Balance of Power


            “Megatron!” Tempest exclaimed. She glanced at Sunfire. “We’ve got to make certain he doesn’t open fire and ruin things.”

            “Open a comm channel through to him,” Sunfire said to Hot Rod. “And let’s hope he’s in the mood to listen.”

            Hot Rod looked to Skyfall and nodded.

            “Channel open,” Skyfall announced. “You’re on.”

            Sunfire stepped forward into the sensor’s input zone. “Greetings Megatron,” she began. “My name is Sunfire. Despite appearances here, we are not your enemies. Far from it, in fact.“

            ”And yet, you have stolen one of my vessels and surrounded one of my worlds with a fleet of warships,” the other responded. “You have an interesting definition of friend.”

            “Surely you’ve scanned us and seen a large contingent of Autobot ships,” Sunfire explained. “We did not steal your vessel, merely came here to stop it from attacking Tangar colony and destroying it. We–”

            “You admit that vessel you are on is the one that attacked and destroyed both Tarius and Denalios,” Megatron cut her off. “And why should Autobots come to stop the destruction of their enemy, hmm? Even if it is piloted by rogue Autobots, it is only to your benefit to see us die rather then fight against them.”

            “Interesting,” Tempest muttered to Hot Rod. “He knows about your group.”

            “We caught several Decepticon spies on Oberon,” Sonimus explained. “The last ones caught after Hot Rod and the others left–it’s conceivably possible he learned what happened.”

            “And you, a human claiming to speak for the Autobots despite what occurred on your own homeworld as a result of our interference,” Megatron was saying nearby. “Tell me, fleshling, are those bizarre ships among the fleet new allies of yours? Perhaps ones that have given you an upper hand against the Autobots. Do you wish to try to use them against us as well?”

            “Don’t be absurd, Megatron,” Tempest spoke up, moving into the sensor area so he could see her as well. “None of the humans here are any threat to you.”

            “Tempest?!” Megatron exclaimed, a look of surprise flashing across his face before he could suppress it beneath his usual icy veneer. “Have you abandoned us now to take up with the Autobots?”

            “Maybe if you’d shut up for a moment I could tell you,” Tempest snapped. Sunfire suppressed a smile at her comrade’s blatant comment, reminding herself that the other’s cover was supposed to have been one of a tempestuous Decepticon female–an identity she’d largely abandoned of late.

            The other looked surprised at her comment but decided not to respond with deadly force. “Very well,” he said instead. “Entertain me with your sad tale...”

            “You already know about the rogue Autobots but you don’t see the big picture here,” Tempest continued. “These humans were behind the Disciples and had sworn a vendetta against our kind. They burned with the need to destroy all of us–but all of that changed when Sunfire here convinced them to abandon it in favor of an alliance against an even deadlier threat.”

            The other looked unimpressed. “And would that be the Decepticon Empire, then?” he asked. “Surely you can weave a better tale then tha–“

            ”I’m not finished,” Tempest interrupted. “The real Enemy here is your Benefactors, Megatron. None of our petty squabbles are anything compared to the threat they represent. If you don’t stand down right now, they’ll have won.”

            “Don’t you see?” Sunfire added. “This is exactly what they want you to do! Destroy the Autobots and the Masters, leaving only one side to fight against them!” She paused. “If you destroy us, you will doom yourself as well.”

            The other was silent a moment, considering. “Tell me human, what do you know of my Benefactors?”

            She met his gaze. “Everything.”

            “We must unite against them, Megatron,” Tempest said. “I know you are a part of a world where no one trusts anyone. But this one time, you must trust us and stand down. Be that reasonable person I know you are at your core and join us...”

            Face moved into the hologram alongside Megatron.

            “Face!” Megatron exclaimed. “What are you doing?”

            “I believe them, Commander,” he replied. “There is certainly another force at work here, manipulating us, controlling our every move. Surely you can sense it as well.”

            Megatron was silent a moment, seemingly staring off at nothing. Sunfire knew he was thinking the matter over, trying to come to a quick decision.

            “Very well,” he said finally. “We shall stand down. For now. But I want to know everything you have to say about my Benefactors. No games, no stalling–or I might just be inclined to forget my generosity here.”

            She nodded. “No games,” she agreed. “Just the truth...”

            “Enemy weapons are no longer targeted on our position,” Sludge announced from his console, a definite tone of relief present in his voice as he spoke.

            “So... now what?” Hot Rod asked.

            “It’s time to get to the bottom of this,” Sunfire replied. “We need to–“

            She was cut off mid-sentence by a burst of white light and when her vision cleared she was somewhere else.

            “Megatron!” she heard Tempest say beside her. She glanced up to see Megatron seated nearby. He was flanked by Face and Soundwave.

            “I was not prepared to wait any further to find out what I need to know,” he said unapologetically. “Tell me about my Benefactors. Who are they and what do they want?”

            “There was no need to beam us over,” Sunfire retorted, noting that only she and Tempest had been taken. Likely they were the easiest to snag since they were directly visible on the comm channel. “Everyone needs to hear what I have to say.”

            “The channel’s still open,” Megatron replied. “But I am afraid I must insist on a front row seat for this information.”

            “Sunfire! Tempest! Are you all right?” Hot Rod asked from the comm system.

            Tempest nodded. “We’re both fine, Hot Rod,” she said. “Stand by.”

            Sunfire regarded Megatron a moment, gathering her thoughts. “Very well,” she spoke finally. “You want to know about the Armada, fine. Let’s start at the beginning. Your Benefactors are–“

            A siren wailed, breaking into the conversation.

            “Incoming signals!” A Decepticon said nearby. “Multiple signals, all around us.”

            “Confirmed!” Another one replied.

            Sunfire glanced up in time to see dark shapes fill the view ports beyond them. They were everywhere she gazed, blocking out the stars with their mass.

            “We’re too late!” Tempest snapped. “They’re here!

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            Hot Rod watched in awe as a fleet of massive vessels materialized in the void around them. The ships had not dropped out of hyperspace–he was familiar with the warping effect that caused and had seen no evidence of it in their arrival. They simply appeared where they had not been mere moments before.

            “Multiple targets,” Sludge said nearby. “We’re effectively surrounded.”

            The newcomers ships were large although there seemed to be some variety among their ranks. Some vessels were smaller, like escorts or interceptors possibly. Still, they were an impressive sight to behold and he wondered if they could handle a foe as powerful as their enemy appeared to be.

            He’d been such a fool! He’d wasted far too much time pondering the Decepticons and fighting them that he’d failed to consider any other threats that might be out there. If it hadn’t been for Sunfire’s timely arrival, even now they’d be in a battle against their own kind and easy prey for this new foe.

            Outside the bridge he noticed beams of light being emitted from the new arrivals. He swiftly called up the sensor readings on the command console before him.

            “It’s started,” Sonimus said nearby. “She was right. All along.”

            Hot Rod watched silently as the enemy vessels unleashed several long shots of energy, cutting into an Autobot warship, destroying it instantly. Another shot struck a Decepticon dreadnaught, carving into pieces before those fragments too ignited.

            “We can’t allow this to continue!” Sonimus exclaimed. “I have to contact Grid Iron!”

            He nodded. “Do it, then.”

            “Orders, sir?” Cliffjumper asked from his console.

            Hot Rod regarded the screen in front of him a beat.

            “Target the nearest capital ship you can find and hit it with everything we’ve got!”

            “Even the warheads?” Roadbuster interjected. “Or...?”

            “I said everything!” Hot Rod snapped. “They’re not playing around. We fight hard–or we die!

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            Sunfire was surprised as the Dark Storm opened fire with it’s full arsenal, the first ship of the Alliance to truly fight back in the initial chaos of their enemy’s arrival. In only moments, it’s Quantum warheads tore one of the large enemy ships to shreds, forcing it to limp back and off, defeated. However, the rogue Autobot force wasn’t ready to leave it alone and unleashed two more warheads as the vessel turned, both striking it’s alien drive systems and tearing the behemoth apart from behind.

            “Interesting,” Megatron observed as his own crews rushed to return fire on the Armada. “It seems our Enemy is not indestructible.”

            “No,” Tempest agreed nearby. “But don’t get overconfident. A victory here or there is still not the entire war.”

            The other smiled at that. “Well spoken, Tempest. Perhaps you do have the heart of a warrior in you after all.”

            “Enemy vessels are deploying fighter screens,” Skyquake said. “Multiple squadrons headed our way.”

            “Order all squadrons to battle then,” Megatron replied. “Show them what it means to take on the Decepticon Empire!”

            “Autobot vessels and organic ships are joining the battle,” Soundwave announced nearby.

            “Let us hope your comrades and our new allies are effective in this fight,” Megatron spoke.

            “I believe they can hold their own,” Sunfire responded, turning back to him. “If we put up a united front perhaps we can survive this yet.”

            Megatron nodded. “Perhaps.”

            “Observe!” Face pointed to something outside one of the portals.

            Sunfire moved up to the viewport and gazed outward as five of the enemy fighters dropped in low and fast to the Dark Glory’s hull and seemingly morphed, becoming their robot forms in one effortless move.

            “They’re Transformers!” Tempest snapped, beside her. “Like us–but different...”

             “More evolved,” Face agreed.

            The trio watched as the ship’s automated defenses swiftly dispatched the squadron, ending their threat in one foul strike. There was nothing left of their enemy when the guns had finished firing.

            “More advanced,” Tempest mused. “But apparently not any smarter...”

            “Be thankful for that,” Face replied. “A weapon is only as effective as the skill of the warrior who welds it.”

            “Our enemy isn’t infallible,” Sunfire agreed. “But they still have numbers and great strength. We can’t afford to underestimate them.”                                      

            “No argument here,” Tempest said. “Despite all we’ve seen, it’s possible that–“

            She was cut off as the deck shook violently, causing them to grasp for support to avoid being thrown about.

            “One of the capital ships has locked on to our position,” Nightracer announced nearby. “They’re throwing everything they’ve got at us!”

            “Shields to maximum!” Megatron ordered.

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            “We just lost the Raven’s Strike!” Beachcomber exclaimed. “Enemy forces closing on our starboard flank!”

            “Order the Valiant Star and Polar Claw to close the hole,” Grid Iron ordered. “I don’t know how long they’ll last but we’ve got to keep our line closed up. If they get through, we’re finished!”

            “Four of the Masters ships are also moving to intercept the enemy,” Throttle announced.

            “Let’s hope they’re as powerful as Sunfire claimed then,” Grid Iron muttered.

            Things weren’t going good. Once the enemy Armada she’d pulled them here to fight had appeared, they’d targeted many of the smaller ships and he’d lost at least ten ships in the opening volley Only Hot Rod’s vessel had managed to take one of their capital ships thus far and that was only one of several hundred. Add to that, their fighters were more then a match for his smaller ships. He’d swiftly deployed as many of his own flyers as he could, hoping to keep the vessels protected with the smaller snub fighters. The strategy had paid off thus far but he was losing flyers by the minute.

            The Masters vessels had been extremely helpful in maintaining their sphere of defense thus far but even they could only do so much. The Decepticons had largely been ignoring them thus far, apparently concerned more about defending their own space fleet then the collective whole.

            Finally, Rad had determined that the Armada was generating some kind of interference field that was keeping them all from retreating into hyperspace. It was good in the sense that their allies couldn’t up and flee to preserve their own skin but bad because it prevented the Autobots from doing the very same. Like it or not, they were all in this together... he just hoped the Decepticons realized that before it was too late and the Autobots and Masters were annihilated.

            It had all come down to this, hadn’t it? He’d harbored so much guilt over not coming to the Autobots aid on Earth and Cybertron months ago when the Decepticons had re-emerged at full strength and now he’d get his chance to go out like a hero.

            Or perhaps go out like a candle flame, snuffed out in one simple gesture...

            No! He wouldn’t die for nothing! If they were going to perish then he would go out fighting and do his damndest to make it mean something. Tempest was right–they weren’t just in this for themselves. They were doing this for everyone–all the innocents out there, the humans, the Masters and legions of Transformers dragged into this mess that didn’t want any part of it. All they’d asked for was to be left alone and free to live their own lives but instead they were fighting for their very existence! Could he do any less?

            “Keep up the good work, Autobots,” he said. “This is our chance to be heroes! Let’s make it count for something!”

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            “Shield capacity is only at seventy five percent power,” Skyquake announced. “If they keep up a sustained bombardment we won’t be able to resist it for long.”

            The ship rocked again.

            “A second capital ship has joined the assault on us,” Nightracer chimed in, her tone unsettled.

            Megatron considered the read-outs on the console before his seat. “Lock all primary weapons on one of the ships and hit them with everything!”

            Face turned to Sunfire. “If there is anything you can do to aid our cause, this would be an excellent opportunity.”

            She nodded. “I’m on it!” She knelt on the deck and closed her eyes, concentrating.

            “Shields are holding,” Skyquake announced nearby. “They seem to be... absorbing the energy of the incoming attacks somehow.” He shrugged. “No further damage being registered to our systems.”

            Megatron glanced to the nearby human as she concentrated. “It appears I may have underestimated Sunfire’s capacity to aid our cause...” He looked up. “Take out one of those ships while we have the chance.”

            “Firing all weapons on Target One,” Nightracer announced.

            A volley of energy and projectiles rained down upon one of the capital ships beyond them, striking it again and again with deadly blows. At first, their enemy’s own shields resisted the impacts but eventually even their technology proved no match for the relentless volley of the Dark Glory’s weapons.

            “Target One is sustaining damage,” Nightracer announced. “Forty percent damage to the hull.”

            “Let’s make it one hundred percent,” Megatron hissed. “Destroy them!”

            “With pleasure,” she replied.

            “Look!” Tempest exclaimed, grabbing Megatron’s attention.

            Beyond them, the shields glowed and emitted a stream of energy off their raidus. The lance of energy struck the other Armada vessel that had been attacking them, cutting through it’s shield systems and plunging into the ship directly. In another moment, the blast cut through the middle of it’s mass, surging upward and through it’s hull, rending it in two.

            “Sunfire re-directed the energy they’d thrown at us back at them,” Tempest said. “Exit one Armada ship!”

            Megatron nodded, satisfied. If he had been further impressed by the display he showed no sign of it.

            “Our target is eliminated,” Nightracer announced. “Two down...”

            Beyond them, the other attacker’s hull was aflame in multiple spots and finally erupted in a massive explosion, ending it’s threat for good.

            “Well done,” Skyquake said nearby.

            “Indeed,” Megatron agreed. He turned to Tempest, Face and Sunfire, who had risen once more and joined them. “However, it’s clear there are far too many of our enemy out there. Sooner or later, despite our best efforts, we will be picked off and eliminated.”

            “You’re right,” Tempest replied. “We need to find some advantage over them if we hope to win.”

            “Sever the head of the serpent and the body must fall,” Face chimed in.

            “We need to find some way to bring this fight directly to their leaders, The Core,” Sunfire piped up. “Most likely they’re in the middle of that mass somewhere.” She closed her eyes, concentrating. “I think I can locate them...”

            “Do so, then,” Megatron replied. “We are outnumbered and outgunned but as you’ve pointed out, not outwitted.” He tapped a sequence on a keypad before him. “Terrorwing,” he began. “Bring the Legion and our reinforcements. It is time to show our hand...”

            “As you command, Megatron!” the reply came.

            Beyond them, a force of vessels emerged from hyperspace. Many were the small fleet of Decepticons called the Grey Legion, Terrorwing’s elite personal unit of warriors. Others, however, had a familiar, wedge-shaped look about them.

            “Are those...?” Tempest asked.

            Megatron nodded. “Indeed. The Disciples warships... after we defeated them above Cybertron, I had our technicians refit them so we could control them remotely. They will not win us this war, however, they will give our opponents something else to shoot at. If we’re fortunate, perhaps they will also take a few of enemy with them.”

            “Disciples being deployed,” Skyquake announced nearby. “Their drones are meeting our enemy’s fighter screens and engaging them.”

            “The codes to control them are the best the Empire has developed,” Megatron explained. “They cannot be hacked or overridden. I am confident the Armada will not realize they are remote controlled drones in the midst of this heated battle. However, should they make a serious attempt to try and take control of them, the Disciples will self destruct before such control will succeed.”

            “It sounds as if you have covered all the contingencies there,” Tempest said.

            “When my life may depend on it, I do not believe in leaving things to chance,” Megatron replied. He gazed at Sunfire. “It is your turn. Find us the Core and we will devise a plan to take this fight to our enemy directly.”

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            Midnight watched as the Armada and the Alliance of Decepticons, Autobots, Masters and Disciples engaged one another in a colorful display of death and daring.

            The culmination of years of manipulation by his new Master had finally come to fruition. And it was beautiful! The death, the suffering, the sheer cruelty of it all...

            Yet, he wasn’t really supposed to be here and he couldn’t join in on the fun merely watch as it happened.

            He had a job to do, of course. To traverse time and space itself to hunt down the remaining Syntara and end their miserable lives to give Autaras the opportunity at victory here he so desperately craved. He had already hunted down over half of them, using his mastery of time travel to kill them before they could even react or warn their brethren of what was happening. The Syntara were powerful but not omnipotent and that had given him the opportunity to hunt them as he went.

            In return, Autaras had promised to eliminate Tarallax for him, once and for all. His former Master was far too dangerous to be left alive and Midnight knew he would be prone to revenge on his rogue servant, sooner or later. Especially if his machinations regarding reality were allowed to reach fruition.

            Watching the battle, Midnight knew this would be the last stand for the Transformers. Until now, they’d managed to be fortunate enough to survive the Armada but that wouldn’t last long. Shortly, the Armada would overwhelm and destroy them completely and this Universe would join the list of ones wiped clean by the advanced race.

            Except for him, of course...

            But then... why leave him alive either, he wondered. What if Autaras planned to use him to eliminate the Syntara and then dispose of him afterward? Certainly he had his own Transformers as well–but they were of the Armada itself. A part of their kind not a lowly outsider...

            He did not fear death, of course. He was merely its instrument and in time, perhaps even it would demand his life force as penance for all the life he had taken and still planned to take. Whenever he did finally die, he knew it would be grand, glorious. No other end was befitting of such an artist of oblivion.

            If Autaras did plan to betray him ultimately, however, why not provide a little insurance of his own? Certainly two could play that game... Perhaps when the time came, he’d leave one of the Syntara alive and able to throw a wrench into Autaras’ plans. After all, it was the least he could do–and one turn deserved another, didn’t it?

            Midnight gave one last glance at the battle beyond, reveling in it’s sheer carnage then sighed and leapt into the time stream.

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            Another capital ship erupted in a massive explosion as the Dark Storm finished unleashing it’s quantum warheads on the unsuspecting vessel.

            The bridge rocked violently, forcing Hot Rod to cling to his seat to avoid being thrown out.

            “We’re being attacked by another capital ship,” Sludge announced.

            The ship shuddered again.

            “Another capital ship has moved in,” Sludge said. He regarded his console. “It looks like two more are moving in on our position.”

            “Four?!” Hot Rod exclaimed. “How many warheads do we have left?”

            Cliffjumper looked at his console. “Only two!” he exclaimed.

            “Damn!” Hot Rod called up the sensor data on the console before him. “All right,” he began. “Hit one of the targets with both and then hit them with our regular weapons. We’ve got to try and break out of this!”

            The bridge shook several more times as the four capital ships opened fire in sequence.

            “Shields are holding,” Top Spin said. “But just barely. We’re at fifty percent power and if they keep this up, we won’t have even that!”

            “Warheads have struck their target,” Cliffjumper announced. “One of the ships has suffered serious damage. Targeting it and opening fire with everything we’ve got!”

            The bridge shook violently as the enemy returned fire once again. Something above him came loose in an explosion and began spewing gas. Hot Rod glanced at Rapture and Militant Prime nearby.

            “We’d best get you to safety,” he said. “Just in case the worst happens...”

            “Beam them to the Dark Glory,” Sonimus spoke up. “It’s the next safest place to be at the moment...”

            “If there’s anywhere safe to be around here,” Rapture muttered.

            He nodded. “Good idea.” He looked at Snarl. “You heard her. Get it done!”

            The Dinobot nodded. “Transporting now!”

            Nearly instantly, the two humans were enveloped in light and disappeared to the safety of the other Cybertron-class ship.

            “Target destroyed,” Cliffjumper announced nearby. “Starting on target two.”

            The ship shook violently and somewhere the distinct sound of rending metal could be heard.

            “Shields at twenty percent,” Top Spin announced. “We’re not going to make it, Hot Rod!”

            Hot Rod regarded the ship and their opposition, considering his options. “Snarl, lock onto everyone on this ship and send us to the Dark Glory–on my signal.”

            Snarl manipulated some controls. “Ready, boss.”

            “Cliffjumper, set course for the nearest capital ship, full throttle,” he ordered. “If we’re going down, we’ll do our best to take them with us!”

            “Course locked in,” Cliffjumper announced. “Initiating, now!”

            Hot Rod rose and looked around the bridge. It had been a nice tool in their arsenal while they’d had it...

            “Snarl–do it!


            The world went white and when it came back into focus, Hot Rod was slightly further away from where he’d started. This time, though, Megatron occupied the command console he’d just vacated and the entire bridge was fully staffed with Decepticon personnel.

            Peripherally, he noted movement outside the view ports of the bridge and turned in time to see the Dark Storm as it collided with another vessel, tearing itself apart in one final climactic strike. The ship it collided with also exploded in the impact, lessening the threat of their enemy by one more.

            “It’s a shame you had to give up the ship,” Megatron commented. “Still one cannot argue with the end result.”

            Tempest regarded the group of Autobots. “I assume you all got off the ship in time?”

            Hot Rod glanced around, accounting for all of his rogues. “Looks like it, yep.”

            She nodded, smiling. “I’m glad to hear it.”

            “We must find some way to resolve this conflict before we are all destroyed,” Face chimed in.

            “I suppose you’ve got some idea on how to do that, Decepticon?” Roadbuster snapped nearby.

            Face simply smiled. “Perhaps...”

            “I’ve got it!” Sunfire’s eyes snapped open. “The Core! I know where they are!”

                                    *                                    *                                    *

          The location of the Core was back far from the Dark Glory, near to the center of the fleet of massive warships yet closer to the rear edge of it. The vessel they occupied was large, more like a spatial complex of some sort then a ship proper. It’s mass was vast yet it’s location seemed almost like it was trying to keep from harm–the bulk of the fleet keeping it safe in the event the Armada needed to engage in physical combat, like was the case this occasion.

            The corridor they materialized in was quiet and dimly lit. The walls were coated in a red-purple metallic substance of some sort that Sunfire didn’t recognize while the deck seemed like standard metallic grating. Dual strips of blue lights provided soft illumination on the floor and added to the dim illumination of the corridor.

            “So far so good,” Tempest said beside her.

            Sunfire glanced up at her, noting the female Decepticon had her laser rifle drawn and at the ready. Beyond them, Sonimus Prime, Megatron, Face, Hot Rod and his rogues as well as two battalions of Decepticons stood at the ready. To her left, Militant Prime and Rapture rounded out the group as its sole human compliment.

            “We are not far from the center of the ship,” Megatron spoke up. “This corridor seems vaguely familiar. Although they all looked similar the last time I was here so I cannot be certain we are in the right place.”

            “I guess we’ll just have to play things by audio receptor then,” Tempest replied. “Come on!” She turned and began to lead the assorted group down the corridor. Megatron glanced at Sunfire, shrugged slightly and began to follow.

            A group of Transformers suddenly charged around a bend at the end of the hallway, their weapons at the ready.

            “We’ve got company!” Tempest yelled, dropping and firing her rifle as she did. Her shots managing to strike two of the enemy before they could react. One dropped while the other stumbled back behind cover, dragging his arm as he went.

            “We do not have the time for this!” Megatron fired his shoulder cannon, the energy beam lighting up the corridor with it’s power. The blast struck the group of Transformers dead center, killing most of them in one shot. Sunfire noted a few stragglers managed to dodge the assault in the nick of time.

            “Our turn!” Hot Rod and the Dinobots charged forward, not waiting for anyone else. He threw himself at the nearest enemy he could find, dropping both of them to the floor as he did. He rose faster then his opponent, slamming his fist clear through his enemy’s chest plating.

            “Fool!” The other hissed. The chest cavity quickly morphed and flowed, closing around Hot Rod’s arm as it did. “You should’ve made sure I was dead! You won’t get another attempt!”

            Hot Rod said nothing, instead quickly moving his free arm into position and firing his photon blasts into the other’s head module, destroying it. The Transformer dropped lifelessly to the ground, forcing him to have to free himself from it’s shell.

            Around him, Sludge, Snarl, Skreem and Skeer made short work of their remaining opposition. Their brute force being no match for their beleaguered opponents.

            “That appears to be the last of them,” Skreem said, checking around him.

            “I expected more out of these chumps!” Snarl growled. “This was too easy.”

            “Perhaps,” Megatron agreed. “Stay alert, though. I suspect this battle has only begun.”

            “Always, Decepticon,” Skeer retorted. “Always!”

            “Lets get back to finding the Core,” Sunfire chimed in. “We need to remember why we’re here.”


            Militant Prime glanced at the corridor walls nearby as Sunfire made her comments. There was something odd about them, he could feel it.

            “What’s wrong?” Rapture asked beside him.

            “The walls here,” he replied. “There is something unusual about them... thou art neither solid nor organic like thy own.” He reached out and touched them, sensing with his mind. “Thou art metal... yet alive too. Thou hath never encountered anything like it before.”

            “Combining the best of both?” she wondered. “Hmm.”

            “It would appear to be so,” he replied. He glanced around the corridor even as the large group began moving forward after Sunfire, Tempest and Megatron. “What manner of beast doth we fight here?”

            “I honestly don’t know, Militant,” Rapture said. “But I suspect we will find out shortly...”

            He met her gaze. “Let us pray that will not be too late.” He closed the visor on his helmet and turned to follow after the others. Rapture followed immediately after him.


            The group rounded the bend in the corridor and swiftly discovered a large portal at the far end of the hallway.

            “This looks like the right place,” Megatron spoke aloud. “Be on your guard!”

            As if being overheard by some unseen presence, two Transformers stepped out of the walls next to the door. Their guns were already drawn as they formed. Two more stepped out behind them and then two more beyond that.

            Megatron wasted no time firing his shoulder cannon, catching one of the warriors before they could fire. Tempest dropped against the wall, firing off two blasts as she did. Her shots missed but ended up forcing their opponents to move for cover instead of catching their group exposed.

            “If we’re not in the right place then they sure believe in their security around here!” Tempest snapped.

            Cliffjumper moved out and fired off his shoulder gun, catching two more of the sentries beyond and effectively shredding them.

            “Get them!” Sludge snapped. He ducked out with the other three Dinobots and fired in unison, their weapons striking their three remaining opponents before they could react. The trio dropped lifelessly, leaving their path clear.

            “Let us not be delayed any further,” Megatron said, leading the charge toward the portal. The others swiftly followed behind him.

            With one swift blast of his shoulder cannon, the entry way was cleared and they wasted no time entering the adjacent chamber.

            Beyond them, was a broad area that was encircled with the blue floor lights. The rest of the chamber was darkened and it was impossible to see how large the room might be. Before anyone could comment, bright lights switched on and illuminated humanoid figures sitting in a circular alcove above them.

            “Greetings, Megatron” a figure above them, in the middle of the alcove spoke. “We’ve been expecting you...”

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            Terrorwing watched the battle from his command ship, the Centurion. Despite their triumphant entrance to the battle earlier, things were not going well for the Empire.

            The fleet of recovered Disciple warships and drones had gone far to keeping the Empire’s ships and their allies from suffering an instant death at the hands of the Armada but it was only a delaying tactic at best. The Armada was vast and powerful and aside from the actions of the Dark Glory and the Dark Storm, the Alliance had failed to eliminate any of their mother ships. They were too big and too powerful for conventional weapons to do much and escape from this battle was impossible–not that he planned to at any rate.

            “We’ve lost another Disciple ship,” Cryon said nearby. “Sector Ten is weakening.”

            “Indeed,” Terrorwing replied. “Have two of the Disciple battleships reinforcement it. We cannot allow the Armada a clear shot at our own fleet.”

            Cryon sent a message to the commander of those ships and they instantly remote-controlled the drone vessels to follow Terrorwing’s orders.

            “This doesn’t look too good for us, does it?” he said quietly to Terrorwing. “At best, we’re in a holding action–and we’re rapidly running out of ships.”

            Terrorwing nodded. “It’s grim,” he agreed. “But if we must die, we shall go down fighting. We are still Decepticons, Cryon. And the Grey Legion surrenders to no one, no matter the cost!”

            “I just wish we could live a little longer,” the other quipped. “But the sentiment is a worthy one, just the same.”

            “The battle’s not over yet, old friend,” Terrorwing replied. “Perhaps we’ll get to die nobly, going out with guns blazing.” He regarded the view screen. “Certainly with guns ablaze.”

            “A squadron of Armada fighters has broken through in Sector Four,” one of his officers said.

            “Have Flameblade and Lightningwhip’s squadrons engage,” Terrorwing commanded. “Cover them with the main batteries. We cannot allow those ships any closer!”

                                    *                                    *                                    *

          “My name is Autaras,” the figure spoke again. “And these are my brothers, the Core. Together, we rule our people–the Armada of warships you’ve already seen. But then, you knew that already didn’t you?”

            “At long last, the puppet master has revealed himself,” Megatron replied. “Our meeting has been a long time coming...”

            A laugh could be heard coming from the being beyond them. Autaras clapped his hands together slowly. “I applaud your sense of melodrama, Megatron,” he said. “Truly, you are without humor. It’s always been all business with you, hasn’t it?”

            “I have my destiny,” Megatron hissed. “And I will brook no interference in it!” He unleashed a blast from his shoulder cannon without warning. The energy bolt struck where Autaras was and rippled out harmlessly before it could hit it’s intended target.

            “You will have to do far better then that to harm us,” the other quipped.

            “Enough of this toying with them!” Another one of Autaras associates spoke up. “Let us destroy them and be done with it!”

            “You lack patience, my dear K’ronei,” Autaras replied. “They will die, of course–but first, I would like them to understand why.”

He gazed down at the group. “We are the ultimate amalgamation of Transformer and organic.” He pulled back his hood, revealing his face fully. Autaras was a human with a mechanical optic

on his left eye and sporadic metallic bits about his cranium. “We started off much as you yourselves did. A race of Transformers from our own Cybertron... like you, we fought our petty wars for centuries, killing one another in the name of power and galactic conquest. As time went on, though, we began to rely more and more on our organic partners. First, in primitive binary bonding experiments like your own and later in more advanced ways until, millennia later, our kind was fused on an atomic level. There is no longer humans or Transformers in our native universe, merely one species with one purpose.”

            “Why have you come here?” Face asked. “Surely we pose no threat to advanced beings such as yourselves.”

            “On the contrary,” Autaras replied. “You are very much a threat. We have seen much of the other realms... some have no bonding experiments while others are along the way in their progression. This universe is sufficiently advanced in your processes to warrant our attention.”

            “They don’t want the competition,” Sunfire chimed in. “They want to be the only ones in the Omniverse. Truly unique in what they are.”

            “And why not?” K’ronei asked. “We are superior to all of you, a thousand-fold. Why should we accept anyone else approaching our level of evolution?”

            “No other realm has ever gotten so organized against us before now,” Autaras continued. “No one has realized our threat until it is far too late. But this universe was different... the accursed Syntara saw to that with their interference. Even Midnight couldn’t be trusted to eliminate all of you...”

            “You murdered my people!” Tempest snapped. “You will pay for your genocide, Autaras. I will see to that!”

            Autaras smiled at that. “Come now, Optimus... you were disillusioned with your people’s manipulations and attempts to control the races of the Omniverse. Do you really miss them so much that you must die defending their foolish policy?”

            “How–?” Tempest stopped herself. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter... It’s true my people could’ve done some things differently but they didn’t deserve to die for their mistakes.”

            “But you do!” Megatron hissed, his optics glowing bright red at Autaras. “We will not die to satisfy your people’s wounded sense of self esteem!”

            “Of course you will.” Autaras smiled calmly. “You can’t hope to stand up to me or my power–you never could. It doesn’t matter if you have one Dark Glory–or one hundred. You were brought back from the dead to do what you’ve always done best–plot and sow chaos among your own kind. And you have not disappointed us, Megatron. You played along nicely, breaking with us when you’d had enough and setting up your own Empire.”

            “So, that is why you brought me back...” Megatron’s face was emotionless.

            “Indeed. You a creature of your own habits, as we all are,” Autaras replied. “Can any of you appreciate the scope of our machinations? Can you? From the very beginning... resurrecting Megatron, using Starscream against him later... introducing Sonimus Prime to the Autobots... assassinating Avatar Prime to turn the Masters against Sunfire and ruin her plans to unite them with the others. Why, even the humans on Earth! It was one of our agents that made certain the human Gaius Stone had access to plans to build that lethal EMP weapon–the one that rendered their entire world helpless. I wanted to make certain they would not be rushing to your aid if and when the time came... now they are helpless and at our mercy.”

            “What purpose did creating me serve?” Sonimus demanded. “I tried my best to rally the Autobots! Certainly that would’ve worked against you in the end–even now I have most of my warriors here to fight against you.”

            “It sowed confusion, dear Sonimus... Hot Rod reacted more adversely to your appointment and it helped polarize his decision to leave the Autobots. Eventually, you came to try and fight him–had you succeeded, both of your sub-factions likely would’ve destroyed one another. One side out of the conflict entirely and we wouldn’t have even fired a shot.”

            “Add to that, the bonus that we softened up the Decepticons a little,” Hot Rod said.

            “If my plans had succeeded, the humans and Autobots would’ve been eliminated,” Autaras added. “Only the Decepticons and Masters would’ve remained, with the Decepticons either weakened by Starscream’s assault or even controlled outright by him.”

            “A good plan,” Megatron replied. “But it failed...”

            “It succeeded well enough,” Autaras said. “Many of you were my eyes and ears while you plotted and schemed your schemes. You, Megatron, Sonimus Prime, Face, Cliffjumper–even Mainframe, but of course, none of you even realized it. You were invaluable sources of information while assuming you were completely secure.”

            “I don’t believe you,” Sonimus snapped. “And I don’t care what she says!“ She pointed at Sunfire. “I am Sunfire! The real one–I know I am! I feel it!”

            “You believe that because we wished you to believe it, Sonimus,” Autaras replied. “When Sunfire was killed by Midnight originally, it made a good point to insert a facsimile of her with the Autobots–as I said, to sow confusion and speed up your own self destruction.” He glanced at the human Sunfire. “Of course, we couldn’t know the Syntara would have plans for the original still. We made do with the knowledge we had and placed you there on Cindras Two to find the Autobots and be initiated into their ranks.”

            “What of myself?” Face chimed in. “I recall a long history with the Decepticons. At what point did I replace someone?”

            Autaras gazed at him. “Ah, poor Face... so mysterious, so helpful... getting Gwen away from Starscream and back to Matt–you’ve come so far since you were just a foot soldier in the universe we scooped you up from.”

            “I find that hard to believe,” Face replied. “I must have had a life before I came here yet I do not remember it–“

            ”Allow me.” Autaras gestured and his hand flashed briefly. Face stumbled slightly.

            “Face?” Megatron asked. “Are you–?”

            “I-I remember...” Face looked up at Autaras. “I was called... K’reos. I was guarding an outpost on a world called Hydrania Two when we attacked by Renegade Transformers and I fought one. I lost...”

            “Indeed,” Autaras replied. “We were doing preliminary scouting of that realm and I seized you on a lark, taking you out of there before you fell to your inevitable death. We rebuilt you, better and more powerful then before. But, for some reason, you decided not to repair the damage that the Renegades leader did to your face.”

            Face was silent a moment. “It... it doesn’t matter. I have come far since then. I am far more then I ever was and I have my identity and loyalties now.”

            “Indeed.” Autaras smiled wickedly. “As you all do. Cliffjumper was rebuilt after he died in the initial assault by Galvatron’s forces... Mainframe here, was given full life and sentience by my whim. Devoid of evidence for his existence, he simply assumed it had been his exposure to Nucleon that had completed the process. All of you, spies, without ever realizing your dual nature. But now your purpose is served... the time for talk is over. It is time for your kind to die so that mine might live.”

             A door opened on the deck before the group. A lone humanoid woman of Transformer size emerged from it’s shelter. She was covered completely in a silver skin, a metallic human woman. Her purple optics bore no trace of either emotion or life.

            “This is my greatest creation yet,” Autaras explained. “She is called Mindblade and she lives to kill.”

            He gazed down at the woman.

            “Destroy them!”

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            The blast was so sudden, Arthuralayas didn’t even sense it coming.

            One moment, the bridge of his ship was clear and they were engaging the Armada. The next thing he knew, the chamber was chaos and a howling was piercing his ears and his mind as the ship screamed in terror.

            He composed himself, concentrating and blocking out the ship’s screams in his mind. He glanced up to see a large hole in the side of the room. One of his officers was clinging to the edge, desperately trying to keep from being sucked into the vacuum beyond.

            He leapt forward, using the escaping atmosphere to propel him toward the other. Reaching the edge, he grasped a piece of debris and used his free hand to reach out to the other. The Master took his hand gratefully and together they pulled him back inside. Beyond them, the ship began to knit it’s hull back together slowly, a membrane forming over the hole and protecting what air remained in the bridge.

            “Is everyone okay?” He gazed around as he said it, noting that three other Masters were gone from the room–likely sucked out in the initial strike. Another two lay unmoving near their stations in the organic ship.

            “No,” Healer Prime replied. She rose slowly and moved for one of downed children. Checking it’s pulse, she shook her head slowly and then left it for the next one. “She’s alive,” she said finally. “Just barely.”

            “Many thanks for thy help,” the other Master said nearby. “Thou certainly would have perished without thy quick thinking.”

            He nodded. “Thou would’ve done the same, methinks.” He looked around. “Alas, we are in serious trouble. Man the sensors–we must find out our status!”

            “Aye.” the other headed forward for the station.

            The ship had stopped screaming now, merely whimpering in the background of his mind. He knew already that it had been hurt badly–he prayed that they still had the ability to maneuver, if nothing else. Otherwise, they would be helpless, only waiting for the final strike.

            Three of the children entered the bridge and headed to assist Healer Prime and their injured comrade.

            “The ship’s systems are not responding,” the other responded from his station. “The engines are non responsive.”

            “How is life support?” Healer asked.

            “Unknown,” the other replied.

            Arthuralayas moved to the view port at the front of the chamber and gazed out. All he could see were the colossal warships of the Armada hovering over them. At any time, one simple strike would eliminate them from existence–and there was nothing he could do.

            “Sensors are back online,” his comrade announced. “All of the other Children are occupied with our enemy. However, there is an Autobot ship nearby–‘tis moving on an intercept course.”

            “Perhaps thy enemy will yet prove useful to us,” Arthuralayas remarked. “That is, if–“

            ”Sensors picking up multiple Armada fighters headed our way,” the other interrupted.

            He gazed at the viewscreen again, noting the small menacing shapes in the distance as they moved against the backdrop of an Armada warship. It was clear they were coming toward them.

            They were helpless, dependant on a former enemy for aid. Matched against an enemy they had no chance of stopping...        

            “Primus save us!” he whispered.

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            Mindblade moved forward silently, her purple optics emotionless as she closed in on Megatron and Tempest. Once she got close enough, a sword formed out of her forearm and she moved to strike. Megatron shoved Tempest out of the way and deflected the blade with his own arm, causing a slight scratch in his green armor. Wasting no time, Megatron struck her in the head but she showed minimal reaction to the blow and continued coming forward.

            “Shoot her!” Rapture yelled.

            “Good idea!” Snarl exclaimed as he, Sludge and Skreem opened fire simultaneously on the newcomer. The blasts struck their enemy dead-on, tearing holes through her chest and dropping her to the deck.

            “That wasn’t so tough,” Cliffjumper muttered to Hot Rod.

            He nodded cautiously. I hope you’re right...”

            Beyond them, Mindblade’s form twitched once then twice, seemingly not finished with them just yet.

            “Autobot: Hot Rod,” he heard a voice say behind him.

            He turned. “Yeah, Mainframe?”

            “While our enemy has been distracted, I accessed their computer systems and located what I believe to be their central power source. It is possible if this source is destroyed that it will create a surge that will destroy this entire complex.”

            “Where is it?”

            “Four levels below our present location,” Mainframe replied. “I can guide you there.”

            Nearby, Mindblade seized abruptly then sat up. The holes in her chest were gone, sealed up as if they’d never existed.

            “Behold the power of the Armada!” Autaras howled. “Mindblade rises!”

            The female assassin leapt into the air and landed fast, floor sweeping Tempest and slamming her fist into Skreem.

            “Go!” Hot Rod yelled, leaping into her as he did. The two crashed abruptly to the deck.

            “Megatron, go with them,” Sonimus ordered her counterpart. “They’ll need your firepower to destroy that power source.”

            The other gazed at Mindblade as she threw Hot Rod aside and rose once more. Beyond them, Autaras watched wide eyed, triumphant.

            “If you don’t go, we’ll all die here for nothing!” she pleaded.

            “Very well.” He turned and headed for the portal to the rest of the ship. “Come, Mainframe...”

            The two were joined by one of Megatron’s battalions while the other one remained. As if sensing their plan, Mindblade charged toward Megatron’s exposed back.

            “Not so fast!” Sonimus leapt into the air, slamming her foot into Mindblade’s head and dropping her to the deck.

            She recovered swiftly, her arm blades extending out of the seamless surface of her wrists. Sonimus raised her own fists, activating her solid energy projectors and creating her own blades. She launched herself at the automaton without another thought. 


            “Autaras!” Dii'eusis exclaimed. Below them, the Decepticon force exited the chamber bound for their new destination.

            “Do not worry,” he replied. “Megatron will never reach the power core. I will make certain of it...” He turned to the others. “As for you, destroy them! Show me you are all still worthy of our kind–worthy of the thrill of battle.”

            The Core regarded him hesitantly then turned and leapt down to the deck below. Swiftly, each and every one of them took on mass from the deck of the ship, becoming much larger versions of themselves and now a match for their opponents in scale.

            They had not been used to fighting in some time but he was confident his fellow generals were still more then competent enough to eliminate the invaders with ease. If not... well, that was their problem. Certainly he wouldn’t mourn their passing.

            Like the others, Autaras summoned the ship and took on further mass, becoming a match for a Transformer. Should it come down to it, he would welcome taking them on directly in hand to hand combat. With the Infinity Ring, he was invincible. The Armada was invincible. Nothing would stop them from succeeding in their goals.


                                    *                                    *                                    *

            They’d detected one of the Masters ships in serious trouble and had been the nearest available ship to be able to assist. Reluctantly, Grid Iron had ordered the Prime’s Honor to go to their aid. They’d been faring badly against the Armada’s forces but he knew all too well that if they didn’t at least try to save one another they’d all be doomed for a certainty.

            “Approaching target,” Beachcomber announced. “Armada fighters are already there and attacking.”

            “Take them out!” Grid Iron snapped.

            “I’m on it!” Throttle replied.

            Grid Iron watched as their ship moved up and forward, pursuing their enemy. One by one, Throttle’s targeting skills were put to the test as he picked off the Armada flyers that had assaulted the Masters ship.

            “Enemy targets accounted for,” Beachcomber announced. “All clear for the moment.”

            “Signal the Masters ship and see if we can assist them,”

            “I’m trying,” Hubcap said nearby. “But nothing is getting through. Their comm system must be down.”

            “Can you tell on the scanners?”

            “There’s definite life-signs all over the ship,” Throttle said. “But I can’t make heads or tails of this technology–there’s no way to know if their comm system’s just off-line or outright destroyed.”

            Grid Iron considered that. “Prep the TTDP system and get them beamed over here immediately. We don’t have time to be more precise about this.”

            “I’m on it,” Hubcap said. He went to tap some buttons on his console when the ship lurched abruptly.

            “Second wave!” Throttle exclaimed.

            “Confirmed,” Beachcomber chimed in. “There’s twice as many fighters closing–and a larger ship too!”

            “Shields to maximum! Evasive maneuvers!” Grid Iron snapped. “Hubcap, can we still get them?”

            “I think so,” the other answered. “But with full shields, we’ll have to stay in proximity to the target.”

            “Do it!” Grid Iron turned back. “You heard him, Beachcomber.”

            “I’ll do my best,” the other said, his hands already a flurry of movement over the helm console.

            The ship lurched abruptly as they moved, the inertial damper system taking an instant to cut in, leaving Grid Iron with a funny sensation in his core as it worked to keep up with gravity.

            “The transporter room say they have half the crew,” Hubcap announced. “Working on the rest now.”

            “It’s hard to get a lock with all this movement but I’ve hit a few of the enemy targets,” Throttle reported.

            An explosion shook the ship just then and suddenly the ship slowed to a crawl.

            “We’ve lost primary power!” Rad announced.

            “What?!” Grid Iron rose in the darkness. “Get the emergency system online now!”


            Another explosion shook the ship, battering it with it’s lethal intensity.

            “That didn’t sound good,” Beachcomber announced. “If we don’t get our shields back up fast–“

            ”Believe me, I know!” Grid Iron cut him off. “Status?”

            “Secondary systems cutting in–now!” Rad replied.

            “Sensors back online,” Throttle announced. “Decks ten through twelve are destroyed. Casualties unknown.”

            “Hubcap, get the rest of those Masters aboard and let’s get the hell out of here!”

            “Almost done,” Hubcap replied. “One more cycle should do it.”

            “Weapons aren’t responding,” Throttle announced nearby. “We must’ve lost them in that last assault.”

            Grid Iron regarded the ships on the view screen. Without weapons, they were as good as done for.

            “Please tell me we still have full propulsion.”

            The other nodded. “We do. But without guns to clear a path...”

            “The remaining Masters are aboard,” Hubcap announced. “We’re clear.”

            Another explosion shook the ship.

            “Get us out of here,” Grid Iron ordered. “Do what you can...”

            Throttle was about to respond when the ships on the screen suddenly erupted.

            “What?” he blurted out. “Reading a Decepticon warship on scanners–they’ve cleared the path for us!”

            “Receiving a hail,” Hubcap announced.

            “Put it through!”

            “This is Lord Terrorwing of the Grey Legion,” the Decepticon on-screen announced. “We have monitored the situation and have cleared you a path. Get out of here while you still can!”

            “Why–?” Grid Iron asked.

            The other smiled, his expression seeming to be malicious despite his professed intention to help.

            “If I have to die, I’d rather do it honorably then standing by and doing nothing,” he said. “The Grey Legion does not back down from a battle no matter the odds!”

            Grid Iron nodded. “Understood. Good luck, Terrorwing.”

            The comm channel cut out.

            “Get us as far away from here as possible,” he ordered. “Maximum speed!”

            “The Decepticon vessel, the Centurion, has engaged the Armada,” Throttle announced. “They’re destroying the fighters with relative ease.”

            “Put it on-screen,” Grid Iron said.

            “The Armada ship is engaging them now,” Throttle narrated. “The Centurion is taking damage in the assault.”

            It was clear to him that despite the Armada ship’s size, they still had more then enough power to take out the Decepticon ship. He just hoped Terrorwing and his crew could escape before they took too much damage to do so.

            “The Decepticons are powering engines,” Throttle announced.

            Good. They had assessed the situation and decided to retreat, Grid Iron realized. There was no point in their destruction now that the Autobots and Masters had escaped.

            “They’re–oh no!“ Throttle exclaimed.

            Beyond them, the Centurion abruptly flung it’s mass into the Armada ship, tearing both apart in one final explosive strike.

            Grid Iron turned the display off, replacing it with the normal view. The Decepticons that had rescued them had just sacrificed themselves to protect their enemy... He had seldom seen anything so noble in his long life time.

            “Status of weapons?” he asked.

            “Um... they’re back online,” Throttle replied after a moment.

            “Main power will be back shortly as well,” another officer said.

            “Good. Because we’re not done with this fight,” Grid Iron said. “Once the mains are back online, prepare to engage.”

            Terrorwing had given his life to protect them–and he wasn’t about to sit the battle out while his comrades died around him. Autobot, Decepticon, Master–they were all in this together. And they would live or die together.

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            Mindblade impaled one of the Decepticon soldiers that came with them. Smiling wickedly, she severed his head module from his body. Another Decepticon attacked her but she was ready for the counterattack, lashing out with metallic tendrils that emerged from her shoulders. They struck her opponent dead-on, leaving gaping holes through his chest cavity. He stood a moment in shock as fluids poured from the openings then finally collapsed lifelessly.

            “This has got to stop!” Hot Rod charged forward, ignoring the rest of the Core as they engaged his allies with their own mixture of bizarre powers.

            He slammed his body into her, tackling her to the deck. Rising first, he unleashed several blasts into her chest and head, hoping to destroy her before she could recover.

            Before she had started healing, her foot lashed out unexpectedly, dropping him to the deck. And then, she was on him. Her face was tattered and ruined still but her body was formed enough to mount him and wrap her hand around his neck. The other arm rose, a blade forming out of it...

            Hot Rod gazed into her ruined purple eyes as they began to re-form. There was a maliciousness in them, a cold inhuman look. In that instant, he knew she had no regard for life at all, no mercy, no emotion. She existed purely to kill... and he was going to die.

            Then a laser blast struck her blade before she could stab it into him and the metal exploded. Another bolt hit her arm then another and another. Finally, she fell back off him.

            He gazed up in time to see Sonimus Prime standing over him, her rifle still smoking.

            “Thanks,” he said and meant it.

            “There’s a certain irony in this situation, I think,” she replied, helping him up with her free hand.

            “Life’s like that, I guess,” he replied, smiling slightly. “Let’s finish her off.”

            “I’ll do that,” she said. “Here.” She formed the Sacred Core out of the sub-space pocket she had it stored in. “Take this for me. Just in case...”

            Hot Rod clutched it and stored it away in his chest compartment. “I’ll keep it safe. Just make sure you come back for it, okay?”

            Sonimus never got to answer as one of the Core fired an energy weapon on them just then, forcing them to scatter out of the way. Hot Rod and Sludge charged at the attacker, trying to stop him from getting another shot in.

            As she began to move, Sonimus felt her ankle being held in-place by something below. She glanced down in time to see Mindblade’s blade thrusting upward. The blade pierced her lower torso, cutting through delicate circuitry and letting the fluid there gush out uncontrollably.

            She slammed her body downward, her knees landing atop the Armada assassin’s neck and head. The blow forced Mindblade to release her ankle but even as she connected, she knew the strike wouldn’t be enough to put down her opponent permanently. She stumbled away slowly, the pain in her abdomen crippling her reflexes.

            Mindblade rose behind her and pounced, knocking her to the deck. In one swift strike, she impaled Sonimus through the head module, ending her life.

            “NOOO!” Hot Rod yelled nearby, having seen the killing blow an instant too late. He charged toward Mindblade, his emotions controlling his every movement now.

            Before he could reach her however, Mindblade erupted in a burst of white energy. She turned her head in the stream to see where this new attack was coming from. Her form broke up, flaking away into harmless ash.

            Hot Rod stopped and looked to see Sunfire, her hands held out and still aglow. Her expression one of anger. He moved closer into the human.

            “I saw it too late,” she said quietly. “I couldn’t save her.”

            “She didn’t deserve to die like this,” he choked out. “She of us.”

            Sunfire was quiet a moment. “She may have been a clone of me but she was no less real...” She met his gaze. “Let’s make certain her sacrifice wasn’t for naught.”

            “Do you see, Sunfire?” a new voice said nearby. They glanced up to see Autaras watching from his vantage point above. “Even your best warriors cannot stand against the might of the Armada. You and all you’ve fought for are finished!”

            “We’ll see about that!” she growled, unleashing her powers at him as she finished. The energy wave struck him and he stumbled a moment before countering it somehow.

            “Your powers will not save you,” he replied. “As long as I have the ring, I am invincible!” He smiled. “Go ahead, destroy my comrades--my ships. It doesn’t matter. I can simply re-create them afterward. You have no hope, Sunfire. None.”

            “There’s always hope!” Hot Rod hissed, clutching the Sacred Core. He concentrated with his mind, trying to tap the power within. The Core seemed to respond to his touch and streams of bright energy erupted from within it, engulfing all of the Armada’s council members around them, incinerating them in one deadly strike. A singular beam also lashed out at Autaras, striking him dead-on. Noting the strike, Sunfire continued her own assault, trying to pierce Autaras’ shield.

            Autaras simply laughed. “Even the power of Primus is irrelevant compared to the Infinity Ring!” he exclaimed triumphantly. He held up his left hand, the platinum band dull and ordinary looking yet unimaginably powerful.

            The Sacred Core’s power stopped as Hot Rod relented in his assault. A moment later, Sunfire did the same, realizing her efforts were being wasted.

            “This ring is an artifact I discovered in another universe,” Autaras explained, admiring the band on his hand. “It is a part of an ancient armor created by an race that has long since departed this realm of existence. There is nothing more powerful then it. Nothing at all!

            Hot Rod and Sunfire exchanged glances, uncertain what course of action to take next.

            Autaras smiled again and began to speak, when his hand was abruptly severed from his body. He howled in pain and looked behind him to see Face standing there, clasping his appendage.

            “Your overconfidence will be the death of you,” he replied then vanished in a burst of light before the other could react.

            Autaras turned in time to be struck by Sunfire’s second assault. He tried with all his might to resist her Syntara-given power but without the protection of the ring, his efforts were futile. He screamed as his body gave way and disintegrated for the final time.

            Beside Hot Rod, Face was abruptly there. He removed the band from the severed hand and incinerated the limb, leaving no trace of their enemy’s ruined body.

            “It is over,” he said simply.

            “Not yet,” Sunfire said. “We have to take out the rest of his people. Destroy all trace of them or the survivors will simply start again elsewhere.”

            “I’ll do it,” Tempest said. She turned to Hot Rod. “Give me the Sacred Core and I will use it to do what must be done.”

            Hot Rod was speechless a moment then nodded and gave it over to her. “Good luck, Tempest,” he said.

            She nodded. “Everyone else, teleport back to the Dark Glory. The last time I used the power of Primus, it was lethal to everything it affected–and I don’t want to risk your lives.”

            “Be careful, Tempest,” Sunfire said. “We don’t want to lose you either.”

            Tempest smiled at her. “Until all are one,” she said.

            Sunfire and Hot Rod rejoined the rest of the group. “Let’s go.”                     

            Tempest stayed until the end, her yellow optics gazing thoughtfully at them as they dematerialized. Hot Rod’s last thought was that he hoped to see her again...

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            The path to the ship’s power core had been a long fought one but under his brutal determination, they had finally breached the chamber. Megatron crushed one more of his enemies against a wall before tossing it’s lifeless form aside and stepping inside.

            A squadron of Transformers awaited them, their weapons drawn.

            “Terminate them!” he hissed.

            The enemy opened fire and two of his Decepticons fell before he reached the group and tore into them. One hapless Armada warrior was tossed across the large chamber while another was torn in two. As he turned to see what opposition remained, his group were already finishing off the last enemy left.

            “This is the subject power core,” Mainframe offered, stepping forward and pointing at the large pulsating cylinder system at the center of the room.

            “Indeed.” Megatron regarded the object. It was impossibly large, something no mere armament could breach–perhaps intentionally.

            “How’re we going to destroy that?” Dreadwing asked nearby, mirroring his own thoughts. “We don’t have enough explosives!”

            “I will have to do it myself,” Megatron decided. “Among us, I alone possess the power to pierce the core and destroy this complex.”

            “There is a great possibility you will not survive the attempt,” Mainframe said. “I have calculated the odds at–“

            ”Thank you, that will be unnecessary,” he cut him off. “Dreadwing, signal the Dark Glory and get everyone transported off this ship. If this goes badly, I do not wish any of my warrior elite to meet their ends.”

            The other nodded. “At once, mighty Megatron.”

            He watched as Dreadwing spoke into his com-link and made the necessary arrangements. Finally, the group assembled and stood at attention a moment before a column of energy enveloped them, whisking them away to the safety of the Decepticon command ship.

            Megatron turned and regarded the pulsating core of the vessel beyond him. So many times death had beckoned to him, tried to take him into it’s willing grasp and he had fought it madly. He was Megatron, he was destined to rule the Galaxy and nothing would turn him from his grand destiny. Nothing!

            And here he was now... risking his life for his people and their very future survival. It was noble in a way–the sentiment an Autobot would have no problem displaying but it was an alien emotion to a Decepticon.

            Still, if he had to sacrifice himself then surely this was the only cause worth doing it for. Even if he did not survive, the Decepticons would–and their destiny would not be interrupted.

            If death was beckoning him, he would meet it head on. He was Megatron! He was no sniveling coward! Perhaps he would even survive the attempt and all these were thoughts were premature.

            He sighed deeply and transformed into his tank mode. Summoning every atom of energy that he could, he pooled it and when it got too strong to contain, he unleashed it through his barrel in an awesome display of sheer power.

            The blast struck the power core dead-on and shattered it’s containment, spilling it out in a brilliant display that blinded his optics.

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            It hadn’t been too difficult for Tempest to find one of the complex’s air locks and tear through it into space–she’d had no idea how to operate it’s bizarre control system and had instead opted for the more direct approach.

            She hadn’t been gone long when the complex erupted in a series of smaller explosions behind her. The explosions got larger and larger until finally, inevitably, the complex tore itself apart in one final large blast. Tempest had to work hard to dodge the fiery debris that it left in it’s wake.

            When the worst of it was done, she stabilized herself and then transformed back into her bi-ped mode. Megatron’s team had succeeded in their mission–she just hoped they’d been able to get out in time.

            She materialized the Sacred Core out of the sub-space storage she’d placed it in and regarded it. So many people had died to satisfy the Armada’s mad quest for purity and now it was time to put this matter to an end, once and for all.

            She held the Core aloft.

            “Light our darkest hour,” she said. “Now and forever, let your light shine free!”

            The Core pulsed in her hands and energy erupted from everywhere, streams of white-gold energy tearing out and striking the mass of bizarre warships all around her, destroying them swiftly and efficiently as it did.

            Even in the destruction surrounding her, Tempest knew it was for the best. From all the death that had been caused before–and now by her, she knew the Armada’s destruction could bring about something they’d all desperately needed up to this point.


                                    *                                    *                                    *

            The Sacred Core’s power had been thorough and precise, destroying all of the Armada in one efficient strike as it did. The remains of the Alliance’s forces gathered and set about assessing their various losses and damage.

            Although he had successfully destroyed the Armada’s command ship, there had been no further sign of Megatron and his forces feared their great leader had finally met his fate. Mercer, the Empire’s second in command, had arrived with further reinforcements after the battle and seen to everyone’s comfort.

            Standing on the Dark Glory’s bridge with the various leaders of their Alliance, Sunfire couldn’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction in her success. Against the odds, she’d succeeded in uniting their factions together and making it all work somehow.

            Despite that, though, there had been so much pain and death to get here and finally defeat the Armada. She wondered if all those who had sacrificed their lives had been worth the cost of victory.


            She turned from the viewport to see Tempest approach.

            “You seem a little bit distant,” she said. “Is something on your mind?”

            Sunfire shook her head.

            “Just thinking about what this all cost us...” she replied. “Weighing the good and the bad.”

            “It’s never easy,” Tempest agreed. “In a war, you have to send your warriors out to fight sometimes knowing they won’t come back.” She gazed at the stars beyond. “Some are faceless soldiers, some are good friends but it’s all the same. They’re all people and all important–we must never lose sight of that.“

            ”On the bright side, I guess we won.” Sunfire gazed up at her. “We’re all alive and ready to fight another day.”

            “Not fight another day–live another day,” Tempest corrected her. “Up until now, we’ve fought to live not lived to fight.”

            “I wonder if the Decepticons will ever realize that. Or if we’ll go right back to the war after this little requiem.”

            Tempest smiled. “Have a little faith in the Universe, Sonny. Sooner or later, things will work out–they always do.”

            “Do you really believe that?”

            “I have to.” Tempest gazed at the star field again. “Without hope we have nothing...”

            Sunfire considered her words.

            “You’re right,” she agreed. She regarded Mercer and his entourage. “Come on. I want to talk to the Decepticons...”



            Rapture looked up to see Militant Prime and Healer Prime approach.

            “It’s good to see you all made it safely through that ordeal,” she said to Healer.

            “Thou nearly didn’t,” the elder woman explained. “Had it not been for the Transformers and their bravery, sacrificing themselves to save thy own lives.”

            “I heard a little about that,” she replied. “I guess even your enemies can surprise you sometimes.”

            Healer seemed to wince slightly when she’d said “enemies”. Rapture wondered if she’d had time to reconsider the Mechs in light of these new actions.

            “The Circle hath decided to end thy Jihad against the Mechs,” Militant explained. “T’was decided it was for the best. It is time for thy people to ridst  thou of our hatred and learn to grow again as a people. There is much to be done...”

            “Thy brethren on the mother world are still in need of aid,” Healer added. “The Mechs cannot aid them but thy ships are immune to the effects of their atmosphere. Together, we hope to go there and help them heal their world.”

            “I think the people of Earth would appreciate that,” Rapture agreed.

            “Tis a shame that the Sacred Core was destroyed,” Militant said. “Still, at least it was used for a truly worthy cause. Sitting in a chamber on Eden, it’s power would been wasted in our great time of need. As it is, though, thou could hath used it to aid Earth.”

            “Thou shalt endure,” Healer offered. “Thou always do.”

            Militant nodded. “Indeed.” He glanced to Rapture. “Thou art still in need of a new Avatar, Katrina.”

            “How will you find someone to take his place?” she asked.

            “Normally, thou art bred for it,” Militant explained. “However, there is no one in waiting nor hath Avatar any offspring. However, the Circle has deliberated about the matter–however briefly and thou wouldst like to offer the position to thyself.”

            Her eyes went wide. “You want me to be the new Avatar?” She looked from Militant to Healer then back again. “Is that...even allowed?”

            “It is not traditional, but thy believe Avatar himself would hath approved of thy choice,” Healer chimed in. “Thee regarded thou fondly, like a surrogate daughter. Certainly, there is no one else better suited for this purpose.”

            “The Circle must be complete,” Militant added. “It is the way of thy people.”

            She looked from one to the other, taking in their expressions.

            “Very well,” she replied. “I-I accept.”


            Hot Rod watched the assembled group of Transformers and humans from a balcony near the top of the bridge chamber. It was a solitary position at the moment–whatever the station used nearby was for it was abandoned. Likely for the gathering and the fact that no one needed to be manning it.

            That was good. The last thing he felt like right now was having to tolerate some jubilant company. Celebration was the furthest thing from his mind...

            It was true his side had won this grand war against an enemy beyond their comprehension, yet... he still felt empty. He’d been through so much and had to make some terrible decisions during their long war against the Decepticons. If the conflict started again, he wasn’t sure he could take it. Was this the beginning of a new era or just another pause before the next terrible chapter began?

            “How do you feel?”

            He turned and saw a black and blue Decepticon standing nearby. 

            “Face, right?”

            “Yes.”  He stepped forward, joining him at the railing.

            “You’ve been through quite a lot,” he said. “How are you holding up?”

            Hot Rod regarded him. “It’s funny to hear a Decepticon ask that,” he replied. He exhaled sharply. “I don’t know... I don’t think I’m cut out for this anymore.”

            The other was silent a beat. “I understand,” he said finally. “Eons of war... the endless killing and death are never easy burdens.”

            “The Decepticons don’t seem to have a problem dealing with it,” Hot Rod shot back. “Just us lowly Autobots with our bothersome consciences.”

            “Many of my brethren are un-bothered by the violence they cause,” Face agreed. “I suspect Megatron wasn’t concerned by the quality of soldier he was initially recruiting–merely having sufficient numbers. Still, we are not all the same–any more then the Autobots can be judged by one standard.”

            “Maybe...” Hot Rod gazed at the group below them. “I don’t know anymore... all I know is I feel like I need to get away from all of this.”

            “I know a place where you might be able to do that,” Face chimed in. “There is no violence there–only peace. Learning and spirituality.”

            “Sounds good to me.” Hot Rod looked at him. “When can I go?”

            “Shortly.” Face gazed down at his left palm and materialized a platinum band in the center of it. “I must find somewhere safe to be rid of this trinket–it is far too powerful for someone to possess it. If it fell into the wrong hands, the evil they could do is beyond comprehension...”

            “Perhaps the core of a star would be a good place to start,” the other offered.

            Face smiled at that. “Perhaps...”


            Sunfire and Tempest had spoken to Mercer and explained their ideas to the acting commander of the Decepticon Empire. He’d promised to consider their ideas–and he’d seemed sincere enough but neither of them knew whether or not he was being honest. Even if he was, what would come of it with the other Decepticon commanders. Would they embrace peace or commit to beginning the war anew? She just didn’t know.

            “So, what now?” Sunfire asked. “Face has the Infinity Ring–he could probably use it to turn you back into Optimus Prime. If that’s what you want, I mean.”

            “It doesn’t matter,” Tempest replied. “Optimus Prime is dead but the being that was both Prime and Tempest is the same underneath it all. I no longer have my powers, but I’m alive and happy–I can’t really complain.”

            “Your place is here,” Sunfire added. “You’re one of us, regardless of where you started from.”

            She nodded. “And what about you? You’re a human now... do you plan to go back to being a Transformer?”

            Sunfire shrugged. “Maybe... I guess we’ll have to check with Face and see what’s up.”

            “If I can have everyone’s attention,” Mercer called to everyone from a make-shift podium at the edge of the room. It took a few moments before everyone settled down and assembled so that he begin to speak.

            “We’ve all been through so much and suffered for what we believe in,” he began. “This latest conflict with this extra dimensional Armada has just proven that there are bigger threats out there to our people. We have been blinded by our own petty struggles and our own war for so long that I feel we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture.” He paused a moment to let his words sink in. “Megatron’s ambitions were clear–total domination of the Galaxy, nothing less. But Megatron is dead–perhaps it is time to let his dreams of conquest die with him.”

            “What are you saying?” one of the Decepticons yelled.

            “Simply, that we have an opportunity here,” Mercer replied. “We can put this eons long war behind us once and for all. Unite and become one people again–we are far stronger together then we ever were apart. The Decepticons have the strength, it’s true, but the Autobots can remind us of where we fit in with the rest of the Galaxy. We are the muscle, they are the heart.”

            Mercer looked into the audience, meeting their optics with his own.

            “What say you?” he asked them. “Will you put an end to this War once and for all?”

            There was some dissent at first but the majority of their people were tired of the endless war as well. And in little time, the Great War was finally, inexorably over... a new era of peace began. Whether it was permanent or temporary, Sunfire didn’t know, but she knew that once again, for the first time in a while, she had hope again.

            Hope for the future...