Beast Hunters - Coming of the Astroplex - Part 1

written by Hound99

The trans-warp shockwave spread throughout galaxies. Space and time did not hinder it's advance as it swept across both. It's presence sets off a wave of activity upon reaching the cold gray skies of Cybertron. Satellites and sensors are trained upon the surge of energy as it passes by. Many take notice of it for it is a very rare occurrence, often the harbinger of some disastrous event. Scientific theories and dark curses are already spoken of the wave even before it has disappeared from the skies of the iron planet.

"Alpha Hound, sir, incoming message from Cybertron. It's the council, in regards to the Axalon, they wish to speak to you in private."

"Thank you, Swoop, transfer to the com-pad in my quarters." The ship's leader made his way to his personal quarters, passing by Predacon as well as his fellow Maximals. With a sigh, he realized how glad he would be to rid himself of some of his 'crew.' His ship was on a mission to find and rescue the Axalon, a Maximal ship lost to rogue Predacons. He would like to bring those Predacons to justice, they were criminals of the worst kind.

But no, he thought to himself, he wouldn't receive the chance for Maximal justice, the Predacons on board would dispense their own form of retribution to their troublesome brethren. In exchange for their help, the Maximals had to agree to let them take care of that issue. The Elders had agreed in order to continue the peaceful relations between the combative factions.

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Reaching his quarters, he was surprised to see another bot standing in front of his door. Slowly, as he recognized him, he stopped in front of Bludgeon, the Force Commander of the Predacon units on board.

"Commander...?"

"Ah, Alpha Hound, I understand there is an incoming message for you from your Council."

"Yes, a personal one, so if you don't mind, we'll continue any discussion of yours later."

"But Maximal, that is why I am here, your message pertains to the Axalon, therefore it involves... me as well."

"And how did you know it's about the Axalon?"

"Just say it doesn't and I will be on my way..."

Grinding his teeth at the smug Predacon leader, Alpha Hound allowed him in to view the Com-desk.

"Hmmm, who does your decorating, Alpha Warrior, it's so...classical."

"Silence, here is the link." The view-screen came into focus and the two leaders regarded the Maximal Elders.

"Greetings, Alpha Hound and ...Bludgeon. There is urgent news for your mission." Both bots leaned forward, their attention fixed on the com-pad. "A massive trans-warp wave has passed through the Cybertronian system. The energy patterns have strange Cybertron power signatures to them. Although, our evidence is inconclusive, we wish for you to investigate."

"Very well, but is there any more to information to work from?"

"Not much, I fear, here are the coordinates that our cyber-neers could trace back to the energy's source." Both leaders gaped momentarily at the parameter and time coordinates. Alpha Hound's demeanor slid back to his calm stance but he failed to notice the small malicious smile on his counterpart.

"By the Matrix, Megatron is mad, he plans to carry through with his threats!"

"Yes, Hound, that is why you must act with haste to find those involved in this. Primus be with you, Council out." In the following silence, each rival regards the other.

"So, Maximal… it begins again."

"No, I will not allow it!"

"Perhaps… we will see, with Predacons, one never knows..."

"I don't like your tone, Bludgeon, if you don't believe you can handle your duty to this mission, then step down and pick a Predacon who can. Now get out of my room!"

"Oh, I can handle the mission, have no fear, Hound," said the Predacon as he backed out of the room, "just be sure you are up to it too."

And with that, the warrior walked down the hallway, leaving Alpha Hound lost in his own thoughts.

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Coming back on the bridge, Alpha Hound takes command.

"Swoop, here are the coordinates to pass the navigation charts, make them work. Prowl, bring on the trans-warp engines and feed the chrono-chamber this pad's information."

He nodded in satisfaction to see the efficiency of his crew. He could ask for no better, but something at the back of his mem files bothered him. The words of Bludgeon troubled him but no reason could be found.

"Sir, the time/space calculations are affirmed, orders?"

"Squall, K-9, I want our defense systems ready and our weapons on-line. Whisper, bring the helm about to the appropriate settings." As the immense ship's engines hummed to life, Hound silently spoke for Primus' blessing. They must not fail! "Make the jump...now!"

----------

Deep in the bowels of the Autobot battlecruiser, a meeting convenes in one of the larger halls. Walking in the midst of his fellow warriors, Bludgeon speaks, "My fellow Predacons, our time of retribution approaches, the traitors shall be brought to their knees for their insolence." Mutters and grumblings greeted his comment. "Yes, we've all been patient but it will end soon."

A harsh voice spoke from the shadows in the back, "I'm tired of being lackeys to these Maximals, why must we follow them anymore, we should act on our own!"

Cheers rang through the hall as Bludgeon held his hand up for silence. As the noise subsided, he spoke again, "Believe me, the chance to free ourselves from these loathsome Maximals will come perhaps sooner than you think, keep that in mind..."

"But I want to leave now," screeched the horrific beetle, Scarem. He hadn't even finished speaking before the cannon mounted upon Bludgeon's arm was pointed into his abdomen.

"Eep!"

Boom! The scorched beetle flew through the diving Pred ranks, into the wall.

Looking over the smoking barrel, Bludgeon growled, "I will have no mutinous traitors in my midst, if you have a problem with the current form of protocol, voice your objections NOW."

He met the eyes of each and every warrior in the room, none could hold his gaze for long. At that moment, Thunderwing stepped forward, his fist in the air, "Hail Bludgeon, long live the Predacons!"

The cheer was taken up by the rest of the group as the hall echoed with their cries. Leaning back in his chair with a satisfied look, the Predacon leader was pleased, very pleased. Everything was going according to his ultimate plan.

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The Axalon jumps to trans-warp, passing through space and time. Operations continue smoothly until, "Alpha Hound, I'm detecting a wave of energy, approaching us at a tremendous speed."

The statement brings the warrior around in his chair. "Swoop, give me a reading on it."

The puffin taps into the sensor relay of the ship to get info on the phenomenon. As the dimensions and readouts of the wave comes on the view-screen, the alarm klaxons begin to go off. Red lights illuminate the bridge, "Alpha! It's the wave detected by Cybertron, it's patterns are off the scale!"

"Squall! Shields at their maximum power, Whisper, take us out of it's path!"

"Too late!"

The shockwave cascades over the Astroplex, right through its shields. The ship begins to violently rock back and forth.

"Shields are ineffective!"

For many, that was the last they saw as stasis lock took them down. Others experienced the whole event. But just as soon as it started, it was over. The ship went back to a smooth flight path, and the crew slowly revived.

Some slowly realized what had happened to them, for the wave had changed them in many different ways.

"What the? I have...fur?"

"Why do I have wings coming out of my back?"

"I've lost my organic programming...?"

The voice of Alpha Hound cuts through the noise. "If you function, then back to your post, the after-effects of the wave will be discerned afterwards, for everyone else, head to the CR tanks and have Swoop or Prowl look at you."

The awed and confused crew knew better than to question their leader's orders when he was in this mood. The ship's trajectory and flight path were soon corrected and all systems brought back on-line. Almost in response to that, reports came in from all over of strange occurrences, Maximals morphing into new forms or gaining strange abilities.

"All officers, report to Alpha Hound's command room in one hour."

----------

Hound walked to the ancient Hall of Council, where the Autobots had convened so long ago. His memories of those days were still clear, he had been under the command of Ironhide, the captain of this ship before both were transferred to the Ark and their destinies beyond. The thought of his lost comrade, fallen so many years ago, was still painful to him.

"Perhaps … if I had been on that ship with Ironhide, Prowl and the rest, things would've been different," his voiced thoughts went unanswered. The ancient bot waited the hour out, staring at the stars, re-living days long gone.

His Command circle reported very quickly, most filing in at the same time. Prowl, his Second officer, Squall, Offensive officer, Whisper, Navigation control, Swoop, Science officer and Sonar, Propulsion command. A few junior officers were also present.

"Swoop, what is the analysis of what just occurred."

"My conclusions, are very hypothetical, based on my own theories. The wave appears to be of some sort of a Cybertronian design, although none that I've ever seen, also, it was not created by the warp engines of a ship, I haven't figured that out as of yet. The aftereffects seem to have activated the proto-form programs in some of us, pulling random files for animal DNA, in some cases such as Sonar, I don't know what happened! But at the moment, it doesn't seem to have any ill effects. It's a matter of time, I'm afraid..."

At this, the old veteran, Squall, growled out, "Have the Preds been affected too?"

"They wouldn't let my teams near them but the few I saw did seem to have been affected by the wave." Swoop's pronouncement brought a round of groans from many of those at the tables.

"That is something we'll have to accept, my current concern is my crew and the ship. I want updates on tech systems." Each officer reported in, no crashes, no problems overall with the Astroplex that could be seen.

"Fine then, we'll continue as planned, the wave won't stop us. I want all of you to go amidst the crew-bots under you and make sure those changed can adjust, if any of you have problems, come see me or Prowl. Meeting adjourned."

The assembly slowly emptied, leaving Prowl and Alpha Hound standing in the Hall of Council. With a sigh, Prowl looked at his leader, "I hope this is not an omen of what the future is going to be like."

"Who can tell, old friend, but keep your sensors alert, I want no more surprises." Both slowly walked back to the bridge.

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"So…now what," the ship's Science officer looked around at his friends sitting in the bar/lounge section of the ship.

"What do you mean, Swoop?"

"Well, do we continue on with the mission or turn back, these changes might have some ramifications we don't know, Goldmane."

"True, but do you want to leave our brethren out there any longer?"

"Well, no, of course not, it's just that…"

"I think what my brother is trying to say is, will the recent event affect the outcome of the mission for the worse?"

The newly made lion Transmetal took a sip of his energon drink. "Of that I don't know but I believe we should press on, we don't what is happening between those Preds and our fellow bots. Whisper, what's wrong?"

All eyes turn to the ship's navigator, who up until recently had adopted the form of a black cat. But with the shockwave, she had the DNA of a bat fused into her being as well.

She grimaced, "I…don't know, my head…Sonar said the bat's genetics might give me some new abilities, but it's so confusing!"

"Steady, little one," assured the immense Squall, "Although I was created with my bear/eagle body, and it does take some adjusting but you will learn to accept what's happened."

Obviously concerned, Goldmane, put his hand on hers, "Whisper, I'm sure things will work out, it may turn out to be a blessing but give it a chance first."

She grinned slightly, "Why couldn't I be the one who got the sleek transmetal form and you could get the big bat ears that go with this?!

"Ha! I guess fate does have a sense of humor!"

This earns the lion a swat to the head from his "significant bot."

From the shadows came the Tasmanian devil, Snarl's growl, "I don't know what you're complaining about girlie, I'm still stuck with my boring old body, I wish I could've gotten some o' those nifty forms of yours! And maybe one with a built-in missile launcher…yeah!"

"Shut up, Snarl, at least without a new body, you can't find new ways to do any damage."

"Hey, hey, Squall, it happened once and I said I was sorry!" Laughter rings at the table until the overhanging tension sobers the room again.

"One thing I can tell ya," growled Snarl," ol' Alpha Mutt will be sending us through combat drills until we drop!"

"Only way to tell that we can still work smoothly together despite what's happened."

"Hey, Goldmane, I didn't change so why should I work my tail off?"

"I'm beginning to wish you had changed, preferably into something quieter."

"Now, now comrades, save your energy for the Preds or getting through this mission, ok?" Both warriors settle back into their chairs, glowering at each other.

Whisper asked, "I wonder what happened to the Preds, were they changed as well?"

"Well," said the Swoop, "as I said at the meeting, they won't let our techs anywhere near them to find out, although some of the guards I saw did look different.

"Like who?"

"Well, Terragator and Injector for example, both of them morphed much like Whisper, forming into a fusion of what appeared to be two different creatures."

Snarl grumbled, "By the Matrix, I can't wait to get this over, working with the Preddy's is almost too much for me! Hey, did any of you know these bots we're rescuing?"

Squall nodded, "Goldmane and I fought under Primal, the Axalon captain, against those Quintesson raids a few decades back. If you walked away from some of those battles, you counted yourself very fortunate!"

Goldmane shook his head, "Aye, my friend, those were dark days indeed. "Swoop sighed, "Well, at least we can be thankful that the Preds will do all the fighting once there instead of us."

Goldmane finished his drink. "I'll believe that my friend, when it actually happens."

----------

The Astroplex continued its fast pace through both space and time. "Sir, we're coming up on our destination."

"Thank you, K-9, hail the bridge crew to their posts and proceed."

Prowl swiveled in his command post, "No signs of starships on any of the sensors but I am picking up debris…"

"Do the components fit the Axalon's?"

"Well, yes and no, there is a small amount of what appears to be from the Axalon and the Predacon ship orbiting in the atmosphere but there is a larger amount of unknown space debris all around…the computers can't even identify some of the material make-up of it."

Whisper, just coming on the bridge asked, "So… were the two ships destroyed?"

"I don't believe so, there would be a lot more if those two vessels were destroyed, the decaying orbit of the wreckage leads me to believe they both crashed."

Hound looked to his second officer, "And what of the rest?"

"I…don't know."

Uneasy looks exchange across the bridge. "Permission to cut the trans-warp engines, sir."

"Granted, Sonar. Whisper, bring our trajectory about so that we will coast into an orbit of the planet. K-9, Squall?

"Weapons ready, sir!"

"As are shields and emergency systems!"

"Excellent. Prowl, as soon as you get it, I want information on that mysterious space debris."

The ship falls from its trans-warp motion, and uses its momentum and Whisper's skilled handling, to move into planetary orbit. At Hound's nod, Prowl begins scanning the planet for signs of their comrades. A few tense moments pass as nothing comes up, but finally, Prowl said, "Sir, I've got them!"

"Where?"

"Both ships are on one of the northern continents, a few miles from each other and they appear relatively intact. I can't be sure, there's a weather pattern moving in but I think there are some sparks in the area, who and how many, I don't know."

"Transfer the coordinates to Whisper and we'll bring the Astroplex down near the crash- sites. After that we'll-"

"Sir, I'm picking up…stasis pods as well?!"

"What?! Swoop, can you verify?" Both Swoop and Prowl worked quickly at their control panels, a slight blip alerted the seal/puffin.

"Sigh…yes, Hound, there are pods."

"…How are there…"

Prowl interjects, "Logically, jettisoning the pods would have been better than crashing with the ship, they are built to be durable but not to last through a ship falling from the stars."

"Ah, yes, Primal probably had a few on his ship, being an exploratory vessel."

K-9 says " Alpha Hound, I'm getting a inter-com from Bludgeon, asking about our arrival."

"Sigh…very well, tell him I'll meet with him momentarily. Swoop, assemble your tech teams for possible emergency repairs. Prowl, Squall, assemble search teams, we're not leaving these pods behind."

----------

The old warrior sighed as he sat behind his command desk. Truly now, I am too old for this, he thought. An ancient spark like my own should have gone on to the Matrix long ago.

Alpha Hound turned and momentarily glanced at his reflection in the window looking into space. A haggard face looked back. His was a long life of many battles, filled with amazing feats and great hardships.

His gaze shifted to the planet beneath them. So unlike Cybertron with its gray skies and artificial nature, this one was a rich collection of colors, greens, blues and many others. "Where it all began…and where so many things ended…"

His life had never been the same since he crash-landed here all those years ago. This planet had represented a symbol of hope for his people, for the Great War was had been defined by many of the battles fought here. But to Alpha Hound, it would always represent a dark time in his personal history.

His musings were cut short by the slight trill of the door buzzer. "Enter."

In walked his expected company, Bludgeon. The Predacon leader strode in to the room and stared down at the Maximal sitting at his desk.

"So then, Alpha Warrior, what is our course of action?"

Alpha Hound briefly filled him in on the information that had been gathered thus far,

"…at which point we will land and transform the Astroplex. We will prepare to evacuate our comrades while you will deal with Megatron. I trust you and your bots can do that?"

With a sneer, "Of course, Maximal, my force is more than capable of completing its mission. At which point we will part company. A day I look forward to"

Hound met his stare, "Just do your damn job and shut up."

The Predacon leader stiffened and marched out without a backward look. For a long time, he sat in the shadows, running over the situation. Finally, he got up and going to a small storage closet, pulled out a steel chest.

Inside were various items but slowly he picked up a small box, constructed of the strongest Cybertronian metals, it still had a faded Autobot symbol. "No, it shouldn't be, and it can't be." He slammed the chest shut. "Slag."

"We've cleared the atmosphere, sir."

"Thank you, Swoop. Whisper, prepare the landing mechanisms for immediate touch- down."

"Aye, sir!"

"Sir, I'm picking up a spark…?!"

"A pod, perhaps, Swoop?"

"No, sir, this spark is on-line, my sensors are by the massive amounts of raw energon here."

"Continue landing procedures to the surface. Prowl, Squall, both of you follow me. We're going to investigate this spark."

The three warriors go to a hatch on the underside of the ship, opening it, they silently drop out into the howling winds of the planet. Issuing commands with a hand signal, the three flew to where the spark had been detected.

In a matter of minutes, they came upon a lone figure, with broad shoulders, simian features and a metallic look like some of the crew.

"Alpha Hound, is that you?"

"…Primal?"

"Yes, it's me, by the Matrix, it's good to see you," the two clasp arms.

"And you, we didn't know what became of you and your crew."

"It's a long story, one that can wait for later, my crew at the Axalon will have to be informed."

"First things first, Primal, the pods and the Predacons are on the top of my list"

"Agreed. And then…Is that your ship?!! I didn't think that class was still in use…"

"I wouldn't use anything else."

The group watched as the massive battlecruiser settles to the ground with a loud rumbling.

Almost immediately, it begins to transform, the engines move into the main structure, the forward bridge folding upwards to become a high tower, the wings to fold up as well, shielding units deploying for battle from the underside. A landing pad for heli-craft appears as well as a runway for aircraft.

Primal looked on, "Amazing…" His gaze shifts to the vehicles and units coming from the main deployment hangar.

"What the…?! There are Preds on your ship! His back-mounted cannons come up and point at the forces.

"Hold, Primal, these are not your enemy, they are here to stop their fellow Predacons from doing anymore damage."

"What…how…I don't understand…"

Prowl looks on, "As you said before, 'it's a long story.' " A massive battle tank rumbles up to the group.

"Well, Hound, we part ways, after we finish this, I intend to use our cruiser, the Avenger, to leave this planet."

Primal regards the tank, "Bludgeon is in command of this force?! Hardly a wise move on-"

"Ah, Primal, old friend, I can't say I'm glad to see you, I haven't missed your interference in matters of the Councils."

"Nor have I missed your schemes and plotting, 'old friend.' "

The two glare at each other, until, "Pfah! I will be on my way, this is a waste of my time."

The Maximals watched as the Predacon force moves out, rumbling quickly away. Primal turns to Hound, "I have a bad feeling about this, you know."

"Tell me about it."

The group slowly walks back to the ship, as the Maximals begin their own preparations.

To Be Continued.....

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