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Chapter 7: “After the quantum surge....”

Earth, continent that will one day be known as Africa.
Day 78.

 Several months had passed since the planet Earth had seen the arrival of a new and even stranger set of Cybertonians than those it already had. These new arrivals had been indirect witnesses to many of the battles between the original set of transformers. They had even indirectly participated in several of the engagements, much to the chagrin of their leader, Optimus Primal.

 Their starship remained in orbit behind the Earth’s ‘real’ moon, only venturing out occasionally to launch an occasional supply shuttle. On one occasion they took aboard an orbiting stasis pod to copy it’s data tracks. While they were in the midst of doing so, a stray meteor threatened to hit the ship. They blasted it, but the fragments struck a nearby pod, sending it out of orbit. Fortunately, the energon interference prevented the planet’s inhabitants from detecting the blast. Even more fortunate, the Maximals recovered the pod without help, and awoke their newest member Airrazor. After this, Primal ordered the ship to stay out of Earth’s orbit unless absolutely necessary to prevent further interference.

 Through the spy systems the had installed, they monitored their counterparts' movements. According to the basic timeline supplied to them by the Megatron who destroyed this timeline to begin with, events were proceeding as they should be despite, or indeed because of their interference. This timeline’s Megatron made several trips to the Ark to check on its progress in locating the proto human’s location. He made several abortive attempts to defeat his Maximal opponents including a rather embarrassing attempt to poison this universe’s Rhinox. The mere report of this event left the Megatron they brought with them groaning for hours on end. Now a new event threatened both sets of transformers.

“The Predacon known as Inferno has discovered a golden disk that they believe was manufactured by the aliens who seeded this planet with energon.” Eclipse, who had been stuck on monitor duty due to her beast modes larger than life size, reported.

“What does their computer say is on it?” Primal asked her.

“I can tell you that, though I think you already know.” Their prisoner Megatron piped in.

“I’m sure you can, and yes I now what she’s going to say. I just want to here someone actually say it.” Primal said, dreading what was coming next.

“According to the initial scan their Megatron made of it, it’s not so much an information disk, as some sort of a control and co-ordination device for the alien constructs on the planet.” She said. “ It receives regular updates from the aliens and transmits them to their sites around the planet. According to the latest update, they’re returning. And from all indications, their not happy about the way we’ve been treating this ‘experiment of theirs.”

“Prime,” Primal said, all the months of preparing for this moment vanishing in a second. “Then we’ve got to start preparing for their arrival. Rhinox, did you get those shield boosters in place for the shuttle? I don’t want us getting cooked when they try deep fry this planet.”

“Already done.” Rhinox told him. “I also installed the enhanced cloak to hide us from the aliens scanners, if someone was telling us the truth about them.” He added, eyeing the prisoner.

“I think I have long since proven MY loyalty to this venture.” Megatron said indignantly.

“Nevertheless,” Primal interrupted, refusing to let the conversation stray in this direction again. “we have to assume that they’re coming soon and prepare for the worst. Eclipse, send out a recall notice to Rattrap and Night Stalker. While I’d rather keep them where I can keep an eye on the two factions, I don’t want to take any chances on interfering with this  particular event.”

“True, you wouldn’t want to interfere with the death of your counterpart in this timeline now would you, no.” Megatron said mockingly.
Primal clenched his fist out of reflex, Megatron had been taunting him with the fact that this event signaled his counterpart’s death since they arrived. Primal was desperately trying to keep it from influencing the decisions he made on this mission Grimlock had refused to ask Megatron for a list of who lived and who died in this timeline for exactly that reason.

“Exactly.” Primal said through clenched teeth. “Now let’s get ready.”

“Optimus,” Eclipse called to him. “it may already be too late.”

“Why,” He said, the strain showing in his voice.

“The Axalon reports showing an object warping into the system. It’s energy signature matches that of the Alien’s.”

“Well,” Primal said. “that’s just Prime.”

“I do wish you would stop saying that.” Megatron groaned.

Maximal HQ, the crashed starship, the Axalon.

 Night Stalker had been tailing the Maximals for months now, only reporting back to the shuttle for occasional reports to Optimus and maintenance check ups. He had witnessed many of the events that happened to their counterparts since they arrived on this world. In a strange way, he now felt closer to them than he did to his own  companions. So far he had only interfered once or twice since the ‘better mousetrap’ event, as it had been labeled.

 On one occasion he had nearly been discovered in robot mode by the Predacon Waspinator. It had been around the time of the ‘low road’ event. The Predacons had been sent out in search of their missing scientist, Tarantulus. Night Stalker had been following the Maximals Dinobot, and Rattrap when they fell down a trap door. He changed to Robot mode to follow them when the Predacon flew into sight. Reacting quickly, he managed to activate his holo emitter to mimic the form of the Maximal Cheetor. This confused Waspinator, who could have sworn that he saw an unknown Maximal there a moment before. He shifted to robot mode himself, but before he could attack, Night Stalker hit him with a burst from his disrupter cannon, scrambling his circuits. The now helpless Predacon plummeted from the sky, striking several branches on the way down, knocking pieces loose from his superstructure. Stalker watched as arms and legs flew everywhere, then Waspinator hit the ground, his head the only part to survive relatively intact. A confused Stalker used his scanners to check the trees Waspinator had struck on the way down, he couldn’t understand why they had done so much damage. The results told him why. The trees were petrified, harder than stone.

 Now he was being recalled to home base, an event that would change the planet was about to happen, and Primal wanted everyone back where he could see them. He sent out a last encoded packet with the information about the current cease fire between the two parties. He also noted Primal’s departure to help Rattrap and Airrazor at the site of a possible alien landing.  Stalker was preparing to leave, but his hesitation to do so was going to cost him the chance to do so.

 At precisely that moment, the aliens ended a debate with this reality’s Optimus Primal by activating their planetary destruction device. A stream of pure energy shot out from their base toward the second moon. The systems on the Maximal’s frigate, the Axalon, in orbit around the primary moon Luna, were nearly shorted out altogether. They rushed to stabilize her, and frantically positioned her on the opposite side of Luna in an attempt to escape the cosmic conflagration. Stalker watched this for a few minutes, but then his sensors detected something almost as strange, and he moved to investigate.

 As he closed on the Maximal base, he saw what appeared to be a giant ant digging away at the base of the Maximal’s protective shield. He watched half fascinated as the Predacon Inferno made himself an entrance to their base. He knew something had to be wrong inside for this to happen. The Maximals had reprogrammed Sentinel to be on the watch for such incursions ever since the incident with Blackarachnia’s sonic emitter. He used his remote link to check, and sure enough someone had deactivated sentinel from the inside. He considered remote activating it himself, but before he could, Inferno finished his tunnel and entered the base. Stalker considered, if he left now, there was still a chance he could make it back to the shuttle before the device fully activated. If he didn’t however, the temperatures it was going to generate would slag him. On the other hand, he was in a great position to take refuge in the Axalon, and insure that events happened as they were supposed to. He sent out a signal to the shuttle via a satellite their version of the Axalon had left in orbit, then went without waiting for a response, knowing that he didn’t want to hear it anyway.

 As it turned out, he needn’t have worried about the reply, because his team wasn’t going to get the chance to respond. The alien device came fully on-line just as this reality’s Primal returned to the Maximal base. It turned out to be a solar lens, focusing the light of the sun into a deadly heat ray. This would not only kill off most of the animal life in their ‘project’, but it would also ignite the vast energon deposits they had littered the planet with.

 At the shuttle base, Rattrap made it just in time for them to activate their shields. They received Stalker’s message, but now had no way to respond. Even though Primal didn’t feel absolutely safe leaving him in their counterpart’s base, he saw no other choice. He watched the screen tensely, both anxious, and dreading the next few minutes. Several times, he almost ordered his ship to attack the alien construct, but could not. Megatron himself had already demonstrated the dangers of directly interfering with the timeline. Primal was not prepared to risk that, even to insure his counterpart’s survival.

Maximal base, the crashed starship Axalon. 20 minutes before planetary destruction.

 Stalker watched from the shadows, as always, while events unfolded in the Maximal base. He had watched the confrontation between Inferno and the spiders. He saw Blackarachnia take Inferno down, then steal the datatracts from Tarantulus’ (a shiver traveled down his spine as he saw this universe’s counterpart to his tormentor) mind. Before she could use them, the Maximal’s returned and captured her. Their versions of Rattrap, and Airrazor held her until the others could arrive. Once there, they began to discuss their options for taking down the alien device. The only one that seemed viable to them, was to have someone pilot the stasis pod Tarantulus had modified into the heart of the device, then detonate its transwarp cell. Stalker thought they were nuts, his Maximals still didn’t completely understand the transwarp drive, but he knew that an explosion from one would destroy anyone inside as well. Even if they ejected well away from the device, there was no way they could possibly clear the blast zone.

 Finally their Optimus overruled their objections, and decided to pilot the craft himself. He entered it, feeling out the controls. His fellow Maximals wished him luck, quietly Stalker did the same even though he already knew the outcome. With a few last words from Blackarachnia, which ended with Airrazor decking her, he launched the pod. The light from the focused rays of the sun were overpowering, even through the shields. Only after the shuttle doors closed behind his pod, did the shields drop for a moment and allowed him to pass. In even that brief moment, the ships outer hull sustained minor damage. Several of the external autoguns and antenna almost melted from the heat. The pod had been modified to resist the rigors of transwarp travel by Tarantulus, and easily resisted the device’s onslaught. Stalker followed the Maximals to the bridge under full cloak. He linked into the transmission Cheetor had punched through the interference. He watched as Primal slowly made his way toward the construct, and his doom.

 Back at the Shuttle, the other Maximals also watched, but they had the benefit of also getting a view from their orbiting satellite. Primal nearly crushed the armrests of his command chair as his counterpart closed in. He had ordered Megatron taken to the hold when he was sure of what was about to happen. As far as he was concerned he had already tolerated enough of his taunting, and wasn’t sure enough of his self control to take anymore. Finally the other Primal reached the device and armed the transwarp cell. Through the satellite, the listened as the their Megatron taunted Primal during his last moments. Then, before he could attempt to blast his way out, the cell exploded.

Lunar orbit, the Maximal starship Axalon.

 Even behind Luna’s dark side, the Axalon was buffeted by the force of the explosion. Fragments of the device scarred the moon’s surface badly, leaving three times as many craters than had previously existed. It altered her orbit, nearly blowing her free of the Earth. It would be thousands of years before she finally stabilized again. Just as the crew began to recover from the transwarp explosion something else hit them, the quantum surge. Its energy permeated the ship, leaving no part untouched. The human part of the crew was unaffected. The Cybertonians however were another story altogether. Their bodies glowed with an unearthly light, and it appeared to the humans, that they were changing before their very eyes.

Maximal base, the crashed starship, the Axalon.

 Stalker had retreated from the bridge just after the explosion. The energy for his cloaking device was running low. He hid in one of the storage compartments in the rear and used his link to the main computer to monitor the situation. He knew he had to get out of here and check on his comrades as soon as possible. He opened one of the bay doors and exited the ship. Through his link, he monitored their reactions to their leader's death. He felt sympathy, but couldn’t take the time now to feel any himself. He went to beast mode and started back for the shuttle. He was hardly a few feet await when the surge struck, tearing apart his structure, even as it did the Maximals inside their base.

Maximal shuttle. 5 minutes after the destruction of the alien device.

 Primal took the death of his counterpart as well as could be expected. It meant that he would not exist in this universe when they changed things back. Unless of course the Megatron they brought with them was lying, but he somehow doubted he was.

“Optimus!” Rhinox called out excitedly.

“What is it,” Primal answered him, hopefully. “is there some sign of....”

“I’m afraid not, but I think I’m picking up that ‘Quantum surge’ Megatron told us about.” Rhinox told him.

“Prime, can the shields hold against it?” Primal asked.

“I doubt it, they’ve already taken too much of a beating.” He answered.

“Then make them,” Primal ordered. “I’m not sure I want to risk exposure to that thing. Even if Megatron does say it’s safe.”

“I’ll do what I can.” Rhinox said glumly.

 Primal watched the display as it showed the progress of the wave. He saw it pass the projected position of his ship, wishing they could penetrate the interference to check on his crew. As he continued to watch, it struck the ship of his counterparts changing them into the transmetals Megatron had described. Finally it was upon them. He felt himself tensing again. His transformer crew was constructed from a slightly different technology from these other transformers. Who knew what it would do to them.

“Impact in five, four, three, two, one, now!” He heard Rhinox shout.

 At first nothing appeared to happen. The wave front shook the earth and buffeted their shields. Then the particles of the surge hit them, passing through their shields as if they didn’t exist. It permeated their bodies, which gave of a strange light as the Maximals howled in pain. Primal looked at his hands, and even as he lost consciousness, he though he saw them changing shape.

 They awoke a few minutes later to find their whole world changed. Each of their superstructures had been radically changed. As an experiment, Eclipse changed to her beast mode. It was still an ant, but now it was mechanical rather than biological. With another thought, she changed again, but this time into a heavily armed tank. Rattrap and Rhinox also experimented to find that they had similar abilities, except Rattrap became a fast moving roadster, and Rhinox became an all terrain vehicle. Optimus found himself changed as well, he retained his original Cybertonian coloration, but had an altogether different robot form. He had two large guns on his forearms, with two other smaller ones hanging in holsters at his side.

“So what the heck do you change into now?” Rattrap asked him.

“I’m not sure.” He answered. “Let’s find out. BEAST MODE” He shouted. His form changed shape, the cannons on his arms moved behind his shoulders. His feet folded behind him, and he became a cybernetic ape. With just a though he shifted to his third mode. A set of over the shoulder cannons joined his plasma guns, his feet folded into what appeared to be a hover board, and the remainder of his backpack became a set of rudders. Small jets below the board allowed him to hover almost a foot off the ground.

“Oh yeah.” Rattrap said. “That’s VERY convincing. So what now?”

“Well,” Primal answered him, looking himself over in the reflection of a viewscreen. “one thing is certain.”

“What’s that?” Rattrap asked.

“We’re going to have to be a heck of a lot more stealthy from now on. Because we sure as hell aren’t robots in disguise anymore.”

End of Chapter 7