Skyfire set Beachcomber on the bed and looked around the room. The room had been sickbay for a young humanoid female that Skyfire and Valkyrie had rescued, but now the girl and the Predacon Scarecrow were missing. What was odd was that no transports had left the hangar, so Scarecrow must have found some other way off of the ship.
He activated his comlink and called Wheeljack and Skids, who were searching Scarecrow’s quarters. “Have you found anything?”
“Well, you aren’t going to believe this,” Skids began. “But he left Shockwave here.”
“What do you mean? Did he download Shockwave’s core...”
“No, Shockwave is lying in his quarters, looking just like when he was a Decepticon. Wheeljack hasn’t detected any trace of Scarecrow or Predacon components.”
“I’m on my way. Search his terminal and see if he left any files. Maybe we can establish a motive or figure out where he’s going.”
Skyfire hurried from the room, leaving Beachcomber on the bed. As he went to Scarecrow’s quarters, Skyfire called Valkyrie on the comlink. “Valkyrie, I need you to start a search of the area, see if you can pick up his trail.”
“What about the Odyssey?”
“We’ll stay right here until you find something. I can’t risk the Matrices by running into a potentially dangerous situation.”
“All right, I’m on my way. I’ll report back when I find something.”
Skyfire felt uneasy about sending Valkyrie alone, but he had little choice. She was the fastest other than Jetfire, so it was only logical to send her out before the trail got cold. Skyfire sighed as he hurried to Scarecrow’s quarters and remembered the final talk he had had with the Predacon. I had no idea he would do anything like this, but I guess I should have known after he destroyed those two ships, Skyfire mused. It didn’t make any sense, though. The girl hadn’t even woke up yet, and there was no indication of who she was or where she was from. Skyfire and Beachcomber reached Scarecrow’s quarters and when the doors parted, Skyfire gasped.
Sitting on Scarecrow’s bed, was Shockwave. If Scarecrow was gone, how could Shockwave be here? Scarecrow had shared a body with Shockwave since they had come across the planet where Scarecrow’s ship had crashed years ago. Scarecrow must have found some way to separate himself. “Wheeljack, is there any way that he could have created a separate body for himself?”
“Well, we have some spare parts around here, but I doubt that if he did make a body it would get very far. Scarecrow was a genius with computers and a brilliant warrior, but he wasn’t an engineer, so I don’t think he had the skill for such a task.”
“What about Shockwave, maybe he helped.”
“Creating a working Transformer body takes a lot of skill and special parts. That’s why we don’t just produce them on an assembly line. Even on Cybertron it can take years to create a functional body for a spark. If we could create bodies so easily, Megatron would have produced millions of sparkless drones to use in battle against us.”
“Then I guess we have to assume that there is a more...supernatural cause,” Skyfire conceded quietly.
“What are you saying?” Skids asked.
“The Matrices. Maybe he used one of them, or perhaps the Matrices had use for Scarecrow. In any case we have to find him and figure out what is going on.”
“These computers aren’t going to be much help,” Wheeljack snorted. “He’s got a complicated code system that I can’t even begin to figure out. It’ll take a while to get access, if we ever can.”
“Keep working at it. Hopefully Valkyrie can find him and talk some sense into him.”
“If he doesn’t destroy her first,” Skids replied softly. There was a moment of silence and Skyfire wondered if he hadn’t made a bad decision in sending Valkyrie out alone.
His comlink came on and Perceptor’s voice said, “Skyfire, I have some most interesting information for you.”
“Go ahead, Perceptor.”
“I think it would be better if you came down to the hangar,” Skyfire had asked Perceptor to go over the girl’s ship to see if he could find anything.
“I’m on my way.” Skyfire left Skids and Wheeljack and hurried to the hangar where Perceptor stood near the girl’s ship. “Did you find out where she’s from?”
“I’m afraid not, but after reviewing the language of the computer system, I have determined that we have encountered this race previously. Or rather, myself and Wheeljack have.”
“Nearly two years ago, Wheeljack and I were studying a nebula when we received a distress signal. We found a large ship with a radioactive leak from one of its fusion reactors. What was curious was that the ship’s crew was composed entirely of children, all of whom had been slain by a creature. At any rate, from my initial studies of this ship, I have determined that it is of the same race, which is why we were able to translate the captain of the attacking vessel. Wheeljack and I gave each of you a copy of the translation algorithm after our return from our first encounter with this culture.”
“Did you find out what happened to the crew?”
“Not conclusively. We know that something changed the crew from adults to children, but we were not able to find out what. It could have been some kind of temporal disturbance.”
“This ship, it was being manned by children, correct?”
“As was this vessel that we rescued. Is it possible that this girl could be from that ship, that she was an adult and then somehow transformed into a child and was trying to find help?”
“It is possible. I will try to determine if this ship is from the one we encountered previously.”
“Good. Call me if you find anything.”
“Of course.” Skyfire headed for the bridge, where Grapple was sitting alone at the helm.
Grapple looked up at Skyfire and said, “It’s no surprise that Predacon ran. He destroyed those two ships without any remorse. He’s probably using the girl to find her home and wipe them all out or make them serve him.”
Skyfire sat down at the communications station, eager to hear Valkyrie’s voice again. “That doesn’t seem to be his style.”
“Didn’t you say that the reason he fled Cybertron was to gather energon to start a war to rule the universe?”
“That was a long time ago. Besides, if he had wanted that, then why run now?”
“He’s a descendant of the Decepticons, his motivations don’t have to be logical.”
Skyfire decided that it would be best not discuss the issue any further. Scarecrow was a Predacon and saw things differently from Maximals or Autobots. What he or Grapple would brand evil, Scarecrow would see only as what had to be done. “We’ll find out what he’s up to when we catch him. In the meantime, I think Perceptor could use your skills in the hangar. We’re trying to determine if the girl’s ship was related from one Perceptor and Wheeljack found adrift. I’m sure you’d be better at structural analysis than anyone else.”
Grapple nodded and stood up. “I’ll do what I can, but if we find that that Predacon harmed even a hair on that girl’s head, he’s going to have to answer to me.” Grapple stormed from the bridge and Skyfire wondered about the source of his friend’s uncharacteristic outburst. Grapple was an architect and artist, he was not prone to violence or revenge. Still, the war had affected many lives. He sighed and hoped that he heard from Valkyrie soon.
Valkyrie was cruising through empty space at top speed. She had picked up the ion trail of something, which didn’t mean that it was Scarecrow, but it was better than nothing. There was no indication of what kind of vehicle was making the trail, but given the proximity of inhabitable planets, there was a very high chance that it was Scarecrow.
Valkyrie had never really gotten to know Scarecrow. Whenever he was active he had always been aloof, usually brooding in his quarters. On the occasions when he had emerged from his quarters, he had not said more than ten words to her, none of which had been polite. Skyfire had told her about Scarecrow, about his fleeing of Cybertron, manipulation of a culture through their computer system, takeover of Shockwave’s body, and his small contribution to stopping Cybertrax. Like any Decepticon or Predacon, Scarecrow was evil, but could do the right thing when it was in his best interest to do so. She had to wonder, though, what he was after in this case. The humanoid was only a young girl, what could she possibly have that he would want?
She followed the trail for another two hours, and then her sensors detected an object floating in space. It was cylindrical, silver, and about as big as one of Valkyrie’s fingers. Valkyrie stopped and did a passive scan of the object, hoping that she didn’t trigger any explosives. Her scans showed that there was nothing dangerous in the capsule, instead it was a communications device. Valkyrie transformed and carefully grabbed the silver object. There was a button set into one end of the capsule and when Valkyrie’s finger touched the button, a message was downloaded to her.
Scarecrow’s voice said, “Attention Autobots, this is Scarecrow. I have taken the humanoid female after a vision from the Matrix of Harmony. This girl’s planet is in grave danger. A man known as Tai Lecau has taken possession of a Matrix and used its power to kill the rest of the crew of the ship that Wheeljack and Perceptor discovered some time ago. His goal is to use the power of the Matrix to rule the universe. He must be stopped at all costs.”
“I am going to his homeworld to confront him and hopefully take the Matrix from him. However, this Tai Lecau is building a massive army on a moon called Cerberus. This army, once mobilized, could wreak havoc across countless worlds. You must destroy it. Navigation data for the moon is in the computer of the girl’s ship. You must hurry, before it is too late.”
“I know what you Autobots think of me, but this is no time to let old squabbles divide us. The Matrices are sacred and cannot be used for any one person’s gain. If I should not return from my battle for the Matrix, know that...you are the most honorable Autobots I have ever known.”
Valkyrie was frozen in space for several long minutes, letting the message sink in. This was far worse than anything she could have imagined. The power of a Matrix in the wrong hands could only spell disaster. She wondered if Scarecrow could stop a man with the power of a Matrix. Scarecrow can take care of himself, she thought and transformed, heading back for the Odyssey. Skyfire is not going to believe this.
“Primus help us all,” Skyfire muttered as Valkyrie finished playing Scarecrow’s message. The entire crew was huddled in the Odyssey’s conference room, all of them silent and shocked. Shockwave and Beachcomber had been revived, but neither had been able to provide much help about why Scarecrow had fled with the girl. Now, it appeared they had the answer.
“What do we do?” Skids asked and all heads turned to Skyfire.
Skyfire sighed and looked at everyone assembled. A Maximal, a Decepticon, and six Autobot warriors against whatever awaited them on Cerberus. It was highly likely that none of them would survive. Still, what choice did they have? Their nearest allies, the Cybertraxians on Hippolyta, were over too far away and there was no way that they could get help from Cybertron. We’re on our own against this, he thought. “Perceptor, find the data that Scarecrow mentioned; Wheeljack and Grapple, survey our defenses and see if you can find ways to boost them; Skids, Valkyrie, and Beachcomber, check over every system of the ship and make sure that we’re ready for a fight; Shockwave, start on contingency plans that we can use.”
“What about you?” Valkyrie asked, her tone not indicating that she thought he was lazy, merely curious about what role he would assign himself.
“I have something else to do,” Skyfire replied and hurried from the room. The others broke up into their assigned teams and set to work. In just moments their world had been turned upside-down and instead of heading for home, they were preparing for a war.
Skyfire entered the password and stepped into the room that contained the Matrices. He knelt before the Matrix of Harmony, and could feel its power call to him. He closed his eye and there was a flash of white light. A voice said, “After eons, the appointed time has finally come. The Great Trial has begun. Darkness consumes one of our own now. Only the hero of the light and the hero with the heart of darkness can overcome the evil and restore balance to the universe. If they fail, then darkness will consume all and evil will forever rule all things.”
“Great Matrix, what is it that I should do?” Skyfire asked.
“You must seek the darkness where it hides and confront it.”
“I will do so, Great Matrix.”
“Beware the darkness, its powers are strong.” There was a flash and Skyfire was returned to reality. He stood and gazed at the Matrices. The crystals of each of the Matrices were glowing in a different color, and Skyfire could only wonder what special power each one possessed. He stopped at the Matrix of Harmony and wondered what it had told Scarecrow. He thought about what he had been told and could not even imagine what the dark threat was that he and the Odyssey’s crew would face. Whatever it is, we’ll have to be as ready as possible, Skyfire thought and wondered gloomily if there really was any way to prepare.
Skyfire stepped onto the bridge and saw Skids, Valkyrie, and Beachcomber running diagnostics. “How’s it going?” He asked.
“All systems are in prime condition,” Skids answered.
“Good. Any word from the others yet?”
“Wheeljack and Grapple are working on upgrading our weapons and Perceptor reported that he had gotten into the ship’s computer system, but hadn’t found the data yet. There’s no word from Shockwave.”
“I don’t expect Shockwave to report in for a while. After you all are done here, take turns in the restoration chamber. I want everyone in peak physical condition before we leave,” Skyfire ordered and then went over to the restoration chamber. He opened the door and stepped inside. This may be the last time I’ll get to use this thing, he thought as his systems went off-line for maintenance.
Valkyrie turned to Skids as the door to the restoration chamber closed. “So what do you think we’re going to be met with?”
“I don’t know, but there are probably going to be a lot of them. Of course, if the enemy is recruiting from home then we could face some heavily armed humanoids. It’s possible that they could have alliances with other planets we haven’t encountered, in which case we won’t know what we’re up against until we meet it face-to-face.”
“That’s not very comforting,” Valkyrie commented.
“I’m sure whatever we meet, we’ll be able to stop it. We stopped Cybertrax, I’m sure that we can handle this,” Skids replied comfortingly and quickly realized his error in mentioning Cybertrax. “I’m sorry for bringing that up, I know it must still be painful to think about...”
“About sacrificing myself to destroy Cybertrax and then giving up my identity so that I could be with Skyfire? It is painful, yes, but I know you didn’t intend any harm, Skids.”
Beachcomber watched the two Autobots and as usual was completely baffled by the close rapport between Skids and Valkyrie. Skids had been close to Valkyrie even before she had been an Autobot, when she was the Cybertraxian leader Hippolyta, but Beachcomber had never been able to figure out why they were so close. If he didn’t know better, he would have thought that Valkyrie was cheating on Skyfire with Skids, but he knew that was impossible. Valkyrie had come back from the dead for Skyfire, so there was no doubting her love for him. As he finished checking the emergency power systems, he heard Skids and Valkyrie laughing about some joke that he hadn’t caught. He sighed and made a mental note to ask the others later to see if they could provide any insight on the subject.
After another two hours, Percpetor called the bridge with the navigation data he had finally pried from the captured ship’s computer. Skyfire had not emerged from the restoration chamber yet, but Skids knew that Skyfire would want to get underway as soon as possible. He input the course into the helm and got an estimated time of arrival. It would take four days at maximum speed to reach Cerberus, plenty of time to finish preparations, Skids thought. “Are the engines ready to go?” He asked Wheeljack via comlink.
“Ready as they’ll ever be,” Wheeljack replied.
“Then I guess it’s time to charge into battle and meet our destiny,” Skids said softly and with the push of a button the Odyssey began building up speed and heading into the unknown.
After four days of tense travel, the Odyssey neared the brown moon of Cerberus. Everyone was at battle stations and Perceptor began to scan the moon’s surface. “The moon appears to be primarily mountainous with an atmosphere capable of supporting humanoid life. There is little water or vegetation on the surface, and I would estimate that temperatures average twenty degrees Celsius at peak daytime hours and zero degrees Celsius at night,” Perceptor reported.
“What about enemy activity?” Skyfire asked.
“I am detecting nothing. There appears to be no intelligent life of any kind, nor are there any weapons or machines”
“Maybe they’re gone,” Skids suggested.
“Possibly, or they could be hiding somewhere. Either way, we have to make sure. Beachcomber, Skids, Valkyrie, and I will go down to the surface to investigate. Continue defense preparations and tell Shockwave to have some contingency plans ready when I return,” Skyfire ordered. He stood up and the three Autobots followed him to the hangar. As he entered the hangar, Skyfire’s body shimmered with a silver liquid and then reformed as the red, white, and black form of the Autobot Jetfire. Jetfire and Valkyrie transformed and Skids and Beachcomber climbed into Jetfire for the trip down. The two fighters shot out of the hangar and were soon plunging through the moon’s atmosphere.
Jetfire had still not picked up any trace of an enemy army as he descended through a layer of wispy gray clouds. Could Scarecrow or the girl be lying? He wondered. No, Scarecrow wouldn’t lie about anything this important. There has to be an explanation. Jetfire and Valkyrie set down on a vast desert plain and Skids and Beachcomber piled out. The two fighters transformed into their robot forms and Jetfire looked around the wasteland. “Not much to look at,” he mused. “Beachcomber, start analyzing the crust, maybe there are caverns underneath that the enemy is using to hide.”
Beachcomber nodded and his specialized geological sensors set to work. The other three Autobots huddled a short distance away to decide what to do next. “I don’t want to split up, not if there is the chance of an enemy army around somewhere,” Jetfire began.
“Agreed,” Skids nodded. “Unless Beachcomber finds anything here, I would suggest that we head south for the moon’s largest mountain range. That’s the only logical place for an enemy to hide if they don’t want their movements detected.”
“But if it’s a large army, they won’t be able to camp in the mountains, not with a large number of soldiers and supplies. They would need a large amount of uncluttered space. So I would think they are either hiding underground or they have some kind of technology that makes them invisible and are hiding in plain sight,” Valkyrie responded. The latter option had not occurred to Jetfire, and it scared him to think about it. What if there was an army all around them that could not be seen? From the technology of their ships, though, it seemed unlikely.
“There’s one way to find out,” Jetfire began and sighed. “I’ll go up and do a full-spectrum scan of this entire moon. Skids and Valkyrie, stay with Beachcomber while I’m gone.”
“Be careful,” Valkyrie warned and Jetfire nodded. Then he transformed and took off high into the air, leaving the three Autobots behind. Valkyrie looked at Skids and said quietly, “Let’s hope he doesn’t find anything.”
“I’m sure he won’t,” Skids replied as cheerfully as possible. They walked back over to where Beachcomber was studying the surface. At their approach he shook his head gloomily.
“Nothing but solid rock throughout the surface. There was some magma and volcanic activity below the crust, but no signs of an underground cave system. If they’re on this moon, it isn’t anywhere around here.”
“Maybe we should move to a different location,” Valkyrie suggested.
Skids shook his head. “Not until Jetfire returns.”
Beachcomber looked at the two close friends and then chipped in, “We could turn on our beacons. Jetfire would be able to detect those and home in on us no matter where we went.”
“The enemy could also home in on them,” Skids replied.
“I think it’s worth the risk,” Valkyrie countered. “We have to find this army, if it exists, before they are completely organized. As well, there’s no way to know what will happen to Scarecrow. The sooner we finish here, the sooner we can help him.”
Skids sighed, seeing the reason to her argument. “All right. Turn your beacons on and then roll out. Val, make sure you stay with us in the air. I don’t want you ranging out too far so that you get into trouble.”
Valkyrie laughed and slapped Skids on the shoulder. “Yes, Motherbot,” she teased and took off into the air, transforming as she did so. Beachcomber sighed and transformed, following behind Skids. He had made subtle inquiries with Wheeljack, Grapple, and Perceptor, but none of them knew about the close friendship of Skids and Valkyrie. After all of this is over, maybe I’ll have to ask, he thought.
It was slow work to use the special full-spectrum sensor that he had designed. Each ten-mile grid had to be hovered over for several minutes in order for the scanner to run a scan through all parts of the spectrum from infrared to past ultraviolet and X-ray. So far he hadn’t found anything of note, just a lot of empty ground and rocks. There has to be something here, Jetfire thought. What possible reason could the girl have to lie to Scarecrow and us? Perhaps Scarecrow had planted the data in order to distract the Odyssey. What motivation could he have for that?
This whole situation doesn't make sense, Jetfire thought grimly. We've come to a world that's supposed to have an army massing for battle but doesn't based on the word of a teenage humanoid who is supposed to be an adult but isn't. On top of that, Scarecrow disappears, Shockwave is separated from him, and the Matrix of Harmony is telling me riddles. It was as if in a short time the universe had gone crazy.
Jetfire was shook from his disturbing thoughts as the full-spectrum sensor began to beep. It had detected something on the surface in the ultraviolet spectrum. It was a small, square object that was no more than two yards across. Jetfire went down lower for a closer look and could see that the object was nearly flat with no markings of any kind. What is that? Jetfire wondered. Just as he was about to transform, there was a flash on the object and something slammed into Jetfire. He was knocked end-over-end by the collision, but quickly regained his balance. He pulled up just as there was another and then another flash on the object.
It took Jetfire a few moments to determine that what he had been hit with was a projectile, some kind of missile that had been launched from the pad. Perhaps its a booby-trap, he thought. Still, why hadn't anything else been shot at him since that first flash? Jetfire scanned the area again, but only the pad showed up on his sensors. What is that thing? He wondered again.
Just as Jetfire was about to go back down for a closer look, he detecting missiles heading for him. They were small brown projectiles that barely had the reach to hit him. Jetfire easily avoided them and swung around to find the source. To his horror, he saw three large brown creatures standing near the pad, a silver missile launcher replacing each of their left arms at the elbow. These arms were raised at Jetfire and more of the small missiles spewed from them.
Jetfire pulled up and transitioned into his Skyfire form. He transformed to robot mode and activated his Ultra Combat mode. Missile launchers opened along his chest and he fired a salvo at the creatures. One went down as it was torn in half from two missile impacts. Another was hit in the right arm, mangling it. The third was unhurt, and so the two that remained fired at Skyfire. He avoided their shots and fired the plasma cannons under his arms. The wounded creature was hit in the face and toppled over. Skyfire fired a burst from his rifle, which took out the third.
He activated his comlink and reported, "I've found the enemy. Home in on my position and get here as quick as you can. I'll explain then."
Skyfire deactivated his comlink and examined the corpses to make certain that these were the same type of creatures that he had encountered twice before. From their weapons and appearance they were part of the dreaded horde of aliens that had tried to steal the Autobot Matrix of Leadership several years ago. They were the reason Skyfire had been stranded far from home and how he had come across his Autobot friends. What are they doing here? He wondered. Were they part of a group stranded by the destruction of their teleporter network?
Skyfire stood and took a step backwards. As he did, part of his right foot touched the pad. There was a flash of light and everything suddenly disappeared before Skyfire. There was another flash, and he found himself in a vast plain surrounded by gray stone walls. The ground was made of a hard black substance and the sky was blood red with no trace of clouds or stars. In the distance, Skyfire could see spiky black mountains capped with molten lava and thought that this all seemed familiar. It was similar to the landscape of the base for the alien horde he had journeyed to in order to save Optimus Primal and the Autobot Matrix. He walked south towards the farthest wall, wondering if there was anything else in the area.
He stopped when he saw a massive metal gate that sealed off the southern wall. The gate was completely solid and made of a black substance that Skyfire could not identify. He stopped and heard a creaking noise. The gate began to slowly grind open, disappearing into one of the walls. Behind the gate was an innumerable amount of the alien horde. They were formed up into lines, and slowly each line began to pour through the gate.
It became all too clear to Skyfire now. Cerberus itself was not being used for the invading army, rather it was the gateway between some unknown place and the moon. Skyfire could only assume that in time ships would come to take the horde to its intended destination. What was disturbing was that when Skyfire had opened the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, he had used its power to destroy the alien teleporter network. Obviously this Tai Lecau had used the Dark Matrix to recreate at least part of the network in order to marshal his army.
No one had seen Skyfire yet and he quickly ran through his options. He could stay and fight the horde and most certainly die. There was no cover to fight from and he was badly outnumbered, but he could still take a portion of the enemy with him. Or he could use the teleporter to get back to Cerberus and meet with the others to try to find some solution. Skyfire studied the teleporter that was a step away from him and wished that he could figure out how it worked so that he could destroy or disable it. He stopped and realized that there was something that he could do to at least buy more time for he and the others.
Working quickly, Skfire removed his field dampening system and rewired it to produce a low-level force field. He took apart one of his missiles and used the casing to hold the force field system to protect it from damage. By the time he was finished, the first line of the horde, a line of mechanical spiders, had caught sight of him. Skyfire set the force field up near the teleporter and activated it. Then, as the first shots from the spiders were nearing him, Skyfire stepped onto the teleporter pad and reappeared on Cerberus.
When he stepped off the pad, he saw Valkyrie and the others approach. Valkyrie transformed and landed in front of Skyfire, her eyes quickly taking notice of the three corpses. Skids and Beachcomber transformed and Beachcomber gasped. “Those are those alien things, aren’t they?”
“Yes,” Skyfire replied simply. “These three were just the scouts for a much larger force that has gathered at some other location and is preparing to teleport itself here. In less than a half-hour they are going to begin coming through here and massing for their invasion. We’ve got to get back to the ship and get some kind of strategy figured out.”
“How many of them are there?” Skids asked.
“Too many,” Skyfire replied and converted back to his Jetfire form. He transformed into jet mode and Skids and Beachcomber piled in. Jetfire and Valkyrie took off and headed for the Odyssey.
Skyfire briefed everyone on what he had seen and then turned to Shockwave. “What strategy would you propose?”
Shockwave processed the information for a few moments and then spoke. “After studying the tactical data of the enemy, it is clear that our advantage is in air power. Our best course is to attack them at the location of the teleporter as they are still massing, before they can disperse to a staging area in more hostile terrain. I would suggest that Skids, Beachcomber, Perceptor, and Grapple pilot the two transports and use their firepower to engage the enemy air and ground units, supported by Jetfire and Valkyrie. I will stage myself on a ridge three klicks away and provide artillery support while Wheeljack remains here to man the Odyssey in case hostile ships arrive or if we need to pilot the Odyssey to the surface for evacuation or other purposes.”
“Other purposes such as what?” Wheeljack demanded.
“Such as crashing the ship into the horde to eliminate them should ground operations fail,” Shockwave replied simply.
Silence reigned throughout the room until Skyfire finally commented, “We’ll leave that as a last resort. The remainder of the plan seems fine. I’ll take down some supplies and a portable force field generator and set up a fallback position. That way we can resupply on the ground or...make our last stand if we must. Any questions or suggestions?”
Again the room was silent, and Skyfire nodded. The others stood up and left, leaving Skyfire alone in the room. It wouldn’t be much longer until the aliens penetrated the small force field and began teleporting themselves to the moon’s surface. That didn’t leave him much time to gather the extra power cells, fuel tanks, and force field generator. He wearily got to his feet and headed down the corridors to gather the supplies.
He knew that there was a good chance that he and all of his friends would be killed in this battle. He and Shockwave had said as much in the strategy session. They were so badly outnumbered, that not even air superiority would be likely to help. Still, there was no other alternative. This horde had to be stopped once and for all, before its menace was spread throughout the galaxy. This time, Skyfire thought with determination, I will make sure that this evil is destroyed once and for all.
Jetfire set up the fallback position ten klicks due south of the teleporter site in a narrow mountain pass that would be easily defendable. Shockwave, riding with Skids and Beachcomber in the Pathfinder was left at the ridge he had selected and transformed into his gun mode. The Pathfinder, Legacy II, Valkyrie, and Jetfire formed up at the ridge and once all were in the air, headed for the teleporter site. Jetfire was in the lead with Valkyrie at the rear and the two transports forming the left and right side of the diamond formation.
Jetfire activated his comlink and set out the plan of attack. “I’ll hit them from north to south, Skids will take from east to west, Grapple from the northwest to southeast, and Valkyrie from the southwest to northeast. That should keep them from being able to concentrate their fire at just one location. Move hard and fast and try to avoid running into each other. Remember, some of them can get into the air a short distance, so don’t get too low. Any questions?”
“None from me. Let’s do it,” Valkyrie said, trying to sound as cheerful as she could.
“All right. Everyone be careful and I’ll see you at the fort,” Jetfire signed off. The fort was the codename for the fallback point that Jetfire had devised. The formation broke up as each ship veered off for its first strafing run. Jetfire set himself up to come in from the north and even from a klick out he could see the gathering horde. Already over three thousand aliens were gathered in the plain, milling around until they received further instructions. It was doubtful that the enemy knew that Jetfire and his companions were about to attack. The aliens were savage warriors who seemed to care little about intelligence or data. They were teleported to a world and didn’t stop killing until ordered to do so or until every living thing was wiped out.
Jetfire slowed his speed as he approached the target and could see some of the aliens turning at his approach. Jetfire armed his weapons and lined up a cluster of enemy warriors. He fired a burst of green plasma that slammed into a group of mechanical spiders, which he knew were the most intelligent aliens that could act as leaders. Bullets, missiles, and plasma balls flew past Jetfire as he streaked over the battlefield, firing continuously until he was clear. He wheeled back towards the north just as Shockwave opened fire. A storm of purple energy struck the plain, vaporizing a cluster of aliens. Then came the Pathfinder. The two transports were lightly armed and less maneuverable, but after Jetfire and Shockwave’s attacks, the aliens were in disarray. The Pathfinder strafed the battlefield and left without damage. Shockwave let loose another shot just before the Legacy II launched its attack. The cycle was repeated again and again with the four aircraft hitting their targets, each run being capped off with an artillery barrage from Shockwave.
This cycle went on for two hours, and still the alien horde kept coming. There were, Jetfire surmised, more of them then when he had launched his first attack. Still, they seemed not to have gotten wise to the Transformers’ tactics as each aerial attack caused significant damage. Corpses were sprawled across the plain and aliens teleporting in often found themselves standing on their predecessor’s carcasses. Each time one of the Autobots approached the aliens would fire wildly into the air. None of the aliens capable of flight had appeared on the scene as yet, giving the Transformers even more of an advantage.
Another hour wore on and the horde still kept multiplying. Over ten thousand of them were massed on the plain, hurling fire at their attackers. Shockwave continued to rain fire down on the enemy, and it became even more effective as the aliens became more tightly packed. Even as they multiplied, the aliens seemed unwilling to move from the plain to a more defensive position.
Jetfire was setting up for another run when catastrophe struck. Valkyrie was launching her attack when there was a flash and over a dozen red spheres appeared in the air around her as she was flying past. The spheres had two eyes and large mouths that launched balls of energy. Valkyrie was peppered with a half dozen of these as she was caught up in the swarm of enemy fliers. Valkyrie struggled to maintain control in order to land at a safer location, but both engines were damaged and half of her left wing was destroyed. “I’m hit! I’m going down!” She called, her voice not betraying the fear she felt as she transformed and slammed into the ground in the midst of the enemy.
She landed in the middle of a small herd of brown aliens with spikes on their bodies. Valkyrie pulled out her rifle and shot a pair of them before they could react. The aliens roared in unison and hurled fireballs at Valkyrie. She was hit in the chest and head and could feel herself losing consciousness, her weapon having flown from her hands and ending up somewhere amongst the enemy on the plain.
Jetfire heard Valkyrie’s call and lit his afterburners, heading for where Valkyrie had crashed. “Shockwave, give me some cover fire!” He shouted over the comlink. As he neared the enemy he transitioned into his Skyfire form and swooped down towards Valkyrie in his beast mode. A fireball singed the feathers at the end of his left wing, but Skyfire kept himself focused on Valkyrie, who was unconscious amongst a throng of the enemy, who had turned their attention from her to him.
A wave of energy passed just below Skyfire’s right wing and incinerated several aliens near Valkyrie. The two transports had also heard the call and were simultaneously heading back to the battlefield. As Skyfire swooped down to grab Valkyrie, the Legacy II passed overhead and blasted the aliens around the fallen Autobot. The aliens turned towards the newcomers, giving Skyfire just enough time to grab Valkyrie in his talons and lift her up into the air. Skyfire dodged fireballs and energy balls and flew north away from the battle.
Skyfire scanned Valkyrie and found that she was damaged, but still functional. She would need repairs, which meant that he had to get her back to the Odyssey. Skyfire set her down gently just as the Pathfinder appeared over the horizon. The transport landed next a short distance away from the scene and Skids climbed out and ran towards where Valkyrie lay.
“Is she all right?” Skids asked anxiously.
“She’s in bad shape, but she’ll live,” Skyfire replied gravely. He looked down at the only being in the universe he had ever loved and knew that this was his fault. He had approved the plan and dictated the tactics for the aerial attack. If he had assigned her to another direction, she might not be lying unconscious on the ground. He shook away these disturbing thoughts and said to Skids, “Take her to the Odyssey and get her into the restoration chamber.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to do this yourself?” Skids asked, knowing how much Jetfire loved Valkyrie.
Jetfire shook his head sadly. “No, I’m needed here.” Skids nodded and took Valkyrie into his arms. As he turned to leave, Jetfire said, “Take good care of her, Skids.”
Skids turned and smiled grimly at Jetfire. “You know I will.” Minutes later the Pathfinder was taking flight and Jetfire was heading back into the war zone. There was still a battle to be won and an evil to be driven out.
The Pathfinder was clawing for altitude and Skids took the pilot’s seat after tending to Valkyrie. Beachcomber looked over at his friend and could see the sadness on his face. “Don’t worry, she’s going to be fine,” Beachcomber began.
“I know,” Skids replied quietly.
Beachcomber sighed and then blurted out, “This may not be the best time to ask, but I’ve noticed that you and Valkyrie are very friendly, almost a little too friendly. I saw how you ran out of here like your bearings were melting and went to her and I just have to wonder, are you in love with her?”
Skids turned to his friend and slowly nodded. “I do love her, but I know that her spark is bonded with Skyfire’s. They have a love and understanding that transcends all barriers, so that she could never love anyone else. Still, when we thought that Cybertrax had killed Skyfire, I was there to comfort Valkyrie and I found myself falling in love with her. Even if she will never be mine, I will always love her and care for her, as a friend.”
The transport had broken through the atmosphere of the moon and was heading for the Odyssey’s hangar. Beachcomber mulled over Skids’ answer and smiled at his friend. “I never took you as the unrequited lover-type. Maybe if we get back to Cybertron we can find you a female Autobot who doesn’t have a love and understanding that transcends all barriers with another ‘Bot.”
Skids laughed and patted Beachcomber on the shoulder, “If we make it back to Cybertron, I’ll interface with the first female Autobot I see.”
Skids took Valkyrie to the restoration chamber and found that Wheeljack was on the bridge, sitting anxiously at the sensor station. “Any ships coming in?” Skids asked.
“Nothing yet. How bad is it down there?” Wheeljack replied.
“Bad. We keep blasting them, but they keep coming. I’m not sure how much longer we can hold out before they’re able to get us all.”
“That’s what I thought. Skyfire gave me his readings of that teleporter pad, but I can’t figure out any way to stop the thing. I can’t even determine what it’s made of, let alone a way to destroy it.”
“I don’t want to keep you from unraveling that mystery, but I’ve figured out a way to boost the Pathfinder’s firepower, but I’ll need your engineering skill to make it work.”
Wheeljack nodded and got to his feet. “Let’s get to work.”
Night was falling on the moon of Cerberus, and still the enemy horde continued to multiplied. Jetfire came in for an attack run and estimated a half a million invaders were standing in the plain. As each new wave arrived, they pushed their fellows back, and Jetfire had noticed more than one alien be trampled by a comrade. He fired a stream of plasma and pulled up as the Legacy II made its attack run. Jetfire checked his power levels and knew that he would have to retire soon to the fort to recharge.
“Grapple, what’s your status?”
“We’re getting short on power and fuel. We’ve got enough for another couple runs.”
“All right. Empty what you’ve got, I’ll cover you on your way out. Shockwave, status?”
“I too am running low on energon, but I will have enough to cover your escape.”
“Excellent. Grapple, once you’re clear, pick up Shockwave and head for the fort, I’ll meet you there.”
“I’m on it.” The Legacy II fired the last of its shots and narrowly avoided being hit by the substantial amount of firepower coming from the aliens. It was getting nearly impossible to avoid the fireballs, energy balls, missiles, and other ordinance seeking a victim. Grapple wheeled the transport to the southwest and left at full power. As he was leaving, Jetfire dropped like a rock at the horde and fired the last from his hyperplasma cannon(?) at pointblank range. The aliens were taken by surprise and Jetfire pulled up quickly with his afterburners lit. He cleared the area as Shockwave fired three consecutive bursts into a pack of spiky brown creatures.
Jetfire headed west for a short distance to make sure that none of the aliens could follow him back to the base he had set up and then turned south until he set down at the camp. He transformed and saw the Legacy II coming in for a landing. Grapple, Perceptor, and Shockwave wearily climbed out and Jetfire activated the force field generator he had brought. The four Transformers began resupplying, downing energon and charging their weapons. Grapple changed the fuel cells for the transport and shook his head as he looked at Jetfire. “I can’t believe that they just keep coming and coming. We could bombard them for another two days and still not have any impact.”
“It confirmed my worst fear: what we are facing is the entire horde that has survived. The Dark Matrix has brought them all here so they can begin their invasion. Unless we find some way to defeat them, they will be unstoppable.”
“The last time we ran into these creeps we used a biological disease to disorient them and then destroy them. Maybe we should send the Odyssey or one of the transports to find something we could use to have the same effect,” Grapple suggested.
“It would take too long. They aren’t going to leave their army exposed here forever.”
“True. There’s another alternative, though.”
“The Legacy II has a hyperdrive. We could use components of it to construct a bomb that would cause considerable damage.”
“A fusion bomb? That would poison this moon for centuries!”
“Jetfire, in case you haven’t noticed, the only things alive on this moon are us and them. We have to stop them, even if it means destroying this place!”
Jetfire turned to Perceptor, already knowing that Shockwave would be all for the plan. “What do you think?”
“I agree that such a device would destroy the ecosystem of the moon. However, I believe you are aware of the Autobot proverb, ‘When evil imperils the universe entire, it must be cleansed, no matter the cost.’”
“I had no idea you were such a philosopher, Perceptor.”
“We Autobots strive to preserve life, but as Grapple stated, there is no innocent life here. This is a barren moon, perhaps it once contained life, but it does so no longer. Therefore, I believe we have to think of the higher good, stopping this threat before it spreads to worlds that are inhabited.”
The force of Perceptor's argument convinced Jetfire. Decepticons had used fusion bombs on some planets to cause untold damage. Jetfire had been assigned to ascertain the damage done by one such bomb to a planet called Dienekes III. He had conducted an orbital survey of a planet that would not see life blossom for centuries, possibly even millennia. Over six billion innocent lives had been lost after the Decepticons had raided the planet and took its energon. The insane Decepticon leader Galvatron, to prove to Optimus Prime that the Decepticons still possessed military strength, had dropped the bomb.
A fusion bomb had also been used against Cybertrax, causing significant damage, but not stopping the Transformer forerunner. Lives had been lost on that mission, which had haunted Jetfire ever since. He didn’t want to lose his comrades in a similar fashion, nor did he want to harm innocent lives like on Dienekes III. “Grapple and Perceptor start work on the bomb. Make sure you outfit it so that I can drop it. As soon as you’re done, pack up your gear and get the Legacy II back to the Odyssey with Shockwave.” Even without the hyperdrive reactor, the transport would have enough power in its conventional engines to get into orbit and the Odyssey’s hangar.
“We can’t just leave you here, Jetfire,” Grapple began quietly.
Jetfire turned to his friend and replied, “Yes, you must. This time, the only life I risk will be my own.” The two Autobots nodded and then went into the transport to begin work.
“You Autobots remain foolishly sentimental, even after all this time. It will be your downfall,” Shockwave stated matter-of-factly.
Jetfire looked angrily at the Decepticon he had fought numerous times in the war between the Autobots and Decepticons. “If cool logic and reason reigned then the universe would be a far more peaceful place, but it would also be a cold, empty wasteland without passion, love, and joy. If we were all like you, then there would be no discoveries, no exploration for there would be no one willing to take the risk of failure to reap the reward of benefiting the universe.” Before Shockwave could respond, Jetfire stormed away to be alone with his thoughts.
Shockwave ran success probabilities in his head, but then stopped. He felt a strange tingle in his circuits and remembered the final battles with Cybertrax. There, for the first time in his existence, he had felt emotions as his Cybertraxian comrades were killed by Cybertrax’s internal defenses. He had shut himself down for some time in order to reflect on what had happened and could only determine that it was a glitch in his programming caused by sharing his body with Scarecrow who was an emotional being. Apparently, the glitch was still present even after he had been separated from Scarecrow. Perhaps, he thought, there is more to it than that. He refocused himself on his calculations and tried to force the disturbing thoughts from his mind. He was only partially successful.
It was nearly dawn by the time Grapple and Perceptor had finished their work. The fusion bomb was a crude, gray, oval-shaped object that would explode on impact when dropped. Perceptor had devised a magnetic system that would keep the bomb attached to Jetfire until he deactivated the system. The small amount of radioactive material in the bomb would be more than enough to destroy any living thing on the plain where the aliens were marshalling their forces. It would also leave much of the moon highly radioactive for centuries or longer.
The horizon was growing light as Jetfire transformed and Grapple and Perceptor began to rig the bomb up to his belly. “The Pathfinder is coming into sensor range,” Shockwave reported, manning the Legacy II’s sensors to keep an eye out for enemy movement.
“I wonder what took Skids so long?” Grapple asked.
“Perhaps there was a mechanical malfunction,” Perceptor hypothesized.
The Pathfinder set down next to Jetfire, and immediately the three Autobots could see what had taken so long. Skids and Beachcomber stepped out of the craft with big grins on their faces. “What in the name of Primus did you do?” Jetfire asked incredulously.
“With Wheeljack’s help I added some firepower to this thing,” Skids replied and motioned to the left side of the Pathfinder, which was visible. All along the side, holes had been drilled, but were now covered with metal. Skids reached inside the transport and pressed a button that released the metal screen behind the holes. Gun barrels moved into position through each hole. The weapons were all of different sizes from the large hyperpulse rifle(?) Skyfire used to the smaller pistol Beachcomber carried. “Wheeljack and I hardwired all of these things into a firing system and a separate power generator. With the modifications, we’ve just about quadrupled the firepower the Pathfinder can bring to bear against the enemy.”
“That’s...impressive,” Grapple breathed. “Of course it has the inelegant feel of all Wheeljack’s work.”
“There wasn’t much time for it to be aesthetically pleasing, Grapple,” Beachcomber laughed. “Just wait until those aliens get a load of this.”
Jetfire, still in his fighter mode, ended the conversation with a loud whistle. “I hate to break up your fun, but there isn’t going to be much time to test this. As soon as you all clear out of here, I’ll drop the fusion bomb and hopefully that will end this.”
“A fusion bomb? How did you manage to make one of those?” Skids blurted out.
“Wheeljack isn’t the only one who can produce weapons,” Grapple replied solemnly.
“What about this moon? You’re devastating it for all time!” Beachcomber shouted.
“I know, Beachcomber,” Jetfire replied, his voice catching. “But we have to do what is in the best interests of the universe, and that means destroying this menace once and for all.”
“Have we turned into Decepticons now? We’ll destroy ecosystems if it suits our best interests?”
“There is no ecosystem here, Beachcomber. There is no life on this moon,” Perceptor replied.
“There isn’t time to argue!” Jetfire roared. “Everyone clear out of here, now! I don’t want to do this any more than you do, Beachcomber, but we have no other options!”
Beachcomber glared at Jetfire and stormed back into the Pathfinder. Skids looked shocked, but asked gently, “Can we at least fly interference for you? The Pathfinder could go in first and distract them so you can have an easier bombing run.”
Jetfire thought about it for a moment and answered, “Very well. Just be well clear of the area by the time I drop this thing. I don’t want to lose any of you.”
“I promise we will.” Skids took the controls of the Pathfinder and Grapple and Perceptor loaded the last of the base’s supplies into the Legacy II. The two transports lifted off into the air and Jetfire watched his friends go sadly. He hadn’t wanted to blow up at Beachcomber, but time was of the essence. Who knew when the aliens would begin to move out, or when they would be transported to their final destination? Jetfire started his engines and leapt into the air. Maneuvering with the bomb was awkward, but Jetfire could compensate for it. He lowered himself to just fifty feet off the ground and put his afterburners to full. He would make this run hard and fast so that nothing could interfere with the bombing run.
The Pathfinder arrived at the plain and Skids could see aliens for miles. The sensors were going crazy just trying to get an exact number of lifeforms that were so densely packed into the plain. The sensors stopped counting at two million and Skids knew that they were many more than that. This had better work, he thought gloomily. He put the Pathfinder at full speed, and angled it over so that its left side was pointed at the ground. He would make one quick run and then head for space. Nothing fancy. Still, he knew that with so many of the enemy, escaping would be difficult.
The aliens began to turn as Skids approached and he had to maneuver quickly to avoid the first shots. “Fire!” He shouted to Beachcomber, who quickly pressed the trigger on the fire control mechanism. The left side of the Pathfinder lit up in blue, green, white, and other shades of light as its various weapons opened fire. Plasma and laser fire tore into the hapless aliens, who could not comprehend what was happening. Skids saw some of the flying aliens approaching and triggered the Pathfinder’s forward laser cannons. Three of the fleshy red spheres burst in the air while two more collapsed to the ground in a gory heap. Skids felt a plasma ball hit the middle of the Pathfinder and assessed that it had caused minimal damage. Still, he knew that it was a signal to leave.
Skids took the Pathfinder straight up into the air at full speed. He triggered a sonic boom that sent some of the aliens crashing to their feet as the shock wave hit them. The aliens fired futilely into the air, but the transport was already nearing the atmosphere. “That worked well,” Skids said to Beachcomber.
“Yeah, real well,” Beachcomber replied sullenly.
Still searching the skies for the transport, the aliens did not notice Jetfire skimming the ground until it was too late. As he neared the first aliens, he pulled up to a hundred feet and maneuvered wildly back and forth to avoid enemy fire. Then, as he neared the middle of the plain, he deactivated the magnetic system that was holding the bomb to his belly and pulled straight up into the air. He lit his afterburners and felt a pair of fireballs hit him. They did little more than singe his armor and he was soon well above where the bomb hit.
The bomb struck the ground and the hastily made casing shattered, triggering the explosives. A fireball expanded across the plain, the sheer intensity of it vaporizing most of the aliens. The fireball formed a mushroom cloud in the air that rose nearly to the atmosphere from the sheer power of the blast. The few aliens that had somehow survived the initial impact, most of whom were badly wounded, were hit seconds later with the invisible shock wave from the fusion bomb. These lucky aliens were torn asunder by the shock wave and fell screaming to the ground. When the clouds died down, all that remained was smoke, ashes, and silence.
“What have you got?” Skyfire asked as he walked onto the Odyssey’s bridge.
“It is hard to tell with all of the debris and radiation, but I presume everything is destroyed,” Perceptor replied.
“Let me know as soon as you can get a fix.” Skyfire turned to Grapple and asked, “How long until Valkyrie is repaired?”
“Three or four hours at least. She suffered some severe injuries, they’ll take time to heal.”
“Any approaching ships on the sensors?”
“Good. Let’s all hope that this grisly business is finished.”
Two hours later, Skyfire was sitting anxiously in the command chair when Perceptor reported, “I’m getting a reading from the surface!”
“What is it?” Skyfire asked and hurried to look over Perceptor’s shoulder.
“I have cut through the interference and ascertained that there is a crater approximately five klicks in diameter. There are no life signs on the surface, it would appear that we have destroyed the enemy utterly.”
Cheers were heard throughout the bridge, but Perceptor quickly hushed them. “I am picking something up! Some kind of energy discharge.” There was a moment of silence as Perceptor continued his analysis. “I am still not detecting organic life signs, but there are multiple energy readings on the surface.”
“What is it?” Skids asked.
“If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that the enemy teleporter is somehow still functional and that what we are witnessing is a new breed of alien warrior emerging.” The aliens appearing were vaguely humanoid in shape, but their exteriors were surrounded by yellow flame.
“A new breed of warrior?” Beachcomber asked skeptically.
Before Perceptor could reply, Skyfire said, “Yes, it is possible. When I first encountered the aliens, there was one who could transform himself from a humanoid into something that was made completely of energy.”
“I remember it as well,” Grapple chipped in. Grapple had been the one who had killed the creature whose humanoid name was Altos, just before it was going to finish Skyfire off. “I thought it was one-of-a-kind.”
“Perhaps not. Or, maybe the fusion bomb somehow mutated some of the aliens. Either way, it’s clear that our task is not complete. Perceptor, is there somewhere safe to fight them from?”
“The other side of the planet should suffer only mild radioactivity. It should be within tolerances.”
“Then we’ll lure them there and make our stand. Perceptor, remain here and let us know if the weather conditions change. And send Valkyrie down as soon as she’s recovered.” Skyfire looked at the others and smiled gravely. “Come on ‘Bots, we’ve got some unfinished business to take care of.”
The Autobots and Shockwave rushed to the hangar to pile into the two transports. Skyfire became Jetfire once more and led the transports down to the surface. There was a large black scare on part of the surface from where the bomb had gone off and some dense clouds surrounding the area, testament to the carnage that had unfolded there. Jetfire examined the other side of the planet and found a hilly region that would be perfect for his uses. The enemy would have to climb the hills to attack, giving the defenders the advantage. Jetfire just hoped that they could stop the invaders before it was too late.
Perceptor continued to run his scans of the area, examining the air and land to study the contamination of Cerberus. The powerful fusion bomb would leave the area near the transporter deadly to organic life for quite some time, but the air currents were blowing so that the radiation would not be so dangerous where the others were heading. The damage had been many times worse at Dienekes III, primarily because of the winds and the larger size of bomb. That planet had been rendered an uninhabitable desert after the nuclear winter had cleared out. The once beautiful jungle world had been reduced to smoldering ashes and burning wastelands. These thoughts, however, gave Perceptor little comfort. Not even thinking of the lives he and Grapple had saved by building the bomb could console him. I have used my gift of science for dark purposes, Perceptor thought gloomily. I should have learned from the war that such devastation is never right, even with the best intentions.
He was shook from these thoughts as a security alarm sounded. Something had breached the hull in the midsection of the ship. Perceptor had never detected anything, and played back the sensor readings. They showed nothing approaching, so how could there be a breach? Perceptor took his rifle and headed for the source of the disturbance.
As he neared the site, Perceptor could hear something heavy hitting the deck. What in the name of Primus is that? He brought his rifle to ready and could hear the sound approaching. Then, from behind a corner came a large black form. Its face looked skull-like with large horns jutting from the sides and red eyes burning from deep within its sockets. It had wings folded against its back and claws on its hands and feet. As it stomped within view, Perceptor was frozen with terror. The creature was like from some nightmare, a demon that could only be spawned by the Pit itself. The skull-like head turned towards Perceptor and the creature stopped.
It stared at Perceptor, who was paralyzed with fear. Remembering his warrior training, Perceptor finally shook himself from his terror. He ran a scan of the creature and determined that its exterior was an unknown substance that was as dense as rock and yet moved as smoothly as flesh. He was unsure if his rifle could penetrate the exterior, but he knew that he could not just surrender the Odyssey to it. He finally gathered his courage and demanded, “Who are you? What do you want?”
The demon-like thing laughed a deep, haughty laugh and raised the palm of its right hand. “I am Unicron and I have come to claim my inheritance, the Matrices that were imparted to your custody.”
“Unicron? Unicron is dead, he has been for some time!”
“Nothing in this world nor the next can kill me. Surrender the Matrices or I will take them.”
“You will have to take them.” Before Perceptor could raise his rifle, a purple bolt of energy came from Unicron’s right hand. It struck Perceptor in the chest and he was knocked to the deck. He tried to get to his feet, but another bolt knocked him unconscious.
“The Matrices are mine,” Unicron growled. “Nothing shall stand in my way.” He left Perceptor’s unconscious form behind and slowly stomped towards where the Matrices were kept. He needed no map to guide him, he could feel them calling to him. Soon, very soon they would be his. Then nothing in the universe would be able to stop him.