Worlds Away - Chapter Two
“This is ridiculous! It’ll never work!”
Soundwave waited for Starscream to stop yelling before asking him what he was yelling about. The Seeker had stormed out of the room he had claimed as his lab, waving a rolled-up piece of paper. Soundwave just happened to be in the control room. “What now?”
In answer, Starscream stomped over and unfurled the paper, laying it out on the table, and gestured angrily at it, as if it were the source of all his problems. On the paper was a small schematic diagram of the Centauri system. The rest was covered with complex calculations. “Look at this! Megatron is an idiot if he thinks we can set up a stable orbit in a triple-star system!”
For the last few years, Cybertron had been hurtling aimlessly through space. If unstopped, it would pass close enough to Alpha Centauri A to melt. Currently, some of the Decepticons - Starscream, Soundwave, Astrotrain, the Constructicons, and the Insecticons - were on Cybertron, working on creating planetary jets to steer their doomed world. Ideally, they would steer it into a stable orbit.
“There are planets,” Soundwave reminded him. “You charted them yourself.”
Starscream made an exasperated noise and jammed a finger at a tangle of numbers. “There are planets, but have you any idea of the delicacy of the balance?.. Oh, come on,” he said, collecting up his map and gesturing at Soundwave to follow him back into the lab.
He called up a computer model of the triple-system. “Look, six planets orbit Alpha Centauri A and B, and four circle Proxima.” After Astrotrain’s repairs, he and Starscream went back out to finish their mapping. Starscream tapped at the keyboard while explaining, “Each and every single one of those influences the others. Move one, and the whole set-up falls apart. Add one and the results are the same.” The screen model showed a mildly spectacular catastrophe as planets spun out of the system or crashed into stars and each other.
Soundwave was somewhat curious about how long Starscream had spent playing with the graphics. Unfortunately, the model looked accurate. “Could Cybertron replace an existing planet?”
“You think I haven’t considered that?” asked Starscream, sounding offended. “None are close to the right mass, and besides, the act of the switch would throw off the balance anyway. I’ve tried everything! Even if we continue to use the planetary jets to hold orbit, we’ll still be dodging planets and flares until the system clears out. And it’s a stupid idea anyway because the jets pull so much power. Either they’d drain the planet or blow out.”
“You have an alternative?” Inasmuch as Soundwave could sound disbelieving, he did.
Starscream ignored the tone. “Don’t I always? Option one is to orbit the triple-star at a great enough distance as to not upset the system’s gravitational balance. However, Cybertron would be so far out that the power pulled from the planned solar stations would be negligible.”
The Seeker called up another screen, this one of a wider star-map. “Or we could give up on Alpha Centauri entirely. We could use the planetary jets to change direction and aim for this one - the humans call it Barnard’s Star. It’s about four light-years from where we are now, but on the plus side it’s a single star and the long-range sensors haven’t picked up on any dangerous radiation. It’s not as powerful a star as Alpha Centauri A, but it should be sufficient for our purposes.”
As a general rule, Soundwave didn’t like it when Starscream was right. It tended to mean that someone else was wrong, and Starscream would rub your nose in it. So it was with great reluctance that Soundwave was forced to admit that the Seeker was correct. He added a, “For once,” for good measure, but it didn’t stop the smug-rays one bit. However… “Megatron must be informed.”
“You inform him,” said Starscream. “He never listens to me. Just remember to tell him just whose brilliant idea it was after he’s agreed to it.”
As it turned out, Soundwave refused so Starscream reported his ideas himself. As expected, Megatron didn’t like them. “You’ve looked over the figures,” said Starscream. “Certainly even you can see that Alpha Centauri is a complete write-off.” General annoyance plus distance made Starscream just that much more insubordinate; the worst Megatron could do would be to cut the connection. Well, unless he got so angry that he took the space-bridge up to Cybertron to come whack him…
Fortunately for Starscream’s purposes, the objections seemed to be of a general principles flavour rather than anything specific. “How long will it take to reach Barnard’s Star?”
“At our current speed, about nine years,” said Starscream. “Of course, we can use the jets to increase our speed somewhat, cut the time to maybe seven years.”
Seven years. Transformers as a species were patient; anything with a lifespan measured in geological eras tended to be. However, they still thought quickly, which was good or bad, depending on where you were standing. Specifically, you didn’t want your enemies thinking faster than you. “I don’t like these delays, Starscream. The Autobots have realised that you and the others are missing and know we’re up to something.”
“Took them long enough. We’ve been here for three months,” Starscream chuckled. The planetary jets were nearly complete. “Besides, even if the Alpha Centauri plan was feasible, it would be two years before we reached it. They’d try to stop us anyway.”
“This gives them more time. There was an attack on the space-bridge two hours ago,” Megatron informed him grimly. “I’ve stepped-up security, as has Shockwave. Eventually they’re going to break through, or just use one of their spacecraft to get to Cybertron.”
Starscream puffed himself up. “Then we will be ready for them!”
“Negative, Starscream. You and the project team will continue with the planetary jets, exploration, and calculations. Shockwave and his forces will deal with any resistance.”
“Shockwave!?” Starscream looked disgruntled, then brightened. “Continued exploration? My idea will be used?”
Megatron sighed. “Yes, Starscream.”
Starscream moved to switch off the connection, but stopped. “Megatron, if time is so important, there might be another way. We’ve moved the entire planet over the space-bridge before…”
“The space-bridge connects only to Earth.”
“Shockwave’s does,” said Starscream. “What we need is another space-bridge; one could be set up here in Dreadmoon’s watchtower. We must still have the designs for the pylons needed for such a large cargo around somewhere. We could make more, take them to Barnard’s Star… of course, if there are no planets, we’ll have to tow a large asteroid in to set them up, but…”
But it would cost more energy, more materials, more labour. It would be another three weeks, at least, at the exhausting pace they had set themselves. But it would only be three weeks, and anything could happen in seven years. The benefits outweighed the costs. “Permission granted.”
“What is it, boss?”
Shockwave looked over briefly from his instruments. “They want me to install a space-bridge in the Sixth Sector. That, and the Autobots are making things dangerous on Earth. I don’t like to leave my post with that kind of situation…” He sighed and gave Stalker a critical look.
“I’ve performed all of your tasks before,” Stalker reminded him. “I can operate the space-bridge and monitor the skies. I can handle the control tower until you get back.”
“Hm,” repeated Shockwave. “I suppose. You’ll be in charge of increasing security as well. Awaken Razorshift’s guard; they’re in the hangar. I’ll leave for the Sixth Sector after giving them their basic orders.”
Stalker saluted vaguely and left, heading down a corridor that would take her to the well-shielded and rarely-used hangar. Megatron’s army on Earth were not the only Decepticons; many still existed on Cybertron, but they were in stasis like everything else. Once in a while, a few warriors were wakened for various tasks, but once completed, they slept again. With the Decepticons on Earth working overtime to collect energon, there was currently enough power to awaken a small strike-force.
The tracker went first to the one who had been captain of the First Sector guard, where she made the necessary attachments to return power and consciousness to his form, then stepped back as his optics shone red. “Razorshift. Shockwave summons you.”
The black Seeker disconnected himself from the wall and gave her a careful look-over. “Things have changed since I last functioned.”
“Two years ago, during the planetary space-bridge incident. I checked your record.” Then, picking up on his meaning, she added, “I am Stalker. I work for Shockwave.”
As Razorshift did a mental check of his systems, Stalker moved to the next Seeker and began the sequence to wake him from hibernation. Razorshift pitched in, and soon the other four were conscious and ready to receive their orders. They weren’t entirely thrilled when they learned they would be subordinate to the relatively inexperienced Stalker, but Shockwave’s orders stood, and, hey, at least they were active again.
“Hey! Friend or Foe?”
“If you don’t get out of our way, Rumble, it’s going to be ‘foe’, ‘foe’.”
Rumble stood aside and pouted. “You’re no fun. The others all say ‘friend’.”
“So would any spy with half a RAM chip,” sniggered Bombshell as the Insecticons walked past. Well, hopped or hovered or skittered past; they were, as usual, in their insectoid forms.
“Don’t snack on anything important!” Rumble cheerfully called after them.
“Bite me.” Kickback chuckled and added a quiet, “Or vice-versa.”
“Control yourself, self,” Shrapnel admonished. “We’re here to work.”
They continued, in their ways, down the hall. Despite Rumble’s flippant manner, security down here, under the planetary jets, was tight. For six Levels down, the automated security systems and all cameras were on, and all that was monitored from the surface by Rumble or Frenzy - at the moment, it was Frenzy’s turn. There were also guards; Shockwave’s sentinels mostly. The other cassettes also roamed the halls.
Currently, so did the Insecticons. While the Constructicons actually built the jets, it was the Insecticons’ job to tie them into Cybertron’s power grid. More importantly, they were to make sure the ancient systems could handle the flow.
There was a crunching sound. Exasperated, Shrapnel turned around. “Bombshell! What did I tell you, tell you?”
The beetle removed the length of his pipe from his mandibles, but only enough so he could talk. “It isn’t anything important.”
“As long as you brought enough to share, share.”
The second space-bridge could be constructed by Shockwave and his menials. They had made the first space-bridge, after all, and no one really understood how the technology worked except Shockwave, anyway. Which left the pylons to the rather disgruntled Constructicons.
“More work!?” yelled Longhaul.
“But we like to work,” Scavenger reminded him.
Immediately afterwards, the Constructicons started bickering about whether to build the pylons on Cybertron and transport them, whether they should go to Barnard’s Star themselves and build the pylons there, and the usual complaints about idiot design in the first place. They hadn’t been active at the time when Cybertron was transported to Earth.
In the end, they decided that prefabrication was the best way to go - they had better access to tools and materials, plus they could bully the Insecticons into helping them. Besides, it gave Starscream and Astrotrain a chance to scout ahead and find the best spot for the pylons.
Starscream and Astrotrain were not thrilled. “Maybe I should disconnect my audio sensors this time,” sneered Astrotrain. “I might get myself caught in another sandstorm just to shut you up.”
“How would you like me to disconnect your mouth?”
“How would you like me to disconnect your head?..”
“Now, now, let’s not fight,” said Mixmaster with what he knew was patronising cheerfulness. “You two get to go on a nice little trip while we do all the real work.”
Starscream and Astrotrain considered pushing him over, but the other Constructicons would jump on them, so they just glared and left to find supplies.
Behind them, the Constructicons snickered. “This plan keeps getting more grandiose by the minute,” said Scrapper. “Ah, well. Where are those Insecticons? We’ll get their army to collect the metal for these space pylons…”
“Shockwave,” Dreadmoon saluted. “I don’t think I’ve ever met you in person before.”
“Lucky you,” said Shockwave vaguely. “How is the work coming?”
The blue monitor called up a view-screen. “The jets are complete,” he said. “The Insecticons attached them to the planetary power grid two days ago. Their preliminary testing shows they work within acceptable limits. The Constructicons and Insecticons have started work on the space-bridge pylons, while Starscream and Astrotrain are still en route to Barnard’s Star.” Their progress reports were rather interesting; they never referred to each other by name, and hadn’t yet used the same insult twice. Dreadmoon cleaned up the reports before filing them, of course. He was curious how long they could keep it up.
“Fortunately, I won’t need any of them,” said Shockwave. “I will be borrowing your menials, however.”
“Certainly.” As if Dreadmoon could refuse the requests of a superior officer. Well, he could, but he’d get in trouble for it.
Two-and-a-half weeks passed without major incident, at least on Cybertron. This was likely due to two-and-a-half weeks passing with increased Autobot suspicion and raids on Earth. Attacks on the space-bridge happened almost daily, but fortunately the Autobots tended to draw back before suffering any major casualties and hadn’t yet broken through. Dreadmoon had asked why they didn’t just disable the space-bridge for the time being, just take a key component and hide it, so it wouldn’t matter if the Autobots took the bridge. Shockwave pointed out that the Autobots could probably just repair it, and anyway, if the Autobots took it, they could pull the same trick or just destroy it, and the Decepticons still needed it for the energon shipments. Better to simply hold it.
Aside from a few Insecticon clones getting mysteriously squashed - the Constructicons denied all knowledge of the fact, - the building of the pylons went smoothly. When they were finally complete, however, Dreadmoon expressed some worry. “I didn’t expect them to be quite so large.” Astrotrain and Starscream were still at Barnard’s Star doing survey work, leaving Dreadmoon the only spacecraft around. “I don’t think I could handle even one of those.”
“Who said you’d have to?” asked Scrapper. “Go be administrative and find us a cargo ship or something. One that doesn’t turn into anybody.”
Dreadmoon did, and a few days later, the crew arrived at Barnard’s Star. Specifically, on a tiny dustball that the word ‘planet’ might be too generous for. No matter; it was a dead world, and all it was required for was to anchor the pylons. When Cybertron arrived, the small spheroid would either be destroyed, or, pulled by the larger planet’s gravitational field, become a moon.
Starscream and Astrotrain had finished their once-over of the small system, and had returned to this planetoid to help set up. That, and it gave them a bit of space to get away from one another. It was Starscream who greeted the crew of the purple cargo ship as it landed. “Welcome to Crummy Little Dustball. One of many, anyway.”
The small planet was airless, so he broadcast the message over internal radio. It was almost telepathy, but not quite; it could only be used for communication. Well, unless you were trained to pick up on the subtle electricity of thought and hear what wasn’t consciously broadcast, but none here had the skill. Starscream looked over the newcomers: Dreadmoon, the Constructicons… “The Insecticons? Why them?”
Scrapper shrugged. “We’ll be needed back at the planetary jets. Soundwave’s there doing final checks, and he could probably run them, but we’d rather be back there ourselves. Someone has to push the buttons at this end.”
“Someone who knows how to fix things if they go wrong, wrong,” added Shrapnel disapprovingly. Lousy stuck-up Constructicons. We helped build! Of course, he had his own reasons for being there. Nothing so obvious or counter-productive as sabotage; Shrapnel simply wanted an Insecticon presence at one of the crucial points of the project. A presence that might be used later to enhance the Insecticon bargaining position…
“Whatever,” said Scrapper. “It’ll take a few hours to set up. We’ll take the cargo ship back when we’re done.”
Starscream nodded. “Good. Astrotrain and I will leave, and…”
“Leave yourself,” snapped Astrotrain. “If I have to put up with any more of your whining…”
“How would you like to be reprogrammed with a large axe?”
“Look, I have to get back to Cybertron anyway…” started Dreadmoon.
“Fine!” shouted Starscream and Astrotrain at the same time. The Seeker turned on his heel and started away. “Well, come on.”
It took Dreadmoon a moment to realise that Starscream’s impatience had transferred to him. He shifted quickly, waited for the other to board, and took off.
“Sensors are picking up a spaceship coming this way,” Stalker announced. She checked a few other instruments. “Autobots, unfortunately.” Astrotrain, Dreadmoon, Starscream, the Insecticons, and the Constructicons were still off-world. It seemed the Autobots had finally decided to invade the old-fashioned way.
“Well, we figured they would come - it is what we were activated for,” said Razorshift. And you won’t be tagging along to get in the way of my experienced warriors. “Any readings on who we’re up against?”
Stalker shook her head. “Not at this range.” Fortunately, it looked too small to be Omega Supreme. She had never personally met any of the Earth Autobots, but she had looked them up in Shockwave’s database. “This must be a reconnaissance mission rather than a full attack.”
“Makes our job easier.” Razorshift started out, then paused. “Don’t they have an illusionist in their number? Could they be confusing our sensors? They must know we’ll be expecting them.” Apparently Razorshift had seen the database, too.
“Holograms are merely refracted light; they only affect the optics. The sensors can see right through them.” Great. Much more of this and I’ll start to sound like Shockwave, thought Stalker. “Judging by their current course, they’ll come down here,” she said, pointing at a map. “Go there; I’ll keep you updated on their position. All else is up to you.” And you like that, don’t you? And, because she knew it would annoy him, she added, “Good luck.”
“This is incredible. We’ll finally be able to reawaken the planet…”
“We haven’t succeeded yet,” Starscream reminded him. The cargo ship was about four hours behind them, carrying the Constructicons. The Insecticons had been left behind to tend the pylons, and Astrotrain to tend the Insecticons.
Dreadmoon’s sensors flared. “Starscream! Come look at this.”
The Seeker looked over at the screen Dreadmoon activated. “Autobots! Somehow they got to Cybertron! They must have taken a ship…” And I think I know who. He scowled at the image. “Zoom in on that one there, the big white one.”
Obediently, Dreadmoon focused his scanners, but wasn’t so distracted that he missed the dangerous flare in his passenger’s optics. “Starscream?..”
“Let me out near that one, then head back to your Sector to report.”
“It doesn’t look like our side needs help.”
It was true. For once, the Decepticons seemed to outnumber the Autobots; six to three. Of course, one of them was rather large, but that was beside the point… “This isn’t business. This is just for fun.”
The edge in the voice didn’t match the flippancy of the words. “He’s three times your size, Starscream. Besides, we’re under orders to keep working.”
“You’re under orders to keep working. My part of the project is over, therefore I may do as I please.” He rapped sharply on the outer hatch. “And it pleases me to join the battle, so open up.”
Dreadmoon opened the hatch to allow Starscream out, then shifted back into robot-mode. He couldn’t stop the Seeker from doing whatever he wanted; Starscream was too high-ranking and far too stubborn to be argued out of things. However, it would probably be bad form to let him get trashed. Besides, he didn’t trust the look in Starscream’s eyes when he got a better look at the Autobot.
Starscream didn’t notice that he wasn’t alone. He didn’t see anything but his opponent. He dove from the sky, lasers flashing: “Skyfire! Face me, old friend!”
Engrossed in the battle, wishing she were out there, but stuck watching it from the control tower, Stalker almost didn’t notice that a computer was active. That wasn’t in itself strange. The strange part was that it was actively looking up things while she was on the other side of the room. The keys on the console were moving, too. She took a shot at where she judged the intruder to be, if indeed there was one.
The shot sprayed in the air, as if hitting a solid body. The accompanying noise of surprise proved her guess; Stalker knew there was an Autobot who could turn invisible, and she was dealing with him now. Unfortunately, he didn’t turn visible, and the lack of a crash meant he was still standing.
She switched to radar, but it didn’t help. Apparently this one could fool her other ‘visual’ senses as well. Stalker bit back the impulse to say something like, “Show yourself!” If the Autobot had any sense, he wouldn’t do it, and she had to keep her audio receptors open for any noise that would give him away.
There was a faint scrape of metal on metal, but before Stalker could pinpoint its source, a burst of laserfire hit her in the back. The tracker allowed herself to fall; her opponent had the advantage, and playing possum would give her a few minutes to try to figure out a way to defeat him. The floor was too solid to be able to detect the vibrations of where he walked, and he walked very quietly. He would probably go back to the computer soon, which meant she’d know where he was, but again she’d only get one shot. If that failed, he might panic and do something more serious than just shoot her and assume she’d lost. She had to make him visible, somehow…
The computer began working by itself again. In one motion, Stalker rolled to her feet and smashed her left arm against the corner of a console. Greenish coolant dripped from the ruptured hose in her gauntlet, and she waved this in the direction of the computer. Most of the coolant splattered the screen and console, some hung in the air. She shot at where it hung.
Stalker and the floating coolant splatters traded shots for a few seconds before the Autobot decided that discretion was the better part of valour - plus, he was outgunned - and fled. Stalker started to follow before remembering she couldn’t leave the control room… well, she could, but it would be stupid. Hopefully he hadn’t got what he had come for - she could find out what he was looking at, but she couldn’t know his motives, - and would go straight back out to his comrades. Still, Stalker called up the various anti-tamper protocols to alert her if anyone tried to use the tower computers.
Still, there was a slight joy in knowing that an Autobot had got past that arrogant Razorshift.
Skyfire! Starscream had mentioned the Autobot before, accidentally, and in contradictory terms. Currently they were at each other’s throats, shouting vague accusations and specific insults - ‘traitor’ being a favourite. Dreadmoon hung back, waiting to see how things would play out, but poised to join in if the Seeker needed help.
Which, as the monitor had predicted, he did. Starscream was more agile and had greater firepower, but there was just too much Skyfire to cause him serious damage. A laser finally caught the Seeker in mid-flight and knocked him from the sky.
Dreadmoon swooped in. Below him, Starscream was calling him every type of fool, but if Starscream could act weirdly overprotective, so could he.
A nearby explosion from the main fight caught the monitor in its wake and flung him against a wall. Another blast caused the building it was a part of to shake.
The entire structure trembled. Dreadmoon saw it coming, but there was no time to get out of the way. He tried to fold his wings around himself, to shield his vital systems from the worst of the damage… and then the building fell on him.
“Dreadmoon!” Starscream fired one last time at Skyfire, then flew back to the wreckage, which he started tearing into with his hands. He’s down there. I can feel…
He looked up, furious, when a shot lanced past his wing. “What do you think you’re doing, you idiot?”
Skyfire aimed again. “Stopping you.”
“Fool! He’s dying down there! I can feel his energy signature fading…” Starscream tossed aside another sheet of metal. “You’re the one who preaches the preservation of all life!”
“Then help me or get out of my way!”
Skyfire and Starscream’s last meeting had not been on friendly terms. If they had a chance to sit down and talk, reintroduce themselves, things might have worked out. But, the moment had years ago passed, and the rifts were too deep to heal. Each thought the other was changed, crazy, a traitor, but for opposing reasons that they never had the chance to sort out.
Here and now, Skyfire realised he had a choice: He could shoot Starscream while he was otherwise occupied, and thus rid the universe of two Decepticons. He could leave and let Starscream deal with it. Or he could help. If he helped, he might be betraying the Autobots, but at least he would be staying true to himself. Maybe the Decepticons would never change, but they certainly couldn’t if they were dead. He set to work.
With Skyfire’s help, it took about fifteen minutes to pull Dreadmoon’s broken form from the wreckage. “He still functions,” said Starscream quietly. “His mind still functions. The Constructicons can repair him…”
Despite being out of the loop far longer than Starscream, Skyfire still had more scientific training, and knew hopeless when he saw it. “Barely. Too many of his systems have been destroyed. He won’t last another two minutes.”
Skyfire wasn’t sure who Starscream’s last comment was addressed to, but he was fairly certain it wasn’t anyone currently present. The abject desolation in the voice was enough for anyone, though. “Maybe… we could stabilize him enough to be taken to a mechanic in time.” The white shuttle crouched down to see better. “You’ll have to do it; my hands are too big,” he directed. “All right, open him up… splice his secondary fuel line to this cable, then loop it back…”
There were times when you didn’t question orders, no matter who they were from. This was one of those. Starscream worked as quickly as Skyfire spoke; it wasn’t a tidy job and the Constructicons would complain bitterly about having to undo it, but at least Dreadmoon would survive. Had a chance of surviving, anyway.
“We’ve bought him time, maybe ten minutes,” began Skyfire, but Starscream had collected up the monitor and taken off by the time he reached ‘maybe’. Typical Decepticon, thought Skyfire bitterly. Doesn’t even say ‘thank you’. For a few minutes back there, he thought maybe he and Starscream had a chance…
His radio activated: “Skyfire, Cybertron will be going through a space-bridge in six hours. You can’t get to the contact point in time to stop it. Unless you’ve significantly improved your range, I suggest you clear off, because you’ll never reach the Cybertron-Earth space-bridge with our current security and you’ll never make it back to Earth from where we’re going.”
Starscream. Skyfire replied, “Why are you telling me this?”
A short, uncomfortable pause. “I owed you. Your life for Dreadmoon’s.” The connection ended.
Even when they thank you they still give it to you back-hand. Skyfire sighed. Then he shifted and went to collect the other three Autobots.
“Three minutes to activation.”
“I am aware of that.”
Despite all appearances, Soundwave was somewhat nervous about the whole thing. Space-bridge technology was far from perfect, and while they had in the past used one to transport Cybertron, waiting for the planet to arrive was somewhat less nerve-wracking than actually riding it. So many things could go wrong, and the Decepticons were spread so thin, trying to keep those so many things at bay…
Earth: Megatron and the main part of the army had to divide their time between collecting energon and preventing the Autobots from stopping their plans. Both were top priority right now, especially since the Autobots knew what they were up to. They must have an idea, at least.
Cybertron, First Sector: Shockwave’s guards acted as the second line of defence against the Autobots. If they managed to get to the Earth space-bridge, Razorshift’s Seekers had to make sure their journey ended in the control tower. They also monitored space for any unwanted craft.
Cybertron, Sixth Sector: Soundwave and Shockwave stood by the Cybertron-Barnard’s Star space-bridge while Scrapper and Bonecrusher tended the planetary jets. Soundwave would have preferred all the Constructicons there, but the other four were caught up in trying to stabilize Dreadmoon. Starscream was around somewhere, moping or panicking. It was probably just as well he wasn’t near the equipment; Starscream never did handle stress well.
Barnard’s Star: Astrotrain and the Insecticons waited by the pylons that made the great space-bridge. In less than three minutes, they would activate the pylons, opening a tear in subspace that would draw Cybertron to itself.
“Two minutes to activation.”
“Would you knock that off?” Shockwave’s eye flashed his annoyance. “My internal chronometer works perfectly well.”
Shockwave wasn’t much for stress either, if his voice was any indication. Any emotion from the monitor could safely be interpreted as worrisome. Of course, there was much to be stressed about, and if Shockwave wasn’t caught up in his own uncertainties, he’d realise that Soundwave wasn’t doing too well himself - if you knew what to look for, he was fidgeting. The lieutenant switched on his radio: “Scrapper, is everything ready?”
The Constructicon’s voice filtered back: “Everything on our end works. We know what to do.” He cut the connection.
The one minute mark passed unheralded, but Soundwave still counted it down to himself. Fifty-nine. Fifty-eight. Fifty-seven…
Razorshift’s Seekers had reported that the Autobots had left in a hurry. Did they learn what was to come and decide to flee, or had they sabotaged the project?
Forty-four. Forty-three. Forty-two…
The Insecticons were not terribly loyal or even conscientious beings. Could they be trusted to open the space-bridge at the proper time?
Twenty. Nineteen. Eighteen…
Despite Scrapper’s assurances, the jets could still fail and the planet would get pulled in by the gravitational pull of Barnard’s Star.
Three. Two. One…
The sky tore, and impossible clouds boiled out from the opening. And Cybertron was supposed to go into that maelstrom. Soundwave kept his attention on the console before him; looking at numbers was easier than looking at the seething sky.
Then, suddenly, it was over. The strange lights of the space-bridge were replaced by a sullen red glow, and the howling subspace winds were replaced by his own radio and Scrapper shouting, “Where are we? We have to compensate!”
Soundwave sent him the exact co-ordinates. There was some background noise before Scrapper’s voice returned: “Not bad. Only a few degrees off. We’ll get Cybertron moving, and then we’re going to rejoin the others in the workshop. Scrapper out.”
As soon as the Constructicon signed off, Soundwave reactivated his radio. “Astrotrain, collect the Insecticons and return.” The triple-changer answered his affirmative, and Soundwave went to take over at the planetary jets.
“Yecch. What a mess.”
“I’ve done better patch-ups with tin cans and duct-tape.”
“I vote we put a restraining order on Starscream to keep him from doing repair jobs.”
“I vote we plain-out restrain him.”
It had taken four hours to sort out Dreadmoon’s vital systems. Most of that was from crushing damage, but the Constructicons, like all tradesbeings, were happiest when they were blaming others for the problems of their job.
Mixmaster found a rag somewhere and wiped hydraulic fluid from his hands. “Well, fellows, should we tell him?”
“We aren’t finished,” protested Hook.
“Bah, it’s all secondary or cosmetic what’s left,” said Longhaul. “Dreadmoon’ll be fine. Maybe Starscream will stop callin’ us every ten minutes if we tell him.”
The others quickly agreed that this idea was sound. Their first act had been to shove the Seeker out the door and lock it, but after that they had been too busy to disconnect their radios. Starscream was duly contacted and informed, but the Constructicons all shut off their communicators as soon as the report was finished. Just in case.
Scrapper stood from where he was leaning against a table. “Well,” he said, “there’s still work to be done.”
There was still work to be done. Solar panels had to be installed to collect the light of the small, red sun. Cybertron’s orbit had to be watched carefully for the next several decades, and corrected with the planetary jets if needed. The pylons should be deconstructed and the space-bridge reset for some other destination - the bridge to Barnard’s Star was no longer required. As the solar panels restocked Cybertron’s energy reserves, the planet could be awakened. There was rebuilding to do… there was always rebuilding to do.
Soundwave stood in the shadow of the planetary jets, trying to adjust to the strange light spilling over a world he had never known to have a sun, and sighed. We have our work cut out for us. But for the moment he could relax. Just for a moment.
Unfortunately, the moment, as moments do, passed. They had succeeded in their project and won life for their world, but now they had to keep it. Being a mostly artificial world, raw materials had to be brought in from elsewhere. The poor light of Barnard’s Star was enough to run Cybertron, but not enough to fuel expansion attempts. Other sources of power had to be found. There were still the Autobots to deal with; Optimus Prime’s on Earth and Elita-1’s below. Eventually they would have to either have to convince Vector Sigma to be neutral again or find some other way to create new minds for their people…
So much to do, and eternity to do it in.
To be continued ...