Prologue - Birth
Tendrils of dimensional energy snaked outwards from the tear in one of the countless dimensional cores. Reaching out through the void some collided with other dimensional cores, becoming entwined, while others writhed in the nothingness.
It was these that suddenly came across the Entity. It was not a physical object, for here physical laws had no meaning; it was more of a presence, a distortion within the void itself. Once they had found it, the tendrils of energy seemed to be drawn to it, snaking around it and through it until it was manifested as a swirling mass of dimensional energy within the void.
It was only then that the Entity became aware. In a place where time did not exist the Entity was simultaneously newly born and ancient beyond measure. It took in its surroundings and momentarily thrashed in panic unable to comprehend the void in which it found itself. Then it screamed but no noise came out. Instead the tendrils of energy that made up the Entity vibrated violently whiplashing along the length of a number of nearby dimensional cores, causing them to shudder and bend.
Eventually the Entity ceased to thrash and a kind of calm returned to the void. The Entity began to think, to question and then finally to understand.
Chapter One – The Long Road Back
Megatron’s hands closed tightly around Optimus Prime’s throat and began to squeeze. Prime struggled helplessly, trying to pull free of Megatron’s grip, but it was no good. Megatron increased the pressure and grinned in triumph as he felt Prime’s neck begin to buckle. Prime let out a muffled yell of pain and collapsed to his knees, Megatron’s hands still firmly around his throat.
Then Megatron let go and smiled with satisfaction as Prime fell backwards onto the floor, his arms twitching feebly. Megatron raised his fusion cannon and aimed it at Prime’s head. He let off a short burst and the head exploded, his body falling limp, all movement ceased.
Megatron raised his arms and head skywards and laughed hysterically. He’d done it; Optimus Prime was dead, at long last. His moment of triumph however was cut short as a laser blast hit him squarely in the back. He fell forwards over the body of Optimus Prime. He turned to see who had dared attack him and then let out a howl of rage and bewilderment.
A few feet away stood Optimus Prime, his gun raised, the barrel still smoking. Megatron looked down to see the body of Prime still lying beside him before looking back up.
“Really Megatron, you didn’t think you could kill me did you?” Prime laughed. “I will always be here to defeat you.”
“Nooooooooooooo!” Megatron cried out.
* * * * *
Deep inside the Decepticon’s undersea headquarters, the Decepticon Communications officer, Soundwave walked into the repair bay for what felt like the millionth time. He had been coming in here everyday for the last two months. On each of those occasions he had left disappointed and it didn’t look like today was going to be any different.
Megatron lay motionless in the CR chamber, just as he had done ever since the disastrous conclusion to Operation Sunburn. According to Scrapper he was suffering from extreme energy depletion. They had been steadily feeding refined energon into him for the last two months but while his vital functions had stabilised after only a couple of days, Megatron had remained in a comatose state ever since.
Soundwave was beginning to think that his leader would never recover. Where that would leave the Decepticon cause, Soundwave wasn’t sure. They had suffered loses during Operation Sunburn, too many loses and to lose Megatron too would be a disaster.
Soundwave had stood in as Decepticon commander over the last few weeks but they needed Megatron. He was the foundation on which the Decepticons were built. Without him what were they? Soundwave didn’t really want to answer that question. So instead he turned to Scrapper who was working on the body of Astrotrain, who had been badly damaged during Operation Sunburn.
“Scrapper, report,” Soundwave said in his toneless voice.
Scrapper turned from where he was working on Astrotrain and said, “Megatron’s vital functions remain normal but he still shows no sign of recovery. He is showing an increase in mental activity at the moment but otherwise there has been no change.”
“What is the nature of this mental activity?” Soundwave asked.
“Cerebral impulses are up by three hundred percent. I speculate that Megatron is in a state similar to what the humans call dreaming.”
Soundwave turned back to look at Megatron who still remained motionless. This increased mental activity was the first change in Megatron’s condition in two months. Hopefully it was a good sign.
“Keep me informed of his status,” Soundwave said turning to leave the room. Scrapper nodded in response and turned back to his work on Astrotrain.
Soundwave walked back towards the command centre deep in thought. If Megatron was getting better then the first thing he would want is to know what had been happening in his absence. He would want to know about the Autobots. It would not look good if Soundwave didn’t have that information. Since their defeat Soundwave had not allowed the Decepticons to leave the base. Had that been a mistake?
Soundwave walked into the command centre his mind made up. He reached up and pressed the eject button on his shoulder. His chest compartment slid open and he said, “Ravage, eject, operation observation.”
A cassette shot out of his chest compartment and transformed in the air, to become the panther shaped Ravage who landed on the floor silently. He turned to face Soundwave.
“Infiltrate the Ark. Acquire details of current Autobot activities,” Soundwave commanded.”
Ravage growled and immediately turned and sped off towards the entrance to the Decepticon headquarters. Then the base rumbled slightly as the conning tower raised itself out of the ocean.
* * * * *
The Renegade base was a hive of activity, as they worked to install the heavy equipment that Mindwipe, Snapdragon, Dreadwind and Darkwing had just stolen from the nearby human settlement.
Sixshot looked on impassively, he had to admit that Doubledealer had done an excellent job organising the Renegades while he, Sixshot, had been healing from the wounds inflicted by Megatron. Mindwipe had managed to patch the wound in Sixshot’s chest but it was by no means a perfect job. At present they didn’t have a repair bay and it had taken Sixshot three weeks for his internal repair systems to bring him back online.
The location Doubledealer had chosen to build their base was truly inspired. The human presence made things a little awkward but at the same time provided excellent cover. It had taken some time to build suitable entrances to the base that minimised the chance of discovery by the humans.
Sixshot had awoken to find the Renegades busy hollowing out a space inside of their new base, a process that had taken a further four weeks to complete. Then there had been the problem of where to get the equipment they needed to make a functioning headquarters. Who knew how long they were going to be stuck on this wretched planet.
The nearby human settlements had provided the answer, barely. Unfortunately they were little more than desert towns and not major industrial centres but the Renegades had managed to find what they needed, at least to get them started. Once they were better established they could move further a field in search of supplies.
They needed to know more about this planet first though. None of them had ever imagined that they would be visiting this planet, let alone getting stranded on it and as such had never bothered to learn much about it while on Cybertron. It had been Mindwipe and Doubledealer who had shown the most knowledge so far and they had given the other Renegades a crash course in what little they knew of the planet.
Mindwipe had said that once the main systems of the base were installed he would patch in the computers to the humans information networks and that way they would soon have all the knowledge they needed.
Sixshot was really proud of his Renegades. He had picked them well, if only the rest were here. But they were on Cybertron and could well be dead, killed when Shockwave destroyed Dishender. Sixshot squeezed his hand tightly into a fist at the thought.
There was one however he was glad to see the back of; Starscream. It wasn’t known exactly what had happened to him. Doubledealer had sent out Dreadwind on a reconnaissance mission shortly after they had arrived here.
He had reported that the Decepticon power station base had been destroyed. He hadn’t been able to get too close because there were a lot of Autobots and humans around but it looked like it had been hit by a devastating explosion. Sixshot could only assume that Starscream had either been captured or destroyed in the explosion. He hoped it was the latter.
At the far side of the room the Renegades were putting the finishing touches to the base’s main computer system. It had been cobbled together from hundreds of modified human computer components into something approaching a Cybertronian control computer. It wasn’t state of the art but it was functional.
Mindwipe walked over from the group and said, “The computer is installed and operational commander. With your permission I will begin patching into the outside world while the other’s start work on the repair bay.”
“Very well,” Sixshot answered. Mindwipe turned and went back to the Renegades who then moved off towards another section of the base, lugging chunks of equipment after them. Mindwipe bent down and opened an access panel in the computer and got to work.
Sixshot smiled to himself. Soon they would be ready to go back on the offensive.
* * * * *
“So, you think the Decepticons did this?” Prowl asked Optimus Prime. They were in Prime’s ready room studying a report that had been passed to them from the Australian government.
The town of Alice Springs along with a number of other small outlying towns in central Australia had been raided during the night over the last few days. Supplies of industrial and computer equipment had been stolen. No one had seen the culprits but evidence at the scene suggested that a number of very heavy objects had been walking around. This had led the authorities to come to the conclusion that Transformers were behind it.
“Possibly,” Prime said. “But why would they be stealing from small Australian towns? If they need equipment there are plenty of much bigger cities nearby for them to attack.”
“Maybe they’re trying to be inconspicuous,” Prowl said.
“Maybe,” Prime replied. “There is another possibility though. The Renegades are still out there somewhere and they will be after supplies too.”
“You don’t think they will have gone and joined the Decepticons then? After all they are still Decepticons deep down.”
Prime shook his head, “No, from what I have seen of them they are totally committed to their own cause. They will not return to the Decepticons.”
“So we have two enemies now,” Prowl said. “We’re going to have to go and investigate this.”
“Indeed,” Prime replied. “We’ll send the Aerialbots as Skyfire is still recovering from his injuries.”
“I’ll see to it,” Prowl said turning towards the door.
“Prowl, tell them they are not to engage the enemy if they find them. I just want them found for the moment.”
Prowl nodded and left the room. Prime stood for a moment in thought and then turned and followed him. He walked down the Ark’s many corridors until he came to Wheeljack’s laboratory.
Inside he found Wheeljack and Perceptor deep in conversation huddled around a desk that was covered in all manner of metal and electrical components. In the centre however a space had been cleared away and the object of the two Autobot scientists attention was suspended over it using a spindly metal frame.
The object itself was a small golden sphere, two handles protruding from either side. A transparent section in the middle of the sphere gave off a faint glow of light.
Wheeljack and Perceptor both turned as Prime approached them. “Any luck with your investigation?” Prime asked them.
“Not yet Prime,” Wheeljack answered. “This is one complex doohicky you’ve gotten here.”
“Absolutely,” Perceptor added. “From what we have seen so far it appears to be a highly advanced dimensional interface. Based on what you have told us I see no reason why this ‘Lifespark’ should not still be fully interfaced with Vector Sigma.”
“Basically Prime,” Wheeljack said. “Unless we open this thing we’re gonna be pretty limited in what we can find out about it. From what this Brainstorm character told you though it seems pretty clear that distance will be no object to it connecting to Vector Sigma.”
“So it can still create new life?” Prime asked already knowing the answer.
Wheeljack and Perceptor both nodded. “I see no reason to suppose otherwise,” Perceptor said.
“And what of the power boost I receive when I put it inside me?” Prime asked.
“To be honest Prime, there’s so much about this thing and Vector Sigma that we don’t know that I wouldn’t like to even guess at that,” Wheeljack said.
Prime was silent for a few moments as he took this in. He hadn’t really expected much to come out of this conversation. When he had given Wheeljack and Perceptor the job of examining the Lifespark he had expressly forbidden them to open it. He knew that by doing that he was limiting their ability to find things out about it but he was afraid what would happen if he allowed the power of Vector Sigma to be unleashed. Dare he use it? Should creating new life be so easy? He had to know more before he could decide.
“Prime? Are you okay?” Wheeljack’s voice cut through his thoughts.
“Yes, yes I’m fine Wheeljack,” Prime said. “I need to know more about the Lifespark before I can decide the best course of action. I don’t want it opened just yet, not until I’m sure there’s no other way.”
“Okay Prime,” Wheeljack said a note of disappointment in his voice. “We’ll try our best.”
Prime nodded and turned to leave the room, still deep in thought. A pair of glowing yellow eyes hidden among the pipe work running along the ceiling watched him go. The glow of the eyes intensified briefly before returning to their normal pale glow. Satisfied with what he had heard, Ravage began making his way slowly back through the Ark.
* * * * *
The roar of the crowd was deafening, “MEG-A-TRON! MEG-A-TRON! MEG-A-TRON!”
Megatron raised the severed head of his adversary aloft to renewed cheers from the crowd surrounding him in the amphitheatre. The lifeless body of the opponent he had just slain lay at his feet, energon seeping from the hole where his head had been. He had been so insignificant that Megatron didn’t even know his name, but his sacrifice would help Megatron become the planet’s most famous gladiator and then…? Who knew what else?
“Megatron!” came a voice from behind him. “Why don’t you try someone more your size?”
He turned to see a new opponent. This one was taller and looked altogether more of a challenge. His eyes glowed a vivid blue and his right arm ended in a yellow energo-axe.
Megatron smiled, raised his own energo-flail and said, “With pleasure!”
Then he charged the flail spinning so fast that all that could be seen was a purple/blue blur. He raised it high above his head and brought it down on his enemy, who just as quickly raised his axe above his head to ward off the attack. Megatron’s flail was deflected and it almost bounced back to hit him in the chest. He stepped back and regained control of it, only to find his opponent bearing down on him, his axe raised.
Megatron brought his flail arm up to deflect the blow and the axe bit viciously into his wrist. He screamed in pain and fell backwards to the ground his hand clutching his injured wrist. The newcomer stood over him, readying himself for the killing blow.
“Your old Megatron,” he said. “Yesterday’s model, ready for the scrap heap.”
The words sliced through Megatron’s consciousness like a knife. They echoed around his head, “ready for the scrap heap”, “you’re old”, “yesterday’s model”. Megatron gave a scream of rage, leapt to his feet and sent his flail flying through the air.
“SILENCE!” he screamed. His vision cleared as his anger abated. At his feet lay the body of the newcomer; Megatron’s flail embedded in his chest. Sparks danced in the air over the open wound. Energon leaked slowly down the side of the inert body.
Megatron pulled the flail back, out of the body of his enemy. His wrist still hurt where he had been wounded, but the pain only fuelled his anger. He spun the flail and the brought his arm around to bring the flail down with tremendous force on the face of his foe. The head shattered under the blow, smoke billowed out of the decapitated body, which spasmed slightly as life left it totally.
Megatron raised his foot to stand triumphantly on the chest of his latest victim. Once more he became aware of the cheering and chanting of the crowd around him. “MEG-A-TRON! MEG-A-TRON! MEG-A-TRON!”
* * * * *
“Megatron!” Scrapper cried out in shock and fear as without warning a fist shattered the canopy of the CR chamber where his leader had lain inert for nearly two months. Healing fluid poured out over the floor as Megatron stepped out through the hole he had created.
“I STILL FUNCTION!” he cried.
Chapter Two - Discoveries
Sixshot, Doubledealer and Mindwipe sat around a large table in the newly furnished ready room. Now that the base was in a useable state, Sixhot had decided that it was time to have a meeting with his two most trusted lieutenants so that they could discuss the situation they now found themselves it.
“As things stand,” he said, “the seven of us are on our own on this backwards planet indefinitely. We can I think expect no help from Cybertron, even supposing any of the Renegades survived the destruction of Dishender. The Decepticons still have full control of the planet and as we now know it had been fully re-energised. We have to assume that they will make the most of the opportunity and wipe out the remaining Autobots and any other resistance they find.”
“It is possible though,” put in Mindwipe, “that the death of Shockwave has left them with a power vacuum. The planet could conceivably have descended into civil war by now.”
Sixshot turned to Doubledealer and said, “You have had the most recent experience with the Decepticons, are there any candidates to fill Shockwave’s shoes?”
Doubledealer thought for a moment before answering, “There are maybe two who have both the skill and the ambition, Blacklight and Devil Spawn. Of the two I’d say that Devil Spawn probably had the greatest support among the lower ranks, although his reputation for cruelty may have lost him backing from some of the weaker elements.”
“Does it really matter at this stage who has taken over?” Mindwipe asked. “Neither of them is going to be willing to help us get home.”
“And I doubt that the Decepticons on Earth will be any more welcoming to us, especially if Megatron is still alive,” Doubledealer said.
“Even if they were willing to accept us, I would not be willing to join them,” Sixshot said icily.
“So what are we going to do?” Mindwipe asked. “The seven of us can’t take on both the Autobots and the Decepticons. Nor is it desirable or practical to join forces with either side in the short term.”
There was a silence for a few minutes following this statement until finally Doubledealer said, “As we can’t realistically expect any help from Cybertron, we only have two other choices. Either we recruit new members from the Decpticons on Earth or we recapture the Lifespark and use it to build ourselves a new army.
* * * * *
“What is our status Soundwave?” Megatron asked. He was still in the repair bay, where Scrapper was insisting on giving him a thorough examination to ensure that he was properly recovered. Megatron had eventually agreed to this with what Scrapper thought had been only a token resistance. He had appeared slightly shaken at the news of how he had spent the last two months; so maybe, Scrapper thought he wanted this for his own piece of mind as well.
Upon hearing the news of his leader’s recovery, Soundwave had hurried down to the repair bay and quickly brought Megatron up to date on the failure of Opertaion Suburn.
“Blitzwing and Frenzy have both been terminated. Thrust, Dirge, and Ramjet are missing presumed dead. Astrotrain is injured but will recover,” Soundwave replied in answer to Megatron’s question. “The remaining Decepticons only suffered minor injuries.”
“Contact Cybertron and have reinforcements sent over the spacebridge as soon as possible,” Megatron ordered.
Scrapper glanced across at Soundwave at this before returning to his examination of Megatron. “Contact with Cybertron not yet restored, Megatron,” Soundwave said. “Spacebridge also non-functional.”
“WHAT!” Megatron roared sitting up on the examination table and knocking Scrapper aside, “How can this be? There has been more than enough time for the Decepticons on Cybertron to rebuild the communication centre.”
“The death of Shockwave may have caused civil disruption,” Soundwave suggested trying hard to keep any hint of accusation out of his voice. He secretly felt that Megatron’s decision to allow Shockwave’s death had been a serious mistake. In the end it had achieved nothing except the destruction of a loyal Decepticon and the capitol building in Polyhex. Without Shockwave who knew how many petty Decepticon warlords had put in a bid for power? For that matter who knew if the victor of any power struggle would be loyal to Megatron anyway?
“You may be right Soundwave,” Megatron said. “Continue your attempts to contact Cybertron. We must have reinforcements as soon as possible.”
“As you command Megatron.”
“And what of our enemies?” Megatron asked. “What of the Autobots and that traitor Sixshot?”
“There has been no sign of Sixshot or his allies since they fled the battle at the power station. I have sent Ravage to infiltrate Autobot headquarters. I am awaiting his return.”
“I want Sixshot found and crushed,” Megatron said. “I should have done it nine million years ago when I had the chance. At least Starscream has finally been dealt with. That’s one traitor less to deal with at least.”
The door to the repair bay slid open at that moment and Soundwave and Megatron both turned to see the sleek and powerful body of Ravage enter the room.
“Ravage report,” Soundwave ordered. Ravage leapt into the air and transformed back to tape mode. At the same time Soundwave’s chest opened and Ravage flew inside. Soundwave closed his chest compartment and began the playback of Ravage’s mission log.
As Megatron listened to Ravage’s report his eyes began to glow more and more intently. “So,” he said when Ravage’s report was complete. “The Autobots have a device that can connect directly to Vector Sigma. That must be the object that Sixshot was carrying. Prime stole it from me in our last battle. We must recover that device for the Decepticons Soundwave. With Vector Sigma at our command we will have an invincible army. The Autobots will be finished.”
* * * * *
“So we came to work on Monday morning and we found this,” said Ros gesturing towards a storage shed whose wall now had a gaping arch-shaped hole in the side of it. The four Aerialbots who he was talking to moved forward to investigate the hole more closely.
North Concrete Limited in Alice Springs was one of the many companies in the local area that had been raided in the last few weeks. This latest raid had taken place over the previous weekend. It was the second raid that the company had experienced and its staff were starting to get a little jumpy not to mention angry at their losses.
“It looks like the wall was just ripped outwards,” Fireflight said examining the debris that still lay around the outside of the hole. “If you look here you can see a chunk of the wall that looks like someone pushed their fingers through so they could get a grip.”
“And then ripped a hole in the wall with a great deal of force,” continued Air Raid. “I would say this was pulled away in a single movement. Look at the way the bricks landed, they are still grouped together in the shape of the hole.”
“What exactly was taken?” Skydive asked Ros.
“Mainly reinforced steel,” Ros said. “We supply building materials to a lot of central Australia and we’d just had a major resupply after the last losses. They also took a chunk of concrete mix as well.”
“Just the sort of stuff you’d want if you were wanting to build yourself a secret base,” Slingshot said.
“Who is doing this?” Ros asked. “The Decepticons who mucked up the Fusion reactor?”
Skydive shook his head, “No. We believe it is another group who call themselves Renegades. They recently arrived on Earth and desperately need some where to hide up. We think they’ve been raiding quite a few industrial and commercial businesses in the Northern Territories and South Australia to get hold of the resources they need. That would suggest that their hiding place isn’t too far away.”
“Blimey! Does that mean we can expect more raids like this? Because we can’t afford to keep making losses. We’re only a small operation and as it is our insurance premiums are going to be massive next year.”
“We will do what we can to put a stop to their raids,” Skydive replied. “Besides once they have enough equipment they’ll probably lie low for a while.”
“I think we’ve found all we’re going to from here,” Fireflight said. “I think we should move on to the next site.”
“Very well. Aerialbots transform and move out,” Skydive ordered. Then he turned back to Ros and said, “And try not to worry. We’ll put a stop to the Renegade’s activities one way or another.”
Then he transformed and followed the rest of the Aerialbots into the clear blue sky.
“Thanks a lot,” Ros muttered. “Easy for you to say.”
“Where are we going next?” Air Raid asked as the Aerialbots began to head Southward.
“A mining town called Coober Pedy,” Skydive said. “It specialises in opal mining. They’ve had a couple of raids. One took out a load of computer equipment, the other a batch of opals.”
“What would the Renegades want with opals” Slingshot asked.
“They could use them in computer and weapons systems as focussing and amplification gems,” Skydive answered.
“Hey guys,” Fireflight said. “Check that out. That’s one big rock up ahead.”
“That’s Ayres Rock,” Skydive said. “It’s the tallest such structure in the world. It was named after one of Australia’s Premier’s over a hundred years ago but it has a religious significance for some of the humans who live here. They call it Uluru and they believe that giants that lived in the area rose up and gave the world form, creating natural structures wherever they went.”
“Skydive, you read far too much,” Slingshot said.
“Do you guys want to swing by it?” Fireflight said “I bet its an amazing sight to fly over.”
“We’ve have got a job to do Fireflight,” Skydive replied.
“Awww come on,” Air Raid put in. “It can’t be more than four hundred kilometres away. It’s practically on our way. It won’t take long. I’d like to see it up close too. It’ll be fun.”
“Oh very well,” Skydive said. “But we just fly over it and then we go back to our original flight plan.”
* * * * *
“Our surveillance equipment has observed a group of four Autobots in the town of Alice Springs,” Mindwipe reported. “They appear to have been investigating the industrial facility that Snapdragon and Doubledealer raided a few days ago.”
Sixshot looked up from where he was busy downloading data about the planet from the human’s worldwide computer network. He was finding the planet more and more interesting. It had a wide variety of terrains and climates as well as abundant energy resources. He was beginning to understand why Megatron was so determined to conquer it now.
“Oh? What are they doing now?” Sixshot asked.
“They have left the town and are heading South,” Mindwipe replied.
“Excellent. I think its time to go back on the offensive. I want them captured, send out Doubledealer, Dreadwind, Darkwind and Slugslinger to bring them in,” Sixshot said.
“I don’t think that will be necessary,” came a voice from the doorway. Sixshot and Mindwipe looked up to see Doubledealer entering the room in his Autobot mode.
“And why not?” Sixshot asked.
“Because they are about to play right into our hands,” Doubledealer said with a cruel smile.
* * * * *
“Wow, this is just so amazing,” said Fireflight as the four Aerialbots approached the huge monolith that rose out of the Australian desert. It hadn’t taken the four of them long to cross the short distance from the town of Alice Springs. They had seen quite a few humans moving about in the area around the giant rock, no doubt equally impressed by the sight before them.
“It’s okay,” Slingshot said. “But not as impressive as <insert city> on Cybertron.”
“Really Slingshot, don’t you have any sense of wonder?” Fireflight asked a note of disgust in his voice. “This is an amazing natural structure, not some ugly artificial city. And how can you prefer a Decepticon city to this?”
“Hey it may have been a Decepticon city but you have to admire the craft that went into building it,” Slingshot snapped back.
“Okay, knock it off you two,” Skydive said. “Its time we got back to work. We’ve got…” He never got to finish his sentence however because at that moment Air Raid gave a shout.
“Look! Down there on the summit.”
The Aerialbots all turned their attention to the surface of the rock below them. Lying in a crumpled heap between two large boulders was a body. It lay on its back, its head lolling to one side. The thing that drew their attention however was the Autobot symbol emblazoned on the shoulder.
“I’m going in for a closer look,” Skydive said and dove towards the figure below. As he reached the ground he transformed and approached the body cautiously. He heard the other Aerialbots land behind him. He turned and held up a warning hand to keep them back.
He bent over the body in front of him, there was no sign of life, the eyes were dimmed. “Who is he?” Air Raid asked.
“I don’t know,” Skydive said. “Never seen him before.”
“Is he dead?” Fireflight asked.
“I …” Skydive began. But at that moment there was a grinding of stone and then a clang. The two large boulders had split apart to reveal two dark entranceways. Before the Aerialbots had time to react to this however, three Transformers leapt out and pounced on Air Raid, Fireflight and Slingshot. Taken by surprise they had no time to raise their weapons.
Skydive began to straighten up his hand reaching for his blaster when a noise by his feet drew his attention. He looked back down at the figure beneath him. The head turned towards him. The eyes were now burning with a fierce blue glow. Quick as lightning the figure thrust his arm upwards and caught Skydive by the throat. He grinned evilly and said, “Surprise!”
Skydive brought his hands up to try and prise the hand from his throat, but the strength of the grip was immense. Doubledealer began to raise himself from the ground, tightening his grip on Skydive’s throat as he did so. He brought his face so close to Skydive’s that their noses were almost touching.
Then he whispered, “Optimus Prime really is getting sloppy in his old age. You’d think he would have warned you about me!” He smiled again and then the smile vanished and the eyes blazed. He squeezed harder; Skydive felt his neck beginning to buckle. Electrical impulses that were being fed to his cerebral circuits were interrupted as vital connections were put under pressure. As a last resort of self-preservation his systems automatically shut down causing his body to fall limply to the floor. Doubledealer let go as he fell and stood up.
The other Aerialbots meanwhile were faring no better. Snapdragon had Air Raid’s arms firmly gripped behind his back, while Dreadwind was grappling with Slingshot on the ground, Fireflight meanwhile was fending off an attack from Slugslinger.
From the corner of his optics Fireflight saw Air Raid forced to his knees by Snapdragon and at the same time Dreadwind landed a punch squarely on Slingshot’s chin. A sliver of metal from his chin splintered off and he screamed in agony, falling to the ground clutching his damaged jaw.
The sound of the scream caused Slugslinger to turn and look for a fraction of a second. Without thinking Fireflight pushed Slugslinger away with all his strength. The Renegade staggered backwards and fell over on the uneven ground. Seizing his opportunity Fireflight transformed and shot up into the sky. He had no idea what he was going to do yet but he knew that if he stayed where he was he would be taken down like his comrades.
Slugslinger scrambled back to his feet furious, “Why you little worm,” he called and made to take to the air in pursuit.
But Doubledealer grabbed his shoulder and said, “Wait. I’ll get him. You help take the prisoners below.”
“But…” Slugslinger began, still furious.
“But nothing,” Doubledealer spat. “You’ve messed up already. If he gets away we’ll have the Autobots down on us before we’re ready. Take the prisoners downstairs. NOW!”
Slugslinger, barely concealing his rage turned to where Snapdragon and Dreadwind were dragging the Aerialbots back inside the entrance to the Renegade base. He walked over to the still body of Skydive, picked him up and practically threw him through the hole in the rocks, the entrances closed behind them as if they had never been.
Doubledealer didn’t stop to watch them leave. He transformed to his Falcon mode and with a beat of his wings he shot up into the sky after the retreating form of Fireflight. The Aerialbot by now had quite a good lead heading north but at a steep climb. What was he trying to do? It took Doubledealer a moment to work it out.
The sky was for the most part clear and blue. But coming down from the north was a dense patch of cloud. Fireflight was obviously trying to lose himself in the cloud cover. Doubledealer grinned to himself. How naive.
Fireflight saw that he had almost reached the cloud cover. Once inside he would have time to think, at least that was his plan. He had been trying to contact Autobot headquarters but the Ark’s Skyspy was obviously out of range this far south as all he was getting was static.
Then he was inside the cloud cover and all he could see was a white blanket of mist. He levelled his flight out and began heading north. What was he going to do? If he just headed back to the Ark that would mean abandoning the other Aerialbots to mercies of the Renegades. What were they going to do with them? Could he live with himself if he left the to be killed out of hand? On the other hand what could he do alone against the Renegades, who were now safely back inside their base?
He began to circle round, meaning to keep in the cloud cover until he could make up his mind. He had to decide quickly. The longer he waited the less time the Aerialbots had. He had to go back he had to try and get them out of there. It would take too long to get any help from the Ark. It was up to him.
Having decided on a course of action he was just about to kick in his afterburner and head back down when a pair of long vicious talons descended through the mist at him. The pierced his fuselage causing him to scream in pain. Doubledealer’s head lunged into view and with an evil cackle he said, “Stupid Autobot. Haven’t you ever heard of infrared vision?”
The pain intensified as Doubledealer gripped ever tighter. Fireflight felt himself being dragged off course as the Renegade flapped his wings and dragged him down, out of the clouds and back towards the ground and the Renegade’s base.
Chapter Three – The Bigger Picture
“We do not have the troops for an attack on the Ark,” Megatron said to Soundwave. Megatron had now left the repair centre and was seated in his throne like chair in his quarters while Soundwave stood before him. “We must therefore find an alternative approach,” he continued. Then after some thought he said, “I want Ravage, Laserbeak and Buzzsaw to infiltrate the Ark and steal this Lifespark for the Decepticons.”
“Three will be more easily detected than one,” Soundwave objected.
“Then what we need is a little diversion,” Megatron replied and his eyes flared briefly.
* * * * *
“You wanted to see me Wheeljack?” Optimus Prime asked as he re-entered the lab.
“We sure do Prime,” Wheeljack replied. “We’ve found something, well interesting about this gismo of yours.”
“Oh?” Prime asked quizzically coming over to where Wheeljack and Perceptor stood.
Wheeljack picked up the Lifespark and held it up to Prime, “Take a look inside the finger holes.”
Prime took the Lifespark and held it close to his face and peered into the small holes in the handles of the device, “What am I supposed to be seeing?” he asked.
“They are very hard to distinguish,” Perceptor said. “Even we missed them on our first inspection.”
“Missed what?” Prime asked, getting a little irritated.
“Inside each finger hole is a tiny interface connector,” Wheeljack said. “Basically when someone puts their fingers inside the holes they can choose to mentally connect to the device. As Perceptor said they are small but they’re there.”
“And what do you deduce from this?” Prime asked.
“We think that the best way to find out exactly what this device is or is not capable of is to interface with it,” Wheeljack said.
Prime looked down at the Lifespark deep in thought. Who knew what would happen if he connected with this device? If only Brainstorm were here to tell him what these connections were for. But he wasn’t here and there was no way to get in contact with him.
“Very well Wheeljack,” Prime said. “What do I do?”
“Place your fingers through the holes and press firmly, then concentrate on receiving the connection signal that will be being transmitted,” Wheeljack answered.
Prime did as he was instructed and grasped the Lifespark firmly in both hands and then opened his mind searching for the connection signal. It took only a few seconds to find it. He opened the necessary channels in his mind and felt the sensation of being pulled off his feet, the room around him dissolved and he was inside a swirling vortex of colour, and he was falling.
* * * * *
Skydive flickered slowly back to consciousness. He was lying on something, starring up at a rocky ceiling. He tried to sit up and found he couldn’t. His arms and legs were pinned down. He moved his head trying to see what he was lying on.
He seemed to be on a table of some sort. The lower part of each of his arms were covered by a bulky looking piece of machinery. He raised his head slightly to look down towards his feet. His lower legs were also covered by similar looking machinery to his arms. Cables running from the machinery snaked across the floor to another larger piece of machinery by the wall.
He tried to move again, willing his limbs to come free of the restraints. “There’s no point in struggling,” said a voice from behind him. “I made those restraints myself. You’re not going anywhere.”
“Who’s there?” Skydive shouted.
A black and purple figure came into view and stood next to the table, “I’m Mindwipe. How do you like my makeshift Variable Voltage Harness? Not up to Cybertronian standards I admit, Earth equipment is so primitive, but I’m sure it will do its job.”
Mindwipe smiled as Skydive began to struggle again. He knew what fear he had instilled by the mere mention of this device. The Variable Voltage Harness or VVH as it was commonly known could send a continuous charge of high voltage electricity into the unfortunate victim. The precise voltage could be altered to increase the pain induced. More sophisticated versions had timing mechanisms to alter the voltage automatically, others increased the voltage if the victim struggled. It was one of Cybertrons most feared instruments of torture.
Skydive was struggling ever more violently but the restraints held him fast. Mindwipe pressed a button on the side of the VVH and the table raised itself to a thirty-five degree angle. Skydive’s struggles decreased as he looked to see what was happening. In front of him was what looked like a human television camera and it was pointed right at him.
“While I was researching Earth culture,” Mindwipe said. “I came across a phrase that seems to suit the situation. ‘Smile you’re on Candid Camera.’” Then he pressed another button and Skydive began to scream.
* * * * *
As Prime fell through the vortex, the swirling colours began to move faster and faster. Below him the vortex vanished into a brilliant blaze of white light and it was coming closer.
As he hit the whiteness the vortex vanished and the sensation of falling ceased. The whiteness faded away to complete blackness. Then two points of light sprang up in the darkness. The lights were moving rapidly, apparently dancing round each other, moving away from each other and then returning.
Sometimes they got so close that they blurred together into a single intense light. At other times smaller specks of light seemed to erupt from them, quickly fading to leave just the two points behind. As Prime looked the two points of light seemed to be moving closer.
As they grew in size they began to take on shape. Prime strained his optics trying to make out the shapes. As they grew still bigger he began to see that they were humanoids, glowing with energy. One of the beings, with a very human looking face wore a round helmet upon his head. On his back he wore a large red cloak, attached to which was a high yellow collar the rose up to two points at either side of his head. In one hand he help a luminescent sword, in the other a large shield.
The other figure was just as tall as the first, but looked altogether different. His face, though similar to a human’s was disfigured by sharp pointed teeth in his mouth. A short double pointed goatee style beard emerged from his chin. On his head he wore a helmet from which two vicious looking spikes emerged, one from either side. In his hand he wielded a three headed flail.
The two figures were locked in violent combat, each lashing out at the other with their weapons, but the two were equally matched and as soon as one gained ground the other would push back and regain the ground they had lost and so the battle continued.
As Prime watched the first figure turned his head and he and Prime locked gazes. The figure’s eyes blazed white. The whiteness expanded outwards and Prime felt himself being drawn forwards as if he was being sucked inside the beings eyes. The whiteness filled his vision and then once more faded to blackness. The figures had vanished.
This time he wasn’t in total darkness, around him, wherever he looked were what looked like thick pipes. There were thousands, millions of them disappearing into infinity. The pipes were not solid however. They were made up of what looked like a fuzzy outline of dark blue mist. Tendrils of the blue mist swirled around inside the pipes. The pipes were not straight, but instead, meandered through the void like rivers.
While the pipes were everywhere however they were always separate from each other, Prime noticed. The never touched, except in one place. As Prime turned his attention on it, he moved towards it, or maybe they moved towards him, for it was impossible to tell which.
He saw that one of the pipes appeared to have had huge holes ripped through the fuzzy outline. Through these holes, tendrils of mist were pouring out into the void. The tendrils reached out and while some were just hanging there in the void others were touching and enveloping a second pipe that was running almost parallel to the damaged one.
Between to two pipes though was something else. The tendrils had wrapped themselves around, something, Prime didn’t know what, so much of the mist had covered the object that it was impossible to see any kind of shape.
The mist around the object appeared to bulge slightly every few seconds. A circle of brighter blue ran along the object in time to the throbbing. Then Prime saw the object move, rotating in the void, turning in his direction. Then two shards of light, almost Prime thought like eyes, erupted from the surface of the object, shining like beacons in the blackness. Below the eyes an gash appeared like a mouth filled with sharp pointed teeth and contorted in a snarl of hatred.
The voice was coming from a long distance away. At first Prime thought that this object or creature or whatever it was, was calling to him. The call came again, “OPTIMUS PRIME!” and this time Prime recognised the voice. It was Wheeljack’s.
Suddenly Prime felt himself being dragged backwards, away from the sight in front of him. He saw the vortex circling past him at great speed and then he was back inside Wheeljack’s lab and Wheeljack was shouting at him.
“OPTIMUS PRIME! SNAP OUT OF IT! WE’RE UNDER ATTACK BY THE DECEPTICONS!”
Chapter Four – The Fight For Life
Ravage crouched in the shadow of the rocks near the entrance to the Ark. The daylight was beginning to fade and so it wasn’t difficult for the master spy to disappear totally from view of the Autobots who were emerging from the Ark’s cavernous entrance.
A few minutes before Ravage had watched as his fellow cassettes, Laserbeak and Buzzsaw had flown up towards the top of the volcano, intending to infiltrate from above. Ravage was determined that it would be him not them who would deliver this device to Megatron.
Ravage waited impatiently for the attack to commence. Where were Thundercracker and Skywarp? Say what you will about Starscream he had at least kept those under his command in line. Without him these two were just liabilities. Dangerous liabilities, he reminded himself. For they alone of all the Decepticons had profited by Operation Sunburn.
Unlike Megatron, they had kept their power boosts and so were now two of the most powerful Decepticons. Fortunately Thundercracker was too unambitious and Skywarp too stupid to realise that they had the power to take control of the Decepticons for themselves if they so wished. Ravage hoped for the sake of the Decepticon cause that that would never change.
With a scream of jet engines Thundercracker rocketed overhead letting out a deafening sonic boom as he did so. Ravage shrank back deeper into the shadows as Autobots began to emerge from the Ark and the newly rebuilt repair centre.
Thundercracker had zoomed away from the Ark in a wide circle and was now turning to bear down on the Autobot base again. The Autobots began to fire into the sky at the approaching Decepticon. Thundercracker began performing elaborate aerial acrobatics, skilfully avoiding most of their fire. The few shots that did connect seemed to have very little effect however.
More Autobots emerged from the Ark and began to add their firepower to that of their comrades. Ravage knew that enough sustained firepower could still seriously damage Thundercracker despite his power up. Thundercraker knew it too and as the hail of laser fire intensified he pulled up into a steep climb zooming up into the clouds.
While the Autobots were still scanning the sky above them Skywarp materialised behind them, his machine guns pummelling the ground where the Autobots stood. There was a scream and Ravage saw Seaspray collapse to the ground clutching his leg, which now had a large gash in it.
Skywarp shot overhead of the surprised Autobots and was soon out of range of their renewed fire. As if on cue, Thundercracker re-emerged from the clouds and joined his fellow Seeker in a renewed charge on the Ark.
Ravage began to slink forward, his sensors alert for any sign that he might have been spotted, but the Autobots were too intent on the attacking jets to have noticed him. Just has he reached the edge of the rocks outside the Ark’s entrance he was forced to cower as the impressive form of Optimus Prime emerged from the Ark at a run, his rifle at the ready. Making sure that there were no other Autobots following Prime, Ravage quickly and silently slipped inside the Autobot base.
* * * * *
“Prowl, what in the universe is going on here?” Prime called to his second in command as he exited the base to see the two Seekers making a new attack run on the base. He was still feeling a bit disoriented from the visions that the Lifespark had shown him.
“Two Decepticon Seekers attacking, no other hostiles seen so far.”
“Have they gone mad? They can’t possible take us all on even with their power boosts,” Prime said. He looked as the two jets broke off from their attack run due to the heavy fire from the Autobots. Thundercracker continued to circle round as if coming in for another run but Skywarp flickered and vanished from view as he teleported.
“Stay alert Autobots,” Prowl cried. “There’s no knowing where he’ll turn up next.”
“Well I say its time to take the fight to them,” Powerglide cried out and he transformed and shot up into the air heading for Thundercracker. “And away we go.”
“Powerglide, stop,” Prime called out. “We won’t be able to cover you up there.” But it was too late Powerglide shot forward to meet Thundercracker. As he approach he activated his nose mounted thermal beam which lanced out and hit the Decepticon in the centre of his left wing.
Thundercracker laughed, “Are you trying to tickle me to death Autobot?”
“Oops,” Powerglide said out loud. “Looks like you could be out of your depth here Powerglide.”
“Now its my turn,” Thundercracker shouted and turned to bring his own weapons to bear on the small Autobot. Powerglide wasted no time and increased his speed and turned and began to head back towards the Autobots but Thundercracker had a speed advantage and gave chase immediately.
“I think I’m going to have to use desperate measures here,” Powerglide said and he activated his afterburner. This dropped raw fuel into his engine allowing him to increase his speed to 3200 Mph. “Whoaaaaaaa,” he cried as he shot forward. He quickly outdistanced his pursuer but now had very little time to bring himself under control. He briefly saw the Autobots shoot past below him and the volcano approaching. With a cry and the noise of tearing metal, he collided with the rock face and tumbled down onto the ground below.
Ratchet who had only just finished dragging Seaspray over to the repair bay ran over to where Powerglide lay, his wing ripped away and his cockpit badly dented.
Prime turned his attention to Thundercracker who having seen his prey escape him had once again circled round for another attack run.
“Something funny is going on here,” Prime said. “This attack makes no sense.”
No sooner were the words out of his mouth however than Skywarp materialised to his left and began firing on the Autobots again. Prime turned and added his fire to that of the other Autobots.
* * * * *
Laserbeak and Buzzsaw had flown inside the crater of the volcano until they glimpsed the shape of the Ark below them. The giant Autobot ship filled most of the crater area. There was a small gap down one side however where a warm vapour was emerging from the molten magma that was still broiling deep underground.
The two bird-like Decepticons landed gently on top of the Ark. Each chose there own spot and began to make an entrance into the Autobot base. Laserbeak shot out highly intense laser beams from his eyes and with scalpel-like precision began to cut himself a hole in the Ark’s think metal fuselage. Buzzsaw used his razor-sharp beak to rip away slivers of metal.
In a very short time they had both managed to open up holes large enough for them to enter by and without wasting any time they disappeared inside the Ark.
* * * * *
Ravage moved as quickly as he dared through the corridors of the Ark heading towards Wheeljack’s lab. He just hoped that the Lifespark was still there and that he beat Laserbeak and Buzzsaw to it.
So far there had been no sign of any Autobots. Presumably they had all rushed outside when the attack had started. Ravage shook his head to himself with mingled contempt and pity. Did these Autobots never learn to think before rushing headlong into a situation? Had the disastrous battle at the power plant only a few weeks ago taught them nothing about the value of having a decent strategy? Apparently not.
Ravage slowed his approach as the entrance to Wheeljack’s lab came into sight. There was still no sign of any Autobots but surely even they wouldn’t be stupid enough to leave something this valuable unguarded would they?
As he approached the entrance Ravage heard voices coming from inside. He slunk carefully up to the opening to the room and looked inside. Wheeljack and Perceptor stood in conversation in front of a table. On top of which was the Lifespark once more suspended in its frame.
“I thought we’d seen the last of these creeps,” Wheeljack was saying as the noise of an explosion from outside rumbled through the Ark.
“It seems that your optimism was misplaced,” Perceptor said, in his usual prissy manner.
Ravage shook his head again, fancy leaving these two weaklings to guard the device. Sometimes, Ravage thought, the Autobots deserved to be beaten. He hastily pushed aside the thought that followed this that said, then why haven’t we beaten them yet?
He had to move quickly, both Autobots had their backs to him; it was the best chance he was going to get. With a snarl Ravage leapt into the room and flung himself at Wheeljack. The two of them collapsed in a heap on the floor and Perceptor cried out in alarm.
Ravage recovered himself as quickly as he could and spun round to face the other Autobot ready to pounce on him next. But before he could move Buzzsaw and Laserbeak flew into the room issuing shrill screeches.
The two of them had been waiting their moment to strike. Hidden in the pipe work along the ceiling outside the room they had watched as Ravage had made his stealthy approach. Then they had waited until he made his move. After all why should they do more work than was necessary? Let him take the risks and they could claim the reward.
Seeing Wheeljack go down they flew into the room after Ravage. The already startled Perceptor leapt to one side as Laserbeak targeted him with a blast from his eye lasers. Now having a clear run, Buzzsaw swooped down and grabbed the Lifespark in his talons and ignoring Ravages snarl of rage; he and Laserbeak swooped round in a circle and out of the room.
Ravage was furious, he charged out of the room after the retreating bird-like Decepticons. He would get them back for this. He ran headlong down the corridors now, heading for the exit.
* * * * *
“Prime come in,” Wheeljack’s voice came desperately over the comm. system.
“What is it Wheeljack?” Prime asked.
“The Lifespark, its been stolen by the Decepticons, Buzzsaw, Laserbeak and Ravage.”
“What!” Prime cried. “Which way did they go?”
“I don’t know, they took us by surprise, grabbed the Lifespark and left.”
Prime cursed and cried out, “Autobots, this is a diversion, forget them. We need to find Ravage, Laserbeak and Buzzsaw.”
The Autobots who were still busy taking shots at the two Seekers looked round in surprise but obediently lowered their weapons and began scanning the area. Almost at one a shout went up from Brawn who pointed skywards as he spoke, “Laserbeak and Buzzsaw!”
Prime looked as the two Decepticons flew out of the volcano, the Lifespark dangling from Buzzsaw’s talons.
“We must stop them!” Prime cried out. Autobots concentrate your fire on Buzzsaw.”
At once the air was alive with laser fire as the Autobots all began to shoot at Buzzsaw. Laserbeak, sensing the danger veered quickly away from his fellow Decepticon. The Autobots let him go and continued to fire on Buzzsaw.
Then with a shriek of pain Buzzsaw erupted in flames as several laser blasts hit their target at the same time. The Lifespark fell from his talons and plummeted towards the ground.
“I got it!” cried Bumblebee and dived. He landed on his chest in the dusty ground the Lifespark landing in his outstretched hands just moments before it hit the ground. The flaming body of Buzzsaw landed with a thud a few feet away.
* * * * *
Standing atop a hill a few miles away, Megatron raged as he watched the events being relayed back to him by the camera that had been attached to Thundercracker.
“The incompetent fool!” Megatron cried out as he saw Buzzsaw fall to the ground in flames. “We almost had it. We don’t have the numbers to make a fight for it. Decepticons retreat, for now.”
With this he flew up into the air, heading back towards their undersea base. Soundwave who had also been observing the battle, stood for a few moments looking back at the volcano in the distance. Then he too took to the air.
* * * * *
“They’re leaving,” Sideswipe said as Thundercracker, Skywarp and Laserbeak all turned at top speed and flew into the distance.
“Prime, I think this belongs to you,” Bumblebee said coming up to Prime holding the Lifespark out in front of him.
“Thank you Bumblebee,” Prime said taking the Lifespark and placing it inside his chest compartment. Once again he felt a surge of power as he did so. “Lets go back inside everyone. Prowl, assemble the section commanders in the briefing room in fifteen minutes. Ratchet recover the remains of Buzzsaw.”
The Autobots began to head back towards the entrance to the Ark and were taken aback when Ravage suddenly emerged at top speed from round a corner. He skidded to a halt.
“Get him!” Prime ordered at once.
Ravage turned quick as lightning and headed back the way he came but before he had gone more than a couple of feet Wheeljack emerged at a run from the corridor that led to his lab, Perceptor close behind him
“Oh no you don’t,” Wheeljack said and fired his magnetic inducer at the Decepticon spy.
Ravage was bathed in a pale light and then fell to the floor with a clunk.
Chapter Five – The Price of Life
“So the Decepticons are back,” Prime said in the briefing room to the assembled section commanders. “There was no sign of Megatron but somebody obviously organised them, so either he survived or someone has taken his place.”
“What I want to know is how did they know about the Lifespark?” Prowl asked.
“Ravage, Buzzsaw and Laserbeak had managed to gain access to headquarters undetected to steal it. It’s not impossible that one or more of them might have done it before and learnt of the existence of the Lifespark,” Prime said. “Either way I think it’s high time we tightened our security around here.”
Prowl nodded, “I’ll get onto it right away,” he said.
“We must protect the Lifespark at all costs, if it should ever fall into Megatron’s hands it would be a disaster,” Prime continued. “We’ve had a lucky escape today, let’s not let it happen again.”
There were murmurs of agreement throughout the room at this. Then Hot Spot stood up and said, “Prime can we afford to let this device continue to exist at all? Its value to us is far outweighed by the risk it presents. We now have two lots of enemies to contend with both of whom won’t hesitate to use this device against us.”
“I understand your concerns Hot Spot,” Prime said. “But I believe that this device has more to it than just the ability to give new life and until I can ascertain what that may be I am not willing to destroy it. It…”
At this moment Prime was interrupted by the intercom system,” Prime this is Bumblebee, sorry to disturb you but we’re receiving a communication that I think you need to see.”
“Very well, I’ll be right there,” Prime said. “Prowl come with me, everyone else stay here we’ll be back shortly.”
There was a ripple of conversation as they left the room and headed to where Teletraan-I was kept.
* * * * *
Ravage’s optics flickered back into focus. He was lying on his side inside a small bare rectangular room. Running from floor to ceiling along one side were a number of energon bars. He was in a detention cell.
He got to his feet and moved over to the bars, flinching slightly as at the light that emanated from them. Outside he saw yet another of the Ark’s endless corridors. It was deserted.
This was not the first time the Autobots had trapped him behind energon bars. On that occasion they had allowed him to escape so that they could try and trick Megatron into a trap.
Ravage had never forgotten or forgiven the Autobots for that, as it had been Megatron, not himself, that had realised that it was a trap. Ravage had lost a lot of face with his fellow Decepticons when they realised that he had been used like that. He had sworn never to allow it to happen again. Here was his chance to show the Autobots that they couldn’t hold him prisoner anymore.
Checking again to ensure there were no guards Ravage opened a panel in his left leg. A small cylinder emerged on the end of a robotic arm. The cylinder was transparent but on closer inspection could be seen to have circuit boards etched into the inside surface. In addition to this at regular intervals along the length of the cylinder were what looked like small mirrors.
At either end the cylinder curved at a right angle to the main body. One end pointed up, the other end pointed down. On top of the downward pointing end was yet another mirror. This one was larger than those in the body of the tube and seemed to line up with the opening below.
Ravage positioned himself just in front of the energon bars and issued mental commands to the robotic arm holding the cylinder. Slowly the arm began to move the cylinder into position. The upward pointing end of the cylinder lined up with one of the energon bars, while the downward section lined up the bar next to it.
The robotic arm jerked forward and the cylinder connected with the beams of energy with a slight sizzle. The first bar entered the open end of the cylinder and the mirrors channelled the beam along the length of it and it emerged out of the downward pointing section. The mirror on top of the cylinder acted as a connection point for the second bar. There was know a gap beneath the first bar that was just large enough for Ravage to squeeze through.
The robotic arm let go of the cylinder, which remained suspended, held in place by the energy flowing through it. Ravage carefully edged himself through the gap that was left. Once outside in the corridor, he extended the robotic arm again, grabbed the cylinder and jerked it from its position. With a slight crackle of electricity the cylinder came loose and the bars returned to their normal state.
Ravage turned and stealthily made his way down the corridor, smiling to himself. Just let the Autobots figure that one out.
* * * * *
As Prime and Prowl entered the room, Bumblebee came over to them and said, “I didn’t want to say to much in front of the others until you’d seen this for yourself.”
“What is it Bumblebee?” Prime asked looking up at Teletraan-I. The question died on his lips as he saw the sharp features of Sixshot looking down at him.
“Nice to see you again Prime,” Sixshot said.
“What do you want Sixshot?” Prime asked.
“I’m sure you know that,” Sixshot said. “You have something of mine; and now I have something of yours.”
The display changed to show Skydive strapped to the makeshift VVH. He was screaming in agony and writhing on the machine, desperately trying to break free. The Autobots looked on in horror.
The screen flickered back to Sixshot who said, “Now, perhaps you’d like to discuss a trade? You give me the Lifespark and I’ll give you your Aerialbots back in one piece…well mostly.”
“Sixshot if you so much as…” Prime began but Sixshot cut him off curtly.
“Don’t even begin to spout one of your Autobot platitudes at me Prime. I want the Lifespark and you will give it to me, or I shall dismantle your friends and send them back to you piece by piece. Decide quickly.”
Prime looked up at the expressionless face of his enemy for a few seconds and then said, “Where?”
“Since you have so little air power, especially at the moment,” Sixshot said with an undisguised sneer in his voice. “I’ll come to you. Meet me at the co-ordinates I’m transmitting now in twelve Earth hours and come alone. If I suspect a trick your friends will suffer.”
“How do I know I can trust you?” Prime asked.
“Don’t insult my honour Optimus Prime. I always keep my word. Besides you have no choice but to trust me, not if you want to see your friends again.”
“Very well Sixshot I’ll be there,” Optimus Prime said.
“I knew you’d see reason,” Sixshot replied as he cut the connection.
“Prime you can’t really be going to hand over the Lifespark to the Renegades,” Prowl said.
“For the moment I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Prime said. “Teletran, show the location specified by the received co-ordinates.”
Teletran’s screen blackened for a few seconds then an overhead terrain map appeared and Teletran’s stilted voice said, “Location: Identified as being one hundred and eighty miles South West of Autobot headquarters, known as the Valley of Sprinkling Water.”
The on screen map zoomed in to show a valley with a large lake filling much of the bottom. In the centre of the lake was a large bare island. The image continued to zoom in until it was hovering over a spot near the centre of the island.
“They’ve sure picked the location carefully,” Prowl observed. “No cover to hide backup in and a natural moat to limit offensive attacks. Are you going to go alone Prime?”
“The safety of the Aerialbots is my chief concern. If I have to give them the Lifespark we will at least have a chance to recover it later. If I leave the Aerialbots to die then I will be no better than the Decepticons or the Renegades. I will go alone and I will get the Aerialbots back safely.”
“But Prime what’s to stop them just capturing you as well?” Bumblebee asked shocked.
“Nothing,” Prime answered. “But the Renegades from what I’ve seen of them do seem to have a streak of honour that the Decepticons don’t. I believe that Sixshot will keep his word. At any rate, as he said I have no choice but to trust him.”
“At least let some of us come with you as backup. We can stay well back but be near enough to help if you have problems,” Prowl said.
“No Prowl. I will not risk the lives of the Aerialbots,” Prime said turning away from Teletraan-I. “There have been enough deaths recently. It stops here.”
In the far corner of the room hidden in the shadows, Ravage crouched as he watched the three Autobots leave the room still deep in discussion. He had entered the room just in time to hear the conversation with Sixshot. He had recorded the whole thing using his internal tape system and his keen eyes had also memorised the location of the exchange. Megatron must be informed.
As soon as the Autobots had left the room, Ravage cautiously emerged from cover and made his way towards the exit.
* * * * *
“Are we really going to hand the prisoners over to the Autobots?” Doubledealer asked Sixshot.
The two of them were standing watching as the other Renegades finished installing one of the bases newly built energy cannons. It had taken Mindwipe a long time to come up with a design that could be constructed from Earth materials but he had come through in the end. Two-dozen such cannons were now installed in hidden compartments at strategic locations around the base perimeter. Hopefully they would keep the base secure in the event of an Autobot or even a Decepticon attack.
“Yes, we will honour our agreement. One of the things which distinguishes me from Megatron is that I am a bot of my word.”
“But they know the location of our base now. Surely we’re just asking for trouble if we let them go. They will bring the entire Autobot army down us, if only to recover the Lifespark,” Doubledealer objected.
Sixshot held up his hand, “Calm yourself,” he said. “Mindwipe is dealing with that little problem. They will have no memory of our location once he has finished with them.”
* * * * *
Skydive’s whole body was on fire with pain and the machine hadn’t been switched on for at least an hour now. The pain was easing as his internal repair systems began to do their work.
He was still strapped to the VVH and was unable to move. He no longer had the energy to try and free himself. All his energy reserves were being passed to his repair systems.
There was a hum of a door opening somewhere behind him and he stiffened involuntarily at the thought that Midnwipe had returned to inflict even more torture on him.
He turned as much as he was able to see who had entered the room and saw that it was indeed Mindwipe, who smiled a cruel smile at him as he approached.
“How are we feeling?” Mindwipe asked with a tone of mocking concern in his voice. Skydive didn’t answer. He refused to give Mindwipe the satisfaction.
“Not talking?” Mindwipe continued as he came and stood looking down at Skydive. “Good, because I don’t want you to talk. I want you to listen.”
“You have nothing to say that I want to hear,” Skydive said turning his head from his tormentor. Mindwipe stretched out a hand and grabbed Skydive’s head by the chin, pulling it round so that they were staring into each other’s faces.
“I don’t care whether you want to hear or not,” Mindwipe said. “You will look into my optics, concentrate on them.”
“What are you…?” Skydive began, but even as he spoke Mindwipe’s black lifeless optics began to swirl with a purple vortex of light. Skydive found himself mesmerised by the swirling colours, his own optics began to lose focus, there was nothing else but those twin swirls of light.
“Excellent,” Mindwipe continued as he felt Skydive’s head cease its resistance to his hand. “Now. When you return you will have forgotten all about the location of the Renegade headquarters. We took you by surprise in the desert…”
“You took us by surprise in the desert,” Skydive intoned.
* * * * *
Megatron sat motionless as Soundwave played back the conversation that Ravage had taped. When the playback had finished he said, “Well done Ravage, at least you can be relied upon. So that traitor Sixshot still thinks that he can challenge the Decepticons does he? We will soon disillusion him and take the Lifespark for ourselves.”
Chapter Six – Appointment With Destiny
Optimus Prime stopped at the top of the precipice overlooking the valley and transformed back to robot mode. Checking his internal chronometer he found he still had a few minutes to spare before the Renegades were supposed to arrive.
The trip here had been uneventful and slow, with no proper roads only dirt tracks and sometimes not even that. Prime looked down into the valley, he saw the island below him set amid the waters of the lake. The sun glistened on the clear blue surface. The island itself appeared deserted.
Prime began to work his way across the undergrowth, looking for a way down the side of the valley. He soon found a point that was less steep and began scrabbling down into the valley below. It took only a few minutes for him to finish a climb that would have taken a human many hours to complete.
Before long he was standing on the edge of the lake. The shore of the island was about a thousand feet away. Prime wondered how best to get out there. There was no way of telling just how deep the lake was. He might be able to wade out there but then again he might not.
He looked around at the sky, wondering when the Renegades would put in an appearance, but the sky was empty. He turned back to the lake and began to wade out into deeper water. It wasn’t long before it was up to his waist but luckily it didn’t seem to be getting any deeper.
He was soon stepping on to the sandy shore of island. He walked up the beach, heading for the centre of the island, when suddenly a voice came out of nowhere and said, “That’s far enough Prime.”
Prime looked round, confused. There was nowhere for the speaker to hide and yet the voice had come from nearby. With a swish the figure of Sixshot shimmered into view a few feet in front of Prime.
“Fortunately we did manage to bring some of our technology from Cybertron,” Sixshot said in response to Prime’s quizzical look. Then Prime remembered how the Renegades had appeared out of nowhere during the confrontation with Shockwave on Cybertron. They obviously had a mobile cloaking device of some kind. Another reason to tighten security at the Ark.
“Where are the Aerialbots?” Prime asked.
Sixshot gave a quick gesture with his hand and behind him the figures of Dreadwind and Darkwing materialised followed seconds later by the inert bodies of the four Aerialbots. “They are not seriously damaged,” Sixshot said.
“Remember our deal Sixshot, the Aerialbots go free once you get the Lifespark,” Prime said.
Sixshot nodded and said, “Very well, now shall we get on with it?”
Resignedly Prime opened his chest compartment, and took out the glowing Lifespark. He held it in his hand and said, “Now release the Aerialbots.”
“Not until I hold the Lifespark in my hand,” Sixshot said, his optics gleaming.
Slowly Optimus Prime held out the Lifespark towards Sixshot.
* * * * *
High in the sky, Laserbeak hovered overhead looking down with his keen eyesight on the scene below. He watched as Prime made his way down the side of the valley and across the lake to the island.
He was every bit as surprised as Optimus Prime when Sixshot appeared out of thin air. He recovered himself quickly however and signalled to back to Soundwave that the exchange was about to take place.
Hidden in a small wooded area a few miles to the South, Soundwave picked up Laserbeaks transmission and immediately relayed it to Megatron.
“Order the attack,” Megatron commanded.
* * * * *
Sixshot reached out for the Lifespark and grasped it firmly, he felt Prime’s reluctance to let go of the precious device but Sixshot pulled firmly and Prime let it go. “Thank you,” he said to Prime.
“Now let the Aerialbots go,” Prime said.
Sixshot nodded and said, “We have to be getting back, we have lots to do, so we will leave the Aerialbots here for you. I hope that there are no hard feelings Prime. After all…” He never got to finish his sentence however because there suddenly came a series of splashes from the lake. The Renegades and Optimus Prime both turned in surprise to see six vicious looking robotic creatures emerge from the water. The six Seacons immediately transformed, their weapons pointed at the figures on the island.
The tallest of them Seacons stepped forward and said, “In the name of the Decepticons I claim this device for Megatron. Give it to me.”
“Snap Trap,” Sixshot exclaimed. “I didn’t realise that you were on Earth and how did the Decepticons know we were meeting here?”
“Ravage must have overheard before he escaped,” Prime said, almost to himself.
“Enough talk,” Snap Trap said. “Hand it over. Megatron awaits.”
“The Decepticons must not get their hands on the Lifespark, Sixshot,” Prime said. “If they do you will be destroyed as surely as the Autobots will.”
Sixshot hesitated for a moment and then said, “You’re right Prime,” He turned back to Snap Trap and said, “If you want it come and get it.”
Without waiting for a response he transformed into his jet mode and shot up into the sky. The Seacons raised their weapons and began firing on his retreating form. For a second Prime thought he was going to make it, but a lucky shot from Skalor clipped Sixshot’s wing causing the end to disintegrate in flame.
As Prime watched, Sixshot lost control and began falling from the sky. He transformed back to robot mode in an attempt to control his fall, the Lifespark was still clutched in his hand. With a huge splash he fell into the lake and disappeared from view.
“Seacons, capture the device,” Snap Trap ordered and began to turn back towards the lake. As soon as his back was turned Optimus Prime leapt at Snap Trap, sending the pair of them crashing to the ground.
In the confusion that followed Dreadwind and Darkwing got out their weapons and began firing on the Seacons. Tentakil was blasted in the chest by Dreadwind and fell to the ground, smoke rising from his chest.
The four remaining Seacons began returning fire while avoiding the shots aimed at them. Dreadwind and Darkwing in their turn were forced to keep on the move, firing as they went, hoping for a lucky shot.
Prime and Snap Trap were wrestling on the beach, causing sand to fly everywhere. With a yell of rage Snap Trap gave a mighty heave and sent Prime flying, landing on his back a few feet away.
Snap Trap got to his feet and walked over to where Prime lay. He raised his gun and pointed it at the Autobot leader. “This looks like my lucky day,” Snap Trap sneered. “I get to finally take down the legendary Optimus Prime.”
There was the sound of a laser being discharged and with a look of extreme surprise on his face; Snap Trap fell forwards a small black hole in his back.
“You always did talk too much,” Sixshot said emerging dripping from the water his gun still smoking the Lifespark still grasped in his other hand.
Prime got to his feet and said, “Thank for saving my life.”
“Please don’t go all sentimental on me Prime,” Sixshot snapped. “It was the sensible thing to do one less enemy and one more gun to help take down the rest of these ‘cons.”
Before Prime could answer an explosion erupted in the sand at their feet. Prime and Sixshot were both sent flying by the blast. When the dust had cleared Prime looked up to see Megatron hovering over the beach his fusion cannon at the ready.
“It seems I have to do everything myself these days,” Megatron said. “Hand the device over Sixshot and I will make your death swift.”
Sixshot got slowly back to his feet and said, “If there’s one thing that has kept me going all these years Megatron it’s the thought that one day I would have my revenge for the living hell you inflicted on me. I would rather the Autobots have the Lifespark than let you have it.”
He didn’t give Megatron a chance to react to these words. He raised his arm and threw the Lifespark towards Prime calling out, “Catch!”
Prime reacted instantly, leapt into the air, caught the Lifespark and then ran up the beach towards the centre of the island. He heard Megatron give a cry of rage behind him but he didn’t look back. He had no real plan just to get the Lifespark out of Megatron’s immediate reach.
He was so anxious to get away that he accidentally tripped on a patch of uneven ground, falling headlong onto the grass. The jolt caused him to lose grip on the Lifespark, which rolled across the ground.
He stretched out his hand trying to reach the Lifespark, his fingers clawed at one of the handles. Then a shadow fell over him and he heard Megatron’s voice say, “Nowhere left to run Prime.”
Prime made one last desperate grab for the Lifespark and his fingers slid smoothly into the holes in the handle. He tugged the Lifespark towards him but it snagged on a rock. He gave a heave and to his surprise and horror, the casing pulled apart releasing the glowing central core.
Chapter Seven – Deus Ex
The core of the Lifespark emitted a blinding light that caused Prime’s optics into an emergency cut out. From the shouts he heard, Prime assumed that the same had happened to the others.
The sound of laser fire vanished and a peace descended on the island. Prime’s optics flickered back on and he saw that the Lifespark was still emitting a bright light but it was now less intense. As he watched a beam of coloured light emerged upwards from the Lifespark, shimmering maroon and blue. Then the light coalesced into the shape of an aged Autobot.
“Alpha Trion!” Prime exclaimed.
“Greetings Optimus Prime,” Alpha Trion said.
“What is happening?” Prime asked. “You merged with Vector Sigma!”
“Ay and the device you call the Lifespark is linked to Vector Sigma, I have been sent here to end this battle once and for all.”
“Enough of this,” Megatron cried and lunged forward, trying to grab the Lifespark.
“Stay!” Alpha Trion cried out, holding his arm outstretched. Megatron stopped moving as though turned to stone.
“What have you done to me?” Megatron raged.
“Vector Sigma has decreed that the Autobots and more specifically Optimus Prime will from now on be the keeper of the device you call the Lifespark.”
“I care not what Vector Sigma says,” Megatron snapped. “The Lifespark will be mine and I will use it to build an army of Decepticons so strong that none will be able to stand against me.”
Alpha Trion shook his head sadly, “It is for that reason that Vector Sigma has decided to prevent you from using the device Megatron, you and all others who would use it for evil purposes.”
Alpha Trion then gestured with his hand and the Lifespark container closed silently. The light vanished and only the figure of Alpha Trion remained. Then the Lifespark rose slowly into the air and hovered level with Alpha Trion’s eye.
“Arise Optimus Prime,” he said, “and receive the Autobot Matrix of Leadership.”
Prime stood up and said, “I don’t understand Alpha. What is this all about?”
“You will know all soon Optimus Prime,” Alpha Trion said. “Vector Sigma has sealed the Matrix now so that only a being pure of spirit may open it. Take it, it is yours to safeguard against those who would abuse it.”
Prime reached out and gently took the Matrix in his hand. No sooner had he done so than the island and everything around him seemed to melt away and he found himself in a white void. Before him still stood Alpha Trion.
“You and you alone will now hear what I have to say as keeper of the Matrix,” Alpha Trion said. “The Matrix of Leadership, which you called the Lifespark was designed as a gift to the children of Primus…”
“Primus!” Prime exclaimed. “Then he exists?”
“Certainly he exists. It was he who first brought Cybertron into being. It was he who first gave life to the Transformers. It is our destiny to face one of the greatest evils in the Universe, a demi-god called Unicron.”
“I thought Unicron was simply a legend,” Prime exclaimed.
“No, Unicron exists. It is for this reason that we were given life by Primus, as a last line of defence against the chaos-bringer. H e passed a portion of his essence into a super computer called Vector Sigma and used that to give life to the first Cybertronians. But civil war soon swept the planet, an event which Primus had not anticipated. He decided to enter hibernation, so that he would not attract the attention of Unicron, waiting until the Autobots and Decepticons could live in peace. Vector Sigma would act as his emmisary among his creations, attempting to guide them to peaceful co-existence.
“In order to become more portable, Vector Sigma planted in the mind of one of its creations the knowledge that would allow him to develop a device to link directly to Vector Sigma. In this way it was hoped, Vector Sigma could more closely monitor and guide the Transformers. But before the device could be built its designer was killed in a Decepticon attack on the city of Dishender and the knowledge was lost for millennia. Until the design notes were found and used by the Autobot Brainstorm.
“Regrettably, the design notes were incomplete and the safeguards that Vector Sigma had developed to protect the device from misuse were left out of the final creation. A device that could be used to create life by any that gained possession of it. The potential for disaster was great, if the Decepticons gained possession of the device then they would assuredly use it to conquer the Autobots and Cybertron and there would never be peace.
“Still Vector Sigma hesitated to act, for it is not the will of Primus that his creation should interfere directly in the affairs of his children. Vector Sigma’s mission is to be a guide and mentor, not a master. In the end however Vector Sigma decided that it had to reinstate the safeguards so that the Matrix cannot be misused. This Vector Sigma has now done, through me. The Decepticons and the Renegades will not be able to use the Matrix for themselves.
“You must now take the Matrix and keep it safe until such time as it is needed.”
“But Alpha, I’m not worthy,” Prime protested looking down at the Matrix still clutched in his hand.
“You will keep it until one day an Autobot shall arise from our ranks and use the power of the Matrix to light our darkest hour,” Alpha Trion said. “For the enemies of Primus are closing in and one day soon they will attack. Take the Matrix Prime and guard it well, for it is our salvation. And keep your mind open for it may guide you in times of darkness.”
Then the white void vanished and Prime found himself back on the island again. Alpha Trion turned to Prime and said, “Gather the Aerialbots and return to the Ark. I will hold the others here until you have safely departed.”
It took Optimus Prime nearly an hour to carry the four Aerialbots out of the valley. While he did so the Decepticons and the Renegades remained motionless, held by the power of Alpha Trion. As Prime carried the last of the Aerialbots to safety Megatron cried out, “You may have won this one Prime, but I am not defeated yet. I shall return.”
Prime didn’t answer and continued up the side of the valley. Once at the top he called his trailer from the subspace pocket where it was kept and carefully loaded the Aerialbots inside. Then he transformed and began the long journey back to Autobot Headquarters.
Back on the island Alpha Trion spoke, “Hear me Decepticons and Renegades. The Lifespark is now beyond your reach, capturing it will not now avail you. It would be pointless for me to try an persuade any of you of the importance of abandoning your quests for power, but I will say this, your enterprise is doomed, for evil shall not prevail, so speaks Primus.”
Then he vanished, dissipating like smoke in a breeze. As soon as he had gone all the Transformers on the island found that they could move again. Megatron spun round to look for Sixshot. But Sixshot, was gone, Dreadwind and Darkwing’s retreating forms could be seen in the sky, with the figure of Sixshot hanging on below them.
“Reaarrrrggggghhhhh,” Megatron screamed.
Epilogue - Vengeance
At last the Entity understood. It saw clearly how he had come into being. If it had had a mouth It would have screamed in rage. If it were to be forced to endure this existence then it would make use of it.
It would destroy the fabric of reality but most especially it would bring about the downfall of Cybertron and the destruction of the Transformers. They would not escape. It would torment them a little first of course. It was in no rush; after all it had all eternity to play with.
This time if it had had a mouth it would have laughed.