Chapter 1

The rowdy and disorderly class of Autobot cadets who attended the prestigious War Academy in central Iacon did not make Alpha Trion's task any easier; yet, despite the distractions and constant interruptions from his charges the elder continued to guide them on an educational tour of Cybertron's Military Intelligence Museum in Iacon, situated not far from the War Academy, with a rare form of unsurmountable resilience and infinite patience. He had been asked by the Academy's board of directors to instruct the cadets in Cybertronian military history, and he had accepted the invitation with great enthusiasm.

"Over here, this rather odd-looking archaeological discovery is thought to be a crude type of data recording device, purportedly used for the purposes of espionage." Alpha Trion extended an arm towards what appeared to be a silicon disk, mounted and protected inside a transparent display. "And this contraption right over here–"

"Hey, that looks like something that was discovered loose inside Huffer's cranial casing!" Sprocket proclaimed haughtily, eliciting muffled chuckling at the expense of their mini-bot class mate. Sprocket was a grey and orange Autobot whose temper was as fierce as his tough Cybertronian jet alt mode.

"If they opened up your cranial casing, guess what they'd find? That's right - absolutely nothing!" the purple and orange mini truck retorted in his small, whiny voice, spreading his arms out in emphasis whilst thoroughly enjoying his own witty comeback.

Before Alpha Trion could even hope to pull his class in line and back on track, Powerflash, the mostly yellow and white cadet who also sported a fighter jet alt mode, crossed his arms in exasperation. "I really don't see how learning about these old relics is going to help us become Autobot warriors," he stated succinctly, directing his critique to their instructor.

"Why don't you just back off, bit-for-brains, and let Alpha Trion talk?" Hot Rod retorted, not unexpectedly, brushing past Sureshot and Blaster to stand face-to-face with Powerflash. "I want to learn more about these artefacts."

Sureshot and Powerflash simultaneously shoved him roughly backwards. "Yeah, like slag you do," Sureshot retorted, willing and ready for a challenge.

Hot Rod stood his ground and shoved them both right back, accidentally pushing Huffer aside in the process and much to the irritation of his friends Gears and Brawn, who managed to catch hold of him before he stumbled backwards into one of the museum displays.

"Hey, watch it!" Huffer whined, scrunching up his face in annoyance.

During this minor scuffle, which was nothing more than yet another vie for superiority among the more outspoken Autobot cadets, Alpha Trion hesitated and then sighed to himself, all but resigned to the boisterousness of his charges. He was startled out of his thoughts when Optronix moved to stand by his side; the strongly built cadet had refused to join his friends in their antics.

"I must apologize for my class mates, Alpha Trion. You should not have to put up with their inappropriate behaviour and disrespect," he said to his guardian in confidence.

Alpha Trion met Optronix's concerned gaze for a brief instant, before chuckling good-naturedly at the cadet's display of concern. "Eh, do not be too disheartened, Optronix – they mean no harm by it." When Optronix gave him a look of consternation, Alpha Trion continued in his typically affable manner. "Oh, I was a cadet too once, you know, believe it or not. I may be an older model, but that doesn't mean I'm an old fool."

"I meant no offence–" Optronix started, but then his guardian clapped him on the back in reassurance, smiling at him affectionately.

"Forget it, Optronix. Do not be overly concerned for my sake. Now, here's something I'd like to show you all, that I've no doubt you'll find quite intriguing, hm? Please, if you would all follow me," he said in a jovial tone, and with that Alpha Trion motioned for his group to continue on to the next artefact display. He was met with the murmurings and sighs of reluctant compliance, but then the cadets began to follow their instructor over to an out-of-the-way section towards the rear of the museum.

Alpha Trion stopped to look at his perplexed students, then pressed a button on a small pad set into the wall behind him, followed by an access code. Two inconspicuous panels slowly retracted to reveal a highly secured, secret recess that housed an odd-looking artefact, and the group finally quietened down to gaze curiously upon the polished object inside.

"What is that, Alpha Trion?" Hot Rod whispered in awe, pushing his way towards the front of the group and ignoring a contemptuous look from Powerflash.

The magenta, white and violet-colored elder smiled and nodded in satisfaction, folding his arms across his chest as he glanced at the intriguing object. The small, flat device seemed to glow with a soft, golden light. It resembled a key of some sort. "Ah… now this, this is one of our most prized artefacts. Do any of you here know what it is, hm?" he challenged, glancing briefly at each of them; however, with the exception of Optronix all he got in return were blank stares.

The larger cadet's voice cut through the confusion of his fellow class mates. "Could that be the fabled Key to Vector Sigma, Alpha Trion?" Optronix said.

His guardian's face lit up with glee. "Ah ha! You are most certainly correct, Optronix. This is, indeed, the Key to Vector Sigma!"

"The key to what?" Hot Rod stared at his friend Optronix in confusion, who simply gave him a small shrug in return.

"What's a Factor Sigma?" Blaster asked, intrigued, "and what's it supposed to do?"

Alpha Trion waited for the din of voices to quieten down before he answered their questions. "Why, Vector Sigma is the ancient and incredibly powerful super computer, said to exist somewhere in the very heart of Cybertron itself. Legend tells us that Vector Sigma has the power to act out the will of Primus, grant new Cybertronian life, and even open up a gateway to other universes," he explained happily. "This key, which is the only one of its kind still in existence today, is said to be able to connect to the energy of Vector Sigma itself, and command it."

There was a mixed reaction among the cadets as they each grappled with the existence of a legendary super computer and its key.

"Whoa, that's incredible," said Tailgate, whose voice was very quickly cut off by his much louder class mates.

"Come on, that can't be real," Sprocket said in disbelief. "Why have we never heard of it before?"

"Heh, it's probably a fake. Legends like that are mostly make believe, anyway – you'd be a fool to take it seriously. Just like the legend of Primus," said Whirl, the Autobot cadet with a single optic. His transformation mode was that of a blue helicopter.

"Hey, Primus isn't a legend, you numb-skull!" Hot Rod said, coming quickly to Primus' defence as he spun to face his class mate.

"Oh? I suppose you've met him personally, then?" Whirl countered.

Optronix placed a steadying hand on his friend Hot Rod's shoulder before addressing both cadets directly. "Please, both of you, let Alpha Trion continue with his lesson. You can debate your spiritual beliefs all you want later, outside of class." His assertiveness was quick to dispel any potential skirmishes among his class mates, but in particular between Hot Rod and Whirl, who often got into verbal disagreements.

"Is Vector Sigma real, sir?" Hot Rod asked, ignoring Whirl's burning stare and refocusing his attention back towards the key.

"Ah, well, I cannot say for sure. Perhaps it still exists… or, perhaps, it is nothing more than a memory of what it once was. Either way, this key is our only surviving reminder that perhaps, at the very least, the legend of Vector Sigma is real." And with that, Alpha Trion closed the panels to the secret compartment and moved on to the next display.

Situated directly over Cybertron's equatorial line was the idyllic Stanix City, an independently functioning capital that was named after its region. For eons it had been home to one of the last remaining, remnant populations of Cybertronians that were neither Autobot not Destron ruled, for two main reasons. The first had to do with its early history, one in which its citizens had distanced themselves from any involvement in factional wars and hence the rest of society at large. They were made up of mostly first-generation Destrons, as well as a few Autobots, who had long ago collectively declared themselves neutral and unaffiliated – that is, they insisted that they belonged to no particular faction, despite their racial origins. This had allowed the sizeable community to be overlooked and largely ignored by the Destron warlords of those earlier times.

The second reason involved the city's geographical and functional uniqueness, which meant that it had been able to exist independently and in relative isolation for a very long time. Its architecturally unique buildings and energy-producing structures were housed inside, and protected by, a large transparent dome that covered the upper half of the entire metropolis, while the lower half of the capital descended into several dark and gloomy levels below ground, all but hidden from the minds and optics of most of the surface dwellers. These underground levels encompassed a total area far greater than the above-ground city, extending out to almost the size of the entire Stanix region, even as far as the two other main cities of Yuss and Fort Scyk.

These lower sections, though largely uninhabitable, served a vital role in ensuring that the surface city remained clean and free of the contaminants that were constantly produced by the surface manufacturing and processing plants as well as by day-to-day living. In essence, these lower depths were used for waste purification and recycling for the entire city, made possible because of the naturally occurring, highly corrosive acids that existed in abundance throughout the hollow channels and burrows that extended for astro-miles beneath Stanix and down towards Cybertron's core. The acidic compounds were collected and used to very quickly and efficiently reduce waste down to its most basic elements which could then be reused, including all scrap metal, and even the frames of mechs who had ceased functioning. Largely automated and operating with minimal input, the surface inhabitants only visited the lower levels when necessary to ensure everything was running smoothly and to collect the raw materials that had been extracted from the waste purification and recycling processes.

Unbeknownst to even the majority of the citizens of Stanix City, the underground was home to a mech whose name and even existence had remained hidden for many thousands of vorns. Whilst Mordron had ignored the hazards of the toxic waste that pervaded the natural system of tunnels, it was his continual exposure to the acids that had caused his physical frame to slowly degenerate and contort, bit by bit, into the deformed creature that he had eventually become. As a result, he rarely ventured out into the open and never during the day.

Mordron's grotesque physical appearance and the immeasurable amount of time he'd spent in the tunnels had also done nothing for his mental state, which had deteriorated into a depravity and madness that could rival Lord Straxus'. Or, perhaps his distorted ambitions, bordering on the macabre, were a result of his advanced age, for Mordron was indeed one of the few original Transformers, since the creation of Cybertron itself, who still lived. But whatever virtuous qualities he had possessed in his prime, if any, had all but disappeared – leached away just as the toxic waste dump of his home had slowly but surely moulded his physical form into a contorted image of his former self.

Perhaps it was for his uniqueness, for the inexhaustible wealth of knowledge that he still retained, knowledge that could only be possessed by a being who had lived for as long as he had, that those few who knew him continued to endure him, often turning a deaf audio receptor and a blind optic to his obviously deteriorating mental condition. But it was one warrior, in particular, who had been deemed worthy enough to receive his ultimate reward.

Ever since he'd been recruited by Mordron from Stanix City when he was still just a new creation, Thunderwing had eventually earned a place as his most trusted student; he had possessed all the ideal attributes of a fine warrior even then, traits that were necessary in order for Mordron to have been able to shape him into the greatest Destron leader the world would ever see, always loyal to his Master and forged in his image.

Thunderwing, more than all of Mordron's other students combined, had not only been able to overcome all the gruelling tests and challenges, but he had surpassed all expectations and so, after many long vorns of service and difficult training under his Master's instruction, he had developed into the ultimate elite warrior. Indeed, he had personally been selected for a special purpose, and as the lessons he'd received had gotten more and more advanced, Mordron had imparted to him all the ancient knowledge and secrets for safekeeping, so that when the day of purging came – when Cybertron would be renewed and re-emerge as a brand new world, pristine and untouched by any form of corruption – he would be ready.