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Chapter 8: "From a different perspective."

Earth, Continent that will be known as Africa.

Night Stalker awoke on the plains near the Maximal's base, their crashed ship the Axalon. He took a few moments to get his bearings before he moved another inch. His internal computer told him several minutes had passed since the quantum surge hit the planet. He was startled when he heard its 'voice', it sounded different somehow. He walked back over to the ship, and in his reflection on its surface, he saw why. He was different, his entire structure changed by the energy wave. He was still what appeared to be a black panther, but now he was mechanical rather than biological in nature. For a moment he panicked, worried about the energon field's affect on him. His external sensors however, reassured him that they were now extraordinarily low, and stable at that.

He was about to go to robot mode, to see what other changes had occurred, when a pair of ramjets appeared out of his sides the moment he thought of transforming. Without any control, he lifted into the air. He careened about wildly, unused to flying under his own power. It took him several minutes to bring himself under control. Unfortunately, this meant he figured out how to turn the jets off, and consequently plummeted to the ground. His new transmetal hide proved to be more resilient than his old form so he survived with minor injuries. He picked himself out of the ground and finally went to robot mode. His panther parts were still all black, but his robotic parts now gleamed in a golden finish.
"Great," he thought. "Now I'm going to have to activate my cloaking device anytime I want to sneak anywhere as a robot." Even as he thought this, the golden shine shimmered, and became completely dark. It perfectly matched his surroundings. He walked over to the nearby rock face and leaned up against it. With just a thought, his form once again shifted until it blended in perfectly, even matching the pattern on the rock face.
"Well, actually this new form might have its uses after all." He said, as he stepped away from the rock, his body taking on its original appearance. He looked at his sides, were the wings had appeared from. "Some of this stuff is going to take some getting used to though." He stopped and looked around, taking in the carnage the alien device had caused. "I'd better get back and see if everyone is ok, and unfortunately you two are the fastest way of doing it." He groaned, going back to beast mode. He used the same impulse that activated them the first time, but leapt into the air before they could activate. This gave him a slight bit more control after take off, but it didn't last. He smashed through a grove of burned trees just as he thought he had the hang of it. Oh yeah, I'm going to be using these a lot." He said sarcastically.

As he flew out of sight, a figure emerged from the Axalon, carrying the body of what appeared to be a mechanical spider. Her form also appeared to be somewhat arachnid in its basic shape as well. She looked up just in time to catch a glance of the vanishing glow of his afterburners. She turned her visuals up to full, but couldn't get a satisfactory look. It was as if her target was blending in with the sky. She disregarded it and finished hauling Tarantulus's body out of the ship. His mind, which was inside of her's, continued to ponder the image for some time.

Back at the shuttle that served as the alternate transformer's base, the other Maximals were still getting used to their new forms as well. Chief engineer Rhinox was busy conducting tests on each of their new forms to determine their origin and limits. He was however, having little or no success. Eclipse managed to re-establish contact with their ship, and confirmed that the transformers on board had experienced a similar change. Fastbreak, who was currently in command, reported that their position behind the Earth's moon had saved them from any structural damage. Many of their systems would be off line for some time, including weapons, shields, and the transwarp drive.
"It'll be at least a month before we have full operation again." He reported. "We still have maneuvering thrusters, sub light engines, and the back up sensors. So we can still track the other transformer's movements, but for the time being, I've got to keep us here. With the energon field gone, and our sensor cloak offline, it's likely we'd be detected by your counterparts as soon as their get their systems back on-line."

"I agree, hold your position for now. Do not take any chances on revealing yourself unless I tell you to. Finish the repairs and from this point forward, keep any transmissions to us to an absolute minimum. I don't want to take a chance of being detected." Primal told him.

"Yes sir. We will contact you with an update the next time the moon is in the correct position, or we get the cloak repaired. Axalon out." With that Diehard cut the transmission.

"Well that's just great," Rattrap groaned. "now we're cut off from our ship too. It's bad enough that we can't even blend in with the environment anymore, but now we can't even leave because we might be detected."

"Oh will you shut up Rattrap." Eclipse said. "it's not like either one of us blended in before. I mean, who ever heard of a four foot tall rat and a six foot tall ant."

"Yeah, but at least before we were organic, but now we're clearly mechanical. Now we can't even hide effectively."

"Oh I wouldn't say that." A voice said from behind him.

As one, the Maximal's whirled around, weapons drawn and aimed at the spot where the voice had come from. At first there appeared to be nothing there, but upon closer inspection they saw an outline form, then in shimmer, Night Stalker came into view.

"Kitty cat, you shouldn't do that. You almost got your shiny new butt vaped." Rattrap said.

They greeted him warmly, as glad he had survived the destruction, as he was that they had. Primal was angry with him at first, that he had not returned to the shuttle as ordered.

"I apologize Optimus, but when I saw the two spiders enter the ship, I knew I wasn't going to have time to return to the base. I don't think I have to mention how little I wanted to be caught outside during this particular storm." He told Primal.

"Ehhhh, fine." Primal said. "Next time though, you get back here even if you have to fly to do it."

"Optimus," Stalker said. "you have NO idea what you're asking of me."

Earth, day 102.

Much had happened since the day of the quantum surge. An even newer and more bizarre form of transformers called Fuzors had appeared on the battlefield, a strange combination of two animals in one body. Primal had been overjoyed however at the resurrection of his counterpart, towards the end of the latest battle in the beast wars. The method was extraordinarily strange. Rhinox had apparently entered into the great matrix itself to lead their Optimus Primal back to existence. Primal didn't even know that was possible, if he hadn't seen Stalker's report with his own eyes, he never would have believed it. There had also been the temporary defection of Dinobot back to the Predacons. It had been short lived, but the damage it had done to both his standing with the Maximals, and to their moral, was unbelievable.

His team had slowly grown used to their new transmetal forms, even learning to use them to their best advantage. Eclipse's new tank mode was low to the ground and fast moving, so she was now viable for scouting missions. Rattrap's hot rod mode allowed him to get in and out of Pred territory quickly, so Primal kept him on duty there most of the time. Night Stalker spent most of his time at the Maximal base, but his expanded abilities let him get anywhere. He could walk next to one of the other transformers, and never raise a blip on their sensors. So he also spent a lot of time following both Maximals and Predacons on their missions, and as little time as possible in the air. During one of the breaks between events he finally confronted Megatron.

"You could have told me that I survived the alien devices destruction." He said coldly.

"But your counterpart didn't survive it. He was quite dead." Megatron said mockingly.

"He's alive now." Primal said in a dark tone.

"Yes, but that doesn't change the fact that he did indeed die. Didn't I tell you that like the original Optimus, he has the annoying habit of not staying dead." Megatron said.

"Yes, and as you undoubtedly know, you could have spared me the anxiety of watching myself die if you had told me in the first place that he wouldn't be dead for long." Primal yelled at him, moving close to Megatron's restraint chair. Megatron was silent for a moment, then he looked at Primal. It was the first time Primal had seen his face in what appeared to be a sane fashion.

"I had to be sure you would do what was necessary, no matter what the cost." He said calmly. "This seemed like the best way to do so."

"What do you mean?" Primal asked him.

"I mean, I must be sure that you can do what is needed to stop my other self. You're going to have to kill him, just before he kills Prime." Megatron said, without a trace of the mocking tone of a moment before.

"Are you insane, All we have to do is change the access codes so the he can't….." Primal said.

"Don't be so naive. If you 'simply' change the access codes, then you alter the future so that the new codes will be on the disk, and the ones that Grimlock gave you will not work. All you will do is shut US out of the Ark, and grant my other self the victory that we cannot allow him to have." Megatron said in disgust. Once again Primal was shocked, when Megatron put it that way, it made perfect sense.

"But we can't wait until then, I can't take the chance of letting him near the ark once he's decided to kill Prime. If I have to kill him, then I say we do it just after he invades the human's genesis valley." Primal said determinedly.

"There are still events that must happen after that. You might still be able to catch him on the way to the Ark after Ravage's defeat. Then you will still have to go there and deal with Blackarachnia, or she may damage the timeline even further than I did." Megatron gloated, the sanity once again gone from his face.

"Prime." He thought. "There's got to be another option, and I've got less than two months to find it.

Day 116. The plains of lower Africa. The second alien visit.

Eclipse had been following the two intrepid travelers, Tigatron and Airrazor on their exploration of this world for almost a month now. Fortunately, a slightly less sophisticated version of Stalker's signature mask hid her from detection. For weeks now they had been slowly moving beyond the sphere of the alien beam's cone of destruction, and into places where life still thrived. Now they approached a valley, it was the first one they had seen that still contained plant life. Bizarre seedpods drifted from deep inside. The two transformers she tailed seemed mesmerized by the spectacle. Caught up in the moment, they transformed, and held hands as they walked through it. Eclipse felt herself a slight bit jealous, in her universe there was never enough time or energy to spend getting that close to someone. She didn't have long to regret however, as the valley was filled with the unearthly light, distinct to the earlier alien visitors.

Tigatron and Airrazor were lifted from the ground by vines of the strange plant life, which now revealed it's artificial nature. As they rose, energy surrounded them, and a beam shot them out into space. Their ally Cheetor arrived just in time to witness their departure, wailing in impotent fury at their plight. He fell to the ground as the beam deactivated, only to be shot by the Predacon Tarantulus. Eclipse recoiled when she saw him. The rumors of his sadistic nature had been legendary in her own universe. From the sound of Stalker's reports, he was as bad if not worse here. He began taking samples from the strange plants, every now and then eyeing the unconscious Maximal for signs of movement. Anger arose in Eclipse's circuits, she armed her weapon systems, determined that timeline on no, there was no way she would let that sadist kill a fellow Maximal. Before she could actually act on this impulse, Cheetor's fellow Maximals saved her the trouble. Tarantulus apparently detected them as well, he went to beast mode and cycled his was out of the valley. Eclipse watched as their Primal helped Cheetor to his feet, and heard his report. Using audio enhancement she recorded it and prepared to return to base.

Halfway back, she began to hear a distinct buzzing noise, like a giant insect flying overhead. She turned her sensors in the sound's direction and detected the Predacons Waspinator and Inferno heading back towards their base. Waspinator had separated from his partner to investigate the trail of dust she had kicked up in her hurry to return and report. She knew she couldn't allow herself to be discovered. Thinking quickly, she located a nearby cave and drove at full speed towards it, going to robot mode before she arrived. She ran in hoping that when he lost sight of the trail he would give up. Unfortunately he proved a little more stubborn than she had hoped.

"Trail leadz in thiz direction." He buzzed. "Wazzzpinator will find it's source and eliminate rat-bot for spying on Wazzzpinator."

"Great," Eclipse thought. "at least he didn't see me. If he could just pass by here without…." Unfortunately, he didn't.

"Ha!" He said. "Rat-bot thinks he can fool Wazzzpinator by hiding in cave does he, well Wazzzpinator will show him that he is wrong." Waspinator said, arming his missile launcher.

Realizing that she was now in dire jeopardy of not only being discovered, but also being destroyed, Eclipse opened up with every weapon at her disposal. Waspinator found himself being pounded by six separate machine laser cannons, while two photon beams smashed his arms off at the elbow. The combination of weaponry knocked him back against a nearby rock face as the cannons continued to drill into him, knocking piece after piece off of him. When he was finally against it, Eclipse fired her two quad machine guns at it, knocking loose a huge chunk of the rock. This landed with a sickening thud on the helpless Predacon. She quickly exited the cave, went to vehicle mode, and took off. Several minutes later, Inferno came in search of Waspinator. He found Waspinator's blasted and flattened form under the rock, his intact head protruding from behind it.

"What happened to you?" Inferno asked him.

"Wazzzpinator was attacked by entire Maximal army. They always ganging up on Wazzzpinator." He said weakly.

"A likely story." Inferno scoffed. "A more likely one is that the Maximal you were tracking got the drop on you, again. I don't understand what the royalty sees in you."

"He know Wazzzpinator is loyal Predacon." Waspinator said.

"Oh really, that's news to me. The royalty does need drones for his service however, so I had better return you to base for repairs." Inferno said, gathering the various parts from around the area.

"It not fair," Waspinator whined. "Wazzzpinator spendz more time in r chamber than all other Predaconz combined.

Day 117. "Other Visits" incident.

They had been warned of this incident by the their prisoner Megatron, but nothing could have prepared them for the Metal Hunter. It was an alien ship, at least as big as theirs, and equipped with weaponry specifically designed do destroy the Cybertonians. With one blast it had downed all the non-transmetal transformers near it, and had temporarily disabled even those. Stalker and Eclipse were caught in the edge of the beam and also temporarily offline. Stalker had joined Eclipse, once she had been far enough away to send a tight beam transmission back to base without being detected. Once they awoke, the Megatron from this time was already on board, and in control of the ship. This time's Rattrap and Primal worked to destroy the energy web that now surrounded the craft.

"I've got to get in there." Stalker told her. "Primal will want to know what happens on board."

"We already know. The Megatron we've got told us, remember." She said gripping his shoulder.

"He told us how it happened on his time around. That doesn't mean that's how it happens here. I've got to get on board that thing." He said, trying to break her grip.

"No way, I'm in charge of this mission, and I won't take the chance of you being caught on board when that thing explodes. Besides, if you can get close enough to their Primal, then maybe I've got a better way." She said, holding out her hand to reveal a stealth bug. A cloaking listening device designed to be placed on its target, then blend in with its surroundings. "A lot like I can do now." He thought.

"Ok, but who do I put it on?" He asked her. She responded by batting him on the back of the head.

"On Optimus you idiot. If things happen like they're supposed to, he gets taken aboard as a prisoner." She said.

"Ok, fine." He said, activating his cloaking device. The audio dampner he used surrounded him in silence. He moved behind Primal and placed the small unit on his back. Primal turned suddenly, and looked straight at him. It startled Stalker, who took a moment to remember that he was invisible.

"What's the matter boss monkey? You hear something?" Rattrap asked.

"No, I thought I felt something brush against my back, but there's nothing there. Let's get back to work." Primal told him.

Slowly Stalker backed away from the two, and rejoined Eclipse. As he uncloaked, she said; "Well that was close."

"You have no idea. Do you know how creepy it is to have someone look right through you?" He asked.

They watched Primal's capture, and then listened through the 'bug' to his ordeal. The Predacon called Tarantulus had been betrayed, and left behind by Megatron. Clearly he wanted revenge for this, as demonstrated by his willingness to help the Maximals stop Megatron. He was the one who helped them locate Megatron's new position after he teleported the ship. Through Stalker's spy links in the system, the also found the ship, and moved in to observe.

The Maximals a launched a seemingly desperate attack on the ship, which proved to be a distraction while Rattrap and Tarantulus moved onboard. Megatron used the ship's weapons, but they proved ineffective against so many targets. The Maximals managed to damage the ship in several places, even taking out several of it's gun mounts In response, he launched his own troops at them.

"This thing is a lousy battleship at best." Eclipse said. "How did he expect to impress the Predacon council with it?"

"I don't think he knows how to use it too well yet. Otherwise he might have tried another one of those 'energon surges' that it can apparently generate." Stalker told her over the din.

"You're probably right, lucky for us. I don't want to go through that again any time soon." She said.

As the battle reached a crescendo, Megatron, Optimus, and the others abandoned the ship, seconds before it shot into space. As it reached the warp point it had opened, it exploded, in a less spectacular fashion than the last device.

"Looks like that's the end of this show." Stalker said as he watched the retreating Predacons. "We'd better get back to the base."

Day 118. En route to Mount St. Hilary.

Optimus carried Rhinox on his hoverboard toward the distant peak of the Ark's resting-place.

"I'm not sure how much I like this idea Optimus. Programming the internal defenses to blast Megatron when he comes aboard to destroy Optimus Prime seems risky at best." Rhinox said.

"I'm aware of that, but I'm more prepared to take that risk, than letting that murderer anywhere near Prime." Primal said grimly.

"But doesn't that alter the timeline in the wrong way. I mean if we kill him, how does he come back to help us in the first place?" Rhinox asked him.

"We're going to have to leave that to the realm of the temporal anomalies. I'm not prepared to risk losing Optimus Prime, again." Primal said grimly. The look on his face telling Rhinox that this conversation was over. Rhinox spent the rest of the flight trying not to look over the edge of the board at the ground. It wasn't that he was afraid of heights, but as high up as they were, he had a chance in the Inferno of surviving the fall.

After a few hours they arrived, once again entering through the cone, and the terrible heat rising from the volcano. They stood in front of the ship, which Rhinox was seeing for the first time.

"I've seen the museum recreations, but to see it for real." He mused.

"I know what you mean. She was lost in the battle with Unicron in our timeline. Who would have thought we'd ever get to see her intact and in person." Primal said, still feeling the awe despite the several trips he had already made here. "Well," He said finally. "we had better get down to business." He activated his internal computer, and transmitted the access codes to the receptacle near the door. The computer failed to respond, and the force field remained in place. He tried again, but got the same results.

"What's going on!" He said urgently, still trying to access the computer. Rhinox took out his minicomputer, and transmitted an inquiry at the ship's computer, Teletran 1.

"According to the computer, this universe's Megatron changed the access codes the last time he was here, before the quantum surge." Rhinox told him.

"What, but the Megatron we have never mentioned that!" Primal exclaimed.

"He may not have even known about it. We've been directly involved in several pivotal events here, including Eclipse's recent bout with Waspinator. The most obvious answer is we've altered the timeline to the point where this Megatron changed the codes as a security precaution." Rhinox told him.

"Then how do we get in?" Primal asked, the sound of desperation in his voice.

"Well, as I see it, we have three options. One, we capture Blackarachnia and get the correct codes from her. The ones she stole from Megatron's records are undoubtedly the correct ones. Two we take the golden disk from Megatron, and hope he inscribed the new ones on it to prevent anyone else from taking them." Rhinox explained.

"Both of those could change the timeline unpredictably. We're already somewhat unsure how things are going to go from here." Primal said.

"I know, which leaves us with option three, I stay here and try to hack us a new entry code into the system." Rhinox said.

"How long will that take?" Primal asked.

"Don't know. It's an older ship, but her computer is semi sentient. It could take months to get around her security." Rhinox said quietly.

"You've got just over a month." Primal said grimly. "After that, it won't matter what anyone does, because it will be too late for all of us."

 

End of chapter 8.