Crystal and Steel (Transformers/Final Fantasy XIV)

Matrix Dragon

Well-known member


In the end, it wasn't the war that cost us Cybertron. It wasn't a conqueror's wrath, or a losers final spite. It was something else, something from beyond. A song of despair, sent out across the universe, that worked to infect the sparks of all it touched. And when those sparks were overcome by emotions like grief and guilt, despair and fear, they were devoured from within.

So many worlds were destroyed by this evil, and ours was no different. Soon, even the lifespark of Cybertron was infected and warped, until the very ground turned against us. We had no choice but to abandon our home by whatever means we could, to seek safety in the cold of space. In those dark days, the differences between our nations were forgotten, as we all fought to save who we could. 

Now, like so many others, we drift between the stars, scavenging what we can from the murdered worlds. We've found ways to shield ourselves from the Void Siren, to some extent. But it's always out there, waiting to finish the work it began so long ago.


Aside from them, the city was utterly silent. No people, no animals, no power. Even the wind was utterly still. It was an unnatural silence, the sort that would make even the most hardened veteran want to flee as fast as possible.

Rodimus found it somewhat depressing that he'd gotten so used to ignoring that part of his instincts.

Next to him, Minerva was less composed, focusing on the scanner in her hands to avoid looking at their surroundings. "No unusual radiation spikes, no active nanotech or organic pathogens. Aetherical readings are like a deserted asteroid. It's just… dead," the red and white plated Autobot said at last, looking up with a shudder.

He merely nodded slightly. "So, probably the Song again."

"Almost certainly sir."

Shuttering his optics for a moment, Rodimus fought back the familiar stab of despair and grief thoughts of the Endsong always invited. Such emotions were how the damn thing wormed its way into your spark after all, rotting your essence from the inside out and leaving you a mockery of life. He'd lost too many friends that way to fall into the trap himself. "Hardtop. Find yourself a nice perch. I want you on lookout."

"Minny just said the place is dead," the smallest bot of the team noted, even as he pointed towards one of the taller skyscrapers. "That should work for overwatch."

Rodimus shrugged slightly. "Call me paranoid if you want, but it wouldn't be the first time an alien species had its Defiled turn out to be waiting for life to return so they could kill again." He couldn't help but smirk. "Remember what happened to Blitzwing."

That drew a laugh from Hardtop, the noise echoing weirdly across the deserted park they'd landed in. "Even if he wishes we wouldn't," the green and purple mechanoid said. "Still, it's a fair point."

Behind them, the last member of their team couldn't help but giggle softly as she stepped off the shuttle, shaking her head. "No one wants to be the next mech to need to visit Ratchet for a problem like that," Dustoff commented, her camo-patterned armor plates shifting as she stretched. "Care for a lift?" Hardtop nodded, and the larger bot transformed, components shifting, unfolding and compressing in an intricate pattern, replacing a feminine humanoid figure with a well armored helicopter, blades already spinning fast enough to lift her into the air. Jumping slightly to reach her, Hardtop grabbed onto one of the landing struts, letting her carry him ever higher above the ground.

"Catch up when you're done!" Rodimus called after them, before turning back to Minerva. "No point in staying here. There's about five miles between here and the crash site. Let's roll." Minerva nodded, and the pair transformed to their alt-modes as well. Engines roared to life, and the two living vehicles pulled out of the park and onto the road beyond. Behind them, the shuttle lifted off, setting off for a flight pattern high above the city, just in case.

It was never easy navigating a city like this. Whatever the dominant lifeforms of this world had looked like, they were clearly much smaller than the average Transformer, perhaps reaching Rodimus' knees at most. Footpaths and walkways often proved too narrow for the pair, and while the roads were somewhat evenly scaled with their vehicle modes, the amount of debris and various abandoned vehicles meant that a good deal of creative maneuvering was required.

And if he was being entirely honest, Rodimus was grateful for the difficulties. The combination of rally driving, switching modes, and parkour was keeping his mind focused on the task at hand, and stopping his mind from lingering on the unpleasant details. Such as how the local apocalypse had been so quick and total there were so many vehicles left on the road. Or the way that so many of those vehicles had clearly been torn open from the inside…

As he slid over the top of what looked like an old bus, Dustoff swooped overhead, the sound of her rotors helping to combat the unnatural silence all around them. "Take the third left along this path," she called out. "It looks like the clearest route."

"I've got optics on the impact site," Hardtop said over the squads comm channel. "Still no sign of movement."

"Not a surprise," Minerva replied while swerving around a car, clipping the edge of the sidewalk in the process. "The escape pods on the Wayforward were fitted with deep stasis systems to prevent long-term spark contamination. Those systems are durable, but they take a long time to pull the subject back to a fully aware state."

Above, Dustoff made a noise of disgust. "I hate those things. Dragging your spark so close to Mortilus' domain… it's unnatural," she said, a shudder running through her fuselage. "Still, I have to admit, it's better than the alternative."

Sliding under a low pedestrian walkway, Rodimus couldn't help but smile in bitter agreement, before switching to vehicle mode and continuing forward.


Reaching down, Rodimus hooked his hand under the bottom of the roller door and pulled up. After being untouched for so long, the door promptly refused to move up in its guides, instead tearing apart. "Oh come on," he grumbled, fighting with the tangled pile of metal for a moment and trying to ignore the two femmes laughing at him.

Nothing jumped out at them as they stepped inside, and there were no unpleasant surprises revealed by their lights. Just an old warehouse filled with pallets of what looked like electronic goods, with a massive hole in the roof and an impact crater underneath.

"I see the escape pod," Minerva said, the headlights in her shoulder pads sweeping over a small, cone shaped craft that barely reached her waist, its metal hull dented and scorched from reentry and the landing. "Minor damage, but it appears intact."

"Maybe we should have brought you with us Hardtop," Rodimus grumbled, looking the pod over. "It's a single person pod from a micromaster ship."

"It's smol?" Dustoff said, giggling, as she circled above, shining her own lights through the broken roof.

"It's smol," he replied with a sigh.

"Do I need to come down there to press tiny buttons for you?" Hardtop asked, clearly amused.

"We'll be fine," Minerva chuckled, holding up her left hand. As Rodimus watched, her index finger split open to reveal several small tools. "I generally use these for surgery, but I'm sure they can handle tiny buttons and switches," the medic noted, kneeling down next to the pod, then pausing, her expression becoming much more serious. "Scrap."


In reply, she tilted her shoulder pads down, shining her lights over the bottom of the pod… and the dark, organic looking webbing there. "Unknown substance, possibly organic."

"We haven't seen anything organic since making planetfall," Hardtop said. "Not even remains. Tripwire?"

"Yeah, that would be just our luck, wouldn't it?" Rodimus muttered, slighting a visor down over his optics for a closer look. After flipping through several settings, his scowl only got worse. "Nothing. No heat, no emissions of any sort, just enough aether to remain tangible. Looks like the Defiled still have a presence here."

Dustoff spoke up, her voice as serious and worried as her teammates. "Well then, it doesn't take an investigative mind like Prowls to work out the chain of events. The Wayforward suffers engine failure upon arriving in this system, he heads for this planet hoping to find life. When the engine failure reaches the point of tearing the ship apart, he abandons ship."

Nodding to herself, Minerva continued the train of thought. "While he is more than comfortable traveling by himself under normal conditions, he logically concludes that in this… necropolis, it's safer to place himself into deep stasis, rather than risk the Sirens Song infecting his spark. But it was still enough to draw the Deflieds attention."

"And while they might not have enough intelligence left to get at him, they still may have enough instinct to wait for him to come out," Rodimus finished.

As usual, Hardtop was less interested in the past, and more focused on the problem in the present. "So, now we know it's likely trapped, how do you wanna play this one boss?" 

In reply, Rodimus grinned to himself, standing back up and sliding the visor back into his helmet. "How else? We spring the trap. Moving the entire pod will take time and almost certainly wake whatever abominations are 'sleeping' anyway. Get ready, all of you. We may need to move fast. Flight, this is Rodimus," he continued, switching channels. "Be advised, it may be about to get loud down here. Stand by for possible hot extraction."

"Copy that Rodimus," their shuttle pilot replied. "Remember, there's nowhere big enough to land within several miles, you''ll likely need to get on the rooftops if it comes to that."

Next to him, Minerva couldn't help but sigh. "Because it can never be easy…" she muttered. "Cracking the seal." The operating waldos from her finger danced over the pods small keypad, entering a series of commands. For a moment, nothing happened. Then a series of lights, starting at the top of the pod and running down to the base, lit up, first in red, before shifting to green.

Rodimus glanced at the organic webbing, seeing no reaction, then turned to look around the warehouse. There was no new movement, nothing in the shadows that hadn't been there before. He scowled, watching his lights, and those from Dustoff above, cut through the darkness, looking for any sign of trouble, then frowned, taking a closer look at the beams themselves.

With a puff of escaping air, the seal on the escape pod broke, and the hatch swung upward without issue, revealing a tiny red and cream robot, one small enough that he could ride inside the rescue teams vehicle modes without issue. Almost immediately, the bot began to lean forward, blue optics flickering to life. "Countdown, can you hear me?" Minerva said. "We received your distress signal and came to assist."

"Know that voice… Minerva? Yes. Minerva, medical officer… assigned to Lost Light…"

"Yes sir. Can you move? This site isn't safe."

One of Countdowns optics went dark, while the other flared brighter. "I… Carry me," he said his voice growing stronger as he reached an arm out. "We have to go, now!"

Realizing just why the light wasn't cutting through the dark quite as well as it should have been, Rodimus spun, seizing the smaller bots arm. "Outside, now!" he barked at Minerva, right as the shadows themselves lunged to attack.

Matrix Dragon

Well-known member

Tendrils of literal shadow stabbed into the light, uncaring of how impossible that should have been. Had Rodimus been even a fraction slower, they would have passed straight through his spark chamber, with possibly fatal consequences at best. Instead, they passed over the mechs head, missing him by mere inches as he continued turning, tearing Countdown out of the escape pod.

From above came the roar of Dustoffs nose cannon, high intensity energy bolts slamming down into the tendrils without mercy. Despite not seeming to harm them, the gunfire still drew a reaction, as the tendrils pulled back into the dark accompanied by a glass-rattling shriek. That reaction brought Rodimus and Minerva the time they needed, both of them transforming mid-leap, engines roaring to life before they even finished.

With his spark still on the edge of stasis, there was nothing that Countdown could do but get dragged along for the ride, and try to make sense of his surroundings. This wasn’t an easy task when there was a larger bot literally transforming around him, an action that would have resulted in his getting at least a limb caught between shifting components had it been anyone less talented than Rodimus doing the transforming. Instead, he landed in a surprisingly comfortable seat, restraints locking down over his shoulders, windshield sliding into place above him and giving him a good view of the chaos.

Neither car could get up to speed in the tight confines of the warehouse, but they were both close enough to the ground, and their headlights were illuminating the area directly in front of them, that they could make a decent attempt at an escape. Shadow tendrils occasionally blocked their path, but they lacked the numbers to contain the vehicles, both of them punching straight through. Taking a turn sharp enough to clip a pallet and send its contents everywhere, they headed directly for the doorway they’d used to enter. “Dust, bring it down!” Rodimus ordered as they shot out into the narrow laneway, turning sharply once again to avoid plowing straight into the building directly ahead of them.

As he’d expected, he barely got the order out ahead of Dustoff launching a pair of missiles down through the broken roof, introducing the darkness within to a delicate mixture of liquid energon, nucleon and octogen. She'd carefully calibrated the missiles settings from the moment Minerva had reported the tripwire, which means that while the resulting explosion outright vaporised a good deal of the interior outright, the blast then mostly went up, reducing the roof to shreds. But for all that destructive power, her teammates right outside the warehouse experienced nothing more than a flash of heat and wind.

"Sweet Primus and all his heralds woman, have you heard of overkill?!" Hardtop exclaimed.

"You know there's no such thing with Defiled," she replied. "Best to give them the final mercy as soon as possible."

Groaning, Countdown shuttered his optics, trying to process all the conflicting data his senses were sending to his brain. "Overkill of Polyhex. Former Decepticon, data block alt-mode. Believed alive, wanted for involvement in ‘Pink Alchemy’ conspiracy…” Groaning again, he reached up and rubbed at his temples. “And that’s completely irrelevant.”

"It made me grin at least," Rodimus told his passenger, not bothering to go around a trash can. "Gears turning a little smoother?"

"I feel like someone sandblasted my brain module, but yeah, I think so.”

Turning another corner, Rodimus grunted in agreement. "That's a good description of deep stasis. You came down in an industrial district, nowhere for a shuttle to land.”

“Finding a rooftop that can handle our weight?” Countdown guessed.

“Pretty much, there’s a street up here that should give us some options.” Reaching the end of the alleyway, he shot across the small parking lot, clipped over the edge of an old garden, then flew over the sidewalk and landed on the road, wheels spinning as they tried to grip on the asphalt. “...Ah.”

Pulling up behind him, Minerva twitched her side mirrors. “What does that mean… ah,” she also said, taking in the sight in front of them. Rising up from beneath the street, was another shadowy mass. As the bots watched, dozens of tendrils reached out from its core body and pressed against the ground, as if it was a corporeal being trying to support its weight. Then, slowly and awkwardly, it began to drag itself towards the trio.

Before it could go more than a few meters, a salvo of purple energy bolts slammed into the core, making it ripple like water. Twisting in his seat, Countdown tracked them back to their source, catching sight of another burst launching from the top of a distant tower in the city center. He watched the bolts race across the kilometers between them in slight confusion, taking a moment to remember Hardtops presence. At least this time, he was spared the embarrassment of detailing the ‘cons resume out loud.

“Am I even hurting that thing?” the sniper demanded.

Switching back to robot mode, Minerva stepped in front of Rodimus. “At the very least, you seem to be disorienting it.” Her right shoulder pad transformed again, unfolding into a scanner array that slid in front of her face. “Hmm… Even for a Defiled, its Aetherical density is non-existent. It must have fallen victim to the Endsong a considerable time ago. But if that’s the case, how can it still manifest like this? No individual could have have a spark large enough to endure the song for so long…” Behind her, Rodimus revved his engine, making the medic twitch. “Sorry. But yes Hardtop, you are hurting it. What little Aether it has left is struggling to remain coherent. If you continue, we should be able to withdraw-" Her voice cut off as the Defiled screamed, like hundreds of voices mixed together, making her instinctively mute and cover her audio intakes.

As they watched, the shadows began to shift, becoming darker, more solid. gaining actual mass and shape to interact with the world. Slamming two of its tentacles into the road in front of it, the creature shattered the asphalt, sending large chunks flying into the air. One actually intercepted a shot, getting reduced to powder in the process, but the rest came to a halt, floating just above the Defiled, before shifting and reshaping into just over half a dozen spikes, each as long as Minerva was tall. “Hardtop, incoming!” Rodimus hissed, the roof of his vehicle mode flipping open to reveal a small weapons turret.

Hardtop adjusted his aim slightly, even as Dustoff swooped down, nose cannon roaring to life, and Minerva raised her own rifle and opened fire. Two of the spears shattered, then three more, and then they launched, just barely staying under the sound barrier as they raced towards the tower Hardtop had set up in. Another was shot down by the sniper mid-flight, but that still left one last spear to slam into the tower, the impact echoing across the dead city.

"Good news, this bastard has a really bad aim," Hardtop said in a conversational tone, even as the top of the tower blew apart, raining debris across his sniper nest. "That was way too high. Bad news, the shuttle definitely can’t take a hit like that."

“Then I guess we’re putting this poor thing down,” Rodimus said. “Countdown, can you fight?”

Cracking his knuckles, his tiny passenger powered up the blasters in his forearms. “Well enough.”

“Hardtop, if that tower starts to go, yell. Now, let’s get started.” His engine roared, and his wheels spun for a fraction of a second before grabbing the road, launching him down the street. He dodged to the left, avoiding a tentacle that crashed down into the asphalt, even as he adjusted his fuel mix slightly. The exhaust pipes running along both sides of his body twitched slightly, before flames started spewing out the back just as he passed underneath the creatures main body. Hitting the handbrake, the bot pulled a hard J-turn, spreading the flames over as large an area as possible, making the area as unpleasant as possible. Then, for good measure, Rodimus shifted back to robot mode and blasted the flames straight up into the Defiled.

Leaping free during the transformation, Countdown landed clear of both the flames and the core body, sliding to a halt and opening up with his own weapons, targeting the nearest tentacle. Out of the corner of his optics, he saw Minerva moving in, her weapons fire aimed towards the base of the same tentacle he’d been firing on. A moment later, purple bolts started slamming into the exact same spot, dispelling an even larger area of shadow.

As a final touch, Dustoff swooped down over the beast from above, spraying it with cannon fire. Between her and Rodimus, the Defiled was sufficiently distracted that it didn’t realize that the other three were being much more specific in their efforts. At least, not until one of Hardtops shots vaporized enough ‘shadow-mass’ that the limb began to tear itself loose. That, it noticed. Shrieking with a hundred different voices, it flailed around with its other tentacles, quickly turning the street, footpaths and handful of vehicles in its path into razor sharp shrapnel.

Countdown scrambled backwards, realizing just a second too late that he had absolutely no cover against the incoming wave of flechettes. All he could do was cover his face with his arms and wince in anticipation of the pain he was about to experience.

Then, at the last possible moment, Minerva was in front of him. Her backpack had unfolded and combined with her left shoulder pad, forming an armored shield that was as tall as she was. The storm of shrapnel impacted with an almost deafening noise, but the two bots were left untouched. “Captain?!”

On the far side of the beast, a tentacle that had half-buried itself in a storefront exploded in a massive ball of flame. When the fire died down, a slightly unsteady Rodimus emerged. “I’m okay, it’s mostly my paint job. Zagged when I should have zigged…” Watching as the beast flailed, its form becoming more solid by the second, he nodded to himself. “If it’s shifting like… Dustoff?”

“Yeah Rod?”

“Go high. I want you to prep for a Remi Entrance on my mark.” In response, the helicopter rose higher into the sky, keeping up the barrage on the Defiled as best she could despite the increased distance. Meanwhile, Rodimus took a deep breath and twisted his wrists, a pair of blaster pistols appearing seemingly out of nowhere. “Everyone, any limbs it sticks out, cut it off. Keep making it turtle up.”

Stepping out from behind Minerva, Countdown transformed to his alt-mode, a small, one-person buggy, with a large adjustable satellite dish behind the seat. “Do I want to know what that’s supposed to mean?” he asked, as he aimed the dish towards one of the tentacles that was moving a bit slower than the rest. Energy gathered in the dish for several seconds, flowing towards the center, before launching out in a constant beam of blue light, striking the target and carving a trench into its pseudo-flesh.

Rodimus laughed. “Come on, do you really think I’m gonna spoil the surprise with a setup like that?” he asked, opening fire with both pistols.

“Right, forgot who I was talking to…”

Under the barrage from multiple angles, the Defiled hesitated, seemingly uncertain of who it should attack first. Then, with a roar made up of a thousand screams, its mass shifted again, crossing the line between shadow and reality as it started to become a mass of flesh and muscle, more fluids spraying across the ground beneath it without skin to contain it. “Well, that’s disgusting,” Hardtop muttered.

“Try being close enough to smell it,” Minerva muttered, grunting as several bone spikes bounced off her shield.

“I’m a sniper for many valid reasons Minny. This is one of them.” Several eyes of different sizes sprouted from the top of the main body, looking around in various directions wildly. “And there’s another one,” he added, making a gagging noise before turning his attention to popping the eyeballs as quickly as possible.

Firing both pistols into a cavity that was starting to form teeth around the edges, Rodimus scowled. “Dammit, I hate being right sometimes. Dustoff, go!”

Even as he kept his weapons array locked onto the Defiled, Countdown aimed his sensors at the sky, curious to see just what Rod and Dustoff had planned. While his memory banks were mostly operational at this point, the data just wasn’t adding up. What WAS a Remi Entrance? Dustoff tended to prefer long range combat, so possibly a beam weapon, something that needed distance to build up for a full effect…?

High above, the forest camo patterned helicopter came to a stop, turning to face her nose towards the beast far below, and transformed. But not into her robot mode. Instead, she took on another form, with her head and upper torso atop a body that retained much of the mass of her helicopter form, and eight long, spindly legs reaching out around her. As she floated there for a brief moment, the pieces came together in Countdowns mind with an almost audible ‘click’

Dustoff had a twin sister, commonly known as Remi. Both femmes had inherited a beastial spider form from their mother Arachnia. And while Dustoff preferred to fight at range, that beast mode was suited for a devastating style of close combat, one that Remi had perfected to an art form, and one she had naturally taught to her sister.

Thrusters roared to life, legs arranged themselves in a crude drill, and the femme descended on her target with a wordless, fuel-curdling scream. Below, Rodimus dived for cover behind an overturned truck, while Countdown shifted gears, reversing behind Minerva as fast as possible. Barely three seconds after launch, Dustoff made impact with the Defiled with an indescribable noise, tearing her way through flesh, bone and shadow with horrifying ease, thrusters burning whatever her deadly claws missed.

As the smoke and dust cleared, it was obvious to the rest of the team that with that brutal strike, the battle was over. Dustoff stood tall on her spider-mode legs, covered in organic viscera, surrounded by pieces of her enemy no larger than Countdowns torso. For a moment, it was a truly horrifying sight… Right up until Dustoff whimpered with a clear sense of utter disgust, trying not to curl up on herself. “Oh Primus, it’s all over me… I’m gonna purge my tanks…”

Chuckling, Minerva twitched her shield, shaking off a few pieces that had flown her way. “You’ll be fine, you big protoform,” she teased the other femme, before folding the shield back into storage. “That’ll wash off just fine.”

“That’s easy for you to say, you’re not wearing it like an exo-suit!”

Shifting to robot mode, Countdown looked around at the carnage, wincing. “A Remi Entrance. Yeah… You know, I’d forgotten how enthusiastic… she can be.”

“She is a lady of many talents, many of them horrifying,” Rodimus agreed as he walked over, picking fragments of road shrapnel out of his chest plate. “But you certainly can’t deny their effectiveness.”

“That’s a word for it…”

“Does anyone have any water? Please?”

“No time for that,” Rodimus said, ignoring the high pitched whine and gleaming optics from Dustoff. “We’re lucky that more haven’t turned up already. Let’s get out of here and then you can clean off.”

His friend kept up the desperate look for a few seconds more, before sighing dramatically and relenting. “Fine…” she muttered, the quartet setting off again. Behind them, the bulk of the Defileds remains slowly faded away into flickers of shadow, as what lifeforce held it together was lost to the Endsong.


Sealing the hatch behind Rodimus, Huffer turned towards the pilots cabin. "All aboard and accounted for! Punch it!"

"With pleasure," his crewmate called back. "Everyone hold on, there's going to be turbulence."

Countdown chuckled weakly, even as he slumped into a wall mounted chair scaled for micromasters. "It'd have to be real bad to compare to the last time I was in orbit," he muttered, dimming his optics as the emergency overclocking faded and the exhaustion returned.

"Given the very small parts left of the Wayforward, we guessed as much," Hardtop said, placing his rifle in a storage rack, then grabbing a small water tank and turning to Dustoff. As he opened the valve on top, he gave her a grin. "Hold still stinky."

Dustoff ignored the teasing in favor of sticking her head under the water stream with a sigh of relief, even as Huffer groaned and muttered about how he'd be stuck cleaning the deck plating. As more of the gore ended up on the deck instead of the arachnoid, Rodimus could only pat him reassuringly on the shoulder, promising to get the mech some help.

A voice from the pilots cabin interrupted the moment. "Captain, Magnus is calling for you."

Suddenly looking much more serious, Rodimus went over to a handset mounted by the door, unhooking it and holding it to the side of his head. “Ultra Magnus. Countdown successfully extracted, although we were forced to engage local Defiled. No injuries, but Dustoff is going to need a serious decontamination shower.” He pretended to ignore the moan of misery from behind him. “Who was monitoring global aether readings… Perceptor? Excellent. Have him start a detailed analysis. Based on the nature of the Defiled we fought, we might be looking at a Scar Tissue World… I can’t be sure yet, no. Have Blaster deploy the warning beacons like we discussed earlier. Until we get confirmation, it’s best for Gorlam Prime to be off limits to salvagers.”

Shuddering, Minerva knelt down in front of Countdown. “You certainly picked a nice place to end up stranded,” she teased, opening up her medkit.

He snorted slightly, not powering up his optics. “Not like I knew the planets lifespark was hiding in a cocoon of dead aether,” he muttered. “And it’s not like I had much of a choice. When a transwarp drive goes, you’re there to stay.”

“One way of putting it,” the medic agreed as she started her scans. “And I suppose it does beat the alternative. Although, how exactly did you lose the Wayforward?”

Wincing as he thought back, Countdown couldn’t help but sigh. “Got pretty banged up from a lot of automated orbital defenses, made what repairs I could. I was hoping it’d hold together until I made it back to Commonwealth space at least, but…” he shrugged, frowning slightly. “There’s something else… something I’m forgetting…” Sitting up straight, the micromasters optics blazed to life as his memory files reached the front of his cortex. “Etheirys!” he exclaimed. “That was its name! The planet where I…”

Minerva scrambled back to make room as Countdown leapt to his feet, the commotion drawing the attention of the other bots in the room. He ignored them all, taking a deep breath of air through his intakes to center himself. Then his chest began to transform. Not into his vehicle form, instead carefully moving armor plating and internal components around in a careful pattern that formed a hole leading to directly below the collarstruts.

Everyone in the room froze. Revealed deep within the micromasters chest was a small, golden container, a crystal gleaming with a faint blue-white light visible in the front of it. It was a type of artifact that every bot present recognised, despite the fact that it simply couldn’t be possible. Slowly, with great care, Countdown reached into his chest with both hands, grasping it and pulling it free of its hiding place.

It was Dustoff that spoke first, saying what everyone was afraid to say. “A Matrix. That… That’s a Matrix.”

“They were all on Cybertron during the Fall!” Huffer managed. “None of them made it off… None of them.”

Hardtop shook his head. “Well strip my tires and call me a train…”

Rodimus picked up the handset from where it had slipped from his grip, speaking over the voice of his executive officer. “I’m going to need a Priority Alpha line to the Council as soon as we get back aboard. There’s been a new development.”


Matrix Dragon

Well-known member

Secrecy was vital, at least in the short term. A Creation Matrix was simply too valuable for it to be any other way. Fortunately, Countdowns very existence provided the perfect cover story. A Commonwealth Ranger, having returned from the Unexplored Regions, only to have his ship destroyed on the very edges of known space, leaving him stranded on a dead world until the crew of the Lost Light detected his distress signal… Few people would question them escorting him the rest of the way home.

As he stared out the conference room window at the starscape beyond, Countdown mused that at least he wouldn’t have to wait too much longer before the burden in his chest was someone else’s problem. While he could be a leader if necessary, in his spark he would always be an explorer, seeking a new frontier to chart. Other mechs could deal with the future of the species, thank you very much.

“You know how it ended, but I suspect you’d prefer some context on events before you found me.” Turning, he considered the people sitting around the table that took up most of the room.

It was the largest mech present, a mass of blue and white armored plating, that spoke first. “I have reviewed all the relevant documentation that was filed before contact was lost with you. Would that be a suitable place to start?" Ultra Magnus inquired.

"More or less," the micromaster agreed, returning to his place at the table. The chair was compatible with his smaller physiology, lifting him up to table height and unfolding an armrest to form a second desk. "It should be noted, by that point I was only contacting the Commonwealth for scheduled check-ins every twenty years. Simple fact was, I was too far out to get help if I ran into any problems and the maintenance time on the quantum communications array was such that it really wasn’t worth calling more often.”

“Five minute call, two weeks downtime?” Rodimus mused.

“If I was lucky,” Countdown replied. “One of the perils of a solo mission. You have to do all the maintenance yourself.” The larger bots winced at that, getting a smirk in reply, before he tapped several buttons on the desk, activating the built-in holoprojector. An image of the galaxy appeared above the conference table, before zooming in on the section that made up local space. A marker appeared, showing the current location of the Lost Light above Gorlam Prime, followed by a bright line far to the galactic east across dozens of systems, showing the path followed by the Wayforward.

Leaning forward, Rodimus considered the line for a moment. “Very… back and forth, wasn’t it?”

That observation got a slight shrug in reply. "Side effect of my mission brief. Some Rangers are sent out with specific goals and locations to investigate. My assignment was more open ended than that. I was to search for anything that might help against the Endsong. Information, possible shielding methods, that sort of thing. Anything else, be it valuable minerals or navigation data, was just a nice bonus.” A cable slid out of his forearms and plugged into a port on the desk in front of him. The map updated, the Wayforwards path becoming more of a straight line that dived into the unknown. "About a year after my last check-in, I came across a small enclave with some interesting information. A star system that had supposedly survived the Endsong. Don't get me wrong, I was skeptical-"

“Who wouldn’t be?”

“-But they convinced me of why they weren’t investigating it themselves. They were a waystation for their people, a place to refuel and repair before continuing on to their own safe haven. They didn’t have the ships to go exploring rumors and odd dimensional anomalies.”

Several mechs nodded in understanding. “While your entire reason for being out there was to poke things,” Dustoff noted. “In more formal language of course.”

Grinning slightly, Countdown continued, updating the map again, showing the path he’d taken, and highlighting star systems along his path with icons to designate assorted stellar threats. “It wasn’t easy getting to the system in question, I’ll admit. That entire region seemed to be carrying scars that predate the Endsong. But after twelve years, I made it. And what I found…” He paused, considering what to say, then decided to let the hologram speak for him.

Everyone present reacted in some way as the map vanished, replaced by the image of a beautiful world with two moons, massive blue oceans, and continents layered with a rich tapestry of color. It was the sort of world none of the transformers present had seen for millennia. A world that was undeniably alive. "Oh, that's a nice color scheme," Rodimus whispered.

Further down the table, First Aid leaned forward, his gaze intent. "That looks like an organic ecosystem. For it to be developed enough to be visible from orbit it must still be sufficiently stable despite any Endsong effects on environmental aether.”

That comment drew a wry smile from Countdown. “Now that’s where it gets really interesting.” The display changed again, this time overlaying the existing image with a map of the aether flow patterns around it. The planet itself was a shining gem of multiple colors, radiating out from the planets core before returning inward, as had been normal for any world with life before the Endsong. The smaller moon had an odd aetheric signature, with something remarkably strong at its core, but it had relatively little effect beyond the lunar surface.

But it was the larger moon that caught everyone's attention. Glowing from within even more brightly than the planet it orbited, the moon radiated living aether outward, washing over the world below, the other moon, and the space beyond, eventually passing off the edges of the image. “Well, I can safely say I’ve never seen anything quite like that before,” Ultra Magnus mused, before glancing at the mech on his left, who had suddenly started giggling. “Perceptor?” he asked, optic ridges raised.

“My apologies,” the head of the ships science department managed. “I do believe I can identify the phenomenon Countdown witnessed.”

Leaning back in his chair, Rodimus grinned at the scientist. “Must be something special to get you of all bots giggling.”

“Ah, yes, well.” Coughing slightly, Perceptor pushed his embarrassment aside to focus on the topic at hand. “Bear in mind, this is currently conjecture based on a cursory evaluation of the evidence Countdown has presented. That said, it bears considerable similarity to a theory developed by Shockwave and Brainstorm.”

Frowning, Red Alert sat upright. “That sentence alone makes me want to do a contraband sweep of Brainstorms lab,” the security chief muttered.

Placing his hands on the table, Perceptor shifted into what his coworkers had termed his ‘university lecturer mode’. “As we all know, the Endsong is based in dynamis, the ‘dark matter’ that exists alongside the aether-based reality we can perceive and interact with. In order to interact with our reality in even minor ways, let alone corrupt living aether as it does, the Endsong requires truly extreme amounts of dynamis. This simple fact, an immutable law of reality, is the basis of all shielding technologies and methods that have been developed since its first appearance, by creating a layer of specially charged aetheric energy. However, the largest single shield any known civilization has been able to create is mere kilometers in diameter, and overlapping multiple such shields has historically been troublesome at best."

Glancing at the hologram again, Ultra Magnus frowned thoughtfully. “I hate to point out the obvious, but this is quite a bit larger than just a few kilometers.”

“Indeed!” Perceptor noted. “Which, I believe, is where Brainstorm and Shockwaves Planetary Lifespark Assisted Negation theory comes into play. They theorized that it was possible to take the lifespark of a world, converting it to a physical object much like our own Allspark was, and implant it within a lunar body. From there, it would radiate outward, naturally covering the world it orbited with a protective layer of aether. Any decay of the lunar aether is automatically restored by the lifespark of the planet below, which does not have the Endsong affecting it and thus is able to regenerate lost aether as normal.”

Unnoticed by the scientist in his excitement, the mood around the table shifted, from the initial wonder at the concept of a truly safe world and amusement at Perceptor actually managing to keep his explanation (relatively) simple for once, to unease and growing horror. "I'm sorry, I must have misunderstood you somewhere in there," First Aid said. “Because it sounds a lot like their brilliant idea was to murder a planet, compress its lifeforce into a physical object, then use it to shield another world."

“No, you understood the theory accurately,” Preceptor replied, disturbingly unconcerned by the direction the conversation had suddenly taken. “Also, in order to properly negate the effects of the Endsong, Brainstorm believes that the planetary lifespark would need to be at least a class 5 world.”

Groaning, Rodimus slumped back in his chair, running his hands down his face. “Epistemus, help me with those you blessed,” he said, turning his gaze towards the ceiling as if he expected to find the deity there.

“Wait wait wait,” Dustoff said, leaning forward. “Wait. Percy, I know what happens when you try to use Sapient-grade sparks for anything even approaching necromancy. There is no way the entire lifespark of a murdered world wouldn’t curdle almost immediately.” Slapping a palm against the table, she glared at the scientist. “I refuse to believe that even Brainy and Shockers, in the height of mad science arrogance, would think that it was possible to calm and purify a travesty like that enough it would be possible to wield it as a shield against the Endsong.”

In the face of such anger, Perceptor could only smile. “Exactly. And thus we come to the second reason it has remained nothing but a theory. There is no way such a shield can be crafted through deceit or violence. It would require those beings that make up the lifespark to choose to sacrifice themselves." Dustoff blinked, mouth dropping open slightly as she realized what that meant. "If this is the result of another civilisation developing a similar theory,” he continued, leaning forward across the table, “then this is the result of an entire worlds worth of people deciding to give up their lives to protect others.”

“Holy slag,” First Aid whispered in the silence that followed that statement.

“Well, that explains why you were giggling,” Countdown said. “And thank you Perceptor, you’ve actually answered some of my questions about Etheirys here. Although those answers raise other questions…” Shaking a head, he waved his hand, dismissing the questions for later. “If I may continue?” No one protested, although several bots looked slightly distracted by what they’d just heard. “After my initial scans, I made the decision to investigate the planet first, given it was the center of the anomaly. As I approached however…”

Removing the aetherflow overlay from the display, he shifted the image to a recording of the Wayforward approaching Etheirys. Then, the smaller moon lit up with dozens of icons everyone recognised all too well. Threat warnings. Missiles, attack drones, particle beam cannons and more. The entire lunar surface was covered with weapons emplacements, a large number of which were turning their attention to the Cybertronian scout ship.

"This was their first response?" Ultra Magnus enquired, eyes narrowing as he watched the attack make its way across the space between the moon and their target. “They made no attempts to contact you, or even fire a warning shot? An immediate escalation to hostilities?”

Red Alert snorted, resting his elbows on the table. “Well, someone’s paranoid about anyone coming to their private little paradise.”

That drew an odd little smirk from Countdown, but the micromaster simply continued the report. “Wayforwards evasion and shields were mostly able to handle it. The weapons systems were designed with the expectation of having technological superiority in mind. Still, they got enough hits in for what I assume was one of their goals. Like it or not, I had to make an emergency landing on the planet…


Looking over the battered form of his ship, Countdown didn’t bother holding back a sigh of frustration. Right along the starboard side of the ship, there was a large furrow burned into the orange-yellow armor plating, along with several more that curved up over the top of the ship and out of sight. Some of those hits were deep enough that they likely did some damage to the sections beneath that armor. And this was the part of the ship that contained the Transwarp drive. Which meant that it was all too likely that he wouldn’t be leaving this star system any time soon. While there was a hostile force here, probably hunting for him.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, he turned away from the Wayforward, looking over his surroundings. At least in the short term, he’d found a good landing site. Remote, no signs of civilization to be seen, and with sightlines that stretched for miles, so even if the hostile locals found a way past the Wayforwards sensor arrays, he had a decent chance of seeing them coming.

Although if he was being honest, he’d been that busy looking for somewhere safe to land, he hadn’t immediately processed the fact that this island was somehow floating thousands of meters above the ground.

Watching as a rock about as big as he was just floated by, he felt a smile forming, almost unwillingly. Yes, the situation might be bad, brought down on a hostile world by forces unknown, far from home and with no one able to help him. Yes, the fact he’d wandered in for a closer look like a Sharkticon that had seen Energon made him want to kick himself. But despite that, he was still feeling that familiar tingle in his wheels as he witnessed something new and incredible. In the end, that was the reason he was out here, after all.

Shaking his head, he turned back to his ship, then stopped as he caught movement out of the corner of his optic. On the far side of the ship, there was a fallen tree not too far from one of the landing struts. As he watched, the log shifted slightly as something bumped against it, followed by the sound of feet shifting in the dirt.

Powering up his internal weapons, just in case, Countdown kept his gaze on the log. After about twenty seconds, a small, red scaled reptilian looking creature poked its head around the side of the log, only to freeze as it realized it had been spotted. After meeting the transformers gaze for several seconds, its head tilted to the side. “Hey… Are you wearing like, a really complicated suit of armor, or are you made of metal?” she asked.


“You understood her? Just like that?”

Countdown chuckled. “Her species aren’t actually native to Etheirys. The dragons are descended from a handful of refugees who stumbled over the planet by sheer luck while fleeing the armies that invaded and destroyed their homeworld. At some point, someone from Cybertron must have visited that world, but there was no record of the meeting in the Wayforwards database, just the language in the translation software.” He shrugged, his mood darkening. “I’m hoping the archives on Nexus have something I can take back to them. Their ancestor quite literally escaped with nothing but an armful of eggs.”

Everyone around the table shifted uneasily, clearly remembering Cybertron. Even Rodimus, usually a bot of exuberance and joy, looked a million years older for a moment. "I see no reason we need to keep that particular matter classified," Ultra Magnus said, breaking the silence. "I'll forward a request to the chief archivist and see if they can get started." The ranger nodded gratefully, before continuing.


“Mostly metal. Some plastic and ceramics as well, but nothing organic,” he replied in the same language.

“Ha! I was right,” she laughed, leaping out from behind the log and stretching, revealing the rest of her body. She was a quadruped, with her body barely coming up to Countdown’s waist, although her long neck would at least save her from having to look up too much while talking to him. A pair of leathery wings were tucked in tight against her back, and a long tail trailed behind her. "I've never seen any mortal manage to make armor that includes so many moving parts. They need to fit a person inside," she added thoughtfully.

Grinning slightly, the ranger couldn’t help but snark a little. “Well, if the person couldn’t fit inside, it wouldn’t be very good as armor, would it?”

Considering that, the dragon had to nod in agreement. "I’m Fylgja.”

Bowing slightly, he replied to the introduction with a polite “Call me Countdown.”

“So, how'd your skyship get so broken?"

Putting a hand behind his head, the mech looked up at the scars along its hull. "I flew too close to the moon. Someone up there didn't like that, so they started shooting at me."

"Ahhh, that makes sense," the small creature replied. "The Allagans were real jerks like that."

"Oh, you know them?" Countdown asked, although he noted the use of past tense when she referred to them.

"Yeah-huh. Well, I've heard of them. They all died a looong time ago, way before I hatched. I think about three thousand years? You’d need to ask the Loresingers for an exact number.” Flapping her wings, she lifted off the ground and floated alongside the ship. “But the way Mama tells it, they killed Uncle Bahamut, which really upset Auntie Tiamat. I mean, really upset," she emphasized, while Countdown moved his estimation of the dragons age bracket down. "She was so upset she tried a magic spell to bring him back, and it… kinda worked? Except he was really mad about being killed, which I can totally understand, I’d be mad if someone killed me, so he went to kill the Allagans because it's only fair really. But they were ready for him and trapped him in the moon! Which made Auntie Tiamat even more upset, so she locked herself away and won't talk to anyone, and then the Emperor of Allag decided to use the moon to steal Bahamuts power for himself, but something went wrong. Mama said there was an 'Umbral Calamity', and the Allag went splat!"

Nodding to show he was paying attention, Countdown resisted the urge to frown. This child, if she was telling the truth, and if what she'd been taught was accurate, it implied several different things. First, that the people who made that damn war moon were no longer a problem, which likely meant the things defenses were running on automatic. Which meant that if he managed to repair his ship, he could get off-world without too much difficulty, and that they weren’t tracking his location from orbit while arranging local forces to trap him.

Second, this world was even more interesting than he'd already suspected. Resurrection techniques weren’t unheard of, but they were still incredibly rare. And Bahamut had enough of a spark to return from the Lifespark, and still possess incredible power. If the Allagans had actually planned to trap him in that war moon as a power source, as opposed to a desperate method of containing an angry enemy, the implications…

But much more important were the short term considerations. It suggested that Fylgja was related to powerful beings of considerable importance on this world. If she’d wandered off to investigate his landing, there was a good chance someone would come looking for her, and sooner rather than later.

And as he had that thought, shadows passed overhead, along with the sound of much larger wings than Fylgja’s.


“Fun note,” Countdown said dryly, to the much larger mechs gathered around the table. “Dragons come in at least as wide a range of sizes as Cybertronians.”