e mërkurë, 13 qershor 2007

Destiny's End: Book 3

Book Three:
Dark Sacrifices
Chapter One
"The time is at hand. The hordes of evil threaten to overrun all the universe. You, the last Yta ordained by the Matrix of Wisdom, must rise and take your place in history. For, once the appointed sacrifices are made, the evil that threatens all will be banished from the universe once and for all time," a distant voice said to Valkyrie as she stood dormant in the restoration chamber. The words seemed strange to her, but the voice was vaguely familiar. Where had she heard it before? There was suddenly a bright light as the door to the restoration chamber opened. Valkyrie checked her systems and looked about her in confusion. Her repairs were only 83% complete, why had the restoration chamber opened?
She checked the nearest station and saw that there had recently been a breach in the ship's hull. The restoration chamber must have opened automatically when the alert sounded, she thought. She scanned the ship for sparks and detected only Perceptor's spark near the breach. His status was determined to be wounded and unconscious. No one else was on board. Could they have all been killed? She wondered. If so, then who was the ship?
There will be time later for questions, she thought. She realized that she had no weapon, so her first stop would have to be the armory so that she could get something to fight with. Valkyrie left the bridge quickly and hurried down to the armory. She entered her password and the door opened. To her amazement, the room was nearly empty. Most of what remained were physical implements like swords. She rummaged through the armory and was only able to find one gun: a small laser pistol of the type Beachcomber used. The pistol barely fit her hand, but she knew that she could not be picky. She took stock of the other weapons and grabbed one of the swords. She tested it in her hand and found that it was easy enough in her hand. She attached the sword to her side and kept the pistol in her hand. Then she made her way towards the breach.
She stopped where Perceptor had fallen and checked him over. He had taken two shots to the chest and was in bad condition. Looking about her cautiously, Valkyrie slung Perceptor over her shoulder and trotted back towards the restoration chamber. She dumped Perceptor inside after stripping him of his rifle and leaving him with the pistol, so that if he should wake up or find himself facing his attacker, he would be at least able to put up some resistance. The door to the restoration chamber hissed shut and Valkyrie headed back to the site of the breach.
Emergency systems had already sealed the hole in the hull and Valkyrie could not ascertain any cause for the damage. She carefully looked around and then headed down the corridor. Perhaps whatever had attacked Perceptor was hiding somewhere on the ship, seeking another victim. She cautiously moved forward and kept going until she reached the end of the corridor. Here there was a door that led to the engine room and the storage room for the Matrices. Valkyrie kept her rifle at ready and flattened herself against the left side of the doorway as she slapped the button to open the door. She took a deep breath and looked around the doorway. With relief she saw that there was nothing.
She made her way along the corridor and heard the door hiss shut behind her. As she neared the room that housed the Matrices, she heard a noise. It was a low growl like that of an animal. Valkyrie froze in her tracks and looked around the darkened corridor. Suddenly she saw two points of red light in the darkness. "Who goes there?" She demanded.
"It is about time you arrived, I have been waiting. I could smell the stink of your tainted spark since I came aboard. You are descended from the race spawned by Cybertrax, yes?"
"I am," Valkyrie replied. "Before I became an Autobot, I was known as Hippolyta, a Cybertraxian leader. Now, who are you?"
"I am, in a different way, also the spawn of Cybertrax. Do you know who I am now?"
"Unicron?" Valkyrie asked incredulously.
"Very good. I have come to take what is rightfully mine, the Matrices."
"I won't let you have them," Valkyrie replied defiantly.
"Oh, I am already in possession of all but one of the Matrices on board this ship. Where is the Matrix of Harmony?"
"Even if I knew, I wouldn't tell you!"
"Surely you must have some guess of where it may be?"
"I won't tell you anything!"
"Tell me and I will spare your life and those of your people."
"I could not betray myself or the others, even if it would spare their lives."
"I do not refer to your Autobot friends, but rather the Cybertraxians. For, as soon as I have harnessed the power of all of the Matrices, the Cybertraxians will be the first to feel my wrath. I will eradicate them all and forever eliminate their scourge from the universe."
"No!" Valkyrie cried out and fired a burst from her rifle. The light from the shot showed her the hideous creature that stood before Valkyrie. Her shot went wide of it, and Unicron's laughter filled the corridor.
"Let me make this more sporting for you," he chuckled and the lights in the corridor turned on. Valkyrie could now see Unicron in full and gasped. His height filled the corridor as he straightened and she could see him stare down at her in amusement. "You cannot possibly hope to defeat me."
"No, but I must try," Valkyrie responded. She fired off several more shots from her rifle, but they had no effect. She put the rifle away and grabbed the sword with both hands. She sprang forward and slashed the blade at Unicron's right arm, but it bounced off of the hand without even leaving a mark. Valkyrie staggered backwards, but Unicron's left arm swung and his claws drove into her midsection.
Valkyrie screamed and Unicron pulled out his claws. Valkyrie collapsed to her knees, but felt no pain. Instead, she felt more of a tingling sensation throughout her body. Her entire form began to glow with a purple light. She held her hands up to her face and to her horror saw the surface of her hand vaporize. What remained was a flesh-covered hand. She gasped in shock and could see that the same was happening to the rest of her body. There was a sudden feeling of intense pain and Valkyrie blacked out.
When she woke up, she saw that darkness obscured the edges of her vision. She brought a hand to her eyes and realized that there was nothing wrong with her, strands of hair had fallen into her eyes. Valkyrie leapt to her feet and found herself encircled by mirrors. In them she saw a young humanoid woman that could be no more than twenty-five years old. Her hand touched the hair she had felt earlier and she could see that waves of black hair swept back over her head to the base of her skull, across her ears, and along her forehead. Below this were eyes with irises of an almost clear blue, thin cheeks that were coated with small brown freckles, a small upturned nose, and wide red lips. Valkyrie's hand touched each point in disbelief. She held up her small hands and flexed each finger experimentally. She saw that her body was clothed in a short, light green jacket, dark green shirt that pressed tightly to her small breasts, black pants, and black boots. It was completely unbelievable. How could this have happened? She wondered.
Unicron's voice echoed around her, although she could not see him. "What has happened to you is a sample of the pain and terror that will visit your people. When you Cybertraxians die, your sparks become one with the Matrix of Wisdom and you are reunited with all of the others who have already died. When my wrath is visited upon the home of your people, I shall make the entire populace weak fleshling creatures. I will exterminate all of them like the foul vermin they are, and without sparks they will forever be cut off from their loved ones. As will you." Unicron laughed and Valkyrie looked around to try and see him. The mirrors rose high over her and she could not see over them. "Give me information to find the Matrix of Harmony and this fate can be avoided for you and your people."
"Never!" Valkyrie shouted and noted how high-pitched and puny her voice sounded. The mirrors disappeared and she saw Unicron staring down at her. He seemed larger than ever and she realized quickly that it was because she was much shorter than she had been. She had been as tall as Grapple or Wheeljack, but in this humanoid body she was a head or two shorter than Beachcomber. She looked around for her weapons and darted for the sword, which was closest to her. She tried to lift it, but could only get the handle as high as her knees.
Unicron swat the sword from her hands and laughed, "Perhaps now you will see reason. You cannot hope to win against me. I have already slain your comrade Scarecrow and destroyed the mind of that young girl you captured. Killing a pathetic, feeble creature like you will be no challenge, especially since I have added the powers of the other Matrices to my own."
Valkyrie looked around her, but knew that there was no weapon she could use, and even if there was, it would have no effect on Unicron. Staring up at him, fear chilled her heart and in a panic she turned and ran. She quickly opened the door and fled down the corridor as fast as her short legs would carry her. She stopped when she reached the bridge and threw herself into the chair of the helm station.
There was no weapon she could use, and even if there was, it would have no effect on Unicron. She was sweating and breathing hard. wishing that Unicron had granted her a humanoid form that was in better shape. Her muscles were weak and flabby, and between her shirt and pants there was a small bulge of fat. There was nothing she could do to stop him, not in this condition.
She stopped and chastened herself for her cowardice. It didn't matter what form she possessed, it was her soul that mattered. Whether she was composed of Cybertronian alloys or flesh and blood, it did not matter. She stood with resolve and knew that there was one thing that she could do to stop Unicron. She looked over the helm station and activated a hidden panel that would allow her to jettison the forward quarter of the ship, a feature all Autobot shuttles possessed. She looked towards the restoration chamber and hoped that Perceptor would be all right. With any luck the forward part of the ship would remain in safe orbit until he emerged.
Valkyrie punched the appropriate buttons and then dashed off of the bridge. She managed to just get by the emergency doors that would seal off the forward section of the ship. The Odyssey shook violently as the front quarter was rocketed apart from the remainder. When it was finished, Valkyrie took a deep breath and prepared to go back to where Unicron waited. She caught her reflection in a piece of glass and studied her face again. By humanoid standards it was not ugly, that at least she could be thankful for. She tucked loose strands of hair into place and straightened her back, trying to summon the courage to go back. Undoubtedly Unicron would be waiting for her. He would mock her for her cowardice and laugh at her pathetic attempts to fight back. That would be his downfall. She marched proudly down the corridor and prepared to meet her destiny.
Unicron was waiting for her in the same spot, as if he had known that she would return. "Did you forget something?" Unicron asked mockingly.
"The only thing I've forgotten is to banish you back to the realm of the underworld where you belong!" Valkyrie shot back as she hefted the sword off of the deck without any trouble, raw emotion powering her flagging muscles.
Valkyrie struck a defensive pose and stared Unicron in his burning red eyes. "Your plan for my people will fail. My people destroyed your father and took possession of the Matrices that had been hidden for so long. When you arrive they will fight you to the last, no matter what weak forms you give them. They will all die before even one should bend their knee to you in submission." She took a firmer grip on the sword and then continued. "What you have forgotten is that the soul is not contained within the spark nor the flesh. It is something that is unseen, the essence of life itself that flows through any living creature. When the host body dies, the soul is released back to the universe that gave it life. Even with the power of the Matrices, you cannot deny this from my people. In any form their souls will be released and will gather with those of the ones they love beyond the Matrices."
"It is said that the souls of my people become one with the Matrix of Wisdom. The Cybertronians have a similar belief. What you do not understand is that the souls of my people are not contained in a physical vessel. They dwell in a place beyond the Matrix, a place far above this plane of existence, to be called upon not merely by the bearer of the Matrix of Wisdom. This collective wisdom can be called upon by any being at any time for courage, love, knowledge, or inspiration. I call it forth now in order to gain the strength to defeat you and rid this universe of you for all time."
Before any reply could be made, Valkyrie sprung forward and swung the sword horizontally into Unicron's left thigh. The sword did not make a mark, but Unicron stepped backwards in surprise at the sudden assault. Valkyrie continued to swing the sword wildly and Unicron kept up his retreat, as though he was in shock from her verbal and physical attacks. Valkyrie could see that she was causing no damage, but that was not her intent.
Finally Unicron seemed to shake himself from his funk and lashed at Valkyrie with his right hand. His claws dug into the left side of her face, tearing open her cheek. Valkyrie did not even scream, she merely pressed her attack. Unicron's left hand slashed Valkyrie's midsection and blood began to spread across her shirt. Again, she did not make a sound, but focused on what needed to be done. Her hold on the sword was growing weaker as the blood continued to ooze from the wound to the midsection
The Matrix shrine was in sight, and she could see that the doors had not been pried off or damaged in any way, meaning that Unicron had somehow broken the codes. She continued her frenzied assault, driving Unicron back even further. At last her destination was close at hand. A clawed foot smashed into her left leg, shattering it. Valkyrie pitched forward, but dropped her sword and used it as a crutch to support herself. She had several feet to go, but there was no way that she could continue forward. Unicron straightened once more and laughed as Valkyrie tried to push herself onward, but could not. She staggered and then fell backwards to the deck.
"I should have expected such a feeble attack from such a feeble hero like yourself. For all of your metaphysical talk, there is none who can save you now."
Valkyrie rose to her feet, throwing the sword aside. She charged forward, but Unicron was not caught by surprise this time. He reached out quickly with his right hand, hefting Valkyrie into the air. She squirmed to try and free herself, but couldn’t. Her short legs were several feet off of the deck and she felt like a child being picked on by a bully. Unicron laughed viciously and his skull-like face contorted into a ghastly smile. “You took me by surprise, little one, I did not think you would have the fight left in you to attack me in such a manner. However, your window of opportunity has closed.” He flicked back a few stray strands of her hair with a claw and said quietly, “It would be a waste, though, to destroy such a pretty young face. Perhaps if you tell me what you know of the Matrices I will spare you and allow you to start your life over again on a humanoid world. You could be safe among your own kind, peacefully living out your days.”
Valkyrie spit in his face and shot back, “I won’t tell you anything, nor will I allow myself to live at the cost of my friends and billions of innocent beings.”
“Your death will be meaningless. You are in no position to defeat me. You are weak and with a single thought I could make you much, much weaker. Your surrender would at least allow you to keep your life.”
“I don’t care about my life. All that matters is defeating you.”
“You will not have the chance. You have foolishly thrown your life away twice, I would have thought you would have learned after the first time.” With that, Unicron swung Valkyrie around and slashed open her right cheek with one claw. Valkyrie thrashed around in pain, but she could not break Unicron’s grip. She tried to force down the pain, but could not, and her scream throughout the Odyssey’s corridors. “You poor little girl, you could have been free. I gave you a chance for a new life, and you threw it away. Now you will die like a pathetic, weak fleshling.” Valkyrie’s face was a mask of anguish, both of her cheeks cut open and pouring out blood. He watched the red liquid pool on the deck below her feet and saw her stop struggling as she was on the verge of passing out. Unicron threw her dismissively to the deck, where she lay in a heap for some time.
He considered regenerating her body so that he could watch her struggle more. He found it very entertaining to watch her foolishly keep going, trying to destroy what she could not even scratch. She is much more amusing than the girl on Pholon, he thought. That girl had been too easy to destroy, she had coerced herself to believe a pack of lies too quickly. The thrill is in the hunt, the struggle between the hunter and his inferior prey, he thought. On Pholon, that cowardly girl had given up when penned in, while this young woman had her back to the wall and fought back. She kept fighting even though her cause was hopeless. Now, though, it appeared that she was finished. As much as he wanted to bring her back for another chance, he knew that he had more important things to take care of. It is a pity to lose such a good entertainer. Still, there will be time for amusement later.
Valkyrie lay on the cold deck for what seemed like hours. She wanted to get up, she wanted to continue the fight, but she couldn’t find the strength to rise. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, she thought of the old Earth saying she had heard one of the others use, and found that it aptly described the situation. Unicron stood over her, watching her, waiting for her to die before he went to the surface to continue with his mission. He could have easily finished her off, but he wanted to watch her suffer, to writhe in pain at his feet.
Valkyrie could feel the blood soaking her clothes and her vision started to dim. I’m dying, she thought. I’m dying and I’ve failed everyone on the surface, everyone who’s counted on me. She bitterly thought back to when she had stood before Cybertrax the first time with the Matrix of Wisdom. The Matrix had refused to open and only Jetfire’s intervention had kept her from being obliterated. This time, though, Jetfire would not come to save her. She would die here on the deck of the ship she had come to know as home in a body that was unfamiliar to her with none of her friends around her.
The strength of soul is the only thing that can overcome the darkness. Let your spirit guide your actions, let its strength fill your body and power it onward,” the voice she had heard in the restoration chamber told her from afar. It was only now, as she neared death, that she knew whose voice it was. It was the voice of the Cybertraxian Elders whose sparks lay beyond the Matrix. When she had died before, she had gone before them and pleaded that they allow her to live so that she could remain with Skyfire. It was this voice that she heard once again as she was on the threshhold of death. She closed her eyes tightly and forced all thoughts of pain from her mind. Her wounds didn’t matter, all that mattered was that she get the job done.
Unicron watched as slowly Valkyrie got to her feet, and when he looked into her eyes he could see beyond the Matrix. He could see the Cybertraxian Elders and hear their voices tormenting him, but more importantly he could once again smell the tainted essence of their sparks, sparks that were descended from Cybertrax, the father who had betrayed him. Unicron was frozen in place, oblivious to Valkyrie as he felt his old rage building once again. Cybertrax had betrayed him, setting Primus above him and forcing him to do menial labor while Primus was given the power of a Matrix. Cybertrax and Primus had both betrayed Unicron, and although they were both dead, their descendants continued to thwart him.
Valkyrie could see the distant look on Unicron’s face and could feel that he was somewhere else, remembering an old wound. She took the initiative and stumbled towards the door of the Matrix shrine. As she was nearly there, Unicron howled with rage like a bloodthirsty animal. He turned and shouted, “Where do you think you are going?” Valkyrie was about to reach for the door controls when she felt claws spike deep into her back. Unicron had sunk both hands into her, severing her spine in two places and doing serious damage to her internal organs. “You will not succeed, Cybertraxian scum. I will suffer the spawn of Cybertrax and Primus, who plotted to rob me of what was mine so long ago. Now is the time that I end this game and take what is mine!”
“No!” Valkyrie shouted and tore free from Unicron’s claws. Her legs buckled, but her arms reached out and she managed to slam her hand down on the keypad for the door controls. With her last ounce of strength, she pressed the enter key and there was the shrill sound of an alarm, followed by a clicking sound. Valkyrie collapsed on her back and looked up in triumph at Unicron before her last breath escaped her and her head rolled to the side. Unicron turned and suddenly the entire shrine burst into flames as the charges Wheeljack had placed fired. The powerful explosives tore through the entire ship and were fueled as the engine reactors were hit and exploded. The explosions ripped through the length of the remainder of the Odyssey and in moments all that remained were shards of wreckage.


Chapter Two
An enormous fireball lit up the sky and Skyfire looked up in shock. "What in the name of Primus was that?" He and the others were finishing the erection of their camp and working on a way to lure the enemy to their position.
"I'm not sure," Wheeljack replied. "Maybe the Odyssey encountered some enemy ships and destroyed them."
"I hope so."
"The shield system and all of the fortifications are ready," Skids reported.
"Good. Now we just have to draw the enemy here."
"That shouldn't be too hard. If the first one was intelligent, then it's probably safe to assume that these ones are as well. In which case, they aren't going to just let us rain ordinance down on them," Grapple observed.
"The problem is the radiation where they're gathering. If we launch an attack to draw them, there's a chance that the radiation could cause permanent damage," Skids added.
"It appears that we will not have to do anything," a new voice said. Shockwave emerged from the Legacy II and continued, "Sensors indicate the enemy is moving towards us. I am also detecting an aircraft of some unknown type approaching. It does not match Valkyrie's energy signature."
"Let's hope that it's on our side," Skyfire replied. "All right, then, let's get to our stations and prepare for battle. I'm not going to make a long speech. I just want you all to know that it's been an honor to serve with all of you and there is no one I would rather share my final moments with, just in case I should fall. Just remember to keep firing and don't stop until the last of the enemy is lying dead on the field." Skyfire shook each Autobot's hand and finally reached Shockwave. He stared into the Decepticon's one eye and smiled as he grasped Shockwave's hand. "You have been a great help to all of us, Shockwave. When our sparks become one with the Matrix, I hope to see you again and at last we will be able to be the comrades that we never could be in life."
Shockwave was silent and moved towards his station. The Transformers had used items from the transports, rocks, and dirt to form several barricades from which to fight behind. Beachcomber sat in the Legacy II and Grapple in the Pathfinder, the two transports angled so as to aim their weapons at where an enemy would be forced to attack from. The force field stretched along the ridgeline, so that the enemy would first have to breach it before they could overrun the encampment. It was, Skyfire knew, the perfect place from which to make a last stand.
There was something coming from over the horizon and Skyfire could see that it was the aircraft Shockwave had mentioned. The fighter was black and silver with swept-forward wings, twin engines, and a single tailfin. What is that? Skyfire wondered and motioned for everyone to remain alert.
The fighter did not attack, but instead landed just below the ridge. To everyone's surprise, the fighter transformed into a large robot. The intruder raised its arms to signal that it had no hostile intentions and stepped towards the force field. "Who are you?" Skyfire demanded.
"It is I, Scarecrow."
"You don't look like Scarecrow."
"I have undergone…modifications."
"He's right Skyfire, I remember him looking like this just before he knocked me out," Beachcomber chipped in.
"All right, we'll lower the force field." The shield was deactivated and Scarecrow stepped into the camp. Skyfire could see immediately that the Predacon warrior was badly damaged. Parts of his head, chest, and left leg were exposed and his right eye was shattered. Despite that, Skyfire could see that Scarecrow’s eyes were glowing bright red, indicating that he was not dying by any means. Skyfire scanned his comrade and could tell that the Predacon was operating on reserve power routed through his remaining circuits. "What happened to you?"
"I need to talk to you…privately. It is most urgent."
"Maybe we should let Wheeljack look at you first."
"No, this cannot wait." Skyfire stood and motioned for Scarecrow to follow him. They stepped into the Legacy II and Beachcomber quickly exited. Skyfire secured the hatches and went to the back of the transport so that they would not be seen. The Maximal and Predacon took seats opposite to each other and Scarecrow began his message without fanfare. "The Odyssey has been destroyed. When I arrived here, I saw pieces of its wreckage floating through space."
"What? That's impossible!" Skyfire burst out. "What about Valkyrie and Perceptor?"
"I did not see them, but my sensors are inoperable, so it is possible that they escaped."
"How could this have happened?"
"The Odyssey was destroyed by the dark force that has arisen from the Dark Matrix. After I left the ship with the girl, I traveled to her home planet of Pholon. Once there, Tai Lecau abducted the girl and left valuable information with her about the secrets of the Matrix, secrets she passed on to me. However, Tai Lecau is not behind this. When he took the dark powers of the Matrix of Life upon himself, it was a beacon for which evil could gather. Evil has now possessed his body, transforming it into a hideous servant of darkness, a demon from the underworld. Its mind, its spirit is that of…Unicron, and its mission is to take the power of all Matrices and corrupt them in a similar fashion. Once all of the Matrices are corrupted, Unicron will have the power to rule the universe unquestioned forever."
Skyfire stared at Scarecrow in disbelief. "Unicron? Unicron is dead! The Autobot Matrix destroyed him centuries ago!"
"As I said, the Dark Matrix has summoned his spirit back, but there is much more to this tale." Scarecrow sighed and then continued. "The alien horde we face is not here to begin an invasion. Their only goal is to destroy all of us so that Unicron can take the Matrices.”
“So Unicron is in charge of these things?”
“Unicron created the aliens millions of years ago to scour the universe for the Matrices. He was able to tap into the teleporter network that Cybertrax had constructed to bring the races who possessed the Matrices together one day. He sent swarms of aliens to scour planets in search of the Matrices, to find them and bring them back. Of course, he did not want his army to turn on him when they succeeded, so he gave them no intelligence, save for savage killing instincts. A group of mechanical spiders was created to preside over these, to keep them focused. The spiders were programmed only to find the Matrices and bring them back, they did not have the capacity to learn or change their orders. Meanwhile, Unicron continued to gather power and search for Primus to destroy him. When Unicron was destroyed, the alien horde was left to its own devices. Some continued with their mission, while some of the groups began randomly invading worlds and conquering them. Some of the spiders had somehow been reprogrammed, or groups of the aliens were commandeered by more intelligent beings. Tai Lecau discovered this army when he took the power of the Matrix of Life and knew that he could use the girl to get us here so that he could destroy us and take the Matrices.” Scarecrow stopped and looked away sadly. “She had no idea that she was being used, he twisted her mind so that she thought that everything happened like she said, like I told you. The ships we ran into were a mirage to goad us into beliveing her story, as was the brutal manner the crew of the Pholonian ship was killed. He wanted to convince us that he was evil and out to conquer the universe so that we would race here into his trap.”
“Tai used the Dark Matrix to transport all of the alien horde to one location and once you arrived, they would begin to teleport here and destroy you. Unicron, when he took over Tai's form, continued this plan. I tried to stop him on Pholon, but he easily defeated me. He also destroyed the mind of the Pholonian girl we recovered. She…she is living in some fantasy world invented by her mind where nothing that has happened to her is real. I believe that it is he who destroyed the Odyssey and may now be in possession of the other Matrices."
"However, when I neared the wreckage of the Odyssey, a strange thing happened to me. My mind was filled with images and a voice telling me all that I have said, and more. It told me what must be done in order to destroy this evil that has been loosed about the universe…"
"Enemy incoming!" Beachcomber's voice shouted. Scarecrow looked away, his face looking haunted.
“I must go,” Scarecrow said suddenly and left the transport with Skyfire right behind him.
“What? The aliens are almost here. You can’t abandon us now!” Skyfire replied.
“He is here.”
“Who?
“Unicron. He has commanded his minions to attack in order to distract us. But much more important things are at stake now. Before I go to face Unicron for the final time, there is something that you must know.”
“Scarecrow, you aren’t in any shape to take him on. Let me go instead!” Skyfire protested as the alien horde approached. He wanted to help his friends in the battle ahead, but he could not let Scarecrow go to a certain death.
“Listen to me!” Scarecrow shouted angrily and Skyfire could see that there could be no further discussion of who would face Unicron. Scarecrow continued quietly, “There is only one way to stop Unicron and the Dark Matrix. You must destroy the Matrix of Harmony, Skyfire. Once it has perished, the others bonded to it will also be destroyed.”
“Destroyed? But what about the wisdom and knowledge that the Matrices contain? I can’t destroy those!”
“There is scant time to explain, but I will tell you what Tai Lecau learned and what I have learned about the Matrices. They were never meant for mortals to possess. Cybertrax thought that he could shape the universe in his own image. To achieve his harmonious universe he focused powers from realms beyond our understanding into the Matrices. Each Matrix, as you know, was created unique so that the civilizations raised around them would be dependent upon each other. When Cybertrax created the Matrices, when he set himself up as a god and harnessed powers beyond his comprehension and unleashed them upon the universe, that was when all of this was set into motion. What is happening now was preordained from the creation of the Matrices. From billions of years ago, this day was foretold, the day when darkness would threaten to overshadow all things in the universe. On this day, great heroes would rise to the challenge and confront evil, sacrificing themselves to save all from the darkness that threatened to engulf the universe. This day of final reckoning is the day when Cybertrax’s hubris is purged from our universe, when we will have to learn to survive on our own, without the divine powers of the Matrices. It is no accident that you or I or anyone else is here today. This is our destiny.”
Skyfire was shocked and stared at Scarecrow dumbly. Ever since he had known Scarecrow, Skyfire had never once heard him utter so many words, and never so eloquently. “What’s happened to you, Scarecrow? Why all of this philosophical talk?”
“On Pholon I was given the secrets of the Matrix by Kari, the girl that you and Valkyrie found. When I arrived here, the secrets were unleashed and I felt a change come over me, as if something had possessed me. It is the spirit of the Matrices, Skyfire, pushing me forward to my destiny. I must answer the call, and so must you. Find the Matrix of Harmony and destroy it. Then the physical link between our universe and those beyond will finally be severed for all time and the evil of Unicron will be banished for all eternity.”
Skyfire stared at Scarecrow and then nodded. “I will, Scarecrow, I promise.” Before Scarecrow could transform and take off, Skyfire touched his shoulder. “Thank-you, Scarecrow, you have been the most noble Predacon I have ever known. I’ll look for you in that realm beyond the Matrix.”
Scarecrow turned and clasped Skyfire’s hand. “As will I, friend. Our destiny calls, we cannot keep it waiting any longer.” Scarecrow transformed into his jet form and took off into the air. Skyfire watched him fade over the horizon and wished Scarecrow luck. Then he turned and became Jetfire. He found Skids and searched for the right words to say.
“What’s going on, Jetfire?” Skids asked, sensing that something was wrong.
“I have to go, Skids. I don’t want to leave you and the others to fight this battle, but there is a more important battle that needs to be won, and I am the only one who can fight it.”
“You aren’t making a lot of sense, Jetfire.”
“I know. Look, Scarecrow told me what needs to be done to destroy the Dark Matrix for good. I can’t ask any of you to do it, because I don’t want to risk losing you. There’s a strong chance that I won’t make it and...I just wanted to tell you how much I’ve appreciated your friendship to me and to Valkyrie. You helped us both through some of our most trying times and I never really thanked you for it.”
“It was no...”
“I know, I know, but I wanted to say it. If I don’t return, I want you to take command and get the others home to Cybertron. I can’t think of anyone better suited for the job than you.”
“Thanks, but I’m sure it won’t be necessary.”
“Something tells me otherwise. Promise me that you’ll get them home.”
“I promise.”
Jetfire shook Skids’ hand and turned away. He transformed into his jet mode and took off into the air. He didn’t know if he would see his fellow Autobots again, but he knew that somehow they would survive and make it home.
*
Scarecrow landed and transformed, standing on a cracked plain of hard, dark brown rock. It was growing dark and Scarecrow knew that he would not have to wait long to find Unicron. He will come to me to try and find out what I know, Scarecrow thought. He will not succeed. Scarecrow pulled out his sword and studied the strange blade. Whatever the material was in the blade, it had failed to harm Unicron last time. And this time he will be even more powerful, Scarecrow thought. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I do what has been asked of me, that I play my role until the end. That I die as the warrior I am.
From the growing darkness, something seemed to melt out of the shadows. Unicron’s red eyes became visible and Scarecrow took the sword in both hands, striking an en garde pose. “I see that I was unsuccessful in killing you the last time,” Unicron began. “This time I will not be so careless.”
“My life means nothing to me, Unicron. I will gladly sacrifice it so that the universe will be free of your tyranny.”
“I see there can be no reasoning with you. It was the same with your Cybertraxian friend. She too refused to yield and thought that she could destroy me.” Something flew from Unicron’s hand and landed at Scarecrow’s feet. To his horror he saw that it was the head of a young humanoid female, whose clear blue eyes looked up sadly at Scarecrow. The woman’s face was unrecognizable below her nose, as blood from the gouges along her cheeks obscured everything. Scarecrow knew that it was Valkyrie. Not from her face, but from her eyes. They were filled with a sadness and wisdom that he had seen in her eyes. He had not talked to her very much, but he respected the sacrifice she had made to destroy Cybertrax. “That is all that is left of her I’m afraid. She chose to throw her life away foolishly. As do you. Once I have ripped the secrets of the Matrix from you, I will destroy the rest of your friends and find the Matrix of Harmony.”
Scarecrow lowered one arm and fired his plasma cannons, incinerating the head so that it would not rot for centuries on Cerberus. Scarecrow resumed his grip on his sword and growled, “You have desecrated the spark of a great leader and warrior. I will make you pay for that.” Scarecrow lunged forward and swung his sword into Unicron’s left wrist. The edge of the blade seemed to glow with white light as it hacked through Unicron’s exterior and cut deep into his wrist. Scarecrow quickly pulled the sword blade out and struck again, taking the left hand off. Unicron howled in pain and swiped at Scarecrow with his right hand. Scarecrow jumped back in time to avoid being hit by the claws and with a backhanded swing took off the claws on the right hand.
Unicron flew into the air and landed a few yards back. Then in his right hand appeared a black sword. The blade was curved like a scimitar and was tinged with a purple glow. Unicron’s left hand reappeared, albeit without the claws, and he charged forward. He raised the sword over his head and swung it down at Scarecrow with all of his might. Scarecrow met the blow with his blade and a mighty clash echoed over the plain and into infinity. The two blades were locked, but Unicron used all of his strength to force both swords downward. Before Scarecrow could recover, Unicron brought his scimitar back up to take Scarecrow’s head off. The Predacon leapt back, the pommel of the Unicron’s sword striking Scarecrow in the face and sending him crashing to the ground. Unicron tried to bring his blade down on Scarecrow, but Scarecrow brought his sword up and blocked the blow and swept Unicron’s legs from under him.
Both warriors quickly got to their feet and for a moment they stared at one another. They leapt at each other and again the blades clashed. For hours they fought across the plain, their swords colliding, neither warrior gaining the upper hand. Scarecrow was struck in the left leg, torso, and right arm while Unicron was slashed across both arms and his upper torso. Knowing that he had to change the momentum of the fight, Scarecrow fired a burst from his plasma cannons and charged while Unicron was distracted. He swept his sword to the left and struck Unicron in the right hand. Unicron’s blade fell to the ground, his hand partially severed. Scarecrow quickly brought his sword back and the edge of the blade sliced into Unicron’s head. One of his eyes turned dark and he screamed with rage.
Unicron stumbled backwards and Scarecrow gripped the handle of his sword with both hands. As Unicron reeled from the last attack, Scarecrow lunged forward and plunged the blade squarely into the monster’s chest. There was a flash of white light and Unicron doubled over, screaming in pain. Scarecrow stepped back and watched as Unicron’s exterior cracked open, his body collapsing into a pile of black rubble. From the rubble rose a sphere lit by purple light that formed itself into Unicron’s shape. From the body of pure energy glowed the red eyes. Unicron lifted his arms into the air and from his entire form came a wave of energy.
There was no time for Scarecrow to scream or even to move before the wave of purple energy was upon him. He felt it strike him and then instantly his body began to dematerialize. He was silent, his eyes meeting Unicron’s until he finally vaporized into nothingness.
Unicron took off into the air, his entire form glowing with rage. He could feel the Matrix of Harmony and knew that it was close. He would find it and take it, then he would have all the power of the Matrices. He had taken the secrets of the Matrices from Kari, but they would not open for him. No matter how much he tried, he could not pry them out. Now that Scarecrow was dead, he would be denied from ever knowing them, but it did not matter. He would soon have the power of the Matrices. After that there would be plenty of time for him to learn their secrets. That his physical body had been destroyed was of no concern to him. He would not need it any more. He was above the merely physical now. He was a god.


Chapter Three
Jetfire stood on the bridge of the Odyssey and opened the restoration chamber. Perceptor emerged and Jetfire’s heart sank when he saw that Valkyrie was not in there. “What happened, Perceptor?” Jetfire demanded.
“There was a breach in the hull and I went to check on it. There was a strange being there, a creature composed of a black material I could not identify. It had red eyes and large, very sharp claws. I did what I could to defend myself, but I was no match for it. I was wounded and knocked unconscious. I had seen nor heard anything until you opened the restoration chamber,” Perceptor explained.
“Where’s Valkyrie?”
“I don’t know. Last time I knew she was in the restoration chamber. She must have emerged and found me. What happened to her I do not know.”
Jetfire turned away, the pieces of the puzzle falling into place. Unicron had boarded the ship and rendered Perceptor unconscious. When Valkyrie had come to she had found Perceptor, placed him in the restoration chamber, and separated the front quarter from the rest of the ship. She had then detonated the other three-quarters and had probably been killed in doing so. She’s gone, he thought gloomily. She’s gone and I wasn’t even here to help her, to defend her in her time of need. He cursed himself bitterly and turned back to his friend. “Keep the ship in orbit and wait for Skids to signal you. I have to go and I probably won’t be coming back. You’ve been a good, wise friend Perceptor. I’ll miss your advice and your keen intellect.”
Perceptor shook Jetfire’s hand and he looked at Jetfire sadly. “I am truly sorry about Valkyrie. I did not know her long, but she was a brave Autobot and a noble comrade. As have you been. Not since Optimus Prime himself have I seen an Autobot so courageous and so willing to put innocent lives before their own. All of Cybertron will miss you.”
Jetfire was shocked by Perceptor’s assertions and stammered, “Thank-you Perceptor.” He turned and slowly walked away, heading for the airlock he had entered at. He opened it and jumped out into space, sealing the airlock before transforming into his fighter mode. Valkyrie was gone and Jetfire could only take comfort in the fact that he would soon be with her beyond the Matrix. He lit his afterburners and streaked towards the center of the planetary system.
*
The alien horde had arrived. The fiery yellow aliens immediately began to hurl fireballs at the force field, attempting to tear it down. Skids motioned for the others to hold their fire until the enemy had massed along the slope to the ridge. “Fire!” He shouted over the comlink and as one the transports, Autobots, and Shockwave opened fire. A section of the force field opened just long enough for the barrage to fly through before sealing itself. Missiles and laser energy tore into the front lines of the aliens, dropping dozens of them.
The aliens began to retreat instantly, seeking cover. None was to be had and Skids ordered everyone to launch another volley. More aliens were killed and the horde wheeled back towards the force field. Sensing themselves between a rock and a hard place, the aliens began to pound the force field with everything they had. “It isn’t going to last much longer!” Wheeljack shouted, seeing that the power of the field was nearly exhausted from the massive beating it had sustained.
“Everyone get ready!” Skids commanded. He knelt down behind the dirt and stone wall he had carved for himself and readied his rifle. Once the aliens were through, the battle would turn into a close-quarters brawl and then Primus only knew what would happen. The Transformers loosed a pair of barrages before the force field finally went down. The swarm of aliens had been reduced by a quarter all ready, but there were still nearly a thousand of them.
The aliens surged ahead as the force field collapsed and the Cybertronians opened fire. They cut down more of the horde, but the aliens formed into smaller groups and charged for the transports and fortifications. Skids and Wheeljack were the closest and nearly a hundred aliens descended upon them, hurling fireballs that smashed into the fortifications and began to wear them away. Skids fired over his fortification, firing round after round until a fireball caught him in the left shoulder. His gun flew from his hand just as another fireball smashed into his chest and sent him toppling to the ground.
Wheeljack fired his rifle and missile launcher at the aliens attacking Skids, trying to make his way to help his friend. He ran from behind his wall and across open terrain, moving wildly to avoid being hit by a fireball. One of the flaming projectiles hit his right shoulder and his missile launcher exploded, taking off his right arm and damaging that side of his face. Wheeljack kept moving towards Skids until a pair of fireballs hit his left leg at the thigh, nearly severing it. Wheeljack pitched forward and crawled towards his friend. A fireball ripped into the side of his chest and Wheeljack was finally stilled.
Shockwave was near the rear, firing from his gun mode. He saw Wheeljack and Skids fall and felt a surge of something run through him. He couldn’t identify it, but watching the Autobots be cut down brought back memories of Cybertrax, when the Cybertraxians he had been with were all killed, save one. They had given their lives to defend Shockwave and Scarecrow as they reprogrammed the astrogation computers inside of Cybertrax. They had given their lives to save the universe from Cybertrax and he had been unable to help them.
Now it was all happening again. This time it was his Autobot friends sacrificing themselves in order to defeat the alien horde so that its evil could not spread to other worlds and take more innocent lives. Shockwave transformed and saw Wheeljack and Skids lying in the dirt, their inert forms scarred and blackened from fireballs. Wheeljack still lay with his face in the dirt, his remaining arm reaching towards Skids. Then Shockwave turned towards the transports and could see the aliens turning towards them to destroy Beachcomber and Grapple. A small contingent was also heading towards him, but he did not care.
“I will not let it happen again! I will not stand idly by and allow these Autobots to give their lives for a noble cause!” Shockwave could feel something possess him, a kind of blind fury that he had never known before. He screamed a blood-curdling war cry and leapt from behind his position of cover. He began to fire madly and charged into the midst of the alien horde, who were turning away from the transports to face this new threat.
Shockwave poured energy from the cannon that was his right hand into the aliens, destroying one after another at close range. When his systems told him that he was low on energon, he transferred all power from other systems and kept firing. The aliens hit him with fireballs, but the Decepticon warrior would not fall. After he was out of energy for his weapon, he used it as a club, smashing it right and left amongst the aliens who clamored to try and take down the seemingly unstoppable warrior. He tore at the aliens with his left hand as well, ripping apart the aliens limb from limb. At one point he had torn the arm from one creature and wielded it like a club, bringing it down upon its fellows until it was nothing more than a useless heap of bloody flesh. He cast it aside and continued his relentless assault, even as he was hit again and again by fireballs, fists, and feet.
For hours the battle raged, until the light was becoming visible over the horizon. Beachcomber and Grapple did what they could to help, and slowly the tide of the battle began to turn. The maelstrom that had formed around Shockwave slowly began to subside, and yet the Decepticon was still on his feet, fighting as though inspired by a god. His armor was almost completely disintegrated except for a few fragments that clung to his blackened, skeletal frame. Many of his internal systems were completely destroyed, and yet somehow Shockwave kept fighting. He beat aside one after another alien that pressed against him. He stomped upon the fallen with his feet, ripped into the flesh beyond the fiery exteriors with his left hand, and smashed open skulls with his right arm. No quarter was given to any of the fallen, and yet the enemy still came, still tore and shot at this seemingly invincible enemy.
Beachcomber and Grapple finally joined the fray when the weapons on the transports were used up. They fired their weapons until they were useless, and then used the rifles as clubs, trying desperately to penetrate to the heart of the storm to reach Shockwave and save him before he expired. Light finally touched the battlefield and still the fight continued. Shockwave’s right arm was finally torn off at the elbow and he grabbed the fallen limb with his left arm. He smashed the limb into the aliens, roaring with renewed fury. Alien fireballs battered his left leg and finally it gave way, snapping off at the knee. Shockwave pitched forward, but continued to fight from the ground.
The aliens, numbering less than twenty now, could sense victory. Half of them pushed the two Autobots back while the remainder tore into Shockwave’s fallen form. They clawed at him and launched fire into him at close range. Shockwave’s left arm was finally neutralized and the aliens roared with triumph.
The Autobots renewed their attack, struggling desperately to make it to their comrade’s side before he was finished off. They were both badly damaged, but neither took notice, all they cared about was saving the former enemy who had fought so valiantly to destroy the alien menace. They smashed through the alien line and reached Shockwave’s side. The Decepticon was nearly dead, and yet his eye continued to glow strongly with life. Only a handful of aliens remained and together Beachcomber and Grapple destroyed them one at a time, ignoring the damage they took from the aliens’ final shots. Then, as the last of the creatures fell to the dirt, silence was draped about the battlefield like a stifling curtain.
Beachcomber and Grapple sank down to their knees next to Shockwave and helped him sit up. “We have...won?” Shockwave asked.
“Yes, thanks to you,” Grapple replied sadly.
“Optimus himself could not have fought so well,” Beachcomber added.
“I did...nothing. It was the only...logical...thing...to...do,” Shockwave responded, his voice fading as his spark prepared to transition from the realm of the living. The two Autobots gently laid Shockwave down as his spark emerged from his body, flying high into the sky. It seemed to hesitate a moment, as if it wanted to come back and cling to life, but then it continued its upward trek and vanished from sight. Shockwave’s body turned gray and cold and the two Autobots knelt over him silently for a long time. They finally stirred and went over to their fallen Autobot comrades. Wheeljack and Skids were both grievously wounded, but their sparks had gone into emergency stasis so that they would live.
Grapple looked around the battlefield, where alien corpses were piled in bloody heaps all around like a final monument to Shockwave’s heroic sacrifice. He had known the Decepticon for a long time, and never had he thought he would see the day when a Decepticon would fight so bravely for such a noble cause. “He gave his life for us...all of us,” Grapple whispered and looked up at the sky.
“He sacrificed himself so that future generations would never again be terrorized by this demon horde,” Beachcomber agreed.
“When we get back to Cybertron I will build a memorial to him like that the universe has never known,” Grapple vowed.
Beachcomber laid a hand on his friend’s shoulder and nodded. “I’ll help you.” Then they took the bodies of Skids and Wheeljack to the Pathfinder for transport back to the Odyssey. As they took off in the transport, the Autobots looked down at the battlefield, where those of his enemies surrounded Shockwave's corpse. “We have to come back down here, to give him a proper funeral,” Beachcomber said.
“Yes,” Grapple agreed. “Just try to stop me.” The Pathfinder leapt higher into the air and it was only as they neared the atmosphere that the two Autobots thought to wonder what had become of Scarecrow or Skyfire.
*
Jetfire passed the innermost planet of the system and could feel the heat from the orange, medium-sized star ahead of him. He steeled himself for what he was about to do and could only hope that he made it close enough to the star to do so. His sensors estimated only another five minutes before he reached the point of no return, when the star’s gravity would be too powerful for him to break away. After that, there could be no turning back.
Jetfire could feel something approaching, something dark and sinister. He knew that Scarecrow would not succeed in his fight against Unicron, that nothing but the destruction of the Matrix could stop Unicron once and for all. A ball of purple energy surged past Jetfire and he knew that Unicron was on his tail, trying to stop Jetfire from his mission.
“Where is the Matrix of Harmony?” Unicron demanded, his voice rumbling through Jetfire’s comlink
“It is with me, you will have to tear open my chest to find it,” Jetfire replied, urging himself to go faster. He still did not know why he had taken the Matrix of Harmony when he had gone to the Matrix shrine to consult the Matrix, he had just felt that it was something that he had to do. It was as though some unseen force had compelled him to take it. Jetfire avoided more of Unicron’s shots and thought back to what Scarecrow had told him. Fate, destiny, whatever it is, it knew that this would happen, that this battle would take place. I have lived for over four million years, and yet even before then my end was foretold, my fate already sealed. There were only two minutes until he could no longer turn back, and Jetfire knew that Unicron was preparing for a final attack.
“Perhaps I should kill you as I did your lover and exterminate you as a weak fleshling. Or perhaps I should annihilate you like your Predacon comrade, disintegrating you and forever ridding the universe of even the most microscopic trace of your existence.” Jetfire felt his fluids go cold as his worst fears were confirmed. Unicron had killed Valkyrie, the only one he had ever truly loved, the one whose soul was linked to him. He forced himself to press ahead, knowing that there was nothing he could do to destroy Unicron with his weapons. Valkyrie, Scarecrow, and all the others Unicron had killed would be avenged, once and for all time.
Seeing that Jetfire would not take the bait and drop back to fight, Unicron unleashed a wave of energy like he had used against Scarecrow. Jetfire quickly dove down and spun hard to the right, the wave flying over him and disappearing. Unicron followed Jetfire’s maneuver, and Jetfire could see that only thirty seconds remained. Unicron fired another wave and Jetfire deftly avoided it, continuing on course. He twirled around through space like a corkscrew as Unicron unleashed a final, hellish assault with everything he had. Jetfire was hit in the middle of the fuselage, but regained control and kept going.
“Warning: temperatures rising past tolerances,” a computerized voice told Jetfire and he shut it off. He vented all of his power to his heat shields and only hoped that he could make it. There was a beep in his cockpit and he stoically noted that he had reached the point of no return. Still he forged ahead, the heat and gravity threatening to destroy him.
He plunged ahead until he was only five miles from the surface of the star. Jetfire began to transform, his gears howling in protest. His body shimmered silver and then partially reverted to his Skyfire form. However, the liquid metal was beginning to buble, and so Skyfire’s exterior was streaked with bubbling silver metal. He reached back for his weapon, as he could see Unicron coming to swoop down on him before he fell into the star, but his rifle was melted. When his hand went forward, it had become a lump of bubbling liquid slag. “Ultra Combat mode,” he commanded, but the intense heat was taking its toll on his interior as well, fusing his circuits together in many places and melting his internal mechanisms.
“You are finished, you foul spawn of Primus!” Unicron shouted with triumph.
As Unicron spoke, Skyfire’s exterior boiled off completely, leaving his internals exposed to the star. The strong Cybertronian alloys were stressed well beyond their limits and begun to turn into slag. Seeing his victory at hand, Unicron swept down towards the helpless Maximal. Skyfire could do nothing, what remained of him was little more than the Matrix, his spark, and a lump of nearly unrecognizable slag.
“At last, the Matrices will be mine!” Unicron roared and his body of energy entered what remained of Skyfire to bond with the Matrix and take its power. Skyfire could feel Unicron growing more and more powerful and could feel darkness all around him. The last of Skyfire’s systems failed and his universe went dark.
When next he looked around, he was standing on a dark, empty plain. He looked at his hand and realized that it was made only of pale blue energy, the energy from his spark. The plain suddenly lit up with purple light, and Skyfire could see Unicron, reaching for the Matrix of Harmony that was hovering in the air. “They are mine now, Maximal!” Unicron called.
Skyfire suddenly realized what he had to do. He charged forward and dove at Unicron, knocking monster off of his feet. Unicron grappled with Skyfire, but the Maximal would not let him up, fighting with more intensity than he ever had in his existence. Just a few more seconds, Skyfire thought. “You cannot hope to destroy me, fool. You are no match for me,” Unicron sneered and Skyfire punched him in the face and then leapt off of Unicron.
“No, you are no match for me. Your powers are useless against me, now that I am dead and my spark beyond the reach of even the Matrix,” Skyfire replied.
“As am I,” Valkyrie’s voice cried out and emerged from the darkness, her form once more that of the Autobot warrior she had been.
“The same for me,” Scarecrow growled and he too appeared from the darkness.
“For Valkyrie, Scarecrow, and all free beings in the universe, I banish you back to where you belong! Back to the fiery Pit where your spark will languish for all eternity! Never again will you terrorize innocent creatures! Never again shall any suffer your schemes and ambitions! Never again shall anyone have to sacrifice their life in order to stop you! What was foretold has now come to pass. My destiny is complete!”
Before Unicron could escape, the spirits of the three Transformers stepped towards Unicron, each latching hold of him with an iron grip, even as he struggled against them with all of his strength. Fire began to rip through the darkness and Unicron screamed as it touched him and ripped his body asunder. The three heroes stepped back and watched white light explode from the Matrix of Harmony as fire consumed it. The white light rippled out from the darkness and burst from Skyfire’s remains as they tumbled into the surface of the star and evaporated.
The wave of light continued throughout the universe, to where each of the Matrices were kept. On numerous worlds, the revered, holy artifacts suddenly vanished in a burst of light and populations of billions were left to wonder what had happened and if it was a miracle or a curse. On Cybertron, the bearer of the Autobot Matrix of Leadership collapsed and could feel a pain they had never known, as if billions of voices were crying out for salvation. The disturbance passed and yet the Matrix remained where it was. Although kindred spirits to the other Matrices, the special Matrix given to Primus by Cybertrax was not linked to the Matrix of Harmony, and could not be destroyed by it. Nevertheless, the bearer of the Matrix, and all those in the future could feel a certain sadness taint the Matrix, a sadness like that of losing a friend or comrade.
The wave of energy finally dissipated, and only then was the task complete. The Matrices Cybertrax had created were gone, their powers unable to ever be tapped again by mere mortals. Their power resided back where it belonged, to distant realms that no being could comprehend until they made that final journey from life to death.


Epilogue
For two weeks, young Kari Chomar had spent her days looking out the window of the orphanage, wishing that her parents would come. She had talked to no one and only sat by the window and listened to the snickering of her fellow orphans, who believed her mad. As they should, for once found by authorities, the girl had discovered that there were no records of her, and that the parents she claimed to have had never existed.
She didn’t know what to think any longer. What was real and what was fiction had all blended together. Perhaps the strange dream she had had was not a dream, but reality. Perhaps all of this was a dream and she was still standing in the rain in an alley, faced by an evil demon. What difference did it make? In either world she had no friends, no family, and no home.
As darkness fell, Kari crawled into her bed, the sheets enveloping her small body. She refused to eat, bathe, or do anything but stare out the window and had been kept alive only by food and water forced down her throat. As she did every night, Kari wept quietly in bed, tears streaming down her chubby cheeks and staining the sheets. She didn’t know if she was weeping for being trapped in this place, for her parents, or for something else she could not even describe.
As she wiped away some of the tears, she saw a faint white glow hovering at the edge of her bed. She sat up and saw a familiar form outlined by the light. She could not remember who he was, but she remembered him from her dream. He was a man whom the demon had destroyed in her dream. How could he be here now?
“Kari,” the man whispered, his voice seeming to echo through eternity. “Your task is complete. Now I have come to free you once and for all.”
“Who are you?” Kari asked timidly. The man reached out a hand and it gently caressed Kari’s face and tousled her short hair like a summer breeze. “Tai,” she breathed, the memories suddenly coming back to her.
“It is I, Kari. I come to bring you the peace you have earned. You have long suffered for the desires and ambitions of others. At last you have earned your reward.” He extended his hand to her and slowly Kari stood up. She reached out and took the hand and her own small body began to glow. The light began to grow stronger and she was lifted up off the bed. Tai took her into his arms and with one final burst, the light faded. Kari Chomar was never seen or heard from again.
*
The five Autobots stood around the body of Shockwave, their heads hung with grief. The Odyssey had landed a short distance away and preparations had begun immediately for the funeral. Skids and Wheeljack had spent hours in the restoration chamber, but Wheeljack was still missing his arm, he did not want to delay the funeral and so wore a covering over his right shoulder socket. Skids, now the commander of the Autobots, stepped forward towards where Shockwave lay.
“My friends, we have assembled here to say farewell to a brave and dear comrade. Others were lost in this war...friends who will never be replaced.” Skids stopped as his voice faltered. He thought of Valkyrie, Scarecrow, and Skyfire and for several long moments could not continue. “Of all of them, none fought so bravely against so many odds. Outnumbered a thousand to one, Shockwave stood his ground and fought valiantly. It is because of him that all of us are here, that we are still alive to celebrate his memory.”
“None of us will ever forget him or what he did, how he sacrificed himself so selflessly, with no thought to his own life. He gave so that others might live without fear, without evil darkening their lives. For that we are in his debt.”
“None of us will ever forget this Decepticon warrior whom we fought against in the bitter civil war that lasted for over four million years. He was an enemy then, but now in the end he has become a friend we will all remember and whom future generations will never forget. He fought more courageously than ourselves were capable of and turned certain defeat into victory. His spark is now one with the Matrix, taking its place with Cybertron’s greatest heroes and defenders. We salute our comrade and hope that we can learn from his selfless sacrifice.” Skids stepped back with the others and Beachcomber pressed a button on the incinerator Shockwave’s corpse was lying on. As it began to glow and disintegrate Shockwave’s body, the Autobots turned their heads skyward and sang an ancient Autobot hymn to honor all of their fallen friends. The incinerator finished and the Autobots slowly trudged back towards the Odyssey to begin preparing for their journey home.
Skids sat in the Odyssey’s command chair as the ship took off. He and the others knew that with only part of the ship it would take centuries for them to return home. Still, Skids had promised Jetfire that he would get the crew home. Silence hung over the bridge as no one dared to speak. Wheeljack had returned to the restoration chamber while the others tended to their stations, taking inventory of what remained.
Skids closed his eyes and suddenly from the blackness came a soft blue glow. Skids could see the shadowy forms of Skyfire and Valkyrie. They smiled at him and Skids could see Valkyrie reach out her hand and touch his shoulder. “You’ve been my best friend, Skids, but do not grieve for me. Skyfire and I are together and this time nothing can tear us apart. We will miss you, but when your spark finally travels beyond the Matrix we will be here to welcome you. I know that when you reach home you will find someone who can love you the way I would have liked to, were not my love for Skyfire so strong.” Valkyrie pulled away and Skyfire smiled once more at his friend.
“When you return home, make certain that all know of your deeds and what you have accomplished here. We can never forget what can happen when ambition and pride are set above all else. Honor our memories and those of all who have fallen here. It is time that we go, but we will meet again, Skids. Until then, remember what we have said and what you have seen.” Both Valkyrie and Skyfire faded from view and Skids opened his eyes to find the others looking strangely at him.
“Skids, is something wrong?” Grapple asked.
Skids shook his head. “No, it’s nothing. What’s our status?”
“You’re not going to believe this, but when we entered orbit our sensors picked up something,” Beachcomber began.
“What was it?” Skids asked.
“The rest of the Odyssey...intact,” Perceptor finished.
“That’s impossible!” Skids blurted out, but when he stood he could see the other three-quarters sitting a short distance away, looking as though nothing had happened. “It’s...it’s a miracle.” He breathed and sensed that the visit from Valkyrie and Skyfire had something to do with it.
“We have determined that it is no illusion,” Perceptor reported.
“Can we dock with it and reunite the ship?”
“It’ll be tricky, but nothing we can’t handle,” Grapple replied.
A smile spread across Skids’ face as he looked around the bridge at the other Autobots. He had served with none better than these, nor, he knew, would he ever. He clapped Grapple’s shoulder and said quietly, “Let’s go home then.” Grapple nodded and slowly maneuvered the front quarter towards the remainder.
It was only then that Skids wondered what would happen next. The Matrices were gone, Unicron defeated, and the alien horde destroyed, what still awaited them out there? Perhaps, he thought, we’ll finally have peace. One thing he did know was that with the Matrices, Cybertrax, and Unicron gone, the destiny begun billions of years ago had finally come to an end. We’ll have to make our own way now, Skids thought. No one will help us or guide us, we mortals will finally have to create our own path through the cosmos. As he sunk back into the command chair, Skids sighed contentedly. Destiny is in our own hands now.
The End
(Thank goodness)

1 koment:

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author tha...

That made sense in some vague way. Just not the first part.