Stroke of Midnight

By Thomas Zavier

    Tempest strode down the corridor of the massive Decepticon battleship Dark Glory.  Face had listened to her long tale of death and sorrow–and left.  Left her, however, with new resolve.  Even as a mortal mechanoid, she had to use what she knew to save what were now her people.
    She stopped at the heavy metal gate to the launch bay.  Her fingers danced lightly over the keypad; the lock recognized her code and the doors slid slowly open with a hiss.
    Tempest walked to a control panel opposite the huge metallic hatch that opening into space.  With a few more key-presses, the gate closed and the hatch slowly pulled open, revealing the blackness of space, the vacuum held back by an invisible force field.
    She paused for a moment, considering her upcoming course of action. It was important she acted quickly.  Robbed of her powers, she felt blind and deaf–cut off from the world hidden from “mortal” senses.  She had no way to know how fast things were moving.  Lost briefly in her thoughts, she failed to notice a glitter of light from behind her reflect upon the control panel’s surface momentarily.
    With a sigh, she turned on her heel–
    “What–?” she gasped.  “No–not you.  It can’t be.”
    “It is,” hissed the creature before her.  “Surprised?”
    The sleek and spiny dark dragon-form had changed, definitely, become even darker and nastier looking, if possible–but the gleam of the yellow optics was unmistakable.  The keen glare of sadistic malice had only increased since she saw them last.  “’Tis true, my dear.  But you should call me sir.  I am your superior officer.”
    “Was.”  She clenched her fists.  “I killed you.  This must be a trick...”
    “No–you killed me, indeed.  An excellent job you did of it–I cannot contain my pride in you, my sweet.”  Midnight was grinning.  “The best I have ever seen.  I suffered greatly! You should reconsider your line of work–but, alas, I fear that is irrelevant.  For I do not foresee a need for you to worry about your career any longer, Syntara.”  He growled the last word menacingly.
    This was too much.  “No!  If I killed you, you bastard–how the hell are you here?!”
    “I was plucked from the Void, sweetie–surely one of your kind knows of the Triad.”
    Tempest drew a quick breath.  “The ancient Elder Gods–but they aren’t active in this Universe...”
    “No, they are not.  But that hardly matters, does it?  They are beyond even your snooty lot.  The Fate Generator–”
    Tempest cocked her head.  “You mean–Tarallax?  The God of Time itself?  He was contained–”
    “No longer,” Midnight cut her off.  “But you need not worry about him, particularly; his concern is not with this Universe, at this time.”  The word “time” made Midnight chuckle cryptically, as if he’d made a private joke.  “Tarallax saved me from death to serve him in his plans--but I’ve decided to do otherwise, for a while.  I have unfinished business, my dear–especially with you, little one.  As impressed as I was with your work–”  He shook his head, laughing quietly.  “And honestly, picked apart atom by atom... simply... beautiful...”  He laughed again.  “Still, I did not enjoy it at the time...”
    Tempest needed not to be told Midnight’s intention.  But he could never stand against a Syntara– did he know, somehow?  That she had no power?  Had he overheard the conversation–confession, more like it–with Face?  As a Syntara, he would be a fly to be swatted–but as a Decepticon Scout, she’d be no match for the monster Midnight was.  But he was different–an aura of even greater power than before seemed to surround him; and she was afraid.
    That fear mingled quickly with rage.  This injustice–even after the ethereal assassin, she had to face this–this thing coming back from the dead to avenge its own righteous murder.  She couldn’t stand the thought, not even for a moment.
    “How dare you...” she growled, “after what you did to Sunfire... never has she done anything to deserve what you did to her.  And you have no idea how important she was...”
    Midnight scowled for a moment, then smiled--but the smile was far from comforting.  “Oh, don’t I?” he snickered evilly.  “Don’t think that my service to the God of Time didn’t leave me with certain gifts.  I have seen your world’s future, Syntara–not forecasted it like your kind, but actually seen it–how do you think I got into this bay, anyway?  And I know precisely what part little Sunny has to play. I will not hinder it–though I could finish her off at my leisure!”  He made a strange noise–almost a purr of self-indulgent contentedness.
    “What–she’s alive?!”  Tempest didn’t believe it, until it dawned on her–“The Syntara interfered, didn’t they? They saved her!”
    Midnight gave a single short laugh.  “Ha!  Maybe.  I’m not telling. I’m not giving you the satisfaction of knowing who undid my work.”
    Tempest, forgetting herself, advanced on Midnight.  “Tell me, you worm!”
    Midnight did not smile.  His wings spread open wide, and his black body seemed suddenly tinged in blue light.  There was an almost inaudible hum in the air.  “Do not threaten me, Syntara.  I would not place myself before you if Tarallax had not imbued me with the means to survive you.  Or better.  I’m not that stupid, now am I?  I come for revenge; though not as pretty as your work on me, I will now take your miserable life.  No longer must you bear your burden of disguise!  I will relieve you of it.”
    Tempest stopped in her tracks, realizing her fatal mistake–and then the arcing bolts of dark energy struck her body.  Spraying from Midnight’s form like blue lightning, it sent her crackling and writhing into an agonized heap against the bulkhead.
    The bolts relented, and Midnight cocked his head questioningly at her, his claws digging into the metal floor.  “Why don’t you fight, Syntara?” he asked quietly.  “Do you welcome the Void?  Hmmm?”
    Tempest’s mind reeled.  He didn’t know!  But that did her no good... would it even help her to tell him?  What hope did she have?
    “Just...” she croaked, “just go scrap yourself.”
    Midnight frowned.  “Not yet.”  He slid up to her, and lifted her from the floor with one arm.  “What is this?  Passive resistance?  Playin’ possum?  What?  No way that amount of energy would hurt a Syntara of your age...”  Then, without warning, Midnight reared onto his back legs and, still grasping Tempest around the neck module, dug the talons of his other hand into her chest.
    She convulsed once–it was a sharp shock, then a sickening, draining sensation–he was sucking energy right out her body!  Then, as suddenly as it began, it stopped and Midnight dropped he clattering back to the floor.
    Smiling, he folded his wings and backed off.  “Interesting,” he muttered.  Then he chuckled.  “It seems they got to you first.  Very curious–when I didn’t see you in the future, I thought it was because I had already taken care of you–it was always my intent.  Ah, the peculiarities of time-travel–but now I understand.”  He chuckled again.  “It must be just horrible for you!”
    “Shut up,” she wheezed.
    Midnight hissed–but Tempest could tell it was a hiss of guilty pleasure.  “Relax, sweetie!  I’m not going to hurt you–not now.  Where’s the sport, or the art, in that? You are below my level of expertise.  What your beloved Syntara have done to you is punishment enough, I imagine!”
    And with a laugh, Midnight’s body suddenly burst into radiant light–and he was gone.
    Tempest tried to push herself up, but failed.  She decided to lay down for a while...  She wasn’t sure how to explain her wounds to the MedBots, and felt her new resolve somewhat challenged by this rather... unpleasant experience.