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Chapter 9: "The point of no return."

Earth: 250,000 years in the past. Continent of Africa.

 

 

Almost a month had passed since Megatron had cut off their access to the Ark. Rhinox had spent most of his time at the ship, trying to hack them a new access code, but so far he had experienced little success. The rest of them spent most of their time spying on their counterparts under Primal's even more stringent instructions not to interfere. At least ever since Eclipse's incident with Waspinator they had. During that time this universe's Predacons had acquired a new member that they knew all too well, Rampage. It was obvious that this universe's Maximals didn't know any better than they did when to leave well enough alone.

Rattrap had followed Blackarachnia and Silverbolt's progress as they made their way into his clutches. Unlike his fellow Maximal's however, Rattrap felt no urge to help them, he had long ago learned to look out for number one. The only reason he agreed to this mission was to get off the front lines. He had felt the same fervor they all had at the beginning, but the many years of war he had lived through, all the friends he had lost had taken their toll on him. He would still gladly help his fellows, but these other versions of them were practically total strangers. He stuck to his lower riding beast/vehicle mode to keep an eye on them so as not to attract attention. He kept his top mounted grenade launcher ready just in case though. Timeline or not, he had no intention of falling prey to Rampage's hunger for fear.

Fortunately, he was saved from having to interfere in either case, as Silverbolt's fellow Maximals came to his rescue. An intense battle followed, at the end of which, Rampage was sent tumbling helplessly over a steep cliff. Rattrap breathed a sigh of relief, glad he wouldn't be dealing with that particular Transformer again. After the others had left, he carefully checked on the giant, only to find that this universe's Megatron had beat him to it. He stood over the helpless Maximal with an energon blade. As Rattrap watched, he carefully made an incision into Rampage's chest. Rattrap watched fascinated as the Predacon slowly moved the blade in a circular fashion. As he withdrew the knife, Rattrap saw the glowing core of a spark on the blade's edge. He marveled that Megatron had hit on the same solution for controlling him that they had in their universe. Before he could guess at the Predacon's next move, Waspinator and Inferno flew into sight. Using tow cables split between the three of them, they flew him slowly back to their base. Rattrap watched through the bug he had placed in their security system as Megatron placed the core of the spark in a container filled with energon crystals.

"Not bad." He thought. "We just arranged for energy currents to flow through it, disrupting him. This is a hell of a lot more efficient. Of course pure energon isn't as plentiful as it is here."
He watched for a few more minutes, then left to report these new findings.

Maximal shuttle, Several days later.

"Can't you even control your own troops?" The Megatron they had brought from their own universe screamed. "It's their fault we can't get into the Ark to stop my counterpart." Primal grimaced under the accusation, knowing it was at least in part the truth.

"I have already chastised each of them in turn for their actions. In their situation however, I might have done the same thing." He said firmly.

"Oh would you now? Even knowing the price that both your world and this one must pay for that interference. You do understand the consequences for the failure of this mission? If not, I can give you my three hundred year long recitation of each and every one." Megatron said, the anger in his voice obvious.

"I lived there too." Primal said, his own rage growing again. "I don't need you to remind me of it."

"Then control them before they ruin everything!" Megatron once again screamed.

"I INTEND TO!" Primal said losing his patience. "Now leave me alone, and tell me what your counterpart is up to next!"

Slowly Megatron's frown vanished, only to be replaced by his maddening grin. "Why that's easy. At any moment, my counterpart will start the long journey to the genesis valley. There he will make his attempt to eliminate humanity and change time." Primal grimaced again, not because of the statement, but because of the presence of the human guards. He had arranged for two of their fighters to be transferred to the planet to help guard the base so he could put most of his units in the field. He now somewhat regretted that decision. Both of the fighters were currently in their robot configuration, twin twenty-foot tall warriors. Technically both Primal and Megatron combined weren't even a match for one of them. They had been designed to combat old style transformers on equal footing, as it were. He needn't have worried however, their commander Captain Silver, had specifically chosen them for their professionalism. Neither one of them even reacted to the statement.

It took several hours to call all the units back to the base, with the exception of Rhinox, who still had work to do. Primal wanted to take no chances of interfering with this particular event, as it was one of the so-called five 'critical' events in the war. One of which were the two warring faction arrivals, the two aliens visits the humans, and Prime's death. The last was the one he was supposed to stop of course. Before he called Night Stalker back, he had arranged for the espionage agent to place a cloaking tracker/transmitter on the key player of this event, Dinobot. Primal still couldn't believe that the Predacon he had fought against so many times was about to take on his former comrades. Especially, to save a race that most Predacons considered to be contemptible at best.

He watched the monitor as Dinobot first found the area marked on his map as Tarantulus' lair. Primal had been forced to send Rattrap on that particular scouting mission, as Stalker apparently had some sort of anxiety towards going anywhere near the Predacon. After a slight scuffle, Dinobot gained Tarantulus' aid in getting to Megatron faster. After a short time, they intercepted a transmission from him to his fellow Maximals, warning them of Megatron's plan. Before he could complete it, he was interrupted by the sound of a laser blast. Over their bug, they heard the parts his fellow Maximals could not. Including the 'squashing' of Tarantulus, which seemed to bring an unexplained smile to Stalker's face.

Dinobot made quick work of his former comrades, although several times they almost took him down. By the time he faced Megatron however, he was already critically damaged. Somehow despite these injuries he managed to improvise the necessary weaponry to defeat the Predacon leader. Primal received the satisfaction of hearing their Megatron groan from the other room at his counterpart's defeat. The victory was a costly one however, as the energy he used to blast the golden disk to fragments drained the last of his reserves. By the time his own team arrived, it was already too late. Through the now barely functioning 'bug' they heard his farewell to his comrades, and his last plea to tell the true story of his passing to those that asked. Primal saw the concern and loss on the faces of those around him, and was even more surprised to find himself sharing it with them. He sent Stalker out a few days later to give them a view of the funeral, obstensively so he could record it for the record. Actually however, he felt the need to watch it himself. The sight of a Predacon who had found the courage to do what was right, despite the cost to himself, had bolstered Primal's own courage immensely.

Day 165. Megatron's Agenda incident.

Not much had happened in the last few weeks, except for the 'Transmutate' incident, which even their counterparts seemed too embarrassed to talk about. Even among themselves. It was a key player from those events that now concerned Primal, the Maximal Silverbolt. Stalker had followed him on several clandestine meetings with the Predacon, Blackarachnia. During each of these visits, they talked, exchanged innuendoes, and occasionally pieces of equipment Silverbolt brought her from the Maximal base. Primal knew all too well what she was doing, she was constructing a hover platform to take her to the Ark. Primal knew the events of the next few days all too well, he had spent the last few months reviewing them extensively. The wavefront from the transwarp explosion would reach Cybertron soon. In response, the Predacons would be sending out an operative to silence all those involved in the Beast Wars, so that they would not end up paying even more diplomatic concessions to the Maximals of their time.

Fortunately, Rhinox had returned several days ago to report that he had finally managed to break through the lockout Megatron's counterpart had placed upon the Ark, keeping everyone else out. The problem was, that the code would only work once before Teletran 1 erased it and locked them out permanently. Megatron had apparently changed them just before the first alien visit, then updated the codes on the golden disk and in his backup files. Now deprived of the disk, and the backup copy that Blackarachnia had stolen, even he was locked out now. Of course he didn't know Blackarachnia had them, or so she thought anyway. Primal had actually thought of sanctioning her, but decided against it. He would have to stop Megatron on his way to the Ark, and hit Blackarachnia as she was opening it. That way they would have access to it again, and re-input the original codes. If they didn't, time would change, and they would never have had access to the ship in the first place.

Maximal base, the crashed starship, the Axalon.

Stalker had been sitting outside the Maximal's base for almost a week now. Primal ordered him to watch it closely for any signs of the Predacon attack that would signal the start of the Agenda events. He had kept a vigilant watch, but so far the only activity had been the Maximals preparing upgraded defenses for their base. Stalker knew however that if the Rampage from this dimension was anything like the one from his own, they were going to need a hell of a lot more than they had to stop him. Part of him wanted to try and warn them of what was coming, but Primal's orders had been precise. There was to be no more interference of any kind until the pivotal event itself. The penalty for this had been raised from a court martial, to outright termination, just to emphasize how important it was.

Finished musing, he turned his attention back to his surveillance duties. So focused was he on this, that he failed to notice the sound of rustling leaves from nearby. Slowly the quiet sound drew closer, but by the time he noticed it, it was too late. From out of the shadows, a shape lunged at him. It tackled him from the rock outcropping on which he sat, and they both tumbled to the ground. The shape however, turned at the last moment, ensuring that he took the brunt of the impact. The blow knocked Stalker senseless for a moment, but he regained his composure quickly. It took a moment for him to focus on his captor, but when he finally did, he recognized him, much to his sorrow.

"Tarantulus!" He screamed in absolute terror. This tone in his voice caused the spider to chuckle evilly.

"Ah," Tarantulus oozed. "it knows me, but I don't believe I've had the pleasure of meeting you before. Although before I'm done, we will know each other very well, yes indeed." He said, his fangs coming closer to Stalkers unprotected neck.

On the surface of Earth's moon, Luna.

The Maximal frigate, the Axalon sat in full stealth mode on the surface of the scarred moon. They knew that the Predacon Raven class stealth cruiser, commanded by Ravage, would be coming soon. As much as they wanted to, Primal had ordered them NOT to shoot it down as soon as it emerged from transwarp space. Now they went through routine repairs again, despite the fact that they had long since brought the ship up to full operational standards.
"Putting it simply," the ships senior officer, Fastbreak, thought. "We're bored."

As one of the Maximal's top flight officers, Primal had thought it best to leave him in charge of the ship. His experience in ship to ship combat was unmatched among the rest of the crew, with the exception of Primal himself. Besides, his flight mode, originally an oversized eagle, now an eagle like starfighter, wasn't exactly the most subtle form for covert surveillance. Fastbreak didn't care, or at least he tried to convince himself he didn't. Command of this ship was a reward in itself. Or at least it had been for the first few months. Now both he and his crew grew more and more restless as the critical moment approached. Several times he had heard talk of taking the ship, despite Primal's orders, and strafing the Predacon's base out of existence. He had to admit, it had a certain appeal, but he was too loyal to Primal to even consider it.

It was on this particular day, that two events would happen, that would alleviate that boredom. One of them would remove it permanently. The first was a smallish subspace disturbance. An opening from subspace appeared through which absolutely nothing appeared to emerge. From his briefing, Fastbreak knew that this had to be Ravage's ship. The ship was completely invisible to their passive sensors under its cloak. They could have used their more powerful active scanners to find it, but that would have revealed their own existence to the Predacons and Maximals alike. Instead, he sent out a coded message on a lower frequency to Optimus Primal. The signal would be relayed to his commander by the Teletran 1 sky spy satellite, still in earth orbit. This would keep the possibility of detection to a minimum, as the signal should be mistaken for the background radio 'noise' natural to a planetary system.

The second event wouldn't happen until several days after Ravage's arrival. Fastbreak had kept the crew on full alert ever since then, in case his comrades needed their help. At first events had happened as predicted, then their sensors detected something else. A new aperture into transwarp space was forming behind the orbit of the systems sun, SOL. This one was even larger than the one from ravage's ship. It spent several minutes forming, spewing forth the unhealthy color that had marked their arrival. Not wanting to be caught helpless, Fastbreak ordered the ship to take off. He armed their defenses, and ordered their fighter escort, under the command of Captain Maxwell Silver, into space. They headed for the opening to identify this new intruder, who hadn't appeared in any of the synopsis that Megatron had given them. It took some time for the ship to emerge, but when it did, they all recognized it instantly.

"By Primus," Fastbreak gasped. "it can't be.

Earth, day 165.

Tarantulus held the Stalker helpless in his grip. He had bound the Maximals legs, as he had lain stunned by the Spider's initial attack.

"Well, my reluctant prisoner. Have we decided to talk yet, or should I fill you with my special cyber venom, and let that do the talking for you." He said, a drop of the venom dripping off his fangs.

"What do you want from me?" Stalker said, the terror still all to present within him.

"Your identity and allegiance would be a start. After that, I believe we will improvise, based upon the answers you give me." Tarantulus said. Stalker's mind raced, he couldn't give the real answer, even if he thought the Predacon would believe him. Besides, Primal would have him scrapped if he did. He might anyway, just for letting this Predacon get the drop on him.

"I'm an agent for Predacon intelligence." He answered, remembering to activate the switch to change his Maximal symbol to a Predacon one, just in case he had to transform to robot mode. "I was sent here to stop Megatron by central intelligence."

"Oh really," Tarantulus said. "Then where is your ship?"

"It crashed when I first arrived, following Megatron's transwarp trail. Overloaded by the energon field." Stalker said arrogantly.

"I see, that's not a bad answer, for a Maximal spy." Tarantulus said.

"What makes you think I'm a Maximal?" Stalker said.

"Because I would have known about you. You see, I was infiltrated into Megatron's group under orders from central intelligence itself. I know for a fact that no one else was informed of the case's existence. There is also no way you could have followed Megatron, his trail dissipated soon after our arrival. Besides, I saw you fleeing the Maximal's ship just after the Quantum surge. The most likely answer I think, is that you are a Maximal intelligence officer. You were probably sent here to stop my comrades yourself if Primal's crew could not. The surge itself probably activated your stasis pod which was probably hidden somewhere on the Axalon." Tarantulus said, watching Stalker for a reaction with all eight eyes. "Tell me if I get close."

Stalker wasn't sure how to react, he still couldn't look directly at the spider without flinching, but he knew he had to throw the Predacon as far off the track as possible. Fortunately the Predacon's own story might just be enough to help him do it.

"Gee," He said defiantly. "You've got me all figured out."

"Then tell me the truth." Tarantulus snarled. "Who are you?"

"I am from Maximal intelligence, but I wasn't sent specifically to stop Megatron." He lied. "Each Maximal ship contains at least one hidden agent in stasis. If the ship should be captured or forced to crash by the Predacons, it activates the pod. It then becomes the agent's responsibility to ensure that the ship doesn't fall into enemy hands. I simply discovered Megatron's plot afterwards, and took it upon myself to stop him."

"Why not help your comrades to do so, it seems unlikely that one of your kind would strike out on his own. You're all to trusting of one another for that to be believable." Tarantulus said disgustedly.

"Normal Maximals might not be prepared to do what is necessary for the mission." Stalker said, activating a device he had installed soon after he had heard Tarantulus was among the Predacons of this world. Slowly, an invisible energy field formed around his body, disintegrating the energy webbing. "I had to get away from them so I could do what was necessary."

"That is possible I suppose, but I cannot afford to take the chance that you will interfere with my mission. I suppose I will just have to finish you now, just in case." He said going to his robot mode. "Goodbye Maximal." He aimed his saw gun right at Stalker's head. Before he could pull the trigger, the webs dissipated with a flash. Stalker rolled to one side as the blinded Predacon fired wildly. Going to his own robot mode, he unleashed several blasts into Tarantulus sending him twitching into oblivion. After ensuring that the spider bot was indeed unconscious, Stalker plugged a cable into a receptacle on the back of the Predacon's head. Through this he introduced a virus into his memory circuits. While it couldn't outright erase every reference to Stalker, it would put them all in a hidden file. This would have practically the same effect in the long run. Reluctantly, he hauled the unconscious robot onto his back and returned to beast mode. He activated his flight jets, and took off into the breaking dawn to deposit the Predacon just outside his lair, hopefully none the wiser. Not long after he left, Tarantulus' fellow Predacons began their assault on the Maximals. An attack that another Predacon would soon be bringing to a swift conclusion.

Day 166, the Maximal shuttle.

Primal had chastised Stalker for failing to notice the Predacon Tarantulus, and removing himself before he could be discovered. Considering Stalker's handling of the situation however, coupled with the fact that he had all but erased his memory of the events, he wasn't too angry.

"Next time, pay closer attention to your surroundings as you do your mission." He criticized Stalker.

"Believe me Primal, I'm going to make sure there never is a next time as far as that creepy spider is concerned." Stalker said. "Next time I'm squashing him once and for all."

Primal sighed, understanding Stalker's phobia towards Tarantulus to some degree. He needed to make him understand however that the mission was too important to risk like that. Even if he had managed to pull off the save like he did, the risk he had taken with all of their lives was too great. Before he could continue the conversation, Rattrap interrupted them.

"Boss monkey!" He said over the comm link excitedly. "You better get to the bridge, quick."

"What's wrong Rattrap?" Primal said, already on his way toward the shuttle's bridge.

"We've got an emergency signal coming in from the ship." Rattrap said excitedly. Primal ran even faster, he knew Fastbreak wouldn't risk discovery by sending an open signal unless it was important. He burst onto the bridge, just as Fastbreak's concerned face came into resolution on the viewscreen.

"Optimus Primal," He said, as static overtook the signal for a moment. "I've got a priority red alert."

"What is it?" Primal asked.

"See for yourself." Fastbreak said, jabbing several buttons on the panel of his command chair. An external image formed, showing the remains of a transwarp opening slowly fading from existence. "We picked up the transwarp wave a few minutes ago, and when we went to investigate, we found this." The lower edge of the screen came into sharper resolution, and in it was a ship. It was gigantic compared to the Axalon, and though it was somewhat worse for the wear from it's journey, Primal recognized it instantly.

"Galvatron's ship, the Overlord. By the Matrix, NO!"

Near orbit to the star SOL.

Galvatron's ship had suffered heavy damage from Grimlock's fiery last blow against them, but they had come through intact.

"We will find the Maximal's who helped us escape." He told the surviving bridge crew. "Then we will thank them personally for their leader's last gift to us, and for helping us to escape it." A red glow filled his eyes. "And I will personally insure that their suffering lasts an eternity!"

End of chapter 9