MAGAZINE ISSUE 4
CLASSICS (AN ALTERVERSE STORY)
The skies above the reflective metal spires and buildings were uncommonly absent of aircraft that once dominated them. Although, the ground vehicular activity seemed to have swollen to near intolerable gridlock. A lone gray pyramidal jet with red striping flew in defiance to those below. They were his hated enemies and if it were in his power he'd see every single one shredded into filings. Automated ground defenses were already tracking the areal invader and a warning broadcast pleaded for him to land before it was too late. The jet only laughed to himself before he sped on toward his objective without fear, the day these systems could bring him down was the day he'd give up the skies. The heat flares from below and behind him were the first indication that the defense systems had begun to launch their artillery at him. The triangular jet quickly fired off counter-measure flares before performing a hard right barrel roll. His wing tips came within millimeters of the structures he zipped past while he performed maneuvers his peers would be hard-pressed to duplicate. The missiles collided with the structures to both sides behind him and he chuckled to himself at the possible enemy casualties that had possibly occupied those spaces. In the sky no one else on Cybertron could match his skills, at least, not any more. He was forced to make a bit of a detour so the enemies would not be able to follow his specific path. He took a pass over the worst parts of the planet Cybertron before descending below their sensors and heading back to where he had intended to go before he triggered the automated defense systems. He came within meters of his intended location before he allowed his alternate form to convert into his robotic form. His feet clanged against the rough metal surface of the ground. This section of Cybertron was fairly unmaintained with signs of oxidized metal and nearly no sources of illumination to indicate there was Energon here. The robot scanned the area thoroughly for any sign of life that should not see him here. It also allowed the jet thrusters at the base of his feet a chance to cool down before he went inside. He almost hoped that there would be some straggler that he could eliminate prior to his meeting with the one that required his presence here.
The robot moved to the section of the structure before him that was perhaps once a ventilation shaft. There was a hidden panel in the back of the metal where it joined with the building. He opened the panel and unscrewed a section of his left index digit to pour a small portion of Energon into the security device within. The device scanned the fluid for nanobots within for the robot's specific encrypted signature and then, after confirmation, used the fluid to power both the hydraulic system that uncovered a lift and the lift itself. The robot watched impatiently while the section of metal moved to uncover the lift and he then quickly entered it. The lift moved slowly down through levels of Cybertronian crust. The part this robot detested was the fact that it was entirely in darkness while the lift fell into the bowels of the planet before it stopped before a dimly lit metal corridor. He barely hesitated before he straightened and began the walk toward the secret laboratory. The walk was short and he was allowed entrance after a more thorough scanning device confirmed his identity. Two giant metal doors slid slowly aside with a small metal-against-metal screech before he could walk through them to make entry.
Inside the laboratory was dark and quiet, perhaps to save on precious Energon. A single bright optic turned toward the newcomer and he brought the lighting slowly to a more tolerable level. The owner of the lab switched off some screens he did not want the visitor to see. “You have something for me?” the single-optic robot asked in a monotone that could cause lesser robot's circuitry to miss-fire. The robotic equivalent to a chill running up a human spine. The robot that owned this laboratory was perhaps the third most powerful on the planet when it came to shear destructive power he could wield. Although, he tended toward the logic of science, to make this robot upset would be a fatal mistake.
The gray and red robot nodded and pulled his chest open to remove a black and red data chip. He placed it into the nearest open reader slot as indicated by the larger purple robot sitting in the center of the room. “I downloaded the report you filed with Megatron. Jetfire could have been a strong ally against the Autobots. Are you certain he would have sided with them?” the one-optic asked with a slight tone of disbelief. He paused and turned to directly face his visitor. “Or were you too great a coward and felt he needed to be removed because he might just become Megatron's favorite, Starscream?”
If the Decepticons before Starscream had been any other, the words would have been enough to force the Aerospace Commander to lash out with lethal response. But, this foe was too powerful and too logical to make the challenge without the means to back it up. This lab was the foe's lair and thus would be ready for those foolish enough not to acknowledge it as dangerous. “Perhaps it is you, Shockwave, that are the coward. You grovel in this pit of a lab while the real Decepticons do your dirty work. I lost a friend out there and if you don't want Megatron knowing your true purpose behind my scientific missions you'll leave it at that!” Starscream had hoped to convince Jetfire of the Decepticon cause's necessity and to make his friend loyal in Starscream's own plots. Yes, the loss was real either way.
“Megatron is a fool, albeit an extremely powerful one. We should rule Cybertron by now, but even with the drones and robot smashers we are outnumbered by our enemies. With every Autobot we destroy Optimus Prime uses the Matrix and Vector Sigma to build twenty more. We've barely been able to keep the Decepticon army functional as we tap into Autobot energy sources. I calculate that the Decepticon army will be forced either into prison or exile from Cybertron within two hundred solar cycles. That is, if we are not extinct because the Autobots shifted to a more proactive eradication of our kind,” Shockwave explained with as little emotion as if it had been stated by one of his computer terminals.
"You should be glad Megatron is so single-minded toward his goals or your little side project would have already been smashed. I'm not certain we can get what you want from these organic creatures, but my own calculations do not show the Decepticons triumphant without drastic measures. We need more power to crush the Autobots and for that we need more troops. This mudball does have resources that could be converted into Energon, and strangely traces of once having natural Energon crystals. The readings were promising. Frenzy has all the data you require. I must return to Megatron before he finds my absence suspicious. Is there anything you want me to tell him?" Starscream asked before he slowly backed toward the door. He did not want to turn his back on Shockwave until he was safely outside the laboratory.
"Just this: we'll be ready to launch soon," Shockwave replied tersely. The Decepticon war ship Nemesis had been under construction for the last ten entire solar cycles, hidden deep below the dredges. That project had been known to only a select few Decepticons to keep the Autobots from being alerted to its construction. Shockwave turned toward the screens and began to bring up the recorded data stored in Frenzy. Natural Energon crystals? That was rare even for Cybertron and would have been dangerous if they were larger in size. He ignored Starscream's exit from his laboratory, the seeker was dismissed anyhow. He noted that Frenzy's data recording had not been tampered with after Jetfire's loss. Starscream had searched nearly half the mudball planet searching for his lost friend. It was a good thing the dominant species made it so easy for the Decepticon Seeker to replenish his fuel supply. These "fleshlings" as Starscream called them were one of two thousand species Shockwave had so far cataloged in his search for compatible sparks. With the data Starscream captured from these humans Shockwave felt something most illogical: hope.
The landscape is familiar, my father used to take us into the Cascade Mountains when we were children for hikes and camping. For our father it was all about getting back to nature, for us it was a chance to understand our nightmares. We knew the caves of a certain volcano intimately since they were part of the dreaded nightmares. We kept hoping one day they would come true just to show our father and all those doctors that we were not just fantasizing with wild imaginations. Our nightmares were too real to us, we felt, tasted, heard, saw, and lived the moments just as if they were an experience within our waking lives. My brother and I have had similar nightmares all our lives and no doctor has been able to explain the phenomenon. Since dad died and Spike married Carly he's been heavily medicated in order to be a responsible father to their son Daniel. I know Spike would rather forget the nightmares and I can tell he fears for my sanity, yet I have refused to follow his drug-induced solution. The nightmares are a warning from something we cannot escape and I intend to listen to that warning even should it cost me my life. Hopefully vindication and answers shall be my reward.
In the nightmare I stand at the entrance to the largest cavern within the dormant Mt. Saint Hillary volcano. Against my family's wishes I became a park ranger with a geological survey team in order to stay close to the site. I am used to the darkness and the site is normally silent, save for the occasional bat my presence may disturb. I try not to flinch too much when some of the crew decide to bring out the exploration robot, it may not appear to be the same as the machines in my dreams but I still see the similarities. I know this machine is used to explore areas perhaps too dangerous to people, but I also must wonder if the machines in my dreams are some terrible "Terminator" style rebellion of our own creation. I like the site better at night because most of the other rangers have already settled into their warm beds. Not that I would not have probably done exactly the same thing if it had not been for the nightmares. Sleep became an enemy long ago and I have learned to get by with short cat naps that give little chance for REM state. Of course, those naps can still turn into a full deep sleep anytime I have to give tours of the mountains or presentations on why the rangers are needed for the safety of the unwary public. There's been too many that have decided to stray off the beaten paths only to have me have to send my team out to find them. So far I've been lucky, I have only lost one person and that was not because I did not find him, but that he had a heart attack and was gone before I could reach him.
Tonight had been one of those nights looking for a lost hiker. As so often occurs, I was exhausted by the time I returned to our lodge. So when I entered the dream I was a bit surprised. The only part of the nightmare that changes is my perception of myself within it. When I was a child I was smaller and much more frightened, so much so I'd wet my bed before I woke. An item of constant ridicule from Mr. Witwicky, our father. Tonight I am a young man and, although still afraid, much more in control of my reactions.
The darkness was suddenly broke by several dozed different colored glowing eyes. The sounds that echoed in the cave were similar to pile drivers striking the rock surface of the cavern floor and the cave shook under my feet. The scent of crushed volcanic rock mixed with exhaust fumes overpowered the normally humid ash scent. I had a sense that I was surrounded by enemies and it did not matter which way I turned because those glowing eyes were encircling where I stood in the center of the cavern. Panic was my natural reaction as adrenaline began to pump into my system and my heart began to race. Usually this was where the two sides began to blast at each other with lasers and other high-tech weaponry I could not begin to explain, yet would begin to illuminate the cavern enough that I could make out the strange and hideous robotic combatants. One side had a triangular violet symbol while the other had a red symbol that appeared to be more like a face. Sparks flew and loud clangs echoed enough to hurt my eardrums when some of the robots began to bring the fight to a more physical robot-against-robot fistfight. I would try to dodge flying debris, but I normally ended up crushed when the ceiling of the cavern began to crumble due to the destructive forces these mechanical men unleashed against each other. Sometimes one of the robots with the red face on it would attempt to save me only to be damaged by one of the other robots so that instead of saving me he'd end up crushing me as the weight of the stones crashed onto his back.
Tonight something different occurred, instead of the volcano falling on top of me it was blasted into the sky and I could see that the night sky was clear. The cool breeze outside the cavern quickly dissipated the heat built up inside by the various weapons and engines of the robots. I looked up to see a star in the sky grow brighter until it lit the entire cavern and I had the clearest view ever of the robotic combatants. Suddenly a flash caused all of my surroundings to disappear, only to be replaced by a sky I did not recognize and tall metallic towers so high I was unable to discern how many floors up they were. The robots were there too and for the first time they all took notice of me. The meanest looking of the ones with the purple badge lunged to grab me, barely missing as I scrambled out of the way. The robot skidded to a halt after it missed and for the first time I heard what appeared to be language uttered, it sounded similar to how computers connect to ISPs when they use dial-up. The adrenaline was working overtime here because I was certain this monster would try to kill me just to see how easy it was and the task of running away was no simple one since one of the steps of these iron giants could outdistance my full run in seconds. A red and blue robot from the other side stepped in and knocked the one that tried to grab me back. I watched in awe as the gray and silver robot flew what looked like at least a football field before he landed back on his feet. The collision of metal against metal had been right over me and the sound it made hurt my ears, causing them to ring. My eyes locked with the glowing ones of my savior when he looked down at me from what must have been at least forty feet high.
Time seemed to slow to a crawl around us and in moments we were juxtaposed. I saw the yellow, red, white and gray robots with the face like symbol through the machine's optics while it could see my dark bedroom where I lay having the nightmare. I heard the yellow robot report, "The Decepticons are ready to launch sir." "Where are they headed?" I asked. "A planet the natives call `Earth'," the white robot reported. "We must stop them," I commanded with such conviction that I thought it really was me saying it. I wondered why I could now understand what they were saying whereas before all I had heard was garbled modem type sounds.
As suddenly as the link was created it was severed and I woke from the nightmare. I was drenched in nervous sweat, my heart still raced, and I was having to gulp in air. I was certainly glad that I had insisted on a private bedroom at the moment. If any of my fellow rangers had seen me in this state they would have grounds to have me removed just due to possible health complications. My mind was trying to grapple with what the nightmare had revealed. I grabbed the water bottle of my nightstand and greedily emptied the contents to help steady my nerves and to parch my dry throat. "They're coming," I said to myself in a horse whisper. I was both afraid of what it meant for Earth and yet giddy at the thought of it. I wanted to call Spike and see if he had experienced the same nightmare. Even through the drugs there were times Spike experienced "echoes" of the nightmares. I glanced at the clock and decided it was perhaps not the best time to wake the Witwicky family. "They're coming," I said again to myself and it helped create a calming sense of relief. Soon I would be able to get the answers we had wanted all our lives.
I got up and changed the bedding in the dark so it would not draw the attention or questions of the other rangers. I tried to keep as quiet as possible also so I would not wake any of them. I used the small wash basin and towel to clean up some before changing out of the drenched pajamas. For the first time in my memory I was able to crawl into bed with a sense of serenity. I knew the nightmares were over and the message sent, thus it was not hard to sleep like a baby.
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