
Overdrive slowly struggled to his feet as the pain in his chest began to ease. He turned as Backflash sidled up to him and hissed, ‘You can expect a lot worse than that, we don't like Autobots round here, even if they are defectors. You...ackkk.’
His taunting was cut short as Overdrive grabbed his throat. ‘I am a Decepticon,’ he growled, ‘I suggest you remember that before you open your mouth in future or else I’ll rip it off. Do you understand?’
Backflash nodded as Overdrive tightened his grip. ‘Good,’ he said and pushed the smaller Decepticon away from him causing him to fall to the floor. ‘Cross me again and it will be the last thing you do.’ With that he followed Devil Spawn from the room leaving Backflash rubbing his throat and muttering curses to himself.
* * * * *
Sixshot looked down at the medical facility from behind the glass covered observation deck. Below him, Omnis Validus, the new arrival that Doubledealer had brought back was being examined by the Renegades chief scientist, Mindwipe.
The door behind Sixshot slid open with a soft hiss and Doubledealer himself entered in his Autobot form and walked over to here his commander was standing.
‘Well?’ Sixshot asked.
‘Mindwipe tells me that his internal configuration is different to anything he has ever seen before,’ Doubledealer replied. ‘Even his body shell appears to be made of a substance unknown to us. He is like no other transformer ever seen.’
‘Does Mindwipe have any idea what is causing the freezes?’ Sixshot continued, still gazing down at the strange Decepticon below him.
‘He’s not certain,’ Doubledealer replied. ‘He has gone over the design specifications that Omnis Validus was able to provide and he thinks he may has spotted a small design flaw but because he has never had to deal with this body configuration before he won’t be sure until his examination is complete.’
‘Can Omnis Validus be trusted? I am not happy that you chose to bring him here without consulting me first.’
‘I think he can be trusted so long as he thinks he has a use for us, but I think he will ultimately try and destroy us too. As far as he’s concerned we are responsible for the “death” of Shockwave. He will want revenge.’
‘And you still brought him here?’ Sixshot snarled, turning to his second in command.
‘Please commander,’ Doubledealer said soothingly. ‘I have an idea for dealing with him when the time comes. I felt that his obvious power may be usable by us and it was therefore worth the risk. If we can discover the source of his power then it could give us a major advantage over our enemies.’
‘And are we any closer to doing that?’
‘Not yet,’ Doubledealer admitted. ‘But Mindwipe seems confident that he can get something useful from the design specifications. The new spacebridge technology alone would allow us to return to Cybertron. If we get nothing else from him but that it will have been worth the risk.’
Sixshot returned his attention to the scene below him and watched as Omnis Validus opened his chest compartment. Sixshot looked on in surprise as a flash of blue/white light came from the chest cavity. Mindwipe stood up and took a step backwards as a ball of dancing, pulsating light rose slowly from Omnis Validus’ chest to hover a few inches above his prone form.
In the medical facility Mindwipe gazed at the ball of light in awe. This was the thing that he had most wanted to see when he began to examine Omnis Validus. The design specifications that Omnis Validus had provided him with described this as a Spherical Personality And Recollection Chamber or S.P.A.R.C. It encoded the personality and memories of a transformer inside itself allowing it to move easily between bodies. He saw great potential in this technology.
He looked down at Omnis Validus’ still body, the yellow glow of his eyes had dimmed; the body had become a lifeless shell without the S.P.A.R.C. Omnis Validus had been reluctant to remove the S.P.A.R.C. at first but Mindwipe had explained that it would give him better access to the area that he thought was causing the problem and so he had, in the end, agreed.
Mindwipe reached out a hand almost unconsciously to the hovering ball, but the dancing light flashed warningly and it moved away from his reach. He returned his attention to Omnis Validus’ body, bending over to look inside.
Back in the observation deck Sixshot turned back to Doubledealer, ‘How is project Overwhelm going?’
‘I should be getting a list of the needed chemical components later today. I expect to have the final stage completed in the next two Earth days,’ Doubledealer replied.
‘Very well,’ Sixshot said. ‘Megatron and the Decepticons are at their weakest. Now is a perfect time to crush them once and for all.’
* * * * *
Devil Spawn was waiting seated in his raised throne when Overdrive arrived at the command room. Overdrive sneered inwardly at the blatant show of power. He had never been in this room before, all the other times he had communicated with Devil Spawn it had been either by the communication network or in less conspicuous surroundings, usually outside in the city.
Devil Spawn and Overdrive had been dealing with each other for a quite some time now, as far back as when Devil Spawn had been an interrogator, before becoming the Decepticon commander. It had been Overdrive who had approached the Decepticon first.
He burned with hatred and paranoia and Devil Spawn had been quick to spot this and play upon it. He realised that Overdrive would require very careful manipulation as it was obvious that the Autobot thought what he was doing was a big game and that it was he, Overdrive, who was pulling the strings. Devil Spawn had known better of course, he knew that once you became a traitor there was no going back and that your life was in the hands of the informed rather than the informer.
Overdrive stopped at the bottom of the throne and looked up at his new commander. Overdrive had been built originally by a legendary Autobot designer called Twinpact for the Wreckers, the Autobot special mission’s force. Unfortunately he had contained a design flaw that had resulted in him being only able to operate at half his potential power. This had resulted in him being cruelly taunted by his fellow Wreckers who despised any kind of weakness.
His original designer had been captured by the Decepticons not long after completing him and the source of his problems proved difficult to locate. After changing to a new unit, Overdrive was sent for several upgrades that eventually cured him of his problem. But it was too late for his mind. The steller-cycles of abuse had broken it and he harboured a secret loathing of the Autobots that he had kept bottled up for many years.
Finally he could contain his hatred no longer and had begun to plot the Autobots’ downfall. At first not with any real hope of success, but over time he began to take his plans more and more seriously. Eventually he had approached Devil Spawn and become a double agent. He had been surprised at just how much he had enjoyed the experience and soon he was relishing every secret that he passed to the Decepticons. He decided that maybe he might be able to destroy the Autobots after all. And now, here he was, a Decepticon and most of the Autobots were dead. He had succeeded, he had won.
Devil Spawn looked down at Overdrive and said, ‘My Decepticon Empire is expanding, I now control over a dozen planets, in four star systems.’
‘Well done commander,’ Overdrive said, hoping that Devil Spawn would get to the point soon.
‘But I have a problem,’ Devil Spawn continued as if Overdrive hadn’t spoken. ‘For the expansion to continue I need more Decepticons and the only way I can have that is if I control Vector Sigma.’
‘Vector Sigma is heavily guarded,’ Overdrive said, ‘but surely not so much that you could not capture it.’
‘That is what I thought,’ Devil Spawn said, ‘but the force I sent to do the job appears to have failed. I cannot afford to waste more troops. This is where you come in.’
‘You want me to capture Vector Sigma?’ Overdrive said. ‘You’re sending me to do what a group of well armed Decepticons could not. Is this just your way of getting rid of me Devil Spawn?’
‘Silence,’ Devil Spawn snapped, ‘you will show me the proper respect Overdrive. This is your final warning. I am sending you, not because I want to be rid of you but because I know that you possess a talent for moving around unseen. I have not forgotten that you once managed to sneak inside my headquarters, one of the most heavily guarded locations on Cybertron. I don’t know how you did it and I don’t care, but I want you to use the skill again to enter the Vector Sigma chamber and capture it for me.’
Overdrive didn’t speak for a moment. Devil Spawn was right; one of Overdrive’s most closely guarded secrets was that he was fitted with a cloaking device. A number of sensors absorbed light from one side of him and projected it on the other side, effectively making him invisible. He didn’t understand how, but somehow he knew that these devices was called holocrons. The device had been installed in him by Twinpact at the time of his creation. He used it sparingly however because its power requirements were very high.
Devil Spawn picked up a small circular device from the arm of his throne and continued, ‘You’ll need this,’ he said, ‘an inhibitor disc. It will deactivate Vector Sigma. All you need to do is place it somewhere on the surface.’
He held the device out and Overdrive reached up and took it, He looked up at Devil Spawn and decided that there was no way out of this, ‘Very well, I’ll do it,’ he said.
Devil Spawn smiled, ‘I knew I could rely on you,’ he said.
* * * * *
‘We’re approaching the target now,’ Skyfire said to his two Autobot passengers, Perceptor and Grimlock. ‘Hold on while I come in for a landing.’
The huge white jet that was Skyfire rocketed over the Australian landscape, the early evening sunlight gleaming off of his fuselage. On the horizon to the South, Skyfire could make out his destination. A small shiver ran through his circuits as he looked at it. The last time he had been here there had been a nuclear fusion power plant on that spot fortified by the Decepticons. Many of his friends had died in an Autobot assault on the plant. Skyfire himself had been badly injured while retreating after the battle. He did not want to return there, but he had to.
There was no power plant there now. It had been destroyed when Silverbolt had sacrificed his life to destroy the Decepticon spacebridge, saving the Earth from destruction in the process. Most of the plant that survived the explosion had been dismantled by the human authorities in the months since the destruction. Some of the structure did still remain standing, though most of it was bent and buckled.
As he got closer Skyfire saw a range of human vehicles park in the area including a large number of military vehicles. Skyfire’s sensors suddenly detected two fast moving airborne objects moving up behind him. For a fraction of a second he wondered if it might be Decepticons or the Renegades, but a more detailed scan showed him that it was only two human fighter jets. The humans who lived here had not yet forgotten that the Decepticons had invaded their country and were being especially cautious. The two jets came along either side of Skyfire, who could see the pilots gazing out of their cockpit at him.
‘Perceptor, we have human jets on us,’ Skyfire said. ‘You might want to let the humans know we’re coming.’
‘They should be expecting us,’ Perceptor said. ‘They called us in to investigate the energy readings.’
‘Well they may just be a little nervous, but I’d just as soon not have my tailpipe shot off,’ Skyfire replied.
‘I will call them and identify us,’ Perceptor answered.
The two jets had taken no further action but still kept level with Skyfire as he approached the remains of the power plant. Skyfire also saw that a number of tanks around the plant had begun to move, swinging their gun turrets around in his direction.
All of a sudden the two jets pealed off and away from Skyfire. Perceptor said, ‘That should have sorted it. They were just double-checking our identity. We are clear to land wherever you like.’
‘Thanks,’ Skyfire said much relieved. The human weapons wouldn’t have been able to do him any serious harm of course but the last thing he wanted was to have to engage an enemy that he couldn’t fight back against. Decepticons and Renegades were one thing but confused and scared humans were quite another.
He began to descend towards an area of flat clear ground just to the north of the remains of the power plant. He came in to land far faster and at a steeper angle than any Earth jet could have safely managed and quickly came to a halt. He opened the hatchway to allow his passengers to disembark.
Perceptor and the Dinobot leader Grimlock emerged from inside of his passenger compartment, Grimlock carrying a collection of Perceptor’s scientific equipment before him. Once they were outside Skyfire transformed back to his robot mode.
A number of humans were approaching them from the direction of the plant. A number of soldiers accompanied them but their weapons were lowered. Striding out in front was a woman wearing a red and white checked shirt and a pair of blue jeans. Her hair was cut short in a bob and was jet black but with a few strands of grey beginning to appear.
Perceptor knelt down on one knee as she approached. She stopped a few feet in front of him and spoke in a loud clear voice, ‘I am Professor Rose Hamilton of the Australian National University. My team and I have been studying the anomaly and it was us who called you in.’
‘I am Perceptor and this is Skyfire and Grimlock,’ Perceptor gestured to his companions. ‘If you could take us to where the energy readings are coming from we will get started.’
The Professor nodded but said, ‘Since our initial report things have changed here somewhat. It is no longer just energy readings. A physical anomaly has appeared directly at the point of the energy emissions.’
‘What sort of anomaly?’ Perceptor asked.
‘It would probably be easier to show you than try and describe it,’ the Professor said turning back towards the ruins of the plant and beckoning the Autobots to follow her. The entourage of people who had accompanied her to meet the Autobots immediately turned round and followed as well.
Had the Autobots been alone they could have reached the spot of the anomaly in a few dozen steps, but they had to slow their pace for the much slower humans and so it took a few minutes to reach the spot. When they got there Perceptor recognised it at once as the spot where the spacebridge had once stood.
They came to a halt and the Professor gestured at something hovering in the air a few feet over the ground. It looked like a long thin vertical strip of shimmering light. Different colours danced up and down its length, apparently at random. It made no discernable noise nor did it change position.
Perceptor moved closer and walked around the anomaly, looking at it from all angles, and then he moved over to Grimlock and picked up a small square device from the pile of equipment he had brought with him. He pointed the device at the anomaly and pressed a button. There was a hum of energy from the device and then a beep. Perceptor looked at the readout on the top and nodded slowly.
‘Well?’ the Professor asked eagerly. ‘Do you know what it is?’
Perceptor looked at her and said, ‘I will have to take some more in depth readings but my preliminary scan seems to confirm my initial suspicions about the nature of the energy emissions you sent to me. This is a dimensional rift, a tear in the very fabric of interdimensional spacetime. The energy readings you’ve been getting were the first sign of the tear. It started off so small that you were unable to see it but has gradually gotten wider.’
‘Started?’ Professor Hamilton asked. ‘Do you mean that it will continue to get bigger?’
‘Unless we can find out how to close it, yes,’ Perceptor replied.
The Professor looked at her colleagues nervously, ‘And what happens if we can’t? How big will this thing get?’
Perceptor paused before replying, ‘If I’m right then it will continue to grow until eventually it consumes the entire Earth. Depending on the exact nature of the rift it may continue to grow indefinitely until this entire reality is consumed…and maybe countless others along with it.’
Chapter Two – Consulting the Oracle
The door that barred the entrance to the passageway leading to the Vector Sigma chamber clanged shut behind Overdrive leaving him in darkness. Overdrive stood and listened but there was no sound in the tunnel. He knew though that Vector Sigma was protected by an army of guardian droids. If the droids caught him then he would have no chance against them.
He activated his built-in holocron system and with a flicker of light he disappeared from sight. He moved off down the tunnel. If there had been more light then an observer might have seen an almost indistinguishable movement in the air as the holocrons updated their projection. In the darkness of the tunnel however it was now impossible to tell he was there.
* * * * *
Ultra Magnus, Downshift, Pointblank and Brainstorm followed Elita-1 and Nightstar down a long corridor that inclined steeply downwards. All of them except Ultra Magnus were staring round in wonder as countless female Autobots passed them by, going about their business. They had already learnt that the previously rare female transformers had had their ranks swelled by a new generation thanks to the discovery of the super-computer Vector Omicron, an ancient relic, dating back to before even Vector Sigma, and the source of all female transformers, but even so they found the sight of so many to be amazing.
Ultra Magnus glanced back at his fellow Autobots; they could well be the last of their kind. Thanks to the treachery of Overdrive, the Decepticons had learnt the location of the Autobot headquarters and had launched a surprise attack which had apparently left no survivors. It was only thanks to a group of female Autobots that they had survived themselves. He saw that Pointblank was rubbing his new right hand absent mindedly. He had lost his original hand when a mind controlled Downshift had shot him and Elita had arranged for him to be given a replacement.
Ultra Magnus shook his head sadly. How had it come to this, how had he allowed it? He had failed the Autobots who had trusted him to lead them to victory over the Decepticons. Ever since approving the creation of the Lifespark he had been making mistakes and now those mistakes had cost countless lives.
He looked back at Elita-1 striding out in front of him. He had agreed to help her and her group to fight the Decepticons; he was determined to avenge those who had died thanks to his mistakes.
Having learned about Vector Omicron, he and his fellow Autobots had been anxious to see the ancient computer and Elita had agreed. She was now leading them down to the chamber where Vector Omicron had rested undisturbed for over a hundred thousand vorns.
They had been heading downwards for quite some time and so they must be deep underneath Cybertron’s surface by now. Elita had told him that Vector Omicron had been hidden in a disused mineshaft so that would make sense.
As they continued every deeper underground the number of female Autobots in the corridors gradually thinned out until the six of them were alone. Ultra Magnus wasn’t sure if it was his imagination or not but despite the lights embedded in the corridor it seemed to be getting gradually darker.
‘It’s not much further now,’ Elita said turning to look over her shoulder.
‘Just how far underground are we going?’ Brainstorm asked.
‘We estimate that Vector Omicron is about three miles under the surface,’ Elita replied. ‘The chamber itself was located at the bottom of a mineshaft. The sonic canyons were rich in Cybertonium and Ilidium at one stage. We believe that the mines were set up by the Quintessons in the early days of their occupation. Ilidium has quite unusual properties. It is incredibly hard under normal circumstances but when accelerated to high speed it become quite brittle…’
‘…making it perfect as a casing for missile warheads,’ Brainstorm interjected. ‘The warheads wouldn’t be able to detonate until the missile had reach cruising velocity meaning that they would be safe from sabotage and accidental triggering.’
‘Exactly,’ Elita smiled. ‘We believe that the Ilidium must have been a major component in the Quintessons’ early weapon products. The seams have long since been exhausted however there is only trace deposits left now.’
The group lapsed into silence again, continuing down the long corridor. Then in the distance Ultra Magnus saw the corridor end in a blank wall, inset with a large set of double doors.
‘Here we are,’ Elita said as they came to the doors. She gestured to Nightstar who moved forward to the doors. To Ultra Magnus’ surprise the doors didn’t appear to be automatic because Nightstar, showing strength that her slight frame belied heaved the doors open.
A blast of warm air came through the doors as they opened. Beyond Ultra Magnus could see an exceptionally large cavern, faintly lit by a silvery light, so that the ceiling of the cavern couldn’t be seen.
The Autobots followed Elita and Nightstar through the door and found themselves on a balustraded walkway that appeared to circle the cavern. Beyond the barrier the cavern sank several hundred more feet. Hulking machinery littered the canyon floor for as far as the Autobots could see. In what appeared to be the centre of the cavern was a raised circular dais and hovering a few feet above it was a globe emanating a pale silvery light. Ultra Magnus recognised it at once from the history tape he had seen. It was the ancient super-computer, Vector Omicron.
* * * * *
Mindwipe stood in his lab and surveyed his handiwork. Standing silently in the centre of the large room, arranged in eight ranks and five files, were forty-eight robots. They appeared to be Decepticon Seekers but their optics were dim and they showed no sign of life. The torn Decepticon insignia that served as the Renegades logo had been burned on to the shoulders. It had taken him several weeks to build them but he was pleased with the results.
The door to the lab slid open with a hiss, Mindwipe turned to see Doubledealer enter. As he usually was these days he was in his Autobot mode. He came towards Mindwipe who moved to meet him.
‘Did Omnis Validus provide you with any ideas for improvements?’ Doubledealer asked.
‘I did have one idea,’ Mindwipe replied, ‘but I will need to run a few experiments before I can say for sure it will work. My main concern is getting the body shells strengthened. Earth based metals are just not strong enough. A single blast will rip them apart.’
‘I will have the formula of the bonded shell by the end of the day,’ Doubledealer said.
Mindwipe nodded, ‘I will be ready when you do. Do you still want me deal with Omnis Validus’ design flaw?’
‘Yes, he will be useful to us in the coming battle with the Decepticons.’
‘Very well,’ Mindwipe said, ‘then I will make the arrangements, it is a relatively simple procedure.’ Doubledealer looked at the silent robots lined up in front of him and smiled to himself. After all this time, things were finally coming together.
‘I will be back later, with the formula,’ Doubledealer said turning to leave the lab. He walked through the Renegade base until he reached the elevator that led to the exit. Stepping inside he pushed a button and the elevator start to move slowly upwards.
It took only a few moments to reach the top most level of the base. Doubledealer exited the elevator and moved towards two indentations in the wall. Ducking his head slightly to avoid hitting it on the low ceiling he entered the left-hand indentation and transmitted a short signal to the receiver embedded in the rock. With a faint hiss and a grinding of rock the wall in front of him split open to reveal a pale early morning sky.
He went through the opening which slid shut behind him. The surrounding landscape of Ayre’s Rock appeared deserted except for himself. The many human tourists that swarmed around the area in the daytime had not yet arrived.
Doubledealer transformed to his Decepticon falcon mode and with a flap of his wings soared in to the air. Banking until he was heading in a North-Easterly direction he flew up into the dawn sky.
* * * * *
Brainstorm was almost jumping up and down with excitement as they approached Vector Omicron. Ultra Magnus could see that he was desperate to examine the computer in detail and well he might for Vector Omicron was a piece of ancient Cybertron history and like Vector Sigma what secrets might it hide?
Vector Omicron bobbed gently above its circular dais, Ultra Magnus thought he could detect a slight thrum of energy but couldn’t be sure. When they were a few feet from the foot of the dais Elita motioned for them to stop. They came to a halt and Elita turned to them, ‘I have arranged a demonstration for you,’ she said. Turning she stepped forward onto Vector Omicron’s dais.
The silver light emanating from the sphere intensified and this time Ultra Magnus could definitely heard a thrumming noise that seemed to come from all directions at once. Vector Sigma rose slightly into the air and then a deep monotonal voice filled the air, ‘I am Vector Omicron. How may I serve you?’
‘Run program Delta 77212388,’ Elita replied.
‘I obey,’ Vector Omicron intoned. For a few moments nothing happened and the with a clatter a metal the machines surrounding the ancient computer came to life, light blinked on and hydraulics began to pump. Elita stepped backwards away from Vector Omicron and moved over to where Ultra Magnus was standing.
‘What does program Delta 77212388 do?’ he asked her.
‘It instructs Vector Omicron to construct a new Autobot based on a number of pre-programmed parameters,’ Elita replied. ‘To ensure a unique individual a number of random elements are included. Vector Omicron can interface with any part of the production machinery to control every stage of the process.’
The noise in the room intensified. As the Autobots watched the top of one especially large machine began to open, as it did so a metal cylinder descended from the ceiling on a conveyor system and came to rest over the opening. Nothing happened for a few moments and then the bottom of the cylinder irised open and the chamber was illuminated by a flow of bright molten metal disappearing inside the machine. The cylinder closed and then slid back up into the dark ceiling. The top of the machine closed with a clang and from inside came a rumble and a hissing noise.
‘That machine constructs the basic body shell. While that one,’ Elita said pointing to a second hulking piece of machinery, ‘refines the basic body mould into a specific design.’
Ultra Magnus watched as a panel on the side of the first machine opened and casket emerged, a bright ribbon of light ran around its centre where the two halves joined. Obviously this contained the new body shell. The casket was picked up by a robotic arm that had descended from the ceiling and was moved over to the second machine, whose top slid open to receive it. The casket was lowered inside the machine and the arm glided back up to the ceiling as the top closed with a gentle clang.
The noise in the chamber lessened, though a sharp hissing sound could still be heard from the second machine. ‘Depending upon the actual body design this part of the operation can take some time, ‘Elita said.
* * * * *
Deep inside Cybertron Vector Sigma, the mega-computer that had given life to Transformers for eons, bobbed gently over the floor of its chamber. The golden glow it gave off intensified. The intelligence inside the golden sphere knew that danger was coming, sensed that things were not quite right. But it had taken precautions, prepared the way for salvation. It could not stop what was happening but it could manipulate things to its own ends.
It had sensed the presence of Overdrive from the moment he had entered the tunnel. If the intelligence inside Vector Sigma has possessed a sense of humour it might have laughed at the way in which the intruder had tried to hide himself using the primitive holographic technology.
The dimensional disruption was getting worse now, drastic action was needed. So Vector Sigma had not unleashed the green guardian droids that had long protected it but instead let Overdrive believe that his deception had succeeded.
Buried away inside the walls of its chamber, robotic arms worked feverishly to deconstruct the bodies of five Decepticon hunters who had previously invaded Vector Sigma’s chamber. Delicately their lasercores and cerebral units were removed. Soon a new breed of Transformer would be needed. The first step had begun.
Overdrive entered the chamber and looked around. It was silent and empty except for the golden sphere bobbing gently over its dais. Overdrive smiled to himself, this was going to be easy. He took out the inhibiter circuit that Devil Spawn had given him. He moved forward as silently as he could. Vector Sigma made no sign that it was aware of his presence.
Reaching the foot of the dais Overdrive reached up and stuck the inhibiter onto the side of Vector Sigma. As he moved his hand away the inhibiter moved outside the holocron field and became visible. Vector Sigma began to glow a brilliant gold that grew in intensity until it filled the chamber and blinded Overdrive. Then the light began to dim and Overdrive struggled to restore vision to his optics. Eventually he succeeded and saw that Vector Sigma was now surrounded by arching strands of blue/white electricity. The golden glow dimmed even more and then suddenly went out altogether, leaving the computer looking a dark golden colour.
Overdrive deactivated his holocrons and flickered back into view. He was alert; looking out for any danger, in case Vector Sigma was still active. But the computer remained inert. Overdrive allowed himself to relax. He had done it, he had captured Vector Sigma. He had again shown Devil Spawn that he could do the job that other Decepticons couldn’t.
Deep inside the core of the apparently dormant Vector Sigma a steady pulse of energy activated. Transmitted through the matrix of subspace dimensions Vector Sigma had access to, the energy shot from one side of Cybertron to the other until it connected to its target. Once the transmission had finished, Vector Sigma knew that the first step had now been taken; phase two would soon begin.
* * * * *
The noise from the machine died away gradually and then a panel on the front slid silently open. A slab emerged containing the newly designed female Autobot. The slab tilted raising the new transformer body up to an almost upright angle.
The figure that had been constructed was a typical female design, with a pair of antenna-like devices on either side of her head. She was coloured in various shades of pale blue. Her optics were stilled dimmed.
The glowing silver light emanating from Vector Omicron began to pulse, slowly at first but then faster and faster. The new female Autobot stepped forward off of the slab and moved slowly towards the super computer. Stopping a few feet from Vector Omicron, she turned to face it and became motionless.
Without warning all the lights in the chamber flickered violently and then cut out altogether and the hum of machinery stopped, leaving the pulsating light of Vector Omicron as the only remaining illumination. As they watched Vector Omicron’s light became steady again. ‘What on Cybertron is happening?’ Elita-1 said. Before anyone could answer the lights flickered back to life and the background hum returned.
‘What was that all about?’ Ultra Magnus said. ‘Has that ever happened before?’
‘No,’ Elita said. ‘Hopefully it was just a temporary power fluctuation.’
‘Will it have interfered with Vector Omicron?’ Ultra Magnus asked.
It was Brainstorm who answered this question, ‘No, Vector Omicron’s power source seems to be totally self-contained and self-sustaining, in the same way that Vector Sigma’s is. We discovered that when we tapped into Vector Sigma while creating the Lifespark.’
As if to back up Brainstorm’s statement, Vector Omicron began to pulse with renewed vigour and abruptly a beam of silver light shot out from the super computer, engulfing the new female Autobot.
As they looked her optics flickered to life, a pale blue glow within the silver light of Vector Omicron. She turned her head towards the onlookers. ‘Something strange is going on,’ Elita said. ‘Vector Omicron has not dropped the connection yet.’
The new Autobot took a step towards those gathered round, the light of Vector Omicron following her as she did so. There was a steady thrum of brighter light running down the beam like a series of waves. Then the new Autobot spoke, ‘I am… Oracle…Vector Sigma is in danger. We must assist before it is too late!’
Chapter Three – Heart’s DESIRE
‘Who are you?’ Elita-1 demanded.
‘I am Oracle,’ came the reply.
Ultra Magnus stepped forward and said, ‘How is Vector Sigma in danger and how do you know about it?’
‘I am Oracle, it is my function to know these things. Vector Sigma has been captured by the Decepticons.’
‘How did you come to be here?’ Elita-1 asked.
‘I am Oracle. I am the messenger or Vector Sigma. Vector Sigma reached across the dimensions and altered my core program. I am now Oracle.’
‘You say Vector Sigma has been captured by the Decepticons? When did this happen?’ Ultra Magnus asked.
‘Three point two-seven-five-six nano-cycles ago,’ Oracle replied primly.
Elita and Ultra Magnus looked at each other, ‘I think we need to get out of here and back to the main base and discuss what we’re going to do,’ Elita said. Ultra Magnus nodded.
* * * * *
When Devil Spawn received the communication from Overdrive he clapped his hand into his fist in triumph, at last Vector Sigma belonged to the Decepticons, no, not the Decepticons, to him, and now it would do his bidding. Devil Spawn had to give the Autobot turncoat his grudging respect; he had done more for the Decepticon cause in a few solar-cycles than many Decepticon leaders had achieved in vorns. First he had orchestrated the destruction of the Autobot resistance and now had captured the key to total Decepticon domination. Maybe he would make a good Decepticon after all. Devil Spawn had had doubts but Overdrive was showing himself to be reliable and even more importantly, effective.
Devil Spawn pushed a button on his command chair and presently a green seeker entered the room and came to a halt in front of the Decepticon commander. ‘You called commander?’ he said obsequiously.
‘Yes Turbulence,’ Devil Spawn replied, ‘Overdrive has succeeded in capturing Vector Sigma. I want you to prepare a battle group ready to leave in a cycle. We will need to defend the chamber against any who would be deluded enough to try and retake our creator.’
Turbulence was amazed that the Autobot traitor had succeeded in capturing Vector Sigma, a task which even the elite hunters, the Predacons had failed to achieve. ‘Yes Excellency. Will there be anything else?’
‘Yes, have the battle group assemble and then wait for my arrival. For a mission of this importance I intend to take charge personally.’
* * * * *
‘What are you proposing we do? Launch an all out attack on the Decepticons to recapture Vector Sigma?’ Ultra Magnus asked. They had all returned to Elita-1’s quarters.
Oracle turned to Ultra Magnus and said, ‘The safety of Vector Sigma is of paramount importance. All other considerations must be considered secondary.’
‘Oh must it?’ Ultra Magnus said angrily. ‘Well the lives of my friends are not something I will treat as secondary.’
‘Vector Sigma must not be allowed to remain in Decepticon hands,’ Oracle said as if Ultra Magnus hadn’t spoken. ‘Everything else is secondary.’
‘Let’s get one thing straight right now, we are not the servants of Vector Sigma, to be sacrificed as its whim’ Ultra Magnus retorted. ‘We…’
‘Please Ultra Magnus,’ Elita said soothingly, ‘I understand your anger, but I agree with Oracle that we must prevent the Decepticons from keeping control of Vector Sigma. With the power to create life, they could overrun this planet and many others in no time.’
‘So you agree that we should sacrifice ourselves on the altar of Vector Sigma?’ Ultra Magnus demanded.
‘No, but we don’t need to attack all the Decepticons, we need only recapture the Vector Sigma chamber and this should prove possible with the numbers we have at present.’
‘The Decepticons will not just sit by and let us take Vector Sigma back, they will send other’s to capture it, and others after those. We would have to endure siege after siege if Vector Sigma’s defences can no longer keep the Deception’s out.’
‘Vector Sigma has prepared for this,’ Oracle said. ‘Once free from the Decepticons’ control Vector Sigma will ensure its own security.’
‘That settles it then,’ Elita-1 said. ‘But we must act quickly, the Decepticons are sure to attempt to fortify the Vector Sigma chamber against possible liberation attempts. The longer we give them the harder our job will be. Ultra Magnus?’
Ultra Magnus was silent for a moment, until finally, ‘Very well we will help,’ he said reluctantly.
* * * * *
Miharu looked at herself in the mirror. The new outfit she had selected for herself was wildly impractical she knew, the skirt was too short and the blouse too low cut. The shoes weren’t too bad she decided, at least she could run in them if needs be but still the whole thing was total self indulgence. Still, she thought she had earned it and today shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
She changed back into her old clothes and left the changing room to pay for her new outfit. She still had a couple of hours until she had to meet her employer, just enough time to drive out to the meeting place. She did wish he wouldn’t choose such secluded spots, but then she supposed there wasn’t much he could do about that all things considered.
Once she had paid she carried her bags out to her car, a battered white Honda Civic, in the mall’s parking lot. Although not quite as luxurious as Tony’s car it was a lot less conspicuous and thanks to the modifications she’d had done a lot more powerful than it looked.
Miharu yawned; it had been a long night, or technically she realised, a long morning. Waiting for the shops to open had been the worst thing since leaving the motel. She wondered idly whether Tony had woken up yet. Smiling at the thought of the look on his face when he realised what she’d done, she put the bags on the back seat and climbed into her car. She need to find somewhere secluded she could change outfits; still there was plenty of deserted highway where she was going so she’d change on the way. Starting the car she pulled out and headed north.
* * * * *
Spike waved as Carly’s car drove back out of the parking lot of the Harding Research Facility. As her car disappeared from sight, heading back towards town, he took a deep breath and walked towards the entrance to the building.
His first day at work had not gone as well as he had hoped. His supervisor Simon obviously resented what he saw as an intrusion into his own private area. He had given Spike the most menial task he could find, checking the computer server’s system files for errors trying to track down the cause of the mysterious system freezes that had been affecting the facility’s computer network.
‘Good morning Spike,’ a voice called. He turned to see Professor Harding, a tall middle-aged woman with short auburn hair and large spectacles, walking briskly towards him from the corner of the building, her white lab coat flapping in the breeze.
‘Oh, good morning Doctor Harding,’ Spike said.
She raised an eyebrow at him, ‘How many times am I going to have to tell you, its Barbara,’ she said smiling.
‘Sorry,’ Spike spluttered, ‘Barbara.’
‘That’s better, now how are you getting on? Did you have a good first day yesterday?’ she asked as they walked towards the main entrance together.
‘Er, yeah it was great,’ Spike lied.
Doctor Harding gave Spike a sideways glance, ‘Simon isn’t giving you a hard time is he?’
‘No,’ Spike said hurriedly, ‘he’s been fine. We’re just trying to track down your server error and it’s quite an involved job.’ They reached the main door and Spike held the door open for Doctor Harding to pass through first earning himself a smile from her.
‘How is the server problem looking?’ Doctor Harding asked.
‘Well we’re in the process of doing a full systems check and haven’t found anything yet,’ Spike admitted.
‘I’m sure you will come up with the answer,’ Doctor Harding said. ‘I have confidence in you.’
Spike smiled at this, ‘Thanks Barbara that means a lot.’
‘I have a meeting to go to now,’ Doctor Harding said as they walked across the reception area. ‘Perhaps I will see you at lunch time?’
‘Erm, maybe,’ Spike said.
Doctor Harding smiled again; ‘Have a good day Spike,’ she said and then she turned and headed off down a nearby corridor.
It was a moment before Spike realised he was standing, gazing after her. Gathering himself together he headed over to the elevators. The doors opened as soon as he pushed the call button and he got inside a pressed the button for the fifth floor. Spike felt his stomach churn as the elevator started to rise. After a few moments there was a ping and the doors opened.
Spike stepped out of the elevator and began to walk down the corridor past the various research laboratories. Huge glass windows allowed him to see the research scientists going about their business inside.
At the far end of the corridor was a large metal door with no windows looking beyond. By the side of the door was a security keypad. Spike tapped in the access code he had been given the previous day and the door slid open with a soft hiss.
Taking a deep breath Spike entered, to find the room deserted. Simon it appeared hadn’t arrived yet. Secretly pleased that he didn’t have to put up with his supervisor for the moment, Spike sat down at his desk and entered his logon details into his computer terminal.
It took a few seconds for the computer to verify his credentials before giving him access to the Cray Supercomputer in the server room next door, Spike could just make out the large cylindrical computer through the glass observation window on the opposite wall.
He pulled up the details of the file system checks he’d been carrying out the day before and found the point where he had left off. He still had some way to go before the checks were complete. With a sigh he got to work.
* * * * *
Miharu brought her car to a stop a few hundred yards away from the highway. She was in a totally deserted spot, miles and miles of dry wilderness surrounded her on all sides. The interstate highway was the only sign of human civilisation.
She looked at her watch and was gratified to see that she was right on time. He should be arriving any minute now. She got out of the car and looked skywards. To the South she saw a glint of light. As she watched the light appeared to get bigger and bigger until finally it resolved into the shape of a giant metallic bird.
The bird soared over Miharu’s head, causing her hair to billow in the wind. It circled around the area as if checking for any spies before landing, surprisingly gently given its size a few hundred yards away from Miharu.
Doubledealer transformed to his Autobot mode and walked over to where Miharu was standing. Even after all these weeks Miharu was still awed by the power of these Transformers. Doubledealer was the first she had had direct contact with. She had seen them on the news of course but there really was no substitute for seeing one in reality, especially when the one she was seeing was paying her enough money to buy a large beach house for cash.
She didn’t know how this Transformer had tracked her down or how he knew about her talent for industrial espionage, a talent that had eventually forced her to flee Japan and return to America, but to be honest she didn’t care. He provided the money, up front, and she did her job, that was all she needed to know.
As Doubledealer approached he knelt down so that he could be closer to her and said, ‘Do you have it?’
She reached inside her car and pulled out the briefcase and held it up to him. ‘The results of the metallurgical analysis, coating ratios and molecular density estimates,’ she said.
‘Excellent,’ Doubledealer said reaching out and taking the case gently between his massive fingers and slipping it inside a compartment in his chest. ‘Things have reached a head quicker than I had anticipated. I need the final formula by the end of today.’
‘Today!’ Miharu said shocked. ‘I can’t possibly deliver it that quickly.’
‘Realising that it would be difficult, I am prepared to increase your fee substantially,’ Doubledealer said. ‘Shall we say, $100 million, in advance?’
Miharu brain was working quickly, she couldn’t possibly pass up a chance for that sort of cash, but could she do it? Yes, she decided finally, she would have to expose herself to danger, but for this sort of money it was worth the risk.
‘Okay,’ she said. ‘Where do you want the pickup to be?’
‘Here will do,’ Doubledealer said. ‘As I assume we have a deal I have electronically transmitted the money to your account as usual. I will wait here for your return. Don’t fail me.’
‘Have I ever?’ Miharu said with a hint of cockiness.
‘No,’ Doubledealer said. ‘That is why I will be very disappointed if you start now.’
‘I will see you back here later,’ Miharu said ignoring the implicit threat in Doubledealer’s last statement. ‘I need to be getting back; I have a lot to organise.’
Doubledealer nodded and stood back up again as Miharu climbed back into her car and zoomed off back towards the highway. He watched her go and smiled. He knew that she wouldn’t fail. Her success and his were inevitable. After all these years the end was finally in sight.
* * * * *
Spike could feel Simon glaring at him from across the desk but chose to ignore it. Simon had finally put in an appearance forty minutes after Spike had arrived. He had barely spoken since he had been here and Spike had remained equally silent. He didn’t know what Simon was working on at the moment but it didn’t seem to be much as he only occasionally tapped away on his keyboard.
Spike had taken a break from looking through the system files as it was a truly tedious task. Instead he had started looking through the log files that recorded everything the computer was doing at any given point. He had not told Simon he was doing this though, as he felt sure that he would insist that the system files was completed first just to make Spike miserable. So far Spike had seen nothing in the logs of any interest.
The phone on Simon’s desk rang, abruptly breaking the silence of the room. Simon reached a hand out lazily for it. ‘Hello,’ he said and Spike inwardly grimaced at his lack of telephone manner. ‘What today?’ Simon said into the phone. ‘But it was only yesterday…’ There was a pause as the caller spoke again. ‘Okay, when?’ Spike could here the muffled replay and then without even a goodbye Simon put the phone down.
Spike kept himself focussed his computer screen, conscious of Simon looking over at him. ‘I might be late back after lunch,’ Simon said after a moment. ‘I have to meet somebody, so just carry on with what you are doing.’
‘No problem,’ Spike replied, looking up at Simon briefly before returning his gaze to his screen. He sensed rather than saw Simon returning his attention to his own machine.
Spike had by now found the date and time of the last server crash and was working his way back looking for anything that might have caused it. He glanced up at Simon who seemed to be having trouble getting comfortable in his chair as he was routinely fidgeting and changing position.
Spike focussed his attention back to the log files. There was something unusual in them. About ten minutes before the crash a program had been run called DESIRE. Spike had never heard of this program. He skimmed through the log files until he came to the date and time of the crash before the previous one. Sure enough, there was the program called DESIRE. Spike started to get excited. This looked like he might have found the cause of the crashes. He went through the logs checking the date and time of each crash and sure enough on each occasion the DESIRE program had been run ten minutes before. It was too consistent to be a coincidence.
Just to be sure he checked through the logs looking for any occasion when DESIRE had been run and hadn’t caused a crash. There was no other mention of the program. This had to be it, but if so then what was this program and who was running it?
Spike checked the logs again. If he could find the right one, then it should have a record of who ran the program. It took him a few minutes to find the right log file but eventually he did. He scrolled through looking for the DESIRE program and there it was. He checked the name of the user who had run the program. He caught his breath, it was Simon Johnson.
Chapter Four – Secrets and Lies
Spike was incredulous. Why would Simon be sabotaging his own network? There had to be an explanation. Was he creating a problem that he could then ‘solve’ just to make himself look good? No, that didn’t make sense, according to Doctor Harding this problem had been going on for a couple of weeks now and Simon’s inability to solve it wasn’t making him look good at all. So why was he doing it?
Spike went back to the log files and pulled up the detailed report of the last system crash. If he could work out exactly what this rogue program was designed to do he might have an idea what Simon was up to.
He found the entry he was looking for. The DESIRE program was run, but the interesting thing was the server didn’t crash immediately. First all the network connections were cut; meaning all the lab equipment and terminals on the floor could no longer access the server. There was then a ten minute gap before the server finally crashed. That meant that for ten minutes the only person who could access the server was Simon, directly from this room. He flicked back through the logs until he found the previous crash and sure enough the same situation had occurred there, a ten minute gap between loss of network connectivity and the server crash.
So what was he doing in that ten minute gap? To find that out Spike would have to go deeper into the server logs. He glanced up at the clock; he had forty minutes before lunch, if he could find out what Simon was up to in that time then he could take it to Barbara and let her decide what to do about it. His mind made up he began tapping on his keyboard.
* * * * *
Omnis Validus stood looking at the Renegade base hidden deep inside the landmark known as Ayre’s Rock by the humans. It had been several cycles since Mindwipe had attempted to cure the freezing problem that he had been experiencing and so far it seemed to be working.
He reluctantly had to admit that the Renegades had kept their side of the bargain; Mindwipe certainly seemed to know what he was doing. Now it was just a question of whether he kept his side. He hadn’t forgotten the part the Renegades had played in his downfall when he had been Shockwave. They should be made to pay for it, but not yet. First he would let them help him destroy Megatron and then, once all his enemies were destroyed he would return to Cybertron and take care of the usurper Devil Spawn and take his place as absolute Decepticon ruler.
* * * * *
Deep inside the Renegade base Mindwipe looked down with pride at his latest creation. On the work surface was a metal sphere about the size of a basketball. The surface was pitted with thousands of small holes; a thick cable was connected to one side and snaked away to a nearby computer. Omnis Validus would have recognised the sphere as a copy of his Spherical Personality and Recollection Chamber or S.P.A.R.C. Mindwipe had done the best he could with the Earth based materials he had to recreate the design used in Omnis Validus. He hadn’t quite succeeded he knew but he was still very pleased with what he had achieved.
Now all he needed was a personality to put inside it. He walked over to the comm. system and pushed a button, ‘Sixshot, Mindwipe here,’ he said.
‘What is it Mindwipe?’ Sixshot’s voice came back over the comm.
‘I need a subject to test a new idea I’ve had for Project Overwhelm. Could you send Slugslinger down here?’
There was a slight pause and then, ‘Very well, he will be right there,’ Sixshot replied.
‘Thank you commander,’ Mindwipe said and cut the connection. He moved over to the computer that the S.P.A.R.C. was connected to and began to run through some final checks. He hoped that everything would go as planned.
* * * * *
Perceptor had spent all night setting up his equipment, a series of electronic devices arranged in a circle around the anomaly and mounted on spindly looking stands not unlike camera tripods. Cables connected each of the devices together, effectively fencing the thin strip of coloured light off as though it was a museum exhibit. A single think cable then ran across the ground to a computer system that Perceptor had set up a few feet away.
The humans had spent most of the day busying themselves about the area, occasionally Professor Hamilton had come over to see how he was doing but otherwise he had been left alone. Grimlock was walking a wide perimeter of the site on guard duty against a Renegade attack, while from time to time Skyfire rocketed overhead as he flew in a search pattern looking for approaching trouble.
Connecting the equipment had been a relatively easy job but it had taken Perceptor many hours to calibrate the computer system to the same frequency as the anomaly. It had then taken a few more hours for the machines to collect sensory data but finally he was ready. He looked around and caught sight of Professor Hamilton in the distance and walked over in her direction.
‘Professor,’ he said as he approached. ‘I am ready now.’
The professor looked at him searchingly as though trying to read his expression to determine how good or bad the news was going to be. Then she said, ‘Very well Perceptor I will gather everyone together.’
* * * * *
Slugslinger had entered the lab followed by Sixshot, much to Mindwipe’s annoyance. He didn’t want to have the Renegade leader looking over his shoulder as he performed his experiment. Still he supposed that Sixshot was curious about the idea Mindwipe had come up with and wanted to keep and eye on things. It was the nature of leaders everywhere he supposed.
Slugslinger had reluctantly allowed himself to be connected up to the computer that was attached to the S.P.A.R.C. and was now seated a few feet away from it looking decidedly uncomfortable.
Mindwipe turned to Sixshot and said, ‘I should make it clear that I don’t know if this will work or not at this stage, the theory is sound but something could still go wrong.’
Sixshot nodded, ‘I understand Mindwipe, what exactly is it that you are attempting to do?’
As you know the new facsimile constructs that I developed have only go rudimentary intelligence because of their lack of sentience. I wish to change that. Using the design for the S.P.A.R.C. taken from Omnis Validus I plan on giving each of the constructs limited sentience.’
‘How?’ Sixshot asked intrigued. ‘Without Vector Sigma or the Lifespark we have no way of giving them life.’
‘This is where Slugslinger comes in,’ Mindwipe said. ‘I plan on cloning his cerebral network and copying it into the S.P.A.R.C. Once the S.P.A.R.C. is installed in the construct it should grant it a form of sentience. It will be limited because I will not be copying Slugslinger’s personality as that is liable to cause mental instability as all the clones would effectively be the same individual and would be unable to cope with that. They will be able to follow orders and think creatively in battle but you wouldn’t be able to hold a conversation with them.’
‘Hey what about me?’ Slugslinger demanded. ‘What happens to me when you do this?’
‘All I am doing is copying parts of your cerebral network,’ Mindwipe replied impatiently. ‘You will come out of this no different to what you went in.’
‘Very well Mindwipe,’ Sixshot said, ‘you’ve explained the theory. Now what could go wrong?’
‘The worst that could happen is that Slugslinger’s mind could fail to copy in which case I’ve been wasting my time.’
‘What of the constructs, will they be loyal to us?’
‘They will be as loyal as Slugslinger,’ Mindwipe replied. ‘And if not each facsimile has been fitted with a failsafe device that can be remotely activated. I incorporated the design flaw that I found in Omnis Validus into them so that we can freeze them in their tracks if they try to rebel against us using this control unit.’ He held up a small box with nothing but a large red button on the top.
‘Very well Mindwipe, you may proceed.’
Mindwipe moved over to the computer and typed a code into the system. A steady hum of energy became audible in the room as the computer powered up various electrical systems. Lights on the computer began to blink. Mindwipe took a few steps backwards and watched the results of his handiwork.
* * * * *
‘It is as I feared,’ Perceptor said to the humans assembled before him. ‘The anomaly is a rift in dimensional spacetime and is gradually increasing in size. It is linked to at least one other dimension, possibly more than one.
‘What will happen?’ Professor Hamilton asked.
‘The rift will gradually get bigger as time goes on,’ Perceptor replied. ‘A corresponding rift in the dimension or dimensions that it is linked to will also expand. This will theoretically allow the inhabitants of that dimension to enter ours and vice versa. This however would have the result of corrupting the dimensions even further causing the enlargement to accelerate. Eventually, as I said yesterday, this entire reality would be consumed along with the realities that the rift is linked to. It is even possible that the rift could expand to other realities and gradually the whole of dimensional spacetime would unravel.’
‘You mean the universe would be destroyed?’ the Professor asked in a quivering voice.
‘No Professor, it is much worse than that. This could set of a chain reaction that destroys not just our universe, but many others, as well. The entire omniverse could rip apart leaving nothing but the void.’
The professor looked round at her colleagues and then back at Perceptor and said, ‘Okay, so that’s what could happen. What do we do about it?’
‘I don’t know,’ Perceptor replied grimly.
* * * * *
As they watched the S.P.A.R.C. began to hum and then suddenly a blazing dancing light erupted across its surface until it looked like a flaming ball of dancing light. The cable that was attached to it fell to the work surface with a clatter as the S.P.A.R.C. rose smoothly into the air.
Mindwipe moved towards it grasping a pair of pinchers, reached up and plucked the glowing ball of energy from the air. Then he carried it over to one of the facsimile constructs that stood a little apart from the other with a chest panel open ready to receive the S.P.A.R.C.
Mindwipe had been pleasantly surprised at how easy it had been to modify the design to accept the new component. Whoever had designed the S.P.A.R.C. had been an expert in Transformer design that was certain.
He carefully inserted the S.P.A.R.C. into the chest cavity and closed the panel. As he did so the construct’s optics flared brightly with a vivid red light. Then the light faded to a steady glow of life. The new Renegade looked around, turned towards Sixshot and raising his arm across his chest said in a guttural and stilted voice, ‘I…serve…you…and…the…Renegade…cause.’
Mindwipe turned to Sixshot and smiled broadly.
* * * * *
Spike had found the correct log file and discovered that every time the DESIRE program had run, Simon had been accessing a document library on the server called FLAGMBS. Spike didn’t know what those documents contained but he had learnt enough about the research facility to know that they were probably research documents. Which could surely mean only one thing, Simon was attempting to steal them, probably so he could sell them on to someone else.
The phone call that Simon had received earlier, could that have been from the person he was selling too? He certainly seemed to have become jittery since he had received it. He hadn’t managed to sit still for more than five minutes at a time. What had he said to the person on the other end, “What today?” Was he planning on stealing some more information today and is that the person he was meeting at lunchtime?
He had to see Barbara and tell her what he had discovered. He looked at the clock and saw that it was still up couple of minutes until twelve. He was just contemplating what excuse he could come up with to leave early when Simon saved him the trouble by rising from his chair and picking up his jacket left the room without a word.
Spike gave him a few seconds and then leapt from his seat and headed towards the door. As he left the room he saw the elevator doors closing as Simon left the floor. Ignoring the surprised looks he received from the researches working in the various labs, Spike tore down the corridor towards the elevator but, deciding not to wait, he almost leapt through the doors leading to the stairs.
The canteen was on the second floor and he leapt down the stairs two at a time, on a couple of occasions almost colliding with other people who had decided to use the stairs. Ignoring their indignant looks and shouts he redoubled his speed.
He made it to the second floor and paused for a second, panting heavily, then he ran, at a slightly slower pace than before, through the doors and down another corridor towards the canteen. He just hoped that Barbara was there.
* * * * *
Miharu reversed into a parking space of the Harding Research Facility and cut the engine. She looked round, there was no sign of Simon yet, but he would be here she knew. He didn’t have the courage to stay away, he was in too deep now and he knew it, knew that she could have him arrested and put away for a long time. Industrial espionage was severely frowned on by the courts. Plus of course she had him firmly on the hook in other ways. She smiled to herself as she crossed her shapely legs. Men were so easy to manipulate. She settled down to wait.
* * * * *
Spike was forced to slow his pace as he approached the canteen as the corridor became crowded with people all heading to the same place. He weaved his way through the crowd as quickly as he could, getting several glares from people who presumably assumed he was trying to jump the queue.
He finally managed to make it to the canteen and burst through the double doors causing people in the vicinity to turn and look at him. He again ignored them and craned his neck, looking over the heads of the people in the busy canteen trying to catch a glimpse of Barbara. He started to make his way across the canteen turning his head all the time looking for her.
Suddenly he caught sight of her. She was sitting alone at a small table at the far end of the canteen eating what looked like a salad of some sort. Spike began to force his way towards her, earning more angry looks as he did so.
He finally made it to her table, his breath coming in gasps. She looked up at him in surprise, ‘Spike? Is everything okay?’
‘Barbara…I know what is causing…the computer’s to fail…its Simon, I think he’s stealing research secrets,’ he panted.
* * * * *
Simon opened the door to Miharu’s car and climbed into the passenger seat. ‘What on Earth is all the rush about all of a sudden?’ he asked angrily. ‘Are you trying to get me caught?’
Miharu turned to him and put on her most placating smile. ‘I’m sorry Simon,’ she said, ‘but my employer only sprang this on me today. He needs the final formula by the end of today, which means that I need it now. Please Simon, I know it’s risky but if I don’t get it then I’m in serious trouble.’
‘Okay, but we need to be quick and get it done now; I’ve got this new assistant and we need to have the formula before he gets back from lunch.’
Miharu leaned across and kissed Simon passionately. ‘Thank-you Simon, I knew I could rely on you,’ she said. ‘Let’s go.’
* * * * *
‘Are you absolutely certain of this Spike,’ Barbara said as they hurried back up to the fifth floor. ‘You’re making a very serious accusation here.’
‘I’m positive,’ Spike said and I can prove it. It’s all in the log files.’
They took the elevator back up to the fifth floor and hurried down the corridor. The labs, Spike saw, were mostly empty now as the researchers had all gone to lunch leaving only a few workaholics behind.
They got to the server room and Spike typed the code into the access panel as fast as he could. The door slid open with its usual hiss. The two of them went inside, the door closing behind them and went over to Spike’s computer. ‘Here,’ Spike said sitting down, ‘take a look at this.’
* * * * *
‘Calm down,’ Miahru hissed at Simon as they crossed the reception of the research centre main entrance towards the elevators. She could see that he was nervous; he was walking too fast and was glancing round him in a very guilty fashion. ‘Just walk as if you own the place,’ she said. ‘If you do most people will ignore you. You’ll spoil everything if you keep acting like a guilty schoolboy.’
‘Sorry,’ he mumbled back, ‘but if we get caught…’ he let the thought hand unfinished in the air.
Miharu, who had long since come to terms with the possibility of getting caught hissed contemptuously at him, ‘Well there’s more chance of that unless you relax.’
‘Sorry,’ he said again. Miharu glanced round looking to see if anyone was taking any notice of them. Fortunately the reception area was fairly quiet as most people were at lunch. This was precisely the reason she had chosen this particular time of day. She was however relieved when they reached the elevators. It seemed an agonisingly long time until the doors pinged open and they could go inside. She jammed her finger on the ‘five’ button and the doors closed with a slight clatter. Simon visibly exhaled in relief. Miharu was glad that after today she wouldn’t have to have anything to do with this oaf again.
‘Now try and behave naturally,’ she said as the elevator came to a halt and the doors opened.
‘I’ll try,’ he said as they stepped out into the fifth floor corridor.
* * * * *
‘Oh my God,’ Barbara said as she looked at the log files that Spike was showing her. ‘You’re right; he’s after the molecular bonded shell.’
‘The what?’ Spike asked.
‘I mentioned it to you briefly yesterday,’ Barbara said. ‘It’s our most important research project at the moment. It’s a coating that can be applied to metal to make it super-strong. It was originally developed by a charitable foundation for use in law enforcement. They did a fantastic job with it but it did have a number of weaknesses which we have been trying to improve upon. But even as it stands at the moment it could make a formidable weapon in the wrong hands.’
Before Spike could reply there came a beeping sound from the direction of the door. ‘Somebody’s coming,’ Spike hissed. ‘Hide!’
* * * * *
Simon cursed as his finger slipped causing him to mistype the entry code forcing him to start again. ‘Calm down,’ Miharu said again angrily.
Simon ignored her and this time typed the code correctly and the door slid open. Miharu pushed past him into the room and Simon followed after her. Simon saw that Spike had left his terminal on and logged in. So much for the new kid, he didn’t even follow basic network security. Simon made a mental note to give Spike a lecture on the importance of logging out later.
For the moment though it meant that it saved him a few crucial minutes as he could use Spike’s terminal to initiate the server shutdown. He ran over to the terminal and typed in the single command DESIRE. As he did so there was a decline in the background hum of the room and lights began to blink on various control panels around the room.
‘Quickly,’ Miharu hissed.
‘I’m going as quickly as I can,’ Simon snapped back at her. He began to rapidly type commands into the terminal and in the corner of the room a large printer began to clatter to life as he sent a copy of the formula for the molecular bonded shell to it. ‘There it should be done in a few seconds and then you can get out of here.’
‘I’m afraid nobody is going anywhere,’ Doctor Harding said suddenly stepping out from the shadow of a large control panel. Security will be here any minute.’
Spike, still hidden behind a console of his own, was about to step out to support Barbara when the woman who had come in with Simon drew a silenced gun from the pocket of her jacket and pointed it straight at Barbara. He recognised the woman now as the same woman he had seen yesterday in the waiting area and then again coming out of the server room. He noticed that she was wearing the same dolphin shaped earring as the previous day. Why hadn’t he mentioned her to Doctor Harding then? This could have all been avoided.
Now they were in a fix, especially as Barbara knew as well as he did that security was not on the way. If only he could get the gun away from the woman they might have a chance. She was quite close to him; if she would just turn a little to her left he might be able to grab the gun.
‘Well if it isn’t the good Doctor Harding herself,’ the woman was saying. ‘If security really is on the way then you will make an excellent hostage. Simon is the printout ready yet?’
‘Yes,’ he said going over to the printer and tearing the paper off and picking it up from the paper tray. He carried it over to Miharu who held out her free hand for it. He gave it to her and folding it with one hand she jammed it into her jacket pocket.
‘Now let’s get out of here,’ Simon said.
‘I’m sorry Simon,’ she said coldly, ‘but you have just stopped being useful and she turned and aimed the gun at him. ‘Oh and just so you know. You were terrible in bed.’ She pulled the trigger and Simon fell backwards a look of shock on his face as a red stain spread across his chest.
Barbara screamed as Miharu turned the gun back towards her. ‘Please Doctor no more noise,’ she said. ‘I would hate to have to deprive the world of a genius such as you.’ She smiled cruelly. ‘Now I think it’s time we got out of here. Turn round and please no heroics.’
Barbara did as she was told and turned towards the door. Miharu turned slightly to glance round the room and Spike took the chance he’d been waiting for. He leapt from his hiding place and brought his hands down heavily on the gun. Caught by surprise, Miharu lost her grip on the gun and it flew out of her hand to skid across the floor.
Spike then tried to wrestle her to the ground, but was shocked at how quickly she recovered herself. With a strength that her slender frame belied she lifted him and threw him across the room. He landed heavily and the wind was knocked out of him.
He tried to force himself to his feet; he had to stop her getting the gun back. ‘Don’t move or I will shoot,’ came a voice and to his relief it was Barbara’s. He looked up to see Barbara holding the gun shakily towards the woman. Even as he looked though the woman leapt through the air in some sort of martial art style kick, causing Barbara to scream and fall backwards and sending the gun flying out of her hand high into the air. With amazing agility the woman spun round and caught the gun as it fell.
Spike got unsteadily to his feet to go to Barbara’s aid but the woman seemed to have decided it was time to make a break for it and ignoring Barbara she ran to the server room door and hit the button to open it. Without even a glance backwards she slipped through the gap before the door was fully open and headed down the corridor.
Spike ran over to Barbara who was recovering her feet. ‘Quickly we must stop her,’ Barbara said gasping and hobbling over to the phone.
* * * * *
Miharu cursed to herself. She had been careless letting that kid get the drop on her like that. She raced down the corridor and onto the stairs, slipping the gun into her pocket as she did so. She ran down the stairs, emulating if she had but known it, Spike’s dash from earlier.
She got to the first floor without incident and paused to compose herself. Running across the reception area would draw too much attention and so she forced herself to walk smartly across towards the main entrance.
As she reached the doors she glanced back to see armed security guards enter the reception area. Swearing she ran at full speed through the doors and across the parking lot towards her car. She could hear shouts from behind her and she started to run in a zigzag pattern in case they started shooting at her. She reached her car and opened the door; she never locked it just for this sort of emergency, and leapt inside.
With a roar the engine leapt into life and the car leapt forward. She drove at full speed around the parking lot, tyres screeching. She heard gunshots and her rear window suddenly shattered. Ignoring this she screeched around the final bend and shot onto the highway causing cars to swerve out of her way. Ignoring them she floored the gas pedal and zoomed up the highway.
Chapter Five - Rewards
‘Yes…yes…yes I understand. Thank you,’ Barbara said into the telephone. ‘She got away,’ she said putting the phone down and turning to Spike.
‘I’m sorry Barbara,’ Spike said, not knowing what else to say. ‘I should have been able to hold onto her longer.’
‘Don’t be silly Spike,’ she said coming over to him. ‘The formula doesn’t matter, the important thing is we’re both okay.’ She smiled at him and then said, ‘And thank you for what you did, it was very brave, you probably saved my life.’ Then leaning into him she kissed him.
* * * * *
‘We must be able to do something,’ Professor Hamilton said. She and Perceptor were stood by the rift; the rest of the crowd had dispersed trying to come to terms with what Perceptor had told them.
‘Obviously, we will try our best,’ Perceptor said, ‘but interdimensional physics is at the limits of Autobot science, humans haven’t even theorised on it yet. I’m not sure anything can be done.’
‘Well I won’t believe that until the universe is crumbling around me,’ Professor Hamilton said forcefully.
Before Perceptor could respond, a noise like flames crackling on dry wood, made them turn to look at the rift. As they watched the vertical line of light stretched like a tear in a piece of cloth.
‘Something has caused the rift to get worse,’ Perceptor said.
* * * * *
Doubledealer was still where Miharu had left him earlier that day. He looked up at the sky, almost as though he was smelling the air. Then he smiled.
* * * * *
Barbara pulled slowly away from Spike, who stood there looking dazed. ‘Erm…Barbara, I er…’ he said without really knowing what he was trying to say.
She smiled at him again and ran her hand gently down his cheek, ‘You’re a good man,’ she said, before continuing. ‘Now, we have work to do. The police are on their way and we need to find out exactly what Simon helped her to steal and how long it has been going on. As the server has now crashed we need to get that up and running again first. Are you up to it?’
Spike looked down at the still body of Simon and thought that what he really wanted to do was go home, but then he thought about the kiss that Barbara had just given him and the nice things she’d said and he didn’t want to disappoint her after that and so he said, ‘Let’s do it.’
* * * * *
Miharu, looked nervously in her rear view mirror and swore viciously in Japanese. She would have to get a different car now. The police would be on their way and the security guards would give them a detailed description of the car and with a broken rear window she might as well give herself up now. She had to find a new car quickly.
The perfect opportunity presented itself a few moments later as she saw a second hand car lot in the distance. That would be perfect. She pulled off the road and abandoned her car down a side street and then walked briskly to the car lot. She reached her hand into the pocket of her jacket and felt the gun. This wasn’t the time for subtlety.
* * * * *
‘How long will it take to complete the construction and installation of S.P.A.R.C.’s in all of the constructs?’ Sixshot asked.
‘It is relatively simple,’ Mindwipe replied. The S.P.A.R.C. itself is quick to construct with computer automation and the transfer process will be virtually instant now I have a copy of Slugslinger’s cerebral patterns. If I start now it could be done by the end of the day.’
‘Do it,’ Sixshot said. ‘I want them ready for when Doubledealer returns with the formula for the bonded shell. Then we will launch our final assault on Megatron.’
* * * * *
Miharu pulled carefully back onto the highway. She did not want to draw the attention of any passing cops by driving recklessly. She found her new car to be less pleasant to drive than her old one, but at the moment she didn’t have much of a choice.
She looked at her watch; she’d made good time as it was still only twelve-forty. She would get back to Doubledealer with plenty of time to spare.
* * * * *
Valerie Gillet entered the office of the second hand car dealership and looked around for assistance. There was no-one about but there was a bell on the counter. She went up to it and reached her hand out to ring the bell but froze halfway there. Then she screamed as she saw that behind the counter a man in a checked suite lay sprawled on the floor in a pool of slowly spreading blood that spurted from the bullet hole in his head.
* * * * *
Optimus Prime entered the Ark’s control room and stood before Teletraan-I. The screen flickered to life and the image of Perceptor appeared. ‘Yes Perceptor,’ Prime said.
‘Optimus Prime, we have a major problem down here,’ Perceptor said and proceeded to explain about the nature of the anomaly and the threat it posed.
After he had finished Optimus Prime said gravely, ‘Do you have any suggestions to fix this Perceptor?’
‘Not at the moment, but with your permission I would like to have Wheeljack come down here and help me. We might also need some extra protection as well. If the Renegades attack then they could make the rift even worse.’
‘Very well Perceptor, you will need to send Skyfire back to collect us. I will send the other Dinobots and Wheeljack.’
‘Thank you Prime, I will send Skyfire back immediately.’
Perceptor vanished from the screen and Optimus Prime stood silently for a moment. Could things be as bad as Perceptor said? Was this the end of reality? No, he would not allow that, they would find a solution. Somehow.
‘Would you like me to go along with the others?’ said Prowl coming up behind Optimus having heard the whole conversation.
‘No Prowl, I want you to stay here just in case the Decepticons put in an appearance. I am going to go myself.’
* * * * *
Elita had arranged for thirty female warriors along with herself and the surviving Autobots to take part in the mission, giving them a total fighting force of thirty-five. It was only a small fraction of the warriors that were now available but as Elita had pointed out they would be fighting in a relatively confined space so a small group would probably have a better chance than a large one.
Nightstar came over to Ultra Magnus as they all prepared to depart the base. ‘Tell me to mind my own business if you like,’ she said, ‘but I get the feeling that you’re not too happy with this mission.’
Ultra Magnus glanced at her and then looked away, he wasn’t happy but he didn’t know if he wanted to talk to anyone about it. ‘I’m sorry,’ Nightstar said, ‘I’ll leave you alone, I just thought you might want to talk about it with someone.’
‘Nightstar,’ Ultra Magnus said as she began to turn away. ‘I’m sorry. You’re right I’m not happy about this. It’s just all happening too fast for my liking.’
‘But that’s not what’s really bothering you is it?’ Nightstar said matter of factly.
Ultra Magnus looked at her and gave a weak smile, ‘You are good,’ he said.
‘Not always,’ she said with a grin of her own. ‘It’s Vector Sigma and Alpha Trion isn’t it?’
Ultra Magnus nodded, ‘After everything that I’ve discovered since I’ve been here, I’m just not sure I trust their motives anymore. Alpha Trion seems to have been manipulating us all and Vector Sigma also seems to have ulterior motives of it’s own as well. It is using this Oracle to get us to help release it from the Decepticons. What should be a free Autobot life is basically a slave to Vector Sigma. What else is Vector Sigma prepared to do for its own ends? To be honest after what’s happened recently I’m not too anxious to trust anyone again.’
‘No one?’ Nightstar asked coyly.
Ultra Magnus smiled again, ‘I didn’t mean you,’ he said. ‘After all you saved my life.’
Nightstar smiled, ‘Well that was my pleasure,’ she said. They were silent for a moment and then Nightstar continued, ‘I think that we’re going to have to just take things a bit at a time and see what happens.’
Ultra Magnus nodded, and said with a smile, ‘Yes and the same goes for the mission as well.’
* * * * *
‘As far as I can see,’ Spike said, ‘the only project Simon was interested in was the molecular bonded shell, he doesn’t seem to have accessed any other files. It is possible that he has covered his tracks but if so then why didn’t he do it with the other files too?’
Spike had managed to reboot the server after the crash caused by the DESIRE program and was now sat at a terminal in Barbara’s office looking through the log files again. By now the police had arrived and had sealed off the server room while the forensic team did its work.
The police had also interviewed Barbara and Spike regarding the incident. Spike had mentioned that the woman wore a dolphin shaped earring. Spike had expected them to give each other knowing glances and immediately name the person like they did on television, but much to his disappointment they hadn’t seemed too interested.
‘It looks as though this woman specifically wanted the bonded shell formula,’ Barbara said. She was perched on the edge of the desk and leaning over to look at the screen with Spike. ‘I suppose we should be thankful that the other research projects are untouched.’
The intercom on the desk buzzed and she leaned over Spike to push the button, making Spike only too aware of the sweet smell of her perfume. ‘Yes?’ she said.
‘There’s a police officer here to see you Doctor Harding,’ the slight tinny voice of her secretary came back over the speaker.
‘Send him in,’ Barbara said and let go of the button and stood up as the office door opened and the police officer who had interviewed them earlier entered.
‘More questions, officer?’ she asked.
‘No Doctor, I just thought I’d keep you informed on our progress. We have found the suspects car. She had abandoned it in a back street approximately two miles away. I’m sorry to say that we have found no sign of your missing formula.’
‘And the woman?’
‘She has disappeared. We think she stole a car from a dealership down the road. The owner was found dead, shot in the head at close range. Ballistics should let us know if it was the same gun used to kill Mr Johnson. We’re trying to ascertain the car she stole so that we can put out an APB on it, but as you can imagine that’s a difficult job with the owner dead and every minute she gets further away.’
‘I understand officer,’ Barbara said nodding. ‘I’m sure you’re doing all you can.’
‘Yes maam, we’ve also called in the FBI as this looks like a case of industrial espionage, which is more their area than ours. We’ve passed on the description of the young woman; hopefully they’ll turn something up.’
‘Will they need to talk to us?’ Barbara asked.
‘At some point, but if it would make things easier I can arrange for them to see you at home. I imagine you’re both pretty shook up and you should get some rest.’
‘Thank you officer, I think you might be right.’
‘I’ll see to it for you Doctor. Thanks for your time,’ he said and turned to leave.
After he had gone Barbara turn to Spike and said, ‘He’s right, it’s time we both went home it’s been a very stressful few hours.’
‘Are you sure Barbara,’ Spike said. ‘I’m really feeling okay and Carly has classes all day and won’t be here to pick me up until later.’
Barbara leaned over and rested her hand gently on Spike’s. ‘Spike I am ordering you to go home, you’ve earned a rest. Come on. I’ll drive you back.’
Spike looked up at her and she smiled and he was aware of her hand on his, it was so soft and smooth and just for a moment he wished she would never take it away, but then Carly’s face came into his head and forced himself to think clearly. ‘Thanks Barbara, I suppose I could do with a little lie down.’ Barbara smiled.
* * * * *
Doubledealer was stood as though he had never moved, Miahru saw as she pulled the car off the highway for the second time that day. She wondered idly if he had or whether these transformers could just deactivate themselves while they waited. She pushed the thought aside; it didn’t really matter after all.
She got out of the car and walked towards him, and as she got near he knelt down to move closer to her, ‘Well? Did you succeed?’ he asked in a tone that suggested that he already knew the answer.
‘Job done,’ Miharu said, reaching into her pocket and drawing out the printout containing the formula. She held it up to him. Doubledealer smiled at the sight and reached over to pluck the paper from her hands with the tip of his finger and thumb.
‘Well done,’ he said, placing the papers inside the chest compartment he had used earlier to store the briefcase. ‘As ever you justify my confidence in you.’
‘Thank you,’ Miharu said. ‘Now do you wish me to do anything else?’
‘Not for now,’ Doubledealer said. ‘But I know how to find you.’
Miharu nodded, ‘A pleasure to do business with you,’ she said. ‘See you around. Oh and enjoy your formula.’ Then she turned and got back into the car and with a screech of tyres drove off back to the highway.
‘Oh I will,’ Doubledealer said with a grin. He looked after the departing car and considered whether he should leave her alive or not. Why not he thought? She had proved useful and who knows she may prove useful again in the future. There was no point in destroying a good resource. So he let the car go and once it was out of sight he transformed to his falcon mode and rose high into the air, banking to head south-west.
* * * * *
Miharu headed back towards the city. She briefly wondered what the transformer had wanted with the formula. But then did she really care? No, was the answer. The only thing she cared about was the cash sitting in her bank account.
There was a lot she had to do now. She needed to get a new car of her own and then get out of the country. The police would be looking for her and the FBI too probably. She needed to lie low for a while. Still that wasn’t too bad, she’d earned a rest she decided.
* * * * *
Barbara pulled up outside house Spike shared with his father. ‘Here we are,’ she said.
‘Thanks Barbara, it was nice of you to give me a lift back,’ Spike said.
‘It’s the least I could do,’ Barbara said. ‘You did save my life after all.’
‘It was nothing,’ Spike said. ‘Anybody else would have done the same.’
‘You underestimate your own bravery,’ Barbara said smiling and then she continued, ‘I want you to take the rest of the week off, you’ve certainly earned it. I will be taking it off as well.’
‘Are you sure?’ Spike asked.
‘Quite sure.’ She seemed to hesitate a moment and then she pulled a slip of paper from her pocket and handed it to him. Then she gently rested her hand on Spike’s leg. ‘This is my home address. I will be there all day tomorrow, if you would like to call round I can show you just how grateful I am to you.’ She squeezed Spike’s leg gently.
Spike didn’t know what to say, ‘Erm…err,’ was all he could manage.
‘I know you and Carly are together at the moment,’ Barbara continued, ‘but she doesn’t have to know.’ She squeezed his leg again and then moved her hand slowly up it, her fingers brushing his inner thigh. ‘I will be in all day,’ she repeated, ‘if you don’t come I will understand.’ She removed her hand and nodded towards the house. ‘Go on, get some rest. I will see you soon…maybe.’
Spike found that his throat was dry and he couldn’t speak, he opened the car door and got out. Barbara drove off as soon as he closed the door and he stood staring after her, his heart thumping.
‘Spike?’ his father called to him as he came out of the workshop, ‘Is everything okay? You’re home early!’
‘Yeah dad, everything’s okay,’ Spike said. ‘There’s just been an incident at work, so Barb…Doctor Harding, drove me home.’
Sparkplug looked quizzically at Spike, ‘What sort of incident?’ he asked.
Spike glanced after Barbara’s car that could still be seen in the distance, and then he slipped the slip of paper she had given him into his pocket. Turning back to Sparkplug he began to tell his father what had happened.
Chapter Six – The Chosen Ones
It was getting dark as Skyfire came in sight of the Ark. He transformed back to robot mode and transmitted the transponder code to the automated defence systems that had been installed after the last Decepticon attack. The hidden guns surrounding the Ark powered down, and the door over the entrance slid open allowing Skyfire to enter the crashed Autobot spaceship.
He entered the main control room to find Optimus Prime waiting with Prowl, Wheeljack and the four Dinobots. ‘Skyfire, did you have any trouble on the trip back,’ Prime asked.
‘No Prime, everything was fine, not a single Renegade or Decepticon to be seen,’ Skyfire replied.
‘Good,’ Prime said. ‘From what Perceptor has told me that last thing we need is their interference.’ Prime turned to Prowl and said, ‘We should get going, you are in command until I get back.’
‘Okay Prime, hopefully nothing will happen while you’re gone. The Decepticons still seem to be licking their wounds from the Matrix incident.’
‘Perhaps,’ Prime replied, ‘but it’s only a matter of time before Megatron gets up to some new villainy.’
‘We’ll be ready for him if he does,’ Prowl said.
Prime nodded and turned back to Skyfire. ‘We’re all set,’ he said.
* * * * *
At about the same time, Doubledealer was landing back the Renegade headquarters. It was just past midday in Australia and the tourists were out in force around Eyre’s Rock. Doubledealer was forced to hover high overhead, using his powerful vision to choose the right moment to drop to the top of the huge landmark, unseen.
Once he had landed he entered the base through the hidden entrance and descended into the centre of the rock. Inside he went and sought out Sixhsot in the command centre.
Sixshot looked up as he entered. ‘Doubledealer! Did you succeed?’ he asked, echoing Doubledealer’s question to Miharu from a few hours earlier.
‘I have it,’ Doubledealer said with a grin.
* * * * *
‘The doors leading to the chamber are being guarded by a dozen Decepticon Seekers,’ Arcee reported when she returned to the battle group.
‘Seeker’s shouldn’t prove too difficult to beat,’ Elita-1 said confidently. They were hidden inside a set of ruined buildings a few miles from the entrance to the chamber. She produced a small cylinder and pressed a button on the side, causing a three-dimensional map to appear centred on their location. She ran her thumb along a sensor on the cylinder and the map zoomed out to show them the wider area.
‘We could hit them in a pincer movement,’ Ultra Magnus suggested tracing two routes on the map that would allow both groups to remain hidden for most of the journey.
‘It will take too long that way,’ Oracle objected. ‘Vector Sigma needs our help now.’
Ultra Magnus said sternly. ‘We don’t want to lose anybody’s life for the sake of a few Breems. Vector Sigma will just have to look after itself for a bit longer.’
‘I think Ultra Magnus is right,’ Nightstar said. ‘After all we have no idea how many Decepticons are in the chamber itself. We can’t afford to lose too many in an all out battle just getting inside.’
‘I agree,’ Elita said. ‘I will take half our force this way,’ she traced one of the routes Ultra Magnus had pointed out, ‘and Ultra Magnus will you lead the second team?’
Ultra Magnus nodded.
* * * * *
It took Mindwipe only moments to scan through the various documents that Miharu had provided Doubledealer regarding the molecular bonded shell. He looked up and said, ‘This is perfect. The formula is relatively simple to synthesise and apply. It can be done as a simple spray. If I start now, I could have the job completed by the end of the day.
‘Do it,’ Sixshot said. ‘In a few Earth hours we will attack the Decepticons and we will finally have our revenge upon Megatron.’
Omnis Validus stood a few feet off to one side and remained silent, but thought to himself, ‘Yes and I will strike the killing blow and then Sixshot I will be coming after you.’
* * * * *
It had taken just under three breems for Ultra Magnus to lead his team to where he could see the entrance to the Vector Sigma chamber. So far the team led by Elita-1 didn’t seem to have reached their staging ground yet. They had arranged to send a highly focussed radio signal towards where the other team were stationed upon arrival. On receiving the signal they would send a reply back in the same way. This reduced the possibility of detection by the Decepticons that Ultra Magnus could now see gathered around the entrance to the chamber. He had sent his radio signal but so far had received no reply.
‘Anything?’ Nightstar asked coming up behind him.
‘Not yet, but I think they had the slightly longer route,’ Ultra Magnus replied.
‘I’m sure Oracle will be enjoying the walk,’ Nightstar said with a grin.
Ultra Magnus smiled back. ‘Thanks for backing me up earlier,’ he said.
Nightstar look coy, ‘Well you are better looking than Oracle,’ she said before continuing more seriously. ‘Besides I don’t trust her. There’s just something about her that seems…wrong somehow.’
Ultra Magnus nodded, ‘I agree. I don’t like any of this. It seems like we’re being used.’
‘I will be keeping a close eye on our friend Oracle when we go in,’ Nightstar said grimly, ‘and at the first sign of treachery…’ she left the sentence unfinished but mimed the firing of a gun.
Ultra Magnus nodded again but he hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
* * * * *
Elita-1 activated her telescopic visor and scanned the area ahead of her. She thought she could just make out the shape of Ultra Magnus and what looked like Nightstar talking, almost totally obscured by fallen debris. So it looked like their team had made it okay.
She moved her head to the left and focused on the entrance to the Vector Sigma chamber. As Arcee had said there was a dozen Decepticon Seekers stationed there. Most were of the original Seeker design, though some were the second generation of Seekers that had become known disparagingly, even in the Decepticon ranks, as coneheads.
The coneheads were by far the most dangerous, as they had greater firepower and armour. They also seemed to be the most alert members of the group. They would have to be taken down first.
She turned her attention back towards where Ultra Magnus was positioned. She sent the radio signal and saw him turn and look towards her as he received it. Good. It was time to get things moving.
* * * * *
‘Elita is in position,’ Ultra Magnus said to Nightstar.
‘Right,’ she said. ‘I’ll go and get everybody ready to move out.’ She moved off slowly keeping low to the ground, back towards where the rest of the group sat quietly waiting for orders.
Ultra Magnus sent the radio pulse reply back to Elita-1 so that she knew that he had received her signal and then turned his attention towards the Seekers guarding the entrance. He had come to the same conclusion as Elita-1 and had decided that the coneheads needed to be the first to go.
‘We’re all set to go whenever you’re ready,’ Nightstar said coming up behind him again.
He nodded, ‘Very well. There are five conehead Seekers there. When we move I want to take them down first. I want you to assign targets to the group. Once the coneheads are down, let everyone choose their targets.’
She nodded and looking over to where the Seekers were stood. She made a mental note of the targets and their colour schemes and then without a word she moved back to the battle group and began to issue orders.
* * * * *
Elita-1 had issued similar orders of her own, but suspecting that Ultra Magnus would come to the same conclusion as she had done, she also assigned some of her group to focus on the Gen One Seekers.
‘Is everyone ready?’ she asked Arcee, who nodded. Okay, this was it. She turned back towards Ultra Magnus and transmitted a second radio signal. This they had agreed would be the signal that they were ready to attack. When Ultra Magnus sent a return signal the attack would begin.
* * * * *
Ultra Magnus detected Elita-1’s signal and after checking to make sure that his team were ready to go sent the return signal. It was time to attack.
* * * * *
Stormraider looked at his fellow Seeker’s with barely concealed anger. This isn’t what he should be doing. Guard duty! He was so much better than this. He had greater strength and certainly more intelligence than the others stood outside this door. He was destined for greater things.
He thought about his brother Turbulence who had managed to rise through the ranks to become an aide to Devil Spawn himself and Shockwave before that. It was not that he wanted to be doing what Turbulence did; if anything that was worse than guard duty. He was nothing more than a lackey at the beck and call of whatever leader was sitting in the command chair at the time. But at least Turbulence had broken away from the fate of other Seekers which was to be simply cannon fodder. They all knew that was how the other Decepticons saw them; expendable. Well Stormraider would not accept that. He had plans, ambitions of his own and they didn’t involve guarding a door while all the important stuff was carried out by the ‘elite’.
He intended to be the first Seeker to sit in the command chair. Then he would show the Decepticons what he was made of. He could think of a few that would suffer greatly when he took power. It was just a matter of time, just a case of waiting for the right opportunity.
He looked again at the other Seekers guarding the Vector Sigma chamber. Not a speck of real intelligence amongst them he decided. Is it any wonder that the Seekers were looked on as expendable with these idiots as examples of the breed?
He turned away from them in disgust. When he was leader he would bring the Seekers some dignity and any that didn’t measure up would be terminated. He would… He never finished the thought however because at that moment his head exploded under a dozen blaster shots.
As his lifeless body fell to the ground, the other Seekers also came under attack as the Autobots rushed from their hiding place and bore down on them from both sides.
Caught unawares seven of the twelve Seekers fell under the onslaught before they even knew it was happening. The others, vastly outnumbered, were able to fire off a few shots before they too fell to the attackers.
It was over far more quickly that Ultra Magnus could have hoped for as he saw the last of the Seekers fall dead to the ground. He whirled around holding his weapon high, looking for any reinforcements that might have been hidden nearby, but none came. The Decepticons were getting overconfident he decided. Devil Spawn must have decided that there were few, if any, Autobots left and was not taking his security seriously. Well that was a mistake that would cost him his new found prize.
‘Area secure,’ he heard Arcee say. He looked round and saw Elita-1 coming towards him.
‘Well done,’ she said. ‘That went better than I expected.’
‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘but now comes the hard part.’ He gestured towards the door to the chamber.
Elita turned towards it and said, ‘We’ve come this far, let’s finish this.’
They approached the door and Ultra Magnus gestured to a sensor panel that had been placed next to the door, ‘Looks like the door’s locked.’
‘We’ll have to bypass it,’ Elita said.
‘Allow me,’ Oracle said stepping past Elita. She turned her face towards the door and to the shock of the others emitted two beams of energy from her optics. The beams hit the door squarely in the centre. The door shattered with a noise like thunder and smoke and dust rained down around them.
Ultra Magnus grabbed Oracle and shook her, ‘You fool,’ he shouted. That could have alerted every Decepticon in the area.’
Oracle looked up at him and said calmly, ‘The Decepticons have heard nothing. The chamber is too far underground. They are going about their business even now.’
‘How do you know that,’ Ultra Magnus growled.
‘I hear the voice of Vector Sigma in my head,’ Oracle replied. ‘We must hurry. Vector Sigma needs us.’ With that she pulled out of Ultra Magnus’ grip and turned back towards the door.
Ultra Magnus looked at Elita, ‘There may be Decepticons in the passage between us and the chamber. Even if the Decepticons in the chamber haven’t heard anything, others might have.’
Elita nodded and said, ‘Yes,’ then turning she continued, ‘Arcee, take two with you and scout out the passage.’
‘Yes Elita,’ Arcee said and gesturing to two other Autobots they disappeared inside the dark tunnel.
Elita turned her gaze towards Oracle, ‘In future Oracle, you will await orders before acting,’ she said icily. ‘Vector Sigma may be in your head, but I am your commander and I give the orders not him. Do I make myself clear?’
Oracle turned to face her and said, ‘Perfectly…commander.’ She then turned back to face the tunnel.
Elita and Ultra Magnus looked at each other both thinking the same thing. Then Elita said, ‘We should go,’
Ultra Magnus nodded and with Elita and the others following behind he walked in through the hole in the door that Oracle had made.
Oracle herself stood motionless until everyone had passed apparently not registering their movement. She received a few strange glances but nobody stopped. If they had they would have noticed that Oracle’s optics were currently a swirling mass of golden light. Abruptly the light dimmed and her optics became a steady blue. Apparently realising that everyone had gone she moved off into the tunnel after them.
* * * * *
They had been walking for several cycles when they heard the sound of feet coming from further down the tunnel. At a sign from Elita everyone spread out and raised their weapons. They were relieved when the figure of Arcee and her scouting party emerged from the darkness.
‘Everyone stand down,’ Elita said moving out of cover towards Arcee. ‘Well?’ she asked her.
‘The tunnel is clear all the way down to the Vector Sigma chamber,’ Arcee said. ‘They’ve built a fortified door over the entrance itself and we can hear noise from inside but it doesn’t look as though there are any more guards. Perhaps they’ve become over confident.’
‘If so then I think it’s time we changed that,’ Elita said brandishing her weapon and leading the way down the passage.
* * * * *
Devil Spawn stood in the Vector Sigma chamber and looked on as his Decepticons worked to fortify the chamber. A large metal door had now been built across the entrance to the chamber. Vector Sigma hovered silently over its dais in the middle of the chamber, darkened and showing no sign of being active. The inhibiter disc that he had given Overdrive was still in place.
Devil Spawn glanced across at Overdrive who stood motionless at the far side of the chamber. He seemed to be lost in thoughts of his own and had said very little in the cycles since Devil Spawn and the battle group had arrived in the chamber.
Devil Spawn made his way across the chamber to where Overdrive was standing. ‘You seem deep in thought,’ Devil Spawn said, ‘or are you just reliving the glorious victory that you have brought to the Decepticons?’
Overdrive looked up at Devil Spawn and after a short pause his mouth split into a grin and he said, ‘Actually I was thinking just how much I was enjoying this. When I first came to you my motive was revenge against the Autobots, but now it is much more than that. I am actually enjoying being a Decepticon. It’s almost as though I have been one my whole life.’
Devil Spawn, not for the first time found himself intrigued by Overdrive. In his experience Autobot defectors rarely lasted very long. Usually they found that being a Decepticon wasn’t what they had imagined and ended up regretting their decisions. Many of them tried to change sides again only to find themselves either an outcast from both sides or else hunted down and killed by the Decepticons for desertion. Some even deactivated themselves, unable to live with what they had done.
Devil Spawn had fully expected to have to kill Overdrive before long and was pleasantly surprised that he seemed to be taking to his new life so readily. He still needed to be watched of course; after all, so far he had not found himself in battle with the Autobots yet. True there were now very few Autobots still alive on Cybertron but Devil Spawn was sure that sooner or later they would come up against some and that would be when Overdrive’s loyalty would really be tested.
* * * * *
‘There’s the door,’ Arcee said as the approached the end of the passageway.
Elita and Ultra Magnus went forward and examined the door. Ultra Magnus ran his had across its surface and said, ‘From the feel of it I would say this is made of Strondellium,’ he said, ‘this could take some getting through.’
Strondellium, Elita knew was one of the toughest metal alloys developed on Cybertron. It was mainly used to reinforce the hulls of starships. Its main weakness was its high density, made it strong but also incredibly heavy, limiting its potential applications. ‘Well there goes the element of surprise,’ Elita said.
As they stood there Oracle pushed her way through the ranks of Autobots to stand before them, ‘Commander,’ she said with a hint of sarcasm in her voice. ‘With your permission I can get us through these doors as I did before.’
‘This is Strondellium,’ Elita said. ‘Are you sure you have the power to blast through that?’
‘Vector Sigma has anticipated this moment and has granted me more than enough power to break through this door,’ she replied coolly. ‘He informs me that all is going as he foresaw.’
Ultra Magnus and Elita shared another look. Neither of them liked the way Vector Sigma appeared to be managing the attack through Oracle. Just whose side was she on?
‘Okay,’ Elita said. ‘And does your special insight also allow you to tell us how many Decepticons we have to face on the other side of this door and where they are?’
‘I will attempt to ascertain,’ Oracle said and her expression became blank and she became motionless as though turned to stone. After a moment she seemed to come back to life again and said, ‘There are a total of twenty Decepticons, mostly in the vicinity of the door, although some are positioned near Vector Sigma.’
‘Only twenty?’ Ultra Magnus asked. ‘Then we outnumber them.’ He turned to Elita as said, ‘This is too easy. We must be missing something.’
Before Elita could answer Oracle said, ‘Negative. Vector Sigma is aware of every Decepticon in the area. The Decepticons are confident that the Autobot threat has been eliminated and have downsized their battle groups accordingly.’
‘If it is some sort of trap,’ Elita said, pointedly ignoring Oracle, ‘then we are going to have to walk in and risk it or else go back. There is no way to know for certain what is waiting behind this door.’
Ultra Magnus glared at Oracle. He was sure she knew more than she was telling, but Elita was right, they had no way of finding out for sure. So they had to go on. ‘Let’s get this over with,’ he said.
Elita nodded, ‘Okay get ready everyone. Once the door is down, choose your targets carefully and watch your fire, we don’t want to damage Vector Sigma.’ She turned to Oracle and said, ‘Do it.’
* * * * *
Devil Spawn turned back towards the door in shock, as totally without warning it exploded inwards showering debris and dust into the chamber. Several of the Decepticons still working around the door were flung backwards.
Even as the Decepticons recovered they found themselves under a barrage of laser fire as a stream of Autobots charged through the now open door. Devil Spawn couldn’t believe his optics. This couldn’t be! The Autobots were dead. As he watched several of his troops fell under the rain of blaster fire, flames and smoke billowing from them making it even harder to see what was happening in the chamber.
Then Devil Spawn saw that one of the attackers was the Autobot resistance leader Ultra Magnus. With a roar of range Devil Spawn transformed into his double-headed dragon mode and with a flap of his wings soared across the chamber towards Ultra Magnus.
* * * * *
Ultra Magnus heard the roar and turned just in time to see Devil Spawn transform. He didn’t have time to wonder at how the Decepticon leader came to be here, he reacted on instinct and raised his weapon towards his attacker and fired. The shot was rushed and his aim was off, the blast hit Devil Spawn in one of his outstretched wings, causing the pair of dragon head to give a screech of pain.
He didn’t get the chance to have a second shot as Devil Spawn landed heavily on top of him, knocking him to the floor and causing him to lose his grip on his gun, which went skittering away across the chamber.
Devil Spawn’s dragon heads roared in triumph and struck downwards at Ultra Magnus’ prone form.
* * * * *
When the door shattered Downshift was one of the first through. He had been thirsting for a chance to strike back at the Decepticons ever since the destruction of Autobase and the deaths of his fellow Autobots.
A Decepticon Seeker turned towards him as he entered, his arm mounted weapons coming up to target him. Downshift dropped forward, rolling across the floor, feeling rather than seeing the Seeker’s energy blasts fly over head. He came out of his roll into a kneeling position and brought his twin laser cannons to bear on his target and fired. He was gratified to see the Seeker’s chest explode in flames as he fell backwards to the floor.
He didn’t dwell on his victory however, he leapt upwards out of his kneel, running forwards into chamber scanning for his next target. Then he saw a sight that chilled him to his lasercore. Through the dust, smoke and laserfire his optics caught sight of a red figure at the far side of the chamber. Downshift would recognise him anywhere, Overdrive, his fellow Omnibot and the traitor who was responsible for the Decepticon attack on the Autobot resistance. Downshift forgot about everyone else in the chamber. His one thought now was to bring down Overdrive. Without any further thought he began to run towards him.
* * * * *
Overdrive was enjoying himself, he didn’t know where all these female Autobots had come from and he didn’t care. For him they were just fresh targets. He changed his position so that his back was to the chamber wall and then being sure to keep moving to avoid becoming an easy target he moved around the chamber firing at the attackers.
The slender form of a female Autobot emerged out of the smoke towards him bringing her gun around towards him. Without thinking he fired his own weapon and her face exploded. He didn’t even stop to watch her lifeless body fall. He moved on laughing hysterically.
* * * * *
Ultra Magnus brought his hands up and caught Devil Spawn’s heads just as they were about to close their jaws on his throat. He grunted under the strain as Devil Spawn attempted to push his heads downwards, the jaws snapping.
‘You won’t survive this time, Ultra Magnus,’ Devil Spawn growled, his voice given a strange echo as it came out of the mouths of both heads. ‘This time you die.’
* * * * *
Downshift saw the female, Jadesprite, he thought she’d been called, fall under Overdrive’s attack and he also saw the look of malevolent joy on his face as he did so. With a guttural growl Downshift increased his pace and leapt through the air and hit Overdrive at waist level, pushing him backwards to hit the chamber wall with a clang of metal on metal.
* * * * *
The shock of the impact caused Overdrive to lose his footing and fall to the chamber floor, with his attacker still grasping his waist. He looked down and saw Downshift glaring back at him, his optics burning brightly.
‘Now traitor, you will pay for what you did,’ Downshift shouted.
Overdrive rolled sideways attempting to break Downshift’s grip on his waist, but the Autobot held on tightly. The momentum carried the two of them in a roll across the chamber floor. Seeing that his attempt to free himself wasn’t working Overdrive started pulling at Downshift’s fingers trying to loosen them, but again his former team mate held firm.
In desperation Overdrive looked around for his gun which he had dropped in Downshift’s initial attack. He saw it, but it was out of reach. He began to panic; the game had stopped being fun.
* * * * *
Downshift could think of nothing other than avenging the dead Autobots that Overdrive had betrayed. As Overdrive struggled to free himself from the grip that Downshift had around his waist, Downshift attempted to gain a foothold on the floor that would allow him to get back to his feet, but the floor was smooth and he could find no purchase.
Overdrive’s struggles intensified, Downshift knew he wouldn’t be able to hold him much longer. He had to do something. With a cry of mingled anger and pain, Downshift, forced his legs to bend at the knees managing to bring himself up into a kneeling position; Overdrive still struggling in his grasp. The servos in Downshift’s knees screeched and complained painfully at the manoeuvre. Downshift felt one of the servos shatter under the strain and he cried out in pain and fell backwards, Overdrive falling heavily on top of him.
* * * * *
Overdrive felt Dowshift’s grip slacken and using the momentum of the fall he pulled out of his grip and rolled across the floor of the chamber. He hurriedly got back to his feet and looked to see that Downshift was still on the floor. Taking his chance Overdrive ran towards where his gun lay a few feet away.
He grabbed it and turned back towards Downshift. His opponent he saw had transformed to his vehicle mode. Overdrive realised what he was planning to do and dived across the floor, but it was too late.
* * * * *
Downshift fired the energon net that he used in vehicle mode to capture fleeing opponents alive. The net shorted out its victim’s circuits causing them to lose mobility. As Downshift watched he saw the net, glowing with the pinkish-white hue of energon fly across the chamber at Overdrive, who attempted to dodge the attack but failed.
The net hit Overdrive and seemed to wrap itself around him. The light of the energon net was then joined by the blue-white arcing light of electricity as Overdrive’s circuits overloaded. He crashed to the floor and lay still.
Downshift transformed back to robot mode, his injured leg protesting at every stage. Unable to bend his leg at the knee, he hobbled over to where Overdrive lay, arcs of electricity still surrounding his body.
‘This is for all the Autobots who have died because of you,’ Downshift said bringing his laser guns to bear on his former commanding officer’s prone body.
* * * * *
Ultra Magnus knew he wouldn’t be able to hold on much longer, his arms were beginning to buckle under the pressure of Devil Spawn’s attack. The teeth of one of his heads were almost touching his throat.
Then suddenly the pressure was released as Devil Spawn’s head rose upwards issuing a scream of pain as they did so. Ultra Magnus was baffled. What had happened? A laser blast hit Devil Spawn on his side leaving a smoking hole. He saw that there was a second hole, still smoking next to the new one.
He turned to see Nightstar, blaster raised bearing down on Devil Spawn, who realising his danger, had backed away and transformed back to his robot mode.
Ultra Magnus rose to his feet and moved over to where Nightstar stood. ‘Thanks,’ he said.
‘No problem. Now let’s finish this filth off.’
‘Sounds good to me,’ Ultra Magnus replied with a grin. They turned and began to advance on Devil Spawn.
* * * * *
Oracle stood in the doorway to the chamber, watching the chaos unfold before her. Her optics abruptly changed from blue to gold and she knew that the time had almost come.
* * * * *
Everything had gone as Vector Sigma had foreseen. The major players, the chosen ones, in the unfolding drama had been brought together. It was time to complete stage one of the plan.
* * * * *
Without warning the chamber was illuminated by a strong golden light emanating from Vector Sigma. Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned to watch as the mega‑computer rose slowly into the air.
‘I am Vector Sigma,’ it intoned, ‘before Cybertron was, I was.’
Devil Spawn looked on in shock. How was this possible? The inhibitor disc was still lodged firmly on the side of Vector Sigma. How could it still be active?
‘The fabric of reality is being threatened,’ Vector Sigma continued. ‘The moment has been prepared for. A new species is required. You have all been selected to be the first of that species.’
A murmuring began in the chamber as everybody tried to digest this last statement.
Ultra Magnus didn’t like the way things were going. It sounded to him like Vector Sigma had manipulated them all again. He turned to look around the chamber until he saw Oracle stood in the doorway. Her eyes were shining the same golden hue as Vector Sigma. So he had been right. She had been using them, tricking them into coming to the Vector Sigma chamber so that the computer could do…what?
* * * * *
Oracle, under the influence of Vector Sigma tilted her head backwards so that she was gazing directly at the ceiling above the mega‑computer. Then she fired her optical beams at full power straight into the ceiling.
* * * * *
Ultra Magnus saw what she was intending to do a moment before she fired. ‘Nooooooo,’ he cried but it was too late. The beams hit the ceiling with a deafening explosion. Dust and debris rained down. Huge cracks rapidly ran across the ceiling from the centre of the impact. Chunks of the ceiling began to collapse downwards onto the occupants of the chamber.
Everybody tried to move at the same time, heading towards the doorway. But they had no chance, with a roar, the ceiling of the chamber totally collapsed. Oracle was the only one to escape, stood as she was in the doorway. The rumble of falling rubble echoed along the passageway but she stood there stoically.
Eventually the noise faded and as the dust settled Oracle saw that the chamber was now totally blocked. There was no sign of life. Her optics were still the golden hue of Vector Sigma. She heard the computer talking to her. Phase two was now complete. Now it was time to wait until phase three could commence. Oracle’s optics faded, becoming dark and she stood motionless.
Chapter Seven – Pleasurable Divergences
For the second time in twenty-four hours Skyfire touched down on the site of the destroyed nuclear reactor. The sun was just beginning its descent below the horizon as he rolled to a gentle halt, dropped his access ramp and allowed Optimus Prime, Wheeljack and the Dinobots to exit on to the dry hard ground. Once they had safely alighted Skyfire transformed back to his robot mode and followed them towards where the figure of Perceptor could be seen towering over a crowd of humans in the distance.
Perceptor, moving carefully to avoid stepping on the humans swarming around him came over to Optimus Prime.
‘Any change Perceptor?’ Prime asked.
‘No Prime, the rift has remained steady for the last twelve hours or so,’ Perceptor replied.
‘Okay,’ Prime said. ‘Let’s go and take a look at it.’
* * * * *
‘Renegades!’ Sixshot raised his voice so that those assembled before him would be able to hear. ‘Today we launch our final attack on the hated Megatron. Then we will then return to Cybertron victorious.’
A cheer went up from the Renegades including the forty-eight Seekers that Mindwipe had recently finished coating with the molecular bonded shell. Sixshot found it hard to believe that they weren’t truly sentient transformers. The cloning process had worked better than he could have hoped. Omnis Validus’ S.P.A.R.C. technology was certainly an amazing leap forward.
Sixshot turned to look at Omnis Validus who stood to one side and had not joined in with the cheering of the others. He would need to be watched, especially in the forthcoming battle. Sixshot was sure that Doubledealer was right and Omnis Validus was planning to betray them once they were of no further use to him. Well maybe he wouldn’t find that so easy.
He turned back to the Renegades. ‘To the air and to victory!’ he cried and turning he led the way towards the exits to the base. The Renegades followed in an orderly fashion, making their way out onto the top of Eyre’s Rock and transforming to their airborne modes and shooting up into the sky. Doubledealer and Omnis Validus brought up the rear.
‘You know I could just use the spacebridge to get there,’ Omnis Validus said.
Doubledealer looked at him and replied, ‘True, but you wouldn’t want the others to think that you’re not part of the team would you?’
Omnis Validus gave a smile that was almost a sneer, ‘Of course not,’ and he leapt into the air and flew up after the others.
‘Of course not,’ Doubledealer repeated and he transformed to his Decepticon falcon mode and with a flap of his wings followed the rapidly disappearing group of Renegades.
* * * * *
Spike had not slept well the previous night. He had had far too many thoughts swirling around in his head. Every time he had closed his eyes he had seen either Barbara’s or Carly’s face in his head.
Carly had been round the previous night, as soon as she had heard what had happened at the research facility. She had been very kind and was obviously concerned that he was okay but Spike had found her constant attention to be irritating rather than comforting. Then she had suggested that he come and sleep at her house. He knew she had been a little hurt when he had turned her down, saying that he wanted to be alone to get over the shock. This hadn’t really been true of course. He didn’t really feel any shock or anything else about the previous afternoon’s events, but he knew that he couldn’t spend the night with Carly, not when his head was full of thoughts of Barbara.
Was he being an idiot? Had he misinterpreted what Barbara had said to him? No he couldn’t have, she hadn’t exactly been subtle. But did he want to do anything about it? After all he was with Carly; had wanted to be with her ever since he met her. And yet…and yet he couldn’t get the thought of Barbara out of his head, the feel of her lips as she had kissed him, the touch of her hand on his leg. And, as she had said, Carly didn’t have to know.
He had gotten out of bed early and had a quick shower before pulling on his clothes and going for a walk. The sun had only just risen and there was a chill in the air. He pulled the slip of paper that Barbara had given him from his pocket. Her address was somewhere on the other side of town.
He stood staring down at the sheet of paper for a few minutes and then, his mind made up he leapt aboard the bus that had just pulled up at the bus stop that he had been making for all along. He bought a ticket and sat down on the nearest seat, his heart beating with a mixture of fear and excitement. The bus pulled away from the stop and he stared out of the window not really seeing anything as he was too lost in his thoughts.
* * * * *
Megatron strode through the Decepticon undersea base towards the repair bay. He was angry, he always seemed to be these days he realised. Ever since the failure of Operation: Sunburn things had gone from bad to worse. The number of Decepticons still active hadn’t been this low since they first arrived on Earth and they now had the Renegades to worry about, not just the Autobots. He realised that he would even have been glad to see Starscream at the moment and that thought made him angrier still.
He entered the repair bay to see Scrapper adjusting the settings on the CR chamber in which Thundercracker’s body lay. His optics were dimmed and his chest unit and part of his neck assembly had also been removed. On a nearby table lay the body of Skywarp. His chest assembly had also been removed and a number of internal components lay scattered across the table.
Scrapper turned as Megatron entered, ‘Well?’ Megatron asked, ‘Any progress?’
‘I am confident that Thundercracker will recover given time,’ Scrapper said. ‘His injuries looked worse than they actually are. As for Skywarp, I’m afraid that his cosmotron and several other vital components were either damaged or completely destroyed by Omnis Validus. Without being able to receive replacement parts from Cybertron, Skywarp’s lasercore will be extinguished in a matter of hours.’
Megatron hit his fist violently into the nearby wall leaving it dented and buckled. Another loss, Skywarp may not have been the most intelligent of warriors but he was loyal and that was a virtue that Megatron could never get enough of.
He stormed back out of the repair bay without another word. Omnis Validus, the Renegades and the Autobots would all pay for this. He and the Decepticons would rise again.
* * * * *
Spike alighted from the bus and coughed slightly from the dust thrown up as it drove off. Barbara lived in quite an upmarket area of town. Large detached houses with white picket fences dominated the street; it looked like it had been taken straight from the 1950’s.
Spike began to walk down the street looking for the number of Barbara’s house. It took him a few minutes to find it. It was a large two storey house, painted white, with ivy clinging to the wall. A number of, what looked like apple trees, dotted the large garden. A stone path wound through the garden to the pale blue front door.
Spike stood in front of the house for over five minutes, uncertain whether he wanted to go through with this. Finally he walked up the path to the front door and rang the bell. It was only a few seconds before the door opened to reveal Barbara standing in a dimly lit but well decorated hallway. Spike’s breath increased slightly at the sight of her and the outfit she was wearing. Without a word, she smiled and beckoned him inside. Without hesitation Spike did as she bid. As soon as he was inside she closed the door gently behind him and dropped the latch.
* * * * *
Wheeljack and Perceptor had spent the last few hours examining the rift, taking readings and talking in what to most of those nearby, humans and Autobots alike, sounded like a foreign language. The rift had remained stable since it had widened the previous day but Perceptor was convinced this wouldn’t last. He said as much to Optimus Prime, who stood nearby not interfering with their work.
‘It is my belief that this rift is not just some random dimensional anomaly,’ he said. ‘The science is very theoretical but basically it states that a breach in dimensional spacetime such as we seem to have here is bound at one end by an event or more likely a series of events. If we assume this to be true and further assume that it is our reality which caused the anomaly then it means that there has been a divergence between what should have occurred and what has occurred. The rift is an embodiment of the paradox that such a situation implies. Our reality has split and we are now heading to a future we were never meant to.
‘The other end of this rift may lead to the original reality, a different dimension altogether or maybe both. It will all depend upon the nature and cause of the original divergence. What all this means in real terms is that the longer the rift remains open the more we diverge from reality as it was meant to be. At each major turning point the rift will effectively be ripped wider and wider apart until it consumes the entire reality and it will happen exponentially. If we can’t come up with a solution then I believe that this entire reality could be consumed in a matter of days.’
Optimus Prime had listened to all of this in silence, interpreting Perceptor’s rather stilted speech pattern as he went along. He was used to Perceptor’s way of speaking and usually what he said sounded much more impressive that it would later prove to be. What worried him was that Wheeljack, a much more down to earth scientist, had stood there in silence nodding occasionally. If Wheeljack didn’t feel the need to simplify Perceptor’s description then that could only mean that it couldn’t be simplified.
‘Assuming that you’re correct,’ Prime said, ‘then what can we do about it?’
Wheeljack and Perceptor looked at each other before Wheeljack said, ‘We don’t know if there’s anything we can do Prime. It could be that the best we can do is watch as reality is torn apart.’
‘I won’t accept that,’ Prime said. ‘There must be something…’ He was interrupted by a crackling sound and they all turned to look at the rift. As the watched, what had been a thin tear widened into a large oval shape, large enough for Optimus Prime to walk into if he had wished. The centre of the rift was a rushing swirl of colour. The whole thing was slightly unnerving to watch because no matter what angle you looked at if from it always looked the same, as though it was moving with you.
‘Another divergence has occurred,’ said Perceptor gravely.
* * * * *
At about the same time, the Renegades were just starting to fly over the US coast. Doubledealer looked down and if his birdlike head had been capable of it he would have smiled. Things were so close now. The end was in sight.
* * * * *
‘Prowl!’ Bumblebee said over his shoulder. ‘Teletraan-I’s SkySpy has picked something up I think you ought to see.’
Prowl came over to Teletraan and looked up at the screen. A group of over fifty jets, mostly of the Seeker design, were crossing the continental United States, accompanied by a robot that Prowl recognised as Doubledealer in his falcon mode. There was also another robot that Prowl didn’t recognise but he didn’t need to. ‘Renegades,’ he said. ‘Are they coming here?’
Bumblebee tapped some buttons on Teletraan’s control console and consulted the readouts. ‘I don’t think so,’ he said. ‘According to Teletraan if they stay on their current heading they will reach Decepticon headquarters in just over twenty minutes.’
‘Where did they get reinforcements from?’ Cliffjumper asked coming up behind Prowl.
‘A good question,’ Prowl said. ‘We need to find out what’s going on. Bumblebee, Cliffjumper I want you to go to Decepticon headquarters and report on what happens.’
‘Alright! A mission,’ Cliffjumper said with relish.
‘Cliffjumper I just want you to watch,’ Prowl said sternly. ‘You are not to get involved under any circumstances. Is that understood?’
‘Don’t worry Prowl, we know what to do,’ Bumblebee said before Cliffjumper could respond. ‘Come on Cliffjumper, let’s get going.’ He transformed to his vehicle mode and zoomed out of the control room. Not wanting to be left behind Cliffjumper did the same.
Several Autobots had to jump aside as the pair tore down the main passageway towards the entrance to the Ark. As they approached the entrance, the new security system that Prowl had designed detected their transponder signals and the main door slid open. Outside the automated guns powered down and they passed out in safety and zoomed off across the desert. The doors then slid slowly shut behind them.
* * * * *
Spike lay in Barbara’s bed looking up at the ceiling. Barbara lay slumbering beside him. Spike closed his eyes, what had he done? If Carly ever found out…the thought hung in his mind and he shook his head slightly as though to clear it. He looked down at Barbara and remembered how she had felt and how she had made him feel. Despite himself he smiled at the thought and lay back on his own pillow. What was done was done; he would face the consequences later, but for now he decided he would just live for the moment. He closed his eyes and was soon asleep himself.
* * * * *
The anomaly flared again and grew slightly larger causing everyone to take hurried steps backwards. The scanning equipment surrounding the anomaly were caught by the expanding light and simply vanished like a balloon that had been burst, leaving behind nothing but a ghostly image of themselves, that slowly melted away, like paint running down a canvas. This seemed to feed the anomaly even more and it continued to grow until it was finally twice as tall as Optimus Prime.
Professor Hamilton looked up at Perceptor and cried out, ‘Do something!’
‘I don’t know what to do,’ Perceptor said simply.
* * * * *
The Renegades were assembled on the cliff overlooking the ocean where the Decepticon base lay submerged. Doubledealer was the last to land, transforming back to his Autobot mode as he did so.
Sixshot turned and addressed them. ‘Renegades, this is the moment we have been waiting for, today our revenge will be complete and we will be able to turn our attention to returning to Cybertron.’
Doubledealer turned to look out to sea as Sixshot continued to talk. He had heard this speech so many times now he had long since gotten bored of it. He switched his optics to infrared and sure enough several hundred yards off shore was a large heat source, obviously the Decepticon base. He smiled to himself, despite all the rhetoric Sixshot was right about one thing, today would be the end.
When he returned his attention to Sixshot he found he had finished speaking and was turning back towards the cliff. ‘Renegades attack!’ he cried and leapt off the cliff into the water. The other Renegades followed one after the other until only Omnis Validus and Doubledealer were left on the cliff top.
Omnis Validus turned to Doubledealer, ‘I thought Megatron was melodramatic, but I think your leader manages to outdo even him,’ he said and without waiting for Doubledealer to respond he leapt after the others.
‘Oh my leader is very melodramatic,’ he said aloud to the world in general. Then he transformed back to his Decepticon mode and with a flap of his wings rose into the air and flew out across the ocean.
* * * * *
Behind a group of bushes not far from the cliff, Bumblebee and Cliffjumper looked at each other and said together, ‘We need to call this in!’
* * * * *
On the ocean floor, the Renegades were making their way towards the Decepticon base, some were walking, slowly but steadily across the sand, while others were propelling themselves along through the water as though in a sedate form of flight.
Sixshot and Doubledealer had decided that a full frontal attack would probably be best, the element of surprise was on their side and it was better to hit them hard and fast. Sixhshot raised his twin concussion blasters as the shadowy shape of the Decepticon base appeared through the gloom. This was it.
* * * * *
‘Stay where you are,’ Prowl said over the communicator. ‘I will lead a team out to your location as soon as possible. We need to be on hand in case the battle needs to be contained away from nearby humans. For the moment continue to observe and report on things.’
The communicator clicked off and Bumblebee turned back to Cliffjumper who was gazing out to sea. ‘Anything happening yet?’ Bumblebee asked.
Cliffjumper pointed up into the sky, Bumblebee looked to see the birdlike form of Doubledealer hovering roughly over where the Decepticon base was located. ‘Now what do you suppose he’s up too?’ Cliffjumper asked.
‘Perhaps we should find out,’ Bumblebee said.
* * * * *
Doubledealer looked down with his infrared vision; the Decepticon base was immediately below him. He tilted his head to the left slightly and saw a number of smaller heat sources slowly heading towards the base. It was time to ring the doorbell. Deactivating his infrared vision he sent a short burst of x-ray radiation from his optics down towards the submerged base. Then he dived towards the water’s surface.
* * * * *
Soundwave was sat, as he so often was, in the base’s communications and security centre. A high pitched beep to his left accompanied by a flashing red light drew his attention. He looked over at the readings. The outer sensor net had been hit by a burst of x-rays. Was someone scanning the base?
He activated several switches on the control console to bring up the security camera images on his display. He quickly skimmed through the various images until he came to one that caused him to stop. The camera showed about fifty shadowy objects in the distance. They were large and humanoid and getting closer.
Soundwave adjusted the settings of the camera and zoomed in on the approaching objects. They were still too far off to be seen clearly but Soundwave caught sight of what could only be a weapon. Without further hesitation he hit the security alarm, causing a siren to blare out across the entire base. They were under attack.
Chapter Eight – Double Dealing
It took Megatron only a few moments before he entered the communications room to see what the cause of the alarm was. In that time the indistinct shapes on the monitor were starting to become clearer.
‘Sixshot and the Renegades!’ Megatron growled. ‘This time he has stuck his neck out too far. Now is our chance to crush these traitors.’
‘They appear to be accompanied by a number of unknown Seeker-style units,’ Soundwave replied in his monotonal voice.
‘It makes no difference,’ Megatron snapped back. ‘You stay here and monitor developments. I will lead the counterattack personally.’ With that he turned and left the room.
Shortly afterwards he heard Megatron ordering the other Decepticons out of the base to meet the Renegades. Soundwave sat still in his chair, staring dispassionately at the screens in front of him. Once again, like so many times over the last few months, Megatron was showing himself to be rash and ruled by anger. Soundwave continued to watch as the other Decepticons appeared on screen heading towards their attackers.
Soundwave felt uneasy, something wasn’t quite right here. The Renegades had had surprise on their side and yet someone had scanned the base with x-rays. Why? Had someone just made a mistake or…? Or was there something else going on? Soundwave got up and hastily left the room.
* * * * *
Doubledealer had again transformed to his Autobot mode as he hit the water, better to deal with the undersea currents and to give himself more dexterity. He allowed himself to sink slowly to the seabed coming down on the opposite side of the base to the Renegade attack.
He had been careful to avoid the security cameras but as he had anticipated they had now all been directed at the attackers. He began to walk the length of the base towards the rear of what had once been the downed space cruiser’s engine room.
* * * * *
‘Renegades prepare to fir…arrrrggghhhh,’ Sixshot was interrupted as he was hit in the chest by a high powered burst of energy. He fell backwards, slowed by the water resistance, bubbles rising from his chest.
‘Decepticons destroy the traitors!’ Megatron cried emerging from behind a nearby rock, his fusion cannon still raised, aimed at where Sixshot had fallen.
Much to the confusion of the Renegades they were coming under fire from the front and the sides as the Decepticons had spread out as they left the base and were now attacking in a pincer movement. Still more were even now making their way behind the Renegades ready to attack from the rear.
‘Show no mercy!’ Megatron cried, firing his fusion cannon again, this time hitting one of the new cloned Seekers. It was a tribute to the scientists that had developed the molecular bonded shell that the blast did little more than crack the surface of the Seeker’s body armour. Even so the force of the blast was enough to blow it off of its feet and send it swirling through the water.
‘This is almost too easy,’ Megatron cried to anyone who was listening.
Megatron turned and smiled, ‘Well, Omnis Validus! Are you back to make your failure complete? I might have known that you would end up with this bunch of traitors.
Omnis Validus raised his arms and two long swords slid out from behind his wrists. ‘I came back to finish you off Megatron. Now defend yourself.’ With that he lunged forward his swords aimed at Megatron’s chest.
* * * * *
Doubledealer came to the place he was looking for. Above him was the underside of what had once been the engine room of the Decepticon space cruiser. He opened his chest compartment and extracted a small device that looked like a small gun. He pointed it upwards at the metal panelling and pulled the trigger. A thin beam of light lanced out and began to cut a hole in the metal.
* * * * *
‘Fool!’ Megatron cried as Omnis Validus bore down on him. ‘You attack me with swords! Let me show you a real weapon.’ He brought his fusion cannon up towards his attacker and fired.
As quickly as the water allowed Omnis Validus brought his swords up and crossed them so that the blast hit them rather than him. To Megatron’s shock the blast ricocheted off of the blades and back towards him. He dodged sideways and the blast shot past, missing his head by a few feet and hit the rock formation that Megatron had hidden behind. With roar the rocks crumbled under the blast. Megatron cried out as the debris of the rock fall fell down and engulfed him.
Validus couldn’t see what had become of Megatron due to the swirling water that had become opaque with dust and sand. Keeping a look out for other attackers, he patiently waited for the dust to clear.
* * * * *
The chunk of metal fell loose and dropped heavily to the seabed. Doubledealer rose quickly up to the hole and climbed through it into the base. He looked round to see exactly where he was. He had not done badly at all; he was only few yards from the target. Trailing water behind him he headed down the corridor, his blaster at the ready.
* * * * *
No other Decepticon would have heard it, but Soundwave’s exceptionally sensitive audioreceptors had picked up the high frequency screech of the metal tearing away from the base. He had been patrolling the base, certain that the frontal attack had to be a diversion and it looked like he had been right. He hurried off in the direction of the noise.
* * * * *
Bumblebee had left Cliffjumper behind on guard and was now making a wide arc around the attacking Renegades. He had used his superior underwater abilities to move swiftly to roughly where he had seen Doubledealer enter the water He saw Megatron leading the Decepticons in a counterattack but he had remained unseen in the murky water. Once the battle began the swirling water had hidden him completely from the combatants’ sight.
By sheer good fortune he had come upon Doubledealer making his way around the base, and hanging well back to make sure that Doubledealer didn’t spot him, he watched as the Renegade carved an entrance into the Decepticon base and then disappeared inside. After a few moments Bumblebee moved cautiously forward towards the hole.
* * * * *
Sixshot got unsteadily to his feet to find utter confusion all around him. The water was swirling because of all the movement. Laser blasts zipped this way and that causing bubbles as the heat instantly evaporated the water.
Looking round he saw several bodies, gently buffeted by the movement of the water. Several of his clones had fallen and also he saw Snapdragon, a hole in his chest, sparks dancing and being extinguished by the water.
The Decepticons had not escaped unbloodied however. The bodies of Blast Off and Wildrider lay nearby. That also meant that Menasor and Bruticus were also out of the fight as well.
Things were not going according to plan. The Decepticons had obviously detected them and with the look of things had come out in force. Maybe he shouldn’t have listened to Doubledealer’s advice, it had been his suggestion to use the element of surprise to cause the Decepticons massive casualties early on and possibly even confine them to their base where their response was limited.
He looked round and saw through a swirl of dust and water the figure of Omnis Validus, his swords raised and ready. As the water cleared he also saw Megatron rising slowly to his feet. Megatron was the primary target, without him as their figurehead the other Decepticons would soon crumble. Gripping his concussion blasters tightly he made his way towards Megatron and Omnis Validus.
* * * * *
Megatron had managed to avoid the worst of the rock fall, being knocked sideways by the initial blast. He had gotten to his feet to discover that his fusion cannon had been jolted loose by the impact. He saw the barrel sticking out from under the pile of fallen rocks. His optics blazing red, Megatron looked at Omnis Validus who raised his swords threateningly.
‘No!’ Megatron cried. ‘I’ll crush you with my bare hands.’ Then he leapt at Omnis Validus, taking him by surprise. The two of them fell to the seabed causing the sand to explode upwards and once more envelop them in the swirling water.
* * * * *
Soundwave was gratified to see that he had traced the source of the noise successfully as he passed the hole in the floor. Seawater lapped around its edges and an obvious trail of water led down the corridor. Raising his weapon Soundwave followed the trail.
* * * * *
Doubledealer stood up straight and admired his handiwork. The reactor core throbbed with energy and status lights blinked on and off around the room. Everything was going according to plan Doubledealer decided. It was almost time for the final act.
He turned round so that he was facing the door and raising his blaster he said, ‘Do come in Soundwave. I’ve been expecting you. Oh and drop the gun on your way in.’
Outside the door, Soundwave was shocked to hear the Renegade addressing him. How could he have known? The noise from the reactor would have masked what little noise Soundwave had made. Well however he’d done it if the Renegade scum thought he was just going to walk in there and surrender to him he was wrong, dead wrong.
He gripped his blaster tighter and leapt into the doorway ready to fire. Before he could even take in the scene in the room his chest exploded from the impact of a powerful laser blast. Soundwave looked down at the smoking hole in his chest. How was this possible? There was no way the Renegade could have gotten a shot off in time to hit him like this. He would have had to fire before Soundwave had even entered the room.
‘That’s right, he would,’ Doubledealer said walking up to Soundwave. ‘You really should have just walked in here and surrendered to this “Renegade scum”. I knew you wouldn’t of course but I have to play the game by the rules…well mostly.’
Soundwave looked at the Renegade in shock for a moment and then slowly fell backwards to floor of the reactor room. His optics flared brightly for a moment and then dimmed. Doubledealer smirked down at him and then walked out of the room. It was almost time to end this farce.
* * * * *
The anomaly flared brightly, tendrils of energy now whipped around its surface and for the third time that day it grew larger. It was now almost sixty feet tall and twenty feet wide.
The humans and the Autobots had now retreated to a safe (for now) distance. Perceptor and Wheeljack looked at one another. Something else had happened.
* * * * *
Carly was worried. Spike had seemed so distant with her last night. It was as though he hadn’t wanted her to be there. It was possible that the incident at work had shaken him up but she didn’t think so. There was something he wasn’t telling her she was sure. She had to speak to him and get him to tell her what was troubling him. She started the car and headed towards Spike’s house.
* * * * *
Bumblebee had been just in time to see Soundwave disappearing down the corridor ahead of him. ‘A few astro-seconds sooner and I’d have had it,’ he thought to himself in relief. Knowing only too well Soundwave’s reputation for being able to detect the slightest sound, Bumblebee cautiously climbed up and into the base and made his way down the corridor.
He was too far away to see or hear exactly what happened but as he approached the end of the corridor he saw Soundwave leap through a doorway, his gun raised. He also heard a laser blast, and shortly after a loud metallic crash.
He hurriedly made his way down a nearby passageway and waited. After a few moments he saw Doubledealer walk past and out of sight. If he had had lungs then Bumblebee would have breathed a sigh of relief.
After a while he risked poking his head back out into the main passage. It was empty. He quickly made his way down to the room at the end of the corridor. He saw that he was in the reactor room and then he stopped dead as he saw the body of Soundwave on the floor, smoke still rising from his chest.
He looked round the room but could see nothing out of place, but then power cores were not his specialty. What had Doubledealer been doing in here? He had a bad feeling about it. There were usually only two reasons to play around with power cores, either to fix a problem or else… He didn’t finish the thought. It was time to get out of here. He turned and hurried back out of the room and down the corridor.
* * * * *
As Sixshot came near he saw Omnis Validus and Megatron locked in a vicious wrestling match on the ocean floor. It looked as though Megatron had the upper hand; Omnis Validus was pinned beneath him, struggling to get up. Sixhshot raised his guns.
Megatron had his back to Sixshot and so didn’t see the double concussion blast coming. The blasts hit him squarely in the back, sending him flying forwards off of Omnis Validus with a cry of mingled rage and pain. Sparks and bubbles erupted from his back as his armour plating buckled under the attack.
As Megatron was blasted through the water, Omnis Validus brought his left arm up and jabbed him in the chest with his sword. Megartron screamed in agony again, his momentum continued to carry him forward and the pressure abruptly broke the point of the sword clean off with a deafening crack. Omnis Validus got to his feet and raised his remaining sword in Sixshot’s direction, ‘Keep out of this Sixshot. Megatron is mine.’
‘I don’t think so,’ Sixshot replied turning his blasters towards Omnis Validus.
‘Don’t be a fool,’ Omnis Validus said. ‘You are hopelessly outmatched.’ Before Sixshot could reply a panel on Validus’ leg slid open revealing a rocket launcher that dropped into place. With a hiss and a shower of bubbles a rocket shot out straight towards Sixshot.
The Renegade leader leapt to one side, but too late, the rocket hit him in the right shoulder, the explosion ripping his arm clean off, shrapnel, body armour and leaking energon flew everywhere. Sixshot screamed in agony and collapsed to his knees.
Omnis Validus paid him no further attention and instead turned back towards Megatron who lay on his back in the sand, the point of Omnis Validus’ sword sticking out of his chest, which was now erupting sparks. His optics were a paler red than usual and much to Omnis Validus’ delight he thought he saw a flicker of fear cross his face.
‘It’s over Megatron’ he said raising his sword high and bringing it down towards Megatron’s head.
‘I don’t think so,’ said a voice, ‘at least not yet.’ Omnis Validus’ body froze, his sword inches from Megatron’s head. He screamed in rage but found this difficult as even his mouth had frozen. Then he saw Doubledealer coming through the water towards him from the direction of the Decepticon base. In his hand he held a small device that looked like a box with a single large red button on top.
Megatron turned his head to look at Doubledealer, ‘What is this?’ he asked, in a croaky voice, totally unlike his normal confident tones.
‘This,’ Doubledealer said, ‘is the culmination of millions of years of planning. This is the beginning of your destruction, the destruction of your species and even your reality. For I am a messenger of the apocalypse and a herald of your destruction. Soon you will all fall before the might of the Entity!’
Chapter Nine – The Puppet Master
In the void that exists between realities, the pale blue, smoke-like funnels that were the manifestation of each universe within the omniverse snaked through the nothingness. They wound and undulated through the void, some even wound themselves round others, but never did they intersect, for each universe is, and must be, complete and self contained. That was true of all the infinite universes that manifested themselves within the void, all that is except for one.
Following the progress of this universe to a point approximately fifteen billion years into its life would reveal a tear in the very fabric of the universal funnel. The blue smoke-like dimensional energies were leaking from this tear forming tendrils that wound their way through the void. Some of these had collided with other nearby universes, burying themselves deep within the fabric of these other realities. Others waved gently in the nothingness, as if blown by a gentle breeze, but there was no breeze in the void.
Yet others had coiled their way through the void and discovered that the void was not quite empty. There they had discovered a presence, not a physical object, for the void was unable to support such a thing, but something was there nonetheless. The tendrils had coiled and wrapped themselves around and through this presence and so the Entity had been born.
The Entity existed within the void, a malevolent consciousness that was both young and ancient beyond measure for time had no meaning here. Its connection to the tendrils of dimensional energy gave the Entity the ability to observe the reality. By manipulating the tendrils it could observe any point along the reality’s timeline within, as it was beginning to learn, certain limitations. It had also learnt that by manipulating the tendrils in a different fashion it could do more than observe the reality, it could interact with it.
The Entity was condemned to exist indefinitely, until such a time as the omniverse itself should cease to be. It burnt with a hatred of the Transformers and had decided that it would amuse itself by first playing with them and then ultimately destroying them.
As it had learned to use its powers it had interacted very little with the reality below, content for the moment to observe. Its observation had become focused however when it noticed the emergence of a being that did not seem to belong. Omnis Validus appeared to be an anomaly within the reality. The Entity had tried to trace his future but had found his vision blocked almost as if the future had not been finalised. So it had watched events unfold.
If it had had a body it would have jumped when it observed Doubledealer’s pronouncement. The Entity had never formally named itself, and yet inherently had adopted the name as though it had always had it. How did Doubledealer know of its existence and what did he mean when he said that he was a herald and a messenger?
The Entity was confused and it frantically began tracing Doubledealer’s timeline back down through the reality. As it looked, the Entity saw how he had stolen the Lifespark and freed the captive Starscream, and then looking further back he saw his infiltration of the Autobots’ ranks on Cybertron. This much the Entity had already known but as it looked further back it began to see other events that caused it great astonishment. How had it missed all of this? The Entity looked further and further back through Doubledealer’s timeline and was amazed at what it saw and still the timeline went on. Finally it got back to the beginning, to the creation of Doubledealer and then if it had had a mouth the Entity would have laughed aloud, for now it finally understood.
* * * * *
‘Doubledealer? What are you talking about?’ Sixshot had mastered his pain and gotten to his feet, his free hand clasping the stump of his right arm trying to stem the flow of energon. ‘Have you gone mad?’
Doubledealer turned his head to look at Sixshot, his optics, normally a pale blue colour, now burned a violent red. ‘Mad? No, I only appear so because you, like the others here have been blind to the big picture, so bound up with your own petty squabbles that you have overlooked the momentous events taking place around you.’
Before Sixshot could muster a response to this statement, Doubledealer turned away from him to look back at the Decepticon headquarters and said in a loud voice, ‘Won’t you come out and join us as well? It’s rude to skulk in corners listening.’
There was a short pause and then Bumblebee came slowly into sight from behind the metal wall of the base where he had been standing watching.
‘That’s better,’ Doubledealer said. ‘And now that I have my full audience I am going to explain a few things to you all. I will show you just how totally insignificant you all really are.’
He turned back to Sixshot, ‘Did you really believe that I have been working for you all this time? You are but the latest in a long line of pawns, in a game that has lasted for millions of Earth years, stretching back almost to the dawn of Cybertron itself. Have you never questioned how it was that you came to be released from your cryogenic suspension? I was the one who tampered with the chamber’s programming, so that when the power failure occurred you would be able to trigger the failsafe system. And of course have you forgotten that it was me who helped you to set yourself up as “the Renegades” and stole the secrets of the Autobot technology. You are only here today because of me.’
Sixshot seemed too stunned by all of this to speak. Could it be true? Had Doubledealer been using him all along?
Now Doubledealer turned to face Omnis Validus, ‘Did you think that my rescue of you the other day was mere chance? I knew you were there, just as I knew that your protoform body contained a design flaw that would cause your body to freeze at the critical moment. A flaw that I have exploited, this device that can freeze you at any time.’ Here he brandished the small box that he carried.
‘Did you never ask yourself how the pathetic flesh creature Doctor Archeville could possibly have designed the protoform and the S.P.A.R.C. that resurrected you?’ he continued. ‘How he came to be able to transport the body of Shockwave to the old factory?
‘He had been abandoned by Starscream as a cripple; his destiny was to wander the Decepticon citadel until he died. It was I one who rescued him. It was I was who gave him a new and more mobile body, it was I who provided him with both the knowledge and the technology to develop the protoform and it was I who gave him the equipment necessary to move a body many times his own weight. So you could say that it was I that created you.’
‘You lie,’ Omnis Validus managed to say through his frozen mouth. ‘How could you have known that I would need rebuilding and arranged all this ahead of time?’
Doubledealer ignored the question and turned to Megatron and said, ‘And now Megatron, so predictable, so easily manipulated. Have you noticed how things have never gone right since the failure of your ridiculously named Operation Sunburn? That is my doing. I ensured that Starscream joined with the Renegades, enabling him to ferment unrest and force Sixshot into a hasty attack that nonetheless, saved them from Shockwave’s neutroplasma bomb. Without me the Renegades and Optimus Prime would never have been on Earth to join in the battle nor would Starscream have been able to try and use the spacebridge for himself, an act which led to its destruction.’
Megatron gave a croak of rage and seemed to be trying to stand ready to attack Doubledealer but the wounds that had been inflicted proved too much and he collapsed back to the seabed.
Doubledealer then turned round, his arms stretched wide like a ringmaster introducing his greatest act and said, ‘Know then that all of this has been done to ensure the creation and greater glory of the Entity. A being of such unlimited power that none may stand against him.’ He turned to face Bumblebee and said, ‘Though of course the Autobots can be relied upon to try. That at least is half the fun.’
The assembled Transformers gazed upon Doubledealer, none of them able to think of anything to say. Before they could think of anything he continued, ‘Now if you’ll excuse me Megatron and I have to be leaving.’ He threw the control unit that held Omnis Validus trapped to one side and transformed to his falcon mode.
As they watched he flapped his wings, causing the water to swirl violently. He moved forward, knocking the static body of Omnis Validus to the ground as he did so and grasped the still prone Megatron in his talons. With another flap of his wings he started to rise towards the surface carrying Megatron with him. Then he was out of sight.
Sixshot and Bumblebee looked at one another. ‘I need to speak to Optimus Prime,’ Sixshot said. ‘If what Doubledealer said is true then like it or not we’re allies now, against a common foe.’
Bumblebee nodded, that would be Prime’s decision, not his he was glad to say. Then he remembered what Doubledealer had been up to in the power room and said, ‘We need to get out of here and fast, I think he’s sabotaged the base’s power reactor. It could blow any second.’
‘What?’ Sixshot said, and Bumblebee was surprised to see how quickly he reacted despite his injuries. With a swirl of water he stepped forward and grabbed Bumblebee around the waist with his remaining arm and turned and then rose up off the ocean floor towards the surface.
‘Hey!’ Bumblebee cried out. ‘What’s the idea?’
‘If we’re to be allies then we have to start looking after each other,’ Sixshot replied. ‘Are there any more Autobots down here?’
‘No, just me,’ Bumblebee said.
‘Good, that makes life easier.’ He activated his comm. system and spoken again, ‘Attention all Renegades, this is Sixshot, disengage and withdraw to the surface at once. I repeat, disengage and withdraw.’ It seemed to Bumblebee that their rate of ascent began to increase, the water was becoming less dark and he could see the surface of the ocean overhead. They were almost out.
* * * * *
The body of Breakdown slid slowly to the ocean floor, the hole in his head emitting sparks and bubbles as he fell. Slugslinger swung his body around in a circle bringing his gun around in an arc looking for a new target.
It was at this moment that Sixshot’s order came across their encrypted communications channel. Slugslinger was bewildered. Why was he ordering a retreat? The Decepticons were being beaten back. The Renegades were going to win. There was no way he was going to retreat now. Keeping his weapon raised he continued moving forward towards the base.
* * * * *
The timing device that Doubledealer had attached to the power core had been gradually bringing the reactor up to critical power levels. Warning alarms had begun to sound across the entire base, but there was no one left inside to hear them.
Eventually the strain became too much and the power core ruptured. A violent wave of energy rocketed from the reactor and engulfed the reactor room. The explosion caused other equipment to detonate and within a fraction of a second a chain reaction was sweeping through the Decepticon headquarters. The body of Soundwave that was still lying on the floor of the reactor room vaporised in the ensuing fireball.
* * * * *
Cliffjumper was starting to get worried. Bumblebee had been gone a long time and there had been no word from him. Cliffjumper was even considering entering the water himself to go and look for him.
Before he had made up his mind however, in the distance he saw a cloud of dust rising into the air. Something was coming this way. He quickly hid himself behind the rocks again and focussed his attention on the dust cloud. He zoomed his optics to see what was coming. It looked like several vehicles but it was difficult to make them out through the dust.
After a few more moments he was relieved to see the police car shape of Prowl leading a battle group of Sideswipe, Huffer, Brawn and Ironhide. Cliffjumper came out from his hiding place and hailed them as they drew near the cliff edge. ‘Ironhide! I didn’t know you had recovered!’
Ironhide transformed and said, ‘Ratchet gave me the all clear a couple of hours ago.’
‘It’s great to see you Ironhide,’ Cliffjumper said. Ironhide had been badly damaged during the battle against the Decepticons in Australia and it had been uncertain whether he would survive.
‘Thanks Cliffjumper, it’s good to be back,’ Ironhide said.
Prowl had also transformed and he turned to Cliffjumper. ‘Where’s Bumblebee,’ was his first question.
Cliffjumper explained. ‘I told you to stay and observe and not get involved,’ Prowl said reproachfully. ‘We need to get him out. There’s no knowing how far the battle between the Decepticons and Renegades will spread. He might get caught in the crossfire.’
He turned to look out to sea. The water around the area of the Decepticon base was choppy from all the activity under the surface. Then as Prowl looked, something broke the surface and rose into the air several hundred yards from the shore. ‘What’s that?’ he asked.
They all turned to look and saw Doubledealer rising into the air with Megatron gripped in his talons. The Decepticon leader appeared to be struggling weakly to free himself but without success. Doubledealer banked sharply and began flying South down the coast.
‘What do you make of that?’ Sideswipe asked.
‘Well it looks like Megatron hasn’t come out of the battle too well,’ Brawn said.
Before anyone could say anything else however, a jet of water rocketed up from where the Decepticon base was located. At the same time a huge wave radiating outwards from the centre of the explosion. It was as though someone had dropped a giant boulder into the ocean.
‘What on Earth?’ Sideswipe asked.
‘Bumblebee!’ Prowl cried aloud.
* * * * *
The Decepticon base shattered apart, the shockwave blasting through the water knocking aside anything and anyone in its way. Omnis Validus, still lying frozen on the ocean floor, gave a scream of mingled fury and fear as huge slabs of metal from the base crashed down around him and slowly covered him from view.
* * * * *
The shockwave hit Sixshot and Bumblebee just as they were about to break the surface of the water. The blast sent Sixshot tumbling end over end, though he still managed to keep his grip on Bumblebee with his free arm.
‘It looks like you were right,’ Sixshot managed to say over the roar of the explosion and the swirl of rushing water.
‘This is one time I would have gladly been wrong,’ Bumblebee replied.
To his surprise, he heard Sixshot give a barking laugh. ‘One thing I’ve always liked about Autobots is their sense of humour,’ he said. ‘Now hold tight.’ With that Bumblebee felt Sixshot, straighten up and once again rise upwards. Then they were up in the air and Bumblebee saw the ocean surface, still badly disturbed by the explosion, disappearing below him.
* * * * *
Slugslinger sensed the explosion a fraction of a second before it actually happened. He and Bonecrusher were exchanging blaster fire, each one using nearby rocks for cover. When the explosion happened there was no time for either of them to react. The shockwave hit them a fraction of a second after the explosion.
Slugslinger was sent hurtling backwards, instantly losing sight of Bonecrusher as he did so. With a jarring impact he was smashed into a rock face, which in turn shattered under the blast. Slugslinger screamed as he was engulfed by debris.
He felt himself land on the ocean floor with rocks crashing around him. His last conscious thought was to register the massive boulder hurtling almost gracefully down on top of him.
* * * * *
‘What’s happening?’ Onslaught asked. ‘All the Decepticons were bemused to see their enemies suddenly turn and flee.
‘I don’t know,’ Mixmaster said, ‘but I don’t like it.’
Then the explosion hit them. The Decepticons were swept along like tumbleweed before a hurricane as the shockwave hit them. Many were buried beneath a combination of sand, rocks and rubble from the destroyed headquarters.
The shockwave passed on leaving the ocean floor strewn with debris. Bodies and rubble sent flying by the blast gradually sank back to the seabed leaving it eerily still and silent.
* * * * *
‘Look! There!’ Sideswipe shouted as he spotted Sixshot rising from the water. ‘Isn’t that Bumblebee?’
The Autobots all turned to look and saw the Renegade leader heading towards the shore carrying Bumblebee under his left arm. As they looked other figures broke the surface of the water and flew high into the air.
‘Weapons out everyone,’ Prowl ordered as Sixshot, apparently seeing them, banked towards them. There was a clattering noise as they brought their weapons to bear on the approaching Renegade leader.
As he landed before them Prowl stepped forward and said, ‘Release Bumblebee or we will open fire.’
To his surprise however Bumblebee wriggled free of Sixshot’s grip and moved in front of him his arms waving, ‘Don’t shoot,’ he cried. ‘He just saved my life.’
Shocked, Prowl lowered his weapon and gestured for the others to do the same. Then he said, ‘Bumblebee what on Earth is going on?’
‘We’ve no time for that,’ Bumblebee said. ‘We have to talk to Optimus Prime. There’s not a moment to loose.’
* * * * *
‘Its no use struggling Megatron,’ Doubledealer said as they flew out over the ocean. The Decepticon leader had been attempting to pry Doubledealer’s talons loose ever since they had left the water, but in his weakened condition, Megatron had for once found himself helpless.
‘Where are you taking me? You will pay dearly for this,’ Megatron croaked. ‘Once I’m free I will crush you with my bare hands.’
‘Where am I taking you? To my…master; you are about to meet the Entity.’
* * * * *
Optimus Prime was pacing up and down as Perceptor and Wheeljack scurried around the anomaly taking new measurements. They leapt backwards as the anomaly once again shuddered. As they watched it grew again, only slightly this time, but enough to be noticeable.
Prime was distracted by the chirp of his long range communication channel and raised his arm and activated a panel which flipped up to reveal a screen on which Prowl’s face could be seen. ‘Go ahead Prowl,’ he said.
‘Er, Prime, we have a bit of a situation up here,’ Prowl said. ‘I have someone who would like to speak with you.’
He disappeared from the screen and was replaced a moment later by…‘Sixshot!’ Optimus Prime exclaimed.
* * * * *
Carly sat in her car just up the road from Spike’s house. She had called in to see Spike only to be told by Sparkplug that he had gone out early that morning and hadn’t come back yet. Carly had refused Sparkplug’s offer to stay and wait for him, claiming that she had to be somewhere else, but really she just wanted to be alone.
She had gone back out to her car and determined to sit there and wait for Spike to return. She had moved it up the street so that Sparkplug wouldn’t see it and sat, staring out of the window.
She had sat there for a couple of hours before Spike returned. A car pulled up outside his house and she could see Spike in the passenger seat. Carly recognised the car as the one belonging to Barbara Harding. Why was she driving him home? He’d said he wasn’t going in to work today.
* * * * *
‘I really enjoyed today,’ Barbara said to Spike, running her hand along his leg.
‘Me too,’ Spike grinned.
‘Maybe we can do it again tomorrow, if you think you’re up to it?’
‘Maybe,’ Spike said. ‘I might still be too exhausted.’
‘I have lots of ways to make you forget your tiredness,’ Barbara said with a sultry smile.
‘You don’t have to tell me that,’ Spike answered.
Barbara smiled again, ‘Then I’ll see you tomorrow?’
* * * * *
Carly began to feel a hollowness developing in her chest as she watched Spike and Doctor Harding talking. What was going on here? As she watched, Spike got out of the car and as it drove away he gave a little wave. Then he turned and headed into the house. Carly just sat there, the empty feeling in her chest beginning to expand. After a few minutes she started the car and drove off. She had to think what she was going to do next.
* * * * *
As the image vanished, Optimus Prime closed the communicator. He didn’t know what to make of the story that Sixshot had just told him, a story which had ended with an offer of an alliance between the Renegades and the Autobots. He had agreed to this of course, for the moment what else could he do? But he was uneasy about it.
He turned to Perceptor and Wheejack who had been listening to all that had been said, ‘Well,’ Optimus Prime asked, ‘what do you make of all this?’
‘If we believe Doubledealer’s story,’ Wheeljack said, ‘then that might begin to explain things here. It sounds as though Doubledealer has been manipulating events in the name of this Entity. If so, he could be the divergence we’re looking for.’
‘I concur,’ Perceptor said, ‘but the question becomes, is he the cause or simply another effect of the anomaly?’
‘So far there have been too many questions and not enough answers,’ Prime said sharply. ‘I want the two of you to start coming up with some of those answers by the end of the day.’
‘We’ll get right on it,’ Wheeljack said with more confidence than he felt.
* * * * *
The surviving Renegades had all landed and come over to join Sixshot and the Autobots. Each group was looking at each other warily. The Renegades had lost over half of their clones along with Slugslinger and Snapdragon in the battle and ensuing explosion. Several other clones had taken damage and Mindwipe’s left arm hung loosely by his side. Sixshot had briefly explained to them all what had happened with Doubledealer and that a ceasefire between the Renegades and the Autobots was now in effect.
Optimus Prime had ordered Prowl to take the Renegades back to the Ark for repairs, but to keep a close eye on them. Prowl wasn’t particularly happy with this order but had agreed.
‘So, you don’t think Doubledealer was just blowing hot exhaust fumes?’ Cliffjumper asked Bumblebee.
Bumblebee thought for a second and said, ‘No, I think he was deadly serious. He at least I think believed what he was saying.’
‘Then we’re all in trouble,’ Cliffjumper replied. Bumblebee said nothing.
‘Autobots, Renegades,’ Prowl said, ‘transform and prepare to move out.’
The Autobots all transformed but the Renegades ignored the order and turned to Sixshot. It seemed as though Sixshot was going through some internal struggle with himself as if he finally understood what this alliance would mean. Eventually he said, ‘Do as he says.’
The Renegades, not without a few grumbles, complied and they and the Autobots made their way back inland towards the Ark. Behind them the ocean gradually became calm again, until there was no sign of the violence that had taken place beneath its surface.
Chapter Ten – Departures and Arrivals
It was a few hours later that Swoop landed next to Optimus Prime and pointed to the north and said, ‘Look! Something comes.’
Prime turned to see what he was pointing at. There was a black speck on the horizon that was getting steadily larger. Prime switched his optics to zoom mode and zeroed in on the object. He saw the falcon-like Doubledealer flying through the air making occasional flaps with his wings and in his talons hung the limp body of Megatron.
Swicthing his vision back to normal Prime reacted quickly, he turned to Skyfire who stood nearby and said, ‘Skyfire, we’ve got Doubledealer and Megatron incoming. Transform and get all the humans out of here as quickly as you can. I don’t care where you take them just get them to safety.’
‘You got it,’ Skyfire said and he ran off in the direction of the human’s base camp. Prime turned back to Swoop and said, ‘Get the other Dinobots here as quickly as you can. Swoop nodded and leapt into the air, transforming and flying off in search of the Dinobots who were still patrolling the perimeter.
Perceptor and Wheeljack, seeing the activity came over to see what was going on. Prime explained and pointed at the distant speck.
‘He’s heading this way,’ Wheeljack said. ‘So it looks like he and the anomaly are linked in some way. If we can get him talking we might learn something important that we can use to help us understand how to sort this mess out.’
‘Agreed,’ Prime said.
* * * * *
Doubledealer knew they were waiting for him, had known it all along. This was the moment he had been waiting for. After all these millions of years the fun part of the game had begun.
‘Look Megatron, it’s your friend Optimus Prime. Let’s go and say hello shall we?’ he said beginning to lose altitude ready to come in for a landing.
* * * * *
Prime saw Doubledealer, now clearly visible, begin to descend towards them. He turned round and was just in time to see Skyfire taking off and heading to the south carrying the humans to safety. A moment later Swoop returned followed on the ground by Grimlock, Slag, Sludge and Snarl in their dinosaur modes. As a group they roared up at the approaching figure.
‘Stay back Dinobots,’ Prime said, ‘don’t attack until I give the word.’
‘Me Grimlock say blast Renegade now,’ Grimlock said in his backwards fashion.
‘No Grimlock, we need him to provide us with information,’ Prime replied calmly as though explaining to a child.
Grimlock made a grunting noise but made no further comment. Prime turned back to see Doubledealer was almost down now. As he got within a few hundred feet of the ground he let go of Megatron who hit the ground with a crunch, causing a cloud of dust to billow upwards. Megatron didn’t move and a moment later Doubledealer landed beside him transforming to his Autobot mode as he did so.
‘Ah Optimus Prime,’ he said. ‘I was expecting you to be here. I understand that Sixshot has brought you up to date on recent events.’
‘Who exactly are you?’ Prime asked, ignoring the question. ‘What do you want?’
‘Who am I?’ Doubledealer asked in a contemplative voice. ‘Who am I? I have gone by many names over the eons. I am Double, I am Dealer, I am Doubledealer and I am Twinpact. I am or have been known by all these names.’
‘Twinpact?’ Prime said surprised. ‘The famous Autobot engineer?’
‘The one and only,’ Doubledealer said with a smirk. ‘We never met at the time but we had a few near misses. I was therefore forced to abandon that identity so I arranged to be ‘captured’ by the Decepticons and disappear, but not before my goal was achieved.’
‘And what goal was that?’ Prime asked.
‘Oh I think I’ll leave that as a surprise for when you return to Cybertron,’ Doubledealer smiled a crooked smile. ‘Now shall we get down to business? You want to know what I’m doing here and what I have to do with the anomaly behind us? I shall not keep you in suspense.’
‘You’re going to tell us! Just like that?’ Wheeljack put in.
‘Of course,’ Doubledealer said. ‘The information won’t do you any good in the long run and it prolongs the game as well.’
‘The game?’ Prime said. ‘This is a game to you?’
‘I am but an…agent, of a higher being.’ Doubledealer said. ‘I serve the Entity and the Entity is eternal. The Entity wishes your destruction to be long and painful.’
‘Who or what is this Entity? Where is he and what does he want?’ Prime asked.
‘The Entity is everywhere and nowhere. The Entity does not exist in within the confines of this reality,’ Doubledealer said bending down as he did so and grasping Megatron by the neck and lifting him as though he was no heavier than a doll. ‘ The anomaly is a link, a conduit to the realm of the Entity but more than that it is a manifestation of the corruption to the timeline of this reality. Soon it will consume this reality entirely. The pieces are even now moving into place. But first the Entity has summoned Megatron and I am here to deliver him.’
Megatron groaned slightly lifted his head and said in a hoarse croaking voice tinged with anger, ‘Nobody summons Megatron!’
Doubledealer looked at him with a puzzled expression on his face and said, almost as if speaking to himself, ‘Another echo! That’s interesting.’ The he looked back at Optimus Prime and said, ‘And now I have a job to complete.’ Doubledealer turned round and began to carry Megatron towards the anomaly.
Optimus Prime shouted, ‘Stop, I cannot allow you to go near the anomaly.’
Doubledealer continued walking and said calmly, ‘You cannot stop me.’
‘Dinobots! Attack!’ Prime said.
With a roar the Dinobots moved forward after Doubledealer. Slag opened his mouth wide and let loose a spout of flame at Doubledealer’s retreating figure, but without even turning around, Doubledealer sidestepped the flames and continued on towards the anomaly.
As the other Dinobots charged forward, Sludge raised his foot and brought it down heavily on the ground causing a crack to ripple across the ground towards Doubledealer, but again he sidestepped it at the last moment.
Then the Dinobots were upon him, Grimlock opened his mouth wide and brought it down towards Doubledealer’s head. Quick as lightning, Doubledealer brought his free hand up and around, catching Grimlock squarely in the jaw. He howled in pain and was sent flying backwards, crashing into Slag as he did so.
Doubledealer was now only a few feet away from the shimmering anomaly. Enraged, Snarl, spun around lashing out at Doubledealer with his spiked tail. Doubledealer calmly leapt into the air, still holding Megatron, causing the tail to sail harmlessly by. While still in the air he battered Swoop aside with his free hand and then landed without breaking his stride.
‘Call them off Prime,’ he called out. ‘They can’t win. They will only get hurt.’
Prime amazed at what he had just seen called out, ‘Dinobots disengage.’
The Dinobots did as they were told, all except for Grimlock, who transformed and aimed his blaster at Doubledealer, ‘Nobody make fool of me Grimlock,’ he cried out and fired.
Doubledealer again dodged aside and the shot went hurtling past him, and hit the anomaly. As it did so it seemed to be absorbed and then a blast of red and white energy was blasted back from the point of impact, hitting Grimlock in the chest. He was flung backwards and landed on his back, sparks erupting from his chest. Perceptor ran forward to tend to him.
Doubledealer and reached the anomaly now and turned to face the onlookers. He lifted Megatron high in the air and cried out, ‘Behold the betrayer Megatron! I hereby pay tribute to the Entity!’
* * * * *
In the void the Entity looked down at the reality eagerly. It was time to make an entrance. With a thought, a ripple ran along one of the many tendrils of dimensional energy that were leaking from the hole in the dimensional funnel. The ripple hit the funnel causing it to shudder slightly.
* * * * *
Prime watched in horror waiting to see what happened next. For a moment nothing happened and then the anomaly flared violently. The dancing rainbow colours were hidden behind arcs of energy that looked like electricity that suddenly engulfed the surface of the anomaly.
At the same time a cold rasping voice that seemed to come from all directions at once, broke the silence. It was slow and stilted as if requiring a lot of concentration.
Then one of the arcs of lightning lanced outwards and coiled around Megatron, who screamed in agony. As Prime watched he could see the lightning melting Megatron’s chassis. Megatron screamed again and then turned his head and for a moment was looking straight at Optimus Prime. Megatron cried out in a voice like tearing metal, ‘PRIME! AVENGE ME!’
Then he was pulled backwards by the lightning. Doubledealer released his grip and Megatron flew towards the anomaly. The lightning dissipated and the anomaly returned to its usual swirl of colour. As Megatron hit the coloured surface he seemed to freeze for a fraction of a second, as if time had stopped for him. Then he vanished instantly, as the scanning equipment had done earlier that day. He too left behind a shadowy semitransparent image that as they watched began fade away like melting wax until nothing was left. Megatron had gone. The anomaly pulsated and grew slightly larger and then became still again.
‘It is done!’ Doubledealer cried triumphantly and turning to face the Autobots he said, ‘Take a good look around you! For soon the world will be changed forever.’ He leapt up into the air and transformed to his falcon mode and flew off to the south. As he went he called down, ‘We will meet again!’
The Autobots watched as he disappeared from sight. Then they turned and looked back at the anomaly, each of them feeling that something very bad had just taken place.
Optimus Prime looked around at Wheeljack and then across at Perceptor who was still tending Grimlock’s wound. It was not often that Optimus Prime was at a loss, but this was one of those times. He looked back at the anomaly and wondered what the future held.
* * * * *
Megatron felt like he was being stretched ever longer and longer. He seemed to be rushing down a long winding blue tunnel at very high speed. The constant pain that he had been in since being wounded in the battle had gone. He tried to look down but found he couldn’t. He couldn’t move at all because he couldn’t feel his limbs any more. All he could do was look straight ahead as the tunnel zipped by.
Then in the distance he saw a white light. Before he had time to register this he found himself entering the light and the tunnel disappeared and he felt…he didn’t know what he felt for he had never experienced sensations like this before and lacked the ability to but them into words.
Again he tried to look round and this time he succeeded. He found himself in darkness, but all around him he sensed rather than saw objects. Blue smoky funnels of energy.
‘How do you feel mighty Megatron?’ came a voice in his…head? No, for he had no head any more, no head and no body, but he heard the voice nonetheless.
‘Who said that?’ he tried to say but without a mouth he found he couldn’t, so he thought it instead.
‘You learn quickly,’ came the voice again. ‘Learn now the meaning of pain.’
Megatron screamed silently as pain engulfed him.
* * * * *
The Entity had watched as a new batch of dimensional energy burst from the tear in the dimensional funnel. They rippled across the void until suddenly the presence of Megatron had arrived. Nothing physical could exist in the void, but the Entity could sense the mind of his enemy as it emerged from one of the many tendrils. Like a child with a new toy, the Entity had pounced; relishing the chance to inflict pain on the one it hated above all others.
So engrossed was it on the presence of Megatron that it failed to see the new tendrils of dimensional energy snaking through the void. They crossed and re-crossed each other, some branching off in new directions and some coming upon something else. Another presence, hitherto unnoticed within the void.
The tendrils twisted and wound themselves around and through this new presence until the being within awoke. Like the Entity before it, at first it panicked, unable to comprehend what had happened, but soon it calmed itself and began to think.
The Entity was no longer alone…
Epilogue – The Price of Catastrophe
Kojima Miharu sat down on her sun lounger by the pool in her new Spanish villa. Strictly speaking the paperwork had not yet been completed but when you had as much money as she did, paperwork was a minor issue and so she had moved in straight away.
After rubbing herself thoroughly with sun cream she laid back put on her sunglasses and closed her eyes. This was definitely her idea of a rest.
* * * * *
Tony Drayson stood at the window of his house and watched as his wife Linda threw her suitcase into the back of her car and then strapped in their two year old son William. Tony had woken to find Miharu gone and his money and car along with her.
The car had been recovered by the police, but it had been too late. He had told his wife that he was several hundred miles away on a business trip and when she learnt what had happened the whole story of his indiscretion with Miharu had come out.
She had left him and taken William with her. She had come back today for the rest of her clothes. She had hardly said two words too him, could barely look him in the face. Tony had gone and sat in the kitchen out of her way. He had tried apologising, entreating and even begging in order to get her to stay but it was no good. He had lost everything.
* * * * *
Carly sat in her car a few hundred yards away from Barbara Harding’s house. She had managed to find where she lived and had made a decision. So the morning after she had seen the Doctor drop Spike off at his home she had driven out to the house and sat and waited. Waiting for something she hoped would never happen.
* * * * *
Spike was feeling guilty. His dad had told him that Carly had called the previous night wanting to talk to him and had left when she found he wasn’t there. He knew that he should call her and see what she wanted but every time he had picked up the phone his mind had flicked to Barbara and what he might miss out on if Carly wanted to meet up. So he hadn’t called. Instead he had showered and made his way to the bus stop. As the bus pulled up he hesitated, just for a moment. Then he jumped aboard and from that point his fate was sealed.
* * * * *
Barbara Harding stood in front of the mirror and pulled on the silky night gown that she had bought the previous evening ready for Spike’s visit. She was sure he would enjoy it. She smiled at herself. From the moment she had met him she had wanted him.
She had been alone now for nearly eighteen months, her lover of six years having left her for a woman ten years younger than she was. It had hurt her badly and she had thrown herself into her work to a degree that had both amazed and frightened her friends. It had however been the only way for her to block out the pain and the loneliness.
It had taken her six months before she was ready to begin thinking about becoming involved with someone again, but most men seemed to find her intimidating, even in this modern day many man found the idea of an intelligent and independent woman a problem it appeared.
Spike had instantly attracted her and so she had given him a job at her lab in the hope that she would be able to seduce him. In the end it had been easier than she could have hoped. She was sorry for Carly but it was just one of those things. Every woman has needs and sometimes you had to do anything to fulfil them. The fact that she was doing to Carly what had been done to her was something she pushed to the back of her mind.
She turned away from the mirror and lay down on the bed. She picked up the book she was reading and settled down to wait for Spike.
* * * * *
All of these people had played a part in the catastrophe that was to follow, some more than others. All of them would pay a price in the days that followed.
Elsewhere the funeral of a man who had already paid the ultimate price was taking place. No one had attended the funeral of Simon Johnson. He had had no friends and what little family he did have he had long since alienated
As his coffin slid into the ground it might, perhaps, have been a small comfort to him to know that of everyone involved he had gotten of lightly.
To be followed by The Discontinuity Effect