Copyright 2007, masterfwiffo. All rights reserved.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Wreck-Gar announced with great flare, "Welcome to Cybertron!"
The rickety ship shuddered as it made the leap back into real-space, and its occupants beheld, many for the first time, the planet that the Autobots called home, a glittering silver sphere shining amongst the stars, twin golden moons orbiting it.
But that wasn't what caught their attention. What caused every eye to stare was between them and the planet. There was a war.
Wreck-Gar gave a yell and jerked his ship to the side, throwing everyone off their balance, avoiding a stray laser blast narrowly. Surrounding them on seemingly all sides were two vast armada's, engaged in an epic struggle. Brilliant lights crisscrossed through the vastness of space, explosions following their wake. Hundreds of gigantic capital ships engaged in close range combat, heavy batteries tearing into their hulls, while smaller gun-ships raced between them, firing at every opportunity that presented itself. Between the larger combatants, thousands of Cybertronians raced across the sky, flipping in-between flying and combat modes as the war continued from the largest warship down to the personal level.
A massive cruiser with the Autobot symbol boldly emblazoned on it's side pulled up in their main view, hundreds of rows of batteries unleashing a torrent of laser fire. Jetfire was the first to realize the obvious.
"They're shooting at us!" He cried. Wreck-Gar swore loudly, throwing his ship into a sudden dive, cutting sharply through the onslaught of laser fire. Optimus grabbed his shoulder. "Wreck-Gar, I need your comm!"
"You've got it!" Wreck-Gar answered, flipping down a panel, revealing a dusty screen and several input pads. Optimus frowned at the archaic arrangement for a moment, then busily started punching in a complex sequence of codes, attempting to send a signal on Autobot Command frequencies. As he worked, a blast rocked the ship, sending warning lights flashing. Wreck-Gar did his best to ignore them as he struggled with the ship's controls. "I'd hurry up if I were you!" He yelled at Optimus.
Evac scowled out the viewport at the war. "This is not right..." He muttered. None noticed his words.
A series of beeps signaled a response, and Optimus flicked the comm on. "This is Optimus Major, former Captain of the Starship Aris! We request safe passage!"
He waited a moment, but was only greeted by another barrage of fire. "This is Optimus Major! Can anyone hear me? We need some help here!"
A moment later the screen flickered, and a stern, expressionless face appeared on it. "Who are you?" The Autobot on the screen demanded. "What are you doing here? This is a restricted zone! How did you get on this frequency?"
"This is Optimus Major!" Optimus cried, desperation filtering through his voice. "We're Autobots-"
"You're no Autobot ship! I demand ID codes, and-" Their antagonist was suddenly interrupted by another voice. "Did he say Optimus Major! For the love of Primus Signal Flare, move aside!"
Signal Flare was literally shoved aside as another face filled the screen - a mask similar to Optimus's own, but accented with red and white highlights. "By Primus, Optimus! It is you!"
"Thank the Matrix." Optimus sighed with relief, an odd fact considering the explosions rocking the ship. "Wingsaber!"
"Where the Pit have you been? We took you for dead! What are you doing in that piece of slag?"
"Later, Wingsaber! We don't want to have gone to all this trouble to get here to end up as space debris!"
"Right." Wingsaber turned away back toward the ship under his command. "Signal Flare, mark that ship as friendly and give it cover fire!" He turned back. "We can cover you to Cybertron's atmosphere, but after that, you're on your own. And get down in one piece! When this is done with, I want to hear where you've been!"
"Roger that." Optimus acknowledged, switching off the comm. "You heard him Junkion, get under their wings and make a break for the planet."
"Hold onto yer butts!" Wreck-Gar whooped, pulling back on the throttle and sending a burst of speed into the engines. As the boxy Junkion ship maneuvered under the Autobot vessel, torrents of fire raced out at an approaching Decepticon warship. The titanic ship maneuvered alongside its Autobot counterpart, laser batteries from both raking their sides, causing explosions to blossom along their sides.
Optimus winced as he watched his friend's ship take a beating under the fire. "Get back safe, Wingsaber." He muttered.
The Junkion vessel skirted behind the lines of Autobot ships, avoiding the interceding Decepticon ships when it could. Near the planet, a spherical ship bearing the mark of the Decepticons made a sudden dive toward the surface, heading downwards to spill its occupying army on the surface below. Then from Cybertron itself, a great blast issued forth, bisecting the vessel and spilling its occupants into space.
Jazz and Crosswise watched the carnage in mute horror. Chris cast a worried glance up at his friends. "Don't worry guys, that won't happen to us." He said weakly. "I hope."
As their ship came out from behind another Autobot cruiser, they saw the center of the battlefield. For the first time, many of them beheld the Decepticon ship Nemesis, its side aflame as it took poundings from multiple Autobot vessels. Across its hull, hundreds of laser batteries arched out on all vectors, raking it's own destruction across the dozens of Autobot ships that surrounded it.
"They're serious." Ironhide growled. "They brought out the Nemesis."
"Gigatron isn't usually that bold." Optimus muttered, warily watching the Nemesis as it disappeared from view, their own ship ducking behind another Autobot vessel.
In between the larger ship's skirmishing, dozens of fighters, small aerial transformers, flipped between their own battle modes, combating each other as robots and ships. Jetfire watched them intently. Suddenly, his eyes lit up, and he turned away. "I cannot stay here and watch my fellows fight and do nothing!" He declared suddenly, turning and running toward the rear of the ship.
Optimus whirled. "Wait, Jetfire!" He called in vain.
Jetfire yelled back. "I'll meet you planet-side!" Then he ducked into the airlock, and slammed the door behind him. A moment later, a green earthen jet entered the battle, charging madly into the fray.
Wreck-Gar glanced at Optimus worriedly. "You're not going to tell me to go after him are you?"
Optimus sighed. "Wouldn't do any good. Get us home."
Aboard the Nemesis, Spacewarp, Fourth General of the Grand Army of the Decepticons, watched the battle unfold. A small smirk crossed his face as another Autobot ship succumbed to his ship's fire. They had given the Autobot a hefty price, even though the Decepticons were destined to lose this battle. It was all part of the plan. Another blast caused an explosion across the flagship's hull - the Nemesis barely shuddered, a testament to her thick armor. Spacewarp knew the ship well, and knew exactly how long to push it for before it was time to pull back.
"Sir!" Spacewarp glanced back at his lieutenant with a hint of annoyance, and waited calmly for the report. The young Decepticon in front of him shifted nervously. "We intercepted an Autobot communiqué. There is an unarmed Junkion vessel trying to get to Cybertron, and the Autobots are covering it."
"Is that so?" Spacewarp murmured. "Contact a seeker squad and tell them to eliminate it. Let's hit this easy target before it becomes more dangerous, shall we?"
In the midst of the battlefield, a white jet laced with red stripes flitted between enemy fire. It arced to the side then unfolded into robot mode, two cannons already in the black coated hands, sending fiery streaks at those who persued it. Behind a white shield that covered the face, the Cybertronian inside grimaced as another two Decepticons burst into flames. There was no end to the Autobots enemies, and more were coming.
A sudden proximity beep marked a pair of incoming missiles, and the figure whirled as two Deception-launched pulse canisters zeroed in on the warriors Autobot symbol.
But someone intervened. A green flash grabbed the white aileron, jerking the jet aside, sending the canisters away into nothingness. The warrior's masked face turned, eyes trained in disbelieving shock on the one who had interfered.
"I can't leave you alone for anything, can I?" Jetfire growled.
The face-mask flipped up, and he was treated to something he rarely had the chance to treasure - seeing Skyfire's face numb with surprise.
"For the love of Primus Jets," Skyfire gasped, a rare hint of emotion threatening to enter her voice, "Where the Pit have you been?"
"Long story, Sky." Jetfire banked, his own weapons blazing as several Decepticon's grazed past. "How are you?"
"I'm fine, thanks for asking." Skyfire answered, covering the area with her own fire. The two were back to back now, well-aimed shots driving away many Decepticon fighters. "Woulda been better if you hadn't left me thinking you were dead for so long."
"I was busy." Jetfire answered, as one of his blasts clipped a Decepticon's wing. "I'm sure you'll find it in you to forgive me."
"We'll see about that." Skyfire rolled her eyes, sending a number of blasts at an approaching squadron. She suddenly whirled and fired her afterburners, snatching them both out of the way as a volley of lasers from a Decepticon cruiser seared through space where they had been a moment ago.
"If it's not obvious, I missed you." Skyfire panted.
"Me too, Sky." Jets answered as they both transformed and shot off together toward incoming Decepticon fighters. The two dove nose-first into the enemy squad, scattering them as their lasers cut wide beams through their ranks. The Decepticons fled, and Jetfire and Skyfire returned to robot mode.
"Never get tired of doing that!" Jetfire whooped.
"Trust me," Skyfire grumbled, "You will."
Jetfire ignored the quip, his optics focusing on three wayward Decepticon fighters. He followed their trajectory and grimaced. "Aw, slag!" He transformed again, shooting off after the Seeker squadron. Skyfire gaped for a moment, then tore off in his wake.
"Mind telling me what's going on?" She demanded.
"Those seekers are headed right for our ship." Jetfire snapped back.
"Copy that." Skyfire replied. "I'll cover you!" The two raced together after the Decepticons, who were veering toward Cybertron's atmosphere.
Ramjet, leader of the 51st Seeker Squadron bore down on the Junkion vessel, cruel intent in his eyes. "Thundercracker, Windsweeper, form up behind me."
"This'll be too easy." Windsweeper complained. "Why don't we ever get the fun jobs?"
"Quit yer yapping!" Thundercracker said with a laugh. "Let's toast this and go home."
"Follow my mark." Ramjet ordered, ignoring their banter. "Let's bring her down." The three Seekers formed up tightly and dove. Six missiles burst from their holds, smashing into the Junkion ship's side as they swept over. Ramjet noted with glee the fire blossoms expanding from the side of their target.
"Not armored at all." He chuckled, pulling into a hard turn. "Come on boys, lets finish her in one pass!" The Seekers banked sharply and sped back toward Wreck-Gar's ship...
"Don't slag out on me now, baby." Wreck-Gar growled, fighting hard with the controls as the ship protested and shuddered under the stress.
"They're coming around for another pass!" Optimus yelled frantically.
"I've still got a couple tricks left!" Wreck-Gar whooped, slamming his hand down on a dust-covered button. A sudden barrage of laser fire burst from the bow of the ship, warding off the incoming attack.
"Hah! Take that Decepticon dogs!" Wreck-Gar cackled.
"They're coming again." Optimus said warningly. "Do you have any more tricks?"
Wreck-Gar paused. "Umm, err, no. That was the last one. Sorry. Better luck next time."
"I'm going to die and it's an idiot's fault." Optimus groaned. Wreck-Gar grabbed the controls and yanked to the side suddenly, barely dodging several blasts as the seeker squad zoomed past.
A hand suddenly clasped Optimus's shoulder. He glanced backwards into Evac's eyes, and saw in them something he had never seen before.
Words hissed from Evac's voice box with an unnatural, frightening tone. "What did you do with Cybertron?"
Optimus gaped at him. "What?"
"This is not Cybertron! What did you do with it?"
Optimus shook his head. "Not now Evac-"
Evac grabbed him violently, eyes staring straight into his spark. "NO! The moons, the stars, it's all wrong! This is not Cybertron!"
"Evac, it's been millions of years! It could have changed-"
"NO! THIS IS NOT MY HOME!"
A number of explosions tore through the ship, throwing everyone inside off their feet. Jazz swooped up Michelle and Chris, holding them close as they were sent tumbling to the floor.
"Hull breach!" Wreck-Gar cried desperately as smoke filled the cockpit. "We're losing altitude!"
Optimus pushed Evac aside. "Dammit! Evac-"
He turned. Evac was gone.
"These guys don't want to face death, do they." Ramjet snarled as his squad pulled around again.
"Still too easy." Windsweeper hissed.
"You may get yer wish yet!" Thundercracker yelped. "Someone's coming out of the ship!"
"Finally!" Windsweeper whooped, whirling. "Something to fight!" He shot straight toward the lone figure. The yellowish form braced himself for the incoming, bladed weapon waiting in his hand. "You're mine!" Windsweeper howled, lasers igniting and streaking toward the target. The yellow form artfully dodged them. Windsweeper transformed, not losing any momentum, as he aimed right for the yellow bot's spark.
Evac was waiting. Rage fueled by disbelief channeled into strength, and with a power not his own, his blades smashed into Windsweeper's form, knocking him away. Windsweeper gave a cry of disbelief as he was thrown into an uncontrollable spin to the planets cloudcover.
"Who is this guy?" Thundercracker froze.
"Who cares?" Ramjet roared. He didn't bother to transform out of his Seeker form, just shot at the target weapons blazing. Evac ignored the laser fire as his own thrusters ignited, sending him rocketing toward Ramjet.
"I'll knock you out of the skies!" Ramjet screamed, diverting all powers to his engines. Evac waited till the last possible moment, then threw himself to the side, bringing his blades down heavily through Ramjet's wing and tail-fins. Ramjet howled as his engines caught fire, his fuselage leaking straight into in the still burning engines. His entire tail end exploded, sending him plummeting toward Cybertron below, a plume of smoke in his wake.
"Uh oh!" Thundercracker panicked, firing all his weapons desperately as Evac closed in on him. Thundercracker transformed, barely dodging Evac's wild swings, and countering with chaotic laser bursts. Evac rushed at him and grabbed him. "WHAT DID YOU DO WITH CYBERTRON?" He bellowed. Thundercracker yelped, struggling desperately to get free, when a third form entered the combat. With a howl of rage, Windsweeper threw himself headlong into Evac. Thundercracker sent his engines into overdrive, and shot away.
Windsweeper whirled, eyes penetrating into Evac's. "DIE!" He howled, opening fire. Evac's twin blades flashed through the lasers, missing Windsweeper by inches. Windsweeper veered away, firing wildly. Two cannons flipped from Evac's back, and enormous blasts issued from them. Windsweeper flipped into Seeker mode, spinning around the streaks of light and returning fire, scoring hits on Evac who was thrown backwards. Evac engines flared and he rebounded, shooting towards Windsweeper. Windsweeper transformed, two blades of his own springing from his arms, and charged, straight at Evac.
"Who the slagging heck is this guy?" Skyfire demanded as she and Jetfire raced toward the battle, the two figures coming into visual range. "Do you know him?"
"I'm... not sure." Jetfire said hesitantly.
Evac's sword flashed as his and Windsweeper's blades met, both being pushed backwards by the impact. Evac recovered first, flying upwards with a roar. Windsweeper's blades came up and intercepted them, locking in place against Evac's. Windsweeper grimaced, and then cried out as his blades cracked. Evac gave a cry and doubled his strength, and the Seeker's blades shattered. Evac's weapon came up suddenly and shot straight through Windsweeper's chest, trapping his spark-core between the twin blades. A gurgling scream emitted from Windsweeper's throat, and Evac pulled, as Windsweeper's body shrieked with tearing metal, as his spark was yanked clear from his body, extinguishing in a burst of light. Windsweeper's remains plummeted.
"Holy slaggin-" Thundercracker stared for a moment, unable to believe the sight. "Forget this, I'm gone!" He yelped, transforming and tearing away into the sky.
Skyfire and Jetfire transformed, staring. "No way..." Skyfire whispered in horror.
Evac hovered in place, fuel staining the yellow sheen of his form, an estranged, cold look in his eyes. Jetfire regarded at him for long a moment, then with a grunt, flew toward him.
"Jets, wait!" Skyfire protested.
Jetfire ignored her, and came up in front of Evac. "Is that you?" He said hesitantly. "Are you ok?"
"What," Evac said, face turning toward him a sneer on his face, "Did you do with Cybertron?"
"What are you-"
Evac's hand shot out and grabbed Jetfire's throat. "THIS IS NOT CYBERTRON!" Evac roared. "WHERE IS IT?"
"Jets!" Skyfire cried, her weapons leaping into her hands.
"Sky don't!" Jetfire choked out. "Evac, it's me. Jetfire. You saved my life once!"
No recognition seemed to penetrate Evac's unseeing eyes. Skyfire hovered a short distance away, her weapons shaking with uncertainty .
"Evac, please." Jetfire urged softly. "Let me go. What would Michelle think of you?"
Relenting, Evac lowered his head, eyes dimming. "I'm sorry." He said, his voice cracking. "I don't know- I... what did I do..."
"Go back to the ship." Jetfire said quietly. "It's ok."
Evac wavered for a moment, then transformed. "This isn't Cybertron." Evac said quietly, then shot off after the Junkion ship.
"I want some answers." Skyfire demanded, coming up behind Jetfire. "Who the slagging pit was that?"
"I thought I knew." Jetfire said softly. "I thought I knew."
"We've lost the Tyrant." One of Spacewarp's subordinates yelled. "They're breaking through our lines!"
"Not yet, not yet." Spacewarp growled. "It's not time yet-"
"I've got word from General Obsidian!" His comm officer called suddenly. "Mission accomplished!"
Spacewarp sighed, and allowed himself to relax. "Thank Primus. Sound the retreat. We're done here."
The Nemesis pulled away, setting a course away from the battle zone.
Somewhere in the suburbs of Cybertron, a small meteor hit the ground at full force, largely ignored due to the other debris falling from the sky.
But this one transformed after it landed.
"Ah, good to be home." Counterpunch chuckled, glancing around, and noting the ruined scenery around him. "Geeze, they haven't rebuilt anything since the last time Gig's attacked Cybertron. Ah, good times."
He stretched luxuriously for a moment, and then glanced down. "Oh-ho! What's this? It seems another weary traveler has beaten me here." He knelt down and examined Ramjet's unmoving form. "Tsk, tsk. Jet engine blown out, but the bots don't have the courtesy to go all out and kill you?" The body seemed to stir. "Ah, see? I can hear your spark pulsing in there. Can you hear me?"
"Ye... yes..." The weak voice responded.
"Such a pity then." Counterpunch shook his head. "'Cause you can't know I'm here." Counterpunch's fist shot straight down into Ramjet's chest, puncturing the spark chamber and sending the light inside into darkness, as Ramjet gave a dying gasp, and then faded.
Counterpunch admired his handiwork for a moment, then shook his head. "No, no, can't let you go that easy. I got better uses." A small beacon appeared in his hand, and he tossed it onto the unmoving form. He knelt down, caressing Ramjet's body. "The boss will be here in a moment to get you." He said with a smile. "Take care. Hehe."
He stood up, and glanced away. "Ah. Time to get going. Or else the boss will kill me." He stretched out his arms, and then they suddenly flipped down. His head rotated up and his chest whirled, parts shifting until an entirely new robot stood where the first one had - an Autobot symbol now shining where a Decepticon symbol had been a moment before.
"Time to go." He chuckled, transforming into a wheeled vehicle, and rolling away toward Iacon.
Skyfire, Jetfire and Evac escorted Wreck-Gar's ship to Iacon's military space-port. The Junkion ship touched down on an empty pad, one of a dozen in its section, smoke still pouring from the hull breaches. Upon landing, the ship gave a final, wheezing sigh as its engines shut down, the entire hull shuddering as though some great burden had finally been relieved.
The boarding ramp came down with a jolt, nearly falling off its supports, and Optimus wearily glanced out. His eyes caught Jetfire's as he and Skyfire landed beside them. "Glad to see you in one piece."
"Same to you." Jetfire nodded. "Everyone all right?"
"I think so." Optimus answered. One by one, the battered crew of the Aris filed out; Aidia clutching to Red Alert, Ironhide looking a little dazed, Jazz and Crosswise holding the two humans, bundled in their now scuffed exosuits, close under their protection.
The last pair caught Skyfire's attention. "Those aren't Autobots. Jetfire... what's going on?"
"Hope you have time for a long story, Sky." Jetfire grumbled.
Optimus stood outside the ship for a moment, thankful to see his friends and crew alive and well. He cast a glance back at the Junkion ship, and winced at the massive damage it had sustained. "I'm sorry about your ship Wreck-Gar." He said softly, turning toward the Junkion.
Wreck-Gar shrugged. "Eh, slag happens. She'll be fixed up in a jiffy."
Optimus nodded, turning his attention back to his crew. "Ironhide, Red Alert, if you can move Aris's data banks out of there, we'll be good to go."
The two acknowledged, and quickly set about their tasks. Optimus sighed. "And now comes the unpleasant part."
Evac came in slowly, landing and transforming in silence. Jazz, Crosswise and the two humans ran up to greet him. "You ok?" Jazz asked, genuine concern on his face.
"Fine." Evac waved them away.
Michelle ran after him. "Evac, wait."
"Later." Evac growled. "I'm not in the mood to talk."
Michelle paused as Evac stomped off, shock in her eyes. "Even to me?" She whispered.
Jetfire watched and shook his head. "Something's very wrong here."
"You're telling me?" Skyfire answered. "Sweet Primus Jets, what's happened to you guys?"
Jetfire sighed shaking his head again. "Ok. Brace yourself. I don't think you're going to like this story."
He was right. She didn't.
In the center of Iacon's military complex stood a great circular building that told the story of eons of Cybertronian History. It had seen the rise and fall of all the golden ages of Cybertron's, and once housed a legacy of Primes that dated back eons. Its original name had long since been forgotten, and now it was only ever called the War Room. Inside, hundreds of mechanoids tracked hundreds of screens, following with intense scrutiny and detail the workings of an intergalactic civil war.
Among the intense hustle of the room, one figure stood out in particular. Larger than most transformers, he typically projected an aura of confidence. But at the moment, his neurocitcuits had been worn down to the breaking point, because for the first time in ages, it was painfully clear that they were losing the war.
Though the battle for Cybertron had been won, what was obvious now was that no less then 15 other strongholds had been attacked at the same time, and of those, 12 had fallen. The Decepticon fleet was far larger than they had realized. Cybertron had been a diversion, and the Autobots had fallen for it. As soon as the Nemesis appeared, the Autobots had sent every resource they had available to aid the fight. And that was exactly what the Decepticons had wanted. Now, 12 important strongholds, three of which were resource bases, had been taken. The Decepticon plan had worked. And now the Autobots would suffer for it.
The Autobot General turned, bracing himself for another wave of bad news. That was the only kind of news he had received in the past cycle, and it didn't seem likely to change.
One of the Autobot officers, one Ultra Magnus didn't recognize and didn't bother to waste the effort remembering, rushed up, a data-pad full of ever-scrolling reports in his hands. "I have an updated battle report." He paused, waiting for an affirmation.
Ultra Magnus waited for a few moments, just to make him nervous, then nodded. "Go on."
The officer gulped, and began his report. "We destroyed 13 Decepticon warships, and three landing ships, in addition to-"
"I don't particularly care about the Decepticons." Ultra Magnus cut him off, more harshly than he intended, "How many did we lose?"
"We suffered fewer casualties then the Decepticons-"
"HOW MANY, SLAG IT?"
"I- err... 10 warships, all hands lost."
Ultra Magnus's optics dimmed as he sighed. If the other reports coming in were right, the news was worse than the young officer realized. They had believed the Autobot forces outnumbered the Decepticons by a small margin. Now, it seemed as though the Decepticons outnumbered them two to one. And with those odds, the Autobots could not afford to lose any more ships.
"I do have another report sir." The officer said hesitantly.
Ultra Magnus didn't answer, his mind focused on the lost.
"A captain of one of our ships that had been reported lost has returned, with about half his crew. He insists on seeing you-"
"Good for him. I'm busy. Get somebody else to debrief him, Roadbuster or someone-"
"Roadbuster is off-planet." The officer said reluctantly.
"Slag." Ultra Magnus turned away. "I'll deal with it when I can. Who is it?"
"Uhh-" The officer consulted his data-pad. "It's Optimus Major, sir."
Ultra Magnus cocked an eyeridge. "Really."
Outback, Commanding Officer of the 63rd Cybertronian ground defense squad, was slowly gathering up the wreckage of his little base. Half of his command (only 5 anyway) had disappeared, and the other half was injured or uncooperative. That left him to try and piece together the shambles of his command by himself.
It didn't help that the wreckage of a Decepticon warship had landed right on his small HQ.
He grumbled bitterly to himself as he pushed aside some more twisted smoking metal - something that may or may not have been the remains of a Decepticon burned up in the atmospheric descent - looking for the keepsakes of his that he made a point to always keep around. He was an old bot, and the small image-pad was the only thing left of his memories of a more peaceful time.
His audials caught the sound of footsteps. "I sure hope that's one of you guys come to help me."
"Outback?" The voice said hesitantly.
Outback glanced up and gaped. "Well I'll be slagged! Punch! Where the pit have you been?"
"I got reassigned, buddy." Punch said, slapping his friend on the back. "Here, let me give you a hand with all that." He grabbed some of the fallen beams and helped push.
"Primus, I'm glad to see you." Outback sighed. "Ever since you went off, it's been kinda lonely. All these new recruits are a bore."
"Glad I'm back, eh?" Punch laughed. "Don't worry, I should be staying here awhile."
"Thank Primus." Outback sighed, letting the debris slide aside. He sighed, and turned around, glancing up at the stars. "Wish this whole thing would just blow over already. I'm sick of this war."
Punch too stared at the sky. His attention was caught briefly, by a pair of stars streaking away, and he smiled. "'Bout time." He muttered.
"What was that?" Outback asked.
"Oh nothing." Punch turned his attention back to the debris. He spotted the image-pad after a moment, and stepped down on it. "Uh-Oh," He said as a cracking sound accompanied his words. "I, err, hope this wasn't what you were looking for."
Outback picked up the broken pad sorrowfully. "Aw, slag." He said.
"I'm sorry buddy, I didn't see it-"
"It's ok Punch. Not your fault." Outback said miserably. "My fault for not seeing it. Slag. Thanks for helping."
"Sorry about that." Punch said sympathetically. "I've got to get back to base, but if you need anything, don't hesitate to look me up. I'll be around."
"Ok." Outback said miserably, clasping his broken pad tightly as Punch waltzed off. As soon as Outback was out of sight, he allowed his mouth to twist up into a sadistic smile. "Fun times indeed."
"THIS is Cybertron?" Jazz stated, his voice filled with stunned disbelief.
"Yep." Ironhide answered grimly. "Probably not what you remember, eh."
The group - minus Optimus and Jetfire - stood together on a balcony outside the War room, overlooking the sprawling city of Iacon. Inset into the planet itself, Iacon was a vast, sprawling landscape of dirt encrusted towers and skyways. The city stretched down forever, as if there were no ground below, merely the core of the planet. Half of the city was in ruins, smoke still curling upwards from some areas. It seemed all but abandoned.
Jazz shook his head. "This is horrible."
Chris reached up and patted his friend fondly on the knee. "It's war, Jazz. Stuff like this happens."
Crosswise optics were dim as she overlooked the ruined city. "I remember the planet crossed with golden streets." She said in pained tones. "The rivers of energon, the stars..."
"The last golden age of Cybertron ended hundreds of years ago." Red Alert offered. "Few alive now who still remember it."
"This isn't Cybertron." Evac said sullenly, watching them all from the rear, arms crossed and eyes dark. Michelle looked sorrowfully up at him, but he would say no more.
Ironhide glanced back at him and shook his head. "No, this is Cybertron."
"I kinda feel..." Crosswise said, wavering uncertainly. "That Evac's right. I- it just doesn't sit right with me."
"Same here." Jazz added. "It just doesn't look right."
"It's been a long time." Ironhide said gently, putting his hands on their shoulders. "It'll make itself right, in time."
Evac huffed, and looked away back toward the desolation. All of them watched the ruins for a time, until Optimus returned.
"Any luck?" Ironhide asked, immediately turning to face his commander.
"No. We came back at the worst time." Optimus sighed. "It'll be awhile before we get to talk to anyone."
"So, we just stay here then?" Jazz asked.
"For now. It's as good a place as any." Optimus answered, walking toward the balcony's edge. He leaned out on it, glancing throughout the ruined district, and sighed. "What I would give to end this all..."
It was silent for a long time, until heavy footsteps signaled a new arrival.
Optimus glanced back, and suddenly whirled, his posture jumping into the disciplined military firmness he had been taught for ages, a crisp salute already formed by his hands. "Ultra Magnus, sir!" He said stiffly.
The form before him was huge, blue and white, with highlights of red. He towered over Optimus, the grim look accenting his bulky form to create a menacing picture. He frowned down at Optimus and growled, "Where the Pit have you been?"
Optimus sighed. "It's a long story sir. Perhaps we should-"
"I've got time." Magnus barked. "The last message you sent us said you were pursuing Megatron. Well both he and you disappeared for several Cycles, and now I want to know where the slagging pit you have been!" He glowered down at Optimus, optics burning into his. Optimus tried to speak, but failed.
Ultra Magnus glared at him for a moment, then quickly glanced over the other members present, all of which quickly developed interest in other things. Then his optics caught one thing in particular.
Ultra Magnus knelt down with surprising speed, coming face to face with the small humans, who stayed rooted to their spots in surprise and fear.
"What. Are. These?" Ultra Magnus hissed.
"They are, uhh-"
Ultra Magnus whirled on him. "What are they?" He demanded. "Where did they come from?"
"They're Humans, from Earth." Jazz offered quickly, trying to be helpful.
"That's not a developed planet!" Ultra Magnus roared, shaking Optimus. "What are you doing bringing undeveloped people here? You know the laws! I'll have your court-martialed for this!"
"They're with me." Evac interrupted suddenly, forcing himself between Optimus and Ultra Magnus. "I brought them here."
"State your name and rank soldier." Ultra Magnus spat.
"I have no rank." Evac answered icily, his eyes narrowing. "And I will not give my name to a brute like you."
"Don't do it Evac..." Optimus muttered under his breath, more of a prayer than a warning.
Ultra Magnus grabbed Evac. "Who do you think you are?" He roared.
Evac pushed him away, and his blades leapt into his hands. "I am Evac." He said, threats rising in his voice. "I came to find Cybertron, and this is not it. What have you done with Cybertron?"
Ultra Magnus reached for his own weapon. "Why you little punk, I ought-"
"Stop this at once!"
Everyone was silenced by the voice, one that commanded power and authority at the same time. The voice's owner revealed, his figure coated in blue and white. As large as Ultra Magnus, he was much more regal in his appearance. His aged face exuded wisdom won from a lifetime of struggles, and his entire air was one of nobility.
"Sentinel Prime..." Optimus whispered, dropping to his knees. Ironhide, Red Alert and Aidia all followed suit, kneeling before the leader and figure-head of all of Cybertron. Ultra Magnus too knelt. "Forgive me, my Prime." He said quietly.
Sentinel Prime shook his head. "You've had a rough day, old friend." He said, gently, then motioned toward everyone else. "Please, stand up." He glanced over all of them, taking them all in, noting their reactions - the stares of wonder from the humans, Jazz and Crosswise, the look of awe in the Autobots, the distant aloofness of Evac... He took them in, and turned to Optimus. "Optimus Major, I presume?"
"Yes, sir." Optimus said hesitantly.
"I'm glad to have you back." Sentinel Prime said, gently taking his hand. "Your service will be helpful. And now," He turned toward Evac, "Who may you be?"
Evac regarded him warily, as though sizing up an equal. "I am Evac, Guardian of the planet Earth."
"Earth..." Sentinel Prime said thoughtfully, "That is not a colony I am familiar with."
"They were found on Earth," Optimus offered quietly, "By the humans, the species that lives there."
Sentinel Prime nodded calmly. "Well then, whatever your origins, I welcome you to Cybertron, Evac-of-Earth." He offered his hand as an equal. Evac hesitated, and then took it.
The instant their hands met, Sentinel Prime jumped backwards as if in shock. Ultra Magnus cried out, rushing forward to aid his leader. Instinctively, weapons leapt into Ironhide and Red Alert's hands, though they were unsure of where to aim. Jazz and Crosswise pulled the humans close and shielded them, and Optimus could only witness the scene with horror. Evac looked down at his hand in astonishment, too shocked to speak.
"You..." Sentinel Prime whispered, staring at Evac. "What are you carrying?"
Evac hesitated for a moment, then reached up, his hand unlocking his chest. Two panels swung open, and a light shown outwards.
"It's not possible!" Ultra Magnus gasped. "It can't be!"
Sentinel Prime stood shakily, his own hand reaching up, as light shined from his chest as well. Both lights seemed to grow brighter for a moment, then dimmed as both closed their chests.
Sentinel Prime stared at Evac, his optics overlooking him with newfound respect and admiration for a long time, then they turned down to Optimus. "Optimus Major," He said gravely, "I owe you my greatest thanks. I never thought I would live to see this day." He turned back toward Evac. "Evac Prime of Earth, we must talk."
"Evac... Prime?" Optimus said weakly.
"It was crazy!" Thundercracker said, hopping up and down with excitement. "This yellow guy comes out and tears Windsweeper in half! Rips his spark right out! I've never seen anything like it! Aw man, it was terrifying! Where did the Bots find this guy?"
"Yeah, right." Slipstream muttered.
"I'm sure a bot just got a lucky hit in." Jetstorm added, leaning back.
"Another one of 'Cracker's crazy stories." Wind Raid chuckled. The four were aboard the main lounge in the Nemesis, staring lazily out the windows.
"No, it's true!" Thundercracker whined. "I saw it with my own eyes! I mean, it took out Ramjet and Windsweeper like that! Got them both!"
"Then who's that?" Wind Raid asked, pointing toward a figure in a corner of the lounge. Thundercracker blinked. "Ramjet?"
The other three Seekers chuckled, and returned to ignoring him, as Thundercracker rushed over to his commander.
"Ramjet, you're alive!" Thundercracker squeaked. "What happened? I thought for sure that yellow guy-"
"He hit me bad." Ramjet shrugged. "But I got out. Got it patched up already too."
"Got downed with a lucky hit." Ramjet said flatly. "Now I suggest you stop telling your stories. Ok?"
"But I-" Thundercracker wavered uncertainly, then his wings slumped in defeat, and he slunk back toward his quarters.
Ramjet smiled grimly, and glanced down at his hand. With a little flick, his hand dissolved, then reformed itself, as though nothing had happened.
"I think I'm going to like this." Ramjet chuckled, leaning back and staring at the stars, a smirk on his face. "I'm going to like this indeed."