Preparations For War

By Matt TALON Kirkby

    As the Dark Glory hurtled through hyperspace, Megatron sat at the massive desk in his private office and brooded on recent events. Faint light from the mottled sky of hyperspace glimmered through the room's single viewport-the scintillating colors muted only slightly by the transparisteel-and played out across his hard features.
    The door chimed softly.
    "Come!" Megatron snapped.
    With a soft hiss, the door slid open and Soundwave and Terrorwing stepped into the office. The door hissed closed behind them.
    "I have the reports you requested, Mighty One." Soundwave held several data-pads in his hands. "Several of the original requests were marked `urgent’ per your standing orders." When Megatron made no move to accept the 'pads, the communications expert, added: "The science departments are rather irate at not being given what they believe to be sufficient time to complete their various experiments and analyses, when I left, the chief science staff were writing a formal protest to be delivered to you."
    Megatron smiled at that...merely a tiny twitch of his mouth, true, but it was still a smile. "I have missed your assistance for so much of the last decade, Soundwave. I don't know how I have managed to accomplish anything without you."
    "There is a certain advantage in possessing an efficient aide," Terrorwing agreed from where he stood near the viewport. Abruptly, he turned his head away from staring out, at hyperspace so that he could look at his leader. "However, my Lord, the reports-"
    "Yes, yes." Reluctantly accepting the call of duty, Megatron scanned the top most one. "Well, that, certainly explains that clearly."
    "Which report is-" Terrorwing craned his neck slightly so that he could see the file in question. "Ah, yes...the scout team dispatched to Syrra IV."
    "The liaison team," Soundwave corrected with a mournful tinge to his voice. "So much for our receiving any assistance from Galvatron's remaining forces," he noted glumly, "with such complete destruction of the Syrra IV fortress-on top of the casualties sustained thus far in our campaigns on both Cybertron and then Earth-our position has been left slightly vulnerable."
    "A minor setback only," Megatron argued.
    "If a foe cannot inflict damage against you, then he is not truly worthy of fighting," Terrorwing declared. "Which is not to say," he added a moment later, "that some foes can inflict too much damage for the effort of fighting then." He shook his head. "These Disciples are powerful in numbers, but we are superior warriors. Victory will be ours."
    There was silence for several moments.
    "Anyway," Megatron finally continued, "we have no evidence that the majority of the Decepticons stationed on Syrra IV would have actually supported me...the Disciples might have actually saved us both resources and time by eliminating that fortress." He frowned and shook his head. "Though I very much doubt, it."
    "As do I," Soundwave agreed-and Terrorwing nodded as well. "Many of my comrades there were not happy with Galvatron's leadership...a revolt would have been simple to begin."
    Terrorwing growled something too softly to be understood.
    "What was that?" Megatron asked.
    "It is not right that a commander should be so loathed by his troops," the warlord replied, "A good leader must be respected by his command, he must hold himself apart from his warriors and not mingle too freely, but he should not inspire fear and loathing like this Galvatron did. He lacked all semblance of honor."
    "I agree." Megatron shook his own head. "And consider that he claimed to have once been me in his own dimension. Surely not an improvement upon the original," He scanned the report, again. "The scouts all escaped safely?"
    Soundwave nodded. "As per orders, they emerged from hyperspace at a safe distance and approached the planet hidden in the tail of a passing comet."
    Terrorwing looked surprised.
    "I served at the fortress since its creation," Soundwave explained. "I was able to supply Megatron with navigation data and the proper passcodes." He shrugged. "My first loyalty has always been to Megatron."
    "And I have always treasured your friendship, old friend."
    "The scouts' original orders were to obtain passive long-range scans and also monitor any transmissions during their approach." To keep any of Galvatron’s loyalists from detecting them. "They spotted the Disciples almost immediately and were able to obtain detailed scans. The scouts broke off from the comet at its closest approach and then swung past the planet at high speed." The first plan had required them to transmit Soundwave's clearance codes during their approach. "They eluded Disciple battleships long enough to complete a detailed scan of the fortress and of the planet, and then withdrew into hvperspace before coming under fire. The Disciples did not attempt pursuit." Soundwave paused, "The fortress has been severely damaged."
    "Power emissions were at less than ten percent," Megatron read from the report. "No non-Disciple transmissions were intercepted."
    "The Disciples do not appear to be establishing a garrison on the planet," Soundwave noted, "but they seem to be currently searching for any survivors."
    "No doubt, to be interrogated for information on additional TransFormer out posts."
    "Perhaps, Terrorwing." Megatron did not sound convinced.
    "Another point now must be considered," Terrorwing noted. "By attacking this Syrra IV, the Disciples helped us on Earth."
    "I don't see," Frostwing announced as she entered Megatron's office without signaling, "how their attack on Syrra IV helped us at Earth."
    "It split their forces," Terrorwing told the security commander in a cold tone. "Otherwise they would have had even more battleships available with which to attack Earth."
    Frostwing nodded as she considered that.
    Megatron shook his head. "There is an additional point to be gleaned from your observation, Terrorwing. Namely, the full extent of resources available to this enemy."
    Terrorwing had already considered that grim fact. "Indeed, an excellent point, my Lord."
    Seeing Frostwing's puzzled expression, Megatron dropped the 'pad onto his desk. "The Disciples originally deployed a fleet of three hundred battleships at Cybertron...surely they left some of those vessels behind to protect the planet while they garrison it and eliminate any remaining pockets of resistance on its surface..."
    "A logical assumption," Frostwing agreed.
    "They sent two hundred battleships to eliminate Syrra IV...and then deployed one hundred and sixty more to attack Earth. Given their losses in all three of these engagements, the Disciples must have more than four hundred battleships available to them." Then, even as Frostwing winced and shook her head in a vain gesture of disbelief, he made his last point. "And do not forget that Syrra IV and Earth were attacked at the same time."
    Frostwing shivered. "This data is very worrying."
    "Indeed." Megatron lifted his optics from his desktop to stare coldly at his security commander, "You have something to report to me, Frostwing?"
    She nodded, "I have an update from the scout sent to locate Midnight."
    Megatron paused just long enough to recall the events surrounding Midnight's impromptu mission to Cindras Two. "And what does the fearless hunter say for himself? Are the Autobots who escaped from him at Cybertron terminated yet?" He did not view the escaped prisoners as much of a threat, but he not want loose ends slipping through his fingers either.
    Frostwing seamed reluctant to answer directly. "The Autobot shuttle which escaped from Cybertron was shot down over Cindras Two...Midnight proceeded to the surface to personally search for any survivors."
    "Which, we already know," Soundwave reminded her. "Nightracer told us all about that when she rejoined us at Earth."
    "This reiteration of recent history does not. interest me, Frostwing, Where is Midnight?" Megatron's tone hardened.
    "Tempest, the scout I assigned to recover him, reports that there is no sign of him on Cindras Two. Upon arriving, Tempest was unable to make radio contact, and the scanners of her ship could find no trace of him. Several portions of the planet are currently undergoing extreme tectonic activity...."
    "Perhaps the hunter failed," Soundwave suggested.
    "Or perhaps he was wounded and unable to reply to her hails."
    "And maybe he fell into a volcano!" Megatron snapped. "It really doesn't matter, I suppose." Terrorwing ducked his head and Megatron paused-Midnight was expendable in the grand scheme of things. "I will assume that there is no trace of the Autobots either?"
    "None, I'm afraid. Although Tempest claims to have scanned the wreckage of a vessel submerged under a lava stream. Her ship's sensor data matches that of the Autobot shuttle...and despite her extensive survey, Tempest has detected no evidence of Autobot survivors."
    "Inform Tempest to scan the planet again, then she may return to base."
    "Oh, Tempest has already returned to the Dark Glory. She made her final report in person."
    Megatron nodded. "Very well. Is there anything else?"
    "Not from me," Frostwing turned on her heel and left the office.
    Megatron sighed as the door hissed closed behind her. "This campaign is not going as well as I had originally envisioned."
    "It gets worse." Soundwave handed over another 'pad, "The medical report on the bodies we recovered from Earth during the withdrawal."
    Megatron was growing annoyed by this entire briefing, endless lists of bad news were not what he wanted to hear...though he admitted that it was better to be told bad news at the time than have his subordinates hide or keep facts from him until it was too late. "The gist of it?" he demanded.
    "Their cerebro circuitry has been completely destabilized by the radiation pulse. MedTechs are still conducting detailed examinations on bodies teleported aboard prior to our departure, but they don't believe the damage can be repaired ...they further believe that any Transformer affected by the pulse is dead...permanently." That calm statement affected over three thousand Decepticons. "Their bodies are also unfit for salvage...the affects of the pulse apparently lingers in the circuitry and will also affect any other TransFormers who attempt to make use of damaged circuitry, limbs, etc."
    Megatron winced. "So many deaths…I do not regret the loss of the Disciples, but I do mourn the deaths of so many brave Decepticons." Outright dead and now a lack of possible salvage and recyclable material. A costly campaign. "Once again Earth has proven to be more trouble than it is probably worth."
    "Shall we return to cleanse the planet of life?" Terrorwing asked, stiffening to his full, height. "My Grey Legion will sterilize the surface," he declared, raising a clenched fist, "and we will wipe the stain of defeat from--"
    "No, Terrorwing. The effects of the pulse are currently too unknown and far too dangerous for us to risk a return. The effect seams to be localized within the plant's magnetic fields, but what if it does also emanate outwards? Your Legion could be killed before you enter firing range." He shook his head. "No, such attack is currently forbidden. Soundwave issue a general statement to all commands that the Terran system in now quarantined. No one enters that star system without my express and personal order.
    "As you command."
    Terrorwing nodded as well. "As you wish, Megatron." He bowed his head. "But should you change your mind, the Legion stands ready to strike."
    "Always the warrior, eh Terrorwing?" Megatron smiled. "The Humans have driven us away following a long and hard-fought struggle…and now let us leave them alone to celebrate their precious victory." He laughed aloud at the thought of the Humans struggling to survive without the benefits of any electronic device…their precious pulse bomb not only killed any and all Transformers who were within range, but the pulses also rendered all of the planet’s electronics inoperative…and the effect looked to be permanent.
    "The Disciples must still be dealt with," Terrorwing said, returning to the main thrust of the briefing. "The Dark Glory certainly gives them pause, but we will require other warships to continue this fight," A full fleet would be needed…however powerful the Glory was, the Disciples had overwhelming numbers. "Especially given their apparent numbers and resources."
    "Agreed," Megatron said. "And already being taken care of. I hope." He tapped some of the controls on his desk. "Let us find out, shall we?" The view ports turned opaque, blocking out the ever-flickering lights of hyperspace, and the communications system came online. "Mercer?"
    "Hail…Megatron." The mechnoid who appeared in holographic form saluted, "How may I assist you, Commander?" Aside from the hologram itself, the only illumination came from a light focused on Megatron, and what little of that dim light reflected off of Soundwave and Terrorwing.
    "I trust that you have received the most recent updates on the current situation?"
    "Yes…welcome to the Empire, Lord Thunderwing. Good to see you again, Soundwave…I look forward to seeing just what you can accomplish when you do not need to rush back to Galvatron’s side so often." His tone turned serious. "As for reports, it’s a shame about losing Earth."
    "These Disciples of Primus are proving to be more of a threat than I had previously anticipated. They must be dealt with soon…before all of my plans are disrupted."
    "Then you are ready to begin NOVA-ONE?" Mercer asked. He sounded eager.
    "As quickly as possible. We will be arriving shortly."
    "I will alert the Sky'arx command staff to prepare for your arrival."
    "Are the ships ready?"
    Mercer nodded. "Alpha Squadron is already completed…Beta and Gamma will be. combat-ready within the week. The next waves will still be a month or so before they are completed." He paused, "We all await the appointment of an overall commander, however, for the project. Several candidates---"
    "Lord Terrorwing," Megatron interrupted, "will assume NOVA Command." He then paused, tilting his head to the aide. "Unless you desired that task, Mercer?"
    "Not at all, I am perfectly content with my current function. Commander." Mercer shrugged, "Lord Terrorwing's record of military service is extremely varied, detailed, and packed with record of victory after victory. I'm sure he will make an excellent fleet commander. I’ll alert Sky’arx to prepare for his arrival as well."
    "Do that. Megatron out." As the hologram faded away and the lights returned, Megatron turned to his allies. "NOVA has been under construction for some time preparation for the further expansion of my Empire, Now seams to be as good a time as any to unleash its awesome power."
    Terrorwing frowned. "And what is this NOVA?"
    Megatron smiled, a gleam lighting his optics. "A fleet of dreadnoughts...some of the most powerful warships ever constructed by Decepticon science!" A viewacreen mounted on the wall flashed with schematics: cylindrical vessels, over two thousand meters long, bristling with particle beams and many missile batteries.
    "Most impressive. I will be honored to command your NOVAs."
    "Soundwave, have all files relating to the NOVA-project transferred to Lord Terrorwing's quarters for his study."
    "At once."
    "Now, both of you please leave me...I must think," As the door closed behind his aides, Megatron’s thoughts drifted out into hyperspace. "What is my enemy doing,and what are his plans?"
            *            *            *    
    "Move it!"
    "Get those missiles loaded up now!"
    "No, not that one, that one! Yes, that's the right one,"
    Grid Iron stood on a catwalk staring at the bustling activity. Scores of Autobots were racing through the main hanger, servicing the waiting warships.
    "A stirring sight, isn't It?"
    Grid Iron answered without taking his optics from the busy scene. "Perhaps, Optimus, but is it the right sight?" He shook his head. "We are Autobots, supposedly a peaceful race...and yet this entire world is dedicated to warfare.
    "Conflict is forced upon us," Optimus said. He rested a hand on Grid Iron's shoulder. "I do not like taking these actions, but we have been left with little choice."
    "No choice," Grid Iron muttered.
    "We always have a choice," Optimus replied. "If we wished, we could simply cower here underground and hope that the Decepticons do not discover us." His voice held disgust at the thought. "And could we still call ourselves Autobots if we gave heed to those thought's and hide ourselves while the Decepticons ravage the galaxy?" He shook his head, "No, Grid Iron, for good or ill, we must take these steps. Painful as they might be."
    "I hope that this raid succeeds, Optimus. We're taking an awful risk here."
    "You preserved your command by not becoming involved in the original attack," Optimua reminded him, "We lack the strength for a full-scale war, but we can afford to risk a raid for supplies. Operation Icon will succeed." Optimus smiled, an almost sheepish grin. "It can do no less."
            *            *            *
    The office door hissed open and Soundwave hurriedly stepped through. "Mighty Megatron, we have received a transmission from our agent on Oberon."
    Megatron accepted the pad from his aide. "Interesting," he mused after he rapidly skimmed its contends. "Is this report confirmed?"
    "I have been unable to contact Doubledealer, so it is currently neither confirmed nor denied."
    "I see."
    After several moments of silence, Soundwave asked: "Should I notify Frostwing of a potential breech of security?"
    "No need, Soundwave," Megatron shook his head. "Should the report be true and the Autobots have discovered and captured one of my agents, well, that particular agent knows nothing of importance about us. He only saw Warriors Cavern, a handful of old spacefighters, and a few Decepticons. Let the Autobots come in search of it-they will find only rubble."
    Soundwave nodded his calm understanding. Warriors Cavern had been one of Megatron’s oldest bases-established during the beginning of the Great War so many millions of years ago-and despite being refurbished following Megatron's rebirth, it had bean abandoned for nearly 3 years after it's reactor had breached and flooded the asteroid with radiation. The auto-destruct charges should have eliminated any evidence of it’s existence following the evacuation.
    "I have other agents in place on Oberon," Megatron continued calmly in an unconcerned tone. "One of them will be able to pass along confirmation of Doubledealer’s arrest," He nodded. "And send word of the Autobots' intended plans long before they manage to launch their planned raid." He threw his head back and laughed loudly. "Operation Icon indeed...this Icon will be of the Decepticons' ultimate triumph!"
    "As you say, Mighty One."
    Megatron sobered and looked at his aide, "In the meantime, however, I want you to - "
    "Bridge to Megatron."
    Megatron tapped the intercom. "Yes?"
    Ransack's face appeared on a monitor, "We have arrived at Sky'arx and are preparing to leave hyperspace."
    "Wait for my arrival on the bridge," Megatron ordered. "Notify Terrorwing to join me there."
    "At once, Commander, Bridge out."
    "You we're saying, Mighty One?" Soundwave prompted as the monitor went dark.
    "It's not important right now, Soundwave. It can wait. Come, this is a sight you must see for yourself."
            *            *            *
    In an uninhabited star system located hundred of light years away from the Dark Glory, automated computer systems conferred and assessed the just-finished battles. The results scrolled across a monitor on the bridge of the flagship and pupil-less eyes watched calmly.







    "Acceptable success ratios," a voice-countless voices mingled and speaking as one-echoed over hidden speakers. "The current campaign has succeeded above expectations with casualties sustained being far below projections."
    The bridge officers stood at attention.
    "But then," the voice continued, "the Masters expected no less of you."
    "We exist to serve the Will of Primus," the crew intoned in unison.
    "Your obedience is noted," the multi-voice informed them. "All vessels will stand by and await updates from reconnaissance units, ..primary fleet will hold station pending confirmation of remaining Autobot and Decepticon battle group locations. Secondary fleets maintaining stations around Cybertron and Syrra IV." It paused a moment before adding: "For the will of Primus, all must be one!"
            *            *            *
    "Helm standing by."
    "A moment more," Megatron said as he took his seat at the heart of the Dark Glory's multi-leveled bridge. "Ah, Warlord, you're here."
    Terrorwing continued striding across the deck. "You summoned me, Megatron?"
    "I did not wish you to miss this sight." Megatron smiled and leaned back in his chair. "Helm, jump to normal space!"
    The glare of hyperspace faded into a starfield.
    "Behold," Megatron declaimed grandly, "the majesty of the Sky'arx Shipyards!"
    "By the Dark One!" Terrorwing stared out of the viewports, his jaw hanging open. "It is staggering, my Lord," He turned around, optics glowing brightly. "A triumph of Decepticon engineering."
    "Give me an enhanced visual display," Megatron ordered, gesturing to the main monitor, "Tactical display!" He pointed to a second monitor.
    Tha shipyards were immense. Two dozen space stations - each scores of cubic kilometers in size - were orbiting a bland red dwarf star. Countless asteroids filled much of the system, most contained within three major belt's, but with thousands more drifting randomly.
    "Look at all those ships." Terrorwing mused. "There must be hundreds!"
    "Automated freighters," Megatron explained. "They carry raw ore mined from the asteroids to the solar smelters for processing." On the tactical display, several small space stations blinked. "Then they supply the fabrication plants and shipways."
    "A staggering sight." The tactical display was a Laos t overwhelmed by the raw amount of data it was currently displaying. "This is obviously a vital system for your Empire."
    "It is." Frostrwing said from her station, "I have overseen its security arrangements personally." She pointed to several icons on the display. "Sky'arx has a permanent garrison of spacefighters and warships, in addition to the main armaments on each space station. There are also many orbital weapon platform scattered throughout the system. This system is quite secure."
    "I will trust so," Trjrrorwing said. "If the Disciples should stumble upon it-"
    "Then they will be vaporized long before they can report their discovery." Frostwing’s tone was rich with certainty.
    "Signal from Governor Centurous," Soundwave reported. "He welcomes you to the shipyards."
    "You may inform him that Terrorwing and I will be boarding Sky'arx Prime momentarily."
    Soundwave transmitted the message. "He requests that you shuttle aboard."
    "Megatron frowned. "I had planned to teleport over." Teleporting was much faster and easier than shuttling…at least that was his opinion.
    "The Governor restates his request."
    "Oh, very well." Megatron nodded, frowning. "Alert the hanger bay to prep a shuttle, Give Centurous our arrival time-about twenty minutes now." He turned his head. "Are you ready to assume your new command?"
    "Of course," Terrorwing replied. "I am always ready to serve you in any way that I can, my Lord."
    "Good," Megatron smiled. "I am glad to hear you say that, Warlord."