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  Beast Wars: Desperate Times

Chapter 2: “In the house of my enemy”

Cybertron: Capital city, Darkmount

Darkmount, the capital city of both the Cybertronian empire, and of Cybertron itself, was built on the ruins of the old Autobot city of Iacon, by order of Galvatron himself.  It was home to almost all of the major Predacon control structures; Fleet and armored core command, Drone soldier control, as well as Galvatron’s palace.  Many a saboteur had attempted entry to this fortress, but none ever returned.  Cybertron’s space defenses were such that there was no fear of an attack from outside the planet, and security was so tight inside, they feared no attack from within either.  It was boasted to be the most secure installation in the galaxy, but, like most boasts it was about to be proven false.

He moved among his enemy without even drawing a second glance.  That didn’t bother him, it was part of his job to not draw attention.  Indeed, he prided himself on his ability to go unnoticed.  His signature masking device made him appear to be a Predacon to the many security checkpoints he passed, and he was all but invisible to the ones that the device could not fool.  He had only recently come on-line, having been made specifically for his assigned task - the infiltration of this very city.  Predacon intelligence didn’t even know he existed yet and he meant to keep it that way, at least until he was done here.   Then they would know him all to well.  The charges he had been placing the last few weeks were going to cause an untold amount of damage and disruption in the capital.  Even now, Maximal leader Grimlock should be assembling a fleet of ships from the remaining worlds of the resistance to attack the planet when the chaos ensued.  At least that was the theory.  He hadn’t received any new information since he beamed out a message about the top secret information cache he’d learned about, stashed in Galvatron’s palace.

He looked up at the foreboding structure.  It was the one place even he hadn’t managed to enter yet.  The security emplacements there were unbelievable.  Even Fleet command hadn’t been that well guarded.  “One of the costs of commanding a group of people who would gladly terminate you to get their own chance at the empire,” Night Stalker thought.  He had to find some way in though, and soon.  His time table was almost up.  If the fleet was going to attack at all, it had to be soon.  The rumor floating around the city was that the Predacons were about to make their big push to bring the remaining worlds of the local group under their control.  This was the prelude to the spreading of their influence across the rest of the galaxy.  Whatever Galvatron was keeping in that tower, though, might be a key to stopping him.  He never let it out of his sight.  Supposedly, even when he went out on his flagship, whatever it was went with him.  Be it a computer, weapon, or some form of intelligence gathering device, the Maximals needed to know what is was, and capture or destroy it if possible.

Stalker headed back for his quarters, intent on checking for a reply from central command.  Surely they could see the urgency of this situation.  If he succeeded then he would need immediate extraction.  The ‘Cons would blanket this place immediately once they discovered that their little secret had been found out.  His cover would also be blown to smithereens, and himself not too long after if he didn’t escape.  While he did believe, as all Maximals did, in sacrificing himself for the greater cause, he wasn’t quite ready to go just yet.

His room was in the trade sector, in an area that was neither too upper crust, nor too down beaten either.  He kept the owner paid off for both the room, and the occasional tidbit of useable information.  He entered the room itself to see that it had been ransacked yet again.  Predacon security made regular sweeps of all newcomers, but they had obviously found nothing.  Overtly his ID said he was a trader from one of the Predacon subject worlds, but they never left anything to chance.  He walked over to a seemingly innocent wall and pressed a button on his arm, sending out a specific code sequence.  On cue, the security field deactivated and a series of panels swung aside.  Behind them was the real wall,  hidden by the decoy wall positioned in front of it.  As long as the field was active, no scanner in the universe would detect anything but durasteel on the other side of it.  His vast array of equipment was there, the best Maximal science could devise.  All he was interested in at the moment was the signal hopper and the encrypted communicator.  He flipped a switch, and was relieved to see the “message received” signal greeting him.  He double checked to make sure his dampening field was sending out fake signals to the new batch of listening devices Predacon security had planted in his room, and sat down to hear his message.  He was surprised when he was greeted by no less than the image of Commander Grimlock himself.

“Covert agent Night Stalker,” Grimlock began, “by the time you hear this message I will already be under way to New Earth to gather a fleet together.  This will not be the fleet we had intended for your mission however, as most of our own fleet was destroyed at the fall of Aurora.”

This news stunned Stalker.  Aurora had fallen!  He could not believe it.  Grimlock’s image however gave him no time to ponder this shocking development, as it continued onward.

“I am sending in a specially selected unit to retrieve you.  They should arrive 5 cycles after the reception of this message.”

Night Stalker checked his chronometer versus the date stamp on the message.  He had 3 cycles until they arrived.

“Before they arrive, I need you to break into Galvatron’s vault, and either capture or destroy whatever is in it.  This is of the highest importance and must supersede any other considerations, including personal safety.” Grimlock’s image appeared to pause, lost in thought, then continued.  “With the loss of our fleet, and Aurora, which was one of our largest production facilities, we cannot sustain our efforts to stop the Predacons.  If this secret is so great to Galvatron that he will not let it out of his sight, even for a moment, then we must posses it, or at least deny it to him.  It may be the last hope we have.  If the Predacons took any of Aurora’s databanks intact, as I’m sure they did, then they will be coming after New Iacon and New Earth soon.  I’m going to begin evacuation immediately, but there’s no way we can evacuate everyone quickly.  If the Predacons are distracted by sabotage and pursuing a fugitive, we may be able to save that many more.  I leave it in your capable hands.  If you succeed and survive, the ship will meet you at the Predacon orbital shipyards at Moonbase 2.  It will be up to you to get there as they will be unable to aid you until you reach them.  May the Matrix protect you, and good luck.”

As Grimlock’s image faded, the decoder automatically began erasing the message.  For once, Stalker wished it wouldn’t because he almost needed to see it again for it all to sink in.  The fleet wasn’t coming, and he had three cycles to break into the most heavily guarded installation on Cybertron, escaping with the intention of distracting the Predacons from invading the two remaining colony worlds for a few extra hours or days.

Almost instantly he began preparations.  “Computer, encrypt and send the following message, ‘Understood, will comply,’ on the next available fleet command signal.”

“Complying,” it replied.

“I also need all intelligence gathered on the palace,” he said.

“Understood,” it replied again.

“And finally, begin the Armageddon sequence, time frame, three point five cycles.”

“Warning,” it came back after a moment, “this is ahead of projected time sequence.  All charges have not been placed.”

“Override, command code Stalker, 7 A.”

It took a moment to confirm the code.  “Code approved, Armageddon sequence commencing.”

“It’s done,” he thought to himself.  “I couldn’t stop them now even if I wanted to.”  He turned from the main console and began gathering the equipment he would need while the computer downloaded the data tracs he had requested for his new mission.

Almost a full cycle later he came out of his room and proceeded on his way.  As he walked out of the building, he was stopped by the owner.  His name was Dirge, and he was a former Decepticon.  He had become frustrated with the Predacon military and retired from service, but he was well known throughout Cybertron as a contact.  Night Stalker’s few successful intelligence operations had been arranged with his help.

“Leaving again already?” Dirge asked.

“Leaving for at least two or three cycles.  I’ve got business out of town, and don’t want to be here for any bad weather coming up,” Stalker said.

Dirge nodded, understanding the message, which was to get out of town in less than two cycles.  It was more information than he should give out, but he felt he owed the old soldier at least that much.  Night Stalker proceeded onward into the dim light at the end of the Cybertronian day.

Half a cycle later he sat in a booth at the “Bad Spark”, a notorious dive near the palace,  awaiting his contact.  The bar was a popular stop where many of the palace staff came to unwind.  The person he was waiting for however, was someone altogether different.  He had been waiting for some time though, and although he had altered his appearance somewhat to better fit in, he couldn’t wait much longer without attracting attention.  As if  on cue, he felt a tap on his shoulder.  He turned to see who it was, but instead of his contact, he was greeted by a palace guard instead.  He looked up into the steely mask of the guard’s face.  Palace guards were full sized Transformers, and this one nearly stood to the roof of the building.

“May I help you officer?” Stalker asked politely, hoping the guard couldn’t hear the tension in his voice.

“You are to come with me,” the guard responded curtly.

“Is there a problem....” Stalker started to say, but the guard interrupted him by gripping him around the waist and lifting him off the ground.

“You are to come with me,” it repeated.

Stalker knew he was no match for the behemoth directly, especially not in a bar full of Predacons, so he simply said, “Whatever you say sir, lead the way.”

The guard just carried him out the door without bothering to acknowledge the fact he had spoken at all.

If he hadn’t been a captive, Night Stalker would have marveled at his luck.  The guard was carrying him into the heart of the palace itself.  “At least the search didn’t pick up the charges I have stored inside me,” he thought.  “I might still be able to complete my mission after all.”

He was carried down a series of seemingly endless hallways into what could only be the rumored section for Predacon intelligence.  In the cells of these rooms, many a Maximal agent had ended his days under the tender care of the Predacons torture mongers.  The guard placed him in an unlit cell and closed the door, leaving him alone in the darkness.  He had to try to escape, but many of his overt devices had been confiscated.  He had several others still concealed, to be sure, but nothing that could free him directly from this cell.  He would just have to be as patient as he possibly could under the circumstances.

After almost another half cycle he finally had a visitor.  Or two, actually.  As the first slithered into the darkness, Night Stalker could only make out a vague outline as it  entered the room.  The second was a full sized Transformer.  A hold over Decepticon if he was right, but the room was kept in darkness so he could not tell who it was.

“Who are you.” A voice oozed from startlingly close to his side.  Stalker tried to pull back, but found himself held by some sticky and unbelievably strong substance.

“Oh, don’t try to run,” the voice came again.  “No one escapes my webs once I’ve spun them.”  The voice echoed in the most hideous laughter Stalker had ever heard.  A bank of  lights came up suddenly, and he found himself staring into the many eyes of a large mechanical spider.

“Tarantulus!!” Stalker blanched reflexively.

“Oh, it knows me!  But I don’t believe I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting you before,” Tarantulus smarmed to his frightened captive.

Stalker didn’t think there was anyone on Cybertron who didn’t know about the Predacon’s most feared interrogator.  His sessions were legendary.  Of course, the legends were spread by the Predacons, as no one questioned by Tarantulus was ever seen again to give their opinions of the experience.

“Of course I know you sir, you’re one of the most feared Predacons on the planet,” Stalker said quietly.  This caused the larger Transformer, who still stood in the remaining shadows, to chuckle slightly.  Tarantulus glared at him for a moment then turned back to the prisoner.

“Flattery will gain you nothing, Maximal agent.  We know you were trying to sneak into the palace.  Did you really think you could get in here without us knowing about it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Stalker said defensively.  “Maximal agent?  I’m just a simple trader!”

“Oh yes you do,” Tarantulus said moving forward slowly, his fangs stopping just short of Stalker’s face.  “We’ve been watching that old traitor Dirge for years, and as soon as he packed up to leave town, we picked him up, and everyone else who stayed at his building for the last 2 mega cycles.  It didn’t take too long for the old fool to crack.  Hardly worth my time.”

Inwardly Stalker cursed himself, “I knew warning him was a mistake.”

“And what do we find when we pick you up?” Tarantulus said, turning to robot mode and holding out his hands, revealing what they held.  “Signal dampers, lockpicks, and a disrupter rifle, hidden in pieces around your person.  A veritable arsenal of infiltration devices.  Not quite standard equipment for a ‘simple trader.’” Tarantulus turned to the larger transformer again.  “I’m not even sure why we’re having this interrogation session sir.  He’s obviously guilty and should be terminated immediately, and painfully if I have my way.” He looked over at Stalker with that last statement, and gave another of his laughs.

“Enough,” the larger Transformer began.  “You’re a fool Tarantulus!  We need to find out what else he’s done while he was here.  Who knows what information he has gathered and sent to his Maximal allies.  And are you really foolish enough to believe he would come straight to the palace without an inside accomplice?  We must find out who has been aiding him.”

Tarantulus winced.  “You’re right of course,” he grumbled slowly.

“Of course I am.  That’s why I’m still in charge of intelligence, and you’re just a lowly subordinate,” the voice boomed out.  Stalker thought he heard Tarantulus emit a low growl of anger at that.  “Now let me see the Maximal’s tools, while you get to work on him.  And be quick about it!”

Tarantulus saluted a little to smartly and went back to beast mode.  “Oh this IS the part I love,” he said gleefully.  As Tarantulus came towards Stalker on all eights, he thought he saw the giant figure fooling around with his tools.  He couldn’t see for long however as the giant spider soon dominated his view.

“I’m going to drain your energy slowly, and when you’re almost dry,  I’ll fill you with my special cyber venom.  It will slowly eat out your vital circuits from the inside, but as a side effect, you’ll be begging to tell us whatever we want to know.  It should be quite... horrible for you.” Tarantulus’ laughter filled Stalker with dread.  Vainly, he tried to activate his self destruct, but the web disrupted the command pathways in his brain.  Then, just as the spider loomed over him about to strike, he heard a shot ring out.  A blue bolt struck Tarantulus in the back, causing him to twitch uncontrollably.  Sparks arched across his form until he finally fell to the floor with a shudder.  Stalker looked up as the larger Transformer stepped out of the shadows, raised its foot, and brought it down on the still twitching Predacon with a sickening thud.  Mech fluid splattered out over the walls and the stunned Maximal, who looked up in disbelief at his savior.  The giant smiled at him.

“Predacon intelligence officer Counterpunch, or should I say...” he trailed off.  His body underwent a complicated transformation, parts of his robot mode changing places until a different robot stood before Stalker.  “Autobot covert agent Punch, at your service.”

Stalker couldn’t believe it!  The Decepticon intelligence officer for the last two hundred years was an Autobot, and the legendary Punch at that.  Punch lifted his foot, scraping off the mess.  “You know, I’ve been wanting to do that for years,” he said.  “I couldn’t afford to blow my cover before now though.” He walked over and began pulling the webbing off of Night Stalker.

Stalker stammered for a moment, then shouted, “All this time?  You’ve been here all this time!? What have you been doing!?  We’ve been fighting a losing battle out there, in case you didn’t notice!  And you, listed among the ranks of the terminated - you’ve been here all along!  What have you been doing all this time?  Why didn’t you let us know you were alive?  By the Inferno, why didn’t you help us?”  By the end of this tirade, Night Stalker was livid.  If his arms had not still been tied down by the webbing, he would have gladly struck the huge Transformer, consequences be slagged.

Punch took his accusations calmly, continuing to free his former captive.  “I have been helping, all along.  And as for my termination report, that was arranged by commander Grimlock himself, to keep my cover safe.”

Stalker wasn’t having any of it.  “What about Aurora and New America?  Why didn’t you warn them?”

Punch grimaced at that.  “I tried,” he said softly, “but my orders were strict.  Preserve my cover at all costs.  By the time they got my warnings it was to late.  My new orders came in just recently, to deliberately blow my cover to help you infiltrate the palace.”

“Orders!” Night Stalker was incredulous.  “Thousands were lost when the colonies fell.  The fleet has been decimated, human beings are on the verge of extinction, and you’re talking about orders!  The rest of our people have seen 300 years of war and-”

“Enough!” Punch bellowed, finally past his breaking point.  “I know full well what our people have seen!  Do you want to know what I have seen?  I have seen hundreds of Maximals and Autobots sent prematurely into the void.  I have seen my comrades ripped limb from limb, disintegrated, crushed, dissolved from inside out, as well as from outside in.  I have seen atrocities you can not even comprehend.  Yes, I have seen hundreds die with my own eyes.  Some of them were my friends!  And I had to stand silently by and let them die, sacrificing individuals for the greater good of all living races everywhere.  I can tell you the name of everyone that has ever been tortured and killed in the damned place.  I can tell you who they were, why they were here, how they died, and how long it took before they finally stopped screaming and gave up their spark.  I know all this because I had to stand by and watch each of them die, and every time I power down to recycle, their faces appear before me, still screaming!  So you can take your self-righteous indignation and space it, because I’ve suffered more in the last 200 years than you ever will!”

That finally shut Stalker up.  He looked his companion straight in the eye.  “I’m sorry.  I was out of line.  I guess I just... I didn’t know.  I’m... sorry.”

“Yeah, well, the humans used to have a saying, ‘war is hell,’”  conceded Punch.  “Let’s not worry about it.”

“So, what’s in the vault?” Stalker asked plainly, deciding it would be for the best to get down to business.

“I don’t know.  I’ve been trying to find out for years, but I haven’t been able to get close yet.  That’s why I asked commander Grimlock to have you change your mission.”

“You?” Stalker said.  “But I contacted him because I found out about the vault.  I asked him if I could...”

Punch chuckled.  “How do you think you found out about it in the first place? I couldn’t get a message to you directly, so I dropped a few hints that would get you looking in my direction and bring you within my reach.”

“All right,” Stalker started.  “Then let me ask this: why can’t you get near the vault?  You’re Galvatron’s head of intelligence.  You should be the one in charge of guarding it.”

Punch shook his head.  “Galvatron himself guards it.  He won’t let anyone else near it.  When whatever it is needs to be transported, he uses mindless drones, and afterwards has their chips destroyed and replaced.”

“Then how am I supposed to get into the vault?” Stalker asked critically.

“That’s easy,” Punch came back, grinning.  “You’re going to have one great distraction!”

Predacon Intelligence H.Q.

“I still can’t reach the commander,” the first guard grumbled.

“Aw leave it alone, Rumble.  You know how he likes to watch that creepy spider bot work.” Neither one of them noticed as the door slid open silently behind them.

“Yeah Frenzy, but I still don’t trust the guy, especially after the way he took over the job from our old boss, Soundwave,” Rumble said.

“I know what you mean,” Frenzy answered.  “I don’t think they ever found all the parts from that Autobot assault team that must’ve taken him down.”

A familiar voice came from behind them that chilled their circuits.  “Actually gentlemen, it wasn’t a whole assault team,” the voice's owner stepped out of the door.  They both saw that it didn’t belong to who they thought it did.  “It was just me.”

“C-Commander?!?” Frenzy blurted out.

“Not quite,” Punch said, leveling his photon blaster.  He let loose a flurry of scarlet beams, striking both Decepticons multiple times in their vital circuits.  He had kept the rifle secreted about his person in pieces, as Stalker had, but as far as Punch was concerned it had been silent too long.  Taking aim, he took out all the security cameras along the hall.  An unfortunate guard rounded the corner, only to be brought down instantly by another round.  Screaming out a battle cry, Punch switched to car mode, intent on taking out two hundred years of frustration on his hated enemies.

As he roared off, Stalker finally worked up the courage to stick his head out the door, Punch’s rage having taken him by surprise.  Tentatively he stepped out and activated his cloaking device.  “Punch may have taken out the cameras, but why take chances,” he thought.  He had to be quick though, the cloak he used was even more powerful than the one the Predacon Ravage used, but it’s power supply wouldn’t last forever.  He carefully proceeded in the direction Punch had told him would lead to Galvatron’s tower.

Imperial Palace, Galvatron’s throne room.

The alarms intruded on Galvatron’s thoughts, much to his annoyance.  “COMPUTER!” he yelled.  “What’s that racket?”

The computer had a degree of artificial intelligence, and had learned over the years that delivering bad news usually led to spending time in the repair bay.  It could imagine the amount of time this news was going to bring, and was understandably reluctant to answer.
“According to reports,” it hesitated as long as it thought it could get away with, “a saboteur has escaped from the detention block, and is reeking havoc in the intelligence wing.” It steeled itself, waiting for the explosion that was sure to follow.  It didn’t wait long.

“WHAT!!!” Galvatron bellowed.  The computer prepared itself for the pain, but it never came.  Instead came an unexpected bout of laughter.  “Excellent!  It has been too long since I took down an infiltrator with my own hands.  Bring up the security cameras, I wish to see who it is I’m up against.”  With an almost audible sigh of relief the computer did as he asked.  Using the remaining sensors, it located the intruder and activated a back-up camera to give it’s leader a clear view.

Galvatron was presented with a scene of pure carnage, the entire main office was in ruins.  Many guards lay deactivated on the floor, all of the panels had been shot out.  By the door, a single figure was lobbing grenades down the hall at the charging security guards.  Galvatron gave this Autobot credit, he had caused more damage than the Predacon leader had seen in some time.  Obviously Counterpunch was off-line himself or he would have been leading the charge to take down this arrogant invader.  He activated his address system so he could learn the name of this intruder.  “So I can carve it on his tombstone,” he thought.

“Guards, stop your useless charge until I say otherwise,” he ordered.  The guards stopped short and looked at each other, then took up places to hold their position.  Galvatron then turned his attention back to the Autobot.  “Intruder, you cannot escape.  I admire the amount of destruction you have caused, and that you have managed to take down my head of intelligence, which many of your kind have tried to do, and failed.  But this ends now.  You are outnumbered severely.  If you surrender, I promise you a quick death.  If you persist in this futile action however, I will make your suffering last for all eternity.”

To Galvatron’s surprise, the Autobot laughed hysterically at his statement.  “Eternity, Galvatron?” he said.  “My suffering has already lasted an eternity.” As he spoke, his parts once again shifted to their old configuration, and the familiar face of Counterpunch filled Galvatron’s screen.  “If you have the courage to come face me, my leader, I guarantee that YOUR suffering will be even greater than what I’ve endured.”

For a moment Galvatron was too stunned even to react, as he watched  Punch change back into his Autobot mode and take down several more guards.  For their part, they were too stunned by the revelation of their leader to react either, but the explosions soon brought them back to their senses.  As soon as they returned fire however, Galvatron bellowed out, “NO!!  HE’S MINE!  Keep him there until I arrive!”  Galvatron’s rage was terrifying as he pulled his gun from the wall and fired it wildly around the room.  The plunder of many worlds he had looted were destroyed in seconds.  A stray blast ricocheted off a wall and struck the computer directly in the screen.  It’s last thought before it went off-line was, “Oh No! Not again.”

Galvatron threw the door open and stormed down the hallway.  He was so intent on destroying the traitor he neglected to activate the security systems to his throne room.  He also failed to notice the small shimmer of a failing cloaking field crouching against a wall as he stormed past.  Night Stalker let out a sigh of relief - Galvatron was the one Predacon he had wanted to see even less than Tarantulus, and he had passed within inches of him.  He had to hurry though.  Even he didn’t believe Punch could hold off Galvatron for long.

The throne room was a mess from Galvatron’s rampage.  “On the plus side however,” Stalker thought, “shooting his own computer leaves me one less obstacle to overcome.” He looked around the room.  According to Punch, the vault and whatever it contained was concealed behind the throne itself.  He examined the wall, but found nothing out of the ordinary.  He had been expecting that however.  The wall undoubtedly contained a security field much like the one he had used.  Although he didn’t have the codes to deactivate it, he had something almost as good.  A panel in his forearm opened and a small  device popped out.  “A Wheeljack original,” he said.  He pressed the device against the wall.  It hummed quietly as it analyzed the wall’s internal computer and convinced it to shut down.  The field wavered for a moment and then shimmered out of existence.  The door it revealed was yet another obstacle to overcome.  Fortunately he had the tools to do it with - the very electronic lockpick Tarantulus had taunted him with.  Stalker got the door open, then used his signature mask to fool the scanners, and lastly disabled the internal monitors with a directed magnetic pulse.  As he entered, he was greeted not by some secret weapon or data wafer as he had expected, but a chair.  In this chair sat a Transformer, bound hand and foot so he couldn’t even move, much less escape.  “All this just to keep a prisoner?!?”  Night Stalker exclaimed.

Hearing his voice the occupant of the chair turned his head toward Stalker.  “Not just any prisoner,” it rasped at him weakly.  “I am the destroyer of a whole universe!  It was I who destroyed Optimus Prime so many centuries ago, so that it is the Predacons who now rule our world.  I am the being who altered time and all creation itself.” The prisoner’s face came into the light at last, so Night Stalker could finally see him clearly.  “So you see Maximal, I am not just any prisoner.  I am Megatron!”

Predacon Intelligence H.Q.

Punch marveled that he had held the Predacons off this long.  As an old style Transformer, he did have more sheer power than them, but numbers gave them an overwhelming advantage.  He had held off conversion on the excuse that he preferred his larger form, and as the head of intelligence he hadn’t been questioned on it.  The real reason however had been that any surgeon who attempted such massive a change in his form would have discovered his true allegiance.  Their decision to let him stay as he was would cost them now.  He was determined to avenge every friend he had been forced to watch die over the years, even if he knew the Predacons would replenish their numbers in no time.  He was conserving his shots now.  His rifle was running low and he was out of recharge packs for it.  “It’s almost a pity I didn’t get changed,” he thought.  “Then maybe I could use one of these tiny Predacon weapons more directly.”  Instead, he picked up one of the remaining rifles and used an adapter to drain its power into his own.  The charge it gave his weapon was pitifully small.  “Better than nothing,” he said.

He looked down the hallway for the guards, but saw none.  Galvatron had told them to hold back, not retreat, so where were they?  Before he could investigate however, the floor underneath him erupted, and through it came the nose cone of Galvatron’s drill tank mode.  “About time you got here you coward,” Punch shouted as he leapt back firing several rounds.

“In a hurry to die, Autobot?” Galvatron asked as he shifted to his robot mode, leveling his own barrage at Punch.

“We’ll see who’s funeral it really is, murderer!”  Punch aimed dead center and fired.  Galvatron didn’t even try to dodge as the shot hit him dead on.  The resulting explosion created a thick cloud of smoke which covered Punch’s view.  “That was too easy,” he thought warily.  “I may be bigger than he is since he got re-engineered, but there’s no way I’m that much more powerful than him.  I’ve seen him in battle.”

His thoughts were answered by Galvatron himself.  “Is that the best you can do?  Well then, I guess it’s my turn.”  Several shots came from the cloud of smoke striking Punch and traveling through him to strike the wall as well.  Punch screamed in agony, his vision blurred, and he didn’t see Galvatron come along side of him.  The smaller Predacon hoisted the helpless Autobot above his head and threw him against a burning console.  Sparks flew from Punch’s body as he looked up to see Galvatron gloating over him.  “And now Autobot, let us end this.”

Punch strained to get his voicebox working, finally managing, “That sounds like a good idea to me Galvatron.”  His chest popped open to reveal one of Stalker’s demolition charges.  Its counter read, “5.0 sec.”  The last thing Punch saw was a satisfying look of dawning horror on Galvatron’s face.

Galvatron’s Throne Room

Night Stalker stood before the admitted murderer of the Autobot’s greatest leader, dumbfounded.  The answer to their greatest mystery sat before him.  “Haven’t you got anything to say Maximal? I’ve been waiting longer than you might believe to tell that to one of your kind,” Megatron gloated.

“Wh wh wh why are you ...” Stalker finally stammered out.

“...here?”  Megatron finished.  “Why, this is my reward for service to the Predacon army.” He began to emit a maniacal laugh.  “I survived the time change because I stood at the exact center of the temporal vortex.  When it was over and the Maximals were gone, I put myself into stasis until the Decepticons awoke from their slumber.”  His eyes seemed to focus on something in his own memory.  “When they left the Ark, I followed them and confronted my namesake, showing him what I had done.  At first he did not believe me, but when I showed him the fragment of a message he had left in my universe, he had no choice.”

“So he did this to you?” Stalker asked, not sure what to believe.

“Oh not at first.” Megatron chuckled.  “At first he was going to terminate me, rather than harbor a possible rival.  I pointed out, however, that destroying me might cancel out what I had done and restore Prime.”

“Would it?” Stalker asked, thinking of the charges he carried.

“To the best of my knowledge, no.  That Megatron however, was unwilling to take the risk and had me imprisoned.  He has kept me as his greatest secret over the years,”  Megatron said.

“Why?” Stalker asked again.

“Because I know.” Megatron answered.

“Know what?” Stalker said, growing impatient.

“Know exactly when I blew Prime’s head off, of course.  He was afraid I might be made to reveal it to you Maximals.”

Stalker considered this.  “Would you? Wouldn’t that be going against what you fought for.”

Megatron suddenly strained against his bonds, causing Stalker to jump back in surprise.  “This is not what I was fighting for!!” he screamed.  “This was to be MY empire, not HIS! In my universe he was long since gone, taken down by his own troops when he refused to admit defeat.  He mocks me every night with this fact, he takes pleasure in the fact that I suffer at His victories.  They should be MY victories, MY troops plundering the Galaxy.”
 
Megatron’s ranting was suddenly interrupted by the sound of a huge explosion.  Stalker knew his time was running short.  He knew this was too big for him to deal with, and like Punch, his orders were very specific.  He quickly moved over behind Megatron and began cutting his chains loose.

“What are you doing, Maximal?” Megatron said, unable to see him.

“You’re coming with me.” Stalker answered.

“Oh, I do not think I will be doing that... no,” Megatron said in a mocking, oily voice, and pulled at the now weakened chains with a strength that belied his condition.  The chains snapped like cheap plastic, and Megatron arose from the chair that had been his prison for the last three centuries.

“AT LAST, at last I am free!” He crowed.  Before he could even turn however, several  bolts of blue fire struck him in the back, and like Tarantulus before him, he fell in a twitching heap.

Night Stalker lowered his disrupter rifle and stood up, removing two disks and a small device from his belt as he did so.  He placed one of the disks on himself, and put the other disk as well as the device on Megatron.  At the touch of a control, the device activated and cut the prisoner's motor functions.

“That restraining bolt should keep you docile while I get us out of here,” Stalker muttered.
He touched another button activating the two disks.  A whir, not unlike the sound of someone rubbing their finger over a crystal glass, filled the room and a glow surrounded the pair.  “I hope this experimental teleporter they came up with actually works, and no one’s found the homing device I left in the shipyards,” he thought as both he and Megatron faded from existence.

The ruins of Predacon intelligence H.Q.

The smoke was finally starting to settle from Punch’s fiery last blow.  The salvage crew was going over the ruins carefully.  Many a Predacon general was waiting for word of Galvatron’s demise so they could make their move to take his empire.  None of them was willing to tip their hand until they were sure, however, so a painstakingly careful “rescue” effort was underway.  They had scanned the wreckage for some time without results. Finally, however, one searcher found a large mass on his scopes.  They swarmed around the area, trying to get a firm reading.  Before they could begin an extraction, however, the area exploded outward, sending Galvatron’s would-be rescuers flying.  Galvatron himself emerged from the wreckage, somewhat worse for the wear, but still functional.

“The Maximals will pay for what they have wrought this day, and the humans shall pay right along with them.  I will wipe the both of them from this Galaxy, ONCE AND FOR ALL!”

End of Chapter 2.
 

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