Trials Of The Grey: To Rule The Roost

By Matt TALON Kirkby

    "Signal battle stations," Terrorwing ordered. "All sections will prepare for imminent combat."
    "Battle stations confirmed," Commo announced from her console "The Centurion is now battle ready." She offered no comments about how battle weary the cruiser and its crew already were.
    "Navi, our ETA?"
    "One-quarter breem," the pilot replied instantly. "And no further malfunctions have been reported." She shook her head with some relief. Breaking down twice in hyperspace-however nice the scenery was to look at-was just another sign that their ship needed some serious overhauling. If the Legion was defeated in the coming campaign and was forced to flee from Earth before they could affect some repairs...well, she doubted they would reach any other planet. "Damage control teams are running some precautionary diagnostics now, Commander. They will be completed before we return to Realspace."
    Terrorwing nodded in acknowledgement of her verbal report. "Excellent. The next few cycles will no doubt prove to be a most momentous time in our race's history," he declared, raising his voice so that the entire bridge could hear him clearly. "I want nothing to go wrong."
    "Of course not, my Lord," Cryon soothed, knowing that wanting something and actually getting it were two completely different things. He was as worried as Navi about the status of their ship's ailing drives. "Let us hope the natives do not prove too troublesome, my Lord."
    "Normally I would welcome the challenge," Terrorwing replied coldly, but then his tone softened, "but I will agree that today is not the right time for a protracted struggle. The ground forces will secure suitable resource-laden locations until we can repair this vessel. And then," he smiled, "we will move against those who would degrade the honour of the Decepticons!"
    "Realspace entry completed." Navi adjusted her console's main display slightly. "We are currently...two lighthours from Earth."
    Terrorwing turned to face his navigational officer. "What?" he rumbled, a dangerous glint in his narrowed optics. "Standard procedure dictates that we drop out of hyperspace only light-minutes from a target world!"
    "The nav-data you obtained from Governor Charter was a bit inaccurate, my Lord." Navi's tone was as cold as Terrorwing's. She did not like having her skills questioned.
    "At least we're in the right star system," Cryon said in an attempt at calming tempers.
    Glancing at his aide, Terrorwing sighed loudly. Then he looked back at Navi and nodded his head to her. "Set a course for Earth, ahead full sublight."
    "At once, my Lord." Navi turned back to her console.
    "Commo, report on their communication signals."
    "There's a lot of stuff in the area," the com-officer replied after a moment. "If Charter's language database is more accurate than her starcharts, most of this gibberish is from the natives. I'm detecting thirty different languages...I'm positive they're separate languages and not simply dialects." It was somewhat unusual for a single species to have so many different languages, especially after reaching the level of civilization these Humans were reported as having. "Nothing detected on any of the known Autobot frequencies however."
    "Surprising…the Autobots are said to have established a fair-sized colony on this Earth. Why would they now be keeping so silent?"
    "They're not broadcasting anything right now...I suppose it is possible that they could be using some of native languages and frequencies. I can't imagine why though." Who ever understood Autobots, anyway?
    Terrorwing shifted his attention. "Doppler?"
    "There are a number of satellites in orbit of the system's third planet...communication and observation models, all of very primitive designs. What looks like a small space station in orbit, possibly two."
    "What about vessels?" Terrorwing allowed concern to tinge his voice, "There must be some spacecraft present."
    "Nothing is registering on my scanners. I'm running a wider scan now." Doppler frowned as the results scrolled across the monitor. "It's most unusual. I would’ve thought the natives or the Autobots would have a docking station or keep patrol ships, or something, in orbit...perhaps Galvatron's forces have already launched their attack?"
    "This is a strange system to us," Terrorwing reminded them, "and it will probably grow stranger yet."
    Doppler bowed his head as the scan cycle ended. "Nothing is registering, my Lord. It is possible that there could be vessels in orbit on the far side of the planet...if they are actually in the atmosphere, or close enough to the planet's magnetic fields, then they could be shielded from my sensors." He paused a moment before continuing. "Plus I must point out that our sensor grid is currently not functioning at full efficiency...most of the reason I could detect the satellites is because they're actively emitting signals and energy emissions."
    "Not discounting the possibility of cloaking technology," Terrorwing mused aloud. When Doppler nodded, Terrorwing sighed. He'd heard rumors, shortly before being exiled from Cybertron, that research into cloaking technologies was progressing rapidly. "Is there any way to tell for certain?"
    "Not at this range, my Lord." Doppler frowned as he continued to manipulate his controls. "The local primary is exceptionally active from a star of its classification. Radiation from the solar wind is affecting sensor effectiveness."
    "Can you compensate?"
    "Not at this time, and not with the sensor systems in their current state."
    Terrorwing sighed--he was growing weary of equipment failures.
    "Very well, keep trying. Casing, keep the weapons on stand-by status. Cryon, inform the crew to be cautious."
    "Of course, my Lord." The sliver-and-blue Decepticon nodded, "Starfall reports his teams are ready for surface deployment." The other officer had taken charge of the troops being prepared to scatter across Earth and cow the natives, or eliminate any local Autobots or rival Deceptions...depending on what situation was found.
    "Yes, Gonimo?"
    "I have decoded several native broadcasts." She sounded excited and continued without waiting for permission to speak. "Apparently the planet is under a full-scale attack by Decepticon forces." She paused for a moment. "Reports of heavy native casualties and worldwide destruction, and overall general native inferiority to Decepticon military power."
    "That is unsurprising. What of the Autobots?"
    "No mention has yet been made of them, my Lord. I have taken the liberty of dedicating a com-scanner to monitor and record all transmissions...perhaps we will learn more in time."
    "As long as the first knowledge of their presence is not announced by an attack upon us."
    "So far I've heard no reports that we've even been noticed."
    "Let us hope not. Navi, current ETA at Earth?"
    "Fifty-two point six breems at current speed."
    "Accelerate to maximum sublight."
    Navi did so. "Revised ETA is now twenty breems."
    Terrorwing sighed. It would have to do...even over-charging the sublight drives and traveling at the speed of light-causing them to suffer the effects of time dilation and risk having the Centurion torn apart from the inertial stresses-'would take them at least fourteen breems to reach Earth and they were too close to their destination for a safe hyperspace jump.
    "Should we hail the surface?" Cryon asked.
    "Why?" Terrorwing asked in genuine curiosity.
    "To inform our brethren of our imminent arrival, to obtain current tactical data...."
    "To warn them of our approach, and reveal our ignorance of the current situation. No, we will delay contact until we are prepared to attack." Terrorwing smiled. "The Grey Legion shall triumph!" he declared proudly. "Much honour will be won this day!" His voice remained proud, "Even if we die in the attempt."
    "I hate to interrupt," Doppler said, "but we might already be detected."
    "What?" Terrorwing rumbled.
    "Vessel detected at bearing four two mark six one...range of five light-minutes."
    "Navi, all stop. Doppler, identity?"
    "Unknown," Doppler replied after a moment. "Vessel's length is two hundred and fifty mechomers. Hull content registers as a deuterium-titanium alloy, onboard power readings are low and fluctuating quite rapidly, but they do appear consistent with Cybertronian-based technology." He typed several commands into his console and watched his monitor. "Primus preserve us!" he exclaimed in alarm.
    "What is it?" Terrorwing demanded. His pale optics focused on the viewscreen, then they widened in alarm. "Impossible!" he gasped. "They cannot be here!"
    Cryon turned from a console. "The design is consistent with the ships we have previously encountered," he reported, his voice grim, "Or at least, with sections of said ships." He gestured to the enhanced visual of the unknown vessel. "It's obviously been in a battle."
    Doppler nodded. "Damage is consistent with standard energy weapon discharges. The solar wind has lessened for the moment, which-in addition to our closer position-has allowed me to make some enhanced scans of Earth. They have detected extensive debris clouds around the planet...compositions are consistent with the materials found in the hull of the unknown vessels."
    Terrorwing frowned. "And?"
    "I'm also detecting traces of radiation from fusion warheads. The signatures are consistent with Decepticon-built-" his voice trailed off.
    "What is it?" Terrorwing demanded.
    "Ion trails...picking up energy readings." Dopplar sounded worried. "Warning, thirty warships in planetary orbit!"
    Terrorwing's optics widened. "Battle alert!" Alarms began wailing, "Have they seen us?"
    "Unknown...they are not moving." A new chime sounded from his console. "For the love of Primus!"
    "What is it now?" Terrorwing rumbled,
    "Forty-seven more ships have Just emerged from hyperspace." Doppler felt an urge to scream-he suppressed it with the cold detachment of duty, "They are seventeen lightseconds from us and approaching on attack vector!"
    "Ambush?" Cryon asked.
    "Possibly." Terrorwing frowned, then calmly discounted that possibility-for how could the enemy have known of the Legion's approach? "It doesn't really matter now," He straightened in his chair, "Navi, intercept course! Casing, full power to all weapons and stand by to open fire. We shall finish them before they can finish us."
    "Optimum range in five seconds."
    "Casing, fire at will."
    "Stand by...firing."
    Energy bolts flashed and wedge-shaped vessels exploded.
    "By the Dark One!" Terrorwing swore. Cryon and the rest of the bridge crew were equally silent, stunned into silence by the awe-inspiring sight on the main viewscreen.
    The starfield seemed to waver slightly, then a huge mass of silver-and-purple metal rippled into view. Lasers flashed from sites on its bulk and explosions tore into the attacking fleet.
    The fleet responded quickly, with over three-quarters of the wedge-shaped ships concentrating their fire on the newest arrival within seconds of the first sensor disturbance.
    "Why do I fool like we've stumbled into a private vendetta?" Terrorwing asked aloud. The Centurion rocked as the first enemy fire hit them. "Damage report? He asked as the lights dimmed to near darkness.
    "Drive system down to quarter-power. Hyperdrive off-line."
    "Most of our weapons are disabled."
    "Alter course, take us away from here!"
    "Minimal thruster power, my Lord. Maneuvering will be slow and difficult at best."
    "Transfer available power to shields."
    "Returning fire with all available weapons!"
    "We are being hailed," Gomao announced.
    Terrorwing was silent for a moment. The com-system was about the only system still functioning at full efficiency. "Respond then!"
    "Audio signal."
    Static crackled from the speakers, "This is the Dark Glory to war cruiser Centurion...respond."
    Terrorwing raised his voice to be heard clearly: "This is Terrorwing, warlord of the Grey Legion. Demand of us what you will, but be forewarned! The Legion will maintain it's honour to the end!"
    "It is you!" a new voice boomed. "I thought that was your old ship, Warlord. I am pleased you have survived this long."
    "We have a visual," Commo reported.
Terrorwing stared at the viewscreen in shock. "It can't be!"
    "It can." The face was familiar, though the green-and-purple armor was certainly new, "The Decepticons are once again under the command of--Megatron. Do you swear your allegiance to me, Warlord?" he demanded, a glint in his optics.
    "Now and forever!" Terrorwing replied instantly, slamming his fist against his chest in the ancient Decepticon salute. "The Grey Legion functions for you, Megatron, and for you alone!"
    "I hoped it would be so." Megatron seemed distracted for a moment, his optics focusing on something beside the com-screen. "These Disciples are rather troublesome, aren't they? Just one moment, Terrorwing, while I deal with them." Megatron's image vanished.
    "Lord Megatron?" Gryon gasped. "Alive?"
    "It' appears so," Terrorwing mused. "Fascinating. And most glorious news indeed." The other warship-the Dark Glory?-fired barrage after barrage of energy bolts into the wedge-shaped ships -the Disciples? Disciples of what?-ignoring the particle beams splattering ineffectually against its own shields, until finally the survivors broke off and accelerated towards their fellows in Earth orbit.
    "Is your ship functional?" Magatron asked as he reappeared.
    "Barely," Terrorwing replied. Though it pained him to admit such weakness, he would not stain his personal honour by lying. Especially when even a visual inspection of his ship would prove him wrong.
    "Can you reach orbit with us?"
    "I believe-" Terrorwing's agreement was cut short by the sudden wail of a particularly annoying alarm.
    "Reactor overload," Comrao reported grimly, "Bolt is unable to compensate for it. Breach is imminent."
    "Battle damage," Cryon cursed.
    "It appears so," Terrorwing agreed calmly.
    "My Lord, though there are just forty per cent of the Legion onboard our vessel, may I remind you that it represents the entire remaining Legion?"
    "I am well aware of that fact, Cryon."
    "Are you also aware that we only have sufficient lifepods for half that number?"
    "Yes," Tarrorwing sat straighter in his chair, expression calm, "As is fitting and traditional, I will remain onboard this ship. Alert the crew to commence the evacuation, Cryon, you will assume command of the Legion. The Legion will survive!"
    "My Lord!" Cryon protested. "My place is by your side."
    "Your duty is the Legion. You will rebuild it into its old glory, and serve the Empire as required."
    "This is all very touching," Megatron announced from the viewscrsen, "but hardly relevant. Stand by for recovery. You're coming to my ship."
    "We have insufficient shuttles too-" Terrorwing fell silent as he felt the fabric of space shift around him, "-evacuate everyone in time," he finished, staring around in shock at the multi-level bridge on which he now stood.
    "Welcome to the Dark Glory," Megatron said as he stepped forward and gripped Terrorwing's hand in comradely fashion. "The rest of your crew is being teleported aboard even now...though," he added with a grin, "they are arriving in the teleport rooms and not on the bridge."
    "I see." Terrorwing kept his voice calm and unbothered by his sudden shift in location. "One moment." He activated his comlink. "Cryon, we are onboard Megatron's vessel...a complete explanation will follow shortly. See that the Legion is kept under control."
    Megatron smiled at that order. "Yes, it would be somewhat ironic if your Legion tried to destroy my flagship now that we are finally reunited."
    "It would indeed." Terrowing studied the bridge again with wide optics. "This is quite the command center." He had seen planetary fortresses with smaller command centres!
    "Isn't it? But then, I have never thought small." He broke off as a blue Decepticon approached them. "Soundwave! It's been too long!"
    "Yes, it has." Soundwave nodded his greetings.
    "Somehow, I foresee our future as being even more glorious!" Megatron declared with a grin. "For now that we united, no one will oppose us!"
    "Except the Disciples of Primus," Soundwave announced.
    Terrorwing frowned. Why would the Creator inspire an army of fanatics like the Disciples? Surely they would worship Unicron or some other Primal God.
    "What have they done now?" Megatron growled.
    "They have begun landing additional assault troops on Earth. Our forces on the Australian landmass are coming under attack."
    "Inform local commanders to reply with deadly force. Helm, return the Dark Glory to its original orbit. Nightracer, fire on any vessels in range."
    Terrorwing frowned as the battered Centurion fell away from the viewport. "Megatron, how is all this possible? Your new empire, this ship...?"
    "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." Megatron chuckled. "I have been busy in the last fifteen years."
    "Years? You use Terran terminology?"
    "It has become ingrained in our circuitry, I will tell you all about it soon. In the meantime, I must deal with both the Disciples and the Humans for control of this world," Megatron paced towards his chair. "This is my flagship, Tarrorwing, the Dark Glory. A Cybertron-class mobile fortress…the only one of its kind in the universe. Twenty-four thousand metres in length, a crew of seven hundred and fifty thousand, and enough weaponry to lay waste to a planet." Megatron ginned. "The single greatest starship ever constructed. Though I have several others under construction," he added, "Within ten years, I will have five of its sisters to protect my empire."
    "Very impressive, Commander." Five more of these monsters? Terrorwing's thoughts reeled-with even one such mobile fortress under his command, Megatron could have won the Great War in mere hours* With six of them,.,. "How big is your empire?"
    Megatron clenched a fist. "My Empire currently contains some fifteen worlds, Terrorwing, and soon more." His fist tightened. "Many more."
    "Cybertron?" Terrorwing asked.
    Megatron frowned, but then nodded. "Once I have driven the Disciples from its surface."
    Terrorwing frowned. "And who are these Disciples? I have encountered them twice now, they have killed my warriors, but I still know little of them! Aside from their devotion to Primus." He snorted.
    "They appeared out of nowhere," Soundwave informed him, "A fleet of three hundred vessels assaulted Cybertron during our own attack. Additional fleets have been sighted in multiple star systems. They appear wherever TransFormers have been active. They order us to surrender in the name of Primus, and then attack in force. They do not surrender, nor yield, and they very seldom retreat." He gestured to the screen, "Their ships have broken off now only to regroup. They continue to assault us...and their troops are scattered across Earth's surface."
    "Fascinating. Are they a foe worthy of facing the Legion?"
    "Even if they are not worthy, Warlord, you will be called upon to fight them." Megatron's voice was grim. "For this particular war is one of survival...and I do not intend to lose." He turned his attention back to the viewscreen as Earth filled it. "No, not at all."