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Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:43 PM
As with others, this one was posted back on BL1, and is re-posted here for retentivenesscompleteness' sake.

This was intended as a cross between a variant of G1 and the anime version of Fate/Stay Night. This is what happens when you watch the end of the TF movie too many times!



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Note that this story follows the F/SN story as outlined in the anime (which I am treating as a separate continuity to that seen elsewhere), and branches out from there near the series' end. Well, and before, if you want to get pedantic...


Fate/Trans Form - Prologue


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At the edge of the Clavius crater on the lunar surface, a being emerged from a trans-dimensional portal, before stepping silently upon the dull grey landscape.

The being, which had no need for such concerns as a regular oxygen supply, shielding from solar radiation, or the kind of modulated temperature ranges found on the world around which Luna orbits, had other matters to attend to.

It looked to the threads dangling from its clenched left fist, which were attached to what had once been the right forearm of the last security agent who had attempted to stop it on its path through the complex at Axiom Nexus.

That city - a creation of the so-called 'transcendant technomorphs' who evolved on that timeline's Cybertron - served as a waypoint for dimension-crossing beings seeking adventure, temporary refuge, or permanent asylum from their indigenous realities. Typically, it tried to limit the arrival of especially powerful individuals, such as the Primes or Megatrons of certain timelines, as well as the use of powerful items such as the Matrix (of whichever type) within its confines.

They had not expected to encounter a being quite like this one, however.

Such insufferable creatures, it thought to itself, as it lifted the arm upwards, noting the irreparable damage done to the slider-device which had once belonged to the arm's original owner. It had been careful to scramble the data from the jump, so as to prevent the other TransTechs from determining which 'universal stream' he had jumped to. Their precious egos might seek retribution - but even I cannot risk drawing their full ire.

Nevertheless, the fact remained that the being knew nothing of the reality it had become a party to - which made the presence of the other item attached to the severed forearm quite useful indeed.

Wrenching the data pad from its socket, and dumping the now-worthless arm to one side, it activated the device, overriding the security lockouts, while activating its quantum resonance scanner. Once done, the pad's intricate sensor system would determine which quantum reality they were currently located in, whether it was one hitherto recorded in the database - and bring up the data entries, if any, recorded in Axiom Nexus' records.

After a few minutes, a match was found.


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Universal Stream designation (provisional, pending further review): Primax 307.23 Iota

Continuity family: Primax (outlier*)

Status: Ongoing

Level of research: Preliminary (pending the results of further investigation)

Summary: This timeline, one of a relatively narrow band within its own reality cluster, exhibits certain common features of the wider Primax continuity family, but also evidences significant differences to almost all other recorded universal streams. Most notably, these differences are noted in the Sol system, yet it is unknown at present whether this extends to other commonly-known regions of the galaxy. Said differences implicate that this universal stream represents a 'hybrid', or outlier, which merges known traits with those of an as-yet-inaccessible continuity family.

Initial Report (By Minister Rhinox, Department of Higher Dimensional Sciences, Axiom Nexus):

So far as we can guess, there are upwards of fourteen quadrillion concurrent universes - each identifiable by a unique quantum signature, each unique in its own way to every other universal stream currently in existence.

Of these, despite the sense of accomplishment that many of our kind might feel, it is worth remembering that a mere 15,962,782 or so of these have been even provisionally catalogued through our efforts - and that of those, 1,176,325 have, one way or another, come to termination. A most troubling ratio.

And even then, while most of these universal streams are somewhat familiar to us, in terms of certain multiversal aspects we have managed to ascertain, it is not always so straightforward a matter as we would like to believe.

This stream, one of several others in its reality cluster, is a case in point.


From a Cybertronian perspective, many elements are familiar. There is a Prime who possesses a Matrix of Leadership, a division between Autobots and Decepticons, a range of alien worlds which have seen bouts of Cybertronic activity (such as Earth and Nebulos, to name but two) and the confirmed presence of Unicron.

To summarize, the current Earth year is 2007. The Great War between Autobots and Decepticons has ended, due to the catastrophic impact of an assault by Unicron on Cybertron itself two years previously.

The Decepticon faction, which had control of the home world at this time, and thus bore the brunt of the Entropic attack, was shattered and broken. Its leader lost, its ability to maintain its holdings fatally compromised, the surviving remnants have been scattered across the extent of what had once been a quadrant-spanning Empire. On worlds where they had neither revealed themselves to the indigenes (like Earth) nor were unable to successfully prosecute their aims of conquest (like Nebulos) the survivors have been driven to exile or seclusion. What will take root in the considerable power vacuum left by the collapse remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the victorious Autobots, now led by Rodimus Prime, have established a provisional civilian authority in the ruins of New Iacon City, while seeking to fortify their clandestine holdings on Earth and other worlds. However, despite their triumph, they are in no position to assert themselves on anything more than a regional stage. The damage caused by Unicron's assault had only exacerbated the serious decay and ruin which most of the home world had fallen into (outside of certain isolated city-states - many of whom did not survive the assault) and it will take centuries, if not millennia, for Cybertron to even begin to recover.

Plus, the substantial exile communities which have left Cybertron to find shelter on other worlds have developed significant cultural and political divergences from those still present. Balancing the needs of these off-world communities, and the alliances with various alien species which they have become a party to, will be a taxing matter indeed.


All well and good, one might assume - until one examines the data coming from the Sol system.

It seems that, beyond the kind of life forms and biological systems found on other Earths, this planet is host to a number of unusual creatures, powers and forces, that are unlike anything found outside of this reality cluster.

Further, it seems that there are certain, for want of a better term, metaphysical entities and concepts which are tied to the presence of life on Earth.

Or, to put it another way, there are elements of 'magic' and 'sorcery', ethereal beings with a myriad of powers and intentions, as well as humans with the ability to tap into the mystic.

And yet, thus far, the level of interaction between the known Cybertronic presence on Earth and these super-natural elements is less than prominent up to this point. Perhaps the secrecy which both groups exhibit, and the different focus that each has (more aware of others within their 'field' than each other) has caused this.

There are certain worrisome anomalies which may change this dynamic - specifically at the following set of coordinates - though there is only so much I can determine at this point.


It seems that in all, this reality cluster constitutes an overlapping of the furthermost edges of two continuity families - and that the interaction has altered and modified certain elements from each family into a distinct hybrid.

However, we cannot plumb the depths of this currently-unidentifiable continuity family, as for some reason, while we can interact with the hybrid streams, our efforts can go no further. (There is a range of quantum realities which may, or may not, belong to this wider family, but which do not respond when we attempt to access them - as if some unknown element at work within that stream prevents us from even opening a passive portal.)

While I would be fascinated by the prospect of further research into this stream - not least in order to more thoroughly examine the elements which, apparently, come out from the deeper set of realities like waves lapping onto a Terran shore from the deep ocean - even my time is limited, and there are millions of streams left to catalogue.


Perhaps, one day, I will get the chance to revisit this stream... and explore a world where, for once, we don't have a ready-made list of answers.


Note: *Due to complex interaction with elements from a hitherto-unknown (and mostly inaccessible) continuity family.


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The being found the concept of even a vaunted TransTech scientist to admit his lack of expertise in this reality to be amusing - but that also meant that it itself would need to understand such intricacies for it to navigate a viable path of its own.

Fortunately, it thought to itself, I have not arrived entirely unprepared.

It opened secure bays within the twin modules upon its back, then launched a series of miniature probes into the void between the Moon and the Earth. The probes set themselves on a route which would allow them to take up a geosynchronous orbit of the planet, allowing it to use them as covert surveillance devices.

It made a point of having the probes concentrate their scans on the co-ordinates which so worried the report's author - and as it stood on the harsh, unforgiving lunar surface, staring coldly at the blue orb beyond, the data appearing behind its eyelids gave the being a somewhat unusual view of what was to be the Fifth Fuyuki Grail War.


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BGM: Kenji Kawai - Contract


It was a War between Magi - for a prize unlike any other.

Seven Masters had been summoned, each calling forth a Servant, a powerful spirit-being drawn from the most famous Heroes (and villains) known to history, each set into several categories (Saber, Lancer, Archer - the three 'knight classes' - and other possible categories, in this case Caster, Assassin, Berserker and Rider) and bound to their Masters through the use of three inviolable Command Seals.

Overseen by an agent of the Burial Agency - a secret body of the Vatican tasked with all matters supernatural - who was (intended to be) a neutral adjudicator of the conflict, the Masters each sought to eliminate both their rivals, and the other Masters' Servants, on the path to victory.

The prize? An object known to most involved only as the Holy Grail, which was said to grant any wish its bearer chose to grant.

Four other Wars had taken place, each six decades apart, in the same Japanese city of Fuyuki-shi - though none of them had resulted in a 'true' manifestation of this long-sought object.

Yet, for some reason, the Fifth, and latest, was taking place five decades early. The generational gap which allowed for contestants to plan for the upcoming War was curtailed, and perhaps the most unusual series of Masters were called forth in this conflict.

The head of one of the three families which had contested the Wars since the beginning, Tohsaka Rin, was a case in point. Unlike her father Tokiomi, who had fought and died in the Fourth War ten years previously, she was still at a relatively young age (still 17 years' old) when the current War broke out. Her Servant was an Archer-class, an enigmatic man who never revealed his identity openly, but left many unanswered questions in his wake.

Another representative of the three founding families, Illyasviel von Einzbern, was sent from Europe as the Master of the ferocious Berserker - revealed to be none other than the legendary Heracles, though whose intellect was chained by the Mad Enhancement placed upon it. Altered by the Einzbern before birth, and bitter at the loss of her parents, she came to the War with an agenda of her own...

The third family, the Matou (or Makiri), was an unusual case. Their Master, Shinji, had no sorcerous ability to speak of, yet somehow managed to command Rider - revealed to be the Gorgon Medusa, albeit appearing in her more human form - in battle. What, if any, role his graceful younger sister, Matou Sakura, or the reclusive patriarch Matou Zouken, played in this was unknown to others... as were the terrible secrets which lay hidden within the Makiri household.

Other Masters and Servants emerged, and would play their parts in the War - but one man and his noble Servant would be at the very crux of events.

Adopted by a magus called Emiya Kiritsugu ten years previously, Emiya Shirou had been the sole survivor of an horrific fire which had destroyed an entire section of the city. Inspired by the example of his adopted father, Shirou strove to emulate Kiritsugu's old dream of being a Seigi no Mikata; a Hero of Justice.

In the last five years after Kiritsugu's own death, Shirou has been watched over by the headstrong Fujimura Taiga, and found that he had a minor gift of his own - albeit one he misunderstood, and had not been told about by Kiritsugu (who had not passed on his secrets of magecraft to his adopted son, perhaps wishing to spare him the tragic fate he himself had suffered).


However, when the War came, Shirou found himself on the front lines. Moreover, he became the unwitting Master of Saber... a woman who captivated him from the instant she appeared before him, and who would change his live forever.

The full list of events which have taken place in the War would take up an entire volume to detail - but at the final, climactic stage, Shirou and Saber (who by now have each developed strong feelings for one another) are among the last remaining contestants... and have learned that the Grail is a poisoned chalice, corrupted over the last several decades into an engine of death and chaos.

The final conflict sees Kotomine Kirei - a man who had faced none other than Kiritsugu in the War ten years ago, and who had recently stabbed Rin and kidnapped Ilya for use as a catalyst for calling forth the Grail itself - and his ally Gilgamesh (the Archer-class Servant from the previous War, who had been granted a new form by the taint within the corrupted Grail, and now seeks to claim the world, and Saber, as his own) clash with Shirou and Saber at the Ryuudoji Temple, atop Mount Enzou, the epicentre of the cursed Grail system.

Saber's attempts to defeat Gilgamesh are resulting in stalemate - the foe's range of Noble Phantasms (powerful weapons which are typically a signature of their bearer, but of which Gilgamesh has dozens available to use) are parrying her efforts, while his most lethal Noble Phantasm, Ea, is too much for her own blade to overcome by itself.

Meanwhile, Shirou attempts to close the range on Kirei, and repay the damage done to Rin by striking him with her Azoth dagger - but Kirei's affinity with the tainted Grail's corruption allows him to use the black ichor seeping from it as a weapon.


The last thing Shirou sees before the Darkness envelops him is the self-satisfied smirk on Kotomine's face, as the dark sphere which had been in Kirei's hand flies forth and envelops Shirou completely...


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(EDIT: I've gone through the first 6 parts - and the side stories - one at a time, to fix some formatting issues. With luck, they are a bit more like the later chapters in terms of how well it reads... and thanks again to Elf from Beast's Lair for helping me get the hang of things in that regard.)


Fate/ Trans Form - Part 1


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BGM: Kenji Kawai - Darkness Squirms


Darkness.

Infinite darkness, hatred, and pain. The horrific chant of a vengeful god.

The dark ichor that had surrounded Emiya Shirou had formed into a sphere, surrounding the unfortunate Master from reality, caught between the cries of death from a hundred million cursed souls. He could feel his strength and resolve fading rapidly, overwhelmed by the force of the darkness surrounding him.

"Die! Die! Die! Die! Die!..." They called, over and over and over again.

No! I can't let it end this way! he thought desperately to himself. I must resist, I must... for the world's sake, for Ilya's sake... for Saber, my love. I must focus... on an end to darkness... on a beacon of light... which will break this curse forever!

Slowly, painfully, in what seemed to take a dozen lifetimes' worth, Shirou lifted his arms away from the writhing mass of limbs and gore, trying to form a circle between his hands.

Once he was ready, he called out: "Trace - on!"

He forced his mind to set aside the intense noise surrounding him, and coaxed a new image into life. Slowly at first, but gradually accelerating as he progressed, the object formed - a vessel designed to channel the awesome power of a Lord of Light, to provide a connection between the mundane and the phenomenal, to bring life where once lay death.

And as the chamber formed, a new link began to form - a wafer-thin filament reaching from some distant source, taking shape and form within the still-forming object. And as the new energy was amplified and magnified by the astounding intricacy of the chamber's inner surface, Shirou could sense its power washing his fears and doubts away.

And in a moment of absolute clarity, the hand of destiny graced Shirou's presence.

It was time.


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BGM: UVERworld - Halcyon (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=_7YGXmwn_js)


Kotomine Kirei summoned a lopsided grin at the sight of the dark sphere before him, trapping the hapless whelp who had dared challenge his plans for the Grail.

He had waited for this moment for over a decade - the chance to summon the cursed artifact from its resting place, to draw upon its power to darken the skies of Earth forever.

"Emiya Shirou!" he taunted, "I hope you can hear me in there! I want you to know that soon you'll be gone, and your Servant too, and all that you have ever cared for! So much for a seigi no mikata..."

And at that moment, the first crack appeared in the sphere, and a thin ray of light streaked out from within. And then another. And another....

...until it shattered into oblivion, revealing Emiya Shirou holding an unusual object, flowing with light, washing over his body, turning it into something... more.

A voice boomed out from the heavens: "Arise!"

In a few moments, the human Master had been replaced with a giant metal being, clad in red and gold, with streaks of flame upon its chest, surrounding an august emblem which Kirei did not recognise.

"No!" Kirei insisted, as he threw a series of ichor spheres at what Shirou had become, but the spheres bounced harmlessly off his armoured chassis. The metal warrior held onto the object with one hand, using the other to reach for his opponent, as he affirmed that "This is the end of the road, Kotomine!"

The hand clenched, and the warrior swung his left arm, landing the hit squarely upon Kirei's chest. The sheer force of the swing crushed Kirei's ribs, and lifted him high into the air... into the maw of the portal opened for the Grail. As his body impacted with the portal, it disintegrated, vanishing from this plane of existence. Kotomine Kirei's soul would spend an eternity with the corrupted being whom he had sought to bring fourth.

But the War was not yet over.

The warrior placed his fingers through the grooves in the object's handles, lifted it towards the sky, and pulled the two halves of the casing apart, chanting "Now, light our darkest hour!"

With this, the orb of energy within the Matrix exploded, and the darkness was covered with light.

Above, Ilya's body had been trapped by the dark ichor - but a wave of blazing energy passed over her, and the dark substance was gone. Freed from the sacrificial altar, her body began to fall...

...but she was in no danger.


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Saber tried to lift herself from the ground, her limbs weakened, her armour crumpled, the force of her impact carving a gash through the ground as Gilgamesh's attack broke through her defences. The pain was almost unbearable - she was not sure how much more she could handle in the face of the twisted old King's onslaught.

Gilgamesh stood there, charging his blade, preparing for a final, fatal strike. He had had enough of Athuria, and was prepared to destroy her utterly.

So, he charged his fearsome weapon, Ea, chanting "Enuma Eli..." before being disrupted by a mind-numbing wave of pain.

"Aaaaaahhhhhh!" he cried out, as in the midst of the warrior's attack, a wave of light had engulfed him, the power of the Matrix reaching out and washing over his body.

Saber could feel it as well, the awesome life force sweeping across the Ryūdōji temple and the surrounding landscape. But she did not feel any pain, quite the contrary - the force repaired her armour and healed her wounds, and steeled her blade.

At a stroke she sprinted over to Gilgamesh, plunging her blade through the old King's chest. As she retracted Excalibur after the strike, beams of light emerged from both the entry and exit points on his armour, and scores of smaller breaks in his skin and on his armour also appeared.

She turned her head to look towards the temple, to the source of the new light, and saw a giant metal knight striding towards her, carrying Ilya in her arms, her body wrapped in a large blanket. An unusual glow within its - his - chest. For a moment, she was taken aback, but only for a moment - her mental link to Shirou told her exactly who this unusual giant was.

He came to a stop beside her, and placed Ilya's body in her arms, as she asked "Shiro! What's happening?"

"Saber, I'll explain in a moment! For now, let's roll out!" was the reply, as to her shock, the metal warrior pulled in his arms and legs, and began to change its form entirely! Within moments, he had become an armoured vehicle, which opened its forward canopy to let Saber in.

Saber sat in the driver's seat, and placed Ilya's body on the passenger seat beside her. The vehicle's seat belts immediately formed themselves around the two, and it roared into action, driving down the side of the mountain.


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Gilgamesh forced himself to turn to the collapsing gateway which had once loomed menacingly over the Ryūdōji temple. It wouldn't be long now - the entire mountain top would soon be gone, taking his twisted dreams of conquest and death with it.

He could feel the light burning away his own flesh, tearing him apart from the inside out, as if all of the suffering he had inflicted on others throughout his existence had been repaid a hundredfold in mere moments.

He knew the end would soon come, but he would remain defiant to the end. He summoned the last of his strength to cry out to the universe around him:

"Destiny..." he mused, unwittingly echoing the last words of another now-fallen foe, "you cannot... destroy... my... destiny!"

An instant later, his body was torn apart, and the mountaintop vanished in an immense final burst of light. His head was severed from his body, launched into the night sky, dissolving into nothingness.

And a few moments later, it too was gone.
The War was finally over.


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BGM: Kenji Kawai - The Bond


Shirou and Saber stood together at the top of a nearby hill, watching the light of the dawn slowly emerge. The Matrix was gone, and Shirou had 'reverted' to his human form. Ilya was lying on the ground nearby, fast asleep - with luck, all she would remember was having a bad dream.

They both knew that the end had come, that the Grail was finally destroyed - that Saber's time with him was about to end.

They each tried to say something meaningful to each other, to try and put a form and structure to the sorrow they both felt. That they both knew how the other felt, and were all the more stricken for it.

They both reached out for each other's hand, holding it tightly, trying to burn the image of this moment into their minds. The feel of the wind on their skin. The warmth of their hands holding. The tears barely held back in the corners of their eyes.

Why could this moment not last for an eternity?

At length, it was Saber who spoke. "Shirou..."

He could almost not bear to hear it. "...I love you."

The dawn broke, and Shirou had to cover his eyes for a moment with his right hand. And when he put it down again, she was gone.

"Yeah... That's really your style... My love," he whispered, wishing against hope that she had heard him, somehow, somewhere.


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BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Optimus (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=mlozd3k-AhM)


"Your Majesty..." heard Arturia, who opened her eyes, blinking so as not to catch the glare, and saw the familiar face of one of her trusted knights - from her own time.

"Bedivere..." she said, before ordering him to take Excalibur and return it to the lake. While the knight was gone, Arturia thought of the dream she had experienced - no, more than just a dream. A vision. A life?

Was it true? Did she take up her sword against other heroes for the sake of a cursed relic? Did she live for a time in an island country on the far side of the world? Did she witness the power unleashed by an alien god, a patron of giant knights of metal?

Did she really fall in love with Emiya Shirou?

She could barely move - but she was not in pain. She could feel the end drawing near, but she was not afraid. She had no regrets, not anymore.

And there was something unusual about Bedivere's reaction to her story - but she could not understand what it was specifically that seemed troubling.

By the time Bedivere returned, her eyes were closed - and she could barely hear the parting worlds from her trusted knight:

"Your Majesty, dost thou behold the continuation of thine dream?"

And then, nothing.

But then...


"Arturia, Saber, do you see me?"

Her eyes opened one more - but she was no longer in the forest with Bedivere. She was floating in a strange world, filled with green and blue and white light, and a myriad of complex patterns flowing across the surface of her body - if this truly was her body.

Before her floated the form of another metal giant, one in red, blue and white, with a faceplate covering his mouth. He spoke once again:

"Arturia, do you see me?" the giant asked.

"Yes," she replied. "Where... where am I?"

He gestured to the strange world surrounding them, replying with "You are within a world beyond your world, beyond good and evil, beyond your wildest imagination. You have earned eternal rest for your efforts - both in your own time, and in those your spark has journeyed to."

"Spark?" she wondered, unfamiliar with the term.

The giant held up a hand in apology. "Oh yes - I'm getting a little ahead of myself. To my kind, a spark is what we would equate to your soul, or spirit, or essence."

She looked at him with a renewed focus - for what it was worth in this strange place. "So it was not a dream?"

"No," he answered, "you sacrificed all that you had for freedom and for justice, without fear. And for that you have earned the right to rest in eternity in Avalon.

But I am here on behalf of one who would offer you a new life. A chance to serve the cause of justice once again. A chance to be with your loved one, and the others you care for, as a new kind of life - a new kind of being.

As a seigi no yuusha."

"I... can go to Shirou?" Images of her times with Shirou passed through her mind - the first time she saw him when she first emerged as his Servant, the present of the lion toy at the store, the look in his eyes as he confessed his fellings for her...

...And she knew that the new-found choice before her was no choice at all.


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BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Autobots (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=fznsocgyhDw)


Shirou was standing on the hill, his mind overflowing with thoughts of Saber, of the times they had shared, and of the moments they would never share again.

It had not yet sunk in just what kind of power he had unleashed at the Temple, of the emblem his power lines had formed into upon his chest in metallic form, of the revelation he had experienced through contact with the power of Primus. Primus... how did he know that name? And who was the red and gold warrior he had turned into? And how did he understand the nature of the symbol? And why had he been chosen - where did he get the idea of forming the Matrix in the first place?

All of these were questions lingering in the corners of his mind, but he was too focussed on Saber's memory to properly register them.

"These memories... they are all I have left, now," he said to himself, before the hand of fate changed his world once more.

The light of the sun flared more brightly, and he once again covered his eyes to protect himself - burned retinas simply wouldn't do, after all. When he looked up he was astonished - a portal was opening above the sun's disk!

An approaching howl could be heard, the sound of a powerful jet engine approaching. It was coming from the portal...

Suddenly, a large, alien fighter craft burst through the portal, shrieking through the skies towards the hilltop. Faster than Shirou could respond, the craft banked up and overshot his position, arcing up into the sky.

It was astonishing - the craft was sleek and aerodynamic, with a set of back-swept wings and an intricate pattern across its surface area. And on the top of the plane looked like... the outline of a sword and scabbard! Shirou knew at once that it was the Excalibur, but what could this mean?

It banked to the side and came in for another pass, slowing rapidly and coming to a near stop just metes from where Shirou was standing. How could a craft move in such a way? It was impossible...

...But then, Shirou was even more astonished, as the craft began to transform into a giant mechanical being, shaped vaguely like a human. Its armour was silver and blue, the pattern on its chestplate the same as one he knew all too well, and its eyes were jade green.

"Shirou!" it - she! - called out.

As if this had not been enough, the being began to shrink, and its appearance changed, becoming more human, as if a shell was forming itself around the mechanical chassis.

It was her. She was alive.

"Saber!" he exclaimed in joy, as they rushed into each other's arms, tears flowing down their cheeks, almost in shock at the realisation that they were together once again.

"H..how..." he tried to ask, before another voice spoke from nearby, "I think I can explain this one!"

Both Saber and Shirou turned to the source of that statement, to see a large red-and-gold vehicle make its way up the hill, towards them. When it reached the summit, it transformed into a humanoid being, one whom Shirou already knew. "Rodimus Prime!"

"That's right," was the response, "the real Rodimus Prime that is. It's nice to meet you both, would you guys like a lift back home?

We have a lot to talk about."


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End of Part 1.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:44 PM
Fate/Trans form - Part 2


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Such a beautiful day... thought Shirou to himself, as he sat in the forward compartment of the red/gold vehicle driving itself through the streets of Fuyuki City. He was looking across at the impossibly beautiful woman sitting in the passenger's seat to his right, holding the still-prone form of a former adversary on her lap. Glancing out at the dazzling colours of the morning horizon, it was difficult for Shirou to register just how much had changed in the last twenty-four hours.

One moment he had prepared to risk his life to bring an end to the Grail War, trying to steel himself (an ironic term, given his realm of magical expertise) against the inevitable outcome of the night's events, should he and Saber succeed - that the Grail would be gone, and she would be lost to him forever. But now here he was... and here she was, the same Saber he had completely fallen for, and yet, different in a manner he could not comprehend.

And this vehicle - this comprehensive facade, for a being that was truly more than meets the eye. It should have been the greatest mystery of all, and yet...

"So, you guys feeling okay in there?" And there it was - the voice of Rodimus Prime, the being whose form he had taken at the Ryūdōji temple, who bore the original Matrix from which he had inexplicably replicated in that darkest of hours.

Shirou answered, somewhat cautiously: "Um... Well, to tell you the truth, I feel a little overwhelmed by the whole series of events - it hasn't even begun to sink in for me just yet."

Saber voiced her own concerns. "I also feel uncertain about this new form I have been granted, and what brought me back to this time and place."It seemed that she was not without her doubts either - not least due to her relative lack of exposure to the concept of gigantic talking biomechanoids in disguise.

Heh, as if watching Gun x Sword and The Big O was enough preparation for me! mused Shirou internally, "and even they weren't sentient life forms from a whole other world...[/i]

Rodimus replied, in a slightly more relaxed manner. "Well, let me see if I can help with that - but first, let me introduce myself. I am Rodimus Prime, commander of the Autobot armed forces, Protector of Cybertron."

"Cy...baa..." Shirou tried to wrap his tongue around the syllables.

"Cybertron," repeated Rodimus, "my home world - in orbit of the Alpha Centauri A star, not too far away from Sol, in fact.

My people, the Cybertronians, are a race of sentient biomechanical life forms, capable of transforming into a variety of other objects - cars, aircraft, even starships. I lead the Autobots - a force of Cybertronians dedicated to the preservation of sentient life across this galaxy, and to the promotion of inter-species dialogue and co-operation."

Shirou was somewhat skeptical. "So, just how long have you and your kind been on Earth, anyway? And if you are so noble and beneficent, why have we not heard of your kind here before?"

'Well," came the response, "we've been on Earth for a while now, but we feel that it's too early in your world's development for us to declare our presence openly. Your kind has great potential, the possible makings of a major influence on the galaxy - but you are not ready, and you won't be for quite some time.

The most we can do is try to aid you from the sidelines, make what we hope are subtle yet worthwhile contributions here and there... and protect you from those who would show no such restraint in 'introducing' humanity to the realities of the universe around you."

'Wait, just who exactly do we need protection from?' Shirou felt worried when asking. The seihai sensou had been trouble enough.

For his part, Rodimus was not sure whether or not to rush into a full-blown explanation at that particular time. "I'll... get back to that part later, but let's just say for now that unfortunately, not all Cybertronians are as friendly as yours truly."

Shirou and Saber were keen to learn more about the issue, but chose not to pursue it further – for the time being, at least. There were other pressing issues to raise, such as the one Shirou now turned to. "What happened to Saber? And just what has she become?"

"I may need one of my colleagues to examine further, but my guess would be that Saber is a Cybertronian, and one with a Pretender shell to boot," came the reply.

"Pretender?" Shirou asked.

Rodimus affirmed this. "Yes… Traditionally we’ve relied on our alternate forms to try and blend in on alien worlds – though you’d be forgiven if you thought my own vehicle mode was less than inconspicuous! However, recent developments back home, and on other worlds in the galaxy, have resulted in new ‘shells’ – techno-organic bodies which we can use to mimic biological creatures, apes to cheetahs and even humans. The shells themselves are pretty impressive – a Cybertronian wearing one is pretty much indistinguishable from the life form they assume, with blood cells, lungs, a beating heart, the works!"

He addressed Saber directly. "Saber, while in this form, you are as human as anyone on Earth – more or less - but you have the ability to return to your Cybertronian form at will. It might take a little getting used to, though."

Saber lifted up her left palm and looked intently at it, not quite believing that it felt – moved – exactly as she had always remembered it. She put her hand up against her face, half expecting to feel a metal plate instead of her own skin.

Shirou was no closer to understanding the situation, however. "But – how did she become like this? Was it something to do with…"

"The Matrix?" Rodimus said. "I’d say so."

"You’d say so?" was the less than overly sold reply.

Rodimus tried to clarify the point with "Look, the Matrix has been the primary fount for Cybertronian life from the very beginning, but there’s a lot more we don’t know about it than we do. Even as Prime, my connection to the Matrix is… complicated, at best. I knew that the Matrix was reaching out to the two of you at the temple, and I could feel its power reaching outwards – which led me to you in the first place. That, and the portal through which Saber emerged.

My guess is that the Matrix left a fragment of itself in each of you – as it does with each new spark, or life essence, it brings forth – and that fragment followed Saber to the past, and granted her a new spark, a new life as one of us. But I can’t say for certain, not without knowing more. I’m sorry."

Saber saw a series of images in her mind – the last fading light of the forest, the ancient alien being in front of her, the circle of light opening up in the sky…

…and suddenly, she felt tired, as fatigued as at any time she could remember.

"Looks like you could use a nap" noted Rodimus, "you’ve both been through a lot. And just as it happens…"

Rodimus turned the corner, and drove up the Emiya household’s driveway, coming to a stop near the main building’s front door.

"Thank you for bringing us back. Thank you… for her." Shirou had yet to fully understand, but he was still more than grateful, for everything.

Rodimus dodged the gratitude, saying "Don’t thank me, thank the Matrix – but don’t get too excited. There are still a number of unanswered questions to deal with. I’m going to get in touch with our operatives here in Japan, and I’ll be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, if you need to contact me, Saber has a comm unit built into her left arm, and you can take this -" the glovebox opened up, and Shiro reached over to the small communicator within. "- use it if you need to contact me. Take some time to get yourselves together, but don’t hesitate if there are any problems."

"Okay," Shirou nodded, as he then helped Ilya and Saber out of the bay, and carried each to the door.

Rodimus revved his engine, and set out back down the driveway, onto the street beyond. Just before he turned away, he activated the comm unit in Shiro’s hand, and said "You’ve done a great service to your people today, both of you – don’t forget that. You should be proud."

And with that, he was gone.


--------------


Shirou carried Ilya over to her room, and lowered her into her bed. She had hardly stirred since her recovery, but Shiro felt it was best to let her rest.

He carefully closed the room’s door panel, and headed back over to Saber, who by now was resting herself against the wall beside the front door. It was more awkward to carry her through the house, but she still felt surprisingly light – Shirou had half-expected her to weigh several tons.

She had been a thirty-foot tall robot-plane that morning, after all.

He laid her to rest in her own room, and pulled the quilt to cover her up to her neck. She was fast asleep, but what she saw in her dreams Shiro could not say.

In the morning light coming in through the blinds, her face looked astonishingly beautiful. So graceful, so serene… so perfect.

Shirou sat beside her, and reached his hand over to her forehead.

"Saber…" The faintest of whispers, yet he hoped she could hear him in her dreamlike state.

He picked himself up and headed to his own room, and suddenly realised how tired he was, as well.

He crashed down onto his own bed and closed his eyes, and drifted away…


--------------


A verdant forest, the wind gently breezing through the trees.

An inner peace, more sublime than anything one had ever known.

A release, into a new plane of existence…

A noble giant, offering a new chance, a new hope.

A new life…


--------------


A new life, for my new Servant. Konotori Hizen was almost quaking in anticipation as he progressed through the summoning spell, his key to dominance in the years to come.

It had taken years to acquire the magical items needed to form the portal, just as long to gather a stock of sacrifices to power them, and even longer to perfect the carefully-crafted language needed to bring his plan to fruition.

While the Grail had been one means of drawing forth Servants from the far realm, Hizen knew it was not the only one – merely the most notorious among spellcasters. Indeed, many magicians liked to pretend that other means did not exist, or simply didn’t know any better.

They must be delighted at the Grail’s demise, he cackled to himself, "it must be a great comfort when they sleep at night! Those fools!

As the incantation gathered pace, the winds of dark magic formed into an octagon on the temple floor before him, ancient runes and half-forgotten marks burning themselves into the lacquered wood below.

Hizen found it harder to concentrate – it was an aching temptation to gorge himself on the mounting satisfaction he felt as the pieces fell into place. With a sharp blink of the eyes, he re-focussed himself on the task at hand. It was too late to afford mistakes.

He continued the chant: "Son of Heaven, Conqueror of Worlds, Mightiest of Rulers… Step forth!"

The winds of magic within the octagon coalesced into a tornado, a nexus of otherworldly energy focussed on one spot, thickening into jet-black ichor, coalescing into a human-like form.

It was time. "Great Khan, step forth!"

The mass of ichor shattered, and in its place stood a warrior king like no other. The man who had taken the empire forged in blood and fire by his legendary grandfather, and led it to its greatest victories – who ended his days as master of China, and half of the known world. The mightiest ruler to have ever lived.

Kublai Khan.

The Khan looked to Hizen, and simply asked "You are the one who has summoned me?" He stared intently at the magus in front of him, who had no idea as to how the next several seconds would transpire.

"Yes, Great Khan. I – uuughhh!" In a flash, the massive hand of the Khan was pressed against the mage’s neck, throttling the life force from Hizen.

"B..bu… t… y…o.. u..." Hizen choked out the words.

Kublai barked a short laugh. "Are your Servant? Ha! Pathetic. A miserable toad like yourself, daring to challenge the Son of Heaven Himself? However... I have waited for this moment for over seven hundred years – so perhaps I should show you a measure of gratitude for your services, yes?"

In a lightning-fast motion, Kublai threw Hizen across the room, whose body smashed against the temple wall.

Kublai reached over to the assembled artefacts, and despite his severely reduced physical faculties, Hizen could tell he knew every last one of them. As if he had laid them out for Hizen to find, to draw him here…

"Here we are..." he spoke, taunting the battered magus, "the Seturyo Dagger, quite a useful item, and still with fresh blood on the blade. You have been meticulous in your preparations, I grant you that."

Kublai walked over to the prone form of Hizen, who was crumpled in a pool of his own blood. "As I said, I will show you gratitude, and mercy. Normally I can be very particular about dealing with those who would dare place themselves in a position of authority above me, but given the unique circumstances I will spare you a prolonged agony. Rest in PEACE!"

With that, Kublai plunged the Dagger into Hizen’s heart, and almost instantly his body was warped into a fresh portal. It had only managed to bring Kublai across in conjunction with several other powerful objects, but was more than adequate for the task at hand.

In a few seconds, Hizen was gone, and in his place stood a second powerful warrior – one with a deep scar on his face, the legacy of a past shame.

"Liu Fu-hsiang!" bellowed the Khan, and at once, the second warrior knelt before his sovereign. "You were a commander of my armies once, against the inhabitants of these islands – trusted with their subjugation. But not only did you fail me, you allowed yourself to be humiliated! Losing your horse, and your eye, to a samurai. Pathetic!"

Lu knew precisely of what the Khan spoke – his soul had been in agony for centuries because of his failure.

"However," the Khan continued, "I have been known to show mercy, when I judge it to be advantageous. I grant you this chance to redeem yourself, and to have your soul know peace at last. Speak!"

His voice quivering, Liu hurriedly asserted "Command me, lord Khan!"

Excellent… Kublai had known well what the disgraced warrior would say – but it still gratified him to hear it.

Twice before, he had sent armies by sea to Japan, seeking to crush their insolence (they dared to hold their own Emperor as equal to Him? Preposterous!) and to add their holdings to the Yuan Dynasty. And yet, twice had their sheer effrontery been rewarded by salvation, from the skill and fanaticism they had shown in combat, the incompetence of his commanders, and the divine winds which ruined his fleets.

But they would not escape a third time.

Japan would be his.


--------------


Above the modest cloud cover over Fuyuki City, a purple and grey aircraft gracefully flew across the sky. Not that any human sensor could detect it – the stealth coating on the craft’s outer layer protected it from such primitive systems. Even detection equipment from its home world would have a difficult time in tracing its flight path.

The Decepticon saboteur observed the ruins left behind by the Matrix’s unleashing, reminiscent of the day not so long ago that a similar force had saved the homeworld from the clutches of his unholy creator.

His passive scanners followed the familiar sight of a red-and-gold vehicle leave the area, and head towards the city centre.

He was quick to respond to this event. There is much more to this event than I had previously considered. This warrants further investigation. Cyclonus banked his left wing upward, and pulled up and away from the island, out towards the Pacific Ocean. Once he reached a certain point away from Japan, he activated his hyperspace portal, heading back to the Decepticons’ current home base of operations.

Things on Earth were going to get very interesting.


--------------


End of Part 2.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:44 PM
Fate/Trans form - Part 3


--------------


Rodimus Prime took a moment away from the pile of data slabs to rub his optics with his left hand. Each slab contained detailed reports from one of several dozen Autobot outposts and surveillance centres on Earth, Cybertron, Nebulos and many other worlds in the Milky Way – and one or two beyond it.

It wasn’t that there were any major crises to worry about – far from it: in the aftermath of Unicron’s assault on the home world, the Decepticons had kept to their reduced holdings on Charr and other fringe worlds, and by far the largest task facing Cybertron was the immense construction projects needed to restore it to at least a semblance of its former glory. The generous help from their new Junkion allies (or perhaps siblings, since it had been confirmed that Junk itself had a Cybertronian heritage, albeit an accidental one…), several cities were already being rebuilt, and long-term reclamation projects were on the cards for tacking the immense wastelands that had swallowed up much of the planet’s surface even before the Chaos Bringer’s devastation.

The Chaos Bringer… It was hard to believe that it was already two Earth years since the now-legendary assault on Cybertron took place, during which the two major moons vanished from existence, and which left behind an immense ring of wreckage encircling the planet – and the severed, shattered head of Unicron himself in orbit, a perpetual reminder of that horrendous day.

Of the day he became Prime.

Shaking his head, Rodimus pre-empted any unwarranted recall of the events of 2005, and went back to the stack of slabs on the table. Let’s see… no news from the listening posts near Quintessa – seems that they are either involving themselves with other concerns, such as quelling the ongoing Sharkticon revolt on the eastern continent, or lying low in preparation for a campaign against Cybertron…

Given Rodimus’ personal experiences on the hellish home world of the Quintessons, he had few illusions as to the potential threat posed by the five-faced ones and their legions of slave-warriors – and given the Autobots’ role in provoking the current uprising, he was sure that if they consolidated their hold on power, the results would spell serious trouble for all concerned.

Filing that issue away for a moment, he turned to the next slab – with data from the assorted clandestine contacts on Earth that the Autobots had with certain governments and agencies. While it had been deemed premature to initiate public ‘first contact’ with the peoples of Earth, the Autobot presence planetside – and the after-effects of Decepticon activities – would be untenable without a measure of behind-the-scenes co-operation with relevant authorities.

Not least because humans had their own secrets to keep, in terms of their role in the galaxy…

Before Rodimus could reach for the subsequent slab – which at a glance was most likely yet another mind-numbing update from the civilian provisional government at Iacon – the comm system chimed: "Rodimus Convoy-dono, this is Metalhawk. I await your presence at the briefing room."

Like most of the operatives deployed to Japan (or, indeed, anywhere on Earth), Metalhawk had ‘gone native’ in many of his mannerisms, including adding in honorifics that slightly irked the informal nature of the present Autobot commander.

"Noted, I’ll be right there," replied Rodimus, relieved to be rid of the book work for now. While it had been almost a favoured pastime of his predecessor, Rodimus did not share an enthusiasm for it. He soon walked the short distance from his office to the briefing room.

The complex was secluded within an innocuous-looking research facility in the Japanese countryside, within the Oumuroyama caldera, deep in the Aokigahara forest - in the near vicinity of Mount Fuji itself. On the viewscreen mounted on the eastern wall, the view from the mountaintop was replicated as a default screensaver.

Metalhawk stood to attention as Rodimus entered, bowing politely in the commander’s presence – adding to the latter’s discomfiture. "Please, Metalhawk, I have said you need not worry with formalities around me, though I appreciate the effort made. And Rodimus is fine."

Metalhawk stopped to consider this. "My apologies, Rodimus Convoy-do… I mean, Rodimus."

Somewhat relieved, Rodimus asked "So, Metalhawk, what have you got for me?"

Metalhawk – in his human persona as Professor Hawk – was section chief for the Pretender agents assigned to Japan, and filtered any relevant information gathered further up the Autobot chain of command. It was likely that no sentient knew more about the contemporary social, economic and political scene on Japan as he did …or about the anomalous events that took place on the archipelago from time to time.

So begam his report: "This week’s briefing shall be relatively short, due to a lull in unusual activities in the country. Agent B is following up on a number of temporal displacements and energy surges which have been emanating from Misaki-shi, while Agent C has been reporting a drop in activity from the Tokyo bureau. Agent D is heading back from the Ryukyus, and is set to visit Aomori-shi upon his return. Agent E has recently arrived in Nishinomiya-shi, and is beginning his investigation of what seems to be another locus of anomalous events."

Even here, Metalhawk – who was technically also Agent A - would not reveal the names of the agents in question, and Rodimus would not ask him for such information unless it was crucially important to do so. The Pretender agents took the lead in promoting and enforcing official secrecy in their operations – an attitude justified in the intelligence failures which had led to the almost-fatal security breach at Autobot City in 2005.

"Do you have anyone deployed to Fuyuki-shi yet?" Rodimus asked.

Metalhawk responded, with a hint of displeasure in his voice. "Not at present – our numbers are still a little thin on the ground here in Japan, and prior to the recent surge in activity the city had been quiet, so far as we were aware."

Although it was true that resources had been stretched in recent times for this operation, it was an unavoidable side-effect of the immense strain that the barely-recovering Autobot resources were under these last two years, but the fact that the events at Fuyuki-shi had almost completely made it past the notice of the section chief had clearly been an embarrassment. Indeed, had the Matrix itself not activated at a critical time, it was likely that no-one would have known what was about to occur until it was too late.

"Metalhawk, there is no reason to beat yourself up over this – no matter how much we try, we can’t get everything right. Believe me, I know. What matters is how we deal with the situation at hand, and finding out what we can about the events which led to the… intervention." Rodimus pointed to the Autobot emblem on his chest, behind which resided the Matrix of Leadership – which seemed to have no end of surprises in store for the young commander.

Metalhawk was grateful to hear the reassurance from the Soushireikan. "I understand, and thank you for your generosity."

A smile appeared on Rodimus’ face, an expression he had not lost from his days as a wild cavalier. "Don’t worry about it. Anyway, given that I already have a role in this affair, I’m going to stick around a bit longer, if it’s not an inconvenience. Also, I’d like you to suit up and look into this personally – we can rotate someone in to keep tabs on the base while you’re in the field, and I wouldn’t want you cooped up in here on a permanent basis."

It had been a while since Professor Hawk had visited another part of Japan, and a part of him relished the prospect of field work again. However, his commander’s unorthodox request left a few matters to attend to…

"Hmm… I can re-assign Agent D to the complex upon arrival, and we have a pre-arranged safe house in the area -" Such safe houses existed in at least one city in every prefecture in the country, "- And if I may be so bold, I believe our tailor may have something in your size…"

Sounds interesting, thought Rodimus to himself.


--------------


"Senpai…"

"Emiya-senpai…"

His eyes opened at the sound of a familiar voice, and took a moment to re-focus themselves. Shirou raised his hand to his mouth and tried to stifle a yawn, as he groggily sat up on the futon.

Beside him stood Matou Sakura, who had been volunteering her mornings and evenings at the Emiya residence for so long, it felt like second nature.

For a moment, Shirou was lulled into a sense of familiarity – thinking today was no different to any one of a hundred or more days she had greeted him in the household, seemingly untroubled by the inconvenience, always showing a calm smile and a kind demeanour.

But these last few weeks have been anything but normal… he quickly recalled.

At once, the recollection of recent events rolled in, and Shirou looked at Sakura with a new intensity, though he did his best to hide it. Thankfully, she seemed to be untroubled by her unwilling participation in the Grail War – he hoped that Rin’s amnesia spell, and the purging of Sakura’s body of Caster's taint of darkness, had been successful, and so it seemed…

…but he could never be too sure about her.

For that matter, he had no idea how she was reacting to the death of Shinji, and of Matou Zouken, the enigmatic head of that household, who had apparently also died recently. She had told him so little of her life in that place, and a small part of him in the back of his mind almost didn’t want to know.

Furthermore, maybe it was the light, but it it seemed as if her hair colour was a little... different than usual.

"Sakura, how long have I been out?" he asked sheepishly.

She replied, gracefully as ever, "Senpai, you’ve been asleep for the last two days, as have Saber-san, Ilya-chan and Tohsaka-san. Fujimura-sensei and I have been here looking out for you, waiting to see if you’ll be alright – we have been using two of your spare rooms, I apologise for the inconvenience. However, Fujimura-sensei seems to be enjoying herself more than usual at meal times."

Shirou thought of what Fuji-nee would have liked most about that arrangement. "Hm, sounds like she’s glad there is no competition for your fabulous cooking, Sakura! And please feel free to use any room here you wish for as long as you want – you are always most welcome in this household."

Sakura’s cheeks went a slightly pinker shade than usual, and her smile grew that little bit wider on her face – if he wasn’t already spoken for, Shirou would have been heart-struck at the sight.

Oh yeah, he realised, there’s something to figure out – when, and how, am I going to tell everyone about Saber and I?

Saber…

Feeling more awake, he asked "Sakura, please give me a moment to get ready, I want to check up on Saber and the others as soon as I can. We should probably tell Fuji-nee that I’m alright, as well."

"Hai, senpai." she answered.

I should think of how I’m going to ask about Shinji, as well… he thought, as she left the room and he started to get himself ready. A few minutes later, Shirou was dressed and had freshened up, and walked with Sakura down to Saber’s room. Apparently Rin and Ilya were both doing well, at least in terms of healing physically – Sakura (apparently) had no idea what had happened, which meant that Rin must have already healed the stab wounds before Sakura got to the house.

And Saber…

Shirou slid the door open, and sat beside her, looking down at her face – and even though it was no different than the way it looked when he had laid her to rest when getting home, for some reason he couldn’t explain she looked even more beautiful than usual. He found that he couldn’t wait to see her eyes open again, for the light of the new morning to reach her eyes – the first of many new mornings to come, together.

And almost as if on cue, he saw her eyelids flutter, and open.

And Shirou could recall no finer feeling.


--------------


The hyperspace window opened above the atmosphere of Charr – or, at least what passed for one on this burned-out husk of a world.

Cyclonus emerged from the window and took a moment to examine the surroundings, ensuring that no new obstacles had been accidentally placed in the flight path.

When the Decepticon remnants fled Cybertron and other worlds across the quadrant in the flight to Charr, the once-mighty empire had reached its lowest ebb – at no point could he remember a worse turn of events for his cause.

His cause… his life… It was not often that Cyclonus remembered his life before being reformatted by the hands of the Chaos Bringer, and even then he received mere glimpses of what had once been – almost as if he were looking through another’s optics. Which, in a manner of speaking, was the case – every subatomic particle in his body had been altered or replaced by Unicron.

It didn’t help that there was confusion as to which Decepticon he had been forged from, or whether an amalgam of torn and twisted parts were refashioned into his new body – or whether Unicron had already produced drones in the past which shared both his and Scourge’s countenance. Cyclonus swiftly brushed the thought aside – he had no patience for such introspection.

In the last two years of life on Charr, he had been meticulous in planning the eventual return of the Decepticon empire. As he, Scourge and the Sweeps were by far the most fuel-efficient of the survivors, they were the most active in raiding for fresh energon supplies, raw materials and other required elements – and he had orchestrated a carefully-balanced balance between serving ongoing population needs, creating a fresh stockpile for future use, and building up infrastructure in the Charr system itself.

For the last part, the survival of the Constructicons had been a major boon – Mixmaster had yet again proven his worth at turning wreckage into treasure, for which Scrapper had laid out exacting plans for new construction projects – orbital solar collectors, planetside processing facilities, armouries, repairs to the Nightmare (the lethal starship bequeathed to Galvatron by Unicron, barely holding together after the battle for Cybertron) and reclamation projects (in an attempt to clear enough of an area on Charr to make proper use of). Indeed, they seemed to relish every moment, and were even more excited by the fact that Cyclonus ordered Scourge to hand over one of his Sweeps for a thorough analysis. Granted, the usual less-than-sterile methods which would have ordinarily been used were curtailed by Scourge’s blunt warning to Scrapper’s team, as well as the need to have said Sweep eventually return to active duty - but it was an invaluable opportunity to study the dramatic changes wrought by the Chaos Bringer in them.

In contrast, most of the dirtside Decepticons were either powered-down in near-stasis-lock, or bored out of their sparks with the labour involved, and still reeling from the devastating loss of prestige from the empire’s fall. Cyclonus had been careful to keep those most likely to become malcontents powered down – in this situation, nothing could be left to chance, least of all to the seditious misgivings of a disgruntled populace.

Cyclonus descended though the atmosphere, and came to a stop at the newly-paved runway beside the new Decepticon Headquarters – one of the Constructicons’ finest works, an example of the defiance they were keen to show to their situation.

Megatron had been right to trust in these six minds during the Great War, considered the sleek Decepticon warrior.

The Great War… another set of words which rang hollow in his mind. While he was loath to admit it, the victory speech from the new Autobot commander had rung true – that war, that entire era, had been brought to an end. A new peace had settled on the galaxy.

However, Cyclonus still had several deep-cover agents in play on a number of key worlds, and he knew that it was only a matter of time before one power or another made a push to alter the balance. Perhaps it would be the Quintessons, detailed in stolen reports made by those Autobots who had 'visited' their home world in 2005. Perhaps it would be one of the alien empires in the far quadrants of the galaxy, who had hitherto been held back from this region of space by the iron fist of the old realm. Or maybe some new inter-stellar power, whom none locally had yet encountered.

Of course, in Cyclonus’ mind, there would be one more player added to the mix…

…an empire re-forged, setting worlds aflame with vengeance, re-claiming its destiny.

And in Cyclonus’ mind, there was only one being capable of leading them in that coming war.

"Cyclonus, welcome back… did you pick up any postcards?" Scourge’s unsubtle remark was a clear indicator that he was still smarting over having one of his Sweeps taken away – and perhaps in seeing his ‘brother’ in command? Or maybe even a sign of his general displeasure with Cyclonus’ planned operation?

He enjoyed his current status, after all.

"Greetings brother, it has been altogether too long." One did not need to note the fact that they had seen each other only a few days previously to understand the undercurrent in his words.

Scourge remained as defiant as ever - more than Cyclonus cared for, but never enough to risk retribution. "Humph. Here’s an update by that snivelling green-and-purple runt, and his gang of cronies."

To Scourge, every being in the universe that wasn’t Scourge – or one of his siblings, at a stretch – deserved that appellation, no matter how much they offered to the Decepticon cause. The callousness appalled Cyclonus, who possessed the (un-)natural gift of understanding the art of command.

The data was promising – the collector was operational, and the refineries were up and running. A steady supply of energon was at hand. Also, Astrotrain’s surveys of the outer asteroid belt of a nearby system found a wealth of metals and minerals, and the remote mining craft were already in-transit to take advantage of them. Even better, the planetary defence net was ready, providing enough protection from a potential raiding force to allow for the operation to finally take place. In theory, at least...

Cyclonus came to a decision. "It’s time, brother."

"Yes. Time." Despite his rumblings, Cyclonus knew that Scourge and his Sweeps would not dare fail him in the days to come.

At last, the time had come to take the next step towards the renewed goal of total Decepticon domination.

The time had come…

…to restore Galvatron.


--------------


Hakata Bay.

It was completely unrecognisable from the shores his warriors had once stood upon, in their ill-fated attempts to claim these islands in his name. Back then there had been a relatively small city along the bay side – which, he remarked to himself, had been burned to the ground in the first invasion. There had also been clear beaches from end to end, and in the second invasion, a wall running along most of the length of the bay.

Out in the bay itself once floated the pride of his fleet – vessels wrought in Koryo, waiting for their allies from the conquered Song shipyards.

Now there was nothing left of those failed exercises – nothing but the occasional anchor, or unexploded Chinese bomb, raised from the depths by archaeologists. Even the wall which had sheltered the samurai was mostly gone, save for a few scattered portions here and there in the new city’s boundaries.

Fukuoka…

And to think the people here regarded the invasions as a side note! An irrelevance!

It churned his soul to think of it.

He swore to himself that this new city would suffer, as Hakata once did at his command, as every city which dared defy his will had done in the southern Song.

But Fukuoka would have to wait.

He wanted to see the storied bay for himself, to catch a glimpse of what his warriors had once faced.

But this war would be won elsewhere.
He turned from the waterfront and headed away, back to the portal which would take him to Fuyuki-shi once again.

Destiny awaited.


--------------


It was late afternoon, and there had been much catching up to do, which was still far from finished.

Saber had tried to explain her experiences to Shirou as best she could, but could feel a sense of annoyance, as if the answers were just at the very tips of her fingers, yet were out of reach all the same. Shirou in turn could explain little of what he had gone through, and while the results seemed clearer in Saber’s case, he could not say what affect the Matrix would have on him in the long term, if any.

But perhaps unsurprisingly, Shirou didn’t care – holding her hand in his palm, watching her look at him with those clear emerald eyes, hearing the affection in her voice, he felt as if he was at the very centre of the universe, with the one person he could not live without. They would have a lot of time, he hoped, to discover the kind of relationship they were going to share together, and when Sakura left to check up on Rin, the two managed to steal a kiss – their first in this new life. And one they would never forget.

They decided to take their time before revealing everything to the others, not least because they hadn’t figured out the best way to point out that he and Saber weren’t technically relatives (unless they became married someday, that is…)

Marriage… another thing to add to the list of things I need to think about eventually, he noted inwardly.

Their time alone was ended by the familiar roar of Taiga Fujimura. "Shirou! What makes you think you can stay awake like this and not tell me you’re alright?"

He quickly apologised. "Sorry, Fuji-nee… I had to see how everyone is doing."

And a different voice this time, "And we’re fine, thanks for asking…"

Tohsaka Rin was at the door, with not a scratch on her face, looking fit as a fiddle. And beside her stood another former Master, with a huge smile on her face. "Hello Onii-chan, I’m feeling hungry after my long nap!"

Food. Oh yeah, that. I’m kinda hungry, actually… his stomach swiftly reminded him. "Well then, we’d better all get something to eat, shouldn’t we?"

Sakura was one step ahead. "Senpai, I already have dinner ready to serve, if you want…"

"Yatta! You’re the best Sakura-chan!" Yet again, Taiga hijacked the course of events, and was the first to sprint to the dining table. The others followed suit, looking forward to what was undoubtedly going to be another one of Sakura’s delights.

As the last person sat at the table, a knock could be heard at the front door.

"Hang on, I’ll go see who it is," said Shirou, as he went to answer the knock. Who could it be, this time?

Shirou opened the door, and was met by two strangers, one a tall Japanese man who looked like he spent his days researching astrophysics, and the other more European, with dark brown hair, green eyes, and a knowing smile.

The latter spoke first. "Nice to meet you again, Shirou. This is my good friend Professor Hawk, and I… well, I think you might already know who I am."

That voice… it’s - Shirou recognised it swiftly. "R-rodimus?"

The man smiled. "Got it in one! You know, something in there smells really good!

Mind if we can come in?"


--------------


End of Part 3.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:45 PM
Fate/ Trans Form - part 4


--------------


"Itadakimasu!"

Shirou was a little surprised that Fuji-nee wasn’t making a big scene over having another set of strangers show up for dinner – but not only did she not seem to mind too much, she even bought the cover story fairly convincingly. The fact that the guests weren’t women looking to bag a room in the household probably helped…

…as did the interest which she seemed to have developed for poor Professor Hawk!

"So, Hawk-dono, you’re a research fellow at the university? Ah, it must be a dream to be able to pursue your interests in peace, with no annoying kids to deal with!" Naturally, Fuji-nee was oblivious to any reaction her comment would have caused among the students who were present –

"Oh, don’t get me wrong, my job is a solemn duty to the coming generations, but managing a classroom and looking after Emiya-kun all by my lonesome can be such a bother…" Poor Hawk’s face was blushing, and the way that ‘Garret Convoy’ was looking over at him, Shirou got the impression that this was a rare occurrence for the clean-cut Professor.

Garret raised his hand to his mouth and let out a mild cough. "Oh, sorry about that. So, Shirou, how have you been? It’s been a while since we last heard from you."

Yeah, a whole three days ago, [i]he thought to himself, [i]not that I could say that here, of course.

Aloud, he answered with "Oh, not so bad – we decided to take it easy for the last couple of days, though."

Garret nodded. "Good, good. Say, Matou-san, is it true that you cooked this? It’s marvellous!"

Sakura blushed slightly at Garret’s compliment. "Thank you, Convoy-dono – and Sakura is fine."

Seeing her reaction made him smile in reply. "Only if Garret is fine too – I’m not a big fan of having people call me by that other name. It’s a bit too formal for this gaikokujin!"

"Hai!" she sheerfully affirmed. Shirou wondered if Garret could even appreciate his meal – he’d probably ask him about it later. Fortunately, it looked as if Saber, at least, was enjoying her meal, judging by the rate at which her plates needed refilling…

…and come to think of it, he was still pretty famished, too.

He did notice how both Rin and Ilya seemed less than convinced with the cover story. They were going to have to be told about what happened sooner or later, so it was just as well that Garret and Hawk were present.

But, it could wait.

Time to eat!


--------------


"Gochisousama!"

"Hee-e! Sakura-chan, you’re still the best!"

"Thank you, Fujimura-sensei."

"Saber, how was your meal?"

"Delicious, thank you for asking, Shirou…"

Ooh, the way which she said my name!

"So, you mind if I help clean up?"

"There’s really no need, Garret.."

"Naw, it’ll be fine – it’s the least I can do after crashing the party."

"Ok!"

"Hawk-dono, you can join the rest of us in the living room if you like – I have to hear more about your research studies…"

"Um…"

"Go and have a good chat, Professor!"

Poor guy…

"Emiya-kun, we need to talk…"

"Tohsaka, I know -"

"…Now."

"When Fuji-nee and Sakura go to sleep, we’ll run through everything. I promise."

"Humph…"

"Onii-chan, there’s something unusual about our new friends, isn’t there?"

"You’ll find out soon enough, don’t worry."

"Thank you again for helping with the plates, Garret."

"No problem at all! If I may say, you seem a little… well, forgive me for saying as much, but it seems as if you might have something else on your mind."

"Garret-san…"

"No, please, you don’t have to say anything, but if you ever feel like you want to talk about things, let me know. I’ll be happy to help."

"I’ll remember that offer, it’s very kind of you."

"Yawn, you know I think it’s my time to catch a few Zs – staying up to look after all of you was quite an effort, you know… I’ll have to catch up with the rest of the story later, Hawk-dono! Sakura-chan, come on! You should have a rest too!"

"Well, I am a little tired. Senpai, is it ok if I continue to use the room I have been resting in?"

"Of course, you don’t even have to ask – you are always welcome here, you know that."

"Hai!"

"Good night everyone!"

"Good night, Fujimura-san..."

"Hey, don’t look too relieved, Professor!"

"What? No, I - "

"Never mind. Shirou, is there a good place for us all to talk things over?"

"Yes – this way."

This should be interesting.


--------------


A few minutes later, everyone was sitting on a series of mats, laid out on the floor of the warehouse beside the main residence. Examples of Shirou’s efforts at tracing and imaging were still lying on the floor – though not everyone recognised them for what they truly were.

Garret sat at one side of the circle, with Hawk sitting beside him. Shiro and Saber sat across from him, with Rin on the left and Ilya at the right.

Garret started the ball rolling, by asking Shirou: "Well, we’ve go a lot to cover this evening – where would you like to start?"

Before Shirou could answer, Rin was quick to respond. "You can start by telling me what happened at the temple, with the Grail. And then you can tell me how, if you managed to destroy the Grail, Saber is still in this time period. And then, you can tell me exactly who the hell the two of you really are!"

Tohsaka Rin could be trusted to cut straight to the heart of the matter – and didn’t like to wait for answers to her questions. It wasn’t easy for her to sit easily at the dinner table, or to wait for Fuji-nee to have her fill of fawning over one of their new ‘guests’.

The attention of the group turned to Shirou and Saber, who were in the best position to explain that night’s events.

"All right," Shirou said. "Saber and I will try to go over, as best we can, what happened a few days ago."

And so, Shirou and Saber alternated in their telling of the story – of the rush to the Ryūdōji temple, of the battles against Gilgamesh and Kotomine, of the trap set for Ilya (who winced a little at the mention of her unwitting part in the whole affair), of the desperate moments of darkness…

…and of the hand of Light, which helped them crush the Grail once and for all.

They continued up until the point of Saber’s disappearance, and took that moment to tell the others of their declared feelings for the other. While Ilya acted a little upset, and Tohsaka only managed a lop-sided smirk, both of them were happy that the two of them had managed to find each other after all. Garret and Hawk, of course, were more unreserved in their reaction – they were happy to see the couple together, the strong bond between the two clearly evident.

Garret had to admit to himself, though, that Shirou was one lucky bastard…

Saber continued by describing her experience after returning to the past, up until her re-emergence – which Rin and Ilya had difficulty accepting. Indeed, the whole idea of giant biomechanical life-forms struck Tohsaka as hard to swallow. "Wait – you’re telling me that you’re some sort of alien robot, like something out of Galaxy Force? And that you can turn back and forth from a human mode at will? Do you think I was born on Mars or something?"

Saber was about to respond, when Garret raised his hand, and gestured to his compatriot. "I think that we can help in that department – well, not the areology part. Professor, it looks like there should be enough headroom in here, would you mind?"

"No problem, Rodimus." Rin was surprised at the name which Hawk had used in his reply to Garret – but what happened next astounded her.

"Suit on!" Haek called out, as he pressed his right hand on the wristwatch on his left arm, which emitted a glowing light. In moments, a suit of alien armour had formed around him, red and blue and white, with a red face-like emblem on his chest.

But it didn’t stop there.

The armoured man crossed his forearms and said "Pretender!" - and then his entire body dematerialised, only to re-form around what looked like a wire-frame 3D outline of his original form – that of a fifteen-metre-tall Cybertronian. However, just to play it safe, he was crouched on one knee and hunched down, so as not to hit the roof – and there wasn’t much distance between his back and the ceiling.

"My original name is Metalhawk, when I am in this form at least. Yoroshiku." He reached out his giant right hand to Tohsaka, who was having a little trouble accepting what she was seeing. Still, she took a moment to pull herself together, and offered up her own hand in response.

"You can come back down now, Metalhawk. It might be hard to get out the front door otherwise…" said Garret, and without a word, Metalhawk reverted to his human Pretender form – though Shirou wondered why he had spoken aloud when it was the other way around. Some sort of tradition?

Garret continued. "Metalhawk is in command of the Autobots stationed here in Japan – disguised, like ourselves, in these Pretender shells. And I’m being inconsiderate – my 'true' name is Rodimus Prime, and I’m his boss! I try to be a decent one, though."

"Saber," he then turned slightly to address her, "have you tried to activate your abilities since returning home?"

Saber blushed in response to the question – not at being asked the question in and of itself, but at considering the Emiya residence as her home. For the first time, she realised that no word was more apt at describing her new place of residence. "No, I have not – we only awoke this afternoon, and were not active long before your own arrival."

Garret nodded. "Okay. Well, we can set up a scrambler net around the residence, which should allow you to practice in your Cybertronic form undetected. Metalhawk can help train you in that regard – he has a flight mode, as well. However, It might be a good idea for you to come to the Japanese HQ for more advanced training. Maybe when you are more comfortable with your flying skills, you can fly back and forth from Fuyuki-shi. If you fly at night, your in-built stealth systems should prevent you from being detected."

Saber bowed slightly in response. "Thank you. I admit, while I have seen aircraft in my time in Japan, the prospect of flight is one I am… unaccustomed to, despite my earlier display."

"Hey, I’m not too sure about the whole flying thing either – but since I turn into a truck anyway, I’m not one to judge!" Garret replied, hoping to reassure her somewhat. "Anyway, we should get back to where we left off. Ilya… do you remember anything from the last few days? I’m sorry if it’s a difficult question…"

Shirou and the others were uncomfortable with asking that kind of question themselves – but Garret knew that something like this couldn’t be left unresolved.

In any event, she was not slow to answer. "It’s fine, Garret-san. I remember hearing a loud sound, the door open, and a spell putting me to sleep. I didn’t see much after that for a while, only darkness, but I felt cold, and – trapped. Afraid, but not too much so. But it was so dark, and I felt so alone. But then the light burst through, and I was happy again!’

She got up and ran over to Shirou, giving him a big hug, a huge smile on her face. "I never got to thank you for saving me, onii-chan! I’m so happy you’re there to look out for me!"

"It’s no problem, Ilya." As Shirou said this, Garret was glad that the Emiya lad had such a fine group of friends, who were glad for the time and effort he gave so willingly for their benefit. It reminded him of the tightly-knit group of friends he had grown up with in his early days as an Autobot – such as Arcee, Springer, Kup and Blurr – and of the now-legendary camaraderie that the ‘84s had shared, even before their arrival on Earth.

Ilya then walked over in front of Saber and hugged her in turn. "Onee-chan, thank you for saving me as well, and for making Onii-chan so happy!"

Saber felt a little awkward at first, but it was alright – her former adversary, who had been a pawn of her family’s will, had become truly free while living here, and was now well on her way to becoming the happy and carefree child she should have been all along...

...that she was when her parents were still at her side, a long time ago.

"Well, this is all well and good, but where do we all go from here? And if this ‘Matrix’ has changed Saber so much, what effect will it have on Shirou?" Tohsaka had fully digested the evening’s revelations, and her patience with Ilya was always in short supply.

Garret tried to answer this. "Quite so. As far as Shirou goes, I don’t know – we could have some of our scientists at Autobot City in North America have a look at you, but it’s less clear as to whether there will be a long-term impact on your physiology or not. However, I would ask that if you can turn into a Cybertronian, that you pick your own chassis – I kinda like being the only Rodimus I know!"

"Fair enough!" replied Shirou, idly wondering what form he might take in such an eventuality.

"And we have a safe house in the city, so we can go crash there," Garret added, "I wouldn’t want to further inconvenience you. Besides, I don’t know if Hawk would be safe from Fujimura-san in that circumstance…"

Garret couldn’t help it – it was not often that the straight-laced Pretender was caught off-guard! Besides, in truth, he wouldn’t have a problem if something were to happen, as long as it didn’t affect his mission. And in that regard, Garret was quite sure that he wouldn’t have to worry.

He wrapped up his mini-statement with "It’s fortunate that things for us have been, by and large, fairly quiet for us – I can stick around in Japan for a while longer, to help in what way I can. However, I won’t always be in this city, as, shall we say, there are other weird goings-on in different parts of the country!"

Everyone seemed happy enough with what had been covered so far, and the group spent a little more time going over more details about Cybertron, the Autobots, and so forth. Shirou made a point of offering spare rooms should either Garret or Hawk need them – to which Garret wondered just how many rooms this house had to spare! In any event, it was clear that there was too much to go over in just one evening, so they soon agreed to pick things up again in the morning.

As Garret and Hawk set out to leave, Garret called Shirou over to speak to him in private. "Listen, Shirou, I wasn’t sure about raising this earlier, but regarding your blue-haired friend, Ms. Matou – I can’t quite place it, but I have a feeling that there’s something on her mind that she would do with discussing with someone. It might be an idea to make a little time to talk to her, and see if there’s anything going on. I know it seems weird that I’d pick such a thing up, but humans and Cybertronians are pretty similar in many ways – and I’ve seen that kind of look before. Now, I said to her that if she ever wanted to discuss it, I’d be happy to help, but I’m just a stranger, and you might be better suited to it."

Shirou knew exactly what Garret was talking about – he himself had often wondered if Sakura ever had any problems at the Matou residence, not to mention whether she had any memory of the events of the Grail War of which she was directly, albeit unwittingly, involved in. He suspected that there was a whole other story he was missing – a sad one. "I’ll try, and thank you for mentioning it. I’ve worried about Sakura myself, and I’m grateful that you would think of her in that way."

Garret smiled. "Hey, it’s all part of the job description – leader, commander, diplomat, all-around hero… and guidance counsellor! Not that I claim any kind of mastery in the above, mind you."

A few moments later, Garret reverted to his Cybertronic form, and transformed into the now-familiar (to some) truck mode. The group were impressed by the sight, as he wished them well, and said "See you all tomorrow!"


--------------


While the remaining group went back inside the main residence, none of them noticed that while they had been discussing recent events, they were not doing so unobserved. Sakura had trouble trying to get to sleep, despite her tiredness, and followed the rest out to the warehouse – where she heard about the Grail War’s end, witnessed Metalhawk’s transformation, and saw Garret reveal his true form as Rodimus Prime before driving off. She even noticed how Rodimus had called Shirou aside and spoken to him in private about something near the end, though she couldn’t be sure what they had been speaking about. All she could make out was a single name, one spoken in a tone which could only indicate concern – her own.

She remembered the kind words that Garret Convoy – Rodimus Prime – had said to her while they were cleaning up, and how even though he did not know her, still showed concern for her well-being.

She had wondered for a long time whether she could tell anyone – even her senpai – about her life, or what passed for one, with the Matou family, and of the role in the Grail War she had played that the others didn’t even realise... or of the questions she had over just how much of the last week or two she could properly recall, and whether she would want to or not.

For the time being, she was content to stay in the room set aside for her, and was in no rush to return to the now-empty Matou residence. Were she able to pluck up the courage to ask it, she would have liked nothing better than to stay here for good, and never go back to that cursed place.

Plenty of time to work on building up her courage, then.

She slipped back to her room – no-one had noticed at all – and went back to bed, and found it easier to fall asleep, as for the first time in years her dreams were filled with images of hope and peace.


--------------


On a metallic world orbiting a distant star, a less benign entity was in chains.

Fashioned as the would-be Herald of this reality’s apocalypse, based on the already-fearsome template of the Decepticons’ founding tyrant, his strength, intelligence and ruthlessness had only been amplified by the lord of Entropy’s handiwork. The entity in question had struck terror in the hearts of every Autobot who had cause to know the name:

Galvatron!

But now, his link to Unicron was severed, shorn by the awesome force of Primus, unleashed via the Matrix in 2005. His body was in deep stasis lock, with only the faintest sign of any life within. His body had been recovered in the wreckage left behind by the destruction of the Chaos Bringer, and upon recovery was placed in the most secure location the Autobots had on hand.

His body was hoisted up in the centre of the cell, with neutronium chains wrapped around his wrists, securing him to the wall. He was in no fit state to move at any rate, but nobody was taking any chances. ‘Securing’ him like this might have seemed harsh to some, but Ultra Magnus had personally demanded it as a prerequisite for his support in not simply terminating him outright – and given what fate Galvatron had inflicted upon Magnus on the planet of Junk, no-one wished to raise the issue.

Indeed, the only thing which stopped Rodimus Prime from pressing his photon eliminator rifle against Galvatron’s temple and pulling the trigger himself was the desire among the fledgling civilian government to hold a war crimes trial – to call Galvatron to account for the legion of crimes committed by this being, both as Megatron and as he was now.

However, it was no surprise that the trial preparations were heavily bogged down – with the main dispute arising over whether Galvatron could even be tried for crimes committed by Megatron, considering the changes wrought by Unicron (similar doubts were raised over what would happen should the likes of Cyclonus or Scourge ever be captured) – and of the need to ensure that the trial itself would not descend into the kind of farcical event which was now known to take place on Quintessa…

But as for Galvatron himself, none could say where – if anywhere – his mind was now. In truth, no-one wanted to know. Whether the trial went ahead or not, no-one even considered trying to re-activate the beast. The fearsome look on his face, even in this enervated state – still enough to tear at the spark cores of almost every Autobot who witnessed it – saw to it.
No-one, that is, except for Cyclonus and his cadre.


--------------


"Say, Punch, it’s pretty quiet today, eh?" asked the slightly over-eager Autobot guard.

"Yeah, I suppose…" Punch was in no mood to listen to his colleague's inane pleasantries for the umpteenth time. He had once served as a deep-cover double-agent, wearing both an Autobot badge as Punch, and a Decepticon one as Counterpunch. He had revelled in the assignment, often but a step away from discovery and death, trying to keep ahead of the game on a full-time basis.

But now? With the Great War over, and two years of peace on Cybertron, he should have been happy – after all, he was worried about the effects of spending too much time in his Counterpunch persona. He had reluctantly adopted the third form when it became clear he would need it to survive, but sometimes he found it difficult to remember that he was supposed to be an Autobot, deep down.

Deep down… But in truth, he felt empty. No war meant no direction. No excitement. A reassignment to guard duty at one of the planet’s space bridges, filing reports and checking inventories. What a drag.

And so, he found that despite what would be against Punch’s better judgement, his subsequent actions seemed only natural.

"Punch, I’m picking up an unauthorized signal coming through – I don’t see any friendly ID codes. I’m going to shut it d-aaakh…" The other guard barely registered the electro-knife in his neck, and he dropped to the ground instantly. The internal sensors had already been altered – set to fool the system into seeing nothing out of the ordinary – as Punch quickly dragged the body to the space bridge platform.

In a few moments, the carcass disappeared, sent to the point of origin of the new signal – which in turn materialised into the form of four biomechs, three of whom looked all too alike, and the quite distinct fourth who led them.

Punch was already ‘in uniform’ to meet them – if he could even call himself that any more. For he had realised that he was truly:

"Counterpunch. Report." Cyclonus went straight to the point, as expected.

Counterpunch responded with "Phase One is complete, my lord. The room is secure, and the other guard’s body should make for a nice addition to the collection you left behind on Charr. I have mapped the route to the holding centre. They won’t know what hit them!"

Cyclonus nodded. "Excellent work, but I would prefer to contain my optimism until the mission is complete. Is our other agent in place?"

"Yes my lord," referring to another being who had walked the same path as he during the Great War. "Doubledealer is awaiting us near the holding cell."

"Then let us begin Phase Two. Scourge, Alpha, Omicron, you know your tasks, follow them through." Cyclonus gave the commands, but Scourge, as usual, was grumpy about hearing them.

"Yes, he responded, "but don’t expect me to call you lord!"

Scourge just had to get his oar in… Cyclonus mused to himself, as the five Decepticons set out, continuing with the next phase of Operation Restoration.


--------------


Where is this place?

It is the realm between life and death.

Why am I here?

Only you can answer that question.

I was… at war…

But you faced a foe too much for any Cybertronian.

I was driven to kill, to destroy…

By the one who would call you slave.

No! I belong to nobody!

Then why do you exist?

I accepted these terms out of necessity – my old form was waning…

But you remained Its slave, to the end!

No!

And the only one who saved you was your mortal foe.

The Matrix…

Yes – it freed you.

But I failed.

Yes. But in so doing, you succeeded. You are free from Its clutches.

But how is this freedom?

I cannot judge.

Who are you, anyway?

I cannot say.

No! I will not be ridiculed!

That is not my intention.

When will I be rid of this place?

Soon, perhaps. Or never. Or sometime in between.

What kind of an answer is that?

The only kind I can grant you. Except for this – you did not endure Its forge alone.

Yes, there is still Cyclonus and the others. If they live, they will come for me.

Perhaps.

Count on it!

Do you enjoy depending on others?

No!

Then why take pride in the efforts you would ascribe to others?

Can you say nought but in riddles?

I say what I can.

Why can I not see you?

Here, there is merely darkness.

Why does your voice sound familiar?

Because you have known of me for as long as your spark has existed.

Yet, I do not recognise you!

Your misfortune.

Again you mock me!

I do not. I cannot.

Tell me your name!

Only you can do that.

Then do not speak to me!

I only speak in reply to you. If you do not speak, I will be silent.

Cyclonus, Scourge, if you can hear me, free me from this prison! I command it!

They cannot hear you.

I don’t care.

I thought not.

Enough! For I am Galvatron, and I will rise again!


--------------


Were it not for the interference caused by the Decepticon infiltration of the security net, the path leading from the compromised space bridge to the complex holding Galvatron’s inert body would be clearly marked – by the rows of wrecked bodies left in the wake of Cyclonus’ troops. The need to avoid setting off sensors tuned for weapons fire was essential, so the Sweeps took to tearing out the throats of every Autobot guard they encountered. Swift, brutal, and effective – Scourge expected nothing less from his subordinates.

The Sweeps had no individual names, so each had been assigned a designation based on a randomly-chosen designator set – in this case, the Cybertronian equivalent of Greek numerals. So, Sweep Alpha and Sweep Omicron, Scourge’s two most trusted lieutenants – had been taken along for the expedition, while Omega was languishing in the Constructicons’ laboratories.

The group approached the compound’s service entrance, where Counterpunch went ahead to rendezvous with Doubledealer – who, if all went well, had already compromised the security systems within.

Well, almost all – Galvatron’s cell was wired directly to Autobot HQ, and would go off the moment he was released.

No matter – we’ll fight our way out, if needs be, considered Cyclonus, and soon they were in, heading down the corridor towards the holding cell.

Towards the destiny of the Decepticon empire.


--------------


If I find out whose bright idea it was to let Magnus send me up here for this, there are going to be some serious questions asked! Springer was annoyed at the rotten luck of the draw he had made – every few months the lead baby-sitter for Mr. Purple was drawn from random lots, and his number had come up. And just when he was all set to ask Arcee out on another date. He wondered if Rodimus had plans of his own, that damned hot rod…

He was startled back into the moment as the blast door was forced open, by the impact of three pairs of clawed hands, attached to some less-than-welcome acquaintances. "Well if it isn’t the Blue Con Group. Hope you can stick around for a slice!"

Springer drew his rotor-sword and charged in, swinging at the nearest Sweep – or was it Scourge? It was hard to tell – catching it at its right forearm. To his satisfaction, Springer managed to force the blade right through, dropping the hand and a third of the arm to the ground.

His success was short-lived, however. Cyclonus himself stepped over and floored Springer with a brutal left hook, sprawling the triple-changer against a nearby bulkhead. Before he could move again, the two unharmed Scourge-a-likes pinned him down, their unnatural strength keeping him from getting up again. "Is this the way you settle your fights, Cyclonus – cheap and dirty?" he spoke, defiantly.

Cyclonus almost smiled - almost. "Not at all, Springer. In fact, I’m about to bestow upon you a singular honour. You’re about to witness history in the making!"

Spriner's response had a less than enthused tone. "Sorry, I’ve seen enough of that, thanks..."

Springer finally noticed the module that Cyclonus had removed from his leg compartment – an energon transfer module, heavily customised from the regular triage model. He was moving towards the prone figure in the centre of the room, to which he spoke: "Mighty Galvatron, for too long have you been denied your place upon our throne. Caged by these loathsome cowards, who could not even gather the courage to face you directly, blind to your greatness and majesty.

But no more!"

With that, Cyclonus pressed the module against Galvatron’s chest, and the energon stored within was transferred to its new host.

Though he dared not show it, Springer was growing unnerved by the sound – the growing pulse emerging from the centre of the room, the furious heartbeat of a titan reborn.

The room started shaking. His arms were moving, faster and faster, yet only moving centimetres at a time – the neutronium restraints straining against his outstretched wrists.

As the energon flowed through his body, the vibrations increased – and cracks were forming at the points on the walls where the chains had been attached.

The pitch was increasing, it was almost unbearable.

And then…

His eyes glowed red.

His head rose.

He let out a bestial roar.

And the chains were torn off their moorings.

"I AM GALVATRON! I RISE AGAIN!"

His head turned to take in the surroundings, and noted Cyclonus, Scourge, and the two Sweeps in turn.

A moment later, he noticed Springer, still pinned in place.

His left arm rose, dragging the end of the chains up with him.

The arm was drawn down again, and the end of the chains smashed into Springer’s face.

Mercifully, his body went into stasis lock immediately – sparing him the agony he would have endured had he remained conscious.

Cyclonus knelt in obeisance, addressing his sovereign. "Mighty Galvatron, this one is unconscious, yet may still live. Shall I terminate him?"

Galvatron looked to the battered Autobot for a moment, then shook his head. "No, Cyclonus. Let him serve as a herald of my return. Think of it… as my way of repaying Rodimus Prime for the liberation of my mind from the clutches of Unicron."

Accepting this, Cyclonus referred to the module he had used to restore Galvatron to consciousness - a stop-gap measure, at best. "Your energy levels are still low, Mighty Galvatron. We should head to the escape route at once, before reinforcements arrive to block our path."

Galvatron was on the verge of chastising Cyclonus for his insolence, but he was correct – his power levels were too low for sustained combat. They would have to leave. "Very well. Let us leave Cybertron for now – but take heart, my loyal Decepticons. For we shall return triumphant!"

The seven Decepticons managed to make their way back to the space bridge, crushing any force foolish enough to intercept them en route, and escaped back to Charr – while the mauled Springer was found in the rubble which once served as Galvatron’s prison.

The success of the raid, and the carnage which had been caused, left a message which was loud and clear for all to see:

The Decepticons had returned.


--------------


End of Part 4.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:46 PM
Fate/ Trans form - part 5


--------------


Please note - the first scene refers to a part of episode 21 which, well, obliquely refers to one of the scenes in the original game. If you aren't familiar with that particular event, you might wish to skip to the second scene.


Tomorrow’s going to be an interesting day, I guess… Shirou scooped up some water from the tap in his hands, and splashed it on his face. He hadn’t felt unclean or anything, but it just seemed like the thing to do, for some reason. Maybe he thought the cold water would help ground him in the moment, to let everything begin to sink in.

Fat chance of that happening any time soon! he realised, as he reached over to a small towel to wipe his face. He let out a sigh and tried to accept that he was probably going to have to get used to, well, not getting used to things these days.

Everyone else had gone to sleep, or at least had their lights out. Maybe they were up with the same kind of things on their mind as he was – though he had to admit the look on Tohsaka’s face when she saw Metalhawk transform was priceless. Even so, Matrix-touched or not, he didn’t dare consider the kind of wrath he would incur if he ever called her on it. He’d had enough attempts on his life lately.

He put down the towel and stared at the reflection of his eyes in the mirror. Why am I not freaking out over this? Is it simple shock – is my mind waiting for an opportune time to spring a heavy dose of PTSD on me? I thought I’d have nightmares of the dark, of that awful slime, of the endless litany of hatred screaming in my mind.

But then, Shirou remembered how that litany hadn’t been endless after all. He could feel it in his chest – the presence of the purest light he had ever known, the impossibly brief moment when he saw and knew… everything.

It didn’t matter that it was gone, that revelation – he just knew that in a stroke, any lingering doubts of his cause were gone, and when he closed his eyes he could see a point of absolute peace and clarity within him.

And of course, he knew how crazy that all sounded, but it was ok.

It was all right.

He made a note of asking Rodimus if he could see the Matrix for himself some day, to thank it for everything it had done. And that didn’t seem like a weird idea either.

He shook his head, hung up the towel to dry, and reached for the light above the mirror. It was not like he’d accidentally hit the door on his way out, or anything.

He stepped out, and headed back to his room, ready to get a good night’s sleep, ready for the resumption of his training in the morning. He suspected that Rodimus-tachi were going to bring all sorts of gadgets with which to try and figure out what residual effects the Matrix had on him, and on – "Saber!"

Just how did she do that? he wondered, taken aback. Her futon was laid out beside his, perfectly aligned at either end. She was sitting there in her pyjamas, the cover reaching up to her waist.

And it wasn’t just the futon either – she had managed to smuggle in every item from her old room, even down to the stuffed lion he’d bought for her at the store that day. And he hadn’t heard a thing.

"Good evening, Shirou." She never failed to send a shiver down his spine every time she said his name in such a way. But then, he loved the sound of her voice anyway.

Even when it teased him. "So is your intention to stand guard at the door until morning, then?"

He hadn’t realised how much of an idiot he must have looked, just standing there like that. He hoped that he didn’t seem as such too often – it wouldn’t do to let his side of things down, after all.

He rushed over to his futon, which was now the right side of the combined one there at present, and sat down beside Saber. After carefully closing the door behind him, of course. "How did you… never mind. What made you -"

"Shirou," she pointed out, "if you and I are to be a couple, it makes sense for us to avoid the inefficiency of using up a separate room. We do have guests here often, after all."

There had been a time when she would say such a thing and be completely straight-laced about it – all prim and proper. But the playful tone in her voice was enough to tell Shirou that this time was quite different. He couldn’t help but smile at her, which brought out even more of a smile from her in return.

"You’ve got a fine point, Saber… hmm." There was something he was trying to recall.

"What is it, Shirou?" she asked.

With this, a sudden thought occurred to him. "You know, now that the Grail is gone, and you are no longer a Servant, you don’t need to go by that name anymore. I can call you by your real name, if you wish."

She changed position, sitting up on her legs, her hand reaching for his. "I’ve been thinking of keeping it as the name I wish to go by, when I’m in my Cybertronian form. Our new friends seem to enjoy the distinction."

"True," he nodded. "So, shall I call you Arturia from now on? And what about a family name? You might need one of those."

She was less than enthusiastic. "Arturia is the name I went by in a previous life, but it’s one I have not gone by in a long time. I don’t know if I am comfortable going by it again."

He chewed the thought over. "Mm, I guess calling you Arthur might raise a few eyebrows as well. How about… Artia?"

"Artia…" She pronounced it Ar-sha, and in an instant she knew it was a perfect fit.

She smiled and made her decision. "Done. Thank you, Shirou."

"No problem, Artia!" He got a sudden thrill from the use of that name for the first time. "But, I guess that leaves the issue of a surname…"

She was one step ahead of him. "I would consider Emiya to be quite sufficient."

Wow. He’d hardly even fully registered the idea of being in a relationship like this – let alone that of becoming someone’s fiancé. It was a bit sudden. But he didn’t doubt the idea for a second.

But wait… "I know that Fuji-nee thinks you’re a distant relative already…"

"When I become Artia Emiya, we shall be much closer a pair of relatives, if you don’t mind having me as your wife," she replied, again with that playful manner.

He couldn't argue against that, of course. "That would be just fine. However, you would still need a family name to put on the register and to use before we reach that particular stage…"

"Indeed," she answered, "very well, I’ll think of a suitable family name to use, and then discard after you correctly propose to me and I say yes."

He was starting to reach the point where he would be at a total loss for words. "Artia…"

She held his hand tightly, as she told him that "Shiou, I want to spend the rest of our lives together. And I know that you feel the same way. I don’t mind if we wait until you are 20, or 25, or 30, but I want to be able to call you my husband. So please do not leave it too long before you propose to me."

He nodded, blushing. "I won’t."

"Shirou…" She reached over to him, wrapped her arms around his shoulders, and kissed him.

Yet, there was a flash of memory in Shirou’s mind – from the night before they had risked everything to stop the Grail – which Shirou had to exorcise. "Artia, there’s something I have to say to you, and I’ll probably make mistakes and cause unintended misunderstandings as I always do, but I have to say it."

Wondering what was on his mind, she assured him that she was there to listen, should he wish to speak his mind. "Anything, my love."

My love…

He could remember the events of that night clearly, when he confessed his feelings for her, when he reached to kiss her for the first time. When she pulled away and went to another part of the house…

…and later showed up in his room when he was about to fall asleep.

And the words she used when she left again: ’My mana has been replenished. Now I am ready to fight anytime… as your Servant…’

He hadn’t shown it at the time, but he was devastated. And while she had confessed her own feelings soon afterwards, he had to tell her. "When you came to my room that time, I – I can’t begin to describe my feelings. I felt as if you were accepting me into your life, into your arms, into those magnificent green eyes of yours.

But then you left, saying how you were ready to fight as my Servant, how you were now prepared for the battle ahead. As if the love and affection I so freely gave to you meant nothing at all!

And I don’t know how long you have had feelings for me – whether you really wanted to embrace me that evening, or whether it was a necessary act, a purely mechanical one. As if it wasn’t enough to go through that dragon vision already!

Wait, wait – I don’t regret the circuit bonding, even if I don’t quite remember what happened perfectly. But it wasn’t the same kind of act, we weren’t trying to…"

"Shirou…" she sighed, but he insisted. "Please, I need to finish this.

It’s very difficult for me to talk about this sort of thing – I’m not exactly used to it – but I personally hate the idea of, of… having a partner who considers me to be a burden."

"Shirou…" A tear was appearing in the corner of her eye.

Shirou hated himself for this, but he had to finish. "Artia, I only ever want to be with you if you feel the kind of care and affection that I feel for you – if you feel as drawn to me as I am in return.

I feel ashamed of myself for not insisting on this that evening – for getting lost in the moment. For not making my feelings on this subject very clear. For, for most likely insulting you in a way I’ve never done before, for, for…"

It was no good. His throat was constricting. He was pushing back tears of his own. He couldn’t think of the words he needed to finish this, and was feeling worse and worse about the kind of reaction he must have been causing.

"I’m sorry, Shiro." He had been staring down at the mattress, but looked up to her when she spoke. Her eyes… "We have had misunderstandings before, have we not?"

He remembered. He had been concerned as to whether she would hunt human souls to survive, and she had made it quite clear how repulsive a practice she considered that to be. He felt ashamed then for insulting her, but she had understood that he could not be expected to know beforehand, and that it was beneficial to have the truth out in the open.

And so, the time for clarity returned. "My own feelings for you were shrouded by my wish to fulfil my vow, and I was denying the truth to myself, and to you.

I would never share myself with anyone in such a 'mechanical' fashion, as you put it. I did not come to your room because of that. I came to you because I love you, and because I share the same kind of affection as you do.

Yet, I am sorry that I did not tell you this – sorry that I kept treading upon such a blind path for so long. The last thing I want is for you to feel in such a way because of me."

She rested her head on his shoulder, and held him tightly once again. "I want you to know how happy you make me, to know how you have changed everything for me."

She reached up to his face once again. "To learn from each other’s mistakes, to help face each other’s problems, to cherish each other’s affections... these are the essence of love."

She kissed him again. They were both shedding tears now, but it was alright – part of the blissful release of moving past the heartache and misunderstanding they had caused each other, and part of an affirmation of the unshakeable bond that they had formed together.

"Artia…" he said, looking directly into her emerald eyes.

"Shiro, let us make sure that we avoid this particular misunderstanding in future," she asserted.

At this, he nodded, and smiled. "Okay."

They both laughed – that was cathartic, too.


He raised his hand to reach for a stand of her hair, loosely falling in front of her forehead. "You know I love it when you leave your hair long like this."

She smiled playfull once more. "I do now… Shirou."

And like clockwork, her use of that particular tone of voice left him heart-struck once again.


--------------


It was late. Or early.

It all depended on how you considered it.

Rin was annoyed at the lack of sleep she was getting – just what did Shirou think he was playing at, not having Western-style beds for his guest of honour?

In truth, it wasn’t the futon which had bothered her. She had slept on it just fine in the time she had been here, more or less.

Hmph… With a wearied and annoyed look on her face, she got up, headed down the hall, and into the kitchen. She hadn’t quite got the hang of the floorboard layout, so she hoped that the number of telltale creaks were kept to a minimum. There was no point waking everyone up at this hour.

She pressed her hand to her side – where she had been stabbed by her former mentor, Kotomine Kirei. It wasn’t too far from the point where her mind-altered sister’s blade had struck, either, but both seemed to have healed well enough. She didn’t feel any pain at all.

Sakura… Rin smiled at the thought of her long-lost sister, back at her side at last. Well, after a fashion, since they were both guests at Shirou’s residence.

Rin considered just how much there was to tell her sister about the life she had led during the past eleven years – the all-too-brief training under her father, Tohsaka Tokiomi, the temporary departure from Fuyuki-shi with their mother Aoi, her tutelage under the man who would one day try to kill her, her efforts at school to maintain the standing of the Tohsaka family through her example…

…her summoning of Archer, her saving of Shirou’s life, the way in which her old Servant reminded her of her partner in the Grail War, the efforts she put into fostering the relationship between Shiro and Saber…

…and the price she paid to save her beloved sister from the darkness.

Rin opened the fridge, and looked to see what she could scavenge from within. "Hmm, I guess the milk will have to do, then."

She considered looking for the powdered chocolate and practicing her drink-heating skills, but decided she was too tired to bother. Or perhaps just too lazy… whatever.

She walked over to the window, and looked up at the night sky. It was beautifully clear – the thick band of light comprising the Milky Way stretched overhead, as did the brilliance of the other stars one could see from this latitude, when the light pollution was relatively low.

One day, she would have to visit New Zealand or Australia, or Peru or South Africa, and look up at the night sky for the star around which Shirou had said orbited the home of the Cybertronian race. Just like that, two of them had appeared and revealed themselves in front of her – and now Saber was one as well? Honestly… I have to have a lot of questions prepared for the morning.

But still, she was happy – she hadn’t expected Saber to be able to stay, since Shirou was in no state to accept her as a tsukaima, and she wasn’t exactly at her best either. She regretted not being there at the end, at missing the final chapter of the War.

But she was not glad it was over.

And now, she could look at the stars, and see the promise of a better future for all of humanity – blinking away in the sky over a city she had helped to save.

It was a good feeling.


--------------


"Magnus, any update on the comm system yet?" asked Rodimus, patched through to the City Commander's office at Autobot City.

"I’m afraid not Rodimus – that subspace disruption is still blocking communications with Cybertron, and we can’t reach Nebulos or one of the other allied worlds either." The storm had been broiling around the edges of the Sol system for over a week now. Not only was it blocking communications, it was hampering travel times in and out of the system. A ship which could go from Earth to Cybertron in a few days now took a fortnight to cross the storm area.

"Do Jetfire or Perceptor have any ideas as to how long it will last?" Rodimus wondered.

Magnus shook his head. "Not many – Jetfire has requested he go out to the heliopause to examine the phenomenon more directly. Shall I send him on his way?"

Rodimus raised his hand to the viewer. "Negative, let Perceptor handle the readouts from Autobot City. Have Jetfire pack his things and head to Japan, we have a few mysteries for him to resolve."

Magnus nodded. "I’m sure he’ll be pleased to hear that. How is the shell doing for you?"

"It takes a little getting used to, but I like it," came the reply. "You should try it sometime – you never know, you may just like being only human…"

"I’ll take it under advisement." In other words, thank you kindly, but no thank you.

Rodimus half-joked that "I just might have to order you to try it eventually – having a shell is a very useful advantage to have on Earth, in case you hadn’t noticed."

"Indeed." answered Magnus, in as non-committal a tone as he could muster.

"Alright, that’ll do for tonight. Have fun, old friend. Rodimus out." The comm line went dead, as Rodimus Prime went back to his paperwork. It still bored him – and he was sure that when the comm net was back up and running, the amount of catching up he had made with the stack of documents on his table would be swamped by a host of new ones.

Sigh…

"Rodimus, do you have a moment?" Prime turned in his seat, to face Metalhawk, who seemed to have something in his hand.

"What have you got for me? It looks a little small to be a data panel…" It was a DVD – with an unusual pattern on the front, and images of some sort of movie on the back. Apparently, it had been sent in by Agent E from another city in Japan, and passed on. The note attached said something about it being relevant to the ongoing investigations being carried out there, but that it was worth checking out on its own merits.

"I don’t think I can spare the time now" he said, "but how about we bring it to the Emiya place? This seems like a comedy, and they’d do with a good laugh!"

Metalhawk nodded in reply, but was somewhat hesitant to continue. "Indeed, Rodimus. However…"

"Don’t worry, Taiga-san won’t be there until the evening, so you’ll have plenty of time to buy her some nice chocolates or something." It was remarkable how, after being in a human shell, one could notice the facial expressions on fellow Cybertronians.

It seems the section chief could blush in bio-mechanoid mode, after all.


--------------


"How is he recovering, First Aid?" Arcee asked the medical specialist, with a very worried expression.

"It’s going to take time, Arcee – he was mangled pretty badly. Of course, when he comes to he’ll act as if he’s had a dozen times worse. He’ll probably even believe it, too!" The renowned Autobot medic, who had come to the forefront in the years after Ratchet’s death, tried his best to cheer Arcee up, but he know it pained her to see such a close friend in this state. He wasn’t all that comfortable about it, either.

She thought of other matters, and spoke of her concerns. "We haven’t been able to get through to Earth yet, they still don’t know…"

That the Decepticons had raided Cybertron. That Springer was left in a critical condition. That Galvatron was a free monster once again. The population of Iacon was still in a site of shock and disbelief, and the civilian administration was sharply divided between those who chastised the governing council for not simply terminating Galvatron when they had the chance, and other factions criticizing the Autobot reaction to this turn of events.

Arcee considered asking them if they would like to volunteer the next time Cyclonus knocked on the front door…

"We’re going to put him through another round of CR treatments – I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to come back another time." First Aid insisted, somewhat apologetically.

"I understand." Arcee turned to leave, thoughts of Springer’s condition weighing on her mind – more so, she found, than Galvatron’s escape. To her, it didn’t matter if the Decepticons were up to their old tricks, so long as the group of Autobots she had been a part of were ready. And that group was nowhere without Springer.

Or perhaps it was she who felt like she was nowhere.

And she couldn’t even talk to Rodimus about it – he was so busy after becoming Prime, even when the subspace comm net was up and running. She missed him dearly, even when he and Springer were falling over themselves in too-obvious efforts to impress her.


This cycle couldn’t end soon enough.


--------------


Hail Galvatron! Hail Galvatron! The echo of applause and submission towards the newly-restored Emperor of Destruction was already ringing in Galvatron’s ears, long before he and his cadre even landed on the surface of Charr. They had entered orbit a moment earlier, and were preparing their descent through the atmosphere.

However, something was missing. "Cyclonus! Where is my acclamation?"

Galvatron's second-in-command responded promptly. "Mighty Galvatron, I’m not detecting any signals from the surface. We had left the Constructicons on duty when we departed, as they have been heavily involved in our reclamation projects."

Galvatron considered this information. It wasn’t like the Constructicons to act in this manner. "Show me to their workshop!"

"At once, Mighty Galvatron!" came the reply, and soon the cadre was marching towards the front door of the workshop – or what was left of it. It had been torn open from the inside.

And the green and purple Decepticon beside it was in no better shape.

"Scrapper!" Galvatron walked briskly over to the Constructicon unit leader, who had been one of his – Megatron’s – most long-standing and loyal officers. Galvatron stood beside him and bade one of the Sweeps to lift him from the surface.

"Mi..m…mi…" the fallen Decepticon tried to speak.

Galvatron ordered one of the Sweeps to "Recharge him!" who thus removed an Energon crystal and placed it on Scrapper’s arm – it was absorbed quickly, and his eyes began to flicker with more force.

"Mighty Galvatron?" Scrapper managed to say to his sovereign.

"Tell me, Scrapper – what has happened here?" asked Galvatron, using the frank tone he as Megatron had always used with the Constructicon leader.

"O… om… ega…" Scrapper struggled to say.

One of the Sweeps? Galvatron remembered. "Yes?"

"G…gone." Scrapper deactivated and went into stasis lock – with just enough power to prevent his final death.

Immediately, Galvatron turned to his lieutenant. "Cyclonus, have the Constructicons recovered and repaired. They are a vital aspect of our reclamation project. Scourge, begin preparing for an operation to find your traitorous sibling and bring his worthless chassis before me for judgement…"

"Yes, Mighty Galvatron." As Cyclonus left to prepare the fortress’ CR chambers, Scourge prepared a list of nearby star systems in which to search, and possible planets or bases Omega could have escaped to.

But even Scourge had not realized exactly where Omega was truly heading for…


--------------


End of part 5.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:48 PM
Fate/ Trans form – Side story 1

(Or: Whatever Happened to Matou Zouken?)

This story takes place on the night Sakura is captured by Caster in the F/SN anime.

Thanks to Inugami from the Beast's Lair forums, for helping with technical details and story concepts!


--------------


That fool! Matou Zouken was not the type to exert himself in a hurried fashion – for a being as long-lived as he was, the key lessons of patience and preparation were well learned. One does not spend five centuries preparing for a world-altering event by acting in haste, after all.

However, if any evaluation of recent events could be offered by Zoken, it would be that little if anything was going according to plan…

For a start, he hadn’t expected the Fifth War to take place fifty years early – well before the latest phase of his preparations were to come to fruition. Then there was the emergence of various anomalies arising from the end of the last War, such as the continued survival of the previous Archer-class Servant. He had yet to show his hand overtly in the current War, but Zouken believed that it was only a matter of time.

And then, there was the issue of the Matou representation in the current conflict. With Kariya long in his grave, and the pathetic Byakuya removed from the equation a few years ago, the remaining options were thinning. While Sakura had certainly been trained, and even received her Command Spells, she was not intended to be a combatant. That was a role which Zouken had planned for her descendants, fifty years hence. Also, while her growing connection to the Emiya heir was potentially useful, she was ultimately unfit for service, according to Zouken’s observation. So, the burden was passed to her brother, who was all too easily convinced to participate, despite his patent unworthiness. At least he had no compunctions about acquiring new sources of prana for his unwilling Servant – who seemed to be far more attached to her true Master than to that brat.

When Shinji was killed, it came as no great surprise – Zouken had decided to begin his own preparations for this conflict even before this had happened. However, even this time was cut short, as a rival group had captured Sakura from the Emiya residence, and prepared to use her as a vessel for the Grail. Zouken noted the irony in this event, as he himself was all too readily prepared to sacrifice Sakura for just such a cause.

But he would not sit idly to watch another take what he considered to be his rightful destiny.

It was time to intervene. But in order to do so, he could not act alone.


--------------


In the park area, the air was still, the night sky clear and bright - but if the being known as Matou Zouken had ever considered such things, the current being cared not to recall. And in any event, he would not go so far as to actually leave the Mato mansion in his current degenerative state merely to enjoy the view. He had far more important business at hand.

He cast the object in his hand before him onto the surface – a relic recovered from the ruins of Alamut, the last mountain fortress of the Hashshashin. It had been reduced by the Mongol warriors of Hulagu Khan in 1256 CE, as part of his infamous march on Mesopotamia. To Zouken, who cared not for the historical value of the artefact, there was but one use for such a device - as a catalyst for his choice of Servant.

Many magi who summoned Servants had relatively little idea as to the true identity of their chosen warrior – or, indeed, which class of Servant they would eventually summon. Zouken was far beyond such concerns, however, and he exerted the force of his own personality to bolster the connection forged by the object, to ensure that the man he summoned would arise.

"Your conquests lie broken, your strongholds reduced, your descendants cast aside from history.

But your name has been remembered, and the legend formed by your followers has gained such renown that their very name has entered the human lexicon, as the word used for all of those who stalk human prey.

And in this role, I call you forth.

Arise, Founder of the Assassins!

Arise, Hassan-i Sabbah, lord of Alamut!

Arise, my True Assassin!"

A web of darkness formed around the artefact, taking the form of a warrior clad in black, wearing a pale white mask intended to conceal his identity, and that of all True Assassins who served in the Grail Wars. Zouken already knew how much the warrior hated him – hated anyone who would be his Master – but cared not a bit. He could feel the patterns emerging on his left hand, the representations of the Command Spells he wielded over his new Servant.

A few moments later, the summoning was complete. "You are the one who would call me Servant?" calmly asked Hassan.

"Yes, Hassan-i, you are my chosen for this Grail War. Need I compel you to offer your obeisance?" Zouken raised his left arm to show his Command Spells – just in case Hassan needed reminding.

"No," replied True Assassin, "your possession of the Spells will suffice. When do I begin my mission?"

Zouken began to speak: "In short order, but I must return to the Mato mansion to make final preparations. We shall leave at once…"

Suddenly, in less than the time it would take for a human to blink their eyelids, a seemingly endless array of red strands emerged, impacting on Zouken’s body at hundreds of individual points, at such a speed that neither he nor True Assassin had been fast enough to react to.

A moment later, each point became a lance of agony, as the heat from Zouken’s form was drawn along the threads, at such a rapid rate that sparks of flame were forming across his body. True Assassin, in turn, heard the sound of a metal object impacting the ground beside him, and saw a blade in the midst of his own shadow. It was not until he tried to move his body in response that he discovered he was somehow immobilised.

A trap! cursed Zouken - yet, somehow, he stood his ground, forcing his eyes to remain open, as if in defiance to whoever had paralysed the rest of his body. More blades impacted against True Assassin’s shadow, each making it more difficult to escape his newfound predicament.

"Arrrgh… who… dares…" Zouken cried out, as he saw how the threads coalesced at a single point – the head of a young woman, whose hair was vermillion red. She looked at him with an expression which could only be described as disgust.

And she was not alone. Beside her stood another, a blue-haired woman armed with a set of blades, identical to those embedded in the ground. In contrast to the first woman, this one had an effortlessly cool expression on her face – the mark of a professional killer.

True Assassin cursed this turn of events – denied his place in the War by interlopers. It was galling to what remained of the warrior’s pride.

Before he could free himself, a third opponent came into view – a golden-haired woman, with eyes of blazing orange, leaping from behind the first two women and landing in front of him. Showing what measure of defiance he could muster, he glared at the face of his final opponent.

He could hear her speak: "You seem to be in a poor condition. Allow me to put you out of your misery!" With lightning speed, her claw-like hand punched through True Assassin’s mask, and on through his face, shattering his skull and emerging through the other side.

For True Assassin, the War was over before it began.


--------------


A few moments later, the strands retracted, and Zouken’s body fell limp to the ground. As he fell, The Makiri patriarch cursed his misfortune. His opponents – who were clearly not Masters, but were highly dangerous foes all the same – had somehow managed to catch him at the worst possible time. So soon after the summoning, his powers, and those of his Servant, were at a nadir. Plus, his current body was near the end of its usefulness in any event.

He had to find a means of escape…

"I hope you aren’t in a hurry, jii-chan!" Zouken turned to see the originator of such a remark, and was surprised to see a young man standing in his path, carefully folding his glasses into a case, a look of calm assuredness upon his face.

"And who do you think you are, daring to speak to me in such a way? You, who are nothing but a wretched human?" called out Zouken, defiantly - and as the clear eyes of this opponent focussed on him, a wry smirk appeared on the human's face.

"Hmm… I’m not usually one for long-winded introductions. Rather, feel free to let my actions speak for me!" In an instant, he was closing the gap between himself and Zouken, a knife brandished in his right hand. Zouken tried to move, but his body was failing him, and there was something terribly wrong about the look in the man’s eyes.

"Aaaaagh!" Slice. Slice. Slice slice slice. Each swing of the opponent’s blade seemed to land on a critical point, a seemingly innocuous point which somehow caused Zouken’s arms, is legs, his torso, to fall apart.

How could this be? he cursed, yet even so, he would not yield. "You… fool… I… will…find…a…new…form. I… will… live… again!"

The opponent drew Zoken’s face close to his, the blade hovering over a point on his neck that only the opponent could see. "I disagree."

The blade was thrust into the side of Zoken’s neck. And everything shattered. His dreams. His hopes. His plans. The horrific lengths to which he had gone in pursuit of his ultimate goal.

Immortality.

And it was all gone.

With that last bitter thought on his mind, Matou Zouken faded into nothingness, never to return.


--------------


Well, that wasn’t so bad... The young man looked down at the spot where the being’s body had once lay, before his strike had erased it from existence. He knew not the beast’s name, or age, or intentions – and he cared even less. To the man, it was simply another monster to be dealt with.

He didn’t have much time in this heightened state – one which only emerged when his family blood asserted itself in the face of an inhuman opponent, and which he had learned how to use against those who had been turned – but as he looked over to his three allies, he couldn’t resist making a perhaps ill-informed comment. "Hey! You know, the three of you make a good team when you work together like that!"

Had he more carefully planned a time and place to say such a thing, the same words would have held a very different meaning – and would likely have been accepted by the three as a compliment. However, the reactions on their faces indicated how ill-timed the remark had been...

He raised a hand to his head, and crouched down on one knee, feeling a wave of nausea sweep over him - and once it passed, the heightened state had passed.

As he reached for the glasses in his pocket, the three women went over to his side, concerned at the bout of nausea.

"Yo, you still with us, there?" asked the first, the blonde-haired one.

"Yeah… I’ll be alright." He took a moment to review the night’s events in his mind. After taking him up on an offer to enjoy a stroll through the park on their short stopover at Fuyuki-shi, the four of them had discovered a monster attempting to summon a powerful tsukaima. At that point, the four quickly prepared a trap for the two, set to strike at the point they would be at their weakest. Two of them had taken care of the familiar, while he and his stepsister had dealt with the monster, finishing with him striking at the creature’s dot point, severing its link with existence. So, job done.

The blue-haired woman spoke next. "So, now might be a good time to grab some dinner, yes?"

The woman whose hair had glowed red in battle – but which had now reverted to jet black – turned to the blue-haired one. "Did your higher-ups say anything about this kind of occurrence taking place here?"

"Nothing worth considering too deeply, ojou-sama," came the non-committal answer.

The dark-haired girl hated it when she called her that. "Hmph. Nii-san, which restaurant do you want to take us to then?"

Given the sudden look of anticipation on the blue-haired woman’s face, he couldn’t bring himself to suggest anything else: "Well, senpai did say something about there being a nice Indian restaurant nearby!"

The blue-haired woman immediately beamed a massive smile, her thoughts already turning to the varieties of curry she would soon devour…

The blonde woman, whose eyes had reverted to their ‘natural’ red colour, chimed in: "So, are we gonna stand here all day and let my future hubby get cold?"

"Your future husband?" bit back the blue-haired one. "I’m sure that he’d be more interested in an intelligent, refined lady, not a loudmouth bimbo!"

"As if the likes of either of you would ever suffice for my Nii-san!" insisted the third.

"Uh, heh heh heh…" There they go again. Although they were each loath to admit it, the three women were like a close-knit family when together like this – or more accurately, when together with him like this. He knew that he was the cause of their disagreements, but that he was also the reason why they spent so much time together in the first place. And in the time since they first met each other, they had managed to do so much as a team, yet not once had they openly acknowledged the bonds which had formed between them.

He thought also of two of his other close friends – no doubt waiting to hear which restaurant they were all going to meet up at. They had been too tired to join the rest of them in the park, or so they claimed, but they were an invaluable part of the group in any event. One, who had taken on a more serious aspect in order to allow her sister to know a level of happiness, who was now free to be true to herself once again. The other, who had suffered terribly at the hands of his adoptive father, hidden from view for so long, was now able to move beyond that dark period in her life, and enjoy the happiness and warmth of her circle of friends.

Of course, it was possible that she and her sister were plotting some sort of prank at that very moment…

The young man turned to face his three friends, to say something he should have said a long time ago. He hoped for a better reaction this time. "You know, when I am here with all of you together like this… I can think of no finer feeling."


--------------


End of side story.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:49 PM
Fate/ Trans form – Side story 2

This story begins long before the present day, and finishes at a point beyond the current stage of the main storyline.


--------------


Several thousand years ago, a group of beings, not unlike humans in many ways, lived in a crystal city atop a gleaming ocean, at the centre of an unimaginably vast realm.

Their achievements were wondrous, their reach staggering, their technology unmatched – for them, the notion that sufficiently high technology would be akin to magic to less advanced peoples was all too apt a description.

However, the city in which they lived had not always been their home – once, they had fled their true lands of origin, driven out by a bitterly opposed rival. Yet, they had flourished in their new home, bringing light to the peoples they encountered, pushing the boundaries of art and science farther than any could have imagined.

Sadly, with those achievements grew a great hubris – and as is all too often the case, it was followed inexorably by nemesis.

For a new and terrible foe arose to threaten their city. A race unwittingly borne from the adaptation of their own genetic material by a hitherto-unintelligent alien parasite eventually arose, and sought to placate its terrible hunger in any way it could.

The far-flung cities and outposts of the elder race fell one by one, their inhabitants fleeing in terror, or lost to the ever-ravenous maw of the enemy.

And so, the time came when the crystal city itself was set to fall, and the older ones made the fateful decision to abandon their latest home, and travel to a world beyond the reach of their enemies.

To a world we know as Earth.


--------------


When the survivors reached this world, they found its inhabitants to be almost impossibly primitive, the landscape to be harsh (for this was the waning era of the last Ice Age) and the prospects for re-building their lost civilization grim indeed.

Many gave up on this Earth, and fled to parts unknown.

Others spread out among the tribes of humanity, hoping to act as guides and teachers.

And some foreswore the material world altogether, secluding themselves in isolation, far from the human race, seeking the next stage in their evolution.

If one considers the material form to be but a stepping stone on the path to true enlightenment, and human beings to be only beginning such a long and arduous journey of self-discovery, the beings that arrived on Earth were near its end. All it would take was the final push necessary to unlock a higher plane of existence.

And for those who secluded themselves, the door to this new existence eventually opened.

Eventually, they learned how to bring the others of their kind along the same path, and the primitive human societies influenced by their efforts were forced to develop themselves on their own.

From that point, no further interference by the elders upon the fate of the Earth would be intended.

At least, that was the plan.

And even the best-laid plans often fail to survive contact with reality.


--------------


He had been one of the first to discover the new path.

In the effort taken to find the answers from this reality, he discovered a near-infinite series of new questions in the worlds which opened up to him.

And for a time, immeasurable by a human mind, it was enough.

He, and his compatriots, were content.

But he saw something they could not – or, perhaps, would not – see.

The hand of their ancient rivals, the ones to force their first great exodus - who had somehow managed to reach the same plane of existence as he - one day reaching out to suffocate the fragile life essence of this galaxy.

That day would not come for millennia.

It did not matter.

To this being, it was a terrible certainty.

And when that day came, all that his kind had struggled for over the course of their existence would be for nought.

But his voice was ignored by his peers. They would not listen. They dared not.

Despite this, he had to act.

And so, defying the agreement made long before hand, he took the form of a mortal human, yet retained the knowledge and power he had gained from the higher realms.

He walked the Earth, bearing a name that would become legend.

Merlin.


--------------


To those who lived through the subsequent years, and those who would tell and re-tell the story over the centuries, the presence of such a being defied mortal comprehension, confounded the well-worn certainties of the limited human mind. It was as if a mythical demigod from an ancient tale had emerged from the written page and bestrode the world of Man.

However, for the ‘man’ known as Merlin, the stakes at play were far more serious – enough to risk affecting the very course of human history itself. Perhaps he considered it a fair price to pay, if indeed he considered such a thing at all.

And so, he carefully prepared a means by which to stabilise the local population, and prepare the groundwork for his ultimate project.

He fashioned a blade and placed it in a stone, intending it for the one intended to rule as king.

He found a young child and shaped her body and spirit, preparing her for the arduous task of monarchy.

He guided her progress from a careful distance, portraying himself as a withered mystic.

He witnessed her draw the blade she was literally born to wield, and raise it into the heavens.

And as Arturia – Arthur - eventually established her rule, her benefactor turned his attention to his grand project – which he believed would spare this galaxy from the wrath of his ancient rivals.

However, it would be far closer rivals who would prove to be his downfall.


--------------


She had discovered the path at the same time as the other, bridging the gap between the mundane and the sublime for her fellows.

She had expanded her mind to incorporate new planes of existence, alongside the others.

But while Merlin broke the consensus and returned to Earth, she was sent to investigate – and if necessary, reverse his efforts.

To her and the others, the price of compromising their ideals was too high, the risk of contaminating the course of human history too great.

And ironically, in order to stop Merlin, she was forced to follow him back to the material world, and use his own means against him.

Once again, a name taken by an elder would ring through the ages – that of Morgan La Fay.

And what to them was a dispute between elders was to mankind a terrible clash of titans, as the fruits of their rival labours became apparent.

Chief among these stood a champion she had forged of her own – a homunculus secretly cloned from the blood of Merlin’s own destined.

A being who knew nothing of her creator’s true nature, or the reasons behind their dispute.

To Mordred, all that mattered was the promise of the Crown.

And to attain it, she would stop at nothing.


--------------


At Camlann, the war came to a head, and the two chosen champions fought one another to the bitter end.

Mordred and Arturia clashed mercilessly, staining the ground red with their more-than-human blood.

Steadfast determination held against untold arrogance, and none could say who among the two would emerge victorious.

And indeed, they were matched all too well.

The stroke which ended Mordred’s life was matched with one that guaranteed the same for Arturia, though the end would come more gradually.

And Arturia’s body was taken to a secluded place nearby, and laid to rest while the king spoke her last words to her loyal knight.

But the war was already over.

Merlin and Morgan both left the Earth for the last time, their quarrel unresolved, as Merlin fled into seclusion and Morgan rejoined her peers in the higher realm.

In their wake, humankind was left to count the cost of their efforts.


--------------


Of the final fate of Merlin, or the re-emergence of a reformed Morgan, or the incredible rebirth of the lost crystal city, there is much to tell, and even more left to be told.

But this is not the place for such a tale.

Instead, we must turn back to that fateful encounter at Camlann, and speak of the fallen knight whose own final chapter has yet to be written.


--------------


"Father…" Her body slumped to the ground, pierced for the last time by her opponent’s blade. Her own weapon had landed a hit, but she knew that her foe would outlive her, if only for a few moments.

Her entire life – if her existence could even be called that – had been in preparation for this moment when she was supposed to stand victorious, as the new sovereign of Britain!

But with a sickening realisation, she knew that her efforts were in vain. Mordred would die before ever wearing the crown, and she was the one who lay vanquished.

It… isn’t… fair! How could her life have any meaning if the one whose visage served as the original to her carefully-crafted copy, whose youth had been preserved by the power of an ancient artefact, whose success and rulership had been the driving force behind her own creation?

How could she be anything more than an illusion, a travesty?

Her jealousy and hatred had compelled her to this point – and even now, she was second best.

But perhaps now, that the end was approaching, she could let go of her anger, of her need for self-validation.

She could die. And anything that died was once alive.

Perhaps, at the end, it was enough.

She closed her eyes for the last time…


…and saw an unnatural flame, a dark sphere, and a glow of distant eyes.

"Do you yield your right to vengeance so easily?" boomed a voice from the abyss.

Mordred responded, her voice weary. "My foe… is not long for the world. My quest… is done."

"Then why are you here?" the voice asked next - and she could not answer that question.

Perhaps she could not let go so easily, after all.

"I thought as much." She was displeased at the tone used by this other. But she could not draw away from it. "Your foe has been reborn, in a distant land, with a new mission."

She could not believe it. Her opponent had escaped her fate! "Lies! Such a thing is impossible."

"Then see for yourself…" Visions appeared in her mind. Her rival standing guard in a strange land. Reborn. Victorious.

Beloved…

"No!" she cursed.

The eyes glowed more brightly. "Yes. What you see will come to pass – has already come to pass."

She had never felt more defeated. "And you revel in showing me this?"

"If it stirs you to accept my offer…" The sphere approached her, close enough for her hand to touch – if that truly were her hand, and not a figment of her mind. "Join me, and I will grant you a chance to earn the revenge you seek. Or stay here for eternity, whichever you prefer."

With a look of pure defiance on her face, she looked straight at the glowing eyes, and reached for the sphere. "I accept."

And thus, the sphere expanded to envelop her in total darkness.



--------------


End of side-story.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:50 PM
Fate/ Trans form - part 6


(Note - this chapter is very long, and it deals with something that I, frankly, would have wished wasn't part of the original F/SN game. However, I felt compelled to confront it, and try to show the first stages of healing. I hope I have done this mission justice.)


--------------


"Ki-yaaaa!" Artia charged forward to attack her opponent, brandishing her weapon in both hands, ready to strike once the range was closed. Her opponent was in a defensive stance, readying his own weapon in an imminent attempt to parry hers.

She swung her sword down, and her opponent deftly side-stepped the incoming blow, holding his own blade in both hands at an angle intended to deflect the strike. She in turn shifted her weight and pressed down with her own sword, hoping to unbalance her opponent.

But he managed to slip away, and prepared himself for a strike of his own.

The swings and blows came thick and fast, with both managing to deflect the other’s attacks well. It was rare for Artia to face such a challenge in melée – few of her opponents in the War had been able to match her swordplay in such a manner.

He in turn was swift and agile, capable of switching between the use of one and two hands with ease, depending on which style he deemed appropriate at that moment.

Taking advantage of a perceived opening, he ducked under one of her lateral swings and spun to aim his sword at her neck – only to find that she in turn had turned on the spot and was holding her own sword at his.

Deadlock.

Or, in a less lethal environment…

"Looks like a draw, Artia-san," said her opponent, in good humour.

"Quite so." Hawk and Artia had begun their evaluation of her current status by practicing in the Emiya dojo, each armed with no more than a shinai and their own melée skills. And the two were well-matched – Hawk was reigning kendo champion among the Earth-based Pretenders, and Artia’s abilities spoke for themselves.

"I must say that I have not had such a skilled sparring partner in quite some time, Hawk-san." Though she did not intend it as a slight against Shirou, the latter – who was present alongside Garret, Rin, Ilya, as well as a new arrival calling himself Aquila Bolide – couldn’t help but feel a little dejected.

Garret noted the look on Shirou’s face and couldn’t help but comment: "Feeling a little bit of a dig there, eh?"

Shirou shrugged. "Well… I guess he is a better at this than I am…"

"Don’t take it personally" reassured Garret, "he’s been training for a long, long time! And besides, you’ve still got plenty of time to practice."

"Don’t worry Onii-chan – if she’s too busy, you can have me beat you up instead!" It seemed that Ilya couldn’t resist getting a shot in, either. She looked at Shirou with a mischievous grin on her face.

In a transparent attempt to change the subject, Shirou said "Why are we focussing on me here? Aren’t we supposed to be running tests on Artia?"

Aquila perked up from his data pad at that moment. "Well, I will be getting around to you later, Mr. Emiya, but worry not – I’m carefully analysing the recorded data from Artia’s physical exercise, checking for any abnormalities, comparing her abilities to prior cases of Cybertronians equipped with Pretender technology, and so forth."

Garret turned to his newly-arrived friend. "Anything you can tell us so far?"

"According to the preliminary data analysis, her shell is functioning at maximum rated efficiency," replied Aquila, "with no notable defects or glitches present. Though I have no direct data on her capabilities prior to her assuming this new form, I may have to rely on second-hand sources of input in order to determine what, if any, kind of differences there are to her ability as they are now compared to how they were while she was involved in the recent conflict."

The two sparring partners had walked over to join the group, and Artia added her own feedback. "So far, I notice no difference in my strength, response times or skills with a weapon compared to my previous state – however, I do notice how my reserves of energy operate differently now that I no longer require a supply of prana to sustain myself. It may take some time to adjust to this when preparing for combat in future."

"Do you want to continue sparring in this form, or shall we move on to evaluate your armoured form?" asked Hawk.

Artia nodded. "I would like to try my armour now."

Both Hawk and Artia moved back out to their former positions, as they prepared for the next step in the testing process.

"Artia-san, I usually activate my armour by pressing at my wristwatch like this -" Hawk echoed the movement his arm made the last time he activated his armour before the group, "- while saying Suit On!"

At that moment, a burst of light appeared from the watch, and in less than a second he was in his armoured form. "You can use the same method if you wish – though it seems you don’t have a watch, it isn’t important. Whichever pose you feel comfortable with should be fine. And while you can say the phrase out loud, it isn’t always required. As you might imagine, there are times when it would be wise not to announce one’s presence so readily."

"I understand." Artia raised her arms in front of her chest and clenched her fists, summoning the armour to form around her. When it was done, she looked no differently to when she was in battle during the Grail War.

She moved her arms and legs, shifting from stance to stance. "Again, I feel the same as before – even the process of summoning the armour matched the activation I used while a Servant."

"Good. Now, note how I can activate my own weaponry." At his mental command, a rifle appeared in Hawk’s left hand, and a sharply-edged katana of an unusual material formed in his right. "Try and activate your own weapons – while it would seem reasonable to assume they are no different to those you were armed with previously, there’s only one way to find out."

Artia reached out her hand, and saw her trusty Excalibur form within her grasp. It was sheathed in her now-returned scabbard Avalon, and when she drew her sword and held it aloft, it shined with an inner radiance. To Artia, it felt the same as it ever did.

"Impressive," she simply said, though none of the Pretenders had seen it up-close like this before. All of them marvelled at the sight.

Garret turned to ask Rin about what she could discern as a magus. "Are you able to pick up anything different than usual?"

Rin held a finger to her chin. "Hmmm… her sword doesn’t seem to be exactly the same as a Noble Phantasm, but as far as I can tell it makes no difference. I can read the same kind of power from it as I did previously. As far as she herself goes, it’s a similar story – I can tell that she’s not the same, but I can pick up something from her. I guess I’ll have to try and adjust to it, and learn more about how you guys tick while I’m at it."

Garret was pleased to see how well Rin adjusted to the new circumstances – thankfully, she had swiftly recovered from her initial misgivings and managed to take the appearance of the Pretenders in her stride. Given her knowledge as a magus, she would be key to helping uncover the effects that the Matrix had on both Artia and Shirou. "Well, we’re still trying to get up to speed on your area of expertise ourselves! We’d be happy to share what knowledge we can in return."

Rin agreed, and went over to look at the equipment that Aquila had set up. The two of them took a moment away from the data readings to draw up a quick list of areas they could try to cover when looking over the information more thoroughly.

Garret turned back to face Artia. "Do you want to try and practice sparring with Hawk in this form, as well?"

"Yes, she answered, "however, I would request if you might refer to me as Saber while I am in either this form, or my Cybertronic one, if it is not an inconvenience."

It was no problem for him. "That’s what we are doing, after all. Have fun!"

Saber and Hawk began a new round of practice, while Garret turned to talk with Shirou once again. "How about you? You feeling okay?"

"Yeah, more or less. It’s kind of strange, though…" Shirou said.

Curious, Garret pressed on. "Oh? What is?"

"Well," came the reply, "aside from all of this, I’ve felt a subtle change since that day. I can remember when it was happening, that there was a moment of, um, how do I put it…"

"Clarity? As if you had been given a glimpse into the infinite wonders of the universe?" Garret said knowingly.

Shirou agreed. "Yeah! That’s exactly it!"

"I saw the same thing when I first unleashed the Matrix," explained Garret, "a fleeting vision of incomparable majesty, the echo of which lies in a corner of my spark to this day. If it’s quiet and peaceful, and I try to close my eyes and concentrate, I can feel that faint echo still. It’s pretty cool, eh?"

"Yeah… Look, Garret, I wanted to thank you, and thank the Matrix, for all of this," though Garret was quick to raise a hand after this statement from Shirou.

"There’s no need to thank me, and I’m sure it -" he tapped his chest, to indicate its presence, "- appreciates the comment!"

Now that he thought of it, Shirou wondered about something. "How does it fit in your human form, anyway?"

Good question! realised Garret, who didn't stop to consider it himself. "You know what? I’m not sure. I hadn’t thought about it! It seems to be okay, though."

As the two of them looked at the sparring practice, another question came to Garret's mind. "Where is Sakura today?"

"Oh, she said she has to sort out a few things at the Matou-tei – she might be a little later than usual this evening. She wanted us to start the dinner preparations without her."

Remembering what he had said to Shirou beforehand, Garret asked "Did you get to talk to her about anything else yet?"

"No…" Shirou shook his head. "She was already gone by the time I got up. She had left a note explaining where she was off to on the kitchen table."

Garret considered this. "You know, it might be an idea to invite her to live here full-time. She has the room anyway, she’s here among friends, but she might be a little shy when it comes to asking you directly."

Shirou was happy with that idea. "I’d have no problem with that – I guess she doesn’t have much to keep her in that mansion anymore. Her brother – well, stepbrother, I guess – Shinji died in the War, and I heard that the jii-san also passed away recently."

Shirou thought of the time he had spent with Sakura up until now – how Fuji-nee had made a habit of trying to pair them up (or was it just a habit of embarrassing him in front of her? He was bad at figuring this sort of thing out...) how she had adjusted to the new arrivals in the Emiya residence over the last few weeks, and how he could never tell how she was really feeling. Was her happy expression genuine, or masking something else? "I want to try and help, but I don’t know if I can say anything to her. I’m no good with this sort of thing, and I’m worried I’d make things worse."

Garret shook his head, and put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "I highly doubt that – she’s clearly attached to you, Shirou, and I’d bet you would be just the kind of person she needs to talk to. But as I said, I’ll do whatever I can if it can make a difference, even though I’m probably still a stranger to her. Come to think of it, you don’t know me for very long either!"

"True," came the reply, "but you're no stranger to us now, Garret-san."


------------


Some time later, the group had moved outside, where the lack of headroom indoors would not be an issue.

Garret started this phase of the test. "Alright, I guess we’re ready to test your Cybertronian form. Aquila, are the damper fields in place?"

"In place, and fully operational." Aquila had been meticulous, as expected.

Garret nodded. "Excellent. Hawk, if you would take the lead?"

"Hai." Hawk crossed his forearms, shouted ‘Pretender!’ and in a couple of seconds had reconstituted himself in his Cybertronic form. "Again, Saber, you can mimic these actions if you wish, if it helps with the activation process."

"Understood." She crossed her own armoured forearms, choosing this time to speak the command aloud, and in turn re-molecularised into the mode which she had last used in front of Shirou at the hilltop.

She was as tall as Metalhawk himself, and like him it was clear that she possessed an alternate mode capable of flight. Her chassis had a similar colour scheme and recurring pattern as Avalon – except for the nosecone of her alternate mode, which was attached to her left arm. It was patterned after the hilt of Excalibur, as if the weapon’s blade could form out of the nosecone itself…

Metalhawk was quick to voice his approval. "Impressive design. Again, do you feel comfortable?"

Nodding to accept the compliment, she replied promptly. "Yes - even though I have not spent much time in this form, somehow it still seems… natural. For the most part, at least."

She ran one of her hands across the palm of the other. She was surprised that it didn’t feel cold or metallic at all. From her current perspective, it felt the same as if she were still human, or at least shared the same sensation in her mind.

"Oh, you’ll get the hang of it. Our tactile sensors in Cybertronic mode feed into a similar part of our cortices that the nerves in a human hand do to the brain. While the materials are quite different, of course, the sensation is more or less the same." Few could speak of such matters with the authority the Pretenders' commander did.

"I see." To most of those observing, it was surprising how her mechanoid face could make the same kind of expressions as her human one – Shirou recognised that look of vexation instantly.

It only lasted a few moments, before she shook her head and re-focussed on the task at hand. "Let us continue."

"Understood. Firstly, let’s go over weapon summoning – it should in principle seem no different to you than it was in your armoured shell, but then you are coming into this from a different path than I. Let me begin." As before, Metalhawk materialised his sword and rifle in each hand. "Before you begin, may I ask if you possess a ranged weapon of your own? Some form of pistol, or rifle? You may not have noticed before, but you can access the template for your Cybertronian schematics to see if such a weapon is in your inventory."

"I will attempt to search…" Saber closed her optics, and saw a branching network of strands, images and data packets appear underneath her optic lids. She seemed to instinctively know how to navigate her way through the system, to a limited extent at least. It didn’t take long to find what she was looking for.

She reached out her hands, and materialised two distinct weapons. One was a sword which bore an uncanny resemblance to her old blade Caliburn, while the other took the form of a Cybertronic pistol. "I had expected to form Excalibur, not this sword. Perhaps I have performed the activation incorrectly?"

It hadn’t occurred to her to notice the pattern on the nosecone attached to her left upper arm. But no matter – Saber practiced a swing with the new sword, and it seemed adequate. "Also, I am unfamiliar with these kinds of ranged weapons. And I must admit, I feel somewhat uncomfortable wielding it. It seems to be less honourable a weapon than a sword."

Metalhawk understood her concerns, but knew that often pragmatism won out over principle in this regard. "Indeed, but there will be times when ranged combat will be necessary. If you are involved in an aerial duel while in flight mode, you will have to rely on such firepower. We have a firing range at the HQ where you can practice at a later stage, but for now we should concentrate on other areas."

Saber dematerialised her pistol and used her free hand to grasp the new sword. "I wish to name this blade Caliburn – as it is most reminiscent of the sword I first possessed as king. However, it seems to be less potent a weapon as its namesake at first glance."

"Good name. Again, we should test your combat reflexes and your abilities while in this form. Are you ready?" She responded to this request by shifting into a defensive stance once again.

"I am ready." In this form, the two proved as evenly-matched as they had been all morning – while her new blade was perhaps not as potent as Excalibur, it was more than adequate to serve in a duel.

It was a peculiar sensation for her, having to adjust to the new size of her body, the relative scale of the buildings around her, and the latent options that this form seemed to offer, once she had mastered it.

After another draw, the two stopped once again.

"Don’t try to strain yourself too much on the first day – and don’t expect to master your new chassis overnight. It takes time for a Cybertronian to begin to understand the potential which lies within their own forms, and most never do more than scratch the surface. You are making an excellent start, but there is still a long way to go." She was grateful for his words – she knew that he had spent thousands of Earth years practicing his own abilities, though the necessities of remaining undercover left him with relatively little time in which to do so.

His own smile indicated how pleased he was to have such a worthy sparring partner, and how glad he was to be able to help guide her through the process of understanding her new state of being. Indeed, he was learning as much from the process as anyone. "Thank you, Metalhawk."

"Okay, now we are left with testing your flight mode, and what, if any, ability you currently have to fly while in your current form. Since we seem short of runway space here, it’s an advantage to be able to take off and land while in mechanoid form, and transform in mid-air before setting off." Metalhawk activated a small tertiary engine on his back – which served only to raise him a short distance off the ground, and retracted while he was in flight mode – and hovered several metres over the spot where he once stood.

He gestured downwards with his right hand. "In my case, my flight mode’s engines are obscured by my lower legs when in this form, but you may be able to raise yourself higher. Oh yes, don’t think too hard about it – it should be no different to moving your arms and legs. The actual process is dealt with subconsciously, all you have to do is will it to happen. Just try to ease yourself up to this level."

Saber willed herself up into the air, and could feel the whine of turbine engines in her lower legs, and the sensation of rushing air through her heels. It was a wholly novel sensation – as was the fact that she was lifting herself into the air!

"Be careful to hold your balance," he cautioned, "there should be built-in compensators to help stop you from tipping over, but they aren’t flawless. How are you managing?"

"It is disconcerting, I must admit." To put it mildly.

He appreciated this, and once again sought to reassure her. "That’s understandable – this is one of the truly different aspects of your new form. Again, don’t push yourself too far too quickly. In time, it’ll become second nature to you. Just try to note your reserves while doing this, it’s usually not a good idea to run out of fuel in mid-air. Do you want to hold off the flight mode practice for now?"

She realised how little she had thought about all of this when she first emerged from the portal – sweeping down over Shirou’s location, landing in bio-mechanoid form in front of him, reverting to her humanoid form. It had happened as if on instinct. She was uncertain as to whether she could replicate the manoeuvre in her current state.

But she was not the type to excuse herself from training, or from practice – and she didn’t wish to provide a burden to those hoping to measure her readings below. "No – I will attempt the transformation, and test my flight capabilities."

"Very well. We’ll settle for a short flight around the city perimeter. Follow my lead. Transform!" Metalhawk swiftly took on his jet fighter mode, and rapidly accelerated away.

"Transform!" The folded wings on her back extended outwards, her arms and legs retracted, and the nosecone on her upper arm attached itself in front of the craft’s canopy. Despite its Cybertronic form, it was clearly capable of accommodating a human pilot if required – although a more accurate term would be ‘passenger’.

At her will, the engines pulsed, and she raced into the skies, following the flight path laid out by Metalhawk. Within a few moments, the distance between the two had shortened enough for her to settle into a loose formation behind him.

"Take some time to orient yourself in this form," he advised, "check your readouts, acclimatise to your controls, and take in the feel of the wind as it passes over your chassis. Once you settle in, we can continue our circuit around the city."

It was exhilarating. A totally alien feel, to note the touch of the wind as she passed through it, yet completely natural to her. Sensing the ground and sky around her with this viewpoint was breathtaking, also. She was tempted to simply let herself enjoy the moment, but for now she was determined to master this new aspect of her being.

After a few minutes, she felt comfortable enough to proceed further. "I am ready."

"Good. Now follow me, and again don’t over-exert yourself." He throttled his engines and accelerated ahead, banking to the side enough to allow him to sweep around the edges of the city. She in turn adjusted her velocity and positioning to match, maintaining a set distance behind the lead craft.

Taking in the surroundings, she wondered about the lack of reaction they were drawing. "Why is there such little attention focussed on us?"

Metalhawk explained. "We possess a miniaturised version of the stealth field now in place around the Emiya residence. While it is unnecessary while within the larger field, it takes over when we pass its boundary. We don’t always have to use it, the field is useful when we are active during the daytime. Also, it can be attuned to allow certain others only to see it. You and I can see each other clearly, and the others at the Emiya residence can monitor us, but unless another party had Cybertronian sensors, they wouldn’t even detect the field’s presence."

"I see," she responded.

"However, I would rely on it relatively sparingly – it’s a drain on our internal resources. And if you are at a high altitude or above an unpopulated area, the regular ECM system we possess is enough to mask us from Earth-based detection systems. Also, you may note that our engines don’t make a lot of sound either, which helps us lessen the possibility of detection." The two craft had by now almost completed their circuit around the city, and headed back to the Emiya residence.

"Watch your landing!" Metalhawk slowed down enough to allow him to transform and land safely on the ground. Following his example, Saber replicated the move with relative ease. Both then reactivated their Pretender shells, and returned to their civilian forms.

She turned and bowed to her teacher. "Thank you for your guidance, Hawk."

"I’m glad to be of assistance. It was a good start today." After this, Artia and Hawk walked back to the others, and saw that they had left quite an impression.


------------


"Wow! You were amazing up there, Artia-nee-san!" Ilya ran over to express her excitement, and looked like she was fit to burst. It hadn’t occurred to her that Artia might still be a little wary of her presence in the Emiya residence – but even if it had, the two had managed to form the beginnings of a pseudo-familial bond. There had already been talk of Shirou and Fuji-nee filing an application to adopt her – now that the Einzbern had no use for her anymore, she had nowhere else to go in any event – it had occurred to Artia that due to the relationship she had with Shirou, Ilya would be, in essence, part of her family, too.

And that was before Artia remembered the image of a much younger Ilya, playing out in the snow with her father, a man whose true legacy was still largely unknown to his adopted son…

She was still unsure as to whether she should mention anything to Shirou. She hadn’t talked much about her experiences in the 4th Grail War, and it had seemed prudent to let the others think she had went through the same loss of memory as true eirei would have experienced. (While regular eirei were avatars of the being registered in the Throne, her own soul had literally been jumping from War to War, since she had contracted with the Grail before her death.) She also wondered if Ilya remembered her, though they had not exactly spent much time together before she, Irisviel and Kiritsugu had left for Japan.

As Artia reached down to her, she was astounded at how much Ilya reminded her of Irisviel – that graceful, gentle, yet tragic woman who had given her love and joy so freely to both Kiritsugu and Ilyasviel. Indeed, Ilya had almost no similarities in appearance to her father at all. Perhaps it was due to the conditioning which the Eiznbern had put her under before she was even born.

But it was good to see her smile like this. In Irisviel’s name, she vowed to be a good nee-san to her new little sister.

Meanwhile, Rin was standing beside Aquila, with a data pad in her hand, and a puzzled look on her face. "I don’t quite get it – when she was in her armour she could call upon Excalibur with no problems. Yet when he took her Cybertronic form she could summon only that other sword, and a pistol. Aside from the unsuitability of the second weapon, or at least so I would have considered, why could she not form a larger Excalibur?"

Aquila had a look that showed he wasn’t satisfied with what he was seeing, either. "I’m not certain. The sidearm isn’t a major issue – all Autobot protoforms have some sort of basic ranged weapon design woven into their biomechanical matrices, even before spark insertion. Indeed, many close combat specialists on Cybertron do have such a weapon stored away if necessary, even if they often prefer not to use it.

The sword, on the other hand, I’m not so certain about. There are few experts among my kind who can speak with authority concerning Earth-based mystic arts, and even fewer humans with an in-depth knowledge of Cybertronic bio-mechanics. The process which we have seen draws from both fields, but seems to fill a niche which neither of us are comfortable with. I would do with your help in bridging that gap, but I can’t say when a suitable theoretical framework might be attained."

Rin sighed at the amount of progress still to be made. "Well, it seems that discoveries tend to baulk at external timetables, no matter which word you’re on! Hand me that module over there, please…"

Garret went over to take a look at what Rin and Aquila were up to. "How are things going? Will you be ready to check over Shiro and Ilya soon?"

Rin responded. "Well, we need time to analyse Artia’s results, but it may be useful to run a comparison with Shirou. Wait – you want Ilya to be checked as well?"

He nodded. "She was present at the temple, and she was affected by the Matrix’s presence – it might be an idea to see if there are any long-term effects on her, as well."

He turned to face Illyasviel. "Does that sound ok, Ilya? Sorry if I was getting a little ahead of myself!"

"It’s ok, Garret-niisan! I’d like to find out, too." What she didn’t say was how she had already felt something different about herself over the last few days – or about the unusual, yet strangely peaceful, dreams she had been having recently.


---------------


By late afternoon, both Shirou and Ilya had been examined, and the data from all three guinea pigs was being put through various types of analysis.

"So, you’re saying you can’t pick up much of a difference at all, then?" After all that Shirou had gone through, and having seen Artia in her new forms, he wasn’t sure whether to feel glad or disappointed about the news.

"Well," replied Aquila, "Rin isn’t picking up any difference in you from the last time she would have measured your abilities, and while I do detect a faint trace of Matrix energy dispersed within you, I can’t find anything new. But then, there may be something going on which our equipment isn’t calibrated to register. You are a pretty unique case, after all." So there might still be something – but no-one knows what that could be.

Rin picked up where Aquila left off. "Interestingly, it seems that you still have a filament of prana connecting you to Artia, even though neither of you need it to survive in your current states. Ordinarily, it wouldn’t be a major deal – two magi can form a similar bond if necessary – but what kind of implications it has for both of you right now is hard to judge. Hmph, it’s no fun when you don’t have the answers!"

For someone like Rin, who prided herself on her knowledge of magic, the lack of clarity was clearly an irritant – but then, no-one else knew much more about this, either.

Shirou didn’t like so much attention on himself from the others, and decided to shift the topic of discussion. "Well, is there at least some news about Ilya?"

Rin continued. "Well, that is another interesting mystery. It seems that there are subtle alterations to her body at a micro-cellular level – as if the engineering which had been introduced by the Einzbern had been tweaked somehow. Whether it will extend her life, or allow her to mature into an adult, or allow her to conjure up rice cakes out of thin air, we can’t say right now. Also, I used to be able to determine a lot about her physical state via observation, but the readings I am getting now are in a state of flux. We’ll have to see how her body develops."

Rin wasn’t pleased about that roadblock either. "All I can say is that none of you seem to be in any danger, and we’ll just have to run more tests, and be patient."

It seemed that for every answer found, a dozen new questions arose. Once again, Shirou tried to tell himself not to expect tings to make sense again any time soon…

Garret took this moment to get everyone’s attention. "I think it’s a good time to give this a rest for the day. We can always pick up again in the morning. Say, Shirou – have you guys had a proper celebration for winning the War, saving the day, and so forth?"

"Ummm…. I hadn’t thought about that sort of thing." Shirou was somewhat surprised that no-one had thought of that yet, but was the end of the War worth such a celebration?

"Right then, it’s a good thing we left that stash of goodies in the living room earlier. Let’s go get things ready for this evening – whose turn is it to cook dinner?" As Garret asked, Rin raised her hand – though she tried not to show it, she was looking forward to showing off a few of their choice recipes. Which, of course, had nothing to do with her annoyance at Shiro being considered the best cook in the household…

…though that red-headed brat did need to be put in his place.

It reminded her of how Archer had been a fine cook, too. Come to think of it, there was a lot about Archer which had weighed in the corner of her mind lately…


---------------


Everyone was sat around the dinner table, which was covered with a range of delicious-looking food. Rin had certainly outdone herself – though the true test remained as to whether she could claim the crown of ‘Emiya residence Top Cook’ based on taste as well as appearance.

Before everyone started, Shirou raised a glass of water, and cleared his throat. "I wanted to say something, while Sakura and Fuji-nee aren’t here – to try and bring a sense of closure to the War. We’ve been through a lot together, through good times and bad, and crammed in more memories into the space of a fortnight than many people have in their entire lives. And now that it’s all over, we have a fresh start, and a new set of friendships, which we can draw upon together."

He finished with "And so, I say this: Let this mark the end of the ‘Holy’ Grail Wars, as we march forward to a new age of peace and happiness."

Garret reached for his own glass, looking at Shiro with a knowing smile, and made a quick toast. "Till all are one!"

To this, everyone raised their own glasses, and repeated the phrase.

Garret wanted to say something else, as well. "I’m sorry to keep us away from our plates like this, but there was something I wanted to say as well. And since Shirou has set the tone as far as phrase-swiping goes, I’ll follow suit! There’s a speech made by a fictional character – well, two - in a certain Earth television show, which may describe a rather different series of events to that which we face here, but still rings true for our situation. I hope my paraphrasing isn’t a problem."

Taking a second to concentrate, he then began. "This last week, we’ve seen what humans can be at their worst. But we can not, we must not, use that as an excuse to end the dream that began here. For then, the demons of our past will have won. Instead, I want to look to the future, and begin by honouring the people responsible for our being here tonight. They represent all of us, at our best."

As he looked at the faces of those he shared this company with, he made it clear how the people he was speaking about were right here at this table. "With the exception of a very few, there is one question that burns in every human, that makes them study the stars and dream of travelling to them. ‘Are we alone?’ This group is privileged to know the answer to that question."

Quite so. "We are all explorers, driven to know what's over the horizon, what's beyond our own shores. And yet, the more I've experienced, the more I've learned that no matter how far we travel, or how fast we get there, the most profound discoveries are not necessarily beyond that next star.

They're within us, woven into the threads that bind us.

All of us, to each other.

The final frontier begins in this room.

Let's explore it together."

As one, everyone around the table raised their glasses, and their voices: "Together!"

A softly-spoken voice could be heard from behind Garret’s place at the table. "I like that show as well, Garret-san."

The group turned to see Sakura standing there near the door – they were so caught up in Garret’s speech that they missed her presence entirely. But not everyone showed such surprise. Garret turned around and stood up, and gestured to one of the empty spaces at the table. "Glad you could join us, Sakura-san. It looks like you’re just in time."

"Hai." She sat down at the table, where her plates and cutlery were already laid out, waiting for her.

Rin was left with the last word for the moment. "Well, let’s get going before everything gets cold."

So, to match the sound of several pairs of chopsticks being parted, the assembled group gave a hearty "itadakimasu!"


---------------


Some time later, when the plates had been cleared, the stomachs filled, and the appetites well and truly sated, the general consensus was that the title of 'Emiya Residence Top Chef' was well and truly up for grabs. As the compliments poured in, Rin allowed herself a moment of satisfaction – even the silver-haired midget had avoided her usual routine with her, and been honest as to how much she liked her meal.

Shirou was no exception. "That was delicious, Rin. It’s a shame that Fuji-nee wasn’t here to enjoy it."

Fuji-nee had to stay late at the school for an evaluation – which may or may not have been code for a huge bout of sake drinking with her co-workers… but she would be quite displeased at the fact that so little food was left for her to scrounge when she made it back.

"So, what are we up for now?" asked Shirou.

Garret was way ahead of him. "Well, we have a few vids that we can watch, some games we can set up, and time enough for us to sit around the living room and relax!"

Everyone seemed to like that idea. Most of the group went into the living room to set everything up, while Sakura again volunteered to help clean up – and again, she proved resistant to pleas that she should let others take their turn.

Garret decided to compromise. "Well, if you insist on it, then I’ll have to insist on helping you!"

"Thank you, Garret-san!" A few minutes later, everyone else had cleared out, and Sakura and Garret were ferrying the dishes and cutlery over to the kitchen sink.

Garret couldn’t help but notice how much focus she seemed to be putting into cleaning each dish, and nor could he miss the expression on her face. She looked as if she was trying desperately to hold something back, some great groundswell of emotion that was suddenly bubbling to the surface. "Sakura, is there something you want to tell me?"

"N-no… I-I’m fine…" Crash. The plate had been in her hand, as she was handing it over to him. It was now in several pieces on the floor.

Her hand was shaking. That sad sound in her voice…

"I-I-I…" As she stumbled, he reached over to hold her hand, trying to help in any way he could.

"Sakura," he said softly, "let’s leave this for now. Would you like to sit outside for a moment? A bit of fresh air wouldn’t hurt, and this can always be finished later."

"…H... hai" she agreed, and Garret took a moment to scoop up the pieces – thankfully, there had been no splintering – before putting them into the trash.

After this, he walked out into the garden beside Sakura, and the two of them sat down on a small bench. "Do you need anything? Water, or tissue?"

"N-no, I’m okay, Garret-san…" she answered.

For all of his earlier bombast, he found that he was struggling to think of anything to say. Ironic, given how he could think of fewer times when he wanted to know what the right thing to say would be.

He remembered something that Shiro said to him earlier that day. "Did something happen when you went back to the Matou estate?"

She turned to look at him, and saw the tears swelling in the corners of her eyes. She had held her feelings in for so very long.

But after today, she could hold them back no longer.

And so, she told him…

…everything.


---------------


Earlier that day, Sakura had awoken from the peaceful dream she had had that previous night, and began thinking about what she had seen before going to sleep. How much of that had been real, or had she been sleeping the whole time? Certainly, it seemed incredible that the new visitors to the Emiya residence were such extraordinary beings, or that the story told by senpai, nee-san and the others was all true.

But she couldn’t deny how some of it at least had the ring of truth to it – such as senpai and Saber-san’s confessions…

No, she said to herself, I shouldn’t be mad at them for being together – I have always wanted senpai to be happy. Is it really so bad that it isn’t because of me?

For Sakura, Shirou’s kindness and friendship had been the thin strand of hope to which she had clung so tightly, and even reaching the stage that she would see him every day up close was, to her, a major accomplishment. But she could never build up the courage to tell him how much she loved him, or what she was leaving behind in the Matou mansion by going to the Emiya residence so often. She couldn’t stand to bear the thought of senpai turning her feelings down – it was so hard for her to see herself as the incredibly beautiful young woman that everyone else around her could see. After what had been done to her, and with those horrible things implanted within, how could she be beautiful, she wondered?

Indeed, she couldn’t imagine what being a relationship with senpai would be like, even if he did say yes. Would they go out on dates? Hold hands at school? Spend holidays together?

And what would have happened with nii-san if she did become Shirou’s partner? He had been cruel enough about her visits as it was. He had been so cruel, no matter what I did…

But things were different now. Shinji was dead. And while she hadn’t seen him recently, she knew that Zouken was dead, as well – and with him went the worms he had infested her with. She put her palm to her chest, and breathed in and out. They were really gone.

And she felt nothing.

It was such a hard concept to grasp, the thought that her suffering was finally over.

It was over.

There would be no more Zouken, or Byakuya, or Shinji, to torment her.

But now she was the head of the Matou family, the last surviving member. The estate was hers to do with as she pleased.

She immediately resolved to dispose of it at once.

But in so doing, she realised the bitter corollary – she would have to go back there, one last time, to collect the deeds and whatever personal belongings she could stand to bring with her.

One last trip.

And never again.


---------------


Home.

For eleven years, this ghastly place had been her home – her prison.

She could hardly remember a thing about her life at the Tohsaka household before arriving here, and only the time spent at the Emiya residence had served as any kind of relief.

Every part of her yearned to leave immediately, to run as far as she could from the place where her worst nightmares were made manifest on a regular basis.

But she had to resist this urge. If she failed now, she would only have to come back again – and in so doing, break the promise she made herself on the way over.

As she walked through the lobby up to the staircase, she gradually noticed how deathly quiet the place was. It was an eerie sensation – for the mansion had never truly been quiet before. Whether she heard the hate-filled laughter of Shinji, or the sermons from Zouken (who had been adamant in enforcing a strict training regimen – ironically, one of the few aspects of life in the mansion in which the old man had even tried to act the part of a mentor), or the incessant background noise emanating from those accursed worms…

…but now it was all gone. The only sounds she could hear were those of her own breathing, her own footsteps on the creaking wooden floors (on which she had long ago learned how to tread lightly), her own heart beating in her chest.

She opened the door into the Matou archives, which still had the Makiri emblem on the front of the door – a nod to the once-proud heritage of this withered clan. Sakura sometimes wondered if the Matou weren’t always like this, whether her adopted ancestors had been a more noble and proud sort. She struggled to think of anyone she ever knew who bore the Matou name who didn’t cause her to recoil in horror.

But then, she had made a habit of trying to forget everything about this place, and those who lived in it.

She uncovered the relevant legal documents – regardless of their true motives, the Matou had been careful to show a proper public face, and the appropriate deeds and records were kept in good order.

She considered whether there was anything else in the archives she should keep – perhaps some relevant arcane texts, used for training Matou magi? Or any information about previous Grail Wars? Or whatever Zouken cared to commit to paper about his own ‘research’? It would have been quite easy for her to simply burn the entire collection on the spot, but on the other hand there was a wealth of information that would be useful in the right hands (for a change). Perhaps she could let nee-san have it, or perhaps bestow it to the Association.

She left the room and pocketed the key – whoever ended up with the archive would be welcome to fetch it themselves.

A while later, she entered her bedroom, and took a moment to force away the painful memories of what had happened here. She cursed Shinji for denying her even this one place of sanctuary – at least Byakuya had left her alone while in here.

She didn’t have a wide variety of clothes, aside from some spare uniforms. She hadn’t been allowed out all that much outside of school hours, and she often wore either a simple set of clothes, or her uniform, while at sempai’s house.

She cleared out what she needed to bring with her, and set them into a suitcase. She’d had to buy the case on the way over – Zouken would never have let her have one beforehand, lest she attempt to escape him for good.

Over at her desk, she began to pick up the various school books she had lying around. While reaching for a notebook on one of the shelves, she noticed a black glasses case, one which brought a sharp pang of recognition. Why does my every turn in this house bring such misery?

She had intended those glasses as a present to Rider – who was supposed to be her Servant – as they would have allowed her to enjoy her passion for reading without hiding her Mystic Eyes behind her Breaker Gorgon Noble Phantasm. The glasses themselves were hard to find, and Zouken had never said where, or how, he acquired them – but then, he hadn’t seemed to notice Sakura taking them. Perhaps he didn’t care, or was too focussed on other issues, or thought they were an irrelevancy anyway.

Rider and Sakura had shared precious few moments together. Almost as soon as she emerged from the summoning circle, the sickening smirk on Shinji’s face told Sakura how great a misfortune it was for the Servant that the was female. Going through the process of creating those fake books, and handing Rider over to Shinji, even though he could not sustain her as she could, knowing what kind of acts that he would order her to do in order to build up her prana…

And even after Sakura saw her sister and Saber move in to the Emiya residence, and suspected that the marks on Shirou’s arm were Command Seals, she still said nothing. She had kept the truth a secret from the one true family member she still had, and the one man for whom she thought she would do anything for. How can I say I love him, when I did nothing to protect him?

But despite all this, there were still a few moments in which Rider – Medusa – could spend time with the woman she cared for, even though Sakura condemned herself for betraying her to Shinji.

The first time they spoke was when Zouken was attempting to beat a new lesson into Shinji – despite all that Zouken had Shinji do, it was ironic that the elder Matou held the boy in contempt, although it was more due to his inadequacy as a magus. Sakura had learned about Medusa’s love of literature, and noted how her eyes were always covered, which unsurprisingly made enjoying books rather difficult.

The second time they met properly was when Shinji was in a state of convalescence – he had picked a fight with Issei and learned to regret it. Sakura had offered the glasses to Medusa, so that she may have some exposure to her true passion. And yet, while she did try them on, and Sakura was able to see her beautiful eyes for the first time, she refused to keep them. "After this time is finished, I will not have use for these glasses again."

"But, " Sakura tried to say, "but I found them for you! I… I wanted to give you something which would help you…"

"…Forget about my situation? Sakura, I came here because I wanted to help you forget about yours." Rider's intent was crystalline in its clarity.

"I know. I feel so ashamed for summoning you, and not being there for you…" She had turned to one side in shame.

Yet, Rider had reached out to her, and held Sakura's hands as she looked down to her. "Sakura, if keeping your true identity a secret protects you from this War, then mine is a price worth paying."

The words rang all too hollow in her mind.

She could not escape the guilt so easily.

But she would not disgrace Medusa by forgetting her sacrifices.

She picked up the glasses case, and put them into her pocket.

She turned to look at the tabletop, and couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

An envelope was appearing right before her eyes, and it was addressed to her.

She could have sworn that there was nothing there before – it must have been hidden using sorcery, and activated when her hand passed over it. But she had placed her hand at that spot many times before, and nothing had happened. What was the meaning of it? And who was the letter from?

She was not prepared to find out the answer.


---------------


At the bench, Sakura reached into her left pocket, and took out the envelope in question. It had been carefully sliced open using a paper knife, with the contents neatly folded back into place.

She handed it over to Garret, so that he could read it himself.


---------------


Dearest Sakura,


You don’t know how long it has taken for me to start writing this. Every letter seems to take an aeon to commit, and my eyes force themselves shut, as if telling me that the pain of writing this is too much to bear.

But bear it I must, for there is so much I want to tell you, cherry blossom, and so very little time. Even if I know that you are almost certainly reading this because my dying gamble has failed, and the days in which I knew your smiling face have become a faded memory. But then, even if I succeed, I’ll never see you again, so I can hope that this letter will serve its purpose one way or another.

Firstly, I want to apologise to you, so profoundly that I fear mere words cannot suffice, for something that you have every right to hate me for.

Eleven years ago, I fled the Matou household, to escape the clutches of Zouken, and the snivelling attitudes of my brother Byakuya.

Eight years ago, I bit my tongue when your mother, the woman for whom my heart burned for (and for whom, I admit, it burns still), agreed to marry a prideful, arrogant man called Tohsaka Tokiomi. I asked her if she wanted to do this, but I refused to confess my own reasons as to why I wanted her to refuse him, to refuse the life that awaited the wife of a Tohsaka magus, to spend her days and nights by my side instead…

And nearly one year ago, I was too late to stop Tokiomi from handing you over to him. By the time I learned about it, a week had passed, and both Aoi and Rin had already dried their eyes of tears. The present I had bought for you, my beautiful cherry blossom, was leaden in my arms. He had never even considered asking me – though to this day I don’t know if it was out of a calculated interest in assisting the Matou, or simply out of spite towards a former rival for Aoi’s affections.

I could have stayed at the Matou-tei, and given that old bastard’s line a possible future – while my magic circuits were underdeveloped, they were still better than the dried-up well in Byakuya and Shinji’s veins. (Oh, Sakura – the little twerp takes all too quickly after his old man. It’s been a struggle this last year to keep those two away from you for as long as I can, and even then I fear that I’ve still failed you. I only hope that you do not suffer when I am gone – a forlorn hope, perhaps.)

I could have told Aoi how much I loved her, and maybe you and Rin would be my children – and I swear, I would never have given you away to anyone, and never done anything to harm you.

I could have been more attentive last year, and insisted that Tokiomi let me adopt you.

I could have…

I… could… have…

I can never reach the end of the list of I-could-haves, no matter how much I try.

But all I can offer you now, cherry blossom, is the slimmest of hopes that you can one day be free.

I made a Faustian pact with Zouken when I returned to the mansion. I agreed to accept implantation and accelerated training, so that I would be able to participate in the now-imminent Grail War. If I succeed, the old bastard will have his prize, and you will be free from this horrible fate.

I’m sorry to say that even if you are freed, I will not see it – for the worms I have been given are consuming my body, and I will not live long past the War’s end. I feel it now, every muscle tensing in agony, my every iota of willpower required to fight through it. If it were up to me alone, I would already be dead.

But I cannot give my life away so easily, not before my once chance at redemption for both of us.

I don’t have long to finish this letter – soon the summoning of my Servant will take place, and the strain on my body will become even harder to bear.

I’m sorry that I haven’t been to see you while here in the mansion – but in truth, I am ashamed to say that looking into the eyes of the one I betrayed so deeply would strike me dead, and I don’t deserve such leniency.


If you can, remember the happy times you spent with Rin and Aoi. Remember that they still love you, and that they were as powerless to stop Tokiomi and Zouken as anyone. Well, almost anyone.

Your sister cares for you and misses you. Don’t let yourself forget that. Please. One day, she may well be all that you have.

I’ll have to hide this letter now – it will appear once you are freed by Zoken after this coming War, or at some time in the future when he finally shuffles off his ragged, twisted, yet still-mortal coil. (Ha – for all of his malevolence, he is still driven by that fear of death. In his own way, he’s as pathetic as my brother… but I digress.)

I have no right to ask for your forgiveness, so I won’t.

But with all that I am, I hope that one day, my little one, you may

Smile from purest joy,
Like a beautiful garland
Of cherry blossoms.


Be at peace, little one.


Kariya.


---------------


When Garret had finished reading it, he noted the teardrops which were streaking down the page – and that many of them were his own.

He could hardly imagine a worse feeling, even when trapped in the innards of the lord of Entropy. But then, that had been an almost surreal experience. This pain, on the other hand, was intensely personal, and it shook him to the core.

"Sakura…"

With that word, the dam broke. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and as she dove her head into his arms, the first terrible cries of sadness erupted. He understood how Kariya would have been struck dead at the sight, of such a face brought to such a state.

He rested his head atop of hers, and his own tears were still flowing.

He was torn between so many different reactions – terror at what the Matou clan had done to her, raw hatred at the vermin who could even consider such things (had any one of them still been alive, he would have crushed them with his bare hands), disgust at allowing himself to think of such a violent reaction when he should have been focussing on helping Sakura as she was now, bitterness at how poorly his mind formed any kind of words which he could say, struck by how little anyone knew about what had been going on, pained at the kind of reactions that the others would experience should they ever find out…

But he couldn’t say a thing, and couldn’t do anything more than try to absorb the pent-up hurt and sorrow that Sakura was releasing. If he could take at least that portion away from her mind, it would be a start.

Five minutes passed. Ten. Fifteen. He was surprised that no-one had come to check up on them – they must have been enjoying themselves. My bright idea.

Eventually, the tears subsided – perhaps there were simply no more for her to shed. "Sakura, I’m so sorry…"

She shook her head, wiping her eyes. "You have nothing to apologise for. I am the one who has carried this with me all of this time…"

He took her hand, and refused to het her accept this view. "You have no reason to blame yourself about any of this, none at all."

"But Rider…" she struggled to let her guilt go.

Nevertheless, Garret persisted. "She was responsible for the choices the made when summoned. She could have stopped the others and rescued you from that place. She had the power to bring you to your sister, where you could have been safe. But she was the one who chose to follow Shinji’s commands. Indeed, from what you told me she was doing so because the thought that you would be safer that way."

And in a further irony, Rider had fallen before Sakura had been abducted by Caster – who in turn did not fully recognise the efforts that Zouken had put into making Sakura ‘suitable’ for his own long-term plans.

"What happened to Kariya?" he asked.

"He died in the last war, before the end. I had no idea that he had done such a thing, or that it was for me." She still did not know how to digest the knowledge.

"Do you remember much of Kariya from before?" Garret wondered.

She looked downwards. "No… only the outline of a face, but nothing more. All I have is his name, and this letter."

He looked back down to it. "Is it enough?"

"It is more than I had before I opened this letter, Garret-san." Even the knowledge that at least one Matou had loved her as a family member should was a comfort to her – despite everything.

"Sakura, I’m sorry that I can’t think of better words to say, but I’m going to try anyway." As he spoke, she looked up at him, her face still betraying the bitter emotions she was wrestling with, and he said what he dearly wanted to say. "You are more courageous, more noble, than anyone I have ever known. Despite all that you have been put through, you can still carry yourself with such grace and nobility around others. Despite needing help more than anyone, you were still there to volunteer your time and effort on the behalf of your friends. And despite all that they have done, and all of the petty reasons behind their actions, they are now dead and gone, while you are still here, with the promise of a better future ahead of you, and the love and care of everyone in this residence to guide you when you need it."

"But, I feel so out of place in there sometimes, and now that senpai…" She might try to deny it, but she had clearly figured out what was going on between Shirou and Artia, and it hadn’t been easy for her to deal with.

"You should see how much they think about you when you aren’t around – everyone was delighted to see you when you showed up at dinner tonight. You may not have noticed, but we deliberately waited longer than usual to start preparations, because we wanted you to share the meal with us. There is nowhere you could be less out of place than here." He knew that any one of the others would immediately back the assertion to the hilt.

"And about the other thing, well…" he tried to say, "I don’t know too much about human relationships from personal experience, but I have been fortunate enough to receive some very useful advice from an old friend of mine. I hope I don’t mangle his intentions.

What he said to me was that when you find yourself drawn towards someone whose feelings lie elsewhere, it’s not anyone’s fault, and it’s not a case that you are somehow less of a person because he is has chosen another person. It just isn’t meant to be. It’s better to let those feelings of attraction and affection go – it doesn’t do you, or them, any favours.

And also, if you do move on, when the time comes for you to find someone you care about who does share those feelings with you, you’ll have given that new beginning the chance it deserves."

Garret reached his right hand to his temple. "Well, that’s the theory at least. And it sounds fine, but in truth…"

"...perhaps there is something you would like to tell me, Garret-san." Garret felt mad at himself for letting his own issues spill over at a time like this – but noted how Sakura seemed interested in hearing more. Maybe it was helpful for her to know that other people still had their hang-ups and issues…

"Well, in truth, it’s a bit embarrassing - it’s not something I’m too used to personally." A frank admission, though he could hardly compare it to what had been said before.

Sakura wiped her eyes with her free hand, sat up a little straighter, and looked more intently at Garret’s eyes. "I would like to let you have your turn now."

Ah, cornered, he realised. Very well… "In truth, there are three people who I’ve met recently, who each seem to have a different kind of impact on me, but at the same level in each case. Each of them are equally beautiful, in every sense of the word, but in their own unique ways. And while I should be happy for them – I am happy, of course – one of them is now with somebody. And even though their relationship is genuine, and I should be delighted that they have each other, all she needs to go is glance a certain way, or speak the right words, and I feel…"

"How I… feel about senpai?" she admitted.

"Got it in one," he added. "And although I do agree that it’s an illusion, and I should move on, there’s still that visceral impact on my chest, that twinge that I can’t explain, And as I said, it’s not like I don’t feel strongly towards the other two, as well. But then, I’m deluding myself for thinking I could, or should, be with anyone in the first place!"

"Why do you say that, Garret-san?" she looked at him curiously.

He was unsure how to explain this. "Well… There are a few... complications."

She smiled. "I would see why you would think so… Rodimus-dono."

She knew! Garret’s face immediately blushed, showing how he had hoped that particular revelation would come at a more opportune time. "Did you see me last night, then?"

"Yes. You were most impressive." Garret wondered just what else she had been privy to out of last night’s events.

"I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier. I don’t want to seem like an impostor to you – even though, in a sense, I kinda am." He felt sad about not being able to be the one to say as much himself.

"You are you, no matter your appearance, Rodimus-dono," she reassured him.

Hearing the -dono term used again still rested ill at ease for him. "Please, you don’t have to use such an honorific. While I look like this, you can call me Garret, and Rodimus is fine while I’m in my ‘other’ form. And thank you, for understanding."

"It’s the least I can do," she said, "Garret-san. Thank you so much, for being here, and for being so kind."

"You deserve nothing less, Sakura." Thinking of this, a lightning bolt flashed inside Garret’s head. "In fact, if you don’t mind, I have a present I’d like to share with you."

She smiled – the first true smile she had shown in what seemed like an eternity – and nodded. "Okay."

He stood up and walked a few paces in front of her, and turned to face her.

A moment later, his shell dematerialised, and reconstituted itself into the form of the current Autobot leader.

"Incredible…" she whispered, and Rodimus smiled back at Sakura, while sitting down to face her.

He reached his hands to the centre of his chestplate, and with a tap opened two panels, which swung open in front of him. His hands reached within the cavity, and lifted out an object of incomparable power and majesty.

"Sakura, I want to give you something very special." He lowered the Matrix in front of her, and gestured her to walk towards it.

"a vision…" her hand reached towards the light, "…of the universe."

A moment later, her hand made contact.

And what she saw in that instant would echo in her mind forever.


---------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Bumblebee (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=kusEKD6qbGI&feature=related))


Creation.

An impossible light – or rather, that which made the impossible possible.

She was everywhere at once, and yet nowhere.

She was a horde of atoms and molecules, scattered across the rapidly-expanding universe.

In time, her essence slowed, and clustered around the forming galaxy.

Her heat burned in ancient stars, her cold lay in endless depths.

She could feel clumps of her essence join and merge together, and with other atoms and molecules, in a dance of light and darkness.

And then –

Booom.

Her home star breathed its last, and she was scattered across a new expanse.

But over time, new clumps and clusters began to form.

More and more of her formed in and around the rocky object building up in orbit of a newly-born star, the third world out from its intense new heat.

Home?

Time accelerated – soon the molecules were compacted into new types of shapes, affected by the primordial forces shaping this young world.

But even then, the clusters which had formed did not last forever.

She felt the first growth of life, from the ground she was seeped in, the new oceans she was carried away in, to the fledging forms of life she was welcomed in.

Again and again – she changed her forms and designs, sometimes ten beings at once, other times a hundred, still others a hundred thousand.

Her dance continued on, as the continents shifted, new species came and went, new triumphs and tragedies affected the story of life on this world.

The first amphibious beings emerged form the oceans to dry land...

The forms of life on the continents diversified, taking to the land, the trees, even the skies...

The rumbling of immense volcanoes, giant upheavals, mass extinctions and new flowerings...

The striding of immense reptilian beings, dominating the land, the skies and the seas, for millions of years, until a burning harbinger wiped the slate clean once more...

The emergence of warm-blooded inheritors to the earth - the flight-capable descendants of the fallen reptilians, the mammalian creatures which apread across the land or returned to the oceans...

Before she knew it, she could see the patterns merging again...

Her essence was combining into a new form, molecule by molecule, in the midst of a shift in scenery.

A form which was - is - unique in all of creation, and would be for evermore.

The human woman called Matou Sakura.

Who at that moment, could not feel more beautiful.


Around her, the wind breezed, the birds soared on thermals above, the cetaceans splashed against the waves in the ocean beyond, the land creatures grazed and hunted and otherwise pursued their myriad destinies.


And she could see beyond the current form her essence resided in, as the images of humanity's journey flashed before her eyes.

The first cave drawings in the shadow of the Ice Age glaciers...

The rise of the first temples in Caral, in Sumer, in Giza, in ancient China...

The crash of the surf, buffeting the prow of the baochuan as it sailed the oceans...

The lights piercing the depths, as the submersible witnessed the bottom of the Marianas Trench...

The first flight of the Wright Flyer, over the sands of Kitty Hawk...

The roar of the Saturn V's engines, as it lifted off from Cape Canaveral on its fabled mission...

The magnificent view of the Earth from space, as the LM Spider is put through its paces...

The giant leap for mankind, as the first human footprints were made on the surface of the Moon...

And beyond - the vision raced from the past to the present, and offered a glimpse of the future.

Beyond the boundaries of humanity.

Beyond good,

Beyond evil,

Beyond her wildest imagination.

And at its apex…

Lay the day when all became one.

In her mind, as she progressed on this incredible journey, she could hear a joyful voice:

I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar
With angels blest; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel-soul,
I shall become what no mind e'er conceived.


The song made her heart soar...

...and she knew, completely, that she was free.


---------------


The vision faded, but the expression of awe was still written all over her face. Rodimus knew that feeling all too well – for he himself had been touched by the Matrix not so long ago. "Thank you, Rodimus-san. I feel… alive."

He couldn’t have asked for a better response.

"I’m glad." He lifted up the Matrix, re-atttached it to its casing, and closed up his chestplate once more. A moment later, he was back as Garret-san, and was walking over to Sakura’s side.

For her part, she was still tingling – every atom in her body felt awakened, and her smile was wider and more genuine than any she could care to remember.

She wasn’t naïve enough to think that the years of trauma had been blasted away so easily – although she felt none of its effects at that moment. Even so, she felt a new-found confidence, a new kind of understanding.

She was unique. In the very fabric of her being.

And she was not alone.

"It’s a wonderful feeling, Garret-san. I don’t know how to thank you." She embraced him warmly, immensely grateful for the wondrous gift, and for the change it had wrought within.

Returning the hug, he smiled, and was grateful in turn for the privilege of being there for her when she needed him. "Be yourself, and be all that you can be, Sakura. That is all the thanks I’d ever need, and would ever ask for."

She nodded in affirmation – she fully intended to do just that.

As the hug was released, Garret gestured to the door of the residence. "So, they’re probably going to be worried as to what happened to us."

"I wonder if one of the two other persons you care about is worried as well, Garret-san." She hadn’t needed a vision of the Matrix to know exactly who Garret had been talking about - and to know precisely who the two 'other persons' were.

"I wouldn’t presume to judge," he tried to say.

She giggled, as she held his arm with her hand. "I do know that the other is very glad to know you, Garret - and always will be."

Nodding and smiling, he felt glad to hear it. "Thank you for that, Sakura. So, shall we go join in the fun?"

"Hai!" She had never sounded quite so happy saying that as she did right at that moment.

Garret would have to sit down and try and figure out his own issues, and try to help Sakura in any way he could.

But all of that could wait.

"Sakura, let’s go."

And with that, the two friends walked together, the first steps of a new beginning for Matou Sakura.


---------------


End of part 6.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:50 PM
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v108/Nerroth/tfavatarprintsize001LETTERINGfin-1.jpg

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:51 PM
Fate/ Trans form - part 7

--------------


The sound of a horse whinnying, as its master bade it rear upon its hind legs, echoed through the lightless forest, under the reflected light of a low-hanging moon.

Now this, at last, thought the rider to himself, is a little more like it.

The fore hooves crunched down upon the earth, and the horse raced through the gap in the treeline, its breath billowing out of its nostrils in ghostly clouds of steam.

Its rider, long deprived the sensation of riding on horseback, relished the moment - even if while doing so, he was reminded of the many ways in which this land was so different to the wide-ranging steppe which had served as his people's ancestral home.

My blessed grandfather, and his father and grandfather before him, could ride upon the wide grasslands for days on end - with only a thinly-covered yurt between him and the elements at night.

He looked down to the animal which served as his steed, and his animals were far different to the likes of this pampered creature. The horse had been raised in Japan, and was fit and healthy, but quite removed from the sturdy horses of the steppe.

But no matter.

While waiting for the latest report from his subordinate - as well as a fresh supply of 'resources' to keep him maintained in this plane of existence - he was content to take in the environment.

After all, as he would see it, once he established his rightful rule over the islands of Japan, he would have plenty of time to acquaint himself with its unique geography...



He was shaken from his reverie by a sudden roar, and what looked to him like a growing maw of darkness in the sky above the next clearing.

His pulse quickening, he races into the clearing, and saw the emerging circle in the heavens above and before him - which seemed to be more than any kind of darkness he had ever seen before.

Suddenly, a wave of fire burst from the centre of the circle, and spread like a fiery halo out towards the circle's rim. Also, the fiery circle began to descend from the sky, and approached the ground before him.

"What manner of sorcery is this?" proclaimed the rider aloud, almost challenging the circle to provide him with an answer.

As the fiery ring reached its zenith, he could have sworn that a deep, rumbling laughter was emanating from the other side...

...and two monstrous beings of massive size emerged from the circle, their immense footsteps leaving a deep imprint upon the soft ground beneath them.

The first being was a winged daemon of destruction, clad in blue and white, with glowing red eyes callously dismissing the spectacle around it as the creature focussed upon the humanoid rider with an unmistakable focus of a hunter.

The second was a dark, fiery engine of chaos, its chassis aflame, it eyes burning with a seemingly-endless depth of raw, destructive power - and it looked at the humanoid with the view that a biologist might stare at a petrie dish.

And yet, the rider showed no fear - no beast could cause him to dishonour the memory of his singular legacy.

For he was the Great Khan, the Son of Heaven... and none would be permitted to forget it.

"Identify yourselves," proclaimed Kublai, "and explain your intrusion on My rightful lands!"

The fiery being looked over to its blue-and-white colleague, "This is the world you spoke of?"

"Indeed so," replied the other. "Mudballs like this always annoy me more than your average planetary body - not least because of vermin like these," he almost spat, pointing over at the Khan, who was iridescent with rage at such arrogance directed at himself.

"How dare you speak low of me, creature!" he proclaimed, summoning his huntsman's bow and drawing it at the beast.

"Now, now, that's quite enough," the fiery one said, chuckling, as it waved off the blue daemon and nodded to the Khan. "We have no need to start things off so poorly."

It lowered its hand, and continued to address Kublai, "We come from afar, and as you can see, we are not quite accustomed to life on carbonite worlds such as your own. Thus, before you fire that weapon at my colleague," he commented without bothering to detail what likelihood the aethyric arrow would even scratch the fiery one's associate, "perhaps I can introduce you to something you might find of interest."

Not quite satisfied with the reply - or with the singularly dismissive attitude the blue daemon steadfastly maintained - the Khan nevertheless lowered his weapon somewhat, and addressed the fiery one with a curious tone in his voice, "And that might be..."

Despite the grill in place of the fiery one's mouth, Kublai could have almost pictured that it was smiling, as it raised its hand once more, and produced a sphere of entropic flame.

"Power," it said simply. "Is that not enough?"

"It never is," replied the Khan, with a smirk.

"But it's a start."


------------------------------


Garret lay upon a futon in one of the guest rooms, his head shaking back and forth slightly, until his eyes opened suddenly and he stared up at the ceiling.

"No, this isn't gonna work," he whispered to himself, giving up on actually being able to get to...

What do thay call it again? Oh yeah - sleep.

It was not for lack of fatigue. It had been a long day, and an even longer evening, even without considering the minute detail of having the matter of Sakura laid out in his mind. He was glad that things had gone well when they went back in, and hoped that Primus would see fit to grant her a blissful night's sleep - but He seemed less than eager to help out the poor chap carrying around His prized Matrix.

He sat up, wiping his eyes, and wondering what time it was - and not remembering why it was that he didn't know already, given his internal chronometer. Instead, he looked around in the half-light, and saw an analogue clock. Assuming he was reading it right, it was just after 3am.

"Bleurgh..." was all he could say at that point. However, he did notice that his stomach seemed to be rumbling. Wait, I know this one... I seem to be hungry.

So, he shook off the annoyance at not being used to the thousand and one little things that affected one's life in organic form, and got up to go to the kitchen. Stifling a yawn, he walked - well, plodded - down the corridor, and was soon standing in front of the fridge. He winced slightly when he opened the door, and the fridge light went on - another nuisance.

Nevertheless, he reached over for a bottle of milk and some kind of wrapped bar or other, and remembered to pour the milk into a glass (which he dug out of one of the cupboards) before wolfing down the contents.

Feeling somewhat better, he looked out the window and saw the night sky, which was fairly clear, with a fairly bright moon nestled between the faint glow of distant stars.

I wonder what it's like for most humans to see that sky, he mused to himself, and not know of the wonders - and terrors - that it holds.

"I was doing something similar a few nights ago, myself," said a familiar voice directly behind him. Surprised, he turned around and saw his fellow night-walker.

"The pillaging food part, or the staring into the heavens bit, Rin?" Garret replied, smiling as brightly as his clapped-out self could do... which wasn't much, in fairness.

Rin smiled in turn, though she seemed to be less than fully awake also, "A little of column A, a little of B."

"Can I get you something?" he asked, holding the fridge door open with one hand, and the bottle of milk in the other.

"No, I'll be fine," she answered, "but if you like, you can join me in the other room."

"Sounds fair enough to me," not least since he wasn't having much success doing anything else, "though I wish I was in a more alert state, so I could provide you with better company."

She smiled in turn. "You'll do just fine."


A short time later, they were sitting in the living room, as Rin placed a set of unlit candles onto the tabletop. Then, she lifted up a customised lighter she had brought with her, and sat on her knees at the table's edge, lighting the candles one by one. Garret joined her at the table, sitting on his hind legs as she was.

"What kind of ceremony is this?" he asked, wanting to know more.

"This..." she responded quietly, "it's nothing formal, really, not part of any specific ritual I had in mind. I just thought of it not so long ago, and wanted to give it a try. I've... we've all been through a lot in the last few weeks, and I guess I wanted to..."

"...to pay your respects, to meitate on things, or something?" he added, before raising his hand to his mouth, "sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you."

She turned to him, and nodded. "It's ok - and you're right. I appreciate cleverness." Turning the lighter delicately in her hand, she offered it to him. "There's one more candle left, if you have anything you'd like to commemorate."

He took the lighter carefully, and moved to light the last candle. "Thank you, and as a matter of fact, there is something - or rather, there are some things."

"Anything you would like to talk about?" she asked, as she clasped her hands together, and focussed on the flickering candlelight - particularly, the one atop the red-coloured candle, which was a distinct contrast to the white candles otherwise arrayed upon the tabletop. "Don't mind my posture like this - I'm listening."

"Thank you, Rin," he said, before taking a deep breath, focussing on the flame of the candle he had lit. "As a matter of fact, it's close to the anniversary of what a Terran author might consider to be a series of unfortunate events."

"Oh?" she replied, raising an eyebrow. "How so?"

His eyes closed, as the memories of two years ago surfaced in his mind. "Well, there's a lot to it, so I'll try to explain as concisely as I can - but it happened in the year 2005..."


BGM: Cybertron (http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=rkz169fMkc4), Transformers: The Score

As he told her about the defining moments of his existence, he went from the innocence of peace to the brutal Decepticon assault on Autobot City, which left many of his colleagues dead - including some of the '84s, the legendary heroes who had been buried under Mount St. Helens for millions of years, who had been part of Optimus Prime's inner circle from the very beginning, and who had held the line in the secret war on Earth when all they had was the Ark and each other. Some of them were already dead before the assault even took place - had he and Daniel not spotted the damage to the inbound shuttle, so might everyone else assigned to the base.

He remembered the renewed hope among the embattled defenders, as Prime had arrived at the vanguard of a fresh wave of reinforcements. Indeed, Prime did it, he turned the tide - he drove the Decepticons to retreat, and had Megatron on the ropes...

...until I stepped in.

The lancing pain at the moment, the helplessness he felt as he struggled in Megatron's grasp, as the tyrant used a discarded pistol to bring Optimus to his knees, the contemptuous dismissal of the Decepticon leader as he tossed him to the side before approaching Prime's broken body, the moment of joy at seeing the last act of defiance as Prime sent Megatron flying, only to be shattered by the thump heard when Prime went to ground.

Optimus... forgive me...

Words which stung as sharply now as when he had said them in anguish.

"The medics did all they could, but the wounds were... fatal."

"I'm sorry," Rin said softly, her gaze turned towards him.

"I was there, in the medbay, at the end. He - he told us not to grieve, that soon, he would be one with the Matrix," Garret said, with a gesture to his chest, referring to that for which he bore the burden hardest to bear.

"He was thinking of others, to the end," she said, pained to see the weight that the moment had for him.

He nodded. "He passed it on to Ultra Magnus, his brother, but before he could hand it over, it slipped from his hand, and I caught it before it hit the ground."

He remembered the fleeting connection which had flowed through his hands at its touch - and how it had slipped away as soon as it had arrived. He shook his head at how little he could have suspected what was to come.

Suddenly, Rin's expression changed to a more inquisitive one. "Wait, what do you mean, brother? How does that work for you?"

"Well," he replied, "when new sparks are created, sometimes they 'bud', or split into two distinct, yet similar, forms - and each merges with a protoform to create a new life form."

"Hmm... so kind of like fraternal twins?" she replied. "Human ones, I mean."

"That's it," affirming her deduction. "I appreciate cleverness, too!"

They both smiled, as his comment broke the mood somewhat.

"Naturally!" she half-yawned, as the tiredness started to catch up to her. "I'm sorry, I want to hear the rest, but I think it's all starting to catch up with me."

"I understand," replied Garret, as he struggled to stand up, and offer a hand to help her get up in turn.

As she took his hand and stood, she asked him something more. "I take it you still haven't done it yet, have you?"

"Done what?" he wondered, not quite cmputing.

"I thought not."

She leaned over to his shoulder, and whispered into his ear, "I forgive you."

He blinked. "Forgive me?"

"Yes," she continued. "You haven't learned how to forgive yourself for what happened, so I'm doing it for you."

At that, he blushed profusely, completely taken aback. She was right - he had not forgiven himself over that day, and rued never being able to find a sense of closure with Prime - well, the previous Prime. But he had kept it mostly to himself, all too aware of the brave face he had to cultivate in front of a re-building populace, both here and across the galaxy.

"Thank you, Rin. It means a lot to me."

She put her hand on his shoulder. "And what you did for Sakura means a lot to me."

So she had found out, one way or another.

"And even if you hadn't," she added, "you have to learn how to reconcile yourself with your mistakes and might-have-beens - though I admit that I might not be one to talk..."

Her hand tensed on his shoulder, and Garret could see that she herself had deep wounds to heal, as did he.

And so, he reached over and held her loose hand in his.

"How about we try and help each other learn to do just that?"

She smiled, and grasped his hand, and shoulder, tightly, before loosening her grip once more. "That sounds like something I could try."

"Okay." It was all that needed to be said.

For now, at least.


--------------------------------------------------


"Onii-chaaaan! Wakeupwakeupwakeupwakeup..."

The annoyingly sprightly figure of Ilya was banging her fists against the side of the twin futon where Shirou and Artia lay, and if the young von Einzbern had any inhibitions about bursting into the room where two lovers were sleeping, she showed none of it.

"Ugh... Ilya... Come on..." said Shirou, regretting how late he had stayed up during the party.

Artia, in contrast, sprang up in her futon, and looked over to Ilya with a less-than-joyous expression.

"Ilyasviel! It seems you have yet to learn about the proper in-house etique-Whoa!" Her impromptu lecture was interrupted as Ilya jumped over and gave her a massive flyting hug.

"Artia-nee-san! You know you can call me Ilya! And this is what you guys get for being slow-pokes!" the little one declared in a fit of laughter. "Slowpokesslowpokesslowpokes!"

"Come here, you!" Said Garret, who had managed to get a little bit of sleep after all. He swept through the opened door, scooped Ilya over his shoulder, and turned to face the door. "You should meet my friend Blurr - he talks almost as quickly as you do!"

Ilya kicked her legs about, half annoyed at being torn away from her playthings, half excited at having her big Transformer-san friend carry her around! "I'll get you next time, Shirou!" she called out, as she was led out of the room.

"And you're welcome, by the way," added Rin, who was standing at the door, and closed it after Garret had passed through.


Shirou was somewhat nonplussed.

"Anyone catch the number of that freight train?" Less a freight train, more a space shuttle.

Artia looked over to her beloved, and smiled. "It seems that families take time to get used to, Shirou."

All it took was for her to say his name like that, and he was fully awake again.

It was a very useful ability of hers.


--------------------------------------------------


Another breakfast was being devoured, another get-togeher around the table, and another set of smiles and jokes flying back and forth.

Garret sat beside Rin and Sakura, delighted to see the lift in mood in the latter, and still grateful for the support from the former.

"You seem very happy this morning, Sakura," he said to his plum-haired friend, as Rin looked over to her sister with a similarly-wide smile.

"I feel like today is a fresh start, Garret-san - and I'm here with you, nee-san and everyone. I feel very happy."

Rin leaned over and gave her sis a kiss and a hug, so glad to be able to express the fraternal bond after so long apart.

"And I'm happy too, Sakura," she said.

"Grouphuggrouphug!" yelled Ilya, who had been spying them from across the table, and had just got up to run over and glomp the two of them. Rin looked kind of annoyed, while Sakura chuckled, but both returned the hug.

"Man, this is fun!" Garret thought out loud, thinking of how different it was when he, Metalhawk and others were working at the command centre...

...wait a second.

"Um, where's Hawk?" he asked, looking around the table, "and where is Fujimura-san, for that matter?"

"Hehe", was all Ilya would say, though the mischievous look on her face, and the finger held up to her lips, told a lot more. Although, while it was one thing to burst in and play with onii-chan, she knew that to enter the lair of the tiger was to invite certain doom...

A round of blushes and muffled coughs did the rounds at the table.

That poor, poor man, Garret thought to himself. He's dancing with the devil, now.

"A-anyway, Ilya, I was wondering - do you not have anyone who might be wondering where you are, and how you are doing? I heard you were camped out at the Einzbern castle during the War." Garret hoped that changing the subject might help.

"Me? Um..." Ilya spun on the spot, thinking. "Nope, no-one!" she fiaally said, with a big smile.

"No-one at all?" said Shirou, disconcerted at the thought of Ilya having been cooped up all alone in that big mansion.

"Nope!" she replied. "Well, except for Sella and Leysritt, but I've no idea what they are up to."

Shirou and Garret exchanged confused looks, before the former asked "Well, shoudn't we go and see where they are, and see if they are ok?"

"Umumum... ok!" she cheerfully responded. "But if they want to take me back to the Einzbern, I won't go!"

She stopped suddenly, a wave of coldness washing over her. "I won't ever go back to them ever ever again!"

Shirou got up and gave her a hug, squeezing her close. "You won't, Ilya. This will always be your home, if you want it to be."

"YAY!" Her mood shifting to intense relief. "Thank you, Onii-chan."

With that, a mood of relief spread across the table, and Garret thought of something.

"In that case, how about we split things up? You and Artia could go with Ilya over to the castle - it would be good flying practice. Meanwhile, Rin and I could scout out around town and see if anything is up there..."

"...and since you can turn into a truck, you can carry the groceries home, too," added Rin, quite eager to have a 'helper' again since... since the last one, she thought for a moment, before burying it.

"Fair enough," Garret answered, hands held up as if to say 'you got me', "and Sakura, could you keep an eye on things here, while Aquila comes back to go over a few things and we... find out just what happened to Fujimura-san and Hawk?"

"Hai!" she replied, giggling at the prospect of seeing the look on Taiga's face when she found out what they thought she was up to. "As long as you bring me along on your next drive, Rodimus-dono."

"Yes ma'am!" he saluted, as he started to help pack the plates and stuff away. "You don't have to call me -dono, though. Feels awfully formal."

"If you insist, Rodimus-dono!" she cheerfully replied, enjoying the chance to make such a joke, though it still took a little getting used to.

"Riiiiight."


--------------------------------------------------


Soon, the table was cleared, Aquila confirmed he was inbound, and Ilya had explained what Sella and Leysritt looked like - apparently, women with snow-white hair and red eyes were uncommon enough in Japan to make spotting them relatively easy.

"Ok then, everyone," said Garret, as he returned to biomechanical form and transformed into his truck mode, "let's roll out!"

With that, Rin jumped into the passenger's seat - letting him do the driving - while Shirou sat Ilya on his lap in Saber's cockpit, and the two teams set off, with Sakura waving them off... wondering whether she should make something extra for Fujimura-san to devour once she turned up.


However, none of them had realised that their departure had been observed - despite the precautions taken to mask such efforts.

While the observer had only one eye left to see what had transpired, it was enough to let him see what needed to be seen, though the lack of depth perception was a slight nuisance.

His sovereign had commanded him to search for any potential threats to his coming reign, and these unknowns seemed to be prime candidates. Nevertheless, he had to learn more, before he could present his findings to the Khan.

The time is not yet ripe, he thought to himself, as he watched from the shadows. Not yet, but soon.


--------------------------------------------------


End of Part 7.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:53 PM
Part 8

--------------------------------------------------


Through a clear, bright sky, over the bustle of Fuyuki-shi, flew a distinctively-shaped craft - though the sight would be a difficult one for the average citizen to notice, through the stealth system integrated into its being.

Or rather, her being.


"How are you settling into this flying thing, Saber?" asked Shirou, remembering the name that his beloved preferred to use while in biomechanical form. He was currently sitting in the pilot's seat, with an awed Ilya on his lap, gaping out at the sights beyond - but Saber was doing the flying.

"It... is difficult to explain, Shirou - but I believe I am becoming more acquainted with it, with practice," she replied, her unique voice sounding ever-so-slightly different through the internal comm system than from her human lips.

"Wooooooooooah... this is soooo coooooool..." gasped Ilya, for once not jumping around and causing a fuss - which, unsurprisingly, would have been a bother in the relatively small canopy.

Keen to focus on the task at hand, Saber added "Shirou, Illyas... Ilya, we are approaching the forest surrounding the Einzbern castle."

"Oh, ok", said Ilya, somewhat reluctant to turn away from her reverie, "I'll have a look out and see if I recognise them, but I think they would be at the Castle anyway..."

Her words dropped off, as it sank in that she was returning to a place that had been a symbol of the family that had treated her with far less compassion than she still fondly remembered when her parents were with her - or that she had discovered while living at the Emiya residence.

"It's alright, Ilya," Shirou reassured her, "we're here with you, and we'll be going again once we find... um... what are their names again?"

"Sella and Leysritt, silly!" she joked, heartened by her onii-chan's presence. "You better not forget when we meet them, you know!"

"Ok, ok," he conceded, hoping that he wouldn't do just that. She should at least let me know which one is which when we get there, he thought to himself.

"Oh, by the way, while it's just the three of us here," asked Ilya, "has he figured it out yet, Saber-nee-chan?"

Shirou was somewhat confused, while Saber was somewhat reticent. "He... I... I have yet to fully explain the matter, Ilya."

"Oooh, so he doesn't realise it yet, does he, nee-chan?" replied the mischievous youth.

"Um..." stumbled Shirou, clearly nonplussed, "realise what, exactly?"

"Just why I call you onii-chan, Shirou," answered Ilya, with a much more serious tone to her voice.

However, before the line of reasoning could continue, a flash of light, or perhaps a reflection, could be seen coming from within the forest. "There is something in the vicinity of an outlying building nearby. I believe that it is the..."

Shirou recognised it, also. "Yeah, it looks like that place, alright."

Ilya had a look, and was not quite sure what it was the two of them were so hesitant about. "It's just a worn-out shack, kinda ew if you ask me. Is that where you guys were hiding when Berserker and I..."

She stopped, when she realised that despite her bravado at the Emiya residence, she hadn't completely gotten over the loss of her Servant - or wanted to bring up the circumstances of his demise with her present company.

"Y... yeah, something like that," said Shirou, not quite willing to say anything more.

"I will land there at once. When I do so, please disembark, and we will explore further." Saber took the route of focussing on the present, rather than trying to dwell on the not-quite-distant past.

"Ok," replied Shirou, while Ilya nodded.

They had work to do.


--------------------------------------------------


Meanwhile, a very distinctive red vehicle, with flame details on its hood and flanks, was entering the Shinto district of the city. Its passenger was on the look out for anything unorthodox, as was the consciousness doing the driving.

"This is the place you wanted to start the search, Rin?" asked Rodimus, as the street layout of the area appeared on the holo-display on the dashboard.

"This is the one," she replied, looking over the city layout. Maybe I should ask him if he can make it across the tops of the buildings, the way Ar... she was trying to think to herself, before stopping in mid-sentence.

"Ok, in that case we can follow a pretty straightforward route through the area, before we move on to our next..." He was interrupted by a beeping signal on the dash, indicating an incoming transmission. "Sorry, one moment - I better take this."

With a click, the city layout was shifted to a smaller box within a larger holo-display, while the main image was replaced with one that Rodimus had not seen in some time, and that Rin had yet to see herself.

"Hello, Magnus," said Rodimus, "you're out of your armour today, I see." He was trying not to show how the all-too-close similarity that Ultra Magnus' smaller, inner biomech form had to the being who had once been the guardian of the Matrix of Leadership.

Indeed, it was almost certainly for that reason that Magnus himself only rarely let himself go anywhere without the outer armour on, as he sought to avoid the inevitable comparisons between him and his lost brother.

"Indeed - I am currently running a series of diagnostics on it, and have to go without for the time being." If Magnus had any doubts about his current appearance, he was expertly hiding it.

"I see," replied Rodimus. "Oh, by the way, Tohsaka Rin, I'd like you to meet City Commander Ultra Magnus, my second-in-command."

"Hajimemashite, Ultra Magnus-san," said Rin in greeting, nodding to the image on-screen.

"Thank you kindly, ma'am - yoroshiku," said Magnus in return, also nodding.

"You are the brother of Optimus Prime, correct?" she asked, in a carefully-measured tone.

Magnus stopped for a moment, and answered, "Yes, I have that great privilege."

Cybertronic life form or no, Rin could sense the undercurrent of feeling in his words.

"I only know a little about what happened, but I wanted to say that I'm sorry for your loss, Magnus. My... my own sister was lost to me when I was very young, and I felt that I would never be able to share that connection I had with her again - and while I have been gifted with the chance to build bridges with her once more, I..." she stopped for a few moments, holding off the tears swelling along the rims of her eyes, "found out just what kind of fate I had lost her to."

"Rin..." said Rodimus quietly, all too aware of what she was referring to.

"Please, let me finish," she said, wiping her eyes before continuing, "I am at least fortunate enough to be able to try and do my best for Sakura from now on - but I can only imagine how it must be for you, to not be able to do the same for your brother. And so, I just wanted... to offer my condolences to you, if that's not too much for me to say."

Magnus closed his optics, feeling the loss and hurt in her words, as he struggled with those same types of emotions he himself was all too good at burying when on duty as City Commander. He wasn't usually one to dwell on things when a job was to be done, but even he couldn't run forever.

"Ma'am..." he started to say, before she interrupted by saying "Please, call me Rin."

"Very well, Rin," he continued, "I greatly appreciate your words and sentiments, and I only wish that you had been given the opportunity to meet my brother in person - he would have liked you."

She smiled, grateful for the reply.

"Further, I want you to know that, while I cannot claim to be an expert on these matters, if there is anything I can do on you or your sister's behalf, Rin, please do not hesitate to ask." His usual reassured tone could be heard returning to his voice, as he offered to do what he did best - offer aid to a friend, even a new-found one.

"I'll remember that - and thank you, Magnus," replied Rin, whose spirits were raised in response. "I look forward to meeting you, and introducing you to my sister - you are always welcome here."

"Count on it!" he affirmed.

"So, at the risk of sounding insensitive, what news do you have for today, Magnus?" interjected Rodimus, who was very grateful to be able to call both Ultra Magnus and Tohsaka Rin friends.

"Of course," nodded Magnus in reply. "I have word from Perceptor - it seems that the subspace fluctuations impeding comm traffic and FTL travel to and from Sol seems to be dissipating - we should be able to re-establish contact with the allied worlds within 12 to 46 hours."

"Good to hear," replied Rodimus, who explained to Rin that "we've been cut off for a short while now from the homeworld and from the wider galaxy, due to some natural phenomenon I can't explain all too well - but we should be back in touch pretty soon."

"In that case, it seems I will have a lot of reading material to cover over the coming days and weeks, if I want to try and catch up on this sort of thing," she sighed, only half-heartedly.

The expression on Magnus' faceplate indicated to Rodimus that he was becoming more impressed by the sharp-witted human - not too many of whom were so quick to volunteer the study required to develop a working understanding of their technologies and systems, as well as the advanced scientific principles underpinning them.

"Any further updates, Magnus?" inquired Rodimus.

"Nothing unusual to report at Autobot City, Rodimus," was the reply.

"Very well. We're taking part in a little investigation on this end, so we'd better get to it. Let me know once interstellar comms are re-established."

"Yes, sir," said Magnus. "Good luck, to both of you."

"And you," replied Rin, as Rodimus added "Until next time, friend. Rodimus out."

The line was dropped, and the display returned to its previous state, showing the path they were set to take.

"What kind of armour were you referring to?" asked Rin, unsure as to that detail from earlier.

"Oh," replied Rodimus, "the form you saw on screen was the part of him that transforms into a truck cab. He has a trailer that he usually drives with, and merged into when out and about. He looks quite different when in that form, which is the one he prefers to go with."

"I see," she said while considering this. "Why is that?"

"Well..." he answered, "there are a number of reasons, I suppose - but one answer might be that the form you saw him in today is the same, colour scheme aside, as the one used by his brother."

"Oh, I see." If they looked so closely alike as a cab alone, it made some sense to Rin that going about in the trailer-armour would help him appear more distinct.

She remembered something, as they set off on their search. "Oh, by the way, would you mind continuing the story from earlier - the one about what happened in 2005?"

"Oh, yeah - of course. Now, where was I..."


--------------------------------------------------


"Sakura-chaaaan! Isn't it a truly wonderful day today? I think you'd agree, hm-hmmm..."

Sakura was not quite used to the sensei being in such a... pleased mood in the mornings. She hadn't even eaten her breakfast yet, and she was purring like a ti- on second thought, using that analogy was a little too easy for her to use, and quite improper to use aloud, at any rate.

Nevertheless, contingencies had been made earlier that morning, and food had been stored in the fridge, ready for the sensei to enjoy...

...with some left over for the rather shell-shocked gentleman who was accompanying her to the table.

Sakura had not met many of the Pretender-san-tachi yet - but it was interesting that they seemed to be able to have bags under their eyes, as well as regular humans.

Despite this, he seemed to not mind very much.

"Good morning, Sakura-dono," he greeted her politely, "thank you for being so generous with the f-"

"Now now, you're not going to upset me by using such an honorific for another woman, are you, Hawk?" pouted Fujimura-sensei, only half-seriously.

Sakura was too busy blushing at the turn of events to respond.

"I'm... sure he was just being polite, as a welcome guest, Fujimura-sensei," she quietly said.

"Maybe so..." Taiga responded, "but I guess he's just going to have to reconsider his level of politesse in future, ne?"

The expression on Hawk's face seemed to indicate that he was still trying to understand just what he had let himself in for - as if prior evidence had not been enough.

But when they sat down together, and she turned around to smile at him, he thought of the words they had shared in the build-up, and was content.

They had much to discuss the previous evening - entrusting her with at least part of his true history, he had told her about the life he had lived on these islands for such a long time.

In that time, he and his colleagues had tried to keep their interference with the development of the local human cultures to a minimum - but whole lifetimes spent as humans themselves meant that each had to deal with the unexpected in their own way, most importantly matters of their now-human hearts.

Hawk himself had found extraordinary women in his lifespan - one every five or six hundred years, or maybe even once a millennium, who he felt such a bond with that he could entrust them with his secret, and try to build a relationship with while they were alive.

And yet, there was the rub. No matter how well they kept the secret - and each one of them had taken this to the grave with them - the inevitable consequence of his longer lifespan was that he would have to see them grow old and pass on, or in more tragic circumstances, see them fall to injury or disease far easier than he.

He had deeply loved each one, and mourned each, as he swore he would try to avoid such a tragedy in future - only to find himself unable to deny the calling of his heart, when the cycle began anew.

He had not allowed himself to love for over three centuries - how could he let the same thing happen now?

In the end, it was she who had the answer.

She told him of her love for a man who had come into her life, with a red-headed orphan in tow, and who was so close to her, yet too far for her to even say anything to him about her true feelings.

She was boisterous and excitable and enthusiastic - but she was afraid to at least try to say something to that man, deathly afraid that he, an older man who seemed always to be withdrawn, would say no.

But one day, he was gone, any chance at expressing herself buried along with him - and she realised that she would have rather told Emiya Kiritsugu how she felt and had him turn her down than have done nothing.

Even with an expanded lifespan, she reminded Hawk that both of them could be dead tomorrow, and all the worrying over what is to be would be for naught.

So, she had jumped at the chance - literally - to make him a part of her life, and made it quite clear that she was in no mood to let him get away.

And, in truth, there was nowhere else he'd rather be.


"Ok, so you'll be walking me home, then?" she asked brashly, as they both finished their breakfasts - her wolfing the food down far more quickly than he - to no-one's great surprise.

"Gladly, Fujimura," he replied, as he readied his plate for the kitchen sink, and nodded in gratitude once more to Sakura for having the food ready.


Soon afterward, the two of them were at the entrance, as Hawk opened a channel to the incoming Autobot.

"Jetfire, this is Hawk. Are you inbound?"

"I'll be there momentarily, Hawk," replied the other, who in human form was known as Aquila Bolide.

"Very well. I'm sending you the latest tactical update." Hawk tapped the controls on his comm-watch, and sent a burst of data to the inbound air guardian.

With the transmission complete, the line was severed, as Hawk guided Taiga home, the latter waving back to Sakura.

"Don't have too much fun without meeeeee!" she shouted, as they were on their way, and Sakura was happy that the sensei was in such high spirits.

She was not left alone for long, however, as a large white-and-red jet flew over the house, transformed infront of her and came to a standstill on the grounds, before de-molecularising and assuming the form of a human scientist.

"Hello, Sakura, it is a pleasure to see you again," he said. "I will have to go on patrol in the area soon, but before I go I have some details to take care of presently. May I enter?"

"Hai, welcome," she replied, stepping to one side and welcoming Aquila in - while still marvelling at the robotic - no, biomechanical! - form he had landed in.


As she turned to re-enter the house, she did not notice the onlooker, who had been at his vantage point for some time, still waiting for the right moment to act.

It seems, the unwelcome stranger thought to himself, that the time is almost ripe.


--------------------------------------------------


In the air just before the entrance to the worn-out shack, Saber came to a halt, opened the canopy to allow Shirou and Ilya to reach the ground, before transforming and de-molecularising, as she re-assumed her human form.

Shirou noticed that she seemed to look slightly... different. "Did you make a change to your armour, Saber?"

"Yes," she nodded. Her current suit of armour was less cumbersome and more form-fitting than the original, and the blue she had worn was replaced with lily-white. Also, her elaborate braids were currently shorn, in favour of a more simple ponytail tied in a black bow. "It seems that I have a degree of control over the form in which my armour may take - and I decided to adopt this form for the time being. Does it impress you, Shirou?"

He felt that there was no need to even ask that question, the answer was so obvious - but he smiled and nodded all the same. "You look wonderful as ever, my dearest."

"Oooh, still getting all wovey-dovey when we've got a mission to carry out, ne?" teased Ilya, as she gestured to the shack.

Saber simply re-affirmed her more professional demeanour in response, while Shirou sighed more outwardly. "Fine, then - let's see what we have here..."

As the three approached, the door - which was slightly ajar - creaked open slightly, and a trace of a shadow could be noticed in the slit leading into the other side.

Saber made ready to draw her sword, but Shirou raised a palm to request a more cautious approach. "If it's them, there shouldn't be much of a need to barge in with weapons drawn, Saber," he whispered over to her.

"I would rather be prepared for other eventualities," she replied, also in a whisper - her hand held ready to draw her blade from the aethyr if necessary.

"Maybe I should ask if it's them?" added Ilya, before turning on the spot, grinning, and shouting "Hello, is there anybody in t-"

With that, the door was flung open - and a fiery-eyed lady on the other end, armed with an elaborately-decorated halberd, aggressively shushed the little one while gesturing to her lips with her index finger.

She was soon joined by another, a far more nervous-looking woman, who seemed like she hadn't slept in days, and was unsure what to make of the new arrivals.

Ilya, in contrast, was less constrained - she rushed over and reached out a hand to each of the women, who looked down at her with something akin to shock.

"We... we weren't sure whether or not you'd made it back alive, ojou-sama," said Leysritt, who at least smiled slightly at seeing Ilya again.

Sella, the unarmed one, was less pleased - and a lot more nervous. "Y-you... you could have said something, tried to find us earlier! After Berserker was killed, and you vanished from the estates, we were ordered to wait here at the castle - and when the War ended, we were cut off from the Einzbern family back home. And just when we were getting ready to bring what we were able to try and pack together to try and get out of here, we..."

Ilya's happy expression vanished, as she looked up at the two ladies who had been the closest thing she had had to family in the days after her parents left for the Fourth Heaven's Feel, and before she found her onii-chan in the course of the just-ended Fifth.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have been so selfish - I was so happy to be with onii-chan-tachi that I forgot to..." As Ilya's words were spoken, the two women looked over at Shirou with conflicting expressions. The halberd-wielding one seemed less upset to hear Ilya's words, glad to see the young man who had been able to bring her charge such happiness. The other, far less trusting of who she saw as an outsider in general, and rather un-nerved due to circumstance in particular, looked over at him with an icy contempt.

"Are you happy, you who took her away from me?" she shouted angrily at Shirou, as Leysritt bade her to keep her tone down, and to rein in her emotions - but then, she in turn was holding on by a hair's breadth.

"I - I'm sorry, but if you have no-where to go, and you want to be with Ilya, you can come back with us, ok?" he hastily responded, knowing immediately that Sabers' eyes were boring holes in the back of his skull.

"Are you in danger of making another unwise decision, Shirou?" Saber asked with a calm tone, but which belied the suspicions she held about this further act of impulsiveness by the man who had once been her Master, but was now something more than such a term could accurately describe.

"Please forgive Sella, Emiya Shirou," said Leysritt, almost pleadingly, "We only want what's best for Ilya, and would welcome your hospitality -" she turned to Sella, staring at her momentarily to indicate her displeasure, before turning back and adding "- and I plead with you to let us get going at once. This place is not safe, for any of us."

If that comment had not focussed everyone's attention on the need for haste, the arrow launched from the surrounding cloud cover into the air, detonating in the skies above the shack, certainly did so.

"Shirou, be on guard!" ordered Saber, as she drew Excalibur and faced the direction where the arrow had been fired from, assuming a defensive stance.

Shirou was swift to respond. "Done. Ilya, get behind me!" he added, as he Traced Kanshou and Bakuya, and stood to arms between Ilya and the front of the shack. He was joined on one flank by Leysritt, who was preparing her halberd, as Sella moved beside Ilya to try and cover her.

"Who goes there?" declared Saber, challenging whoever had fired the arrow to make themselves known.

A mocking tone echoed through the wood, as the rider replied. "Perhaps I should be the one to ask that question - who presumes to interrupt my pursuit, and deny me my quarry?"

With this, the rider emerged from the canopy, and appeared atop the back of a supernatural steed - or rather, one which had somehow been granted that attribute by its new owner.

The Khan nudged his horse forth, the silvery flanks upon his armour streaked through with bands of dark, wispy flamelight, his jet-black bow in his right hand, a curved scimitar in the left, and a gleam of utter arrogance in his eyes.

"No matter - I, the Son of Heaven, will claim each one of you as my trophies!"

With that, he sheathed his sword, drew another arrow, and fired it at the assembled group. The missile was intercepted by the keen edge of Excalibur, and parried into another corner of the forest. The arrow landed, detonated, and had set that portion ablaze.

"Shirou! The wind is light, but still enough to carry the flame towards the building. I will engage the attacker, while you lead the - " Her statement was cut short as a lance of focussed energy hit the ground before her, knocking her backwards, as a blue-and-white craft suddenly emerged in the skies above, and streaked past the scene.

"Saber!" Shirou shouted over as he moved forward closer to her, instinctively throwing his mirrored swords into the air at the Khan and immediately Tracing a new pair in their stead. The Khan easily blocked the strike, but it was just long enough to buy them a moment's time. "Are you hurt, Saber?"

"I will be fine," she said quickly, as she lifted herself up.

"Go and transform, and do something about that one in the air," said Shirou. "I'll see what I can do to keep this other one at bay until then."

"Hai," she answered, immediately jumping into the air, re-molecularising herself into her biomechanical form, then transforming and racing to engage her new opponent.

"Good luck, Saber," he whispered, as he jumped backwards and prepared to defend himself. Suddenly remembering the device he had been left with, he reached into his pocket and tossed the comm unit over to the others. "Ilya, use that to call for help - hurry!"

Leysritt, determined to fight for her lady, moved forward to stand alongside Shirou once more, her anger rising palpably at the sight of the mounted rider. "If you want to threaten my ojou-sama, you'll have to get through me, also!"

The Khan smirked, amused by the defiance. "Fear not, woman - I will have room for you and your charge in my plans, make no mistake!"

Meanwhile, Ilya picked up the comm unit, and sat with a now-shaking Sella as she tried to switch it on. Frustratingly, the display on the unit would only say Signal lost - transmission disrupted when she tried to switch it on.

"It's not working!" she complained, as she saw the distant flames get closer and brighter, and tried to hold down the urge to throw the unit to the ground as she might a disfavoured toy.

Yet, seeing the expression on Sella's face was enough for her to draw upon what seemed to be a well-spring of calmness and confidence - as if a part of her knew instinctively what to do.

"It's going to be ok, Sella," she said in a deeper tone than usual, as she held her hand and they both stood up to face the battle.

"We're going to get out of this."


--------------------------------------------------


After taking a short time to work at the equipment he had left in the corner of the training room, Aquila left them running several diagnostics and investigative subroutines, as he returned to the main hall and addressed Sakura once more.

"Ma'am, I am to commence an aerial patrol of the area - but if you require my assistance, please take this." He took a comm unit, similar to the one given to Shirou, and handed it to her. "I, or one of my colleagues, will be at your disposal as soon as can be, should you need us."

"Hai, and thank you, Bolide-san," she replied, as she took the device and held on to it.

"Good day, Sakura," he added, as he walked into the grounds, took his biomechanical form, and prepared to depart. Before he left, he reached for the visored helmet covering his features, which he lifted off, showing his normal face, before bowing.

"When I am like this, my name is Jetfire," he said, "please use whichever term of address you find appropriate, if it is not an inconvenience."

Sakura looked on in wonder at the massive bio-mechanical form, still taken aback each time she saw one of his kind assume such a form. "As you wish, Jetfire-san."

Re-attaching his helmet, he nodded once more. "Torimasu," he said jokingly, as he lifted himself into the air, transformed into his alternate mode, and set off to begin his circuit over the city.

Sakura waved, and went inside, her thoughts turning to what she might like to make herself for lunch.

And the onlooker who had remained motionless up to this point gestured his horse onwards, towards the frontier of the Emiya residence.


--------------------------------------------------


The story of 2005 rolled on, as Rodimus talked about the desperate signals from the moonbases, speaking of a monster planet set on destroying - indeed, consuming - Cybertron's two largest moons. The need to head from Earth to Alpha Centauri was made more pressing by the attack led by Galvatron, a being the Autobots had, it was thought at the time, not encountered before, and who was leading a new and deadly force of Decepticon warriors and trackers.

Rodimus talked about the struggles on the surface of Quintessa, as he, Kup and others ran the gauntlet laid down by the sadistic Quintessons, and managed to even go so far as to turn the tables on the fave-faced ones, by inciting a slave rebellion among their Sharkticon minions. In the midst of the upheaval, his group had escaped Quintessa aboard a captured cruiser, and made it to the surface of Junk, where a swift application of a lesson taught to him by his often-tested mentor resulted in an accord with the Junkions present, as well as the repair of Ultra Magnus, who had been forced into emergency stasis lock by the actions of Galvatron's Sweeps.

But hope had turned to despair when Magnus was asked about the Matrix, the artefact seen as the one hope to save their home world...


...but it was gone.

"Hang on, I better check in with the others, and see how they are doing," said Rodimus, sorry to have to break up the story once more.

"Go ahead, we're having no luck here anyway," replied Rin, who was ken to hear more of the events, but could wait to get to the end later.

"Rodimus Prime to Saber, come in..." he signalled, as he activated the comm net. "Rodimus to Saber, please respond..."

Rin's expression changed to one of concern, as no answer was forthcoming. "It's not like her to simply ignore you - something might be up. Can you reach Shirou?"

"I'll try," he said while trying to lock in on the signal from his comm unit. "Shirou, this is Rodimus, can you hear me?"

Still nothing.

"Let me check in with the other Autobots in the area," said Rodimus, changing tack and hoping for better luck from one of his colleagues.

A pair of incoming beeps indicated replies from Hawk and Jetfire. "Hawk, Jetfire, this is Rodimus. I'm having trouble reaching Saber and Shirou - they had gone along with Ilya to the Einzbern grounds. Do either of you pick up anything unusual?"

"Not on my end, Rodimus-dono," replied Hawk, who had just reached Fujimura-sensei's residence.

"I'm not detecting a comm signal, but I am attempting to scan the forested area," added Jetfire, who was in patrol over the city, and was using as much of his sophisticated sensor suite as he could risk using without being detected in turn.

"I have something!" he responded. "EM and sub-scans are being disrupted, but visuals indicate a small, yet growing, incendiary blaze within the forest, and what seem to be weapon flashes in the vicinity."

In other words, trouble. "Jetfire, move to intercept at once! Hawk, take point over the city, and keep an eye out for any activity closer to home. Rin and I will head over also."

"Ryoukai," replied the two Autobots, as Jetfire raced to the forest, and Hawk made to take over patrol duties - while explaining the situation to the sensei beforehand, of course.

Rodimus revved the powerful engine of his vehicle mode, and used the map system to plot a route through the city's streets to the edge of the forest - from where he could either go off-road, or transform and sprint the remainder of the distance.

"Rin, I haven't been up this way before - what can you tell me about the Einzbern forest?" he asked, as they set off.

Of all the questions to ask, this would be one of the least straightforward to answer - not least because of the not-quite-closed wounds it opened.

But, nevertheless, she tried to run through a story of her own, as they closed the gap between them and the forest cover.


--------------------------------------------------



BGM: Kenji Kawai - Clamour of Heaven and Earth


The blue-and-white craft raced through the clear skies, diving sharply then levelling off just above cloud cover, over which it expertly flew.

Saber, who was still rather inexperienced at this new form of combat, tried to pursue, but with significant difficulty.

I must try to make use of my ranged weaponry in this form, she thought to herself, as she attempted to match her target's movements, despite my reservations. Although one might consider the use of shorter-ranged direct-fire weaponry in aerial combat to be akin to melée, when compared to long-range missile fire, the analogy was slow to sink in for her.

Nevertheless, she attempted to concentrate on using the targeting system onboard to lock on to the foe - though its superior skill at maneuver made it difficult.

"Turn and fight, coward!" she declared, as she opened fire, launching a stream of charged pulses from her nose-mounted cannon at the craft. Yet, it managed to jink and spiral to one side and another, evading the attempt.

Suddenly, it banked upwards sharply, before pulsing its engines and accelerating into the sky. "Your words mean nothing to me, insect!" Saber chafed at the comparison, but did not allow herself to be goaded by her opponent's taunts. She had heard far worse in her time.

However, she soon had more pressing concerns, as the enemy craft rolled vertically and began to dive once more, this time towards her.

Detonation charges were launched from its two outer weapon pods, firing sequentially one after another, each exploding in or beside Saber's current flight path. She urgently tried to evade the blasts, but they were too close to escape from, and the spread of fire hemmed her in and shook her airframe.

However, this was merely the first part of the opponent's current gambit - as the blood-red orb mounted in the central weapon pod glowed brightly, then shot a burning crimson lance of energy into a precisely-targeted section of her craft-form, behind the canopy.

"Uuuuurgh!" she shouted in pain, as her ability to maintain control floundered, and she nosedived into the ground, smashing through half a dozen trees before coming to a standstill.

Realising that it had been a mistake to try and attempt aerial combat so quickly, she fought through the pain and transformed to her biomech mode, clasping the forward section which was now attached to her left upper arm, near where the beam had struck. She dragged herself out of the miniature crater she had left, stood up boldly, and drew Caliburn II as she defiantly called out to the overhead foe. "If my words mean nothing, let my sword by my answer!"

"Very well," the foe replied, as it closed the range, transformed into its biomech form, and attacked.

Saber primed her blade, and struck out to slice at her opponent - but it managed to parry the strike with the tips of its shimmering claws. She struck out again and again, shifting position and the angle of attack, but the foe was fast enough to block each attempt.

"Curious choice of weaponry - I'm sure it would be perfectly fine at dismembering the lesser-born of Cybertron..." he snorted contemptuously, "but as you see, it's sub-par when faced with a get of Unicron!"

Saber leapt backwards, coiling her legs while grasping the sword with both hands, before leaping into the air and swinging the sword in one mighty blow. "Now it is your words which mean nothing to me!"

Her resolve was shaken, however, as Omega managed to clasp onto the two sides of the weapon with the tips of his claws, the momentum halted for an instant, then shifted off-course as the claws pierced the sides of the blade, shattering its helical matrix and sending its owner crashing to one side.

"Entropy comes to all things," proclaimed Omega, as it pounced on the opportunity presented, stretching the fingers on its right hand into a palm and using the tips of its claws to punch through Saber's left arm, severing the attached nosecone and sending it flying.

"Aaaaagh!" she screamed, her arm burning in pain, before Omega used his other hand to punch her in the chest, sending her sprawling away from him. He had curled his hand into a fist, not even bothering to use the shimmering claw-tips to rend her torso asunder.

"Till all are none..." Omega said, savouring the prospect of removing one more impediment to his creator's grand mission, and slowly walking towards the almost-beaten knight.


--------------------------------------------------


"Provide me with sport, morsels!" laughed the Khan, as he rode from the treeline, arcing the course of his steed so as to allow him to make side-facing strikes with his scimitar at Shirou and Leysritt, before fading back to the cover of the forest.

With each pass, Shirou expended a fresh set of Traced weapons, while Leysritt attempted to use her halberd to either dismount the Khan or to cut the rider's horse from beneath him - but the Khan was too swift for either of them.

"My people are the masters of the horse - and have left fools like you ground unto dust in our wake across Asia!" he proudly proclaimed, and not without reason. His people had been so famed - or, perhaps, made infamous - by their equine prowess that as eirei, Mongol summoned could take any mortal horse and grant it the same aethyric properties as its master.

Shirou and Leysritt were hard-pressed to even hold him at bay - and worse, the time they had before the fire approached them was closing all too quickly.

"We're running out of time, Shirou!" said Leysritt, all too aware of their situation, and that to stay and fight like this was increasingly becoming a fool's errand.

Shirou turned to her, and pointed Kanshou at Ilya and Sella. "Get them to safety - I'll keep things going for a while longer. Go!"

"But - " she protested, before Shirou interrupted her. "Now, hurry! Before his next pass!"

Resisting for a moment, she agreed under protest, as she ran to the others and tried to lead them to safety.

Or, at least, so was the intention.

The moment was disrupted by the booming sound of a distant impact, and Shirou winced at the prospect that it might have been Saber - a feeling he hoped was not due to the bond the two shared even now, albeit at a reduced level in these circumstances.

"Time to end the charade!" roared the Khan, this time racing straight towards Shirou, bow and arrow in hand, aiming at the red-headed youth. He fired it as he closed the stance, and Shirou barely had enough time to throw the twin swords at it in defence before they impacted, causing the arrow to detonate and send Shirou flying.

"Ge-aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!" he screamed, as he crashed down beside Ilya and the others.

His head was swimming, but he was still lucid enough to wonder what the hell they were still doing there. "Ilya... get out of here, now!"

"No, onii-chan," she said quietly, yet with an air of assuredness he had never heard from her before. "We're not running anywhere."

"But, why?" he protested, dumbfounded.

"Take my hand, Shirou," Ilya answered, reaching out for his, "and understand."

Almost as if by instinct, he did so, and everything went white...


--------------------------------------------------


The light faded, and Emiya Shirou found himself standing on a hill of swords.

Giant cogs ground in the distance - held up in the air by an unseen force.

He had never seen this place before, and yet, he knew instinctively that this was not an alien landscape, or a fragment of someone else's being...

...this was his.

But he was not alone.

"Welcome to your Reality Marble, Emiya Shirou."

That voice...

Shirou turned and saw the one who had spoken - an unmistakable individual, clad in red and black, with darkened skin and silver hair, and an all-too-familiar expression in his face.

"Archer..." Shirou said, to which the other replied "Not exactly, Emiya Shirou. Think of me as... an echo, a fragment of the memory of the Servant you once knew."

"But why are you - why am I - here?" asked the confused youth.

"Hm, you still don't understand, then?" the mirage asked, somewaht rhetorically, while shaking his head.

"I understand that I have to get out of this place, and try to save Ilya-tachi and help Saber," Shirou argued, not amused by the tone in the ghost's voice.

"Then you have to begin to understand what is within here, Emiya Shirou," the spectre said in a more conciliatory tone, "but to do that, you must first take this."

He took an item from his pocket, one which Shirou was stunned to see. "But that's..."

The other held the object outward - a crimson jewel, its power almost faded, its pattern one that Shirou knew all too well.

Upon seeing the gleam or recognition in Shirou's eyes, the other nodded and smiled. "The beginning of your new journey, Emiya Shirou."

He drew his hand back, and was about to toss it over to Shirou, before he stopped suddenly. "Oh, one last thing - I'd like you to do a favour for me."

Shirou, uncertain, asked "A favour?"

The ghost nodded.

"I want you to pass on a message for me."

The jewel flew through the air, Shirou caught it in his hand, and as the white light returned to blanket his vision, he began to understand.


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Kenji Kawai - Emiya (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=N4jaBiZBf3c)


The Khan was stopped in his tracks by the sight of a white sphere of light which had engulfed his quarry as he was set to strike - and considered his options, hoping that his foes had not managed to use some trickery to escape him.

"Do not flee your fate!" he commanded, daring whatever lay behind the sphere to hear him.

A new voice he had not heard before answered him.

"If you insist."

The sphere vanished, and the red-headed boy was gone - or rather, he had become something else.

A tall, red-haired knight in blue and white armour (http://i11.photobucket.com/albums/a198/UmbraElf/beginningofgar.jpg) emerged from the sphere's epicentre, launching himself skyward, with a black bow of his own in one hand, and an obsidian serrated blade in the other.

"Akahara ryōken..." the knight chanted, as the sword took the form of a glowing arrow, as it was nocked into the bow, before he released while proclaiming its name: "Hrunting!"

The Khan shifted quickly to dodge the incoming missile, and launched his steed into a full gallop, as the arrow-sword flew past him, but did not relent its pursuit. It tore into the sky at preternatural speed, arcing back towards its target, before impacting the mount's flanks. The steed was obliterated by the force of the Broken Phantasm's explosion, and only the Khan's last-moment leap to relative safety spared his own life, as he used the horse as an unfortunate shield.

Shorn of his advantage, the Khan steadied hismelf on foot, drew his scimitar, and beckoned the opponent forth. "Strike at me, if you dare!"

"I like your sword - nice craftsmanship," the knight replied, as he withdrew the bow, only to reach his left arm skyward. "I think I'll like this one better."

Activating his magic circuits, more easily than he ever remembered doing so before, the knight called out "Trace... On!"

Myriad green lines of power ran along his forearm and hand, and the outline of a massive stone sword began to form above him, the handle taking shape at his palm, the edge reaching up into the sky.

As the mighty weapon was completed, the knight shouted "Trigger, Off!" at the moment it solidified into shape. It should have been impossible for anyone to even hold that weapon aloft, but it rested easily in his hand - not least since he instinctively knew how to activate it.

He had seen it in Berserker's hands before, but only realised about its true potential when choosing to Trace it. Berserker must have been unable to activate it properly, while being Mad Enhanced.

But the knight could.

"Set..."

He sprinted at the Khan, who was stunned at what he was seeing, realising his immediate fate. He held his scimitar up in defence, but he knew it wouldn't matter.

"Nine Lives Blade Works!"

At a speed no mortal man could comprehend, the first of nine impossibly swift strikes sliced through the arm holding the scimitar. The second strike cut through the Khan's right leg, the third his left, the fourth his left arm. The fifth pierced his torso, the sixth his abdomen, the seventh his pelvis, the eighth twisting so as to slice through his heart. The ninth, and last, severed the Khan's head from his shoulders, or what was left of them, at any rate.

The component parts held together for a moment, almost as if refusing to believe they had been shorn so quickly, before bursting apart, as the Khan collapsed into a pile of part-organic, part-aethyric rubble - before his sword had even touched the ground.

Then, the ruined pieces began to dissolve into nothingness, and soon there was nothing left of the once-mighty Kublai, whose visions of conquest had been brought low once more.


The stone sword dissipated in turn, the blood flecks upon it also vanishing, as the knight reached for his left forearm with his right hand - he still felt the after-effects of such an inordinate strain. Still, he was glad - had he even attempted this beforehand, he would likely have killed himself before he even finished Tracing the mighty weapon.

In any event, he had little time to rest.

He turned back to the astonished group, and nodded.

"Come on, Ilya-tachi," he said, "Let's go find Saber and get the hell out of here."


--------------------------------------------------


Saber struggled to move, her optic-lids struggling to remain open, her strength fading rapidly as her opponent approached for the kill.

"Why... can I not... draw it..." she asked aloud, wishing she knew why she had been unable to draw Excalibur in this new form. No matter what she tried, it would not appear in her hands, and her eyes wandered in a daze as she felt her hope slipping...

...but when she saw the severed nosecone lying on the ground, she found her eyes focussing on it - or, more accurately, on the pattern upon it.

Could it be? she wondered to herself, stunned at only now noticing what had been in front of her the whole time.

Reaching her hand outwards, as if to summon it over, she resolved that there was only one way to find out.

"Come forth..." she spoke, putting a last-ditch effort into the attempt, "my Sword of Promised Victory!"

At that last word, the nosecone glowed and changed shape, lifted itself into the air, and raced over to her hand.

And in that instant, the door opened.


BGM: Kenji Kawai - Excalibur (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=UWRwvDwmH0g&feature=user)


Re-energised, she held what was now the hilt of her trusted blade aloft, and Omega stepped backwards, confounded by the release of power. "What is this?"

He was given no answer, but the subsequent events spoke for themselves.

A portal opened in the skies, and through it emerged a massive craft - what looked like a larger module, to which a smaller unit might be attached to.

A unit, such as Saber's current form.

She jumped upwards towards it, and instintively transofrmed into a new shape - her legs held up and towards her chest, the sword released, as the new unit began to transform of its own accord. Its outer components separated, the forward parts forming arms, and the aft segments moving downwards and towards each other, taking the form of legs. At their ends, feet emerged, comleting the transformation, as Saber turned and merged with the docking compartment in the new module's torso.

"Seigi no yuusha..."

The components fused into place, and waves of energy coursed from the central piece to the newly-attached form - and Saber felt her consciousness flow into the new, combined form.

The new arm grasped the hilt, and a yellow beam of light emerged, before crystallising and taking the shape of her mighty Excalibur.

"...yuuki no senshi..."

A final touch - the dorsal piece moved up and over her current head, forming a new-helmeted visage, with glowing green eyes, and a facemask below.

She was more than before, more than just Saber... and somehow, she knew what name to take, even before she said it aloud.

"My name is... Star Saber!"

With this, she flew - far faster than she had before - stright towards Omega, who raised his claws in defence... only to have the first strike of Excalibur sever them from his arms. He screamed as he flew to one side, looking down at the smoking stumps left behind.

"How dare you?" he railed, before she lined herself up for the final strike. Her sword glowed with a new light, and she wielded it with both hands as she moved in for the kill.

"EX...CALIBUR!"

The strike carved through his chassis, in an angle from his left hip to his right shoulder, and the line showing the severance glowed with yellow light, before he fell back to the ground, and exploded in a massive fireball.


Below, the others had appeared, just in time to watch Star Saber destroy Omega, and were even more awestruck then they had been when Shirou had emerged in his new guise earlier.

Star Saber came to land, and looked down at the group - and as soon as she saw Shirou, she understood completely.

"It seems that we have each learned today, Shirou," she said to him, as he nodded in response.

"Indeed," he replied, "you look pretty impressive, Star Saber."


Their moment was disrupted as Jetfire approached the scene from the air, who transformed and landed beside Star Saber. "There are not many Autobots I know of with that particular trait, but you seem to handle it well, Saber."

"While in this form, I am Star Saber," she responded, "and thank you kindly."


--------------------------------------------------


Before leaving, Star Saber and Jetfire managed to use their abilities to corral the ongoing inferno, giving it enough room to burn itself out before it consumed the rest of the forest. Once done, they re-joined the others, and prepared to leave the area.

"That should be enough to secure the area," said Jetfire, impressed at how wide a swath Star Saber had cleared with each stroke from Excalibur.

"Good," replied Shirou, still in the newer form, "we can get going now, I guess."

As they set to leave, another vehicle reached the area - a familiar red truck, with an impatient passenger.

"So, who wants to let me know what I've just missed?" asked Rodimus, who was initially referring to the presence of Star Saber.

"And also, what about the..." Rin was adding, before she gasped at the sight of Shirou - or rather, who Shirou was now the spitting image of, aside from the hair, skin and colour of attire.

"Ah, Tohsaka, before I forget - I have a message for you." He walked over to her, and remembered the lines, and the expression, the echo had wanted to convey.


"Daijoubu da yo, Tōsaka. Kore kara, ore mo ganbaru."


With that, tears streaked down the sides of her face, and she collapsed onto her knees, alternating between sobbing and punching the ground with her fists.

"That bastard man..." she said, weakly, "He just had to... he just had to..."

Rodimus, in turn, was mute - but if he were in human form, he would have wept in turn, and the need to clench the muscles around his eyes together - and try not to notice that sudden sense of emptiness he felt at that moment.

Nevertheless, despite not being currently able to express it, or even understand it...

...he felt it, all the same.


--------------------------------------------------


Putting the strange device into her pocket, Sakura walked into the kitchen, and considered what she would like to make for lunch.

Hmm, she wondered, maybe a small udon might be nice.

Before cooking something up, however, she remembered to take a moment to remember.

She stepped over to her room, opened the sliding door, and walked over to the table where she had laid a very special glasses case to rest. She picked it up and opened it, looking at the finely-crafted lanses within, and closed her eyes to issue a silent message to the one who deserved to have these more than she had the chance to...

Suddenly, she felt a subconscious pulse in the corner of her mind, as the minor spell which served as a perimeter alarm pulsed, warning her that she was no longer alone. She subconsciously put the glasses into her pocket, moving her fingertips over to the button on the comm device which would summon help. However, she held from sending the signal until she was absolutely sure it wasn't a false alarm, and she moved out of the room, trying to step quietly as she watched for an intruder. She was as careful as she could be - grateful for both attuning herself to the residence's sorcerous alarm and for the time she had spent walking these floors, learning which steps to take to avoid creaking the wooden floors - but she couldn't see, or sense, a foreign presence.

As she rounded a corner, she reached into her pocket and held her finger over the button which would send a warning, but wanted to wait until she was sure there was a problem before she sent the signal.

It was not long before she had an answer.

"Surrender yourself, in the name of the Son of Heaven!"

She was startled by the sight of an armoured horseman, emerging from spirit-form at the other end of the corridor, looking in her direction with a lone, baleful eye.

She wanted to run, to try and escape, but somehow she felt a sense of utter fury at the mere prospect of surrendering anything to this intruder - or, indeed, to anyone.

Never again, she resolved.

Clicking the alarm, she stepped out into the hallway, and raised her right arm to the horseman. "No-one will ever lay claim to me again!"

At that, her magus seals glowed, she called out "Kyosuu!" and a row of streaking bands of nothingness streaked along the floor, closing the distance between Sakura and the horse's hooves faster than the rider could try to moe away - an act restricted by the narrow space, in any event. The bands darkened the floor beneath the horse, and expanded to form a circle of one-dimensional nothingness.

"No!" proclaimed Liu Fu-Hsiang, who desperately jumped onto his saddle and jumped to one side, fading into his insubstantial form, as his mount sank into the circular maw and vanished from normal existence. He 'landed' through the other side of a wall and cursed his misfortune, hoping the Khan would not punish him for losing another horse. The hand he lifted to his lost eye reminded him of the humiliation that Shoni no Kagesuke had heaped upon him once before, and he was intent not to fail to a Japanese again - especailly to a woman.

He stood up, passed through the wall, and re-materialised. "You will not escape me, witch!" he proclaimed, as he went through the residence in search for her.

Meanwhile, Sakura had taken the opportunity to flee the main building, and was heading towards the workshop where she found Shirou lying asleep on too many nights for her to be at all comfortable about. She hoped that with the reduced mobility of the intruder, she would have the time to try and prepare a trap for him - or, at least, keep him at bay long enough for help to arrive.

She heard his latest exclamation, and guessed that she had time enough to try another gambit. After entering the annex and hiding behind the facing wall, she placed her hand to the ground and tried to commence another chant.

"Kage no kyojin..."

Despite the grandiose nature of the term - which referred to Shadow Giants - the tsukaima she could call forth were, in general, somewhat minuscule under normal circumstances. Yet, for a reason she didn't understand, the spell wasn't working!

Or rather, she could feel sorcerous energy going somewhere, and travelling at a greater pace than she would have produced ordinarily... but the familiar was not taking form.

Come on, tsukaima-chan, she pleaded, I need you...

She could not afford to focus on this any longer - and she looked up to look for the intruder, she was shocked as she saw him materialise right in the doorway. "I tire of this, witch..." he scowled, as he jumped over to try and grab her.

Thankfully, the loss of depth perception Liu suffered made him mis-judge the leap - as a horseman, he was less comfortable orienting himself for combat on foot - by just enough to allow Sakura to rolled over to one side. She sprang to her heels and ran to the centre of the room, turning to try and cast another void-spell, before he had the chance to stop her.

This time, her spell took the form of four bands of darkness, flying from her hand through the air to his wrists and ankles, as she struggled to bind him in place. He had turned to face her before being ensnared, but he was still strong enough to resist the binding force. Slowly, but surely, he forced his arms and legs forward, closing the distance between him and his quarry.

"You are almost more trouble than you are worth, witch," he said as he pressed on, "but soon you will be at the Khan's mercy!"

Sakura showed as much defiance in her expression as she could muster, but she feared that he might be right. She could not hold him off for much longer, and help had still not arrived. She could still feel the thread flowing from her to... she did not know where, which had commenced during her failed attempt at summoning, but for some reason couldn't find a way to stop it. Indeed, it felt like the momentum was building, and she didn't know whether she had enough to stand both this increasing demand and the need to maintain the binding spell.

"I won't..." she could feel her emotion rising, bubbling to the surface, her anger building into a torrent.

"I won't give in..." she shouted, her eyes focussed on the intruder, as a sudden pulse of energy spread from within, streaking down the new filament, racing to its destination - and causing the glasses case in Sakura's pocket to glow.

And though neither she nor her opponent realised it, a circle was rapidly forming in an auspicious location, within the confines of the annex.

"I WON'T GIVE IN TO YOU... EVER!" She screamed, even as the energy in the bands weakened, and Liu broke the bonds asunder.

Before the Mongol could reply, he was suddenly rooted to the spot once more, as a new voice said from behind Sakura:

"And you will not have to, Master."

A lithe and deadly figure was in mid-air, leaping from the centre of the summoning circle and vaulting above Sakura's head, her eyes exposed - and the force within boring into the intruder.

Unable to even shake in horror, his mind screamed as his limbs petrified, the ossification moving from his hands and feet to his torso, until it eventually reached all the way up to his head. In less than a second, the Liu Fu-Hsiang was a motionless statue - and in a second later, the sharp ends of the iron nails fastened to the end of a silver chain pierced either side of his neck, shattering the stone which had formed out of his neck, sending the head falling to the ground. It shattered into pieces upon hitting the floor, the sound signalling the end of the engagement.

Sakura, in a state of shock, looked on as the new arrival landed before her, then lowered her visor before turning to face the plum-haired magus. Her attire (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v108/Nerroth/ridergear.jpg) was different - quite distinct from the uniform Sakura might have expected to see - but the recognition was unmistakable.

"Rider-san..." she whispered, as Rider nodded.

"Master," the long-haired newcomer replied, "If that is the designation you wish to grant me, you may."

Sakura closed her eyes, and tried to understand. The burst of energy had felt like the force she had experienced when touching the Matrix the evening before, but why had this been?

"I am a manifestation of your wish for a tsukaima, based on a template within your consciousness, given form for your protection," the newcomer explained, "and as such, I am at your service, Master."

"Master..." Sakura said, in a somewhat subdued manner. Whatever 'gift' she had been given in the course of the vision must have been enough to allow her to go much farther than the regular summoning spell would have gone - but the glasses case in her pocket made her consider the bittersweet nature of the event.

"Rider-san," she asked, while pulling the case out of her pocket, "Do you remember..."

When she saw the case, Rider in turn smiled. "Yes, Master. I remember."

Summoning her nerve, Sakura held the case forward, as she addressed Rider. "Then please be so kind as to take these now, Rider-san..."

Her features softening, Rider reached for the case and carefully lifted up her Breaker Gorgon while sliding on the glasses, so as to prevent her Mystic Eyes from being unleashed, and looked over to Sakura as the latter continued by adding "And call me Sakura, please."

"I will..." she replied, holding the tips of her right fingers to the side of the glasses, feeling the emotion which had been imparted within them, and feeling the implication for the future the moment contained, "...Sakura."

A moment later, a rush of wind and the sounds of transformation heralded the arrival of a familiar face, who was in his armour and wielding his energo-katana.

"Sakura!" called Hawk, "Are you ok - and who is this?"

Unsure for a moment why it was that Hawk, not Aquila-san, had been the one to reach her first, Sakura smiled and stepped forth, standing beside Rider - taking care to side-step the ruined pile of stone that had once been the intruder.

"It is a long story, Hawk-san..."


--------------------------------------------------


End of Part 8.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:53 PM
Part 9


--------------------------------------------------


Below the ruined shell of the once-proud Einzbern mansion, in a subterranean chamber 'formed' by the entropic powers of its lone inhabitant, the Fallen was busy at study.

His hand was outstretched, as row upon row of books gathered from the residence were lifted off of their shelves, the contents gathered with a rapid flickering of the pages, and their subsequent consumption by the entropic 'flames' at Fallen's command, once the information had been culled.

Before this, he had been reviewing the data gathered from the encounter in the arboreal region beyond the mansion, most particularly that pertaining to the losses of both the Sweep that had awakened him, and the Terran being who had been present when Fallen arrived on this planet Earth.

Yet, he was not overly concerned - as far as he saw it, Omega had done his duty, and served the cause of Entropy through his death. The other had also done so, yet with less of an intrinsic desire to further the cause.

It matters not, Fallen mused. In the end, they served Him all the same.


What was far more important was to examine the latest trial that the Lord of Folly had pressed him with - the one who was once human, once spirit-being, and now more than either. She was by far the most interesting test study, and her origin was something of a mystery...

...one which, it seemed, the former owners of this property had some degree of prior knowledge concerning.

Yet, while this line of investigation was worthy of pursuit, Fallen did not lose sight of other matters - not least, the presence of the current Matrix-bearer in the vicinity.

As Fallen well remembered from his past existence in a now-consumed reality, Primes were quite useful.


Turning the investigation to a lower priority setting, Fallen focussed on the lines of chaos and entropy that spoke of the opportunities present in the city, and soon picked up a thread which showed potential.

He closed his outstretched hand, and the half-consumed book fell to the floor, ready for him to return to.

I'll be looking forward to meeting you, Rodimus Prime.


--------------------------------------------------


When the group made it back to the Emiya-tei, there were some not-inconsiderable doubts raised when Shirou and Saber in particular saw Rider present - but a potentially tense situation had been somewhat defused, if not wholly resolved, when Sakura explained the circumstance behind the summoning, and Hawk made a point of vouching for the tsukaima who had saved the plum-haired magus in her hour of need. He had said that regardless of whether this Rider was the same one who had served an ill cause at Shinji's behest during the war or not, she was here to serve her true Master, and that she should be given the chance to prove herself.

Some had wondered what it was that drove Hawk to assert this, but the point was conceded - for now - and Rider was allowed to stay as Sakura's guardian.

Meanwhile, questions turned to other matters. Sella and Leysritt needed some type of temporary accommodation, and it was agreed to let them stay in the room Ilya used when staying over with Fuji-nee until a more permanent solution could be found. Questions were asked - carefully - about what the two had seen in the forest prior to the engagement, but they remained quite reticent to go into further detail for the time being.

Also, Shirou wanted to learn more about what Ilya had meant when she talked about him being her onii-chan, and what Saber would have to do with things - all he had learned in the 'vision' was to do with who Archer had been, and what it had meant for Shirou himself, now that he seemed to possess a similar form as the once-Servant as a kind of combat mode.

Which, of course, led to another great matter. Rin had barely spoken, though she had alternated between weeping and cursing Archer's name on the way back, and was now cooped up in her room.

Rodimus, who had said even less, was not exactly in a prime condition himself - and showed none of his more typical drive and humour as Garret-san, either.

Shirou found Garret sitting on the living room, staring blankly at the table before him.

"Whatever it is, it won't get better with you like this," said Shirou, trying to cheer his new-found friend up.

"No..." Garret replied, "but I can pretend it isn't actually happening for a while longer."

Sighing, Shirou sat himself down beside Garret, and tried again.

"I'm not usually the sharpest with these things, but is it that her Servant was an alternate form of me - wow, it sound kind of weird actually saying that out loud," Shirou noticed, "or the way it's affecting her... or the way her reaction is affecting you?"

"Heh," Garret said, weakly. "Maybe a list of all three."

"Well, you know that the best place to go to fix things is right down there," pointing towards the hallway, leading down to Rin's room. "You might be able to help her, and yourself, too. Besides, it's not like Tohsaka ever listens to me anyway..."

Garret stayed silent for a moment, then shrugged his shoulders and relented. "Yeah... it's better to try and do something than not."

"Good," Shirou said, more positively. "that's more like it!"

As Garret stood up, heading past the table and towards the hall, he looked back to Shirou with one question. "These feelings... being human... do they get easier? To understand?"

"Eh heh heh heh..." was the reply, as Shirou held the side of his head with his palm. "I don't know what to tell you, Garret-san."

"Never mind," replied Garret. "I'm sure I'll find out one way or another..."


--------------------------------------------------


"If I wanted to talk about things to a stupid-looking winnebago, maybe then I'd ask for you!"

The door had been thrown open, Rin standing with a scowl directed at the man in front of her, who had not gotten the hint when standing there and calling in to her, wanting to talk.

"So, is that all the use I am to you? Drive you around when going grocery shopping, but park in the garage when you're feeling upset?"

"Ha!" she laughed, caustically. "You mean nothing to me - even in that damned piece of technology, you're nothing but a damned machine! You're not even alive... even a cat has more of a soul than you!"

Furious, Garret shouted back, throwing caution to the wind. "Nice to know that you are so enlightened when it comes to xenology. Well let me tell you something, ma'am - I'm more alive than that damned ghost of yours ever was!"

She froze in place, boring her eyes through the back of his skull. "How dare you! HOW DARE YOU? He... gave up everything for... for me..."

Garret clenched his forehead, his mind boiling, the tension too much to bear.

And the worst was to come: "...and you... you don't have anything to give at all."

That was it.

"Fine!" He stormed off, passing down the hallway and into the garden, where he relived Hawk of his patrol duty.

"I'm going out tonight, on patrol," he said, in no mood to brook debate.

Stepping aside, Hawk cleared room for Garret to revert to Rodimus and start up his engine, but tried to call to him. "Wait, Rodimus-dono! Don't leave it like this!"

The very public shouting match had within earshot of pretty much anyone in the residence who cared to listen.

"It doesn't matter," was the reply, as the vehicle drove off, "I may as well do one of the few things I'm supposed to do."

"But..." Hawk said, in vain, as the truck drove off and raced into the city centre.

When Hawk turned to the front door, he saw Sakura and Rider standing in the hallway, and Rin sheepishly walking over to them.

"I should go and follow him," Hawk said, looking to Rider.

"Rider-san, could you please assist Hawk-san?" Sakura asked her tsukaima. "While Saber-san-tachi are here, I should be quite fine."

"Yes, Mast.... Sakura," Rider nodded, then formed her battle form in place of the civilian clothing which had been picked up for her earlier in the day. She jumped over beside where Hawk was standing, as the latter activated his Pretender armour.

"Please contact me if there is any news, Sakura," Hawk added, before turning to look at Rin, who was, perhaps, starting to realise the extent of what she, in her anger and frustration, had said.

"I have been many things in my time," he said, coldly. "But one thing I have never been is a mere machine."

Not expecting Hawk to take the comment so personally, Rin closed her eyes and turned away in shame as Hawk and Rider launched themselves into the air, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, following the direction Rodimus had left in.

"I wish you had not said those things, nee-san," Sakura whispered to Rin, as she closed the door, "I know that you don't believe them to be true."

"I... I know," Rin replied, begrudgingly, though her resistance was more out of sheer stubbornness than anything. "It's just..."

"Garret-san would give his life for you, for any of us, nee-san," Sakura continued, "just like how Archer..."

With a pained expression, Rin put her arm around Sakura's shoulder. "Maybe that's the problem, Sakura. Maybe..."

he's too much like Archer.


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Sector Seven (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=bVOpDu8_R4M)


The flame-decoed vehicle drove down the streets and alleyways of Shinto, unwittingly following the search pattern which had mapped out earlier before being diverted to the forest, and only barely managed to focus on the actual task at hand.

Not even alive... he said to himself, cursing himself at how bitterly the words had stung.

Not even alive... just a damned machine...

"Not even alive?" he said aloud, without even realising it.

"If you insist."

As a new voice emerged, a flaming sphere appeared directly in front of Rodimus. As he screeched to a halt to avoid it, a nightmarish burning figure emerged from within - and it was slamming its fist down towards him.

Too late to avoid the hit, the fist smashed into the bonnet of Rodimus' truck mode, and he screamed as he tried to transform. He managed to complete the transformation, but he was pressed to the ground, a gash left in what was now his chestpiece.

Relentless, Fallen reached out again, focussing his powers to 'burn' an entropic flame through Rodimus' damaged chestpiece, his hand reaching towards its goal. "Though... it is more fitting to set your course towards the Darkness alone a more... scenic route, Rodimus Prime!"

"No!" he roared, feeling the casing within his chest locking the Matrix in place being rent asunder into nothingness. The Matrix itself was unharmed - indeed, in its current state, Fallen could not even touch it directly - yet once the pieces locking it in place were severed, the servant of Chaos could use his abilities to draw the sacred object forth, and suspend it in mid-air above the palm of his hand.

"Quite disappointing, for a Prime," Fallen scoffed, as the flames wracked Rodimus' torso from within. "You really should have done better."

Barely able to speak, over the writing agony he was trapped in, Rodimus looked at the glowing yellow optics of his assailant. "Who... who are you?"

"I am the End, made manifest," replied Fallen, before he tossed Rodimus to one side. "And you shall bear witness... one way or another."

The flame-sphere enveloped Fallen once more, and in a few moments, he was gone.


--------------------------------------------------


The appearance of the sphere of flame drew Hawk and Rider, but they were awe-struck as they witnessed the assault - too far away to get to the fight in time, and completely at a loss as to how to do anything to intervene in any event.

"By Primus..." whispered Hawk, as Rider remained mute and simply nodded.

Once the attacker was gone, they made it over to where Rodimus was lying - but he was already changed. His form looked different... weaker... smaller.

"Rodimus Convoy-dono!" Hawk called to him, as he took his Cybertronic form and rushed to his side. "Can you hear me, Rodimus Convoy-dono!"

"Rodimus Prime isn't... here... right now," the wounded one replied, in a half-dazed manner, "please direct your... inquiries... to Hot Rod... at... failure... dot... j...p."

He passed out, his body going limp.

Hawk activated the comm unit, and tried to reach the Emiya-tei - but a new message was coming in, from Autobot City directly.

"This is Ultra Magnus, calling Rodimus Prime - can you hear me?" came the message, which had been diverted to Hawk as the next ranking officer on site.

"Ultra Magnus-san, this is Metalhawk", replied the Pretender commander. "Rodimus Convoy-dono has been incapacitated, by an unidentified assailant... who has taken the Matrix of Leadership."

"Oh no..." whispered Magnus, remembering the events which led to his own loss of said item, two years before. "In that case, get Rodimus help - and don't let him call himself Hot Rod. Matrix or no, that's not who he is anymore."

"Understood," Metalhawk replied, as he lifted Rodimus' body and prepared to bring it to safety.

"Also, there is some serious news from Cybertron - the interference died down just recently. Galvatron has escaped, and is now at large." Magnus almost spat the name of the Decepticon leader, ruing the news which he himself had only learned of recently.

Metalhawk was subdued when hearing this. "It seems we have many matters at hand, Ultra Magnus-san."

"Indeed," came the reply. "but for now your top priority is to locate the Matrix, identify the aggressor, and prepare for an operation to retrieve the former, while dealing with the latter."

"We'll do what we can," said Metalhawk, though he was at a loss as to what could be done against such a foe.

"Good luck, and Primus speed. Magnus out." The line dropped, and Metalhawk and Rider wasted no time in getting back to the Emiya-tei with their fallen commander.


The Hakai Taitei is free once more, thought Hawk to himself, on top of this attack.

We are in for troubled times.


--------------------------------------------------

So this is your throne.

What of it?

It lies in ruin, upon a world of ashes.

I am well aware of that.

And yet, you do nothing.

You do not decide how or when I should act!

Apparently, neither do you.

Enough of this!

"...Mighty... Galvatron?" Cyclonus bowed before the Hakai Taitei, who was currently seated upon a throne carved especially for him in the eventuality of his arrival at Charr - though whatever introspection which Galvatron saw fit to take upon himself had been interrupted by his unwitting outburst.

Mighty indeed.

"Cyclonus..." Galvatron addressed his lieutenant, attempting to dispel the chronic mental irritant that had been present ever since he had been discovered in the midst of the wreckage left in the wake of Unicron's defeat, by focussing on matters at hand.

"Mighty Galvatron, the Decepticon you wished to speak to as arrived," said Cyclonus, gesturing to the somewhat un-nerved triple changer standing beside him - who had just returned from his latest supply run to a nearby star system. Despite how mind-numbingly tedious such a duty was for the biomech, he would still far rather be out in the black once more than face the wrath of his returned sovereign, yet he dared not move.

"I see. Cyclonus, leave us," commanded Galvatron, as he stood up and stepped down from the raised platform to ground level.

"As you command," was the reply, as Cyclonus turned and marched out of the chamber.

Galvatron noted the exit, then turned to focus upon the lone Decepticon who remained. "I am told that you have been on various supply runs and resource-gathering expeditions lately, Astrotrain."

The triple-changed nodded. "Yes, Lord Galvatron..."

"I see." Galvatron raised his right hand to his chin, before continuing. "Tell me - have the loads you bear while doing so a strain for you?"

Astrotrain was starting to get very worried. "No, Lord. I carry as much as I can successfully transport on each run."

"Oh..." suddenly, the hand reached over to Astrotrain's neck, and Galvatron lifted the struggling Triple Changer up into the air, the force of his claws gripping like an inexorable vice. "...since I was under the impression that you were prone to jettison some weight!"

the circuits and pathways leading from the skull to the rest of Astrotrain's body were greatly impaired, echoing the kind of choking sensation a human might experience in a similar predicament. Hus optics were alight with terror, as he feared the fate that had befallen the once-proud Starscream two years ago. "F... fu... forgive.... me... my... lord..."

"So now, I look like an Autobot, do I?" Galvatron roared, "begging ME for forgiveness!"

Precisely what the Decepticons need at this point - a key logistical node turned into a carcass.

Be silent!

"Mighty Galvatron..." Cyclonus had returned, this time with Scourge standing beside him - who looked vaguely amused at the scene, or perhaps it was more the reaction on Cyclonus' face at the sight.

"You disturb me, Cyclonus?" Galvatron bellowed, throwing Astrotrain to one side and smashing him against a wall.

Cyclonus continued. "We have an update concerning the traitor."

"Ah, yes, Omega..." the Decepticon ruler remembered the mess said Sweep had left in his wake, barely sparing a thought towards the bruised Triple Changer in the throne room. "Very well, then... tell me."

Cyclonus remained silent, as Scourge presented himself. "My lord, the recent subspace anomalies affecting the Sol system have abated, and we have been able to determine Omega's last known whereabouts. However, residual energy readings seem to indicate that the target has already been eliminated."

Galvatron was irked that his rightful role as judge, jury and executioner had been potentially usurped, but at least it was one less issue to deal with, if true.

"Show me the location!" he ordered, as Scourge handed him a data-pad with the relevant information.

That accursed world once more, he thought to himself, poring over the data.

It has been spared your wrath for far too long.

Indeed.

During the secret war from 1984 onwards, both the Autobots and Decepticons had taken great pains to avoid revealing their presence to the wider human population - though some degree of knowledge was bound to leak to less public human agencies.

As Megatron, he had patiently bided his time, in no hurry to risk everything on a rushed gambit, such as launching an open assault on the flesh creatures' cities.

And yet...

...as Galvatron, and with the last Great War already over, he thought differently.

He turned to Astrotrain, and gestured to have him removed. "Have him prepared - now that he knows the price of failing me."

"It will be done, Mighty Galvatron," answered Cyclonus, who had one of the Sweeps enter the room and take the triple changer to the infirmary. "May I ask, what it is he shall be prepared for?"

"You may..." was the reply.

"Decepticons...

we go... to Earth."


--------------------------------------------------


End of Part 9.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:54 PM
Part 10


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Kenji Kawai - Darkness Squirms


The circle of darkness - in which an elaborate pattern had been formed, yet the lines of which seemed to draw in what little light was present, and formed a kind of anti-pattern upon the ground - 'flared', or perhaps anti-flared, if such a term could be applicable in the circumstance.

Within, a sphere of aethyric energy coalesced, rapidly taking shape and form, guided by the hand of the fiery being standing before it.

Soon, the ceremony was complete...

...and the being stepped forth, out of the circle, and bowed slightly to the Fallen.

"Welcome to the beginning of the End," Fallen said, calmly addressing the new arrival.

Said arrival, however, was not quick to response.

Instead, there was simply a smile.


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Bumblebee Captured (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=DwSoHJl_sY8)

Throughout the night, and for most of the day, Rodimus Prime - or Hot Rod, as he once was, and appeared as again - alternated between a state of unconsciousness and a semi-lucid state, during which he twitched and shook, the agony of the damage done coursing through his body, his own systems fighting a desperate battle to restore him.

Aquila had tended to him as best he could, and as his scanners and search algorithms studied the affliction affecting the commander, and he pieced together the half-coherent descriptions of the assailant, he felt a deeping sickness in the pit of his stomach.

No, it couldn't be, he tried to say to himself, but the data is hard to refute, nevertheless...

"How... how is he?" Aquila was asked, in a more nervous voice than he had usually heard from the individual in question.

He looked over and shook his head. "the damage is significant, Rin - and I worry how long he can stay like this. We need to transport him to our regional HQ and into our dedicated medical facility, but before we can risk moving him I need to be confident that his condition has stabilised enough for the journey."

"I... see..." she said, her voice subdued. "Can I... speak to him?"

He nodded, his head feeling heavier than usual. "Yes, of course... but I cannot say what, if anything, he can hear from you."

Resolving to try, she stepped forth, and walked over to his side, near where his head was resting. It was turned slightly to one side, and she could almost imagine jumping up onto his shoulder and looking down.

Instead, she reached a hand over to his upper arm, and traced her fingertips against the edge. The sensation of the material was unlike any metal she had ever touched - and she couldn't quite understand why.

All the same, she wished that he was somehow able to return to his human form - it would have been easier to talk to him that way - size-wise, at least.

Still, she tried her best. "Rodimus... Garret... whatever. I - I hope you can hear me, because... you should know that I don't like to repeat myself, so you really better be listening..."

Wiping the side of her eye with one of her right fingertips, she pressed on. "I wanted to say that I'm... I'm... sorry. Those things I said... about you... about what kind of being you are... about what you have done, and what you can do... once you get back on your feet... they aren't what..."

Slowly, a dull light flickered in Rodimus' eyes, as he slowly regained a sense of lucidity - as if her words, her effort to reach out to him - was stirring his consciousness forth. "Rin..." he whispered, feeling the pain of every facial movement as he tried to speak. "I'm the one who should apologise. I... I let my rashness and... sentiment get the better of me... and now..."

He lifted his head slightly to direct his eyes to the gaping maw in his chest, where the Matrix had been ripped out. "I... have lost..."

Seeing this, she smiled, placed the palms of her hands against him, and rested the side of her head, as if listening to whatever hearbeat-analogue was underneath. "Nothing... you cannot regain... my friend."

He turned his head again to see her, and smiled, somehow not feeling the same kind of pain as before. "Friend..."

She stepped back a little, and put her hands on her hips, while winking at him. "I think it might be easier to do this when you're back in human form, though!"

"I'll... get right on that..." he joked, trying to lift himself up, his body trying to turn the tide and get him back into some kind of decent shape - or at least decent enough to crawl into a CR chamber and let it do the rest for a few days.

"By the way," Rodimus asked, his optic lids blinking, "what's happening with everyone now?"

"Saber and Hawk have been scouring the skies over the city in search of a lead, Rider and Shirou in his..." she could say it, she tried to say to herself. "Archer-like form have been leaping from rooftop to rooftop, while Sakura and I have been here with Aquila to keep an eye on things here, and hope you'd improve."

Rodimus managed, just about, to get himself seated. "I see. How is Sakura, by the way? I hope she wasn't upset seeing me in this condition..."

Rin spoke of how her imouto was coping. "She was shocked to see you at first, and she's been in and out to see you while you've been under - but after the initial shock passed, she's been keeping busy, saying that you're going to be hungry when you get well enough to eat! I have to admit, I was surprised to hear her say that, but she told me that she knows that you'll be fine. She has a lot of faith in you, you know..."

That thought made him smile that little more widely. "I only hope her faith is justified - and what about you? Or should I ask?"

"Well..." she looked across to the side slightly, in a more playful expression, "you could ask, but I don't know if you'll be ready to hear the answer!"

Before they could continue, another arrival entered the shed where Rodimus was being kept - it was Ilya.

"Rin," she said, her usual playfulness set aside, "you'd better get out here, now."


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Kenji Kawai - An Ominous Sign


A moment or so earlier, a knock could be heard at the front door - to which Shirou, who was back in his usual 17-year-old form, went to answer.

"One second, let me..." he said, before the person he saw on the other side of the door stunned him into silence.

The person at the door, who was clad in an elaborate black and white dress, deathly pale-skinned and with a sickly yellow taint in the eyes, disrupted the smooth facial features by smirking back at Shirou.

The person was about to speak, before Artia came to the door to stand beside Shirou - both of them had returned relatively recently from their latest patrols. When her head turned to see the newcomer, she could not believe what she was seeing.

"I - impossible..." she whispered.

The newcomer mockingly nodded. "Hello again, Father. It's been a long time - or, perhaps, not as long as one might imagine."

The voice was unmistakable. "Mordred..."

"So, you do recognise me, despite this," Mordred replied, as she lifted a fingertip to her cheek, pointing at the eyes which had been green in her past life. "I almost wish I could say that I came just to see this for myself - the home that you have made for yourself in this foreign land, and the commoner you allowed turn the King into a Queen..."

Artia's eyes flared at the insult directed towards her lover. "How dare you speak of Shirou in such a way!"

In a flash, the two had managed to draw their swords, and hold them mere millimetres from each other's right cheeks. Despite what appearance their respective facial featured might betray, the sharpness in the two pairs of opposing eyes was unmistakable in its intensity.

However, Artia and Shirou noticed how Mordred's sword - jet-black, with a blood-red pattern upon the sides of the blade - was similar in form and power to Excalibur itself. Yet, while the holy sword glowed with an inner radiance, its counterpart seemed to suck in the light around it by its very presence.

Shirou Traced Kanshou and Bakuya, and tried to hold them towards the side of Mordred's exposed neck, but before he moved too closely she edged the tip of her blade against Artia's cheek. At the same time, Artia herself moved the tip of Exccalibur, and parallel streaks of blood dripped from each face.

"Ah ah ah, commoner - you have no place in this," taunted Mordred, "but you need not worry."

Apparently satisfied with the blood drawn from her 'father', Mordred edged the blade away, a move cautiously mirrored by Artia. "I am here, this time, to deliver a message - from my lord, the Fallen one."

"Message?" said Shirou, as Hawk arrived on the scene, his own sword in hand, but holding back for the time being.

"My lord wishes to inform you that your facility at the Oumuroyama is now under our occupation..." as she spoke, she lifted a piece from a pouch at her waist, and threw it with her loose hand onto the ground before Hawk, who gasped at the sight, "and that he - and I - will look forward to your prompt arrival."

"No..." Hawk said, as he sank to his knees, lifting the object in his hand. It was a human heart - but not a regular one.

"Oh, one of yours, I presume," added Mordred, turning her gaze slightly towards the Pretender commander. "He didn't last long, but at least he helped test the sharpness of my blade. Aren't you pleased that I found a use for him?"

His gaze bore into Mordred's eyes, but the latter showed nothing even close to concern or remorse. Instead, all that Hawk saw was a bottomless well of hate.

"So, I must be going," Mordred turned back to Artia, "as your Japanese friends say, jaane... Father." before somehow fading off into nothingness, her form and that of her sword wisping away before their eyes. Artia tried to swing Excalibur in a rush, but it was too late - all it parted was air.

"Who..." Artia turned to Hawk, as she fought to control her mounting rage, which proved almost impossible, despite how well she knew that reason and level-headedness was need now, more than ever. "Who was..."

"I had Agent D stay on guard at the HQ - it was supposed to be secure, a low-risk assignment..." He thought of the relatively new recruit who had perished, cut down before he had a chance to turn his experience on Countdown's interstellar flight crew into a success here on Earth.

"I'm sorry, Hawk." She didn't know what else to say.

Ilya and Rin had just rushed over to join them - Ilya having caught a glimpse of the altercation at the door, before rushing to get the Tohsaka heir to the scene - and were at something of a loss as to what to say, or do.

"Garret-san gets hurt," said Shirou,

"Mordred has emerged," cursed Arria,

"HQ has been compromised," rued Hawk.

"It's looking pretty grim, alright," sighed Rin.

"That may be so..."

A new voice - but not that new. A slightly younger-looking version of the man everyone had come to know staggered over to the others, holding his side and limping along, with the aid of Aquila.

"Garret! What are you - " asked Rin, incredulously. No-one knew what effect reverting to human form would have in his current state, but somehow, there he was, just barely.

"...but as a man much wiser than I once said," he continued, holding a comm unit in his hand, "it's always darkest before the dawn."


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Arrival to Earth (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=B_H1J5vx3b4&feature=user)


The insertion pods had been in development for years - an attempt to develop a system which would allow Autobots to deploy rapidly from any part of the Earth to another, in case of emergency. The technology had been provided on a test basis to a number of candidates, but while tests at Autobot City had been somewhat promising, never had the system been fully operated in the field.

Until now.


From launch points in California, in New York State, in Bavaria and at Autobot City in Alaska, four pods streaked into the upper atmosphere, racing like fiery comets through the skies, angled so as to converge on an area of sky above Osaka Bay, and on their way to Fuyuki-shi.

As the four pods approached one another, they altered course, so as to enter a kind of loose formation, as they coursed downwards, as part of Operation Arrival.


The four cometary trails emerged in the dark sky, racing like chariots of flame and steel to the surface.

The assembled group at the Emiya-tei looked skywards, seeing one, two, then three flashes of light, as the not-quite comets closed in.

The comets broke formation, and each raced into a different direction - two receded into the distance, while the third and fourth arced towards the city.




The first streaked overhead, and ploughed into an empty carpark, near a convention centre being used for a motor show.

The centre had large glass windows at the front, which were all shattered in one moment as the shockwave from the impact struck them.

Fortunately, the centre was empty of human life - the show was not set to begin for another day or two.

But as the last of the armour was shaken off, the being which had made such a dramatic entrance looked over some of the vehicles on display...

...and found one particular model to suit its needs.


All it took was a scan and a reformat for a new street model to hit the road, and a few moments later, the vehicle was on its way.



The second plunged into the waters of Osaka Bay, and a stream of flotsam bubbled to the surface in its wake - and were there anyone to hear, sounds of armour being shed, of an alternate form being taken, and of magnetohydrodynamic engines being pulsed would have been there to hear.

However, the arrival had no need for an audience, as it sailed silently through the waters, en route to Fuyuki-shi.




Meanwhile, a pair of JASDF F-15Js flying out of Kasuga, Fukuoka, were on patrol over the Sea of Japan, where not much out of the ordinary was taking place...

...until a massive meteor streaked past them, giving the pilots the fright of their lives.

After some panicked messages to the tower at their home base - including incredulity at how no signal was appearing on their radar systems - the pilots were ordered to return home for debriefing, and to make sure no damage was caused to their craft.

However, the comet continued to approach the sea, and passed through a large cloud several hundred metres above sea level.


A burst of light broke from within the cloud.

And a few seconds later, shards of 'debris' were falling out of the cloud and into the waters below.

And a new fighter craft, with a very different red signal instead of a JASDF sundisc, burst from the cloud cover, raced over the waves, and banked to head towards the rendez-vous point.



"Hello?" asked the lady, looking over the edge of the newly-formed crater beyond, carefully trying to keep her balance at its edge.

Yet, her care was not quite up to the task, and she fell over the edge, set to crash against the ground...

...until a large bio-mechanical hand was outstretched, catching her in mid-fall.

"Thank you, Autobot-san," she said, as the being emerged from the crater and placed her carefully upon the ground.

It looked back at her and simply nodded, before a ripple of electricity rolled over its chassis, and it began a complex re-formation into a massive truck-trailer.

She looked on as the engine started, the vehicle drove onto the road - but not before it opened its door and invited her in.

As he held a hand to the red ribbon in the side of her hair, and gathered the bag she had been carrying groceries in before stopping at the crater, she thought of how she had been rescued by a firend from the stars, once again.


The Autobots had transformed, and were rolling out.


--------------------------------------------------


The rumbling could be heard already - and the group looked to the front entrance in anticipation.

"Will they be here soon?" Rin asked, trying not to show too much of her enthusiasm for the event.

Garret smiled and gestured to the driveway. "See for yourself."

A massive blue-and-white vehicle turned off the road and drove through the entrance into the area in front of the Emiya-tei's front door, flanked by a sleek sports vehicle on one side. As the sports car parked itself off to one side, the trailer's rear door opened, and an alien-looking vehicle designed primarily for marine use used a kind of antigrav system to hover its way out and onto the driveway. Meanwhile, a jet craft flew at a low altitude overhead, slowing to a crawl over the household.


And as one, they become more...

...than meets the eye.


The sports car almost jumped up as it transformed and took the shape of an Autobot warrior, winking and holding a thumbs-up as it took form.

In contrast, the marine vehicle used a more down-to-earth transformation, calmly standing to attention before the assembled crowd.

The jet made its own transformation in mid-air, and came to rest alongside his compatriots, politely nodding and bowing.

And the fourth, the truck-trailer, opened the door to let its guest step out and join the others, before it lifted itself upwards, first turning the cab into a white-and-blue biomech, then disassembling the trailer and merging with it to assume his final form.

"Waverider, Landmine, Cloudburst..." spoke the largest of the arrivals, "and Ultra Magnus, at your service."


If the Fallen wants a fight, thought Garret to himself, by Primus, he's going to get one.


--------------------------------------------------


End of Part 10.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:54 PM
This piece was submitted as part of a writing contest (http://idwpublishing.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=4874), at the fan creations section of the IDW Publishing forums (http://idwpublishing.com/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=18) - only with the originally-intended italics included. It's intended to take place in the F/TF setting.


Oni



“Taka-san!” Akemi would say, the name of her partner carried like a bird’s song upon the wind, into the ears of its intended recipient. From the very first time he had heard that irreplaceable sound, this being, who had but one name before arriving on Earth, yet had assumed many identities in the millennia since, knew he could not escape the calling of his human heart.

For human it was – with the use of Pretender technology, he and his comrades had assumed organic forms when arriving on this world, the better to hide in plain sight. What none of them realised, however, was how fundamentally changed their new lives as organics would be...

And yet, none of them could imagine going back. If anyone suggested to them that they shed these forms and remain ‘purely’ bio-mechanical entities, they would reject the very notion out of hand, in the manner that a human might reject reverting to one of its evolutionary ancestors.

This being himself, who had chosen to settle among the archipelago that was gradually acquiring the name of Japan, had heard the siren call before. Once every several hundred years, or maybe once a millennium, he would encounter a person of such stunning character that he would break the oath he swore to himself after every faded love – only to witness the dance play out once more. No matter how much time they spent together, his partner would grow old and pass on, while he, functionally immortal, would weep over the parting, and try to move on – but never forgetting the times spent together.

But this time, he was not granted the chance to see the passing go peacefully, at the end of a long life, as he had always done before.

This time, his partner was slain.

“Akemi…” he sobbed, as the tears streaked down his human face, his arms holding tenderly onto the mortal remains of his itoshii – his beloved. She had committed suicide, before the men who had invaded their home could reach her, before he had the chance to kill the last one and save her life.

They had called out far less generous terms. “Oni!” “Bakemono!” “Youkai!” – the men had not dared to strike him down directly, to challenge who they, in their ignorance, termed as a monster, a daemon, a creature to be feared and hated. No, they had come to burn his home and kill the woman they decried as a traitor to her species, but she had denied them this opportunity.

But they were about to learn…

…just what kind of oni the man they had crossed could be.


--------------------------------------------------


The castle which had served as the headquarters for the clan which had orchestrated the attack was in flames. Within lay scenes from a deranged abattoir – limbs severed, skulls smashed, chests ripped apart, in a fury more suited to the most notorious Decepticon stories back on Cybertron, not to the leader of the Pretenders on Earth.

“Tasukete, onegai… nanitozo!” pleaded the last, the head of the now-ruined clan, as he was dragged through the snow to a point overlooking the burning castle. Spare me, he pleaded, please, I beg you…

But the being had only one thing to say, as he raised the human upwards, and skewered him using his own swords upon the wooden cross: “Ore wa… Oni ga!”

I am a daemon.

This done, Taka - Hawk - walked away, the weight of what he had done already bearing heavily upon his spark – his soul – as the crucified man slowly bled and froze to death in the winter storm.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:55 PM
Part 11


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - The All Spark (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=E4TcJbjDgA8)


The group was assembled at the shed, in a rough circle, as a holographic image of the HQ at Oumuroyama was activated. With one exception, the group were all in human form - Magnus was making do in truck form,, parked just outside, emitting the holo-image from an emitter in his cab.

"This is the most recent layout of the complex at Oumuroyama," Hawk addressed the others. "While we have no idea yet of what state the in-built defences are, or what kind of damage the invaders have done, this layout is still our best means of devising a viable operation."

"I've never had to fight to take back my own base like this," cursed Lander, the human form of Landmine, "it's almost enough to make me not notice how many fine ladies are present..."

"Halt, mein herr," said Phoenix (aka Cloudburst) - who was more used to speaking Deutsch than English or Japanese... "I apologise for my colleague's impolite nature. Do we have any information yet about whether our comm network or database have been compromised?"

Hawk shook his head. "Unfortunately not, old friend. When we get in there, I'm relying on you to handle that side of the operation."

"Natürlich, Gefährte," Phoenix assured him, before remembering - again - what language the others were speaking... "I mean, of course."

The third recently-arrived Pretender was trying to run scenarios through his mind - and didn't like any of them. "I never did like us picking a base that wasn't on the coast - there's only so much I can do to help on land..."

"You'll do fine," Hawk assured him. "The three of you are going to be with me - we'll try to take the lower entrance, then make our way inwards - if that is acceptable to you, Garret-dono."

Garret was happy to defer to Hawk's judgement. "Agreed. The way I see it, we'll have three main priorities in this attack - to secure the facility, engage the enemy, and retrieve the Matrix. Hawk, I'm trusting you and your team to get to the most important sites and neutralise them."

"Hai," Hawk nodded. "If we can reach the sub-reactor, we can use the terminals there to assume control of the entire facility - or whatever is left for us to regain."

"Do what you can," Rodimus agreed. "Artia, I want you and Shirou to look out for Mordred, and do whatever you can to remove her from the equation."

"Count on it," Artia insisted.

"Thank you. Aquila," he turned to the somewhat withdrawn scientist, "I want you to be part of the team which goes after Fallen himself. There's still a lot more that we don't know about him than I'd like, and any information you can gather would be most welcome."

When hearing this, he tried not to sound apprehensive - which struck the others as being somewhat uncharacteristic. "I understand, but if this being has any sort of relation to the one that I and others encountered during Cybertron's Dark Ages, I can't guarantee how much, if anything, I can gather..."

"Well, in that case," Garret simply said, "you can help us try to take him down."

"I will," Aquila answered - hoping the various upgrades he had acquired in the interim would be enough to make a dent in this most formidable of foes.

"You're still in no great shape to fight, Garret," Magnus pointed out, "even if you were fully healthy, your current biomechanical form won't be enough to put an opponent of this level down."

"I'm aware of that, Magnus," Garret replied, "and no doubt Fallen is, too...

...in fact, I'm counting on it."


--------------------------------------------------


Once the last preparations were made, and Hawk signalled that Agent E had arrived in the city, the task force set out.

Star Saber, Metalhawk, Jetfire and Cloudburst flew in a diamond formation overhead, while Ultra Magnus led the ground convoy, with Landmine flanking him to one side, carrying Diver in the passenger's seat. Garret and Rin were seated in Magnus' truck cab, while Shirou sat in the pilot seat of Star Saber's flight mode.

Garret wasn't happy with leaving only one Autobot in the city - and a new arrival, at that - but he couldn't escape the feeling that trying to take on Fallen and his new ally with anything less would be too risky... and even then, there was no guarantee the force assembled would be enough.

"Worried?" Rin asked him, more rhetorically than anything.

He sighed. "Pretty much - this whole thing is a long shot, and our part is the most risky of all. Are you sure you're ready to try this?"

"I wouldn't want you to hog all of the fun, now would I?" she joked back - and he went over the plan in his mind again.

At least, that part which wouldn't need to be adjusted once they got there.


Nevertheless, it had to work - they had to stop whatever it is that Fallen had planned.

There would be no second chance.


--------------------------------------------------



BGM: Kenji Kawai - Cavalry in Blood


Her sword planted into the earth beneath her, Mordred stood silently along the caldera of the Oumuroyama, her eyes gazing westwards as she waited for the inevitable.

Fallen had asked for her to stand guard and draw as many of the arrivals into combat as she could - but even without such a 'request', Mordred had precisely no interest in lying in wait within the subterranean complex, watching over whatever project the elder being had in motion below.

She cared not for such matters.

Let that thing burn the whole world, Mordred thought to herself.

So long as I can deal with Father first.


She would have her chance soon enough, as her heightened senses - a bonus of the new form the Fallen had granted - allowed her to detect the approaching task force.

There were more of them than had been expected, though Mordred scoffed at the prospect of reinforcements.

As far as she was concerned, if Fallen couldn't handle a few extra foes, that was his problem.

She drew her sword, the aura of which had left blackened stains in the soil beneath her feet, and aimed it towards the one she knew was Father.

All that was left was to issue the challenge.

"Come and face me!"


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Scorponok (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=_g5CGP-iWwg)


As the task force approached, the diamond formation broke, with Metalhawk and Cloudburst banking to the right, Jetfire to the left, and Star Saber throttling forth, diving headlong towards Mordred.

"Are you ready, Shirou?" Star Saber asked as she began the dive.

He nodded, as he assumed his larger form.

At this, her canopy opened, and Shirou leaped into the air - after which Star Saber assumed her lily-white armoured form and brought Excalibur down in an overhead arc.

"Here I am, Mordred!" Saber roared, as her opponent summoned her own dark armour in place of the dress she had been wearing, and parried the incoming strike with her own blade.


Meanwhile, Landmine swerved to one side and allowed Diver to jump out, over to where Metalhawk and Cloudburst were landing. Landmine assumed his form as the human Lander, and summoned his armour, as the three others did the same.

"Lander, Diver, Phoenix, with me!" called Hawk, as he summoned his weapons, and directed the group to the lower entrance.


At the upper entrance, the massive truck-trailer form of Ultra Magnus - which no longer had Garret and Rin sitting up front - revved its powerful engines and drove forth, as Jetfire prepared his twin dorsal linear accelerators.

"Fire in the hole!" he announced, as the accelerators powered up and fired, sending two pulses of superheated energy at hypervelocitic speeds. The impact smashed through the armoured entrance, and the after-effect rolled down the passageway, scorching the floor, walls and ceiling all the way to the far bulkhead - all in less than the time it took for the last smouldering fragments of the entrance to drift down to lace the nearby trees of the Aokigahara forest.

The route cleared, Magnus rolled through the entrance and down the corridor, Jetfire transforming and flying in after him, weapons at the ready.

"The accelerators will take a few moments to recharge, but my secondary weaponry should be enough to let us bypass the entrance to the farther chamber," Jetfire stated.

"No need," assured Magnus, "I can deal with this one..."


--------------------------------------------------


"I see you brought your pet commoner with you, Father," Mordred hissed, as her sword clashed once more with Excalibur. "Though I can't promise to take care of him for you once I have finished our little bout!"

"I will not forgive such a disgraceful tone regarding Shirou!" roared Saber, the bitter sting of Mordred's words driving her on in a raging fury. "And you should be more concerned about your own immediate fate!"

Despite the exchange, Shirou could see that the two were all too evenly matched. Saber looked more powerful, more responsive, more dangerous than at any time she had been his Servant - although he was all too aware of how limiting his inadequacy as a Master had been. Perhaps this was what Saber would have been like had Tohsaka been her Master, he wondered to himself... or what might she possessed back in her first life.

And yet, whether it was from the template that she had originally been forged by, or due to the un-natural 'modifications' that she seemed to have been granted, Mordred was matching her every step and turn, her every slice and thrust, her every parry and riposte.

It was so hard for him to simply stand aside - he wanted to dive in swords drawn and take on the one who had already drawn blood from his beloved - but for the time being he held on, while trying to think of what, if anything, he could do should he need to step in.

Assuming I can do anything, that is, he cursed to himself.


--------------------------------------------------


Getting through the entrance was straightforward enough - unlike the other team's more dramatic method, Phoenix had cracked the door code, while Hawk took point, sword and rifle in hand.

"Looks like the damage to this section is relatively minor," Hawk assessed, looking over the corridor. "The autoguns are off-line - Phoenix, can you access the securoty net wirelessly and keep them that way until we get to the Energy Control Room?"

"Ja," Phoenix assured him, "it seems this section of the base's network has not been as badly tampered with as the others, and since the access code we used enables it to treat us as friendly, I should have enough time to lock it down completely. However, mein herr, I need to get to the terminals in the ECR to assess anything further."

"Even so, I don't think we should risk just dashing down the hallway," Diver pointed out, while secretly wishing he could somehow flood the corridor.

"Mr. Cheery McDolphin is right," quipped Lander, "I don't think even my fine-tuned charm will help me with that hot red-eyed maid if I'm shot full of large, smoking holes..."

"Can you think of any other part of your anatomy for even five seconds, Glenn von Landmire?" retorted Phoenix.

"Oh you mean, like you with the whole forty-thousand-year-old virgin routine you're so good at?" Lander shot back, hinting at the tensions that arose from the minor matter of these four individuals being the only ones of their kind for a very, very long time...

"Come on, let's move!" Hawk broke in, as he headed to the first recess along the left-hand side of the corridor.

Diver followed suit, waiting for a moment before running on to the next recess on the right-hand side.

"Fair enough - I guess your new 'soulmate' might have something to say about the matter, after all," Lander couldn't avoid the last jab, as he ran past Hawk and Diver along the corridor.

"What I and my life partner do in the privacy of our local swinger's clubs is none of your concern!" Phoenix hissed back... and bringing the verbal sparring to an awkward end for the time being.


Silently, the group moved on, as Phoenix continued to try and finish locking down the security system for the autoguns.

Opening a private channel to Hawk, there was one matter which the Autobot comm officer wished to discuss. "I could not help but notice the choice of shell being worn by our current commander, Hawk."

"I wondered when you'd mention that," sighed the latter, figuring that the issue would be raised sooner or later.

"You do know the particulars of that pattern, ja?" Phoenix asked, his words somewhat carefully-parsed.

Hawk tried to assure him. "It wasn't a deliberate choice - it must have been either still in the pattern buffer when he underwent the procedure, or somehow selected form the list of samples."

"So you are trying to tell me that out of the more than ten million samples in the database, as well as the range of potential combinations the system can generate sui generis, that Rodimus ended up with that particular genetic sequence?" Phoenix tried to hide it, but he was clearly concerned.

"I... don't have an answer for you, friend," Hawk admitted apologetically.

"I was there, Hawk," Phoenix pointed out, referring to a memory that was more recent than he cared to admit. "and so was the other. Does he know yet?"

Hawk merely shook his head, the only outwardly visible sign that any conversation had taken place.


However, the matter was set to one side as Phoenix unlocked the door lock leading into the geo-thermal chamber leading to the ECR...

...and the team had barely enough time to gasp in shock before diving for cover.


--------------------------------------------------


The double-doors at the far bulkhead were smashed apart, as Magnus crashed through them and into the wide space within.

As Jetfire followed suit, they were profoundly un-nerved at the sight that awaited them.


The walls and floors had been broken, warped by the entropic miasma that spread from Fallen's very presence. Assembled broken components, shorn gun emplacements and upended computer terminals had been assembled into a disjointed pile, slowly melting and congealing into a hideous mass of corrupted matter.

They could see the Matrix suspended in mid-air, hovering between the apex of this mass and the centre of the ceiling, tendrils of darkness trying to reach its surface, yet being turned back one by one at the behest of an unseen force.

"Even for my Master, cracking a Matrix takes time," a darkly mirthful voice echoed around the chamber, as the Fallen emerged from a flame-sphere, facing the new arrivals from a vantage point atop the mass, "but they do say that all things come to those who wait..."

Sending a narrow-beam databurst to the Air Guardian as he stirred his engine further, Magnus had but one word to say, as the swiftly-formulated plan was set in motion:

"Execute."


Banking to one side as he aimed his wrist-mounted cannon, Jetfire shot twin lances of energy towards the base of the mass, solidifying the matter into an impromptu ramp for just long enough in order to allow Magnus to race up the slope at full throttle, defying Fallen's home-field advantage as he approached.

"Oh, a challenge!" Fallen gloated, dismissive of the incoming threat - not even making an effort to hinder Magnus' approach.

That was his first mistake.

"Oh, here we go-aaaark!" Fallen cursed, as the full force of Magnus' truck mode crashed into him, knocking him backwards and down the further side of the mass.

Magnus arced in the air, maintaining enough forward momentum to push Fallen forth, and as he began to fall forwards to the ground, the rear door of the trailer slid open...

...and a red sports car raced outwards, aiming at the Matrix above.

Can I make it? Rodimus asked himself, as he launched himself as far forward as he could - but the arc he was travelling on was not quite far enough.

They had no choice.

"Rin!" he called, as he transformed, lifting her out of his drive compartment and up in the palm of his right hand.

"Ikimasu!" she shouted, as her Reinforced limbs sprang into motion, her hand outstretched, reaching towards the impossibly intricate light she could see in the centre of the Matrix.

Time slowed to a crawl, as she could hear her own heartbeat and the air filling and being expelled from her lungs, the surroundings receding dramatically into a single point before her.


Almost...


Almost there...


Just a fingertip away...


And at the very apex of her leap, she made the faintest of contact - and she could feel the light of Primus envelop her very being.


--------------------------------------------------


End of Part 11.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:55 PM
Part 12


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Linkin Park - What I've Done (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=vzz_2ISJpKY)


All I see is Darkness.

Surrounding, overwhelming.

Within, I fall deeper and deeper, far from my friends and allies, farther into the abyss.

And then…

I crash onto a metallic surface. The shock reverberates throughout my chassis, but soon fades.

I lift myself up – and as I try to move forward, I soon see a light - one strong and pure enough to highlight the twisted metal structure around it.

A faint beacon of hope, in the lair of the Beast itself.

I approach the light – and as I recognise the source of the light, I can see how it dangles around the neck of a certain Cybertronian… an impossibly powerful warrior, an avatar of death.

Galvatron!

He and I speak to each other...

I refer to the Matrix, the source of the light - to which he states that it will do me no good, as it cannot be opened.

Not by a Decepticon, it cannot - certainly not one re-forged by the Chaos Bringer itself.

Yet, he has a point - like it or not, he and I are allies of convienence, against a common foe...

The conversation is cut short by a blinding red light, emerging from the surroundings. The Lord of Entropy roars a warning into Galvatron's mind, which succumbs to the torment. With the faint hope of an accord gone, the warrior’s expression changes, as his arm is raised, particle cannon aimed towards me.

As he fires, I begin to run - my anger at his taunts overshadowed by the more immediate urge of survival.

I decide to try a hit and fade tactic - hoping to evade his particle cannon blasts while striking at him when I can. It’s a desperate struggle, but I have nothing to lose.

He taunts me again, saying how we all must die eventually.

Not today, I insist - as I catch him with a surprise hit, before transforming and racing away.

I feel each jump as I barely evade the incoming particle strikes, each leaving a crater of ruin in their wake - but once he transforms, his power and accuracy improve. The last few shots are too close, and I stumble to one side. Thinking on my feet, I transform again, and fire back with my wrist blasters - just enough to force him to revert to biomech mode.

Taking the risk, I charge forward. I transform into my vehicle mode, and accelerate...

I ram him, but desperate hope turns to panic, as assets his sheer physical might. Catching me as I make impact, he lifts me into the air, turns me over, and I barely have enough time to revert to my own biomech form before he begins to crush my throat with both hands.

I feel time fading.

He speaks to taunt me, but his mouth seems to move more slowly than normal.

First Prime, he says, then Ultra Magnus.

And now, me.

I have mere moments left – and I cannot escape the awful feeling of dread that the last hope of my kind will die with me.

He considers it a 'pity' that we Autobots die so easily at his hands, denying him the sense of satisfaction he might have otherwised wished for...

... and at this last insult, I turn away from his face, unable to bear the manlice it holds.

Yet, without realising it, my fading vision focusses on the chain around his neck, the chain which holds –

The Matrix!

In a final, defiant gesture, I reach for it with my last ounce of strength...

...and it suddenly bursts into life.

As it does so, I feel a new burst of energy, more than enough to allow me to push Galvatron away, then lift myself from the ground.

I stand, and feel the beginnings of a great change, one which is altering the very core of my being. Time slows to a crawl, and I hear the voice of an old friend, an old mentor, speaking to me as if from the core of the Matrix itself:

Arise, Rodimus Prime!



But I am not Rodimus Prime, nor his former self, Hot Rod.

What I see is a vision of what has been - of the culmination of a story I had heard parts of, but not fully imagined intul this moment.

And yet...

With all this, I not only witness the acts which took place, the words spoken, the crises overcome.

I see the one - the man - whose courage, kindness and personality really were all too familiar...

...but still unique.

I see the times he has spent while carrying the burden hardest to bear.

I see the slow separation from those who had been his friends, his de facto family, over the past two years.

I see the change - I feel the change - that the new existence as Garret has brought to him.

I see the moment he granted Sakura a unique gift - how he once again found things as they are, and without realising, changed them into what might be.

And in the course of this, I see something else, too.

I see a reflection in his eyes - both human and Cybertronian - of a person I know all too well.


My own.


And at last, I understand.


--------------------------------------------------


The vision faded, and as the Matrix freed itself from its unseen moorings, it - and Rin - fall towards Rodimus, who turns to face them, reaching for them as he hurtles down into the congealing mound of matter below.


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Frenzy (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=HTnVa0QOQoQ)


"Till all are none...

Till all are none...

Till all are none..."

"Well, at least he isn't chanting 'Braaaaaaains!' or something..."

Despite the attempt by Lander to crack an ice-breaking quip, the sickening feeling all four Pretender had at the sight facing them was hard to shake off.

Somehow, the charred remains of Agent D - a gaping wound in his chest evidence of where Mordred had removed his still-beating heart not so long ago - were re-animated, though any semblance of consciousness or sanity were utterly erased.

All it could do was stumble forth, direct the targeting systems in a suddenly re-activated set of autoguns, and chant the Entropic message that Fallen had set to repeat, over and over and over again...

"How did that thing get the defence guns to work?" asked Diver, who was attempting to shelter behind one of the modular geo-thermal power generators in the cavernous room.

"And more importantly, how do we get past those guns and into the ECR?" added Lander. In order to reach the control room, they would have to find a way to pass through this generator array - and somehow avoid causing critical damage to it while doing so.

Hawk inwardly cursed the choice of layout - which had been intended to serve their observational and logistical needs, but had not been laid out with the prospect of having to re-take the base from an occupying invader in mind.

"Somehow, it's managed to convince the IFF system that, since it was here before we were, that it is the ally, and we the attackers," Phoenix tried to respond. "I can override this, but only by getting to the terminal in the ECR."

"Which still leaves us the need to run the gauntlet," sighed Diver. Just my day - a zombie Pretender and haywire defence guns... and I'm stuck out of the water, in this aquatic-tailored armour. Great.

But then, if I can't use water to swim in... He suddenly realised something. "Hawk, I have an idea - but you might not like it."

A short data-burst carried the outline to the others, at which Hawk nodded. "It will have to do. Lander, Phoenix, prepare to make a run to the next room, and get that system under control."

The two nodded, while crouching along the edge of a second generator, ready to move.

"Ok, Diver, when you are ready... but note that I intend to put Agent D to rest myself." Hawk thought of the day he had recruited Agent D - Domoro - one of the select group of new arrivals who had transferred from Countdown's interstellar operations unit in late 2005. At the same time, he fought a tinge of regret at not being there to save him.

Forgive me, Hawk asked in a silent wish for the dead. You did not have the chance you deserved hereon Earth, but your loss will not be forgotten.

"Now!"

Reaching around swiftly, Diver threw his energo-axe across the killing zone of the autogun turrets, across the path of the approaching remains of Domoro - and into the side of one of the coolant chambers. The impact of the weapon sent gusts of super-heated steam into the chamber, flooding it swiftly - and as it reached what was once Domoro, the remaining flesh exposed by the wounds in the Pretender armour began to burn and char.

Yet, it would not cease its movement.

"Till all are none..."


"Go!" Hawk, who had sealed his armour, along with the others - providing his organic skin with a temporary defence against the superheated steam - gave the order, and both Phoenix and Lander raced towards the exit, keeping low, evading the now-disoriented fire coming from the autoguns.

Meanwhile, Diver ran to the vicinity of the coolant leak, hoping to use a modified shaped charge to melt the sides of the cover enough to re-seal the damage.

Hawk, however, ran towards the remains of Domoro, and readied his sword.

"Till all are none..."

Its hands reached towards him, trying to grab on and choke the life from its opponent - but Hawk was too fast for it to react properly.

He began to roar, as he sliced through the hardened shell, forcing the energo-blade to part the armour, before removing both of Domoro's arms midway along the upper arms.

Hawk allowed himself no respite, daring not provide any kind of opening, as he sliced downwards, carving off the legs at a point just below the hips - leaving ruined stubs in their wake.

And yet, even as it fell, it still spoke...

...until Hawk made one final strike, slicing off the head at the neck, causing it to roll to one side.

"Till all..." the automated voice faded, unable to complete the sentence.

Hawk, however, did so, but using a more familiar term: "...are one."


Shortly afterwards, the guns fell silent, the fractured chamber was deactivated as the coolant was re-directed, and the ventilation system began pumping out the remaining steam.

It could not remove the foetid stench from the ruined corpse, however.


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Kenji Kawai - Ebony Cross


Shirou could not believe what he was seeing.

It was enough of a sight to witness Saber and Mordred fight at a human scale - but at least he had somewhat expected to see that battle come to pass.

What he did not expect was that while Saber had taken the massive form of Star Saber, that Mordred had leaped into the air... before doing so herself!

Or rather, Mordred had become a deadly opposite to Star Saber - her bio-mechanical form equal, yet coated in black and purple, the green of Star Saber's eyes echoed by the same sickly yellow he had seen in the eyes that the human-form Mordred had used to aim such sheer hatred at 'his' Saber.

Now the two were locked in a bitter aerial duel, but one which relied on the clash of swords, not the exchange of firepower.

"Anything you can do, Father..." Mordred jeered, in preparation for another blow, "I, Void Saber, can do better!"

"Ki-yuuuuuuuuuurk!" Star Saber groaned, the force of the activated dark blade pushing her backwards, straining her ability to maintain her balance in mid-air.

"This is how it should have been at Camlann, Father," Void Saber hissed, "you cheated me of my victory then - but I will not let you escape a second time!"

Pulling back, Void Saber gave ample evidence of how she truly felt about 'cheating' - as she drew her own Thermal Shot pistol and fired several shots at close range at her opponent. The hits were not overly damaging by themselves, serving more to disorient Star Saber just long enough for Mordred to rush forth, and land a crunching hit with the her fist, and with the hilt of her own blade.

"Aaaagh!" Star Saber called out, the force of the hit driving her into the slope of the Oumuroyama, as Shirou howled in despair.

She needs me...

I have to do something...

I have to step in...

but how can I match the likes of Void Saber?

I don't think either of us can face the likes of her alone.

"Oh, you're still there, commoner? How quaint," laughed Void Saber, who had noticed Shirou's cry - and Shirou had barely enough time to jump to one side before the blasts rained down towards him, the last knocking him to one side, winding him.

"Now lie there and try not to die too quickly," continued the taunt, "so you can see that your beloved will end her second life the way she ended her first - alone."


BGM: Kenji Kawai - Emiya (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=N4jaBiZBf3c)


"Never!"

The surge of anger and rage filled Shirou to bursting point - as he jumped to his feet, and stared defiantly at Void Saber.

"You know nothing about me, about her... about us!"

He felt something change within him - a feeling he had not known since that day he destroyed the Grail at Mount Enzo.

"All of my life, for as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a Seigi no Mikata - to stand up for those who can't stand for themselves, to save those who need to be saved... to face those who would cause the innocent and good to suffer...

...and I saw how it can lead to a life of tragedy, of sacrifice... of an existence spent alone."

Like you, Archer - I didn't know... but I know now.

You chose the path of the World - and you tried to stop me from doing the same.

But I can make a new path - one where I fight for what I believe in...

...but not at the cost of losing touch of the ones I love.

"But if there is one thing that being with Saber has taught me..."

The burst of energy enveloped him - he could feel his very being re-shaping, re-working...

...transforming.

"is that true Heroes of Justice..."

he could feel the new form taking shape - the wings forming at his back, the modules appearing behind his shoulders, the schematic of his emerging form imprinting itself in his consciousness.

"stand united as one!"

A final flash, and the new form was complete - a transformation heralded by a deep, bestial roar.

The roar of a lion.


"Shirou!" Star Saber looked on, shocked - reminded of the gentle giant that she had known when she was still a child, a symbol of courage, of hope, of ferocity...

...and of Victory.

"Impossible!" cursed Void Saber, who fired more pistol shots at what Shirou had now become - but he jumped to evade them, while summoning a more potent arsenal.

The twin barrels over his shoulders slid forward, their targeting system locking onto the opponent - before bursting into life, sending two massive fireballs which Void Saber blocked with her dark sword - yet the force was enough to send her flying backwards into the air.


"Shirou!" Star Saber called out again, lifting herself up and reaching her hand towards him.

He turned to face her, as he flew down to reach her. "Let me be your Victory Leo, Star Saber."

"Victory Leo..." she almost whispered, before nodding. "Yes."

As she said this, a spontaneous data burst passed between the two - and in that instant, they each realised just what they could do as one.

"Let's seigou!"


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Kenji Kawai - The Bond


A field of tall grass and flowers.

A beautiful afternoon sky, a gentle breeze carried in the wind.

After so long apart, I see her.

She looks to me, wearing a mangificent dress.

And when she sees me...

And reaches for me...

She smiles.

"Tadaima, Saber", I say to her...

"Okaerinasai, Shirou," she says in return to me...

And at the moment we touch...

Our very essences come together to form something...

Wonderful.


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Kenji Kawai - Excalibur (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=UWRwvDwmH0g&feature=user) (Or alternatively, this (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=UWRwvDwmH0g&feature=user) might do.)


Victory Leo had separated himself into several parts - all of which were now attached to Star Saber's form.

A massive rifle had formed in the right hand, as Excalibur was held in the left - the shoulder cannon now resting to either side of Star Saber's head.

And the eyes... they had formed a kind of yin-yang pattern - one half green, the other brown - which seemed to rotate in a matching pattern as they focussed on Void Saber.

The voice had changed, too - it seemed to echo those of the two beings who had formed the new, composite entity. "Together, we are Victory Saber..."

Racing forth at a speed that neither could have managed alone, Victory Saber surged towards Void Saber with Excalibur afire, radiant with an even brighter force than had been seen before.

Defiant, Void Saber recklessly charged forth in turn, roaring as she attempted to undo this union, and everything that it represented about what Saber had in her life - her lives - that Mordred did not.

But it was not enough.


--------------------------------------------------


"A good opening gambit, I'll grant you that..." Fallen mirthly spoke, as he faced off against Ultra Magnus at ground level.

"Phase Two, execute!" Magnus said flatly, as he prepared the next step of the strike. Jetfire swept in and unleashed a barrage of fire at Fallen's flank, while Magnus assembled the ordnance cannon which had formed part of his trailer mode and prepared to fire.

"Three... two... one... mark!" The immense burst of energy from the cannon reached out to hit Fallen square in the chest, but the latter managed to form a sphere of dark energy from his right hand to mitigate the blow. That which did get through scored a moderate amount of impact damage, but the perpetual flame which wreathed Fallen's chassis seemed to undo the damage even as it was formed.

Fallen laughed aloud, amused by the fact they were almost - almost - managing to overwhelm his personal defences. "So, would it encourage you to know that you're getting close... or discourage you to know that you're not quite close enough?"

He walked slowly towards Magnus, and launched what remained of the sphere at the City Commander - whose armour had already been singed and scorched through contact with the un-natural flames coating Fallen's body when the initial ram had taken place.

"Gnn...nnnnnnnn!" Magnus blinked his optic membranes, as the fire bit at his armour and reached through to score damage on his inner form.

Jetfire cried over to his colleague. "Magnus! Are you badly hurt?"

"I'd worry more about yourself, if I were you," Fallen answered instead, raising his left arm and firing a pulse of dark energy from his forearm-mounted cannon. The shot caught Jetfire in his flank, disrupting his flight systems and sending him careening to one side.

Fallen almost sighed, as he looked around. "Ah, this would have been much more fun against a Prime..."

"If you insist."

Fallen turned his gaze to the mass of matter, from which a rather taller and bulkier version of the red-and-yellow biomech who had fallen into it emerged, alongside a raven-haired human who had somehow been shielded from its effects.

"Rodimus Prime!" Fallen cursed, before Rodimus landed a punch, then another, and a third, before grabbing Fallen's shoulders and kneeing him in the faceplate, sending him sprawling.

Indignant, Rodimus returned the favour with relish. "I've been looking forward to this!"


However, the moment was disrupted by a massive crashing sound, as one of the sides of the ceiling caved in - and two massive pieces of biomechanoid crashed into a newly-formed crater in the floor.

"I am afraid I will have to oblige you to wait until another time, Rodimus Prime," Fallen said, using the distraction to form a sphere of fire around him, which lifted up into the air and through the gaping hole left by the crash.

Victory Saber, who was able to look in at the scene, tried to swing Excalibur at the sphere, but it was too late - a portal emerged and sucked the sphere through it, before disappearing in turn.

Fallen had escaped.


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Kenji Kawai - Eternal Sin


"Father..."

In the wake of the battle, Mordred had tried to re-assume her human form - but her lower torso and legs were gone, the severance caused by Victory Saber's strike unable to be reversed.

Saber, back in her lily-white armour, knelt beside the dying Mordred, as Shirou stood nearby, and theothers tried to count the cost of the day's events.

Yet, despite everything, all Saber could do was reach for Mordred's ace with her hand, and shed a lonely tear. "You left me no choice, Mordred."

"No, Father," Mordred tried to insist, weakly. "You see, I finally know what it is you were trying to tell me."

She looked over to Shirou, the yellow eyes dimming slowly, but surely. "All I ever wanted was to be what you are, to have what you have, to not be a second-best copy of the original..."

Saber, unable to fight back the sorrow and guilt, stroked Mordred's cheek with her hand. "I... I should have reached out to you, Mordred. But... by the time I learned how to set Arthur aside and let Arturia - Artia - be, it was too late."

Mordred simply smiled at this, as she assured Saber. "And that is what I see now, Father - that instead of blinding myself, and trying to hurt you... I should have opened my eyes to see who you have become..."

Saber leaned over to Mordred and placed a kiss on her forehead. "You are my flesh and blood, and even though it is too late, I want to... I want to..."

"You just have, Father," Mordred's voice was fading. "If, for at least one moment, we can forgive each other..."

Her eyelids began to shutter and close, and her head turned loosely to one side.

"As Father... and Son."

With those last words, Mordred faded away, her essence vanishing into the aether, her haunted soul knowing peace at long last.

"Saber..." Shirou reached down to Saber, and she held on to him as she wept for the person who, despite everything, was her legacy.

Or, at least, the legacy of her last life.

She looked up at Shirou, and while looking in his eyes, wondered what legacy the two of them would forge together... in this life.


Thy would find out sooner than they would have wished to imagine.

"Hawk, I'm picking up a signal from Agent E in Fuyuki-shi," Phoenix addressed his colleague, concern showing on his face. "The signal came through after Fallen withdrew, but even now is still erratic, at best."

"Patch it through," replied Hawk, who saw the indicator of the message - audio only - appear on the viewscreen of the data terminal.

"Ha... This.... i....." spluttered the message.

Phoenix worked in the control panel, trying to boost the signal. "Try it now."

"Agent E, this is Hawk at Japan HQ - do you copy?" Hawk addressed the screen.

The signal was somewhat stronger, but still far from ideal. "I read... but you... better get... fast."

Hawk tried not to fear the worst. "What is it? What's happening?"

This time, only one word made it through... but it was all that was needed.


"...Decepticons!"


--------------------------------------------------


End of Part 12.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:56 PM
Part 13


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Trevor Morris - Behold the Great King of England (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=984FkAOuGgM)


*Atmospheric entry algorithm compromised...*

*Substantial damage to chassis from violent descent compounded by impact damage upon reaching the planetary surface...*

*Severe impediments to numerous critical systems...*

*Attempting to stabilise pathways linking optic and aural sensors to main neural network...*

*Processing...*

*Processing...*

"Uhhhh..."

My head felt as if it had been rolled over by a full squad of Wreckers, as my optics flickered open and I tried to get a bearing of my surroundings.

My vision was hazy and blurry, and the sounds all around me were mostly muffled - and even the ones that did get through weren't ones I could readily identify.

Except for that thin strand I just about recognised as my own voice, that is.

"Wh... wha... whe..." If anyone heard me, I was somewhat incoherent - the last thing I remembered clearly was my departure from Countdown's interstellar operations vessel, and my subsequent attempt to descend through Earth's atmosphere...

...but if what the emergency readouts playing over my optic-lids was accurate, something had gone very wrong indeed.

But then, I thought to myself, it could have been worse - at least I didn't burn up on re-entry, or crash into the mouth of an active volcano.

I was still alive.

And that should count for something.

It took time for me to build up a sharper level of lucidity, but what I hadn't expected to hear was the sound of another voice - though one even weaker than my own. "Help..."

It was a human.

And he was dying.


--------------------------------------------------


Gradually, I managed to piece together what had happened.

I had crashed in a karst-landscape region, near the coast of... wherever place on Earth this was, and I could hear the sound of running water seeping through the limestone cavern, and running beneath the surface out to wherever it was being compelled to go. Through the gaping hole that had been left in my wake, I could see the overcast skies, and the torrential rain lashing down and soaking my battered chassis.

But that was not the worst of it.

The young human male nearby had been launched through the air and was lying up against one of the cavern's walls - a thin stalactite had impaled through his abdomen, and was pinning him in place.

And I couldn't do a damned thing to help him.

"I'm... sorry..." I said, when I was finally able to speak somewhat clearly. "This... this wasn't supposed to..."

I could see him shake his head, as he looked over to me - with an oddly calm look on his face. "It's better than what was about to happen to me before you arrived."

He told me of how a woman with a cold and calculating gleam in her eyes had waited until he and his parents had been relatively isolated while exploring this regions before she struck - murdering his parents and dragging him to this place, for what purpose the human could not say for certain.

As it happened, the woman was preparing some kind of sadistic ritual on the site where I had crash-landed - but I had 'intervened' before she could go to drag him over for whatever kind of trauma or sacrifice she intended to use him for.

And yet...

...it was the force of my impact that had sent him flying, and had loosened the stalactite which was being left untreated for too long.

"Urrrk!" I tried to move, but the pain wracked through me, and the energy was just not there to let me move in any event. "I can't... move..."

"Well..." he joked, darkly, "if it helps, I'll stay right here with you while I can."

I couldn't help but laugh at that.


--------------------------------------------------


When all you can do to help is to talk, and to listen, it's easy enough to try and do just that - but I hadn't expected him to have as sharp a mind as he had, even given the circumstance.

We had spoken about all sorts of matters - I told him some of my experiences while serving under Countdown's command, of the kind of worlds I had seen in my time, and so forth, while he told me a little about what to expect regarding life on Earth, or at least the kind he could speak of based on his own knowledge and experience.

"So, when you undergo this Pretender technique," he asked me, "do you have a particular sample you use, or is one made up for you?"

"I don't know for sure," I admitted. "That was a detail I was expecting to learn about when I was being prepped for the procedure."

He coughed a little, but tried to shake it off, before continuing. "Well, do you at least have a name you plan to go by?"

"I have a few options, but I'm not sure which to go for," I answered. There was so much about this new life I had signed up for that was still to be worked out - not least, who I had to try and get used to being called in the future.

So, we talked a little about the options, and he offered a few suggestions, though stopped to chuckle a little, before coughing more violently.

"What is it?" I asked him, as I tried to move once more, but with no success.

"Oh, I..." he coughed up blood this time, and was looking at it almost absent-mindedly as it was deposited on his hand. "I might be going through that slow realisation of just what kind of situation I currently find myself in..."

He looked over to one side, and I could see tears rolling down his cheeks. "Or that my parents are..."

"I'm sorry." I didn't know what else to say. I had mourned loss before, but I didn't know if what I had felt was anything like that a human had to deal with when one of their biological relatives passed on.

He blinked, and his eyes seemed to regain some of their focus. "No - I'm grateful that you were able to bring them justice..."

But not this way, I cursed at myself.

This is not the way I wanted it to be.

But no matter how much I wished otherwise, this was how it was.


--------------------------------------------------


"Entschuldigung!"

A new voice echoed down, and I could soon see a new arrival jump down and land across from me.

It was another Autobot - this one in human form, wearing an armoured Pretender shell.

My new friend laughed a little when he saw, and heard, the event. "Not the kind of accent I was expecting to hear..."

Phoenix looked over and saw him, then rushed over and tried to use his medikit to help...

...but even though he was able to remove the stalactite, there was nothing he could do to save him.

"Verzeihen Sie mir," he said apoogetically, "I'm afraid I'm..."

His strengeth was fading, but he struggled to speak to Phoenix nonethless. "Can you... take a... genetic sample... from me?"

Phoenix was shocked, but nodded.

"In that case," he continued, "let it be put to good use."

He looked over at me, and I was so awed by the gesture, I didn't know how to express it.

And so, I listened instead. "You... have opened my eyes to a lot, in a short time... and gave me the chance to... say goodbye like this..."

He lifted his arm, as Phoenix used a part of the kit to extract a sample of his blood from it.

"...and so, I want... to give you something... in return..."

"I... I..." I was still unable to say, or think of, anything...

"...so long... as you promise me... one thing..."

The coughing continued, and his pulse was weakening - Phoenix tried to steady him, but there was only so much he could do.

But it was still more than I could do...

"Tell me," I said, determined to at least try this much.

At this, he smiled, and his eyes started to close over - for the last time.

"If I can't live in this brave new world of yours...

...live it for the both of us."


He held on just long enough to see me nod, before letting go.


He was gone.


But he would not be forgotten.


--------------------------------------------------


A knock was heard at the front door of the Emiya-tei, which wa answered by Leysritt - Sella was tending to Ilya elsewhere.

When she opened, she was somewhat surprised. "I did not expect to see you so early, Garret-san..."

The man in question blinked, and looked somewhat confused. Garret-san?

"I'm sorry," he answered, "you must have me mistaken for another. My name is Étienne Seonac de Champlain, and I was sent here by a man named Hawk."

She took a moment to look at him, as if trying to digest what he was trying to say about himself, before nodding. "I see. Welcome to the Emiya-tei, de Champlain-san."

"Thank you," he nodded, before stepping inside, "but Étienne, or Éti for short, is quite fine."

The conversation was cut short as a hyper-excited voice could be heard echo down the corridor. "YAY!"

"Ojou-sama!" Leysritt called down, barely taking a moment to excuse herself in front of Étienne. "Ojou-sama!"

"IT'S HAPPENING! IT'S FINALLY HAPPENING! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!" the voice roared, and Leysritt rushed down to slide the door of the room - which happened to be the main bathroom - slightly ajar.

"What is -" Leysritt asked, when Sella rushed over and whispered to her from the other side...

"Is anything the matter, ma'am?" Étienne called over, still standing in the entrance, somewhat non-plussed.

Leysritt blushed as she looked over in response, but quickly regained her composure. "It is... nothing you need concern yourself with, Étienne."

"Ok..." Étienne shrugged, as he chalked it down to one of a thousand smaller things about life on Earth he had yet to understnad properly.

But then, even Earth-born humans don't get it all either, surely, he tried to remind himself - but he still sighed, nonetheless.

Moving on, he checked his mobile phone - well, it looked like a mobile phone from the outside, but was a little bit more under the bonnet - and checked a few recent messages.

I managed to swing tickets to the Habs-Leafs game next month, read the first message, let me know if you can make it over!

Ah, good old Eject, Étienne thought, I knew he'd come through. They had only met briefly, when Blaster and his group of cassettes were on a whistle-stop tour of the Oumuroyama HQ, but the two had struck up a friendship and chatted, along with Rewind and a few others, on instant messaging programs and whatnot.

He was about to check his scheduler to see whether he would have enough leave built up to ask for the time off to go over to Montréal and back for the game...


...when the warning light flashed, and he stepped out to look at the sky above the city.


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Decepticons (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=_rGv0_k7rg4)


In the near-void several hundred kilometres above Japan, the formation emerged from a carefully-timed transwarp portal, and began its fiery descent through the ionosphere.

Many of those descending were in their alternate forms - the heat shield on the bottom of what would look to the unwary as being merely an oddly-painted space shuttle began to turn white-hot, as did the outer surfaces of the blue-and-white arrow-shaped craft flanking it.

However, while these, and one other (a sleek jet, which passed through the turmoil un-molested) did so, there was one who refused to take such a form in its descent.

Instead, it stretched its arms out widely, its eyes glowing red, its face held in an expression of sheer contempt at those it would soon cast judgement upon - as the flames of atmospheric energy wreathed its monstrous frame.


--------------------------------------------------


As one force descended, another rolled in - as an imposing police vehicle made its way through the streets of Shinto, doing just enough to assert its presence, but not quite enough to cause any actual crashes or collisions - as it led a small convoy of vehicles onwards.

In its drive compartment sat a holomatter simulacrum - a fake human - which rested a blue media player upon its lap. It had two unorthodox earbuds attached to it, and was apparently listening to music from the player itself.

It looked out at the crowds of people being passed as the vehicle reached its destination - at the entrance to the tallest skyscraper in Shinto - and smiled.


--------------------------------------------------


Sakura smiled as she walked alongside Rider, the two carrying a collection of shopping bags. While she had been able to get a small amount on the trip which ended with Ultra Magnus offering her a lift back to the Emiya-tei - but this was the first time the two of them were able to go out and about together.

They had taken the time to go clothes shopping together, as well as doing the rounds food-wise - and Sakura was pleased at the outfit she had picked out for Rider, which given her height was an accomplishment in itself.

The new outfit she herself had found - and hoped to modify into one she could practice her sorcery more effectively in - was quite nice, too. The red band with gold leaf pieces on either end was a particular high point. "Thank you for coming with me today, Rider - I'm very happy to have you here with me."

Rider looked over, smiled, and nodded. "I am happy too, Sakura..."

They stopped as each noted the heightening murmur from the crowd, and the way more and more people were standing still, while looking upwards.

"Can you see what they are, Rider?" asked Sakura - who didn't even notice how calmly she was taking the appearance of unknown objects in the skies above Fuyuki-shi. But then, had this taken place a few days beforehand, it might have drawn a more stunned reaction.

Rider looked carefully for a few moments, as the objects closed in...

...then turned to reach out for Sakura.

"We have to move, quickly!"


--------------------------------------------------


The group cleared the upper atmosphere, and as they approached the city, the space shuttle opened its dorsal bay as five passengers used the downward momentum of the shuttle to lift themselves clear, before they in turn readied themselves for the insertion.

All five were in biomech form, yet each had a distinct, yet related appearance - bearing a stylised visage of different ferocious creatures upon their chasses, either on their chests or on the crowns of their heads.

The shuttle's bay closed once more, before adjusting its angle of descent in order for it to join the flyers in a holding pattern above the skyline.

The one who had made the descent unaided lifted himself upwards, backpack reactors slowing the approach, as he eventually came to rest on the roof of the building which the armoured vehicle was parked in front of below.

A large and growing crowd had flocked to the area, camera crews rushing to the scene, police and military units reacting to control the crowds. All eyes were looking at the new arrivals in general, but at him most of all - as his feet crunched down on the rooftop, and he stepped forth to gaze at the sea of humanity below.

At last... at long, long last... he thought to himself, this... is the moment.

A new era is dawning, the other voice answered, unbidden as always.

Look at those filthy creatures, he thought, knowing by now the voice would 'hear' him. Even now, they cannot see the truth before them - denied for so long the knowledge of who we are... of who I am.

They are asking the question, the voice pointed out.

Then I shall give them an answer.


"People of Earth..." he called out, as he lifted his right arm forwards, sweeping his particle cannon in a wide arc.

"My name..."

Suddenly, he transformed into his tank mode, and aimed at the skyscraper across from him - the next-tellest in the city.

"... is Death!"

The barrel glowed white-hot, a vortex of energy coalescing in the chamber before discharging...

...and a thick beam of energy lanced over to the structure, engulfing its entire frame in a fraction of s second, before causing it to burst apart into a maelstrom of flame and ash.

At the signal, the aerial force broke formation and commenced its assault - the shuttle summoning a ventral-mounted cannon and using it to bombard the streets below, as the others alternated between swatting the few news helicopters from the sky, turning cars and trucks on the ground into smoking craters, and lancing through the sides of buildings across the Shinto district.

The five feral warriors began their own vicious assault, striking at ground level at the terrified humans below, ignoring the small-arms and assault rifle used in desperation against them by the police and SDF units they mauled their way through.

The guns on the turret of the armoured police vehicle flared, mowing down the thin line of police officers who had held the cordon around them, then on through the rows of defenceless civilians beyond. As the other vehicles took new forms and opened fire, the holomatter simulacrum stepped out of the larger unit, still carrying the player and headphones, looking on at the devastation before it with a satisfied look on its face.

And above it all, standing once more on the top of the only un-touched building in the centre of Shinto, Galvatron looked on at the sight before him...

...and was pleased.


--------------------------------------------------


End of Part 13.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:56 PM
Here's a bio for the new guy.


H'trorren (Earth name: Étienne Seonac de Champlain)

Faction: Autobot
Sub-Faction: Pretender
Rank: Field Agent
Motto: “On on n’oublions jamais.”

Details: Possesses a human-form Pretender shell (as seen in Masterforce). Like other such Pretenders, he is capable of forming a 'battle mode' around his human shell in combat, and can revert to his original Cybertronic form, and back, at will.

Cybertronian alt mode (http://www.seibertron.com/images/toys/files/38/jetfire031.jpg) is an aerospace fighter craft. (This looks like Titanium Jetfire, only with green instead of red - biomech form (http://www.seibertron.com/images/toys/files/38/jetfire031.jpg) has a retractable faceplate, shown extended on the figure, which when retracted shows a more human-like face with a nose, mouth, a pair of 'eye' optics, and whatnot. Oh, and without the landing-gear 'wardrobe malfuction' of the actual figure...)

Wrist-mounted modules may be detached and combined with backpack to form a smaller jet craft (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v108/Nerroth/KibbleJet.jpg) - which may be piloted remotely, flown manually by another person, or by Étienne himself in Pretender form (should he choose not to re-integrate the modules before demolecularisation).

While the remaining chassis could, technically, assume an alt mode by itself (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v108/Nerroth/KibbleJetVroom.jpg)... Étienne tries not to use that option overly much.

Is armed with an energo-sword and assault rifle in biomech form, and a smaller version of each in his armed Pretender form.

Strength: 07
Intelligence: 09
Speed: 09
Endurance: 07
Rank: 07
Courage: 08
Firepower: 08
Skill: 09

Bio:

If anyone asked him now about who and what he was, Étienne Seonac de Champlain would give his Earth name (even in biomech form) and describe himself as an Autobot Pretender – a Cybertronian disguised at a sub-molecular level in the body of a human-form Pretender shell – and a field agent assigned to Japan in general, and most recently to the troubled city of Fuyuki-shi.

But it was not always so.

Étienne was ‘born’ as the wholly bio-mechanical H’trorren 1200 years ago in New Iacon, one of the more recent generations to emerge in the new era to emerge in the wake of the Great Shutdown.

Raised in a Cybertron which was, at the time, united under the rule of Shockwave and the Council, his formative years were peaceful ones – yet the (apparent) lack of interest in exploration, or in trying to track down those groups which were known to have taken the Great War with them into the wider galaxy, chafed at the inquisitive H’trorren.

Fortunately for him, he was contacted secretly by representatives of the legendary Countdown – who had made a covert return to Cybertron, unwilling to risk revealing himself openly to Shockwave’s ‘unified’ government – and invited to join the crew of his interstellar operations craft.

Leaving Cybertron behind, he served what was, in effect, his first turn of duty under Countdown’s command – exploring hitherto-unknown sectors of space, making layovers at friendly and allied worlds such as Paradron and (more recently) Nebulos, and engaging the forces of the cunning Skystalker in defence of indigenous species unable to fend the would-be Decepticon tyrant alone.

However, his place among Countdown’s crew would come to an end during the tempestuous events of 2005. Responding to the emergency signal broadcast when Unicron attacked, Countdown’s vessel emerged from transwarp into the Alpha Centauri A system – where they were too late to take part in the engagement. By the time they approached Cybertron itself, the battle was over, but the terrible cost extracted was all too evident. After spending several weeks helping to recover Autobots and Decepticons left drifting in orbit, H’trorren approached Countdown with a transfer request – to go to the one world in this region of the galaxy where he felt he was needed most of all…

…Earth.

Countdown contacted Metalhawk – who not long before had made formal contact with the Autobots who had been active on Earth since 1984, taking his team of Pretenders back to the fold – and arranged for H’trorren to be transferred, as one of a new batch of volunteers who were to be added to Metalhawk’s team in Japan.

However, when the transfer took place, an unforeseen error in his navigation system caused him to crash-land in the Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland – where his tragic first encounter with humanity took place.

Now, he lives on Earth in the guise of a French-Canadian expatriate in Japan, the inheritor of the genetic profile of an Irish youth whose life he could not save, but whose memory he swore to honour. To that end, he tries each day to live up to his lost friend’s dying request:

“If I can’t live in this brave new world of yours… live it for the both of us.”

Only time will tell if he is successful.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:57 PM
Part 14


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Soccent Attack (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=0FGv--42TiE)


Death had come to the streets, the skyscrapers, and the skies themselves above the Shinto district of Fuyuki-shi.

The nearest squadrons of JASDF F-15s had been scrambled and launched into action... only to be obliterated by the Decepticon flyers patrolling the besieged city - against which they were hopelessly outclassed.

The police and SDF units on the ground fared no better. Soldiers were remorselessly gunned down, APCs and other military vehicles annihilated - either through firepower or through raw, brute force.

Panic and terror gripped the civilian populace, who sought any means of shelter or escape they could find - be it through cramming the underground pedestrian network, cowering behind office walls and furniture in various buildings (including, ironically, the one atop which stood the most feared invader of all) or flocking down along the increasingly few streets, lanes and back alleys which had yet to become killing zones.

Yet, the flyers above were merciless in targeting any moving object which made the error of revealing itself to their targeting sensors - and the feral quintuplet of bio-mechanical assailants had cordoned off an entire quarter of the district into their own de facto hunting grounds... as if preparing for what they knew would be the inevitable response from those they deemed more worthy prey.

However, while many of the Decepticons present relished the opportunity to release the pent-up frustration and anger which the loss of the Great War, and the subsequent years of hiding from the watchful optics of their victorious enemies, there were a few who saw past the immediacy of the event, and realised what change it would represent.

"This is nothing but trouble, boss," 'said' Swindle over a secret channel that only he and the one he sent the message to could access - a result of a long history of avoiding the ever-watchful eye of the Cobalt Sentries and their merciless commander. "Revealing our presence like this is not going to do any wonders for my business..."

Onslaught, who knew his 'subordinate' all too well, thought little of the 'business' the notorious smuggler was referring to… usually.

However, in one respect, he agreed - this was a fool's errand.

Making their presence on Earth public before securing it from the prospect of Autobot interference or readying the logistical preparations needed to subjugate a world such as this had always been considered to be a grave error. Doing so in the aftermath of a lost and ruinous war, with no off-world support for a sustained campaign, and in the context of a world where there were already far too many covert links between the EDC and the Autobots for one's liking, spelled disaster for the barely-tenuous efforts needed to restore the Empire to anything like its former glory.

Megatron would never have approved this, Onslaught thought to himself, as he and Swindle looked up to see the ghastly expression on Galvatron's face as the latter looked on at the carnage all around him. Inferno, even Starscream wasn’t this stupid.

"And I'll tell you something else for free, boss," added Swindle, "there's something really wrong about those things up there. They aren't natural."

Though Onslaught knew that such talk would be tantamount to treason if anyone other than him had heard it, in the core of his spark he knew Swindle was right.

Every one of those Unicron-fashioned beings seemed to exude an aura of... wrongness about them - which for a ruthless bio-mech like Onslaught was quite telling.

Even the least warped of them, the purple fighter craft, was known even among the Earth-bound Decepticons for being un-reasonably attached to Galvatron's service. It was almost as if he had been made that way - that Unicron must have embedded such blind loyalty into whatever it was he had in that spark chamber of his.

And then there was Galvatron himself...

"Kind of makes you wonder who it is we should be shooting at..." Swindle added, and this time Onslaught was goaded into a response. "Focus on the operation, Swindle! There's only so much of that line of reasoning that even I will tolerate from you."

Swindle showed no outward reaction, but would have sighed and shrugged his shoulders had he done so. "Fair enough, boss - but I'm sticking to shooting the fleshies with uniforms on... and I'm already working on a means of getting us the slag outta here when the time comes."

Onslaught remained silent, but it was enough to tell Swindle that he would call on him to deliver said means when the moment was ripe.

In the meantime, Onslaught focussed on the three others who were supposed to be following his orders - cursing that they weren't his other Combaticon regulars.

"Ruckus, Crankcase, Fracture, stay in formation!" he called over, with as much authority as he could muster through his vocal processor.

"What's that, boss?" Ruckus roared, as he jumped forward to bring his fists crashing down onto the side of an SDF APC. "I can't hear you over all this racket!"

The second Decepticon being called shook his head, while rolling out a fresh dose of verbal bile. "Maybe if you stopped being such a slaggin' loudmouth, you wouldn't keep making a fool of yourself! How did I ever get myself into this damned mess... stuck here on this mudball... watching that idiot make a fool of himself again..."

"Enough of your tongue!" snapped the third, who spared just enough energy to say as much before rushing to the corner of a nearby street, then proceeding to stomp her foot upon the ground. The powerful seismic dischargers in her legs activated, and forced open gaping cracks in the ground below, streaking down the street and underneath the various corpses and wrecks littering it.

All of which, of course, was beyond the plan that Onslaught had laid down for them.

"I said get back in formation, NOW!" he commanded, but short of putting a few rounds in their backs, the trio would not listen.

Swindle, staying close to Onslaught, commented more openly. "Makes you wish the gang was still together, huh?"

Quite. Regardless of what he could say - at length - about Brawl, Vortex and Blast Off, at least they were somewhat more likely to fall in... not least because they knew enough to rely on each other more than to take their chances on their own.

As far as Onslaught was concerned, this operation couldn’t end soon enough.


--------------------------------------------------


While this was taking place, the headphone-wearing holomatter simulacrum walked calmly, as it picked up the trace of communication between two more-than-ordinary local beings.

The less scientifically-explicable side of this planet's indigenous life forms had become something of a field of study for the being controlling the holo-man, and the communications sent from the various sources uncovered concerning this city had made uncovering a more direct source of data a high priority.

"Targets located," the holo-man spoke, in a monotone voice, which had more than a hint of a non-Terran origin.

He lifted the blue player and faced it before him, pressing the eject button. "Squalktalk, Beastbox, eject and combine - mission: interference."

Two cassette-type modules - which were shaped thus despite the player being (apparently) designed for digital media - leaped from the device, before transforming and combining in mid-air.

"Mind if I play something interesting?" the gestalt being, Squalkbox, requested.

The holo-man simply nodded.


BGM: Julien-K - Technical Difficulties (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=yklU6i_kX7A)


"I still can't get through to Garret-dono-tachi, Rider!" said Sakura quietly, yet with a heavy dose of serious concern in her voice.

Rider took a moment to scout the immediate vicinity, before replying in a low voice. "They must be interfering with the signal. We should concentrate on getting out of this district without them following us."

Sakura nodded. The thought of these creatures destroying the Emiya-tei was something she couldn't bear thinking about. "Hai!"

Pocketing the device, she Reinforced her limbs and followed Rider's lead, as the two moved from room to room, then from alley to alley, heading for the river dividing the city.

Using the shadows to try and mask their passage, the two made it to the side entrance of a fifteen-story office block, before they started to hear the approaching music…

“Sakura!” Rider smashed through the glass entrance, and led Sakura through the building and away from the street, but the noise kept approaching.

Suddenly, the PA system in the office started blaring, playing the same piece at an almost deafening rate.


--------------------------------------------------


As Squalkbox made the building’s speaker system his impromptu sound system, the holo-man walked in train, before activating the player once more.

“Laserbeak, Ravage, eject – operation: interception.” At his command, two more modules released themselves, before transforming and racing into action. The first, taking the vague outline of a Terran condor, screeched through the skies as it headed towards its target. The second, assuming the form of a midnight-black jaguar, sprinted along the ground, eschewing its traditional method of blending un-noticed into the shadows at the behest of its watchful commander.

There were yet more cards to be played, if necessary – but Soundwave was content to see what his two most trusted lieutenants could achieve.


--------------------------------------------------


“I’ve been so waiting to take my oeuvre into a more public realm - don’t you agree that it’s been worth the wait?” Squalkbox asked, almost as if he actually expected a serious critique of the piece, as he revealed himself before Rider and Sakura in the main lobby.

Unamused, Rider raced forward and readied herself for the attack – but Squalkbox used his twin concussion cannon to compress the air beneath her, disrupting her leap and sending her to the ground, winded.

“Rider!” Sakura called out, as she raised her hand and prepared to fire a sorcerous projectile at the assailant – while cursing how little time she had been given since her last battle to prepare herself this time around.

However, as Laserbeak screeched into the lobby, Rider made an instinctive throw of her nail-tipped chain at the bio-mechanical condor. Faster than the Decepticon could react, the nail embedded itself in Laserbeak’s neck – and upon impact, Rider clamped on to the near end of the chain, before using herself as a fulcrum in order to spin Laserbeak through the air… and smashing into the side of Squalkbox.

“Gr-aaak!” the ‘musician’ cried out, as he felt the force of the impact, sending both he and Laserbeak sprawling.

Sakura had no time to be relieved, however – as she saw a jet-black metal jaguar sprint use the distraction to sprint towards her.

Yet, she was in no mood to go down quietly. “Stay back!” she called out defiantly, as the building energy in her arm was unleashed. The bolt of energy enveloped Ravage’s overly-sensitive optics, causing him to leap blindly forward – allowing her just enough room to use her Reinforced limbs to scatter to one side.

“let’s go, Master!” Rider insisted, as she scooped Sakura up into her arms, then jumped into the air, aiming to reach a high enough vantage point so as to escape the scene.

--------------------------------------------------


This was not going quite as well as he had hoped – but there were other options.

This time, he held the player to himself, when giving the latest commands. “Rumble, Frenzy, transform – objective: demolition.”

At this, the two white earphones which the holo-man had been ‘listening’ to removed themselves and ventured forth – then assuming their bio-mechanoid forms.

“Just leave it to us, boss!” Frenzy said gleefully, as he and Rumble modified their arms into piledrivers, and made ready to demolish the office block altogether.


--------------------------------------------------


Rider had made it to a high enough level for her to feel comfortable leaping onwards, when she and Sakura could feel the boom-boom-boom from below… and sense the foundations of the building giving way.

“Hold on!” she cried, as she leaped across the street, hoping to reach the other side in time…

…but the side of the building was falling down towards them.

In Rider’s arms, Sakura closed her eyes, and hoped for a miracle…


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - You’re a Soldier Now (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=O9pYjnh3a08)


Recklessly separating themselves from Onslaught’s vicinity, Fracture jumped along the abandoned roofs of cars and trucks littering the street, her leg generators crushing each beneath her as she moved forth in a fit of murderous glee, while Ruckus followed not too far behind, revelling in his own fit of destruction.

The moment was interrupted, however, as a sleek white-and-green jet raced mere metres above the ground, and banked sharply to expose its right wing just before Fracture could stop to realise what was happening. The craft’s wing sliced through her exposed and under-armoured lower torso, causing her to scream in shock as her upper chassis collapsed to the ground, her systems going into emergency stasis lock.

Ruckus roared in response at this, instantly recognising the red emblems atop each of the fighter’s wings. “Wretched Autobot! Come and face me if you’re looking for a fight!”

His shoulder-mounted cannon opened up, trying to catch the fast-moving jet as it banked and rolled one way, then the next – its own twin assault rifles strafing the ground beneath him, before scoring damage marks upon his reinforced chassis. “It’ll take worse than that to stop me ticking, Autobot!”

“I’ll see what I can do, then!” he heard coming from one side – before a land vehicle he hadn’t even realised was approaching transformed, and a materialised energo-sword sliced forward, shattering his optic visor.

Before Ruckus could react, the opponent jumped up and turned in mid-air, pressing what was supposed to be the sole of his foot against his face… before leg-mounted engines were ignited, and a rush of superheated flame coursed through the shattered visor and burst out from the sides and back of Ruckus’ head.

Using his slowly-toppling chassis as leverage, the attacker then launched himself forth, where the jet disassembled itself into three pieces, each attaching back to the bio-mech’s form.

“Two down…” Étienne said to no-one in particular, as he flew down the next street over, looking for other Decepticons to introduce himself to.

Yet, he could hear a strange rumbling from around the next corner – and as he banked and changed course, he saw two figures leaping from the side of a collapsing building.

“Hang on!” he called out, as he accelerated forth while rolling himself onto his ‘back’, reaching out his hands in a desperate effort to catch the pair…


--------------------------------------------------


Moments later, he had managed to roll himself back to an ‘upright’ flying position, and was racing away from the scene as fast as he dared while carrying the two.

He looked down to see more clearly who it was – and when he saw the face, the eyes, of the plum-haired lady who looked up at him, he gasped.

“You’re the most beautiful woman in the universe!”

Immediately, he blushed – or about as much as a bio-mechanoid can do so – as he realised how profoundly ill-timed such a comment was.

Nevertheless, the lady looked up at him, still holding on to her purple-haired friend, and almost blushed in return. “That’s a very kind thing for you to say, Autobot-san.”

While under different circumstances, he would have wished to stop and ask just why it was she knew about his allegiance – or, perhaps, to clarify if the two were somehow related to the group at the Emiya residence he had been at earlier – he had more immediate concerns. “I’m going to try and cover for you as best I can – try and get out of Shinto, before they finish their work here…”

“I can get her to safety,” Rider insisted, and Étienne nodded.

“Good,” he said, as he came to land in a spot close to the edge of the district – hoping he was giving them enough of a head start so as to evade pursuit altogether. “Stay safe, both of you – and wish me luck!”

Sakura held on tightly as Rider carried her to the ground, before carrying her to what they hoped will be safety. “Ganbatte kudasai, Autobot-san,” Sakura said, grateful for the rescue… albeit not quite sure what to make of the ‘other’ outburst.

“Thanks,” he replied, as he turned and headed down the street. I’ll need it.


--------------------------------------------------


While he had bought the two time, Étienne had unwittingly launched himself into the lair of the beasts.

He jolted to one side as he tried to dodge the rampaging rhino, as he passed a narrow intersection.

He banked upwards and to the right, as a charging bull tried to skewer him on its horns.

He was almost clawed in half by the leaping tiger, which roared with a deep and terrible fury as it tried to reach for him.

He was battered and shaken in mid-air by the assault of the hawk, which strangely seemed to hold off from attempting to make a close-range kill.

He thought he had escaped the worst of it…

…until he glimpsed the golden lion which had been clamping into the side of a nearby building, just long enough to see it pounce and land a telling blow.

Étienne crashed to the ground, his chassis battered and torn, deep gashed left by the claws of the leaping lion, as the Predacons gathered slowly about him.

Their leader, Razorclaw, transformed from lion mode into his intimidating bio-mech form, and summoned his energo-sword as he walked calmly to the fallen one.

“Do you have any last words, Autobot?” Razorclaw asked, almost dismissively, as if following some warped code of honour in allowing the victim a last gasp before the end.

Étienne struggled to move, but managed to lift himself up just slightly enough to allow him to look back into the pitiless eyes of his would-be executioner. “And there I was… hoping I’d be the one… who’d get to ask one more of you Decepticons the same thing…”

“Defiant, I like that,” Razorclaw nodded, almost in respect. “Worthy prey should not cower when the end approaches. But if you wish, I can pass on one piece of information for your spark to take with it on its journey…”

He stopped in front of him, thumbed the activator on the sword, and raised it skywards.

“All good things succumb… to those who wait.”

And at the last, Étienne closed his eyes, and found himself thinking of that plum-haired angel he had been granted a glimpse at.

If this is the end, let it not be in vain…


His meeting with Eternity would have to wait, however – as his optics opened to the sound of a heavy booom just before him, and the sight of a massive explosion hitting Razorclaw in the chest and knocking him backwards.

He looked around, and could see a massive craft swoop down from the sky, the white-hot barrel of the immense rifle upon its back smoking in the after-effect of the shot. The craft then separated into two – the foremost piece racing forth and transforming into an awe-inspiring knightly warrior, the aft piece taking the form of a massive winged, roaring lion.

In the sky he could see a formation of flyers burst into action, a torrent of fire rippling through the sky towards the Decepticons flying above the city.

Upon the ground, he could feel the rumble as the immense bulk of a blue and white truck-trailer drove down one of the streets, a sports car racing beside it, as it headed forth into the fray.

And beside him, an oddly-hovering vehicle transformed and approached him, revealing a somewhat familiar face.

“Wave.. rider?” Étienne asked, still badly wounded from Razorclaw’s earlier strike.

The other Autobot nodded, before preparing a field triage kit to try and stem the worst of the damage. “You’re the one Phoenix mentioned. Nice to meet you properly – now please hold still while I try and fix you up.”

“Oh yeah…” he wondered if his vision was blurring – he should have recognised that Cloudburst was up there, part of the arriving formation.

Strengely, he found himself remembering something from earlier in the day. “Oh, by the way… who’s Garret?”

Waverider simply pointed to one of the taller skyscrapers left standing. “That’s him up there.”

Étienne was stunned as he saw a shining red and gold vehicle emerge from the building’s lower parking levels onto the roof, and noticed the canopy lift up, and a figure use what must have been an ejector seat to spring out of the driving compartment.

He was even more taken aback to see the vehicle accelerate and launch itself off of the side of the building, transforming in mid-air before angling itself down towards Galvatron and smashing sideways into the Decepticon tyrant.

So that must be Rodimus Prime himself, Étienne thought, as he found himself drifting into unconsciousness – but with just enough lucidity to make one final comment:

“Awesome.”


--------------------------------------------------


End of Part 14.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:58 PM
Part 15


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Downtown Battle (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=PzQV4upZbh8)


The clash of tooth and claw rang out loudly, as Victory Leo and Razorclaw tore furiously at each other in their respective lion modes.

The Predacon commander was letting slip the carefully-cultivated mask of analytical calculation with which he typically buried his own more feral urges, and lashed out with a wild abandon. Victory Leo, in contrast, was venting the overwhelming anger and fury he felt at the sight of his home town under attack, aching to rend Razorclaw asunder with his bare claws if he had to.

While the two fought on, Star Saber kept the other Predacons at bay - none daring to close within reach of her deadly blade, but all doing their utmost to try and keep her off-balance, while Divebomb circled overhead and prepared to swoop down for a telling strafing run.

Tantrum tried to use such a moment to get a clear run at what was momentarily Victory Leo's exposed flank - but Star Saber, using Excalibur to parry a strike from Rampage's energo-blade, still managed to reach her left fist over to punch through the exposed dorsal fuel tank on the charging bull's flank, causing a blast large enough to send the Predacon flying to one side.


"If you wish for an available opponent, one stands right in front of you!" she defiantly called out, as she brushed Rampage to one side in turn and assumed a defensive stance, preparing for a further attack.

"Not for long, cursed Autobot!" rashly cried Headstrong, who recklessly took the bait and raced towards Star Saber - only to have his path blocked by the thrown chassis of Razorclaw, who had been overpowered by Victory Leo just moments earlier.


"Don't go too far, I'm not finished with you yet!" roared the winged lion - but Star Saber raised her hand to try and hold his ire in check.

"Wait!" she said, "let's combine and finish this!"

Victory Leo had to try and rein in the more feral urges he seemed to feel in lion form, but if anyone's voice commanded his attention, it was hers. "Right!"

Razorclaw lifted himself off of Headstrong's battered chassis, as he looked to see Star Saber and Victory Leo combine into Victory Saber - and rather than being concerned, merely chuckled. "Only two of you combining? Curious..."

Calling out to his unit, Razorclaw commanded: "Predacons, let's show them what a real combiner looks like!"


Heeding the command, the four made their way towards their leader, and Victory Saber looked on as the gestalt entity took form.

For the being taking shape before them was no mere amalgamation of parts, no limited fusing of consciousness, no lesser foe to be concerned with.

Predaking... was something more.

Releasing a low growl, the merged form sized up its opponent, and tensed its claws for the fight to come - as its deep voice rumbled forth. "Let us see how worthy a prey you truly are!"

At this, Victory Saber leaped into the air, and materialised the V-Lock Cannon at its right hip, launching a series of explosive projectiles akin to Broken Phantasms at the foe - but Predaking activated its force field in time to absorb the brunt of the blasts.

"A ranged battle? How unsporting..." goaded Pradaking, who launched himself into the air and prepared Razorclaw's energo-sword and its own enhanced claws to try and reach out for Victory Saber more directly.

Victory Saber, in turn, held Excalibur with both hands, and rushed across to counter-attack. "Then see if you can handle us up close!"


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Taking Back Sunday - What's it feel like to Be a Ghost? (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=o8MJYGWc92I)


In contrast to the highly agile Sweeps obliged by their commander to provide an escort, the bulky shuttle mode Astrotrain was flying in was slow to react to the onrushing Autobot flyers - but he reasoned that he would have just enough time to turn and fight... or at least transform and land.

He would have neither.

Twin streaks of superheated energy raced faster than a human eye could follow, and punched two gaping, white-hot holes through Astrotrain's flanks, and out the other end. Critically hit, the Decepticon soon found itself plunging to the ground, then crashing into the flanks of an abandoned skyscraper.

Rather than show any concern, however, the Sweeps were relieved of the need to protect what they considered to be dead weight, and instantly broke from their escort formation and followed their master Scourge - who was already racing forth into the fray.

Cyclonus, meanwhile, had transformed into his bio-mechanoid form and was hovering over the city. Keeping a close watch on the tide of battle, he bore the responsibility for overseeing the tactical operation... since his own master was rather pre-occupied.

He would not be left untroubled for long, however.


--------------------------------------------------


On the ground below, Ultra Magnus and Landmine transformed near an open square, and the latter took a flanking position as Magnus readied his ordnance cannon, this time choosing to operate it in missile launcher mode.

"Can you draw his attention?" Magnus asked, to which Landmine smirked.

"Well, if it isn't Mr. Smithers himself!" Landmine called out to Cyclonus.

The supremely collected field commander would have brushed off almost any other insult, but the implication of that comment infuriated him. "How dare you!" he roared, as he plunged towards Landmine's position.

However, his approach was disrupted by the need to evade the barrage of missiles Magnus fired from his launcher, and he relised his error as he found himself drawn into the City Commander's firing line.

"Keep watch of my flank!" Magnus ordered, and Landmine moved off to one side, trying to take pot-shots at Cyclonus while watching for approaching Decepticons.

"Rest assured, Magnus, you won't - ahh!" Cyclonus' words were stifled by a hit from the missile barrage, which staggered him to one side and left him more vulnerable to further strikes.

Magnus spoke coolly, as he locked on for the next wave. "Don't worry, I won't -"

"What the - gaaaah!" Landmine tried to call out, before an onrushing figure used the massive shield on his left forearm to swat the Pretender aside like a fly, before charging on into Magnus himself.

"I've been looking forward to a good shot at you, Ultra Magnus!" Onslaught cried out, as the crunch of impact knocked Magnus to one side, and forcing him to drop his launcher.

As the two began to brawl, Cyclonus approached the prone Landmine, intent on retribution. "If you don't already regret that choice of comment, you will soon enough."

"Heh," Landmine 'spat' fluid back in response. "Of all the things to regret in one's life, getting at the likes of you is not what I'd consider one of them..."

"We'll see," came the reply, as Cyclonus prepared to rip the impudent Autobot's spark core out of his chassis - before he heard a crashing sound come from the building that Galvatron was standing.

Or, at least, was formerly standing.


--------------------------------------------------


"Come on, get your tailpipes out of there already!" Rumble called in, taunting the trapped Decepticons who Soundwave ordered to be removed from the rubble.

While he never tolerated failure, he deemed the humiliation of enduring such a premature burial to be sufficient - not least since the more important task of resuming the search remained.

In any case, he could not afford to be spiteful.

At least, not right now.

Frenzy was providing cover, itching to get in a fight, but knowing better than to refuse one of Soundwave's orders.

However, it seemed that a fight was coming his way, all the same...

A whooshing sound could be heard rushing through the air, and a moment later Frenzy was grasping at his neck, an energo-dagger slicing deeply into it.

As he gurgled and collapsed into stasis lock, the assailant, freshly emerging from seemingly out of the aether, charged forward behind the protection of a red energo-shield, placing well-aimed shots into the other Decepticons between him and Soundwave.

In reponse, Soundwave dismissed the holographic avatar, and transformed into his full biomech mode, readying his own rifle and shoulder-mounted launcher to initiate a counter-strike.

"Soundwave superior, Autobots inferior!" the blue Decepticon stated in his signature monotone - to which the onrushing attacker smirked.

"Autobot?" he responded. "Not quite." My true 'associates' have plans for you...

The distance closed, and the assailant charged forth and placed a disruptive charge onto Soundwave's chest. It soon activated and sent the communications officer into convulsions, before forcing him to transform back into media player mode.

Satisfied, the assailant turned to the remaining members of Soundwave's unit.

... and plans for the rest of you, too.


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Sam on the Roof (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=oSgq2O-lP5w)


"Are you sure about this?" Rin asked, as she held on to her seat, while Rodimus raced through the winding path to the rooftop.

"I stopped him before, Rin," Rodimus tried to reassure her, "and I can do it again."

She was less than convinced. "But you are still not fully recovered from -"

"Trust me, Rin." He reached the rooftop, and the canopy opened above her head as her seat was primed. "Are you ready?"

"Yes." With that, the seat was ejected, and Rin rushed into the air as the vehicle form of Rodimus Prime - a form she could spot the signs of damage on, even as it raced beneath her - burst off the side of the roof into the air, before transforming and diving in towards Galvatron.

She could see the plumes of dust thrown up by the force of the impact, which drove both opponents into the floors beneath them and obscured them from sight.

The seat's automated systems landed her onto the roof, but she had unfastened the seat-straps and jumped away before it touched down.

Stepping over to the edge of the building, she gasped as the full, awful sight could be seen all around her.


Battered ruins and piles of rubble were strewn in the wake of collapsed and gutted buildings, fires were burning in the chassis of ruined vehicles, the skies boomed with the not-so-distant sound of engine wash and weapon fire...

...and she shad a tear at the thought of hoe badly she left like she had failed.

I am a Tohsaka, she thought to herself. This is my ward - these people my responsbility.

I was supposed to protect them from monsters like these...

I thought it had been enough..

When I...

She thought of the sacrifices she had made during the Grail War - some of which made before the awful truth about the Grail's dark corruption came to light.

She had thought that even with all of the pain and hurt and bloodshed, that at least it had been enough to spare the people of Fuyuki-shi from terror.

She shuddered at the thought that some of her classmates, some of her friends... some of her family... might already be found among the dead.

But, she straightened herself up, and wiped the tear away with the side of her palm.

I am a Tohsaka, she thought once more, as she felt her sorrow and fear turn into steely determination.

And my mission... is only just beginning!


With that, she felt the flow of prana course through her veins, as she jumped forth into the air on a carpet of sorcery, and raced onwards to her new destiny.


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Optimus Vs Megatron (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6x9__W42Yc)


The debris field which had formed in the wake of the impact cleared, and two diametrically opposed figures lifted themselves out of the gashes their massive forms had rent into the rooftop of the building.

As the dust cleared, two sets of optics stared across the space between them intently - as if each pair was trying to bore holes right through to the back of the other's head.


But only for a moment.


Rodimus Prime picked himself up, then began to charge towards Galvatron - to which the latter responded by stretching out his arms, revealing thick bands of obsidian blackness, each with a nano-razor-sharp edge at their extremities.

The hakai taitei had fashioned the chains which had once bound him into a bitterly ironic choice of weapon.

Galvatron spun the three chains attached to his left wrist, before ferociously whipping them down towards Rodimus. The intended victim had other ideas, however - he dived and rolled diagonally, keeping his momentum going as much as he could while closing the gap between him and Galvatron, and while doing so retracted his left hand. In its place formed a spinning energo-saw, an upgraded form of the saw he had once used to liberate his old mentor from the clutches of a bio-mechanical sea monster on Quintessa.

As Rodimus rolled, he brought his arm up and used the spinning energo-saw to cut through the chains. He struggled to cut through the dense metal, and winced as the part of the chains cut loose lashed down across his chassis.

Galvatron, smirking at the sight, hoped to flay the young Prime as he stood, and readied his right arm for a further strike...

...but the young Prime was not to be taken down so lightly.

Rodimus fought through the pain, leaving the broken ends of the chains behind, as he followed the remainder back to their owner and smashed himself into Galvatron with as much force as he could muster.

This was enough to send the two flying off the far edge of the building, roaring at each other as they plummeted to the distant ground below.


--------------------------------------------------


The opposing squadrons of airborne craft were, at this stage of the engagement, only loosely holding any semblance of a recognisable formation, as Metalhawk, Phoenix and Jetfire engaged Scourge and his Sweeps in bitter aerial combat.

Each one of the Sweeps posed a dangerous threat, but the Autobots were quite aware of how their commander was at a different level altogether.

“Jetfire, Phoenix, formation 2-8-Delta-Yau, engage!” Metalhawk signalled to his comrades, at which the latter two banked to one side, forming a closer formation in an attempt to draw off the remaining Sweeps…

…while Metalhawk himself raced towards Scourge, transformed in mid-air, and brought his energo-blade down towards the ferocious Decepticon.

Said Decepticon, of course, was only too glad to oblige.

“Heh heh heh,” he snorted, while transforming in response and launching a counter-charge, “you would mistake the hunter for the prey, then?”

Scourge knew how much his ‘brother’ pre-occupied with bothersome things like the ‘big picture’ of tactics and strategies, as well as the fate of their ‘beloved’ leader…

…but so long as he got to fight, he cared not one bit.

Scourge’s claws glowed with a rich energon-pulsed light, as he parried the incoming sword strike. “I would be delighted to disabuse you of that notion, Autobot!”




Meanwhile, away from this combat, Victory Saber and Predaking continued their own duel.

Victory Saber was fast, powerful and flexible, seeming to make the most out of both the ranged firepower which Victory Leo brought to the mix, as well as the finely-honed meléé skills which were Star Saber’s forté.

In contrast, Predaking’s actions seemed to be almost too fast for mere rationality or consciousness to take into account for. While the ferocity which abounded within the Predacon team was one thing, not even the formidable skill set of Razorclaw himself could account for the kind of… instinct that the gestalt possessed in a seemingly endless abundance.

It was far from being just a creature of instinct, however.

“I give you credit,” it remarked, sounding genuinely impressed, as if finding something it had been sorely lacking for a very long time, yet had not really expected to find. “You’re the most worthy prey I have faced in many stellar cycles.”

“We are no-one’s prey!” Victory Saber called back defiantly, its voice almost mid-way between those of its constituent parts. Its yin-yang eyes burned brightly as it shoulder-charged into Predaking’s left flank, and the wings donated by Victory Leo and Divebomb respectively screeched and sparked against one another as the two plunged into the shallow waters of the bay, the two massive opponents crunching into the bed beneath the flotsam.

The fight was by no means done, however, and the two were soon up, tearing at one another with increasing abandon, the few remaining onlookers trying to shelter along the nearby shore gasping in terror.


No matter which proved the victor, they all knew that their lives had changed irrevocably.


--------------------------------------------------


“I bet there’s not a few out there itching to get a chance like this!” Onslaught was, despite himself, savouring the opportunity to get to grips with the (in)famous City Commander – respected, feared and loathed in equal measure by countless Decepticons, and not a few members of other factions who have sought to capitalise on the misery of the Great War over the millennia.

It was not for nothing that Ultra Magnus was so renowned, however. “And you won’t be the last, Combaticon!”

Magnus put his well-worn Diffusion training into practice, as he shifted his chassis weight in order to direct as much of the impact as he could – which, granted, was not overly much, and certainly not enough to stop Magnus from wincing audibly at the pain of the damage Onslaught’s attack had caused.

It was enough, however, to let Magnus get an arm around the side of the Combaticon’s shield, and lift the latter clean into the air, and smashing into the concrete as Magnus rolled and brought his assailant down hard.

“Landmine!” Magnus called out, all too aware that he was still in no position to intercept Cyclonus in time to prevent him from trying to finish off his comrade, but…

In a flash, Magnus reached over to pick up the launcher he had been forced to let go of when Onslaught charged, and had just about enough time to throw it in Cyclonus’ direction before Onslaught grappled the City Commander once again.

For the time being, there was nothing more he could do.


--------------------------------------------------


The sound of the air being parted by the thrown weapon reached Cyclonus’ aural sensors only a fraction of a second after the thunderous crash which signalled that his lord and the Prime were on their way down to their level, in a less than measured fashion.

“Mi-” Cyclonus’ cry was interrupted as he was knocked to one side by the sheer mass of the oversized rocket launcher, and the prone Landmine couldn’t resist a bout of acerbic laughter at the Decepticon’s expense.

“Aren’t you supposed to be one of those hyper-aware Unicron-forged super-mechs, Mr. Smithers?” he chuckled, fighting down the fluid forming in his mouth from an unhealed rupture in the back of his throat. “You can chase a ship halfway across the galaxy, but get flat-footed by a… *cough* …giant chunk of metal!”

Such impudence would have earned Landmine an excruciating, and very final, retribution from Cyclonus at any other time – but once he shook off the moment of disorientation, there were far more pressing matters to attend to.


--------------------------------------------------


Here he is, the voice said, almost, but not quite, tainting him – never quite going away, but not often as assertive than it was at present.

“Quite so,” Galvatron replied, not even realising he was speaking aloud while doing so.

Ironically, Rodimus Prime – the one Autobot that had, in some way, haunted Galvatron’s thoughts ever since that terrible, calamitous day, separated from the present by only two years on a calendar, but by an immense gulf of void in the Emperor of Destruction’s tormented consciousness – had just made some comment or other regarding ‘last battle’ or ‘it ending here’ or some such nonsense, though its intended recipient seemed to have a more… immediate conversation partner.

Go, fight him. Kill him. Kill him. Kill him. the voice commanded, taking on a more assertive tone than Galvatron had expected to hear from it.

“I don’t need to be told!” the hakai taitei roared, as he lashed out with his bare hands, again and again and again, trying to breach the Prime’s defences and rip his faceplate off.

But he was parried, blocked, shunted at every turn. The Prime could fight, and fight well, in this close-quarters kind of match-up which even in his pre-Matrix days was his favoured melée range.

Galvatron’s frustration mounted, as his retribution – or was it even that? he wondered to himself for a moment – seemed to be, literally, out of reach.

What are you waiting for?

Are you not the heir of Megatron?

Is this not your destiny, to extinguish the park of Primes?

To forge a legacy of war and death throughout the cosmos?

“Enough…”

Do it. Do it now.

“…I said…”

DO IT!

“ENOUGH!”

He had been knocked to one side by the Prime, and almost out of sheer frustration, his hand reached to the ground, as if to throw the debris at his enemy’s face – when he managed to grab one of the severed heads of the chain he had fashioned earlier.

Leaping forth, he stabbed the edge towards the Prime – the blade biting deep into the forearm which had been brought up to stifle the blow – and Galvatron pressed the arm back towards the Prime’s chest, seeking to force the weapon through the other side of the forearm and deep into the torso itself.

It was insane…

…but it worked.


--------------------------------------------------


Rodimus Prime had forced himself through far too much already, in such a relatively short time.

He had still not recovered from the brutal assault by the Fallen, which had left scars that neither the set of regen treatments he had been given to try and recuperate, nor even the life-giving properties of the Matrix itself once re-claimed, could have undone.

And now, having gone into this critical fight in such a condition, he was straining himself to his limits in order to take on a foe he had last won against only as a freshly-minted Prime… and remembered all too clearly how close he had come before that to not having any future at all.

But it was not enough.


“Aaaaaaagh!” he screamed, as the spike pierced his blocking forearm, and he felt the tip dig into his chest, just above the point behind which the Matrix itself was housed.

He felt himself sink to his knees, as the inexorable might of the Decepticon emperor bore down upon him, remorseless and without mercy.

He felt so weak…

I can’t let myself fail, he thought, his mind fogging over, the strength in his limbs starting to flag.

It can’t end… like this…

So many people had needed him, had looked up to him, had turned to him as some sort of ‘Chosen One’ – as if he could somehow speak for Primus Himself, in the wake of the horrors wrought by Unicron in 2005.

Of the losses suffered by the climax of the Great War.

Of the death of no less a leader than Optimus Prime.
Is this it? he cursed at himself. Is this all that I am, all that I can be?

His optic-lids closed over, as he tried to push the pain away…


“Get your fucking act in gear, damnit!”

His optics opened again, and looked past Galvatron’s features to see a fiery young lady race down the flanks of a building on wings of pure energy, her hand outstretched and aimed at the lieutenant who was lifting himself up to hover over what he seemed to have hoped was the sight of his ‘Mighty’ leader finishing his weakened foe off.

Rodimus could see Cyclonus try to reach out and rake the Terran out of the sky, but she was two steps ahead, sweeping to one side and barrelling around to pepper his back with alternating bolts of flame, ice and void.

And she was actually hurting him, too!

“If I have to shoo these Decepticon bastards out of my city alone,” she called down to him, her voice thick with rage and defiance, “I’ll pull you back from whatever the hell your version of the Afterlife is, so I can send you back there myself!”

Galvatron looked up, seemingly in a kind of daze, but lucid enough for that moment to smirk at the Terran’s audacity.

It was all the time that Rodimus needed.

“Rrrrrrr…” Rodimus Prime lifted himself forward, taking the wound to the chest as he forced Galvatron back, and smashed into the Decepticon’s face with a powerful right hook.

Galvatron’s grip weakened, and Rodimus tore his still-pierced arm free, leaving a fresh gash in his chest as he expended his last reserves at tearing into his foe.

One punch rattled the armour on Galvatron’s shoulder. A knee to the chest shattered the transparent crimson plates in the hakai taitei’s abdomen. A stomp on the right thigh crumpled the skeletal structure beneath, bringing Galvatron to his knees, while a forceful downward elbow cracked into his back.

His energy almost spent, Rodimus Prime clamped onto one of the three horns protruding from Galvatron’s helmet, and reached over to grasp onto his head with the other.

“No…” Galvatron called out, “It… can’t… it can’t be…”

Rodimus had only three words.

“Yes, it is!”

With a bellowing roar, Rodimus expended the very last drops of energy, pulling upwards, straining the connections linking Galvatron’s head to his shoulders…

…until with a sickening lurch, they tore free completely.

Galvatron’s remaining chassis flopped forward, shaking involuntarily, as the head flew away out of Rodimus’ grasp, becoming buried in a pile of dust and debris.

But Rodimus could do no more.


He leaned away from his foe’s remains, tried to carry himself forward, but made it no further than the second step before he fell forward, his collapse arrested by the outstretched fingers of his hands on either side.

His last thought before losing consciousness was something which, had he the energy left for it, would have drawn a smile.

I guess she won’t have to kill me, after all.


And with that, his eyes faded, then all became darkness.


--------------------------------------------------


End of part 15.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:58 PM
Part 16


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Optimus


My optics opened – or, at least, what seemed to be such – and I found myself surrounded by the kind of world I had never seen before.

Streams of data given shape and form, rainbows of light and shadow coursing over a surface of glistening ethereality, ghostly clouds hovering in an electric sky above me...

…and in all of this, I stand alone.

Yet, I know that I am in the midst of some kind of presence.


I looked around, and I saw a portal to one side, leading away to Primus knows where – and to another, I saw a kind of hollow frame hover in the air, forming a kind of holographic image within its spacious confines.


I turned to it, and it flickered to life.


On it, I saw images of a time long past – the story of a being who I immediately recognised as one who had played a pivotal role in my life.


I saw him at a data terminal, busying himself as an out-of-the-way records clerk, blissfully unaware of the great narrative that Fate would place him within.

I saw him at his investiture, as the power of the Matrix bathed him, turning him from mid-level functionary to reluctant commander in all too brief a transition.

I saw him rally his people, returning from an extended absence form his home world, reminding them of the credo of freedom and justice that he had come to embody for those under his command.

I saw him slumber (mostly) undisturbed in the bowels of the great Ark, its construction a kind of lost art to future generations – entombed on an alien world alongside the stasis-locked chassis of both his closest comrades and his mortal foes.

I saw him, re-formatted to suit the needs of an organic civilisation, leading the now-legendary group of ‘‘84s’ in a secret war to protect a bystanding species from the spectre of tyranny.

And then…

…I saw him fight his final battle.

His moment of triumph over Megatron, snatched away by the foolishness of a young, impulsive intruder.

His silence after descending with a sickening thud into the surface beneath him.

His final words, and moments, as he passed from this life into the embrace of the Allspark.


I couldn’t bear it – I wanted to turn away, to hide my shame and self-pity from the screen, as if to escape the judgement of whatever force had deigned to display this series of events to me.


But then, I saw something else… something more.


I saw a world upon which a revived Optimus stood, cheering as he ushered in a new era of liberty for an embattled people.

I saw a red comet of holy light race from the surface of a broken world, arms outstretched before it to unleash the power of the Matrix against the Chaos Bringer itself.

I saw a crimson fire truck park alongside a burning apartment block, dousing the flames diligently, as it and its often-estranged brother provided hope to the endangered humans within.

I saw a pact agreed in the shadow of a dark and terrible void, in which a familiar-looking leader joined forces with an impossibly wise and ancient Cybertronian, in a quest to seek the means by which a great balance of forces may be restored.

I saw a humble space bridge operator clear debris from a construction site in a far-off corner of the galaxy, alongside his loyal team – while wondering when he could get the chance to prove that being a hero could be in hi programming, after all.

And finally, I saw a metal-flanked comet streak from the heavens onto a world not overly unlike one he had come to know well… then saw a silver bio-mechanoid emerge from an enclosed body of water, scan the form of a nearby automotive vehicle, and stand before two humans who held the key to their world’s future.


Every one of them looked different to each other, and to the being I had known, but there was no mistaking who they all were.

They were Optimus Prime.


“Hello, old friend.”


I turned from the monitor, and out of the portal emerged the one who was addressing me.

As he stepped forth, it seemed as if clouds of images hovered over his chassis – as if distinct segments of each of the Optimus Primes shown upon the viewscreen flowed aside and blended with one another.

However, the images coalesced as he came closer, and formed together into one shape – the Earth-mode Optimus I had known, all too briefly.

“Optimus…” I said, trying to find the words I had hoped to express ever since that horrible moment in 2005, yet finding myself incapable of getting past even this one simple word.

Although his face plate obscured certain facial reactions, I could still tell that he was smiling, and relaxed, as he placed his hand upon my shoulder. “You have nothing you need to ask me for, Rodimus Prime.”

I was not quite ready to let my guilt go, however. “But… I did… I caused…”

“You did your duty as an Autobot soldier,” Optimus reassured me, kindly, yet firmly. “In your place, I would have done the same.”

He gestured to the electric vista around us with his free hand. “As for the rest… my time had come.”

“Other versions of you live on,” I pointed out, referring to the Primes I had seen on the monitor.

“Perhaps,” he answered, “but my time… has passed.”

“…” I didn’t know how to answer that.

I didn’t have to. “Yours is only just beginning, my friend.”

I looked to him, and saw the well of knowledge, experience and wisdom in his glowing blue optics – and the assuredness behind him, in what he saw of me.

He had faith in me.

So, perhaps, it wouldn’t be so bad to have a little faith in myself, too.

“In time, all things pass,” he added, “and your spark may, one day, find its home here – at which time I will be honoured to know of all of the things you will have done for our people, and for all life, in the world I have left behind.”

“Hopefully, later rather than sooner,” I tried to quip, at which he nodded and laughed.

“Ha ha, quite so! It’ll take time for you to be an old coot like me, anyway.” Even here, he had not lost that… for want of a better word, prime quality.

“So, I’ll be going back, then?” I wondered, looking at the portal. After what had happened on Earth, I didn’t expect to open my real optics again.

“Let’s just say,” Optimus answered, “that the universe is not quite done with you yet.”

At this, he offered his hand, and I shook it gladly.


I had been able to make peace with the past.


And now, I knew that I had to make the most of the future.


“Walk with the One, Rodimus Prime,” he told me.

“I will,” I affirmed.

“I know you will,” he said confidently.

As he let go, I wondered just how I was supposed to get back, anyway.

“Oh, two things,” Optimus asked me, suddenly.

“Sure,” I answered.

“Tell my brother that he should get on with believing in himself,” he told me, “the way I have always done, and always will.”

I could not have agreed more with that assessment. “Of course.”

I felt an odd drip on my hand, as I asked about the other matter, and noticed how bright everything was getting. “And the second?”

Optimus smiled behind the face-plate, and spoke the last words I heard from him, as he, and everything else here, vanished behind the light enveloping me.

“Try to think of something clever to say.”


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Steve Jablonsky - No Sacrifice, No Victory


The battle was over.


With Galvatron’s fall, the combination of fear, duty and aggression which had driven the Decepticons onward collapsed in a heartbeat. Those who had not already been offlined or captured withdrew, vanishing from the skies above Fuyuki-shi almost as suddenly as they had arrived.

The Shinto district was in ruins, with broken buildings, gutted chasses, maimed bodies and cowering dust-caked survivors left in the wake of the tsunami of violence.

Now, slowly, people began to emerge from their hiding places, and while some were fearful to approach the aliens who remained – the ones who had fought and risked their own selves on their behalf – others carefully approached the still, silent form of the red-and-gold being who had so dramatically brought the invasion to a screeching halt.

None were brave enough to approach so close as to actually make contact with the being, however.

Except for one.


“No…” Rin sobbed, her palm pressed down upon Rodimus Prime’s outstretched right hand.

She had made it through, as had many others – but her mind was still numb to the thought of how many others had been slain in such a short time.

Despite this, she found that the life she was most concerned about was that of this brave, bright, foolish, charming, selfless, yet all-too-mortal… man, who was no less important to her now, no matter whether the flesh he wore was organic or bio-mechanical.

She didn’t care how selfish it may have seemed.

She didn’t want to lose him.

“Come back to me,” she sobbed, and a tear streaked down from her eye, landing on his hand below…


A ripple of energy, as if riding the crest of a wave formed by the dropping of a stone in a pool of water, spread around the point of contact, and faded out.

Then, a sound of pulsing energy reverberated around his bio-mechanical form, as his optic-lids opened, his fingers twitched slightly, and his optics glowed, then pulsed back to life.

He looked down at her astonished face… and smiled.


Rodimus lifted himself up, and looked out at the crowd of people who had been watching him, as well as noting the Autobots who were approaching on foot nearby.

He thought of Optimus Prime’s parting words, and tried not to shake his head wryly when thinking about it. So the old spark had one last card to flicker over the table, after all.

Still, the nest few moments would have nothing less than the weight of history upon them – and it was essential that he was up to the task.

A Prime should do no less.


And so, he stood, arms outstretched, as he spoke.

“People of the Earth, my name is Rodimus Prime.

I am of a species of sentient bio-mechanical life-forms from the planet Cybertron.

Though our forms and types of being are distinct, we of the Autobots -” he pointed to the red faction logo upon his chest as he said this – “hold firm to the principle that freedom…

…is the right of all sentient beings.

On behalf of my people, I grieve with you for all of those who have been lost to us on this day – and though no words of mine can un-do this tragedy, I hope that I can assure you that so long as even one of my kind stands, their loss will not be in vain.

And so, I offer to you on behalf of my people our friendship, support, protection, and partnership, for as long as you may wish for it…

…till the day when all are One.”


The crowd had initially been astonished to hear these words, but as he spoke, their expressions began to lift – seeing in the Autobot leader the promise of something they had abandoned in the face of the invasion…

…hope.

A few started at first, but soon the entire crowd was clapping and cheering, voicing and displaying their gratitude for the sacrifice made on their behalf, and demonstrating their acceptance of the offer made in the aftermath.

And thus, the formal first contact between two worlds was made.


But the day was not yet done, however.

A data upload was sent wirelessly, informing Rodimus that reinforcements had arrived to Earth from Cybertron, and that the Protectobots and others had already deployed to the city in order to carry out rescue efforts, and help plan for a reconstruction project for the city.

As he acknowledged this, two fast friends approached him, and bowed in greeting.

“We have realised a discrepancy, Rodimus Prime, and have come to a decision regarding it,” Star Saber spoke.

Victory Leo nodded in agreement. “Neither of us have formally signed up to the Autobots – but if you don’t mind…”

“Of course.” The two knelt, as Rodimus placed a hand each upon their shoulders. “Do you accept the duties and responsibilities of an Autobot soldier, to fulfil those to the best of your ability, and to stand proudly as guardians of freedom and justice?”

“Yes,” they spoke in unison.

“All I needed to hear,” Rodimus smiled, as he stood back and withdrew his hands. “Arise, Star Saber and Victory Leo, and welcome to the Autobots. Till All Are One!”

The two stood, as the auto-nanites within their forms brought forth fresh Autobot faction logos upon their chasses. “Till All Are One!”


A new chapter in the history of both peoples had been written – and, perhaps, future generations might look upon this day as the end of an era, the onset of a golden age, or perhaps as the sign of an era of bitter consequence.


But no matter which path the Fates had laid out, it was still up to those within to walk it.


And that journey…


…had only just begun.



--------------------------------------------------


End of Part 16.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:59 PM
Epilogue


--------------------------------------------------


BGM: Mute Math – Transformers Theme (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPA5UfzE7Lk)


The garage door opened, as the raven-haired woman stepped beneath the shutters and headed towards the flame-flanked vehicle parked within.

Said vehicle opened its door to let her in, and she slid into the seat and sat quietly as the door closed itself behind her.

As it shut, the engine revved, as the various monitors and lights activated on the dashboard, and the radio tuned in to a local station the woman had picked up an interest in listening to.

A few moments later, the shutter was up high enough, and so the vehicle changed gear and smoothly drove itself out into the driveway, and on to the road.


They had a lot to do that day.


--------------------------------------------------


Something was wrong.

Well, things had been wrong to the point of catastrophe for a while now, but not quite like this.

For one, the numbers of Decepticons who had made it this far back toward Chaar were relatively few – aside from the loss of Galvatron, other Decepticons had either fallen in battle, been detained, or otherwise unaccounted for.

No-one knew where Soundwave had gone off to, for example, and the unstable vortex in which Swindle and Onslaught had jumped into had led them to who knows where.

Plus, the Predacons had decided to abandon the group altogether, as if dismissing the rest of the Decepticons as surplus to their requirements, now that the cast-iron will of the one who had bound them to the cause was no longer present.

Essentially, Cyclonus was left with little more than Scourge, a number of Sweeps, and whoever was left on Chaar to rally for duty.

“So, now will you finally stop procrastinating, and actually take command of the Decepticons for a change?” Scourge was through with even the pretense of concealing his displeasure at the situation, that to his mind should have been resolved two years ago with Cyclonus stepping up to the plate.

It was just as well that Scourge could think of nothing less appealing than taking that trouble himself – he was content with commanding his Sweeps, and letting his brother deal with the lesser Decepticons – or things would have taken a far more violent turn by now.

“Enough!” Cyclonus’ mask of composure was cast to one side, his spark seething with anger and rage over what he had seen happen to Galvatron, a wound only deepened by the reality he could no longer ignore…

…that Galvatron’s reign had been a disaster for the Decepticons.

The worst part about what Scourge was saying stung his sense of duty the most – it really would have been better for them all had Cyclonus assumed command in the first place.


But now, he had no excuse not to.


Except that as he and the others landed on Chaar, he wondered just what it was he was supposed to be assuming command of.

Before him, overshadowing the fortifications, rested an immense structure – which, in and of itself, took on the form and dimensions of a new city.

He noted the ring of displacement which surrounded it, clear signs that this ‘city’ had somehow landed here of its own power.

“Are you not impressed?” a voice asked, and Cyclonus looked down towards the source of the question.

Two small beings stood on the central boarding ramp of the city, one in a cybernetic suit of black and silver, the other wearing a similar device in cream and purple.

It was the latter who had posed the question – and Cyclonus’ sensors were able to see past the façade of the suit and recognise the modified, though still organic, form within.


Nebulans, he sniffed.

“Explain yourself, flesh-creature!” Cyclonus demanded, in no mood to tolerate insolence from this jumped-up hybrid-organic.

“I have a name, Cyclonus,” the being responded. “If I can show you the courtesy of knowing yours, perhaps you could at least ask for mine in return?”

Scourge smirked, hoping that the fleshling would prove just annoying enough to let his brother command he rip it apart.

It was not quite there yet, but not far off, all the same. “You mean nothing to me.”

“I knew he wouldn’t listen,” a deep rumbling voice echoed through the city, form an unknown source.

At this, the Nebulan smiled. “Oh, we’ll see.”

At this, a bay door opened, and an unusual treaded vehicle with twin massive mechanical claws and an overhanging tail rolled out.

The black-and-silver one stepped to one side, as the other leaped up and landed on the roof of the vehicle’s cabin.

“Once, I was known simply as Lord Zarak,” the being spoke, as the vehicle it stood upon transformed into a fearsome bio-mechanoid – to which Zarak’s transformed suit attached as a head.

The rolling voice returned, this time emanating more closely. “And separately, we were more limited as life forms.”

The city began to shake violently, and Cyclonus looked up, the bitter realisation of how poor the situation was about to become beginning to dawn upon him.

“But together...”

Towers and driveways folded and re-formed, tunnels and walkways retracted, turrets adjusted and gigantic structures shifted into place…

“We... are more.”

…and Zarak’s bio-mech attached itself within the emerging head of the terrible creation which beheld the surface of Chaar.

And a new, combined voice boomed.

“We… are Scorponok!”


--------------------------------------------------


A sphere of un-natural flame raced through the folds of subspace, decaying and scarring the fabric of reality which lay upon its path.

Within, an ancient being simmered with barely-suppressed fury, trying to focus its mind away from the frustration at having its recent efforts thwarted, and towards the far more important matter of planning the end of this accursed universal stream.

I am the Avatar of Entropy.

I have a duty to the Unbinding.

A responsibility to upholding the promise of Bliss that the Great One seeks to offer the multiverse.

Yes…

It is only a matter of Time.

The sphere changed course, and the Fallen turned his efforts to seeking out the means by which the coming campaign may be waged.


--------------------------------------------------


Upon the lunar surface, the recent arrival to this reality noted the data which had come from Earth regarding the series of events which had so changed the local dynamic of Terran-Cybertronian relations.

There was a lot to consider, even with the added (stolen) processing power of the TransTech device the being had used to identify this universal stream in the first place.

Even so, it smirked as it came to its first conclusion.

I think I am going to do just nicely in this reality.


Stowing the device in a storage bay, the being then transformed, raced across the rim of the crater before banking up into the void, and vanished through a hyperspace portal.

It was time to get settled in.


--------------------------------------------------


“I’ll get it!”

Time had passed since the Day of Consequence, and this was the first time that the gang had managed to find just enough time to enjoy something of a get-together at the Emiya-tei.

Thankfully, while the existence of Cybertronians in general was now public knowledge, Pretender technology remained a closely-guarded secret – as had the aspects of events which could have compromised the long-standing secrecy of the Mage’s Association.

Not that it hadn’t been a close-run thing, in terms of keeping the latter especially under wraps… and the Clock Tower still had a few uncomfortable questions it intended to ask a certain raven-haired magus.

But they could wait.

“So, got anything interesting there, Rin?” Garret asked, as he leaned over to see the letter that Tohsaka was just finished reading.

She shrugged. “Meh, it’s another ‘invite’ from the Association. I’m sure they are eager to teach me all I need to know…”

“Pfft,” Garret snorted. “Stick with us, and before too long they’ll be the one begging for you to teach them all you know!”

“All that you don’t mind sharing, of course,” she pointed out.

He smiled. “Well, I’ll trust your discretion.”


Meanwhile, Shirou and Artia were chatting with Ilya – who really was starting to look taller.

“I’m gonna catch up with you, onii-chan, just you wait!” she giggled, as she winked over to Artia, “though I guess I’ll get to your level first…”

Artia responded with a well-placed tickle – her demeanour around the silver-haired girl softening considerably over the course of time they had spent together. “A lack of preparedness is still your enemy, Illyasviel!”

“Ha ha!” Shirou laughed, before joining in the tickle-fest.


Meanwhile, Professor Hawk got the door, and smiled to see the familiar face on the other side. “You look well, Étienne.”

“Merci beaucoup,” Étienne replied, nodding in reply before taking a step inside. “To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I’d…”

His voice faded as a certain person looked over and noticed his arrival.

“So, you must be Étienne – it’s a pleasure to meet you at last,” Garret offered, smiling, offering his hand.

It should have been easy to respond. Étienne had learned about the mix-up which left the commander with the same DNA as that he currently kept in trust, and in principle, it shouldn’t have been a problem.

After all, had the donor known, he would have been happy enough… and wasn’t it good to have his legacy borne by less a hero than the Protector himself?

It should have been fine…

…but Étienne knew that, for too many reasons to count, it really wasn’t.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, as he turned to leave. “I can’t… I can’t do this.”

Garret, who understood all too well, stepped back, and nodded. “I… understand.”

But while Étienne began to step away, a fresh voice carried itself through the air to him – one which was as soft as silk, but still had the power to reach him like no other.

“I have been waiting to meet you again, Autobot-san,” Sakura told him, as she stepped forth towards him.

As he found himself turning back towards the door – towards her – he lifted his head and wondered for a moment if his optics hadn’t deceived him back then.

However, with one look, he had his answer.

You really are the most beautiful woman in the universe.


Suddenly, sticking around didn’t seem like too bad an idea, after all.


--------------------------------------------------


In the interim between the landing of Galvatron’s severed head in a cloud of dust and debris, and the recovery of said item by the reclamation corps, two small, glowing spheres emerged momentarily from the frame, before vanishing into the ground.

Some time later, the spheres re-emerged and skimmed over the Pacific Ocean, moving silently over the waters as they headed upon their destination.

Or rather, one sphere seemed to be in the driving force, extending its control over the second as if cradling sensitive goods for transport.

Over an unmarked stretch of ocean, the spheres plunged downwards, and sped through the depths, the various marine creatures passed en route paying them no heed.

Eventually, the spheres approached the outer structure of an alien-constructed craft, submerged in the deep, yet still sealed within from the crushing pressure of the ocean beyond.

The lead sphere floated through the corridors and into a kind of experiment chamber, where it dropped the second sphere into a kind of cubic box before racing into a waiting chassis.

Its optics glowed, as power coursed through its long-dormant systems, and it stepped forth.

“Good to see your Spark made it this far, fearless leader,” the bio-mech spoke, fir the first time in this new body. “Now, be so kind as to not extinguish before I finish the transfer!”

Activating a series of panels and displays, the being set in motion a spark transfer process, which placed the second sphere into a ready and waiting Cybertronic form.

Once complete, the being tapped the form, looking to get its attention. “Did you enjoy your nap, vaunted one?”

“U… uh… YOU!” The voice coming from the object – a pistol scaled for use by a ‘regular’ Cybertronian – rasped in reply.

“Oh, come now, Megatron, is that any way to address an old friend such as myself?” the other being chortled.

The newly-awakened one stopped for a moment. “Wait… Megatron?”

It examined its current form, and the realisation hit home. Yes… I am no longer in the same form – this chassis is closer to my older self.

I am Megatron once again.


“It’s just as well,” the being offered. “Being in that Unicron-fashioned form was so… uncomfortable. No wonder you were going crazy in there.”

Crazy… Megatron had to admit that for the first time in… he couldn’t even remember… that he felt as lucid and sharp as he had been before striking that Faustian pact with the Chaos Bringer.

“But that voice…” There had been one other element to his discomfiture, however. That constant echo, the taunting voice, which sounded so much like his old self – but in the final moments of the battle with Rodimus, had dropped its façade and revealed its true intent.

“Unnnnh!” Megatron railed, as he tried to transform, but with little success. “What… what is this?”

“Oh, keep up, Megatron,” the being chided him. “Don’t you remember – the Nucleon Project?”

Nucleon… “Yes… it was meant to be a new form of energy,” Megatron replied, his memory starting to come back to him.

“I had hoped it would allows us to both replace Energon and gain the lead over the Autobots,” the scientist mind of the other being worked over the process, “but it had a troubling side-effect of not allowing a Cybertronian to transform.”

He lifted his hand up. “This chassis of mine is like that – stronger than the original, surely, but stuck as a bio-mech… albeit a stunningly magnificent specimen, if I do say so myself!”

It only took a moment for the realisation to sink in. If the being had trapped his bio-mech form using Nucleon, than that meant Megatron’s current gun mode was – “I’ll find a way out of this, and when that happens, I’ll make you pay for this!”

A maniacal laugh was the immediate reply. “Oh, I’m sure you will, but before then, I have plans for you, mighty Megatron.”

It lifted the gun out of its mount, and pointed it towards a target drone at the other end of the room. “You may not be in a position to pull the trigger yourself, but I assure you that I am more than willing and able.”

To demonstrate the point, he fired, and the force of the fusion cannon obliterated the target in one shot.

“You’ll help me re-gain mastery of the Decepticons, and watch from the ideal vantage point as my reign is forged in fire across the galaxy!”

“How dare you…” Megatron was fit to burst, but his captor had no mercy.

“Say it,” he said. “Say my name, and let the walls shake with its echo!”

With this, at least, Megatron found himself obliging his treacherous once-lieutenant.

“Your fate is already sealed…

…STAAAAAR…SCREEEEEEEEAM!”


--------------------------------------------------


This story will continue in Fate/Trans Form: The Era of Consequence.

Nerroth
April 1st, 2011, 05:59 PM
One last update, before the follow-up - another entry in an IDW forum writing comp (http://forum.idwpublishing.com/viewtopic.php?t=5984).


The Call of Fate

“H’trorren to Audentes – I think I’ve found another one.”

The green-and-white interceptor craft’s most recent mission was a grim one – combing the debris left behind by the wreckage of a number of allied starships, as well as that left in the wake of the destruction of Unicron’s main body, in search of survivors.

His ship, the Audentes, had dis-engaged its transwarp drive and emerged near Cybertron too late to play a role in the battle, but arrived just in time to see the Entropic monster’s destruction at the hands of the Matrix…

…a sight none on board would ever forget.

So far, a number of high-profile individuals had already been rescued – H’trorren himself had been present when Ultra Magnus was recovered and brought on board.

However, while most were recovered without incident, such was not so for the monstrous stasis-locked being H’trorren now uncovered...


---------------------


“How are you doing, H’trorren?” asked the Audentes’ commanding officer – an Autobot of no small renown himself.

H’trorren, for his part, was slouched forward slightly, his fingertips resting on the edge of a circular interface. Upon it currently showed a three-dimensional holo-image of the Milky Way galaxy.

He looked across to his commander, and sighed – knowing that in an off-duty time like this, Countdown had little use for the usual protocols. “I’ve been getting close to a decision, sir.”

“I was thinking as much,” Countdown answered, as he stepped to another side of the interface, and looked up.

“I’ve seen my fair share out there, lad,” he added, as he looked at the image before him. “Yet, even so… I have never seen the likes of this.”

It was as if Countdown himself was as much trying to come to terms with the advent of Unicron as any other who had, in one way or another, made it through the experience.

H’trorren kept thinking of one particular aspect of this whole event, however. “I guess I was as shocked as anyone when we first arrived – but it wasn’t until I saw him that I found myself… asking the kind of questions that, well… I just can’t ignore.”

Countdown remembered the moment vividly. There was something so… haunting about seeing the prone form of Galvatron up close. Even in its stasis-locked form, it un-nerved those around him to an extent that even Megatron himself had not done.

Thankfully, Magnus and Rodimus Prime had been quick to see to the fallen Decepticon commander’s incarceration on Cybertron, and the crew of the Audentes would not have to worry about the prospect of that… thing re-awakening and ripping them all to shreds in moments.

“I’ve been proud to serve alongside you, Countdown,” H’trorren acknowledged, “and been grateful for the role I’ve been able to play in my time aboard Audentes…”

He turned to Countdown, his expression showing that he had reached his decision. “…but I feel it’s time to move on.”

Countdown took a moment to consider this, and then nodded. “I understand.”

At this, the chest module of Countdown’s larger trans-tector chassis opened. The smaller Micromaster form detached from its slot within, transformed, and saluted. “Audentes won’t be the same without you, H’trorren.”

“Thank you, sir,” H'trorren replied, then saluted in return.

“So,” Countdown gestured to the map, “do you have somewhere you want to move on to?”

“Actually,” H’trorren smiled, as he adjusted the display in order to focus on a certain neighbouring star system, “I always wanted to try this place.”

Countdown gave a lop-sided grin, as he pulled out a pocket datapad. “In that case…

…I think I know just the man to talk to.”

Kieran
April 1st, 2011, 08:12 PM
Yaaay - my favourite of your stories is back! The most unlikely yet successful crossover returns!

Theocrass
April 1st, 2011, 08:13 PM
I got to say, as a big Transformers fan, this is a real delight for me to read.

Nerroth
April 2nd, 2011, 01:21 AM
I just noticed I might have to go through and find new youtube links for some of the BGM choices...

Nerroth
November 20th, 2013, 09:50 PM
TakaraTomy recently held a fan's choice poll, to decide a character to be added to the Masterpiece toy line.

And the winner is... Star Saber (http://www.tfw2005.com/transformers-news/transformers-masterpiece-47/star-saber-wins-the-takara-tomy-masterpiece-fans-choice-poll-178798/)!

(The "real" Star Saber doesn't have anything to do with the one that appears in this story, though.)

Renko
November 21st, 2013, 12:13 AM
I am so cringing right now after reading! Ridiculous!fanfic for the win? :sakura: