Part 3 – Power Hungry
Chapter One – Gone But Not Forgotten
The gentle undulating motion of the Pacific Ocean was suddenly disturbed by the slipstream of five Decepticon jets flying at low altitude across the smooth surface, whipping up spray as they rocketed past. The jets spread out across the ocean in a search pattern. Hovering in the air above them was the Decepticon leader, Megatron.
“Spread out! Find any traces of the Autobots. I want to know if they are truly dead,” he called down. Only minutes before he had watched as a well-aimed missile from Ramjet had sent the Autobot Skyfire crashing into the sea. On board had been the majority of the Autobots on Earth. The rest were lying in pieces on the battlefield back at his new Australian headquarters.
Routed in battle by the supercharged Megatron, the Autobots had been fleeing for their miserable lives when they were shot down. With any luck that would be the last he ever saw of them. Without the Autobots' interference this planet would be at his mercy. Once its population was enslaved he could return to Cybertron and begin his conquest of the Universe.
“Megatron!” Thrust's voice came across Megatron's comm. system. He looked and saw that Thrust had transformed and was hovering over the ocean. He had found something. Rather than reply Megatron flew over to where Thrust was hovering.
“Megatron, look,” said Thrust gesturing to the ocean below. Floating atop the surface was a spreading black stain. Autobot fuel.
Megatron was gleeful, “Excellent, the Autobots have taken their final journey. Thrust take note of these coordinates. We will send down a salvage squad to recover their remains. They may come in useful for spare parts.” Megatron laughed uncontrollably.
* * * * *
Back at the Deception base, Soundwave was organising the cleanup operation. The bodies of several Autobots littered the surrounding area. These would need to be disposed of, but as yet he had received no order from Megatron on what he wanted doing with them. He may wish to interrogate any survivors. So Soundwave had set guards over the fallen Autobots to ensure no survivors managed to escape.
The Constructicons were busy rebuilding the outer walls that had been damaged in the Autobot attack. The remaining Decepticons were picking up debris and stacking it ready for recycling.
Soundwave looked up as the sound of jet engines filled the sky. The Seekers flew down, transformed and landed in the courtyard. Megatron followed behind them.
“Soundwave,” said Megatron. “I want a storage area constructed to hold the bodies of the Autobots. Have the Constructicons concentrate on that task before returning to the defences. The Autobots are no more. Nothing can stand against us now.”
“As you wish Megatron,” replied Soundwave.
Megatron turned to the Seekers that were still standing nearby. “Dirge, Thrust, Ramjet, I have a job for you,” he said, “go to the Autobot's headquarters, destroy any Autobots that remain there and then I want you to blow the place sky high.”
* * * * *
They had been walking for what seemed like hours through the deserted streets of Dishender. Starscream followed his Autobot guide with increasing impatience. Not so long before he had been a prisoner inside the Autobot resistance's underground headquarters.
That is until his mysterious guide had released him and led him back out onto the planet's surface. He still could not remember how he had arrived on Cybertron along with Optimus Prime. Why was this Autobot helping him and where was he taking him? They were heading through the city, going east, towards the edge of the city.
Ahead of him Starscream saw a tall building appear out of the gloom. It was heavily damaged in its upper storeys, being little more than a shell. The blackness of space was visible through the twisted metal frame. It seemed however that this was the place that they were making for.
“Where are you taking me?” Starscream asked the Autobot.
“Some of my friends wish to meet you,” he said turning to face Starscream. “No no, they're not Autobots,” he continued seeing the look on Starscream's face.
“You work for the Decepticons?” Starscream said incredulously. Autobot traitors were regrettably all too rare.
“Not…exactly,” said the Autobot after a pause.
“But then who…?”
“All your questions will be answered very soon Starscream. For now just follow me,” and with that the Autobot turned and continued picking his way through the debris filled streets.
* * * * *
“Shockwave, status report!” Megatron's image on the view screen demanded.
“Cybertron continues to be energy sufficient, Megatron. I have scheduled the release of a number of Decepticons from cryo-hibernation,” said Shockwave.
“And the Autobot resistance on Cybertron?” Megatron asked, as Shockwave knew that he was going too.
“I am afraid that I have lost contact with the Predacons. It appears that they have either been captured or destroyed.”
“I want the Autobots destroyed Shockwave,” said Megatron angrily. “I don't care how many Decepticons it takes. Find them and destroy them.”
“Yes Megatron,” said Shockwave humbly.
“Don't fail me Shockwave,” Megatron said coldly. “I want the Seacons taken out of cyro-hibernation and transported to Earth as soon as possible,” he continued.
“As you wish Megatron.”
Megatron's image flickered and died as the screen went black. Shockwave turned and walked away from the viewscreen deep in thought. The Predacons were the best trackers that the Decepticons had ever had. They had disappeared while investigating Dishender. That could only mean that they had found the Autobots who had then attacked and…? What had happened to them?
Dishender was obviously an Autobot base. Perhaps the best way to deal with it was to destroy the city utterly and take the Autobots with it.
* * * * *
Starscream and his mysterious guide had now reached the base of the tower. They'd had to clamber over huge chunks of wreckage that littered the streets before approaching the bottom of the tower.
A heavy metal door barred their way inside the tower. It seemed to Starscream somewhat incongruous that such a sturdy door still stood in such a heavily damaged tower.
The Autobot looked around cautiously, presumably making sure that no spy was observing them. He then stepped forward and pulled a loose metal plate away from the wall. Underneath was a keypad. Positioning himself so that Starscream couldn't see what he was typing, he entered a code sequence and the door slid open. He replaced the metal plate and gestured Starscream inside.
“What's in there?” Starscream asked suspiciously.
“Nothing to be afraid of,” the Autobot said.
“Starscream is afraid of nothing,” Starscream snapped and he stepped inside. The Autobot, a slight smile etching the corners of his mouth followed after him.
Once inside the door slid shut behind them. For a few seconds they stood in darkness and then lights flickered on illuminating a small bare room. Several other doors were dotted around the walls. At the far side of the room the wall curved outwards in the centre. Another door was set into this curved section.
The Autobot walked over and pushed a button on a control panel next to the door. The door slid open to reveal an elevator. The Autobot entered and beckoned Starscream inside. Once he was inside the Autobot pressed one of the floor buttons, the door closed and the elevator began to move upwards.
It continued upwards for about two minutes and Starscream began to panic. The upper storeys were utterly destroyed. What would happen if the elevator went too high? Had this Autobot rescued him just to kill him?
“Relax Starscream,” the Autobot said, obviously seeing his discomfort. “All your questions will soon be answered.”
The elevator slowed to a halt and the door slid open with a hiss. The Autobot stepped out and Starscream followed nervously. They were in a corridor, one side lined with windows overlooking the ravaged city. To Starscreams amazement the windows were intact, yet they were obviously near the top of the building, the part that he'd seen from the ground as a mere shell.
“What is this place?” he asked his guide, but the Autobot ignored him and began walking towards a door at the far end of the corridor. Starscream followed him, intrigued.
The door slid open at their approach and the walked through into a large room furnished as both an office and a living quarters. A large desk stood near to the huge windows, again intact. But that wasn't what caught Starscream's attention.
His gaze was drawn towards the opposite wall, where a huge purple logo had been painted. He recognised it as a Decepticon insignia, but it had been altered. A jagged cut ran through the middle of it. The right hand side of the logo was rotated to a slight angle. It gave the impression of a Decepticon insignia that had been torn in two.
“What is this place?” Starscream asked again.
“Welcome Starscream,” a voice said from behind him. “I've been looking forward to meeting you again.”
Starscream turned at the voice. A tall green and black Transformer stepped into the room through one of the other doors. Starscream recognised him at once. He hadn't seen him for millions of years, not since the early days of the war.
“You!” he cried.
Chapter Two – Absent Friends
Shockwave sat in his control centre deep in thought. The newly repowered Cybertron now had the resources he needed to destroy Dishender completely and take all the Autobots hidden there with it. A well-placed neutroplasma bomb would obliterate the entire city.
He had just decided to contact the nearest munitions factory and place an order when a green and black Seeker entered the control room with a concerned look on his face.
“Turbulence, have you revived the Seacons from cryo-hibernation?” Shockwave asked.
“Yes commander,” Turbulence said. “However we have discovered something worrying in the hibernation complex.”
“What is it?” Shockwave asked irritably.
“I think it is something that you would want to see for yourself,” Turbulence replied.
Shockwave was puzzled, but Turbulence was usually very reliable and so he said, “Very well. I will accompany you.”
* * * * *
Optimus Prime stood atop the lookout post and surveyed the ruined city below him. He well remembered the devastation of the city all those millions of years before. It had happened not long after his creation. Many good Autobots had died in the attack and some of the finest scientific minds had been among them.
He had been standing there for almost eight hours now. He had asked Ultra Magnus, the leader of the Autobot resistance faction, to be given something useful to do but where he was able to think by himself for a while.
Ultra Magnus had suggested, tentatively given Optimus' rank, guard duty. Prime had accepted readily. He was now stood atop a tower in a ruined pumping station near the centre of the city. He had a lot of things on his mind.
Firstly, he still couldn't remember how he had ended up on Cybertron. The damage he had taken was severe. Brainstorm had told him that his memory should return once his neural pathways had sorted themselves out. The transfer process that had placed his mind inside his new body was a stressful time and he needed time to recover.
He knew that he had to get back to Earth, he was sure that he was needed there but he didn't know why he knew that. Ultra Magnus had agreed to help him return to Earth, but that meant using the space bridge inside Decepticon Headquarters. Ultra Magnus was making arrangements to infiltrate the Decepticon stronghold even now.
His new body was also a source of concern for him. He had been created as a Powermaster. A small Autobot called Hi-Q, who transformed into his engine, now regulated his Energon supply. This granted him greater energy efficiency but it also meant one more person he had to protect.
He also wasn't comfortable with the offensive abilities of Hi-Q. Powermaster companions were able to drain energy from almost any source, including other Transformers. That meant that they could be used as a weapon against other living beings.
Prime wasn't really sure why that bothered him, after all was it really that much different to a gun? Yet at least with a gun the target quite often died instantly, being drained of energy must be excruciatingly painful. Prime shook his head, yet another price of war.
“I'm only a weapon if you use me as one,” a voice came into his head suddenly.
Prime cursed himself. He'd forgotten that he now shared a mental link to his partner. He had been thinking too loud.
“I'm sorry Hi-Q,” he thought back. “I just need time to adjust.”
He went back into his thoughts again. What of the Autobots back on Earth? Did they know he was here or even that he was alive? And what was happening on Earth in his absence?
* * * * *
“I tell you guys something's wrong,” said Bumblebee. “We haven't heard anything from Ironhide in hours and we can't reach him on the communications relay.”
The Autobots that had been left behind to guard the Ark were all assembled in the main control room.
“Hey chill out there little bugbuddy,” said Beachcomber. “It's not unusual for communications to be lost during battle.”
“Yeah,” said Windcharger, “I'm sure we'll get some news soon. What do you say Gears?”
“I…” but Gears was interrupted by an alarm coming from Teletraan-I. The Autobots ran over to the display. At first all they saw was the radar screen showing three fast moving blips, heading their way.
Bumblebee rapidly pressed buttons to bring the SkySpy online and aimed at the source of the alert.
“I think we've got a problem,” he said.
There was silence in the room as the Autobots looked at the screen showing the three Decepticon Seekers, Dirge, Thrust, and Ramjet. They were in jet mode flying in formation and they were heading towards the Ark.
* * * * *
Shockwave entered the hibernation complex and followed Turbulence down to some of the lowest levels. He walked over to a group of Decepticons that were talking nervously to one another.
“What is all this?” asked Shockwave.
One of the Decepticons stepped forward and said, “Commander we set about reviving the Decepticons that you requested but we discovered this,” he gestured to the cryo-chamber they were standing next to.
Shockwave turned to look at the chamber. It was empty.
“So? Why is an empty chamber sufficient grounds to disturb me, Devil Spawn?”
“But commander, it isn't supposed to be empty,” Devil Spawn replied, “and neither are the others,” and he gestured around the complex.
Shockwave looked around and saw a number of empty cryo-chambers. Not all the chambers on this level were empty but a large number of them were.
“We did an inventory while we waited for you commander,” Devil Spawn said. “This is a list of the missing Decepticons,” and he handed Shockwave a datapad.
Shockwave looked down at the list in shock. How had this happened and where were these Decepticons now?
“I want a full investigation of this,” he said to Devil Spawn. “I want to know how this happened and where these Decepticons are now.”
* * * * *
“What are we gonna do?” Bumblebee asked.
The room was silent. Once they had realised that the Decepticons were headed towards the Ark , Windcharger had sent for Ratchet and they began to discuss their situation. According to Teletran they had approximately one hour until the Decepticons arrived.
“Ratchet, are either Jazz or Prowl in any state to help us yet?” asked Windcharger.
“No. Jazz is going to be offline for sometime. It may be possible to reactivate Prowl at this point but it might cause him serious damage, his internal injuries aren't fully healed yet.”
“What choice do we have though,” asked Gears. “These Decepticons will obliterate them if they find them.”
“There's only one thing to do,” said Windcharger. “Ratchet you will have to take Jazz and Prowl away from the Ark. Then the four of us will stay behind and handle the Decepticons.”
“Whoa,” said Beachcomber. “Just what good are we going to be against three heavily armed Decepticons?”
“We'll just have to do our best,” said Bumblebee. “I think Windcharger is right. We can't leave Jazz and Prowl to be torn to pieces and they'll just get in the way if we try and keep them with us. At least this way we have a chance.”
“I can't just leave you guys here,” said Ratchet.
“Yes you can Ratchet,” said Windcharger. “Your job is to look after the sick. Jazz and Prowl need you more than we do.”
The other Autobots seated around the table nodded their agreement.
“Its settled then,” continued Windcharger. “Ratchet, get yourself, Jazz and Prowl away from here as soon as you can. Don't come back here until you hear from us.”
It took Ratchet a further fifteen minutes to gather together medical equipment and supplies before he was ready. He then transformed to his ambulance mode and Windcharger and Gears helped slide Jazz and Prowl inside him.
Ratchet attempted to protest one last time but was silenced by Windcharger. Giving in, Ratchet drove away quickly over the desert road as fast as he could. Before he was out of site the others had turned and headed back towards the Ark. They had ten minutes before the Decepticons arrived.
Chapter Three - Renegades
“Its good to see you again Starscream, its been such a long time.”
“Sixshot?” said Starscream. “Is it really you?”
“It is indeed my friend,” said Sixshot.
“What happened to you? I thought Megatron had melted you down,” said Starscream.
“Ha,” laughed Sixshot. “So that's what he told you is it. Perhaps he didn't want you to think about rescuing me. After he discovered our little plot he had me sent to the cyro-chambers.”
“The cryo-chambers!” said Starscream. “And you've been there all this time?”
“Actually I haven't been in them for the last two Stellar-Cycles,” said Sixshot. “I will tell you all that has happened, in time, there is much you need to know. You can be a great help to us. But first there are other matters that I must deal with.”
With this he turned to the Autobot that had helped Starscream to escape. He had been standing quietly off to one side while Starscream and Sixshot talked together.
“Doubledealer,” said Sixshot. “Your report.”
Doubledealer stepped forward. “The Autobots have successfully implemented the Powermaster process on four of their number including Optimus Prime,” he said. “Prime appears to have recovered fully. They used the Ginrai project to house his mind so it would appear that they have either abandoned that or are going to restart it from the beginning. I have downloaded all the technical details” he handed Sixshot a datapad.
“And the Lifespark?” Sixshot asked.
“The portable unit is now completed. Only one unit has been created. From what I have heard, Ultra Magnus has a few doubts about Lifespark and isn't yet ready to make full use of it.”
“The cowardly idiot,” Sixshot said in disgust. “We need the Lifespark, Doubledealer. Without it we can't produce our own Powermasters.”
“I understand. I will do all that I can. What should I do when the Autobots discover that he is missing,” Doubledealer said nodding at Starscream. “They may evacuate fearing that he will lead the Decepticons to them.”
“Take one of the holocrons and stage a little show for them,” said Sixshot after some thought. “Make it something spectacular so that they are in no doubt that Starscream is no longer a threat. Take the one in the desk over there and then return to the Autobots and continue your mission.”
Doubledealer nodded his head and walked across to a large ornate desk. He opened a drawer and took out a small device that looked a little like a video camera.
“I will need to take a scan,” he said coming back towards Starscream. Sixshot nodded and Doubledealer pointed the device at Starscream, who leaped to his feet in alarm his weapon raised to defend himself, forgetting that it was still disabled.
“Do not worry Starscream, Doubledealer merely needs to scan your exo-structure.”
Starscream cautiously lowered his arm and Doubledealer flicked a switch on the holocron and a pale blue beam emerged from the end and bathed Starscream in shimmering light.
After a few seconds Doubledealer flicked the switch off again and checked a readout on the holocron. He nodded to himself in satisfaction and then he went to one of the huge windows and pressed a control switch on the wall.
The window raised outwards. Starscream watched in amazement as Doubledealer transformed to some bird-like form. “I shall report back as soon as I can,” he said and flew out into the darkness. Sixshot pressed a button on the arm of his chair and the window quietly closed again. He turned to Starscream.
“Now! You must have a thousand questions to ask,” he said.
* * * * *
The three Decepticons transformed and landed outside the Ark 's main entrance, their weapons raised ready for any sign of defence from within the downed spacecraft. But when no Autobots issued forth they slowly lowered their blasters.
“Looks like no-one's home,” said Thrust.
“There all too busy having a swim,” said Dirge with a chuckle.
The other Seeker's laughed at the joke.
“Okay,” continued Dirge, “we'll go inside and see if there's anything worth salvaging before we take this place apart.”
“What about that?” said Ramjet pointing towards the Autobot's repair bay that stood a little off to one side.
“Scrap it,” ordered Dirge.
Ramjet and Thrust raised their arm blasters and fired at the repair bay, which exploded into flames. The Decepticons laughed again as flaming debris landed around them. Then they turned and headed towards the Ark. As they approached however, a huge metal blast door fell into place covering the exposed entrance way.
“Hey! I didn't know they had one of those,” complained Ramjet.
“Someone's inside anyway,” said Dirge. “Lets cream them.”
Stepping forward to the blast door he raised his arm and punched it with all his might. Ordinarily he wouldn't have even scratched it. But with the power of an exploded sun running through his circuits, Dirge was now immeasurably more powerful. A huge dent appeared in the smooth surface of the door. The other Decepticons came forward and added their own strength to attacking the door.
* * * * *
Inside the Ark the four remaining Autobots looked at Teletraan-I's viewscreen in disbelief as the three Decepticons began tearing the blast door apart with their bare hands.
“They must have been upgraded in the same way as Megatron,” said Windcharger.
“We're all gonna die,” said Gears resignedly.
“Shut it Gears,” snapped Bumblebee. “This isn't the time for your grumbling.”
“Think about it,” replied Gears calmly. “If they're here it means that our guys must have failed. We're on our own. We've lost. Even if we do somehow manage to beat these three we can't take on the entire Decepticon army. Its hopeless.”
The others looked at him and were silent. None of them had actually put into words what they were all thinking. The attack on the Decepticons had failed and their friends were either captured or dead. They were alone.
“Well what do you suggest,” said Bumblebee eventually. “That we surrender now or run away? That's not for me. If I'm going to die I'm going to do it fighting Decepticons, alone if I have too.”
“That goes for me too,” said Windcharger. “We might not have much chance of winning but I sure going to go down fighting.”
Beachcomber and Gears both nodded solemnly.
“Right,” continued Windcharger. “I have an idea.”
* * * * *
Brainstorm sat reading through a report that one of his technicians had handed him. He had found a few errors but so far it was a pretty good job. He looked up as the door opened. Scattershot and the other Technobots entered pushing five unconscious Decepticons strapped to medisleds.
Brainstorm stood up and walked over, “Are these the five unknown Decepticons?”
“That's right,” answered Scattershot. “I've just spoken to the commander and he wants them interrogated once they recover.”
“Very well bring them through here,” said Brainstorm leading the way to the medical centre. As he entered the room he stopped so suddenly that Scattershot almost ran into the back of him.
“What's the matter?” he asked.
“Starscream has gone!” Brainstorm replied.
* * * * *
“Megatron had known about our little scheme from the start,” Sixshot was saying. “He knew that we'd joined together to depose him and when our plan…ah, backfired the way that it did, he decided to separate us for good. You became his lieutenant where he could keep a close eye on you and I was put into cold storage.”
“Megatron told me that he'd had you thrown into the Smelting pool,” said Starscream.
Sixshot gave a bitter laugh, “No my fate was far worse. It has been a torment beyond description. Megatron decided to punish me you see. The cryo-chambers usually suspends all mental activity except at a purely subconscious level.
“But Megatron altered the programming of my chamber, ensuring that I was fully aware of my surroundings. Can you imagine it Starscream? Six million Stellar-Cycles being unable to move but being aware of the passage of time.”
Starscream winced at the very thought of such and existence.
“But Megatron made a mistake. When he concocted that insane scheme to bring Cybertron into Earth's orbit he drained the last energy reserves from the planet. While Energon supplies were rebuilt the cryo-chambers were drained of energy, running on emergency power only.
“None of the others imprisoned there noticed, they were unconscious and power was restored too quickly for them. But I was aware and I saw my chance. The loss of power gave me more mobility and restored some of my high-level mental functions. I sent a mental alert to the chamber's failsafe system, which reactivates occupants in the event of danger and triggered my release.
“Once I was free I was determined to have my revenge on Megatron. I scouted through the other cryo-chambers and selected for revival those I thought most likely to join me. Most did so; those who did not were placed back into their chambers. Then it was just a case of getting out of the complex.”
* * * * *
“Are the Seacons ready for transport to Earth?” Shockwave asked.
Devil Spawn nodded his head, “Yes commander, they are just finishing their recharge now.
“And what have you discovered about the missing Decepticons?”
“Our investigations have begun to shed some light on things commander. It appears that one of the chamber's had its emergency revival procedure triggered approximately two Stellar-Cycles ago.”
“Whose?” Shockwave asked.
“He is called Sixshot. According to our files he was imprisoned by Megatron for treason before he left Cybertron.”
“Sixshot? Yes I remember him. He was close to Starscream. Megatron decided to split them up but they were good at their jobs and he didn't want to lose both of them. In the end he felt that Starscream was less of a threat due to him being such an idiot.”
“The remaining cryo-chambers were manually deactivated,” went on Devil Spawn. “According to the log files some were then reactivated. I request permission to revive one of these occupants for questioning.”
“Approved. Have you discovered how they got out of the complex?”
“We believe we have found a flaw in the complex security procedures. The Guardian droids were only programmed to prevent anyone from entering the complex, not from leaving it.” Devil Spawn paused before continuing. “It is my belief that they just walked straight past the guard.”
* * * * *
“Having gotten past the guard we vanished into the Dead End and hid amongst the Empties there. We had been imprisoned a long time, and a lot had changed, we needed to find out as much as we could before we made a move.
“We picked up what information we could from the derelicts that inhabit the Dead End, such as it was, but it wasn't until we ran into Doubledealer that we really found out what had been going on.”
“Who is he?” Starscream asked. “I've never seen him before in either mode. I don't remember him from the old days.”
“I don't know where he came from, he keeps his secrets well. He can disguise himself as either Autobot or Decepticon. When we met him he was acting as a guard at the Smelting Pool. We had thought just to hire a mole inside the Decepticons to pass us information. As it turned out he has become much more useful.
“With the information that Doubledealer gave us we discovered all about the Ark and the Nemesis crashing on Earth and all the things that had happened since. We saw that we had a chance. With Megatron off planet, the Decepticons were weakened. If we could gain enough power we could take over.
“I decided that where you and I had gone wrong in the past was to try and take over the Decepticons from within. This time I decided that it would be different. This time I would create my own army and destroy any Decepticons that resisted.”
“As a result,” he said gesturing to the torn Decepticon logo on the wall, “we are now called the Renegades and that is our symbol.”
Chapter Four – Cat and Mouse
“Okay the explosives are set, is everyone ready?” Windcharger said into the intercom.
“Are you sure about this Windcharger? You're putting yourself in a lot of danger,” came back Bumblebee's voice.
“Positive, besides we don't have time to come up with a better plan.”
“The door has just been broken through,” came the voice of Gears.
“Okay everyone. Good luck,” said Windcharger.
* * * * *
The three Seekers stepped inside the Ark over the blasted remains of the door, their weapons raised. Meeting no resistance they walked forward down the entranceway until they reached the room that housed Teletraan-I.
“I thought I'd destroyed this rusty computer once already,” said Thrust raising his arm blaster.
“It'll take more than a rust bucket like you to destroy Teleran,” said a voice from the other end of the room.
The Seekers spun round and saw Gears aiming a pistol at them; he fired, the blast bouncing harmlessly off of Thrust's armour. Before they could react he turned and vanished through the door behind him.
The Seekers raised their weapons and fired after him, the wall of the room disintegrating under their combined firepower.
“After him,” called Dirge and the Decepticons ran after the retreating Gears, but Thrust turned before he left the room and with an evil grin on his face lifted his arm and blasted Teletraan-I. The computer exploded showering the room with fragments of glass and metal. Satisfied, Thrust turned and followed after the other Seekers.
* * * * *
The Ark shook under the explosion.
“What was that?” asked Windcharger over the intercom.
“At a guess,” came Gears' voice, “I'd say Teletraan-I.”
“Damn it, I thought the distraction might save Teletran,” cursed Windcharger.
“The problem is, the Decepticons know they have us outgunned and aren't too worried about catching us quickly,” put in Bumblebee.
“There's nothing we can do about it now. If Teletran is the only thing we lose today we'll be doing well,” said Gears.
“You're right Gears. Are they still following you?” said Windcharger.
“I think so. Beachcomber are you ready?”
“As I'll ever be,” said Beachcomber.
* * * * *
“Where'd he go?” asked Ramjet.
The corridor forked at this point, one way continuing the way they had been heading, the second branching off to the right and sloping steeply upwards before bending round to the left.
“Don't know,” said Thrust.
“Hey, you guys! You looking for me?” Beachcomber called from the top of the branching corridor. He transformed to beach buggy mode and drove off along the corridor as laser fire blew huge chunks out of the corridor.
“What are these Autobots up to?” asked Ramjet.
“They're just delaying the inevitable,” said Dirge. “Come on, let's get them.”
The Decepticons ran up the corridor after Beachcomber. Once they had disappeared from sight, Gears made his way back down the main corridor where he had been hiding. He stopped and listened for any sign of the Decepticons coming back and then headed off towards the main entrance.
The new corridor continued to slope upwards but doing so less steeply now. The Decepticons pounded down the corridors after Beachcomber, occasionally firing their weapons at his fleeing vehicle mode.
“Get ready Bumblebee,” said Beachcomber over the intercom. “They're almost here.”
The corridor in front of Beachcomber again split, this time into three. Each corridor was heading pretty much the same way. They led to the Ark 's shuttle bays. The Ark had three shuttles to be used in cases of emergency. Not powerful enough for interstellar flight they were designed as escape modules.
After they had awoken, the Autobots had been surprised to discover that one of the shuttles was missing. It had apparently been launched after the Ark had crashed because it had blasted its way through the side of the volcano.
The Autobots assumed that the impact had caused the shuttle to launch and that it had crashed and been destroyed. Its wreckage lost over the following four million years.
Now a second shuttle was going to follow in the first's footsteps, hopefully. Beachcomber checked behind him. He had outpaced his pursuers who were not yet in sight. He zoomed up the corridor leading to the jettisoned shuttle and screeched to a halt out of sight of the main corridor.
In his turn Bumblebee, hiding in the third corridor transformed to vehicle mode and drove back down the corridor towards the approaching Decepticons. They appeared at the end of the corridor and gave a shout at the sight of him. Bumblebee, as though not expecting them, screeched to a halt and turned and drove at top speed back up the third corridor.
The Decepticons running down the corridor followed after him. Beachcomber, once he had heard them pass zoomed back down the main corridor to rendezvous with Gears near the Ark 's entrance.
Bumblebee drove like a mad thing down the corridor. He could hear the sound of the Decepticons feet behind him. If only he could just reach the final corner. There it was just ahead of him. He was going to make it.
An explosion behind him caught him unawares. Tiring of the chase, Thrust had fired off a concussion missile. The missile had landed short but the explosion ripped into Bumblebee, causing him to cry out in pain. Shrapnel shredded his rear wheel and he careened into the corridor wall and then rolled over onto his rooftop.
* * * * *
Windcharger was just double-checking that all the explosives had been properly primed when he heard the commotion outside. He turned and ran from the shuttle.
* * * * *
Bumblebee transformed back to robot mode. His left shoulder was blackened and a jagged gash ran down his left arm. He tried to stand, to get away but it was too late. He looked up to see the three Decepticons Seekers standing over him, grinning.
“Game's over Autobot,” said Dirge and he raised his arm blaster. Bumblebee braced himself for the killing shot, but it never came. He heard the shot and saw the hole blasted into the floor where he had been. But he was flying rapidly backwards through the air before landing with a bump.
The Decepticons turned and gave a shout. Bumblebee looked up and saw Windcharger standing over him. He knew what had happened. Windcharger had used his magnetic abilities to rescue him.
Windcharger raised his hand and a door, off to one side flew open. Before he knew what was happening Bumblebee felt himself flying through it and heard it shut behind him.
He looked around. He was in some sort of utility room. He heard shouts from outside and got unsteadily to his feet and ran over to the door, determined to help Windcharger. But the door wouldn't budge.
Outside the Decepticons were bearing down on Windcharger, who was keeping the door to the utility room shut with his magnetic powers. He knew Bumblebee would try to help him, but it was too late for that now. He had to get the Decepticons inside the shuttle. He turned and ran for the open airlock to the shuttle, the Decepticons following.
He jumped through the open doorway and rolled across the floor to the command station. The three Decepticons charged into the room after him. Once they were all inside he hit the launch button.
The Decepticons turned as they heard the door his shut behind them. The shuttle shook as it retrorockets fired. Dirge strode across to Windcharger and grabbed him by the throat.
“What have you done Autobot?” he said
“Defeated you,” said Windcharger simply.
* * * * *
When Windcharger had turned to run his hold on the door and been broken and Bumblebee stumbled out into the corridor, just in time to see the airlock door slide shut.
“Windcharger!” he called, but he knew there was nothing he could do. The corridor shook from the shuttle's retrorockets. Bumblebee turned and ran back down the corridor to meet the others.
* * * * *
Beachcomber and Gears, stood waiting anxiously outside the Ark , the ruins of the repair bay still smoking behind them.
“They must have reached there by now,” Gears said. Even as he spoke the side of the volcano exploded outwards sending boulders and earth crashing down the side. Then the Ark 's shuttlecraft flew out and rocketed up into the sky. Just as it was about to disappear into the cloud cover, there was a blinding flash and the shuttle exploded.
“All right, we did it!” cried Gears.
“But where are Bumblebee and Windcharger?” asked Beachcomber.
They both turned back towards the entrance to the Ark as Bumblebee, clutching his injured shoulder walked into the open.
“Bumblebee!” cried Gears. “Where's Windcharger?”
“He, ah, didn't make it. He was inside the shuttle when it exploded.”
Chapter Five – They Do it With Holographic Projectors
Ultra Magnus stood in the medical centre, having rushed there the moment he had heard about Starscream's escape. He turned to Nightbeat the head of security and said, “Any idea how he got out?”
“None Commander,” Nightbeat said. “According to Brainstorm his motor functions were disabled. I'm afraid we must face the possibility of him having had inside help.”
“A Decepticon spy? But that doesn't make sense. If the Decepticons knew we were here they'd send a strike force in to wipe us out.”
“I know but I can't think of any other solution at present,” said Nightbeat.
“Any idea how long he's been gone?”
“Brainstorm last saw him about twelve cycles ago, so it could be up to that long.”
“Put all the guards on full alert,” ordered Ultra Magnus. “I don't want him to get out of the base if it can be avoided.”
“I've already done that,” said Nightbeat, “but nobody has seen him. I think it might be too late.”
“I want him recaptured. If he returns to the Decepticons and tells them we're here, we'll have the entire Decepticon army down on us before long. Seal all the exits until further notice. Send out security patrols around the city. The base is on a code yellow alert status for now.”
“I'll make the arrangements,” said Nightbeat. “May I suggest that we open the escape tunnel, just as a precaution?”
“Not yet. I want to know if and how Starscream escaped first. If he had inside help I don't want the escape tunnel to become common knowledge just yet.”
At that moment a beep came from Nightbeat's comm. unit, “Yes,” he said.
“This is Doubledealer. I've spotted Starscream. He's on level six, corridor nine making his way towards the armoury.”
“I'll be right there,” Nightbeat said. He changed frequencies on his comm. unit and continued, “All security teams to level six corridor nine. Prisoner sighted. Do not, repeat do not engage until I have arrived. Nightbeat out.”
“Let's go,” said Ultra Magnus.
“With respect Commander, this is my responsibility. Starscream is dangerous and he's heading for the armoury. I think you should leave security to deal with this. I'll report as soon as possible.”
For a moment Ultra Magnus hesitated. He wanted to go, but he knew that Nightbeat was right, the security teams didn't need the added problem of having to protect the base commander as well. “Very well Nightbeat. I shall be in my quarters.”
* * * * *
The spacebridge hummed into life, the sky opened up exposing the dimensional rift that was the heart of the spacebridge. A blinding light flashed out of the rift, which swiftly closed after it. The doors of the spacebridge slid open to reveal six Decepticons.
Megatron strode forward and said, “Welcome to the planet Earth, Seacons. It has been many millions of years since you last went on a mission, but I have need of you now.”
The tallest of the Seacons stepped forward and replied, “Snaptrap at your service Megatron, how may my Seacons be of use?”
“The Autobots have crashed into the ocean, I want you to find the wreckage and ensure they cause me no further nuisance.”
* * * * *
When Nightbeat arrived on level six he found the corridor swarming with his security details. He pushed his way to the front, where Doubledealer stood, deep in conversation with Backstreet.
Nightbeat was proud of Doubledealer. He'd joined the resistance quite recently having spent many Stellar-Cycles hiding out in the Dead End. He'd proven himself enthusiastic and competent. It had been him who had found Starscream and Prime after they had arrived on Cybertron. He always managed to be on top of things. Maybe one day he'll take my job , Nightbeat thought to himself.
“Where's Starscream now?” Nightbeat asked as he approached Doubledealer and Backstreet.
“He's in the armoury,” said Doubledealer turning to his superior. “I haven't yet approached him as per your orders.”
“There's no way out of that room,” said Nightbeat.
“No but there are a hell of a lot of weapons in there,” put in Backstreet nervously.
“You're right Backstreet, we need to get him out of there as quickly as possible,” Nightbeat said moving towards the door. Doubledealer and Backstreet followed close behind him. The rest of the security team began to ready themselves for battle, fanning out across the corridor to block any escape and to make themselves less of a target.
Nightbeat and Backstreet took up positions at either side of the door to the armoury. At a nod from Nightbeat Doubledealer hit the door release and it slid open with a hiss, at the same time he raised his own weapon.
Nightbeat and Backstreet looked cautiously through the door. Inside was a large room the edges of which were filled with cabinets and shelves holding a huge assortment of weaponry.
In the centre of the room were stacked a number of large cylindrical objects that Nightbeat recognised at once as coolant containers, highly explosive, coolant containers.
Behind the containers stood Starscream, his arm cannon aimed at the door. Light flashed from the muzzle and Nightbeat and Backstreet pulled their heads back around the door. There was a bang and as the blast hit the wall by the side of the door.
Doubledealer seemed to panic and before Nightbeat could cry out a warning he fired his own weapon into the room. A beam of kinetic energy shot of his light blaster and hit the coolant canisters. The resulting explosion sent everyone in the corridor crashing to the ground. Fire blasted out of the still open doorway, leaving a scorch mark along Backstreet's arm.
Nightbeat got unsteadily to his feet. Doubledealer had gone to help Backstreet who was clutching his injured arm. Nightbeat looked into the armoury. Fires were scattered here and there about the room. Where the coolant canisters had stood was nothing but blackened broken metal. Of Starscream there was no sign.
“How are you Backstreet,” he said turning to look.
“I'll be okay, just a few burn marks that's all,” Backstreet said releasing his scorced arm.
Doubledealer turned to Nightbeat and said, “I'm sorry I panicked and acted stupidly.”
Nightbeat couldn't help but privately agree with him, but then everyone did that occasionally and no had died, except probably Starscream, which was no great loss. So he said, “Don't worry about it Doubledealer, we all make mistakes.”
Nightbeat turned back to Backstreet and said, “Get yourself down to medical and have that patched up.” Backstreet nodded and made his way back down the corridor. Nigtbeat then he turned to the waiting security teams and dismissed all but one of them back to their normal duties.
The remaining team entered the armoury with Nightbeat and Doubledealer. They approach the centre of the room where the coolant canisters had been. The security team split apart and began to try and bring the small fires under control.
Nighbeat bent down to examine the remains of the canisters. Doubledealer turned to examine the damaged section of wall that Starscream's blaster had apparently hit. Unseen by the others he removed the holocron from its position on the wall where he'd had placed it earlier. He slipped it inside a holding compartment in his arm and walked back over to Nightbeat.
Nightbeat was lifting broken metal out of the way as though looking for something. He turned as Doubledealer approached. “I don't understand it,” he said. “There's no trace of Starscream, no wreckage at all.”
“Could he have been vaporised in the explosion?”
“Possibly,” replied Nightbeat uncertainly. “But I wouldn't have thought that the heat generated from a coolant explosion would be sufficient to vaporise; besides why haven't the canisters vaporised too?”
“Well he can't have got out of the room, so he's either still in here or else he's dead,” said Doubledealer.
Nightbeat stood up a piece of canister still in his hand. He looked round the room. The security detail had got most of the fires under control now. There was nowhere for anyone to hide, and Doubledealer was right, there was no way out of the room. Starscream had to be dead that was the only explanation, yet something inside him told him he was missing something.
* * * * *
“I knew that we needed a permanent base of operations,” Sixshot said. He and Starscream were walking back along the corridor towards the elevator. “It was then that I remembered the city of Dishender . I was a part of the assault team that destroyed this city. I decided that it would make a perfect base for us.
“I figured that some of the research that went on here might still exist and if we could find it, then it might give us an advantage. And I was right. Not only have we discovered secrets that give us superior technology but we have also found an Autobot underground movement that has done the same. With Doubledealer's help, we have been stealing their secrets for months.”
They reached the elevator and Starscream turned to look out of the window, “You know I'm sure that this floor of the building looked destroyed when I was outside,” he said.
“Just one of the many technologies we have discovered,” answered Sixshot. “To protect our location we use holographic projectors on the outside of the building, that give the impression of a ruined upper storey. They projectors are of the highest quality and have surprisingly low energy consumption.
“Impressive,” said Starscream.
The elevator arrived and the door slid open. Sixshot and Starscream entered.
“And now Starscream, it is time that you made a decision,” said Sixshot. “You have heard my story and know what I am trying to accomplish. I know that you still have the same contempt for Megatron's leadership that you always did. So will you join us? Will you join the Renegades?”
“Maybe, but I want to do more than sit inside a building and plot Megatron's downfall. I want to make it happen.”
“But of course. Let me show you how we plan on doing just that,” said Sixshot and he pressed a button on the elevator, which began to descend.
“Before we can defeat Megatron,” he continued, “we must first take control of Cybertron. We must have enough power to crush Megatron like a droid. It is my intension to launch an attack on Polyhex very soon. Once we have defeated Shockwave, it is only a matter of time before Megatron also falls.”
The elevator stopped and the doors hissed open. Starscream found himself looking into a large, obviously underground room. A number of Renegades were scattered around the room, most of them bent over workbenches covered in assorted electronics and chemicals.
“This is our development lab,” said Sixshot. “It is where we create all of our technology.”
A red and black Renegade who had looked up at their arrival came towards them as they stepped out of the elevator.
“This is our chief researcher, Mindwipe. Mindwipe this is Starscream.”
Mindwipe nodded at Starscream but said nothing.
“I'm afraid that Mindwipe is something of a strong silent type”, said Sixshot. “In this room we develop new technologies based on the abandoned research we found. We have weapons more powerful than any the Autobots or the Decepticons possess. Our numbers may be comparatively small but will what we develop here we will give us the power to take complete control of Cybertron.
* * * * *
The six Seacons, Snaptrap, Tentakill, Nautilator, Overbite, Seawing and Skalor headed towards the point where the trace of oil slick had been found. They dived below the waves and began to spread out in a search pattern.
The ocean here was deep and it took some time for even the specialised Decepticons to dive down to the seabed. The sea floor was craggy and mountainous, broken by a huge chasm almost a mile across stretching as far as the Seacon's optics could reach.
At this depth no light penetrated and the six Seacons switched their optic sensors to lowlight mode. It was Snap Trap who found something first. An arm was lodged between two boulders on the seabed next to the chasm.
The arm was dark red and looked as though it had been torn off violently from the shoulder, torn wires dangled uselessly from the end. Snap Trap picked the arm up and examined it closely. His acute sense of smell enabled him to detect faint traces of Autobot fuel.
He looked around for more debris and smiled to himself when he spotted a torn Autobot insignia half buried in the muddy bottom. He pulled it free and stored it with the arm. He looked around some more but could see no more wreckage. He turned and looked back at the chasm.
The chances are, he thought, the Autobots had fallen down there. It could be miles deep. Even the Seacons had limitations as to the depth they could safely go before the pressure destroyed them. He decided to head back to the surface and report his findings to Megatron.
* * * * *
Devil Spawn once again stood before Shockwave. He had just finished interrogating the Decepticon, Boombox, who had been refrozen in the cryo-chambers. The story he had told was disturbing.
“According to Boombox, this Sixshot suggested that they abandon the Decepticon cause and band together to rule Cybertron themselves,” Devil Spawn reported. “He said that Megatron was just using them and that was why they had all been frozen for the last six million Stellar-Cycles. When he refused to join these rebels he was placed back into the storage chamber.”
“So Sixshot is a traitor still,” said Shockwave. “Does Boombox know where they were going or what they were planning?”
“He says not,” replied Devil Spawn, “and I am inclined to believe him. If he was a traitor he would have gone with the others.”
“Very well Devil Spawn, do you have any ideas where they might be?”
“They could be anywhere, and they have had two Stellar-Cycles to hide themselves away,” said Devil Spawn.
“I want them found,” said Shockwave. “It is bad enough that we have Autobot rebels without having to fight rebel Decepticons as well. I want them found and either captured or destroyed.”
Chapter Six – When You Eliminate the Impossible, Whatever Remains, No Matter How Improbable, Must Be the Truth
Optimus Prime entered Ultra Magnus' quarters. Ultra Magnus looked up as Prime entered. “Optimus, how are you?
“I feel a lot better now I've had time to think,” answered Prime. “What's been going on here? A security alert went out saying that Starscream had escaped. Is it true?”
“It was, but he didn't get out of the base,” said Ultra Magnus. He had just received Nightbeat's report on what had happened in the armoury. Nightbeat he knew wasn't happy about it but he'd been forced to the conclusion that Starscream had been vaporised in the explosion. “He died attempting to evade capture.”
“How did he escape?” Prime asked, he never thought he'd see the day where Starscream died. He seemed to have charmed life.
“We don't know yet. It may be that he had inside help but we're still investigating at the moment,” Ultra Magnus answered. He decided to change the subject, “The plans to infiltrate Polyhex are advancing. We think that it would be best for a small group to try and sneak in rather than a full frontal attack. At the moment we don't have the strength for that. I'll be sending the powermasters to accompany you. I've sent out a team to reconnoitre. We should be able to get you back to Earth before very long now.”
“That's good news Ultra Magnus,” said Prime.
There was silence in the room for a few moments and then Ultra Magnus said, “Prime, now that you're back there's something I wanted to get your advice about.”
“I am concerned about one of our research projects and would value your opinion.”
“Very well,” said Prime intrigued.
“It is codenamed Lifespark,” began Ultra Magnus. “It has been crucial to us in the development of the powermasters, but it also gives us even greater power. It is this that concerns me. My advisors want to use Lifespark as a weapon. I am uncertain however.”
“What does Lifespark do?” Prime asked.
“I will take you to Brainstorm and he can show it to you.”
* * * * *
Megatron held the severed arm and laughed. The Autobots were finished, crushed under tons of seawater. Now there was nothing standing in his way of conquering the mudball planet. He squeezed his fist together and the arm crumpled, sparks flying as the last vestiges of power was released.
He dropped the remains on the floor. He turned and surveyed the new Decepticon headquarters. The defences had been repaired following the Autobot attack and a new structure now stood in the centre of the courtyard. The last of the fallen Autobots were even now being dumped inside. He had wasted too much time searching for the remains of the other Autobots. Now it was time to take action.
Megatron activated his comm. system, “Soundwave, Thundercracker, Skywarp, report to me immediately.” He only had to wait a few minutes for the three Decepticons to arrive.
“Thundercracker, Skywarp, you are to accompany me on a mission to finally bring this planet under Decepticon control. Soundwave you are in command during my absence.”
“As you command Megatron,” said Soundwave with a nod.
With that Megatron turned and took to the air. Thundercracker and Skywarp transformed and flew after him.
* * * * *
Ultra Magnus and Prime arrived back at the lab where only a day before Prime had been reborn into his new body. They went inside and found the room deserted. They walked across to the medical centre and looked inside. Brainstorm was inside attending to the still deactivated Predacons. It had been decided to recharge them slowly following the powermaster attack; it would take some hours yet.
Brainstorm looked up as Prime and Ultra Magnus entered, “Commander, Optimus Prime, what can I do for you?”
“We're here because I want you to show Prime Lifespark,” said Ultra Magnus
“Of course, please follow me,” said Brainstorm delightedly. He left the room and went back into the lab. He then ran his hand slowly over a light set into the wall. The light glowed with a faint blue glow and a panel of the wall slid to the side revealing a hidden room. Prime and Magnus followed Brainstorm inside.
This room was quite small; the work surfaces were cluttered with electrical and mechanical components. On a table opposite the door stood a metal box. Brainstorm went over to the box and pressed a button on the side.
The lid tilted upward and the base inside rose to reveal a golden sphere. What looked like a pair of handles with finger holes was attached to the sphere and a faint glow came from a transparent section in the centre.
Brainstorm took hold of the handles and gently pulled the sphere apart. A golden glow bathed the room. Inside the sphere was a glowing golden ball. It hovered a few inches above the base of the box. Prime immediately recognised it as a miniature version of Vector Sigma.
* * * * *
In his quarters Doubledealer looked at the video image that was being transmitted from the miniature camera he had installed in the lab. He didn't know why he hadn't thought of it sooner. It was such an obvious thing to do.
He had seen Brainstorm open the secret room; he knew now where the Lifespark had to be. All he needed to do was get in there and then get out of here. He didn't feel safe anymore. Since he had had to pull that stunt with the holocron he felt his time was short.
He had a great respect for Nightbeat's abilities. He wouldn't fall for the holographic Starscream trick for long. The explosive he had used to mimic Starscream's blaster would leave traces and the fact that Starscream's body had vanished utterly would mean that Nightbeat would not be satisfied. All he had done was buy himself some time to complete his mission.
* * * * *
“As you know,” Brainstorm said to Prime “it has long been known that all life on Cybertron was created by the mega-computer, Vector Sigma. I understand that you yourself reactivated Vector Sigma only recently.”
“That is true,” said Prime, trying not to think about how his own creator, Alpha Trion had merged with Vector Sigma in order to reactivate it.
“Well,” continued Brainstorm, “when we were going through the research we found in the city we stumbled across a project to tap into Vector Sigma remotely. This would mean that it would be possible to birth new Cybernetic life without having to go to Vector Sigma directly.”
Optimus Prime looked down again at the glowing golden ball. Here was the power of life and they didn't need to fight guardian druids to use it.
“The Lifespark project uses a matrix of subspace dimensions to link directly to Vector Sigma's core program. This allows instantaneous communication between itself and Vector Sigma,” Brainstorm said excitedly.
“But, the Key to Vector Sigma was destroyed,” Prime said. “How is Vector Sigma activated?”
“According to the research notes we found, the key to Vector Sigma is actually a computer program. The physical object that was destroyed was nothing more than an interface card hardcoded with the key programme. Lifespark also has the key program encoded within it. The program is run whenever a link is established.”
“You see the power that this device gives to us?” Ultra Magnus said to Prime. “We could give a Lifespark to every Autobot commander and they could create life without thought or consequence.
“Vector Sigma is dangerous to approach and without the key, useless to anyone who does. But now all that has changed. Some of the Autobots here want to use Lifespark to end the war by creating a huge army of super soldiers to destroy the Decepticons.
“But I must admit Prime that I am uneasy about Lifespark. I feel that we may be meddling with something that is best left alone. So far the only time we have used it is to birth the powermaster companions.”
Prime stood a moment, not knowing what to say. It had never occurred to him to ask where Hi-Q had come from, but now he thought about it, of course Vector Sigma must have given him life. He tried to imagine the war over, the Decepticons defeated by sheer weight of numbers. But he knew that would not happen. The Decepticons would discover Lifespark's existence eventually and if they ever got hold of it…
“I must put in at this point,” said Brainstorm a little hesitantly, “that so far we have only been able to create a single device. We don't yet know why, but we think it may be that this first device now has exclusive hold on the particular matrix of subspace dimensions we used. Any future device would have to find a new route to Vector Sigma. Discovering that route would not be easy.”
“If the Decepticons should get hold of even one of these devices the results could be disastrous,” said Prime. “They would not hesitate to swell their ranks with as many new troops as they could handle. Ultra Magnus, you asked me for my opinion, I believe that this Lifespark device is a highly dangerous invention. I urge you to abandon any idea of creating any more and limit your use of this one to only times of utmost need.”
“Some of my troops will be unhappy with that decision Prime,” said Ultra Magnus sadly. “We have been hiding down here for a long time and tempers are wearing thin. Many here seek to leave our hiding place and confront the Decepticons. Those who know about Lifespark see it as the means to that end.”
“I have been gone a long time,” said Prime. “I have no right to give you orders, you must make this decision yourself. I can but advise you on this my friend. I can see that many here are unhappy hiding from their enemies but sometimes it takes greater courage to hide from ones enemies than to fight them. This is not the way to fight them Ultra Magnus and your Autobots must be made to see this.
“If more Lifesparks were developed it would only be a matter of time before one fell into the hands of the Decepticons. Once that happened the war would only escalate and the loss of life would be catastrophic.”
* * * * *
Nightbeat stood in the wrecked armoury and looked round with a critical eye. He wasn't happy. He had tried to pretend that he was. He had been here when Starscream had died, seen and felt the explosion that had killed him. There was no way that Starscream could have escaped from this room unseen. He had to be dead. But still Nightbeat wasn't happy.
Why wasn't there a body? The explosion from the coolant canisters was not powerful enough to vaporise everything, even at close range. It didn't make sense. He was missing something he was sure. He ran through the events step-by-step trying to find what it was that was bothering him.
Starscream, having been disabled from the moment he entered the base somehow got himself free sometime during the previous twelve cycles.
Having performed this feat he then proceeded to wander apparently aimlessly around the base, working his way downwards when he must surely know the way out lay upwards.
Having more or less by accident wandered into am armoury filled with powerful weaponry, he then chose to hide behind containers which even he must know were explosive.
He had started a firefight that he could not possibly win without even trying to bribe or threaten his way out. He had fired a shot that had missed by a substantial margin. Then he had been incinerated by a panicked shot from Doubledealer.
It made no sense, and laying out all the facts in this way made it all the more obvious that the whole escape was wrong. He had to have had inside help.
Nightbeat turned and walked to the wall where Starscream's misaimed shot and hit. The blast had left a small hole in the wall. Nightbeat peered closely at the hole. He ran his finger over the scorched surface.
Tiny sensors in his fingertips analysed the chemical composition of the wall and instantly relayed their findings to his brain module. The burn marks contained faint traces of Dutirium, a mild explosive.
The wall wasn't blasted with a laser cannon; it was blown up with a small explosive charge. Nightbeat's mind worked quickly. The whole battle had obviously been faked. He didn't know how exactly but he was sure that Starscream hadn't been in this room. The only one who had seen him enter was Doubledealer. The one who had fired the killing shot had been Doubledealer.
Nightbeat didn't want to admit it to himself but it was beginning to look as though Doubledealer was a spy for the Decepticons. How could he have been so wrong in his assessment of Doubledealer. He had helped Starscream to escape. What else had he done?
Nightbeat left the room at a fast walk. He was certain that he was right, it all fitted. The problems was that he had no real evidence except his gut feeling, and look how that had been wrong about Doubledealer in the first place. He would bring Doubledealer in for questioning but do it quietly.
* * * * *
Doubledealer had watched until Prime, Ultra Magnus and Brainstorm had left the secret room. Brainstorm had sealed the hidden room shut and Prime and Magnus had left. Brainstorm remained in the lab hunched over a computer terminal. Every so often he would glance up at the wall that hid the secret room containing Lifespark.
Doubledealer decided that he had to act quickly. He left his quarters and hurried down to the lab. As he entered Brainstorm looked up, “Can I help you?” he asked.
“As a matter of fact you can,” said Doubledealer walking over to Brainstorm. With a quick movement Doubledealer jabbed a stun dark at Brainstorm's chest. The dart released a bolt of energy that caused Brainstorm to fall into stasis lock. He collapsed unconscious on to the floor.
Doubledealer dragged him over to the wall with the secret room and taking hold of one of Brainstorm's fingers, ran it over the door release scanner he'd seen him use earlier. The door hissed open and Doubledealer dropped Brainstorm to the floor and entered the room.
He looked quickly round the room and saw the box containing the Lifespark. That had to be it. He moved over to the box and tried to lift it but found that it was fastened down. He examined it and found the small switch on the side. He pressed it and watched as the lid of the box opened and the Lifespark rose slowly into view.
He picked it up gently. It felt a gentle thrum of power through his fingers. He grasped the device more firmly and cautiously left the secret room. He had to get out of here now, for good this time. He opened the storage chamber in his chest and placed the Lifespark inside.
No sooner had his chest compartment closed than he felt a wave of energy sweep through his body. He felt stronger and more alive than he had felt for as long as he could remember. His eyes briefly flashed a bright blue before returning to their normal pale glow.
He bent and dragged Brainstorm into the secret room. The he ran his own hand across the access scanner. Nothing happened. He cursed to himself; it must be set to respond only to certain individuals. He would have to risk leaving the door open. He crossed the room and hurriedly left the lab.
* * * * *
Nightbeat burst into Doubledealer's quarters to find it empty. His optics were caught by a flickering on the table. He went over and looked down to find a small hand held video monitor. He picked it up and looked at it.
He realised that he was looking at a high elevation view of the research lab. He gave a start when he saw the body of Brainstorm slumped by the wall. As he watched he saw Doubledealer emerge from the hole in the wall carrying something. As head of security he recognised it as the Lifespark. He had been right Doubledealer was a traitor.
He ran from the room at the same time calling for security backup at the research lab. He glanced back down at the monitor in his hand just in time to see Doubledealer leaving the room.
* * * * *
Doubledealer made his way as quickly as he could through the corridors, leading to the exit. Since the ‘destruction' of Starscream the security levels had been lowered, so he should be able to escape without too much trouble.
At that moment alarm bells began to ring throughout the base. Damn it, someone had found out the Lifespark was missing. What could he do? Did they suspect him? He' dare not risk it. The exit was still a two-minute walk away but he could fly there a lot quicker.
He transformed into his Decepticon mode. It was a risk but he had to take it. He flew as fast as he dared down the narrow confines of the corridor. He rounded the last corner and found the exit blocked by half a dozen Autobots he recognised as working for base security.
They seemed shocked by his approach, but quickly raised their weapons and fired. Doubledealer hurriedly transformed to his missile carrier mode and dropped heavily to the floor. The blaster fire shot overhead, blowing great chunks out of the corridor ceiling.
Before the Autobots could fire again he screeched to a halt and fired his missile. It streaked along the corridor so fast that the Autobots couldn't get out of the way before it collided with the exit and exploded.
The ground shook; Doubledealer who had transformed back to robot mode was flung to the floor. More alarms began blaring around the base. Where the exit had been was now a large hole. The Autobot security team had been reduced to slag.
Doubledealer hastily got to his feet and began to run for the now unblocked exit. He heard a shout from behind him and saw Nightbeat running down the corridor towards him, followed by more security teams.
Doubledealer ran as fast as he could, laser fire blasting the walls and floor as the Autobots tried to bring him down. But they were too late, he reached the gaping hole where the exit had been and jumped through it, transforming to falcon mode and soaring high into the black Cybertronian sky.
More laser fire followed him and looking down he saw the security teams getting smaller and smaller. Soon they were so small he could hardly see them and he turned and flew over the city heading for the Renegade's headquarters.
* * * * *
Nightbeat stood helplessly as Doubledealer flew out of sight. He had failed. Not only would the Decepticons learn the location of the hidden Autobot base, but also, now they had the Lifespark they could build an army vast enough to conquer Cybertron and destroy the Autobots forever.
End of Part Three.