Glancing over the icy landscape, Starscream seethed, cursing the dim light. “I don’t like this. We’re far too close to the local military bases. If the Autobots and humans are forging an alliance, there’s very little stopping them from attacking.”
“Except for us.” If Megatron had any concern about the human military forces, it was very well hidden as he looked upon his Decepticons with confidence. “These humans cannot begin to match us in military might, and I’d laugh if they even made an attempt. Besides, whatever spine they had for conflict has long been lost. Cyclonus, Thrust, head towards the facility and make certain that it is wiped off the map! Wheeljack, if there are any Autobots in the area, make certain they are permanently dealt with this time! Skywarp–!”
A loud explosion caught Megatron’s attention, and he turned towards a nearby hill as a familiar voice taunted him. “Sorry to disappoint, Megatron, but they’re under our protection!” Blurr at his side, the Autobot commander opened fire.
“Prime!” Returning fire with his fusion cannon, the Decepticon leader bellowed to his troops, “Decepticons, ATTACK!”
Gleefully cackling, Cyclonus transformed and primed his weapons. “You got it boss!” Thrust and Wheeljack followed suit as he zoomed towards the two opposing Autobots and laughed. “Oh man, this’ll be fun!”
The berserker’s fun was spoiled as a white and orange excavator tore onto the battlefield, transforming and clamping down hard upon the Decepticon helicopter’s underside. Unable to target him with his weapons, Cyclonus tried to transform, but found himself tossed into Thrust for his trouble, both smashing into the ground and prompting the third Decepticon to swerve out of the way. With a laugh, Hoist declared, “Sorry, you’ve been grounded!”
The Autobot’s voice ringing in his processor, Wheeljack skidded to a halt. “That voice…it can’t…”
“You want him dead, you Decepticon punk? You have to go through me too!”
It was him, the same Autobot who came to aid Hot Shot. He’d gotten better. A lot better.
Without a moment’s hesitation and glad for the distraction of the ongoing battle, Wheeljack sped away at top speed. Noticing despite the battle and going similarly unnoticed, Starscream transformed and followed.
Laying down suppression fire as he moved around to get to cover, Blurr called out, “Starscream’s making a run for it!”
“Let him! Concentrate your fire on Megatron and keep Smokescreen covered!” He activated his comm.-line and asked, “Scavenger, where are you?!”
:“Approaching from the other side of the hills. Aside from Starscream and the one that just left, we’ve still got all the Decepticons gathered. Hoist’s dealing with Cyclonus and Thrust, but that still leaves five more.”:
Making a note to question his subordinate about his sudden name change later, Optimus concluded, “And with no way of knowing exactly who is on whose side, we’re going to need to pull our punches with everyone but Megatron!” He dodged a burst of fusion cannon fire before adding, “Then again, not exactly a difficult proposition!”
Watching the battle from the distance, Sideways smiled with manic glee. So far, things were going exactly to plan. The only loose wrinkle was that pair of wayward Decepticons. Twin bits of equipment detached from his arms, combining into a humanoid form as he transformed to his motorcycle mode. He could have always left those last two mechs alone…but why not have some fun?
Something was wrong, and Vector Prime could feel it in his spark. How did the Decepticons realize what was going on in Alaska? The planet’s magnetic field would most likely have prevented them from picking up anything on their sensors, and there was no other explanation that presented itself. The only logical conclusion was that they had been, as the humans called it, ‘tipped off’. But by whom? The ancient’s mind turned to the newcomer, Sideways, but what proof was there beyond an old mech’s suspicions?
Unfounded flights of paranoia or no, he was in no rush to simply let this go uncontested. He stepped into the repair bay, his sword at the ready to forgo the use of an orbital jump. “Red Alert, we are needed. Is Hot Shot…?” A surprised smile crossing his face, he answered his own question. “Nevermind then.”
Checking back and forth from the stasis units within the pod to the console controlling them, Dirt Boss went over the final checks once more. “Okay, vehicle modes scanned, protoforms formatted, everything’s set. They should start waking up right about…now.”
As if on cue, the first of the six pods opened and a lone green and brown Mini-Con exited, stumbling slightly as he did so. Downshift caught him, helping the Mini-Con jeep to steady himself on his new feet. “Easy there, Ransack. You’re okay.”
Looking up at the Mini-Con racer from a yellow optic bar, the Adventure Team leader asked, “Downshift? How long have we been out?”
“A long time, and just as long a story.” Gesturing out of the pod, the Mini-Con elaborated. “Runway can fill you in once we get the rest of your team online.”
Having driven all the way to the edge of a massive ice shelf, Wheeljack transformed and collapsed to his knees. What kind of insane stupidity had he brought on himself? If the one Autobot had survived, there was no way that Hot Shot hadn’t! He’d been lucky the last time, but what was stopping his brother from trying to even the score? He’d practically signed his own death warrant! “What have I done?”
Engine exhaust heralding his arrival, Starscream transformed and answered what he assumed was a rhetorical question. “Aside from run from battle, ruining your image with Megatron even further? I suspect you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life.”
The younger Cybertronian slowly rose to his feet. “Who cares about Megatron? Did you see that second Autobot! Even if Hot Shot lives, what’s stopping them from coming after me? I betrayed them, and everything I stood for!” Looking down on his chest and the gash through his Autobot emblem, he lamented, “I should’ve driven this further in! If Hot Shot left me behind…!”
He was interrupted with a sharp slap to the side of his head from the Seeker. “And what, leave behind a corpse that would never be found and a sibling forever doubting himself? You taking your own spark would have accomplished nothing! You believing Megatron’s lies and absolute slag has accomplished even less! You’re alive now, Wheeljack! You have a chance for forgiveness, one most of us never get! Not just for yourself, but for your sibling as well!” Starscream calmed himself before continuing. “You were never told this, young one, but your sibling tried to go back for you.”
Wheeljack’s optics went wide. “What?”
“I was there, remember? Megatron and I watched as Hot Shot tried in vain to convince his superiors to go in after you, watched as he was shot in the back for his trouble. It was only after that incident that we went in to save you, not because you were a fellow Cybertronian whose life was in jeopardy, but because Megatron saw a blunt instrument to be used against the Autobots, a knife to be twisted into their gut. You aren’t a valued soldier to him. You’re the same as the rest of us, merely a pawn in his grand, fruitless game.”
Confusion and frustration building, the younger mech all but screamed at the elder. “Then why didn’t you stop me?! If you knew all this, why not stop me from making the biggest slagging mistake of my life?!” Calming down, he continued, “You know what it’s like to lose a brother! Megatron killed Jhiaxus! Whatever his reasons, why are you even working with him after that?!”
“Because Megatron is not the only one invested in a long game.” The former Autobot looking at him in surprise, Starscream began to elaborate. “You asked me why I never tried to avenge Jhiaxus. This is my answer. I knew that simply killing Megatron wouldn’t settle things. What he started needed to be ended through better means, with him alive and answering for his crimes in a court of law. Seeing him be justly punished for his actions, his cause destroyed and his zealous followers locked away forever would be revenge enough for me. But I needed to make sure that the truly zealous did suffer his fate, and not send the innocent to their doom alongside them.”
“But that still doesn’t explain why you–!”
Wheeljack’s protest was interrupted as several laser bolts, identical to the ones which had strafed him after battling his sibling, lanced about their position, prompting the pair to drop to the ground. The black and gold sedan looked up from the ground to find an unfamiliar mech in the distance, the barrels of his weapons smoking. “Oh dear, two little Decepticons left all alone. Just the perfect chance to make this an even bigger brawl.”
Getting to his feet and glad that Swindle was linked up with him and concealed, the Seeker drew his sword. “Who are you?! Why attack us?!”
A malevolent chuckle. “My name is Sideways. As for why, well, you’re the enemy. Is there anything more natural?”
Starscream’s optics narrowed, his internal databanks referencing the name. “Enemy? I don’t see a faction marker.”
Another chuckle as Sideways was joined by his rider drone. “Faction marker? I don’t need any faction markers.”
As the two Transformers watched, the rider separated into two smaller mechanoids, each roughly the size of a Mini-Con. One jumped into the air and shifted around, forming something that, to them, looked like some sort of head. It quickly latched onto Sideways’s body, replacing his own head. As he spoke, the corresponding faction symbol appeared on his chest. “Autobot.”
The first ‘head’ separated from Sideways, clearing space for the second one. The other faction symbol appeared on his chest. “Decepticon.”
One head. “Autobot?”
Other head. “Decepticon?”
One head. “Both.”
Other head. “Neither.”
Both heads then recombined back into their rider form, then seemed to shift and meld, merging into one seemingly complete piece. Its color changed to pure black with highlights of silver, bright green and deep gold. Then Sideways himself seemed to change, his armor cracking all along his body and darkly colored energy radiating forth from within. The armor along one arm shattered, revealing a black and bright red limb underneath. Other limbs followed suit, until at last only his torso remained. In a bright flash of red light, his torso and head seemed to shatter.
As both Decepticons looked on in shock, the flash from Sideways’s transformation died down. The form that emerged was sleek and angular, black as night with an air of darkness wrapped around him. His face had no features, beyond twin points like horns and a red faceplate. As his former rider attached to his left arm, fusing with it, he noted in a differently-pitched voice, “Ah, much better.” Regarding them again, he elaborated, “I am so much more than you pathetic insects could ever be.”
“Give it up, Megatron! There’s nothing for you here!”
Despite fire continuing from his foe’s ion cannon, the tyrant managed a laugh. “There’s plenty of incentive to stay, Prime! I still have to take part in your recycling! Leader-1, Powerlink!”
The Mini-Con wordlessly emerged from his leg cavity, connecting directly to the Decepticon’s cannon. The entire tank battery shifted around, missile launchers moving into position as it flipped into its secondary mode.
Recognizing that this battle would not be easily won, Optimus growled, “Fine then.” His trailer already beginning to shift in turn, the Autobot leader leapt into the air and began his own secondary transformation, the full body shifting into a head, torso and arms before combining with the transformed trailer, now a pair of heavily armored legs. The transformation and combination complete, Prime’s optics briefly flashed bright yellow. “Sparkplug, Over-Run, Powerlink!” His two partners connecting to his shoulders, he once more took hold of his ion cannon.
“Shortsighted fool, that won’t save you this time!!” The Decepticon opened fire with all his weapons, missiles and cannon bursts streaming towards the Autobot leader as if released from Death itself.
Despite the approaching shots, the Autobot leader held his ground, a reassuring pressure forming on one arm as the shots approached and connected, a blinding explosion forcing the many Autobots and Decepticons present to look away.
His optic shutters clenched in reaction and his clawed right hand clamped down on a terrified Cyclonus, Hoist called out. “Scavenger, Blurr, can you see what –!”
The Autobot was blasted to the ground, releasing his prisoner and looking up to find Thrust striding up to him. “New packaging, same product; a loser, just like every other Autobot.”
Recovering, Hoist managed to catch sight of something familiar in the settling dust cloud. He chuckled, and pointed. “Wanna bet?”
The Decepticon leader noticed as well, his optics going wide and his grin turning into an ugly growl as the dust settled, a familiar shield composed of three Mini-Cons shimmered into view in the Autobot leader’s hands. “No!”
His optics flashing dangerously, Optimus grimly leveled his cannon and answered back. “My turn.” He then opened fire, unleashing a powerful shot of energy boosted by two Mini-Cons. Where the Autobot leader had a defense in the form of the most powerful shield ever crafted on Cybertron, his opposite did not, and was blown back and onto his feet by the attack.
Hoist laughed triumphantly before sucker-punching Thrust. “Now that’s more like it!”
Temporarily disoriented, the Decepticon tactician recovered in time to see Red Alert arrive and transform, brandishing far more weapons than normal. On one shoulder was a pair of small rotary guns, on the other a compact missile launcher, and in the medic’s hand a heavy blaster. Without a word the medic opened fire, shooting the smaller Decepticon out of the sky in the onslaught.
Getting back to his feet, his armor battered and his weapons systems damaged, Megatron looked towards his rival and bellowed in defiance. “You have nothing, Prime! Nothing!”
A trio of streaks caused him to dodge to one side.
“Sorry to disappoint,” Runway noted.
“But it’s time you shipped out!” Jetstorm declared.
“We’re ready Prime!” Sonar called.
Optimus quickly stored his cannon and reached out his hand. Sonar transformed into the hilt of a sword and landed soundly in the Autobot leader’s hand, fingers tightening around the newly-formed hilt. The other two Mini-Con jets connected, forming a blade, and interlocked with their third. The combined jets took on a brilliant blue glow, and the Star Saber emerged.
Fueled by anger and frustration, the Decepticon leader fired again. Instead of using the Skyboom Shield to block it as he had previously, however, Optimus instead swiped at the cannon burst with the Star Saber, unleashing a blue wave of energy and sending it rocketing towards Megatron. The blast overwhelmed Megatron’s own attack, and sent the Decepticon leader rocketing backwards and crashing into the ground. The tyrant struggled to rise, but found himself too damaged to continue, managing only to gasp before falling into stasis lock, “Decepticons… retreat…”
A remote orbital bounce beamed the Decepticons out of view, Megatron first and the others following close behind. Just before he was beamed away, Skywarp gave his sparring partner a salute, Scavenger smiling in reply. “Always a pleasure, old friend.”
The threat past, Prime separated back into his normal robot form, the Star Saber doing likewise into its individual components. Relieved that the battle was over, he looked to his newly-rebuilt trooper and asked, “Smokescreen?”
“Hoist now, actually.” Working a few last kinks out of his joints, the rebuilt Autobot assured his leader, “It’s still me in here, Prime, just a few new tricks is all.”
“We’re lucky we were able to manage it.” Red Alert stepped forward, still outfitted with his extra weapons. “Still, Hot Shot and Smokes… Hoist, rather, are both in perfect health.”
Curious at the absence of his partner, Blurr looked around. “Speaking of, where is Hot Shot?”
The medic grew grave. “He’s taking care of unfinished business.”
“You know, I almost regretted coming here.” As he continued to taunt the pair of Cybertronians before him, Sideways slowly rose into the air. “Figured it was a bad idea, didn’t like the concept of running errands. Then I saw just what was going on. Say what you will about your Autobot friends, they’re excellent at keeping records.”
Optics wide with a mixture of awe and fear, Starscream couldn’t help but ask, “What are you?”
“A herald,” the newcomer explained. “A vanguard of the darkest fears you possess. Only those blinded by power and ego, or the foolish, can’t see me for what I am.”
The realization hit the Seeker hard as he gasped, “Unicron.” A surprised look from Wheeljack complementing his comment, he reasoned aloud, “He sent you. But how did he create you?! He destroys life, warps it to his own ends! He doesn’t create it!”
“What makes you think he created me?” With a malevolent laugh and no intention of expanding upon his origins, the herald continued, “He heard their call, same as you did. He sent me ahead, to make inquiries, see what all could be seen about you. So far, I’m not impressed. You have no idea the powers your ancestors possessed, no idea of your full potential. The chaos you’ve unleashed upon yourselves in this war will consume you when my master comes.” An orange aura of energy formed around his body. “But no point tipping anyone off now, is there?”
Suddenly, clouds formed in the skies above them. Sideways’s aura shot forth from his body into the clouds, only to streak back into him, heading directly towards a slot in his shield. As the energy touched the slot, he cried out, “Cyber Key, LOCK!” For a brief second, a blast of silver and orange energy, shaped like a key rimmed with spikes, flashed around him. His shield deployed four prongs, and he pointed the end directly at the two Decepticons. The prongs glowed a brilliant orange, a ball of energy forming at the shield’s tip, then firing outwards.
The blast connected with the ice at their feet, shattering it. On instinct, Starscream rose into the air, only with Wheeljack’s cries remembering his comrade. Below, the young Cybertronian scrambled to grab hold of the ice, his hands grasping for purchase and failing…
…Only to have something far more stable take hold instead. Looking up, the former Autobot looked in surprise at his savior.
The robot that had saved him from falling had armor of medium yellow, black, and pale medium blue, with twin wing-like protrusions extending from his shoulder blades. As the robot struggled to maintain his grip, dental plates gritted, he gave a determined promise. “I’m not leaving you, Wheeljack! Not this time!”
Recognition flooded the black and gold sedan’s optics. “Hot Shot!”
Landing beside the Autobot, Starscream extended a hand, Wheeljack reaching up for it on instinct and allowing the two to let him climb back onto the ice shelf. Wheeljack’s sibling looked at him with a grin. “Surprise.”
Far above them, Sideways was less than impressed with the family reunion. “Well, that’s disappointing.” He readied his weapon again. “Oh well. Second time’s the charm!”
A high-powered energy shot hit the ebon-armored herald from the side, forcing him to turn away from his targets and towards a new one. Righteous fury in his optics as he bared down upon the herald, Vector Prime drew his sword and declared, “You are unwelcome here, herald. Leave this place, or be destroyed.”
“Hmm… How about I go with option three?” Giving off a taunting laugh, Sideways transformed into vehicle mode and flew around in a haphazard manner, firing potshots at his opponent.
Down below, Wheeljack looked at his sibling in amazement, trying to speak but left unable to find the right words. “Hot Shot, I thought… How did… You–?”
“We both made mistakes, Wheeljack.” Offering a hand, one sibling looked to another. “What do you say we put them behind us, and try again?”
The former Autobot looked at the offered hand, then into the optics of his sibling. In an instant, it felt like all the anger that he’d felt towards Hot Shot, all his rage and frustration, both at his sibling for having been left behind and at himself for what he had very nearly done, had faded. A relieved smile growing on his face, he took the offered hand and squeezed. “You got it, bro.”
Clearing his vocalizer in order to get the attention of the two young Cybertronians, Starscream returned their attention skywards. “I hate to interrupt this tender moment, but we aren’t quite out of the smelting pool yet. Whatever that thing is, he’s far too fast for Vector Prime to hit. He needs cover fire.”
Flashing a reassuring grin, Hot Shot pulled out his new rifle. “Got that covered. You ready Jolt?”
Zooming in from the distance, the little red Mini-Con helicopter whooped in joy. “Coming in! Powerlink!” He soon found purchase, interlocking with the rifle and supercharging it.
A pleased smile growing on his face, the Seeker looked to his partner’s hiding place and asked, “Well, are you going to join in, or not?”
Grumbling as he disconnected from beneath his partner’s cockpit, Swindle emerged, then locked in to the Seeker’s primary port. “The things I do for spark and planet.” As he locked into place, twin cannons popped into position over the Seeker’s shoulders, energy charging at their tips.
Together, the young Autobot and the experienced Decepticon took aim and fired. Sideways jumped right into the path of fire and a burst of laser and a continuous beam of null energy plowed into his underside. He transformed to robot mode and cast his glance upon the three Cybertronians below, and then laughed. “Not bad, but it’ll take more than that to hurt me.”
A bright green aura of energy distracting him, the herald turned as Vector Prime declared, “Then perhaps I may be able to finish what they started.” The aura surged skyward from the ancient Prime’s body, the clouds swirling around the oncoming burst. Within seconds, the energy returned, amplified, and condensed into a key-shaped form. “Cyber Key, LOCK!”
The key slid into a slot on his chest, flashing green and deep silver before disappearing, as Sideways unleashed a beam of energy from his weapon. A massive green field of energy appeared in the air between the opponents, holding the beam in check.
“Give up the fight, old mech! Die like your siblings!”
Spurred on by the herald’s attempt at disheartening him, the ancient Prime declared, “Never!” The shield condensed back into the deep red core in his chest, then blasted back out as an overwhelming burst of energy. The blast tore through Sideways’s own and then sent the herald slamming into the ground, disintegrating his right arm in the process.
Exhausted from his attack, Vector Prime floated down to the ground. The ancient Cybertronian collapsed as he landed, Starscream quickly moving to support him. “Relax, Vector Prime. You did it.”
His speech ragged, the ancient corrected the younger Cybertronian. “No, I did not.” His gaze moved towards where the herald fell. “If that abomination is anything like his creator, he will not be disabled for long.”
Vector Prime’s words were proven true as Sideways literally rushed him, digging into the ancient Transformer’s throat with his remaining hand. As the herald’s faceplate glowed a malevolent red, his right arm regenerated itself and then grabbed hold of the Seeker’s throat in turn. Giving a dark chuckle, he turned his head around 180 degrees as sparks of electricity formed at the tips of his horns. “And just to make sure we aren’t interrupted!” Twin lightning bolts burst forth from his head, arcing towards Hot Shot and Wheeljack.
Before either could reach their targets, Wheeljack pulled out his stun batons, positioning them in order to catch the electrical bursts before they could hit. He braced himself and then crossed the batons in front of his chest, the electrical bursts following them. “What are you waiting for, the Stellar Convergence?! SHOOT HIM!”
Raising his weapon and opening fire, Hot Shot blasted Sideways directly in the head. The juggernaut Transformer was barely fazed, laughing in response to the laser bolts. “You kids want to go first?” He released his two opponents and then turned his body around entirely, marching towards them while still shooting out lightning from his head. “Fine then. Who’s first?”
As Sideways turned towards the new voice, a full-on cannon blast hit him square in the face.
Flanked by the other Autobots, their weapons firing directly into the herald, Optimus continued firing and called out, “All of you get out of there, now!”
The young Autobot nodded then transformed to his new vehicle mode, resembling an Aston Martin sports car rather than the Audi he formerly resembled. “Come on!” After brief hesitation, Wheeljack followed suit, Vector Prime and Starscream launching skyward with the distraction.
“Optimus, Sideways is–!”
“We heard everything! Hot Shot kept a comm.-line open with Red the whole time!”
Barely fazed by the barrage set against him, Sideways jumped out of the line of fire and laughed. “Please, you’re all pathetic! Nothing you’ve got can so much as scratch me!”
Lifting his ion cannon and signaling his team to hold their fire, Optimus took hold of a seam at the top of his chest, a brilliant bright blue light shining within. “Care to test that theory?”
As Sideways’s faceplate darkened, the Autobot leader opened his chest, a massive blue burst of light shooting out from the Matrix of Leadership and enveloping his body. Even as he began to be slowly torn apart, he began to laugh. “Nice to see you aren’t afraid to fight, Prime, but your artifacts can’t hold me back for long! There’s more to me than you know, and more heralds where I came from! You’ll see me again–!”
The herald disintegrated as the light of the Matrix faded, seemingly leaving him destroyed. Prime’s chest closed silently as he declared, “Then we’ll defeat you. Again.”
The two brothers skidded to a halt before transforming and looked upon the place on the ground where Sideways once stood. Aghast, Wheeljack turned to his brother and asked, “Would someone mind explaining what the slag just happened?!”
Two simultaneous clicks interrupted him, Blurr pointing both his weapons at the turncoat. “I could ask the same thing about you.”
“Blurr!” Hot Shot called in protest, moving to protect his sibling.
“Stand down, all of you!” All three stood at attention as Optimus approached, even Wheeljack doing so out of reflex. Lowering his guns, Blurr watched as the Autobot leader locked optics with the young Cybertronian. “I’ll handle this.”
The black and gold former Autobot looked at his former commander, fear clear upon his optics. This was it; no court martial, no sentencing, he wasn’t even going to be taken out. He was just going to be shot where he stood. Steeling himself, he decided that if Hot Shot could face his fate, then he could do no less.
After regarding the former Autobot silently, Optimus placed his cannon in storage. “It’s rare that I can take pleasure in taking an Autobot’s name off of the MIA last. I have every intention of savoring this.” He raised an arm, and gently laid a hand upon the young Cybertronian’s shoulder. “Welcome back to us, Wheeljack. I can’t begin to imagine what you’ve suffered, and in no way does it excuse what has happened in the last few cycles, but I’m glad to see you online after all this time.”
Relief clear in his optics, Wheeljack relaxed and slumped slightly. “Thank you, sir.”
Disbelief clear in his, Blurr looked at his commander and cried out in shock. “Optimus, you can’t be serious! He betrayed us, nearly killed Hot Shot and Smokescreen…Hoist…whichever!”
“‘Nearly’ being the operative word,” Red Alert pointed out.
“And many Autobots and Decepticons could say the same about me.” Landing among the gathered Autobots with Vector Prime, Starscream chipped in for the younger mech. “And for now, they’d be right.” Looking upon him, he noted, “Had I been able to, you would have been returned to them. I owe you my apologies as well, for being afraid to break what precious cover I had.”
Looking first at the Seeker, then to his former commander, then his sibling, Wheeljack nodded. “Given all this, I think I can understand.”
Beneath his faceplate, Optimus smiled, and then looked to the young sniper. “You aren’t wrong, Blurr. But it isn’t our place to settle the matters concerning Wheeljack’s actions. We’ll let the Cybertron Judiciary address them when the time comes. For now we seem to have greater problems.”
“Agreed.” His systems having recovered, Vector Prime stowed away his sword. “That abomination was a herald of Unicron. His presence here on Earth proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Chaos Bringer is indeed moving. We must end this pointless conflict and stand together against our greatest foe, or our existence will be for naught.”
Looking to the young Cybertronian, Starscream gently pressed him. “We face a greater danger than Megatron now. For countless vorns, our people have been divided because of him, in this case brother literally cast against brother. His insane quest for power led to the Mini-Con exodus, and his division of the Decepticons has tarnished us forever. He refuses to see that his mad quest is pointless and that there are much greater stakes involved than simply gaining possession of the Mini-Cons. He must be stopped, and while I have allies, I need all the help I can get.”
Looking to the ancient Prime, the young Decepticon asked, “But what about Unicron? How do we stop him?”
Vector Prime merely smiled. “Leave that to us, young one. For now, we need to make certain that Megatron is dealt with, and kept unaware of our own efforts. We all have our roles to serve, and I suspect yours is waiting for you.”
“And if that isn’t incentive enough, I’m certain that once all of this is dealt with, I can put in a good word for you with the court.” Offering a hand, Starscream asked, “What do you say? Willing to fight alongside someone else who ruined your life?”
The young Cybertronian looked first to the Seeker, then to the damaged Autobot symbol on his chest, then to the Decepticon symbol on his arm. “I owe my loyalty to the one who saved my life.” He looked to Hot Shot and noted with a smile, “But a lot of people have saved my life recently.” He then turned to Starscream again and took the offered hand. “I’m in.”
The red Seeker returned the smile. “Welcome to the conspiracy.” He turned to Optimus. “I noticed the Star Saber’s glow from the distance. Megatron won’t be recovering from that anytime soon. That should give me plenty of time to see about making sure we don’t need to raid any more hydroelectric facilities here on Earth. I’ll keep you appraised.”
“And I you.” Optimus promised. “In the meantime, you’d better get back to your ship.”
Starscream nodded. “Until next time.”
A grin on his face, Wheeljack turned to his sibling. “Take care of yourself, brother.”
Giving his first genuine smile in a very long time, Hot Shot replied in kind. “You too, brother.”
An orbital jump recalling them back to the Nemesis at last, Starscream and Wheeljack both faded out of sight, leaving the Autobots and their various allied Mini-Cons alone.
“I still don’t think that was a good idea.” Looking to his commander, Blurr spoke uneasily. “Even if he is on our side again, we don’t know what’s waiting for him on the Decepticon ship.”
“You didn’t notice the other Decepticons with Megatron?” Scavenger looked to his student. “Thundercracker, Skywarp, and Mudflap. We can trust them.”
“Speaking of, what happened to the Mini-Cons in the pod?” Hot Shot asked. “Are they…?”
The Autobot medic nodded, his optics flashing briefly in the direction of all his extra weapons. “Safe and sound, all six of them.”
It was only then that Hot Shot realized that, in addition to the three weapons on Red Alert, two unfamiliar Mini-Cons rested in Hoist’s remaining Powerlinx ports and a third on one of Scavenger’s. The six disconnected, and transformed into their respective robotic forms.
“Hot Shot, meet Ransack, Dune Runner and Iceberg of the Adventure Team,” Optimus noted, the Mini-Cons nodding in turn, “and Kingbolt, Impulsor and Quench of the Hazard Team.”
“Impressive display, Hot Shot.” The Hazard Team’s leader, white and red and notably hardy, stood tall alongside his similarly-colored teammates. “I look forward to working with you further in the future.”
Standing among his teammates, the Adventure Team’s leader did likewise. “You can count us in on that action.”
Somewhat nervously, the young Autobot stored his weapon. “Thanks, I guess.”
“Now that we are all introduced, we have other issues to attend to.” Kneeling down, Vector Prime addressed the red and white Mini-Con. “Kingbolt, you were in command of the Exodus, correct?”
The Mini-Con nodded. “Indeed, though that was hardly an impressive command. I assume you are not asking this for sheer curiosity.”
“If only it were so.” Safeguard disconnected from his partner and landed softly beside him. “My apologies, old friend. We hid something aboard the ship.”
“Aside from the Omega Sentinel that Optimus stowed aboard?” Impulsor shook his head. “Honestly, that’s no shocker. What else you got?”
“The Omega Lock.”
The Osprey Mini-Con shook his head. “It couldn’t be some old data-vids. Had to be something important.”
The ancient was clearly displeased with mention of the artifact. “I take no joy from my previous choices. For now, however, we must find that ship.”
Kingbolt nodded. “We were the last to leave. With any luck, we may be able to point out where it landed.”
“We’ll need maps.” Scavenger noted.
“Between Col. Franklin and Diana, we should be able to manage it,” Optimus noted.
Elsewhere, far away from Earth, a form began to emerge from a wall. A body emerged – a torso, limbs, and a head. It gained definition, color, and took shape.
“And they think they’ve seen the last of me.” Sideways chuckled, his faceplate glowing red. “So long as my master survives, I survive. And soon, very soon, they’ll discover that there’s nothing they can do about his return.”
Spheroids with mounted guns swarmed around him, greeting him and his rebirth. “So much yet to do. Let’s have some fun, shall we?”