The Coldest Dish: An Energon Story

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by Maximo Prime, Dec 29, 2006.

  1. Maximo Prime

    Maximo Prime Bassist of Ill Repute

    Sep 17, 2002
    Trophy Points:
    Ok... I think i posted this a long time ago, but a search came up with nothing. So I thought I'd post it again, what with the new plugs for this forum on the front page.

    It's set in early Energon era. Before Cyclonus and Demolishor change forms. Here are some changes I made, that listed here will help you understand this a bit more.

    (otherwise, there'd be about 4 Prowls running around.)

    Minicon Prowl - Streetwise
    Minicon Prowl repaint - Smokestreak
    Blue E-Prowl - Prowl
    Black Swat E-Prowl - Stockade

    Leader-1 is a girl.

    Getaway is a repaint of Hot Shot, painted like the G1 character.
    Camshaft is the silver E-Hot Shot, with a parts swap.. Hot Shot is the more yellow one. (My E-Hot Shot and E-E-Hot Shot have a parts swap, and the silver one became Camshaft..)

    Enjoy! Vote often! :) 

    A Transformers: Energon Story
    By Stu Franks
    (C) 2005

    "At last...I've found it. Cyclonus, help me dig this out," Megatron instructed his minion.
    " want me to...touch that?"
    "Don't be absurd, you fool. This is nothing but raw material now, to help bring my plan to fruition. Now, get to work!" Megatron barked.
    Cyclonus's fists retracted, and piledrivers sprouted from his wrists. With the slightest hint of trepidation, he began pounding on the wall. An hour and a half had passed, and a significant portion of the digging had been complete. Cyclonus brought his hands back out. Megatron had left him to his devices, so he was all alone in this particular innard of Unicron. With his fingers, he started prying away at the rubble that remained from his piledriving. His left hand unearthed a tank tread, while his right revealed a panel with the crown of the Decepticon sigil peering out from behind the rock. He stopped, and just blankly stared at the sigil. He wiped away the rest of the rubble by his right hand, until the panel was completely uncovered. Jutting out of the wall in front of him, a little above his optic-level, was the centerpiece of Megatron's chest. But not just Megatron's chest; Megatron's old body's chest. Specifically, it was the switch that would rise to activate his face-shield in vehicle mode.
    'Not that this body needs any facial protection now,' thought Cyclonus. He finished unearthing the rest of the chest, and stopped for a second. He closed his optics, stood tall, took a deep breath, and cleared out the section directly above. Now, staring down at him, was the face of Megatron's corpse. He looked back and forth, making sure no one was coming. He fidgeted with the face-shield switch, trying to raise it so that he wouldn't have to look Megatron's face in the optic. But ten years of disuse and a complete lack of energon flow through the circuits and components made this a much tougher task than Cyclonus was prepared for, and before long (and well before reaching the halfway point in the ridge the switch was designed to rise up) he broke the switch off. Surges washed over his body like tidal waves. "Oh no oh no oh no...Megatron will KILL me if he sees this..." he whined to himself. He tried to jam it back in, when he heard the familiar footsteps of his fearless leader.
    "Oh, Cyclonus, well done!" Megatron intoned.
    Cyclonus quickly turned around to stand in front of the now-empty ridge, while subspacing the switch component.
    "Yes... it appears I won't have to shoot you into the sun after all... Finish this up and meet me at these coordinates on Cybertron. It pleases me that for a change you are able to work unsupervised." With that, Megatron turned, and walked away from Cyclonus. When he reached the mouth of the tunnel, he transformed, and flew off into space.
    Every time he saw this, Cyclonus longed for the days long past when simply transforming and staying in the air would keep him away from Megatron's physical tirades. He summoned the switch from subspace, brought out the welding torch located in his index finger, and carefully re-attached the component. This still didn't solve the problem of looking the dead Transformer in the optic while he worked, but a simple temporary halt on his alarm systems took care of that.
    Now another full hour of digging had passed, and Megatron's corpse was uncovered from the waist up. Cyclonus started to chip away at Megatron's right leg, when the sound of whining metal mixed with falling rumble invaded Cyclonus's audio receptors. Unfortunately, his alarm systems were temporarily shut down, so he thought nothing of the sound. Skywarp would later admonish him at training, saying, 'A more brave Decepticon would have been able to muster the courage to get this done on the strength of his spark alone, without circumventing valuable sensory systems.' But at the moment, he was concentrating on a particularly difficult vein of rock, when Megatron's corpse finished the job on its own (due to its tremendous mass) and promptly fell on top of Cyclonus. Cyclonus's windshield gave way and then shattered. The corpse fell on him in such a way that only his forearms were free to move. Power was automatically diverted to emergency activation of all his sensory equipment, so he was momentarily sapped of his strength. He was, quite literally, face to face with Megatron's old body. He screamed in terror and frustration. He then felt a piercing grasp on his right forearm, and in his current state of heightened sensory sensitivity, the pain was excruciating. He was summarily dragged out from under the lumbering Transformer body by none other than Alpha Q. Now, Cyclonus was face to face with Morteus, the death face of Alpha Q. He was frozen. With power that their diminuitive size belied, Alpha Q's tentacles slammed Cyclonus against the wall a couple times, to jar his brain functions. He then stood the Decepticon on his feet.
    "What are you doing here? -- Something secret, no doubt -- WHAT USE HAVE YOU OF THIS CARCASS?" three of the faces of Alpha Q interrogated the hapless Decepticon. The sage face remained silent.
    "Nuh-nuh, n-nothing special, A-Q!! M-meh-Megatron wants to have it melted down and u-used for weapons bolstering!!" If there was one thing Cyclonus was good for, it was reasonably sound excuses on the fly. This more than anything has kept him alive all these millions of years. To be honest, Cyclonus had absolutely NO idea why Megatron was obsessed with his old body; he had not yet re-earned Megatron's trust yet.
    To Cyclonus's relief, Alpha Q provided him with a giant case with which to carry the corpse back to Cybertron. In reality, this only helped Alpha Q get rid of the pest, but he kept that to himselves. Within minutes, the cargo was loaded, and Cyclonus was off.
    Leader-1 and some of the other Targetmaster Minicons were engaged in some off-duty research. Not coincidentally, most Minicons who volunteered for reconfiguration as Targetmasters were also usually thirsty for knowledge, and these several were no exception to the rule. Leader-1 was accompanied by Streetwise, his brother Smokestreak, and Over-Run. Being off duty, the four robots each were researching their own pet projects; Streetwise and Smokestreak were learning how to apply sub-space principles to ammo placement for their weapon modes, while Over-Run was looking for technology that would grant him flight (and thus, total autonomy) while transformed into a blaster. "If I could only remember the robot's name who pioneered that...Slag! Why do Decepticon records have to be so encrypted!? I know it had something to do with... 'wave'... hmm," Over-Run spoke to himself. Streetwise and Smokestreak looked up from their terminals. Normally, other bots in the datatractuary would be annoyed at Over-Run's habit of speaking to himself, and in no hushed tones. But the brothers were used to it, and were both very close friends with him, so granted him the benefit of the doubt. At the moment, they were waiting to see if Over-Run actually would come upon the name today, as he had this conversation with himself more times than they could remember.
    "Hmm.. was it.. Shackwave? No, that sounds stupid...I know it wasn't Soundwave, because he didn't turn into a gun...Blast!"
    Streetwise and Smokestreak snickered to themselves. Leader-1 sat away from the others, as she wanted the utmost privacy for her research. It wasn't that she distrusted her friends, but just operated on the theory that the less bots who knew, the less chance her secret had of slipping out. And it was a juicy secret indeed, she thought.
    Leader-1 was researching the possibility of a reversal of the synaptic flow that occurred when a Minicon powerlinxed with a larger Transformer. The synaptic flow, or brainwave-transmission, flowed from the Minicon to the Autobot/Decepticon upon powerlinxing. This bereaved the Minicon of his/her upper mental functions for the duration of the powerlinx. For a Minicon that turned into a bladed melee weapon, or a forearm mounted blaster, or for the Race team which turned into a shield, this protected the Minicon from the consequences of being aware of their immediate surroundings. The Skyboom Shield's effectiveness would greatly decrease if Mirage, Downshift and Dirtboss flinched with every incoming volley. So, this technology was installed to improve the alt-mode's effectiveness. It also gave the larger Transformer control of the Minicon's motor capabilities (for instance, Thunderwing's shuriken-spinning ability). Even the Targetmaster Minicons experienced this phenomenon, except when they formed hand-held weapons, and were not actually connected to their partner. This exception allowed the Targetmaster Minicon to help his/her partner aim more efficiently, as was the role of being a Targetmaster.
    The dormant phase was a lot for Minicons to handle, psychologically, and why the trust between Minicons and their partners was not so quickly forged. Leader-1, having been Megatron's lackey for countless years, wanted some sort of failsafe against this technology that inhabited her very shell. She theorized that if she were able to reverse the synaptic flow, she would then gain motor control of whichever Transformer she powerlinxed with; the added bonus being that when the Transformer turned into robot mode, she would also gain control of the robot's senses (a side-effect bypassed by the Autobots and Decepticons, since they themselves were in robot mode, and the Minicons in alt-mode).
    Essentially, the next time she powerlinxed with Megatron, she would usurp control of Megatron's body itself. She would be able to speak, act, and move in an exact likeness of her tormentor. She would, for all intents and purposes, be Megatron!
    As her mind meandered, he found a page of information that made her visor glow brightly with anticipation. Her circuits bristled. She read on, with such focus that she did not hear the rumbling of tank-treads that grew steadily louder from outside.
    "Cyclonus returns with the cargo, my liege," Demolishor reported.
    "Excellent. Now go fetch me my erstwhile servant."
    "Sir, yes, sir, Megatron, sir!" Demolishor barked, and ran off. A smug grin played on Megatron's face as he thought of Demolishor. "Ah, if only all my warriors were so obedient," he thought. Cyclonus landed, and transformed.
    "Megatron, my sovereign, I brought the, er.. body."
    "Good work, Cyclonus."
    Cyclonus stood there, his eyes darting back and forth, his hands behind his back.
    "Well?" Megatron intoned impatiently.
    "Uh... er... IthinkIbrokeapieceoff" Cyclonus spit out as he brought the face-shield switch out of subspace, tossed it on the case, transformed and high-tailed it out of Megatron's throne room.
    "Grr, of all the incompetent -- ah, it's of no matter, now. I have what I need to bring the Autobots to their knees," Megatron said to himself. He picked up his old corpse, and carried it off to the repair bay. To any Decepticon who happened to spy this, it surely looked very strange indeed, watching Megatron carry himself off.
    Several mega-cycles later, Demolishor walked into the room, with Leader-1 in tow. The Minicon avoided Megatron's gaze while being otherwise helpless in Demolishor's grip. Demolishor was a little shaken to see Megatron's old tank shell in pieces across the room. The turret assembly had been removed, as had the head. The head lay unceremoniously on its side, on the floor. The body, on the repair table, lay half transformed. The arms and legs' armor had been bisected, and the circuits, servos and other components were exposed to the light, their various LEDs, gears and mech-fluid tubes working in a facsimile of their former living state. Demolishor hadn't seen this body in ten stellar cycles; he had certainly never seen it in this condition. Though he'd never admit it, the sight gave him the surges.
    Megatron, deep in concentration over the opened turret assembly, looked up to see his most loyal soldier.
    "Ah, excellent, Demolishor, bring her here," Megatron ordered. Demolishor timidly walked over, careful not to step on anything, especially the head.
    "Errraah, what's the problem, Demolishor?! Are your caution circuits overloading? Get over here now!"
    "B-but, sir, your --"
    "Oh, by the Pit, is this what you're frightened of?" Megatron accused as he pointed at his old head.
    He walked over and crushed it beneath his foot. Demolishor watched as the optic lenses strained against the pressure, almost seemed to expand, then burst. Crystalline shards sprinkled the floor. Behind the lenses lay the optic sensors, which shot out from their orbits and lay across the face. The helmet cracked open, and the cranial casing inside burst at its junctures as it spilled its contents out. The jaw broke off at both ends, and flipped over onto the floor, chin up. Finally, the face split open at the nose, spilling the rest of the inner workings of the head. Megatron picked up the mess and threw it at Demolishor. It hit Demolishor along his chin and his chest. He was covered in Megatron's former cranial components.
    "You're pathetic. What kind of Decepticon are you?" Megatron continued.
    Demolishor composed himself. "My apologies, sir."
    Megatron shook his head slightly. "You're free to go. I'll alert you when I need you. That is all, Demolishor."
    Demolishor escaped from the room before his leader's temper worsened.
    All optics were glued to the viewscreen that took up the entire south wall of the computer lab in the datatractuary. The middle of the west wall had been completely destroyed, and the raw edges of the hole spilled wires and hydraulic tubes onto the floor. A pool of fluid had amassed on the floor, and the occasional spark flew from the exposed wire ends. Pyrocitor and Makeshift, Streetwise's teammates on the Emergency Rescue Team, were busy coating the area with flame-******ant chemicals.
    The viewscreen was playing surveillance footage. From a viewpoint perched in the northeast corner of the room, the last mega-cycle's events replayed themselves on the screen.

    Streetwise, Smokestreak, Over-Run and Leader-1 were seen at their respective computers. Almost in unison, the four Minicons looked up from their monitors, then looked back and forth.
    "Pause it," Hot Shot requested.
    Tow-Line, who sat at the playback machine, stopped the footage. "You want I should bring up the sound, dere, boss?" he asked.
    This was Hot Shot's first mission with his new team, which included Tow-Line, Downshift, Checkpoint and Stockade. He noted that Tow-Line's time spent undercover in New York on Earth had had an affect on his speech patterns. "Yeah, I wanna know what got their attention. Back it up half a cycle."
    Signal lines played like ribbons across the screen as the Minicons' movements played backwards. The sounds of chipmunks scratching records came out of the speakers. "Right there," Hot Shot said.
    The tape resumed.
    A low rumble was heard. It got louder, and then the wall caved in, followed by an explosion of rubble. When the smoke cleared Demolishor, in tank mode, came barrelling through the debris. He transformed, and cleared a bigger passage into the room with his arms. While Over-Run, Streetwise and Smokestreak jumped up and started running towards the east side of the room, Leader-1 typed furiously at her console. She slipped a disc into the unit, then after a second, slipped it out and slipped another one in. She collected the second disc, put an electronic thumbprint on it, then tossed it under the desk. She put the first one inside her torso compartment, and sprinted towards her friends, who were screaming for her, "Come on! Leda, what are you doing, let's go!!" Demolishor swooped down, and plucked Leader-1 off the ground. "Long time, no see, gobot!" he sneered.
    As Over-Run watched the tape, he thought to himself, 'Y'know, that gun-mode autonomy info would've come in real handy right about then...'
    Over-Run said a couple things to the brothers, and then transformed. Streetwise and Smokestreak balanced him on his grip, and fired on Demolishor. But without being able to aim from their position and size in relation to Over-Run's blaster mode, their shots flew wide. They only succeeded in knocking out a couple ceiling lights and a vent grate. Demolishor laughed, then powerlinxed Leader-1 to his forearm.
    Stockade saw this and winced. He and his partner Checkpoint were partnered with Streetwise's ER team during the Minicon conflict. He knew that to powerlinx without the Minicon's initiation sequence not only caused the Minicon a lot of pain from the cold-boot, but was the cause of severe psychological trauma.
    Downshift, who was performing analysis on Leader-1's computer terminal, looked up momentarily at hearing Leader-1's scream.
    Leader-1 cried out in pain at this forced powerlinx, then reflexively transformed, and went dormant. "See ya later, microchips!" Demolishor yelled as he walked through the hole, transformed and rolled off.
    "Stop the tape."
    Hot Shot knew when Optimus sent him to investigate the break-in, that it would be bad. He just didn't know how bad.
    "Hot Shot! I've found something!" Downshift called. Hot Shot and Stockade rushed over to Leader-1's terminal, where Downshift was laying on his side. He was reaching under the desk, using a pair of cyber-forceps that sprout from the back of his hand. He slowly shimmied away from the desk, ignoring what scraping along the ground was doing to his paint-job. He sat up on the ground, and activated his microscoptics while holding the artifact near his face. "It's a disc," Downshift said, matter-of-factly.
    Downshift never left a detail out when he was on duty. He was the forensics expert on Prime's team, and while Red Alert was more of the medical tech-head, Downshift dealt more in theoretical research. He had an entire lab full of different devices, a good portion of which didn't work. But for every device that didn't work, there were two or three components that Downshift introduced into the Autobots' general cache of technology.
    "There's an electronic thumbprint on here, but it's in Minicon, I can't decipher it." Downshift knew he could easily learn the Minicons' secret written language; he didn't out of respect for their need for clandestine communication.
    He walked over to Streetwise, who was consoling his brother in the far corner. "This must be for one of you." He crouched down, and held out the disc in his forceps to the brothers. Smokestreak plucked it out, then held it in both hands. "I... I can't look at this right now. Streetwise, we've got to get her back, we've just GOT to get Leda back--"
    "'Streak, I know, we'll get her back," Streetwise tried, but Smokestreak broke off and took a few paces. He had formed a special bond with Leader-1 after Megatron's death. Streetwise walked over, and saw that Smokestreak's rear wheels, which sat over his shoulders, were spinning. He grabbed Smokestreak's arm gently, and said, "Go 'head, bro. Let it out. It's okay." Smokestreak's wheels started to spin faster, and he turned to embrace his brother.
    "Listen, guys, why don't you come back to Autobase with us?" Stockade suggested.
    Streetwise looked up at his old partner for a second, looked back down, and nodded. "C'mon, 'Streak, let's go." Streetwise and Smokestreak transformed.
    Hot Shot and his team transformed, and they left through the hole Demolishor had made, with Over-Run coasting overhead.
    Leader-1 lay on the floor, against the wall, in a Decepticon holding cell. She looked down at her powerlinx port, which had been pulverized when Demolishor forced powerlinx with her. Without her initiation sequence, the outer rim hadn't expanded, the inhibitor components hadn't retracted, and the powerlinx circuits themselves had not been activated in preparation for their connection with the inner components of the powerlinx peg some larger Transformers (mostly Decepticons) still maintained. Specifically, Demolishor's forearm peg. She knew Demolishor didn't know any better, but that didn't stop her from feeling a deep, searing hatred for him.
    The cell door opened, and Megatron walked in. He bent down, and picked her up the way one would pick up a wrench. "I have plans for you, my dear... yes..." Leader-1 turned her head to look at Megatron's new body. She felt an overwhelming sense of dread. He took her into the repair bay, and laid her on a table. After a cursory evaluation, he flipped up the adjacent console, and with a few buttons, summoned a medicroid to repair her port. "I shall return shortly. Don't, heh, heh, go anywhere!" Then laughing to himself, he left the room.
    The medicroid was a small, sparkless robot. Megatron had commissioned a dozen of them built to repair the Minicons injured in his battles; he felt his medical officer had better things to do with his time.
    The next thing she knew, the medicroid had Leader-1's entire powerlinx assembly removed. She wasn't sure, but she could swear that time had jumped forward ever so slightly. The broken components were placed on a tray, and the medicroid whizzed off. Laying on the table, with a gaping hole in her torso, she felt very exposed. She pushed that thought out of her head, then went to thinking about the medicroid. She chuckled a bit; this sparkless robot didn't know it, but it was going to be instrumental in Megatron's downfall. At least, Leader-1 hoped. She didn't know why Megatron wanted her, he seemed to be devoid of powerlinx pegs. All this time spent researching might not be worth a blown diode if she doesn't get a chance to powerlinx with him.
    Before she knew it, the medicroid had returned with a fully repaired assembly. It looked brand new, even. "What, do you guys keep eviscerated Minicon parts around, just in case?" she probed the medicroid defiantly. 'Ooh, Leda, real tough. Easy to be defiant to a lifeless computer program,' she thought to herself.
    Then, after the powerlinx port was reinstalled, and without warning, the medicroid's hand retracted, and a powerlinx peg took its place. Leader-1 started up, but she was restrained (hey, when did that happen?). "TRANSFORM AND INITIATE POWERLINX SEQUENCE. NEW COMPONENTS REQUIRE TESTING." The medicroid floated there, motionless. It waited for what could be the only logical response. She hung her head, and the restraints deactivated. She laid on her side, and transformed to vehicle mode. Her port opened, and the medicroid powerlinxed with her. She felt the customary dormant phase kick in, and immediately woke back up after separation. She checked her chronometer; only 250 nanocycles had passed. She turned to look, and the medicroid had already started for the door. Evidently, she was in perfect shape. She sat up, and threw her legs off the table.
    She stared at the entrance to the repair bay, which started to waver. She shook her head, wiped off her optics, and looked again. The spot in front of her continued to waver, and with a high-pitched, flanged whine, a bright pink energy blast exploded in front of her. When she opened her optics again, Skywarp was standing there. He grabbed her by the upper torso, and they warped out of the room. For a split second, the colors around her swarmed without pattern. Her equilibrium chip neared overload. When it all stopped, they were in Megatron's throne room. Megatron sat on his throne, a satisfied look on his face. Skywarp put Leader-1 on the ground with characteristic care, then stood there, at attention. Leader-1 stood on her own two feet for the first time in what felt like an eon. She promptly fell over; her equilibrium chip had not finished recalibrating from the warp. Skywarp didn't look, but knew the circumstance well; this always happened when he warped someone with him, especially Minicons. It took his partner, Thunderclash, several decacycles to acclimate to it. Now that his thoughts had wandered to his erstwhile partner, he took a nanoklik to rejoice the moment Thunderclash took off for parts unknown. His new partners, Thunderwing and Gaiden, were much better suited to him.
    "That will be all, Skywarp, you have your remaining orders," Megatron said. Skywarp replied, "Thank you, my liege," and warped out again.
    After a cycle, Megatron broke the silence. "I know what you're thinking, you know. I'm sure you've noticed my lack of powerlinx pegs. I've far outgrown any power boost a lowly creature such as yourself could provide me. But, have a look over there..." He gestured to his left. In the corner of the room sat a very familiar shape - it was Megatron, his old body, in tank mode! Megatron pulled out a remote control device, and caused his tank to move towards Leader-1. The turret's barrel lowered to aim at Leader-1's face. "What do you think? I extricated it from the interior of Unicron. Sadly, it does not possess the power it once held," Megatron said with a feigned look of forlorn, which twisted into a smug grin, "...naturally. Not yet anyhow. It still, however, maintains access to the black hole which powers its fusion cannon. Climb atop the turret, if you please." Leader-1 climbed up on top of the turret. She was beginning to get the surges; she had no idea now what Megatron had in mind, but she knew she didn't like standing on a corpse. Which, no matter what Megatron (or anyone, for that matter) told her, is exactly what this tank was - a corpse. She looked down, and noticed the head was missing. In its place was a remote control receiver pane. It pulsed with a purple glow. She turned to look at Megatron, a look of confusion on her face. "You know what to do, Leader-1." And then, it all became crystal clear to her. She wouldn't be powerlinxing to him at all. She'd be powerlinxing to this corpse. Primus knows what would happen in the interim. She looked down at the peg atop the turret. She shut her eyes, prayed that this was all just a bad defrag. "Well, get on with it!!" Megatron ordered.
    Leader-1 took a deep breath, and then transformed and powerlinxed. She interfaced with the corpsetank. She felt her consciousness being dragged down, and with her last thoughts, pleaded for her new programming to kick in...

    ...which at last, it did. She was awake. She was awake!! She was connected to a larger Transformer (albeit, a dead one), and she was awake. She had forgotten to reboot her powerlinx initiation sequence with the new programming when she was with the medicroid, but managed to take care of that right before Skywarp took her to Megatron. She had to test it - so she waved the turret barrel a micron. Yes! She was in control of the corpsetank! Still, she knew Megatron could not know, so she feigned her usual dormant state. She heard someone come into the room, and was taken aback. After a nanoklik, she realized this must be part of her new powerlinx status. She had never received any sensory stimuli while in this state. 'Wait,' she thought, 'let me activate my optics!!' She did, and her vision went from dark to blurry to perfect. She almost jittered with abject joy, but maintained her cover. Coming into the room was Slugslinger. "Ah, Slugslinger. Whom am I speaking with today?"
    Slugslinger had a personality glitch - when he came online, his personality catalyst circuits interfaced with his spark twice, instead of the usual single interaction. What this created was two personalities that were exactly the same, but could not maintain control at the same time. Quite literally, the left hand didn't know what the right hand was up to. They were also unaware of each other's existence, until Medical Officer Dirge performed a diagnostic on him, and noticed the redundancy. They designated the personality currently online as Alpha, and Dirge gave Slugslinger a datatrack requesting his presence for his first diagnostic. This way, Dirge figured, Slugslinger Alpha would read it and recognize it, and his flipside would read it as new information, come to the diagnostic and be designated. This ocurred in time, and soon Slugslinger Prima was named. Dirge gave each personality a top-rank surname to avoid a personality having an inferiority complex from being a Beta to no known Alpha. What resulted was a highly effective warrior that required an unconventional briefing protocol.
    "Alpha, reporting for duty, sir. What's with the corpse?"
    Megatron put up with Slugslinger's genetic duplicity for some very good reasons. Namely, his total desensitization to violence. This, along with his utter professionalism provided Megatron with a warrior who would unflinchingly perform his every command, and perform it well. If this meant constantly providing him with datatracks, so be it.
    "I had Cyclonus retrieve it for me from the bowels of Unicron. it will now serve me in battle by remote control. I felt that if there was one of my powers I would want duplicated on the battle field, it would be my old fusion cannon. As you'll notice, Leader-1 is perched atop the turret. She will serve as an excellent power source."
    Slugslinger walked over to the tank and, caressing the turret, whistled. "This'll slag scrap up, boss!"
    With a hint of sarcasm, Megatron replied, "I'm so glad you approve. Now, here's your datatrack. That will be all, Slugslinger."
    Slugslinger took the disc, saluted, and walked to the exit. He stopped just short of the hatch, and turned about face. He saluted, and said, "Prima, reporting for duty. What's with the corpse?"
    Megatron rolled his eyes, lazily pointed at Slugslinger, and said, "Datatrack."
    "Oh! Right. Thank you, sir." With that, Slugslinger left the room, and the hatch shut.
    'Great,' thought Leader-1. She was right back where she started. Except now, she would bear witness to the acts she helped perform.
    Back at Autobase, Streetwise walked up to his brother, who was slumped in his seat in front of a terminal. "Any luck?" he asked.
    "No, Streetwise. None. I've tried every password in the sector, and I even tried a signature ID. Something is keeping me from reading the contents of this disc, and I cannot for the spark of me figure out what!"
    Streetwise stroked his chin for a moment. He had picked up this mannerism during his internship with the local police department. "Let me sit down."
    The brothers exchanged positions, and Streetwise started typing away at the console. A couple moments passed, and Streetwise called to Smokestreak. "Found it!! C'mere!!" Smokestreak, who had been pacing, ran over to the terminal. "What is it?"
    "There is an RFL file on this disc," Streetwise informed his brother.
    "A what file?"
    "A Radio Frequency Lock. Whenever the disc is in a terminal, the RFL automatically searches for a specific frequency being transmitted. The only thing that unlocks the RFL is if the frequency transmitter goes out of range, or offline."
    "How far does it need to go to be out of range?" Smokestreak asked.
    Streetwise opened up the properties of the file. "Well, I'll tell you this much - longer than the distance of any location that has any meaning to us, the 'Bots or the 'Cons."
    "So basically, what you're telling me is that so long as the transmitter functions, we can't read this disc," Smokestreak summarized.
    "Then why would Leda make a disc that she took obvious pains to leave behind for us to find, only to prevent us from reading it?"
    "Mm. I thought of that too, just now. There's only one answer: the transmitter is a component inside Leader-1. Which means--"
    "Means that so long as she functions, this disc remains her secret."
    Streetwise countered, "I doubt that her functioning depends on the transmitter, but if the transmitter ever fell into dysfunction, it would probably mean that she was in terminal danger, and had no choice but to let someone learn the contents of the disc."
    "So this disc must contain information that she made a secret because she couldn't trust it to stay out of the wrong hands. She must've added the RFL when Demolishor broke into the datatractuary."
    "Then let's hope we never need to read this disc; if it ever opens, then Leader-1's an empty."
    Smokestreak squeezed his optics shut, to which Streetwise responded quickly with "Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to come out and say that, I was just finishing the logic. I'm sorry, bro." Smokestreak's wheels did a couple revolutions, and then he stood straight. "We've got our work cut out for us, don't we?" he said with a sardonic grin.

    Megatron stood on the southern cliff overlooking a canyon. He stared off to the right, watching the sun rise. Unlike humans, he stared directly at it, with the proper optical filters in place. He loved to stare at the sun, because it repesented ultimate power. If he could harness the energy released by the sun on a constant basis -- all of it, not the pittance that the humans acquire with their solar panels -- his energy needs would be a thing of the past. It was one of those smaller proofs to himself that humans were inferior creatures - they couldn't even stare at the power of the sun without hurting themselves.
    Today was going to be the day. He had planned everything perfectly - the abduction of Leader-1 to power his new weapon, the bait Skywarp was acquiring to lead the Autobots into the canyon and thus without an escape route, Slugslinger's mission, and the summoning of every Decepticon he could get his hands on to prepare for the ambush. A large grin grew across his face, as inevitable victory shined on him today much like the rays of the sun. And much like the remaining lifespan of that ball of ultimate power, he expected his reign to reach out for a very, very long time.
    Checkpoint scanned the horizon. He stood atop a mountain plateau with his partner, Stockade. This was their post, and he was proud of his duty. "No energy sigs yet, 'Kade."
    "Any luck we'll have an uneventful shift, CP?" Stockade asked of his partner. He too, was mindful of his post, but took to his work in a more practical fashion than Checkpoint. His only constructive criticism of his partner is that he didn't see the motherboard for the circuits.
    "Not likely. Megatron hasn't bothered with capturing Minicons in ten years. The fact that he now has custody of Leader-1 tells me something big is afoot. And we must stay vigilant."
    "And.. what about the fact that Megatron has also been discorporate for ten years? I mean, when you get right down to it, not counting the time between when Unicron ate him and his comeback, how long have Minicons... not been on his mind? A week? Ten days?"
    Checkpoint flashed his partner a look that said, "Quit it." A moment passed, as the Autobot SWAT pair kept their optics to the skies. Stockade knew better than to try and poke holes in Checkpoint's conspiracy theories. Internally, he chided himself for not remembering that this morning. After all, that was what put the pair together - their complementary strongpoints. He remembered the first day he began to spend time with Checkpoint all those years ago in the Academy. They were both in Scavenger's class, and he had them stay late with him one day to discuss the possibilities their futures held.

    "I'm assigning you two to the same unit," Scavenger said.
    "What? Me and him?" Stockade asked, gesturing at Checkpoint. He switched gears, and quickly added, "Sir! I mean, we get along, I'm not saying he's not a 'bot I'm compatible with, but..."
    Checkpoint was very shy, and said nothing. He looked back and forth, reciting the Academy's Code of Conduct under his breath. He did this whenever he was nervous, and he couldn't think of a time he was more nervous than right now. He had respect for all of his teachers, but his respect for Scavenger was downright idolatrous. Scavenger was a proven warrior, soldier, and commander. He had led countless missions against the Decepticons, and was exemplary of the life that Checkpoint wanted to lead.
    "Stockade, I'm placing you and Checkpoint in training for Special Weapons and Tactics."
    Both young Autobots hit the brakes and stared, dumbstruck, at their mentor. The SWAT unit was very hard to get into, and not just anybot could get into their training program. Stockade's older brother, Prowl, had made it in, but felt that his presence on the front line was so vital to general Autobot missions that he could not give exclusive dedication to the SWAT unit.
    "Well, I'll be. Something actually left Stockade speechless," Scavenger said with a grin and a cocked eyebrow. "I believe you and Checkpoint will make perfect partners. Each of you is extraordinarilly skilled in two different components of what makes the SWAT team what it is. Checkpoint, your.. almost encyclopedaic knowledge of the Warrior's Code, along with weapon combinations, and strategies, is becoming legend around the Academy. What you lack is the real-life factor, the wrench in the works that can take any theoretical plan and poke holes through it. Not that that's a bad thing, it's just simply not your dedicated processor. On the other hand, Stockade, you seem to have a knack for knowing just what to do in a pinch on the field. Maybe growing up under Prowl's tutelage has paid off after all. Some bots make their mark on the world through what they learn and apply, and some simply by "do or die", as it were. That's why I know the two of you will make excellent partners. Each of you is strong in different areas, the sum of which will prepare the two of you for whatever comes your way. You are to report to the SWAT Barracks tomorrow morning."
    The pair stood as if frozen in time.
    "That is all," Scavenger said with a smile.
    Stockade and Checkpoint stood at attention. "Sir, yes, sir!" they barked in unison.
    Stockade stared thoughtfully into the sky, with a faint smile on his face. It always put a little juice in his circuits to think about that day. He listened to the slight breeze, and flexed his neck servos. He then heard a high-pitched, flanged whine, and turned around to see Skywarp appear out of nowhere in the air between himself and Checkpoint, who had his back turned. "CHECKPOINT LOOK OU--" he screamed, running towards him, but it was too late.
    Skywarp had scooped Checkpoint into his arms, and flew off. Stockade, for all his real-world experience, was shocked into paralysis. He had only heard stories of Skywarp, stories from Prowl, but he had never seen him in action. He had always imagined what he'd do if he ever ran into the stealthy warrior, but all of those thoughts flew out his exhaust pipes when faced with the real thing.
    Skywarp immediately put some vertical distance between himself and Stockade, and flew off over the valley. Checkpoint was squirming violently in his arms, screaming bloody murder. Skywarp ignored Checkpoint's comments without even thinking, but his squirming was preventing him from concentrating on flying in robot mode with a passenger. However, he knew just what to do. Thunderwing and Gaiden were powerlinxed to his forearms, and he sent them both mental commands to spin. He stopped flying, and began to plummet out of control. He wrapped both legs around Checkpoint, and wrapped one arm around Checkpoint's body. Gaiden spinning violently, Skywarp used his free right arm to chop off Checkpoint's right arm right past the shoulder. With supernaturally fast movements, he shifted the weight, and repeated his stroke on Checkpoint's other arm. The sudden plummet, plus the shock of losing two limbs in such a savage manner, had caused Checkpoint to lose grips with consciousness. His eyes flared brightly and unevenly, while his jaw worked in random motions. Skywarp flipped him around, and chopped through Checkpoint's thighs one at a time. The last limb lost contact with Checkpoint's torso a mere fifty feet above the ground. All of the limbs landed with a clatter of metal on earth and sizzling circuits and bubbling fuel. His victim having gone limp after losing consciousness, Skywarp saved himself from colliding with the ground, and took off.
    Stockade stood there, stuttering. His hands flexed, and the pipes on either side of his head began to spew smoke. Prowl ran up beside him, grabbed him by the shoulder, pulled him face to face, and barked, "C'mon, let's go!!" The two jumped into the air off the cliff, transformed into twin Cybertronian F1 racers, and landed on the ground below. They fishtailed, and drove after Skywarp.
    "I'm radioing for backup. Even in robot mode, Skywarp has a slight edge over us in speed," Prowl alerted his brother.
    "Prowl to Prime. Prowl to Prime. Code Red. Do you read me? Over."
    "This is Optimus Prime. I've acquired your coordinates, what's going on? Over."
    "Skywarp has abducted Checkpoint, and flown northwest into the Tengu sector, sir. Checkpoint has already suffered complete amputation trauma, and --"
    "Complete?! We're on our way. Do not directly engage until we join you. Optimus Prime, over and out."
    "Roger wilco, Optimus, sir. Prowl, over and out."
    Optimus turned from the comm screen to his bots in the bridge. "You heard it here, bots. Downshift, prepare the space bridge. You and Tow-Line are to man the base. Jetfire, Rodimus, Ironhide, Hot Shot, Inferno, Landmine, Cliffjumper, Camshaft, Getaway -- Come with me! There's not much time, let's go, go GO!"
    The Autobots bolted for the space bridge chamber, snatching weapons along the way. The space bridge opened, and the Autobots dove into their alt-modes and sped into the vortex.
    Prowl and Stockade were currently testing their limits speeding in pursuit of the Decepticon ninja.
    "Yeah, Kady?"
    "You get a bad feeling about this?"
    "Stockade, your partner's limbs are laying in a pile 30 miles back. Yes, I have a bad feeling about this."
    "Don't remind me! I mean - what purpose does CP's abduction serve? We're following Skywarp to Primus-knows-where, and, well, I don't know... something's up."
    "You know what, you've got a point. Let me ra--" Prowl cut himself off, and grinded to a halt. His brother followed suit. They found themselves in the middle of a deep and wide canyon, surrounded on all sides by what looked like the universe's entire stock of Decepticon forces. They transformed, and stood back to back, trying not to move. They looked back and forth, trying to gauge just how many Decepticons were aiming their weapons at their heads. Prowl shut his optics, summoned forth his helmet communicator, and whispered into it, "Prime..."
    But it was too late. The space bridge portal opened in the middle of the canyon, and the available Autobot forces flew out, transformed, and landed around Prowl and Stockade. Skywarp flew down from the north cliff of the canyon, carrying Checkpoint. Having served Skywarp's purpose, he was dropped unceremoniously at Optimus Prime's feet. The jolt of landing on the ground threw Checkpoint into a semblance of consciousness. With flickering eyes and a mouth bleeding energon, he looked up at Optimus, and spoke. "Op...timus... forgive... me..." Checkpoint, surrounded by his brethren, fell into stasis lock.
    In the distance they heard Megatron's hysterical laughter. "Welcome to your last day, Autobots, hah hah HAH HAHAHAHAHA!!! I've waited a long time for this, Optimus Prime, and rest assured, your spark will bleed through my fingers as I rip you apart with my bare hands!!"
    Jetfire spoke next. "Optimus, it's like there's a damn platoon of Decepticons for each of us here!!"
    After pulling out a grenade tab with his teeth, Camshaft spat, "Then let's get to work!! YeeaAAAAGH!!!" He lobbed the grenade at 10 o'clock, and ran towards 2 o'clock.
    Optimus barked, "Autobots! Scatter and attack!!" With that, he flew into the air, and summoned forth his combine drones. Jetfire strafed the south cliff, laying down a serious wall of fire into the Decepticon troops. The first few, hit with the initial rounds, exploded on impact. The last group of them, however, reacted in time and perforated Jetfire's wings with return fire. Tidal Wave reached up, and smacked Jetfire's cockpit with such force that it sent the Autobot into a topspin. He transformed before hitting the ground, then fell into an inertia-driven somersault. He shook his head to knock the loose screws out, and looked up to find himself face to face with a dozen Decepticons, lead by Starscream. He had an evil, waste-consuming grin on his face. Weakly, Jetfire started, "Take it to the Pit, Decepticreep..." and then threw a leg up into Starscream's crotch, sending him flying. Starscream's brigade began to rain down upon Jetfire, beating him until he laid there, exhausted.
    Ironhide caught this exchange from across the battlefield, and paused for a brief instant before Hot Shot sped up to him, transformed, and shouted, "Hey, Ironhide, let's powerlinx!!"
    Ironhide had never powerlinxed with his idol before, but he did not hesitate. He formed the lower half, and Hot Shot connected up top. Hot Shot's basic robot mode arms extended over his powerlinx shoulders, and twin rocket launchers appeared. "RrrraaaAAAGH!!" HotHide battle cried, and sprinted across the field. Punching holes in Decepticons with his fists as he ran, he made a bee line for his fallen comrade. Within a minute, he had dragged Jetfire into a closed off portion of the canyon to protect him, and headed back into battle. However, the super Autobot was cut down shortly thereafter, and upon disengaing, the two Autobots lay on the field, with barely enough energy to stay awake.
    The battle was faring similarly for the rest of the Autobots. Stockade and Prowl found themselves trapped into a crevice by half a dozen large, hulking Decepticons. The troops were closing in on the brothers, a few powering up their guns, the rest preferring a more hands-on approach. "You two are fried. Even with your little powerlinx, you still won't have enough strength to fight... all of us," their leader said, as his hand gestured majestically at his troops.
    "Any ideas?"
    "Yeah. Prepare for the Spiderlinx."
    "The wha - oh yeah!! Let's do it!"
    Prowl and Stockade prepared to powerlinx. But rather than forming a larger, more powerful robot, the two linxed at their chests, as their limbs flew backwards. Their heads burrowed into their bodies, and all four limbs took on insectile appearance. Prowl's side grew eyes that lit up, and his antenna began to quiver.
    Downshift had equipped the two with components that alone, seem completely ordinary, but upon powerlinx, combine to form a frequency emitter. In spider mode, it emits a frequency that causes the caution circuits of anyone within a 50-yard radius to overload nearly instantly.
    Downshift's partner, Tow-Line, added in a bonus feature - the sound of Earth cicadas, amplified, in a speakerbox next to the frequency emitter. He found it to be the most disconcerting sound he'd heard in his research of Earthen animals, and thought it would go well with the caution-overloading frequency. Suddenly, the Decepticon team was no longer as brazen, as weapons dropped to the ground. Some slowly stepped backwards; others, paralyzed with fear, simply dropped to their knees. One actually blew his own head off, rather than face what he must've felt would be a far worse fate. ProKade crawled over the whimpering Decepticons, shorting out their cranial circuits, thus buying them some time to escape the crevice. They moved towards the center of the battlefield, and what seemed like an endless barrage of Decepticons took the places of their fallen comrades. They were led by Cyclonus, who was shrieking like a hyena. "Your little trick won't work on me. I already fried my caution circuits!!" he screamed, and with that, began firing on ProKade.
    "Ha, ha, and here's one more thing to tip the.. hehe.. balance!!" he continued, and lobbed an equillibrium grenade at the Autobot spider. It exploded in the air, and shorted out Prowl and Stockade's equillibrium circuits. This caused them to disengage, and fall flat to the ground. They were out of commission, their surroundings spinning violently in their field of vision. "Prowl...uggh... I can't"
    Optimus, his battle drones long since wrecked in the battle, dove behind a rock formation, and opened up his helmet communicator. "Omega Supreme! This is Optimus Prime, do you read me? OMEGA?!" He switched channels. "OMEGA SUPREME!" Nothing but static. He changed channels again. "Bulkhead? Bulkhead, can you hear me?!" Nothing. "What the hell's going on?!"
    "Oh, OPTIMUS..." Slugslinger screamed across the field in singsong. Optimus followed the voice, and looked up. Slugslinger was floating in the air, and holding up an unconscious Tow-Line. "I borrowed your radio, but I'll give it back when I'm done, okay?" With that, he flew off, laughing. Optimus sighed - Slugslinger was using Tow-Line's transmission jamming properties to block the battlefield from calling for backup. He looked back and forth, and noticed that his bots had all met similar fates to Ironhide and Hot Shot - most were in stasis lock, some were in pieces. His scanners showed that none were permanently offline; however, things did not bode well for the Autobot commander.
    From behind, he heard slow, heavy footsteps. "Optimus..." Optimus immediately tensed up, and slowly raised to his feet. In front of him, the fires of the battle reflected in his optics, and he realized just how exhausted he was. He didn't even bother to go that far back in his memory files to recall a day in which his team had been so soundly devastated by the Decepticons. He knew he wouldn't find one. His arms and legs were covered in cracks near the combine junctures. His left windshield had cracked, and his right one was completely blown out. The voice from behind him continued. "This day has been a long time coming, old friend." Optimus turned to face his nemesis.
    Megatron continued, "You know, after destroying you, I really don't know what I'm going to do with myself. I thought of destroying the Earth, but that just wouldn't be as satisfying without seeing your reaction. Then, I thought..."
    While he was pontificating, Optimus Prime reached the end of his patience. He snapped, "Oh, for the love of Primus, don't you EVER shut up?!" and punched Megatron square in the face. Sparks travelled up Optimus' right arm from the impact. Dazzled for an instant, Megatron gave Optimus the opportunity to close in. Optimus grabbed Megatron's horns, broke them both off, and jammed them deep into Megatron's eyes. Megatron bellowed in a mixture of pain and rage.
    Leader-1 piloted Megatron's tank module towards her tormentor. She activated the anti-grav components, and prepared the module for powerlinx. "I don't need my optics to vaporize you, Autobot scrap!" Megatron barked. The module flew up, and connected with Megatron's right forearm with a deep, final, electronic clamping sound. "I...don't.....nuh..." Megatron faltered. He then stood straight, at attention. With his left hand, he pulled his horns out of his optical sockets, and with a face completely lacking of any emotion or response, aimed his barrel directly at Optimus Prime's face. He then swung twenty degrees to the right, and began firing. A blazing, seemingly unending blast of energy flowed out of Megatron's tank barrel. It tore through a platoon of Decepticon forces, and sent them to their maker.
    It stopped spewing energy long enough for Megatron to bodily turn 90 degrees to the right, and fire at Demolishor's head. When Megatron's ordnance collided with Demolishor's head, it was an empty shell that was promptly vaporized. Thanks to a failsafe, his memory and personality had instantly transfered into an auxillary storage unit in his chest. But, devoid of any connection to his sensory array, Demolishor immediatly entered stasis-lock and the headless robot dropped to the ground.
    Megatron retargeted, and aimed at Cyclonus. His arm faltered a little, but then renewed its efforts to target Cyclonus. He lasered a circle, cutting through Cyclonus' wings, arms, legs, and tail rudder. It stopped after carving into the right side of Cyclonus' head, stopping in the middle of his right optic lens. Cyclonus groaned, and fell to the ground.
    The onslaught continued, as Megatron sliced through all the legs of another Decepticon platoon. His arm grew more unsteady. Starscream flew in towards him after catching his breath from all the pandemonium. "Megatron, you've got to stop this!!" Megatron only shook more, but continued on his path of destruction. Starscream pulled his energon sword from off his wing, and with all his might, came swinging down onto Megatron's arm. He severed it near the shoulder. Megatron uttered, "Yeeaaagh!!" and then fell over. He behaved as though he had just recovered from drowning. Sparks flew from the severed edges of his arm stump. Megatron shook his head back and forth, and crawled forth with his left hand searching. He came upon his tank module. Leader-1 disengaged, and transformed, and was about to jump off when Megatron snatched her from mid-air. He manipulated her in his hand to get to her lower back, where a small black area shaped like a tombstone resided. He jammed it with his thumb, which sent Leader-1 first into seizures, then into stasis-lock. "Decepticons...retreat! RETREAT!!" With that, the remaining Decepticons took off, to return to HQ. A Battle Ravage drone picked up Leader-1 in its mouth, and flew off with a Divebomb drone. Megatron slowly transformed, sparks still flying from his severed arm, and took off. Tidal Wave grabbed the tank module, which still had Megatron's arm attached, put it in his storage compartment, transformed, and followed his leader home.
    Back at Autobase, Smokestreak's terminal sparked to life.
    Tow-line had landed about twenty feet from Optimus, after having been unceremoniously dumped onto the field by Slugslinger. He was just coming back on-line when Optimus approached him. "Prime, I.. I couldn't--"
    "Forget it, Tow-Line." Prime helped his communications officer back onto his feet. "Let's collect our troops together." They looked across the battlefield, and saw nothing but severely damaged Autobots and fire. Tow-Line closed his optics for a moment, trying to rid himself of the thought that this was his fault - after all, he blocked communication during the battle, even if he was offline.
    "Optimus!!" The Autobot leader turned to see who was calling his name. It was Camshaft. He was holding his right arm in his left hand, and slowly limping over to Optimus. "They ain't got me yet!" He was breathing heavily. Optimus helped him reattach his arm as best as he could - he hadn't done first-aid in years, but he still remembered his training. The three Autobots then began bringing their brethren together, and called for Omega Supreme to pick them up and take them back to HQ for repairs.
    As they flew home, Hot Shot hobbled up to Optimus, who was staring out the window at the scenery flying past. "Anything on your mind, sir?"
    "Eh... I'm just wondering, Hot Shot, what could've caused the tide to turn the way it did. Somehow, we made it out alive - all of us. None of us should've left that field alive, but somehow..."
    Leader-1 awoke to find that she was strapped down to a chair of some sort. She was alone in what she thought was some dark, forgotten chamber of Decepticon HQ. Her internal clock revealed to her that an Earth-week had passed since her last memory of controlling Megatron. She felt particularly drained, as each circuit and servo screamed with her every slight move. Without warning, the door phased open, and light poured into the room. The light became a frame for a hulking silhouette, which beheld two ruby lights under the figure's crown. It walked through the door, and the lights in the room slowly came on as the silhouetted figure spread his wings. The figure's ruby lights narrowed to slits. It was Megatron.
    Leader-1 did her best to show no emotion on her face. She tried to stare through her tormentor, as if he were not in front of her. Megatron stood in front of the chair Leader-1 was attached to. He had it raised so the two mechs could see optic to optic. The chair then flattened out, and assumed a vertical position. Leader-1 noticed that Megatron's face was taller than she herself was.
    "Are you surprised by my actions?" Leader-1 spat at Megatron.
    Each second passed with interminable delay. Megatron made no motion.
    "Y'know, for all your power, and all your might, how does it feel to know that you STILL NEEDED ME!?" she screamed at him. "I couldn't see it at the time, but I could feel the look on your face when we powerlinxed. And I'll savor that look until my spark bursts - a look of helplessness and confusion, on the 'great and powerful Megatron'. I've waited a long time for this day, Megatron."
    With another push of a button, an array of surrveilance cameras flipped out of the wall, and monitors revealed the scene being played out in the room from different angles. Decepticons, Terrorcons and Minicons alike around the compound stopped what they were doing to look at the events occurring in the interrogation room.
    Megatron had never in all of his existence felt such an indignance. He was, after all, Megatron, conqueror of conquerors. He bowed to nobody, and was complete master of his destiny. He had even overcome death and digestion at the hands of Unicron, the Chaos-Bringer, and come out the better for it.
    Because of all this, and his inherent prejudice against Minicons, he was fit to be tied at the thought of his body, his very existence, being under the control of a lowly creature like Leader-1. He felt violated, and to feel violated meant to be vulnerable. And Megatron was not vulnerable. Not if he was to achieve his destiny as Ruler of All. No, Megatron must be invincible. So, in order to show his impenetrable position, he had only one course of action to take. Of course, he secretly delighted in it, but that was also irrelevant.
    Leader-1 looked straight at Megatron's face. It seemed completely devoid of all emotion; in fact, if it wasn't for the mechanical whirrs and buzzes going on underneath Megatron's skin, Leader-1 would have thought she was face to face with a statue. She had incurred Megatron's wrath in the past, and it was no oil bath. But it was nothing like this. Over the million or so earth-years she spent in Megatron's service, she had grown accustomed to Megatron's tirades. She also withstood all of Megatron's physical punishments, knowing secretly that Megatron would never permanently put her out of commission. No, he needed Leader-1 for what the Minicon could provide him. So Leader-1 did not fear Megatron's reactions to her now-and-again attempts at obtaining her freedom. She could almost "mouth along" with the lectures, almost call where she would be punched, kicked, or tossed against a wall. Megatron was so predictable in the punishment department.
    Today was not the case. Still, she was ready.
    Meanwhile, in another room, Stormcloud, Oceanglide, and Waterlog were sitting on a bench, in front of a much smaller monitor. They were glued to the screen as well, but not out of morbid curiosity like Skywarp and Thundercracker. Instead, they watched with resentment brewing at both parties on the screen.
    "I don't believe me optics, mateys," Waterlog spoke.
    "That fool has ruined EVERYTHING!" Stormcloud interjected. "You know who's going to catch the aft end of this? It's US, that's who! Everyone knows how much Megatron hates us Minicons! The way he always calls us Snap-Ons--"
    Waterlog and Oceanglide shuddered slightly at the utterance of the Cybertronian racial slurr.
    "-- and now, we're gonna have to be extra careful just staying out of his way, all the while making sure we don't make slag out of our assignments! She deserves everything she gets! Remember when Blackout spoke his mind? All us Minies together in one room with Megatron, and he decides he's had enough. Mouths off to Megs. And without warning, Megatron makes a smoking crater of where the Road Wrecker team was standing. They had nothing to do with Blackout's stepping out of line, and they died! Lemme ask you - how long before he puts out our sparks for something one of our kind does?!" Stormcloud walked away from the screen at that point.
    Oceanglide still looked at the screen. He remembered that day, too. Megatron had said with frustration, "Demolishor, is this the kind of behavior you permit your Minicon to display?" He then grabbed his tank barrel, aimed it at the Road Wrecker team, who had been standing at attention, completely still, and fired. They were no more. With speed that belied his hulking frame, Megatron leaned down, scooped up Blackout, and held him up to his face. Blackout hung limp, scared to breathe. "See how many Snap-Ons back you up the next time you open your mouth, Blackout." With that, Megatron dropped Blackout carelessly, and walked off.
    No one could see the sadness behind Oceanglide's visor, and his body language was mute. Yes, he knew that Leader-1's act was stupid, suicidal even. But he also knew the source of such maniacal plans -- the desire to be free. He made a pact long ago to be master of his destiny on the wrong side of the war rather than be manipulated by the right, but has spent most of that time upholding that pact only in the interest of continuing his proper functioning. He knew that Tidal Wave valued his team's assistance, but would terminate them without hesitation at Megatron's slightest whim; loyalty never trickles down in the Decepticon ranks. Leader-1's current situation only shined a light on the Sea team's helpless position to the three ocean-faring Minicons.
    Back in the interrogation room, Megatron finally moved. He put one massive finger on Leader-1's chest. Again, Leader-1 made a size comparison, noting that Megatron's finger was nearly as wide as Leader-1's entire chassis. 'How strange,' she thought, 'that this is what I think of at times like this.' Megatron only applied enough pressure to hold Leader-1 in place, with the precision only a mechanical being was capable of. Leader-1's shackles gave, and she was held in place by Megatron's finger alone. She then found herself sitting in Megatron's hand, the fingers towering over her. She carefully made sure not to get her hand caught in the crevices between the hand's moving parts.
    Thundercracker, watching from another room in the compound, leaned in to Skywarp and said, "Two cubes she's fried."
    "You're on."
    Each member of the Sea team, with no knowledge of their teammates' actions, had absentmindedly been whittling knives out of the Earth-wood they liked to collect.
    Leader-1 looked up at Megatron's face. She had nothing more to say. As she looked at Megatron staring right back at him, she noticed a hint of shame. And she knew she was finished. She closed her eyes, and stood at attention.
    "Till all are one," she said to herself.
    Megatron closed his hand upon Leader-1, and crushed the Minicon into a fine dust, letting the minute remains of his former servant sift through his fist. And every robot in the compound stared at the monitors, jaws agape, optics plastered wide open.
    Smokestreak walked into the terminal room a few hours after the Autobots arrived back at Autobase. To his surprise, the monitor was blinking an alert. He ran over, sat down, and his jaw dropped. "HOLY SLAG! Streetwise, get in here!!" His brother rushed into the room, and skidded to a halt a foot from Smokestreak's seat. Incredulously, he said, "The disc opened." There was a mixture of sorrow and excitement in the aura between the two brothers. They knew that Leader-1 was dead; it was the only way the disc would open. They looked at each other, and Streetwise nodded at the screen. Smokestreak opened up the first file in the newly opened folder, and as data streamed down the monitor like a monochrome, digital waterfall, Smokestreak became more excited than he had been in his whole existence. "You do realize what this is, right, Streetwise?"
    Streetwise couldn't speak. He merely nodded. The datastream stopped, and Smokestreak got up from his seat. He went over to the counter across the room from the terminal, and poured two beakers of Energon. He handed one to his brother, and he initiated a human custom that he had learned. "To Leader-1," he toasted, as he held his beaker high. "To Leader-1," Streetwise repeated, and they clinked beakers.
    At the Decepticon HQ, the Sea Team was on duty. Each of them had whittled a wooden replica of Tidal Wave's three separate vehicle modes. They laid the replicas on the floor between them, and set them on fire. As they watched the flames devour their sculptures, Oceanglide's comm link opened on his wrist. Tidal Wave's face appeared on the screen. "Report to the bay at once, Sea Team." Oceanglide didn't respond, and ended the communique. This was his usual response; Tidal Wave never questioned their loyalty, thus no vocal response was necessary. He knew they'd simply come at his beck and call. Oceanglide wanted to make sure today seemed no different. The trio left for the bay.
    Three minutes later, they arrived at Tidal Wave's feet. Their commander spoke. "Oceanglide, Megatron has ordered us on a new mission. We are to head to Ocean City and--"
    Tidal Wave cocked his head at an angle, and squinted at the diminuitive mechs. "I'm sorry, my audio receptors must be on the fritz. I could've sworn you told me no. In the middle of my sentence, no less."
    "Nope, Two-Bit. Your receptors are fine. Your processor's slagged, but your receptors are fine."
    "Watch yourself, Oceanglide. You're acting like you have a choice. Let me remind you -- you don't."
    "Go input your output, slagsucker!" Stormcloud interjected.
    "Yarr, if you were short-circuiting, I wouldn't purge used coolant on you to put you out," came Waterlog with his two Energon chips.
    "In fact, YOU better watch yourself, Two-Bit, or we'll use your optic sensors as crude oil receptacles! The next time you open your fat slaggin' mouth, we'll feed you our pet Kremzeek, and see how that frags your drive!!"
    "THAT'S IT!" Tidal Wave bellowed, and reached down to scoop up Oceanglide, Waterlog, and Stormcloud like a game of Cybertronian Jacks. They knew he was going to force powerlinx with them. They grinned at each other in anticipation.


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