The battle was joined.
"Troops, organise around me! Prepare to repel the Enemy!" Despite their varying alliegances, the Dairycons rose together as one. The Dark Entity and his Thousand Asses of the Apocalypse were upon them. The Dairycons aimed their weapons, and prepared to fire...
When a teleport vortice opened above them. The Leader appeared in the sky above and transformed, jetting off to meet the enemy head-on!
The Leader's intentions were clear: be the first to defeat this menace. He offered no explanation as to where he'd just been, merely rushed to his target.
The Dark Entity paused; so seemingly startled was he by the Leader's appearance, that even the Asses paused mid-gallop.
The universe held its collective breath...
"Waspinator! Soldier! Get back in formation!"
The Leader either didn't hear Optimus, or chose to ignore him. After all, he hadn't been *that* person for a very, very long time. The Leader had spent, literally, eons carefully aligning the timeline so as to avoid disruption. This... this thing was the very essense of his enemy, an insidious, powerful evil from another dimensional space that threatened to destroy the Leader's plans in one stroke.
He would not allow it.
The Leader: "My good fellow, you've already cost me the lives of several of my pawns. I simply cannot allow you to exist." Transforming to robot mode, he hovered in-front of the being within the dark cloud, and opened fire with his main weapon.
The Leader's Beam was set at Full Strength.
He Would Not Miss.
The beam bounced harmlessly off the dark being without making a single scratch.
The Leader was dumbfounded. Never in his eons of existence had anyone been subjected to the full force of his weapons. The amount of power the Leader could generate was staggering.
The dark being felt nothing. He looked at the Leader as a God would look at an insect.
He spoke three words.
The last three words The Leader would hear.
"Is that it?"
Raising his hand, the being let loose with a wave of dark energy. Several magnitudes stronger than anything MotorMaster had put out, it hit the Leader square, knocking him out of the air and enveloping him in the same dark tendrils that had taken Nachos BelGrande out of the fight.
The Leader actually screamed.
"Eraaaahhhh!!!" The tendrils bit into the Leader and quickly began to dissolve him wherever they touched. It was a dark hunger, unlike anything The Leader had ever faced. Spending what seemed like eons as a near-godling himself, he was unprepared for an attack of this magnitude. It was as though The Pit itself had opened up and swallowed him, casting him into the Eternal Smelting Pool.
His body was consumed.
However, his Spark would not be taken out quite so easily. It hovered amongst the dark energy, resisting dissolution for precious moments.
Moments were all that were needed.
A sudden burst of intense light grabbed ahold of the Leader's Spark, drawing it away from the tendrils. Freed from the dark embrace, the spark traveled the beam of light to its source:
Glowing from within, The Leader's spark passed thru the Matrix casing, and continued on its way to the AllSpark, the well of souls where the Light of Primus and all Transformers life reside. Closing the Matrix casing, Optimus placed it back within his chest, the armored chassis once again securing the essense of all Transformers light and wisdom.
Optimus Prime: "You shall not have another life this day. I will not allow it."
TestShot: "Who are you to speak to me this way?"
Optimus: "You know my name. You dare not speak it, for you are afraid. I am a child of Primus, the God of Light, and a Guardian of the essence of your sworn enemy. Though you try to hide in this shell before us, we know you as the Dark Lord of Chaos. You are..."
TestShot: "A name that I have been assigned in other times, other dimensions, is meaningless here. You hold no power over me. Your end is nigh. For I have come to purify this universe of its accursed life; it is my destiny. You cannot stop... my destiny."
Waving his hand, the Dark Lord commanded his Donkeys of the Apocalypse to surge forth, to trample these flyspecks of a nuisance... to spead his dark essense over these small beings, over this entire planet.
Over this entire Universe.
The End was near.
Checkers stepped forward. Looked up to the Dark Entity. And spoke:
"Can I get a word in here?"
The trip was painful.
But they had arrived. PlotHole and Minerva slumped as they re-entered realspace. They had traveled a very long distance. Minerva had controlled Pete, who had given them direction, while PlotHole had given them power and impetus to their drive. Between the two of them, they'd gotten here safely.
But where were they? Where exactly was 'here'?
Minerva was too-weak to command the shell to open. PlotHole slowly climbed the ladder to the access port on the side. Minerva weakly followed. PlotHole managed the jump to the ground with difficulty; Minerva remained at the access port.
PlotHole: "You should stay there and rest. I'll scout ahead."
Minerva: "...can't. Need... the shell." Minerva paused, as though taking a deep breath.
PlotHole was confused: "Why do we need the shell?"
Minerva: "It... residual matrix energy. Recognised as a part of Prime. We need it to gain access."
PlotHole: To what?"
Minerva: (switches to inter-autobot radio) "I'm not sure. The information is encoded in the shell, but I'm not able to understand it. It loosly translates into 'Brave', but it could easily be 'Power', or 'Grand'. I don't have full access. But he needs to come with us." Minerva closed the port, and a faint glow could be seen emanating from the shell's eyes. 'Pete' began to walk forward.
They were on a planet, similar to Earth, but seemingly overgrown. PlotHole deep-scanned the area; he was picking up traces of both human and cybertronain alloys. There seemed to be a thriving civilization here once; but apparently it had long since passed. What appeared to be the ruins of a city could be seen in the distance.
They were on a path that appeared to lead there.
PlotHole felt rather than saw that Minerva was straining to make the shell walk along the path. Instead of speaking, she continued to send PlotHole messages thru the inter-autobot radio:
"Sensors picking up something."
PlotHole detected it as well. From the distance, two figures came walking out of the ruins of the City. From this distance, it was hard to tell, but as they got closer, the figures revealed themselves to be robotic in-design... the markings on their chassis unmistakable.
Minerva: "Are they... Dairycons? I thought they were all battling the Threat."
PlotHole: "As did I... apparently, I missed a few invitations when I sent out the call. I wasn't concentrating on this place at the time. I see now I should have."
Minerva: "Why is that?"
PlotHole: "Because if we're here for what I think we're here for, we may as well turn around now. There's no chance for us."
It was at this point that The Shell spoke:
'Pete': "Yes, there is. The Power you need is within the City."
The fact that the shell had spoke at all shocked Minerva and PlotHole, to say the least.
PlotHole: "Are you doing that? Accessing his speech subroutines?"
Minerva: "No! The shell did that all on its own! I had no idea it could speak. It still won't move without my direct interface..."
The two figures stepped up to the shell, and queried:
Pete: "Yes, you must call upon him. I will act as your third. We will assist."
With that, the two small robots turned and headed toward the City. Minerva commanded the shell to follow, with PlotHole following along behind. PlotHole asked Minerva again:
PlotHole: "That isn't you?"
Minerva found the strength to speak to the Ancient normally for a few moments.
Minerva: "I told you...no. It takes all of my power to control his movements. I don't have the strength... to access any functional subroutines. Either Optimus programmed the shell for this, or else..."
PlotHole: "Or else what?"
Minerva: "Or else... I don't know. It could have been imbued with an essense. I don't sense one. And Optimus can't control the shell at this distance."
The figures continued to walk.
The City loomed closer.
The prattling of this insect was almost... dark. It amused him to let him demoralise the others moments before their destruction. His kind was always useful. The dark entity considered for a moment that Checkers would have made an excellent Herald. Too-bad this universe was already finished.
Checkers continued to prattle nonsense at the Dark God.
Checkers: "...and so's I said, you're a meat-headed-human-coddler, who would give away Cybertron and Earth to those pinko-Decepticons if you had half-a-chance. Then he told me there was a List. I says, List, schmisht. Why, when we were in the War, we just shot a Decepticon when we saw him, we didn't have no shindel-bot's list. We had a gun. And we used it. Kinda like I'm about to on you, since you're listening to my words and not paying attention to where my gun is..."
Checkers took aim and fired. Not at TestShot, for the dark entity had proven resilient to even the Leader's firepower. No, he picked a more appropriate target:
The shot hit true, punching right thru the eye-socket of the lead Automated Security Sentry, and out the back of his head. Checkers had reasoned, correctly, that without that Traitor being in-control of the Drones (and channeling the dark energy), TestShot would not be able to effectively command his army.
Checkers was correct.
"AAArrrrrggggghhhh!!!" Ass-09 screamed; clutching his eye, he collapsed to the ground in writhing agony. Smoke poured from the gaping wound in his head. In his agony, he lost his hold on the Asses; the drones merely stood there as As-09 howled. The lifeless Drones raised no hoof to help, merely watching with unseeing, uncaring eyes. Checkers fired again; this time blasting thru Ass-09's upper chassis, destroying his power-regulators in the process. Ass-09 ceased struggling; smoke still curling from his wounds. The light faded from his remaining optic. A sudden, final rattle could be heard in his chest as something let loose. Ass-09 finally ceased his struggle.
Falling to the ground in droves, The Thousand Asses of the Apocalypse powered down forever.
PlotHole, Minerva, and the two guardians arrived at the entrance to the City. The two figures paused; looking back, they motioned to the others to approach. Placing their hands on the gateway, A large Faction Sigil began to glow. Rising on suspiciously smooth hinges, it lifted, revealing a smooth, well-shined passageway.
Cosmoo and Steers walked in; PlotHole, 'Pete', and Minerva followed.
Lights came on ahead of them as a voice spoke; the same voice they'd heard thru 'Pete' moments ago:
"Welcome to Moo Base 2. Please follow the lights to the Command Center..."
The lights resolved themselves into a directional pointer, indicating the way they should all go. Cosmoo and Steers followed the lights without pause. PlotHole, however, felt differently. He'd felt something shift in the Allspark; to his distress, he sensed his old rival, the Leader, pass from this Life into the next one.
PlotHole didn't utter a word, though he screamed inside his head: "Nooo!"
It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Leader was supposed to live!
In every future he'd seen, it was PlotHole who was to have died. He was supposed to wait on the Ridge, and be consumed by the Darkness. The mission he'd agreed to go on had altered History; instead of the Leader surviving to find the Fortress, he and Minerva had.
PlotHole waited for the telltale shiver that indicated the Universal Reset; he'd waited for The Leader to call another 'do-over'.
There was nothing. The Timestream remained the same.
PlotHole, despondent, sank to the floor.
PlotHole: "Minerva, this isn't right. This City, this Fortress... it's not the one I remember. I wasn't supposed to be here. It was... he was supposed to... we have to go."
Minerva paused; she couldn't speak comfortably and command the Shell to walk at the same time. She sensed what PlotHole was unable to articulate. However, she had to convince him to come to a different conclusion. Trying words again instead of the radio, she spoke to the Ancient:
Minerva: "Can't... go. Need... this City. Timeline... not always what he wanted. Knew you were...ending. Felt bad.... Sacrificied himself...in your place. Bound to...carry on in ...memory."
The Ancient considered her words; The Leader had, in an unusual fit of selflessness, allowed himself to be removed from the TimeStream, so that the Ancient could complete the mission.
The Leader knew. He somehow knew that PlotHole would have sacrificed himself to the Dark God.
Defiant. He'd sacrificed himself instead. On-purpose. He knew.
For the first time in existence, PlotHole cried.
The Dark God was not pleased.
TestShot: "Foolish insect, do you know what you've done?"
TestShot: "Your life is forefit." The dark energy poured forth; it surrounded Checkers, cutting him off from the rest of the Dairycons. Before Prime or the others could even blink an optic, Checkers was gone, consumed by the dark essense.
Checkers did not utter a sound.
Command Center- The City.
PlotHole could only marvel at what went on in-front of them. watching these heretofore unknown Dairycons move with such efficiency, one could only wonder if they knew that he and Minerva were coming.
The City, speaking thru the shell, seemed to pick up on those thoughts.
Pete: "Preperations were made. We must go."
PlotHole: "Ok, that just creeps me out. How is he doing that?"
PlotHole: "Minerva? Are you in there?"
The strain of the mission was taking its toll. Minerva was losing more and more of herself to the operation of the shell. While 'Pete', as an extention of the City, seemd to gain more sentience, Minerva was fast losing hers. If this mission wasn't completed soon...
PlotHole: "Please, child, try to hang on a bit longer. We're almost there." Cursing the unique chokon power that made her vital for this mission, PlotHole willed the Dairycons to go faster.
They had to stop the Dark God.
The Dark God was angered.
These insignificant insects had managed to take out his Heralds. It would not matter; now that the Dark God had taken on physical form in this universe, the end would be forthcoming.
He simply would take a more direct hand in it.
TestShot gathered his dark energies. The pools and eddies of his power washed toward the Dairycons. The merest fraction of his dark essense should be enough to dissolve them. The energy pulsed forward...
Imagine his surprise when Electrum Beast stepped forward and refracted his energy back at him.
Electrum Beast: "Hrrraagh!" Electrum-cheddar was the hardest substance in this Universe; still, he'd been out of it for far-too-long. Though he'd pushed back TestShot's energy, and actually survived, his armor was a shambles. It flaked off from him in large patches, while simply melting in others. The slightest movement simply caused it to come off faster.
Electrum Beast fell; stasis-lock mercifully taking him before his core processor could register the damage his body had suffered.
Uncle Whiskey Breath blasted Electrum Beast with his Blizzard shotgun, hoping to cool him down enough to survive.
Unseeing, uncaring, the tendrils shot toward him again.
Electrum Beast would not be able to take another hit.
Flatfoot screeched forward, cutting in-front of Electrum Beast. He was the last of them; the four chassis brothers who'd made their mark on this Universe. Flatfoot felt the weight of that knowledge upon his shoulders. He would do his best to honor their memory. Transforming to robot mode, he rapidly fired his co2 shotgun, trying to draw the enemy's attention.
He'd succeeded. The dark God whipped forth a dark tendril to ensnare the Cybertronain LawMan. Dark energy began to dissolve his body.
FlatFoot hit a button on his torso. Faster than his armor could be dissolved, it simply fell apart in-front of him. A large chunk of FlatFoot's center chassis fell forward, away from the tendril...
... and transformed into beastmode, making a mad dash away from the dark God. At a safe distance, he transformed. A furry paw pressed a second button on his now smaller torso.
The remains of FlatFoot's larger robotic exoframe detonated in the dark God's face, pummeling him with debris.
The other Dairycons gasped; all this time, they'd thought FlatFoot had happily given up his beast changeform and restored himself to his former robotic glory. Only Ticker had known otherwise, and kept FlatFoot's secret: that once you undergo the Maximal upgrade, there is no going back. HotSpot could have told them, if they'd asked. Bunny Convoy had accepted this, and adapted easily to his new form. FlatFoot, on the other hand...
Though they'd done it to save his life, Ticker and Scoot had always felt remorse at what they'd done. Guilt had compelled them to reconstruct his old body, designing it so that his beast changeform could 'plug-in' to it, giving him the look and feel of his old form.
For FlatFoot to finally put aside his resentment... for him to sacrifice the way he did, without a moment's hesitation...
It really showed the depth of his character, his concern for others over himself. Granted, it took nothing less than the very Universe being at-stake for him to finally come to terms with his loss... a loss he now experienced for the second time... nonetheless, it was a moment for growth. And mourning.
A moment was all FlatFoot would be allowed.
The tendrils closest to Flatfoot began to wrap around him. Defiant to the end, he fired off a volley of lasers from his eye sockets, shaking his fist at TestShot as he was consumed by the dark energy...
Though distracted for a mere moment, the Dark God kept coming. Some of these flyspecks had actually proven themselves to be a nuisance; consuming them individually was a waste of time. TestShot decided to forgoe his usual amusement, and simply dissolve the remainder of these Dairycons all at once; their feeble attempts at heroics had lost their fun. TestShot saw no reason to allow them to display any further surprises. The despair they would feel at having utterly failed in their mission moments before being destroyed would serve to feed him. He could almost taste it now...
The dark entity felt a flyspeck at the edge of his vast consciousness.
Minerva was lost.
The strain of keeping Pete online was too-much for her. The outer shell had assumed more and more control of itself; but in order to do so, it had drawn from her spark, her very own essense.
Though Pete might survive this day, Minerva would not.
She'd stopped speaking shortly before Pete settled into the center chair of the Command Center. As soon as Pete started to assist with bringing the City to full power, she'd stopped transmitting, too.
It wasn't long after that when PlotHole felt the dying ember of her spark pass out of this plane of existence.
Minerva said she was honored to accept this mission. PlotHole imagined that she had no regrets.
However, the Ancient had plenty. It was not without a small amount of resentment that he acknowledged Pete's commands after his friend fell silent. He didn't know if it was the City still speaking thru him, or if Pete had taken on a life of his own. PlotHole simply didn't care anymore. He'd lost too-much.
He'd almost ignored him when Pete issued a soft command in his direction.
Pete: "Ancient one. I am sorry, but I must ask you to continue. There is a small device on that pedastal in the center of the room. I need you to remove it, and place your Shard in the open receptacle."
Plothole complied, if only to see how this mission ended. Whether purposeful or not, PlotHole tossed the strange yellow device at Pete when he plugged the Shard of Primus into the receptacle.
Pete caught the device effortlessly. Ducky made a satisfied squeal when Pete caught him.
Settling into the Command Chair, Pete gave instructions to the City interface:
"Computer, as soon as we have full power, initiate base launch sequence."
"Acknowledged. Launch in 1 minute."
"Scan for intruders."
"Scanning. No intruders found."
Power to Maximum. Initiating launch sequence. Warning: Outer door to City Entrance 7 has been removed. Outer door to City Entrance 9 has been punctured. Launch sequence completed. Warning: forcefields in-place in grids 1, 4, 7,and 9. Personnel are advised to remain clear of those areas."
"Thank you Computer. You do excellent work."
A loud thrum rattled the Command Center as the city rumbled skyward. Pete, with Minerva somewhere still inside of him piloting, sat in the command chair. PlotHole was in the center of the chamber, his Shard of Primus mounted on the center console. CosMoo and Steers took the two positions on either side of Pete. Between them, they would pilot the City when it made the fateful jump to its destination. Various other Dairycons manned stations in the room.
The City achieved orbit.
"Warpgate initialized. Macguffins in-sync. Transport of City to specified coordinates in five, four, three, two, one..."
Pete squeezed Ducky for comfort.
Campaign Car was out of concussion grenades.
He'd used most of them during the MotorMaster battle, and the very last of them to cover their earlier escape. He had one last weapon, however; one very potent means at his disposal:
His ability to alter perception.
It was not a power he used often, or really ever. It took too much out of him. It was a running joke amongst his comrades that the power didn't exist at all; or rather, that he used it to make himself seem more valuable than he really was. Talk like that is what caused him to leave the team in the early years. He'd made mistakes along the way, even served under that back-stabber Crackup for a time. But eventually, he'd come to his senses, and rejoined his comrades.
What a lousy time to be a hero, he thought.
Campaign Car concentrated; with a mind as vast as that of the dark God, it would take precious time to try to grab hold of it, to snare it....
To convince the dark God that he'd already won.
TestShot knew what the flyspeck was attempting. It amused him. He waited a moment, then opened his mind to Campaign Car.
There was a strangled scream as Campaign Car fell to the ground, clutching his cranium. Sparks crackled around the casing as precious fluids leaked out of his eye sockets and vocal receptors.
TestShot: "Foolish flyspeck, you dare to think you can enthrall the mind of the Dark Lord of Chaos? How does it feel to gather a glimpse from my perspective? Too see everything, everywhere... too-much for your little mind to handle."
The dark God awaited the delicious despair he was sure would be forthcoming from his comrades at any moment. The delicious emotion that would feed him, give him even more power in this realm.
The despair was not immediately apparent. Instead, he felt a series of blows impact off his chassis. Spot had taken up the fight. In another dimension, he was the Last Autobot, the annointed savior of his people. Who then would be more appropriate to stop this evil from across all dimensions?
The fireball cannons seemed to have no effect. Dropping them to the ground, he held aloft the Artifact that Optimus had recovered from MotorMaster. In the right hands, this artifact was supposed to be the means to saving his universe. He'd failed, and failed further when he didn't guard it properly, leaving it for that deranged Stunticon to find instead.
It was, Spot felt, his fault that things had gotten to this point. He was supposed to be the Savior. He'd failed, time and time again. He'd even 'died', only to fail even at that when The Leader brought him back to life. It was too-much to bear.
He would not fail the Dairycons.
Holding the Artifact aloft, Spot concentrated. He called forth to his former Protectobot underlings for strength. He called to the Ancients for wisdom. He called to the lost inhabitants of his own Universe for forgiveness for what he must do.
In the distance, the Scrapmetal Rift began to glow.
The Ancient mourned. He'd already lost The Leader, one of the few beings in this Universe he could have considered a peer. And now his student and friend Minerva had passed into the Matrix.
His own life was in peril. In order to transport an object as large as The City, he'd have to keep himself connected to the Shard at all times. The strain was considerable; still, he'd had help.
Or rather, his equipment. Knowing what was to transpire, The Leader had made sure that his Shard could lock onto the Scrapmetal rift. It gave them something on the planet to lock onto.
It gave them hope.
Even in death, the Leader was subtly manipulating events.
The City was moments away from its destination.
Plothole smiled. Perhaps his friend would find a way to cheat death yet...
Spot: "Hear me, dark Lord! I am Spot! I am the Last Dairycon! I call upon the ancient power of my lost universe in order to stop you!"
TestShot laughed. Foolish flyspeck, did he not realise that the artifact he was waving around was one that the Dark God had already taken control of? The power he was trying to wield belonged to TestShot. It had belonged to him when he'd first consumed the Universe it came from. The whole reason the Artifact was guarded was not because it contained great good, but because it held back great evil. Apparently, Ultra Trion had not communicated that to him...
He amused himself by allowing the Artifact to slightly power up. Let the flyspeck think he'd finally done something right in his miserable existence. Spot was so relieved that he was getting a response out of the Artifact that he failed to notice the dark tendril creeping down from it, latching onto his arm. He would consume this one slowly, in order to grant him his wish: after TestShot was finished, he would be the Last Dairycon.
But only for a moment. Then, he too would be consumed.
So delighted was TestShot with his plans for Universal Domination that he gave no consideration to what he sensed was going on in the distance.
The scrapmetal rift glowed brighter. Thru it, a transport vortice was opening. A universal bridge.
A very, very large one.
"Power to maximum!"
"Rift opening. Consolidation in 5 seconds!"
"Looks like we'll get to see our friends after all."
"Yea, for 10 years. Can you believe it?"
"We're going to exceed the power budget on this mission."
The scrapmetal rift shattered into a thousand points of light as power it could not handle surged thru its inter-dimensional circuitry.
The vortice opened...
The City had arrived.
Optimus Prime looked skyward. A large object appeared above the battlefield, filling the sky from horizon to horizon. Even TestShot paused, wondering for a moment what the flyspecks had concocted this time.
He would not be left to wonder. A command on the Bridge was given:
The City shifted; buildings and walkways slid inside. Armor plates and massive gun turrets took their place. Before their optics, the city became the largest Armored Battle Station the Dairycons had ever seen.
Moo Base 2 had arrived.
"Stage 1 Transformation Complete."
"All power to batteries."
Massive capacitors charged up as MooBase 2 built up power in its weapons array. Every weapon was brought to bear one one single Target:
"Troops, fall back!" Optimus commanded the remaining Dairycons to retreat to a safe distance. He sensed, thru Pete, that the power about to be discharged was massive beyond scale. He wasn't sure he could get his charges to safety in the time left to them. Thinking quickly, he sent his armored shell a command...
Pete: "Incoming command: Ancient one, please teleport the Dairycons off the surface of the planet."
PlotHole: "I can't! The Shard is hooked into Moo Base 2's systems. If I disconnect now, you'll lose power!"
Pete: "Acknoledged. Optimus, we are unable to comply. Move your troops to the last known location of the scrapmetal rift. Computer, prepare to fire."
Pete turned to PlotHole: "It has been an honor to serve with you, Ancient one."
The armored shell did not acknowledge the query. Pete turned to the computer and issued his final command:
To Be Continued.