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@  Foffy : (18 July 2019 - 04:45 PM)

that's right. my gym teacher is a clown. new series coming to disney channel next fall

@  Foffy : (18 July 2019 - 04:44 PM)

all these clowns are making me run really fast.

@  Sabrblade : (18 July 2019 - 12:10 PM)

All this awesome SDCC news is really making these boards run slowly.

@  Bass X0 : (18 July 2019 - 07:54 AM)

Racism must be stopped. No matter the cost.

@  MEDdMI : (18 July 2019 - 07:49 AM)

Tine to stop buttering it up.

@  PlutoniumBoss : (17 July 2019 - 09:43 PM)

Well shucks.

@  ▲ndrusi : (17 July 2019 - 08:14 PM)

The joke is a husk of its former self.

@  Paladin : (17 July 2019 - 01:15 PM)


@  Shrug : (17 July 2019 - 10:15 AM)

Something something... corn bread?

@  MEDdMI : (17 July 2019 - 07:21 AM)

Ok, ok. Enough of the puns and let's all thank Kal for the amaizeing job he did.

@  Paladin : (17 July 2019 - 06:24 AM)

by now I think this jokes' been creamed.

@  Nevermore : (17 July 2019 - 03:31 AM)

The kernel.

@  Nevermore : (17 July 2019 - 03:31 AM)

Who gives the orders in cybernetic warfare?

@  unluckiness : (16 July 2019 - 09:59 PM)

Zea mays

@  Xellos : (16 July 2019 - 09:53 PM)

Isn't that a kernel of truth.

@  Paladin : (16 July 2019 - 08:43 PM)

huh. suddenly the Squawk is popping.

@  TheMightyMol... : (16 July 2019 - 07:47 PM)

Not placing much stalk in this conversation.

@  Nevermore : (16 July 2019 - 06:22 PM)

That's so corny.

@  Shrug : (16 July 2019 - 06:07 PM)

It's absurd how happy I am that a post of mine made the front page of Reddit.

@  TheMightyMol... : (16 July 2019 - 05:46 PM)

Aww, shucks.

@  TriBlurr : (16 July 2019 - 05:45 PM)

Not till I taste the corn

@  Kalidor : (16 July 2019 - 05:43 PM)

You guys aren't being very nice. You're supposed to tell me I did "good, really good!"

@  TheMightyMol... : (16 July 2019 - 05:40 PM)

Just don't go beyond the rows.

@  Patch : (16 July 2019 - 05:39 PM)

Left over from the failed Beast Machines sequel, Beast Farmers

@  Patch : (16 July 2019 - 05:39 PM)

It's techno-organic corn

@  TriBlurr : (16 July 2019 - 05:26 PM)

We have a cornfield? Can I get a few ears?

@  Kalidor : (16 July 2019 - 12:56 PM)

And lastly, if it becomes too much hassle to deal with - it might just get sent into the cornfield and replaced with a Discord box anyway. So cool it.

@  Kalidor : (16 July 2019 - 12:55 PM)

Second thing is we do actually have the ability to ban users specifically from using Shoutbox if it's being abused like that

@  Kalidor : (16 July 2019 - 12:55 PM)

Hey all - just a reminder and heads up. The Shoutbox has been kept here as a courtesy because it's what you folks like in lieu of Discord - but a few things to remember is that P&R should stay in P&R and isn't really something that needs to be dragged out here in the most public of spaces.

@  Nevermore : (16 July 2019 - 11:04 AM)


@  NotVeryKnightly : (16 July 2019 - 10:25 AM)

You can make a new one. I doubt anybody would stop you.

@  Nevermore : (16 July 2019 - 10:16 AM)

There was a thread but it appears to have disappeared. Might have been lost in one of the older forum sweeps.

@  NotVeryKnightly : (16 July 2019 - 09:58 AM)

Yeah this is pretty much circumventing the fact that we have different rules for political talk.

@  fourteenwings : (16 July 2019 - 09:55 AM)

Okay, so, basically, can we not do politics in here anymore? I mean, considering how often @Nevermore, you talk about your work conditions, don't you think it's time for a dedicated thread in P&R?

@  unluckiness : (16 July 2019 - 09:39 AM)

Scratch that; that's insulting to honest salads. Whatever that was was the text equivalent of hamburger.

@  unluckiness : (16 July 2019 - 09:38 AM)

Would you like some dressing to go with your word salad?

@  Paladin : (16 July 2019 - 09:34 AM)

yes; it now goes "shit piss hug *BLEEP* ^$@^ motherhuger **** turd fart encyclopedia & Socialism."

@  unluckiness : (16 July 2019 - 09:24 AM)

This is an American site, but isn't that unnecessarily severe language? IIRC it's one of the top four offensive pejoratives to English people

@  SHIELD Agent 47 : (16 July 2019 - 08:52 AM)

It's amusing how so many (U.S.) wankers in this world love to whine "capitalism good socialism bad!" in the abstract while simultaneously pretending that megacorporations dominating de facto monopolies is anathema to the core capitalistic principle of competition benefits everyone.

@  unluckiness : (16 July 2019 - 05:17 AM)

I know Shockwave's super mode is pretty lame and Magnus is kinda greebly but it's not that bad.

@  TM2-Megatron : (16 July 2019 - 12:38 AM)

Though with the luck and caliber of leaders we've had of late in the darkest timeline, maybe it's too much to hope for.

@  TM2-Megatron : (16 July 2019 - 12:36 AM)

Just like democracy, it's not perfect but better than the present alternatives. Capitalism as it's practiced today won't be able to weather the coming wave of automation, though. Best to plan for it and hope for a gentle transition rather than the aforementioned collapse

@  unluckiness : (16 July 2019 - 12:27 AM)

Capitalism is the worst amiright? Sent from my iPhone

@  Vexwing : (15 July 2019 - 11:24 PM)

Because the collapse is gonna be just great.

@  TM2-Megatron : (15 July 2019 - 10:41 PM)

Let's hope this is late stage and we're on the cusp of something better.

@  abates : (15 July 2019 - 09:45 PM)

Late stage capitalism is the absolute best.

@  TheMightyMol... : (15 July 2019 - 01:33 PM)

So, welcome to all retail, everywhere.

@  Nevermore : (15 July 2019 - 01:24 PM)

Oh, and Greenpeace also conducted a protest at a German Amazon facility, to protest against Amazon's practice of throwing customer returns in the trash.

@  Nevermore : (15 July 2019 - 01:17 PM)

Right, because with Amazon, it's just the employees that have to step in dog shit while having no space to breathe.[/slightexaggeration]

@  Tm_Silverclaw : (15 July 2019 - 01:03 PM)

At least I can use Amazon without losing the ability to breath or step in dog shit.


Beasts of Bronze

4 replies to this topic

#1 Tindalos

  • Citizen
  • 1827 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 11 May 2019 - 08:33 PM

A bronze age, Greek Mythology based transformers story.


Part 1: Alcaeus and the Lion


The sound of thunder woke Alcaeus, not the slow rumble of the heavens when lightning split the sky, but something louder, sharper, and with an echo that sent every animal fleeing through the undergrowth, heedless to the hunter and his smouldering fire pit.
A large deer and its fawns leapt across his body as he turned to grab his spear, narrowly avoiding their hooves. Thunder at dawn, and with no clouds in the sky. He smiled, his quarry was close.
He crept through the forest, the lone figure heading towards where the thunder had echoed from, even as the trees were still and silent. He'd been tracking the beast for nearly a week, but each time he'd approached it, the beast had slipped from his grasp. But as a hunter he was nearly unsurpassed, and all creatures had a lair, somewhere to call home. It was just a matter of finding it.
Peaking through the tree-line, his hopes were confirmed, a rocky outcropping, with a cave mouth heading into it, the strange tracks heading in and out of it. It was the beast's home.
Lying in wait, Alcaeus stilled himself, making sure not to disturb the dried grass that lay beneath him, afraid even their rustling would give him away.
And then the beast stepped out of the cave, and he froze in fear.
No wonder the animals had fled: the lion stood a full six feet at its haunches, and with its mane could dwarf any man. Its skin and mane even shone in the dawn's light like it had been cast out of bronze. If it was still, he would have thought it a statue, but no statue could move like that, so much like the lion it resembled.
It sniffed the air and Alcaeus muttered a prayer to Zeus that it would not scent him as its tail twitched and it stared upwards.
Mercifully, it seemed the gods were with him, as the lion turned once more, and retreated back into the cave. And Alcaeus was able to breath and think once more.


This really was suicide, that's all it could be. He could still picture its teeth and claws, looking more like the short-sword he had tied to his belt than any normal animal. He pulled the weapon out, and tossed it from hand to hand, considering it's weight. The lion was huge, his sword wouldn't make a dent in the bronze hide. There was no way he could injure it like that.
And yet, he couldn't return. He'd sworn to his cousin he'd hunt down and slay whatever beast had been plaguing the lands, and if he broke the oath his life would be forfeit.
He couldn't outfight it, he couldn't outrun his oath. Which lead him to one option:
He'd have to out-think it.
It wasn't an appealing thought, but he had little choice, and no matter how deadly it was, it was a beast. Alcaeus had killed lions before, even if they'd been smaller and less armoured. He'd hunted boars, and their tusks now spanned his helmet. Every creature had a weakness, every creature could be slain. Even gods could be, he thought grimly to himself.
Crawling towards the cave, he racked his mind for ideas. He could set a fire, but would it even hurt a beast of metal? He could lure it off a cliff and hope the fall killed it, but he didn't fancy his chances.
The only thing that came to him was a slim chance: The beast had sniffed the air. It could smell, and if it could smell, it breathed. And if it could breath, then he hoped to all the Olympians that he could strangle it.


The cave was silent, the air still. For a moment Alcaeus thought the beast was lying in wait, holding its breath just as he had, to turn the hunter into pray. But he could see it, resting at the base of the cave, its eyes seeming to glow in the darkness, providing light where it didn't penetrate in from above.
It seemed to be resting, maybe sleeping with its eyes open. It at least gave him a shot as he hugged the walls, creeping as close as he could while the beast lay still. It wouldn't take much, just one jump.
He held his breath, and leapt.
The lion roared in panic as it got to its feet, Alcaeus grabbed a hold of its mane, pulling himself up its back, until he reached its neck.
Wrapping his arms around its neck, he held on tight, pulling towards himself, hugging the metal and trying to will it to break, to dent, to show some sign of weakness as he held on for dear life. The lion bounded around the cave, shaking its body to try and fling him free, but Alcaeus clung on firmly, knowing his life depended on it.
It reared up, slamming into the cave wall, and almost crushing him. He felt the air flee his body, leaving him gasping as he didn't let up, even as it tried to scrape him off.
As he coughed and spluttered for breath, he swore his ears were deceiving him, as the lion's roars gradually started to sound like speech. He refused to let go, until he was sure it was no illusion: "Will you just let go of me, you miserable creature!" The beast yowled in frustration.
This was no trick, he released it, slumping to the ground as it leapt away, turning to face him -- Oh Zeus, it's eyes really did glow. It crept closer, and he could see row upon row of dagger-like teeth. Speaking or not, this was the end.
"What in the name of all that's sacred was that for!" It roared at him, making his ears ring as his jaw dropped. The lion was angry, but it was speaking. No instant death, no sudden swipe or bite. Just... questions.
He breathed in, hoping nothing was broken. "You scattered the sheep of Tyrins, you crushed their cattle, you sent their armies fleeing..."
The lion stared at him, its jaw as slack as his, and then it sat on its haunches. "You attacked me over some animals?"
"Those animals were the livelihood of Tyrins' herders. The city's men spent days trying to find them all, and recover what had been lost." He was still unsure this wasn't a hallucination, he may have hit his head pretty hard. The idea of a conversation with a bronze lion was almost laughable. In fact, he couldn't stop himself from chuckling in hysteria.
"Wait, what's--" the beast froze, unsure at what it was seeing. "For what it's worth, I'm truly sorry about your animals, I hadn't intended to cause problems. I've been tracking down some enemies, but they've been evading me. The sheep just... got in my way."
It held out a paw, and Alcaeus grabbed it to both of their surprise, and got to his feet. He glanced around the room for his helmet -- lost when the lion had been shaking him, and fastened it to his head. "I understand that, although convincing Tyrins..." he laughed. "I don't suppose I could take a trophy, I swore an oath to return when I had slain you, and if I break my oath..."
The lion nodded, flexed its claws, and then bit one off, dropping it at Alcaeus' feet. "That should suffice? I wasn't planning on staying long, I managed to find a target anyway, and was about to head off, so you can claim you killed me." It chuckled a little, strangely at odds with its animalistic body.
"Thanks, this should work. But, if you'll do me a favour, you're hunting something. I wish to hunt it with you," he placed the claw in his belt, alongside his forgotten blade. "My name is Alcaeus of Thebes."
Narrowing its eyes at him, the beast frowned. "And I am Lionizer of Ibex. You accompanying me is a risk you shouldn't take."
Alcaeus nodded, "ordinarily I would agree. But I swore an oath to slay you, and the gods frown on oath-breakers." He grinned. "And so I shall follow you around until one of us dies, you or I."
"It will be you," Lionizer nodded, "But, if you wish me to be there at your death, I am not bothered, return when you have claimed your glory, and I will take you with me." The beast nudged him away, towards the mouth of the cave. "But when we hunt, do not get in the way. I've no wish to have your death on my conscience."
Allowing himself to be pushed out of the cave Alcaeus stilled his heart. He'd not felt a rush like that in years, the fear, the excitement. It was a thrill; and as he set off to return to his cousin, the lion's claw by his side, he swore he'd follow Lionizer's path, even if it took him to the gates of Hades.




Part 2: The Blood of Gods


Alcaeus' looked across the fire, meeting his cousin's eyes, staring him down as the guards watched them. "I have returned from slaying the lion, the beast is dead, it will trouble you no longer."
"What proof do you have that it's dead? You have no scars, no wounds of battle. I know you're a great and powerful hunter, but to make me believe you slew the lion without sustaining any injuries while it crushed cattle with its mere step?" He looked at Alcaeus with a snear of displeasure, which didn't surprise him. After all, they'd never gotten on with each other even before Alcaeus' exile, and now he'd shown up asking for aid... Eurystheus could be forgiven for not wanting another mouth to feed, especially one who couldn't work.
There was no sense in antagonising him further, Alcaeus drew the sword-like claw from his belt, throwing it to the ground in front of them both, the blade clattering as it landed. "The claw of the lion that plagued Nemea. Torn from its body, and presented here, to you King Eurystheus." He held his gaze. This was true -- even if the beast was still alive -- and he had no reason to think his cousin could sense his deception. Still, the heat of the great hall's firepit wasn't the only reason he sweated as the king stood up to pick up the claw.
"By Hera's glory!" Eurystheus whispered, turning it in his hands as he tested the edge, drawing blood. "I'd heard what my soldiers had said, but to think such a beast exi-" he paused, realising that admitting he'd assumed it had all been a legend, and that he'd sent his cousin off on an impossible task was foolish. "To think it could be slain without injury, given what they'd said," he finished.
Alcaeus saw a chance to boost his reputation, and went for it "It was no easy task, I admit. I only survived because I didn't fight it directly. Instead strangling the life from it between my arms."
Eurystheus nodded, still enamoured by the blade. "Something you're good at." This time he stopped too late, after he'd realised his folly. "I mean, dear cousin..."
The soldiers around the room readied themselves, loosening their swords from their belts as they waited for Alcaeus' response.
He just stood there, his knuckles going white as he held himself back. And then finally he spoke: "I have completed the task you asked, dear cousin. And now I shall take my leave. I find your city no longer pleasing." He turned away, leaving the hall before he did something he'd regret.

Lionizer checked his map again, drawn in the dirt outside the cave he'd so briefly called his base. It was a poor replacement for the computers of the Hyperborea, but he wasn't in any hurry to return until he'd found his quarry. Still, he really did need to practice using his claws for detail work, especially with one missing.
The peninsula was anything but regular which made it hard to be certain where things were, but he was pretty sure he'd got a good track of three large Decepticon signatures and two smaller ones. He was considering heading off to deal with them before the human got back, but everything he'd said about oaths had struck a chord with him. He wiped the dust, rendering the map illegible, and started to scratch a new one, determined to get better at it.
He'd barely gotten halfway through the coastline when he heard the human returning. He turned his head and called out, "Alcaeus?"
"Lionizer!" came the reply as the human stumbled through the bushes. He looked exhausted, and was covered in filth and grime. "You're still up for a travelling companion?"
"Of course, although I'd prefer one better scented," he waved a paw to the south, "there's a river there for you to freshen up in."
"My thanks," Alcaeus took a careful sniff of his body, "Mine and everyone else's!" He forced some laughter as he went southwards.
Intrigued, Lionizer got up and followed him, watching as he stripped off and bathed in the river. "You were gone barely a week, does slaying dangerous beasts not get you glory here?"
Alcaeus shook his head, "Tyrins has become far less civil place, my cousin is most unwelcoming." He dipped his face in the clear waters, smoothing his beard and hair when he rose once more. "The company of beasts is preferable."
Lionizer nodded, there was obviously bad blood there, something he understood all too well -- it was why he preferred to work alone. "The wilds are more comforting to me as well."
"But enough of that, tell me of your hunt. If I'm to accompany you, I should know our quarry." Alcaeus looked up from his scrubbing, still trying to remove the last of the filth.
This was a difficult moment. Lionizer racked his brain, trying to think of a way to explain it to a primitive: "I belong to a kingdom known as the Autobots, who have long battled against a rival kingdom known as the Decepticons. My king directed us to hunt down a Decepticon ship, which we found near your world. We battled, it crashed somewhere in the ocean. The enemies I track are those who fled the crashing of their ship, and have hidden out on your world."
"So, we hunt evil lions?" Alceaus nodded as he finished cleaning, donning his clothes and armour once more.
"Not lions, my kind can take on other forms. Even I have a second form, although it would be of little use to you." Lionizer let out a small roar of laughter, which just confused the human more.
"Changing form? Like the gods?" he asked as Lionizer bent down, letting him mount his back. "It's said that Zeus seduced many in the form of birds or serpents. My grandmother swore that he visited her once in a golden form."
Lionizer shook his head, just gently enough to let Alcaeus know it was just in disagreement, rather than an attempt to dislodge him. "We're not gods. While my armour's tougher, and my claws are stronger, I can still die to other mortals. Just like anyone else, I follow the thirteen high gods."
As Lionizer started running, heading south through the woods, Alcaeus couldn't help but exclaim "Wait, there are only twelve high gods!"
Lionizer chuckled to himself. This certainly would be an interesting journey.

"Wait, that doesn't make any sense!" Protested Lionizer.
Alcaeus laughed, "A metal lion is telling me that the gods don't make sense?" He hung tight to the mane -- each metal hair the width of his fingers -- and probed deeper. "What's got you so confused?"
"Well, you mentioned Hephaestus was born by Hera after she became jealous of Athena. But how could she have done that if Hephaestus helped with Athena's birth?" Lionizer shook his head again, leaping another small cliff as they bounded towards his quarry.
"Both can be true, the gods are greater than us mortals. Just like that story you told about Megatronus and how his name was forgotten. If it's forgotten, why do you know it." As much as Lionizer hated it, Alcaeus had a point.
He just sighed, his displeasure hidden by the wind whipping past them "We're getting closer anyway, a league at most."
"You're changing the subject. Also that's not good news, we're near Lerna. That place has been cursed for a while." Alcaeus suppressed a shiver.
Lionizer slowed his pace, "Cursed?" he asked as he came to a stop. "What is it? It could be a clue to who's causing it."
"The water of the lake. There's ruins there and the water was said to heal, but for months now it's instead only poisoned those who drank from it." Alceus slipped off Lionizer's back. "They said it was from the gods, but if it's connected to your Decepticons, that could explain it. Some have even said they've seen serpents hiding in the waters."
"A lake, that's not good news." They walked together in silence as Lionizer weighed his options. "I don't do well with water."
"You sink?"
Lionizer nodded. "Like a stone. I'll have to figure some way to deal with them, hopefully without going too far into the water."
Another thought had occurred to Lionizer, but he kept quiet. There was little way to describe it to his companion, nor express how dangerous it was. He just had to hope he was wrong about the lake.

On the surface the water was clear blue, sparkling clean, no wonder people had thought it had healing properties. But light wasn't the only thing he could see, as he viewed the spectacle with senses Alcaeus couldn't dream of. And there it was, a purple welt, slowly spreading through the water. Pale and thin at this shore, but amongst the ruins across the lake it was a shining wound. A curse was right. "Energon," he muttered.
"Energon? Is that the fiend we hunt?" Alcaeus asked, already loosening his sword for combat.
Lionizer shook his head. "Worse. It's the food and lifeblood of my kind, but it's deadly to other species. And worst of all it can't be seen or felt by other's eyes."
He placed a paw on Alcaeus' shoulder, "I beg you, stay here. This may not seem a threat, but if you go there, death will find you."
"Death?" He looked across the waters. For a moment, Lionizer thought it wouldn't matter, that he'd still insist on coming -- and then he'd need to find some way to prevent it -- but instead Alcaeus released his sword and found somewhere to sit, watching the apparently deadly water and the ruins across it. "I'll wait, but come back swiftly. I'd rather not be here when I get thirsty." He smiled, which was a relief.
Lionizer laughed at the poor humour, and started off around the lake, keeping an eye out, trying to find the signal that had drawn him here. He just hoped he wouldn't need to learn to swim.

The ruins were quiet, mostly the shattered remains of homes and artificial hills. As he stepped across the bare foundations he began to fear that he really would be getting wet. He checked his radiation counter, using it as a makeshift compass as he headed towards the energon source.
There it was, a small pile of debris covering it, buried next to the lake, where it must have been seeping through. Lionizer scraped off the surface rubble, uncovering a large cylinder marked with the Decepticons' insignia: An energon refiner for certain. That meant there was a con around nearby, and one who'd at least tried to hide his fuel source.
That was a curiously principled move, lessening the likelihood the indigenous life of the planet would stumble over it. It obviously hadn't worked, poisoning the lake and all... but maybe there was a chance to negotiate.
He roared out a challenge, sending waves across the still surface of the lake and sending birds flying from the distant treeline.
And then sat, and waited.
His patience took nearly ten minutes to be rewarded, the lake rippling as something rose upwards, until at last the head and shoulders of a giant emerged from the water, striding towards the shore. "An Autobot?" an echoing voice emerged from the giant, which Lionizer slowly began to recognise as ma suit of armour than a cybertronian. It's base had originally been a Cybernaut, but now it had been augmented by endlessly writhing cables, each tipped with a snapping set of jaws. One pair even dragged with it some stone blocks, piling them on the shore to dry. "I didn't think you'd find me."
"I'm the best tracker of the Autobots," he smiled as he approached the figure. "Lionizer, and I think you and I may be able to find some common ground."
"Why?" The giant turned to look at him, although it was impossible to view who was piloting it through the shattered faceplate. "I'm just surprised you've not opened fire. It's what's kept you alive."
"You kept the energon refiner buried, even if it did seep into the lake. An attempt to preserve life that seems noble," remembering what he was talking to, he added: "For a Decepticon."
"Preseve life?" The armour started shaking, and after a moment Lionizer heard the bark of laughter emerging from within. "It's nothing of the sort!" A tentacle wrapped around the lion before he could move, squeezing him tight. More joined it, sealing off any chance for Lionizer to escape or resit "I just wanted to avoid anyone stealing it before I got the shuttle working."
Another tentacle moved to press a button on the armour's wrist. As if to echo the Decepticon's words, the water started bubbling, a muffled roar emerging as the dagger-like shuttle rose from the depths.
"And now," the armour hissed as it opened, the puny golden figure on the inside becoming obvious now, "You're not going to be able to stop me pillaging this world of anything valuable I can get my claws on!"

Alcaeus waited on the far side of the lake. He didn't move when he heard Lionizer's roar. Nor did he move when the giant had emerged from the depths. But once it entangled Lionizer, once the strange shape had emerged from the depths, he had no choice.
He tore off a piece of his tunic, placing it across his face. He'd had no sponge to prevent bad air, but the mask would need to suffice. He girded his loincloth, and made sure his sword was with him -- no matter how useless it would be.
Diving into the water, he started swimming across it. Death by poison was a risk, but he knew enough about what happened to captured soldiers to know he couldn't leave Lionizer to his enemy's whims.
Instead he made sure not to swallow any of the tempting water as he sped through it, heading towards the strange ship, or chariot, or whatever it was.
He just had to hope he'd be fast enough.

Lionizer struggled futilely as the con marched onto the shuttle, pulling at a rod that slammed the ship's doors shut, and activating the internal lights, revealing the mess of stonework and pottery that the con had recovered. It all seemed so useless to him. And that must have been obvious to the con -- either that or it just liked to talk. "I see you do not grasp the beauty of my collection. This primitive society has created such marvellous artwork. And of course, when it's destroyed by the Decepticon army, this artwork is all that will remain." It ran a tentacle across a stone carving. "And then its worth will be incalculable."
"You'd kill an entire people just to make money?" Lionizer spluttered with disbelief.
"Don't be so crass. I'd not be doing the killing, or at least not all of it. I just intended to take what I can, and make a profit from it." The con disentangled itself from the suit, leaving it -- and Lionizer -- paralysed. Instead it converted into many legged crustacean thing. "What do you think? "Octopunch's Cultural Museum," or "the Museum of Dead Civilizations?" It waved a claw at him in what may have been intended to be a grand gesture of magnificence, but what looked more like an attempt at grabbing attention.
Lionizer just laughed. "It's not going to matter, when I get free those relics will be returned to the humans. And I'll make sure neither you nor your con  will get a chance to hurt them."
"The humans don't care. They buried them, threw them away. They have no worth except for what I place in them. And when I've escaped this miserable world, the worth I can get from others." Octopunch scuttled towards the exit, "Do not worry, I'm just going to recover the energon refiner, and then we'll be on our way." It yanked on the rod, pulling the exit door's mechanism, and opening the ramp
When he'd left, Lionizer kept struggling, trying to find a way out of the confining metallic cables, but it was hopeless. "Scrap," he muttered to himself, "I should have left a way for Alcaeus to call for help." If nothing else, the human could warn the others. Save his planet.
For all he liked doing things on his own, it obviously wasn't working out.
"Well you can give me a way next time," came a voice down beneath him.
Lionizer tried move his head, futilely trying to prove the voice was just a hallucination, that the human wasn't so foolish as to come into the death zone. "You lunatic!" He snarled.
"I know," Alcaeus muttered as he climbed up the giant armour, and tried to pull Lionizer free from the tentacles. "But I couldn't just leave you."
"But now we both die!" He protested, but the human wasn't listening, nor was he having any luck freeing him. "Just run, escape. You may still have a cha-"
"Vermin!" Bellowed Octopunch, eclipsing the doorway with the bulk of the energon refiner. "You brought a human aboard my shuttle!" It scuttled towards the armour, leaving Alcaeus with no option but to jump, hoping the pottery would break his fall.
It was a sharp, painful landing, but at least the pots were softer than the floor, especially now they'd become brittle with water.
Octopunch turned. Enraged by the desecration of his relics he roared wordlessly, his claws snapping at Alcaeus as he charged.
Running wasn't an option. And like this, the fiend had no neck to strangle, so he couldn't repeat that. He reached out for the nearest thing he could hold, the rod attached to the shuttle's door mechanism. To his surprise it came free, and he shut his eyes, swinging for the crab-thing as he felt death approach.
Thunder rang through the shuttle, and then there was silence.
Alcaeus finally opened his eyes, staring at the scene in front of him, the Decepticon slammed against his ill-gotten bounty, the stone and his shell seeming equally crushed. It moaned in agony, and then was still.
He looked at the rod in his hands, which now seemed more like a club, the head rounded but with a mouth to hold onto things. It had struck the crab like a thunderbolt.
Gripping it tightly, he ran up to the giant, striking at the tentacles still gripping onto Lionizer, breaking them off and freeing him from their grip.
Now liberated, Lionizer yanked at what remained of them, throwing them at Octopunch to weigh him down. "Are you okay?" He asked, looking closely at Alcaeus's eyes.
"That should be my question! With this club I'm invincible!" But he was already feeling overly warm, sweat pouring from his head. "I... just need to lean against something." He went to the wall, slumping against it. "I just need to rest." When did he get so tired. When did it get so dark?
He could barely hear Lionizer, he'd have to tell him to speak up, get him to explain what a bridge had to do with anything.
But that could wait until he'd rested. His eyes shut, and everything went black.

Edited by Tindalos, 11 May 2019 - 08:33 PM.

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#2 Tindalos

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 08:58 PM

Amongst the Giants


Memories swam in his head as consciousness started to return: his wife and children, their deaths and his exile... His eyes slowly flickered open, revealing the great bronze vault above him. He stared at it -- trying to will away the images that still lingered in his mind's eye -- before slowly rising to a seated position.
He felt awful, reminding him unpleasantly of the rites of Dionysus, although at least this time he didn't feel the burning bile that also accompanied those rites. Just the guilt that plagued him whenever he indulged too heavily.
He looked around, absorbing his surroundings: a hall as great as any Eurystheus' or Creon could dream of; the shining red metallic walls alone would have been worth the ransom of all the kings of Achaea.
"I must be dreaming," he muttered. Ignoring the pain throbbing through his head he forced himself to stand, and started to explore. He walked until he reached an edge -- revealing he was on a strange plateau above a drop that would probably shatter his bones, above a floor seeming to be made from the same bright metal of the walls.
He sat down on the edge, staring at the depths beneath him. He had to admit he was wrong; this was no dream. For one thing, nothing had ever heart this much in in a dream.
Nor could he imagine where he'd the idea for the strange devices that were placed on another plateau nearby: They were all so foreign to him that they couldn't be drawn from his imagination. They had to be real, otherwise they would have made some sense.
Instead he just had to wait, wondering if he was in Hades or Olympus -- or somewhere even stranger.

"How's he doing?" Lionizer asked; pacing down the corridor and glancing back at Minerva. "I know you said he'll live, but these organics are fragile.."
She adjusted her grip on Lionizer's back a little, and shrugged her wings. "It's a difficult case. I may be a xenobiologist, but each new species is a new experience. What I can say is that he would have died if you hadn't brought him back here. His exposure to raw energon..." she shook her head, and shrugged again. "It was a miracle he survived anyway."
"Then I'm glad you're a miracle worker," he said; rearing up to unlock the door. They walked into the medical bay, only to see the patient awake and on the edge of the table. "Alcaeus!" He called out, bounding forward and leaving Minerva fluttering in his wake.
"Lionizer!" He stood up -- trying to ignore the pain running through him with every movement -- "So this is your home?"
"In a manner of speaking," Lionizer glanced back at Minerva; "this is our ship, as we travel from place to place."
"A mighty vessel indeed," Alcaeus turned to face the newcomer; shaking the fog from his head as the insane scale of her body became obvious: She was an owl; her body seemingly made of silver or tin -- as astounding as the walls surrounding them --she was decorated with shining whites and rich reds, which made her all the more a sight to behold. But she was also immense. While Lionizer was huge -- even for a lion -- she was half his size. How could anything like that fly? His jaw dropped. "How?"
"I am Minerva, a healer." She stretched her wings and shone like the sun -- light enveloping her, concealing the details while her shape changed, her body grew; until the light receded to leave a giant instead of an owl -- a colossal humanoid figure smiling with a beatific face. "I saved your life."
Alcaeus stared in awe of the sight. "By the gods," he muttered; turning to Lionizer: "I thought you said you were not divine?"
Minerva laughed, too busy looking through the strange tools to spare a glance at him, "I'm no goddess, just my kind are rather different than yours."
Lionizer nodded, climbing up onto the plateau, which Alcaeus realised must have been merely a table to these giants. "Yes, I'd warned you we came in many forms. Many of us adopted the shapes of animals to fit in better."
"Although an owl the size of a wolf would be obvious anywhere," Alcaeus still couldn't believe it; watching Minerva while she examined an object that resembled nothing so much as a tablet made of glass.
"True, but I find flight useful. You'll be pleased to hear you are recovering well, we stopped you from dying, and you're recovering... slowly."
"From the poison?" He asked, looking at his hands, remembering the sensation before he'd fallen unconscious. "It truly was a danger, I should have listened."
"Yes," Minerva said; "I had to remove so much dead and dying flesh and regrow it," Alcaeus' jaw dropped again. "Don't worry, you'll live... but it was risky. I'm still not happy with all the results..." she sighed; "but thank you for rescuing Lionizer."
"Yes, thank you, even if it was a foolish move," Lionizer nodded; still anxiously examining Alcaeus' body for any wounds or scars. Finally he sighed. "Of course, this just shows my foolishness in letting you come along. I may have been more cautious if I'd thought about going in witho-"
"That's nonsense." Alcaus banged his fist on Lionizer's snout, and then flinched a little when it hurt him more than the beast. "You said it yourself you could have left me some way to warn others. And the very reason why I met you is sign enough that you need some native assistance."
"Oh, this should be good," Minerva laughed once again, putting down her slate and crossing her arms.
"I was sent by the king of Tyrins to hunt and slay a fierce beast that had caused trouble, including killing cattle." Alcaeus couldn't be certain, but Lionizer was looking a little embarrassed. "While obviously slaying him was out of the question, I'd needed to offer the king some sign of his defeat, or he'd send more hunters after him."
"I see," she looked at Lionizer; "the entire point of disguise is to avoid trouble." She shook her head in disbelief.
"The cattle were in my way, and it was a misstep," he tried to wave it off; "but yes, if you stay out of battle, I believe you could be of use."
Alcaeus nodded in agreement, "well, I'm not one to shy away from a fight, but I understand your point. Your armour is too tough to break through, and that club was just a moment of luck..." he looked up at Lionizer and furrowed his brow in thought "What happened to it anyway?"
"He brought it with you," Minerva interrupted; "it's with your clothing," she opened a part of the wall; pulling it out and withdrawing his tunic, armour, and the club. "Although this is actually not a club, but a tool."
"Really?" Aclaeus asked -- taking the opportunity to dress himself again -- "what kind of job would such a powerful thing do?"
"You saw it," Lionizer chuckled, jumping down onto the floor; "it's a power booster rod, we use it to hold things in place, or to move heavy objects with a simple touch. I suppose it works as a weapon well enough."
"Well, I have a weapon... It worked strong enough against that crab." He tested the swing a few times, "maybe I wouldn't need to stay out of the way if I could only have armour like yours, something strong enough where the claws of such fiends couldn't harm me, and no poison of your kind or mine could reach me."
Minerva picked Alcaeus up with one hand, "yes, a suit of armour..." she looked at Lionizer, ignoring the human's protests and struggles as she held him within her grip. "Maybe we should go see Hoist, you need to have your paw looked at, after all."
Sighing, Alcaeus moved towards the door, opening it with his paw, one claw still missing. "That won't go well, but I suppose this may arouse their interest."
Carefully Minerva placed Alcaeus onto Lionizer's back, and then shone once more -- the light flaring, and then withdrawing along with much of her size, once again her body changing into that of an owl. She fluttered down, taking her place behind Alcaeus, who held on tight to the metallic mane. "This Hoist, a dangerous sort?"
"Far from it, they care overly much," Minerva noted as they left the room, venturing out into the rest of the vessel.

Alcaeus had spent enough time with these Autobots to already know their ship wouldn't be the same as the penteconters he'd sailed on before. Certainly there was no sky above them, only more metal, and everything dwarfed him in size, including the rest of the crew.
Immense beasts of strange alloys paced or flew down the hallway, sparing only the briefest of glances at the diminutive intruder, and one brazen sky blue hawk not even doing that, speeding down the corridor as if he was pursued by all the denizens of the underworld.
He kept his jaw rigid, trying not to embarrass himself by gawping at every strange sight that passed them by, even as some changed forms into colossi like Minerva had. But even then the question burned in his mind, and he was not able to resist asking: "So Lionizer, why do you not change form like the others?"
He laughed, throwing his head back and almost flinging Alcaeus to the ground with the suddenness, "I could do, but it would serve no purpose. Instead of a humanoid form, I turn into a weapon, one so large only another Autobot could wield me." He stopped, reaching another imposing doorway, "And I have yet to meet someone worthy enough to do so."
Minerva rolled her eyes as they crossed the threshold. "By worthy he means someone who would actually put up with him for long enough. He's almost as bad as Hoist."
She pointed with her wing, directed at the figure hunched in the distance, their metallic hide verdigrised with age apart from the two great spears jutting from his shoulders. It turned upon hearing its name, startling Alcaeus so much he couldn't stop his jaw from dropping. Unlike Minerva, or even the others he had seen, Hoist seemed utterly unlike a human, its mouth a single blank slab of metal, its eye a single thin line, golden light burning out. "Minerva, you wound me!" they bellowed, in a voice full of mirth despite everything. "I'm nowhere near as bad as him!" they waved an arm which ended not with a hand, but looked to Alcaeus like another spearhead. "I take it this is the guest he brought here?"
Alcaeus nodded, not trusting his voice to work when confronted with such a creature. It looked like a monster, not some beast like the others, but even in this humanoid form it was rough shaped, more like a boulder than any craftsman's work. And yet as it leant forward, its blazing eye meeting Alcaeus' gaze, there was a strange warmth in its voice. "This land does possess a wealth of marvellous creatures. I am Hoist, I keep the Autobots here in fighting shape," they reached down -- taking Lionizer's paw in its singular hand; "even if some do insist on causing trouble." Hoist sighed, "the damage is minor, but you are in need of repairs. If you would consent, I could have you in peak condition within the week. I can have the claw fixed within the day as well, although it would be best to entirely replace them all to match."
Lionizer sighed. "We did not come here for me, although a new claw would be useful. Instead this human--" he bucked his back, making Alcaeus bounce in the air a little before falling back to his mane, "--would like to accompany me in hunting down the Decepticons. But if so, he'd need to be safe."
Hoist nodded, "I had heard about the energon poisoning, a suit to ward it off?"
Finally finding his voice, Alcaeus croaked out a response: "Amongst other things. Whatever metal you use is obviously not bronze, despite the appearance. It could shield me from the attacks of these Decepticons, and allow me to contribute."
"Certainly it would help you avoid getting squashed," Hoist said, pressing down onto Alcaeus' head with a surprising gentleness; "I could have something made while you recover from the sickness," they tilted their head; "you couldn't have thought you would be entirely well so soon afterwards? You should take time to rest while I build it, build up your strength."
Hoist then grabbed a hold of Lionzer's mane, "and you should take the opportunity to be repaired as well. Hunting Decepticons is no job to perform when dented and broken."
They held tight, not letting go even when Lionizer tugged back, only releasing him when at last Lionizer called out "Fine, I suppose the Decepticons can't cause too much havoc in a week."
"Oh, I have no doubt they can," Hoist said; "but there are more of us than just you."
Turning their back on the three of them, Hoist returned to their work, "maybe ask Lancer to hunt down some of them. She's almost as good a tracker as you after all." With a wave of their spear-like hand, Hoist dismissed them, already engrossed in this new project. Leaving the three of them waiting by the door, until they finally left Hoist to their labours.
"I see what you mean about the attitude," Alcaeus laughed after the door slammed shut like a curtain descending -- he'd learned to accept such miracles -- "It seemed difficult to deal with, it even ignored you," he turned to Minerva.
"Hoist cares, but in their own way." She nodded, "I wasn't injured, or new, so I was not their concern. But trust me, if you need something made or repaired, their are few better smiths."
"I just wish they'd get a better bedside manner," Lionizer grumbled; "and I suppose we'd better meet Lancer."
"You should." Minerva rose into the air, her wings seeming to barely move as much as would be necessary, even for a normal bird. "Alcaeus needs to recover. I'll make the laboratory more comfortable to their needs, as well as making sure there will be no long term problems."
She reached out with a taloned foot, and grabbed him. "Wait! Surely I can walk to your workshop!"
Minerva shook her head, "not quickly, and there would be the risk of being trampled," she was already winging her way back along the corridor while Lionizer slunk off. Leaving Alcaeus trapped. He sighed, unsure he'd be able to free himself, even were he not still ill. He'd have to put up with the disgrace, and hope his stomach would hold out.

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#3 Tindalos

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Posted 15 June 2019 - 02:40 PM

Selene's Gaze.


"So how do you feel?"
Alcaeus stretched his arms, limbering up. "A lot better, thanks to your assistance." He looked up at where Minerva was hovering, keeping watch as she hung in the air with the barest of movements. It still unnerved him, but he'd started to get used to the sight.
"Well, you've made a lot of improvements over the past few days," she grabbed one of the slates nearby in her talons, and then glowed brightly, metamorphosing into her humanoid body as she examined it. "Assuming you don't go exposing yourself to that level of danger again, you should be perfectly healthy once more."
"I'm glad to hear it," Alcaeus nodded, examining his body for any sign of scarring. From what she'd spoken of before, they'd had to cut and stitch him like a priest of Apollo -- and yet he still couldn't find a scrape or wound. It seemed whatever secrets Minerva possessed, they may as well have been magic.
It was one of the many things that had started to worry him. Another was her comment of days. Here on their ship, there was no day or night, no lamps hung on the walls. Just a soft illumination that shone from the ceiling. He had no way of knowing how long time passed, as he had no way to keep time. He just had to trust them, and sleep whenever he was tired.
She didn't seem to notice his inspection, or at least pretended ignorance as she examined the slate in silence -- only for them to both look over as the door rose; allowing Lionizer to enter, along with another companion.
"Greetings Minerva," the newcomer nodded to the scientist, and then knelt in front of Alcaeus. "And greetings to you as well, human." She held a hand across her chest in a salute, a broad smile showing on her face. "I am Lancer, at your service."
"At my service?" He spluttered, kneeling in turn. "That's an honour I do not deserve, truly I can only thank you for your hospitality. " He glanced up at her, trying to avoid directly staring. Unlike the others, she wore armour, a full panoply of of the bronze-like metal they used everywhere, showing she was obviously a warrior. She even had what looked like a bow strapped to her back. Even apart from her obvious martial skills, her body beneath it was deep purple. By any standards, she was important, maybe even their queen.
To his surprise, she burst out laughing. "You must have me confused with someone else, I'm no leader, just a warrior." She offered her finger to him, letting Alcaeus take it in his hand and gently tugging him upwards, making him stand.
"Then what service are you offering?" He glanced again at her bow, which looked like it would pierce walls rather than armour and shuddered. A weapon that powerful would change how wars were fought forever.
Lionizer spoke up, raising his paws and head onto the table. "We thought you may be tired of hanging onto my back while we travel, so Lancer volunteered to be your ride."
"And as Lionizer has forgotten to mention," Lancer said, ruffling his mane, "I can also help you track down Thunderhoof."
Alcaeus was silent, looking between the two of them, and then to Minerva. "I take it he's our next target?" He finally asked, when it was clear they weren't going to explain without prompting.
"Seems so, he's been in the Aegialus region," Minerva said, tapping the table-platform. At her touch the table's surface rippled like water; and to Alcaeus' fascination, turned into a map of his homeland. He stepped over a mountain range --forcing himself to remember his colossal companions were no gods, and this wasn't the view from Olympus -- and tried to focus on where Minerva gestured. A small purple dot amongst the greenery of the coast, leaving a bruise-like path in its wake.
He frowned -- this was a new experience, but he could still see a second dot, in the mountains inland to the west. It seemed to him like the moving dot was seeking to join up with it. "And this would be a second one?"
"Snarler," Lancer confirmed. She touched the table in turn, and each dot expanded into an image, a painting more lifelike than any he'd seen before. "This is him," she pointed at the figure hiding amongst rocky outcroppings: a hunched beast, a boar with twisted, spiralling tusks. "A brute and a thug, who's a known comrade of Thunderhoof." The other figure was even harder to spot -- nearly a blue blur between trees -- but Alcaeus could make out the branching antlers suggesting a stag.
Lionizer spoke up, "Thunderhoof joined up with the Decepticons for what he could get, rather than any true belief. If we could convince him to stand down, he might be able to lead us to the others. But if he's met up with Snarler, he'll want to avoid looking weak."
The four of them stared at the dots. Alcaeus tried to estimate how far apart they were, given his knowledge of the region compred to this supernatural viewpoint. It was still too close for comfort. "How soon can we get there?" He asked, examining the map. "I don't see where your ship is docked?"
Lancer stared at the other two, "He doesn't know?"
Alcaeus turned to look at Minerva and Lionizer as they shared a glance. "It's hard to explain," he began.
"If we take him to the bridge, he can get a good view," Minerva chimed in meeting his questioning gaze and giving a weak smile. "It will be a lot to take in."

The bridge -- as Minerva had called it -- seemed nothing of the sort. The room they'd taken Alcaeus to was a large round chamber, occupied by an archway in the centre of the room. The room itself was strangely decorated, most of the walls painted into a mural of the night's sky, stretching on into infinity.
The one wall which was different was covered with a dome of blue, green, and white. Lionizer and Lancer led him to it, until he could see the mural was moving, the white wisps swirling around the green and blue patterns.
Lancer took a deep breath and pointed at a leaf-shaped region. "This is your home."
He stepped closer, climbing atop Lionizer's head to stare at it. "My home..." He recognised it from the map earlier, the leaf was the Peloponnese peninsula. He could the Troad across the sea, which was covered with the swirling white wisps that must have been clouds. Everything was so small -- the entire region seeming like he could reach out and touch it. He fought the urge to do so.
He continued staring, his eyes moving across the world -- viewing places that he didn't recognise, that must be places spoken of by merchants and in legends. And yet there was still more. Lands across great seas. The world was huge -- far bigger than he could have imagined and yet it all looked so small.
A thought sprang up to him "If that's the world... then where are we?" He craned his head, as if he could see it on the dome.
"Not there." Lancer replied. "This is your world. We're beyond it," she touched the mural, bringing up symbols in what must have been their language, and the mural moved. The dome shrunk -- becoming a circle -- and a second circle appeared. The shadows and light across the grey surface a familiar one, although never seen like this before. Now he could see the cup-like pockmarks blighting the surface, the darkened patches where canyons marred the surface Lancer gestured to a small point within one of the craters, "We're here, on your moon. We can watch over your world, keeping an eye on it."
"And when we need to, we can use the space bridge," Lionizer raised a paw to point at the archway, "to reach the surface. I brought you through it when you were sick."
Alcaeus stood still, trying to keep himself calm. "You watch us from far above, viewing the entire world as though it was a mere painting. You can travel between worlds in an instant! You can heal the sick without leaving scars, you possess wealth beyond any kingdom of the world, your bodies change form as you wish and are made of pure metal!" There was no way he could stay calm now -- or stay still -- backing away and only stopping when he reached the edge of Lionizer's head, trapped by the plunging drop "And you mean to tell me you're not gods?! Or no... this is madness again!" He fell to his hands and knees, his stomach revolting against everything he'd seen. "Hera forgive me..." He prayed desperately for what seemed the first time in months, trying to hold on as the world twisted outside his grasp. He'd believed his homelands had been the greatest of the world. Immense and unconquerable. And yet the lands he'd known for all his life were tiny, his world was tiny. This was proof, and yet he couldn't wrap his head around the enormity of it.

"This is not madness," Lancer said, reaching to him, her finger lifting his chin. "Nor are we gods."
"But-" he tried to protest.
"If a wolf looked skywards and saw an eagle flying, he might say the eagle was a god because flight was beyond his grasp." She continued, "We are not divine. Merely different. In time your kind may become like us, or even surpass us."
"And of course, you defeated Octopunch pretty easily," Lionizer chipped in. "If he's a god too, then divinity is not worth much."
Lionizer's words reminded Aclaeus. "The club," he said, focusing on it. He tried to view it as a pillar of stability. The world still swirled around him, his head still dizzy. But if he imagined he could feel its weight in his hand, he felt he could stand once more. "Yes," he muttered "I did wound him with it."
Doubts and fears were still there. What had happened to him, what the world truly was, the powers of these colossi. But they could be hurt, they themselves claimed they were mortal. He breathed deeply, his stomach calming.
"Minerva was right," he said.
"It's been known to happen," she called, stepping into the room along with Hoist. "Are you okay?"
"No," he said, forcing a smile to his lips. "But who could be?"
"Culture shock?" Hoist asked, as they trudged closer. "Not to be unexpected, but not easy to prepare for either." They held out their fist in front of Alcaeus and opened it slowly. "Perhaps a gift will help somewhat."
In the palm of the colossus's hand rested a panoply of armour. Carefully -- still not trusting his own feet -- Alcaeus stepped over. A breastplate sat in the centre, modelled on his own body, the metal so polished that he could see his face staring back. The sight of his face -- still unchanged -- calmed him even more. He raised it above him, sliding it over his shoulders and tying the straps with some fabric he'd never seen before.
A pair of vambraces accompanied the breastplate, he donned them easily, one after another. "Those are my masterwork," Hoist said, "those vambraces can act as a communicator, sending messages to Lionizer or back here. We can also send them to you." The giant leaned in closer, "making something so small was a real challenge. I thank you."
Alcaeus held up his right vambrace, seeing a small ruby on it. He touched it, now barely surprised by the aurora of light that emerged. The faces of his four companions arising like spectres. He reached out, touching Hoist's face. "Thank you..."
The face nodded as Hoist themself did, both of them acting in turn. "Is this how you show the world on the walls?" Alcaeus asked, struck by the similarity of the mimicking spectre.
"It's similar," Hoist agreed, their voice echoing as it came from both the giant's body and the vambrace at once "Although that is visual only."
"I see..." Alcaeus touched the gemstone again, relieved as the vision faded. "I do not wish to seem ungrateful, but no helmet? My head is not as tough as yours."
"No one's is," Hoist agreed. "I thought instead of a helmet, you would wish something more interesting." They turned to Minerva, "If you would?"
She nodded, bending down and holding out her fist, opening it up to reveal "--a cloak?" Alcaeus could barely believe it. It seemed halfway between metal and cloth: it rippled like any other fabric, but it shone like bronze, cool beneath his fingertips. And at the top was a lion's head.
"Lionizer filled me in on how you two met, and of the promise you made to your kinsman." If they'd had a mouth, Hoist would probably have been smiling. "From what I have heard of your people's culture, if you slay a beast you gain ownership of its skin. And so after vanquishing your deadly foe, you are entitled to a piece of him."
Alcaeus couldn't help but smile as he laid it across his shoulders, tying it around his neck. The hide was heavier than a real one, but that wasn't surprising. "So, this will protect me?"
"Yes, though flexible, it's still made out of the same metal as your other armour." Hoist nodded, "So you can also use it as a shield, holding it between you and your foes."
"Then I just need my club, and I'll be ready." Alcaeus smiled, forcing his doubts back, focusing on the mission ahead. "Let's go hunt us a deer."

Edited by Tindalos, 15 June 2019 - 02:41 PM.

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#4 SoS

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Posted 17 June 2019 - 10:40 PM

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#5 Tindalos

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Posted 12 July 2019 - 06:37 PM

Part Five: Beyond and Beneath the Earth


If Alcaeus had tried to imagine what the journey home would be like, he'd never have come close.
As he walked through the tunnel, his mind tried to comprehend his surroundings, the colours that swirled and danced like waves on the sea, a churning formless mass that seemed to have only two points of stability: the entrance, through which he'd stepped a moment before; and the exit. An archway that stood what seemed mere yards ahead, but could have been a mile for all he knew.
He just had to keep walking, hoping that the portal that seemed ever-distant actually was coming closer. He shut his eyes, blocking out the whorl of impossible colours, and took a deep breath.


"Welcome back!" Lionizer's voice greeted him, as he slowly opened his eyes. He swore he'd only shut them briefly, but he was already out the far side, a sunny plain greeting him as his ally stretched his body. "It's good to be on solid ground again."
Alcaeus turned to look at the portal, the colours muted from here, fading into black and white. "What was that?"
"We call it the space bridge," Lionizer waved a paw, trying to find the right words. "It makes a portal through what we call transwarp which is..." he stopped and stared at Aclaeus. "Honestly we may be better off asking Lancer."
They stood, looking silently at the portal until Lancer emerged, letting it dissolve away into nothingness behind her. "This is your homeworld?" she glanced around, "impressive!"
"You've not been here before?" Alcaeus asked, watching as she stretched her body -- he wondered just how necessary the action was for beings of metal -- and she nodded.
"I've been working on the ship since we've been here. Tracking down the Decepticons from the skies, while bots like Lionizer searched on land. But nothing compares to the rush of the hunt."
"I was trying to give Alcaeus the rundown in how the space bridge and transwarp work." Lionizer said, padding up. "But I'm no expert. I don't suppose you could explain them?"
She snorted with derision. "About the only bot on board who understands the mechanics is Hoist, although I doubt they know more than how to repair them. They say transwarp's what exists outside of the cosmos... but that's more for scientists to argue over than warriors."
"Outside the cosmos," Alcaeus repeated. "The formless abyss?" he'd heard a priest speak of it once, the original place before light, darkness, earth or sky came into being. He shuddered, being doubly sure that it was a place mortals shouldn't dwell.
"An abyss is a good way to describe it." Lancer said, nodding "While I know little about it, there's nothing there but what we take in."
That did little to still Alcaeus' nerves. The idea of somewhere being so empty, so devoid of life... It seemed alien to him, he still had to wonder if there was anything there, hiding from their senses. It wasn't a pleasant thought.
"Of course, this is all too philosophical for warriors such as us," Lancer continued. "Thunderhoof is out there, and every moment we wait is a moment he's ahead of us."
She stepped away from the others, into an empty space, and then her body started to shift.
Unlike when Minerva changed shape, there was no glowing -- possibly because she had kept her size, with no miraculous shrinking -- instead he could watch as panels folded and twisted, curves rising out what had once been her legs and merging with others to become wheels, her armour plating moving to one direction, leaving a large gap behind her. It was only when she finished -- the grinding sound of parts moving against one another silenced -- that he recognised her for what she was. "A chariot?"
"I thought you would appreciate riding in style." Her voice arose from nowhere, her head concealed within the chariot, and the only face it had was still. A large red mask affixed to the front -- a symbol he'd now realised had also marked out Lionizer, Minerva and Hoist.
He ran his fingers across it. "A sign of allegiance?"
"Yes, it helps marks us out from the Decepticons. This red face is a symbol of hope for those they have attacked."
"Hope's a dangerous thing," Alcaeus noted, clambering into the chariot. "No horses?"
"No sense getting others involved," Lionizer said, backing against the chariot's yoke which joined to him, metal melding with metal. "Lancer could travel by herself, but this keeps us together."
With a great bound they were off, speeding across the plain -- Alcaeus holding firm to the rim of the chariot -- heading towards the distant wooded hills where their quarry was hiding.

The signs of Thunderhoof's passing were obvious: trees lying bent and broken across the forest floor, inch deep impressions marking where his hooves had been -- pressing into the sun baked earth as if it was fresh clay.
"No wonder he's known as Thunderhoof, Alcaeus muttered, staring at the trail of destruction. Lionizer and Lancer barely slowed, with only a brief sound of acknowledgement.
He recognised what they meant -- all of them were hunters, and now they were approaching their prey. Only the briefest snatches of conversation were permitted to avoid alerting their prey.
It was evident Thunderhoof stopped or moved for nothing: they rode along his path following broken trees, shattered boulders, and the crushed remains of a boar that had unwisely tried to get in his way.
Lionizer leapt across a gap, carrying Lancer and Alcaeus through the sky for a moment -- only to come sinking back to the ground with a movement so silent that Alcaeus needed to check they were actually touching it, rather than floating.
Up ahead, the sounds of devastation started to echo, deer and birds appearing as they fled from the harbinger of doom that was Thunderhoof.
A blue blur in the distance gradually got larger, resolving itself into the shape of a deer moving at high speed, it's every step cracking the sound beneath it with a low rumble.
Compared to their quarry, Lionizer and Lancer were silent, and it was only when they pulled up next to Thunderhoof that his head turned to notice them.
"You bots finally caught up with me, huh? Well I ain't letting you catch me!" He bellowed to be heard over his own thunderous steps, and picked up even greater speed -- headbutting a tree out of his way and into theirs.
Lionizer swerved, forced to slow down to avoid the improvised missile. Alcaeus ducked beneath Lancer's frame, hearing splitters shatter against her shields and seeing a spray of wooden splinters go overhead.
"Pull up beside him," Alcaeus yelled to Lancer, "I'll see if I can make him stop." He thumped his club against his hand in emphasis.
"Sounds crazy," her voice rang out from nowhere, "Let's do it!"
To Alcaeus' surprise she unhitched herself from Lionizer and started turning towards Thunderhoof's other side -- to catch him in a pincer attack. Despite Lionizer's earlier comment there was still something innately wrong with a horseless chariot.
Thunderhoof tried to barge up against Lionizer, warding him off with his sea-blue antlers. Lionizer dodged, and the momentary distraction allowed Lancer to close in. "It's now or never!" She called out, Alcaeus gripping her rim as he prepared to leap.
He'd jumped onto other beasts before -- even Lionizer -- but Thunderhoof's body was hard to maintain a hold on: there was no hair-like mane, no rough parts -- instead he was smooth as a sling stone, entirely built for speed.
Alcaeus held on more through shear determination than skill, grabbing a hold of Thunderhoof's tail and lifting himself slowly onto his back.
He crawled along the metallic stag's body until he reached it's head, and took hold of Thunderhoof's antlers. Gripping them like the reigns of a chariot, Alcaeus yanked Thunderhoof off course, sending him to the left -- further up the hillside -- before he knew what was happening. "What's that up there? You've been haulin' in Mini-cons to do ya dirty work?" Thunderhoof said, trying to pull himself back.
As beast and mortal fought for control, neither's focus was on what lay ahead -- a sudden canyon, marking where an ancient river had cut the land in two -- too distracted to leap it, Thunderhoof's hoof hit empty air, and both tumbled, plummeting into the depths as oblivion claimed them.

Alcaus awoke to darkness, the sounds of a stream next to him a sudden reminder of the fall he'd so recently taken.
His body felt... all right -- a surprise when he looked skyward and saw the thin river of light that marked the top of the canyon. A fall like that should have broken bones, his survival must have been down to the armour hoist had forged for him.
He smiled in the darkness as he rejoiced in his good fortune... only for that to shatter when he heard a groan from beside him.
"You Mini-cons sure fight dirty," Thunderhoof said, and then a light manifested, revealing him next to Alcaeus, already having metamorphosed into a humanoid form -- still crowned by his impressive antlers. The light shone out from a pair of what looked like cloak pins on Thunderhoof's shoulders. "I figure I can hear you out... before I crush you for interferin'"
It was an empty threat -- one of Thunderhoof's arms was busy holding the other still, and Alcaeus could see the metal ropes hanging out of it showing just how injured he was. There was no way he was going to harm Alcaeus before he was seen by a healer.
"I'm not a Mini-con, whatever one is. I'm a mortal, a human." He lifted his hood to better show his face, and the giant recoiled a little.
"Smeltin' Autobots! Arming an organic, how messed up can you get!" Thunderhoof shook his head, "Look... you and I don't have any reason' to fight... I may think your kind's worthless, but I ain't here to cause scrud for ya. You run away, tell your Autobot buddies I died in the fall, and I sneak away. Everythin's even, I don't have to come back and crush ya."
Thunderhoof was strangely informal, it reminded Alcaeus of some of the fishermen, hunters, and other workers he'd met away from Thebes' citadel... he'd considered himself their kind -- even taken parts in the Dionysian rites with them -- but after everything had gone wrong, they'd turned their back on him, just like everyone else. Thunderhoof's attempts to appeal to him -- the pointless threats, the offers of mercy -- they all reminded him of those who'd seen him as just another ostracised noble. He tightened his grip around the club as he stepped closer. "And why would I do that? You're in no condition to run away, even less to fight." He grabbed one of the metal ropes and saw Thunderhoof flinch. "They've spoken about you to me, you've got no loyalty to your Decepticon king. They may even show you mercy if you tell them all you know."
Despite his obvious pain, Thunderhoof still laughed. "Hey, I might not be part of the inner circle, but I'm still no coward. I'm not gonna turn on others just to save my own hide." He let his shattered arm drop to the rocky ground, and started moving backwards -- his good arm reaching back to the canyon wall, steadying himself as he rose to his full height. "I may be damaged, leakin' oil and about as combat ready as a Mini-con... but I ain't about to betray anyone."
It was an odd display of loyalty, especially for what seemed more like a mercenary. Alcaeus thudded the club into his hand. "Then you'll be taken in and treated like all the rest of your kin." -- the momentary question of what the Autobots actually did with their prisoners flashed through his head, but Thunderhoof's laughter pushed it away.
"Not while I still got the thunder!" He howled with laughter, stomping down on the stone floor -- shattering it where his hoof hit bare rock, cracks spreading out and up the walls. "If I go down, I'll be sure to take you with me!"
The thrill of desperation rushed through Alcaeus -- the madman really would kill them both! He rushed forwards, barely thinking about his actions. He had to deal with him now. No time to wait for Lionizer and Lancer to come to his rescue.
Thunderhoof thrust his leg downwards again, sending more cracks up the walls -- already small rocks and rubble were beginning to fall, threatening to bury them -- ignoring Alcaeus' approach. The blow from the club took him by surprise, his jaw dropping as he was sent crashing backwards, his antlers becoming lodged in the wall. He struggled, trying to get free. "You little piece of scrap! You can't do this to me! I've killed more bots than you could imagine, I made entire cities bow down!"
"And now you're captured, like a common bandit." Alcaeus laughed, leaning against Thunderhoof's severed arm. "When the others get here, you'll face justice. Whatever your fate, accepted it with dignity."
Now there was none of the attempts at brutish intimidation, no more idle threats or attempts to seem the bigger man. Thunderhoof looked at him staring down his body at the mortal who dared to defeat him, and snarled with rage. "No! You miserable organic can't do this! I ain't goin' down like this!" He stomped his foot again. And again. Before Alcaeus could move it was too late, the canyon walls were too fragile, too shattered by their conflict. Even as he watched they began to shatter and fall. A rock barely missed him, and he ran, leaving his foe to his self-inflicted doom, the canyon begining to collapse in on Thunderhoof, whose rage had twisted into mirth -- laughing manically at his oncoming fate. "Tell them bots, tell them no one beats Thunderhoof except Thunderhoof! Let 'em remember that!" He bellowed as the rocks fell, engulfing him.

The pile of boulders stood at the base of the canyon, a cairn to Thunderhoof. It was exactly as Alcaeus had described -- and seemed deadly enough, which just put Lionizer even more on edge. "We should dig them up." He said, glancing at the other two.
"I'd agree," Lancer said, kneeling at the pile -- picking one up to crush in her hands -- "But Snarler's nearby. If Thunderhoof survived, he's still damaged. If we go find Snarler and capture him, we should be able to get back and recapture him, if this didn't finish him off."
Alcaeus nodded, digging through the pile seemed far too much of an exhausting task -- the boulders came in a myriad of sizes, and were all wedged together. It would take hours, and that's if they didn't dig carefully to avoid collapsing more of the fragile looking wall. "We'll return then, after we've got his comrade in arms. Make sure he's dead at that point."
Lancer shifted, metamorphosing into her chariot mode, and Alcaeus got on, sparing a final glance back at the cairn. It grated on him to let a foe escape.
Even if their escape was across the styx itself.

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