The Broken Path, part two: Seeds of the Future

By Thomas Zavier

    When Sunfire awoke, she found herself again suspended in the cylinder of light. She welcomed its brightness, pushing twisted and disturbing dreams from her head.
    There were the usual memories of the death of Optimus Prime on Earth--thrown asunder and now confused by the image of Tempest--seemingly truly a robot in disguise. And throughout the dreaming, particularly near waking, she had felt the disturbing presence of something dark and sinister, a hidden danger, weak but slowly growing in strength while brooding with malice in the shadows.
    Its foul memory was disturbed by, as if on cue, the sound of Tempest’s footsteps approaching. Tempest...could it really be true? That, throughout the years of war, Optimus Prime was merely some kind of demi-god, play-acting the part of the leader and patriot?
    Could this little Decepticon...thing really be Optimus Prime, reincarnated?    
    It was incredible, unbelievable...and yet, when the Syntara spoke, it was with such infinite authority, such embodied wisdom...Sunfire felt compelled by every fibre of her being to believe the words. But this...
    This was personal.
    Tempest was at the foot of the cylinder, looking up at the Autobot with a crooked smile. Her thin, soprano voice called up: “Hello there, sunshine. I guess that was a pretty nasty shock you took. Sorry ‘bout that.”
    “Hmmph!” Sunfire frowned. “What now, er--Optimus?”
    Tempest scowled. “That’s not funny. Optimus Prime is dead. Weren’t you listening back there? I was Prime. Not anymore.”
    “You don’t remember anything?”
    “I remember everything..cleaner and better than your own memories of your own life. But that’s all they are...memories.”
    “So...none of Prime’s personality remains?”
    Tempest lowered her head. “Well--maybe a could say that the treatment you’re getting is Prime’s idea, not mine.”  Tempest waved her hand. The cylinder disappeared and Sunfire fell to the ground.
    “I wish you wouldn’t do that,” Sunfire hissed.
    “Sorry,” Tempest shrugged. “I guess it’s just the Decepticon in me.”

    Tempest led Sunfire back to the Syntara’s chamber, where they found the Three sitting, much like before.
    The First spoke: “While you were recovering, we considered Tempest’s request further. It has been agreed to continue.”
    Sunfire raised an eyebrow. “Continue what?”
    The Second one answered: “Tempest urged us to use you as an instrument in affecting this universe.”
    The First One smiled. “Put more simply, we will educate you. You shall receive information to be carried to your kind.”
    “What type of information?”
     “Details of what has been, and of what is...and of what is to come.”
    Sunfire recoiled. “Are you saying that you can see into the future?”
    The Third One said: “Not quite. We have enough data at our disposal to accurately calculate probabilities in the unfolding of future events. What you see in that regard will be based upon such calculations.”
    “Predictions then?”
    “No. Courses of actuality.”
    Sunfire shook her head. “But why?”
    Tempest spoke up: “They already said that the Balance of Powers in the Omniverse is unsettled. This plane is no exception. In fact, it’s a focal point of outside Forces.”
    Sunfire was suddenly aware of a chair behind her, risen out of the crystal.
    “Sit and be comfortable,” said the Second One. “Your many questions will be answered in succession.”
    “Do not be afraid,” said the Third One. “And do not resist. We shall take total control of your optic and auditory sensors temporarily, to show you what we will. Your understanding and comprehension will still be limited by your mental capacity, however.”
    Sunfire sat down, slowly. She felt a rising tension, a stillness before a storm...
    The First One’s soft and melodious voice filled her ears, only stronger, closer than before: “Be calm, relax, and listen. I will explain as much as I can.”
    Blackness fell like a curtain before Sunfire’s eyes. The First One’s voice continued: “There is the Omniverse, what we call the whole of existence, the combination of all material and astral realms. This vast Omniverse is broken down into countless number of universes that exist within it. Each single universe is composed of any number of separate planes.
    “We Syntara watch over the entire Omniverse. We are virtually omniscient. We observe and record all that we see in every galaxy, star system, on every world and moon and planetoid. We exist simultaneously in every universe, joined in the astral planes. This is how we can reason who is worth additional attention: those lesser races that are the causes of the most ‘important’ events in their respective universes. We call these races Powers.
    “It has long been observed and confirmed that there is a natural Balance of these Powers throughout the entire Omniverse. However, this no longer so. This situation is in the process of changing, deteriorating. Some powers are sprawling outwards, beyond their natural planes, while others are being utterly suppressed. It was only with the greatest reluctance that the Syntara decided that we must attempt to locate the causes of these Imbalances, and correct them.
    “The imbalance from nearby universes has begun to corrupt your own. By taking the information that we are about to give you back to your people, you can help eliminate this problem, on your own power, without further interference from us.
    “You are ready.”

    The world burst into radiance. Sunfire saw bright images of the stars, galaxies...their galaxy. She saw Primus and Unicron, locked in mortal combat...the Last Autobot...the Creation Matrix...all of the Cybertronian War reeled through her head. Every moment of it.
    She saw Earth, ravaged by Decepticon attacks. She looked down into huge Human-made factories, and within were row upon row of towering robots, mechanoids--Autobots and Decepticons--but they stood motionless, headless...
    Across space, Sunfire saw Cybertron, charred and ruined. But then, she saw it built anew, shining and sterile, filled with millions of generic robot-things...the very robots she and her companions had fought in the shuttle.  They were everywhere, all marching around an immense collection of organic tissue, a pulsating sphere suspended upon pillars of coiled metal, tendrils of electricity crackling across it’s pale rose surface...a huge brain for the brainless.
    She skipped across space, past Oberon where scattered groups of Autobots argued and squabbled, lost, leaderless... and then there was fire in the sky.  She moved on, faster and faster, past dozens of small assorted worlds, all cyberformed and remade into miniature Cybertrons...the product of a fierce new Empire.
    The Decepticon Empire! A new, harder breed of Decepticon, wiping the Galaxy clean of Autobot resistance, dominating all life until all is destroyed...she gazed upon its center, its capitol, a huge flying fortress, a warship larger than any ever built before, dark and glorious...
    She looked upon its captain, the Emperor, the ruler of these new Decepticons--and she saw the old ruler of the Decepticons: Megatron, remade! He was the hand that would crush the Autobots utterly in its iron could any of them hope to stand in his way?
    Then, elsewhere, she drifted...seeing a vast nebula swirling before her, its multi-colored gases shimmering and glowing in ever-changing patterns. Inside, cloaked from outside eyes, a small planet rotated, its surface lit by the glow from the nebula. Objects resembling flower blossoms drifted in orbit, maneuvering gracefully around one other, emitting a tangible aura of their eagerness for their next flight. The planet’s surface was lush with plants and bore no evidence of metal or technology...a few scattered buildings dotted the surface, domes and spires seemingly grown from the plants themselves.  Sunfire saw one of the natives, a humanoid of ethereal beauty and grace, donning body-armor that literally grew tightly around her body. Clenching a fist, she sent a bolt of energy crackling skyward...her expression was one of malicious glee.
    And then Sunfire was swept away from the planet, away from her galaxy, and even from her own universe and plunged into a swirling inferno of energy that she somehow knew to be the interdimensional void between universes...where surely, in this raging storm of elemental fire, nothing could survive...
    But Sunfire’s heart sank and her fluids chilled as she suddenly realized that something was stretched out before her, vast and terrible, an immense fleet of huge battleships, arranged rank-and-file as far as she could see...they were numbered beyond count, black shadows against the blinding fire, a massive armada of death that lurked here, in the void, hiding, waiting...
    It all spun around her, she felt burned by the fire, her head ready to explode...she could take no more, blackness falling upon her as the First One called her back...

    Sunfire found herself, sitting before the Three, with a terrible headache. Everything seemed dim at first, but steadily brightened as she tried to see, and hear...
    “It was too much,” said the Second One. “She will remember nothing...”
    “No,” the First One replied. “It was just enough.”
    Tempest was smiling sweetly. “Are you okay, Sunfire? How do you feel?”
    “Awful,” Sunfire muttered. “But I guess I’ll be fine.”
    “What do you remember?”
    “Not all that much...mostly images and feelings...horrible feelings.”
    Said the Third One: “I feared as much. The Transfer of Records is incomplete. Her capacity is too limited.”
    The First One sighed: “It will have to suffice.”
    “But,” Sunfire stood up. “What am I supposed to do with all of it?”
    “Share it with all who will listen. In communication, you will gain understanding. In time, all will be understood.”
    Sunfire nodded groggily. “I guess so.”
    The First One smiled. “Your time here is complete. We will release you, now. Please remember, however, that what you have seen is not necessarily what must be. The future is shaped by the actions of the past. And even we Syntara cannot completely account for random chance, which may bring new hope, or peril. Farewell.”
    Sunfire bowed slightly, as Tempest took her shoulder and led her from the chamber.

    There was a sudden blinding flash of light and a wave of disorientation. Sunfire suddenly realized that she was in a stone-walled cavern, very much like the one she had been in--perhaps what, days?--earlier. Tempest was still beside her.
    “This is the middle crust,” Tempest said, “and a very calm area of Cindras, at the moment. This isn’t that far from where we found you, actually. Come on--I’ll lead you out.”  Tempest strode forward confidently.
    “And where are we going?” asked Sunfire, following.
    “I have a ship in orbit, and a report to Megatron to falsify.” Tempest smiled devilishly.
    “Megatron?” Sunfire shuddered. “You work for him now?”
    “So he thinks,” Tempest chuckled. “He sent me out this way, looking for Midnight.”
    “Did you--find anything?”
    “Nah. Probably completely melted, like you should have been. Still, it’s an interesting set of coincidences, how this all worked out.”
    Sunfire didn’t reply.
    Tempest looked at her, smiling slightly. “You did really good back there, Sunny. Optimus would’ve been proud of you.”
    Sunfire stopped, staring. “I suppose so.”
    “You’re still fighting his war, Sunfire,” Tempest said, lowering her voice. She stood, smiling back at Sunfire. “It hasn’t been all for nothing. You’re bringing new hope to your people--all your people--something he can no longer do. He would have wanted it this way.”
    Sunfire lowered her gaze. In a husky whisper, she said: “I loved him, you know. More than anything.”
    “Yes,” Tempest nodded slowly. “He knew.”
    Sunfire looked up, optics wide. “What?”
    “He knew it.”
    Tempest smiled softly, her harsh yellow optics seeming to dim slightly. “You’re a lousy actress, Sunny--he could tell. It brought him limitless joy, only in secret, and endless pain, because he couldn’t return your feelings.”
    “Why--why not?”
    Tempest frowned. “His heart belonged to his people, to Cybertron, and to the Syntara also. But, more importantly, his heart was hardened and darkened by the War...he couldn’t believe it was ever over, and concern over it held his soul in chains until he died.”
    Tempest took Sunfire’s hand module, clasping it gently in hers. “But he always wanted to, tried to... but he couldn’t bring himself to speak of it. Not even at the end, though he tried so hard.”
    Sunfire trembled, drawing back her hand. “I...I understand.”
    Tempest nodded, and smiled broadly. “He knew you would. It would’ve made him quite happy to actually have this conversation in life...but late’s still better than never. And I guess it cheers me up too, somehow. C’mon.”
    Tempest stepped forward swiftly, eager to return to her space craft. She’d already walked several paces when suddenly she was thrown aside, crashing against the wall with a gaping slash across her torso.
    Sunfire fell, sprawling, struggling as an invisible force took held of her limbs and tore them asunder, shredding her body in a wild, vicious fury, so quickly and completely that she didn’t even scream as her head was sheared from her body in a final killing stroke.
    The head rose, seeming to hover as the air above the body seemed to ripple and quiver, revealing the black dragon-like form of her killer: Midnight. But now he was not sleek and stealthy, but instead scrawny and ragged, and yet sufficiently regenerated to be lethal and his cloaking device was working again.
    He held Sunfire’s head aloft in his claws, cackling in manic triumph; his optics ablaze with hatred and madness. “Yess!” he hissed. “At lasst! Successs!” He recoiled, coughing suddenly, and sputtered: “I found you, little one...yes, and fulfilled my promise...” He hissed long and low, and menacing. “You are my masterpiece!”
    Midnight turned to look at Tempest, seeming to just notice her. Sunfire’s head module fell from his grasp as he cried:  “Tempest? What are you doing here? Has Megatron sent a search party?”
    Tempest leaned against the wall, clasping a hand to her bleeding belly and trembling in a blinding rage. “ murderous fiend! You monster! You’ve ruined everything!”
    Midnight recoiled, growling. “That’s insubordination, little fool...I should roast you for it.”
    “I’ll show you insubordination.” Tempest focused, tensed, drew upon all the power of her being in her anger, her fury...
    Midnight reared up with a shriek, and fell, thrashing around violently as every single molecule in his body tore itself apart, particle by particle...he became a frothing, fizzing heap as he bubbled and melted and burned down to elemental hydrogen, a slow, bizarre, and painful, death as he was reduced to a puff of fiery nothing.
    Tempest had broken Syntara tradition; but she was exhausted and running behind Megatron’s expected schedule. There would be opportunities to discuss her actions with the Three another time. Now, she needed to recover from over-exertion, and fulfill her role as a Decepticon scout.
    She gathered up Sunfire’s remains and threw them into a lava pool to melt. Then, after a brief moment of requiem, she left.
    So passed Sunfire of the Autobots, taking with her many dark secrets and many a hope for the future.