Echoes and Fragments Part 2 - To the Death—and Beyond!
Echoes and Fragments Part 2 - To the Death—and Beyond! is the second part 2016 science fiction story in the GoBots and Transformers series written by Jim Sorenson and illustrated by Christopher Colgin. 
Part 2 - To the Death—and Beyond!
On GoBotron, in another reality, Vec-Tor played a game of Tadek with Zeemon. The politician's moves were subtle, and his windshield unreadable. Vec-Tor thought he saw what his opponent was driving towards, but it was difficult to be sure. Best to play it safe, he thought, and pushed a small stack of tiles into a defensive position.
"Ah, Vec-Tor, I've already half beaten you, haven't I?"
The Guardian of Space and Time laughed. "I suppose you have, old friend. No one sees all the angles like you do." They both chuckled, but then the moment was interrupted by Vec-Tor's chest panel flashing. "Sorry, friend, I need to take this."
Zeemon stood. "Quite all right. Besides, the game is over now anyway." With that he gently slide a stack of three tiles into the center-north square, causing holographic towers to appear all over the map. He had indeed won.
Once Vec-Tor was alone, he pressed his chest. "What is it, brother?"
"Bad news... you have a dimensional visitor intent on altering Omega Lock frequencies."
Vec-Tor nodded. "Understood. He won't get far, not on my watch."
Vec-Tor transformed to his GoBotic ship mode and flew off, towards Old GoBotron and the ancient Omega Locks few Guardians or Renegades had ever heard of.
- * * * *
Inside the ruins of Guardian City, the Secret Riders and Robo Rebels gathered around Leader-1. Tail Pipe finished his examination and looked at his companions. They could see it wasn't good news.
"How bad," asked Major Mo.
"Bad," whispered Tail Pipe. "Maybe the Last Engineer could save him, if he were still with us, but I can't."
Tri-Trak, feeling guilty, stormed out of the room. Tork went to follow him, but Throttle put a hand on his arm. "Let him go, eh? He needs to work through this himself."
Bent Wing put a hand on Leader-1's shoulder. "How long does he have, Tail Pipe?"
Tail Pipe shook his head. "I'm not sure. Honestly, I'm surprised he's even still with us. There must be something sustaining him that most Guardians don't have."
Leader-1 weakly raised an arm. "It's... it's called the Matrix. The Guardian Matrix of Leadership."
The Guardians were stunned. They had heard of such an artifact, but never seen it. Leader-1 struggled to continue. "Major Mo, I pass command of the Guardian forces to you, and with them, the Matrix."
The Major clutched Leader-1's hand. "If that's what you think best, Leader-1"
He coughed, then brought his hands to his cockpit chest. "I do." The chest cracked open, and a blue light spilled forth. The assembled Guardians stepped back instinctively. "It is prophesied that one day, a Guardian shall rise from our ranks, and use the power of the Matrix... to light our darkest hour." He reached into his chest and removed the artifact, handing it to Major Mo. He whispered as he did so. "Until that day... till all are one." With the Matrix removed from his chest, his vitals began to flatline, and the Matrix tumbled from his hand and dropped to the floor. Raizor picked up the crystal and handed it to Major Mo, who opened his own chest and inserted it, readjusted it, and then closed his compartment.
All optics turned to Leader-1, whose lifeless body turned grey. Daniel clutched his hand and allowed himself to cry, the unselfconscious grief of the very young.
Elsewhere, a cosmic god adrift in the night observed this exchange. When the Matrix passed into view of his sensors, it unleashed a mighty roar of frustration.
- * * * *
Sideways observed the events a dimension away with great amusement. So far, not much had changed. The details, sure, but big-picture, things were still proceeding according to script. He wondered if he couldn't shake things up a bit. Maybe tune in a Uniend Cluster reality, get some Predacons in the mix. He allowed his senses to open, prepared to access the Locks, but instead noticed another presence... Vec-Tor! He cursed out loud, then allowed the Locks to reset to their equilibrium state. No need to advertise his presence, only... there were a few sticking points. The analogy was starting to break down. No matter, it gave Vec-Tor more of a mess to clean up. He converted to his motorcycle configuration and roared out of the Omega Lock chamber, moments ahead of Vector Prime.
- * * * *
The tortured fabric of the universe again shifted, attempting to find an equilibrium position... and failing. Guardians and Autobots now coexisted, as did Renegades and Decepticons. The implications of this new development were ominous, for those few who had the perspective to understand, or even observe, such things.
On board Astrotrain, the Renegades licked their wounds, miserable in their defeat. An unexpected bit of gravitational interference showed up on Astrotrain's scopes, and he burned his thrusters to compensate. It was no good... there was too much mass aboard. "Jettison some weight, or we'll never make it to Cybertron."
Zero wasted no time. He stood up, and spread his arms wide. "Fellow Renegades, Decepticons... Astrotrain has suggested that we lighten our burden. Do I hear a second on that?" The healthy, relatively undamaged Renegades voiced their assent.
"And against," asked Zero, smirking. The damaged Renegades raised a feeble cry of protest."
Zero smirked. "Well, well, well... looks like we're in for a culling." The Renegades too weak to fight were pushed out into the void, their bodies tumbling end-over-end into the void. Zero picked up the battered and broken body of Megatron and carried him to the door. His voice was a study in sarcasm. "Oh, how it pains me to do this!"
The Decepticon pleaded with his Renegade subordinate. "Wait... I still function!"
Zero released his body, which floated helplessly away from the ship. "Not for long!" Megatron cried his betrayer's name even as Astrotrain's thrust carried him inevitably away from Megatron's grasp.
The atmosphere in the room turned tense. Megatron had been the Renegade leader for millions of years, and now he was gone. Zero took no time stepping into the void. "Well, as we've finally gotten rid of that Decepticon deadweight, I nominate a new leader... ME!"
Tic Tac stepped forward. "Wait... my troopers form Puzzler, the most powerful Renegade... I should rule!"
Dr. Go snorted in laughter. "You fancy yourself quite ze thinker, Tic Tac, but compared to my intellect you're nothing."
Tank scoffed. "Who'd follow an egghead like you? Any of us could break you in half with our pinkies... and a lot of us don't gots pinkies!"
Tic Tac had had enough. "Form Puzzler!" The six GoBots united into one enormous Renegade, straining Astrotrain's mass-shifting abilities to their limits. But Dr. Go was having none of it, pulling forth a shrink ray and knocking them back to normal size. Before he could take advantage the now shrunken gestalt, Snoop tackled him, and soon the Renegades were in a free-for-all, even as Astrotrain inched ever closer to the safety represented by Cybertron.
- * * * *
Consciousness flickered in Megatron's optics. He... he wasn't dead. A booming voice echoed in his head and he felt himself pushed backwards in space. "Welcome, Megatron."
Megatron looked about... he was in the gravitational grip of a small planet, and the voice seemed to be coming from some sort of raging inferno of energy on the surface of the world. "Who... who said that?"
The reply again knocked him backwards. "I am Unicron." Megatron demanded Unicron to show himself, but the voice proceeded undaunted. "I have summoned you here for a purpose." Megatron was enraged, but the voice ignored his objection. "This is my command: you are to destroy the Guardian Matrix of Leadership. It is the one thing, the ONLY thing, that can stand in my way."
This I could live with, thought Megatron. He was planning to do that anyway. Besides, the deed might already be done. "You have nothing to fear, I have already crushed Leader-1 with my bare hands!" The voice scoffed, called him on his bluff. Megatron continued, undaunted. "The point is he's dead, and the Matrix died with him!"
The booming voice intensified, and the energy waves buffeted Megatron about. "No. The point is you are a fool. The Matrix has been passed to their new leader, Major Mo. Destroy it for me."
"Why should I? What's in it for me?"
"Your bargaining posture is highly dubious! But very well. I will provide you with a new body, and new troops to command."
Megatron waited a beat. "...and?"
At this point, the voice seemed to get angry for the first time. "AND NOTHING! You belong to me, now."
Megatron allowed his own rage to build. "I belong to nobody!"
The voice, "Unicron," became resigned. "Perhaps I misjudged you. Proceed on your way to oblivion." Mighty teeth the size of mountains opened, and Megatron found himself staring into oblivion.
"No, no, I accept your terms! I ACCEPT!"
The world turned inside out. Megatron found himself reduced to his barest essence, and rebuilt. "Behold... GALVATRON! And these shall be your minions."
Galvatron looked on as Spoons was deconstructed and rebuilt. "Deadlift, the tracker, and his huntsmen, the Sweeps. Crasher underwent the same metamorphosis. "Fracture, the warrior, and her armada."
A panel in the side of the planet slid open and a purple vessel emerged. "And this shall be your ship. Now go, destroy the Autobot Matrix."
Galvatron reveled in the new power coursing through him. "I will rip open Ultra Magnus, and every other Autobot, until the Matrix has been destroyed! To Cybertron!" He fired his plasma cannon, using its backlash to propel him to the nose of the ship, and set forth for revenge!
- * * * *
On Cybertron, at the Renegade Hall of Heroes, the surviving Renegades and Decepticons gathered to witness the literal crowning of their new leader... Zero.
Zero looked out over the assembled crowd of Renegades and Decepticons with pride. Yes, he thought, I'm going to do great things. Perhaps first I'll hunt down the traitor Steamer--trumpets blasted in his audio receptors, interrupting his train of thought. "Get on with the ceremony," he groused. The six members of Puzzler looked to each other, then continued their playing. Zero raised a fist and destroyed their instruments with a blast of directed energy.
"My fellow Renegades, as your new leader, I--" At that instant, three Decepticons flew violently into the open space hosting the ceremony. "Who disrupts my coronation?" he demanded.
The purple Decepticon glared at him. "Coronation, Zero? This is bad comedy."
Zero's eyes widened. "Megatron? Is that you?"
Galvatron converted to his cannon mode. "Here's a hint!" He unleashed the fury of Unicron upon the upstart Renegade, and energy sizzled through the night. When it faded, Zero was drained of all color. He crumbled to ash, obliterated, and his crown bounced to Galvatron's feet. He glanced down and crushed it, a meaningless bauble beneath his contempt. "Will anyone else attempt to fill his shoes?"
Clutch turned nervously to Warpath. "What did he call himself?"
Their new leader raised a fist. "GALVATRON!"
The Renegades swallowed their fear and cheered this new Decepticon, wondering what if any relationship he had to Megatron and what his presence meant for their future.
- * * * *
At GoBotron's Omega Locks, Vec-Tor tried to understand what his senses were telling him... they were set to their normal resonant frequency, but his finely-attenuated sense suggested that they had, until recently, had several key terms inverted. Worse, some of the variables were stuck. Vec-Tor tried returning the Omega Locks to their previous settings, to see if he could clear the jam. He'd give it a few moments, then attempt to return to default. The controls were jammed, though, resistant to change. He redoubled his efforts.
- * * * *
At Moonbase One, Turbo and Night Ranger turned to the sky. A planet had intruded at the outer edge of Cybertronian space, closing in fast.
"Aww, where'd that pesky planet come from," asked Turbo?
Night Ranger shrugged. "I'd be more worried about where it's going... straight at us!"
The planet's mandibles tore into the moon, crushing huge parts of it, and the gravitation field caused debris to rise towards the intruder. Turbo grabbed the controls, hoping to warn Earth.
"Come in, Earth. Leader-1, you copy? Anyone?"
In Autobot City, the Autobots and Guardians were starting the slow, tedious process of rebuilding some part of the defenses. Though the Renegades and Decepticons had been driven off, they wouldn't stay gone forever. Blaster dropped a relay tube as his instruments, tied to the city's damaged but functional sensor grid, picked up a message. "I'm picking up a faint signal! Maybe in my tank mode I can tune it in more clearly." The Guardian converted to his missile-tank mode and Turbo's voice boomed through it. "This is Turbo. Some kinda funky planet-monster just came outta nowhere and it's turning our moonbase into a buffet!"
Unnoticed by all, the universe rippled and personalities shifted, Autobots and Guardians shifting places.
Cliffjumper chimed in. "And it's attacking Moonbase One!"
The universe wavered again, as Vec-Tor's efforts altered the fundamental constant of the universe bleeding into the current dimension. Rapidly it oscillated, though none within save Gong, or perhaps Unicron, could possibly have noticed
Ultra Magnus cried out in concern. "Jazz, Night Ranger!" It was too late, the signal was gone.
As the moon around them disintegrated, Jazz and Cliffjumper fought their way to a Space Hawk. Night Ranger's hands danced across the controls. "Got to blast free, if we can," cried Jazz.
Cliffjumper fired up the engines. "Ignition, and--"
"Time to go!" declared Turbo, and the Space Hawk tore free of the planet's surface...
...only for the engines to stall in the focused gravitational field.
Night Ranger tried to keep the edge of panic from his voice. "Jazz, we're not gonna make it!"
The engines finally failed, and the Autobot frigate was pulled inside the vortex.
Back in Guardian City, Major Mo had managed to find a working video monitor. Moonbase 2 reported on the destruction. "This is Spike and Scooter, up here on Moonbase 2."
Scooter chimed in. "You guys aren't gonna believe this... Moonbase 1 was just swallowed whole by some kind of mechanical planet!"
"And it's heading this way," Spike added.
"We'll try to slow it down," noted Bumblebee.
Matt got the last word in, with Anya held nervously in his arms. "But you'd better get here pronto, because we're not gonna--" and the signal cut out again.
Nick and A.J. looked at the static-filled screen, askance. "Matt!" they both cried, in unison.
On the moon, Matt, Anya, and Bumblebee did their best to initiate self-destruct. Anya plugged in a final connection, then gave Matt the thumbs up. "We'll either destroy it, or give it the worst case of indigestion in history."
Scooter motioned for his friend to follow him. "Spike, the explosives are live! We gotta get outta here!" He converted to his motor scooter configuration, and Spike hopped on. They rode to a crescent-shaped Autobot frigate and flew free, headed towards Earth. The three occupants watched, silently, as the planet's enormous pincers impaled the moon, pulling it inexorably into the "mouth" of the world. The moon was halfway inside when the countdown ended, and a world-shattering explosion blanked out all their sensors.
The Space Hawk was buffeted by shock waves caused from the destruction of two worlds, sending it tumbling. Bumblebee managed to regain control. He and his two human companions enjoyed a moment of revelry, until Anya spied a monitor... the planet still existed, was still in Cybertron's orbit. "Nyet, is not possible!"
Spike and Scooter looked at where she pointed. "There's not a scratch on it," the Guardian whined.
Then the gravitational field expanded, and the frigate was pulled backwards towards the maw. As the ship was sucked inside, Matt cautioned his companions. "Hold on to your hats, guys, looks like we're going in."
From Cybertron, Galvatron observed the proceedings with rage. "How dare Unicron. Cybertron and all its moons belong to ME!" Suddenly, his world was awash in red agony, and he tumbled to his knees.
"Yes," opined Deadlift, "but remember, WE belong to HIM."
Galvatron held onto his defiance for a moment longer. "I belong to nobody..." The agony became unbearable. "I will obey, Unicron." He stood, taking a moment to recover his equilibrium. "Renegades, Decepticons, to Earth!"
- * * * *
Vec-Tor gave up. Whatever damage Sideways had done, he couldn't fix it... here. He'd need to travel to the source universe, and correct the Omega damage there before he could heal his own universe. But he couldn't leave Sideways here, free to do harm. His old adversary was close, he could feel him. He set off through the maze that was the most ancient part of Old GoBotron, hunting a trickster, as the reality tapping into his own ceased its oscillations and settled into a resonance frequency.
- * * * *
Major Mo looked out over the assembled faces. "Autobots, Guardians, this new menace is more dangerous than every Decepticon and Renegade put together. Somehow we must destroy it before it devours Cybertron."
Nick and A.J. shared a glance. A.J. gave voice to their shared concern. "But what about Earth? We can't leave it undefended."
Major Mo attempted to be reassuring. "We'll leave Blaster behind, and there's always General Newcastle and UNECOM."
Springer wasn't so sure. "And what are we gonna do when we get there? That thing crunches moons it'll make short work of us."
Major Mo did his best to keep a calm tone of command. "Maybe the Matrix can stop it."
"You're right, it can!" Hot Rod blurted.
Kup looked at him questioningly. "What do you know about it, lad?"
The youth started to answer. "I just got this feeling--" but was interrupted by Springer, pointing into the sky and shouting. Laser fire rained down on the assembled Autobots and Guardians. The Decepticons and Renegades had returned!
Major Mo pointed towards the landing pads on the east side of the city. "To the Command Centers!"
Galvatron, Deadlift, Fracture, and a number of Renegades watched in delight as the Autobots and Renegades below them scattered. Galvatron spied the target of his wrath and let loose a blast, which Major Mo managed to dodge. "I, Galvatron will crush you just as Megatron crushed Leader-1"
Major Mo raised his fists into the air and fired off a blast, striking Galvatron but causing little damage. "And you'll die trying, just like Megatron!"
Galvatron shook a fist at his opponent. "Guardian scrap!"
Deadlift flew next to his leader. "You want me to gut Major Mo?"
Galvatron shook his head. "There are plenty of Guardians for you. Major Mo is MINE!"
At the Command Center, Motosan and Bullseye struggled to convince the Dinobots to board one of the two ships available to them. Major Mo arrived, exasperated. "You two, get the Dinobots on the shuttle!"
Bullseye threw up his hands in exasperation. "These beasties are impossible!" Motosan nodded in agreement.
"Fine, you two with me. Kup, Hot Rod, you guys get the Dinobots aboard and get out of here!"
The Dinobots were no more cooperative for the Autobots than they were for the Guardians. They destroyed several of the green Deadlift clones before intensifying laser fire forced them into the ship.
Meanwhile, Springer ran towards the second Command Center, alongside Nick and A.J. "Looks like we're shipmates, guys."
A.J. laughed. "The more things change..."
"...the more things stay the same," finished Nick.
The Autobot picked up his two companions, one in each hand, and ran into the ship. Major Mo followed them on, then ran to the controls next to Springer. "Hurry," he urged. And the Command Center's engines started to power up.
A.J. glanced out the hatch, then shouted. "Hang on a second, guys, we're down one!" Indeed, Arcee was running for the hatch, which was starting to lift off-the ground. Springer abandoned his controls and reached out, urging her to jump. She crouched and maxed her hydraulic systems, propelling her into the sky just high enough for him to catch her and drag her in. Nick hit the button to close the hatch, smiling at the two Autobots as they flirted with each other despite, or perhaps because of, the danger.
The Command Center joined its fellow in slipping the bonds of Earth's gravity well, and they set course for Cybertron.
- * * * *
Darn that Guardian, thought Sideways. He was closing in, making Sideways feel claustrophobic among GoBotron's ancient tunnels. Vec-Tor had unusual powers, and the Decepticon had no desire for a straight confrontation with the Guardian.
Sideways looked left and right, hoping for inspiration. Then, unexpectedly, it came! He heard voices from a grill above his head. Could he be that close to the surface? He removed a panel and crawled into the ductwork, seeking a path up. The ancient dust clogged his filters, causing him to suppress a cough. One passage seemed promising, but narrow, so he wormed his way up, slowly but steadily gaining ground. Once he got to the surface, he could trans-phase to Cybertron and team up with Gong.
Finally, he came to the top of the shaft he was in. He braced both legs against a panel that looked loose and kicked with all his might, knocking it forward. As he started to squirm out, two Guardians stepped into view, Bullet and Mach-3. They raised their fists and powered their blasters. "Vec-Tor warned us to watch out for you. You're coming with us!"
- * * * *
In space, the Autobots and Guardians tried to relax into the voyage through hyperspace. On board Command Center 33, Kup amused the Dinobots by spinning tall tales of Zod and Scales, while Hot Rod honed his skills, battling a Ridge Runner drone for practice. Their respite soon ended when the hull shook, impacted by laser fire from what appeared to be a highly augmented Thruster.
Kup yanked the controls, attempting to dodge an incoming spate of moleculon missiles, and Hot Rod took his place as co-pilot. "They're closing on us!" he remarked.
"Yup," agreed Kup, "Like the Quick-Steps of Zeeros!"
To Hot Rod, that observation offered a thin strand of hope. "How'd you beat them?"
Kup cast his mind back. "I'm trying to remember, we lost a lot of good Autobots on Quartex... oh, yeah, we re-routed the gravity dampeners!"
Fingers dancing across the controls, Hot Rod did what Kup suggested, creating an artificial gravity field directly aft of the ship. The missiles slammed into them, detonating prematurely, though the explosion rocked the Command Center.
"All right," sighed Hot Rod with relief, "we survived that!"
"Yeah," observed Kup, "but will we survive THIS?"
Inside the Thruster, Galvatron worked the controls. The Command Center was damaged, and would be easy prey. "Fracture, finish them." Fracture launched herself from the Thruster and closed with the damaged Command Center, even as the Thruster engaged the undamaged Command Center.
Fracture closed with the Command Center and unleashed blast after blast, each one causing more and more damage. Warning lights blared, and a collision alert sounded. He wrestled with the controls, trying to drop from hyperspace, or change trajectories. The ship was completely non-responsive. "I can't control it!"
Hot Rod yanked the motivator from the controls, and the ship finally dropped from hyperspace... too late! They smashed into an asteroid orbiting a dangerous, rocky world with an angry atmosphere.
In Command Center 09, Springer turned to his leader. "Kup and Hot Rod just bought it."
Major Mo nodded. "We shall grieve for them later. Right now, survival takes priority.
Springer glanced at Motosan, who shrugged. Neither saw a way out. "You have big plans for that, boss, I suggest you share them with us."
The Guardian commander steeled his nerves. "Springer, prepare for emergency separation."
"That's too dangerous!" Bullseye objected.
"It's not a suggestion, it's an order. Initiate on my mark... now!"
Even as the control module separated from the rest of the ship, moleculon missiles honed in on their quarry. As one, they slammed into the hull, and the superstructure of the ship erupted into a short-lived new sun.
Deadlift smirked. "The Autobots and Guardians have been terminated."
Galvatron shared in the sense of triumph. "Excellent... and the Matrix with them." His satisfaction was short lived, for blinding red agony returned. In that instant, he vowed that, no matter how powerful Unicron was, Galvatron would bend the mysterious being to his will... and then terminate him. He ordered his subordinate to take him to Unicron as soon as Fracture was aboard, and the agony subsided.Meanwhile, on board what was left of Command Center 09, Major Mo ordered Motosan to find a nearby planet to set down for repairs. They were in luck... the planet of rock was only a few light years away.
- Jim Sorenson (w). "Echoes and Fragments" Ask Vector Prime (February 10th, 2016), Fun Publications