The Echoes of the Past is a piece of fan-fiction set in the Transformers: Extinction fanon.
Whispers abound of it value, stories of its powerare passed from generation to generation, rumours of its appearance surface and die again - and not one ever comes close to describing its sheer magnitude. The fabled Craoí Dubh Engine, a device capable of converting emotions into raw energy - and, with skilled application, into physical matter - has long been the subject of Cybertronian legend. The most popular myth holds that it is all that remains of one of the thirteen original transformers created by Primus, though legends differ as to which of them the relic belongs. Another telling of the myth places its origin even further back in time, to the days before Primus and Unicron split from the allspark to explore the multiverse. The only particular which the legends can agree upon is that its current resting place is somewhere within the ruins of Vos, the site of the ancient Catacombs of Tertius, a vast, crumbling mausoleum containing many relics the fabled general amassed in his lifetime.
The Coming Storm
“How are we ever supposed to find anything in this shit-heap?”
A slow breeze whistled through rusting debris and Dreadspawn picked his way through the ruins of Vos, venting his frustration upon what little remained of the city. As he punched another hole in a wayward piece of sheet metal, he turned to his accomplice and grunted.
“Damn it, Misanthropy, I asked you how we’re meant to find this thing here. You’re not helping things with this silence!”
“This was once a school, Dreadspawn. Our young played here.”
“What does that have to do with anything? It’s nothing now. This whole city is nothing now.”
A reply didn’t come. Dreadspawn sat down amidst the rubble, acknowledging that Misanthropy was not one to follow his orders. He knew he’d have a wait on his hands, and was far from happy – what was meant to be a covert insertion had been bungled by their pilots, and he was sure other ships would soon descend on Vos’ southern quarter to find out what they were up to.
“They struck without warning. A conventional war, we could have won. My own men were already pushing them back from the border, winning. That bastard Shockwave couldn’t back down. Those bombs… They lit the sky on fire. Children, families, wives and lovers… Vaporised. Ashes in the wind.”
Dreadspawn had no idea as to how to respond. He had fought with Misanthropy before, seen him consign entire planets to the sombre fate of non-existence. This sentimentality was not like him.
“I feel responsible, Dreadspawn.”
“Why? It was Tarn that struck first. That military junta – they were a loose cannon waiting to go off, and you could never have stopped that.”
“They wanted to stop the Republic.”
“Vos was ruled by a puppet. The real power lay in the pits. The strongest fighters banded together, called themselves a union. The Republic. Shockwave was afraid the same thing would happen in Tarn.”
“Were you one of those fighters?”
“No. They were using me. Starscream, their puppet ruler, took it upon himself to become my patron in my fighting days. I have little doubt I was to be their next figurehead when they grew displeased with him.”
“Weren’t you in the armed forces when the war started?”
“No, they conscripted me afterwards. I wanted to stay with the civilians, give them a sense of security. They put me in charge of the Havocon division, sent me right into the thick of the fighting.”
“The Havocon division?”
Dreadspawn waited for a reply. It never came. Misanthropy had seen something on the edge of his vision, and drew his broadsword. The purple chitin glistened in the flickering light of their dropship’s beacon as Misanthropy bade his partner to remain seated. He stared intently at the horizon for what seemed an eternity, before turning to Dreadspawn again.
“Others are landing. We may have a fight on our hands.”
“They’re here already?”
“No, at least two days march away. But the presence of others means we cannot afford to delay our search any longer. We must find the Craoí Dubh Engine as soon as possible.”
“It would help, Misanthropy, to know what we’re looking for!”
“The legend says it’s a small metallic sphere. How it works is still a complete mystery, but I have my own theory. It won’t be just lying around, though. If the legends are true, then it’s sealed in Tertius’ Mausoleum. That’s a day’s march from here.”
“We do not have time for this. Tertius founded this city. He used the Engine. It harnesses fear and hatred, bends them into tangible results. It can reshape time and space around itself, and Dynamax desires it for his own.”
“Then we’d best get moving. South?”
“Damn it, Dread, get down!”
A barrage of small arms fire ricocheted over Misanthropy’s head as he ducked behind the remnants of a memorial statue. He could see Dreadspawn a few dozen yards away, having been separated from him in the fray. His companion had taken up his megapulse cannon, and was firing wildly with the unwieldy weapon, raking the horizon in the hopes of hitting something. The two had been ambushed whilst picking their way towards the centre of the shattered city, half a dozen Autobots working in concert to pin them down in their current positions.
“Misanthropy! Keep your head down!”
With that, Dreadspawn leapt up, transforming into a VTOL jet fighter, and took off towards the source of the shooting that was suppressing them. Misanthropy took the opportunity to reload his pistol, and made sure his chitinous bonesword was loose in its scabbard, ready to be drawn in a hurry. A barrage of machine gun fire and the sound of carpet bombing vindicated his decision, as Dreadspawn blanketed the ruins sheltering their attackers. Circling for a while, he returned to Misanthropy once he was satisfied they had gone to ground.
“Just a scratch. We charging?”
“Not just yet. Your shoulder, let me see it.”
“Sod that, we’re taking these bastards now.”
“Not with a wound like that, Dread. You go down, you slow us both down.”
Amid a storm of cursing from his partner, Misanthropy adjusted a dial on his laser pistol and affected a brief weld on Dreadspawn’s wound. Flexing his shoulder, Dreadspawn nodded approval and readied his cannon once again. Misanthropy readjusted his pistol, and nodded back to Dreadspawn, who gestured in the directed they should charge. The pair waited for a beat, then leapt from either side of their shelter, the momentum of their charge toppling the gilded statue of Tertius as they sprinted towards their enemies’ position, hugging what little cover they could find. Dreadspawn was firing wildly ahead of him, forcing the Autobots to dig in behind their positions. As they neared their foes, Dreadspawn dropped the cannon and took off again, preparing for another strafing run. Misanthropy rolled forwards, transforming as he went, not losing a second’s pace as his alternate mode slammed forcibly into the first obstacle that presented itself – an unfortunate Autobot who had had assumed the lack of firing had meant Dreadspawn had gone down. Turning swiftly, Misanthropy ignored the stunned Autobot as it collapsed in the rubble, turning his attention to the five others who were swarming towards him.
“Misanthropy! Get your head down!”
Dreadspawn’s warning was in vain, however, as he had no time to begin his barrage before several figures leapt from behind Misanthropy’s position, firing on the surprised Autobots. In the ensuing confusion, Dreadspawn began to circle, not sure of when to fire. Misanthropy drew back from the fighting, signalling to his airborne comrade to retreat. He could see now that the surprise attack had come from a group of Decepticons, including several wearing RDD insignia. Evidently, Dynamax had sent a squadron to support their advance. Misanthropy turned sharply, and resumed his earlier course, enjoying the cacophony of death and slaughter behind him. Dreadspawn lowered his altitude, keeping himself scant yards above his partner.
“Just what I was thinking, Misanthropy!”
“We’d best get out and leave them to it. There’s no time to lose.”
“The strong are strongest alone!”
The echo of this proclamation had barely died out when a fiery blast engulfed what was left of what had once been a bank. Screaming and the gurgling of death throes accompanied the pathetic rumble of collapsing brick and mortar. A lone survivor emerged from the building, which had been serving as a base of operations for a group of Maximal treasure-hunters. As the wounded soldier limped from the flames, a shadow detached itself from a nearby wall, and, drawing a knife, crept behind the ill-fated Maximal. Three brutal stabs and it was over, oil and blood sizzling in the heat of the inferno. Reprisal, the infamous bomber of Vos, had struck again.
“Pathetic half-breeds. Your kind does not have the right to walk upon this ground.”
The dying Maximal struggled to look up at his murderer, but could see a maniacal glint hovering above his face. Confused and disoriented, he summoned the strength to muster one last word.
“Why? You foreign subspecies, you lack the true warrior spirit. You pathetic little Maximals think that you can enslave us? The Autobots attempted the same, and they failed. Before the Great War, Iacon tried. They failed. Tarn tried. They failed. Even as an empire of ash, we stand stronger than you can imagine. For the eternal glory of Vos!”
Reprisal’s diatribe was in vain, however, as his victim had died before he had even begun. Looking around him, the former terrorist saw movement on the horizon. More interlopers had arrived – and they needed to be destroyed.
The Echoes of the Past
“Misanthropy, tell me about this Havocon Division.”
“I told you, Dread, they were a platoon in the Vos-Tarn war.”
Dreadspawn and Misanthropy were getting closer now. Every passing hour saw the spire of the mausoleum they were trekking towards grow higher in the sky, and they were now near enough to faintly make out the ornate bas-reliefs on its massive walls. They would be there by sunset, if sunset had any meaning in this city of eternal nuclear winter.
“No, there’s more to it. There’s got to be.”
Misanthropy sighed, looked wistfully at the ruins around him, and sat down. He bade Dreadspawn sit as well, taking advantage of the moment’s peace they had found between skirmishes.
“It was Starscream’s fault. We were at war with Iacon centuries before. Shotmaker was ruler then, before the Republic had even appeared.”
“Shotmaker was the one who used prisoners as conscripts, right?”
“Is that what the Havocons were? Conscripted criminals?”
“Yes, to an extent. They were the most dangerous individuals the city had to muster. Violent criminals were not executed, they were sent to the pits to be trained, in the event of war.”
“Did it work?”
“Too well. Without the Havocons, Tarn would not have resorted to nuclear war.”
“They appointed me to lead. I blame myself. I drove those men to extents to which they would never have pushed themselves. I created this monster.”
At this, Misanthropy stood again, and without another word, began his march to the south of the city once more. Dreadspawn followed suit, his mind swimming with thoughts. On one hand, his respect for his compatriot was growing with each shred of history he learned – but on the other, his apprehension towards their mission, and their chances of completing it, were diminishing. What worried him most was Misanthropy’s seeming fear regarding this Havocon Division, the platoon he once commanded. What kind of army inspires fear in its officers?
“What happened to them after the war?”
“They rule this city.”
“They rule it. They’re the only ones who live here, and they defend it fiercely. To them, the war is not over – and it has grown in scope.”
“Would they welcome you back?”
“I doubt they would know me as I am now.”
“Then what do we do?”
The Whispers in Darkness
“Please! No! No!”
The screaming grew to a crescendo as Murder continued to slice and hack at his hapless victim. Soon the frantic pleading gave way to the low gurgle of fluid escaping from the wretched corpse. Murder sat for a while, admiring his handiwork in the nuclear twilight. Getting up, he kicked the cadaver for good measure, and wandered off into the darkness. He ambled along for what must have been hours, idly polishing his knife for future use, when he began to hear a low murmur of voices. Stopping dead in this tracks, he cocked his head to one side, and after a moment, he determined that there were two different voices, both coming from beneath an overhang a few dozen yards ahead of him. He crept quietly towards them, keeping as close to the ruins as he could. Soon he was close enough to make out what was being said, and engaged his data recorders on the off-chance it would be of use.
“This is it?”
“This is it, Dread. But I just want to make sure we haven’t got any surprises waiting for us inside.”
“What are we doing?”
“Watching the entrance. If it stays clear for a while, we can go in – should be a quick job once we get in there.”
“Where do we go when we’re there?”
“I don’t know, Dread.”
Murder wracked his mind, trying to place the second voice, which he knew he could recognise. He crept slightly closer, almost crawling now, until he could see over the top of the overhang. He was close to the mausoleum of Tertius, founder of Vos, a repository of untold treasures and artefacts. Evidently, these two planned to loot it – and were expecting competition. Peering down cautiously, he could see two figures resting below him, obscured by the darkness. However, the figure to his left, who he now knew to be the second speaker, was instantly recognisable to the stunned Havocon. It was Misanthropy, their former leader during the Vos-Tarn war, who had not been seen since he convinced Starscream to launch the retaliatory strike that levelled Tarn. Murder scuttled away as quietly as he could, until he was out of earshot, and ducked into the first shattered building he could find. Inside, he scrabbled for his radio unit, frantically keying in the frequency for his comrade Apostasy. Soon, the low hiss and crackle of static threatened to fill the empty air.
“It’s Misanthropy! He’s here! He’s alive and he’s here!”
“Slow down… Misanthropy is here?”
“Yes! And I think he’s going to loot the mausoleum!”
“Are you sure it’s him, now?”
“It sounds just like him, Apostasy. And his stance, his air… it’s him!”
“I’ll let Genocide know now. He’ll probably order the Division out to guard the mausoleum. Keep an eye on him, Murder, and don’t let him out of your sight. And do not engage him!”
“Why not? He’s our commander!”
“Was our commander. If the rumours are true, he’s sold himself to Unicron.”
“I thought you said Unicron was just a myth?”
“All the more reason to despise what Misanthropy has become.”
“But nothing! Over and out.”
Murder sat for a moment, struck by the callousness of the Havocon second-in-command. Misanthropy had been their saviour in the darkness of the war, leading them from victory to victory. He was Murder’s personal hero, a man who could disconnect himself at will from any sense of conscience or self-doubt. One minute he could be attempting to raise the Havocons’ flagging morale with folklore from his youth, and the next, impaling the women and children of Tarn upon his blade for daring to resist the might of Vos. In that duality, Murder had found perfection – and now, he feared he would have to watch his new commander, the thuggish and depraved Genocide, challenge and destroy this perfection. Murder sat down, and looked at his reflection in his polished weapon. As it glinted before him, the mentally disturbed butcher realised what he had to do.
“I’ll gut that interloper, and Misanthropy shall lead me to the mausoleum. We can rebuild this city, bring back the glory of the days of slaughter. For the eternal glory of Vos!”
“Predacon scum! Die!”
Bleedingstar ducked as a flood of shots filled the air where his head had been. He had been trying to shake his pursuer for over an hour now, but it seemed to him that he would have to stand and fight. Transforming into his avian alternate mode, he took off southwards, hoping to find a suitable position from which to launch a counterattack. Seeing a vast, and strangely intact, building on the horizon, he flew towards, cursing at the sound of helicopter blades as he realised his attacker had an airborne mode of his own. This would call for a desperate gambit. Without warning, Bleedingstar turned about-face, hovering, preparing to fight off this attacker. His defiance was unnecessary, however, as a barrage of shots from below hit his assailant hard, taking him down. Turning to flee, Bleedingstar looked down, and recognised Dreadspawn below him, putting his cannon away again.
“Bleedingstar! Come on down.”
“Are you alone, Dread?”
“No, Misanthropy’s with me. He’s taking care of that bastard now.”
Bleedingstar landed, transforming back to robot mode. He shook hands with Dreadspawn, glad to see his former comrade after so long. Their reunion was soon interrupted by a shrill scream, causing both to look around at its source. Misanthropy had bound the interloper they had shot down, and was beating him savagely.
“Where is he? Where is Genocide?”
“I don’t know, boss! I –”
Bleedingstar and Dreadspawn stepped in, restraining Misanthropy until he calmed down.
“You’re going to kill him, Misanthropy!”
“Well, old friend, that wouldn’t be a bad idea altogether.”
“This isn’t like you.”
“That, Star, is Reprisal – the infamous bomber of Vos.”
A low moan rose from the captive Havocon, who raised his face and attempted to spit at Misanthropy. The glob of thick black oil narrowly missed the imposing warrior’s feet.
“I served you… Misanthropy… Served my city…”
Misanthropy wheeled around, and punched his hostage square in the jaw.
“Do not claim allegiance to a city you tried to burn! Now… tell me where Genocide is, and you’ll survive to watch him die.”
“…They think you want the Engine… He’s coming. All the old officers, Misanthropy. All… all of the ones who watched you leave.”
“When do they plan to strike?”
“You abandoned us…”
“This is your last chance, Reprisal. I want to know when they plan to strike!”
Misanthropy drew his blade, the purplish chitin glistening wetly. Holding its point at Reprisal’s chest, he met the squirming Havocon’s gaze with an emotionless stare.
“Deal with them yourselves… filthy mongrel builds…”
Misanthropy’s anger got the better of him at this, and he drove his blade through the former terrorist’s chest. Oil and sparks spat and spurted from the wound, until the last vestiges of life had drained from Reprisal’s body.
“Bleedingstar - dispose of that.”
“And tell Transistors to keep an eye on this location for a possible Maximal strike. Reprisal’s presence usually indicates beast factions are nearby.”
Bleedingstar transformed again, and took off, bearing the Havocon’s corpse away in his alternate mode’s talons. Dreadspawn watched him disappear, and turned to Misanthropy once more.
“This device means enough to you to butcher your old soldiers?”
“Only the ones who have always deserved it. Prepare for a fight, Dread. There’s no point entering the Mausoleum now, the Havocons know it better than us – it would give them an advantage to fight inside it.”
“What direction do you think they’ll be coming from, Misanthropy? South?”
“There’s the Mausoleum. Misanthropy has to be around here somewhere.”
Apostasy and Genocide tore through the ashen detritus en route to the Mausoleum of Tertius, heading there from the north of the city. Meanwhile, their comrades Holocaust and Piracy would be approach from the south, with Reprisal and Murder taking the east and west respectively. Genocide knew from having employed the tactic before that the encirclement would drive his former commander into the Mausoleum itself, where the buildings treacherous snares and traps would finish the former Havocon off without expending a single round of ammunition. Genocide laughed, a sickening sound of spiteful glee, as he contemplated how perfect the Mausoleum was. It served as the perfect bait for all of those who sought the power of the Craoí Dubh Engine, as it made perfect sense that it would be the final resting place for the arcane device. The truth was that the blackened orb was contained within Genocide’s chest, a perverse parody of the fabled Autobot Matrix. And as Genocide imagined Misanthropy struggling to survive in the deadly pits of the Mausoleum, his futile search for the Engine bringing him to despair, he could not help but feel that it was worth the millennia of waiting. Truth be told, however, Genocide was anxious. Piracy and Holocaust had both narrowly survived an ambush by a group of Autobot treasure-hunters a few days earlier, and had still not recovered fully; whilst Reprisal was refusing to respond over the radio link – which, whilst not unheard of, was still troubling the savage Havocon leader. This was to be the fulfilment of a long wait, to finally defeat his old commander, and he did not want anything to go wrong.
* * *
“This is it, Murder, old boy… This is it.”
Murder clung to the edge of roof he was perched upon, eagerly watching Dreadspawn preparing himself for battle. Each time the massive crimson warrior checked and test-fired his cannons, the Havocon serial murderer pictured a new way of butchering him. Finally, the hours of waiting began to get to him – he was meant to hold his position until Genocide and the other Havocons arrived, but the desire to maim and mangle the warrior who had taken his place at his commander’s side, who did not even call Misanthropy by his name, was getting to be too much for him to handle. He drew his knife, stood up, and lunged, screaming.
Dreadspawn turned on the spot, bringing his weapon to bear in the direction of the sound. A storm of bullets filled the air between him and the attacking stranger, and when it had passed, nothing remained but a lacerated shell, gasping for its last words.
“Mis… Misan… Mi…”
Reacting to the sound of gunfire, Misanthropy rushed to the scene, drawing his bonesword in anticipation of the coming fight. What he saw instead caused him to drop it feebly.
Rushing to the Havocon’s side, Misanthropy knelt beside him. Murder had been one of the few of the Havocons to truly impress him during the war, and the two had formed a bond like that of a father to a son.
“Boss… You’re, you’re… diff… rent…”
“Quiet, soldier. Save your words.”
“But… you came back… I know you’d… you’d come back.”
“I came back. Rest, now – be still. It will not take long.”
Misanthropy waited for a response, but none came. Murder succumbed to his wounds, the last of his life leaking out into the dust.
“Spare it, Dread. I don’t want to hear it. Reload, be ready.”
* * *
Genocide leapt up, transforming into his robot mode as he did so; Apostasy doing likewise beside him. In a single, well-practised motion, the Havocon leader and his second-in-command drew their rifles and began firing wildly. Dreadspawn had barely reloaded his cannon in time, cursing as he ducked behind an ornamental pillar. He counted to three, and sprang out once more, his weapon roaring a scream of lead. Somehow, he was only faced with one target – had he not seen two a moment before?
* * *
“Misanthropy! Come out to play!”
Genocide turned the corner behind the Mausoleum, expecting to find his former commander waiting for him – but he was greeted only with a malevolent emptiness.
“Genocide… How has it felt, to rule this empire of ash?”
“Where are you? Show yourself!”
“I am everywhere, Genocide. Your every moment has been lived in fear of this moment.”
“I fear nothing! No one! Stand and fight!”
Genocide spun around, thinking his foe to be behind him – no such luck. He turned his gaze above him – nothing. Then, a few yards ahead of him, a shadow slipped from the wall, and strode purposefully towards him.
* * *
Dreadspawn tossed his cannon aside, the overheated barrel jammed beyond repair. Walking towards the writhing body ahead of him, he wondered how Misanthropy had been able to wage a war with soldiers as pathetic as this. Drawing a long dagger, he smiled grimly as he put the wounded Apostasy out of his misery. A sound above him caused him to look up, only to see two airborne figures approaching from the south. He transformed, and took off to meet them. Today, he thought, was shaping up nicely.
* * *
Wrenching his bonesword free from Genocide’s chest, Misanthropy’s free hand deflected a swing from his opponent’s axe. The two had been fighting for what seemed like hours, though only Genocide seemed to be tiring.
“Misanthropy! Your desertion shall be punished!”
The boastful taunt gave Misanthropy all the opportunity he needed. Swinging his blade in a wide arc, Misanthropy cleaved Genocide’s upper section in half, diagonally. As his head and one arm slumped to the ground, Misanthropy thrust his sword through what remained of his chest, just to be certain. However, an impossible resistance jarred his arm, and shattered the priceless blade into a shower of fractured chitin. As the cadaver crumpled before him, Misanthropy saw a dull green pulse emitting faintly from the wound. Reaching down to the corpse, he wrenched out the source of the glow – a small, polished black sphere. Clutching it tightly, he felt its otherworldly heat circulate throughout his body. He had found it, the fabled Craoí Dubh Engine. Dynamax would be pleased – would, were Misanthropy and Dreadspawn to hand it over to him. As he saw Dreadspawn effortlessly dog-fighting overhead, Misanthropy laughed.
“For the eternal glory of Vos!”