Project Excalibur: The Fall Of Camelot

By Matt "Talon" Kirkby

    "It's located just over that ridge," Talon confirmed as he pointed to the tree-shrouded horizon. 'Over the river and through the woods,’ Kirkby thought idly. 'Shut up!' Whisper's mind-voice countered irritably.
    "Excellent," Megatron announced with a pleased smile on his faceplates. He glanced over his shoulder at the few hundred or so Decepticon troops who were assembling in the forest clearing, as per his orders. "I see no need for any major revisions in our current assault plan," he mused. "The attack will proceed on schedule." He nodded decisively, then raised his voice. "General Terrorwing, dispatch your scout units!"
    "As you command, Lord Megatron." Terrorwing saluted in the proper Decepticon fashion—by slamming his clenched fist against his chest hard enough to hurt, and then thrusting it into the air —then he tapped his comlink. "First Scout Legionnaires, go!"
    Two dozen members of the Grey Legion immediately broke ranks. Half of them transformed into vehicle modes—becoming light tanks and other armored war machines—and the entire group advanced into the forest.
    "When they reach the facility itself, we will send in an air strike to cover them and soften up their defenses. Then our main assault group shall arrive in force and destroy the facility and everything in it."
    "Swift and excellent strategy, Megatron, as I've agreed before." Terrorwing did think it was a good plan—though blasting the facility from orbit would have been far simpler, but Megatron wanted to make sure there were no survivors, as well as further observe his troops in action. "And once Camelot has been secured or destroyed, then we can finally devote more effort to moving against other important targets which have eluded our control thus far, and make our final push to break the Humans' resistance. This world will be conquered!" His voice rang with conviction.
    "Indeed, and following the destruction of this particular research facility, we will be able to deal more easily with the remaining HeadMasters." Megatron knew that he sounded annoyed, but he knew the emotion was justified. "To think that the Humans could so quickly build and field a defensive army of these semi-TransFormers." He shook his head. "If I had known they possessed such potential back when we Decepticons first awoke on this world, then I would have undertaken a more serious effort at turning them into willing allies."
    "History would certainly have turned out differently in that event," Soundwave agreed calmly. "As Vindicator would attest."
    "Reports from Vindicator's unit are still not satisfactory," Megatron observed grimly. "He is being held in place by a single force of Humans...he could overwhelm easily, yet he allows them to face off against members of his unit in single combat."
    "He is fighting according to the unwavering dictates of his personal honor," Terrorwing observed calmly. As the rest of the Decepticons looked at him, he explained: "I have studied his reports...Sho-sa Fujiyama proposed a most honorable contest for gaining the possession of Japan." According to various reports; Vindicator had fought against the Human leader for over two hours before they had both agreed to a truce to rest...after several of their warriors had fought duels—with varying results—the two leaders had fought once again...and were now taking another short resting truce. "By facing off in such single combat, they prevent needless destruction to the territory we seek to conquer."
    "Hey, there's nothing wrong with needless destruction," Rumble muttered just loud enough to be heard.
    "In It’s proper place," Megatron snapped. "I wish this world to be conquered, not destroyed." He paused a moment, "At least, not yet."
    Talon looked pained.
    Face stepped closer and rested his hand on Talon's shoulder, "You are experiencing second thoughts?" he asked quietly.
    "Some," Talon admitted just as softly. "I know that Excalibur can't stop you guys—no matter what promises Blackrock made to the Council—but I don't want to see my people wiped out either." His expression was troubled. "I betrayed Camelot to Megatron...but my action will help end this useless war all the sooner and save lives." He bowed his head to stare at his feet.
    "Your actions will save billions of your people." Face chose not to mention the Decepticons who would also be saved from death or injury by a Human surrender.
    "But I'll still be viewed as the worst traitor since Judas!"
    "Talon, you can only undertake whatever actions you think are justified. No matter what events history records, only you can judge your own actions."
    Talon said nothing.
    Across the clearing, Megatron was conferring with Terrorwing. "What news from the scouting teams?" he asked, turning to face Soundwave.
    The communications officer made no immediate reply, devoting the majority of his attention to monitoring local communications. With Disciples operating—mostly—on the far side of the planet and Human HeadMasters and conventional forces scattered just about everywhere else, he would have greatly preferred remaining onboard the Dark Glory to better coordinate Decepticon efforts. At least he had found enough time to have his wounds from the last battle repaired....
    While waiting for a report, Megatron once again turned his cold gaze onto one of his newest allies. "So, Talon, do you have anything to add to your report on this facility's defenses?"
    "No," Talon replied, keeping his blue optics downcast. This turn of events was not what his Human-self had anticipated before he had undergone the binary bonding process with a non-mindwiped Transformer bodyshell. Nor was the self which was Whisper all that thrilled with the current situation either. "I can't tell you anything else."
    A series of loud booms echoed in the distance.
    Megatron's optics narrowed.
    Several of the Decepticons summoned their hand weapons from subspace storage, looking around for unseen enemies.
    Soundwave stiffened as he received an urgent transmission. "The advance party has encountered landmines," he reported grimly. "Several casualties reported…two Decepticons crippled."
    Megatron's expression darkened further and he whirled towards Talon. "Already you dare betray me, fleshling?" he growled as he armed his proto-fusion cannon. "Did Whisper forget to tell you the penalty for treachery?" His optics flashed.
    "No—never, Mighty One I…" Talon stumbled backwards a step, but felt two hulking Legionnaires move behind him to prevent him from backing any further away, "I didn't know about the mines!" he protested, holding his hands up in front of his chest, "Ma-Major Fairbourne oversaw Camelot's defenses. It wasn't my concern."
    Megatron looked skeptical. "The defense of your own facility was not your concern? No Decepticon commander would ever oversee any outpost or facility without full knowledge and command of its defenses," His glare sent Talon collapsing onto his knees. "But if you know nothing of military situations, then you are of no further value to me."
    "Haste creates waste," Face announced calmly as he stepped forward to stand beside Megatron. "Killing Talon out of hand will not further advance your cause, Megatron, or assist in your future conquests. Despite this lack of military knowledge, Talon can still be of great use to us."
    "Yeah," Talon agreed quickly. "I'm still useful to you."
    "Prove it," Megatron challenged.
    Talon was silent for a moment.
    "I thought as much," Megatron told Face, "He's useless to us. And I have no desire to have Human-built toys in my army." At least, not ones who had been built without Decepticon supervision ...after the planet was pacified, then perhaps he would conscript some of the Humans to serve in his army—as cannon fodder and decoy troops perhaps.
    "Once we reach Camelot, having someone who can point out which precise locations contain research laboratories or construction equipment could be vital." Face's voice was soft, as if he was merely thinking aloud. "As could knowing exactly where security forces are known to concentrate, or gather for new orders. After all, we have an inside mech offering his assistance…it would be foolish to spurn all of his knowledge."
    Megatron glared at him, but said nothing further.
    Terrorwing muttered softly—something about spies and their lack of honor.
    "Scouting party remains blocked at the perimeter," Soundwave reported before the argument could resume, "They are unable to detect the landmines from a safe distance...further attempts at penetrating the perimeter will result in additional explosions and probable casualties."
    "And call in the fleshlings," Skywarp muttered. "We might as well set up a holo-billboard. Here we are! Please come and blast us!"
    "Tell them to hold their present position." Megatron turned back to face Talon. "Can you be of any further use to me?" he demanded again.
    "Yes, I think I can." Kirkby disconnected from Talon's body. "I have a plan." The Human removed his helmet. "Soundwave, can you set up an audio-visual link with Camelot?"
    "Of course." Soundwave sounded offended by the question, as if it should be self-evident.
    "Then do it. If I can talk to Fairbourne...."
    "Do as he says," Megatron ordered. "But he had better not be wasting my time." The facility was heavily defended, and he had no wish to give the Humans advanced warning of the attack.
    "Laserbeak, operation transmission." At Soundwave's command, the bird-like Decepticon perched on a fallen tree and a camera rose out of a compartment in his head-module. Then Soundwave transformed into his tapedeck mode. "Broadcasting signal now... com-link established," A small cylinder emerged from his side and a hologram of a woman in black body armor wavered into life.
    "Major Fairbourne?" Kirkby asked, drawing himself to his full height as he stared into the camera.
    "Who is this? This is a secure—oh, Director?" Fairbourne looked startled, but her surprise quickly vanished into narrow-eyed suspicion, "But how did—you're supposed to be—"
    "Time to explain all of that later," Kirkby interrupted her smoothly, mustering an air of supreme confidence—a confidence he had not felt once since being abducted by Whisper. "I'm currently approaching Camelot from the west. Deactivate those perimeter defenses, on my authority, and await my arrival."
    "I can't do that," Fairbourne replied. "Since your little disappearance earlier, Camelot has been placed completely under military from the Council." She smiled. "Blackrock confirmed the order. You have no authority here."
    "Stop fooling around and shut down the defenses, Fairbourne." Kirkby lowered his voice—assuming the posture and tone with which he usually spoke to his old associate, Stone. "I've come into possession of some really important tech toys which I don't want blown into scrap by any of your trigger happy sentries." He winked at her. "It's some brand new Transformer tech...once I get it into Camelot, it could prove to be the key to ending this whole bloody war."
    For a long moment, Major Fairbourne remained silent, but at last she shook her head. "You no longer have command authority over this facility, Mister Kirkby." She smiled. "Your current request is denied."
    "Major, need I remind you that—"
    "Anyway, I got a report that there's robots in that area. A potential breach of Camelot's security. I've got security units moving in now."
    "A few robots?" Kirkby glanced nervously at Megatron who was watching the conversation with a grim expression—and one which was growing darker. "They're just...allies of mine. Nothing to be alarmed about."
    "Part of your special 'Transformer tech'?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. "Did you find some Autobot's hiding somewhere?" She laughed loudly at that, knowing full well that' the Autobot's had abandoned Earth to its fate. "I'll be the judge of their threat potential. My patrol will arrive in a few more moments. After they examine your allies, I'll consider letting you into this facility...with that special key to ending this war. Fairbourne out."
    "Major, I really must...Major! Major!"
    "So much for your highly-vaunted assistance," Megatron mocked as the hologram vanished. "You disappoint me, flashling."
    "It's not my fault!" Kirkby looked around at the towering robots—and their grim and/or bloodthirsty expressions—and he quickly recombined with his bodyshell. "The patrol will only be a handful of Iron Guards," Talon argued, once again pretending a confidence he certainly did not feel. "At most! The vast majority of Camelot's local troops are merely conventional military which your Decepticons were crushing earlier."
    "I doubt that assessment," Terrorwing countered, "An elite research facility would not choose to guard itself with the very advanced technology it is producing?"
    "Well, of course we've got some Iron Guards stationed here," Talon admitted, with a half-hearted shrug, "But the majority of our production was sent off into battle as quickly as it left the assembly lines." He paused, as if considering his nest words. "We were trying to stop you, after all,"
    "How much 'advanced tech' do you have?" Megatron demanded.
    Talon shrugged, knowing just how little he had to offer his supposed allies regarding this attack. "I'm not really sure...I think Fairbourne mentioned she commanded a battalion or so," He thought back to some of the reports Gwen had passed along for him —as Camelot's Director—to sign. "I think there were four squads of Iron Guards...some tanks and armored support vehicles, lots of artillery, probably some aircraft." Another shrug. "I really didn't pay that much attention to the military side of things. I ran the Project, dealt with all the administrative problems, kept the scientists in order, arranged for supplies, and regulated the production of the HeadMasters. Major Fairbourne handled all of the mundane military details." He frowned, wishing that he had paid more attention to said mundane details in those reports. 'So much for politics.'
    "In any event, Commander, the Humans would most likely have reinforced Camelot's defenses as our forces moved into this area. A research facility would be a likely target even if we nothing of its true importance."
    "Possibly, Face."
    Soundwave transformed back into his robot mode. "Legionnaire scouts report contact with Iron Guards." He paused, listening to voices only he could hear...and the sudden eruption of gunfire and explosions which everyone could hear. "Approximately twenty Iron Guards. Additional Human military forces detected on approach. Scouts request new orders."
    Megatron frowned. "This surgical strike is not proceeding as I had planned," he growled. "Face, take the jet's and launch an aerial assault against the facility. Level what you can, but you are to keep their commanders distracted! Take Talon along with you...perhaps he is more effective at fighting then at his other so-called skills."
    "At once, Megatron." Face gestured Talon to follow him. The young HeadMaster followed quickly, eager to get away from the other Decepticons.
    "Terrorwing, signal the advance! All units will move out at once. We shall deal with these Guards ourselves! And then, we head onto Camelot!" Megatron vowed. "Decepticons, advance!" He strode into the woods at the head of his array. "We will end this way or another."

    "Incoming!" Major Fairbourne shouted into her personal comlink as the whine of jet engines filled the air. "All units, return fire at will!"
    Anti-aircraft batteries began chattering. Since last night's Decepticon air raid—which had caused only minimal structural damage, though considerably more harm to morale—she had more than tripled the number of gun batteries around Camelot, and now every one of them was filling the sky with bullets and missiles. As well, since the Director's disappearance, she had brought, numerous reinforcements into Camelot. "I can defend this facility," she muttered as she climbed into her personnel command vehicle.
    Two Abhrams hoverifauks locked their turrets into position and began lobbing shells towards the westernmost portion of Camelot's grounds. After a few volleys, they glided westward.
    "Major, a substantial Decepticon force is pushing through the perimeter minefield. Sector one-five. The mines and Iron Guards are slowing them down, but they'll need reinforcement's."
    "Call them in, Lieutenant...priority alert to all units in the region." Fairbourne adjusted her chair. "Alert secondary units to begin an advance!" she ordered as her command vehicle lurched into motion. "And maintain the patrols along the rest of our perimeter—I don't want to be flanked by surprise." She didn't trust the Decepticons to be bold—or foolish—enough to blindly concentrate all of their forces in one area for this attack... multiple strikes and flanking maneuvers were the key to capturing a defended position...and blunting such maneuvers were the key to defending one.
    "Yes, Major," her aide replied. "I'll place the reserves on full alert as well."

    "I don't like this," Talon complained as he adjusted his engine thrust slightly to maintain his position near Face. Even with Whisper's reluctant help, formation flying was harder than it looked for a Human mind to manage.
    "Don't worry, it's easy." Skywarp chuckled and then abruptly broke formation to dive on a lone Human tank and strafed it.
    "Enter into battle as you would play a game," Face suggested calmly. "For if it is your destiny to die here, then you can do nothing except make your death a glorious one...but if it is your destiny to die elsewhere, then you will survive this encounter no matter what action you take." He launched some of his missiles, and explosions ripped through a bunker.
    "Thanks," Talon muttered sarcastically as he dodged a hail of bullets from an anti-aircraft gun. "That makes me feel a whole lot better!" He returned fire, taking out the battery with his second laser bolt—Whisper might be a reluctant participant in the HeadMaster program, but he knew when cooperation was when enemy fire was tracking him.

    "This is Gold Leader to Gold Wing...we've got some Decepticon fighters attacking Camelot. Our orders are to intercept and destroy." A squadron of Steal Shields dropped out of the clouds over Camelot. "Weapons hot, Gold Wing."
    "Targets locked in," one pilot reported.
    "Incoming fire," another added just as fast, "Watch out, they are breaking formation!"
    "There's too many!" a pilot shouted as his plane blew apart.
    "Gold Wing, break and attack." Gold Leader selected his own target and fired two of his missiles. The angular Decepticon jet banked, but-the missiles struck before he could complete his turn and he exploded. "Gold Leader to Camelot...we have engaged the enemy."

    "Face reports engaging enemy aircraft," Soundwave relayed from where he stood just behind Megatron as they advanced through the light forest. "He is splitting his forces to engage them and also carry out, the strike at the main facility."
    "The Humans are fighting valiantly," Megatron admitted as he stepped over the burned-out hull: of a hovertank. "For once, they are defending a location like Decepticons." Ha said that last with a twist to his mouth.
    "I would be happier if they were less determined defenders," Terrorwing observed as he stepped over the shattered body of an Iron Guard. "We are sustaining heavy casualties, Commander, and I believe that additional Humans will be coming into the region as quickly as they can be mobilized." Explosions rumbled in the distance, and were rapidly growing closer. Smoke was rising from beyond the ridge. "This facility is vital to their planet's defensive strategies and they will certainly respond to our attack with everything they can muster."
    "Then they will certainly be destroyed," Megatron declared calmly, "Push on! Show no mercy!" As he traded punches with an Iron Guard, he observed that the Humans ware more far effective warriors than he had previously known. He was almost tempted to try and turn them into allies…with them as cannon fodder, even his old masters—he broke off that train of thought in order to devote more attention to his opponent. "You are good," His punch sent the Guard reeling. "But I am better."
    Terrorwing dropped to one knee as laser bolt's crackled past his head. "Good shooting !" he called out to the Humans. "But you will find this to be a better display of marksmechship." His arm-mounted disrupter cannon fired once and the targeted Iron Guard disintegrated. "Cryon!" he shouted.
    "Yes, my Lord?"
    "Call up the reserves! We shall require more troops than I had first assumed."
    "Yes, my Lord," Cryon, ever the humble aide, ducked down behind a large boulder, and then activated his comlink to contact the rest of the Legion — stationed onboard the Dark Glory — and summon them into battle.
    "Send them to the eastern border," Terrorwing added. "Let us catch the Humans between two waves." A classic pincer movement, but still as effective as when it had first been developed so many millions of years ago. Perhaps , he mused, I should try a double pincher feint? No doubt the subtleties of such a maneuver would be lost on the Humans… but he could certainly order his Legionnaires to attempt it — if just for the practice.
    "And any word of us utilizing an orbital bombardment?" Cryon asked as he sent a few pistol shots towards a cluster of infantry…even unarmoured and with insignificant hand weapons they were still trying to attack their foes!
    "Negative. Not until Megatron agrees." And that would not be for quite some time, Terrorwing feared. "Push the ground assault ...we need to divide the Humans’ forces." He’d already received reports from his Legionnaires that additional Humans were observed advancing with their armored support vehicles…and in sufficient quantities, even their primitive weapons could be deadly.

    Five hovertanks skimmed along a dirt road. They skidded to a halt as a dozen Decepticons emerged from the forest, As one, the tanks opened fire with their main cannons.
    Explosions sent three Decepticons tumbling to the ground, their once-gleaming bodies severely damaged.
    Then the tanks opened fire with their secondary guns. Laser beams burned into five other Decepticons, melting through their torsos and vaporizing internal circuitry.
    The surviving Decepticons hastily pulled back into the woods, without firing a single shot in response.

    "The situation is grim," Doctor Arkeville observed as techs frantically loaded records and equipment into waiting trucks. "I doubt ve ourselves can escape now."
    "Of course we can."
    "Alvays the optimist, Goldsmith?" Arkeville’s voice carried through the room, but no one was paying attention. "Major Fairbourne cannot hold the Decepticons back. Her lines are already breaking." His eyes narrowed as he considered their dwindling options. "Perhaps if we were to surrender, then the Decepticons might spare our lives. Perhaps they would even consider us as potential allies."
    "Allies?" Goldsmith scoffed loudly. "Did that accident yesterday scramble your brains, Ernst? The robots don't see us as allies…just targets! Surrender? Why not just put a gun to your temple yourself?" He turned away and strode back into Camelot. "I need help over in Lab Four!" he called.
    Arkeville just shook his head as techs scurried to follow.
    Fairbourne studied a display as fresh reports came in on the radio. Decepticons were advancing on two sides now—just as she had expected—and her forces were being stretched to their limits—and beyond—trying to slow, let alone stop them. Even now she could hear the guns on her command vehicle firing in support of some distant attack.
    "Report from General Edwards...he's dispatched elements of the Twenty-Second Mechanized to assist us. ETA of two hours."
    Fairbourne shook her head grimly, "I don't think we can hold for two more hours," she said. "We're stretched to our limits now." This attack had to be the Director's fault, she mused. Somehow....

    "I hate this!" Talon wailed as tracer fire chipped paint from his fuselage. 'Stop whining!' Whisper's mindvoice snapped. 'I'm no warrior!’ Kirkby protested. A missile narrowly missed his left wing. 'I hate heights !' 'And I hate fleshlings!' Whisper thought back. 'But we're stuck with each other...after all, this wasn't my idea.'

    "What a mess," Buster Witwicky thought as he recklessly flew Powerglide into the thick of the dogfight. The direct threat to Camelot had resulted in the full mobilization of every Human military force in the area, and prompted several hasty counter-attacks and strikes in an attempt at diverting the Decepticons. The young HeadMaster—already on route to Camelot to confer with Fairbourne regarding the abrupt and unexplained disappearance of Director Kirkby—had quickly joined in the battle.
    "Gold Leader to Avenger-One."
    "Avenger-One here," Buster radioed back.
    "Decepticon air units are hitting the southern perimeter hard...can you come over and occupy them?"
    "Copy," Buster replied. "I'll do my best." He changed radio frequencies. "Avenger Flight, head south. Engage and destroy all enemy aircraft." Powerglide accelerated, feeling a momentary qualm at leading standard twenty F-22 jets into battle against Decepticons. He ignored that thought—knowing that he had no other troops to throw into battle and that he alone, even if he was a HeadMaster, would be no match for an entire Decepticon squadron.

    "Fleshlings incoming," one Decepticon warned his comrades as he broke off from a strafing run.
    "Finally a challenge," Vector replied. "I was growing weary of bombing these ground-crawlers. Subduer Flight, break off and attack. Power to the Decepticons!"
    Talon heard the order clearly and reluctantly altered his course. A dozen Grey Legion fighters streaked towards the incoming Humans in a wedge-shaped formation.

    "The leader is mine," Buster told his fellow pilots as he spotted the incoming Decepticons. The leader was obvious—twelve jets were of an identical triangular design, differing only in their color schemes, while one was vaguely Earth-like. "Shoot them down!" He fired Powerglide's thermal beam.
    Megatron took momentary shelter among the ruins of a bombed-out factory to confer with his far-flung forces. At Terrorwing's orders, Legionnaires formed a perimeter and kept the Humans pushed well away. "Establish a conference link," Megatron ordered.
    "As you command." Soundwave transformed to his cassette-deck mode. "Channels active and encoded."
    "This is Megatron to unit commanders...status report--"
    "This is Face," replied the calm voice of the Decepticon Air Commander. "We are engaging Human fighter squadrons throughout the region. Heavy casualties to our forces, but the Humans are taking heavier losses. Vector is intercepting some fresh arrivals, but report's an easy victory."
    "Continue with the battle," Megatron ordered. "I want total air supremacy. And I want it now!"
    "I shall do my best."
    "My Legion continues to attack as planned," Terrorwing quickly reported as he stepped closer to Megatron' side. "Legionnaires have broken through the outer defenses and have flanked most of the local military forces. The Humans are tied down. As well, Sub-Commander Stormcrow has deployed units to block any escapees. None of them small escape."
    "I shall trust that is indeed the case," Megatron said. "I will not tolerate any failure in this assault."
    Terrorwing nodded his head. "Of course," He paused, "My Lord, a display of our firepower could alter the course of this battle. If we demonstrate our ability to vaporize a city from orbit, then surely the Humans would surrender."
    "Perhaps, Terrorwing, but I've fought the Humans for years...they are difficult to predict. Orbital bombardment might only inflame to further resist...if they know we can destroy their cities at any time we choose, then what do they have to lose in resisting us?" He turned to his other aide. "Soundwave, hail the Dark Glory."
    "Yes, Commander."
    "Frostwing here," a distinctive feminine voice announced a moment later as a hologram wavered to life in front of Soundwave. "Yes, Megatron, what do you want?"
    "Give me a status report."
    "The Dark Glory is maintaining its current position. Damage Control Teams have repaired most of the damage sustained earlier. All critical systems are now fully operational." She paused. "Some of the complete repairs will require time in an actual shipyard."
    "Once Earth has been taken care of," Megatron promised, "then we will stop by Sky'arx for necessary repairs and refit. Speaking of which," he added, "I want you to signal all the shipyards to step up work on the new starships. We will require a larger fleet than I had first expected to deal with the current situation."
    Frostwing nodded. "Understood, Should I call additional ships to join us?"
    "No," Megatron finally said. "But do send an alert to the nearest task force ...inform them to be prepared to divert to Earth at short notice."
    "As you wish."
    "What of the Disciples?" Megatron demanded, "What are they up to right now?"
    "Their fleet is holding is position on the far side of the planet. Ground forces have deployed through Australia and Asia and secured considerable territory. Human and Decepticon forces are fighting back—and fighting together as well as against each other—but the Disciples do not seem to care about the casualties they are taking. General Flameheart has reported the complete annihilation of four battalions of Disciples in a single battle, but fresh battalions continue to deploy from their battleships."
    "That behavior is consistent with what I have already observed here," Megatron commented dryly. "Order our field officers to continue to press their attacks against the Disciples and Humans alike…Disciples have threat priority," he added. "In the meantime, the Dark Glory will hold station. Inform me if they make any more aggressive moves."
    "Yes, Commander. Frostwing out."
    Terrorwing gestured to the south. "Megatron, a fresh report from the field."

    "Press the advance!" Subcommander Nightstorm exhorted his troops to greater actions as they pushed over a ridge. This was a glorious battle...lone squads operating independently as part of a grand offensive facing off against warriors determined to defend their homes with their utmost abilities, struggling valiantly despite overwhelming odds…such was true battle.
    Human-crewed artillery pounded the area with shells laden with high explosives. The light forest was rapidly turning into a cratered desert.
    Nightstorm paused to scan the horizon for evidence of the artillery's location. "They fight well," A shot from his pistol picked off an unwary Human. "We must fight better!"
    Several Humans had even managed to hastily convert their anti-aircraft cannon into anti-personnel cannons and were now using them to pummel the Decepticons.
    "Incoming vehicles!" a Legionnaire shouted.
    Ground tanks were crawling towards them. Their cannon boomed and more shells ripped at the Legionnaire's ranks.
    "Return fire!" Nightstorm bellowed as his troops took cover. Yes, this was truly glorious.
    "Wait for it," Captain Hamilton whispered. "Now!"
    Twenty Iron Guards erupted from concealed trenches and dugouts and opened fire. Laser bolts and machine gun fire scythed down a squad of startled Decepticons. The firing trailed off as the last Decepticon fell. Hamilton cursed softly. Even though they outnumbered the foe nearly three to one and struck with the advantage of complete surprise, they'd still taken losses.
    "Incoming aircraft!" one of the Guards shouted.
    "Missile crews!" Hamilton snapped. He turned his head to take note of the approaching jets—five triangular designs—and then at the ten unarmored Humans carrying missile tubes. "Get ready!" His expression didn't change as missiles streaked skyward to destroy three of the Decepticons...nor when the two survivors strafed his unit.
    "I hate HeadMasters!"
    Talon heard that signal break off abruptly as a missile caught one of his comrades. "The battle goes badly, Vector."
    "Keep fighting," the Legionnaire replied. "We're not beaten yet."
    Talon deactivated his comlink and then sighed. Two-to-one odds had resulted in a fierce battle. Three-quarters of the Human jets had been shot down, but seven Decepticons had also been blown out of the sky.
    "Windsheer, intercept the leader," Vector ordered.
    Talon sighed again as another Decepticon was destroyed—the Human leader was an Avenger: a mindwiped Autobot who was now a fully functional HeadMaster. 'And,' Whisper thought, 'even before he became a HeadMaster. Powerglide was an efficient warrior.'

    "This is a slaughter," Buster radioed to Major Fairbourne as another Decepticon died in flames. "We're taking heavy losses up here. I don't think I can hold them much longer!"
    "You've held them long enough for us to reinforce the southern perimeter," she radioed back. "Good work, Avenger-One."
"Not good enough," Bustier finished as another F-22 exploded. At least there was a parachute this time. "I'm on the enemy leader." That jet looked vaguely familiar, he noted though he couldn't place exactly why.
    "They're breaking through our inner defense line!"
    Fairbourne felt her command vehicle lurch as it took several hits before the gun crews blasted the Decepticon doing the firing. "Fall back...pull back to the final line." She hated to do it...didn't want to pin herself down like this—not even in the final hardened positions—but she had no choice. "We've lost this site." She knew it, but she couldn't withdraw that much further either. Orders demanded that she stand to the last here...this facility was Earth's best hope for victory, the minds assembled were the brightest Humanity could offer...and every second she could buy them gave them that much more time to escape with whatever they could salvage so that they could reestablish somewhere else.
    Only, if she failed in this mission, would anyone have the time to complete their work before the Decepticons completed their conquest of the planet?

    Commander Starfall emerged from the woods and onto an open field. A small air field, he amended, before directing his fire teams to destroy the tower and small hangers. He personally fired at one of the anti-aircraft batteries defending the field as best they could.
    A squad of tank-mode Legionnaires pushed forward, flanking the field. Human infantry fought them fiercely, but were forced back before the armored push.
    "Fire all batteries!" Starfall-shouted. "I want this site leveled!" A cry from one of his scouts alerted him to the sudden approach of Human reinforcements. "Hit them now!" Long-range missiles turned two Human vehicles into flaming wrecks, but the surviving tanks pelted the Legionnaires with explosive shells.
    "Hold them!" Starfall commanded. "Air team," he radioed, "I need some cover!"
    "You've got it." Contrail and his squadron leaped into the air and transformed into their various jets.
    Starfall knew that few commanders would have brought their air team into battle as ground troops—at least not willingly—but he knew that the sudden launch of the air strike from a seemingly ground—based force would be devastating.
    One pass was enough to obliterate the tanks.
    Sergeant 0'Connor winced and lowered the binoculars. "The armor just bought it," he announced. "We're next in the line of fire." He turned away from the slit window. "Get those bloody mortars loaded."
    "Already done."
    "Missiles loaded, standing by."
    O'Connel turned back to the window and squinted at the smoke-stained horizon. "Wait for it," he said softly. "Now!" The dull thud of the mortars echoed through the bunker. "Direct hits on two of the tincans!"
    Starfall looked around in shock as fresh explosions erupted among his squad and two of his warriors collapsed—gaping holes replacing most of their torsos. "Spread out!" he shouted, even before he spotted the bunker. "Return fire!" The Humans were learning, he admitted grimly. That bunker had survived the first barrage without visible damage. "Air team!"
    "We're on it," Contrail replied. "Easy target...we just move in and—"
    "Contrail?" Starfall called as the channel suddenly went dead. "Contrail?" he shouted aloud as he spotted the flaming debris falling from the sky. "No!"
    "Three more jets swatted." O'Connel paused as the mortars fired again—and again as quickly as they could be loaded. "We're holding them, for now. We need support from armored units to push them back though." He didn't know if the com-system was still working because no one answered, but he continued to report on his holding action just in case.
    Skywarp materialized out of nowhere, and his weaponry raked across the array of dishes and antennas which provided Camelot with most of its communications. He knew that most of the land lines were long-since cut, and Soundwave was jamming almost every radio frequency...that just left the line-of-sight tightbeam laser links he was rapidly blowing out of existence. Even as the first Human defenders locked onto him and started firing back, he teleported away.
    "Push the assault," Megatron ordered. He had moved deeper toward the heart of Camelot and Human resistance was—somehow—increasing in its ferocity. The battle had raged for over hours, and Humans didn't possess the endurance of mechanoids! "Terrorwing, order your Legionnaires to press their flanking maneuvers. We must crush the Humans now!"
    Terrorwing nodded. Hours of combat had not yet tired him, though even his armor was scarred by battle damage. "I will relay the orders at once."
    Talon dodged another thermal beam, cursing as Powerglide shot at him again. "What did I do to deserve this?" he wailed aloud. Why did Buster hate him so much? "Ow!" he yelped as a thermal beam creased his wing. "That's it!" He swung around and sent half a dozen laser bolts stabbing towards Powerglide.
    An Iron Guard climbed slowly out of a crater and lifted his head to look around. He spotted the approaching Decepticons, and aimed his arm-mounted laser.
    Despot stumbled as a laser burned into his leg. Whirling to his left, he spotted an Iron Guard lying on the ground. His rifle fired its own energy beam back.
    The Guard swayed as his left arm was blown off at the elbow. The remaining partial limb was just enough to keep him half- crouched, in a position in which he could raise his right arm and fire the twin machine guns. He kept firing even as more lasers burned into his torso. Without legs, he couldn't move, and he had no desire to surrender.
            *            *            *
    "Fire at will!" Megatron fired burst after burst from his proto-fusion cannon and explosions ripped through the main complex of buildings which housed Project: Excalibur.
    Face finally broke through the defending enemy aircraft to lead a belated air strike against the complex while Terrorwing led the ground assault. Explosions blossomed throughout the complex. Fires erupted and spread out-of-control in seconds. Some Human defenders abandoned their posts, while others fought on, but they still died in dozens every second.
    The remaining Iron Guards charged, most of them were blasted into scrap before they could come close to the Decepticons, but they took several Decepticons with them into death. Hardened bunkers and fixed emplacements fired every weapon they possessed and dozens of square kilometers of ground exploded in a firestorm at the same time.
    In the sky, Face and his severely depleted Jet-mode allies traded shot's with the remaining Human aircraft and many on both sides fell groundward in flames. A few on each side made strafing runs against ground targets, but most were occupied by engaging enemy aircraft.
    Megatron strode into the heart of the storm, ignoring most of the fierce array of firepower the Humans were wielding. He knew their weapons could not hurt him, but his weapons were deadly. He selected targets at random—a capricious god—and wherever he looked, fire erupted a moment later.
    Neither side asked for, nor granted, mercy...complete and utter destruction was the order of the day. Shouting orders and obscenities, Fairbourne led the Humans final charge herself, her armored command vehicle firing every weapon it carried. Its bulky form shook under enemy fire, its massive armor-plating vaporizing and cracking, but still it rumbled forward into the madness of the final battle, still it unleashed volley after volley of lasers and missiles from its remaining functioning batteries. The Major manned the primary laser cannon herself, personally killing over a dozen Decepticons before one huge green-and-purple armored Decepticon stepped forward and ripped the vehicle apart with his bare hands.
    "Victory!" Megatron shouted. He stepped forward, striding through the smoking ashes which had once been an advanced research facility. He nodded slowly in his satisfaction, as smoke curled around him. "We have dealt the Humans a stern blow," he announced with a proud grin. "Now perhaps they will cease their foolish and ultimately futile resistance to my rightful rule."
    "A waste of time," Terrorwing said softly. "My Lord, we could have accomplished this destruction from orbit, without suffering such numerous casualties or expending the resources we did."
    Starfall looked up from examining the burned body of a Legionnaire and nodded.
    "We are warriors," Megatron replied to their words. "Operation Camlann Field was necessary. I am content with how it turned out." He picked up a half-melted Iron Guard's head. "A glorious victory." He tossed the head aside.
    Soundwave stepped forward. "Communication from the Dark Glory. Mighty One. Your presence is required onboard."
    "Very well...once again the demands of duty drag me away from the pleasures of victory. Alert the teleport crews to begin recovery operations. Terrorwing, you will accompany me."
    "As you command," Terrorwing gave the ruins one last glance, "There is no longer anything of value to be gained here." He looked to his troops, the majority of whom were cheering their victory. "Cryon, oversee a salvage team. Check the rubble for survivors, data records, anything of value."
    "Of course, my Lord." Cryon saluted. "It shall be done."
    Amid the bustle of activity and the swirling smoke and ash, Face stood off to one side, silently watching another Decepticon.
    Talon was kneeling by himself in one mound of charred debris. He held a tiny Human-sized object—a holo-photo—in one huge hand and was staring at it silently.