The Bastion was built at the time of the Primary Ancients and orbited a red giant star in the Gamma Section of the galaxy. Its only companions in the system were a solitary gas giant, two tiny frozen dwarf planets and a meagre asteroid belt. The resources in the system were scarce; there was little energon or ammunition to be manufactured here, resulting in a quandary as to why the Ancients would choose to build a structure the size of the Bastion in such a redundant system.
To class the Bastion as huge would have been an understatement. The central hub was a spire so gargantuan that it could pierce a planet to the core; it dwarfed any ship that docked, the largest Transformer was insignificant next to it. The radial arms that protruded outwards from along the length of the central spire could dock hundreds of star ships, but the scale was so huge it had clearly been designed to allow ships far larger than any current Transformer vessel to berth. Some mechs had argued that the existence of the Bastion indicated that the Ancients had at one time possessed a fleet of Warworlds, in contradiction to the mechs who claimed that the solitary existing Warworld found was but a prototype and represented the pinnacle of the Ancient’s technological capacity; a feat unmatched by the current generation.
The stores of the Bastion were empty upon discovery, but the facilities the structure was capable of suggested that it required constant re-supplying. It was designed to be able to refuel and rearm all berthed craft, but inside were factories, refineries and automated provisions that could process raw materials into weapons, ammunition and energon, extensive service bays that could handle mech repairs and upgrades, communication arrays that could pick up and pin point weak signals from the surrounding section of the galaxy, but also dampened the emissions of the Bastion to shield it from prying sensors. Whole floors were engineered to allow hundreds of mechs to gather, plan and organise themselves. Others were designed to allow mechs to train and practise their skills. The Bastion had been an important structure for the Ancients, survey teams had determined that the number of mechs that had passed through was staggering.
The capabilities of the Bastion were astounding, but there was only one problem with the station: no local resources. It was in a remote system and would never be able to be resource effective. It required a considerable amount of energon to get there and required astonishing amounts to keep it operational; when it had been discovered, it had long since powered down after running out of energon. The Bastion would never be more than a staging post, so when the Decepticons captured it, the Autobots were faced with the realisation that it simply just wasn’t worth the effort to take it back, there just simply wasn’t any resource or strategic benefits to reacquire it.
Once the Bastion had been taken it was quickly brought up to full efficiency by the Decepticons, with the reactivation of the security network; protecting the Bastion from any external attack, but also neutralising any combatants in an armed conflict inside. The Bastion was a location in which cons could meet peacefully, to forge alliances to fight engagements, to request help with defensive actions, or conduct any number of business matters.
The Bastion, therefore, was the perfect venue for Revaxus to conduct his meeting. Revaxus was a large chassis-framed Decepticon whose armour was so dark green to be almost black, appearing at odds with the violent violet splashes that highlighted his joints. The weapons he carried had been safely powered down to allow him to walk the halls of the Bastion without triggering the defences, yet he was still an unnerving sight.
Revaxus led his two companions to an observation lounge and through the armoured observation port that spanned in an arc across their heads; they watched a ship come in and dock.
‘Is that them boss?' asked Clawkill. The standard-tactical sized con was a warrior and had fought at Revaxus’s side since their construction. The two had been brought online at the same time, but were the only two cons from that construction batch still to function.
‘If they’re on schedule, then that ship must be them.' Skyline replied instead. The standard-large mech had served Revaxus through several engagements, where his function as Fueler had considerably bolstered Revaxus’s small team’s effectiveness.
Silently Revaxus led them to the meeting room he had acquired to conduct the business. Revaxus took the centre of the room, under the solitary illumination source, with Skyline at his commander’s side and Clawkill next to the door. They waited in silence until the door opened once more and four cons entered, one of which was missing an arm. Clawkill quickly locked the door behind them, the clunk of the bolts breaking the silence in the room.
‘Did you retrieve the item?' Skyline asked.
‘We got it, where’s our payment?' The speaker’s ident-sig identified him as Kraken, like his three companions, he was a standard-tactical sized mech.
‘Autoloader B-17, ready unload into the cargo bay of your vessel.' Skyline replied. Kraken mentally interfaced with the Bastion’s node and checked the inventory of the autoloader; it was indeed laden with energon cubes and processed metal-alloy.
‘Now, I’m not one to turn down a bonus, but what’s the deal here? There’s more than we asked for’
‘Give us that processor and we’ll tell ya.' Clawkill said. Kraken turned to one of his companions who then held out the processor to Clawkill. He snatched it from him and tossed the item to Skyline. The Fueler opened one of the storage units fitted to his bulky frame and removed a piece of equipment and plugged the processor into it.
‘It may take several moments to run the diagnostic I’m afraid.' Skyline reported back.
‘What happened to your friend, run into a couple of Autobots or something?' Clawkill asked of the con with the missing arm.
‘Bad intel, there were Masters at the site; they put up some … resistance.' Kraken replied. ‘We trusted your information; we weren’t expecting to run into any serious opposition.'
‘I thought Pretenders were supposed to be some sort of big deal.'
‘We are. Look we got that bit of Ancient junk for you. We going to get our payment Revaxus?' Kraken asked the large mech, but he kept silent, the only sound was the faint hum of the processor attached to the diagnostic tool that Skyline had produced. Revaxus held the con’s gaze and Kraken took a step back, his companions at his back. Skyline at last broke the silence,
‘The item is as we requested and functions optimally.' The Bastion’s node informed Kraken that Autoloader B-17 had then deposited one third of its contents into the main hold of Kraken’s ship, but then stopped.
‘Hey, that’s not even our payment! You ripping us off? Is that why we had to meet here, so we’d have to leave our Pretender shells behind and you could short change us and not worry about us tearing you guys limb from limb?' Kraken bellowed.
Revaxus laughed. The sound was a quiet rumble, like distant thunder.
‘Even if there were still six of you and I had no weapons, your shells would not protect you. Others have underestimated my power, but do not now function. No, I have other business to conduct here; the Bastion is a unique venue for conducting a variety of matters. I am here to present you a choice, you may leave now with what is in the cargo hold of your transport, or you can have the remaining amount on completion of a second job.' The commander said.
‘Look, we got what you asked for, we even levelled that place afterwards, no bot would have survived. No one’s coming looking for that processor. We’ve done our job, just pay us what we originally settled for and we’ll be on our way.' Kraken replied.
‘Look, the boss’s given you your options, just pick one, there ain’t no third choice.' Clawkill replied.
‘If you wish to walk away, do so. There are now only four of you, split four ways, the cargo in your hold is more for each of you than the original price split six ways.' Skyline added.
‘That’s just not enough! We need repairs not only to Cutback, but also to his shell! You know how expensive that is? We can’t settle for the amount we’ve already got in the hold, after our running costs, there’s not nearly enough for us to keep operating in this area!'
‘Unfortunately, that problem is not ours. If you wish the full amount, speak now. However, once you accept, there’s no option to then back out of the deal.' Skyline stated. Kraken looked back at his companions; none of them objected.
‘Ok, we’re in.'
Clawkill stood aboard the bridge of Kraken’s ship, displayed on one of the view screens was Revaxus’s ship Nighthammer. Kraken’s vessel followed closely behind it, hidden in Nighthammer’s engine exhaust. Pulsar, Revaxus’s communications specialist, had enlisted the service of more Decepticons during Revaxus’s meeting with the Pretenders. Along with Revaxus, Skyline and Pulsar were a team of two omni-upgraded cons and a five mech mercenary Gestalt team. While those two teams’ loyalty was assured as long as they received the energon and unprocessed metal-alloys they had been promised; the Pretenders were the liability. They were reluctant to come along, but the remainder of their payment was waiting for them at the Bastion after the mission had ended. That should keep them in check, Clawkill knew, but now that they were back in their Pretender armour, Clawkill wasn’t too sure if he could stop them if they decided to leave.
‘You ever been there before?' Kraken asked, standing next to Clawkill. He nodded to another viewscreen
‘The base? Yeah sure, loads! This’ll be easy.'
‘No, I meant that planet it orbits.'
‘Cyberton? Nah, no way. You?'
‘Never, not even in orbit. I’ve not even viewed it over the node-feeds. Isn’t it supposed to rip you apart it you land on it?'
‘Yeah, it does that. I’ve seen it. Not a nice way to go. Pretender armour can stand it, but you spend too long down there, it fries your database.'
‘What? Even through Pretender armour?'
‘Yup. It’s the voices. They’re stronger on the surface. It’s not quite an audio emission, it more of just appears in your mind. You hear it on the base too, but after a while you just try to function with it as best as you can. But down on the surface, it’s stronger. Like shouting, rather than whispering. No mech can take that for long, most self-terminate. If restrained, it just burns out their entire cerebro circuitry.'
‘What do they say? The voices?'
‘There’s too many to make out. You hear the odd word, doesn’t make much sense really. Apparently, if you hear your own name, you deactivate.'
‘Get scrapped!' Kraken turned a worried optical sensor on Clawkill’s solemn face, before the warrior started laughing. The Pretender shook his head.
‘How’d you know all this anyway?'
‘Shockwing, the base’s commander, well, we used to work for him. Well, we still do, I guess.' Kraken laughed.
‘So Revaxus has a commander? That is very … amusing.'
‘I hope you’re not having second thoughts; you know what we said about that.'
‘Don’t worry, I gave my word. And I break my word for no mech. We’re in this one hundred percent.'
‘So what exactly has Shockwing done to make Revaxus want to take him down?'
‘Well, this whole thing is nothing personal, just that Shockwing is only the start.'
‘The start of what?'
‘Something bigger than either of us. When it happens, you’ll be glad you picked Revaxus’s side.'
‘Just what do you mean…'
‘Communication from Nighthammer.' Cutback interrupted. The freshly repaired warrior was piloting the ship, which required him to be the only Pretender not to be wearing his armour.
‘Ok’ Kraken replied. Cutback was secured to the ship by the physical interface in the pilot’s pod; with a silent mental command he connected the communication from the Nighthammer and Pulsar’s face appeared on the main viewscreen.
‘My scans indicate that Shockwing’s facility has recently been attacked by an unknown force. No ships are docked, or remain in system, but there could still be enemy mechs left behind in the facility. Unfortunately the facility’s stabilisers have been deactivated and it is now adrift. Calculations show that it will eventually crash into the surface of Cybertron. The plan will remain the same. There are no functioning communication or sensor grids on the exterior of the facility; there is no longer a need for stealth, but approach the facility with caution.' The communication then ended.
‘You heard him’ Clawkill said after the viewscreen had reverted to its previous image.
‘Cutback, take us in.' Kraken ordered the pilot, then to Clawkill he added ‘I see things never change, statics still telling animechs what to do.'
Clawkill punched Kraken with a viscous uppercut, sending him crashing into a bulkhead. The other Pretenders readied their weapons, as Clawkill raised his blaster, but a look from Kraken stopped his warriors from advancing.
‘I’m just saying …' Kraken started
‘Well, I don’t like it!' Clawkill snarled.
‘Look, I knew Pulsar back from before I was a Pretender. The con’s a typical static, looks down on every other mech with a mobile altmode, if you’re unlucky enough to have an animech second form, well, he hates even having to look at you.'
‘He’s loyal to Revaxus, that’s all you need to be concerned about. Get your warriors ready, we’re nearly there.'
Shockwing’s facility appeared from a distance as a hemispherical dome of dull grey metal alloy. It was constructed not by the Ancients, but by the current Decepticons. It maintained a position close to Cybertron and attracted some of the best Decepticon scientists and engineers hoping to unlock hidden Ancient weapons and technology from its surface. However, it was quickly discovered that the Ancient’s homeworld was completely inhospitable and the station was all but abandoned. After the re-discovery of Pretender technology the station saw a renewed interest, with Pretender teams sent down to the surface. But the physical protection provided by the armour was still not enough and after the numerous short missions made to its surface failed to find any new discoveries, the facility was all but abandoned again. Leaving behind Shockwing and his team.
The station was now pockmarked with holes, weapon systems were now merely space junk; no further work would ever be conducted here again.
As per Revaxus’s plan, The Nighthammer docked in the Cybertron facing hanger, while Kraken’s ship blasted its way into the hanger at the rear of the facility.
Clawkill watched as Cutback announced that sensors showed that the hanger was clear of any threats and then powered down the engines. The distant voices from Cybertron were dripping through into their databanks. Whispers, shrieks, screams, it permeated through every block the cons tried to activate internally. It was disorientating and demoralising, Kraken had been unprepared just for what it would be like. With a clunk the pilot’s pod split in half, revealing Cutback at its centre. The multitude of physical interfaces, restraining clamps and other assemblies retracted away from Cutback and into the recesses of the pilot’s pod. The warrior’s Pretender armour followed his silent mental command and opened up, to allow Cutback inside. Sealed back up again, Cutback joined his comrades by the forward hatch and Kraken solemnly led them out into the hanger. Clawkill immediately transformed into his animech altmode. He stood on four legs, with a tail at his rear for balance. His head formed a snout filled with strong, sharp metal alloy teeth. His animech head was also equipped with superior sensors to his robot mode, mounted either side of his face and on the end of his snout. Clawkill was a standard-tactical size and his animech mode reflected that, strong and fast he could take down a mech of a greater size, even a large chassis-frame. Clawkill was able to relax in this mode; it became easier to ignore the persistent voices. He silently promised himself that he would not leave it so long before he transformed again.
‘There’s been fighting here.' Clawkill reported to the others as the data flooded his sensors, his voice almost a growl in this mode. ‘But no one is close by. Follow me.' Clawkill bounded out of the hanger with the Pretenders running to keep up.
They found their first dead cons not too far from the hanger and Clawkill examined their bodies. Two he recognised, the third he didn’t.
‘Looks like other Decepticons beat us to the fight.' Clawkill said.
‘Not Revaxus’s allies?' Kraken asked.
‘No, but it looks like they’ve done our job for us.'
‘Are you saying we should be thanking them?'
‘No, we still destroy any con we find.'
‘I was hoping you’d say that.'
The main cargo hold was Clawkill’s first objective and he led the Pretenders down the main passage towards it. He was sprinting and his companions were only just keeping up. The sense of power and frenzy he always felt in his animech mode was in danger of taking over. With an effort he slowed somewhat, while maintaining that fast pace was easy for him, he was in danger of going faster, which would mean he’d start burning through his energon reserve, something the Pretenders must have been doing to keep up. The power supply that was activated within every Transformer on the orbital cycle of their creation was enough to keep them functioning for millions of stellar cycles; longer than any Autobot or Decepticon was likely to function for, given the fatality rates of the war. However, for any feat outside their original design specification, a Transformer needed energon, for powering special abilities, energy weapons, combat routines, or travelling at high speed. When Clawkill was last at the base, the cargo area had been full of energon and metal alloy ingots, an obvious objective for any invasion force. There would surely be fighting there and Clawkill needed his companions at full strength.
Before they closed in, Clawkill could sense the cargo hold contained other cons; their signals were registering through his enhanced sensors. He struggled to stop himself from sprinting to start the attack.
‘Prepare … for combat.' He managed to growl over their personal comm. before bursting into the cargo bay. The first con had his back to him; Clawkill pounced onto his back, bringing him down hard to the flooring. The con’s companion had the briefest of instances to react; but no time to raise his weapon before Clawkill had bounded from the prone con under his metal paws and onto the surprised mech. Clawkill brought him down and clamped his jaws around his head. He felt his metal teeth pierce through the unfortunate con’s armour; he twisted and ripped the head away. The first con was struggling to his feet now; Clawkill swiped one of his forepaws at him, cleaving huge tears in his chest with his metal claws. The mech staggered and Clawkill was upon him to inflict the same fate as his companion.
The Pretenders were in the cargo hold now and weapons fire slammed into them from the remaining cons. The shots did little to halt them, or inflict any damage. As the Pretenders continued their charge, the Decepticons ceased firing, fearful of a stray shot igniting the energon cubes in the cargo bay. They prepared their own energon melee weapons and valiantly joined the Pretenders in hand to hand fighting with a defiant war cry. The Pretenders were expert hand to hand fighters and had faced more overpowering odds in countless conflicts across the galaxy. It was a slaughter. A single con dropped his blade and turned and ran, but Clawkill brought him down before he’d even got to the far exit. For his cowardice, Clawkill toyed with him first, allowing the mech to suffer as he ripped one system after the other from his chassis. Kraken’s energon sword ended the poor mech’s suffering.
‘Enough.' Kraken uttered the word, only slightly distinguishable above the ghost whispers from the dead planet. Clawkill stared back at him, planning his attack, imagining ripping the Pretender apart. He growled, a low guttural sound, which was felt as much as it was heard. He readied to pounce.
‘Clawkill.' Kraken simply said and it pierced the rage. Clawkill shook his head and transformed. Turning his back on Kraken, he sent a message to Pulsar,
‘Cargo bay secure, no casualties.'
‘Acknowledged.' Came the response. Clawkill ended the communication and punched a wall; he was furious at himself for nearly losing control. He’d been so close to attacking Kraken; nothing wrong with proving his strength, but he was under orders, he still had a job to do and ripping apart his own troops wouldn’t accomplish it.
‘Cutback, you and the others stay and hold this position.' Kraken ordered the other Pretenders and then to Clawkill he said ‘Come on; let’s get to the secondary objective.' Once they had left the cargo area and were out of audio sensor range of the others, Kraken continued talking.
‘No mech ever said mainstreaming was easy.'
‘That’s not what I’m doing.'
‘Oh yeah? It looks a whole lot like it to me.' Clawkill pushed him aside and led the way along the passage way. The grey, solid walls were pockmarked from weapons fire; they had to step over the non-functioning bodies of attackers and defenders. The passage way had been the scene of heavy fighting.
‘There’s a reason why animechs stick together you know, you just proved it. They don’t mind the rough and tumble with their comrades; it lets the rage burn out safely, makes you a better unit. Mobiles, statics, they just don’t understand. They’ve no idea that sometimes you just have to transform, to go smash stuff up, to run, to go a bit crazy. Before just then, how long has it been since you’d transformed?'
‘Mind your own business. We’ve got a job to do.'
‘A long time huh? It shows. The problem with mainstreaming is you hold that part of you back; the statics and mobiles don’t have that problem. So that means you don’t transform, just to fit in. But that’s the problem; it makes it worse when you finally do. When you mainstream you try to forget the real you, but that’s the problem, it never forgets you.'
‘Shut it, I told you, I ain’t mainstreaming.'
‘So what is it you are doing? You’re trying to be a good soldier so the mighty Revaxus notices you and throws you a little energon for not being some feral primitive? That’s mainstreaming in my databank, what’s wrong with your own kind?'
Clawkill transformed and leapt at Kraken. The Pretender had had enough chance to realise the attack was coming as Clawkill transformed and was able to sidestep enough so Clawkill’s jaws missed his head. However, they clamped around his arm instead. Clawkill pulled violently, twisting his head about and slamming Kraken against the walls of the passage way. Kraken was stunned and Clawkill let his grip go and pounced for Kraken’s head. The Pretender had managed to recover quicker than Clawkill had been expecting and dodged out of the way of the jaws and punched Clawkill savagely in the head and launched a kick into his side that spun the animech over. Kraken lunged with his energon sword, but Clawkill scrabbled out of the way and the blade sunk harmlessly into the deck. Clawkill lashed with his claws leaving deep marks in the Pretender’s shell and causing Kraken to let go of his weapon. Clawkill pounced again, sinking his teeth into Kraken’s shoulder, sending them staggering into the wall behind the Pretender. Kraken retaliated with heavy body punches as he registered that Clawkill was almost ripping the shell open at the shoulder with his metal fangs, but the animech’s bite wasn’t loosening. Burning energon, Kraken lifted the two of them up and charged into the opposite wall, with Clawkill’s back taking the impact and the shock causing him to lose his hold on the Pretender’s shoulder.
‘Good.' Kraken simply said. He’d taken a step back from Clawkill, his defensive posture at odds with his choice of word. Clawkill watched him and lazily got back to his feet, keeping a neutral stance. Despite the violence, he was feeling calmer, more in control.
‘Thank you, I see your point, but I ain’t mainstreaming.'
‘Then what is it?'
‘I’ve known Revaxus since creation and we’ve worked for Shockwing nearly as long. We’ve busted a few heads over the stellar cycles, but just recently, things have changed a bit’
‘Like how, he wants you to forget your true nature?'
‘Nah, nothing like that. He’s got this, uh, ambition I’d guess you’d call it, to unite the Decepticons.'
‘Huh, every Warlord from here to the Foundation wants that. All a con wants is a little energon and something to shoot. Warlords are the same, they just hand out the energon, which by the way is the only reason I’m here.'
‘Revaxus is different, every other Warlord competes with the others, they’re just as likely to fight each other. But Revaxus sees the bigger picture, the Decepticons must unite behind one leader, then we can destroy the Autobots once and for all and take the galaxy, it’s what we were designed to do, what our creator wanted!'
‘You don’t buy into all that creator scrap do you?'
‘Don’t you? How else did we come to be?' Kraken paused after the question, then turned his back to Clawkill and stalked off down the passageway.
‘Let’s get to that next objective.'
Revaxus tore into the command room through the locked blast door, leading his troops: Skyline and the omni-upgraded pair of cons recruited from the Bastion, inside. The room was a scene of utter destruction, non-functioning mechs lay where they fell, the walls were crisscrossed with holes and tears from weapons fire and ruined machinery destroyed by heavy fighting littered the room.
The omni-upgraged mechs called themselves the Electracons; their jet altmodes had general upgrades of speed and fuel efficiency, but their offensive omni-upgrades made them invaluable for finishing off the survivors that the group had come across. The upgrades had given them control over electricity; Bolter was equipped to use this control to turn his arms into powerful electromagnets which could be used to magnetise other metallic objects and then either attract or repel them, while Tremor’s ability allowed him to store a massive electrical charge which over a close range, could be dissipated into another mech, overloading and disabling circuitry. The upgrades, like all the omni-class upgrades, had their origins in Ancient technology rediscovered from the facilities left standing, but only experienced mechs with access to considerable energon were the only candidates for upgrades of this nature. For the two standard-tactical warriors to have such abilities suggested they were very good at what they did, Revaxus was pleased that Pulsar had obtained their services.
‘The command room is the most logical place where Shockwing should be found.' Skyline reported, surveying the wreckage of the room.
‘Shockwing!' Revaxus roared, ‘Where are you hiding?' The others were silent, but could hear nothing, and then over their personal communication channel Pulsar broke the silence.
‘Commander, Clawkill has now reported that he has secured his two objectives, I have also taken the control room. My unit have repaired the internal sensors and I have now sent them to dispatch the remaining resistance. Commander, you should know that the sensors have detected Shockwing’s ident-sig. It is very weak, but is in his personal chamber.'
‘Very good Pulsar, once your team has eradicated the resistance, have them work on restoring the other functions of the base; I don’t want to lose it to Cybertron.'
‘Yes commander.' Pulsar replied and ended the conversation. Revaxus crossed the room and stood facing the door to Shockwing’s personal chamber. He motioned to the Electracons and Bolter approached the thick, locked door. He casually cocked his head and raised his arms. Using his personal energon reserve, Bolter powered up his ability and magnetised the doors before him and then with his command over magnetism, he wrenched them from their holdings and then repelled the wreckage to the far side of the room behind him.
Shockwing was lay on the floor, he’d taken several hits and had lost a leg, the large mech was only just functioning. Bolter’s partner Tremor stepped into the chamber; his sensors were heightened to electrical signal outputs. However, he could not detect any electrical system powering up; Shockwing had not rigged the room with weapon defences or traps. But there was an oddity about Shockwing himself though…
A part of Shockwing’s armour over his chest smoothly broke away and transformed. Shockwing’s microcon companion’s jet mode fired its thrusters and streaked towards Tremor. But the Electracon activated his own offensive ability and struck the microcon with the maximum charge of electricity his installed omni-upgrade was capable of. The small jet crashed to the floor, small systems still held the massive electrical charge and the microcon spasmed on the floor and Tremor crushed it under foot. Shockwing limply lifted his rifle, but Bolter snatched the weapon away with his magnetic field capability.
‘I’ve got the part you wanted, Commander, now give me the Artefact it was intended for and I promise I’ll make the end swift.' Revaxus said, coming into the room and standing above Shockwing.
‘Revaxus?' Shockwing asked, confused. Then he looked back at the Electracons and laughed. The sound was tortured and laboured; his vocal emitter had taken damage.
‘Laugh all you want. You will cease to function by my hand.' Shockwing continued laughing.
‘I have prepared myself for that; soon my spark shall re-join the Foundation. But Revaxus, your troubles are only just starting.'
‘Where is the Artefact?' Revaxus hissed as he knelt over his former commander, but Shockwing only continued to laugh.
‘Tell me now!' Revaxus roared. ‘Electracons, rip him apart.'
‘You don’t even know what the Artefact is! Do you know what it does? You’ve led this pathetic mutiny for something you have no idea about. Electracons are you? Revaxus is a fool, a weak fool. I guess you only follow him because he’s promised you energon. This base’s hold is full of it. I’ll pay you double to destroy Revaxus. Scrap, take it all, I’ve not got long now.'
The two Electracons stood where they were, momentarily uncertain of what to do.
‘Do it quick,' Shockwing said, ‘You might then have enough time to then get off this base before your troubles really start.' The Electracons continued to hold their position, clearly weighing up the option in their minds, trying to judge whether or not they could best Revaxus and Skyline, then escape with the energon. Revaxus could almost see their thought processes and cursed himself for not having foreseen this event. Shockwing was a manipulative mech, very accomplished at getting his own way.
‘Commander, you need to see this.' Pulsar’s voice came over the base’s communication network, breaking the silence in the command room. Every available viewscreen flicked to life, Pulsar’s voice continued over the communication system.
‘The remaining resistance of these other Decepticons was quickly dispatched and I reassigned some maintenance duties for the Engineer in the team with me, when he made a startling discovery.' The image on every viewscreen was of an external view. In the bottom right hand corner of the screen the edge of the base was clearly visible, only with the image of the planet Cybertron in the distance. Pulsar continued:
‘While the base’s weapon systems have been completely destroyed by external weapons and the internal sensors were damaged, I discovered that the external sensors were not damaged at all.' Between the image of the base and the distant planet, five shapes could be seen. As Revaxus watched, the shapes were gaining in size, clearly headed for the base.
‘The external sensors were merely switched off; upon reactivation I discovered this scene. It seems that the resistance we met was surprisingly weak for a reason, to keep our attention away just long enough from the real threat.' The five shapes were Decepticon transports, from the scarring in their hulls they had appeared to have recently been engaged in a conflict, clearly with Shockwing’s base before they had destroyed the facility’s weapon systems.
‘Analysing their course suggests that they were hidden around the far side of Cybertron, they would have been invisible to our sensors when we approached. It would appear we have walked straight into a trap.' Pulsar said.
‘Are the base’s weapon systems salvageable?' Skyline asked
‘No, there is nothing to salvage. The guns have been completely destroyed.'
‘Commander, let me get back to one of the ships, maybe I can take a few out, and you could escape in the Nighthammer.' Clawkill said over the communication system.
‘A wasted effort, just leaving the base’s dock would allow the attackers sufficient opportunity to destroy your vessel and that would have not brought us any time.' Pulsar replied
‘Commander, the transports have not fired upon us, even though they are within optimum range. Perhaps, a violent confrontation might be avoided. They have taken great pains to ensure we remain on board this base: the weak resistance, the untouched energon in the hold. All of it orchestrated to keep us here long enough to approach.' Skyline suggested.
‘You have a point Skyline.' Pulsar conceded.
‘Scrap that, they’re going to be annihilated.' Bolter said.
‘Silence.' Revaxus commanded, and then over the base’s communication channel he said. ‘Decepticons, the cowards dare not fire upon this base, we hold the upper hand. If they board, we will crush them without effort. Refuel and rearm yourselves and then return to your objectives; we will not fail.' No Decepticon responded, they carried out Revaxus’s order, even Shockwing remained silent.
Pulsar watched the transports’ slow journey towards the base, but kept one optical sensor on the Gestalt team with him in the control room. They were veterans of numerous conflicts, their success a reflection of the mental bond they all shared, as a result of the Gestalt process. When not combined as their singular Super-chassis framed mech form, they worked exceptionally well together as a team. Pulsar could see them exchange glances; each recognized the unspoken words between their colleagues. Pulsar wondered if part of their success was from also knowing when to cut their losses and run. They were faced with a large opposing force, their contract had just turned from challenging to very difficult, and he wondered how much they actually wanted the energon promised to them. If they decided to flee, Pulsar knew he wouldn’t be able to stop them. However, he wondered whether perhaps he should go with them.
The transports were almost within touching distance of the base, no mech on board had dared utter a word, they all solemnly watched the monitors with a grim fascination. The image suddenly crackled and was replaced with the face of a large chassis-framed Decepticon, his ident-sig bled out of the transmission too. Decatron. He was very powerful; his ident-sig screamed in the databanks of all the base-boarded cons, the numerous engagements he had won, the Autobots he had destroyed, the rank he held was all displayed personally to every member of Revaxus’s team.
‘Revaxus!' Decatron roared over the communicator. ‘I come for the processor you have scurried back to Shockwing with. Your pathetic commander gave me no resistance; I already have the Artefact he hoped to unlock. Your commander should have been more careful to keep his secrets hidden; the Artefact will allow me to crush all my enemies, I will stop at nothing to activate it. Give me the processor now and I may spare some of your followers. But do not expect mercy, I would just as well destroy you and your deluded troops in this base. Another processor will be found eventually.'
Revaxus saw the Electracons backing towards the door, he knew he was about to lose the very little he had accomplished. He was angered at the thought of all the more he had yet to accomplish still. Something else had once burned through his circuits, something that made him the mech he was now. That something wouldn’t ever let him give up so easily. With a mental command, he opened up a channel to Decatron.
‘Very well, I will give it to you.'
‘A coward, just like your commander. You have made the right choice Revaxus.'
‘However, you must first best me in one on one combat.' Decatron roared with laughter.
‘You will be destroyed utterly, little mech, just give me the processor and I may spare your existence.'
‘This base’s hold is full of energon, I have rigged it with explosives.' Revaxus lied. ‘Refuse my offer and I will detonate it and destroy this base and everything onboard. Fight me one on one and my troops will give you the processor. If you are as mighty as your ident-sig claims, you will expend less energy besting me, than scouring for another Ancient site with a functioning processor. Besides, I would prefer to be destroyed by the great Decatron, than an energon explosion.' Decatron laughed again.
‘You amuse me little con. Very well I accept, but when I win I will also take the loyalty of your troops.'
‘Very well, but promise me the same.'
‘Yes, my army is yours to command if you destroy me. But if you do, you will also command their respect.'
‘It honours me that you accept my challenge.'
‘That will not save you, where would like to meet your end?'
‘Below, on the planet Cybertron.'
‘What trickery is this? No con can stand on the surface without being destroyed utterly. We will both meet our end and then my army shall destroy yours and your end will have been for nothing.'
‘There is a substance, Rheanimum, that used as a coating will make us invulnerable to the J’nwan that pollutes the planet. I will transmit its formula and the production parameters for it, along with a suitable site of the planet for our clash. Have your scientists analyse the substance and you will see this is no trick.'
‘Very well, I agree to your terms.'
In the control room, Pulsar looked at the specifications of the Rheanimum that Revaxus had also transmitted to him.
‘What the scrap is that?' The Engineer from the Gestalt team asked, looking at the data alongside Pulsar.
‘I have no idea; it isn’t even anything Shockwing was working on. My guess is that it’s some sort of Ancient technology, but I have no idea how Revaxus would know what it was. Can you synthesize it?'
‘Of course I can! What do you take me for?' He asked; the other members of his team bridled at the irritation.
‘Forgive the question. Let’s get to work.'
The one mech escape pod carrying Revaxus hurtled towards the planet Cybertron, the one carrying Decatron was visible through the pod’s exterior sensors; both were headed to the same point on the surface as they bucked through the dead planet’s atmosphere. The pods only contained enough fuel for one and a half trips, as previously agreed. The victor from the fight would have to combine the fuel from the other pod to theirs before being able to take off from the planet again.
The Rheanimum was working better than Revaxus had expected, it had already cut out the constant chatter of voices emanating from Cybertron; he had no doubt it would protect him from the destructive effects of the J’nwan that covered the world.
Revaxus’s pod landed in the centre of an arena in the northern hemisphere of Cybertron, the preselected venue for the subsequent fight.
Revaxus left the confines of the pod and stood in the center of the arena, the first mech to have done so since the end of the Ancients. The arena was a perfect circle around him, surrounded by walls that would dwarf any super chassis-framed mech. Above the walls were rows and rows of seats and a grid of walkways; Revaxus could only imagine how once those seats were filled with thousands of mechs. Now only dust and grit sat there, deposited by the storm winds of the J’nwan. The walls around the arena were pockmarked where gladiators had fought. The edges of the holes were now badly corroded, the alloy having been stressed and battered over the subsequent time. Two doors in opposite sides of the arena that had once allowed combatants into the pit remained shut. After all the vorns that had passed since they had first been closed, Revaxus doubted they would ever open again. He turned his head skyward to watch Decatron’s pod thunder in; it narrowly missed the solitary observation tower built into the arena wall, before it impacted into the seating area, ripping gouges through the metal alloy before coming to a halt. The pod was ruined, meaning that Revaxus’ was the only one capable to returning back to orbit.
Decatron kicked his way out of the pod and dropped down into the arena. He was a Triple Changer and Revaxus had heard many stories about their combat effectiveness. The process of adding a third mode to a Transformer improved the mech’s strength, armour and speed, with transformation times close to that of a Battlecharger. But the tactical advantage of having three modes greatly outweighed the other byproducts of the process. However, Revaxus hoped this meant Decatron suffered with a common trait amongst Triple Changers: over confidence.
With the drama of Decatron’s escape pod landing, silence resumed around them. A stillness was in the air, as if the arena was in the eye of a storm. Decatron lumbered through the dust of the arena floor, particulates accumulating against his green armour. He was a large chassis-framed mech, but the Triple Changer process had left him slightly taller and bulkier than Revaxus.
‘A fitting place.' He conceded and raised his battle rifle and fired. The Rheanimum coating had added extra mass to the combatants, something that Decatron hadn’t accounted for, allowing Revaxus to dodge away from the hail of ultra-dense solid slugs. Decatron followed it up with a volley from his shoulder cannon, but Revaxus was already in motion and leapt away, but was just caught in the blast radius and flung to the ground, his own battle rifle flung from his grasp. Decatron transformed into his aerial weapon platform mode, adjusting his thrusters he fired a full strength blast into Revaxus’s position. A cloud of dust and a storm of splintered metal alloy showered the arena and Decatron gained height and prepared for another blast to ensure his victory. However, Revaxus had managed to dive away from the first strike; Decatron had not completely recalibrated to account for the Rheanimum. Under cover of the dust he transformed to his jet mode and accelerated up out of the fog of scrapped alloy, firing his fixed guns.
Revaxus had miscalculated Decatron’s position but the salvo caused the Triple Changer to evade the volley, allowing Revaxus to rocket past. Decatron pitched around and powered after him, away from the arena. Revaxus banked randomly through Cybertron’s atmosphere, to ensure Decatron could not get a weapon lock on him. Revaxus flew fast, easily faster than the aerial weapon platform mode of Decatron, forcing the Triple Changer to burn energon to keep up.
Decatron’s shots at first appeared wild and Revaxus was easily able to evade them, but when he tried to bank hard in an effort to return to the arena, he realized Decatron’s purpose. The shots were keeping Revaxus on a fixed course, chosen by the Triple Changer. Their flight was rapidly taking them towards an Ancient city, flying through the towering skyscrapers would cause Revaxus to slow down and allow Decatron to catch him. The shots were coming heavier and wilder now as Revaxus flew through the forest of buildings. Metal alloy fragments from the empty buildings, struck from Decatron’s weapon mushroomed into the air around Revaxus. He’d slowed as much as he dared, turning hard he avoided a falling spire, but flew into a shower of debris. Large blocks thumped into him, stealing all his momentum. He transformed back to robot mode and dropped, eager not to make himself an easy target in the air. He landed hard on a wide walkway below, instinctively rolling forwards and avoided a scattering of low powered blasts from Decatron. He abruptly changed his direction and leapt off the side of the walkway, just as it erupted around him. From the next walkway, he risked a glance behind him just in time to see Decatron transform from his aerial weapon platform mode into a hulking animech form. The swift movements in this mode seemed at odds with his bulky, powerful four legged stance. Decatron bounded through the remains of the walkway and dropped effortlessly down. Revaxus continued his decent until at last he was stood on the ground, he spun around, his mortar cannon armed, but he was too late, Decatron dropped on top of him. Revaxus staggered under the weight as Decatron’s metal teeth dug deep into his arm. Revaxus flung a few punches into Decatron’s side, but he couldn’t loosen the Triple Changer’s hold. He felt his armour begin to fizz and pop, as though the Rheanimum had been burned through and he was about to be consumed by the J’nwan. Decatron’s grip loosened and Revaxus could tell his opponent felt it too, and was at last able to throw him off. The wind picked up and the two of them were hammered by dust and loose pieces of metal alloy, Revaxus aimed and fired, but his shot went wide as his arm was struck by debris as the wind strengthened. He staggered against the force and he felt his spark flutter, his databank reported it had crashed and was struggling to restore itself. His opponent was having problems too; Decatron had tried to use the time to transform, but his cerebro circuitry had become confused and the process was taking painfully too long. Revaxus raised his cannon, but has hit hard in the back by a scrap of the torn walkway from above having been carried by the storm around them. On his knees, he tried to aim again, but he just could not compute the angle to use to hit his target. Decatron was in mid transformation still, a situation that made any Transformer vulnerable to the smallest attack. Revaxus activated the small energon blade he carried and half staggered half crawled towards his opponent, but then his optical sensors failed.
Revaxus flailed about with the weapon, groping forward, eager to find his opponent. Impacts from storm blown debris ceased and Revaxus got back to his feet and readied his cannon. His spark had strengthened and all he needed was for his optics to function, then he would quickly dispatch his foe. But he was wholly unprepared for the sight that greeted him when they did.
Cybertron had changed. Completely. The walkways, the skyscrapers, the metal alloy buildings, were gone, all of them. Revaxus and Decatron were stood in a field. The ground was a rich green, covered in organic plant forms that Revaxus had seen on countless other carbon based organic worlds. In the distance were buildings made from stone, presumably crafted from the material in the ground. The sky was a rich blue, with white cloud formations visible above them.
Decatron looked around in shock, almost unable to comprehend what had happened. Unfortunately, Revaxus had spent many breems in the service of Shockwing around Cybertron and after the shock of his system failures had ended, he knew instantly what had happened. He raised his cannon and fired at Decatron, now fully in his robot mode. The impact sent him onto his back, digging through the organic plant material and revealing the thick carbon based soil beneath it. Revaxus fired again. And again. At such close range the shots tore through Decatron’s armour.
The J’nwan had resulted from a fissure in the space time fabric in one location of Cybertron many vorns ago; Shockwing had been obsessed with it. His studies had shown that it had slowly mutated and then spread to consume all of Cybertron. He’d monitored the storms that blew around it, recorded the reality distortions that they caused. The green, organic world was a common sight for Shockwing, as well as for Revaxus. One of Shockwing’s hypotheses had been that the J’nwan had started as a repair function, to fix the planet after many vorns of heavy fighting. But somehow that had become corrupted. A massive error had occurred, possibly as a result of a large decisive battle on the planet, or a cosmic event. The J’nwan had over time spread across the planet, creating pockets of different realities; all inhospitable to any form of life Shockwing had sent to the surface. He had recorded three common Cybertron realities contained within the J’nwan: a dead, war scarred metal world, a rich organic planet where carbon based plant matter remained untouched by the destructive J’nwan, and a final metallic Cybertron untouched by the fury of war, possibly the goal of Shockwing’s hypothetical repair function. There were other realities, but their appearance was too fleeting to catalogue. However, Revaxus knew that as soon as this current reality bubble was blown past by the J’nwan winds, his previous location would return.
Revaxus crouched over Decatron’s body and raised his energon blade.
‘Know that your death will start a new era for the Decepticons. Your troops will now serve me, the messenger for my new master. Megatron.' He plunged the blade down into the Triple Changer and removed his head. Lifting his prize, Revaxus roared his triumph at the wispy clouds far above him.