Catch The Wind
Slowly, Ultra Magnus regained consciousness. His eyes fluttered open.
Where am I?
The disoriented warrior tried to get his bearings. He didn't know where he was. Blinking furiously, he tried to focus on his surroundings. What he saw shocked him.
He hung suspended in a fluid tank positioned in the center of a research lab. Scientists in lab coats were everywhere, comparing notes and collaborating on results. He recognized the colony badges they wore and felt very cold. They wore the badge of the Taurus Major colony.
Taurus Major was avoided by residents of the other colonies, and by travelers from their distant homeworld, Cybertron. The scientists of Taurus Major practiced genetic malipulation. For that, they were shunned by the other colonies. To them, genetic manipulation was like playing god, twisting and warping other beings, the experimenting on them and destroying them when they were finished their experiments. They were under intense pressure to stop their experiments, but they ignored it. They continued without slowing.
Magnus had been badly wounded in a Decepticon attack on his home colony, Sigma Omega. He'd seen the people he'd grown up with slaughtered, and then had been shot by a Decepticon flier. He'd apparently been found be scavengers from Taurus Major.
Do I even want to know what they've done to me?
Dreading what he might see, he looked down, carefully stretching his legs...all four of them.
He had four legs, attached to a powerful equine body. Each leg ended in a massive steel hoof. He looked over his shoulder at his new addition, mind blanking out when he realized his imagination hadn't been acting up. He had a horse's body attached to his normal body.They'd turned him into a centaur.
He let out a strangled cry, kicking out with all four feet. His hooves cracked the transparisteel tank. Alarms began going off. Scientists looked up, startled.
"He's supposed to be a vegetable! How could this be happening?!"
"This is impossible!"
"Get a tranquilizer!"
Magnus kicked out again. This time the tank shattered, spilling fluid onto the floor. He staggered out, struggling to keep his balance on four legs. Finally managing to get his feet underneath him, he bolted. His pace was far from smooth, but he was fast. Startled bots scrambled out of his way. He managed to reach the shuttle bay and steal a shuttle. The shuttle's computer had already been programed with the coordinates for Cybertron. He launched the shuttle and headed for Cybertron. Halfway to the homeworld, he activated the autopilot, staggered to the rear section, and collapsed in a heap.
Hours later, the navigation panel beeped. It was registering a contact. Another craft, a battlecruiser, was approaching. The comm beeped.
"Unidentified shuttle, state your destination and reason for being in this sector," an authoritative voice demanded.
Jazz and Kup stood on the bridge of the cruiser, looking out at the strange shuttle. Blaster looked up from his console.
"I'm reading one life sign," he reported. "The shuttle is on autopilot."
"Perhaps the pilot is incapacitated," Perceptor suggested.
Kup nodded absently. "Springer, lock a tractor beam onto that shuttle. We'll tow it back to Cybertron."
The green triple changer nodded, turning back to his console. "Tractor beam locked on."
"Contact cybertron. Tell them we're bringing in a shuttle with a damaged pilot."
Blaster turned back to his console. Kup and Jazz sat in the only two unoccupied chairs. Kup sat at the science officer's place. Jazz sat in the navigator's chair.
Soon, Cybertron appeared in their viewscreen. Iacon Spaceport guided them in to land on one of the shuttle pads. The strange shuttle was guided onto a more distant pad. The autopilot shut itself down. Quickly, a group of hair-trigger warriors scrambled into place around the shuttle, training their weapons on it. Wheeljack overrode the lock, and opened the hatch. Cautiously, a team entered the shuttle.
They found a centaur unconscious in the rear passenger bay, coat covered in dried, sticky fluid. One leg was coiled underneath his body.
"Where did he come from?"
"We'll have to ask when he wakes up."
Ultra Magnus's eyes opened. Without moving, he scanned his surroundings. He was in some kind of medical facility. The bots he could see all bore the telltale markings of medics. One noticed that he was awake.
Several bots approached him. One was a grumpy-looking red and white medic. With him was an older bot, colored silver-gray, a younger bot colored black and white, another black and white bot, this one with the eternally-calm expression of a tactician, and a massive red and blue bot. The tall one radiated the aura of wisdom.
"Welcome to Cybertron," the red and blue bot announced. "I am Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots. Who are you?"
"I am Ultra Magnus, of Sigma Omega colony."
"I was unaware you were a centaur."
Magnus scowled. "I wasn't. My colony was slaughtered by Decepticons. I was found by scavengers from Taurus Major, and taken to their colony for experimentation. They thought I was braindead. I woke up unexpectedly and managed to escape, found that shuttle, and come here."
"Taurus Major." Prime frowned. "They have gone too far this time."
"They turned me into a centaur. I wasn't born like this."
"It can't be easy adjusting to having four legs."
"Then we'll get someone to teach you how to handle your new body."
"And who would that be?"
All eyes turned toward the door.
A tall centaur stood there. He was ink-black in color, with a silver-white mane and tail, and silver hooves. He had the long-legged, slim build of a racer. Muscles rippled under his black coat. He stepped into the room, his hooves clattering on the floor. Magnus couldn't help admiring his grace. He moved fluidly, with the grace of a dancer.
"This is Rodimus Windrunner, the Herd Stallion of the local centaur herd," Prime introduced. "Rodimus, this is Ultra Magnus, victim of genetic manipulation on Taurus Major."
Rodimus trotted over to inspect the new centaur. Magnus struggled to his feet, trying to regain his balance. He wobbled on his feet.
"Try getting your front feet under you, then slowly get your hind feet under," Rodimus suggested.
Magnus took the advice, and managed to get all four feet under him without falling over.
Rodimus cocked his head. "Now, move one leg after the other. Like this." He took several steps.
Magnus watched him, then attempted to walk. It took some coordination to get all four legs moving in the proper order. He managed to walk all the way across the room.
Spotting a mirror, Magnus walked over to it and looked at his reflection. He had light blue fur, striped with white. There was a faintly reddish tint to his lower legs. His mane and tail were crimson. All four hooves were metallic silver.
"Not bad looking," Rodimus commented.
"You think so?"
"Hey, I'm a centaur, too. I can tell a cute centaur. Most non-centaurs can't tell the difference."
Magnus blinked. "Oh."
Rodimus snorted. "C'mon. Let's go. I'll introduce you to the rest of my herd."
The blue centaur followed him out of Iacon. The plains outside the city were ablaze with color. Centaurs of all colors moved about on the grass. There were mares, stallions, and furry marshmallows on toothpicks, a.k.a. foals. The foals tottered about on spindly legs, staring at everything. When Rodimus and Magnus emerged from the city, all eyes turned to them.
"New friend?" a mare asked.
"You could say that," Rodimus responded. "This's Ultra Magnus. He's a victim of genetic manipulation."
"So he was turned into a centaur against his will."
"He was. And now he's having trouble adjusting to having four feet."
"He'll soon learn to walk."
"He can walk. It's running that's the difficult part."
The herd accepted Magnus without question. He found himself in the care of several older mares, who were used to teaching unsteady centaurs how to walk, run, and jump. Under their patient guidance, Magnus learned to find his balance easily, and the basics of movement on four feet. When the mares were sure he could walk and run for short distances, they sent him to Rodimus to learn how to change direction in an instant, jump and bound, and, more importantly, how to fight.
Magnus watched the two stallions rear up on their hind legs, pounding each other with wickedly sharp hooves. Both bore many scars from numerous fights in their pasts. They'd probably fought to gain any kind of status in the herd.
"Stallions are supposed to protect the mares and the foals," Rodimus explained, stopping beside Magnus. "All of us have to learn how to fight. Fights between stallions can end in fatalities if neither one gives up. If both combatants are too proud or two stupid to give up, one will kill the other."
Magnus looked closely at Rodimus's sleek ebony coat. Now he could see the scars under his fur. Many were jagged. Some were obviously from animal claws. But many had been made by the hooves of other stallions.
Rodimus noticed his gaze. "I had to fight the old Herd Stallion to gain command of the herd. He was too proud to surrender. Finally, he tried to charge me. I sidestepped the charge and kicked him with both rear hooves, shattering his hips. When he went down, I smashed his skull with my front hooves. Since then I've had to fight off other stallions to remain leader of this herd. I've fought most of the stallions in this herd. Some were smart enough not to challenge me. But the rest tangled with me, and all met with defeat. Now the fight amongst each other for social standing within the herd."
"So that's how you got all those scars."
"Not quite. About half are from the claws of bears, big cats, wolves, and other animals. I had to fight off anything that could possibly bring harm to my herd. So I accumulate scars at an astonishing rate."
Magnus reached out to touch one of the scars. It was the closest in a set of five clawmarks, left by the claws of a bear.
"Those were left by the claws of a grizzly."
"It hurt a great deal. I couldn't walk properly for weeks, until the wounds healed."
Magnus rubbed his thumb over the scars. Rodimus's skin twitched under his hand. Suddenly realizing what he was doing, Magnus snatched his hand back. Rodimus managed to hide his disappointment well.
"Now. Let's begin."
Rodimus taught Magnus to fight. He taught him to dodge, parry, strike, and all of the other moves. Magnus needed some practice, but he eventually got the hang of it.
As the seasons passed, Magnus grew accustomed to life as a centaur. He learned all the tricks of the lifestyle. When spring arrived, he noticed something odd.
"What's going on?"
The other stallions were prancing about, showing off their legs and strides, fighting amongst each other at the drop of a pin, and becoming very short-tempered. Rodimus, standing off to one side, on a small hill, rolled his eyes.
"Mating season. The other stallions are competing for the right to mate."
"And you don't take part?"
"He could have any mare he wanted," a young stallion, colored an eye-hurting yellow-orange, commented. "If he was interested in mares, that is. He's solidly interested in his own gender. The word we use for it is shay'a'chern. It means 'one whose lover is like self'. He doesn't want a mare. We're competing for him as much as we're competing for them."
Rodimus snorted, turning his back on them.
Feeling suddenly frisky, Magnus sprang into a run, kicking up his heels and generally behaving like a foal. Rodimus watched from the corner of his eye.
"He's acting silly."
"Can you blame him?"
Rodimus watched Magnus play. The light blue centaur was actually very cute, and his playful outlook on life was very attractive. Rodimus wondered how Magnus felt about him.
Magnus looked up in time to see Rodimus's thoughtful look. He wondered what Rodimus was thinking. Then he shrugged to himself and continued to work off his extra energy.
"I think Roddy has a mark," one of the mares commented to another.
The other mare chuckled.
Magnus often found himself caught in the grip of spring fever. He could often be found running and playing. Rodimus spent more and more time watching him. Finally, he threw caution to the wind and went to join him.
The blue centaur started in surprise as he spotted Rodimus coming toward him, frisking and playing. He pranced past Magnus, shooting him a playful look as he passed. Magnus stared for a moment, then decided what the hell, and chased after him.
The moons were rising as Rodimus led Magnus on a chase, a courtship chase, across the rolling meadow. They continued until they caught each other.
Magnus rested his head on Rodimus's furry shoulder. Rodimus purred softly. Magnus smiled up at him.
"Were you courting me?" Magnus asked.
"I think we were courting each other."
Magnus considered that. "I think you're right. I courted you and you courted me."
"Then we will remain together. When couples court each other, they are destined to remain together."
The other centaurs congratulated the new couple. Their Autobot allies also offered their congratulations. The two were the co-leaders of the centaur herd.
The Decepticons soon found out that the centaur Herd Stallion had taken a mate. In a daring move, they drugged Rodimus and dragged him aboard Astrotrain. They were over the far west continent when he suddenly woke up, kicked the hell out of Megatron, and got out of Astrotrain. He landed badly, breaking his left hind leg. He yowled with pain. A nearby tribe of plains nomads heard him and came to investigate.
"What are you?"
"I'm a centaur. I come from the north continent. Is there any way I can get home?"
"Only if you run to the east ocean and find a Danturi ship on a trading run. Maybe they'll take you home."
"With this broken leg, I won't be running anywhere."
The nomads set and splinted his leg, wrapping it tightly to prevent it from splintering. Then they gave him a supply of painkillers and food, then pointed him toward the east ocean. He thanked them and he headed toward the ocean, limping on his broken leg.
Back with the herd, Magnus was frantic. He was desperate to find his mate. The rest of the herd was just as desperate. The Autobots were doing everything they could to find him.
"Is there any news?"
Exasperated, Prime looked up from his desk, meeting Magnus's haunted eyes. The blue centaur had lost a lot of weight, and looked like a shadow of his former self. His ribs could be counted under his thin, faded blue fur.
"If we hear anything, you'll be the first to know. I promise you that."
Magnus turned to leave, then paused. "Astrotrain...was heading southwest. Did you contact the west continent?"
"We don't have any contacts over there. But I will ask the Danturi to keep their eyes and ears open for news. They do a lot of trading over there. If anyone will find news, they will."
Magnus nodded slightly. Then he walked out.
Prime reached for his comm and opened contact with a nearby Danturi ship captain. The Danturi, also called the sea people, followed the Wave Walker, god of the oceans, and spent all their lives on the open sea. They were the best at collecting news and fishing for information. The Danturi captain, after hearing what had happened, agreed to help. From there, the word spread to all of the Danturi ships.
Months passed, and no trace of Rodimus was found. Then, when the Danturi trading ship Ocean Wind, was docked at the west continent, a gaunt centaur staggered into the trading area.
The centaur was painfully thin, skin over bone. All his bones could be seen. His rich black color had faded to a dull gray. His fur was falling out in clumps. One leg was splinted.
The centaur collapsed.
"They found him!"
Magnus stood at Iacon's spaceport, waiting impatiently. Prime had refused to take him, saying that he'd take up too much room. Finally, he saw the shuttle.
Rodimus was a wreck. He was suffering from thirst, hunger, and a broken leg. Ratchet was preparing for surgery to repair the shattered bones. IVs had been set up to deliver nutrients directly into his bloodstream. Rodimus was put in the E.R. His condition was extremely serious.
"Will he recover?"
"It will take time, but he will recover."
Finally, after being in the emergency room for two months, Rodimus was released. Magnus was never very far away. He stayed at his mate's side, hovering over him. Rodimus didn't mind his nearly possessive presence. It helped him readjust to being home. The rest of the herd waited on him hand and hoof. If he needed anything, he had a dozen centaurs tripping over each other to fetch it. Most of the time, he lay in the sun, using Magnus's side as a pillow. He spent a lot of time sleeping. Ratchet said it was to recover the energy reserves he'd lost on his trek from the west continent's far southwest shore to the far northeast, a journey of over 9,000 miles, in four months. He'd drained himself to the dregs to make it that far, and no one was sure how he'd managed to survive the trip with one leg completely useless.
"He's strong," Magnus murmured. "He's a survivor."
"And I had someone to come home to," Rodimus added.
It took two years for him to recover his strength. During that time, Magnus took over much of the duties of the Herd Stallion. The herd was glad to see that Rodimus had chosen his mate well. Magnus was perfectly capable of holding the position until Rodimus was well enough to retake his position.
Rodimus still had a faint limp in his stride. Most of the "bones" in his left hind leg had had to be replaced. Ratchet had done his best, but even he couldn't do everything. In the end, Magnus and Rodimus ended up sharing the position of Herd Stallion. That was fine with them. They were a team. That was the way they liked it.