Magnus returned to Fort Max. In order to get a better grip of his intended target, he felt it necessary to talk to the last known victim. But Rodimus had relapsed, and ended back in First Aid's hands. Optimus arrived from Germany just a few hours before and resumed the duties of three people: Magnus', his own, and Roddi's. Even talking to the Senior Prime was out of the question.
The other latest victim lay in bed with a really bad cold.
Magnus timidly tapped on Rusti's bedroom door and after a moment, Max opened it and the City Commander entered, a bit bashful over intruding on her rest.
The little girl smiled warmly just the same, easing the huge robot's nervous stance. Magnus fumbled for words before deciding to approach the bedside. He gracefully knelt beside her tiny form and sent her a wry smile.
"Uhhm . . ." Whatever he should have said to greet her ran away and made the moment awkward.
"Hi." She greeted in his stead. She sniffed and wiped her nose with a bundled tissue.
"Hi." He answered simply. "I'm sorry you're ill."
She shrugged. "Optimus told me I needed sleep. But I couldn't 'cuz Roddi was . . ." She couldn't finish that either and coughed several times before tossing another cough drop in her mouth. She leaned back against her pillow, exhausted. A drawing tablet lay in her lap, the simple drawing of her Raggedy Ann remained unfinished.
Magnus had never felt 'sick', but he knew what it was like to have malfunctioning or worn-down parts and he was sure it was pretty much the same thing. He glanced at the carpet for a moment, trying to gather the words he needed. "Rusti," he spoke softly, knowing she could hear him just fine, "I have a favor to ask of you. I know it might be hard, maybe painful to remember. But I need to know everything you can recall concerning the Cyberwraith when it attacked you.
Her sea grey eyes grew wide with surprise. She slowly sat up but only settled back against her pillows. "Why?"
"Because I have to find it."
"It's not in the city, Ultra Magnus."
"Yes, I know-" his optics lit up with surprise. "How did you know that?"
"It doesn't like the city. It tried to keep me away from Max." Rusti shrugged and plucked up another tissue, blowing her nose to no good.
Magnus knew she needed sleep: "Rusti, I'm sorry, but I need to know everything you can remember. I know Prime told me the Cyberwraith had taken on the form of a tree stump. Do you recall anything it said, or did, or indicated?"
Rusti tried to swallow a lump in her throat. She gazed away from him, toward the window overlooking the EDC district two stories down. "I don't know, Ultra Magnus." She answered softly. "I was scared and sick. I saw a lot of freaky things. I could feel it breathe on me and it said it knew by sequence and it called be a lot of bad names. It had faces all over its body and I think they were screaming."
Magnus allowed her to fall silent while he processed the information. "Faces, Rusti?" He echoed after a while. "You mean you saw faces in the tree stump?"
"No. Not there. Back at the factory. It was made of heads."
Puzzlement twisted Magnus' face. "Rusti, did the Cyberwraith find you there at the factory? Was that your first encounter?"
"Where did it go after that? What saved you?"
Rusti's sad expression fell blank and she shook her head. "I don't know." She answered very quietly. "I don't remember. I don't remember a lot of things, Ultra Magnus. It was all a really bad dream somehow." Now she looked at him and he registered the weariness in her eyes. "Have you ever felt that you were not where you should be? I mean, did you ever feel as though you weren't supposed to exist at all?"
Magnus gave her a grim smile and tucked the blanket a little closer to her shoulders. "Only when I'm the only one left standing at the end of a battle." He answered in sadness. He suddenly bit his own words, knowing he should not go around saying such things. It was certainly true. But it was information she did not need, and certainly not in this condition.
Rusti sniffed, closed her eyes and fell quiet now, her weakened condition demanded rest. Magnus set the tablet and pencils on her night stand and left the room.
He leaned against the doorpost and thought for a long moment. Rusti's information was sketchy, but Magnus knew he would not get much from her, knowing what she went through a few months ago. Such a fragile creature! And so determined! He admired her strength. But her descriptions of the Cyberwriath troubled him. The wraith came to her in faces, most likely in its bodiless form. Then it must have trailed after her and somehow attained a body by using the plant growth around it.
And then it disappeared and reappeared in a shuttle. How was it traveling?
Magnus groaned in frustration. If the shuttle hadn't blown like it did, he might have been able to acquire a clue from it. But as it was, he had nothing.
Except the remains of the cafeteria.
Optimus silently picked his way over and around the ruined cafeteria. It would take a good six weeks to get it going again. At least when the wraith attacked, it attacked the nondescript side. All the framed art and certificates belonging to many EDC members still remained in tact.
Magnus rummaged through what was once the doorway. He hauled up one sheet of metal after another, scanning and tossing them aside. Prime watched him for a moment, taking note how intensely Magnus concentrated on the task.
"Hello, old friend." He softly greeted.
Magnus shot up, turned and gave the Autobot leader a distant gaze. "Hey." He grunted and returned to his scan.
"How can I help?"
Magnus found the piece of rubble as useless as the rest and threw it aside. He sighed and finally decided to take a break. "I uh, I talked with Rusti. She's still not well."
"She's under a great deal of stress." Optimus confirmed.
Magnus nodded and traced the topside of his scanner, looking for words. "She told me something of her experience with the wraith. From her description, I'd almost say that it came to her in its natural form."
This was something of which Prime was not aware. He had not asked her much of anything regarding her few days and nights alone in Central City. He figured she would rather not try to recall. Prime rounded the mess between he and Magnus and found a seat on a broken partition. "What else did she say?" He asked quietly.
"That the wraith told her it knew her sequence. Prime, this is confusing. I know over the millions of years, the wraith could have accommodated itself to adapt more efficiently to its environment, but plant life? And why only Rusti? Why not other humans? It went to a great deal of trouble to track her down."
Prime leaned over, setting his chin on his laced fists. "Sequences in DNA, Ultra Magnus." He said very quietly.
"But why only her DNA? What's so special about Rusti?" Magnus reminded.
Optimus sat up and Magnus read the hesitation in his optics. "Rusti . . . doesn't produce gamma wave life force." He said softly.
"What?" Magnus heard him, but couldn't believe what he said.
"Gamma wave life force." Prime repeated. "Rusti's body doesn't produce it like a normal Human. That's why she gets sick when she's gone from Fort Max too long a time. Her physical rhythms are imbalanced."
Optimus was talking in riddles as far as Magnus was concerned. But then his mind raced back to the elementary school that was obliterated by the war cult several months ago. An alien force had literally fried the bodies of fourteen cultists to the walls down the main hallway. The remains, however unlovely, registered in gamma wave life force radiation.
And that might have attracted the wraith.
"You know . . ." Magnus thought hard about how he wanted to say what he was going to say, "If I were a creature in serious need of a good recharge, I don't think I would exert myself to hunting too much until I've had a good dose of power. You and I both know the wraith feeds on other sources of energy besides life. In fact, it hunts the living more for pleasure than nourishment."
"Are you saying our ghost is attaining its strength elsewhere?" Prime quipped.
"If you recall, Optimus, the wraith had taken more than its share of Autobot lives on Cybertron, but it also devoured sixteen power generators and four thousand energon cubes."
"Ssso, you think it might be aiming for a power-generating facility?"
"I don't know. I don't really think it would tamper with anything that would make it easily detectable by scanners. Human scanning devices might be low-powered and somewhat primitive, but they can scan things like radiation burns."
Prime sat up straight, now looked at Magnus with a new light on his face plates. "I have an idea."
"What's that, Boss?"
Optimus kept his patience. Blaster had ignored him for the last three times he had tried to talk and it was getting annoying. "I need you to link up to the satellite and look for these frequency wave lengths."
Blaster's attention had jumped from his sound board, to four phone calls for music requests to his daily track record of commercials and now the Big Cheese suddenly wants a favor? Sheesh! So Blaster figured Op would understand and put the request off until a later time. But by the third disregard, Blaster saw Magnus cross his arms. Where Optimus would not verbally push, Magnus would physically indicate a warning-"do it or else" and forcing a slight and uncomfortable chuckle from the back of his synthesizer, Blaster gave Prime an apologetic smile.
"Sorry, Boss. Just sorta busy. Jus' lemme know what frequency-it's good as done!"
Optimus smiled through his optics, knowing what had just transpired. Magnus was his strong arm, that was what Magnus was best at and Optimus gave him every opportunity to remind the troops who was their drill sergeant.
Blaster tapped a few buttons and his seat unfolded and he transformed and connected to the chair itself, thereby also connecting straight to his radio board. From there, the radio link-up connected to one of the three satellites stationed in orbit high above Canada. He programmed the frequency Optimus requested into the satellite's systems and began a world-wide search, connecting to five and six other satellites over Russia, China, Indo Asia, South America and Egypt.
Prime and Magnus waited in silence. The signal would not be easy to find and it could take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.
But just the next minute, Blaster exclaimed a "Eureka!" and disconnected. He transformed into his robot form and transmitted the data onto a digipad straight from his right hand. "The signal I picked up is in one of those forbidden areas-that one place in China, in fact."
"What's that?" Magnus asked as he accepted the pad from Blaster.
"It's in the North-western side close to the Russian border-the Carlonium Crystal Crevice."
Both Autobot Commanders flinched in surprise.
"Blaster!" Prime gasped. "Are you sure of your coordinates?
"Never been surer." The Communications Chief answered. "The signal came straight from the crevice. A deaf man could pick up the signal, it was so loud."
"Then I'm on my way." Magnus announced.
"You're going to the Crevice?" Blaster's lip components dropped apart in disbelief.
Magnus stared at Blaster, but said nothing. He gazed at Optimus <<I will come back.>> he swore.
Prime's head tilted down just slightly, his optics dimmed, <<It had better be in one piece, Magnus. I'll come after you and kick your ass personally.>>
Magnus smirked out loud and walked out.
Magnus waited patiently for Skyfire to find a place to land just a mile shy of the crevice. Magnus disembarked, double checking his equipment then bade the air commander good-bye. He waited until Skyfire was out of sight then the City Commander transformed to his powerful vehicle mode and coasted carefully along the old trail ways and battle paths left by the bitter battle years ago. He edged about the mountain fortress where Megatron once held a temporary base of operations and quietly transformed back to robot mode. Magnus took a quick visual estimate of the surroundings before slipping on a set of specialized goggles. The land turned into a sonic symphony radiating powerful sound and light frequencies. Just ahead, the crevice glowed brilliantly, beckoning Magnus to take a better look.
The Major-General tried to sneak about the rocks and crevices surrounding the ancient area. But it proved foolish. Finally Magnus got down on his hands and knees and crawled to the lip of the ravine.
Several feet below, crystals of unimaginable size sprouted like glow-in-the-dark visages of forbidden power. They taunted him because Magnus could feel their strength within his circuitry and part of him yearned to taste that delicious energy. The other part of him reminded constantly the terrible price of that particular 'forbidden fruit'. He could feel the vibrations of the crevice's bosom and somewhere down there loomed a spirit of evil. Magnus turned right and crawled along the lip, glancing between his path and the crevice in the darkness of nightfall.
Then he found his prey.
Dancing between the crevice wall and one tall slice of crystal, the wraith laughed a whispery laugh all to itself. It prattled on in its own peculiar language, fussing one moment, laughing insanely the next. It whispered and hissed like a cat, moving like an ethereal figure of light. Magnus watched it for a long moment, trying to decide what was the best way to catch it with as little struggle as possible.
The wraith was beautiful. Having drawn in the unstable energies leaking from the Carlonium, the creature glowed and shimmered. It danced and tapped, flitting this way and that, completely unaware of its one-bot audience.
Magnus unslung his pack and gave his surroundings a cursory glance. He was hemmed in by boulders, trenches and gullies. The craggy area brimmed with shale and other sedimentary, brittle rock. An unstable ground for a pit of unstable crystali. But here he could dig into the rock formations and make good his trap.
Magnus plowed grappling hooks into three large pillars of stone and set magnesium strips for a small electronet. He set the crystal behind the latches so that once the net was tripped, the magnesium would ignite and radiate a small shock wave, pulsating a sound that 'woke' the crystal's own power frequencies thereby sucking the wraith in.
Magnus checked the ravine again, just to make sure his prey remained where it was. It still danced like a mad fairy, now zipping around the crystal shards, drunk with power.
The time was now.
Magnus whacked the two silver blades together so that the metal vibrated at unheard ranges.
Like a dart of pure energy, the wraith shot from the crevice flooring right at the Major-General. Magnus leapt out of the way, hoping the thing was flitting too fast to avoid the trap. But it followed him in perfect accuracy and Magnus ducked between boulders. It shrieked, infuriated and he managed to hide himself from its sight.
"Damn!" He whispered to himself. He underestimated its agility. He'd have to come up with another way to lure it back to the trap.
" . . . aaaaagggnnnuuussssssssssssss." It sang. The lilting song called soft and sweetly, the tenor voice inviting but Magnus knew it was a death song and he firmly ordered himself to stay put. Shadows grew and faded as the glowing figure of the cyberwraith passed just a few yards from him. "Play with me, mighty warrior. I know you're here. I smell . . . maaagneeeeseeeuuum. Can't be mean. Don't be mean. Cruel, indecent little creature."
The light faded. The sound died with it and Magnus nearly held his breath more tightly. One wrong move. One false assumption. One careless thought and it would have him. He waited, optics darkened.
Oh, one minute more and another after that . . . and the Major-General reactivated his optics.
It was sitting right in front of him.
"Not Autobot. Not know the sequence. Let me inside so I know your sequence."
"Is that how you kill your prey? You ask them in?"
It tilted its head from one side to the other. Somehow, it didn't seem quite so dangerous just now. The wraith's eyes burned dark and when it opened its mouth, a cavern of nothingness accompanied three terrible rows of teeth. "Not fair. Not fair to ask that question. Where's the stupid little girl?"
"What little girl?" Magnus asked. He took their rocky setting into account and thought about causing an avalanche to fall upon them both. He knew he could easily recover. But the wraith might be confused and unable to think as quickly.
"You know. The Delicious One. I had her-almost all of her and that naughty city tattled on me." It gave a mock pout.
Magnus shifted so that he looked a little more comfortable around the creature, luring it into a false sense of security, "How-how did you come into the world?" He asked lightly.
It smiled, pleased with itself and it sat straight. "The genes let me go. The Power . . . it broke down the doors!"
"You mean in the Matrix." Magnus assumed.
"Yesss! And the stupid girl didn't know! Sweet thing. Sweet prey. Good to taste. Not her fault. The other Thing was there and It helped."
"What other thing?"
"The Thing that sings to Itsself. The Dark Thing that laughs at its own jokes. It feeds and we passed by It. She wasn't aware of It. But then, the stupid girl doesn't know much of anything. But she's-"
"Alright, alright! Enough of the girl! I know she tastes good. You've said that."
"You askedt." It stuttered. "I answered. You askedt and I answered and that is how it is."
"It certainly is."
Magnus fired one of his shoulder-mounted missiles right at the wraith, causing the rock formations around them to crumble like so much broken chalk. The wraith spat and wailed in fear, the sound of its wails sent chills down Magnus' audio processors. He pushed and pulled and pried and managed to get one hand free. He called his weapon from subspace and shot one rock after another until he pulled himself free.
But the moment he emerged, the thing did too and it bellowed, infuriated at the betrayal. Magnus ran toward the right side of the trap, but he didn't make it. The wraith screamed like a banshee and Magnus fell tumbling out of control.
It bit him and he swallowed his scream, reaching around his shoulder to pull the thing off. But it zipped from him and faced him. Magnus rolled out of its reach but not fast enough. It grazed down his left leg, slicing into a line. Magnus moaned softly but cut off his pain receptors. He lifted a nearby rock and threw it, meaning to distract the entity. He produced the ultrasound rifle and fired.
The wraith screamed again, more angry than before and it attacked Ultra Magnus with great ferocity. It slammed the Autobot against the rocks and threw loose boulders at him. It danced madly, the brightness of unstable power lit the area in a presentation of blazing lights and deathly darks. Magnus had a hard time keeping in perfect motion to avoid any real injury. The wraith was matched for him, tactic for tactic and it kept screaming, calling him every foul and unmentionable name. Magnus struck out, fired his rifle and grasped it physically a time or two, wrestling his way back to the trap until the trap sprung-by his own falling body.
No good. No good. The thing set off, the magnesium lit and the wraith was not where it was supposed to be.
"Treasonist!" It hissed. "Take the toy and run away!" It slammed itself square into Magnus' midriff and shot off toward the crevice.
Magnus stumbled about in a daze. He fell against a rock and clung to it for several moments, regaining his balance. He started to recover enough to realize what the thing was going to do. He ran toward it, hoping to catch the entity before it dipped back into the crevice.
Too late. It was already down on the crevice floor, hastily devouring power stored in five large crystals. It cried out in madness and using the unstable power within, the wraith shot from the ravine like a rocket. Magnus gasped and ran as fast as he could, rounding the largest rock formations he could find as the wraith shot out the crevice, erupting several crystals. One explosion caused another and another. The whole area flared white and Magnus spotted the brilliance of the wraith's body as it flew freely through the sky.
Magnus realized if the wraith reached civilization with the unstable energies it fed on, it would destroy everything it touched.
Where was it heading? The Major-General panicked for a moment. He couldn't possibly follow it along the ground-he didn't dare call for back up, it'd devour any Human- or Autobot-based DNA that came close to it.
He could call for Skyfire, but Skyfire would not arrive on time. There remained one option however. He didn't want to think of it. He didn't want to use it. But it was, at this moment, the only choice left to him.
He returned to the broken, useless trap and retrieved the crystal, now buried under debris. He rechecked his weapon for charge and drew a deep breath. This was the hardest thing he's had to do in centuries.
Magnus ran for the cliffside of the crevice. He checked the parameters throughout all his systems, preparing to do something he had not done in nearly seven million years.
There was a systems failure along the neural pathways in his left leg. The wraith's attack caused him to ignore his pain receptors and Magnus didn't think about rerouting power. He did that and ran even faster until he ran right off the cliff.
He wasn't sure it was going to work.
Parts of his body unfolded. Parts of parts not used in seven million years came to life, albeit a bit out of practice, they changed and folded, snapped open, shut, connected and reorganized the shape of his body. The Major-General cringed and moaned in pain as some injuries made transforming difficult and he came within thirty precious feet from impacting crystali.
But then his engines kicked in, firing in an explosion of sound and power. Magnus shot out of the crevice in a secret third transform mode: a Decepticon prototype superjet
He followed an ion trail similar to the unstable energies of the Crevice. Magnus roared across the sky from the Crevice to Tibet. He forgot what it was like to fly and unfortunately, this would be the only time he'd use this form. Upon becoming an Autobot, Magnus gave up this privilege. He was an Autobot. That was final. Though the Major-General was sure Optimus would be more than happy to know about his third form, Magnus could not reveal it. It was part of a past he walked from.
Magnus zoomed across several ruins before finding his target. The Autobot commander transformed and set down on the frozen tundra. He listened carefully, carefully. It could be anywhere. Maybe it was trying to fit itself into its surroundings.
It slammed into his back and Magnus crunched the ground hard. He struggled to get a foothold and stand, but it pinned him to dirt and stone. It punctured his shoulders and hissed. By might and will, he managed to turn over and tried to get to his feet, but it held him tightly from his backside and the ground under him started to sink. It pulled him down into the permafrost, attempting to bury him right where he lay!
Magnus thought about his rifle, but it would do no good if he couldn't fire the thing underneath himself. He produced the crystal instead and jabbed at the ground, guessing where creature's side might be. The wraith screamed and slipped out from under him. Magnus leapt to his feet like a cat and scampered behind rocks and ruined walls.
"Time and time." The wraith wailed in its song-like voice. "Time and time and time. And they all fall down."
"But I will take you with me." Magnus growled.
The wraith hissed and vomited unstable crystalline energies. Magnus dodged, the stream of power shot past him and obliterated a large hillside. Dirt and rocks showered in every direction, bouncing harmlessly off Magnus' hide. The entity screeched in a fit and it raced around the area, seeking a good attack angle. Magnus produced his weapon and fired two and three times, finding the creature less vulnerable in the air than on the ground. The Commander silently snarled and put his rifle away. There had to be another way.
Then came the rain.
No, liquid ice.
The stuff coated everything in a fine sheet of frost and the wraith plunged to the ground, unable to keep its floating form. It cursed and huddled close to a rock in vain. Magnus used extra energy to keep his body warm so that the ice melted on impact. But he knew he could not do that for long. "Come. It's time for you to go back." He stood tall and held the crystal out in front of him.
"Death! Nonexistence! They said it wasn't supposed to exist! I, here! No! N'gk for all this! You come, I will feast! I will feast!" And it lifted its head toward the pouring ice and laughed and the clouds circled high above it and the upper temperatures changed and the wraith sent power surges into the clouds and from there it looked directly at Magnus and Magnus took just one step, the ice crunched underfoot and a bolt of lightening struck.
His systems scrambled, his power reserves depleted and flashes of memories and thoughts came and fled his mind. He collapsed like an oversized tree, crumbling ice-covered stones with his huge form. The wraith laughed in his audios and Magnus heard it dance madly in the pouring ice storm. But it slipped once and fell and laughed and laughed. Then the wraith lifted its head again to the sky and a bolt of lightening jumped and shot it straight in the face. The thing wailed in the overdose of power and another bolt of lightening struck and another followed.
Magnus struggled to stay conscious. His systems slowly powered down. No! He had a job to do!
He thought hard. He needed to get that thing before it devoured more energy. Soon it would be too powerful to contain at all. Magnus thought of his surroundings. The ice, the lightening, the crystal, they all needed something else, something that could ensnare the monster . . .
A reverse explosion? An implosion? That would certainly entrap the wraith . . .
With a shout of determination, the wraith plunged its power-saturated form into a hill of rock and ice. Magnus waited with breathless fear, willing his systems to correct themselves in time. But they did not and there he lay, helpless as the wraith pushed itself out of the hillside as though the hill were giving birth. It squeezed and a face twisted through the ice as it emerged in pain and hardship. The Cyberwraith stood on two legs of stone, now blanketed in ice. It took three steps and Magnus realized that in spite of the creature's ability to create for itself a new form, it somehow remained stunted.
And there the City Commander knew he had an advantage. For
the wraith knew of energy and metal. It knew of substances not found in the Terra system, It knew of things old and distant. But It did not know the unbending properties of rock. It did not know the limitations of ice. And it was surprised to find the rock cracked and crumbled when it opened eyes and a mouth. The wraith tried to draw energy from the rock, but found none. The rock had an aura of existence, as all things do, but it had no life force of its own. It was a substance that reflected energy, but it did not make it like the trees in Oregon. This the wraith discovered too late. For in order to become something, the wraith had to use the object's own life force to shape and mold it. Metal was different because metal used the properties of things that were already alive: those whose hands melted, shaped and formed it, pounding into its surface with sweat and blood, and so metal was in effect, a living thing that could be shaped and molded. But the rocks did not know. The rocks were not bending, they did not grow. They reflected only the wraith's surprise-and Magnus' growing fury.
The wraith moved its stubby little form and the stone body cracked. The wraith's features crumbled into surprise and Magnus had a moment's worth of chance before the wraith fled the rock body; before it realized it made a tactical error. Magnus quickly managed to reroute his systems, his back up supplies ran dangerously low. He whipped out his weapon and opened it. He reversed the polarities and wave shift then set the power crystal in backwards. Magnus cracked several large slices of ice sheets from nearby boulders about him and set them around the laser rifle like a house of playing cards. Then he produced the crystal and removing a small section of wiring from his injured left leg, Magnus ran raw true silver wires from the ice to the rifle to the crystal.
Was it going to work? If it didn't he was as good as dead.
Magnus almost didn't see the thing waddle in front of him. The Wraith moved so silently that he did not hear it. Magnus startled and managed to force himself to his knees. The ground ran slippery under him and he balanced himself carefully. The rain lessened and left the area blanketed in a beautiful sheet of ice.
"Damron." It repeated.
Magnus' insides ran as cold as the frost outside. "What-what did you say?"
"It was tasty, that one. He was tricky. Yes, very tricky. We watched him make things, like you. He was good to make things. We watched. He was good."
Magnus almost could not breathe. "What are you saying?"
"Damron. The Other. Dam-"
He could not believe what it was saying-he didn't want to believe- "SHUT UP YOU SON-OF-A-BITCH!"
The wraith's stone body cracked when it moved toward Magnus again. "Damron." It said again. "Good. Tasty."
"NO!!!" Magnus denied. "Not . . . not MY DAMRON . . ."
With a cry, Magnus attacked the stumpy rock body. He pounded into it and pummeled it with his fists. "YOU SON-OF-A-BITCH!" He wailed. "IT'S NOT TRUE! YOU'RE LYING! YOU'RE LYING! YOU'RE LYING!"
Magnus fell back on his knees, the depletion of power finally took the best of him. But Ultra Magnus still did not relent. He weakly hit the thing until his metal hands scraped and dented with injuries, his voice wailed in grief. "You son-of-a-bitch! You son-of-a-bitch!" he kept crying over and over. "My SON! MY SON! YOU SON-OF-A-BITCH! YOU KILLED MY SON! MY SON! DAMRON!" His grief came in great gasps, his form weakening, falling over the rocky carcass.
Magnus did not see the wraith vacate the crumbled form. He did not see how it rose high above him, smiling. It lifted its face once again to the sky above and whispered, oh so softly, for the final blow. He commanded one bolt of lightening that would end Magnus' life.
The bolt struck, but not where the wraith anticipated. Instead, the lightening shot the negative energies leaking from the rewired rifle housed under the sheets of ice-negative energies that were naturally enhanced with the element of water. And from the trap, the bolt of lightening struck out, shooting from the barrel of the rifle straight to the wraith, but instead of a brilliant white color, the lightening appeared black and it struck the one positive life energy most powerful in the area: the Cyberwraith. The wraith's terrible wail came only in a little squeak before it was sucked backwards from the rifle, through the silver wiring leading straight to the crystal. The hematite glowed bright white and changed chemical properties and turned glowing translucent silver. The wraith wriggled harmlessly in it, trapped forever.
Magnus came to. He lay flat on his back on something warmer than the Tibetan permafrost. His optics flickered on.
"He's coming around." Optimus announced next to him.
"Ah, good. That's what he needed then."
Prime's optics met Magnus' and a warm sensation filled Magnus' heart when Optimus took his hand. "You did it, Old Friend." He said softly. "You beat that thing."
Magnus choked and feebly shook his head. "Damron." His voice came as nothing higher than a tiny squeak. "It . . . ate . . . oh Primus. Oh Primus."
Optimus bowed his head, silently sharing his friend's grief.
A bright morning sun blessed the cold land with gentle warmth. Three large well-crafted space ships set down on Fort Max's Upper Level. A long stretch of carpet colored the dark metal flooring in reds and whites, welcoming over two hundred and fifty alien ambassadors and representatives from the Intrasystemary Trading Alliance.
Rusti stood with her mouth hung open. Creatures resembling Earth insects, beings for which there was no description, and creatures that appeared almost Human came stalking, trotting, flopping and mincing down the carpet toward Optimus, Rodimus, Daniel Witwicky and Captain Marissa Fairborn.
Roddi smiled, amused that the little ten year-old child
marveled at the array of alien delegates. "Not all life comes
with two legs, two arms and speaking English, Kiddo."
Rusti batted her eyes, surprised to hear Roddi call her by that name. She closed her mouth and sent him a broad smile. <<Is Ultra Magnus okay?>>
<<Dunno yet. We'll check on him this afternoon.>>
<<He won't be too happy when he finds out who's been drilling 'his' troops.>>
<<Nonsense. It means he'll be more than happy to go back to work.>>
Rusti grinned, now focusing her eyes on the first three ambassadors to arrive from Quethal and IB2. Roddi was being over optimistic about Magnus' soon-to-be reaction.
Afternoon Oregon sunlight filtered weakly down and touched the freshly-repaired surfaces of his horizontal form. Magnus' optics attained more information and found himself in a metal environment surrounded by walls, med tech equipment and two figures speaking in hushed tones at the other end of the room. Magnus stirred just slightly and Trinket was by his side the very next second. She smiled kindly and ran a scanner over his huge frame.
"Seems to be okay, Commander." She said, but not to the Major-General.
Rodimus hobbled over, assisted by, of all things, a cane. He threw Magnus a wry smile. "See? I told you he'd be fine. Hey, Mags. I guess you must've heard about the drills your troops are going through and have decided to come back and rescue them, huh?"
Magnus merely grunted and shut his optics off again. He thought of what the Cyberwraith said . . . Damron . . . the name of his son. Magnus did not know how to deal with that bit of private information. He did not-could not-believe it to be true. Perhaps, the City Commander, determined, it was best to wait for more information before deciding how to handle it. But the shock left the Major-General cold inside.
"You'd better tell him, Roddi." A 'littler' voice warned.
"Nah. The Big Guy's more interested in R 'nd R. He can wait." Rodimus grinned voraciously and Magnus heard the cane tap and one leg slightly drag, another leg took a step and the cane tapped again. There were five 'little' steps that followed and the cane tapped again before the Major-General moaned loudly.
"You had better tell me what's going on, Rodimus Prime." He growled dangerously. "Or I will take the cane and make it your noose."
"It's no big deal!" Rodimus cheerfully answered. "Really."
Magnus heard the girl sigh and he knew *that* sigh.
Trinket rushed to the bedside when the Major-General rolled himself over on his left arm and sat partially up. "You shouldn't get up, Commander-" she objected. But she said nothing else when Magnus' optics shot at Rodimus. Rusti flinched and he bit back a smile.
"Exactly what HAD you better tell me?" He growled a little more loudly.
Rodimus cast his optics on Rusti, but the child did not return his gaze-she cringed and looked elsewhere. Prime stood straight and fearless. "Oh nothing, Mags. Just that your troops have been in the most capable of hands in the last three weeks while you've been hunting and recouping. That's all."
Magnus studied Roddi then glanced at the girl, then trained his optics on Prime again. "Who?" He asked quietly but sternly.
"Who?" Roddi innocently echoed.
"Who." Magnus dragged it out like a death knell.
Magnus shook his head. "No. Don't tell me. Sky Lynx." He read the girl's expression. No. It wasn't the right answer. "Rodimus?"
Rusti finally rolled her eyes. <<Coward.>> she spat. "It was Optimus." She answered Magnus.
Roddi smiled nervously. "Kids these days. They say the darnedest things."
Magnus sat up from the flat, hands crossing (painfully) over one another. "Prime? I have worked hard for the last several years to drill those Autobots in precise well-coordinated movements and . . . Optimus-"
"Guerilla warfare is every bit as useful in battle as conventional tactics." Rodimus defended.
Magnus wanted to kill someone. But his body wouldn't let him even look half as mean as he knew he should. He whimpered like a wounded child and lay back on the flatbed.
Roddi grinned down at his Lady Friend. "See, Rusti? I told you he'd take it well!" He tapped and stepped out of the room, humming his way down the hall.
Rusti lingered a moment longer, stepping toward the door, glancing back over her shoulder in a pause of sympathy. "Well, at least . . . at least you're back to retrain them, Ultra Magnus." She said gently.
"Guerilla warfare." Magnus moaned pitifully. "Amateurs. I should have retired."