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Old 05-02-2021, 06:50 PM   #1
Another 1 Bites The Dust
Outtsyder's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Parts Unknown
Posts: 521
Cool "Silicon Valhalla" - a Beast Wars timeline story

Also sharing a separate link to AO3 where this story is uploaded:

Premise: After sacrificing himself to stop the Predacons from exterminating the ancestral protohumans, Dinobot enters the afterworld and faces a pivotal decision with conflicting deeds on his conscience.

“He lived a warrior… and died a hero. Let his spark join the Matrix… the greatest of Cybertron.”

I hear the faint spectre of the voice speaking those words, as I feel myself leaving the battered, expired shell that was once my body. I see it below, wounded and lying prone on the charred ground of the primeval valley, its last embers of my life force extinguished, and surrounded by five Maximals in salute - all of whom I would have seen as the enemy, before my experiences on this world and in this time.

Optimus Primal, their leader and the speaker of my brief eulogy. I had clashed with him before: once in battle before I joined his crew, frequently in philosophy since then. Yet despite rarely seeing optic to optic with him, I did come to respect both his combat skills and his wisdom.

Rhinox, whose peaceful attitude I believed to be a waste of his destructive power. Yet though I may have misjudged him a fool for desiring peace, I understood the vast power of his mind was even greater.

Cheetor, a foolhardy brat who nonetheless had sometimes tried to appeal to what he thought was my friendly side. Foolhardy, as I said. Yet I would not discount his youthful enthusiasm, nor his courage.

Silverbolt, whose purity combined with a romanticized sense of nobility came off confoundingly ridiculous at times. Yet we commonly shared a sense of personal honor, however polar opposite we were.

And Rattrap. The vermin. Truth be confirmed, I did not like him. At all. Yet being required to work with him led me to grudgingly appreciate his skills, if not his abrasiveness - felt by everyone who ever met him - or his personal habits. He was the first to salute me, after all; dismissing him in a cavalier fashion might be unfair.

So it is that, regardless of my stark differences with the Maximals, they feel in their sparks to honor me at my passing as one of their own. I have no doubt they will grant my body the funeral rites that I hope befits my final deed, though they are aware of my involvement in an act that ignited the Beast Wars on Earth - an act that still weighs on me.

I ponder Optimus’ words as my spark rises beyond the reach of Earth’s atmosphere: “Let his spark join the Matrix...” The Matrix? How? That realm of the afterlife belongs to the Maximals, as well as their Autobot ancestors - those who judge themselves beneficent. It matters not how often Optimus referred to me as a Maximal or even his friend. I am a Predacon. From the moment my spark first came online, I have always been Predacon, despite my alliance with Optimus’ crew. Per the traditions of my heritage, there is only the Pit. From The Pit is where we Predacons are born, and to the Pit is where we return. Did Optimus simply have a misguided slip in his beliefs while wishing for my salvation? I should not blame him; he had also “died” before his spark was retrieved from the Matrix and restored into a new body. I suppose that experience had shaped and framed his view of death and the afterlife - after all, he was there.

I sense a change in my surroundings, awash in opposing elements that are mystifyingly not contradictory. The space is endless and open, yet it feels like a safe shelter. There is darkness everywhere, but rather than the chilling cold expected from a void, there is a warmth as though from a light I cannot see. Is this the Pit that I envisioned? Or is it truly the Matrix, as Optimus wished? I wonder if my deeds in my mortal life, ill or good, have exerted their influence on my passage here. True, I saved humanity on Earth from being exterminated before it could evolve, and thus preserved that aspect of space and time from Megatron’s insane ambition. Yet, my history of changing allegiances between Maximal and Predacon - multiple times - had tainted my reputation, a stain that I hoped would be purged by my final act. And I also feel the guilt of that one action - though not in the center of it, I was then a willing accomplice in that fateful deed which could lead to the end of, in no uncertain terms, everything.

“Welcome, Dinobot. We have been waiting.”

My reflection on my conscience is halted by a female voice, each syllable spoken with a stern cordiality. I find the speaker of those words - a spectral image, along with that of an aged male robot form, the appearances of both indicating far ancient origins. "Who… are you?"

The male spoke next; cape behind his shoulders, narrow beard adorning his visage, and innumerable stellar cycles of wisdom weighing his voice. "I am Alpha Trion, and this is Beta."

Those names are familiar. “Alpha Trion: the sage… Beta: the warrior… you’re among the first Autobots. Are you the arbiters of my final judgment?”

“Not arbiters,” says Beta, “for we are not here to judge you. Rather, we are here to guide you.”

“Guide? Where to? Where am I?”

“The Allspark,” Alpha Trion answers, “the birthplace of the sparks to all Transformers, who have ever lived and will ever live. You may be more familiar with its other name: the Matrix.”

“The Matrix? But… I am a Predacon! How can a protoform forged from The Pit join the Matrix, an afterlife domain for Maximals and Autobots?”

Beta gives a subtle grin, as though to alleviate the confusion she may sense in me. “There is far more to the Allspark than you appear to have been taught, Dinobot. This is why we have met you first. Come, follow us, and you will know more.”

They turn away from me and seemingly float onward in this unlimited space. I see no other recourse but to follow these spirit guides. A nagging thought perplexes me, like a tiny splinter bothering my mind. Is it possible for the spark of a Predacon to enter the Matrix? The notion utterly stymies my beliefs, especially those about originating from the Pit. Some among my kind also believe the Pit itself may absorb an extinguished Predacon spark, and restore it to life in a new form. As a soldier, I have never been convinced of that. A victorious death in battle should be the conclusion to a warrior’s story. I do not see to what end that one’s deceased spark would be sent back from the Pit to live all over again.

“You recognized our names when we met you,” says Alpha Trion while leading me through these parts unknown. “You know of us?”

“I recall your names from my cycles studying military history from many of Cybertron’s eras. You led the first great rebellion in Cybertron’s distant past, and overthrew the creators of the early Transformers. Creators… who had shackled you into slavery.”

“The Quintessons,” Beta continues. “For endless years, we were under their rule, regarded as little more than manufactured products for purchase and sale, or automatons for violent entertainment. Once we understood the idea of freedom, we realized that an uprising was the only first step on the path toward pursuing our own destiny.”

Even in death, the word “destiny” still follows me. But its presence in Beta’s story reflects an element in my former allegiance. From the time our Decepticon ancestors lost their last Great War, we Predacons have lived beneath the Maximals in a tense peace accord… while our governing councils gradually build up arms in secret, awaiting the opportune moment to seize power again… a plot echoed in Megatron’s own rebellious act against those same authorities… an operation in which -

“Something is on your mind.”

This Beta has a talent for interrupting my thoughts. Not that denying her insight would be of any effect, as these spirit guides in this realm would surely have a clairvoyance comparable to that of a deity. “The aim of your rebellion was for the good of your people, and the generations that would follow. It stands to reason that, had your rebellion not succeeded, the ruling powers would have you tried as criminals, from their point of view.”

“Possible,” Alpha Trion replies. “But though we were not warriors, we were driven by our belief in our cause. If we were to gain our freedom, neither failure nor surrender were options for us.“

“You say your cause was just. But you knew you would have to employ force against your rulers and their regime in order to fulfill it. Which, as a warrior myself, is an action I can respect.”

I may have alluded too much, if these ancient Autobots can know my thoughts. What if they are tacitly judging my words as testimony, and comparing it to what they must know about my association with Megatron? Would they understand my original intentions as comparable to their rebellion? Or might they see my actions as a dark, sinful stain on my spark, and judge me in the same way the authorities from their Maximal descendants would, had I returned to Cybertron alive in my own time? The guides do not answer as I follow them further… there is something far ahead in this darkness, like a white, glowing, scintillating cloud. The closer we approach it, the details within become clearer to my view, looking like minuscule particles swirling within this entity’s boundaries. Is this a nebula? A galaxy? Or… a mass of seemingly infinite sparks, all spiralling around themselves. No wonder these ancentrals call this place the Allspark.

I stop floating and hover still before this cyclone of sparks, uncertain as to what would happen to me if I entered. “You who are my guides,” I call to them, “are you certain that my life force is strong enough, before you let me face that pass? If I start this journey, I fear my venture may be… well, you are wise; you both know far more than what I say.”

The guides also stop before the calm center of this spiral mass of sparks, and turn to face me. “If you have understood what you said,” Beta says impassively, “then perhaps your spark is assailed by cowardice? It often weighs heavily on the conscience, and distracts one from honorable trials.”

Cowardice? How dare she! I am certain they know everything about me - all my memories, all my experiences, particularly what took me from the mortal coil - and she has the audacity to call me a coward? But then Alpha Trion adds, “To deliver you from this fear - though it is said that conscience does make cowards of us all - one must fear nothing but that which does one harm. Only your conscience can know if harm will come to you. But you know that you are no coward.”

They turn back toward the whirlwind-like formation of sparks, and directly enter the quiet eye of this storm. I have no choice but to follow, come what may.

* * * * * *

The guides lead me through the dark path in the middle, surrounded by the sparks swirling around, above, and below us like a rotating tunnel of particle lights. Before long, the path slowly brightens, and the view inside this tunnel shifts its appearance the further we go - electric green with a glowing white circuit pattern; thin concentric circles against darkness, filled with small orbs and bursts of light passing around us; fluttering block-like patterns, the elements of which look to be comprised of mathematical equations and scientific formulas; a white cylindrical grid against darkness again - before the path fills with a low-glowing mist of pure energy.

The glow gradually intensifies with each moment as we travel on, the fog diffusing the light and almost obscuring the images of my guides from my sight. Trepidation creeps into my thoughts - what if I lose track of them? Does something lie beyond this fog, if there is an end to it? Will I lose my way here? If so, what then? But I quickly banish those thoughts when I recall the words Alpha Trion and Beta said before travelling this path - conscience, cowardice, fear of harm, and honorable trials.

“This is it,” I hear Alpha Trion’s voice speak. “Your journey begins here.”

I can see little to nothing in this glowing fog. “What is it? Where are we?”

“Simply continue on, Dinobot,” says Beta, though I can barely see her either. “You will see.”

I prevent another thought from intruding into my mind - a thought of questioning the idea of blindly following instructions given by individuals I encounter for the first time. Unquestioning obedience is foolish in the physical world, as it leaves one open to deception, harm, or worse. But this is an entirely different realm. And knowing the history behind my guides, they have given little reason to suspect them… so far. I levitate further ahead, not knowing if I had passed my guides as I do so. The mist of energy has become so bright that I cannot see anything but the purest white. I inwardly acknowledge my concern, as my lack of vision in this blinding whiteness could leave me vulnerable to obstacles… or a trap. If anything could be considered the opposite of the void - an anti-void - this would be it. But I finally reach a clearing through the fog, which relieves the strain on my vision…

… and never in my existence have I witnessed or imagined a visual so vibrantly magnificent. The mist thins away behind me as I journey into a space bathed in a warm, white light. Beneath me is a sea which sparkles like crystal; the width of its expanse appears limitless, and its vast depths further than I can see. Proceeding further, I find a number of large objects, hovering in stillness and spaced a short length apart from each other, gleaming and shining like all manner of the purest polished alloys and the finest precious minerals. They resemble sculpted vaults like large niches one would find carved in a temple or shrine, but they lack frames and borders, nor is there a building housing them.

There are figures moving within those floating vaults - sparks of the most celebrated heroes in Cybertron’s history, manifested into representations of their former selves in the mortal realm. Ancient Primes from our world’s antiquity. Maximal generals from recent battles, some of whom I recognize. Others whom I know in name only, of whom I have seen no visual reference in my historical studies.

I feel I know of this place. More accurately, these sights evoke something in my culture. But I am not certain if this is the place where I feel I am. Nor do I know where I must go, or what my fate here is to be. And Alpha Trion and Beta have not accompanied me. Mysteries abound here and I need answers. These spirit-like figures appear “alive”, while not interacting with one another, but I see they know I am here. Do they communicate here? Can they communicate? There is only one way to know, and maybe find the answers I want.

“Is this… Silicon Valhalla?”

No one speaks. But they do greet me with some sort of gesture, like a slight nod or a simple salute. I do not understand. Surely they can hear me. Are they putting me through a first test in my entry into the afterworld? It appears asking gives me no way of knowing, unless I travel further. I am still confused as I pass by the vaults, as the spirit-like apparitions within them only give a wordless acknowledgement of my presence. Finally, I reach a tall cuboid structure: a building with its front-facing door adorned with an angled arch. The structure’s seamless metallic appearance suggests being forged solid from the finest alloys in the cosmos; installed in the door arch is a gate of crossed bars with an iridescent sheen. Is this a hall of judgment, I wonder? Is this where my questions about this place, and my final fate, will be answered?

The gate slowly slides open, and I spot two new figures emerging from inside the structure, both of whom I immediately recognize.

“Optimus Prime. And Rodimus Prime.”

Rodimus welcomes me first. “Welcome, Dinobot. I was going to introduce ourselves to you, but clearly, you already know who we are.”

“Indeed; the two greatest of the Primes. And I mean no disrespect in these words, but… I did not expect Optimus would actually be present in this realm, knowing of his history.”

“No offense taken, Dinobot,” Optimus replies, though I think I discern Rodimus suppressing a hint of a slight, subtle grin. “I’m glad to welcome you to the Matrix, and to the Pantheon of the Allspark. Here resides the Cybertronians whose great deeds have reached beyond their own worldly boundaries.”

If anyone’s deeds exemplify such a description - between whom, the victory over Unicron and the cure of the Hate Plague saved the cosmos itself - it would be these Primes. Is this Pantheon what Optimus Primal meant by “the greatest of Cybertron” in the brief eulogy he gave for me? Did he, in fact, witness this place himself? Why do these residents not speak directly to me? What of the Silicon Valhalla that I was taught about in my lifetime? And on deeds with far-reaching influence… could they mean…?

“We understand that you have many questions,” says Optimus, reminding me that one’s inner thoughts can be read by the guardians here. “There is much to learn and know about the Matrix, the Allspark, that can be overwhelming on arrival, but will become clearer. Your final deeds, along with your self-sacrifice, are what gained your place with us.”

“Before we formally invite you,” adds Rodimus, “you will need to join us for an evaluation of your conscience. And if your spark is clean, then you’ll be given your spot.”

This I did not expect. I would be overwhelmed that they recognized my act of stopping Megatron from destroying prehistoric humanity and preserving the spacetime flow in such high magnitude. But what must I do in this evaluation; declare my innocence to a series of assessors, then have my spark balanced against some sort of electrum leaf of truth? What of that one grave matter that still concerns me… I am sure they know of it. They must know. Though I did stop Megatron in my final act, I was with him at the start of his far-reaching plan. As an accomplice in his theft of the Golden Disk - which opened the opportunity for him to pursue his aim - I am guilty of the same crime as he is. Can I sincerely accept an induction into this Pantheon with the stain of such a deed, and its consequences, on my spark? Or might this be a test, one of honesty? Do they think I might try to sneak into their Pantheon with my criminal actions unabsolved? What would they do to my spark if I am judged unworthy after all? Far be it from me to dispute the ways of the Matrix, if these Primes regard my act of self-sacrifice so highly. But something still feels… amiss. “I am honored by your invitation. But...”

The Primes appear slightly puzzled; I cannot tell if it is only an act, as they analyze my reaction. “Why do you hesitate?” Optimus asks.

“I do not wish to denigrate the honor of joining the greatest of the Autobot and Maximal heroes in this afterworld. But… I am a Predacon, a Decepticon descendant, and have always been. I… may need time to think over your invitation, before I know I can be accepted among you.”

Rodimus Prime gives an understanding nod. “That’s your privilege. Feel free to take as long as you want to think it over. Here, where all sparks that have ever been or ever will be, time lacks the same meaning as in the physical plane. In short… it never ends.”

* * * * * *

Alpha Trion was calmly astounded. “You didn’t say no, but you didn’t say yes?”

“Please listen,” I tell my guides, meeting them again at the entrance where they first led me. “You recall our discussion about the relative views of your rebellion against your oppressors; how it was a cause for freedom from your side, but in their view, it would be a grave offense.”

Beta nods. “Yes, we remember.”

“Then… you must know why I cannot join the Matrix. I am certain you already know I helped Megatron steal the Golden Disk, setting in motion a potentially catastrophic plan toward what he felt would be a great victory for both Predacon and Decepticon alike - all for his desire for the Predacons, myself included, to be the dominant class on Cybertron and with himself as ruler.”

“Do you feel guilt over what some would consider a criminal act,” asks Beta, “the after-effects of which you believe even your heroic sacrifice would not be enough to mitigate?”

“There is something else. You see, regardless of Optimus Primal accepting me as a Maximal, I am a Predacon. Concerning the afterlife, I belong in the Pit.”

The two guides share a concerned glance - I do not understand why; they must know of other Predacons who died before me - before Beta speaks again. “Are you certain that is your wish?”

“Have I spoken wrongly? It is part of my beliefs as a Predacon. I would think you who govern this plane of the dead would know that.”

Perhaps I was unnecessarily harsh in my retort. But I do not see any confusion in wishing to go where my heritage says I must go after death. “Very well,” declares Alpha Trion, “but beware, as you will be guided by a host with a demeanor most unpredictable.”

I tacitly nod in agreement as the spirit guides give a single grand wave of a hand before they vanish from sight. Immediately, my surroundings are thrown into a turbulent vortex of light and darkness, whirling violently around me like matter captured in the edge of a black hole. I am snared in the vicious centre of this cosmic storm, its forces threatening to rip my spark apart into its component particles -

- and silence and darkness abruptly take over. I cannot detect the faintest sound in this place. The stars here are so distant and faint, I can barely discern the minuscule points of feeble light against the all-absorbing void. And unlike before meeting my guides, there is a cold feeling penetrating this entire space. I hope that, like my visit to the Matrix, this is merely the prelude to my entry into the Pit… unless the Autobot spirits misled me, and this dead space is the Pit - an eternity of sensory absence, living up to the extreme connotations of the word that names this realm. What misfortune, that this is to be the eternal fate of those forged in the Predacon race! But Alpha Trion did speak of a guide who would meet me here….

"Dinobot. You have arrived after all."

I know that voice. High pitch, raspy texture, sinister edge. I look to the direction of the sound, and find a disembodied spark floating into the vicinity. It approaches unsettlingly close to me, where it bursts into a cloud of tiny scintillating lights. The glittering ethereal entity shifts and forms into a persona I have read about all too well, bearing short columns atop his shoulders, angular wings behind his back, and a narrow oval down the middle of his chest.

“Starscream. So you are to be my guide into the Pit.”

“No need to be so on edge, my guest. Our native allegiances do share a common bond. And you and I are not as different as you might think.”

“Do not insult my honor, Starscream. Am I to believe you would deliver me to my final fate with no notion of betrayal? Your reputation for treachery is so notorious in Cybertron’s history, that many refuse to speak your name.”

“You’re certainly one to talk about treachery, Dinobot. How many times did you switch sides during the Beast Wars on Earth?”

His remark would provoke me into attacking him, but our lack of corporeal forms would negate that purpose. Besides, however deeply his words cut, I cannot deny that he is right about my actions. “Then if I must follow your lead into the Pit, so be it.”

“That’s better. And have no fear; despite what a few may believe, I was always meant to lead.”

However dishonest he is, I have no option but to follow, and accept that this is his domain.

* * * * * *

Starscream leads me down a borderless path into an impossibly deep void; a shock-inducing contrast to my entry through the vortex to the Pantheon of the Allspark. Not one circuit pattern. Not one orb of light. Not one entity resembling a piece of scientific code. Save for the faint starlight - so distant and sparse, they may as well be extinguished - I am travelling into endless and nearly pure nothingness. I wonder if I will encounter my former fellow Predacon soldiers at the end of this dark voyage. I lack enthusiasm over the prospect of reuniting with my former Darksyde crewmates, neither of whom I particularly respected - Scorponok, an insecure, simpering lackey who constantly craved Megatron’s validation; and Terrorsaur, a low-rate copy of Starscream himself, except half as talented and twice as cowardly.

And though I have left my mortal body behind, the farther we journey into this darkness, the more I can feel the cold in this space enveloping my spark; the sensation begins to penetrate my aura. It feels as though I have followed my guide for an eternity - perhaps here, like in the Matrix, time as mortals know it also has no meaning - and still I find no sign of a Predacon spark - or any spark - anywhere.

“How much longer must we go? I have yet to see any sign of anything in this void!”

“Patience, Dinobot. I promise you will reach your destination so long as you stay with me.”

A promise from Starscream. The meaning of some phrases should be self-evident. The warning from Alpha Trion feels anti-climactic, knowing who this spirit guide turned out to be. But with no one else to aid in my way to the Pit, what other possibilities are there, except an undeserved acceptance into that Pantheon? I could take a risk and seek my way to the Pit myself; an ironic choice, as I am following the captain of the old Decepticon air force called the Seekers. But I do not know this realm. I must take advantage of any assistance I find, while being wary of its tenuous reliability, if I am to find my way through this endless, silent darkness.

However, the weak pinpoints of starlight serving as the sole illumination here are fading. And the further I travel, the more the cold of this space deepens into my spark. Bit by bit, I can feel the energy sustaining my spark ebbing away. This is all contrary to what I learned from Predacon tradition that the Pit would bear fire, lending to it the alternate name of the Inferno. Is it, in truth, the fate of deceased Predacons for their sparks to be plunged into eternal darkness and unfeeling cold? What an unjust consequence for simply living as a Predacon in the mortal world, that the life force in one’s spark should yield to entropic forces and dissipate into the nether, down to its last ember of low-level heat…

Heat... wait… is my spark’s perception losing stability, due to this extended voyage steeped in sensory deprivation? Or did I just sense a single source of heat…?

“What… was that?”

“It is nothing. Don’t let yourself be distracted if you want me to take you to the Pit.”

But Starscream’s words fail to restrain my curiosity. I do feel a slight warmth somewhere. I look, and find, a small white-blue flame a short distance away. Could this lonely fire in these infinite gulfs be the “Inferno” of the Pit? At the risk of sacrilege to my heritage, this feels pathetic when compared to my visit to the Matrix, or “Allspark” as the Autobot guides called it. Defying a spirit guide in the afterworld may risk bringing final condemnation on myself. But the warmth is a balm from this unending cold draining my spark. Further exposure to this frigidity could erase the last pulse of my existence. Do I risk the immediate survival of my spark on disobeying my guide leading me to the Pit… as he claims he is doing?

“That flame… I must see it….”

“No, keep away from - ”

Starscream may claim to be of leadership material, but my past commanders in the Beast Wars would testify to my own clashes with authority. I levitate closer to the fiery entity; the intensity of its heat grows as I approach it. It appears to be a great fire with bright blue flames and white tongues of hot plasma, occasionally lashing out sizzling tendrils of electricity. Though I need more warmth, I keep a safe distance, lest those tendrils strike my spark; a sustaining warmth is slowly restored to my spark, though only to a low, steady baseline level. I also hear voices in the fire - voices in intense pain, discordant cries of torture. Is there someone in that fire…?

“Don’t look into - ”

Starscream’s demand is too late. I see a bizarre figure engulfed in those flames, another one I recognize from my military history studies. And the sight of him shocks me as much as the electrical jolts shooting from the great flames and wrapping arcs around this apparition. It is Megatron - not the Megatron I once followed, but the original Megatron, leader of the ancestral Decepticons, being tormented in this great fire. Worse still, this vision of Megatron is shifting violently and uncontrollably to another body shape, and back again - horn-like projections sprouting from his head and being reabsorbed; his fusion cannon narrowing into a oblong form and back again; sharp angles of his old body’s likeness losing their edges into unnatural curves, before sharpening back to defined lines again. And is he shouting, screaming… to himself, as his form repeatedly changes back and forth? What is happening to him?

“I did not want you to see this,” I hear Starscream say, his tone becoming uncharacteristically contrite. “This is the ultimate fate of the former leader of your ancestors: to be punished in eternal flame for making a deal with the Chaos Bringer himself.”

“The Chaos Bringer… Unicron?”

“Yes. Woe to those who’ve learned too late, that a pact with Unicron will forever curse one’s spark. Megatron’s agreement granted him a new body, new powers, and a new identity: Galvatron. But that new identity took over his mind, driving him insane beyond repair. Now, both his minds are battling each other within his spark, doomed to burn forever in this realm.”

I cannot believe anything that I have witnessed in my afterlife journey. Nothing is what I thought it would be. And now, with my spark in jeopardy of a permanent spiritual death, I witness the legendary namesake of my former commander, twisted into a dualistic monstrosity bearing two minds at war with each other?

“I regret you felt the need to witness this so badly, Dinobot. But there is an expression by the humans on Earth between their designated second and third millenia: ‘never meet your heroes; you will only be disappointed.’”

“Disappointed” is an understatement. What has everything that I believed as a Predacon come to mean now? I cast my lot with my era’s Megatron in hopes that his long-term gamble might bring the Predacons to glory. Then I turned away from him twice, out of dissatisfaction with his leadership or refusal to go along with his scheme. I have always lived for combat, as it has been most attuned to my essence as a warrior. Are these experiences the final deciding factors for my entry into the afterlife? I dread to face my spark’s final fate now… until I hear Starscream begin to snicker. I look at him, believing he may have pulled a cruel ruse to mentally torment me and see my reaction. Instead, his contemptuous gaze is fixed on Megatron - and Galvatron - in the great fire, and his chuckles explode into shrieking laughter.

“So, how do those fires feel? How do you feel now, ‘mighty’ Megatron?! Condemned to utterly burn for eternity in the vast flames, and be punished for all your iniquities?”

I should have known that this leg of my journey would be beyond unpleasant with the sort of guide sent to me. All I can do now is look on helplessly at the figure of the former flagbearer of the Decepticon empire… who momentarily has stopped his appearance from changing shape, as though focusing on his Megatron self. His visage appears to steel itself into a determined look, his angry optics aimed right at Starscream.

“Your taunts will have no merit, no matter how much you insult me, Starscream,” Megatron struggles to snarl through excruciating pain. “I declare, I will join the Allspark once I am fully cleansed in these fires… which is far more than I can say about you!

As Megatron’s image slips back to the frenetic shifting between his dual personalities, I glare at my fraudulent guide. I knew never to trust Starscream; my suspicions never subsided even as he claimed fidelity while guiding me through this void. But what does Megatron mean by being “cleansed” in that fire… and what else he said?

“This is not the Pit, is it, Starscream? Where do you dare to take me?”

This may be the first time I’ve witnessed a spirit guide exhibit backpedalling behavior. “Don’t… listen to him, Dinobot. Just follow me.”

“Do not deceive me, my ‘guide’! What does Megatron mean about you not joining the Allspark?!”

“And don’t you threaten me, Maximal!” he shoots back, emphasizing his disdain for the faction I had adopted on Earth. “This is my domain! I have the power to control your spark, and to refuse fulfilling your after-death wishes!”

“How can you control me? You cannot possess me like you’ve done others; I have no body!”

“But you don’t know where you are, do you? I might have informed you later, but you forfeited that knowledge with your defiance! And that fire will do you no good, Maximal. One strike from those bolts will annihilate you, and you can never get close enough to the flames for its power to sustain your spark.”

Despite my suspicions of him, Starscream has still succeeded in deceiving me. I can still hope for these fires torturing this Megatron to preserve the energy of my spark, but if it can only be a temporary measure to save myself…. Then I see the red optics of my false guide staring at me.

“I bet you wish you hadn’t taken part in stealing that Disk now. Farewell, Dinobot, and slip away into oblivion.”

A final insult on my tarnished honor. I should have accepted the invitation from the Primes, if it meant my spark could still exist after whatever measures needed to absolve my conscience. Now, my ultimate end comes at the taunts of a befouled legend, and my surroundings in the void conspiring to erode my spark. I can already feel another force exerting on me now….

What? Again a vortex rips open the space above me, like the one that first brought me here! It seizes me from this void and pulls me toward it. Again, I feel the ultra-elemental forces pulling on the component particles of my spark - and I am almost certain I can briefly hear Starscream yelping in protest, as the rift draws me in and shoots me through its eye….

* * * * * *

I am once again in dark, open space. The returning warmth that I first felt in this afterworld suggests I have been brought back to the Allspark. The Megatron of old and the fire engulfing him are nowhere to be seen. Neither is Starscream - good riddance - but I am left bewildered. What did the old Megatron mean about being “cleansed” in that fire? Why was the Pit so completely devoid of sparks of Predacons that I know had gone offline before me? And how can the accursed Starscream, of all beings, be its caretaker?!

The images of my first spirit guides reappear before me. In my lifetime, I have never believed that I, a Predacon, would feel comfort in meeting an Autobot, corporeal or ethereal. “You have more questions,” Beta inquires in not so much a question. “Do you wish to know?”

By now, I know that these entities already know my questions without me openly asking them. Resigned, I know that whether or not I will accept those answers is immaterial; I understand that I will and must know them regardless. “Proceed.”

“The ‘Pit’ as you know it has been an unverified mystery spanning the era after Autobot and Decepticon, linked to the ways that latter generations have used the term ‘Matrix’,” Alpha Trion explains. “It comes from the two sources - the Matrix and the Pit - which respectively generate the protoforms for Maximals and Predacons. As the Matrix shares its name with other entities in Transformer lore - the Matrix that is the afterlife, the Matrix of Leadership, an Omniversal Matrix - it was only logical to believe a similar regard for the Pit.”

“Wait… are you implying that there is no Pit in the afterlife? Then where in the Pi - in the universe was I?!”

“Patience, Dinobot,” Beta intervenes, “and think not of it as the Pit not existing. As you have been told, there is much of the afterworld realm that has not yet been revealed to you. Such is the case of your encounter with the Decepticons. Megatron has been placed by Primus in a purgatory state in a Fire of Purification. That fire is cleansing his spark from Unicron’s influence before he joins the Matrix proper. However, the part of him that is Galvatron, fueled by that influence, remains strong, subjecting him to immense pain as the fires burn that element away.”

“And what of Starscream?”

“He is altogether another matter,” adds Alpha Trion. “His indestructible spark and his penchant for treachery, even when undead, prevents him from fully joining the Matrix; at best, he can only skirt its fringes before being forced away. Starscream has become like a malevolent trickster, luring sparks of the deceased away from the Allspark. After leading them through an endless journey with no destination, those sparks would dissipate into nothingness, and Starscream would taunt them for their misplaced trust as they vanish into a final death. You were fortunate that you found Megatron when you did.”

They must have known this would all happen. Either they followed me, or were surreptitiously watching me while I travelled that way. And they did warn me about that unpredictable host. That can be the only reason I could have been rescued so promptly. But I wonder about the fire. I may need a similar penance, if the evaluation of my conscience judges my role in stealing the Golden Disk as an impedance to entering the Pantheon. Would it also be so for others in venial states? “If that fire is purifying Megatron’s spark before he enters the Matrix,” I ask, “can it not do the same for Starscream?”

Alpha Trion looks away, as though anticipating the spark of that Decepticon to appear anytime. “That, I’m afraid, is impossible to say. Some say that the mutation in his spark will render him incapable of ever joining this realm. Others believe that, if he atones for his acts of deceit and perfidy - a choice that seems against his nature - and submits himself to the Fire, he might pass through. But unless he chooses to do so himself - and with genuine sincerity - there is no way to know for certain.”

The purging Fire… the fate of the historical Decepticons… the obscurity of the Pit… what else among my long-held beliefs will be drastically altered by yet more unexpected revelations? Even if only little else that I once “knew” was changed by anything more I would learn, would it all be sufficiently indemnified with an induction into the Pantheon… and would they still welcome me?

“That said,” Beta says, “the fates of Starscream and the original Megatron are not yours. You have earned your place among the Pantheon, because of the far-reaching influence that your final heroic act on Earth has on preserving the stream of spacetime.”

“So I am fated to join the Matrix after all. But if I am to accept a place among the greatest of Transformer heroes, then I must make a request. For the crimes I committed in my lifetime, the worst being part of Megatron’s plan that would have undone the timestream… I must also subject myself to a Fire of Purification, and burn away the stain of guilt from my conscience.”

Beta looks at me curiously. Have I spoken wrongly this time, in volunteering to be purified in Primus’ Fire? “Your Predacon pride is very strong, Dinobot, with a warrior’s discipline and an unwavering code of honor embedded deeply into your spark. All you’ve known - all you’ve wanted - was combat. But as such, rarely have you known peace. If you wish to be immersed in the Fire, then we can grant your request. However, there is one other way to absolve you of your transgressions. This option will be simpler… yet also more complex.”

Simple, complex - by the Pit, or Matrix or Allspark or wherever I’m destined to go; I wish these spirituals would just speak plainly for once! “And what is this option?”

“The Beast Wars have reached a critical point,” Alpha Trion reveals, “and Megatron - the one of your time - has become more dangerous. The Maximals stopped a direct attempt to change the future, which he tried shortly after you came here. He refuses to give up, but now his actions grow much bolder and more arrogant. Unless he is stopped, he may destroy all of reality itself.”

This news stretches beyond my threshold of credibility. “I had already known that Megatron’s ambition made him insane. But what could he possibly do that’s worse than a gamble that could destroy Cybertron and Earth?”

The two guides gesture to an area before me in the empty space - empty, save for the specks of starlight and other cosmic bodies in the distance, though more visible than in Starscream’s supposed domain. A surge of energy materializes like a nebulous blue mist, and divides in half, parting sideways. The two mists spin like vortices until they flatten into planar ovoid shapes; a hole forms in the centre of both, widening and spreading outward until the shapes become like elliptical borders. Like a visual screen, images appear inside each border - images from Earth!

In one portal… on the ocean floor, with the hull of a titanic metal craft nearby, two Transformers are battling with crude blades of raw energon crystal. I recognize one of them: a crustacean-like behemoth formed from Protoform X, according to what Optimus Primal told me. The other: I presume to be a Maximal, a blue winged giant whom I do not recall meeting before. Seeing how effectively he duels against his monstrous adversary, though, he must be powerful.

In the other portal… this appears to be the interior of that submerged craft. There are two robots inside: a large dragon-esque one watching the underwater duel on a monitor, the smaller one attending to a power readout. The dragon… is that Megatron? In a new body?! And what of the other one, a skeletal monstrosity bearing claws like scimitars… NO. Megatron has dared to create another clone of me; worse, he has mutated it with Transmetal technology to render a horrific perversion of my former self! How did all this happen? How could this happen? And what will happen which pertains to me - my real self, not this distorted reflection of my image?

“Megatron found a way to break into the Ark,” Alpha Trion tells me. “With the ship’s occupants unconscious - the resident Autobot crew and the invading Decepticon boarding party - he was able to steal the spark of the original Megatron for himself, granting him this newest form and driving his power levels farther than he imagined, beyond the brink of madness. And he has discovered the Nemesis: the warship that brought the Decepticons to Earth. At this moment, he seeks to commandeer the ship to destroy the Ark and everyone in it. The destruction of Autobot and Decepticon alike will not only erase subsequent generations, including Maximal and Predacon, but the sudden unraveling of reality will be so catastrophic, that we fear to even wonder of its ultimate end or beyond.”

Presented with a scenario where Megatron could destroy… everything, this is all hauntingly familiar, for good reason. “What must I do? How can I intervene?”

Beta points to the portal showing the inside of the warship. “You would infiltrate the Nemesis and confront Megatron. The body of the Predacon clone will be your vessel.”

“How? Even if it is partially based on myself, how can I expect to take control of its body?”

“Observe the battle in the depths. Megatron has enslaved Protoform X by extracting one half of his spark, which now powers the clone of you. But although that spark was derived from Starscream’s, it may not be entirely indestructible. By the end of this battle, we expect the Maximal will subdue his enemy for a final killing blow.”

I see the picture. The clone will be rendered helpless by the pain shared in his half of X’s spark; the spark might even be destroyed, opening my opportunity to enter its depraved body. So my alternative choice to the Fire of Purification is… stopping Megatron from destroying reality. Again. And with the highest of stakes. “If I choose to return to the physical plane, I must ask about one who was here before me. Was Optimus Primal also offered a choice between remaining here and returning to Earth? And does he know first-hand about your residence for what he called ‘the greatest of Cybertron’?”

“After he sacrificed himself to save Earth from the Vok's orbital weapon. we offered him a place in the Pantheon,” says Alpha Trion. “But another Maximal’s core consciousness, remotely projected from that point in spacetime, persuaded him to return. It was evident that Primal’s fate would take a different turn. And should the future - and everything else - remain intact, another destiny may lie before him, where he may confront more profound choices of his own.”

“Will that fate involve a confrontation with Megatron? Can Primal not stop him?”

“Difficult to say, for Megatron still carries the spark of his namesake within him. This makes him not only a nigh-indomitable enemy, but also a danger to the cosmos, should he, and the sparks of both Megatrons, be destroyed.”

“And what of Megatron? What paths might his fate go?”

The sage momentarily concentrates on a thought, before saying, “I see no immediate answers.”

Therein lies my decision. I could remain here to be cleansed in the flames of Primus, but that penance will be for naught if Megatron’s madness erases all of existence. On the other hand, undermining Megatron from the inside - a difficult task to say the least, which also means occupying that vile clone’s shell - will still bring me back to this realm, if I succeed. Once again, as in my former life, my choice is my own. And once again, I find that I have no choice at all. I am reminded of a verse from the Covenant Of Primus, “The Sojourner’s Passage”, and it eerily echoes my quandary:

“Cursed curiosity compelled me to stay, to observe the enemy before the machine age. And now this demands my attention! My first responsibility is to those I left behind, yet I sense what unfolds below eclipses even that which cast me away. In the name of my creator, I will re-enter the void. I will seek that light which has fallen from the forges of our history.”

“One more question… how do those in this ‘divine’ plane decide when to intervene in matters in the physical plane, and when not to?”

But my attention is caught by the images in the portal depicting the undersea battle. Exterior sections of the Nemesis are lighting up. The one called Protoform X has fallen to the seafloor; a wound has been opened in his chest, exposing his spark and a sparse coating of thick crimson mech fluid. The Maximal has him pinned down, the point of his energon blade edging into the wound, while X grasps the blade to stop the fatal strike… until he lets go. The Maximal looks surprised that his enemy has abandoned all resistance… and is cackling madly at him. This makes no sense to me, but I do not know the history between these two. Nonetheless, the spacecraft is on the verge of reactivation. And the ferocity of the duel tells me that this Maximal, unlike the notions of compassion and non-violence Optimus Primal told me, will not show mercy.

I cannot wait for the answer to my last question. I must decide now!

* * * * * *

I swear there was a hint of a high-pitched shriek far away from me, just a fraction of a nano-klik before my descent to the physical plane and to Earth. Was that Starscream? Could the piercing of the crystal blade into X’s spark inflict pain on his undead spark as well? I cannot be sure, nor do I have time to find out.... though Starscream’s claim that he and I were not so different may have been partly correct, in scant few aspects. He has been known to possess other beings after his physical death - he had done so once with Waspinator during a surreal moment in the Beast Wars - now, here I am, about to do the same as I enter this clone’s spark chamber.

The energy in my spark’s core does not so much spread or infuse through this body’s molecular structure, as it sharply jolts through it, inducing an audio-rending scream from the clone’s vocalizer; it collapses to its knees and violently convulses as I possess it. While the clone is vulnerable, I seek the centre of his mind that houses his core consciousness, and I find hardwired programming which is difficult to overcome. Nonetheless, I slowly reawaken.

Sadly, I am too late to prevent Megatron from successfully reactivating the Nemesis; it has already been raised from its watery grave. Now, while my re-existence in this plane is so essential in preserving all of existence, I have little time to adapt to this misshapen body. But however revolted I am at occupying such a hideously abnormal shell of my former self, it feels oddly poetic as merely one more instance that cements me as a perpetual outsider.

My spark came online into a race considered inferior by ruling Maximal society. I joined a rogue band that rebelled against our own Predacon government. My dissatisfaction with Megatron’s leadership pushed me to join Optimus Primal’s exploration team, where I never fit in. An attempt to rejoin Megatron’s band left me at odds again; my return to the Maximals was met with distrust that only ceased at my death. And the afterworld turned out to be much different than what I had believed in my lifetime. How perplexing, then, that after experiencing constant social turmoil and friction when alive, the Allspark is the one place where I am accepted, despite my uncertainties.

But acceptance from others has never been my primary desire, nor will it ever be. Seeking it above all else is utter weakness, lacking in self-honor. Thwarting Megatron’s machinations will grant me unconditional passage into the Allspark and its Pantheon. I will not know how they will regard me when I am inducted. As they said, there is much in their realm that I have yet to know… which I will learn in due time. It no longer matters whether or not there is a Pit in the way that I had long believed. What matters now is my mission of sorts, granted by Alpha Trion and Beta, and accomplishing it while staying true to my honor. When I learn more of the potentially infinite ways of the Allspark, there may be things that are at least partially congruous with what I knew before, to which I can adapt without losing myself.

I will honor my choice. With what I have learned thus far during my brief stay in the afterworld - a “sojourner’s passage” under another meaning - my guides have let me do what must be done, so there may still be a Matrix, a Pit, an Allspark to return to, and ultimately join their Pantheon - my dream of Silicon Valhalla, with merely a different name.

“My own spark has… changed. It feels at last… complete.

* * * * * *

{Contains excerpts from Beast Wars: Transformers episodes - “Code of Hero”, by Ian Weir, 1998; “Nemesis, Part 2”, by Simon Furman, 1999.
“Sojourner’s Passage” verses from Apelinq’s War Journals - “Journal 18: Point of No Return”, by Rob Gerbracht, published on BotCon Online, 2001.
Special acknowledgments to The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, and The Book of Revelation from The Holy Bible.}

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