Primeval motivations - a g1 marvel continuity story

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by donnyfinkleberg, Feb 8, 2012.

  1. donnyfinkleberg

    donnyfinkleberg Member

    Apr 22, 2011
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    Hi, haven't really posted here before, but thought i'd put this here thingummy that i wrote a little while ago up on the off chance that anyone might actually want to read it. It's quite a long piece, and weaves around the "Return to Cybertron" storyline from the old G1 marvel comics, so may not make a lot of sense to folks unfamiliar with those comics. Unfortunately some of the formatting hasn't come out in one section where i was trying to imitate Alfred Bester's use of typesetting - it's hard to keep formatting intact on forum posts... The story tries to add a bit of depth to those old comics by depicting some of the political manouevering in the background. Anyway, maybe someone will like this, if not, no harm done.


    “Funding denied.”

    Empiricus stared incredulously at the flickering monitor. The Decepticon’s finest scientific mind, responsible for so many innovations – the triple change process, endless weapon research, even a key place on the team that had unlocked the secret of spark-splitting – reduced to scrabbling for fuel, denied even the most basic resources for his lab, barely tolerated and openly mocked by the thuggish Straxus’s new Decepticon elite of unimaginative accountants and witless pistonheads.

    He turned away from the screen and surveyed the remains of a once mighty empire – the vast white expanse of the laboratory, sparsely populated by a handful of technicians, some ageing machinery and a few test subjects, snatched from the maw of the smelting pool. “Funding denied.” It was hardly a new experience for him to see these words – lately, he had come to expect no other response – but on this occasion he had hoped the project, a slightly more powerful and efficient plasma blaster, would have appealed to the military junta responsible for the allocation of energon. Empiricus had no interest in the project as such, but had hoped to redirect the funding to other, more interesting areas of research. Now, with even this unambitious project rejected, he could see no future for his lab within the Decepticon war movement.

    If only Trannis still lived… There was a warlord who understood the importance of knowledge. But he had become bloated with power, his largesse towards the political and scientific areas of the Decepticon society resented by a military that saw his disinterest in hunting down the last remaining pockets of Autobot resistance as a betrayal of Megatron’s legacy. It had never been clarified just how the Wreckers had breached Decepticon High Command security so easily, and Straxus had proved suspiciously well-prepared to take advantage of the subsequent power vacuum. But to voice such suspicions was death in the new regime, as vast swathes of the hitherto-burgeoning new Decepticon class of bourgeois intellectuals had swiftly discovered. Since then, the scientific research area of Decepticon society had become little more than a joke. If only there were some way to break out of this stagnation. If only-

    His reverie was suddenly interrupted by a technician roaring up a gantry towards him in his cruiser form before transforming and just managing to clumsily arrest his momentum inches away from Empiricus. Just as he was recovering from the shock of seeing one of his subordinates transforming in the lab area and seemingly attacking him, he noticed the screen in the technician’s hand and realised that, down on the lab floor, all of his staff had stopped working and were gathered in an animated group. The technician stared at Empiricus with wide-open optics and hanging jaw before composing himself enough to raise the screen to Empiricus’s face. Putting the impertinence of this junior staff member to one side for a moment, Empiricus focused on the screen – and felt his legs buckle underneath him.


    Unedited transcript from emergency meeting of Decepticon high command – present – Shrapnel (representing Decepticon Warlord Straxus), Ratbat (Chief fuel auditor), Dirge (Military operations), Astrotrain (off-world affairs)

    Ratbat: Straxus should be here.

    Shrapnel: Well, he isn’t. His lordship had… pressing matters to attend to.

    Ratbat: Of that I have no doubt.

    Shrapnel: Meaning?

    Ratbat: You know very well what I mean! I have no doubt that the news of Megatron’s survival is ambiguous news for our warlord, to say the least.

    Shrapnel: Our warlord is secure in his position and would welcome-

    Ratbat: Spare me your platitudinous cronyism, Shrapnel. This room is secure. I promise you that any records from this meeting will be edited into a form sufficiently palatable to Straxus’s delicate sensibilities.

    Astrotrain: Our leader’s thoughts on this are not for us to guess. I am more interested in whether the message is genuine or not.

    Ratbat: It’s genuine. We’ve confirmed that the signal originated at the co-ordinates given. It took us a while to dig out the security codes used, but they’ve been certified as top-level codes dating from 50,000 vorns ago. Soundwave encrypted a neurowave recording into the message – again, it’s a confirmed match.

    Dirge: So it’s true… Megatron lives.

    Ratbat: Indeed. And so we find a crisis approaching.

    Dirge: How can this be a crisis? The Decepticon’s greatest warrior, alive!

    Ratbat: But that’s just the problem, Dirge. The last thing we need now is our greatest warrior. We have, to all extents and purposes, won. Cybertron is ours. Straxus may be a barbarian, but he is effective. What possible use would Megatron’s return serve? At best, it serves as a distraction to our settled, ordered tyranny. But far more likely is that his return could plunge us into civil war. Can you see Megatron and Straxus co-existing? Not to mention that, if you were to take more interest in history, you’d know that for all his talents, Megatron is a dangerous loose cannon. A visionary, possibly, but when he set his mind on pursuing Optimus Prime all those vorns ago, the Decepticon council of the time was only too happy to indulge his bravado, and his disappearance was welcomed. No! Would that he had stayed an easily-manipulable legend.

    Astrotrain: What do you suggest? That we assassinate the founder of the Decepticon army?

    Ratbat: Of course not! Word of the message has already leaked far and wide, to intervene now would be catastrophic. No, we need to bide our time on that one. Besides, there is another consideration.

    Shrapnel: Earth.

    Ratbat: Exactly. A world absolutely brimming with fuel, populated entirely by lower life-forms with backwards technology. It’s richness is matched only by it’s availability.

    Shrapnel: It seems to me that there is a clear solution here. We do not want Megatron back on Cybertron. What we do have at the moment is a cadre of elite Decepticon warriors embedded on a resource that could repower Cybertron and fuel our expansion across the universe. We just need to keep Megatron and his little band of antiques busy on Earth until we’re ready to dispose of him.

    Dirge: And how do we do that? Surely he will want to return, and reclaim his leadership.

    Astrotrain: The autobots… Optimus Prime still lives…

    Ratbat: And where Optimus Prime goes, Megatron follows. Are you starting to understand? We keep this little private war on Earth in balance as long as we can, while we make our own arrangements for stripping the planet of its resources. Dirge, Astrotrain – Shrapnel would like your reports on how you intend to achieve this within 10 cycles. You will send them to me in the first instance, no-one else, understood?

    Dirge: What about Straxus?

    Ratbat: Straxus will know what I need him to know.


    The news spread like an overload through the tight-knit remains of the Decepticon scientific community. Carbon life! Not mechanical, but protoplasmic. The possibility had been suggested here and there, but nothing serious – with the absence of any evidence, the idea had only really found currency amongst the artistic community, who dreamt up garish fantasies about squelching masses with the ability to dissolve steel with a touch, or somesuch threat. Yet here was an entire world, a rich interconnected system filled with seemingly endless variations of life.

    As swiftly as this enthusiasm was raised, it was quashed. Word came down quickly and firmly from Military Command: There would be no off-planet research teams. No scientific bases. Scientists were a military resource, and that resource would be dedicated entirely to one task only – finding the most efficient method of converting Earth’s resources into energon. This in itself was at least a radical change from the laughable routines Cybertron’s scientists had been going through for endless vorns, but faced with such riches, it was deeply frustrating to be told that 99% of them were off-limits. Empiricus, particularly, railed against what he saw as the short-sightedness of the Decepticons’ philistine leadership – but only privately.

    Still, something strange was happening, nonetheless. Certain acquaintances of Empiricus had started to disappear, strangely no longer to be seen following their normal routines, nor seen at any of the gatherings to discuss the fuel conversion project. What was more, they all had an interest in common – spatial travel. Interdimensional theorists, sub-space specialists, mass conversion researchers – all formerly seen as hopeless dreamers, now suddenly corralled into what was clearly a top-secret project with high-level approval. Word began to trickle down from unlikely sources of Straxus personally overseeing a pet project which, following the message from Earth, had been given top priority. Before long, a name had been attached to the project: the Space Bridge.


    Decepticon Media Release 3253452.7 Subject: Subspace Communication

    Fellow Decepticons! It has come to this office’s attention that several rumours are being transmitted through the ranks regarding a recent interstellar communication received from a planet called Earth! Our mighty and incomparably ruthless leader has taken time out from crushing the few remaining Autobots on Cybertron and planning the glorious expansion of the Decepticon Empire to give you his official thoughts on the matter!

    Lord Straxus: My Decepticons, my cruel and ruthless warriors. It is not fitting for mighty warriors such as yourselves to be left hanging on rumour and half-truths. Therefore I have decided to share information with you regarding the recent broadcast received from Earth. It is true: our legendary warriors, believed lost for endless vorns, live! Led by Shockwave, they are engaged in a battle with a small band of Autobots for control of a planet rich in energy and populated only by primitive life-forms. As a fellow Decepticon, I rejoice with you at the news that one of the legendary founders of the Decepticon movement, Megatron, is amongst this band of soldiers. My technicians are working as I speak to develop methods by which we can support the conquest of Earth from Cybertron, and re-energise our world with fuel stripped from this primitive planet. Some of you may be called upon to join this glorious venture – I know that you, my warriors, will show me the loyalty you have always shown me, as we spread the Decepticon banner across the universe!


    Empiricus sat alone in his quarters. The energon, cut with nitrogen and heavily distilled, had left him twitchy and nervous. He sat facing the door, waiting for it to suddenly unlock, or buckle and collapse under a barrage of firepower, one of Straxus’s clean-up men emerging from the smoke ready to dispose of this troublesome scientist. He held tight to the electrostatic rifle in his hand, considered raising it to his vocal aperture and discharging it against the unprotected circuitry, before hurling it at the door.

    “I’m a scientist. Not a thug. Once, being a Decepticon… It was an idealogy. A belief in the superiority of the Transformer race, our right to rule over lesser species. Now look at us! Parochial, mindless thugs, complacent and witless, ready to defend the status quo to our extinction. Our cause has been hijacked by our own cannon fodder.”

    Draining the dregs of the dirty energon, he thought of Earth and the possibilities it presented – organic/transformer hybrids, self-repairing biological exosuits, the possibilities were endless. “There must be some way to gain the Junta’s approval. Something that I can provide, that would appeal to Straxus’ limited worldview and yet would afford me the opportunity I need to take control of the Decepticon scientific arm, to push it back to the forefront. Remote drones, perhaps, that could gather telemetry during combat? No, too easily wrested from my control by the military, too unsatisfactory to gather data by proxy. I need first-hand contact!”

    He flicked a switch on the table beside him, and a three-dimensional projection showing all the data accrued from the earth message filled the corner of the room. Empiricus sifted through file after file, looking for something that would prompt a solution. The information on the planet’s biology and geography was sketchy and minimal – surrounded by untold riches of knowledge, and these antiquities had decided it was all beneath their notice. Buried deep within the data structure, though, was a term that was utterly unfamiliar to Empiricus.


    He opened the file, and as he dug further through its contents, his eyes widened. Based on powerful, extinct organic lifeforms. Autobots restored by a malfunctioning Ark not long after its crash. Previously an unpredictable but dangerous Autobot special ops team. It was the records of their conflicts with the Earth-bound Decepticons that proved the most startling, though.

    “They defeated Megatron.”

    The record clearly showed that Megatron had been incapacitated after combat with the Dinobots. The only other participant in the battle had been an Autobot medic.

    “They defeated Shockwave!”

    This was astonishing. This team had certainly been powerful on Cybertron – the list of high-end ops that had been either firmly or tentatively attributed to them warranted its own section, and the sheer bulk of tentative attributions was testament to the lack of survivors, rather than any failure of Decepticon intelligence-gathering. But still, there was nothing there to suggest the team should have been capable of besting the two mightiest warriors of the Decepticon golden age. There was only one explanation.

    “Their alternate modes. That was what tipped the scales. Their earthen-based alternate modes. Adapted to the combat environment, against a Cybertronian orbital cannon and a human operated offensive weapon. The other earth-bound Autobots and Decepticons were formatted almost at random, by the first likely objects the Ark’s scanners came across. But these… They were specifically designed for Earth-based combat.”

    Empiricus looked away from the projection and felt a surge of energy, the mental fog brought on by the dirty energon now fully dispersed. “This is how I get to Earth!”


    Excerpt from transcript of Energon allocation meeting: Present – Lord Straxus, Warlord and Supreme High Commander, Decepticon Army. Ratbat – Chief fuel auditor. Dirge – Military Operations Commander, Earth Team.

    Ratbat – My lord, while I wouldn’t ever even consider questioning your judgement, I must nonetheless highlight my own ignorance in this matter. This proposal is from a scientist with a long history of insubordination. He has shown himself to be unwilling, again and again, to dedicate himself solely to the furtherment of your position, instead stubbornly pursuing some utopian ideal of knowledge for its own sake.

    Straxus – Which does not apply in this case.

    Ratbat – I agree this seems an about-turn for him, but I still suspect an underlying agenda.

    Straxus – Are you suggesting this lowly relic presents a threat to me?

    Ratbat – Of course not, my Lord, only that caution –

    Straxus – Have a care, Ratbat. My position is unassailable. Do not forget that.

    Ratbat – Yes my lord, my apologies. But even disregarding my obviously unrooted fears, the sheer volume of energon this… this thing will consume! It consumes as much fuel as an entire squadron of tank-drones!

    Straxus – And what of its value to morale? You are not a warrior, Ratbat, you do not appreciate the strategic potential of this project. Particularly now! Showing such a warrior to the troops affirms our commitment to using Earth as a stepping stone from which to conquer the universe. It will be a symbol of our might! Dirge, as a warrior, surely you can see the value of this!

    Dirge – Er, while Ratbat makes good points… um… I can see…

    Straxus – Excellent. Ratbat, Empiricus will be given full support in this endeavour. See to it that he has all the resources he needs – energon, staff, test subjects. He will be given priority one clearance to all Earth-related data. I want regular updates on the project’s progress.

    Ratbat – Yes, my lord…


    Dirge was glad when the meeting ended. He had always hated these administrative duties. Besides the boredom, there was the constant threat of Straxus’ rage, something responsible for more deaths in the Decepticon high command than the Autobots were ever likely to muster. And now, with Ratbat manouevering for power, Dirge was glad simply to escape these meetings in one piece.

    Straxus left swiftly. As Dirge rose to follow him, Ratbat hissed an invitation to stay, in a tone Dirge recognised all too well. Leaving was not an option. He sighed and settled back down.

    He looked at Ratbat and repressed a shudder. This sharp-toothed runt wanted to rule the Decepticon army? Straxus might be borderline psychotic, but at least he had come to power as a Decepticon warrior should – through military cunning, battle prowess and raw physical power. Ratbat had less combat experience than the average cleaning droid. He was one of the new breed – a bureaucrat, dedicated only to his own survival and the gathering of personal power, lacking in any kind of honour. But he had total control of Cybertron’s remaining energon resources, and that made him untouchable. Even Straxus gave him more leeway than any of his warriors, judging that he was too valuable to dispose of.

    Dirge began to mouth a pleasantry just to break the silence before Ratbat cut him off in a sharp rasping voice.

    “What was that?!”

    Dirge immediately saw where the conversation was going, but preferred to play dumb for now.

    “What was what?”

    Ratbat lifted up from the table, and suspended himself from the room’s low ceiling, his eyes level with Dirge’s. Dirge could smell the unrefined fuel coating Ratbat’s teeth.

    “ ‘Um, er, um everyone’s got good points boss!’ You are supposed to support me in these meetings, not cower pathetically at the end of the table!”

    “Support you! I did, as best I could. You forget Ratbat, not everyone is indulged by Straxus as you are. Even by suggesting you might have a point, I risked having Straxus throw me into the pools personally! What would you have me do? If you want me as conspirator, what use would I be to you dead?! Anyway, what harm can this project do to you?”

    “You idiot! Surely you didn’t believe that rubbish about inspiring the footsoldiers. Straxus inspires them by regularly ripping Decepticons to pieces when they don’t meet his arbitrary standards, not by winning fuel pumps and neurocircuits! Don’t you see? He’s vulnerable, and he knows it! He wants this monstrosity to shore up his position in case of Megatron’s return! Did you not see his sudden interest when it was noted that the Autobot freaks had defeated Megatron? Instead of contending with a vulnerable Straxus, we’ll end up facing this vast watchbot!”


    Looking back over the last few cycles, Empiricus felt that he had worked with a satisfaction and sense of purpose he had not known for vorns. The approval of the project came as no surprise to him – the development of a superwarrior specifically designed for Earth-based combat was logical, and offered Straxus the excuse he needed to develop a defense against challenges to his rule from the earth-based Decepticons. Having worked feverishly on the designs, it was now time to find a suitable subject for the new warrior’s spark.

    Spark splitting had been Empiricus’ greatest triumph, and his work on the project had kept him safe during Straxus’ early culls of the scientific community. With the loss of the Matrix following Optimus Prime’s disappearance, it quickly became clear that, if Transformers were to survive as a race, some new method of creating life had to be found. It was Empiricus who had discovered that the life-force within each Transformer, the spark, was self-perpetuating, capable of regenerating itself to full capacity from the smallest remaining amount of energy. From there, he was able to devise a way of dividing a transformer’s spark in order to produce clones, and from there combining aspects of multiple sparks in order to create entirely new beings. The Autobots lagged behind – hard pressed by the Decepticon army, they had precious few resources to dedicate to R&D, and by the time they’d unpicked the great Decepticon advancement, they were overwhelmed by a tide of new warriors.

    It could be an unpredictable process, though – some warriors switched from their intended sides, others were so seriously unbalanced in some way that they were of no use to either side. As such, the selection of spark material for his new warrior was a pivotal moment, a gamble that Empiricus could not afford to lose. He had considered using one of the research subjects in his lab, but as they were all Autobots, he simply couldn’t take the chance on whether the resulting new spark would prove loyal to him. Similarly, the vast majority of Decepticons tended to fall into one of two camps – witlessly loyal to Straxus, or entirely motivated by self-interest. Neither mindset was suitable for what Empiricus had in mind.

    No, with reluctance, Empiricus was forced to admit that there was only really one suitable subject, one Transformer that he could be sure would sufficiently share his aims and ambitions to follow his plans to the letter. He would have to perform the procedure on himself.

    The risk was enormous. For starters, there was no-one he could trust to perform the operation – the process would have to be automated and unmonitored. Nor were there any guarantees that his spark would survive the transplantation process unharmed and unchanged. As for what would happen if Decepticon High Command discovered his intentions… Still, the fear surged within him, a torrent of energy carrying him in its wake, an exhilaration absent from his life for so long now, spent carrying out pointless minor projects that scarcely drew on his intellect at all. And the reward – the power to match his mind, the power to sweep all his foes before him and take control of the Decepticon race, guide it back onto an enlightened path of imperialism. Surely this was worth any gamble?

    His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden disruption – something barely perceptible, he couldn’t identify what, but a sudden sense of danger pushed him into a heightened state of awareness. As his focused senses scanned for unknown intrusions into his personal quarters, he called up a recording of the last few moments of visual input, hurriedly searching for anything untoward – and there, just in the far corner of his visual range, a shadow, small, too small to make out, but with enhancement added…

    Empiricus threw himself to the ground and rolled towards the electro-static rifle holstered in the corner of the room, cursing himself for not keeping it to hand. He barely heard the cerebro-shell embed itself in the wall, having shot through the space he’d been occupying only an instant earlier. He recognised his assailant only too well, and suddenly realised how naïve he’d been to imagine he’d be allowed to follow his project through to conclusion without the unwanted attention of Straxus’ enemies. There could be only one reason that the Insecticon freak was here – Ratbat had taken an interest in his work.

    He couldn’t see his tiny attacker yet – the shadows, the clutter, provided ample cover. But he could hear the tiny whine of an anti-gravity field, the displacement of air as the assassin darted back and forth across the room. No, not assassin… not this one. Clearly Ratbat wanted Empiricus alive, but pliant. There was no clear way to fight here – the insecticon was too small, too quick, to track. He had to find cover. If he could get to the radiation chamber in his lab – just down the corridor from his quarters – the chamber was completely sealed, with comms equipment inside.

    In one swift, fluid movement, he grabbed the electro-disruptor rifle and fired at the door, opening a molten hole in the aperture. Immediately he transformed into his vehicle mode, a sleek ground recon, and sped for the newly created escape route. Almost faster than he could see, he barrelled straight into Shrapnel and Kickback, waiting for him in the corridor. He collapsed to the floor and felt the agonising pain as brutal hands grabbed hold of him and ripped limbs locked together by delicately intertwined living metal apart, forcing him into robot mode. The last thing he saw before unconsciousness took over was Bombshell, now also in robot mode, grabbing his head and aiming the cerebro-shell cannon at his forehead. The rasping, cold voice cut through the warmth of shutdown even at the last. “You belong to me now.”


    Straxus endured.

    Assassins and betrayal were a way of life for Decepticon leaders. Megatron had gone as far as to keep a rival for power as a trusted lieutenant, the better to funnel attempts on his life and position through a known quantity that could be monitored and controlled, a lightning rod for the machinations of his enemies. Straxus himself had displaced a complacent and arrogant Trannis by employing the one agency his predecessor had no longer seen as a threat – the Autobots. Since then, Straxus had seen endless ambitious Decepticons attempt to climb too high, only to be cast down into the hell of his smelting pools. He had been through the process enough times to recognise whenever the cycle had begun again. Reviewing recent events for confirmation was hardly necessary.

    Nonetheless, the incident with the two Autobots suggested that this was one attacker that had learnt lessons from Straxus himself. The oversight in security that had seen the first Autobot able to obtain a recording of the Earth message seemed genuine, if unacceptable. But, Shrapnel having captured said Autobot before he could contact his colleagues and brought him before Straxus, the second Autobot, Blaster’s foray into Decepticon territory had been a virtual impossibility. Right into the heart of Polyhex, to the edges of the smelting pool itself, unchallenged, unmolested. And then – to have escaped from the Pools with only a handful of minibots assisting him! It had to be assumed that the Autobot had contacted his captive colleague and obtained the Earth-tape data. Dirge’s air team had been defeated with suspicious ease, and had been strangely slow to recover and give chase, allowing the Autobots to scurry back to their hole.

    So, security had been allowed to lapse, and someone wanted the Autobots to have the information about Earth. Dirge was clearly involved somehow, and Straxus had to check the rage that urged him to find his military air commander and rip him limb from limb. Despite his carefully maintained reputation though, Straxus had not risen to and retained power by sheer might and brutality alone. Cunning was required here. Dirge was far too unimaginative to lead a bid for power himself, and had clearly decided to throw his lot in with someone he considered to be a safer bet than Straxus himself. Torture would not reveal the necessary information – it would only send the conspirators scurrying from the relatively open position they had occupied, and Dirge, despite his stupidity in opposing Straxus, was a strong warrior – not the sort to crack under any amount of pain. Besides, Straxus was confident he knew who was leading this attempt on his supremacy anyway. He had watched the traitor drawing control of the energon reserves towards himself, seen his knowing looks shot toward certain warriors in meetings, heard the concealed contempt for Straxus hidden in his voice. He could not destroy the traitor – not yet, his control over fuel reserves was too strong. But soon the time would come, and Straxus looked forward greatly to de-fanging that filthy flying vermin.


    “Well, our visitor’s arrived. Right on schedule.”

    Shrapnel moved aside slightly to allow Ratbat a clearer view of the monitor. There he was, the legendary Autobot warrior – Blaster. The only Autobot to have ever escaped the smelting pools. Ratbat chuckled to himself. The Autobots even depended on the benevolence of their enemies for heroes these days. He watched as Blaster transformed, no doubt all the better to run scans on the vast edifice below him.

    And there, shining in a vast docking space, literally stretching out into infinity – the Space Bridge. Straxus’ great work, his stepping stone to domination of the universe. Ratbat sneered. He would ensure Straxus would not survive to see the fruits of his labour.

    Another Autobot flew into screen, picked up Blaster, and disappeared out of view. He had given the Autobots everything they needed. The plans for Darkmount had been carefully leaked, the security rotas adjusted to offer the Autobots a wealth of vulnerable times in which to mount an assault on the bridge. Of course, the Autobots’ precious morals would never allow them to actually destroy the bridge once they discover that the neutral scientist whose work unlocked the secrets of sub-space travel had actually been rebuilt into the Bridge, the better to subconsciously guide the bridge through the infinite corridors of sub-space. No, the first act of Straxus’ bridge would be to deliver more Autobots to Earth. Once there, they would contact Optimus Prime’s band of castaways, who would in turn set about contacting the Autobot resistance’s command on Cybertron. With further information leaked by Ratbat, it wouldn’t take long for the Autobots to cobble together a prototype spacebridge of their own, thereby keeping the conflict on earth in a nice, even balance, and Prime and Megatron continually occupied in their small war. Leaving Ratbat free to deal with Straxus on Cybertron.

    With a gesture of his head, he summoned Shrapnel aside, and settled in front of the insecticon with a rapid flurry of wings and ozone omitted by his anti-grav boosters.

    “What of our back-up plan, Shrapnel? Have you dealt with him as I ordered?”

    Shrapnel grinned and nodded. “Our pet scientist is back in place, his memory wiped of anything from the other night, totally unaware that anything’s happened to him. He’s all ours. And once he’s finished the procedure, Straxus will be there for the taking.”


    Something was missing.

    Empiricus had been through the design specs again and again, checked every layer of circuitry, examined every automated process from start to finish, ensured that every tool and machine to be used in the process was fully maintained and in perfect working order, edited and double-checked the staff and guard rotas to ensure he would not be interrupted. Everything was perfect. Yet… A nagging sense of having missed something, of something having gone awry from his original plan.

    Perhaps it was just nerves. He was about to embark on an ambitious act of treachery, a gamble that would either see him steering Decepticon society towards a renaissance, or slowly, agonisingly melting in a smelting pool. Doubts were natural. Still, though, this felt more concrete than simple, Ill-defined fears over possible outcomes. It was as if he had a vague awareness of something beyond his ability to conceptualise – something external to his consciousness that was leaking light into his personal universe. Regardless, unable to pin it down, he no longer had time to ponder mysterious intuitions. Something had occurred that meant that now, more than ever, speed was required.

    An effort had been made by the military’s communications and intelligence arm to suppress the news, and then to spin it, but this was not the kind of information that submitted to control. Virtually all of Cybertron, from the Autobot High Command to the lowliest Empty, had known before the first propaganda release had even been transmitted. Straxus – a victim of his own Space Bridge, felled by an Autobot, left with only the barest spark of life, Decepticon medics working frantically just to keep him alive. A pile of rubble where Darkmount, the vast symbol of Straxus’ rule, once stood. Straxus’ assassin, an Autobot called Blaster, on Earth with a small squadron of Autobots, having crossed the space bridge after their spectacularly successful mission. (The initial assumption had been that the Wreckers were responsible, the official line was now that the Autobots had a new crack team of special ops combatants, though Empiricus had received eyewitness accounts describing an altogether more motley crew.) The initial rumblings of the Decepticon military, stirred from complacency by this outrage, preparing to embark on a final eradication of the remaining Autobot resistance.

    This changed everything. Empiricus was only too aware that, while his project had some support from the more gung-ho elements of Decepticon command, it was only really Straxus’ endorsement of his work that had kept Ratbat and his sharp-toothed economising allies at bay. It was almost certainly only the chaos that had ensued among the Decepticon ranks that was delaying the order to cease and desist immediately, and any moment Ratbat would turn his attention to this particular irritation and shut the project down. There could be no more delay. The host body was ready. The process had to be completed now.


    On balance, Ratbat was rather happy with his existence. He had power, riches, the means to fulfil all of his ambitions. There were problems, of course, but overall, he had little cause to complain.

    Nonetheless, even in comparison to the general high level of pleasure he took from functioning, the last few cycles had really been very good indeed.

    As he cast his eyes across the faces of his fellow emergency council members, he reflected on his astonishing good fortune, and took considerable pleasure as he noted the looks of discomfort on the faces of those that had been foolish enough to reject his past overtures in favour of asserting their allegiance to Straxus. He could see that they all knew exactly where the balance of power rested in this room now, and the futility of further resisting Ratbat’s de facto rule. Still, appearances had to be maintained, and as it seemed that Straxus was likely to survive the almost total destruction of his body, albeit in a rather pathetic form, it seemed only reasonable to pay due deference to this laughable, powerless figurehead.

    “I’m sure you’ll all join me in expressing your joy that our glorious leader has survived the Autobots’ cowardly assassination attempt, and even as we speak is being carefully placed in a life-supporting environment bubble, ready to have his consciousness reawakened so that he can resume his duties. Nonetheless, I’m sure you’ll all further agree that, in order to aid our leader as he… adjusts to his new circumstances, it is important that we as a council take more responsibility for the direction and management of Decepticon society, at least until Lord Straxus himself is once again fit to take full control of our forces.”

    He allowed a few moments for his words to sink in, but knew there would be no objections raised. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Straxus could not possibly survive as Decepticon leader for long in such a vulnerable state, and there was no-one around the table with the resources to challenge Ratbat for overall control. The instant Straxus had been incapacitated, Ratbat had moved to secure the last few remaining pockets of energon supply chains that had still been in Straxus’ control. The planet was, in effect, already his, he simply needed this control to be officially acknowledged. Megatron and Shockwave would be given occasional sops to keep them busy waging their pointless vendetta against the Earthbound Autobots. Earth would further act as a useful dumping ground for malcontents and Straxus’ allies. Marooned on a mudball populated by the Autobots’ greatest warriors and a Decepticon army continually teetering on the brink of civil war, any threat they might have posed to Ratbat’s nascent rule should be neutralised.

    All in all, things had tied up remarkably well. The Autobots were on Earth, Ratbat’s own plans to bypass Megatron and Shockwave and start his own operations for stripmining Earth were proceeding well, and Straxus’ near-death experience had proved to be a delightful and unexpected bonus from the whole affair, accelerating Ratbat’s plans and cementing his position. All he need now was for that idiot scientist to follow through on his part.


    Movement Report: Subject – Designation ‘Empiricus’ – Lead, Binary Science Team

    3253471.2: Subject leaves personal quarters carrying twin-barrel electro-disruptor rifle
    3253471.4: Subject exits Polyhex security cordon. (Movement not recorded in gate log - Name and rank of guard noted – see file x124ddf5545g)
    3253471.6: Subject enters abandoned neutral zone CC4298 common denomination “The Dead End”
    3253471.7: Subject enters abandoned building, formerly classified as Industrial (Construction Droid Manufacturing)
    3253471.8: Subject opens gateway to concealed design and manufacturing laboratory via use of unique match ultrasonic frequency regulator
    3253471.9: Subject spends following 4 cycles checking status of subject target body

    Query: Define “subject target body”

    Subject target body: file x124ddf5522c: For attention of Chief Fuel Auditor Designation ‘Ratbat’ only – please enter access code
    Access code accepted- Retrieving file:

    Datestamp: 3253465.7
    Author: Warrior number 214643268 Special Operations/Internal Affairs Surveillance Designation ‘Shrapnel’

    The target body is an immensely powerful shell seemingly inspired by an extinct organic lifeform native to Earth. Blueprints show three confirmed forms: a bipedal mobile form, a ground-mobile battle station mode, and a stationary operations base mode capable of providing refuelling and repair facilities for up to 5 class D Decepticon warriors. Armament includes but is not limited to plasma bombs, photon launchers, cerebro-ovverride beam. Capable of short-range flight via use of dual rocket-directed anti-grav packs.

    Close file:

    3253472.3: Subject prepares spark-splitting chamber. Automation set
    3253472.4: Subject enters chamber. Subject remains conscious in order to maintain and monitor automated process
    3253472.5: Automated process commences


    Find a place to hide so much pain
    Trying to cut me trying to cut my core
    Must find a space
    Something else here
    Calm tranquil think back find a space

    You are an intern in a sub-quantum bio-electrics laboratory. The newswires are alive with rumours of a new political movement that favours an expansionist policy into other species’ territory. You attend a handful of clandestine meetings. You meet thugs and sadists, opportunists and
    ambitious industrialists. You decide that the next meeting will be your last, disappointed by the lack of ideology displayed by your fellow attendants. At the last meeting, he arrives. Megatron. He speaks to you in private, tells you that science should not be constrained by moral concerns, that Transformers should seize their destiny as superior beings and rule, that Cybertron itself will be transformed into a conquering dreadnought. He assures you that the Decepticon cause will be as dependent on mind as on muscle, that under Decepticon rule – his rule – there will be no constraints, no restrictions on the scientific community. He offers you a key place in a renaissance of thought built on Empire. Immediately after meeting him, you sign up for the Rite of Branding. You are ready…

    Do not disengage remain conscious
    The split… The split is agonising
    Not Me

    Memories flood… Trannis is dead… Perceptor restricts research into spark mutation… Megatron declares war with a shot from the fusion cannon designed for him by Empiricus’ team… Empiricus awakes for the first time, confused and blinded by the glare of matrix light…”You belong to me now”… Straxus has Evolver executed, live on the databroadcasts, as a dissident – the fear! Who will they come for next?... The Ark is lost…

    It is the early days of Trannis’ rule. A splinter group of Decepticons have decided to leave Cybertron and start anew. They invite you. You decline – Trannis has assured you that you will have complete freedom to pursue your interests. Neither military conquest nor a peon’s life can compete with this. You watch as Trannis’ attempts to crush this mass desertion fail. As the ships launch you wonder if you have made the right decision, choosing security and stasis over risky exploration…

    YYou Bbelong Tto Mme Nnow Yyou Bbelong Tto Mme Nnow Yyou Bbelong Tto Mme

    THe sPLit thE SplIT Iiis cCommmINg


    Think Therefore
    Think Therefore

    I Am
    I Am

    Something Not Me |B Something Not Me

    There’s something else here with me us him them something else it’s too late the split is happening too late to stop too late I we have no control

    Your thoughts are diverging Your thoughts are di

    It Wha
    Is Almost Am
    Over Now Where is
    Thank Primus Why
    The Pain The Pa

    The pain! The pain, the hands on our transformed form, ripping us apart, the agony, unconsciousness, Bombshell!

    I we have been infected with a cerebro shell




    Scene: The Dead End

    WRENCH and SCRAPIRON are sitting in a burned out fuel container. They are surrounded by the scavenged remains of combatants in the Great War, the landscape around them a devastated parody of civilisation. At back of stage, a vast edifice, the still-standing remains of an abandoned factory, casts a gloomy shadow over the pair.

    WRENCH: Why are we here again?

    SCRAPIRON: That’s a fine question to ask me.

    WRENCH: It’s a perfectly reasonable question, and there’s no-one else here to ask it to.

    SCRAPIRON: You must know why we’re here, we come here every day.

    WRENCH: There’s no logic to that statement. Just because I sit here every day with you, that’s no reason to suppose I can tell you why. You should get your circuits checked, they’re misfiring again.

    SCRAPIRON wearily leans back into the fuel container. He runs a finger into a crevasse of the container, discovers a drop of oil, delightedly rubs it over his lips. There’s nothing wrong with my circuits, sunshine, let me tell you. That’s what I told Them. “Nothing wrong with me!!!” I said. (Suddenly gloomy.) They didn’t listen though.

    (Silent Pause)

    WRENCH: Well?

    SCRAPIRON: Well what?

    WRENCH: Why are we here?

    SCRAPIRON: You’re always asking questions, you. That (suddenly delighted, as if having had a revelation. He stands and declaims excitedly) That’s why you’re here! You ask too many questions. Ask too many questions and you never get anywhere. (Pauses) Other than here.

    WRENCH (Displaying the kind of weary control of frustration that only comes with considerable experience): Fine. Why are you here, then?

    SCRAPIRON: Me? (Matter-of-factly) I’m waiting.

    WRENCH: For what?

    SCRAPIRON: I don’t know.

    WRENCH: (Scoffs) You don’t know!

    SCRAPIRON: (hurt) I’ll know when I see it!

    WRENCH: (wryly amused) How?

    SCRAPIRON: Well… It’ll be glorious! When it comes, when it finally arrives… It’ll be the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen! (Wistfully) It’ll have beauty, excitement, happiness, everything you could ever possibly need from something. It’ll be all things to all robots. (Angrily, directed at WRENCH) Of course I’ll recognise it! You don’t miss something like that when it comes along.

    WRENCH: You do need to get your circuits checked.

    SCRAPIRON: Hah! What about you! Come here every day and you don’t even know what for! Yet I’m the one who’s crazy. (Kicks at one of the many corpses surrounding the fuel container. Bitterly: ) Hah!

    WRENCH: I just like following you about. See what you’ll do next.

    SCRAPIRON: (Puzzled, mildly flattered by the attention) I just come here every day.

    WRENCH: True, but that’s why I think you’re a safe bet, you see. You’ve done so little of note for so long, I figure you’re bound to do something great sooner or later. Law of averages, you see. Basic probability theory.

    SCRAPIRON (Dreamy, pompous): ‘Tis true, I was built for greatness… You’re wiser than you look, you know?

    WRENCH (Sharply): There’s nothing coming though.

    SCRAPIRON: Nonsense.

    WRENCH: Sorry, but it’s true. If it was going to come, don’t you think it would have by now?

    SCRAPIRON: You just don’t get what it is I’m waiting for. You don’t get what’s coming, and…an-and therefore you won’t get what’s coming. (Sits down theatrically with arms crossed, satisified with his little bout of wordplay.)

    WRENCH: We all get what’s coming to us.

    They sit in silence for a moment, contemplating. WRENCH then stands up, lifts the remains of a combatant from the floor by the nape of the neck, and jauntily shakes the corpse, provoking a grotesque imitation of conscious movement from the corpse’s limbs.

    WRENCH: This guy for instance. I knew him, Scraps. Decent bot really, used to work in refuse sorting. Not the sharpest tool in the box, I’ll grant you, but happy to work hard and get well oiled every evening. Simple things kind of guy, you see? Then he got drafted, and, well… (Wrench reaches round and works the corpse’s jaw in time with his words) Hi Scraps! I used to sort rubbish, now I am rubbish! Ain’t life full of ironies?

    SCRAPIRON: Stop that! (SCRAPIRON gets up and tears the corpse from WRENCH’s hands, flings it away.) When it arrives, things like that won’t happen anymore. Or they’ll still happen, but it won’t seem so bad. It’s hard to say, really. But things will be better, that’s for sure.

    WRENCH: So. Let’s say. And this is purely for the sake of argument. Let’s say something might come. How do we know it’s coming here? It might be going somewhere else. We might be waiting here, and it’s already arrived somewhere else, and we’re missing it. What about that, then, eh?

    SCRAPIRON (Stubbornly): It’ll come here.

    WRENCH: But how do you know?

    SCRAPIRON: (Angrily) I. JUST. DO.

    WRENCH (Thoughtfully): You do seem very confident…

    Another silence. There is a growing sound of machinery from the factory at the back of the stage.

    WRENCH: Ok.

    (The noise grows.)

    WRENCH: Seeing as you’re so confident…

    (The noise grows still louder.)

    WRENCH: I’ll wait here with you.

    (The noise is louder still. WRENCH needs to yell to be heard over it.)

    WRENCH: It’ll be fun.

    (The noise now completely dominates the stage)

    WRENCH: We can wait togeth-

    (SCRAPIRON suddenly starts from his reverie, as if he has only just noticed the noise from the factory. He stands, turns towards it, turns excitedly back to WRENCH, grabs him and puts his arm around him.)

    SCRAPIRON: This is it! It’s here, it’s finally

    The factory explodes. A wall of fire rages forth from the obliterated factory walls, hungrily grasping at the thin oxygen. The fire hits SCRAPIRON and WRENCH, hurling them back, melting them to vapours before it has carried them 50 feet.


    The explosion ripped through the Dead End and illuminated the thin remains of Cybertron’s atmosphere as far as Kalis in the East and Kaon in the West, a pillar of fire stabbing frantically at the cosmos. If the complacent standing guard of Decepticon forces that occupied the slums of the Dead End were taken by surprise by this tumour erupting with such sudden violence that it was enough to cause disfigurement to Cybertron’s already scarred and burnt surface, the emerging cause of the explosion had them scrambling for cover in terror. Emerging from a firestorm, an enormous, thrashing figure, cybertronian yet alien in form, unleashing a vast barrage of untargeted firepower in all directions. It took a brave lieutenant with good eyesight to discern the comparatively tiny figure that the behemoth was cradling against its chest. It took a braver one to make the call to Decepticon Military Command. Straxus may have been incapacitated, but he had firmly ingrained the knowledge in his troops that reporting bad news rarely ended well for the messenger, and this was a habit that died hard.

    It was Kickback that summoned Ratbat from a meeting with a fuel miner proposing methods of utilising the space bridge to strip-mine earth. Ratbat’s initial anger at being interrupted at a time when the miner was ready to start offering the necessary ‘concessions’ was alleviated by the realisation that the time had come. Empiricus had finally put his plan into action. Bombshell was summoned immediately, and arrived with a suspicious promptness that left Ratbat wondering whether this tiny spy had in fact been here all along. A very dangerous tool, he thought. Too valuable to dispose of yet, but alternatives must be found.

    Nonetheless, Bombshell had proved a perfect recruit for Ratbat’s conspiracy. The very abilities that made him so valuable kept him isolated from the rest of the Decepticon forces, his mastery of mind-control cerebro shells viewed as a kind of quasi-mystical abomination by most of the rank-and-file. Ratbat, of course, was far too pragmatic for such superstition.

    “You know what you must do?”

    Bombshell twitched unnervingly, a mannerism that only added to his disturbing appearance. Ratbat knew that the belief among the troops was that these twitches, the mutterings, were in fact evidence of Bombshell switching his attention to the control of one of his many puppets. His own belief was that it was pure affectation. He knew that the focus required to maintain control of an individual, even for an adept such as Bombshell, was too great for him to be controlling multiple individuals while still managing to carry out his own tasks.

    “I do…” That rasping, sneering voice… “But, you must remember, this is all hypothetical… The effect of a cerebro-shell on the spark-splitting process is by no means certain… Completely untested…”

    “You assured me this would work!”

    “I assured you the theory was sound… There are no guarantees…”

    Ratbat shook his wings and looked away. Never any guarantees when dealing with Insecticons. They hide in ambiguity. Regardless, even if it doesn’t work, Straxus’ fingerprints are all over this project – if we have to destroy this rampaging monstrosity after all, it’ll only weaken the cripple’s position further.

    “Do it.”

    Bombshell nodded, sat it silence, and began.


    Empiricus woke in a void. It was empty, and calm, and beautiful, and he felt complete. There was nothing but the void, and the void was him.

    He floated for an eternity. There was no boredom. No frustration. Only a sense of supreme satisfaction, without need or desire.

    Then… Something else. A tiny scratching somewhere in his all-encompassing awareness, the slightest hint of abrasion. But abrasion was impossible, because he was all there is, and so he ignored it.

    It grew louder.

    It grew louder and as the volume grew, it gradually started to establish its own gravity, drawing Empiricus’ attention around it. For the first time in a timeless infinity, Empiricus acknowledged that there was an outside. For the first time beyond memory, he listened.

    And the scraping, the abrasion, gradually coalesced into a voice, and as Empiricus remembered language, he remembered other things as well – Cybertron, the war, the deaths of his friends, the pain, flooding in as if pouring through a funnel into him, and suddenly there was sight and sound and touch and taste, and all he could see was fire. The horror was unbearable, he tried to retreat, but there was nowhere he could go that the fire could not reach, and the voice, the voice was always there. It hissed and undulated and writhed as if it gave voice to the fire itself. It called a name that Empiricus recognised.


    “I am being held by the target body. It is protecting me. It is also out of control. Something has gone wrong. I cannot move. And I see… I see through it’s eyes too...

    The flood of sensory input became too much. He could not make out any of his child’s thoughts, but he felt the pain, the confusion, the anger. Empiricus wished for nothing else but to escape back to the void.

    You cannn…

    The voice again… Empiricus clutched at the lifeline.


    You sense the abrasion... You think it is me. It isn’t. It’s you. You are the grit, the mote in the eye. Your creation is ready, but your mind within it is more than it can bear. You must become truly one with it.

    “How do I do this?”

    Remember… the cerebro-shell…

    “Bombshell! You’re Bombshell! You did this! Why should I trust you?”

    “you have no choice. Either do what I say, or continue to endure this agony… The choice is yours…”

    “What do I do?”

    “You are fighting the cerebro-shell’s control… You must relinquish control of yourself to it…”

    “And become another of your puppets?”

    “Not a puppet… I will have no control… Your creation’s mind is an amalgam of your mind and the cerebro shell itself… Direct control is impossible…”

    “And what will happen to me?”

    “You will be at peace…”

    Empiricus sought within the awareness he shared with his creation for the cerebro shell. Having identified its core, he could trace its tendrils reaching through his mind, monitoring his thoughts, influencing his actions. He wondered if he even had any free will left to disobey Bombshell’s instructions. The urge to obey was overpowering, but he could not tell whether it was prompted by the shell, his own desire for the void, or his creation’s desperation to eject this intruder from its mind. Calming himself as best he could, he set about ending his resistance to the cerebro shell. With each battle ceded, the dwindling remains of his awareness told him that Bombshell had not lied, that the vacated awareness was filled not by Bombshell’s control, but by the mind of his creation. And for Empiricus, there was only… the void.

    Outside, the violence stopped abruptly, the behemoth suddenly ceasing it’s onslaught on the surroundings. Almost immediately an internal affairs team had set up a cordon around the remains of the factory and ushered the monster, confused but pliant, away. The last casual observer allowed within sight of the monster noted that the only resistance it offered was to efforts to pry the body of Empiricus from it, which it still cradled tightly against its chest even as it was ushered into one of Polyhex’s many top security buildings.


    Ratbat fluttered up towards the roof of the proving ground, the better to look into the eyes of his new pet. “He’s perfect. And you’re certain he’s ours?”

    Bombshell had to shout from the ground. “He’s ours. It worked exactly as planned.”

    Next to him, Dirge shifted his weight. “I still don’t understand. You put a cerebro shell in him. You should just have control of him, surely?”

    Bombshell turned to him. “Normally, yes. But spark splitting changes all of that, clearly. The shell acted as a tether between the consciousnesses of Empiricus and his creation. Their minds were both independent and still intrinsically linked. Empiricus’ creation would, under normal circumstances, have been loyal to its’ creator. The shell modified that, adding an additional loyalty – to Ratbat. But the conflict between these two loyalties had to be resolved, and the two minds had to be either severed from one another or properly integrated. Severance would never have worked – too much of Empiricus in the new mind, removing him altogether would have caused too much damage. So instead, I… persuaded Empiricus to simply give up. To cede control of his mind to his creation… Which, in turn, is loyal to us.”

    Ratbat lowered his altitude slightly, the better to view the odd wheeled form protruding from his pet’s chest. “Yes, all worked out rather well, all told. With Megatron and Shockwave kept occupied on Earth, Straxus a ruler in name only, and this amount of raw power under my control, Cybertron is mine for the taking.”

    Dirge strained his neck to see Ratbat above him. “So, Empiricus… Is he dead?”

    Ratbat fluttered back down. “Oh no. That wouldn’t have been any fun at all. No, Empiricus retains his life… of a sort. His higher functions are essentially detached from existence, but his consciousness still remains, in his body, but effectively nothing more than an extension of his creation. He has no free will, for certain. It’s questionable whether he is capable of independent thought – highly doubtful, though. Still, we’ve made sure that he remains close to his creation.” At this, Ratbat fluttered up again to the vehicle attached to the monster’s chest. “See? Snug and comfortable. The cerebro shell still operating, tethering them together, with control of Empiricus’ mind given over completely to his own creation. Delicious, wouldn’t you agree?”

    While Bombshell clearly appreciated this outcome, Dirge did not agree. Still, he thought it better to keep his objections to himself. “What are you going to do with him?”

    Ratbat returned again to ground level. “Well, the Autobots’ little incursion into our territory and their very convenient incapacitation of Straxus has given us the perfect excuse to test our new toy. I think one of our periodic cullings of Autobots might be in order. The vermin do breed if you don’t maintain a tight control on them.” At this, he turned his head to a team of technicians working at the edge of the proving ground. “I want the technology from Empiricus’ spark split and transferral machinery replicated and made available to Straxus. I have a feeling our glorious, bodyless leader will find it very interesting. I’m sure we can find a way to throw a spanner in the works when he tries to use it.” With this, Ratbat headed for the exit. At the door, he stopped and turned his head back to the technicians. “I think it’s time we revived him, don’t you?”

    As Ratbat made his way through the doors, Dirge called after him. “He needs a designation!”

    Ratbat didn’t turn to face him, but carried on moving as he called back.




    Emirate Xaaron stared at the reports that were flooding his data feed. Endless outposts lost to the Decepticons and their new weapon. After a long period of relative stasis, the Autobots establishing bolt-holes and consolidating tactical positions, everything had been swept away in a few cycles of violence at a level not seen on Cybertron for several vorns.

    He looked up at Ultra Magnus. “We need to arrest their momentum.”

    Magnus sat opposite Xaaron and looked across the table intently. He already knew what was coming.

    “What do you have in mind?”

    “We haven’t got the resources to fight toe-to-toe with the Decepticons. We need something of… symbolic value. Something that will give our troops hope again, while reminding the Decepticons that we can still be dangerous.”

    Xaaron stood and summoned an aide from the corridor.

    “Get me Impactor.”

    Magnus stood up and followed his commander out of the office. Before they parted company, Magnus turned to Xaaron and looked him in the eye.

    “Are we ready for this?”

    Xaaron was used to managing his senior officer’s propensity for self-doubt, but had no time to soften things in their current situation.

    “We have no choice. Operation:Volcano is go.”



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