e mërkurë, 13 qershor 2007

Ranarok

Author's Note: This is episode six of "The Skyfire Adventures" and the conclusion of "The Apocalypse Trilogy." The formatting might be worse than usual here because I had to dig the text up from an old web page. Anyway, if you know anything about Norse mythology you should already have a guess at what's going to happen. As our heroes do battle against the evil Cybertrax, another of them must make a terrible sacrifice...

The Skyfire Adventures: Ragnarok

(Part Three of the Apocalypse Trilogy)

Prologue

Skids stood on the bridge of the Legacy and saw Cybertrax hovering over the second planet of the system. The metal monster was as big as the planet and Skids wondered how he was going to drain the energy. He watched in silent fascination as Cybertrax raised his right hand, the one that had enormous black claws instead of fingers, and sunk the claw into the surface of the planet.

"What is he doing?" Tyr asked.

"It appears as though the claws are deploying some kind of equipment to tap the energies of the planet," the sensor officer replied.

Skids watched the scene and remembered his time in the future. In hours the planet would be nothing but an iceball, just as it had been in the future he had seen. Then the future I saw still is happening, only slightly differently. And there is nothing I can do to stop it, Skids thought. He turned away and left the bridge silently. He walked down the empty corridors, occasionally passing a Cybertraxian or two. They all looked fearful and sad at the same time. I guess the word has spread quickly.

He stopped at a door and opened it. He had thought it would have been locked, but it wasn’t. He stepped into a dark room and took a look around. "Hippolyta?" He called out. He got no answer and continued to look around. "I just want to talk."

"I know," he heard her reply sadly. He heard movement and saw that she had been curled up in a corner, staring out her window. "I guess everyone knows by now."

"Yes," Skids replied.

"Why, why did he do it?" She asked.

"He loved you and knew you were in danger."

"I ran into Grapple on my way here. He said that Jetfire was dead when I left. Then he suddenly sprang to life and chased after me. He came back from the dead just to save me. He came back for me…" Her voice trailed off into sobs and Skids put a hand on her shoulder. She bolted into his arms, wanting to hold on to someone.

"I know. That shows how much he loved you. He gave his own life for yours, because he couldn’t bear to live or die knowing that you would be killed."

"I don’t know what I’m going to do without him. He was so strong and smart and brave." Hippolyta moved away from Skids and stared out at space. "He knew me better than anyone else in this universe, even though he had only known me for a short time. He made me feel the happiest I had ever been. And now he’s gone. How can I go on without him?"

Skids gazed out at the stars and thought of his fallen comrade. How would any of them go on? He had been the rock, the anchor for everyone on the Legacy. Even though he had been dying slowly, he never let it stop him from doing what was right. And now he was dead, struck down by Cybertrax. How could any of them carry on without him? More importantly, how could they stop Cybertrax without him? "I don’t know," Skids whispered.

Chapter One

Darkness. There was nothing else around him except the ever-present, suffocating darkness. Where am I? A lone being asked himself. Is this the Matrix? Have I finally reached the end?

The being thought of the last moments of his life. He sped towards Hippolyta, his engines racing faster than they had ever before. He could see her there, hanging in space with the Matrix of Wisdom, vainly trying to open it. All the while he knew that Cybertrax was readying to send her into oblivion; ready to send the one he loved to her doom. He neared her and transformed. He slowed and extended his arms, colliding into her with a great amount of force, but leaving her unharmed. She sped away from him and out of his life forever. He turned and saw a flood of red energy heading right for him. There was no time to escape or even scream. He felt pain wash over him and his vision went from red to black.

That was all that he had seen since, a solid black darkness with no variation at all. He had expected a little more from the afterlife. He had expected to be reunited with his old comrades and to be able to hear the wisdom from the old Autobot leaders and Maximal Elders. Perhaps since I am both Autobot and Maximal they do not know where I should go. Maybe I am suspended in some kind of intermediate state until then.

The worst thing about the darkness was that he could not see what had happened to Hippolyta. He had knocked her away from Cybertrax’s first attack, but perhaps he had tracked her and hunted her down. Perhaps she is dead, too. Without being able to see he could not make certain, although nearly every molecule in his spark told him that she had survived, that she was still alive somewhere. It would be good to know that I did not die in vain, he thought gloomily.

Never had he expected to die in the way that he had. He had always thought that he would die fighting on a battlefield. There had been many times on Cybertron when the Decepticons were launching a raid that he had thought he was going to die. The thought of dying to save a comrade had occurred to him, but he had thought it would be someone who he had known. He would have thrown himself in front of a fusion cannon blast to save Wheeljack, Grapple, Perceptor, or any of his Autobot friends. The same held true for Optimus Primal, Rhinox, and the other Maximals on board the Axalon. He would have given his life for any of them, but Hippolyta was different. He had known her for only a few days before sacrificing himself for her. And yet, it felt as if he knew her better than anyone else in the universe. To die for love is honorable, but I never thought that it would happen to me.

He had never thought that he could fall in love. He had met female Autobots and Maximals, but he had never seen them as anything except as friends. He had never had the kind of feelings he had for Hippolyta before. I would not have come back for anyone else. He had been unconscious, blackness all around him, as it was now, but before his spark terminated he had seen a flash of white light. Then came a vision of Hippolyta’s fate. He had known then that he could not let himself die, he had to save her. The next thing he knew he was on his feet and asking Grapple and Wheeljack where she was. It was so odd, he thought. It was not logical that he could come back after the damage he had suffered. His central processor was off-line, making him completely helpless. There was no way that he could have reactivated it in the seconds that it had taken for him to spring back to life. It was a miracle, he thought. Logical or not, something miraculous had happened to him, there was no way for him to deny it. It doesn’t matter now, none of this does. I am dead and she is probably still alive, and that is all that counts. I just wish there was something around me, this is getting boring. It’s like the sensory deprivation tests I heard the Decepticons had conducted to get Autobot prisoners to talk.

His thoughts were abruptly shattered when he saw a tiny point of white light. The point of light glowed for a few moments and then went dark again. A second later there was an explosion of white light. After the white light had dimmed, he could see colors. After a minute or so he realized that there was mass around him. He could see the faint outline of metal all around him and a dazzling blue-white light that was lighting up the room. Is that from my spark? He wondered.

"Why?" He stopped and realized that the question was not his thought. Someone was interacting with his spark. How is that possible?

"Why what?" He retaliated, hoping that if he concentrated on the question, that whoever it was would hear it.

"Why did you give your life for hers? I do not understand why you would sacrifice yourself for one insignificant being."

"Insignificant?"

"Yes. She is one being in many. She is puny and weak. She failed in her attempt to destroy me, you should have left her to die."

"How do you about her?"

"I know her well. She is Hippolyta, the latest of the Ytas, possessor of the Matrix of Wisdom. She apparently does not know how to use it."

"How do you know that?"

"I telepathically accessed the Matrix. She is a fool. She is young and weak and only received the mantle of leadership because the Cybertraxians wanted someone who would not be a tyrannical leader, like several of the past Ytas. She retains control of her people only so long as they allow her to."

"Perhaps she is young and inexperienced, but she does have wisdom. She knew the risks involved in trying to destroy you with the Matrix. She knew that she would probably die, but she tried anyway. Her people respect her for that and her other deeds."

"She was a fool for thinking that she could turn the Matrix of Wisdom against me. Wisdom cannot be wielded like a weapon, a club to destroy one’s opponent. It can only be used to guide one to their goal. Hippolyta does not understand this yet."

"Perhaps she will in time."

"There is no more time. Her and all others will be destroyed. The universe will be sterilized and then rebuilt. And this time I will not fail."

"You will fail. Hippolyta and the others will find a way to destroy you."

"No. They do not know what I am doing."

"What do you mean?"

"They do not understand why I drained the planet of its energy. They do not know what I am going to do next, and what I plan to do. They will not be able to stop me if they do not know."

"What are you trying to do?"

"I am gathering energy so that I can finish my work."

"Even with energy, it will take millions of years for you to destroy the entire universe."

"No, I have found a way. And you will help me carry out my plan."

"I would never help you!"

"You have no choice." The chamber lit up in purple light and Skyfire felt pain rush through him. He wanted to scream in agony but couldn’t.

* * *

Deep within the bowels of Cybertrax was movement. A purple arm set a damaged and scorched robot down and then retracted. The arm belonged to Shockwave, who looked around the area suspiciously. He has not detected us, yet, Shockwave thought. Good. Until I can repair these Cybertraxians I must stay undetected. With him in the room were three Cybertraxians that were the survivors of a doomed attempt to get inside Cybertrax and destroy his spark.

He knelt down next to Rahn, the shuttle's pilot and used a welding torch from a medical kit salvaged from the shuttle. He hoped that he could get at least one of the Cybertraxians functional, or else he would have to take on Cybertrax alone, which greatly increased the odds that he would be killed. He finished with the torch and grabbed another tool. This he used on Rahn's head to try and get his neural network functioning again.

After a few minutes of work, Rahn's eyes lit up and he groaned. "What happened?" Rahn asked.

"You were damaged after the crash. I managed to revive you," Shockwave replied.

"Oh. How are the others?"

"Alive, but not functional. I will attend to them now."

"Let me help," Rahn shakily got to his feet and went over to one of his comrade's side. Shockwave handed him a tool and they set to work. "What do we do after we're done?"

"We continue our mission."

"With just four of us?"

"Of course. We have been given a mission. We will continue it even as long as we are functional."

Rahn looked at Shockwave quizzically, "That doesn't seem very logical."

"There are some things even more important than logic," Shockwave replied.

* * *

The conference room of the Legacy was dead silent as Hippolyta strode into the room, trying to look more confident than she felt at the moment. "I know the situation looks grim, but there has to be a solution," she said as she looked around the table with a steely gaze.

"Without the power of the Matrix, there is no way we can defeat Cybertrax, we just don’t have the firepower!" Tyr protested.

"As we explained before, we can’t just run away and try and gather some allies. By the time we could get sufficient forces mobilized, Cybertrax will have drained this system of all energy and he’ll be too powerful for anything to stop. We have to destroy him here and now," Hippolyta responded. "Zeam, Wheeljack, have you got anything?"

Zeam, the chief engineer of the Legacy, stood and looked around the room. "We think we might have something, but it’s risky."

"Risk doesn’t matter at this point," Hippolyta replied dryly.

Grapple and Wheeljack stood next to Zeam and punched a few buttons. A holographic image of the Legacy was displayed. Wheeljack centered the image on the rear of the Legacy and a red dot indicated the engine room. Zeam narrated, "In the engine room are two fusion generators used to power the Legacy’s internal systems. As long as we use a minimal amount of power, the ship can function with just one of these generators operating. We could then take out the fusion core of the other generator and use it to create a primitive fusion bomb. One of our fighters could drop the bomb inside Cybertrax, where it should do a considerable amount of internal damage."

Grapple took over the presentation and Wheeljack brought up a schematic of Cybertrax. "The ideal point to drop the bomb would be right through his left eye. The eye was shattered by Jetfire when he escaped from Cybertrax after trying to talk with him. So the opening is already there, we just need to deliver the ordinance. The bomb would then travel a short ways down his optic sensor lines, until a timer would set off explosives connected to the fusion core. The bomb would explode and cause a lot of damage to his neural pathways. The radiation would also fry a large number of his circuits and blind some of his sensors."

Hippolyta looked at the three engineers and asked the tough question on everyone’s mind. "We all know Cybertrax is heavily defended. How do you propose to deliver the weapon?"

"Since we all know that diversionary tactics have not worked so far, we thought we’d try something else. Our plan is to outfit all of the remaining fighters with countermeasures to mask all energy signatures. Cybertrax will think that this is a diversion for another attack, but instead we’ll have one of the fighters head in and drop the bomb," Zeam responded.

"No way a fighter is going to get that close," Skids said skeptically.

"We will outfit one of the fighters with rocket boosters for extra speed. All it has to do is to fly in at full speed, slow down for a second or two to release the bomb, and then light its afterburners again," Wheeljack replied.

"So what does the Legacy do while this is going on?" Hippolyta asked, liking the sound of the plan so far.

"It will make attack runs on Cybertrax once the countermeasures are deployed. That way we’ll have some extra protection for the fighter when Cybertrax thinks the Legacy is the real attack," Grapple answered.

"How long until the fusion bomb can be made?"

"It’s mostly together already, but another twelve hours and the plan will be ready," Zeam responded.

"Great. Where will Cybertrax be in twelve hours?"

Tyr checked some information from the bridge and frowned. "He will be twenty million miles from the red giant star."

"So we don’t get another shot at this plan. All right, let’s do it. Take whoever and whatever you need, and see if you can shave a couple of hours off that time." The engineers nodded and everyone else left the conference room, seeing that the meeting was over. Hippolyta stared at the image of Cybertrax, her fists clenched. She would do whatever it took to destroy him, to make him pay for destroying Skyfire. She would fight until her last circuit was slagged to rid his menace from the galaxy. Maybe then she could finally start to grieve for her lost love.

* * *

Shockwave and Rahn stood up, and helped their comrades to their feet. It had taken a while, but the three Cybertraxians were all functioning once more. Shockwave divvied out the weapons he had taken before the crash and knew that there was not much firepower there. Still, they would find a way to make it count. Shockwave looked at his assembled team and knew that he should say something to them.

"We go now to destroy Cybertrax for the glory and honor of our people! We shall give our lives if we must and death to anything that stands in our way!" He half-shouted, modifying something from one of Megatron’s speeches long ago.

The three Cybertraxians looked confused and Rahn whispered to Shockwave, "I don’t know very much about making speeches, but something a little more cheerful would be better. Let me try." He looked at his two comrades and smiled. "This isn’t going to be easy, but we have to get the job done. Our friends and family are counting on us, as is everyone in the universe. We can’t let them down, because if we do, a lot of innocent people will die. And I know we will win, because our cause is right and our sparks are untainted by evil. We will prevail and rid the universe of this foul being forever!"

The two Cybertraxians cheered quietly and the group moved out cautiously for Cybertrax’s spark. Rahn was in the lead, followed by his comrades, with Shockwave bringing up the rear. Shockwave had yet to understand how emotions worked. Speeches are illogical, he thought. Then he remembered what he had told Rahn earlier, "There are some things even more important than logic." He looked around him and kept his gun arm ready for trouble as he began to think that he liked some of these Cybertraxians better than Decepticons, even Megatron. Perhaps they can come with me to Cybertron and join the Decepticon cause, he thought. It would be nice to have some friends for a change.

They arrived at a junction in Cybertrax’s internals, one corridor splitting off to the left and the other going straight ahead. Rahn looked back at Shockwave and asked, "Which way?"

"Higher energy readings are coming from the left. Therefore, it is logical that the spark is in that direction."

"Sounds good to me," Rahn replied and the team headed that way. Shockwave’s sensors were superior to the Cybertraxians and he made sure to keep them alert, but in passive mode. The short burst of active scanning he had just use had hopefully not been enough to trip Cybertrax’s internal sensors, but it was possible that it could have. So he made sure to stay vigilant as they continued towards the spark.

* * *

"Yta, all is ready," Zeam reported.

"Excellent, Zeam. Is the fighter ready to deliver the bomb?"

"Yes. Senta has been modified for delivery." Senta was the leader of the remaining fighters and a veteran pilot. She had more experience than the other pilots combined. If only Jetfire were here, she thought. He would have made a much better candidate. As good as Senta was, Jetfire had been faster and more experienced. Still, there was no use in mulling on that now.

She turned to her bridge crew and commanded, "Order all fighters to launch as soon as the bomb is readied for delivery. Then move the Legacy into attack position and arm all weapons on my command."

"Yes, Yta," came the collective reply and Hippolyta hoped that the plan went off as it was supposed to, because Cybertrax would be in close enough to the star to drain its energy in two hours. If they failed, then the star would be drained and Cybertrax would be unstoppable.

Senta was at the lead of the six remaining Cybertraxian fighters. She was a little slower with the bomb and extra boosters adding weight, but knew that would soon change once she lit the boosters and dropped the bomb. "Arm all countermeasures and stand by until we are within range," she ordered coolly. She remembered the last time they had launched an attack on Cybertrax; six of her pilots had been killed and Jetfire had been grieviously injured. Now it was time for revenge and Senta knew that she could not fail.

The fighters streaked in nearer to Cybertrax and Senta’s sensors told her that they were close enough now to launch countermeasures. "Launch countermeasures," she commanded. From her nose launched two long, gray pods, each carrying an assortment of jamming equipment. Once the pods had closed the gap a little more they opened up like an umbrella and began emitting pulses to blind Cybertrax’s sensors.

"Countermeasures away," her pilots replied, each in turn.

"Legacy, this is Senta. Countermeasures away. You may commence your attack run." She banked to the left and readied her boosters. "Clear the area. Cybertrax is sure to start firing in a few more seconds."

"We’re on our way out," one pilot replied and four more acknowledged. One fighter hadn’t replied yet.

"Where’s Thorsos?" Senta asked.

"I don’t see…ahhh!" One pilot’s reply was interrupted by a scream and Senta saw a fireball off to her right. Green plasma fire flew past her and she knew that they were under attack. But by whom?

"Legacy, we are under attack! All fighters find and engage the target, I’m going in for my run," Senta kicked in her boosters and shot towards Cybertrax’s head.

Hippolyta sat rigidly in her command chair as the guns of the Legacy opened fire. So far everything was going as planned. The thing worrying her, though, was that Cybertrax had not retaliated yet. What was he up to? "Yta, Senta reports that her unit is under attack!" The communications officer shouted.

"What? By whom?"

"I don’t know, there isn’t anything coming from Cybertrax," the sensor officer responded.

"Search the area and find out what it is, Paquil," Hippolyta said to the sensor officer. He nodded and she sat back down. "Continue with the mission as planned."

Senta could feel something on her tail as she spiraled down the rightmost horn of Cybertrax on her way down. She weaved to the left just as a burst of plasma shot past her and impacted against the horn. By the Matrix, what is on my tail? She rolled to the right and another burst flew past. She lined up her run by swinging to the right and powering down her boosters. As she did, something large and black flew past, afterburners glowing blue fire as they streaked past. "Enemy fighter spotted," Senta reported.

"A fighter?" The communications officer of the Legacy asked.

"Yes, Queall, you fool, an enemy fighter just flew past me at incredible speed!" Senta shouted. She knew that the fighter would be back, so she cut in her boosters at full once more. It was dangerous to make the run like this, but she had no choice. She was in the shadow of Cybertrax’s nose and counted off only ten seconds until release. She got down to three seconds when something slammed into her, hard.

She lost control and narrowly pulled out of a skid before she would have smashed into Cybertrax’s nose. She righted herself and noticed that one of the boosters was damaged, as was her right wing. Slag it, she swore. She was hit just before her tails and knew that the enemy fighter had her locked on. She armed the bomb and initiated the release sequence. She screamed in frustration when nothing happened. She was hit in the other wing and began to lose control.

She armed the bomb and shouted over the open commnet, "To the inferno with you, Cybertrax!" Then she impacted at the base of the left eye and exploded in a tiny fireball. Moments later came an enormous, albeit shortlived, fireball as the bomb detonated.

The bomb was supposed to have exploded inside Cybertrax’s head where it would have wreaked havoc on his internal systems. Instead, it exploded on the surface of the eye, taking out a significant part of the left half of his face, but doing little else. Even so, Cybertrax put a hand to his face in pain. His body was wracked by a massive spasm from the concussion of the bomb and his own movements.

"Get us out of here!" Hippolyta ordered, not quite sure what had happened. "Order all fighers to pull back."

"What about the enemy fighter?" Queall asked.

"If it’s still alive, I want it captured. It could be some kind of new secret weapon created by Cybertrax."

"Captured, we can’t even see the thing!" The new flight leader, Henze, shouted.

"We’ll give you what help we can," Hippolyta said gently. She understood their concern, but whatever that fighter was, it had taken down three of her command very quickly. If they could turn it to their side it could be a powerful ally.

"How can we find him, the countermeasures will wash out his energy signature," Queall protested.

"I can reconfigure the sensors to emit a wide-beam X-ray pulse that should be able to pick him up," Paquil responded.

Hippolyta smiled and said, "Do it." Paquil nodded and his hands played quickly over the console. After a minute he looked at Hippolyta and nodded. Then he touched a button and waited.

Henze was getting worried. He and his two wingmen were huddled in close to the Legacy, trying to catch a glimpse of that mysterious fighter. It had taken Senta out, so that meant it had to be something very powerful indeed. "Sir, do you think we’ll find him before he finds us?" Jaike, the fighter to his right, asked.

"I don’t know. Transform and stay alert." The three fighters transformed to robot mode, cradling their rifles. Henze hated being out here with that enemy craft around. It was like waiting for the other shoe to drop, and when it did he was sure he and his comrades were going to be destroyed. He scanned the area visually, none of his sensors being able to detect anything with the countermeasures still in place.

What was even more puzzling to Henze was why Cybertrax himself had never entered the fight. The mammoth robot had destroyed six of Henze’s comrades before in an impressive display of firepower. Why was he holding back now? Henze could see Cybertrax still meandering towards the red giant star, his back turned, which concealed the damage done by the fusion bomb. That ought to slow him down at least, Heze thought. "Henze, we’ve got a fix on the fighter. He’s heading for Cybertrax at about the waist level. Intercept and capture. We’ll follow you and provide any necessary cover fire," Queall ordered, sounding a little unsure of the plan.

"So we’ve been ordered up as the bait, huh? We’re moving out. Good-bye Queall," Henze angrily switched off his commlink and transformed to fighter mode. "All right, here’s what we do. Fly in towards it at full afterburner. Once we’re on top of him, go to robot mode and try to grab him. Maybe we can wrestle him in."

The three fighters heading towards Cybertrax once more, their afterburners glowing almost white. For the first time, Henze was able to really see the enemy fighter. It was twice as big as he was and much sleeker. It had a sharp, angular nose with four laser cannons on it. It had twin canted tails and long, swept wings. Canards jutted from the top of the air intakes and were swept back at the same angle as the wings. The entire thing was black with a red stripe running down each wing. Henze felt his fluids going cold just looking at it. Still, he had a job to do.

He was almost on top of the fighter and it still did not seem to notice. Henze counted the last few seconds down and then transformed. His arms reached out and he managed to grab the left wing. Jaike grabbed the other wing and the other pilot, Moiwa, shot between the tails and grabbed the nose. The fighter only now seemed to notice them and tried to buck them off. Henze held on with all his might, reaching back with one arm to grab his rifle. He managed to keep a hold with one arm and haphhazardly aimed the rifle with the other, blasting at the fighter’s engines.

One of his shots hit and the left engine was destroyed. This sent the fighter spinning to the right, making it even harder to hang on to. Henze kept firing, hoping to hit something that would stop the wild ride. He hit the right tail and just missed Jaike’s leg, but finally a shot nailed the right engine. The fighter was stopped dead in space and Henze wondered what to do now. He saw the Legacy approaching quickly, eager to pick them up before Cybertrax could interfere. They maneuvered the fighter inside the hangar and quickly the Legacy shot away from Cybertrax.

"I’m going to the hangar. Make sure to have a team of warriors there to back me up," Hippolyta said to Queall as she hurried from the bridge.

Skids, Wheeljack, and Grapple entered the hangar and watched the three brave fighter pilots climb off of the fighter. Everyone trained their weapons on it, just in case it tried anything. The three Autobots watched as the fighter transformed into a large black robot and gasped once its transformation was complete. "By the Matrix, could it be?" Skids asked.

"It’s…it’s impossible," Grapple breathed.

The robot looked around the hangar and raised its arms in surrender. "I am Shadowfire. You may have captured me, but I will destroy you all and your puny ship for the glory of Cybertrax!"

Hippolyta entered and saw Shadowfire ringed by her troops and the Autobots. Right away she could see what was going on and she nearly fainted. How was this possible? Before she reached Shadowfire, Skids grabbed her arm. "I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not Jetfire. I think…I think Cybertrax has recycled his body to use against us."

Hippolya tried to escape Skids’s grip, but it was too tight. She looked at him and whispered, "He will pay for this." Skids let her go and she turned to the commander of her troops. "Escort him to the conference room."

She transformed into her hovercar mode and tore out of the hangar at high speed. Skids watched her go, feeling her sadness and anger. It was bad enough that Cybertrax had destroyed Jetfire, but now he was using Jetfire’s body as a weapon. This being is pure evil, Skids thought. It has to be stopped, no matter the cost. He followed after Hippolyta, the two Autobot engineers behind him. Hippolyta was right, Cybertrax would pay.


Chapter Two

"Tell me how you were created," Hippolyta demanded. Shadowfire was sitting in a corner of the conference room, armed guards all around him. Hippolyta stood a few feet from him, staring into his eye.

"I was created from the captured spark of the Autobot Jetfire. His physical materials had already been captured and reprocessed," Shadowfire replied nonchalantly.

"From his spark?"

"Yes, he modified the spark. None of this will do you any good. Cybertrax will destroy you, if I don’t do it first."

"Why did he create you?"

"To destroy you and your ship while he carries out his plan."

"What plan is that?"

"I’m not going to tell you that. If you are still functional you will soon know."

Tyr leaped to his feet, his weapon drawn. "You traitor, tell us what you know!"

"Go ahead, destroy me. You will still never succeed. Cybertrax is too powerful for your puny weapons. He even survived your little fusion bomb blast. Your comrade was foolish to waste her life in such a pointless display." The cool way that Shadowfire said the last sentence made Hippolyta want to grab her weapon and blow his head off. Still, nothing would be gained from it.

She pulled Wheeljack aside and asked, "Can you reprogram him?"

"Not a chance. Cybertrax modified his spark. I could reprogram him any way I want, but I’ll never be able to change him. The technology doesn’t exist and I don’t know how to make it," Wheeljack replied sadly. He turned and looked at Shadowfire. He remembered Megatron having reprogrammed several Autobots during the war, but that was just brainwashing. That kind of damage could be repaired, but modifying Jetfire’s spark was akin to tampering with his very soul and essence itself.

"Everyone, clear the room, now!" Hippolyta barked.

"Yta, shouldn’t we leave at least one guard…" Tyr began.

"Shut up! I can handle him. Post the guards outside the door." Tyr nodded and everyone left the room so that she was alone with Shadowfire.

"You are a fool to think you can beat Cybertrax," Shadowfire hissed.

"Shadowfire, I once knew and loved you as Jetfire and Skyfire. Do you have any memories of those times?" She stared into his eye, trying to read his reaction.

"Those memories were erased," he replied. "The one you loved is dead, as all will be who oppose Cybertrax."

Hippolyta took a step back and Shadowfire knew he had her where he wanted her. He stood up slowly and stepped towards her. His rifle had been taken away and his missiles disarmed, but he could still rip this weak female apart. Hippolyta drew her pistol and leveled it at Shadowfire. "Not another step."

"Fine, if that’s how you want it," Shadowfire shrugged. "It is a pity that Jetfire is dead. Just when you two were getting along so well."

"Stop it!" Hippolyta whispered, her voice not feeling strong enough to scream for the guards.

Shadowfire laughed maniacally and charged forward. Hippolyta took a shot at him, but it impacted harmlessly on his left hip. He knocked the pistol away and grabbed her by the neck, preventing her from calling for the guards. He squeezed and Hippolyta knew she was going to die. She flailed her legs and caught the inside of Shadowfire’s right leg. He grunted in pain, but his grip held. He threw her onto the deck and looked down at her.

She tried to scream, but her voice circuits were damaged. She looked up, dazed, and saw Shadowfire standing over her, an evil glint in his eye. He reached down and ripped her right arm from its socket. He hefted it and smashed her in the face with it. He laughed and brought it back around, hitting her in the head. Hippolyta’s right eye was shattered and that side of her face was mangled. As Shadowfire knelt down to finish her she used her legs to hurl him over her head and into a wall. She got to her feet and stumbled towards the door. Shadowfire intercepted her and grabbed her by her remaining arm. He spun her around and headbutted her in the face. She stumbled back and he grabbed her waist. He hefted her over his head and slammed her down onto the conference table. Parts of Hippolyta’s back shattered from the blow and she knew that it was hopeless. Shadowfire was too strong, too powerful.

Shadowfire grabbed her pistol and aimed it at her head. Hippolyta knew that she was done for and waited for the fatal shot. As his finger tightened around the trigger she saw with her remaining eye that his hand was beginning to shake. He jerked the hand away and put both hands to his head. "I can’t kill you! Why?" He moaned to himself. He went down to his knees and dropped the pistol. His body shook violently and he finally looked back at Hippolyta. "Hippolyta…no." He whispered.

"Jetfire?" She asked in a creaky whisper. She pushed herself off of the table and knelt down in front of him. She looked into his eye again and could see it, the spark of goodness that had somehow remained inside of him. She moved her hand to his chest and said, "Interface."

Shadowfire nodded and opened his chest. A cable extended from his chest and Hippolyta opened her chest to reveal an interface port. She touched the cable and guided it into the port. There was a surge of blue light and they were both wracked with pain. Then the light turned a warm, friendly white and Hippolyta felt pleasure course through her circuits.

They remained like this for several minutes, but finally the light faded and reality returned. Hippolyta stared at Shadowfire and saw his form turn to a liquid silver. Then it swirled and reformed into the red, white, and black form of Jetfire. He removed the cable and sealed his chest once more. He helped her to her feet and said, "I’m back, thanks to you."

Hippolyta nodded and gave a cracked smile, oil leaking from the corner of her mouth. Interfacing with his spark had brought him back. The love and memories they had shared had been enough to rid Jetfire’s spark of evil when their souls came together. They both knew that it could easily have worked the other way around, but their love was too strong for that. Jetfire scooped her up in his arms and carried her to the door. He opened them and the guards turned around, their faces turning to masks of horror.

"Yta! What happened?" One of the guards asked.

"She was injured, but she was able to save my life. I’ve got to get her to a repair bay immediately," Jetfire replied. He hurried away to the repair bay, hating to think that in a way he had done this to her. He had been ready to kill the one he loved, but he had been able to fight against the evil impulses and stop himself before it was too late. I don’t want to lose you, he thought. "I love you," he whispered to her.

"Me…too," she responded. She wrapped her arm around his neck in a symbol of affection. He reached sickbay and soon a team of specialists were working on Hippolyta. Jetfire’s Autobot comrades had heard Hippolyta was injured and come by to give the medics a hand. They stopped in amazement when they saw Jetfire.

"Jetfire, is that really you?" Skids asked.

"It’s me," Jetfire replied.

"How?" Grapple inquired in astonishment.

"It’s a long story. And we don’t have much time. I know what Cybertrax is up to, and if we don’t hurry there won’t be any way to stop him," Jetfire announced ominously.

* * *

Jetfire stood at the head of the conference room, looking around the room. Hippolyta was still being repaired and Jetfire hoped that she recovered soon. "During the time that Cybertrax had corrupted my spark, I was able to learn his plan and how he intends to carry it out. Unless we are able to stop him, the entire universe as we know it will be destroyed."

"How did Cybertrax tell you his plan?" Tyr asked, not wanting to fall into a trap.

"Our minds were linked so that he could control me. That link has since been severed."

Before Tyr could protest, Wheeljack broke in, "We’ve already checked him out, there’s no traces of Cybertrax’s control in him." Tyr seemed satisfied and so Jetfire continued.

"Cybertrax is not after energon, he is after plasma. The red giant star has enough for him to complete his mission, which is to use the temporal vortex in the system to catapault himself to a time just after the creation of the universe. That way he can control things and make them as he wants them."

"The vortex, how did he find out about it?" Skids demanded. His run-in with the vortex had sent him a few days into the future after the transport he had been piloting developed a plasma leak.

"I’m sure his sensors could pick it up."

"The vortex sent me into the future, how does he plan to use it to take him into the past?"

"I’m not exactly sure, but I think he’s planning to process the gas so that he can create an inverse reaction."

"So what do we do about it?" Tyr asked. "There’s no way we can destroy him."

Grapple nodded. "The only thing that could destroy Cybertrax are a supernova or a black hole. And we don’t have either of those."

There was silence for a few moments as everyone thought about that. Suddenly Skids leapt to his feet. "Wait, I’ve got it!" He ran to the front of the room and began feverishly punching data into the holoprojector controls. After a minute or so he smiled and straightened. He activated the holoprojector and columns of calculations were shown. "The star in this system is a red giant star. That means that in billions of years the star will collapse into a black hole. If we can send Cybertrax forward into the future by about fifteen to twenty billion years, he will be caught up in the black hole’s gravity and destroyed."

"Fifteen to twenty billion years?" Tyr repeated in disbelief.

"The amount of plasma we would need would be enormous," Wheeljack breathed.

"Before we worry about that, there’s something more important: we can’t let Cybertrax destroy the star. If he does, then that black hole in the future won’t exist," Skids said. "We have to get him to change course."

Everyone was silent once more, trying to come up with a solution, finally Jetfire said, "I think I have a way. Just after the fusion bomb detonated, Cybertrax told me to report back because he had detected intruders inside his body. He didn’t have the energy to deal with them, so he wanted me to. That could mean that at least part of Shockwave’s team is alive. If so, we can have them go to Cybertrax’s astrogation systems and sabotage them to steer him to the vortex."

"That’s going to take some time," Grapple reminded Jetfire.

"I know. We’ll have to stall him in the meantime. Tyr and I will figure that out. Wheeljack, Grapple, Zeam, and Skids I want you to work on Skids’s plan." Everyone nodded and began filing out of the room. Now Jetfire just had to find a way to stall Cybertrax.

* * *

"Shockwave or any Cybertraxian unit, please respond!" Queall’s voice called out on the comlink.

Shockwave stopped in his tracks and tried to acknowledge the signal, but couldn’t. Rahn and the others tried with similar results. "It’s no use," Rahn said. "They can’t hear us."

"If you can hear me and can’t respond, I have new mission orders for you. We need you to get to the astrogation systems in the center of the chest and steer him towards the temporal vortex Skids reported. We don’t have much time, so please hurry." Queall repeated the message several times, but by then Shockwave and the others were already running for the center chest area.

Shockwave knew that time was limited, so they would have to throw caution to the wind and rely on speed alone. He didn’t know exactly where the astrogation system was, but he was certain he could find it. "Which of you is the fastest?" He called back.

"I am, sir," one of the Cybertraxians said. He transformed into a hovercar and shot past Shockwave. His comrade did the same, leaving Rahn and Shockwave alone.

"You’re going to let them run off like that?" Rahn asked.

"I don’t think we have a choice. In the meantime, we should create a distraction to occupy Cybertrax." Shockwave transformed into gun mode and began firing indiscriminately. Rahn followed suit and soon the area around them was in ruins. They continued their swath of destruction, doubting they were doing a lot of real damage, but hoping to at least draw Cybertrax’s attention.

What was bothering Shockwave was that Cybertrax had yet to make any attempt to stop them. Perhaps he does not consider us a threat, Shockwave thought as he fired again, vaporizing part of a wall. He continued his rampage, watching closely to see if Cybertrax would react. There was still nothing and Shockwave hoped that the trend would continue.

* * *

Jetfire stepped into the Legacy’s repair bay and saw Hippolyta lying on the bed. Her arm had been reattached, but she was still dented and scratched. He felt a mixture of anger and sadness run through him as he looked at her. He had done that to her. Even though he had been possessed by Cybertrax’s programming, it had still been his fault. His hands had tore into her and thrown her around. She looked weakly at him, her face still a mess. Her one good eye turned and she smiled. "As you can see, I still look like I’ve been scrapped," her voice was back to normal now, her vocal circuits having been the first things to be repaired.

He knelt down and laughed. "I love you no matter how scrapped you look. I think we can stop Cybertrax, we just need to buy some time and keep him from destroying the red giant star."

Hippolyta grabbed his hand and squeezed it as she thought. There had to be some way to stop Cybertrax. If only she had been able to unleash the power of the Matrix…She gave Jetfire’s hand a colossal squeeze as it came to her. He winced in pain and she asked, "Do you know where the Matrices are inside of Cybertrax?"

He thought about it, trying to remember the bond he had briefly shared with Cybertrax. "I think they’re near the central processor in his head. Why?"

"Cybertrax is going to want to take the Matrices with him, or at the very least he will want to keep them from us. If we can capture them we can use them as bait to draw him from the star. Could you retrieve them?"

"I’m not sure. He would be gunning for me, I might not be able to get in close enough. Still, I’ll try."

"Good. Launch right away. I’ll keep him distracted."

"How do you plan to do that?"

"I’ll tell you later. Just go." Jetfire nodded and kissed her before he left. Hippolyta stood up, her entire body still weak from her ordeal.

"Yta, you can’t leave yet, you aren’t repaired!" Vau, the head medical technician, shouted.

"I have to go." Hippolyta began limping away. There was a creaking and groaning sound as she slowly transformed into her vehicle mode.

"I can order you to stay here!"

"The fate of the universe is at stake, Vau. I have to go. Don’t try to stop me." After a long moment, Vau nodded and Hippolyta sped off, smoke trailing in her wake.

She arrived on the bridge and Tyr looked worriedly at her. "Yta, shouldn’t you still be in the repair bay?"

"I’ll be all right, Tyr."

"But…"

"I said I’ll be all right!" She growled at Tyr and he decided it was best not to press the issue. "Prepare to send a visual transmission on all frequencies. I want to make sure that Cybertrax hears me."

"What do you have in mind?" Tyr asked, concernedly.

"You’ll see." Hippolyta looked over at Queall, who signaled that the message was ready to record. She stepped over to the communications station and motioned to begin recording. "Attention Cybertrax, this is Hippolyta, Yta of the Cybertraxian people."

As she began her message, Jetfire shot out of the Legacy’s hangar, heading for Cybertrax. He had his afterburners kicked in as high as they would go and hoped that Hippolyta’s plan, whatever it was, would work. She continued, her voice sounding more forceful than Jetfire had ever known, "Your attempt to destroy us has been thwarted. Your agent of evil, Shadowfire, has been captured and reprogrammed. We have defeated you once and we will do so again."

Now Jetfire could see what she was trying to do. She was trying to antagonize Cybertrax so that he wouldn’t notice Jetfire’s approach. Primus I love you, Hippolyta, Jetfire thought to himself. To Hippolyta’s surprise, Cybertrax actually answered her message. "Hippolyta, you are a fool to think that you can ever stop me. You may have defeated Shadowfire, but you will still not be able to stop my plans. Once carried out, you and your puny band will be destroyed utterly."

"I don’t think so," Hippolyta shot back, trying to sound as haughty as she could. She opened her chest and revealed the Matrix of Wisdom. She pulled it out and made sure that Cybertrax could see it. "I am the possessor of the Matrix of Wisdom, which you gave to my people long ago. With its wisdom and power we will find a way to defeat you."

"Foolish girl, that Matrix failed you once, it cannot help you."

"Perhaps the time was not right then. I am confident that when we need its help the most, it will come through. For wisdom will always destroy evil; knowledge will always overpower villainy. Surrender now and we will spare you."

Jetfire streaked through the massive opening in Cybertrax’s face. Now, where are the Matrices? He knew he couldn’t activate his scanners without giving himself away. He would have to try and remember where they were. It was then that his cockpit displays began to go crazy. Information began spewing onto the data screens. By the…Matrices! He thought as he scanned the data. The information he was receiving was navigation data to where the Matrices were being held. Is this a trick? He knew that Cybertrax could be feeding him the information to lure him into a trap.

The data stopped and Jetfire headed for where it indicated. He banked sharply to the left just in time to avoid running into the massive central processor of Cybertrax. He would love to destroy it, but there was still a mission to perform. Besides, the Matrices were far more important. Preserving their power and knowledge would benefit generations to come. He followed the navigation data and came to a dead end. He stopped and transformed, drawing his rifle. If the information was correct, the Matrices were through the wall. He fired a steady stream of plasma into the wall and it finally gave way. Immediately he could see the intense glow of the Matrices. One which was diamond-shaped and lit with a silver glow rose into the air and floated into his hands. Before he could even wonder what it was, there was a flash of brilliant silver.

He could see many different planets across the galaxy all at once. There were different cultures on each one, all of them developing in a unique way. He could even see where the Matrix of Leadership on Cybertron was and Hippolyta on the Legacy. The Matrix of Harmony, he thought. He remembered Cybertrax telling him that there was one special Matrix which was capable of finding all of the others. Once all of the Matrices were seeded and the cultures were developed, the Matrix would bring them all together. That had been Cybertrax’s plan until Unicron had interfered.

He was returned back to reality and loaded the Matrices inside of him. There were four total, all different shapes and colors, indicating different powers. Then Jetfire transformed and headed out of Cybertrax. "We will defeat you, Cybertrax, there is no doubt in my mind about it," Hippolyta said to Cybertrax.

"You have no idea what you are doing. I am trying to unite the galaxy in peace and harmony. You are interfering with my mission."

"I cannot allow you to destroy the entire universe in order to save it. Even with all of the chaos and discord, the various cultures and peoples must be allowed to live. They have that right and I will fight to the end to make sure that it is protected."

"That is not your job, young one."

"It is. In order to be the leader of the Cybertraxians I must care about them and make sure that their rights are preserved. So I must care for all living things. Surely you, the creator of my people, must know that."

Cybertrax was about to respond, but before he could, Jetfire launched two missiles into his central processor. The missiles seemed to fly with a will of their own and struck the spherical processor dead-on. There was a large explosion and Jetfire whooped for joy as he flew through the flames and headed for the exit. "Yta, we’ve lost the connection with Cybertrax," Queall reported.

"What happened?"

"I don’t know."

Hippolyta nervously stared at the blank displays, wondering what had happened. Perhaps Cybertrax had detected Jetfire and was dealing with him. Please, don’t let him destroy Jetfire, not now, not after all we’ve been through, she pleaded silently. Jetfire screamed through the opening in Cybertrax’s face and shouted over the comlink, "Mission accomplished!"

There were cheers all around the bridge and Hippolyta smiled. Jetfire had done it, he had recovered the Matrices! Now if the rest of the plan would just work. The displays lit up again and Cybertrax’s voice shouted, "You will pay for this! I will destroy you and take back the Matrices!"

"Is Jetfire aboard?" Hippolyta asked.

"He’s just coming into the hangar."

"Get us out of here. I think we’ve made our point."

"Yes, sir." The hangar doors closed and the Legacy turned, its engines coming to life. It shot away from Cybertrax at full speed just as a massive barrage of red light flew past where it had been moments before. Cybertrax cursed his luck; he would destroy the insolent pests, especially the one called Hippolyta.

Before he even thought about turning around, he was already doing so. What is happening? He ran a systems check that revealed that someone had tampered with his astrogation systems and plotted a new course. It had been fed into his secondary processor, which was complying with the new orders. I will have to deal with the intruders, Cybertrax thought. He was running low of power, but he had more than enough to deal with the invaders and their friends. The Matrices will be mine once more, and then I will recreate the universe in my image.

* * *

Shockwave entered the cavernous astrogation section and looked around. The two Cybertraxians who had gone ahead were standing at a screen, one of many in the room. There was a keyboard that had pulled out from a wall which the Cybertraxians had used to program in the new course. Shockwave wondered why Cybertrax would have a keyboard in his astrogation hold, but decided that it was impossible to determine an answer.

"We’ve programmed in the new course," one of the Cybertraxians reported.

"Excellent," Shockwave replied.

Rahn ran into the room and shouted, "We’ve got to get out of here!"

"Why?" Shockwave demanded.

"Cybertrax knows we’re here."

"What kind of defenses has he prepared?"

"I’m not sure, but I can hear weapons charging. We’d better hurry."

Shockwave looked at the monitors and then back at Rahn. "If Cybertrax knows we’re here, then he might try to change course. I have to lock the system out from him. Cover me, and don’t be afraid."

"Of what?" Rahn asked, but stopped when he saw Shockwave’s body turn to liquid silver. Seconds later it reformed into a black and gray robot.

Scarecrow turned to the terminal and his hands began typing rapidly into the terminal. Shockwave was intelligent, but Scarecrow was superior at computers, having lived inside one for many years. The three Cybertraxians had gathered at the door, waiting for whatever Cybertrax was planning to do. Scarecrow’s hands flew over the keyboard, trying to lock the astrogation controls out before Cybertrax could change them.

Rahn stared out into the darkness, hearing the sound of weapons powering. The sound stopped and then there was silence. He raised his weapon and waited. There was a flash of blue light and a shot nailed one of Cybertraxians in the chest. He fell and Rahn fired a shot towards where he thought the weapon was. He dragged his comrade back behind the entrance and let loose another shot, as did the other Cybertraxian.

Scarecrow continued typing commands into the computer and knew it would still take a couple of minutes before he would be finished. "Are you done yet?" Rahn called out.

"No! Continue to provide cover fire!" Scarecrow shouted. He wanted to tell Rahn what a coward he was for wanting to run away, but he still needed the Cybertraxian. His fingers moved swiftly over the keyboard and he noticed that Cybertrax’s computer system was relatively simple, making it easy to get around security protocols. It made sense that at his creation Cybertrax wouldn’t have worried about some small creature hacking into his systems. But, as his Predacon trainers had always told him, "Never assume anything."

Rahn fired another shot as a blue bolt impacted against the frame of the entrance. Two more of the bolts struck the other Cybertraxian in the left knee and head, sending him crashing to the ground. Rahn looked back at Scarecrow and saw that he wasn’t done yet. Rahn knelt down next to his fallen comrade and took his weapon. Then he lunged outside and fired with both weapons, hoping that he would hit some of Cybertrax’s internal guns. He stopped a minute later when both guns ran out of ammunition. He dropped the guns, having no ammo for either one and ran back towards the entrance. He ducked behind it and then watched as the place he had been standing was vaporized as five guns fired at once. "You’d better hurry!" Rahn shouted. He grabbed the gun from the first Cybertraxian to fall and noted that it didn’t have much charge left. He fired a shot and pulled himself behind the entrance.

A bolt shattered the monitor over Scarecrow’s head, but he didn’t even notice. He was completely immersed in his work, manipulating the data that would lock Cybertrax out of one of his own systems. It was a daunting task, but Scarecrow had found it only slightly difficult. Another monitor shattered and he hit one last key with a flourish. "Done!" He shouted.

"Let’s get out of here, then!" Rahn replied. Scarecrow nodded and sidestepped a blast. His body shimmered and changed to liquid metal before reforming as Shockwave. Shockwave transformed into gun form and fired a shot through the entrance. He stuck his gun barrel through the entrance and tilted it, firing in an arc that created a devastating swath of destruction. Shockwave was satisfied and transformed back to robot mode. Rahn indicated his comrades and asked, "How are we going to transport them?"

Shockwave knelt down next to each one and scanned them. "They are dead, we will leave them here."

"We can’t do that!"

"We cannot transport them, and it is illogical to carry around corpses when speed is required."

"You uncaring monster!"

"I am not uncaring, but I am being rational. Now, we must go."

"And how do you plan to escape from Cybertrax? We don’t have a ship of any kind." Shockwave sighed and reverted back to Scarecrow, who transformed into a giant crow. He picked Rahn up in his talons and flew through the entrance, heading back the way that they had come. Looking up at Scarecrow, Rahn groaned, "I’m really starting to get confused. So who are you, anyway?"

"I am Scarecrow, a Predacon. I was injured from a crash and downloaded my core consciousness into the ship’s computer, where it resided for several years, until I was able to possess Shockwave’s body. Using a special material my body is able to transition between the two forms."

"So you’re Shockwave and Scarecrow?"

"We are separate entities. While one is active, the other is not. Currently Shockwave is unaware of what is going on." Scarecrow explained as he barely cleared a support. A blue energy bolt whizzed past and Scarecrow knew that Cybertrax had found them once more. "We are too vulnerable like this. Can you transform?"

"Sure," Rahn replied. Scarecrow let him go and he transformed in midair, changing into a flatbed hovertruck. Scarecrow landed on the bed and Rahn took off. Rahn couldn’t move very fast, but he was agile enough to avoid Cybertrax’s shots. Even so, Scarecrow transformed and pulled out his rifle, firing wildly at anything that even resembled a weapon.

They reached where they had entered Cybertrax from, narrowly avoiding Cybertrax’s defenses. "It is a good thing he is low on power, or we would certainly be slag by now," Scarecrow observed.

"Yeah, great, now how do we get out of here?" There was still the hole that the shuttle had made on its impact, but Scarecrow knew that once they were out in space they would be easy prey. His beast form could survive in space for a short period of time, but his maneuverability and speed would be too low. There had to be another way. He examined the area and smiled. "Rahn, do you have any explosive charges?"

"None." Scarecrow rubbed his chin in thought. Finally he changed back to Shockwave and transformed into gun form.

"Climb on." Rahn climbed on the top of Shockwave, who spun around so his barrel was facing into Cybertrax. "Now hold on tightly." Rahn wrapped his arms around Shockwave’s barrel and wondered what was going to happen. Shockwave floated back a little and then fired.

The shot struck circuitry inside of Cybertrax, which exploded. The concussion of the explosion flung Shockwave and Rahn into space at high speed. Shockwave was able to use his thrusters to maintain control and knew that while they were not nearly far enough away from Cybertrax, they had taken him by surprise. Before Cybertrax could track them, Shockwave fired again, the force of the shot propelling he and Rahn through the vacuum of space. Rahn held on for dear life and screamed for all he was worth, although no one could hear him.

Shockwave continued to fire blast after blast until they were far enough away from Cybertrax’s weapons. Then he stopped to recharge his gun. "Fire your hand weapon, it will at least keep us moving." Rahn nodded and pulled out his rifle. The force was much less, but even so they continued to slowly move towards the vortex, where the Legacy surely was. Shockwave just hoped that the Legacy found them before Cybertrax caught up to them.

* * *

"Yta, I am detecting two sparks in the area. One appears to be Rahn and the other is Shockwave," Paquil reported. Hippolyta looked at the readings and could see that the two forms were slowly heading their way.

"Have Jetfire intercept them and help them back here." Paquil nodded and Hippolyta left the bridge, heading for the engine room to check on the progress the engineers and Skids had made.

The engine room of the Legacy was large, the walls were lined with terminals, and the middle of the room was dominated by the massive hyperdrive system and the two fusion generators stemming from it. One of the generators was black while the other was lit with a soft, white glow. Zeam’s office was adjacent to the engine room and much smaller. He, Grapple, Wheeljack, and Skids were crammed into the room, working on their calculations.

Hippolyta knocked on the door and Wheeljack let her in. "Yta, this is a surprise," Zeam greeted.

"I just wanted to see how you were coming. Cybertrax is heading this way, all we need to do now is to spring the trap," she replied.

The others looked glumly around the room and Skids decided to make the grim pronouncement, since it was his plan. "From our calculations, there is only one way we can possibly produce enough plasma to create the vortex we need."

He stopped and Hippolyta prompted him to continue. "We can eject a small amount, all we have, into the vortex, but it won’t be enough. However, we think that by opening the Matrix, we can replicate the amount we need."

"That’s absurd! Can’t you just replicate what you need without the Matrix?"

Wheeljack shook his head, "We don’t have the technology to do that. The power of the Matrix is all we have."

"Great. So just get a container of plasma and I’ll open the Matrix."

"It’s not that simple," Skids protested. "The amount we need wouldn’t even fit on the Legacy. It took a substantial amount to send me days into the future, fifteen to twenty billion years will require a container the size of large planet. The…the only way is to take the container and open the Matrix inside of the vortex."

Hippolyta looked around the room, knowing the implications. She would have to open the Matrix inside of the vortex, which would mean that she would be transported with Cybertrax into the future. "I understand. Prepare the canister. I’ll get a flight pack and head out immediately. Take the ship out of the system as soon as Jetfire and the others are aboard, but don’t tell him about this until you have to. I’ll prepare a message for him before I leave. Understood?"

Wheeljack, Grapple, and Zeam nodded, but Skids lunged forward and hugged Hippolyta, much to the amazement of everyone else present. "You’ve been a good friend, Hippolyta. Wheeljack, Grapple, Beachcomber, Perceptor, and even Shockwave will take care of Jetfire. We all know how much you love him, and I promise that no harm shall come to him as long as I still function." Skids stepped back and finished by saying, "Not since Optimus Prime have I served under a leader so selfless and courageous. Your planet will miss you, as will all of us who have known you."

Hippolyta didn’t quite know what to say. She hadn’t expected Skids to react so emotionally. She remembered just after Jetfire had died when Skids had come to her quarters to try and comfort her. He had been a good friend to her, even though she had known him long. She had not had any close friends because of her position and she was gratified to have found one at last. Now, much like the love of her life, she was about to lose Skids as well. Still, she was the only one who could make the sacrifice; the only one who could open the Matrix. Once again she had no choice.

Her good eye began to leak fluid and she returned Skids’s hug. "You’ve been a great friend, Skids, I will miss you. I know that you will take care of Jetfire. Just make sure that he doesn’t grieve too long for me. He has waited so long to find love, I don’t want him to have to wait that long again."

"I understand." Skids saluted her and she returned it. Then she left the room and Grapple patted Skids’s shoulder.

"That was really nice."

"I meant everything I said. When I look at her I can see how much she loves Jetfire, how much she wants to stay. Yet she is willing to go out there and sacrifice her own life to save all of us. She is a true leader, just like Optimus was."

Grapple smiled and replied quietly, "You’re right. Now, let’s get to work." Skids wiped away a tear and turned back to work. There would be time to grieve later, for now, there was work to be done. Work that would sacrifice one of his friends and destroy the heart of another.


Chapter Three

The Legacy was outside of the Cybertraxian system, its sensors monitoring the vortex. Hippolyta was waiting at the center of the vortex, clutching the canister of plasma and waiting for Cybertrax to arrive. She knew that he was close, and that with his arrival would come her own death.

"She did what?" Jetfire demanded, standing in the middle of a corridor after having landed only a few minutes ago.

"She took a canister of plasma and flew out to the center of the vortex. She’s going to use the Matrix to replicate the amount of plasma needed," Skids explained.

"But she’ll die!"

Skids nodded. "She knows. She told me to give this to you." Skids handed Jetfire a disk. It contained a message Hippolyta had recorded for him before she had left.

"No!" Jetfire shouted and smashed his fist against a wall. "I have to go back for her." He was about to turn for the hangar, but Skids grabbed his shoulder.

"You can’t go. She knows what she’s doing."

"I can’t let her die!"

Skids whirled Jetfire around to face him, which was quite a feat since Jetfire was taller and heavier. "I know you love her, I know you would do anything for her, but she has to do this. There is no other way."

"If you know that, then let me go to her."

"I can’t," Skids replied and pulled out his weapon.

Jetfire stepped back in shock. "You would shoot me to keep me from her? You…you Decepticon!"

Skids closed the distance between them and stared straight up at Jetfire. "Do you think I want to do this? Do you think I want her to die? Do you think I want to watch you suffer from a broken heart? She is a close friend, and I don’t want her to die, but she is the only one that can do this. You have to understand that, as she does. Just play the message and pray to Primus that she succeeds and Cybertrax is destroyed."

Jetfire stared at his friend and was about to say something else, but decided not to. As much as he loved Hippolyta, he knew that Skids was right. He held the disk up and slowly walked away to his quarters. Skids watched him go and fell to his knees, his weapon clattering away. He held his hands to his head and sobbed uncontrollably, fluid covering his face and dripping down onto his chest.

Shockwave stepped into the corridor and stopped upon seeing Skids. Foolish Autobots and their sentamentality, he cursed. Then he remembered the two Cybertraxians that had died in the astrogation room. He had hidden it from Rahn, but he had felt a great loss when he had found them dead. They were his comrades, he had formed a bond of sorts with them. It was like nothing he had ever experienced before. He placed his hand on Skids’s shoulder and said slowly, "I am…sorry."

Skids looked up in surprise. If it had been an Autobot, such words would be of no comfort. The fact that Shockwave, a Decepticon who usually betrayed no emotions at all, had said them made him feel a little better. "Thank-you."

Shockwave nodded and left slowly, not knowing what else he should do or say. He didn’t even know what Skids was grieving about, but he assumed it had something to do with the loss of a friend. Shockwave had seen many of his Decepticon fellows killed in action, but never had he felt any sort of grief for them. It is only now that I know what it is like to lose a friend, he thought. Grief was a strange emotion, a most unpleasant feeling. Shockwave stopped and his body turned to liquid silver, then reformed into Scarecrow. Scarecrow looked around and wondered what had happened. Something told him that for the first time Shockwave had transitioned not because he had to, but because he wanted to. Scarecrow headed for his quarters to contemplate this and the strange feeling deep inside of him.

Jetfire inserted the disk into the holoprojector of his quarters. An image of Hippolyta came up and sadness washed over him. "Jetfire, I regret to have to tell you like this, but it’s for the best. I know you, and I know that you don’t want me to go, but I have to. I was afraid that if I told you in person you would keep me here or that you would follow me. I doubted you would force me to stay, but I knew you would try to follow me, and it would destroy me if I knew that I had gotten you killed once more trying to save me."

"I’m sure you can understand why I am doing this: no one else can open the Matrix. I am the only one who has a chance to defeat Cybertrax, so I have to try. I didn’t make this choice lightly, because I love you so much, but in the end I can’t risk the fate of the entire universe for our love. I have learned that being a leader means putting the needs of everyone else before those of yourself. I know you understand that, as you’ve had to face that with your crew and those under your command during the Cybertronian civil war, but it will still not be easy for you."

"I love you, Jetfire, and as long as my spark functions I will love you. I will wait for you inside of the Matrix. I just hope that then we can finally be together. Don’t grieve too long for me, find another to share your love with. Make yourself happy, Jetfire, don’t waste your life feeling sorrow for me. Good-bye, Jetfire. May the Matrix protect you." The message ended and Jetfire sat in shock. After several long moments it finally sunk in and he stood up weakly.

He went over to the window and stared out at the stars. Hippolyta was out there, ready to die, and there was nothing he could do about it. He felt so helpless and angry and slammed his fist into the wall next to the window. He fell to his knees let the sadness consume him, fluids leaking out of his visor. "Hippolyta, no," he whispered to himself over and over again.

* * *

Cybertrax had arrived. Hippolyta saw him and wondered if he could see her as well. "Why have you brought me here?" Cybertrax demanded over the comlink, answering her question.

"To destroy you," Hippolyta replied with more confidence than she felt.

"You alone cannot possibly defeat me."

"I can, and I will." She opened her chest and took out the Matrix of Wisdom. She looked at it for one long moment and knew that she had no choice now, she was committed. "Behold!"

She gripped the handles of the Matrix and pulled. Cybertrax watched in horror as this time the Matrix parted. White light surrounded the canister and it opened, the plasma particles scattering into the vortex. The white light became more intense as the plasma was replicated. Hippolyta felt the forces of the vortex tearing at her, but somehow she was able to maintain her hold on the Matrix. Cybertrax screamed as the white light grew in size until it had enveloped him. The vortex tore at Hippolyta, growing in intensity until it nearly ripped her apart.

The white light turned purple as the vortex opened. Hippolyta screamed as she and Cybertrax were propelled through it. The voyage seemed to last forever, pain washing through Hippolyta with each passing moment. She maintained her grip on the Matrix, which had closed itself. The voyage suddenly ended in a blinding flash of white light that knocked Hippolyta out.

Hippolyta awoke and found herself no longer in space, but in an empty black void. She looked around, but saw nothing. Then faces began to appear from nowhere. She recognized them as those of former Ytas, her peers. "At last Hippolyta, you have come," a voice boomed.

"Where am I?" She asked.

"You are with us, inside of the Matrix."

"The Matrix would have been destroyed with me."

"You do not understand. The physical Matrix was destroyed, but the spirit of it can never die."

"Why am I here?"

"You are a Yta, this is where you go once you have died. Your wisdom will be added to the Matrix for use by future generations."

"Then I am dead?"

"Yes."

"What of Cybertrax and my people?"

"Watch for yourself." Hippolyta could suddenly see space once more, although it looked much the same as the void. Cybertrax dominated her view and she knew she had failed. Then she watched as he began to move slowly backwards, towards where the star had been. He gained speed and his body began to break apart as the intense gravity of the black hole formed from the star tore at him. Even though there was no sound, she could hear his scream in her mind as his head was torn from his body and his chest laid open. His spark flew into space and was literally crushed by the forces of the black hole. In seconds nothing remained of Cybertrax’s body, not even the tiniest fragment.

"Then he is defeated and the universe is safe."

"Yes, thanks to you."

"I opened the Matrix, I did nothing special."

"You did. It was not us who unleashed the power of the Matrix, it was you. Once you realized how to use its power, it was you who destroyed Cybertrax."

"You mean none of you unleashed its power?"

"Of course not."

Hippolyta thought about it for a moment and then it came to her. "Once I understood that the power of the Matrix was wisdom and could not simply be used on its own, I could use it. Once I finally realized that true wisdom cannot be wielded as a weapon, but can only be used for knowledge, then I could unleash its power. It makes sense now."

"Yes. Now come, join us, merge your mind with ours. Add your wisdom to the Matrix."

She was about to open her mind up and do as the Ytas said, but something stopped her. "No, I can’t do it."

"What? Why not?"

"I can’t leave Jetfire behind, I love him. I sacrificed my body for my people, but my spark belongs to him. I have to go back."

"Go back? You would throw away this opportunity to be with this…this Autobot? Perhaps you are not as wise as we thought."

"I am wise enough to know that I cannot bear to be without him. He did the same for me, he gave his life for mine because he could not live or die without me. That is how I feel about him as well. Whether I live or die, I cannot survive without him. I need him, I love him. I know it is within your power to send me back. You must do so, because I cannot join you."

There was a long pause and then the Ytas responded, "There will be a penalty."

"Whatever it is, I will face it."

"So be it."

* * *

The Legacy was approaching the vortex, searching for any signs of Hippolyta or Cybertrax. As far as they knew, both were gone, although there was no way to tell whether they had been destroyed or not. Jetfire stood on the bridge, looking out sadly at space. He knew that she was dead, but he still felt he had to be here when the area was swept. He had to know for certain that she was gone.

"I’m picking up a strange reading from the vortex," Paquil announced. Jetfire hurried over to his station and looked at his displays.

There were energy readings coming from the vortex, but they were not indicative of residual energy from the vortex opening. What could it be? Jetfire wondered to himself. The readings got stronger and stronger until there was a flash of purple light. "The vortex is opening," Jetfire said.

"Look!" Skids pointed and Jetfire ran to one of the windows. He could see something shoot out of the vortex at high speed. As it came closer he realized that it was a jet fighter of some sort.

The fighter was green with a long, sleek nose, cranked delta wings which looked like an arrowhead, a single tailfin, and two powerful engines. It streaked past the bridge of the Legacy and angled for the hangar. Jetfire and Skids headed for the hangar, breaking into a run once the bridge doors opened. Jetfire opened the door to the hangar and watched the fighter land. It touched down for a perfect landing and for a few moments there was silence.

Then the fighter transformed. Legs and arms unfolded from the fuselage and undercarriage, the nose folded down and the wings swept back and folded away into the back. What shocked both Jetfire and Skids the most was that it was wearing an Autobot symbol. Jetfire strode forward and extended his hand. "I am Jetfire, who are you?"

"Here’s a hint," a female voice said. The stranger stepped forward and kissed Jetfire on his faceplate. She wrapped her arms around him and Jetfire found himself returning the kiss. After what felt like an eternity they let go of each other. "Do you know who I am now?"

"It…it can’t be. What happened?"

"I was destroyed once I traveled through the vortex. My spark became joined with the Matrix of Wisdom and I met with the past Ytas. I was about to join them, to become one with the Matrix when something stopped me: you. I couldn’t leave you behind, so I pleaded with them to let me come back. They did so at a price." She turned and her voice became sad. "I am no longer Cybertraxian, I am an Autobot, as Cybertronian as you are. Nor am I Hippolyta anymore." She stopped and grabbed his hand. "Call me Valkyrie."

Jetfire looked into her eyes and no matter what she said, he could see that she was still the same as when she had met him. Her body and name may be different, but inside her spark was still the same. "I’m not sure what to say."

"Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of time for talk. Once we get to the new colony where your ship is, I want to come with you. There is no reason for me to stay any longer. The Cybertraxians are not my people, you are my people now."

"What about the Matrix? Who will lead now?"

"The Matrix will find its way to the colony, I am certain of it. A new Yta will be chosen and the Cybertraxians will survive, as they did long before I was created. Just…just be happy for us Jetfire. We will be together, forever. Nothing can stop that now."

"But you gave up so much for me! You sacrificed your place in history, your name, and your heritage for me. I can’t help but feel guilty."

"Don’t be. I love you, Jetfire. I don’t care about history or my heritage as long as I have you. You are all I need."

He took her hand and nodded. Then he led her over to where Skids was standing. "This is the newest member of our crew, Valkyrie."

Skids looked her over and smiled. "I can’t help but feel we’ve met somewhere before." He hugged her and whispered, "Welcome back." The Legacy left the vortex behind and began its journey to rendezvous with the Cybertraxian civilians. As it did so there was a flash of purple light and then the vortex winked out of existence forever.

Epilogue

They were calling the planet Hippolyta after their fallen leader, that is what Jetfire had been told on his way down to the colony. He transformed and shook hands and hugged two comrades he had thought he would never see again. "It’s good to see you again," Beachcomber said.

"We were unsure that you would make it safely," Perceptor chimed in. "I am glad to see we were mistaken."

"So am I," Jetfire replied. A shuttle landed and Wheeljack, Grapple, Skids, and Scarecrow stepped out. The Autobots greeted Perceptor and Beachcomber while Scarecrow kept his distance. Jetfire walked over to the Predacon and asked, "What’s wrong?"

"I am not sure, but something is troubling me. It has been since Shockwave changed over after we made it back from Cybertrax. I cannot place it, but it is there, nagging at me."

Jetfire thought about it and replied, "It might have something to do with Shockwave. Perhaps you should check with Wheeljack and see if there’s some way we can get you two together to talk."

Scarecrow smiled ever so slightly. "Thank-you. I am glad that you will be able to find happiness now." Scarecrow walked away and Jetfire was left to wonder how he had known that Hippolyta was still alive. For a Predacon, he isn’t so bad sometimes, Jetfire thought.

Jetfire and his comrades sat in the front row of a makeshift arena as the victory celebration began. Fireworks lit up the evening sky and the three remaining fighters made colorful patterns with smoke and lasers. Henze was in the lead of the fighters and glad that he had survived. He thought of all of his comrades who had been killed during the battles with Cybertrax and smiled internally when he looked down at the happy crowds below. That is what Senta and all of the others had fought for, the freedom to exist peacefully. He banked away from the crowds and transformed in mid-air with his comrades. They landed and joined the celebration. Energon and oil were flowing freely and Jetfire could tell that some of the Cybertraxians were already getting drunk from radium-spiked oil. Once the fireworks and aerial demonstration were done, the arena was opened up for dancing. The crowd of Cybertraxians broke up, most going onto the dance floor. Jetfire remained where he was, content to watch the festivities.

He saw Wheeljack, Grapple, and Zeam standing near the refreshments table, having a heated discussion about something or other. Jetfire knew it was probably on some engineering or technological topic. He normally would have gone over to see for himself and possibly engage in the conversation, but he didn’t feel up to it at the moment. Someone slapped him on the back and he saw that it was Tyr, a likely candidate to be the next Yta. Tyr already seemed a little tipsy and Jetfire could smell the radium-spiked oil on him. "Come on, Jetfire, let yourself cut loose a little. We beat Cybertrax! It’s a time for celebration."

"I know. I’m just finding it hard with her gone," Jetfire replied.

"Oh, I understand. Take as much time as you need to grieve over her, she was very special."

"I know. Thanks." Tyr nodded and walked away. Jetfire watched him join Paquil, Queall, and the rest of the Legacy bridge crew, who cheered and engaged in a toast. He knew that the Cybertraxians deserved this celebration. They had fought long and hard for peace and it looked like they might finally have it. If only Hippolyta hadn’t bought that peace with her life, Jetfire thought. He knew he had been partially truthful when talking to Tyr and that he had to lead the Cybertraxians on. He sighed and stood up, looking at the distant hills. Sitting at the top of one of the hills was a lone figure. Jetfire made his way out of the party and, wanting to make a subtle exit, his form mutated into that of Skyfire. He transformed into his beast form, a bald eagle, and flew up towards the hill.

He found Valkyrie sitting on the hill, watching the party sadly. He transformed and sat down next to her. "Thinking over your decision?" Skyfire asked.

She looked at him, fluid in her eyes. "A little. They were my people, I just wish I could be with them now, in their moment of triumph. I still don’t regret my decision, though."

"I don’t either," he whispered and kissed her. "I love you, whether you are an Autobot or a Cybertraxian."

"What if I had come back as a Decepticon?" She asked playfully.

"Then I’d reprogram you." They laughed and kissed once more. Down below, Skids watched them contentedly. After all Jetfire and Hippolyta had been through, it was nice to see their happy ending.

"And they lived happily ever after," he murmured.

Beachcomber smiled and slapped him on the shoulder. "Do you think we’ll ever find someone like that?"

Skids laughed and indicated the party with his glass of energon. "Let’s find out." He and Beachcomber turned away from watching Skyfire and Valkyrie and back to the party. Night fell and the sounds of joy and celebration continued. On top of a lonely hill a pair of lovers who had finally found each other continued to kiss. Long after the festivities had ended the couple would still be on that lonely hill, sharing their love. After a long, hard fight love had finally triumphed over evil.

THE END

The Skyfire Adventures Continue in Episode 7: Derelict, Coming Soon!

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