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Chapter 1: “In the beginning...."

Ext. Shot: Cybertron as seen from space.

Narrator: It has been almost two years since Optimus Primal and the crew of the transwarp ship Axalon disappeared while pursuing the rogue Predacon, Megatron. Despite a number of attempts to locate them, no traces have yet been found.

For the Maximal council of elders, the current ruling body of Cybertron, life goes on. Although there were initial diplomatic repercussions brought against the Predacons, they were far less severe than was expected. Now things are starting to slowly return to normal, but plans that have been in the making for hundreds of years, are destined to shake the planet to it’s foundation.

Ext. pan zooms in to a close up of a building in a large city on the Northern Hemisphere.

 In the Capitol City of Iacon, the Maximal council gathered for an emergency meeting. No aids or junior officers accompanied them, nor would any official record be kept. In essence this meeting would never have taken place. The dimness of the room kept the eleven shapes obscured, though they knew one another from placement and reputation if nothing else. A general murmur floated around the circular table as the spoke to one another. Pleasantries, as well as affairs of state were exchanged, but only three among them knew why they had been gathered tonight. After a few moments, one of them stood and motioned with his hands for silence.

“My fellow elders,” He began. “it has been nearly two years since our last ‘incident’ with the Predacons. By showing a great deal of restraint in our dealings with them, we have managed to maintain the peace, which ended the Great War. Once again however, a group of rogues has risen from their ranks to threaten both our races.”

“At least they claim that the group went rogue anyway.” The figure next to him interjected with a sarcastic tone in his voice.

The chairman looked over at the figure, and locked him with a stare that insured silence. He then continued with his speech.

“In any case, we must deal with this situation and it’s  ramifications immediately, before it can deteriorate any further.” He then turned to the Maximal beside him. “I will now ask the head of intelligence to fill us in on the details.” He bowed to the figure, and then returned to his seat. The figure stood up, and began to address the council himself.

“Approximately one mega cycle ago, a group of Predacons calling themselves the Terrorcons, broke away from the command of the Tri-Predacus council. Apparently their intention is to try to instigate a full scale war between ourselves, and the Predacons.” He said.

“To what end?” The councilor in the third seat asked.

“I believe they want us to destroy each other.” The intelligence head answered dryly.  This caused a murmur to arise again, but the chairman was quick to silence it.

“I can understand their hatred of us, and their desire to start a war with our destruction in mind. Why would they also seek the deaths of their fellow Predacons?” He asked. The Intelligence head took a moment before answering.

“For reasons that are not altogether clear, they feel that the Tri-Predacus council has betrayed their Decepticon heritage. The obvious offense that the Predacons have taken a relatively passive stance toward us is undoubtedly part of the reason.” The intelligence head began to answer, but the councilor in the fifth seat interrupted him.

“At least they’d like us to believe they’ve been passive.” She said.

“In any case,” He continued. “my sources however, believe that the movements leader, Triplecross, may have learned something else that drove him to this extreme. Exactly what, we haven’t been able to discover. Whatever it is, they no longer consider themselves to be Predacons, nor obligated to them in any way.”

The council took a moment to digest the information, and it’s implication. Then the fifth one spoke again.

“You say that we need to deal with them immediately,” She said addressing the chairman. “and you obviously feel strongly about it or you wouldn’t have called us here. What I want to know is what makes them any more dangerous than the dozen or more other rogue groups that we and the Predacons have dealt with over the years?”

Instead of answering himself,  the chairman looked over at the intelligence head and nodded his assent. With that gesture, the intelligence head answered the question himself.

“The first threat is the Predacon light cruiser that they stole from the shipyards in sector 781.” He answered. For a moment, the silence held the room tightly in it’s grip. Then the eight councilor dared the question that was on all their minds.

“Was it transwarp capable?” The councilor asked him tentatively.

“No it wasn’t, and thank Primus for that small favor.” He answered. The relief around the room was virtually palpable. After a moment, he continued. “Ever since Megatron stole the transwarp ship the ‘Dark Side’ almost two stellar cycles ago, they’ve been far more stringent about security on their transwarp ships. The ship they stole is an older hyperspace only model. ”

“Then so what?” The second councilor interjected again. “Our fleet should be more than a match for an outdated Predacon cruiser.” He had more to say, but another look from the chairman silenced him instantly.

“It’s not the ship, nor even the group of rogues that truly worries us, although it does contain several formidable members.” He began again. “They announced their intention to separate in the wake of their freeing a prisoner from the detention center on Beta three.”

At the mention of the center’s name, several of the councilors looked at the intelligence head in concern.

“I see that most of you recognize that name, for the others, let me fill you in. Beta three is the detention center assigned to detain the worst of the war criminals from the Great War.” He said.

The chairman, who was hearing this for the second time, put forth the next question himself. “Who was the prisoner?”

Instead of answering, the intelligence head pushed a button on his arm, sending a signal to the main computer. In response, it activated a holographic projector in the center of the table. The entire room was bathed in the eerie light, as the face of a figure floated before him. Each of them recognized the face, and the characteristic look of anger, crossed with insanity that it bore. The revelation encompassed the room more effectively than the explosion of noise it generated a moment later. The chatter overwhelmed the chairman’s attempts to restore calm for several moments before they could continue.

“How did they get HIM out!” The seventh chairman asked. “That place is supposed to be the most heavily guarded….”

“It IS the most heavily guarded instillation that we have.” The intelligence head interrupted him angrily. “As near as we can tell, the Terrorcons somehow substituted one of their own for the officer in charge of the facility. We don’t know exactly how they managed this, nor do we know how he bypassed the many security procedures including the spark scanners.”
He paused for a moment, regaining himself, then continued. “Once he was in, he sent the patrol ships on a wild goose chase. He then lowered the base’s internal and external defenses before releasing all of the prisoners. I don’t think I even need to mention the caliber of threat that most of these prisoners represent. It’s a credit to the guards of the facility that they were able to keep the resulting riot as contained as they did without the facility’s defense network. In the confusion however, the Predacon ship attacked and attempted  to rescue the aforementioned prisoner. With the help of their agent, they succeeded. It did however, cost the agent that had replaced the base commander his life. The ship then exited the system before the patrol ships could be recalled to pursue them.”

“Then they got away?”  The eight councilor asked.

“Not exactly.” He answered.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” The fifth councilor asked him.

He hesitated, and looked over at the chairman again before answering her. “While none of the regular patrol ships were close enough to follow them, there was another ship that was on maneuvers in the area that was able to give chase. The destroyer, the ‘Endeavor’.” He said.

“The ‘Endeavor’?!” The second one gasped. “Isn’t that the ship we assigned to Primon?”

“Yes.” The chairman answered firmly.

“Not Optimus Primon.” The sixth one asked.

“The last time I checked, we only built one of him.” The chairman answered brusquely.

The tenth councilor, who had been quiet now, even during some of the more tense moments, finally spoke. His voice was deep, resonant, and everyone immediately turned towards him when he spoke.

“I thought that we had deliberately given him a low risk assignment to keep from losing him like we did Primal?” He asked the chairman.

“Beta was considered to be a secured sector, we haven’t had any trouble there in over a hundred years. With the high number of patrols usually found in the area, it was considered unlikely that he would be at any great risk.” The chairman replied in a defensive tone.

“Then shouldn’t we call him back?” The tenth councilor asked. “With Primal missing, and Sentinel Prime out on a mission in the rim, can we afford to risk Primon on such a dangerous mission?”

“We don’t have a choice.” He said, his frustration starting to show. “Optimus Primon’s ship was the only one close enough, and powerful enough to capture this rogue group. Also considering who he might be going up against,” He indicated the hologram that still dominated the table. “he may just be the best equipped officer in the fleet to deal with this crises.”

“You mean because he has the…” The third councilor began.

“Yes, exactly.” The chairman interrupted him before he could finish.

“Does he even know what he is?” The eleventh councilor asked.

“No more than Primal, or Sentinel Prime. At least not beyond the rather obvious clue of their names.” The chairman said. “If we try to call him back from such an important mission, it may call unwanted attention to him from the Tri-Predacus council, and he’s still too early in his development to deal with them directly.”

The council was completely silent as each of them remembered the true threat the ruling body of the Predacons represented.

“Are any ships going to his aid?” The sixth councilor asked.

“Every ship we can spare,” The chairman answered. “but they’re almost off the scopes as it stands. By the time any of our ships can reach them, it may already be too late. We’ve sent them anyway just in case.”

“Is that all we can do?” The eleventh councilor asked.

“No.” The chairman answered. “We can also hope that Optimus Primon is as good a leader as he was made to be, and that he’s up to the challenges he’s about to face.”

Slowly fade to black, then fade back in on a shot just outside of a solar system.

Narrator: Star system number 857.981, or in the human language the Trialis system, was old, even by galactic standards. Near the edge of the galactic disk, it had been one of the first solar systems to form early in the galaxy’s development. It had cooled and grown solid even before Primus and Unicron ended their great battle by becoming entrapped in the planetoids that would serve as their prisons. It thus could claim a greater age than Cybertron itself, at least it would if any life existed on it to make such a claim. In all of recorded history however, it had remained devoid of life even though the surface of it’s second planet contained a habitable surface. As it was so remote, no known mission had ever been launched to learn the reason, and it had remained relatively undisturbed for untold eons. Soon however, it was destined to become the center of a conflict whose ramifications would be greater than its combatants would ever realize.

 Nearby, in the adjacent dimension of hyperspace, two ships dueled with one another. The lead ship was the larger of the two, but it was obvious from the start that her pursuer had the advantage. Gaping holes and damaged armor lined the cruiser’s rear section. Most of her tail guns lay dormant, their power supply having been cut by one of the salvos that pummeled her. The side guns returned fire as best they could, but her outdated systems were beginning to take their toll on the battle.

 Inside, the hallways were filled with smoke, and the sound of explosions. Her crew raced to keep the struggling ship alive, and to annihilate their tormentors.

“Couldn’t you have stolen a more modern ship Tantrum?” Triplecross moaned. “ I didn’t risk crossing the council only to be destroyed by a Maximal patrol ship when we were so close to success.”

“I took what I could get,” Tantrum shot back. “it wasn’t like I had a whole lot to choose from. All the ships in that yard were scheduled to be decommissioned.” He tapped the controls at his pilot station, sending the ship veering to one side, just as a salvo of lasers filled the void they had occupied a second before. “All the really good ships are too heavily guarded ever since Megatron stole a frigate two stellar cycles ago.” He reminded the Terrorcon leader.

“I know, but this museum piece is even older than I am.” Triplecross mused.

“Like I said,” Tantrum said over the din as another salvo pounded into their shields. “it was all I could get.”

Triplecross held tight as Tantrum took the ship through another series of evasive maneuvers, frustrating the Maximal gunners. He might not be too happy with Tantrum for the ship he had stolen, but his piloting skills had kept them from being scrapped by the Maximals. It was even more impressive, considering that evasive maneuvers were hard to pull off at all in hyperspace. He decided to try to vent his frustrations in another direction

“Outburst!” He said, hitting the COM button.

“Sir!” Outburst's voice came back a second later over a roar of static.

“We need those rear guns back up now! It’s bad enough having to fight a ship of the line in this rust bucket, but doing it with less than half of our weaponry is intolerable!” He screamed over the din.

For a moment, there was no reply. Then he finally heard: ”I’m doing what I can SIR!”

“Then do better!” Triplecross yelled back.” Or maybe you’d like to go back with the rest of us to face the council.” Another shot rocked the ship just then. “What’s left of us anyway.”

“If you think I’m not doing my job well enough, then wake one of the others out of stasis and relieve me!” Outburst yelled back. “Otherwise, leave me alone and let me do my job.”

Outburst cut off the link, before Triplecross could reply. For half a moment, he considered going to engineering and scrapping Outburst personally. Another volley from the Maximals ruined that pleasant thought. Revenge would have to wait, as it always seemed to, for now.

“Tantrum, keep up the evasive maneuvers. Dreadwing,” He said, then paused as he turned to face the tactical station. A customary shiver worked its way through his processors as he turned to face his most lethal soldier. “Scan the system were passing near, I want a complete report.”

“Acknowledged.” A quiet, deep voice said.

“Also,” Triplecross said tentatively. ”how is our ‘guest’ doing?”

There was a slight pause as Dreadwing checked his instruments, then he answered. “His reconstruction is proceeding slowly, but within acceptable limits. He should recover fully, provided the Maximals are not allowed to interfere.”

“And who’s fault is that?!” Triplecross said. “You were supposed to use your slave to send out all the ships after a false distress beacon. Why didn’t you order this one too!”

Dreadwing let out a low growl. “This ship was not under the Warden’s command. Indeed, he had not been aware of its presence in the area. I am not to blame here. If your looking for anyone to blame, then look to the Maximal elders for keeping secrets, even from their own.” His tone indicated to Triplecross, that he was beyond any possible recrimination. Indeed, it almost seemed to be inviting him to try. It was an invitation that he didn’t relish, as Dreadwing was the only one onboard that he actually feared. Outside of their ‘guest’ that is.

“You could have at least kept the warden intact, we might have used him for a hostage.” He said, somewhat more meekly than he had intended.

“It had not been my intention to sacrifice him. His spark was strong, and I had looked forward to the feast it would have provided me with later.” Dreadwing replied, a glow crossing his eyes that the other had learned to intemperate as hunger. “In any case, I have the report you wanted.”

“Good, send it to my screen.” Triplecross told him. He touched a button, a small screen unfolded itself from the side of the command chair and moved in front of him. He studied the read out for a moment, and then a smile crossed his face. “Tantrum, change course for vector 117 mark 9, and prepare to traverse back to real space. Here’s what we’re going to do….”

Maximal destroyer, the Endeavor

The situation onboard the Maximal craft was faring somewhat better. While the Terrorcons were flying an outdated warship, the one they flew was top of the line and newly commissioned. It had all the newest technologies incorporated into it, from the stronger quantum shields, to transwarp drive. Even though the other ship was by far the larger, the gap in their age was beginning to tell. With each exchange the return fire grew weaker and weaker, but at its size, even a weak volley from a light cruiser was nothing to laugh at.

Within her corridors, the general mode also proved to be different than her counterpart’s as well. Her alarms were also sounding, but there was no where near the same feeling of either panic or desperation. The impact of missile served to remind her crew that this could change at any moment.

The bridge was better lit, her crew more in control of the situation that their quarry. In the pilot’s station, a smaller Maximal sat, wrestling with the controls as he sought to keep up with the wildly maneuvering Terrorcon ship. A pair of wings projected from either shoulder, a remnant of the vehicle mode he had used on Cybertron.

“I’m having trouble tracking them captain.” He said. “I’m not sure who their pilot is, but he must be insane to try maneuvers like this in hyperspace.” Just then, he executed a steep dive just fractionally after the other ship had done the same.

“Stay with them Wingspan, we can’t let them escape with any of the prisoners they might have liberated.” Optimus Primon ordered. He sat back in his chair slowly, musing on how his boring patrol mission had turned out.

Primon had been assigned command of the Endeavor almost as soon as he had finished his training at the Optimus naval academy. That in itself was unusual, as one usually had to go through an ‘internship’ on another vessel before you were even considered for your own command. Giving chase to a group of rouge Predacons on your first command wasn’t just unusual, it was unheard of. The situation back at the penal colony must have been even worse than the sub commander had stated, otherwise they would have received support by now.

“For better or worse,” He thought. “this is my mess to deal with now.”

As Wingspan brought them around following another wild maneuver, the Terrorcon ship’s rear weapons
suddenly sprang back to life. They sprayed shots across the Maximal’s bow, hammering at her shields and nearly knocking her off course.

“Draconis,” Optimus said over the din. “give me a damage report.”

Draconis’ digits played over the operations console, as he attempted to not only obey his leader’s command, but also tried to keep them in one piece. “Our shields are down to sixty seven percent, we’ve got fires on decks three and five, but other than that we’re fine.” He said, allowing the sarcasm to drip heavily from his audio unit.

“What about them?” Optimus asked. “How badly have we damaged their ship?”

“From the readings I’m getting from our scanners, I’d say we’ve damaged their main engines, brought their
shields down to thirty percent, and until recently had knocked their rear weapons offline.” Draconis said, just
as another blast rocked the ship.

Optimus nodded grimly, technically, the other ship had them outgunned, but her age was beginning to tell from the running battle they were now engaged in. As he watched, the larger ship swung to the port abruptly, far too wide for just an evasive maneuver.

“Watch it Wingspan.” Optimus said, gripping the hand rests on his chair as Wingspan matched the maneuver. “That last move was way too deliberate, they’re up to something.”

“I’m on top of it Optimus.” Wingspan said.

Primon in the meantime, turned his chair to face the main computer’s holographic interface. “Computer, give me all available information on any solar systems within five light years of our current heading.”
The computer took a few seconds to check the sensor readings, and then call up the appropriate files before answering.

“One match found.” It said, a three dimensional display came up showing an orange sun, with seven planets and one remarkable feature.”

“Two distinct asteroid belts, and both within the inner planetary orbital plane. That’s a bit unusual isn’t it?” He inquired.

“Affirmative.” The computer told him. “The prevalent theory, postulated because of the amount of organic matter in the belt, is that an unknown geological event caused the fourth planet that occupied the orbit previously to break up long after the planetary system had developed.”

“Hmm!” Optimus mumbled, he was less interested in the belt’s history, and more concerned about it’s immediate future. “Wingspan, increase our speed, I don’t want to lose them. Draconis, Cloudburst, I want all forward guns online and targeting them. They’re going to try to lose us in one of those fields, and I don’t intend to give them the chance.”

Within the Trialis system, a large hole suddenly opened and the two ships sped out of hyperspace. Shots were still being traded by the two, but evasive maneuvers became easier to manage now that they were in real space. The Terrorcon ship veered about unpredictably, then suddenly swerved straight toward the inner asteroid belt. The Maximals pursed them doggedly, making them pay for each inch the Terrorcons gained on them. As they approached the belt, the Terrorcon ship did not dive in as they thought it would, but instead it sped on towards the third planet.

“What’s so special about that planet that they’re risking their lives to reach it?” Optimus asked the computer.

“Unknown.” It answered. “A detailed probe of this system has never been made. It is the only planet in the system capable of sustaining organic life, but is uninhabited at this time. Anomalous energy readings make further scans impossible at this range.”

“What kind of energy?” Optimus queried further.

“Also unknown. Energy patterns do not match any known configurations, natural, or artificial.” It said.

Optimus pondered for a few minutes, confused by his quarry’s latest move. “The only possible answer, is that they’re going to try for a low orbit slingshot around the planet. They’re gambling that the energy waves will mask them from our sensors and allow them to escape.”

“That would be a logical assumption.” The computer concurred.

“In that thing!” Draconis scoffed. “I’d rather risk the asteroid field, than trying an atmosphere slide in that deathtrap.”

“They’re desperate,” Optimus said. “willing to try anything rather than risk capture. The question is, can we stop them from trying?”

“Negative.” The computer answered him. “At current speeds, the Terrorcons will reach the planet fifty nine astro seconds. We will be unable to disable their ship enough to discourage them within that time.”

“Then we follow them.” Primon said determinedly.

“That is not recommended. Such a maneuver would put this ship in unnecessary….” The computer said.

“Save it!” Optimus said, cutting it off. “Now plot their most likely course, and prepare to follow them in.”

“Confirmed.”  The computer replied, with a hint of reluctance in its voice.

Terrorcon ship, the Defiance.

“Are you sure about this.” Tantrum asked. “I’m not sure our shields can take this.”

“If we have another choice, I certainly don’t see it.” Triplecross growled at him. “Now take us in at full speed”

Reluctantly, Tantrum complied.

The two ships sped towards the planet, the Maximals rapidly closing the distance between them. They were so close in fact, that they hit the atmosphere nearly simultaneously. As they did, the energy waves they had detected from the surface began to react to their passage.

Maximal destroyer, the Endeavor.

“I’m getting some strand readings from the planet’s atmosphere.” Cloudburst reported.

“Danger level?” Optimus asked him

“I don’t know, “ Cloudburst started to answer. “It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before, but I think it’s reacting to our shields…” He never got to finish however.

Around the two ships, the energy built to a crescendo then unleashed its fury against their shields. Both ships were overloaded by the power surge, which knocked most of their systems off line.

Sparks flew around the interior of the Maximal’s bridge, which was now almost completely dark, except for a few of the emergency systems.

“The helm’s off line.” Wingspan screamed. ”We’ve lost everything but emergency thrusters.”

“Can they get us into a safe orbit?” Optimus asked as he tried to deactivate the emergency claxon, one of the few systems still working.

“No way,” Wingspan told him. “we’ll be lucky if they can keep us from splattering all over the planet’s surface.”

“Great, what about the Terrorcons? What shape are they in?” Primon asked aloud.

“Unknown.” Cloudburst answered. “If they got hit by whatever got us, I can’t believe they’re doing much better.”

“One less thing to worry about now, I guess.” Optimus said, watching as the red glow of re-entry began to show through the bridge’s viewscreen.

Both ships continued in the path they had been on before the surge, their inertia carrying them onward. However instead of breaking out of orbit and into space, their paths now curved downward toward the surface of the planet, and whatever force had struck them down.

End of chapter 1