The Autobots and the Decepticons fought each other for centuries before they came to Earth. Now the upcoming Transformers novel Retribution, by David J. Williams and Mark S. Williams, aims to reveal what happened when the Transformers fled Cybertron to head here. And we have an exclusive — and massive — preview!
The book is set after the events of the War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron games, and before the Transformers: Prime cartoon, but editor Frank Parisi promises any fan of the original series will enjoy it — especially as it’s filled with classic characters “reintroduced” to the new continuity, but based on their Generation 1 counterparts. This includes everybody from Ultra Magnus and Perceptor to Blaster, Kup, and even Wreck-Gar and the Junkions!
“Imagine all of your favorite classic Transformers characters in all-out, epic warfare on a new world and on Cybertron,” explains Parisi excitedly. “Autobots vs. Decepticons, Transformers vs. Quintesson-led Sharkticon armies spearheaded by the forces of the giant doom-bringing robot called Tyrannicon. Optimus Prime is pushed to the brink as a hero and a leader, [and] Megatron has to plumb the depths of will he forged in the gladiatorial arenas of his past.”
And that’s not even mentioning the insane final battle that — well, we’ll save some surprises. But for an early look at Retribution before its January 2014 release, look no farther! We begin with Autobots and the Decepticons deep in battle, but a new enemy is about to enter the fray…
On the Nemesis, one of the screens began flashing. Soundwave leaned forward.
“Lord Megatron, we’re picking up multiple contacts.”
“Where?” Megatron demanded.
“Just launched from the Ark. Fast attack craft, closing on us.”
“Bring up the visuals,” Megatron said.
“At once.” The images of Silverbolt, Air Raid, Slingshot, Skydive, and Fireflight came into crisp focus on the targeting scanner. The Autobot fighters were flying fast in close formation. Starscream snorted in disgust.
“A suicide mission,” he said. “Seeking to delay us from getting into tractor-beam range.”
“Destroy them,” Megatron said. Some of the guns of the Nemesis switched from the Ark to the incoming targets, but the five Autobots zigged and zagged, weaving past the bolts of energy that seared past them as they soared in toward the Nemesis. As they closed in—
“We should commence evasive action,” Starscream said. “Target them all with all our guns.”
“All they can do is strafe,” Megatron scoffed. “We’ll laugh off their spitballs. Stay on the Ark. We almost have them.”
“Five seconds to tractor-beam range,” Soundwave confirmed.
The Aerialbots dodged past the last wave of gunnery, roaring above the top decks of the Nemesis, heading in toward the bridge.
“Do your worst,” Megatron said with a sneer.
The Aerialbots did.
Instead of opening fire, they closed on one another, simultaneously shifting into alt-mode and using their forward momentum to merge abruptly, creating a single colossal silver-and-red jet trooper that proceeded to land on top of the Nemesis, wielding the largest electrostatic rifle any of the Decepticons had ever seen.
Starscream’s eyes practically bugged out of his head. “What in the name of Unicron is that?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Megatron screamed. “Concentrate all fire!”
But it was too late.
“I AM SUPERION!” yelled the giant combiner robot as it fired a bolt of energy at the Nemesis’s bridge, scoring a direct hit. For a moment the entire bridge was filled with lightning; electrical feedback flashed through the Nemesis like wildfire, blowing out consoles all over the ship. Soundwave and Starscream were hurled back into the far wall. Only Megatron remained on his feet.
“Get that scrap heap off my warship!” he yelled as he shook off the bridge’s wreckage. “NOW!”
His soldiers were already on it. All over the Nemesis hatches opened; Decepticons poured out to face the behemoth astride their spacecraft, buzzing around Superion like angry bees while the Nemesis’s batteries opened up at point-blank range, sending missiles, lasers, and superheated plasma streaking toward Superion. Multiple hits and explosions knocked the massive rifle from his hands, but he just reached down, digging his mighty fists deep into the Nemesis’s hull, tearing off a huge piece of plated armor and using it as a shield to ward off the incoming fire. Then he strode straight toward the bridge, right at the Decepticon leader, his booming voice lost in the vacuum but vibrating through the hull of the ship.
“PREPARE TO BE DESTROYED, MEGATRON!”
“You’ve got it the wrong way around,” said Megatron. He amped up his fusion cannon and let fly. The blast was like a supernova going off. As the glare dimmed, Megatron fully expected to see Superion’s smoking wreckage.
Except there was no sign of Superion anywhere.
Megatron adjusted his optics. Had the cannon disintegrated the giant robot entirely? It couldn’t have—the gun wasn’t that powerful. Not against a bot the size of Superion, at any rate. Megatron stormed forward out of the remnants of the bridge, across the hull of the Nemesis. It suddenly occurred to him that there was only one place Superion could have gone, one single place he could have sought safety. As he reached the spot where Superion had been standing, his suspicions were confirmed: He saw the gaping hole in the hull of the Nemesis even as he heard the alarms wailing from deep within.
Several levels below, Superion was ripping his way through floors and ceilings, pulling Decepticons apart with his bare hands as he tore his way into the depths of the Nemesis. He was making for the ship’s hangar bays, where he knew he’d have more room to maneuver. Nothing in this ship could stop him. The only thing he had to worry about was Megatron, and he had a head start on the Decepticon leader. In the meantime he was doing as much damage to the ship as he could. Once he was in the hangar bays, he’d be adjacent to the engines, and then he could quickly turn the Nemesis back into a glorified space station. Without propulsion, the ship’s pursuit of the Ark would be at an end, and the Decepticons would be left stranded in this sector of space. Superion tore through another wall and emerged into the first of the hangar bays. The Decepticons had had enough time to get their defenses together now; they’d realized that an implacable enemy was loose inside their flagship and had taken steps to trap him. Superion smiled as he saw the several squadrons of Vehicons who awaited him.
“Let’s do this,” he said.
The Vehicons charged, streaking toward Superion from all sides. Shots laced in, striking the giant bot everywhere, and then it was hand-to-hand mayhem. Several Vehicons kamikazied into Superion in their eagerness to get at him, but the only bots they succeeded in destroying were themselves. After a flurry of blows from Superion had turned several more Vehicons into junk, the others pulled back, seeking to keep Superion surrounded while they fired away at him. But the monstrous bot was so well armored that their efforts were like the buzzing of flies. He strode deeper into the hangar, blazing away with his electrostatic rifle, blasting parked shuttles and fueling equipment. Fires broke out everywhere; Superion aimed his rifle at the far wall, firing and blowing a hole clean through. On the other side were the engine rooms. He raised his rifle, letting it recharge—
“Not so fast,” said a voice.
Megatron emerged into the hangar bay with an enraged look on his face. But his voice was disconcertingly calm.
“I have to hand it to you,” he said. “No one’s done that kind of damage to my flagship in a while.”
“It’s not even your ship,” Superion said. “It’s supposed to be a scientific station that belongs to the people of Cybertron.”
“And the people of Cybertron belong to me.”
“In your deluded head, maybe. But thanks to Optimus, we all know better.”
“Optimus?” Megatron’s voice was cold. “Don’t talk to me of Optimus. His words are as noble as his actions are weak.”
“Weak? Leading a resistance against you is weak?”
“He’s such a coward, he sent you to die in his place.”
Superion laughed. “I’m not planning on dying.” Abruptly he brought up his gun and fired, missing only because Megatron was already switching to spacecraft mode and roaring straight toward him. Superion didn’t have time for a second shot; Megatron struck him in the chest, knocking him sprawling and sending his rifle flying. Superion lunged out to grab Megatron, but the Decepticon leader was too fast, gunning his retros and streaking back out of reach, shifting back into humanoid form and aiming his fusion canon as he did so.
“GET OFF MY SHIP,” he bellowed.
This time Superion had nowhere to hide. The shot blew him straight through the hangar door and into space, flinging his component bots out in all directions, streaming flame behind them, blaring out automated distress calls. Megatron wasted no time savoring his triumph; he stormed back to what was left of the bridge and plugged directly into a console to take personal control of the Nemesis. The Ark had used the distraction of Superion to pull away from the Nemesis, but now Megatron poured all reserve power into the forward engine banks, swooping in toward the Ark. Starscream pulled himself to his feet and looked up, dazed, through the remnants of the bridge’s roof as space raced past.
“What’s happening?” he asked.
“I’m winning,” Megatron said as he activated the tractor beam.
Sideswipe’s scanners confirmed the worst. Superion’s gambit had failed, and now nothing stood between him and the Nemesis. The Ark was rocking under the renewed bombardment, the rear shields were disintegrating, and as smoke began to billow from the consoles around him, he came to a grim conclusion: The safety of the Ark and its crew was secondary. The primary goal was to make sure that Optimus survived, and alone down on the planet he wouldn’t have much of a chance against even a damaged Nemesis. Sideswipe knew that Megatron would have no compunctions about raining down bombs until nothing was left, that he’d happily kill every living thing on Aquatron if he thought it would destroy Optimus Prime.
And that couldn’t happen, for Optimus was the light and the hope of all Autobots. Optimus held the Matrix of Leadership, without which the AllSpark could never be recovered. Sideswipe keyed the ship’s intercom and gave what he knew would be his final order.
“All hands abandon ship! I repeat all hands abandon ship!” Escape pod launch lights went green as the Autobots followed orders and ditched. The primary launch bays disgorged a wave of support craft, and even as they did so, the Nemesis caught the Ark in its tractor beam.
But that was just fine by Sideswipe. He was now the sole Autobot aboard the Ark; he swung the ship around, aiming it straight at the Nemesis, and then hit the throttle, coaxing the damaged engines to the limits of their remaining capacity, the Decepticon tractor beam inadvertently working in his favor, accelerating his kamikaze run toward the Nemesis. The Autobots would lose the Ark, but the Decepticons would lose everything. And Sideswipe would die free, at the helm of his beloved ship. He watched as the Nemesis rushed toward him.
“They’re coming straight at us,” Starscream yelled.
That was the last thing Megatron had expected. For Optimus to get his lieutenants to embark on suicide runs was one thing, but now the entire Ark was doing it. For the first time it occurred to Megatron that Optimus might not actually be on the Ark, that there was some larger scheme afoot that he had missed.
But right now he had more pressing problems.
“Reverse polarity on the tractor beam!” he screamed. “Evasive action! Hit that thing with everything we have!” The tractor beam switched to repel, but the Ark’s momentum was still carrying it forward. The Nemesis raked the Ark with withering fire, revving its thrusters in a desperate attempt to get out of the way of the oncoming Autobot ship. Megatron watched as the Ark filled his field of vision. He heard Soundwave saying something about how he was picking up an energy burst from the planetary rings—that they were changing color. Megatron marveled at his lieutenant’s capacity for trivial detail, for the Ark was almost on top of them. He braced himself to leap from the Nemesis.
And then everything went crazy.
There was a sudden flash from the planet’s innermost ring. A massive electromagnetic pulse struck both ships, which instantly lost all power. For a moment so did Megatron—then his backup systems came online. He switched on his own sensors and looked around. The darkened Ark was spinning off at an angle from the crippled Nemesis.
“What just happened?” Megatron demanded to know.
“Most of the ship’s systems are out, my lord! The same with the Autobot ship!” Soundwave reported. “It looks like they’ve been knocked off their collision course as well.”
“Not responding,” Starscream answered.
That was when Megatron received a beacon emanating from the planet below.
“Optimus?” he growled.
“I fear you are mistaken,” said the voice of the Curator.
“Then tell me who you are to dare to get in my way. What name shall we call your ashes?”
“I am the Curator, and I regret to tell you that you are violating neutral space.”
“Neutral? You are now my enemy, and you will die like a—”
“I will do such thing. Nor am I your enemy. I shut down both your ship and that of the Autobots because you were engaging in combat within the sovereign territory of Aquatron. Now I invite you to join me on the surface of this planet.”
“You invite me?”
“Let me be more candid,” the Curator said. “What you just experienced was our planetary defense system on its lowest setting. Should you not accept my invitation, we shall introduce you to its more advanced capabilities.”
Megatron thought fast. “What lies has Optimus told you?” he asked.
“He is down here with me now, so you can ask him that yourself.”
“So you are in league with the Autobots.”
“No. As I said, I am neutral. There will be no fighting on this planet. Just talk.”
“Like we’re doing now?” Megatron said scornfully.
“No. This is just the preliminary discussion. Gather your lieutenants and come down to this planet. All will be explained then to both you and the Autobots under my personal flag of truce.”
Megatron looked at the darkened Nemesis around him and realized he had no choice. For all he knew, the Curator really wasn’t in league with the Autobots, but in that case, the Autobots were in the same predicament he was. In order to defeat this Curator, he would have to play along. He needed more information.
And then he would crush them all.
“I accept your invitation,” he said.
“Here are the coordinates,” said the Curator.
The Autobot shuttle sped south toward the location specified by the Curator. Optimus had no idea what was there, but it didn’t look like he had much of a choice. The Curator had kept his promise to deal with the Nemesis, but he’d also shut down the Ark. The leader of Aquatron held all the cards now, so he might have been forgiven a sly smile as his face appeared on a screen in the cockpit.
But Optimus refused to show any weakness. “What have you done with the Ark?” he demanded.
“You asked me to help you preserve it,” the Curator said. “And I have done so.”
“You paralyzed it.”
“Had I not, it would have destroyed the Nemesis. And I never pledged the destruction of the Decepticons. I merely promised to save you from them.”
“So what happens now?”
“I have spoken with both Megatron and your pilot, Sideswipe. The Autobots that evacuated the Ark have returned to it, and they will stay there for the duration of our discussions at the Pavilion.”
“And what is the Pavilion?”
“A sacred place,” the Curator said. “No violence of any kind is tolerated there. Please remember that during the negotiations.”
But the screen had gone blank.
“I don’t like this one bit,” Prowl said.
“He’s got us by the circuits,” Jazz muttered.
“But he did stop the Nemesis from destroying the Ark,” Kup said. The old veteran couldn’t understand how anyone could have a problem with the Curator. He’d been suspicious before his unsanctioned exploration of the undercity, but now he felt confident that the Curator had their best interests at heart.
“I guess we’ll have to see what this Pavilion is,” said Ironhide.
“I think I see it now,” Rodimus said, staring out the window.
Everyone crowded together to take in the view. Outside lay endless ocean, yet something had just broken the surface, was rising from that sea even as the craft soared in toward it: a massive structure of all manner of levels and platforms, the base widening as the summit extended ever higher, until it became clear it was nothing less than a gigantic pyramid-island protruding from the middle of the water now pouring off it in sheets.
“They had that under the sea?” Prowl asked in a tone of wonder.
“They have a lot of stuff down there,” Jazz said. “We still have barely any idea what else is—”
“Look at the sky,” Rodimus said.
They all saw it now: flares of light that could only be objects hitting the atmosphere. The Autobots focused their optics to reveal—
“Decepticons,” Jazz said. “Heading straight for that Pavilion.”
“Megatron doesn’t look too happy,” said Prowl.
“He’s not the only one,” Ironhide muttered.
The shuttle alighted on the very apex of the Pavilion. The Autobots stepped out to find the Decepticons already waiting for them. Amazingly, no one fired at anybody. That was partly because Optimus and Megatron had both impressed upon their followers the wisdom—if not the necessity—of heeding the Curator’s wishes. But it undoubtedly also was due to the sheer surrealism of the situation: the Autobots disembarking from the craft, staring at the Decepticons only about twenty meters away, at edge of the Pavilion’s roof. Though Megatron was certainly happy to try to provoke the Autobots into doing something that might bring the Curator’s wrath down on their heads.
“Optimus,” said Megatron, “so nice to see you.”
“Megatron,” Optimus said coldly, though he raised a hand in formal greeting.
“You’ve led us a merry chase across the galaxy. And you might have saved us a lot of trouble.”
Optimus said nothing. Megatron laughed, warming to the task of provocation. “So let’s see . . . The only reason you’re still alive is because the Curator took a liking to you. What did you have to do to achieve that? What favors did you offer him?”
“I offered him no favors,” Optimus said stiffly.
“But maybe one of your clueless minions did?” Megatron glanced at Jazz. “Perhaps Jazz here has betrayed you the same way you betrayed me?”
“Why you—” Jazz started forward, only to be held back by Optimus’s outstretched arm.
“We agreed to a truce, Jazz.” Then, turning back to Megatron: “Though I would suggest you are straying dangerously close to shredding the spirit if not the letter of that law.”
“Law,” Megatron scoffed. “A figure of speech and a maladroit one at that. What law do you speak of?”
“Mine,” said the Curator.
He rose through a trapdoor that irised open in the middle of the roof, halfway between the two rivals.
“I have a confession to make,” he said.
“This ought to be good,” Megatron said.
“I have been less than forthcoming with you.”
“Then you should tell us everything,” Optimus said.
“And so I shall. I am a representative of the Quintesson Co-Prosperity Sphere, of which this planet Aquatron is a proud member.”
Everyone stared blankly at him except Optimus, who looked appalled.
“The Quintessons?” he said. His days spent in the library had given him access to databases containing much bygone lore; he knew that the Quintessons were a race that had fought many wars with Cybertron in the distant past. They had even landed on Cybertron itself once, and had temporarily occupied the planet. Which meant that—
“You are our enemy,” he said.
The Curator looked embarrassed. “Once that may have been true. Our ancestors were a primitive people, and like many primitives, they saw force as the only solution to problems.”
“Whereas you just lie,” Ironhide said.
“This is a dangerous galaxy,” the Curator told him. “And like our ancestors, you Cybertronians do believe in violence as a solution. Can you blame us for proceeding with caution? If I engaged in subterfuge, I did it only to protect this planet.”
“Which is not Quintessa,” Megatron said, trying to get things straight.
“No,” said the Curator. “It truly is Aquatron.”
“So where’s Quintessa?”
“Far away,” the Curator said, gesturing at the stars overhead. “I see no particular reason for you to know its exact location. Perhaps that moment should await our becoming better friends.”
Starscream spoke up for the first time. “So Aquatron is part of your empire?”
“Not empire,” the Curator said. “Co-Prosperity Sphere.”
Megatron laughed skeptically. “And what’s the difference?”
“The difference is that we no longer engage in war and we no longer attempt to dominate others. All worlds within our Sphere are trading partners. Aquatron has its own self-government and is free to leave the Sphere at any time.”
“Let me guess,” Megatron said sarcastically. “You’d like to incorporate Cybertron into your empire—sorry, I mean Co-Prosperity Sphere.”
“Only if Cybertron someday wished it. But right now your world is at war. A civil war no less, between the two groups standing here. Autobots and Decepticons.”
“An accurate summary of the situation,” Optimus said. “And we should not have brought our conflict to your planet.”
The Curator waved that aside. “Optimus, Megatron. There is a better way.”
Megatron scowled. “And that is?”
“A fine word,” Megatron scoffed. “But only possible when every traitor has been destroyed.”
“Traitor is just a word, too,” said the Curator. “But definitions can change. As can hearts and minds. Our people are proof of that. We have spent eons trying to atone for the acts committed by our ancestors. And today I seek one more such atonement.”
“I have brought you both to this Pavilion so that you may sign a peace treaty.”
There was a moment’s stunned silence.
“Impossible,” Megatron said.
“If it turns out to be so, then you may both leave freely. But I believe your differences can be resolved, and I ask for twenty-four hours to help you bridge them. You may stay at this Pavilion during that time, in luxury accommodations. Our trading expertise has made us masters of negotiation. If there is a way to solve the problems that plague Cybertron, we will find it. If there is not, then both Ark and Nemesis may depart with full stocks of Energon.”
“What do you gain from this?” Optimus asked.
“If you are no longer at war, there is likely to be more trade. But as I said, our motives also involve less material concerns.”
“My faith in peace has been battered by millennia of fighting,” Optimus said. “But perhaps all the blood that has been shed demands that I be willing to at least talk.”
The Curator turned to Megatron. “What say you?”
“Yes,” Megatron said to everybody’s surprise.
“We cannot do that,” Starscream protested.
“I am in command,” Megatron snapped. “And you are still under my orders. We will try for peace.”
Though his mind was on anything but that.