A thick shadow, black as any dark cycle, spread slowly over Cybertron as the large black disc slowly blotted out the light from first one, then both of Cybertron’s twin suns.
“What is it?” Moonracer whispered. And Elita could hear the fear in the young femme’s voice.
“Well I know one thing. I ain’t standin’ here like a lump’ smelt to find out!” Chromia aimed her canon at the underside, in which could be seen a network of seams and portals interspersed by dull red lights. “Ain’t no alien junkship gonna invade our home!”
But Elita put her hand on the barrel, and pulled it down. “No, Chromia!” she said firmly. “I want you to gather the femmes and stay underground. I’m going ….” she hesitated. “To get more information.”
“But ‘Lita …”
“That is an order, Chromia!
“The warrior femme positively seethed in front of Elita. “You’re gonna go see that reprobate Shockwave ain’t ya!” she snarled.
“He’ll know what to do,” Elita said firmly, as Moonracer hauled Chromia away.
Elita sat perched on the stool in the Decepticon headquarters, watching as Shockwave deftly punched in commands, slim fingers gliding deftly over the console with a sped and dexterity she would not hitherto have thought possible.
“Who are they?” the femme whispered.
Shockwave did not pause from his task. “It’s an Antarian harvester,” he said in his unique, deep voice, “They come through sometimes, from the fifth quadrant. I haven’t seen on though since .... since long before the war.” As usual the melodious quality sent ripples through Elita, sensations which seemed to eclipse the ugliness of his visual form.
Above Iacon, the screen showed the disc suspended, motionless. No sign showed on its exterior that anything had changed at all. But to the side of the screen, gauges showed rising electromagnetic radiation levels steadily rising.
Elita felt a twinge of fear. “Shockwave!” she whispered. “What is it going to do?”
This time Shockwave turned to her, his single optic glinting. “Vaporize us,” he said. “Then collect the energy and take it home.”
Elita got off the stool in alarm “But you must do something!” her hand clutched at his arm. “Please! However hard things have become here and whatever else I might have said, I don’t want .... to die like that!”
Shockwave’s optic showed no emotion. But his face softened, as he closed his hand over hers. “Nobody is going to die, Elita,” he said. “Especially you. Did I not promise that you would come to no harm? Trust me.”
Taking her hand in his, Shockwave punched a few final commands with his free hand. Then he put his arm lightly around her shoulders and pulled her gently back. “Watch!” he said.
The great canon emerged slowly from Cybertron’s depths, telescopic segments sliding smoothly into place. Elita gasped. She had hitherto thought she had known every last millisegment of Cybertron. Yet somewhere, this megalithic construction had been concealed. It pointed, a giant cylinder in the Cybertronian darkness. “What is that?” she cried.
Shockwave's tone reflected pride, and a little amusement. “Little device I invented. Comes in useful with unwelcome guests. It uses whatever technology is directed at us against the aggressor. Here, Let me allow you the pleasure …”
Taking her hand, Shockwave placed it over a large red button on the console. “Fire at will, Autobot!” he said.
The ship hovered, menacingly. Yet, Elita hesitated. Despite the supposed imminent destruction, her Autobot programming still rallied against ....
She felt Shockwave’s arm tighten gently, his mouth next to her audial. “It’s not sentient, Elita. The Antarians never themselves venture beyond the warp gate. This harvester is purely robotic.”
As he spoke, a single ray seared from the craft’s belly. It struck a tall building which shimmered, then lit up, and then simply – disappeared, leaving only a red haze floating in the air. A portal opened and a shoot extended. The red dust formed into a stream which began to slowly be sucked into the shoot.
“Test shot!” Shockwave said. “Part of protocol. You had better make up your mind, Elita. Or do you want me to take over? Of course, I would have to tell Optimus, when he returns, that I had to ....”
“No!” Elita brought her hand resolutely down on the button.
The canon fired. Once, twice, blinding flashes struck the alien ship. It rocked, teetering in the stillness of space. And then it, too shimmered and simply broke up. It became a skeleton, and for an instant Elita saw a bizarrely alien construction, filled with numerous compartments; before the dust from its destruction fell like soft rain to the surface of the planet.
Shockwave had been right. Not one being was visible in its depths.
Immediately, Decepticon sentinel droids became visible in many places, each carrying a small suction device of its own. “Nothing wrong with energon sourced from Antarian waste,” Shockwave commented. “It will be useful, do you not think? And it will keep us afloat a little longer."
Elita watched the scene, feeling small and vulnerable. There were so many dangers she had never even considered. She still could not quite believe what had just happened, and remained transfixed to the screen. The canon began to contract, slowly, back from whence it had come. "You and your femmes will get your share, of course," Shockwave said.
He was powerful, more powerful than she had thought; and cleverer. Yet, she felt safe under his arm. Still, Elita shivered. “You never used - that thing - against the Autobots?” she whispered.
Shockwave’s arm twitched just slightly, and Elita felt the warm throb of his inner workings, the strength of ages in impeccable Quintesson design, as was her own, as was Prime's. “No,” he said. “Cybertron has worse enemies than Cybertronians. I prefer to keep a few things in reserve – for close encounters. Besides, as I keep telling you, I promised you would be safe.”
As Elita watched the sentries, a warmth came into her spark, and for the first time she felt hope, hope for Cybertron and the feeling that it might - just might - survive without Optimus Prime.
Leaning up, she gave the Decepticon scientist a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you!” she whispered.