Author’s Note: The following story takes place in 2004, several weeks after the start of Book Eight: Legend of Zeo.
Ultimate Cybertron: One-Shot
A Father’s Gift
Karl Zicktor sat in his high-rise office in Crossworld City with the lights dimmed. The television screen in front of him was tuned into a recent protest of his latest business endeavor. The operation called for the removal of several acres from the South American Rain Forest.
A small lizard climbed along Zicktor’s left arm. He reached over and gently pet the reptile beneath its chin.
“These people are fools, Juliet,” he said to the lizard. “They don’t realize that this world of theirs is nothing.”
Zicktor set the lizard aside and reached out for a crystal ball that sat on his black desk. The shades closed as he grasped the crystal and stared into its depths. The Crystal was an artifact taken from an archeological find known as the Box of Isis.
“Forces of darkness, empower me,” he said. The words served as a way for him to focus the tremendous amount of energy he wielded. “Take me back to my virtual reality…”
Energy tendrils snaked from the globe and wrapped around Zicktor’s body, penetrating him. Warping him. His skin turned dark and tan as it wrinkled. His hair grew pale white.
A beam of energy shot from Zicktor’s skyscraper and teleported into another realm. The realm of virtual reality.
A domed castle sat in the middle of a virtual storm. It was in this castle that Zicktor took shape in his new form: Grimlord.
Grimlord was covered in a dark helmet and robes as he sat upon his throne within the castle. Soldiers of virtual matter and energy entered Grimlord’s main chamber and stood at attention while chanting to their master.
“Hail Grimlord! Master of the Virtual World!”
Grimlord raised his hand to silence his troops.
“The time has come to break through the reality barrier,” Grimlord said as his eyes scanned the mutants and bots spread before him. “Their world, will become ours. Their reality, will become ours.”
The soldiers raised their voices in approval. The virtual beings were ready to attack.
Nineteen-year-old Ryan Steele jogged through the woods outside of Crossworld City. He usually ran through the city streets near the Tao Dojo he helped manage, but something seemed to be calling him out into the forest. It was the oddest of sensations, but he felt compelled to follow.
The strangest thing of all was that young Ryan felt the calling was somehow connected to his father, who had been missing for ten years.
Ryan continued his jog, unaware of the power awakening inside of him.
Grimlord felt it immediately. A virtual flare coming from reality prime. He extended his hand and emitted a viewscreen that zeroed in on the flare’s position. What he saw shocked him.
“Ryan Stele?” he asked himself. “This is not possible…”
Ryan Steele, son of Tyler Steele, had died by his own hands just before seizing the Box of Isis. The boy had gotten in his way, and Grimlord had no choice but to kill him, despite his youth.
The fact that Ryan appeared alive and was emitting a virtual flare could only mean one thing.
“The boy has the secrets of Tyler Steele…” he said while rolling his hands into fists. “General Darkon!”
A black-armored cyborg with a domed helmet and gray, cybernetic arm stepped forward. He carried a rifle over his armored shoulder. “Yes, Grimlord…”
“Bring me Ryan Steele,” Grimlord said. “Dead or alive…it makes no difference.”
Darkon nodded and went about gathering a scouting party. He chose two ninja-type bots called Slice and Dice. They were identical, only one wore deep-purple armor and the other dark red. The cyborg mutant Wolfbot was also added to the party. Darkon chose Quantabot as his second in command. The bot wore gray samurai-type armor. A few other low ranking warriors were assigned the abduction of Ryan. They set out immediately.
Ryan was continuing his run when he noticed the air around him seemed to distort. At some locations, it seemed almost like ripples in a pond.
“Okay…” he said while stepping back, his senses alert. “Now this is getting weird…”
Ryan felt his hair stand on end as static filled the air. Then suddenly, it all stopped. The teen shook his head while looking around. “What was that…”
Ryan’s instincts kicked into overdrive as he dove to his right, just as a volley of spears struck the ground behind him. Ryan rolled across the ground and rose to his knees. He turned to see the two bots Slice and Dice jump from the treetops and land on the ground.
Ryan opened his eyes wide with shock. He had seen such creatures on the news over the years, but none were ever seen in Crossworld City.
“We have the Steele boy,” Slice said into a wrist comm unit as Dice charged forward.
Ryan turned and ran as fast as he could.
“What the hell is up with this day?” he asked himself while pumping his legs faster.
A howling noise shuddered through the air as Wolfbot landed in front of Ryan and snarled. Ryan gasped while skidding to a halt. Before the teen could run again, Wolfbot pounced.
The mutant slammed its body against Ryan and tackled the teen to the ground. Ryan struggled to push the mutant away, but Wolfbot bit down hard against Ryan’s shoulder. The ten screamed as the creature’s fangs ripped through his flesh and bone.
Ryan felt a wave of dizziness hit him as the creature bit down again, causing intense pain to shoot across his entire body. Something inside of the teen started to stir. A mechanism buried and forgotten. It triggered an instinct in Ryan. An instinct to shout out a vocal command.
“Cyberize!” Ryan screamed as the pain threatened to wash over him.
Something strange happened before he could even guess at where the words had come from. His entire body felt as if it was igniting with a fierce flame as tendrils of energy started to dance across his body. It felt like a swarm of fire ants was dancing across his brain as his body started changing. Transforming. Ryan’s vision blurred before becoming lines of static.
Wolfbot howled as he leapt away from Ryan. The teen rose to his knees as electricity danced in and out of his every pore. The contingent of virtual creatures surrounded Ryan, too startled to advance closer than a few feet.
Ryan’s pain subsided and was quickly replaced by feelings of strength and clarity. He looked over his body and found that he had been transformed. His entire body had become a machine. Wires replacing nerves, conduits replacing blood vessels, servos replacing joints, and advanced positronic processors replacing his brain. His body was encased in a suit of red, blue, and gray armor.
Quantabot tilted his head with confusion. “What has he become?”
Ryan snapped back into a fighting stance, every program in his body screaming at him to defeat the robots and mutants. He realized he was no longer Ryan. A new name came immediately to mind. “Cybertron!”
Quantabot moved forward, swinging his katana blade horizontally towards Cybertron’s head.
Cybertron’s defensive programs activated faster than thought. The cyborg used his left hand to outer block the blow, then spun forward, using his right hand to knock the blade and slamming a reverse sidekick against the bot’s chest. The bot’s chest armor was dented as the impact tossed him several meters backward, splintering through a tree trunk in the process.
Slice and Dice moved forward, Dice swinging high and Slice swinging low. Cybertron jumped several meters above the blows and arced backwards. He slammed his feet against a nearby trunk and pushed off, flipping forward towards his opponents.
“Lightning hand command, now!” Cybertron shouted. Bolts of lightning struck his hands as he swung a knifehand blow towards Dice.
Cybertron swung a knifehand strike diagonally towards the bot. Dice lifted his staff to block the blow, but Cybertron snapped through the weapon, and his strike exploded across the villain’s chest. Cybertron hopped and turned to his right, swinging his other hand down in a blow that exploded against Slice’s collar bone.
The two bots were forced back as Cybertron dashed forward. He launched a double flying sidekick that slammed against Dice.
Cybertron landed and looked up to see the virtual soldiers regroup. The human side of his conscious took over with a single imperative: run. He turned around and dashed away from the battle at blinding speed.
Ryan’s mind was screaming from its metal shell. Confusion. Pain. Separation. Father…
He ran without a destination in mind. He just wanted to escape. To leave the confusion behind. He ran from uncertainty. Ran from fear. Fled from his own screaming mind.
A video screen appeared at the lower right side of his vision, displaying a distorted vision of an African-American man in glasses.
“Ryan…” a voice said in his mind. Voices in his mind. Why were voices in his mind? “Ryan…stay calm. You’re going to burn yourself out…it’s going to be alright…”
Ryan ignored the voice. Crazy voice in his head. Disjointed. Voice in his head?
“Override,” the voice said, “authorization Hart 1-1-pi.”
Ryan suddenly found himself back in his normal form, only surrounded by white light.
“Where…” he said as he looked around.
“We are in your mind, Ryan,” the voice said. “My name is Professor Hart. I worked closely with your father.”
“My father?” Ryan asked, his pulse slowly returning to normal as he calmed down.
“Yes,” the Professor said. “I know your mind is searching for answers, Ryan. You weren’t meant to find out this way…this quickly…”
“Find out what?” Ryan asked. “What’s happening to me?”
“This is going to be difficult to hear, Ryan,” Hart said.
“Professor,” Ryan said as he shook his head. “Just tell me what’s going on. What is happening? Who were those freaks? How did I…what did I…”
“Ryan,” Hart said. “It all started ten years ago with a very special discovery your father made. It was called the Box of Isis. Inside were the secrets to melding man and machine. The secrets to virtual reality.
“A corrupt businessman took an interest in the Box,” Hart continued. “He broke into your father’s laboratory and stole it for himself. In the process, he was transformed into a virtual demon known as Grimlord. Grimlord has been amassing an army in the virtual world, preparing to break through the reality barrier and enter our world.”
Ryan shook his head. “Is that what those…things were?”
“Yes,” Hart said.
“What happened to him?” Ryan asked. “My father?”
“This is the difficult part, Ryan…” Harts said. “When the Box was stolen, your father was attacked. You and I were both caught in the crossfire. You and I were both killed by Grimlord and his men.”
Ryan’s face turned pale. “Wh…what?”
“Your father managed to revive you by using the secrets of his virtual technology,” Hart said. “You became the embodiment of all he knew and discovered, through a complex virtual matrix installed in your brain. My consciousness was transferred into your father’s lab’s computer core.”
“But…” Ryan said as he shook his head. “What about my father?”
“I do not know,” Hart said. “When I awoke in the central core, I was as I am now, and you were as you are now. Your father was missing, and has been ever since.”
“Grimlord…” Ryan said. “He took my father…didn’t he…”
“I believe so,” Hart said. “We will discuss this further Ryan, but at the moment, you are still in danger. We are only inside your mind at the moment. Your body is running on auto pilot.”
Ryan narrowed his eyes. He knew what he had to do. He had to fight Grimlord, and he had to win. For his father. He could sort out his confusion later.
Ryan’s mind suddenly returned to reality. He was Cybertron again, continuing his run.
Cybertron skid to a halt and turned towards the direction of his pursuers. He didn’t see them, but could sense their presence somehow.
He heard a shuffling noise in the treetops behind him as Wolfbot jumped down to attack. Darkon was hiding in the bushes nearby with his energy rifle armed and aimed forward.
Cybertron leapt straight up into the air and spun around while slamming a roundkick against the bot’s side. The creature howled as it was knocked backwards through a tree trunk.
Cybertron landed and immediately somersaulted forward underneath a volley of energy bursts from Darkon’s cannon.
Quantabot appeared and leapt forward while swinging his curved blade down towards Cybertron’s head. Cybertron grabbed hold of the sword’s edge and crashed it against his knee, shattering the blade. He snapped out with a sidekick that hurled the virtual warrior backwards.
Quantabot rose to his knees while Cybertron dashed forward.
“See ya,” he said as he leapt forward and extended his hand into the air. “Lightning blade command, now!”
A glowing blade of cyan energy appeared across his forearm. Cybertron slashed the blade across the bot’s armor, creating a small explosion that damaged the warrior.
Quantabot slowly stepped back a few feet before dropping to his feet, nursing his wound.
Grimlord rolled his hands into fists while watching the battle unfold.
“This was not expected…” he growled. “Issue a recall order.”
He would have to develop a plan to destroy Ryan Steele now. The simple pattern currently employed would only waste his soldiers, something he was perfectly willing to do as long as it was worth it.
He rolled his hands up into fists as red lightning crackled around his fingers. “Your secrets will be mine, Steele…this time I’ll finish the job.”