By Tony “Thunder” Klepack
“You look troubled, my dear.”
Tempest turned from her view of the stellar expanse outside the ship and looked at the source of the voice.
“Whadda ya want Face?” she asked irritably. “I’m kinda busy here.”
Face stepped non-chalantly beside her. “Yes, I can see that,” he replied calmly.
“Do ya have an audio problem or are ya just one diode short of a motherboard?” Tempest hissed. “I don’t need company--so slag off!”
Face smiled slightly at that, his mouth being the only part of his visage not concealed by the mirrored visor.
“Why not talk about it?” he asked, ignoring her outburst. “Sometimes, a burden can be lessened when it is shared with another.”
“What is it with you?” Tempest snapped. “You’re just asking for trouble!” She curled one of her fists into a ball.
“I suspect I have little to fear from your warrior prowess,” the other replied dismissively. “Now, tell me--”
Tempest swung her fist at him, and the other dodged impossibly fast. In mid-step, she swung her left fist out as well, pivoting her body so as to aim the strike at Face’s new position. As if anticipating the move, he slipped to her left and dodged the second fist as well.
“This violent persona doesn’t become someone of your former stature...”
“Stuff it!” Tempest exclaimed, her right fist striking outward again.
This time, Face did not attempt to avoid the attack. Instead, his spread palm met her fist inches away from his head module. Slowly, he eased her hand downward.
“If you are finished with this display, perhaps we might continue?” he asked as he released Tempest’s fist and she snapped it back.
Tempest turned back to the viewport and said nothing. She had noticed Face observing her earlier on and wondered if he knew something was amiss with her. This confirmed her suspicions...
But how much did he know? Was he aware she had once been an energy being called a Syntara, until recently, when they had passed sentence on her and removed her awareness--her very core and source of her powers? That she was a mere husk compared with what she had once been?
Or did he simply suspect she was unsettled for some other reason?
She supposed it didn’t really matter, at any rate. Without her essence, she was nothing...she would have been better off dead as far as she was concerned! And if talking to this Decepticon guaranteed her otherworldly presence being revealed to Megatron and quite potentially an execution, then maybe it was for the best.
She had no powers and no further purpose here...and she was all too aware that the great Shokoract was on it’s way. How much time would she suffer like this before it occurred and claimed all of the Transformers? The Three had spared her death only to allow her to wait and wonder--to suffer needlessly while the End came around her and inevitably consumed her.
A swift death would be a mercy by comparison with the fate that awaited her--that awaited them all...
“All right...” Tempest said, her gaze still trained on the star field beyond the vessel. “If you really want to know, I’ll tell you...”
I am a member of a far advanced race of beings called the Syntara. When the Universe itself was still new, we were already old. We watched as the last of the Primal gods died off or evolved beyond this plane...as wars were fought, as the Universe and its myriad races were born and grew, we watched...in time, we advanced and grew so much so that we went beyond the need for true physical forms...becoming instead a people of pure spectral energy...
In our time, we observed a Balance of Powers throughout the Omniverse--the juncture of all reality, all universes, all realms physical and astral--a system that nature used to keep the powers of the universes in check, an intangible force that prevented any great power in any set universe from becoming too powerful...thus preventing any one power from assuming control of all reality everywhere... we did not know what caused the Balance, although we had long surmised one of the Great Primal gods had invoked it prior to their departure from our plane...
All Syntara are birthed from the Celestial Unimatter...to put it in terms you can understand, think of that as a sort of “spectral nebula”. Our births are not celebrated, there is no revelry...our kind come into the Universe knowing our purpose is to serve our people and preserve the omniversal Balance of Power. And that is what we do...
It is not to say we are omniscient when we are born--merely that we are, in a sense,
pre-programmed with certain knowledge of the world around us. Enough so that we may began our duties almost immediately and not loose precious time needing complicated instruction such as lesser races do. As we grow in ages, of course, we learn further and understand more...
My very first assignment was billions of years ago...even then, my people ancient and immaterial, watching silently over the Multiverse as we do...
The first race I ever observed were called the Skaarg...a beautiful people, based off arachnoid physiology. Natively, they were agrarians...living simple lives as farmers and harvesting the livestock of their world for food. Over time, they advanced from living in caverns as simple farmers to a more aristocratic system of government where the rich and powerful resided in great crystalline palaces and estates, while being waited on hand and foot. The poor, simply made do as they had for thousands of years before...
Eventually, inevitably, civil unrest and revolution carved the way out for a democratic system of government and more equitable treatment for the bulk of their society.
By the time I was assigned, the Syntara had forecast that they had potential to be a vast, powerful civilization in time...one that could make a significant difference in the Universe--in which sense, good or evil, the Syntara were not yet definite. And even then, that was only if they survived their own growing pains...
For three hundred and fifty years I stayed among their people and observed, taking on like-form so they would not suspect I was an outsider among them and fear me. Together, with D’ertri Zer’ki’chi-i’la, my aide in this first assignment--generally, Syntara on their first covert assignments are given assistance by an elder Syntara–I watched as their people set up multiple colony worlds and set off into the stars with the ideal of a newer and greater people.
And saw as the political idealism was insufficient to deal with the economic realities...within a century of setting up the colonies and expanding into space, the Skaarg’s civil unrest turned to brutal war. The society had developed in two directions, one of a large wealthy population and the other into a larger impoverished group. At first, the poor sought better treatment and were put down by the military forces of the wealthy. Later, several in the wealthy population saw either a chance to stand up for their political idealism by aiding the destitute--or personal opportunity in exploiting them further--and began supplying that side with arms and supplies.
War consumed the Homeworld between the two sides...curiously, the colony worlds managed to stay mostly neutral. Their feeling being that it was the Homeworld’s fight and their problem, not the colonies concern where things were somewhat different in their own societal structures...
After further years of war, the affluent side--now titled the Dem’ro–began losing the war and sought new supplies and resources off world by raiding their own colonies and neighboring races. The poor side--now called the Tokh–controlled sixty percent of the world’s resources, thanks primarily to the affluent whom had aided them earlier on in the war, and would likely have won the conflict.
That is, if the Dem’ro had not made the mistake of raiding a small colony world of the Bra’aird Empirate. A strong, militant race, they did not take kindly to the incursion and retaliated in force, rapidly destroying all the Skaarg’s colonies and then, set their sights on the Homeworld itself.
I remember my last memory of the Skaarg Homeworld being of thousands of captivating purple, crimson and jade particle blasts leveling the landscape around me...consuming everyone and myself as well.
I returned to the Syntara realm, greeted there by D’ertri.
“If only I could’ve done something to have saved them,” I told him. “But I failed...”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” he explained. “You could not have saved them...they choose the path they would walk and nothing could turn them back from it.”
He smiled ruefully.
“It is the way of things sometimes,” he added. “I know how it is to get attached to a people we are observing, young one. But remember that they are not your kind--it is your role to observe them and not actively interfere.”
It helped a little bit at the time to hear those words from an Elder of our race and eventually I left the Skaarg assignment to fade into memory. After all, I had other assignments to pursue and he was right--they were dead and gone. I could do nothing further for them...
Tempest looked to Face.
“You haven’t said anything,” she noted. “Does this all shock you? That an omnipotent alien could have infiltrated the ranks of your race to observe it and possibly interfere?”
Face smiled that knowing smile at the comment. “Very little surprises me anymore, Tempest. I knew there was more to you then appearances.” He paused, then added, “I suspect there is far more to all this then merely one assignment. How did you come to infiltrate our ranks? And how does all this relate to your current state of mind? Please, do continue...”
Tempest regarded the mysterious Decepticon for a moment, wondering what game he was playing at. Why did he care about her extraordinary life story? Was he hoping to use her to gain access to the Syntara and their power? If so, he would be sorely disappointed...they had all but disowned her from their kind and even if she wanted to, she could not provide any sort of link to their people any further.
Or perhaps he going to inform Megatron? But again, she would not be of any real use in accessing the other Syntara and she would not cooperate in any event. They would be forced to kill her--she just hoped it would be a swift death and not a slow, drawn out one. If Face did plan to tell Megatron, wouldn’t he be in for a shock when it came to light his old enemy Optimus Prime had not perished as he’d thought and instead lived on as a brash young Decepticon warrior!
She decided to continue talking to Face, although she wasn’t sure why. Maybe, it was simply because she needed to tell someone about her life...not a fellow Syntara. Just...someone normal who didn’t know, or care, about their code of conduct and how they did things.
Sometime after that very first assignment, I had performed several other missions, most of which had ended satisfactorily, and I was assigned to the Kn’ree Empirate. They had once been a mighty empire, conquering vast amounts of space and territory--ironically, even the Bra’aird Empire had been destroyed at their hands.
By the time I had been assigned to their people, they had lost some of their military splendor...the governors of their people had grown dissatisfied with their own conquests and might and had instead begun to turn their interests to more...hedonistic pursuits. After all, they reasoned, what good was their Empire if they could not celebrate their own splendor and wealth?
Over the next few decades, their Empire degenerated from within, affected by a general lack of further military conquest in favor of a pleasure-seeking attitude. Also, severe political maneuvering between various governors vying for power of the entire Empire stunted racial unity and set one-time allies against one another.
I observed all this as an affluent business man named Ty’rel. My business interests at the time put me in a perfect position to see all angles of their societal decline. The Syntara had predicted a possibility that one of their leaders of that time, a woman named Jo D’riet’zaar, could successfully rally a large percentage of the Empire into a viable military force once more and pose a threat to neighboring worlds. I was there to observe the ultimate outcome--whether it was one of redemption for the flailing empire or one of continued decay into oblivion.
But what none of us could see or ever suspect in that changing environment was a vast asteroid on a collision course with the Empire’s Homeworld, Konree’s, moon. The impact struck the Homeworld’s satellite, devastating three quarters of it, wiping out two large colonies on the surface and worse off, tearing the moon off it’s orbital axis. This action ruined the two smaller moons adjacent orbits as well and severely disrupted Konree’s weather.
One of the smaller moons then struck the Homeworld and annihilated just over one quarter of the
world--along with the population beneath it. The remainder of the planet became, nearly instantly, uninhabitable.
Few of the Kn’ree survived the cataclysm and those that did, scattered about the universe, seeking out new home worlds as refugees. Their proud heritage forgotten in the wake of their survival...
Ty’rel had been one of the victims in the cataclysm and so I returned to the Syntara realm. Not since the loss of the Skaarg had I felt so dejected about my role in the Universe. I seriously began to wonder why we even bothered doing what we did...what point was there in being in the right place and time to see civilizations fall? Granted, both races had brought their fates upon themselves--the Skaarg by daring to raid the Bra’aird Empire with impunity and the Kn’ree by allowing their people to rot from the inside and failing to keep alert to outside threats.
But still... we had all this great power--could have aided either race or even prevented their downfalls--and were prevented from doing so by our damnable code of ethics.
Our leaders, the Three, had reminded me afterward that we watched, and did not use our Syntara power to interfere with the development of lesser races. The theory being that we would be detected by other great powers and loose our anonymity. We existed to observe galactic powers and ensure they never did anything to upset the great omniversal Balance of Power. For it they ever did, it would surely threaten the entire Multiverse--the very fabric of established reality.
And because of this great responsibility, it was somehow okay to let races destroy themselves and die off in order to prevent what was mostly a theoretical occurrence.
The first time, D’ertri’s words had successfully soothed me in my disappointment over the loss of the Skaarg. But this time, the Three’s attempts to make me believe I had no responsibility for the loss of the Kn’ree failed. I was not so young and inexperienced anymore and I could not be made to believe that our people were innocent of any wrong doing when we could have, and should have, saved these races. How many more would have to be destroyed before we would finally owe up to our true responsibility to help them survive?
But I digress...the next notable moment of my life was several missions later when I was assigned to the Co’k’th.
Unlike the previous two assignments, the serpentine Co’k’th were technologically advanced and not outwardly aggressive. I was a states woman in their race this time and had much power and prestige. The Three had allowed me to take a more active political role in this race and I had designs on keeping the Co’k’th alive and thriving as a people, not to meet up with some sort of disaster.
All had been going quite well on that front too--I had brokered peace with a long time enemy race, the feline Draag. Allowing both races to share resources in their home solar system without shedding blood and angling toward eventual Armageddon. Little did I know at the time that my zest for politics would doom the Co’k’th to their fate as surely as another race or a stray asteroid would.
As I’d said, the Co’k’th were technologically advanced and in a laboratory somewhere, one of them successfully manipulated interspatial harmonics for the first time. It was the bare beginning of an attempt at interdimensional travel and it was a certainty to the Syntara that this race would soon be able to traverse universes.
No other race had ever been able to do so, to my knowledge at the time. And it was this very realization that would doom the Co’k’th to their fate. The Three became aware that several of my fellow statesmen secretly conspired to utilize the technology to raid other universes for resources and return with enough strength to eliminate the Draag once and for all and then stand powerful enough to take on all opposition to their new regime, both from within and without.
Thus, I was ordered to make several military secrets available to the Draag secretly so they would be able to attack us and destroy our kind. Reluctantly, I did so...because I was a Syntara and the Three had ordered it necessary to prevent a new threat from emerging. They were right, of course, but was it really necessary to see an entire people--ten billion innocents in all--die just to prevent a select few in power from utilizing their technology for evil means?
The Co’k’th were annihilated by the Draag in one vicious and brutal strike, all trace of the dangerous new technology was wiped out of existence in the onslaught, never to be rediscovered by the Draag or any other race in that vicinity of space.
I returned to the Syntara realm and was immediately re-assured by the Three that what I had done was the only option and the correct course of action. I was never completely assuaged by that however...and, apparently, I was not the only one either.
My next assignment was a simple one and I was appointed to be a ordinary citizen in a
peace-loving race of bear-like aliens called the Drizzelle. In the middle of my assignment, however, I was recalled to the Syntara realm to help them track down a fellow Syntara that had gone rogue!
It seemed that one of the Three--a male named D’rek’ra Cal’ony’t-th--had believed as I had, that our actions with the Co’k’th were wrong. That we did not have the moral justification to have destroyed the entire race and had gone rogue--determined to use his Syntara powers to actively interfere in the universe and prevent more needless death at Syntara hands.
Unfortunately, I had not yet gotten to the point where the actual thought of challenging the Three’s authority had formed inside my mind. Otherwise, I might have joined D’rek’ra myself... as it was though, I was one of several Syntara in pursuit of him.
All I had considered as I chased him was that his intent was to violate Syntara law--and that could not be permitted. Several of our kind located him and kept him from escape until an ethereal assassin--essentially a pre-programmed energy construct--could be dispatched to kill him and thus remove the dangerous element from our kind.
He pleaded with myself and the others to join him in the rebellion--insisted that even the Three would not easily oppose a group of their own kind. That, together, we could effect a change for the better among our people... but we would not listen, we were all good, loyal Syntara and we permitted his punishment to be carried out.
As shocked and horrified as I had been by the loss of the Co’k’th, I was even more appalled at the time by D’rek’ra’s abandoning our people and going rogue...and scared by the power that was the ethereal assassin--even now, Syntara fear having sentence passed on them and being hunted by a semi-sentient creature that is relentless and almost impossible to stop once it has been unleashed.
In the wake of D’rek’ra’s death, my one-time instructor, D’ertri, was promoted to complete the Three once more.
It seems ironic to me that the Syntara go to such great lengths to insist that they won’t intervene when what they really mean is actively intervene. They may have problems with using their power to directly interfere with a race but clearly we have no compunctions about secretly sabotaging those races and doing what ever’s necessary to prevent them from interfering with the precious Balance...
In the aftermath of these two tragic events, I returned to the Drizzelle and continued my mission...and several other missions afterward...but none of which were really turning points after the events of the Co’k’th.
Finally, I would arrive at a world of living machines called Cybertron in the form of a being called Orion Pax. At this point, I had seen more than enough in my life and was determined to make a difference with these sentient mechanoids.
After a few years working in a factory, I got into local politics and began my rise to the elite of Cybertron’s society, determined not to allow this race to share the fate of so many others before. As the Great War began, I knew it to be the great schism that may end up destroying the Transformers race completely.
I had heard Megatron give one or two speeches as a politician and I knew he had charisma, intelligence and ambition. He could very well have succeeded at his new order and possibly have put
their--our--race’s survival at jeopardy.
I worked hard to rally soldiers everywhere that I could and assembled a small but determined force to make our stand at Iacon. Our force, the Autobots, as they became known, successfully fought him off and challenged his emerging Empire.
Despite millions of years of war and multiple deaths, I kept being returned as Optimus Prime by the Syntara to keep their race on course. I even finished off Unicron when he attacked Cybertron, preventing him from destroying the race for good there.
I think when the Last Autobot resurrected me and merged me with my Human binary partner,
Hi-Q, it made me further sympathetic toward the Transformers race--possibly due to the corrupting influence of the Human Powermaster’s essence within my own.
I knew the Decepticons would return--that Karn was not the last we’d seen of them and I made sure the Autobots could fight onward without me, having constructed a secret base for them to fall back to, if needed. But nineteen years of peace had made me soft. Like the other Autobots, Optimus Prime had grown fatigued from all the millennia of war and death... I didn’t want to have to do it any further and despite a growing feeling that something was amiss right before the Decepticons struck Autobot City, I wasn’t really prepared to resume the Great War. My recent years of combat inactivity worked against me in the resulting fight and I lost to Galvatron.
After my death at Galvatron’s hands, I returned to the Syntara realm and was made aware that a new threat had arose from the Omniverse...a great, powerful race had conquered several universes of Transformers, annihilating every trace of those races in those particular universes...much to the Syntara’s consternation. We forecast a near certainty that they would destroy this universe’s Transformers as well--the Autobots and likely the Decepticons too. I was re-assigned as a female Decepticon to keep watch on Megatron’s new regime from the inside...to wait and watch for the right time...
This is the first time a threat like this has emerged from the Multiverse--the first time the Syntara’s fears have been truly justified. An enemy that has breached the interdimensional void between realms with near ease and impunity is a serious threat to the safety of all reality. We were always watching for something like this--it is the prime reason the Syntara ever placed covert agents like myself in select cultures. We were dedicated to stopping it here and restoring the Balance to its pristine state.
And to that end, there was Sunfire...a bright young Autobot whom had tried to protect her comrades from a Decepticon killing machine named Midnight. By some stroke of coincidence, they had ended up on a world that intersects the Syntara realm. I had seen her potential--her strength of will--when she served under me and placed hope in her that she could become a Harbinger to her people, revealing to them the coming danger of the Enemy.
But it was not to be. Midnight had found Sunfire as she left our realm and killed her in his own sadistic fashion... but he had not suspected I would be there also--and why would he? I had at least gotten the satisfaction of destroying him--for Sunfire’s memory and my own sense of justice.
Of course, it was a violation of the Syntara code to have used my powers directly to kill
Midnight--irregardless of if there was witnesses or not. I had not had time in my schedule to return to the Three and explain my actions to them and this would prove to be my fatal mistake.
I had to pay the ultimate price for my outburst...the Syntara unleashed an ethereal assassin on me that hunted me down and stripped me of my powers--my very core essence as a Syntara, and now I am left to die as a mortal.
It’s funny...they always tell the covert agents in our race not to get too attached to the races we’re observing--to remember we are Syntara first and that all the friends, enemies--the lives we make for ourselves are nothing but cover. But how do you do it? Keep yourself truly objective in your assignment? I wasn’t just a Syntara--I was a Skaarg, a Kn’ree, a Co’k’th and a Transformer among many, many other things. I cared for all those races to some degree...and as I went onward in life, I saw each mistake from the previous race reflected in the next assignment and a determination to change things for the better grew within me, so that all those races that died--that I could have saved--sacrifices weren’t for naught.
I spent an unusually long time with the Transformers...I sent Autobots, both young and old, off to die for our cause because I had begun to believe in it myself--because if I could save the race and prevent the Decepticons from getting the race destroyed by another one, it would be all worth it. If I could prevent other races from suffering the pain that Megatron’s forces would inflict on them it would all mean something in the grand scheme.
Even as Tempest, I strove to keep our people from dying off at the hands of this new
threat--because all my life had been building to this moment....and I needed to save one of my adopted peoples from destruction, just once to know that it had all been worth it. That my work truly meant something and I wasn’t destined to watch as another race burned and died at the hands of a conqueror or some force of nature. Not just to watch passively, but to act...
“That’s it, really,” Tempest said. “My miserable excuse for a life story! All my life, I had to watch innocent races die because of my Syntara code of ethics--and once, I was even directly responsible for destroying one! The one time I did actively interfere...Midnight was destroyed and I was immediately deprived of my powers for it.”
She smiled ruefully. “Ironically, if I had it all to do over again, I still would have killed Midnight...he was a sadistic bastard and he deserved what he got! And Sunfire....poor Sunfire...if only I could have saved her...” her voice trailed off.
She did not bother to voice her thoughts to Face on Sunfire’s love for her...she didn’t see the point, really. And, as much as she’d revealed to him, she didn’t feel right about mentioning it. Sunfire had been so young and innocent...and she had looked up to Optimus Prime, loved him for some reason. Why exactly, Tempest would never know for certain. In some ways, Optimus Prime had admired her too. She’d had so much potential and been so full of life--a refreshing innocence that Tempest had not herself experienced in countless millennia--not since before her time with the Skaarg. Sunfire had not yet had her heart blackened by the horrors and atrocities of four million years of war...but Prime’s failure to finish off the Decepticons permanently had ruined that fragile innocence for Sunfire--and for that, Tempest was genuinely sorry.
And as Sunfire had selflessly pursued Midnight to protect her brethren--despite the imminent danger to her life--Tempest knew that Prime had not been mistaken about her potential. It had not just been the manifestation of imagination for a female she had been attracted to as Prime--it had been real courage and zeal to defend what needed protection. Because it needed done and Sunfire had recognized that...it had the been the manifestation of an inner fire Optimus Prime had only tried to emulate and Tempest flat out admitted to not having.
She turned away from Face and looked out at the star field beyond the ship. “I am nothing without what I was...now, all I can really do is wait for the coming cataclysm in this Universe and be destroyed. Who knows...perhaps the Syntara agent assigned to the task will be able to prevent it. I don’t know...I wish there was something I could do, but I know there’s nothing I can now...”
“And why not?” Face asked her. “You are merely lacking in the extra force that gave you an edge in the past--but you are not dead yet.”
“I might as well be!” Tempest exclaimed, her gaze still locked on the stars. “What can I do now? Sure, Optimus Prime made a small difference out of all my past lives--but he was a big phony! A charade carried on by an omnipotent alien.” She turned to look at Face again. “I am nothing! Without my powers and my assignment from the Syntara--I am nothing!”
Tempest turned her gaze back to the viewport.
“Tell me, did the powers give you the personality? The wisdom? The charisma that the Autobots knew Prime for?” Face stepped slightly closer. “Tempest, Optimus Prime--an apparently powerless
mortal--single-handedly defended Iacon when it counted. He assembled the Autobots and made them fight when they were too scared to otherwise. He personally changed the tide of the War--made it go from a slaughter in Megatron’s favor to an actual battle. Even the Oberon base gave the Autobots a fighting chance in his absence...did your Syntara essence really do all of that? Or did it aide you in doing what you knew to be right?”
“Oh, spare me!” Tempest mocked, although her voice had taken on a tired tone and she was obviously tiring of fighting.
“One person can make a difference,” Face continued. “If they have the will and the heart. Those are two things no Syntara can order someone to have...something no powers can grant you. Either the person has those traits or they do not. Optimus had them...the Syntara who played him had them too...you still have them, Tempest. All you need to do is realize it and make a decision...”
“A decision...?” she asked quietly.
“Yes. About what you are going to do...stay here and wait for the end to come. Or get out there and do something about it--Optimus was personally responsible for turning the tide in the war. How about you? You may still fail if you act...but if you do not, then you will certainly fail because you did not act.”
At that, he turned and left. Tempest listened to his footfalls as he stalked away down the corridor.
He was right and she knew it. She could still make a difference...if she tried. And whether she had the Syntara’s blessings or not, she had to try. Even without powers, she still knew who the players in this game were and where to find most of them. She could not count on the Syntara’s new agent to stop the apocalypse--if the Syntara had even bothered to dispatch a new agent...
Perhaps she had known this was the correct course of action all along...she’d just needed someone to actual vocalize it for her--to clarify the thought in her mind. So many of her adoptive races had perished along the way in her lifetime, would surrendering to her despair have truly accomplished anything?
She had fought for these Transformers before, laughed with them, wept with them...even died for them. Could she do any less now?
But she would need a plan of action first...an approach that might work. After a moment of silent reflection, she turned and moved off down a corridor--there was one place she could try...