Judgement, Part II
Liege Maximo stumbled through the door to the Chronon’s bridge, its irises and spherical locks peeling apart as the green-armored cybertronian nearly tripped and fell onto his face. He looked around the half-circle-shaped chamber to check if anyone had seen him, and sighed resignedly as he saw Vector Prime with a bemused smile on his face.
“You would do well to domesticate this ship’s Intelligence, Vector.” Liege straightened his posture and folded his arms below his chest. “How can your crew find anything when it’s constantly changing the interior?”
Vector shrugged. “The Chronon is not entirely under my control,” he admitted. “The crew and I have learned to work around its eccentricities.”
“Then install a holo-map for the rest of us,” Liege implored, rolling his crimson eyes. “Please?”
“You weren’t summoned here to renovate this ship, Maximo.”
Liege recognized the deep, commanding voice of Megatronus immediately, coming from a dark corner of the bridge where the light from the Benzuli Expanse didn’t reach. The red lines and cyberglyphs glowing between segments of the Dark Warrior’s armor shone dimly, roughly outlining his imposing silhouette.
“So nice to see you again, too,” Liege deadpanned to Megatronus. The latter quietly scoffed and stepped into the light, allowing it to snag on the sharp edges of his black armor, which rose in great spikes on his shoulders and the sides of his head. He towered above Liege Maximo and Vector, who themselves weren’t short for their species, either. Liege was slightly built, with a black cape hanging from his shoulders and two grey horns that rose out from the top of his head and curved sharply backwards; Vector was broader in the shoulders, with dull gold armor and clockwork mechanisms in his chest and abdomen that were dotted with points of blue light. He, too, wore a cape, his being a deep red in color.
“He is right, I’m afraid,” he says of Megatronus. “You can take up your issues with the Chronon after you help us with the more pressing matter at hand.”
Liege always hated this about these two: so duty-bound, and no time for idle conversation. He had hardly seen them in the last century, playing politics with Prima as their new civilization began to spread out into the galaxy. His gift of persuasion and sliver tongue (which wasn’t just a mere metaphor), made him useful in negotiating with the governments of other species, securing star systems for colonization and hashing out trade agreements (in some cases, Prima’s swordsmanship came in handy there, too).
And now he wants me to be his mouthpiece yet again, he thought, frowning. He knew this wasn’t what Primus had created him for.
Still, it was either first contact with a mysterious extra-dimensional visitor or another round of drafting treaties. Between the two, Liege saw a clear choice in the former. With a sigh, he took a step closer to the front of the bridge, a trapezoidal gap between the floor and the ceiling trimmed with grey metal, with nothing but an invisible shield between he and the other robots on the deck and hard vacuum. He peers up at the jagged column of black metal some tens of kilometres away, dotted with points of red light that shone like electronic eyes in the darkness of the shadow the spire cast upon the Chronon.
Liege suddenly understood why the other Primes were so apprehensive; whatever this thing was, it certainly looked threatening.
“Looks quite inviting to me.” he says, however. His dry sarcasm wasn’t lost on the other transformers in the room.
“Yes, I have prepared quite the welcoming party,” Megatronus said, playing along. “My finest cruisers are on standby in the neighboring system; at my signal, their crews will send to this invader my most cordial greetings.”
Liege smiled; so the Dark Warrior wasn’t completely without a sense of humor, grim through it was.
“Please, Megatronus, leave the first impressions to me,” Liege chuckled. “I know it’s the only reason you’ve kept me around this long…”
The green Prime hoped the other two hadn’t picked up too much of the bitterness within his last sentence as he drifted over to the communications array, where a blue-armored insecticon trained her compound eyes on a wide array of holographic screens and the complex interfaces beneath them. With a nod, she steps away from them, making room for Liege to take the controls. The silver obelisks supporting the controls rose, adjusting themselves to the Prime’s height, and he rested his long fingers over their circular pads and shallow indents.
An electric sensation ran up Liege Maximo’s arms as his neural network interfaced with the Chronon’s systems, connecting to the ship’s transceivers and translation programs. With but a thought and a twitch of a finger, he opened a channel across a broad array of frequencies, staring up at the ominous spire. Behind him, Vector and Megatronus waited with baited breath.
“Alien vessel, this is Liege Maximo, Prime of Cybertron,” he began. The Chronon’s AI translated his message into several common interstellar languages, and broadcast them alongside the original with only a second’s delay.
“We come in peace; provided you do, as well,” Liege continued, a smirk creeping across his face as he tapped into his wealth of charisma. Perhaps all that needed to be done was lighten the mood; clear the tension that two starships staring silently at each other in front of a physics-defying dimensional anomaly for a week straight would create.
"Truly, we love visitors; the more interesting, the better- and you, my friend, are just the talk of the town. We’re all positively abuzz at the prospect of making a more proper acquaintance with you."
Liege looked over his shoulder at his comrades, to see that Megatronus was resting his forehead in his hand, and that Vector was largely unimpressed.
“What?” he snorts. “There’s no protocol for this, now is there?”
Five seconds. Ten. Thirty seconds passed, and no response from the black spire came. The obelisk continued to drift between the Chronon and the expanse, its red lights staring untellingly down at them.
Making a show of clearing his throat, Liege re-opened the channel and tried again:
“Are you, perhaps, in need of assistance?” he asked, cursing his comrades now for not summoning him sooner. In their trepidation, they may very well have let any injured castaways within this spire suffocate from a hull breach, or freeze to death from a climate control failure. The paranoid fools could be fretting over a mass grave, for all any of them knew.
“We are able to render aid, if such is your case,” Liege said. “Please, respond. Say something, or… blink some of those lights on and off; I’m not-”
The green Prime ripped his hands from the controls as a horrible, electronic screech pierced his brain module, and instinctively he rushed to cover the sides of his head as he fell backward. Megatronus started, clenching his hands into fists as his lights flared. Vector rushed to Liege’s side.
“What is it?” he knelt by Maximo’s side, placing a gold hand on his shoulder. Liege’s head continued to ring, the awful sound lingering within his cranium for a moment before subsiding, allowing him to compose himself.
“Ugh…” he groaned. “Our visitor’s voice is not pleasing to the ears…”
“We have no need for aid, nor hospitality.”
A voice unlike any the three Primes had heard, even when facing Unicron and his demonic heralds, rumbled throughout the bridge. It was deep and reverberating, its words seeming to coalesce in their minds rather than being spoken aloud. The transformers manning the bridge’s stations jump up, now on full alert.
“All we require from you is your compliance,” the voice continued.
Megatronus scowled, his mouth opening to speak. Liege leapt up to stop him, but he was too late.
“Compliance?” the Dark Warrior repeated tersely. “You seek to make demands of us, then?”
“We demand nothing,” the voice answered, rising to the challenge in Megatronus’s tone.
“We have come to carry out our duty,” another voice says, lighter and almost feminine. "Any resistance to our presence is futile, and would only serve to inconvenience its perpetrators."
“Or at its worst, inflict upon them dire consequences!” a third voice, now, angry and snarling.
“You threaten Megatronus and his allies!” the warrior Prime roared. “Know that we have challenged Unicron and vanquished him, laying waste to his legions! To threaten the Thirteen is to court that same fate.”
“Um, Megatronus, friend?” whispered Liege. “Now is usually the time when I would attempt to de-escalate the situation; perhaps try to probe the other party’s intentions further before threatening oblivion.”
“They have revealed all we need to know of their intent,” Megatronus growled. “Let me call my fleet to this system, so that I may return these invaders to their homeland- piece by charred piece.”
Liege and Megatronus glare at each other, before a peal of hideous, high-pitched laughter fills the bridge.
“I’m glad one of us finds this amusing,” Vector deadpanned, frowning as he rested a hand on Rhisling’s pommel.
"Oh, yes indeed!" a shrill, fourth voice cackled. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had this little conversation, and it still tickles us!”
Liege and Megatronus were briefly united in confusion, but Vector was able to guess at what this voice meant.
“Ours is not the first reality you’ve invaded,” he said. “We’re not the only Vector Prime, Liege Maximo, and Megatronus to try and communicate with you, are we?”
“Oh, no!” the fourth voice laughed. "Far, far from it!"
“This universe is but one of many,” the second voice spoke again. “Timelines innumerable all branching off one another between the folds of unspace, each and every action taken by their inhabitants creating infinitely more, every moment.”
"Countless alternatives," the first voice boomed. “Trees of probability, an ever-expanding orchard of realities.”
All four voices then spoke in unison, and outside the bridge, the black spire began to turn, rotating as if on an invisible axis as three massive spots of crimson bloomed upon its peak, rolling to face the Primes and their servants.
“We are the custodians of this orchard,” they proclaimed.
“We study each tree, every branch, every blossom. Those that bear rich fruit shall be permitted to remain; but those that are weak and dying, whose sickness threatens to spread and poison healthy growth… these gnarled branches shall be cut. Weed and rot shall be ripped from the soil so that new growth may flourish.”
All aboard the Chronon’s bridge were silent now, gripped with horror as the cacophony of voices rose and fell, giving way to a final, fifth entity who spoke with an eerie calm; an ancient voice that spoke with the wisdom and authority of countless eons behind it.
“We are the Quintessons. It is our duty to cast judgement throughout the multiverse; to determine which realities shall be permitted to flourish, and which are to be destroyed. And now, the time has come for your universe to stand trial.”
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