The Skyfire Adventures:
Cruising silently through space was a fan-shaped gray ship that was over two miles long. For nearly three years the ship had been away from home, on a mission of unprecedented importance. The first year the ship had been the home of three thousand colonists, scientists, soldiers, and crewpeople. The second year it had orbited a small planet as a colony was established to create a new home for two thousand people. As the third year was about to begin, the remainder of those still on board the ship were returning home and jubilant about what they had achieved. For one of the crew, though, there was only anxiety.
Kari Chomar's small quarters deep within the ship were cluttered with papers, reports, and clothes. The first two items were typical, but the third was not. Kari turned and looked in the mirror and was finally satisfied with what she saw. In just two hours the party to celebrate the completion of the colonization mission would begin and Kari had been preparing for it for the last two days.
She stared at the reflection in the mirror and smiled, because tonight the hard work would pay off. She had spent hours delicately curling her long, black hair and had gotten out the antique silver pin her mother had given her to pull it back. She had spent even longer finding the right dress to wear and had finally settled on a dark green dress she had received as a gift from a friend years ago. After nearly an hour she had applied her make-up to complete the look. She looked stunning. After three years, Tai Lecau, the handsome second-in-command of the expedition, had asked her to escort him to the party. Ever since she had boarded the ship she had wanted to get close to him and make him fall in love with her. Tonight would be the night that she would finally be able to make her dreams come true.
Who am I kidding? She thought. She sighed and from off the top of a cabinet grabbed her glasses. She fixed them to the bridge of her nose and immediately her confidence shattered. There is no way a handsome, powerful man like Tai is ever going to love an ugly, low-level biochemist like me she mused. For as long as she could remember she had been forced to wear heavy, thick glasses because of a progressive eye disease that was slowly robbing her of her sight. In another two years she would be forced to graduate to bifocals and in fifteen years she would probably be blind. The glasses dominated her face and no matter how beautiful she was without them, whenever she put them on she felt ugly and out of place.
She turned from the mirror and knew that all of her work was in vain. People like him and people like me aren't supposed to get together, she thought. We're from two different worlds. She collapsed in a chair and considered not going to the party. She could tell him that she was sick or that her superior had asked her to work. She did still have to catalog her findings and finish her final report for when she returned home. No, she thought, I've put too much work into this already. She sighed and began to pace, waiting for Tai to arrive.
Tai Lecau was crouched in the tight confines of an airshaft. He could see his objective and only had to wait for the area to be clear. Once Kor leaves his quarters I'll finally be able to realize my dream, he thought. He continued to stare down into the small quarters of the expedition's commander and a smile came to his face. It won't be much longer now.
Kor finally limped out of his quarters to attend the party and Tai carefully pried open the airshaft. He let down a rope and carefully lowered himself to the deck. The quarters were dark, but Tai knew where to go. He could feel it calling to him, its power like a beacon in the night. He made his way to Kor's bedroom and felt the call become stronger. He knelt at the foot of the bed and knew where it was hidden. He pressed his hands to the carpet and closed his eyes. The carpet suddenly vanished and the deck below it opened to reveal a small compartment containing a golden box. There was a lock on the box, which would open only by a code that Kor alone knew, but at Tai's touch the box opened. From the box he took the object that he had been looking for.
The object was a white metal sphere with rectangular handles jutting from it. Inside the white sphere was another sphere composed entirely of a teal crystal. The crystal began to glow, lighting up the entire room with teal light. Tai smiled and took the handles of the object in both hands. He aimed the crystal squarely at his chest and closed his eyes as a beam of teal light shot from the crystal and into Tai's chest. He screamed, but tightened his grip and the beam continued to flow. Tai's body began to glow and Tai laughed as his body was filled with energy and he felt a sense of power he had never known before. The beam finally stopped and when Tai looked at the object, all that remained was an empty black metal shell. He tossed it aside as he felt its power flowing through his body. Now, he thought, it's time for a party.
The door chime sounded and Kari nervously checked herself in the mirror one last time before she opened the door. The door slid open and Kari saw Tai standing there, as dashing as ever. "Hello, Kari," he greeted her. "You look lovely tonight."
Kari blushed and replied shyly, "Thank-you." Tai offered her his arm and she hooked hers though his. It seemed like a dream, but she knew that it was actually happening. He led her past the doors leading to the party and down a dark corridor to where his quarters were. "Aren't we going to the party?" She asked.
Tai shook his head and smiled, "Why go to a stuffy party when we can make this night something much more special."
"Are you embarrassed to be seen with me?" Kari asked as they stopped outside his door.
"Of course not. I love you, Kari, and I only want to be with you. What anyone else thinks of it is immaterial. Now, let's go inside." He opened the door and led Kari inside. She was immediately stunned.
The room was lit only by candlelight and on a large, ornate table Tai had set two places. Two crystal glasses were filled with expensive, burgundy Eparg wine. He took Kari to her chair and she sat down. "This is lovely," she commented.
"It should be," he replied as he went to the kitchen and returned with trays of food. "Today is a day to celebrate."
"Yes, we finally completed our mission."
Tai sat down and began to serve the food. "It's more than that," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"Today we finally ended the war. With the Dulamists all safely on the colony, that will leave Pholon solely for the Prostians. The holy war that divided our planet for centuries has finally come to an end."
"That's true," Kari responded softly and took a sip of her drink. "A lot of people died because of that war, it's good that it's finally over."
Tai was silent for a few moments, thinking of those whom he had lost during the war. His wife and daughter had been killed in a Dulamist raid on his village and his parents had died when fighting destroyed their town. He smiled and looked at Kari across the table, forcing those dark thoughts from his mind. "Pholon is finally at peace, our technology is improving rapidly since we opened trade with Deilon, and I am spending dinner with one of the most wonderful women in the galaxy. I would say that things have definitely improved."
Kari smiled coyly at the complement and pushed her glasses back up her nose. "I wouldn't say I was one of the most wonderful women in the galaxy."
"Don't sell yourself short, Kari. You're beautiful, smart, and kind-hearted. Those glasses may make you different, but they don't take away anything."
"Not a lot of other people would agree with you, I'm afraid. I've been an…outcast all of my life because of these."
"Nonsense. You've been an outcast because you let those things make you think that you're ugly or out of place." Tai watched Kari take another sip of her wine and knew that soon the drug he had placed in the wine would begin to take effect.
Kari smiled and suddenly the room began to spin around her. Bright colors flashed before her eyes and her vision blurred. She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. "Are you all right?" Tai asked with feigned concern.
"I…I don't feel so good," Kari moaned and tried to stand up. Her legs felt weak and she fell to the deck. Tai casually got out of his seat and knelt down beside her, a smile on his face. "What's…happening?" Kari asked, her throat feeling like sandpaper.
"I slipped a powerful drug into your drink. I'm sorry, but it was necessary. Just close your eyes, this won't take long."
"No," Kari protested, but she couldn't fight the drug's power and finally her eyes closed. Tai took her hand and looked her over. She was a pretty, smart, and kind woman, but the visions he had received told him that she was the one who would help him achieve glory. Tai's body began to glow with teal light and a purple mist formed around Kari. As the mist enveloped her it began to change her body structure into a form Tai had already determined. It cleared after a minute and Tai checked over his handiwork.
The Kari he had invited to dinner was gone, replaced by a child of about twelve years old. Tai took her hand and whispered softly, "I'm sorry, for I did truly have feelings for you. However, sacrifices must be made for the greater good. With the power of the Matrices I will bring an end to war, famine, disease, and all other evils. I will tear down the many gods of the universe and unite everyone under one benevolent god, a god that will not let people suffer. You will be my instrument to gain the power of the other Matrices. As for the others," Tai looked up and sighed. "They will have to perish. I know I will see you again one day, Kari, and I will make things right then."
Tai kissed Kari on the cheek and then she disappeared and materialized on a shuttle that vanished from the hangar and reappeared in space. It was then that Kari's eyes opened. She sat up and thought about how she had gotten inside the shuttle. She had been standing guard at the party and then Tai had stormed into the room. He proclaimed himself the new god and that everyone would grovel before him like frightened children. Before anyone could stop him, a purple mist came from his hands. Kari could remember seeing people writhing in pain and screaming as their bodies changed from adults to children. She wanted to help, but instead she had bolted for the nearest door and hurried to try and find help. The mist was everywhere, and as Kari reached the hangar to get on a shuttle, it finally caught up with her. She dragged herself onto the shuttle and keyed in the launch sequence even as she was transforming into a child. As the shuttle launched she went unconscious.
She stood up and looked herself over. She had become a fat little girl about twelve years old. Her stubby limbs were thick with fat and an ample belly hung over her waist. Her brown hair was extremely short and her flabby cheeks nearly hid her green eyes. I don't believe this, she thought. How could Tai have done this? It isn't possible!
She stared down at the gut clothed in a white dress covered with faded flowers that was tightly stretched against her and pulled at the rolls of fat, trying to tear them off. The flab jiggled madly, but would not come off. After a minute of exertion, Kari was exhausted and waddled over to a chair and struggled to get into it. She sighed with relief and thought about the situation.
What could she possibly do to stop Tai? She was nothing now, just a piggish child unable to move across the room without breaking out in a sweat. I can’t stop him, but there has to be someone who can. There was suddenly a flash of white light and Kari could see a large orange ship. From the ship appeared a large black and silver robot, its red eyes burning with hatred like a demon’s. Yes, she thought. I will search the universe for this ship and this spirit. It will be able to defeat Tai and take back the Matrix. With renewed determination, Kari leapt down from the chair and shuffled over to the cockpit. She input a course and hoped that she could find the dark warrior soon, before it was too late.
Gathering of Shadows
Two years later, the refitted Autobot shuttle Odyssey was finally nearing an inhabited system. It had been months since the small crew of the ship had seen any life. They had encountered natural phenomenon and lifeless planets, but nothing that had any sort of intelligent life. Like much of the trip so far, the crew was in a state of bored waiting.
Skyfire was alone on the bridge; the rest of the crew had gone to other areas to pursue their own interests. Skyfire had gladly allowed them to go; he was feeling tired and depressed from the long journey. It helped to have his friends and Valkyrie, but he still missed his home. Unfortunately, there was still another twenty years to go. With no signs of magic wormholes or phenomenon that would take the Odyssey to Cybertron, Skyfire knew that the relentless voyage would have to continue.
Added to that was the problem of the Odyssey's cargo. On Hippolyta, the Cybertraxians had turned over custody of five Matrices to the Odyssey, because their leader knew that in the wrong hands the power of a single Matrix, let alone five, could bring disaster. Since then Skyfire had not wanted to stop the Odyssey for anything, which meant exploration had to be conducted by scans and the occasional trip in one of the Odyssey's transports. That had really taken some of the fun out of the journey, because if they were going to be far from home at least they could learn from it. Now they couldn't even do that. This sector of space had offered very little to study so far. The Cybertraxians, a handful of inhabited planets, and an irradiated ship with the entire crew murdered was all there had been to study so far. Skyfire sighed and leaned back in his chair at the helm thinking, this does beat a war with the Decepticons, though. Suddenly the sensors began to beep a warning and Skyfire routed the sensor data to the helm station.
Three ships were less than twenty klicks from the Odyssey and approaching fast. From the sensor readings, two of the ships were firing on the third. Are they tracking a fugitive, exterminating rebels, or what? He wondered. He sounded the red alert and turned the Odyssey towards the chase. None of the three ships was a match for the Autobot vessel; they were all smaller and not very well armed. The sensors obtained a better picture of the three ships and Skyfire could see that they were crude in design, looking like elongated eggshells.
Grapple, Skids, and Valkyrie were first to the bridge. Skyfire stood and commanded, "Grapple, take the helm. Skids you're at weapons control. Valkyrie and I will go out and see if we can break this fight up. His body shimmered silver for a moment and Skyfire's outer appearance was changed to that of the Autobot Jetfire, who he had been before joining the Maximals. "Let's go," he said to Valkyrie and they hurried to the hangar.
"Why are we getting involved in this, we don't even know what's going on?" Valkyrie asked.
"As Autobots it is our job to make sure that things conclude peacefully. I want to make sure that this ends without bloodshed."
"They might get angry with us for interfering."
"Let them." They reached the hangar and both transformed to their fighter modes. Jetfire roared out of the hangar first, his rocket boosters glowing blue. Valkyrie followed, her smaller engines managing to match his speed. They banked to the right and headed for the three ships. The two were still firing on the third and from Jetfire's scans the third ship would begin to break up at any moment. They were within comlink range and Jetfire sent out a message using all the languages the crew had picked up along the way, in case the ships might be familiar with one of them. "Attention all vessels, my name is Jetfire, commander of the Autobot starship Odyssey. I would ask that you all disarm your weapons and come aboard our ship to conclude your business peacefully."
He doubted they would understand the message, but was shocked when he received a reply moments later that was translated into Cybertronian. "We are intercepting an enemy ship, we have no wish to come aboard yours or any other ship. Our orders are to stop this vessel and either bring back its crew or destroy it. If you interfere, we will fire upon you."
"All right Valkyrie, let's disable the two attacking ships. Then we'll stop the third one."
"Sounds good to me. Which one do you want?"
"I'll take the left."
"Let's do it." Valkyrie broke to the right and made a long bank towards the targeted ship. It didn't seem to notice her until she was within weapons range. She strafed the left side of the ship, holing it in several key areas. Its weapons stopped firing and it hung limply in space. Valkyrie pulled up and headed for the third ship, which was still cruising along, apparently oblivious to everything.
Jetfire rolled to the left and pulled up in a tight loop. He ended up squarely on the tail of the remaining ship and fired a barrage of lasers. The vessel was stopped in its tracks as its engines broke down. It continued to fire its weapons until Jetfire flew along its side and fired again. The weapons ceased fire and Jetfire went to see how Valkyrie was doing with the third ship. She had managed to take out its engines and transformed to robot mode in order to stop the ship from drifting. "Jetfire, I'm reading one organic lifeform aboard. The ship's hull is about to give out, we'd better get it aboard the Odyssey."
"Go ahead, I'm going to talk to our friends here."
"Understood. See you back on ship." Still in robot mode, Valkyrie guided the crippled vessel towards the Odyssey, which had stopped about a klick away. Meanwhile, Jetfire transformed to robot mode and activated his comm.
"Now that this skirmish is over, please identify yourselves."
"I am Captain Kryn of the Pholonian Armed Forces. We were intercepting an escaped traitor until you interfered."
"Exactly what was this 'traitor' wanted for?"
"Treason, theft, and murder."
"Those are serious charges. We're taking this criminal aboard our ship for examination. I'll talk to this person and hear their side of the story, and, if they so desire, I will grant them asylum aboard my ship. You are welcome to come aboard and make your case if you wish."
"No. We will repair our vessels and return home. Then the full power of my world will be leveled against you. You will live to regret this day."
"As you wish, Captain. I mean your people no harm, we are only concerned with justice and peace."
"Justice? You have mocked justice by taking this traitor from us!" The connection was severed and Jetfire headed back for the Odyssey. Valkyrie had gotten the ship in the hangar and moved it over next to the transports. She, Wheeljack, and Skids were standing around the ship.
"Can you get inside?" Jetfire asked.
"Probably," Wheeljack replied. "The hull doesn't look too tough. The only thing is that we don't know what this being breathes. We could expose it to harmful elements."
"Our medical facilities aren't set up for organic beings, we might not be able to help it if it is injured," Skids added.
"We have to try, though. Try and get a reading of the air inside the ship. I'll have Beachcomber see what he can do about facilities."
On the bridge, Scarecrow sat at the weapons station. Grapple was at the helm and assumed that Skyfire had sent Scarecrow up to cover for Skids. In reality, Scarecrow had come to the bridge of his own accord. He stared at the two ships on the sensors and closed his eyes. Yes, these were the ships he had seen. He knew what he had to do. He targeted them both and pushed the button to fire. High-powered lasers crumpled the hulls of both ships and they burst into small fireballs before they broke apart.
Grapple turned in his seat and looked at Scarecrow, "What did you just do?"
"I eliminated a threat," Scarecrow replied icily.
"Those ships were disabled."
"Those ships were going to bring reinforcements."
"Even so, you don't just fire on disabled ships, they don't have a chance to defend themselves."
"Those ships were a danger and I disposed of them."
"I know you're a Predacon, but even you can't be that cold-hearted."
"Yes, I can," Scarecrow replied and left. He went down to the hangar and saw the ship. He had seen this as well. Wheeljack and Skids were studying the vessel, but stopped as Scarecrow approached.
"Scarecrow, what are you doing here?" Skids asked.
"Stand aside," Scarecrow demanded.
"Skyfire told us to examine this ship before…" Skids began, but Scarecrow shoved him aside. He touched a part of the hull and a hatch opened. "Are you crazy, you could kill whoever is inside!"
Scarecrow went inside on his hands and knees, heading for the front of the ship. He found the cockpit and saw someone slumped over the seat on the left side. He gripped the back of the seat and yanked it, prying it off its supports. He tilted it back to the floor and his fluids stopped. "It's her," he whispered.
Strapped into the seat was a humanoid female. Her skin was an extremely pale white, almost like that of a corpse. He examined her and found that she was still alive, but barely. He gently unstrapped her and dragged her out of the hatch and onto the deck of the hangar. Skyfire, Skids, and Wheeljack were standing there, looking angry. Scarecrow stood and took the female into his arms, brushing past his three comrades without a word. He headed for one of the labs that Beachcomber had turned into a rudimentary sickbay. He laid her down on a table and turned to Beachcomber, "Study her and revive her as soon as possible. When you do, alert me at once."
"What about Skyfire?"
Scarecrow attached his three blades to his hand and stuck them to Beachcomber's neck. "You will tell me when she is revived, understand?"
"Yes. Why is this so important to you?"
"It's personal." Scarecrow stomped away and headed back to his quarters. Once inside the dark room he lay down and deactivated himself. Now that he had found her, what was he to do? Perhaps his dreams would guide him; they had taken him this far already.
"I don't believe it," Skyfire said, looking down at the girl Scarecrow had brought in. "She's just a kid!" The girl lying on the bed was nearly fifteen years old and looked as though she had been badly abused. She was tall and thin to the point that her bones were nearly showing and a mane of tangled brown hair hung to the waist of her torn brown jumpsuit. Her skin was deathly pale and from what Skyfire's sensors could determine, she was terribly undernourished for a growing child. There was a red mark on her high forehead, which Skyfire guessed was from something hitting her head during the battle.
"Looks can be deceiving," Skids commented. "But in this case I agree with you. This wasn't what I expected."
"What can you do for her, Beachcomber?"
"I've gone through our medical database for humanoid races and performed an extensive scan. There doesn't seem to be any serious injuries, just a bump on the head and some malnutrition. I think with a few nutrients that I can synthesize she will wake up in a few days on her own."
"Good. As soon as she's awake, let me know. We need to talk to her and find out why she was so far from home," Skyfire left the room and nearly ran into Grapple on his way out. "Grapple, what is it?"
"Skyfire, I think there's something wrong with Scarecrow…"
Scarecrow was roused from his slumber by the door chime. He answered it and found Skyfire standing at the door. Skyfire stepped inside and after the door had closed he looked Scarecrow squarely in the eye and asked, "Why did you destroy those two ships?"
"They were a threat to this ship. Unlike you, Maximal, I do not leave an enemy to stab me in the back later," Scarecrow hissed.
"I don't think that's the whole story. I've known you for some time now, Scarecrow. You're a Predacon, but you aren't cold-blooded. You wouldn't destroy two disabled vessels without a good reason."
"I don't think you know me at all. I gathered a crew and launched a mission to take over the galaxy. I nearly killed you and your friends, I am not as honorable as you would like to think."
"You also helped us defeat Cybertrax…"
"Cybertrax was intent on destroying everything, Maximal, Predacon, Autobot, and Decepticon. If I had not helped he would have killed us all."
"Fine. Still, I don't believe that you fired on them just because they were a potential threat. I think there's something going on, something you aren't telling me."
Scarecrow looked at Skyfire and wondered if he should tell the Maximal just what was going on. No, he won't believe it. Besides, I don't really know what it all means. "Perhaps I am just frustrated at being stranded so far from home. I will not fire on anything again without your permission."
"All right, but look Scarecrow, even though you are a Predacon and tried to kill me, I consider you part of the crew. If there's a problem, I want you to feel free to talk to me about it. We are all we have right now, and I don't think there's anyone who can suffer through this alone. Don't be afraid to open up." Skyfire left and Scarecrow sat on his bed, trying to sort things out. None of these fools will understand. He suddenly stood up and thought, but I know something that might be able to help me.
The five Matrices recovered from Cybertrax were kept in an elaborately protected room. The doors had been reinforced and opened only by password and a complete scan of the user. The room was lined with explosives, enough to destroy the room as well as the entire ship. Any attempt at forced access would set off the explosives. For that reason, the crew did not visit the shrine very often. Scarecrow hesitated for a moment and then put his fingers to the keypad for the security controls. He typed in the password and waited while the scan was completed. The doors hissed open and Scarecrow was admitted to the dark room, lit only by the dim glow from the Matrices.
Wheeljack had designed the security measures, but Grapple had designed the room so that the shrine looked like a worthy place for such revered artifacts. Each Matrix was placed on an elaborately carved pedestal that showed scenes from Cybertronian history. The walls were lined with rich purple fabric with gold trim to give it a regal appearance. One Matrix was placed near the corner of each of the four walls, and in the center was the Matrix of Harmony, which Cybertrax had crafted to locate the other Matrices when the time came.
Scarecrow knelt before the Matrix of Harmony and closed his eyes. He had never been a believer in religious symbols and relics, but the Matrices had a certain power about them that made him fall to his knees in awe. "Great Matrix," he whispered. "For some time I have received strange visions, visions which are now coming to pass. I require guidance; the knowledge to know what my task is and what I must do to achieve it. I need your help, give me the answers that I seek."
He looked up at the Matrix of Harmony and the dull glow from its white crystal center became brighter. It blinded Scarecrow and it seemed that he was drawn into the Matrix itself. He looked around him, but could see nothing; all details were washed out by white light. "The time is at hand for destiny to take its course. You have been guided to the one who will help you find the Dark One and forever rid the universe of its corruption. She will take you to where you need to go and tell you what you seek. However, the task of destroying the Dark One will be yours alone. For only one who is of the darkness can slay it."
"First, though, your burden will have to be lightened. You must face this challenge alone. Not even the Matrices can aid you in this quest. We have given you all the help we can; now it is up to you. Fail and darkness shall forever rule the universe."
The light faded and Scarecrow found himself in his quarters. How had he gotten back here? He didn't remember walking; perhaps the Matrices had sent him here. It was then that he noticed that something was different, he was different.
He got up off the bed and went to the computer terminal. He commanded it to do a complete scan and project the findings holographically. He felt scanner beams trace over his body and penetrate his interior. After a few minutes, the findings were projected in the air next to him. He took a step back and gasped.
His body had undergone some major changes. His robot form was black and silver, with feathers on his chest and arms. His face was black with silver trim and burning red eyes that gave him a demonic appearance. His beast form was a metallic crow that was black and silver with red eyes and no feathers anywhere. He also found that he had an intermediate mode that was a sleek jet fighter with swept-forward wings and two rocket engines. A tailfin folded out from inside his body, as did a pair of rudders along his engines. Interesting, he thought. Finally, the display showed his weapons payload. The rocket engines transformed into a pair of plasma cannons that went along the sides of his arms, a missile launcher was housed inside his beast form's head, and from his leg came a black sword that was composed of some unknown material that was solid, light, and could cut through almost anything. There was something else he noticed as well. His personality was no longer stored inside the central processor, but in a spark that was inside his chest. If that was true, what had happened to Shockwave?
The answer was lying only a few feet from the door. Shockwave lay unconscious on the floor, completely intact. Scarecrow scanned his body and found that Shockwave still had his own spark and was fully functional as he had been before Scarecrow had altered his body. Scarecrow thought back to what the Matrix had told him and remembered that it had said that he must first be unburdened, that he had to do this alone. Obviously the Matrix had created a new body and a new spark for him, separating him from Shockwave. He thought of the rest of what the Matrix had told him and knew that there was no time to lose. He suspected that at any moment the humanoid female would wake up, and then his quest could begin.
Beachcomber was monitoring the humanoid's condition when the door opened. Beachcomber turned to see a black and silver shape standing there, red eyes boring into him. "Scarecrow?" Beachcomber ventured.
"Yes, it is I, and this won't hurt a bit." Scarecrow drew back his fist and punched Beachcomber in the face. The Autobot went down and Scarecrow made sure that he was unconscious. Then he began taking the humanoid off of the various scanners and machines Beachcomber had hooked up to her. The female was still unconscious and Scarecrow left the lab, heading for the hangar. He carefully made his way there, making sure that no one was following him or in the area. Fortunately, all of the others were busy. Scarecrow entered the hangar and opened the hangar doors.
He tossed the female high into the air, transformed into his new jet mode, and caught her in his cockpit. Straps tightened around her and then Scarecrow activated his engines. A part of him wanted to wait to explain the situation to Skyfire and the others, but there was no time. The fate of the universe was at stake, and this was his mission, no one else's. He roared out of the hangar and only hoped that he could make it away before Jetfire or Valkyrie got on his trail.
Two hours later, Scarecrow was far from the Odyssey and certain that he had not been followed. It was then that the humanoid girl began to stir. She looked around her and asked, her voice strong and confident, "Where am I? Who has taken me captive?"
"My name is Scarecrow, I am a robotic being from the planet Cybertron. I have the ability to change between forms, you are currently riding inside of my spacecraft form."
"The last thing I remember, two gunships were firing on me. My ship's systems shorted out and I went unconscious. Did you rescue me?"
"No, one of my comrades did. However, I have taken you to complete a mission. I need to know who you are and what you were trying to do."
"My name is Kari Chomar. I was a soldier on the colonization ship Destiny, which was returning to my home planet of Pholon. A man named Tai Lecau used some strange power to turn everyone, including myself, into children. I escaped, but I'm certain that everyone else was killed. I've spent the last two years looking for you. I had a…vision of a ship and a warrior who would have the power to stop the threat Tai and his evil army present."
"What threat would that be?"
"He is using his powers to take over Pholon and build a force to take over the universe."
"That is a good story, little girl. Why should I believe you?"
"I may have the body of a girl, but my mind is that of a woman. I was twenty-three years old, but when I came to on the shuttle after escaping the Destiny I was a chubby little girl only about twelve. I typed in a course and started my search, not knowing how long it would take or how large space really is. Fortunately, the shuttles had been stocked with food to keep several people alive for a year or longer, because the mission would take us so far from home, the designers wanted the shuttle to be able to make it back home if the ship was destroyed or stranded. I rationed as best as I could, but sometimes I would get so hungry that I would eat more than I should."
“The worst part was that I was having to grow up all over again, this time lost in space all by myself. It nearly drove me mad at times, because I would start to wonder if maybe this wasn’t all some kind of dream. Maybe I was safe and warm in a bed somewhere, maybe I was this little girl dreaming about having a big adventure. There were times when I’d wake up screaming and just wish that my parents would rush in and comfort me.”
“After about nine months, my supplies were half gone and I began to wonder if I would make it. Fortunately, puberty began to kick in. I lost my appetite and hit a growth spurt, causing me to lose all of the extra weight. It also allowed me to stretch my rations out, so that I could survive long enough. Mentally, though, things got worse as I started to have strange...feelings.” Kari stopped and Scarecrow was tempted to interrupt her. He did not care about little girls surviving puberty, he only wanted to hear about the Matrix and Tai’s forces. Still, it was obvious that the girl was shaken, so it would be best to let her ramble on until she felt safe and secure once again. Scarecrow suddenly realized that Kari was talking again, babbling something about her breasts.
“That was when I realized that the dress I was wearing needed to be replaced. I looked through the ship and finally found a utility coverall that was loose, but it was better than that fat girl’s dress I had been wearing. I kept searching for you, but there was nothing. I came across a few inhabited planets, but I managed to avoid being detected. The last thing I wanted was to be captured or have word of my survival somehow reach Tai.”
“I started to give up hope of ever finding you. My supplies were running low and I kept having dizzy spells from not getting enough nutrition. I was only about fourteen and yet my bones felt as brittle as an old woman’s. I was also starting to have horrible nightmares every night. The common thread was that I would finally face Tai and when I tried to stop him, he would turn me into some hideous form. Once I became so fat that I couldn’t move, another time it was a newborn infant, and once I became a withered old grandma about two hundred years old. The nightmares grew worse and worse and I knew that I was going to die without ever stopping Tai.”
"Then six weeks ago I was captured by three gunships. They boarded my shuttle and there was nothing I could do to stop them. They destroyed the shuttle and took me aboard one of their gunships. I spent two weeks locked in a room with no one to talk to. The ship's crew would come in once in a while to give me food or to…rape me." Kari began to cry and wiped the tears from her cheeks. She pushed some stray hair back from her face and continued, "We finally reached a little moon called Cerberus, where Tai was gathering an enormous army. They brought me out to see it and to gloat, and then they would present me to their commander as a captive and slave. I knew that if they got me to the surface I was done for, so I knew I had to escape somehow."
"The problem was that my body was too weak and awkward to overpower the ship's crew. Instead, I made an advance at the ship's pilot and while he was distracted, I managed to put the ship into a sudden roll. The pilot was thrown off-balance and I sealed the door between the cockpit and rear. Then I opened the airlock in the back and sucked my captors into space. Before the other two gunships could react I was leaving the system. I avoided Tai's ships for the next four weeks, but they eventually caught up to me. That's when your…comrades saved me."
"Hmm, at least part of your story checks out. Two of my ship's crew came across your ship about two years ago. There were the corpses of children everywhere, and records indicated some kind of purple mist before their bodies transformed."
"What happened to the ship?"
"The fusion reactor had been sabotaged so that the ship was consumed with radiation and a fierce monster had slain the crew. My comrades managed to push the ship into a star where it was destroyed."
Kari was silent for a few moments, thinking of those who had died. She had known many of them, had worked with them. Now they were gone, all because of Tai's madness. "You have to believe me," she pleaded and tried unsuccessfully to curb the whininess in her voice. "I know what I saw and I know what happened to me. You have to trust me!"
"You say that a vision led you to find my ship?"
"I have had similar visions of you. Fate has drawn us together for a very special purpose. Together we will destroy this Tai Lecau and his plans. Now, where is this moon where he is gathering his forces?"
"I don't have the coordinates, they're in the navigation data of my ship."
"I will have the others look for it. They will go and find a way to destroy Tai's war machine."
"What about us?"
"We must stop him and take his power from him. Where would he be?"
"He's on Pholon."
"Then that is where we will go."
Pholon was a brilliant blue world with white swirling clouds and lush green continents, Scarecrow noticed as he neared the planet. He had expected Tai to have some kind of force guarding the planet, but surmised that Tai was still trying to maintain the illusion of peace for his neighbors. Kari fidgeted nervously in her seat and Scarecrow could see the excitement and sadness in her young face as she looked once again upon her home.
Scarecrow scanned the plant with his sensors to determine Pholon's defenses. The planet seemed to have no sensor nets or any other forms of detection for incoming spacecraft. There were primitive radars, but they were useless at detecting anything in orbit. “Why hasn’t he fortified this world? I detect very few weapons, certainly nothing dangerous,” Scarecrow commented.
“He probably doesn’t want anyone to know what’s going on. Is there any way for you to pick up where he’s hiding?”
“Then we’ll have to land and track him down.”
“Yes, that is the only way we will be able to find him.” Scarecrow banked towards the surface and he watched Kari’s pale face turn several shades of green at the sudden movement. Scarecrow burrowed through the planet’s atmosphere, his entire exterior turning red and threatening to become slag. He was thrown about and shaken violently, but managed to stay on course. Suddenly he was through and cool winds blew across him, chilling his exterior. He was going to check on Kari, when he realized that she was no longer in the cockpit. He searched his memory banks and discovered that as he was concentrating on piloting through Pholon’s atmosphere, Kari had simply vanished. There were no material remains to suggest that she had somehow been injured by the descent, she had just disappeared.
Scarecrow leveled off two miles above the surface, well above the primitive Pholonian radars. He tried to scan for Kari, but there was no way that his sensors could find her among the millions of people on the surface. “Beast mode,” he commanded and transformed into his black and silver crow form. He swooped down lower and knew that he had to find Tai on his own now. If he found Tai then he would find Kari, he was certain of it.
Darkness pressed all around Kari and she didn’t know where she was, or if she was even still alive. She began to whimper and cry, unable to control the childish fear gripping her. “Where am I?” She called out to the darkness and prayed for an answer.
“It does not matter now, Kari,” a familiar voice responded. A dim light suddenly lit part of the room and Kari could make out Tai standing in the shadows. “I knew that you would come, and that you would bring your Predacon friend with you. Now, though, we must work quickly if we are to avert disaster.”
“What do you want from me?” Kari demanded.
Tai suddenly appeared in front of Kari, although the darkness kept her from seeing more than an outline of him. “Now I will merge the woman you were with the girl you are, and then you will understand what has happened and what must be done.” He touched his hands to the side of her head. She resisted, but he was too strong for her. There was a surge of teal energy, and Kari collapsed to the floor.
Her head spun for a minute, and when it finally cleared she looked up at Tai and asked, “Tai, how could you use me like this?” She could remember her life as it had been back on the Destiny until Tai had drugged her, as well as everything that had happened afterwards. It was confusing and left her feeling unsure about who she was. Was she the low-level scientist Tai had drugged or the soldier who had been transformed into a child and escaped the Destiny?
“Kari, I am sorry about what I did to you. You must understand that what I did was to make the universe a better place. I wanted to unite all people under one god, a god who would be benevolent and kind, who would end the suffering and the pain. My family was killed because of a religious feud and I vowed that it would not happen again to anyone’s family, but to do it I needed the power of the Matrices. I needed you to convince your friend’s ship to come to your aid so that I might take the ultimate prize, the Matrix that would unite the twelve Matrices and give me the power to make my dreams a reality. I did not want to hurt you, or the Destiny’s crew, but it was necessary.”
“I knew sacrifices had to be made, but when I used the power of the Matrix of Life to harm others, it was tainted with a darkness. A darkness that has slowly been eating away at me, consuming me. At first I could control it, but I can do so no longer. Soon the worst evil in the universe will be unleashed to spread death and destruction to all parts of space unless we can stop it.”
“The dark force that has been awakened, has yet to discover the secrets of the Matrices. When I took the Matrix into my being, it revealed secrets to me, secrets about the power of the Matrices that must not fall into evil hands. I have only enough power to pass these secrets to you, and you must reveal them to your friend and his people. They will then be able to defeat this menace.”
“I don’t understand,” Kari protested.
“What is about to happen has been foretold for eons, since the creation of the Matrices. The darkness that has arisen will be stopped, but only after the sacrifices have been made. Do not fear, child, you will be safe.” Tai took Kari’s hands and they began to glow with a teal light. Kari screamed in pain and it felt like her mind was on fire. She let out a final scream and then went unconscious. When she awoke she found herself alone in the darkness. She stood and stumbled to find an exit. She ran into a damp stone wall and then carefully edged her way along it. There was moss growing along the wall in parts and Kari wondered where Tai had taken her. After seemingly an endless trek through the darkness, she saw a distant slit of light. Not concerned about the danger, she ran towards it gleefully. She emerged into a brightly-lit cavern and stopped in her tracks before she would have fallen over a cliff. Below the cliff, lava streamed in molten waves like an ocean on fire. The cavern was at least a mile across, and as Kari looked about her she could see a tunnel at the far end of the cavern. She looked for a way across and to her horror saw that the only way to get across was through the lava, using several rocks as stepping-stones.
She stared at the surging ocean of lava and knew that it was hopeless. One false step and she would fall in, and what chance did she really have in this awkward, gangly body? Tears stung her eyes and she fell to her knees in despair. Oh Scarecrow, she thought in desperation, why couldn’t you be here to help me right now?
Scarecrow was soaring high above a mountain range, after spending hours circling the planet’s largest city futilely. There had not been a trace of Kari or Tai, and he knew that if he didn’t find her soon, she was doomed. I shouldn’t have brought her, he thought gloomily. She was too young and weak to protect herself. She was just an innocent child, not a warrior. I should have left her with the others.
He was flying over a mountain when there was a flash of white light. Scarecrow could see a large canyon filled with lava. Kari was trapped on a cliff with a monster, unable to escape. Help me! Her mind screamed. Instinctively, Scarecrow dove towards the mountain and flew through narrow passes and canyons without even seeing them. Finally he found an opening in the mountain. He transformed into his jet mode and streaked down the dark tunnel and hoped that he wasn’t too late.
Kari heard heavy footfalls coming towards her and gasped as she saw a huge form approaching. “It is too late for you, child,” a deep voice growled. “Tai was foolish for entrusting the secrets of the Matrices with you.”
The thing approaching appeared in the light and Kari screamed in terror. It was Tai, or more aptly, what was left of Tai. The right side of the monster was made of a hard black material that surrounded massive muscles and five long fingers with razor-sharp claws on each. The left side was still flesh, but it was bloated and dark. The head was barely recognizable as Tai’s as it had burning red eyes and rows of sharp teeth that showed when it opened its mouth.
“Who...who are you?” Kari asked timidly and edged away from the creature.
“I am evil,” it rasped.
“Is that your name?” Kari looked for a way out, but there was nothing except the rocks and lava below.
“Of course not, you foolish brat.” The monster came towards her and Kari took another step backwards. “I am your nightmares, I am pain, suffering, greed, rage, and hate, I am all that is dark. I have many names throughout the many cultures of the universe. I am Unicron, the destroyer of countless worlds, nearly as old as the universe itself, and I have come to take what is mine.”
“The Matrix isn’t yours, it belongs to Pholon!”
“My father distributed several of the Matrices to puny worlds such as yours billions of years ago. I have searched eons for my birthright, my destiny. I will soon have all of the Matrices in my possession. Then nothing in the universe will be able to stop me. Surrender the secrets Tai gave to you and I will spare your pathetic life. Otherwise I will take them from you and leave your body a hollow shell to rot in this cave for all eternity.”
Kari looked around her and knew that there was no escape. Even if she jumped to the rocks below and managed not to fall in the lava, the evil spirit claiming to be Unicron would still catch her. Then she heard a roar, followed by the high-pitched caw of a crow. Scarecrow blasted into the cavern, his engines going at full afterburner. He transformed in midair and landed on the ledge. His sword quickly came into his hand and he slashed it deep into Unicron’s left shoulder. Unicron howled in pain and Scarecrow quickly transformed back into jet mode. Kari hopped in and Scarecrow screamed away at full speed.
Kari was sobbing as Scarecrow clawed for altitude. “What was that thing?” Scarecrow demanded.
“He...he said his name was Unicron,” Kari answered shakily.
“By the Pit! Unicron was destroyed centuries ago. How could he have survived?”
“It’s...it’s the Matrix. It’s been tainted to evil, now it’s drawing evil into it.”
“What happened to you when we entered the atmosphere?”
“Tai brought me to that place and...gave something to me. He said it was the secrets of the Matrices. I’m not sure what you meant, but we have to find your friends and give it to them.”
“You can give me the information and I can leave you here. You needn’t endanger yourself any further.”
“No, even if I give you the information, it will still be inside of me too. I can still give it to you, though, in case something happens to me.” She closed her eyes and set her hands against a cockpit monitor. Her hands started to glow with teal light as Tai’s had, and Scarecrow could feel a strange surge of power running through him. He could not, however, determine any information from the process.
“What is it that you did?”
“I transferred it to you, I only wish I knew what it was. I guess we won’t know until we’re supposed to.”
“Perhaps. Now, let’s get out of here,” Scarecrow replied as he climbed higher into the sky.
Unicron stood at the entrance of the cavern. The Predacon and the little girl think they have won, but they have yet to face my wrath, Unicron thought. His red eyes closed and his entire body began to glow with purple light. His body enlarged and Tai’s flesh melted away, replaced by the hard black substance that already made up part of Unicron’s body. As the flesh from Tai’s back dissolved, a great pair of bat-like wings unfurled. Unicron raised his clawed arms into the air, and the sky turned black as night. Dark clouds filled the air, lightning flashed, and thunder split the air. All around Pholon, fierce winds, sheets of rain, and barrages of hail battered the planet. With a mighty roar that shook the ground beneath people’s feet, Unicron took flight. He would finish the dark warrior and the child he was protecting. Then he would take the Matrices for himself. Nothing could stop him.
Kari jumped in her seat as a lightning bolt past within inches of the canopy. Scarecrow was trying to battle the winds to get above the storm, but they were too strong. His engines strained at full power, but before he could get above the clouds he was tossed back under them and battered by rain and hail. “Unicron’s handiwork, I’m sure,” Scarecrow grunted.
“There’s no way to escape, we’re trapped!” Kari nervously ran a hand through her sweat-soaked hair, a cold feeling in the pit of her stomach.
“I need more power, is there a spaceport around here?”
“The Destiny was our only ship, the shipyard where it was constructed was abandoned years ago. There might be some supplies left, though.”
“Where is it?”
Island, about thirty miles to the southwest,” Kari responded, looking at a map Scarecrow had displayed in the cockpit.
“We’ll land there and see if we can find something to help give me more power to cut through these winds.” Scarecrow changed course and headed out over a dark ocean with huge waves churning the water. Even before he could see it, he felt that something was being fired at him. He banked left just in time to avoid being hit by a ball of purple energy. He could see Unicron descending through the clouds, riding the winds easily on his enormous wings. Kari shrieked as she saw the hideous beast that Tai had become and felt her feelings of doom grow stronger. From Unicron’s right hand came another energy ball, which Scarecrow easily avoided. The Predacon dodged one after another of the energy balls, but knew that he could not last forever. Worse yet, there was no way to carry out his plan if Unicron followed them. He would have to lose Unicron and double-back to the island.
Scarecrow dove lower to the water, so that the waves were nearly hitting him and turned straight towards Unicron. Unicron stopped and raised his arms. A column of water rose into the air and threatened to come crashing down on Scarecrow. Kari screamed, but Scarecrow faked a break to the left and cut around the column of water at full speed. The tower of water plummeted back into the ocean with a mighty splash that sent a curtain of mist spraying into the air. Scarecrow blasted through the mist and went to beast mode. He grabbed Unicron’s left wing by his talons and spun the demonic being into the water. Unicron was pounded by huge waves and disappeared below the surface. Scarecrow transformed back to jet form and streaked towards the island. He knew that Unicron would be back, so he would have to move quickly, and hope that there was something on the island that would help him escape.
“Only about five years or so. It was abandoned once the Destiny was launched and began space trials.”
“Hmm, I’m not picking up any energy sources or lifeforms.”
“Well, maybe they left a supply cache or something.”
“Perhaps,” Scarecrow replied without confidence. He began to descend and transformed to beast mode. He drifted through the fog and landed on a patch of cement cracked by vines. There were trees scattered about and vines had overgrown most of the buildings. The air was tropical, although the strong winds cut down the temperature significantly. Scarecrow let Kari out and she began to shiver through her tattered jumpsuit. Her hair was plastered to her face and body by the wind and she looked about the area in despair. “Can you show me where supplies were kept?”
“I’ll try.” The island looked so different because of the overgrowth of plants and decay of the buildings. It’s more than that, she thought gloomily. Everything seems so much bigger. Last time she had been on the island she had been a mature woman, now she was just a scared kid. She closed her eyes and tried to remember the time she had spent on the island and realized that most of her time had been spent in the laboratories. Still, her supervisor had sent her a few times to the depot for supplies. The depot is...that way, she thought and set off with Scarecrow in tow.
They wandered through deserted streets, and Kari finally recognized the large, rectangular shape of the supply depot. It too had fallen on hard times as Kari’s small frame easily wriggled through a hole in the door. Scarecrow pried the door off its frame and tossed it outside. Meanwhile, Kari was looking around the building that was lit only by the scant rays of light coming through the door Scarecrow had destroyed.
“Doesn’t look like much here,” Kari commented, her voice echoing throughout the cavernous room. There were a few empty crates and some garbage, but nothing else. Scarecrow scanned the floor, but could find no sign of a hidden supply cache. “Let’s try the maintenance bays next, there might be some spare parts or something.”
“Agreed.” As they turned to go, the room became suddenly dark. Scarecrow turned and could see only two red eyes burning in the darkness. His plasma cannons came into place along his arms and he pulled his sword out. Without a word he fired a barrage of plasma at the doorway.
Unicron absorbed the barrage without even a scratch and Scarecrow turned where Kari was standing. “Run!” He commanded and turned his guns towards a wall. Unlike Unicron, the wall could not take the punishment and a hole was opened large enough for Kari to dart out. Scarecrow dodged an energy ball from Unicron’s hand and then charged the doorway. He had to give Kari time to escape, even if it was only temporarily. He leapt in the air and right foot collided into Unicron’s chest, but it failed to move him.
Scarecrow scrambled back to his feet and brought his sword crashing down against Unicron’s left shoulder. The black blade bounced from Scarecrow’s hand and clattered to the floor. In desperation, Scarecrow smashed his fist squarely into Unicron’s face. It had no effect, but this time Unicron reacted. He grabbed hold of Scarecrow’s fist and threw him against a wall with ease. Scarecrow quickly got back up and screamed a mighty war cry. He charged at Unicron with his plasma cannons firing rapidly. Then he collided with Unicron at full speed, but still Unicron did not move. Scarecrow fell to the floor on his back and stared up at Unicron dazedly.
“You fool!” Unicron hissed. “I have the power of the Matrix, your feeble weapons are no match for me.”
“I cannot let you harm Kari, or anyone else.”
“I will deal with the child after I am through with you.” With that, Unicron grabbed Scarecrow by his crow’s head, turned, and hurled the Predacon warrior outside. Scarecrow landed on his chest and struggled to get to his feet. Before he could, Unicron flew through the air and landed hard on Scarecrow’s back. Scarecrow heard a mighty creaking sound and knew that another hit like that and he would be helpless. Unicron flipped Scarecrow onto his back and his horned, skull-like face, contorted into a smile. “You and your entire race will perish before me. I will finally finish what I began centuries ago.”
“No!” Scarecrow shouted and blasted Unicron at point-blank range with his cannons. He got to his feet and pummeled Unicron with blow after blow from his fists and cannons. Unicron stumbled backwards a step, but otherwise the assault had little effect. Scarecrow landed a final punch against Unicron’s head, and then the monster jabbed Scarecrow in the midsection with the claws of his right hand. Scarecrow screamed in pain as Unicron twisted his hand around in Scarecrow’s internals. Unicron finally brought out his hand, along with some of Scarecrow’s circuitry, and before Scarecrow could collapse to the ground, Unicron sank his left claws deep into Scarecrow’s head. He quickly pulled his hand out, and without a sound Scarecrow fell to the ground. Unicron took one last look at the fallen warrior and then took to the air. Now he would find the girl and dispose of her as well.
Kari ran in a panic through the deserted base. She had no idea where she was going, she only knew that her end was near. It was like some horrible nightmare from which she could never wake, as her legs pumped harder and harder and yet she could feel a dark presence coming closer and closer. The wind and rain beat against her body, and several times she fell on a stray piece of debris and hit the ground. She would quickly look up, see nothing, and continue to run. Finally she stopped dead in her tracks as she was about to run into a wall. She was in an alley between two ruined buildings and looked around her in desperation for somewhere to hide.
The alley was bare, except for a few pieces of steel from the buildings that had fallen because of the winds. She turned to run from the alley and to her horror, she saw Unicron filling the entrance with his demon-like form. “There is nowhere left for you to run, you foolish child!” Unicron called and slowly began to advance on Kari. “You can give me the secrets Tai imparted to you, or I can rip them from your puny body.”
“What did you do to Scarecrow?”
“I killed him. He was no match for my power. Neither are you.”
No, Scarecrow can’t be dead! Her mind screamed. He had risked his life for her so many times before, he couldn’t have died. This had to be some kind of trick. “No, you couldn’t have killed him!”
“Of course I could. His mangled carcass is lying still on the ground, where it will forever rot. He was a strong, brave warrior, but none can stand against the power of the Matrix.” Unicron’s eyes bored into Kari, who took a step back and searched for some way out. There was nothing, and no weapons to use. She was completely trapped. “I grow tired of these games, girl. Give me the secrets of the Matrix or I will take them.”
Kari planted her feet and stared back into Unicron’s red eyes. “Then you’ll have to take them.” Unicron could feel Kari’s fear and knew how to gain the knowledge Tai had entrusted to the girl. First he would have to disorient her mind so much that it would be impossible for her to put up any mental barriers to stop him from taking what he wished.
A rumbling laugh came from Unicron’s skull-like face. “Perhaps you have not taken a close look at yourself lately.” Unicron made a motion with his hands, and suddenly mirrors surrounded Kari. She felt her confidence shatter as she stared in the mirror before her. Her left hand went to her face and bushed back a tress of wet, tangled brown hair. Her wet, dirty, tattered jumpsuit hung loosely about her gangly frame, looking as though it were several sizes too large. She looked defeated and pathetic, nothing like a hero or a great warrior. She was an awkward, skinny girl, a child growing into the body of a woman. She spun around and saw her reflection in all of the mirrors. She was no warrior like Scarecrow, she had only been a biochemist, and now she was nothing but a teenage girl. I never wanted this, she thought gloomily. I never wanted to be caught up in some scheme for universal domination. She had only wanted Tai to fall in love with her aboard the Destiny. He hadn’t loved her, though, he had only gotten close to her so that he could use her as bait for a trap to gain the power of the Matrices. “Your friend was a warrior, a worthy adversary, but look at yourself. You are nothing more than a scrawny, weak child. He should not have sacrificed his life for such a pathetic creature like you.” Unicron chanted while Kari was staring at her reflection.
“No!” She sobbed and fell to her knees. “I’m not a child.” She put her forehead against the concrete, the wind and rain pounding against her. The mirrors vanished and as Kari lay on the ground, Unicron knew that it was time to redouble his efforts.
Kari’s eyes opened and she found herself lying on a bed, staring up at a pink ceiling. What’s going on? She thought. She sat up and looked all around. The walls matched the ceiling and dolls and stuffed animals were cast about the room. She threw off the heavy pink comforter that was trimmed with white ruffles and jumped from the bed. She saw her reflection in a vanity that was marred by hundred of stickers and ran across the room to it.
A scream escaped her lips as she stared at the face before her. It was the chubby red face of a little girl about six years old. Her large green eyes were lined with tears. Her long brown hair was mussed and tangled all the way down to her waist. She was wearing a frilly white nightgown that was a size too big and ran down to the floor. This isn’t me! Kari thought. This has to be some trick of Unicron’s.
The door burst open and Kari turned to see two older people enter. She gasped when she saw a woman that looked like she had on the Destiny and the other looked like Tai. “Kari, what is it?” The woman asked.
“Who...who are you?” Kari stammered.
The man who looked like Tai raised an eyebrow in concern. “You know who we are, honey, we’re your parents.”
The woman knelt down and ran a hand through Kari’s disheveled hair. “Kari, are you all right?”
“No, I’m not all right!” Kari shouted and pulled away abruptly. Tears poured down her face and she threw herself on the bed.
The woman put a hand on her back and rubbed it gently. “Kari, honey, tell us what’s wrong.”
“You wouldn’t understand,” Kari sniffled.
“Of course we will, we’re your parents,” the man responded.
Kari slowly sat up and brushed some hair away from her face. Her “parents” sat next to her on the bed, wrapping their arms around her while she told them what had happened. They listened intently and when she was finished, the woman laughed gently. “It was just a bad dream, nothing more.”
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” her father chipped in and then made a big show about looking under the bed and in the closet for monsters. “See, nothing to be afraid of.”
Kari bolted from the bed, turned towards the two adults and stomped her foot. “It wasn’t a dream!” She shouted, her voice a high-pitched whine. She stopped herself and turned to the mirror again. Her face was bright red and tears stained her cheeks. She looked just like a spoiled kid throwing a tantrum to get her way. “Maybe...maybe it was a dream,” she said quietly.
The woman hugged her tightly and whispered, “Try and get some sleep, honey.”
“See you in the morning,” the man said pleasantly on his way out. Kari was left staring in the mirror, wondering if everything she had seen and heard was a dream. Still, how could a dream be so real?
Unicron chuckled to himself and knew that this was his chance. The fool was actually tricking herself into believing the lies he had planted. Now, while she was confused and her mind in chaos, was the perfect time to strike. Kari lay unconscious on the ground and Unicron knelt down next to her. His two hands closed around her head and a purple glow came from them. He probed her mind and uncovered what Tai had given to her. The purple glow ran up his arms and to his head. Unicron felt a small twinge of pain as the transfer took effect.
Unicron looked around the deserted base and laughed victoriously. He had in his grasp the secrets of the Matrices, the secrets that would allow him to gain all of the power in the universe for himself. All he need do was destroy the Predacon’s friends and take the Matrices from the Odyssey. Then his path for victory would be clear.
He looked down at the girl and considered what to do with her. Her mind was still trying to decipher fact from fiction. He decided to let her be. Perhaps she would convince herself that she was a spoiled brat instead of a woman who had been used as a pawn in Tai’s game. Either way it did not matter to him. For when he next returned to Pholon, the girl and all of her people would suffer for Tai’s treachery. He put a hand to Kari’s head and there was a brief flash of purple light. “I have presented you with two lives, child. Whichever you choose, that is what you will become.” Then Unicron raised his arms and the storms died down. Light began to illuminate the base through the thin layers of white clouds and the calls of birds could be heard in the air. Then Unicron leapt into the air and headed for Cerberus and his destiny.
Kari sat on her bed, brushing out her long hair. Either this is real and everything else was a dream, or this is a dream and everything else was real, she thought. I’m either this little girl or a woman turned into a teenager by a maniac who wanted to become a god. The former seemed much more plausible, but she remembered everything so clearly that it seemed impossible for it to be a dream. She brushed her hair for another minute, and then knew what had to be done.
She put the brush down and rolled up the left sleeve of her nightgown. Then she grabbed her left arm with her right and pinched the flesh on her left arm as hard as she could. Pain shot through her and she yelped, her right hand drawing back quickly. If it were a dream, I wouldn’t have felt anything, she reasoned. Everything else was just a nightmare.
She went back to the vanity and stared into the mirror. She could remember seeing herself in the dream and remembered what she had looked like. Her dream was already beginning to fade and she felt a surge of relief flood over her. When she had woke up, she had been so confused about who she was, but now she knew. This is who I am, she thought happily and turned away from the mirror. Someday I’ll be a big girl like in the dream, but not for a while. She closed her eyes and slowly began to get back to sleep. She would feel better in the morning, when the dream she had had was just a distant memory.
“Status: online. Systems: critical,” a computerized voice said. Scarecrow’s eyes slowly came back and he hefted himself to his feet. The damage he had taken from Unicron was severe, but internal repairs had gotten his major systems functioning within minimal standards. His left leg and arm moved stiffly from the damage he had suffered to his head, which had a huge gouge on the right side. He would need days in the restoration chamber to heal, but unfortunately he didn’t have time for that. Unicron was gone and heading to Cerberus to destroy Skyfire and the others. He would have to move quickly and hope that he could arrive in time. First, he had to find Kari and see if she was still alive.
His sensors were limited from the damage, but he could detect that there was something alive close by. He limped towards it slowly and finally reached the alley. He stopped in his tracks and stared at what he had found. “Kari?” He ventured.
A small child was sitting on the ground, her face buried into her lap as she sobbed. Long brown hair obscured her face, but at the sound of Scarecrow’s face, she looked up, strands of hair plastered to her face by her tears. Scarecrow knew that the girl was too young to be the Kari he had known, but when he looked into her eyes, he knew that it was her. “My name is Kari,” she replied, her voice barely above a whisper. “I’m five and a half years old. Have you seen my mommy and daddy?”
Scarecrow knelt down next to the girl and asked, “Don’t you remember me?”
“No,” Kari sniffled.
Unicron did this, Scarecrow cursed. He had wiped her mind clean and transformed her into this child. “Stay here, I will get someone to help you,” Scarecrow commented gruffly. He turned away and slowly walked away. Kari went back to crying and Scarecrow only wished that he could help her. I must stop Unicron, then I can use the power of the Matrix to help Kari.
He looked back at her and stopped. Perhaps that is not such a good idea, he thought. Why bring back such horrible memories? She has suffered enough, he thought as he transformed into his jet mode and took off. As he roared higher into the skies, he sent an anonymous message to a rescue station and alerted them that a girl was trapped on
. Hopefully they will rescue her and find her a decent home. Sorcam Island
As Scarecrow was jostled and bucked from entering the atmosphere, he knew that it was better for Kari to live in innocent ignorance of all that transpired. Unless Unicron was stopped, he would soon rule the universe, and then there would be no place safe for innocent children. If I fail, then Kari and everyone else will be subject to a brutal tyranny unlike anything ever known. Scarecrow broke through the atmosphere and left Pholon behind him. For her sake, I will not fail.