Apocalypse Rising

Series: Children of Primus, part 3 of 3

by Phantom (phantom1313 at tfrid dot com)

Author's note: The character of Nova is the property of Darcerin/Dark Angel. She is used with permission. She features in the fanfics “Open Wounds, Closed Hearts” and “Broken Hearts Can't Be Mended” by Dark Angel, which will both hopefully be available soon.

* * * * *

The inhabitants of the planet of Kotor looked up in astonishment as a shadow fell across their planet. They jabbered to each other in a multitude of languages, wondering what this could mean. A monster? A visit from their god, demanding sacrifice?

A great maw opened, swooping down, tearing a chunk out of the planet itself. The Kotorians fell to their knees in supplication. Many of their number were slaughtered by their own hand, hoping to appease the voracious attacker. But the giant creature paid their activities no heed, far more interested in the planet itself. In a few short minutes, nothing was left of the Kotorians or their home world.

A dark, sinister chuckle echoed in the void of space. He was coming. His destiny would no longer be denied.

Chapter One

Perceptor stood at the head of the briefing room, addressing the gathered Alliance commanders. “As I'm sure you know, it has been determined that Unicron has been hiding in the Sadut sector, constructing himself another body shell. Over the past few days, however, we have received reports of entire planets being destroyed. Gravitational forces in these areas have become dangerously unstable. There are reports of some giant creature in the area, but unfortunately, all attempts to photograph or record its image have been for naught. All that has been captured on film is a large black aura.”

He turned toward a small, portable video player. “Such is the case when we sent a probe to investigate the possibility of Unicron's reemergence.” He pressed a button, and the assembled top brass watched the probe streak through space. There was a brief, fuzzy impression of something very large, which was quickly swallowed by an inky blackness. Then the picture went blank and snowy.

The gathered Autobots and Decepticons stared numbly at the static. There was no denying it. Unicron was back, and most likely heading their way. Before, the knowledge had been there, but the concept was intangible, easy to dismiss. But this was deadly reality.

“Suggestions? Ideas?” Optimus Prime broke the painful, fearful silence.

“Run away screaming?” Rodimus' comment was met with nervous laughter. He was famous for his gallows humor. The crack had helped to slightly ease the tension.

Megatron glanced once more at the monitor as Perceptor paused the image of the large, shadowy object. “I don't see how we can do anything else than what we've already been doing. Train our troops, strengthen our defenses, stockpile ammunition.”

Prime sighed inaudibly. “Okay, then. We will step up our timetable. If anyone else has any ideas at all, do not hesitate to bring them to Megatron, myself or Rodimus. Dismissed!”

Megatron, Optimus, and Rodimus – the heads of the Alliance – shared a troubled look as their top soldiers filed out. It was nearly zero hour, do or die. Whichever happened would be up to them. The fate of the universe itself rested in their hands. It was a crushing responsibility, and one they were hardly equipped to accept. All they could do was hope and pray.

The Autobot and Decepticon forces were consumed by a quiet sort of panic as the reports of devoured planets mounted. Their inability to actually see the phantom attacker made them all the more nervous. What exactly were they up against? Would Unicron be even more powerful this time? The small prayer chapels were crammed full of supplicants, looking to their god for salvation.

The situation was quickly reaching a critical point. Cybertron had lost communication with the outer planets of its solar system, and though they seemed to still be intact, whatever was out there was blocking all ability to communicate with the outside world. Gradually, the metal planet was being cut off from the rest of the galaxy.

Megatron made his way anxiously through the halls of Iacon's Autobase to the offices of the Primes. There was no response from Optimus at all, so he moved to Rodimus' office. The younger Prime admitted him, nodding distractedly, still preoccupied with a pile of data pads, statistics and information on Unicron's approach.

“We need to review our strategy and battle plans,” the Decepticon said flatly. “There is no room for mistakes. Where is Optimus Prime?”

Rodimus looked distinctly uneasy. “Optimus is… currently indisposed.”

Megatron looked indignant. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“He's, um, occupied.” Rodimus shifted under the steely gaze.

“Occupied? With what? What could be more important than this?” Indignation was rapidly becoming outrage.

Rodimus hated this! “He's attending to some personal business.”

“So call him! We have no time for this!”

“Look, I promise he won't be much longer. Trust me, he'll be in a much better mood if he's not interrupted. He's impossible to deal with when he's disturbed.” He rubbed his face, then shuddered, grimacing and looking uncomfortable.

Megatron stared at him. What could be so damned important that would keep Rodimus from contacting his co-commander? The young leader looked rather ill at ease, and it struck him that perhaps it wasn't just due to his own presence. Rodimus seemed to have a pretty good idea what was going on with Optimus. Suddenly the pieces clicked into place, and he chuckled. “I see. Personal business, eh? That's one way of putting it. I suppose we could get started without him. Just contact him when he's through, all right?”

Rodimus nodded, looking immeasurably relieved, though still quite uncomfortable with whatever was coming through the link. He picked up the data pad that Megatron offered him, surveying the layout of the new weaponry. Megatron took this opportunity to study the young Prime closely. He was nothing at all like what he thought a Prime should be. Though, truth be told, it was difficult picturing anyone but Optimus as Autobot leader, and that was probably coloring his perceptions. He had no disrespect for Rodimus, but this Prime was young and sometimes seemed headstrong and acted rashly. Then again, he was more unpredictable and innovative than the elder Prime. He had had only these few months to observe the Primes at work, but he had to admit that they complemented each other nicely. Rodimus' unpredictability countered Optimus' tried-and-true methods, and in turn Optimus' eternal calm balanced Rodimus' short fuse. It would be very hard for him to believe that this young hothead before him was indeed the Chosen One, the son of Primus himself, if he had not seen the Light God with his own optics and heard the truth from his lips.

“Okay, I have to ask,” Megatron said finally. “Why can't we just use the Matrix against Unicron? Isn't that what killed him the last time?”

Rodimus shook his head. “First of all, the Matrix could not destroy him. It only destroyed his body, not his spirit. It did trap him within his head unit for a time, but it seems that he's found a way to escape. Second of all, the Matrix was drained when it was used to eradiate the Hate Plague. It has since begun to rejuvenate, but it's nowhere near as strong as it used to be. I doubt it will be of too much use against Unicron. Now this mysterious sword of yours might be more useful, if we knew how to use it, or even get it out of you.”

Megatron fell silent, brooding. Finally he asked, “How did you become the Chosen One, if you don't mind my asking? How is it that you are the son of Primus?”

Rodimus looked mildly amused. “I'm not sure I understand it all myself. I've managed to piece parts of it together, though. Optimus provided much of the information on my creation.”

“Optimus?” Megatron looked confused. Rodimus noted with an inward smile that it seemed to be the first time that Megatron had called Prime by his given name. “How would he know about it?”

This time Roddy could not hide his smirk. “Optimus is my father.”

“*Father?!*” Megatron dropped his data pad on the floor and had to crawl around to find it. Rodimus simply could not help but laugh. “Is this some sort of joke?”

Roddy tried to keep his mirth under control. It would do no good to anger Megatron, who already looked quite irritated. “No joke, I assure you. I'm a 'natural' spark, the first one to be created between purely Cybertronian parents since at least the Golden Age.” Megatron gaped, the expression almost comical. “It was determined through a schematics analysis that I was created from Optimus Prime's genetic 'blueprints'. What happened is mostly conjecture. Optimus had a brief experience with a female who turned out to be my maternal creator. We think that Primus arranged for my creation by possessing or otherwise influencing Optimus through the Matrix, creating the ideal spark for the Chosen One. Primus must have then modified my schematics for his own methods, which is probably why I look more like him than Optimus. In essence, I have two 'fathers'. Not bad, eh?”

Megatron just sighed and rubbed his head. He was sorry he asked. It all sounded too farfetched! Still, it was all so convoluted, who could possibly make such a thing up?

A short while later, Optimus Prime entered, having been summoned just minutes earlier. Megatron could not help but notice his rather satisfied demeanor. He seemed somewhat less tense and on-edge than he'd been in weeks. Megatron bit his lip and turned his attention back to his data pad before a giant smile could wrap around his head. It was good to know that Optimus was mortal like the rest of them, with the same needs and desires. Prime noticed the movement and shot him a confused look. What was that all about?

By now the three leaders knew their strategies inside out, but it couldn't hurt to triple-check everything. Having three different opinions was a definite help. Their troops were having an easier time working together as well. The threat of total annihilation had helped to kill all animosity between them. Both factions might profess to have higher motivations, but self-preservation proved to be the strongest of them all.

The alarm klaxon began to shrill, and the three commanders looked at each other in dread. It was a relief to have the tension broken, but at what price? “Sit-rep, now!” Optimus yelled into his communicator, demanding a situation report from Magnus.

The sound of gunfire came over the other end. “A few good-sized squadrons are attacking the outer planetary defenses! Looks like the Yuniri to me, though I have no idea where they got such firepower. So far the big guns are keeping them at bay.”

“Thanks, Magnus!” Optimus replied, already on his feet. “We'll be there shortly.” He turned the situation over in his mind as he raced to join the battle, Rodimus and Megatron hot on his heels. The Yuniri were a rather insular race, notoriously bad-tempered, and quite xenophobic. It was unusual that they would attack another civilization unless they perceived that their territory was being invaded. Also, they had never been well armed. He strongly suspected that Unicron had tipped the balance of power in his favor, offering the Yuniri greater strength and better weaponry in exchange for an attack on Cybertron.

Magnus was out amidst the organized chaos, shouting orders. The enormous long-range guns were doing an effective job of keeping the invaders at bay, but Magnus was never one to underestimate an enemy's strength. “Aerialbots, attack, left flank! Sweeps, right flank! Let's try to box 'em in!” To their credit, the Sweeps did not utter a single sound of protest or question. As long as Scourge was in the lead, they cared for little else. The Autobot and Decepticon triple-changers (with the notable absence of Blitzwing) were swooping back and forth in aerial mode, forcing the Yuniri forces into a tighter group, making them easier targets for the Sweeps and Aerialbots.

Rodimus was unfamiliar with the Yuniri, and he took this moment to study them closely. They were rather thin and angular looking, but it was not clear if they were silicon- or metallic-based from looks alone. Their exostructures were burnished ebony, not quite polished enough to seem metallic, but too durable-looking to be silicon. They brandished weapons of alien manufacture, which discharged devastating blasts of energy. They seemed quite aggressive but had little in they way of strategy. As long as the flighted Cybertronians – in conjunction with the major planetary defenses – could keep them at bay, they should have little problem.

Sure enough, the Aerialbots and Sweeps were able to easily pick off the furiously attacking Yuniri. The Autobots tried to only incapacitate them, but the Decepticons were much less merciful. In their eyes, a dead foe made one less that could return to trouble them. Normally the savage Yuniri would fight until their last man, but this was not their fight, nor their planet. As if some invisible signal had been given, they turned tail and hastened away.

“Ha!” Megatron mocked. “Is that all Unicron has to offer? Surely the *great* Chaos-Bringer is not so easily defeated!”

Optimus looked grave. “This was just a test, Megatron. The attack served to test our defenses, gauge our methods of counterattack. He now knows what to expect from us. The problem is that we have no idea what we're up against. We haven't even been able to get a clear picture of Unicron's new body! We're going to be hard-pressed to improvise against unknown odds.”

The brief battle was enough to release some of the pent-up tension, but it quickly began to build once more, and both armies became tenser than ever. Unicron's progress was tracked only by their diminishing communications range. They were being systematically cut off from the rest of the galaxy. The dark god was perhaps about ten hours away. Each Autobot and Decepticon was able to agree on one thing: this could quite conceivably be the last day of their lives.

Chapter Two

“How many times will I think about the things
I'd like to do
Always denied the right to live my life the way I want
I want to share it with you”
--“Sweet Dreams” – Air Supply

Andromeda stepped through the door of Optimus Prime's quarters, wondering why he had sounded so urgent when he had paged her. She had her own quarters but rarely used them these days. Optimus seemed bent on keeping up appearances, though surely most everyone in the base knew about their relationship by now. His time was monopolized now more than ever, but somehow he had found scant moments here and there to spend with her. Lately he had held her with a nearly frightening intensity, seemingly afraid that she would melt into thin air. He had wanted so desperately to tell her to go to Earth with the Paradronians, to stay safe and far away from the coming battle, but he could never do that. She was a proud Autobot just like the others, and he couldn't ask her to stay behind out of concern for her well-being. She would only worry about him, risking his own life in the thick of battle without her by his side. He knew that she could hold her own, and it wouldn't be fair to send her away or give her special treatment. If worst came to worst, at least they would die together.

“I'm glad you could make it,” Optimus murmured, coming over and enveloping her in a massive hug. “I was worried that Kup would be drilling you until eternity.” She was one of Kup's security officers, and the grizzled old warrior often spoke highly of her, as best as he could without appearing too softhearted.

“Not this time,” she replied, kissing his neck. “He decided to let us have a few hours off. He didn't say it, but we all know that it's to have time to say goodbye.” She wanted to tell Optimus how frightened she was, how she cringed inside every time he went off to battle, but she found she couldn't put that burden on him. It was his duty to risk his life for his people. Her worries were inconsequential compared to the fate of their entire species, and now that of the entire universe. He was the most noble and selfless being that she had ever known, despite whatever personal problems he might have. She could still scarcely believe that he had chosen her to be his mate.

Her words were cut off as he captured her lips with his own. “We have such little time left!” he said anxiously when they finally pulled apart. He had done his very best to keep up morale, but in private, she could tell how frightened he was. It was obvious that he did not rate their chances of survival very highly. “It's not fair!” he said angrily, knowing that he was being selfish and not caring in the least. “We've only had seven years together! I've only just found you, and I don't want to lose you!”

'Not the way you lost Alita,' Andromeda completed the phrase in her mind. No wonder he was so upset! Unicron had taken the life of his beloved mate, and now the very same enemy was threatening all of them once more. “No matter what happens, we'll always be together,” she reassured him as best she could. Her hands caressed his back, his neck, and his shoulders lovingly, soothing him.

“I don't know what you see in me sometimes,” he told her, pulling her down on the bed beside him, needing her by his side more than ever. “I know I can be impossible at times. I'm grouchy and moody, and I spend far too many late nights at work. I can't even count how many times we've been interrupted by that blasted pager going off. I honestly don't know how you put up with it.” He buried his head against her chest, feeling emotion threatening to overcome him. “Sometimes… sometimes I get so afraid, thinking that you'll get sick of me and leave me. I couldn't bear that, Ani! I swear that sometimes you and Roddy are the only glue that holds me together. I'm nothing without you!”

She held him as he trembled. “You have nothing to worry about, because I'm not going anywhere,” she said gently. She'd had no idea that he was holding all of that inside! “I couldn't ask for a better mate, Optimus. I know we haven't been together very long, but these have been the best seven years of life. I knew what I was getting into when I took you as my mate, and I've never regretted it.” Seven years could be considered a long time by certain species, but it was scarcely a drop in the bucket for a Cybertronian. Still, Andromeda had enjoyed every minute of it.

Optimus kissed her forehead, her nose, her chin, his hands cupping her face. He couldn't believe this would be the last time he would hold her in his arms. Tonight their love would be bittersweet, giving and taking from each other more intimately than ever before, but with the knowledge that this could be their last chance.

* * * * *

“There's not much time to tell you half the things I should
Only that I'm so glad I fell in love with you
And I'd do it again if I could”
--“Sweet Dreams” – Air Supply

Rodimus paced nervously, muttering to himself. No, that didn't sound right at all! That was just stupid! Gods, how would he ever have the courage to do this? He was already so nervous his fuel pump was ready to go critical! After so many years of playing the field, he had found the perfect femme. Of course, it had hardly started out as perfect. Initially she had been hell on wheels, making his life a misery. But somehow, fate had seen fit to bring them together. He had denied it at first. She was just another female, someone for him to spend time with. But Optimus had pointed out rather shrewdly that Roddy's serial dating had dropped off severely, then stopped altogether. And, most shockingly of all, he hadn't made a move on her, at least not until he had been positive that she was interested and ready. They'd been together scarcely two years. Two years! What was that to a Cybertronian, even ones as young as they?

“Dammit!” Rodimus raged, punching his flat palm so that it stung. He'd only just found her! How could he possibly say goodbye? And yet, being half-Lithonian, she had contracted a lethal and incurable disease, so a part of him had known deep down that he would lose her someday. But not like this!

“What's wrong?” A hand touched his shoulder and he jumped. He hadn't even heard her come in!

He turned around, coming face-to-face with an absolute goddess. Nova was shorter than him, her head barely coming up to his lips. Her entire paint job was eggshell white, with bright orange splashes of color here and there. She was heart-stoppingly beautiful to him. On the outside, she was a marvel too look at, but he knew that the Corrodonucleosis was eating her from the inside out. Perhaps that it was better that she did not suffer more, but he still hated to say goodbye. He wished she had gone to the safety of Earth, but the moment he had suggested it she had chewed him out. He had to admit that he was glad to have her by his side. Dammit, he needed more time!

“Hi there, beautiful,” he said softly, planting a kiss on her forehead. She deserved so much better than this!

“Hi there, yourself,” she teased. “What's up? You seem so nervous. Is it just the tension getting to you? Sit down and I'll give you a massage.”

As appealing as that was, he knew it would only postpone the inevitable. 'Come on, you wimp!' he scolded. A shiver running through the link let him know that Optimus was saying goodbye to Andromeda in style. If he wanted to do the same, he'd better get this right! “Nova… there's something I'd like to ask you.”

“Yes?” she said, a touch of curiosity in her tone.

“Um… sit down.” She did as she was told, perching on the edge of his sofa. He paced back and forth nervously. What on Cybertron was this all about?

Rodimus darted quick, nervous glances at her. He didn't think he could do this! Primus, he was so afraid he was ready to shake himself apart! 'Do it!' he snapped at himself irritably. 'It's now or never, and if you *don't* do it now, never is the only option!' Finally he forced himself to kneel before her, taking one of her hands in his own. “Nova,” he spoke in a quavering voice, “I know we haven't been together very long, and I was a real arrogant jerk when we met. But since then I haven't been able to tear myself away from you. I love you so much, and I can't imagine life without you. I, um, was hoping, um… was wondering if you would bond with me.” He looked up at her imploringly, fear and nervousness written all over his handsome features.

Nova could only stare at him in shock. He was proposing! To her! Her spirits leapt. But at the same time, she knew it was wrong. Not just yet. She had lost Blazer just several short years ago. Her Lithonian mate had loved her very much and had given her a spark, but the dread disease had clamed both him and the unborn child, leaving Nova alone to mourn them, and later to begin her own slow death. She knew unquestionably that she would already be dead if she had not joined the Autobots. In time she had come to love again, but she knew that she was just not ready to take such a large step, even if Unicron was poised to eradicate them all. “Roddy,” she said gently, squeezing his hand, “you've been so good to me. I love you more than I can ever say, but it's just too soon for me. Don't worry – we'll always be together, even if we die and go to the Matrix. Even death can't keep us apart.”

Rodimus stood and drew her into his arms, kissing her deeply. He knew that she was right; it was too soon for her to bond with him. But he was still glad that he had asked. He wanted her to be a part of his life, always. He smiled as he scooped her up in his arms and headed for his spacious recharge chamber. He wanted their last night together to be a memorable one.

Chapter Three

One hour.

One hour until Unicron arrived.

One hour until their destruction.

Megatron watched Optimus Prime make his rounds, kneeling and speaking to the individuals that looked the most dispirited or afraid. Every time they seemed encouraged by his simple yet powerful words. Optimus had a charisma that made him a very popular and beloved figure. Even the Decepticons were swayed by his words. They were all frightened and needed something to believe in. Optimus Prime gave them that faith and the belief that they would prevail. But Megatron had seen the fear in Prime's own optics and knew that even the mighty Autobot leader did not believe they would survive.

Rodimus was nowhere in sight. Megatron turned to follow as Optimus slipped out of the large room. He wondered where either of them could be going at such a critical juncture. To his surprise, Optimus led him to the small prayer shrine to Primus inside Iacon. Rodimus looked up as his friend entered, his features creased in fear and worry. Optimus knelt beside him and wordlessly folded him into a hug. Rodimus hugged back, understanding that Optimus needed the affection as much as he did. Megatron looked away. This was not meant for him to see.

When the embrace ended, Rodimus turned back to his fervent prayers. Optimus began the ritual before prayer by prostrating himself before the altar, then sat with his legs folded underneath him, head bent, hands resting on his knees. Both Autobot leaders began to chant an ancient supplication to Primus. Megatron could not pin down Roddy's accent at all, but Optimus' had an undeniably Iaconian flavor. He could scarcely believe this. He hadn't pegged either Prime as being particularly religious, but then again, they had met their god face-to-face not so long ago. Could their prayers manage to do some good? What could it hurt, after all?

Megatron warily entered the prayer chamber and awkwardly underwent the short ritual. Kneeling on the floor, he began to recite the archaic prayers that he had been taught as a newling. He had not prayed in many, many millions of years. He had cursed Primus, turned his back on the light god as being a deity uncaring of the fate of his people. He was surprised, however, to find that the words came back to him easily.

Rodimus and Optimus paused briefly when Megatron began to recite his own prayer. It was nothing like they had heard before, completely different from their deeply ingrained supplications. A Decepticon prayer?! Could it be that they had their own separate way of appealing to their god? The prayer used different syntax and wording that was definitely Decepticon in origin. The Autobot smiled at each other faintly. Who could have imagined?

After nearly an hour of their mingled prayers, they each faltered and fell silent, wrapped up in their own private thoughts. Would all of their hard, tireless work over the past few months do any good at all? Rodimus, for once, could not find a single joke to crack. “Um, are you guys as scared as I am?” he said in a small voice.

Optimus looked at him solemnly, as impassive as ever. “I am,” he said softly, patting his shoulder. “There's nothing wrong with being afraid, Roddy. We just can't let fear stand in our way of doing what needs to be done.” Rodimus gave him a smile. At least they would be facing this together.

Megatron looked at them both. “Okay, fine. This has got me spooked too. I'm hardly looking forward to seeing Unicron again. But if I can get a little payback in, I can die happy.” Both Autobots nodded, recognizing his admission but not discussing it further to avoid shaming him.

After a long moment of silence, Optimus spoke. “I don't know if any of us will survive this. I just wanted you both to know that I will be proud to fight and, if so fated, die by your side.” He put his hand out, side down. Roddy gave him an understanding smile and placed his hand atop Prime's. After a second's hesitation, Megatron added his hand to the pile. They were united in intent and purpose. Whatever fate held in store for them, they would face it together.

Just then a pain raced through Rodimus' chest and he yanked his hand away, clutching at his chestplate. Optimus hissed and clapped both hands over his own chest, feeling the same stabbing pain. Megatron groaned, rubbing at his own chest. A warning! Before their communicators crackled to life, they knew. Unicron was here.

* * * * *

“No one has the answer but one thing is true
You've got to turn on evil when it's coming after you
You gotta face it down and when it tries to hide
You gotta go in after it and never be denied”
-- “Let's Roll” – Neil Young

The first thing Megatron noticed when he reached his soldiers was how dark it was. At first he thought that there had been a power failure. Then he saw. There was a massive shadow across the entire planet, blocking out the light that came from the distant, tiny sun.

“Primus help us!” came a shocked, tremulous voice. Cyclonus stood at his side, gaping at the apparition in horror.

Optimus and Rodimus stopped short just before crashing into them. They could not manage to utter a sound. It was so impossibly big, even huger than they had speculated! How could they fight that?!

Unicron had chosen his new form well. Grimlock had told them about how the tiny creature, Primacron, had bragged that he had built Unicron. Such a claim was ludicrous, but it was not beyond belief that the inventor had at least designed and constructed the Chaos-Bringer's previous body shell. Now Unicron had been left to his own devices. He had selected the form of a massive green and white dragon, with many serrated-looking scales. The tail alone looked big enough to wrap around half the planet! It towered above Cybertron, its jaws slavering hungrily.

Megatron's arm shook as he aimed his fusion cannon. “Die, Unicron!” he raged. “I will have my revenge!”

The giant body quivered with laughter, the shock waves deafening Primus' creations. The blast tore through its underbelly, but it barely seemed to feel it. “You seek to hurt me!” he roared with laughter. “Little bug! You are mine!”

The Decepticon leader roared as he felt Unicron's mental “fingers” pressing in on his mind. Cyclonus, Scourge, and the Sweeps seemed to have similar problems. “Nnnnnoooooo!” Megatron howled. “I am no longer yours! You cannot control me again!” He began firing indiscriminately. As if on signal, weapons of all types and sizes opened up on the lurking behemoth. They could at least go down fighting!

Unicron opened his massive mouth, breathing out a giant plume of white-hot fire. The conflagration raced toward the planet, melting through several levels, taking several hapless robots with it. The planet's giant guns fired multiple times, the barrels turning white with the heat. Large chunks were torn from the monster, but the damage was only superficial. It would take much, much more to stop the Chaos Bringer.

Optimus managed to gather his wits together. He was sincerely glad that he had been dead the last time this had happened. “Fortress Maximus! Trypticon! Attack!” This would be the first time that Fort Max would be going into battle since the death of Spike. Prime just hoped that the Headmaster could function with the modifications that made Cerebros alone his Headmaster component. Arcee had been doing reasonably well without Daniel – his exosuit having been permanently restored as her head – though she still suffered through occasional bouts of depression. The human Headmasters had not benefited from prolonged longevity from binary bonding the way the Nebulans had.

Megatron echoed Prime's command. “All combiner teams! Merge and attack!”

Ultra Magnus and Cyclonus were also busy positioning their troops. “Attack pattern delta!” the Autobot Major-General ordered. “Buy them some time!” The aerial and ground forces quickly mobilized in the prearranged pattern, giving the gestalt teams time to form up. Bruticus, Menosaur, Abominus and Predaking, the most feral and bloodthirsty combiners, lost no time in launching themselves at Unicron. Menosaur swung his giant sword at Unicron's elongated neck while Bruticus and Predaking tried to tear chunks out of his underbelly. Computron hung back slightly, trusting the other forces to cover him as he calculated the best angle of attack and the areas that would be the most vulnerable. Superion, Defensor and Devastator, being somewhat calmer, did not attack as fiercely but had more success and avoided injury more easily. The sight of so many enormous Transformers attacking at once was impressive, but Unicron shrugged them off as if they were nothing but pesky insects. Menosaur de-merged rather abruptly when the abdomen area that was Motormaster was severely damaged. The others pressed on, but his absence was severely felt. The Sweeps attacked desperately. Scourge had been gravely injured by the blast of Unicron's fire-breath and they were determined to avenge him. Angry at his rebellious creations, Unicron opened his mouth and used the very same fire breath to melt them into oblivion.

At a prearranged signal, the air shimmered, revealing three large spacecraft. They simultaneously began to fire on Unicron. Cloaking technology that had been, according to Megatron,“ donated” by the Romulans to the Decepticons, had helped to hide the battleships until the critical moment. They may not make much difference in the long run, but at least it was a tactical advantage that Unicron had been unaware of. In this battle, they needed every advantage they could get.

“Optimus Prime!” the dragon called. The elder Autobot leader felt his fluids run cold. “Stop this farce! Surrender to me, and I will grant you the precious oblivion that you have wanted for so long. You will know true peace. You will be reunited with those that you love. Is that not your wish?”

“N—no! No!” Optimus exclaimed. How did Unicron know such things? How could he know his innermost thoughts? “I am not ready to die! I am not ready to surrender our entire race to destruction! I will enter the Matrix and rejoin my friends when it is my destiny, and not a moment before. I will never give in to your will, you bastard!” It felt good to swear at this abomination. “You murderer! You killed Alita! I will not allow you to harm another creature as long as I live!”

“As you wish.” A blistering beam of green energy fired from Unicron's jade optic. Megatron pulled him out of the way before he could be incinerated. Optimus managed to raise his rifle and fire. The shot burned a small hole in Unicron's side, but the creature barely noticed. The Chaos-Bringer began to laugh and laugh. The sound was terrible, and all that could hear it instantly wished they would go deaf. His giant tail smacked the planet, creating a large dent and flattening several warriors.

“Look!” Rodimus cried. “What's happening to him? Is he falling apart?”

It did indeed seem as if Unicron was falling to pieces. The truth, however, became all too apparent. The chunks that fell away transformed into robots the size of a gestalt, each eerily resembling the old Unicron in robot form that they all feared. Roughly thirty fell to the planet, with more on the way, where they began their deadly business of eradicating the Cybertronians. It seemed that this battle was personal.

“Fall back!” Magnus roared. “Protect the generators! We need the power for the main guns!”

Megatron bent over, gasping, as a burning in his chest began. His hand reached to clutch at the pain, but as he reached out, his hand caught hold of something. A sword hilt! He pulled, and the Sword of Primus emerged from his chest cavity. At last, something they could really fight with!

“Ha! Unicron, face me!” he growled, lunging at the nearest robot. It flinched away from the blade as if pained by its very sight. Megatron sliced through it easily and headed for the next one. Inspired by the appearance of the sword, the Alliance members increased their counterattack, pressing the advantage. They soon discovered that Unicron had made a gross tactical error. While the mini-Unicrons were undoubtedly powerful and fierce, they made more vulnerable targets. The demonic warriors were meant to overrun the opposing warriors, but the Cybertronians found it much easier to fight something that was closer to their size. Megatron had a much better chance of reaching the smaller Unicron clones than he would have attacking the giant dragon in space. With a mental command, Unicron recalled his components, ordering them to reform. During the rather lengthy reformation process, the united Cybertronians were able to score some rather critical hits. All too soon, however, Unicron had resumed his dragon mode, albeit now pockmarked and singed. Several components were missing, having been destroyed or too incapacitated to remerge. Still the behemoth managed to fire several devastating blasts with his optics, scarring the landscape and destroying quite a number of their soldiers.

Megatron caressed the flat of the sword blade thoughtfully. The archaic Cybertronian symbols seemed to glow and felt warm to the touch. He'd have to get very close indeed to use the sword. There might be another way, however, to injure the dark god. He stowed the mystical sword in his subspace pocket for safekeeping. “Optimus Prime!” he called. “Get ready!” He then transformed into his much smaller Earthen gun mode, shrinking many times in size but not in power. Optimus caught him neatly. Megatron lay perfectly still in Prime's strong grasp, opening long-unused receptors throughout his body. Energy flooded through him, energy that was so powerful that he thought it would tear him apart! Energies that were drawn directly from the heart of a black hole, energy powerful enough to hurt a god itself. It would not be enough to destroy Unicron, but it certainly would do some damage! When he thought that he would simply be torn asunder, Megatron released the furious energy through his gun barrel, ripping a blistering path straight for the Chaos Bringer. Unicron actually screamed as it tore through his metallic hide clear to the other side. Fluids and gases vented into space, which was becoming littered with debris from the injury. Megatron was weak now… so very weak. That one shot had drained him beyond belief, but he knew that Unicron was still mobile. He opened his circuits once again, drawing in the searing energy, then fired it once more at Unicron's underbelly. The energy was not as plentiful or as strong this time, but it was enough to tear through delicate circuitry and hydraulics. Unicron roared in anger. His body was crippled! It simply wasn't possible! He had been dealt a mighty blow by one of his own 'creations'!

Megatron transformed back to root mode and swayed on his feet. Optimus caught him and supported him with one arm, seeing that the Decepticon was too weak to stand on his own. Megatron drew the sword from subspace and held it at the ready. “Now, Optimus! The Matrix, now!”

With his free hand, Optimus opened his chest casing and withdrew the Matrix. Its light was still dazzling but pitifully weak compared to its strength before the Hate Plague. Rodimus hurried to his side. Megatron managed to hold himself up against Optimus as each Prime took a handle of the Matrix. “Light our darkest hour!” they chorused as they pulled, opening the Matrix casing, allowing the searing bright light to burst free. It streaked unerringly for Unicron, striking where Megatron's blasts had already torn through. The dragon's body glowed an eerie bluish-white as Unicron howled in unbelievable pain. The sound was even more chilling than his previous laughter. His entire structure seemed to swell with the energy, then exploded outward. The planet was filled with cheering Cybertronians. They had won!

A chuckle reached them. They froze, their laughter dying abruptly. What was that? Surely Unicron had not survived!

In space, a small dot was visible. It came closer and closer until it hovered just feet above Cybertron's surface. It was a familiar figure indeed, but the laughter coming from its mouth was not the customary screech. Instead, Unicron's bass tones rumbled its entire small frame.

“Starscream!” Megatron roared. “What is the meaning of this? How dare you help Unicron!”

“I don't think that's Starscream at all!” Rodimus exclaimed. “Unicron made Starscream a new body, but Starscream betrayed him. Unicron must have taken it back and used it for his own purposes. Starscream's spark is long gone. That's how Unicron was able to escape from the husk of his head! He used the body he built for Starscream!”

“I killed Starscream once before! I can do so again!” Megatron growled. He held the sword aloft and charged the possessed robot. “Starscream” merely laughed and shot a beam of dark energy from his hand. Megatron collapsed to his knees, trying to use the sword to deflect it without success. He was already so weak, it was all he could do to try to roll out of the way.

“You can never destroy me!” Unicron roared from his tiny body. “You can destroy my corporeal form all you like. The only one that can truly destroy me is Primus! You have no hope!” Dark energy lanced out in all directions, hitting Autobots and Decepticons randomly. Cyclonus cried out as his Nebulan Targetmaster was hit. Andromeda was hit square in the chest. She fell backwards, optics flickering unsteadily. Her scream of pain echoed across the battlefield.

“Ani! No, no! You'll pay for that, Unicron! By Primus himself, I swear you'll pay!” Optimus held aloft the Matrix, opening it once more. The small amount of energy coalesced around his body, protecting him, but did not move to strike at the possessed body of Starscream. Prime looked at the Matrix in consternation. What was going on?

Megatron groaned and lurched to his knees, holding the sword high. He would die on his feet like a warrior! He would not let Unicron get the best of him!

Rodimus had a crazy urge just then. He knew it was a move that could well be suicidal, but he had learned long ago to trust his instincts. Trusting the others to cover his back, he knelt in the middle of the battlefield and began to recite the supplication to Primus.

Unicron screamed in rage, preparing another blast of dark energy. Optimus Prime and Megatron looked at Rodimus as if he'd gone mad but did not question him. They quickly added their voices to his prayers. And, astonishingly, the Matrix energy that had wrapped itself around Optimus uncurled and reached for Rodimus Prime. The sword that Megatron held also emitted a similar type of energy in a tight band, also lancing toward the younger Autobot leader. Rodimus still knelt, oblivious to everything but his prayers. The two beams of energy surrounded him and braided themselves together until they melded as one. Rodimus' form glowed with the energy, and then a change began to take place. He began to shake violently as Matrix energy poured from every seam in his armor, his optics glowing powerfully. He cried out, but not in pain. Optimus gasped, feeling an incredible ecstasy overcome him through the link, unlike any emotion that he had felt before. “My god!” he whispered, not realizing just how prophetic those words were. The prophecy was true. When Autobot and Decepticon stood as one and united the Sword and the Matrix, a true miracle would indeed occur.


“No!” Unicron shrieked. “Not you! You're trapped in the Matrix! You cannot escape!!!”

Rodimus Prime smiled. It was his body, his mouth that smiled, but the voice that spoke was much deeper and powerful, carrying the wisdom of the ages. “You have underestimated me, Unicron. You are my responsibility, and it is time that I took care of you. You have threatened the universe time and time again with destruction. I have had enough. It's time I put a stop to you, once and for all.”

“Primus! DIE!” Unicron pulled a ball and chain seemingly out of nowhere, lashing out at the possessed Rodimus. The light god easily ducked the swinging spiked ball. He reached out and plucked his ancient weapon from Megatron's numb hand. Optimus closed the Matrix reflexively. He knew that his role was finished.

Primus struck out with his engraved sword, catching Unicron on the shoulder. The Chaos-Bringer hissed and landed a blow on Primus' side. The two gods battled for several minutes in their commandeered bodies. The light god soon realized that his planet and his people were both in danger of being destroyed. He and Unicron might have small, mortal bodies, but their strength and energy were still godlike and could easily wipe out everything. Primus turned and flew off into the depths of space with Unicron chasing right behind.

The assembled Cybertronians had difficulty seeing the combatants, even with their optics on maximum power. The enormous amount of energy, however, was nearly blinding, as light clashed with dark in a colossal struggle. It was plain to see how destructive both gods could be. Primus and Unicron were evenly matched, even in their new forms, and every blow that was landed by one was quickly reciprocated by the other. Primus realized with growing horror that the body he occupied was quickly becoming weakened. Unicron seemed to find it funny that he had taken on the form of one of Primus' creations, but it was mercifully an empty shell. Primus did not have the luxury of abusing his assumed form, however, for it was still occupied by his child's spark. He could not risk the life of Rodimus Prime, his very own son!

A desperate plot formed in the mind of the light god. Turning tail, he streaked to the far end of this solar system. Unicron followed close on his heels, laughing all the way. “Stand and fight!” he sneered. “Or have you become a coward these past eons?”

Primus said nothing, making a mad dash for his destination. If only this would work! The entire universe hung in the balance. It was all up to him now.

Unicron was so busy gloating that he did not notice the growing gravitational forces until it was too late. A black hole, the very one that Megatron had tapped into, had seized both of their corporeal bodies and was inexorably drawing them into its center. “You fool! You'll destroy us both!” the Chaos-Bringer raged, struggling to get free of his possessed body. Primus bound him to it effortlessly, dragging them both deeper, into the eye. Their perceptions were twisted and their bodies stretched beyond endurance by the unbelievable forces within the black hole. Finally, there was an explosion, and all was silent.

Chapter Four

The Cybertronians waited nervously and fearfully back on the planet. They had very quickly launched a probe to find out how the climactic battle was going. They had all seen Primus and Unicron enter the black hole. When the probe entered as well, it was quickly destroyed.

Optimus Prime wasn't sure what to think. Nothing at all was coming from the link. Could Rodimus be dead? He had always thought he would feel Roddy's death, but now with his possession, he was no longer sure. What had happened to his beloved friend and son? Had he been destroyed? Had either god survived?

Suddenly a collective cheer went up. Rodimus came into view, battered and bruised, but most definitely alive. He touched down on the planet surface and promptly collapsed, the mystical energy draining out of him, back into the sword and the Matrix. The sword shimmered and disappeared once more, but Megatron scarcely noticed. “Don't crowd him!” Kup yelled. “Give the lad some room!”

Optimus knelt at his side. “What happened, Roddy?” he asked gently. He hated to press his dear friend for details while he was in such a state, but they desperately needed to know if Unicron was destroyed. Sensations were coming at him from the link once more – pain, weariness. It was all eclipsed by a feeling of satisfaction.

Rodimus smiled weakly. “It's okay. Unicron is no longer on this plane of existence. I remember everything that happened, but it's like a dream, like I was just a bystander. He's not completely destroyed, but he won't be causing trouble for a long, long time. I think I was protected in the black hole because I was Primus' creation, still alive, but Unicron only had an empty shell and could not defend it without a true life force. The best I could understand was that Unicron was trapped and would be judged by the other deities for his crimes. Primus could not destroy him without shifting the balance of power and leaving an opening for an even more powerful enemy. I think Primus is now back in the Matrix. So lovely. It was so lovely.” He slipped into unconsciousness, a smile on his face.

The Alliance faced yet another daunting task – the rehabilitation of the planet and its survivors, and the mourning of those who had passed. Nearly forty Autobots and Decepticons had been killed. The death tally continued to rise as new bodies were discovered, or more individuals were reported missing. Identification of the deceased proved to be a daunting task, as some corpses were melted or scorched beyond recognition. The Sweeps were completely decimated. Cyclonus' Targetmaster partner, Nightstick, was hanging onto life by a thread. Rodimus had given him an empathetic look as the Decepticon stood watch for days on end. The Decepticon Second had the eerie feeling that Rodimus Prime understood exactly what he was going through. He wondered exactly what had become of the Autobot's component. Perhaps the Autobot understood all too well after all.

Andromeda's life also hung in the balance. While the Sword of Primus had protected Megatron from Unicron's dark energies, Andromeda and Nightstick had both received near-lethal doses. Optimus Prime had refused all efforts to drag him out of her room in medbay to recharge and refuel. He looked almost as bad as she did. Rodimus stopped by from time to time to give him updates and reports, but mostly just to make sure that he was all right. He knew better than to make Optimus leave, but he did manage to make him ingest some Energon and grab a few hours of recharge on a nearby medberth. Rodimus was able to keep things together, with Megatron's help. Optimus had lost so much in his long life. Rodimus was not about him to take him away – he needed to be by his mate's side when she needed him the most. The one bit of good news was that, after three days in a coma, it seemed that Nightstick would make it after all.

Optimus shifted uncomfortably in the chair beside Andromeda's bed. Ratchet, First Aid, Bivouac, and Triage all had doubts as to how to heal her. She had a deep gaping wound in her chest, but that had been repaired days ago. It seemed that her systems had been attacked by the dark energy, and the best thing to do would be to flush her entire body with fresh energy. Prime's presence, whether it was due to his being the Matrix Bearer or merely because he was her mate, seemed to be quite beneficial. It was one of the many reasons that he refused to leave her side. He also had some very personal reasons for staying. He had lost Alita to the Chaos-Bringer, and he could not bear to lose his second mate as well. He knew that he had disappointed Andromeda countless times by his busy schedule and demanding job, from which there was rarely a break, but she was eternally patient and understanding. He did not want to let her down this time.

He tried to do some work, normally hating the paperwork but finding it a blessed diversion in times like this. Most of his time, however, was spent in prayer. He wondered if it was selfish for him to pray that Andromeda's life be spared. It was not his place to ask that his beloved's life be saved if it was her destiny to join the Matrix. She would be happy with Primus in eternal peace. But he also knew that the future was not set in stone, and Andromeda was so young. She was so cheerful and spirited, making him feel younger and more alive than he had in a long time. If there were any chance that Primus would hear his prayer and grant it, he had to take it. He simply did not know how he could go on without her.

Rodimus tried to give him as much comfort has he could, but if Andromeda died, he dreaded what would happen to Optimus' state of mind, which was still fragile from the attack by the Voarcian demon-creature several months ago. Rodimus could not help but feel a very selfish relief that Nova, his own mate, had survived with only minor contusions. She may still be dying from Corrodonucleosis, but the final day was off in the future, where Roddy was content to leave it. His own wounds had been trickier to repair but had been patched up by their expert medical staff. However, he could not fully relax until Andromeda's fate was decided, one way or another. It was so unfair that Optimus had to suffer this way! His happiness was always shattered somehow. Andromeda had made him so happy, and he would be absolutely devastated if he lost her. Rodimus pleaded with Primus nightly to let her live. She was a wonderful person, and an ideal mate for his friend. Her place was here.

Optimus rubbed his temples wearily. He was so tired, having eaten little and slept less in the seven days since his mate had been brought in. But being here gave him a small measure of comfort. A small noise came from beside him. He scarcely heard it, the sound passing unheeded… then he froze. Had he really heard something?

He turned his head, scarcely daring to hope. There lay Andromeda, her optics online, looking at him, a tired yet happy smile on her face. “Hi there,” she rasped.

Optimus gaped. He was unable to say a word. He managed to gasp. One hand reached out to shakily caress her cheek. His hands then flew to cover his face as he burst out in ragged sobs. She was alive! She was okay!

“Optimus?” she said timidly, very much taken aback by his emotional outburst. She felt rotten and figured that she had been in medbay for some time. Her right hand brushed the buzzer that summoned a nurse, and she pressed it. Just moments later, Ratchet and First Aid burst into her room. The CMO lost no time in heading toward her and taking her vital signs, while First Aid moved to escort Optimus outside. Prime shoved him aside roughly, not wanting to leave Andromeda now that she was finally awake.

“Optimus, you should go with him,” Ratchet said patiently. “You're no good to anyone like this. I promise you can come back as soon as we're done in here.”

Prime nodded, his body still wracked with sobs that seemed to be torn from him. First Aid gently escorted him to a spare room to calm down in privacy, giving Ratchet more room to work in. While he worked, he filled Andromeda in on the details of the past few days. Optimus spent his time trying to get ahold of himself, but every time he thought of just how close he'd come to losing her, he would suffer another bout of tears. Some of those tears were those of happiness, however. He was just so happy to have another chance! He vowed to never take Andromeda for granted. She brought him so much happiness. He thanked Primus over and over again for this second chance.

When Ratchet was done with his examination, Optimus was allowed to see his mate once more. He crushed her to his chest in as big of a bearhug as he dared, choking back tears once more. “I love you!” he whispered. “I love you so much! I almost lost you!”

Andromeda soothed him the best she could. “Well, it looks like you're stuck with me, 'cause I'm not going anywhere!”

Optimus pulled off his mask. He wanted her to see his true face. He took her face in his hands, kissing her deeply. “Ani… I want you to be my bonded mate, now and forever. There's no one that I'd ever want in my life but you. I almost lost the chance to ask you. I want you to know how much you mean to me. I'm afraid we'd have to keep it secret from everyone but our closest friends, since I have a lot of enemies, but I want to cement our relationship in front of Primus.”

Andromeda gave him a gentle yet radiant smile. “I'd like that very much, Optimus. But I think we should wait until things settle down around here a bit, okay? It's been so crazy that I've barely had time to catch a thought, and I still feel very weak. I know that we are already bonded to each other in our hearts. The ceremony can wait for now.”

Optimus kissed her forehead. “Whatever makes you happy, my love.” He was just happy to hold her in his arms and tell her how much he loved her.

Chapter Five

Optimus Prime beamed down at the massive throng of Cybertronains gathered before him. Rodimus and Megatron flanked him on either side. Since he was reputedly the best public speaker, he had been elected to share the news, the result of many weeks of harried and intense debate. Time and again it seemed like this would never come to pass, but at last everything had been resolved. “Autobots and Decepticons, members of the Alliance,” he began. “It is my great honor and happy duty to inform you that a permanent peace treaty has been signed between the Autobots and the Decepticons. The civil war is officially over!” His next words were drowned out by a raucous cheer. To be sure, there were quite a few dissenters, but that was to be expected. Bad feelings between the two factions could hardly be erased overnight. The crowd quickly quieted, scarcely able to keep calm but wanting to hear more. “This does not mean that our armies will be merging together. Each of our factions is unique unto themselves. To meld them together would dilute the differences that make us what we are. Perhaps it could become a possibility sometime in the future, but we are taking small steps right now, to ensure that the Alliance will hold. For now, the Autobots and Decepticons will go their separate ways on Cybertron, exploring different projects. An interim Alliance Council will be formed with equal numbers of Autobot and Decepticon high command to sort out issues that affect both of our factions. Foremost on our list is the reconstruction of Cybertron from Unicron's latest attack. Details on this council will be available shortly.” Another round of cheers erupted. “Autobots, Decepticons, we have entered a new age. It is up to all of us to make it work. With patience and understanding, all things are possible.”

Rodimus grabbed the mike. “We did it! Whooooeeeee, yeah!” Megatron just shrugged. Speeches, unless they were about conquest and battle, really weren't his strong suit. His people, for the most part, actually seemed pleased about the announcement. They certainly hadn't been thrilled about working with the Autobots initially, but they were quite happy to be back on their native planet. They were ready to assume their duty as defenders of Cybertron. Megatron knew that, with all the hostile forces in galaxy, they would have plenty of fighting to satisfy their warrior spirit. For now, the Decepticons seemed content to leave the civil war alone. It remained to be seen if it would stay that way.

Optimus reached down in the crowd and hauled up Andromeda, much to her surprise. He twirled her around in a circle, then yanked off his mask and pulled her into his arms, capturing her lips in a passionate kiss. This was met with loud whoops and cheers. “Yeah, Prime!” a few onlookers yelled. The kiss ended, leaving Andromeda swooning but quite happy. Optimus grinned broadly. Everything had turned out for the best. He couldn't have asked for anything more.

Rodimus grabbed Optimus and bent him back theatrically, planting a huge sloppy kiss on his lips. He roared with laughter as Optimus stared at him, optics ready to pop out of his head. Losing no time, he leapt off the stage and seized Ultra Magnus in an even bigger, sloppier kiss. The crowd erupted into applause and raucous laughter. Magnus shrieked and shoved him away, frantically wiping at his mouth. “*Gross*, Rodimus!” he groaned. “I'm washing my mouth out with acid!”

Roddy cackled. “That's for being such a jackass during drill, Magpie!”

He then caught sight of Springer and swept him up in a giant smooch. The green triple-changer returned the kiss with a silly grin, putting one leg up in the air behind him with a girly air. “Come now, Roddy, Arcee isn't supposed to know about us!” he hissed mock-secretively. Optimus just watched his Second in shock. Roddy had cracked. That was it. His possession had driven him over the edge.

“Oh, no you don't!” Megatron yelled as Rodimus turned to him with lips puckered. “I'd rather shoot you than kiss you.” Roddy laughed and looked in Kup's direction. The elderly Security Director ran away screaming.

“Babe!” Rodimus yelled happily, finally finding Nova amidst the crowd. He plowed toward her and bestowed a very sweet kiss on her upturned mouth. This was met with a chorus of “awwwww”s. Nobody had ever thought that they'd see the day that Rodimus would actually become a one-femme bot, but Nova had proved them wrong. Optimus wrapped his arm around Andromeda's waist as he watched the revelries begin. For the moment, at least, everything was peaceful. He knew that the Alliance would be tested severely, no doubt very soon. But for now, they had accomplished something that seemed to be impossible. They were one.

The End

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