Rian Moeru: I'm kinda sad that this is probably the last chapter of this fic ._. Can we do spinoffs and oneshots Misael? XD
Misgel: Here it is, everyone, grand finale! This was a lot of fun, and I have to thank Rian Moeru coming up with the idea and being an awesome co-author! And yes, Rian, we can write more Quickclaw. XD
Quickclaw couldn't move. Cold, metal restraints pinned down all four of his legs. A clamp was over his jaws, keeping them shut tight. There were even clamps that ran the length of his neck and his tail. He tried to flail, pushing against the confining things, but he could not give slack on one restraint without tightening another. If he struggled too much, painful, electric shocks coursed through his body.
Quickclaw did not know where he was. There was only darkness. His sharp optics couldn't even see the walls beyond, just the slab he was constrained to. A single, alien light shone on him. He knew he was being watched—he could smell them, but could not see them. No mech had come since he awoke in this place. No energon, no food, had been given to him.
Jack was panicking. Instead of the darkness of the strange room, he saw the darkness of the Nemesis. Please, please, please! Nomore, nomore, nomore! He retreated to the corridors of the mind, allowing Ravage to step forth. The symbiote knew this wasn't right. Why was he here? What did that usurper want? Quickclaw merely whined miserably. Where was Predaking? The Great-King...he was looking for him...right?
Suddenly heavy, slow pedes echoed through the air. The foul stench that reached Quickclaw's chemoreceptors made him hiss. He tried to turn to bite the figure that neared him, but the restraints held fast. Suddenly cold, unfriendly claws touched his dorsal plating.
"A living Predacon," a deep, smooth voice purred in amazement. "I could never imagine I would behold such a miracle."
Quickclaw growled deep in his chest, a warning.
Suddenly the unwelcomed servo lay across his helm, stroking the individual horns of his crown. A muffled snarl tore from his muzzled maw, the captive twisting his head as the fingers ran deliberately slow against his crown. No one could touch his plates like they owned him! He was not a pet! He was a Predacon! A Great-Hunter-of-the-Skies!
There was a dark chuckle, as if in amusement. "My associates tell me you were with the Autobots. I wonder how that False Prime got his servos on you?" Quickclaw whimpered as the touch on his crown tightened, causing slight pain. "Optimus Prime destroyed our home, and he flees to hide on a dirt planet like a pest. Yet he is hailed a hero. He is a tyrant that must be slayed. A traitor who will answer for his crimes."
That's not true! Jack shouted from the depths of his own mind. Optimus was a hero, ten times better than piece of scrap in front of him. He growled, vainly attempting to gnash their fangs at the deceiver. Crimson optics merely flared.
"Megatron was a fool. He was consumed by his lust for power and his stupid pride."
Ravage snarled. Megatron was one true Lord and Master of the Decepticons! He wished nothing more than to rip the usurper apart as the claws returned to gently stroke his helm.
"I will save this world. I am its Lord Protector and we will become a great empire once again." There was a cruel smile, flashing razor-sharp fangs. "And we shall start with the annexation of Earth."
The Predacon struggled against the bindings more fiercely. His home, his planet, would not become the plaything of this wannabe tyrant!
"Struggle all you like—there's no getting out of this prison," his captor mocked him, running those claws down his spine to his tail. The Predacon shuddered as hot, foul ventilation blew on his audial receptors. "You are mine now."
With one last demeaning stroke on his sensitive tail, the captor stalked away. Once again leaving him in darkness. Alone.
For the first time, Quickclaw, Ravage, and Jack agreed. They feared Cyclonus.
Predaking hadn't stopped snarling or snapping at anyone who neared him for the past few hours. Flames constantly brimming at his mouth in a fury. And though he told no one, he was terrified. Frightened, for his Little-One.
"Predaking, please, calm yourself," Optimus Prime said, slowly and cautiously and standing a safe distance from the raging beast.
"THIS IS YOUR FAULT!" the Predacon screamed. "LIARS! MURDERERS! BLASPHEMERS!"
"You just had to say something," Sideswipe muttered.
He and the other Autobots were standing as far from the dragon as possible. Behind them were the humans, Fixit, and several of the Mini-Cons, shielded from any stray blasts of flame. Several more stacks were successfully melted into useless heaps.
"Raging and sulking isn't going to help Jack—Quickclaw," Bumblebee scolded, only to correct himself as Predaking let out a raged hiss. "Action will!"
"And what do you propose we do?! Quickclaw was taken off world, not merely caged in some miserable place on this planet!" he snapped harshly, clawing at the ground anxiously.
"If the bounty hunters were hired by Cyclonus, it stands to reason they would report to Cybertron," Optimus mused.
"How could we possibly get there?" Fixit wailed.
"Didn't Megatron say he could help...?" Strongarm pointed out hesitantly.
"Yeah! That Soundblast guy could fix it!" Grimlock exclaimed.
"Soundwave," corrected Drift.
"It seems we are left with no other option if we wish to rescue our comrade," Optimus said grimly. He didn't trust Megatron, but if Jack's life hung in the balance, then he would do what he must to save him.
"WHAT?" Tricerashot gasped. "You're going to let him come here?"
"Tricerashot, the Autobots want to help us!" Sawtooth tried to argue.
"How is working the mech we are trying to get away from help us?"
"We promise no harm will come to you," Optimus vowed. "Megatron will be closely monitored, and will only linger long enough to send us on our journey."
The little triceratops turned to Aerobolt. "You're not going to say anything to this?!"
"It is our fault that the Predacon was taken in the first place, due to failing to protect ourselves from the bounty hunters," he said calmly, sharp eyes bearing down on the Dinobot. "If not for his selfless actions, it would have been us that were captured and taken to the Council."
Tricerashot started at that, unable to think of a proper reply. He didn't understand what had happened. The Predacon... really saved them? The Mini-Cons and the hybrid had never met before... yet, the creature had sacrificed its freedom for the runaways. When it had no reason to.
Aerobolt had merged with the Predacon, felt his thoughts. And with the bond between the Mini-Cons, Tricerashot could feel what the flyer had realized. The Predacon was just like them. An experiment, forced to live a life it did not want, but fought for that life all the same. The Mini-Con sighed heavily.
"Fine," he forced out. "But I still don't like him."
"That makes two of us," Aerobolt agreed solemnly.
"And you, Predaking?" Optimus asked, seeing the mini-cons had joined them in this fight. "Will you aid us as well?"
Predaking gave a rumbling growl, narrowing his optics.
"I care for Quickclaw far more than you ever could," the Predacon snarled. Bumblebee opened his mouth to retort, but Optimus raised his servo in warning. "Which is why I will find this Cyclonus, and tear him apart for his theft. Do not think for a moment I have forgiven your role in the destruction of my brethren."
"So... is that a yes?" Grimlock asked.
Predaking hissed. "As long as my Little-One is returned to me."
"Very well. Fixit, contact Megatron immediately," Optimus said to the Mini-Con. "We will need the groundbridge operational as soon as possible."
The mechanic whimpered, but did not protest. He moved to the communications console, sending a set of coordinates before he went to the groundbridge. Meanwhile, Strongarm ushered the humans and the Mini-Cons towards the stacks.
"I really can't see him?" Russell asked.
"Rusty, it's best you stay away from someone like that," Denny warned, tugging his arm.
"He saved my life..."
Strongarm frowned, knowing the trusting boy wanted to obey his sense of chivalry, even though the Autobot wasn't convinced Megatron had noble intentions. Before she could say anything, a groundbridge swirled open. Shooing the little ones and ordering Grimlock to hide them with his bulk, she turned to face the portal. After her service as an Autobot and her career as a law enforcement officer, it took every fiber of self-control in her body not to activate her weapons as the tall, dark, imposing form of Megatron stepped through.
The former warlord looked as terrifying as the rumors had said. He was one of the tallest Cybertronians she had ever met, just a few units shorter than Predaking and Grimlock. Spiked armor and crimson optics gave him a menacing appearance. Behind him was the small, sleek form of Soundwave, still in possession of the combined Decepticon Hunter. Strongarm was as stiff as a statue and she heard a growl behind her, that suspiciously sounded like Predaking. Megatron's optics glanced around the Scrapyard curiously.
"After eons of trying to send you to the scrapyard, and you Autobots managed to come to one on your own," the former Decepticon leader quipped. He grinned in amusement, showing razor-sharp denta.
"It's vintage salvage!" Danny shouted out instinctively. He looked around at his once beautiful salvage, and the damage the recent fighting really had made his collection into twisted or melted scrap. His shoulders slumped, face falling. "...Or at least it was..."
Russell sighed, shaking his head.
"Now probably isn't the best time for this, Dad..." he murmured as those red optics peered down at them, sending chills up his spine. Bumblebee stepped in the way of Megatron's view of them.
"Ah, found a replacement for your lost pets?" the former warlord taunted.
Bumblebee growled, but before he could reply, Predaking, now in bipedal mode, stomped forward.
"Enough talk! Fix the bridge!" the Great-King snapped, like it was an order. "So I may find Quickclaw!"
Megatron's optics narrowed. "...Jackson is missing?"
"Your bounty hunters dropped by," Bumblebee spat, fully blaming the former Decepticon's carelessness for not destroying them. "They snagged Quickclaw and took a spacebridge out of here."
Suddenly those crimson orbs flared, dangerously. The silver titan turned to Soundwave, who was holding his Decepticon Hunter tightly.
"Soundwave, reconfigure their bridge," he ordered. The communications officer nodded and immediately set to work, extending his tendrils. Fixit watched him warily, remembering the last time the silent Decepticon was in their makeshift base. Meanwhile, Megatron turned back to Optimus. "It will take a few solar cycles to complete. We will require materials."
"There's plenty of salvage still lying around—maybe you can use some of that?" Danny offered. He yelped when the warlord scoffed and sneered in his direction.
"I will provide a list of the needed materials, the likes of which I highly doubt are contained in this scrapyard."
"Very well," Optimus agreed. "We will provide any assistance you require."
Megatron merely scoffed and turned away. The next few days were the longest and most hectic Russell ever experienced. Soundwave was constantly working on the groundbridge day and night, even tearing plating and wiring apart, much to Fixit's dismay. The Mini-Con could not help but intervene, at first to the Decepticons' annoyance, especially when they discovered his speech impairment.
"Your Mini-Con has a glitch," Megatron grumbled, only immediately be chastised for his rudeness.
When Fixit pointed out he had installed the dual-redundant vortex loops, phase-locked thermal compensation, and twin geosynchronous-something, Soundwave seemed impressed enough to accept his aid. Meanwhile, the Autobots were sent on milk runs, picking up seemingly useless relics to aid in the repair. Albeit much to their annoyance, vocally complaining until Optimus silenced them. They were able to save a couple trips by scouring through the salvage, but the Decepticons' were picky what materials they would accept.
Predaking, meanwhile, sulked in solitude on the edge of the scrapyard. In dragon form, he curled up tightly, but always had one fierce optic open, glaring at anyone that came close. The optic lingered on Megatron the most, but the former tyrant pretended not to notice.
Russell spent most of the time locked inside his home, on his father's orders. To his surprise, a few of the Mini-Cons accompanied him, wanting to stay as far away from the warlord as possible. As far as he knew, there had been no contact between the living weapons and their creator.
Russell was growing increasingly agitated with staying inside the house day and night, unable to do anything but watch TV and observe the others working outside, unable to interact. It was becoming unbearable!
"How can you guys stand hiding all the time?" he complained to the Mini-Cons. "It's only been two days and I'm about to go nuts in here!"
"It's better in here than it is out there with him," Tricerashot grumbled. The Mini-Con had set up camp in the couch, along with Lancelon and Sawtooth. Much to Russell's annoyance, who had to fight them for a seat constantly.
"What is the story, anyway?" the boy dared to ask. "He created you?"
"He tortured us," Sawtooth correctly bitterly. "It was the early days of the War, Megatron raided a creche. He took us, and stunted our growth. Experimented on us."
"This is the first time in a long time, that we have seen the sun," Lancelon sighed.
"That's... terrible," Russell whined, not knowing what else to say.
The boy had been told all the horror stories of the dictator, the atrocities he had committed in his pursuit of power. He knew what he did to Jack, and now the Mini-Cons. And he looked so scary. Especially with that sword...
Yet Megatron had saved his life. He had to opportunity to crush him or use him as a hostage, but he didn't. Now he was promising to help save Jack. Bumblebee didn't trust the mech, saying he was only working for his own benefit. But Optimus said that Megatron had changed his ways. Everyone had a chance of redemption, didn't they? Russell's stomach twisted.
"Well, I'm not staying in here anymore," he announced. "I'm going to see if I can help."
He ignored his guests' protest as he fled into the scrapyard.
"Get back here—!" they insisted, but Russell would have none of it as he strode through the shelves of junk.
It didn't take long for him to find where the 'Bots were working, in the clearing where they usually hung out. Russell saw Soundwave working diligently, never pausing in his work it seemed, with Fixit at the lower regions of the groundbridge, torch causing sparks to fly everywhere.
Sideswipe and Strongarm were lingering in the clearing, which wasn't a surprise. There was always an Autobot around to watch their 'guests'. Predaking was still an unmoving mountain in the far corner. Suddenly there was a chill as a shadow fell over Russell. He glanced up, only to squeak when his gaze met blood-red optics.
"H-hello..." he managed in a high-pitched voice as he trembled, Megatron standing over him.
"And here I thought you and those pests were hiding from me," the warlord rumbled, his deep voice making the boy's ribcage rattle.
"I wasn't hiding," Russell argued stubbornly. The former Decepticon merely snorted and looked away, as if he was already bored. After a pause, the human pressed on anyway. "Th-thank you... for, um, before..."
Megatron cocked an optic ridge. "And what, prey tell, was that?"
"Um, when you saved my life."
"Saved you?" Megatron snorted contemptuously. "I was merely saving myself the trouble of wiping the mess your broken little body would have caused on my plates. It seems the Autobots haven't changed. Bringing their pets along on the battlefield."
Russell's eyes widened at his blunt words. Given, the boy had been terrified when the warlord snatched him, but he had been careful with his claws. When the Autobots were wary of him, Megatron had spoken calmly and diligently. Now, he acted like he wanted nothing to do with his new allies. Still, the boy didn't fail to hear the disapproval in the titan's voice.
"Is that how you kidnapped Jack?" Russell blurted.
The optics widened briefly, as if Megatron wasn't expecting such a brash question. It made the human wonder how many beings actually managed to surprise the ancient gladiator.
"Ah, they told you about that little story, didn't they?" he sneered, the brief look disappearing. Russell ignored it, instead blurting out the question that had been burning in his chest ever since he met that strange little creature in the scrapyard.
"Why did you take Jack?"
"Why? Why would I not?" Megatron countered with a question of his own. Russell remained silent as he continued to speak. "I had everything to gain—a valuable prisoner with knowledge on my enemies whereabouts, a means of controlling my pet were he to disobey, and the first of a new line of soldiers to put under my command."
"But Jack didn't do anything to you!" Russell protested. It wad hard to picture the teenager, when the boy only knew him as a fierce Predacon. Russell could only put himself in that situation, and he knew Jack could bring as much harm to the warlord as Russell could—which was none. In fact, there would be only one thing Russell would want. "He just wanted to go home!"
"So did I."
The unexpected response made Russell blink. Before he could say anything, there was an excited shout and a high-pitched roar from the other side of the clearing. Both being turned their heads to see a gr—spacebridge yawn open. Russell stared while Megatron walked over, joining Optimus and the other Autobots. It even attracted Predaking, the mighty beast slowly uncoiling.
"So... we just jump through into the High Council Chambers, right?" Sideswipe concluded.
"Negative," Soundwave reported, much to everyone's surprise. "Spacebridge: inaccurate due to improper materials. The probability of bridging to Iacon is twelve percent."
"Can it take us to Cybertron?" Megatron demanded.
"Range of accuracy is spread across the planet. Destination: undetermined."
"So this is going to be a risky mission," Strongarm frowned.
"The risk was always high," Drift surmised.
"Then we depart immediately," Optimus announced.
"For once, we agree on something, Optimus," stated Megatron.
"We will aid you in your journey," a deep voice offered. The Autobot leader turned to see Aerobolt gliding to the ground, the Mini-Cons approaching, attracted by the commotion.
"Will you now?" Megatron questioned, raising an optic ridge.
"Not you," Tricerashot snapped, turning his head away. Megatron merely chuckled at his defiance.
"Very well. Prepare to depart. It is unlikely we will return for some time." Optimus said.
"Will—will we ever see you again?" a timid voice came.
Optimus glanced down to the small form of Russell. The gentle giant frowned as he dropped to a kneel.
"I do not know. Our paths may cross again...or may not," he said, causing a pit to form in Russell's stomach.
"Oh..." the boy whimpered.
It was then a second figure knelt down next to him, running a smooth finger down his back in comfort.
"Thank you, Russell, Denny, for everything," Bumblebee murmured, his voice heavy. "Once we save Cybertron, we'll do our best to come back."
"We don't know if there'll still be Decepticon fugitives to track." The Autobot lieutenant ignored Megatron's noise of contempt. "...And I'm considering the possibility of making Earth a permanent Autobot base."
Immediately Russell's brightened at that. "That... that would be... awesome!" Bumblebee smiled warmly and Denny clasped his hands on his son's shoulder. The boy turned somber. "Just... just save Jack—I mean, Quickclaw, okay?"
The humans watched as the Cybertronians—the Autobots, the Decepticons, the Predacon, and the Mini-Cons—filed through the spacebridge. It closed behind them, leaving the Scrapyard empty.
Quickclaw was starving. His belly wrung with intense pain. His senses were dull and fuzzy. It was hard to think straight—the voices even going silent. He had cried and cried for nourishment, only for harsh snaps to sound from the darkness. He did not cease until shocks were sent through his systems.
He had been laying flat on his belly for days now, tired and aching. Weak. A feeling he had always hated, especially in the presence of others. Quickclaw knew they were still watching. Waiting for him to break.
Suddenly deep, familiar tones cut through the blackness.
"I understand you have experience with Predacons," Quickclaw's captor, Cyclonus, was saying. "We require you glean all you can from this one. I care not for the methods, as long as I get the results."
"Yes, Lord Protector."
Immediately Jack sprung forth from his slumber. That voice. He knew that voice. He had prayed to both God and Primus to never hear it again. But he recognized that deep bass, monotone volume anywhere. The restraints kept his spikes from bristling as slow, heavy pedes neared him. He forced himself to look up at the giant mass that stood over him. Only to meet a single, large optic.
He wailed sharply, a keen cry that pierce is own audio receptors as he fought against the restraints with renewed vigor. That stopped when a servo clutched around the base of his neck, causing him to freeze as he recalled the last time the scientist had touched him.
"I will leave you two to get acquainted," Cyclonus drawled and promptly left the room.
"Extraordinary," Shockwave mused. "I did not foresee you would survive for such a long period of time."
The inner fire in the Predacon's chest froze into solid ice. He knew. The Decepticon recognized him. His torturer. His creator.
The Predacon sunk away, if for no other reason than to remove the servo clutching him. It was of no avail, as the servo merely followed him. He whimpered softly, unable to escape from his creator.
"There is much to look over before renewing your progress," Shockwave stated, to the Predacon's dismay. "You are larger than when I first created you—a trait not found naturally in Cybertronians."
With that, the captive could not protest as the Decepticon began his tests-scanning, measuring his new length, and even shocking his systems and chipping off pieces of his metal armor. Shockwave turned to a console, looking over his findings, musing aloud to himself.
"There is a large quantity of carbon-based matter and proteins in the subject's systems," the scientist reported. "Biomass is composed of a unique mixture of cybernite and iron—which coincides with the material's presence in Earth's organic species. Likely a cause of the subject's unexpected growth—however, there is still a lack of Cybertronian biomech. There is most notably the absence of a T-cog, as was my design, and a functioning voice-box, which was compromised during the conversion process. I failed to perfect the slave coding. However, there seems to physical signs of the activation of programming. Further research is required."
The Predacon's angry red optics glared at the menacing mech as he approached the test subject. He growled, but did not have ferocity as before, as the claws returned to his dorsal plating. They stroked across his sensitive wiring. Quickclaw did not know if it was supposed to be comforting—it merely sent shivers across his body. Especially when once again a wire plugged into his port at the base of his neck.
He only gave a slight jerk with a whine at the invasive sensation as a cold, calculating presence filtered through his processor. He felt it poking at him curiously, like a librarian skimming over books on a shelf. It was far too long before Shockwave finally pulled away, automatically returning to his station.
"Subject shows expression of slave programming, but it is compromised with unaccounted lines of coding. Origin of which is unknown," Shockwave said as he examined the data he had gathered. "Recreation of slave coding will commence shortly. Subject will be returned to my lab for further testing, where the incomplete form will finish developing."
The Predacon only keened at the words. It was hopeless. For so long, he had been running away from those who wanted to hurt him. Running from what he was. But he realized now. He could never escape. Never.
"Ahh!" Sideswipe and Strongarm yelled as they were hurtled through the spacebridge, landing in a pile together.
The others were quickly to follow them. Grimlock collapsed on top of Drift and several of the Mini-Cons, effectively pinning them. Soundwave landed nimbly on his pedes, and sidestepped just as Bumblebee came falling through. Predaking came through in his dragon form, crashing ungracefully, and growled in annoyance as Fixit and the rest of the Mini-Cons fell on his head. Megatron and Optimus were the only ones unfazed by the spacebridge, landing in controlled crouch. Along with Aerobolt, whom glided out of the way and onto a nearby perch, which happened to be a pile of ruin.
"Next time, Soundwave, could you not bridge us five hundred units up in the air?" Sideswipe complained.
"Spacebridge: unstable," Soundwave argued simply.
"Where are we?" Strongarm demanded as she untangled herself from the red mech.
They were in a ruins of an ancient city. Entire roofs had collapsed and mountains of scrap towered over them. Red sand covered the shells of metal buildings. It created a thick layer across the ground, piled into large hills, and it even stuck to the smooth surfaces. Rust. A sea of it.
Apparently the spacebridge had deposited the Cybertronians in an old burial grounds in the Sea of Rust.
"Ah, great!" Sideswipe grumbled as he stood up, wiping the flaky substance off his chest. "We're in the middle of nowhere and a least a hundred miles away from the closest city!" he complained, then looked down, shoulders slumping as his feet were covered in rust. "Nothing's ever easy, is it?"
"Apparently not," Strongarm coincided, expression set into a disproving scowl.
At the Mini-Cons' groaning and Drift's insistence, Grimlock helped himself off the group, muttering a sheepish apology as they righted themselves. Soundwave didn't bother to help Bumblebee as the Autobot lieutenant climbed to his pedes, instead dutifully standing by Megatron's side. Predaking stood on his talons and shook his plating, sending the Mini-Cons flying. He ignored their screams and curses sent his way.
"Which way is this High Council?" he demanded impatiently.
"Iacon," Drift answered. "But that is on the other side of the Sea, is it not?"
"Kaon is closer," Megatron stated.
"The old Decepticon capital," Bumblebee frowned.
"And it also happens to have shelter, unless you want to the rust to get into your gears and trap you in this wasteland."
The team leader huffed, but said nothing.
"Then we depart immediately," Optimus decided. "There may be allies there willing to come to our aid."
"If it's a Decepticon city, doesn't that mean it's full of Decepticons?" Grimlock asked.
"Not anymore," Bumblebee answered. "It's been completely rebuilt after the War." He sent a suspicious glare at Megatron. "But that doesn't mean there's still some lurking around."
"All the better—" the warlord started to reply, but was cut off by Strongarm.
"Sh!" she snapped. "Do any of you hear that?"
Everyone went silent and became still. For several moments, there was only the sound of the howling wind and the groan of metal. Then, a faint sound came from the distance, but high-pitched and sharp.
"It sounds like a driller," Bumblebee observed.
"Likely a mining operation," Soundwave concluded.
"In this scrapyard?" Sideswipe deadpanned.
"Then perhaps we should head that way to get out of these conditions," Drift suggested, shaking off more rust from his frame. "I do not wish to discover what excessive amounts of these rust particles will do to my circuitry."
"After you," Megatron rumbled mockingly to Optimus, gesturing towards the sound of the drilling.
Optimus narrowed his optics but said nothing as he carefully took the lead.
"Um, what do we do about him?" Sideswipe suddenly asked, pointing to Megatron.
"And the big lizard?" Grimlock pointed out.
"I am a Predacon," Predaking corrected.
"And the fact you're a wanted fugitive," Strongarm added, looking at Drift and the Dinobot.
"It will be wise if only a few of us approach," Aerobolt suggested. "And scout this mining operation."
"Sound advice," Optimus agreed. "Strongarm, Bumblebee, with me. Rest of you, remain here."
"Do not keep us waiting," Megatron grumbled, eyeing his less friendly company.
Optimus merely nodded and the scouting team departed. It took time to navigate the twisted remains of the tombs, but they eventually found the source of the noise. Sure enough, the catacombs had been exposed to the elements. They were filled with miners and scholars, either digging carelessly through the deteriorating walls or scribbling notes on datapads.
"What are they doing?" Bumblebee asked as they observed the mechs and femmes down in the winding tunnels.
"Seems like they're looking for something," said Strongarm as the scholars hurried about, scribbling down something here and there, then barking orders at the miners.
Suddenly there was a growl of an engine. Optimus glanced up to see a dark-purple and red, bulky four-wheeler force its way over the ruins. It transformed into a just as large mech, looking down on the operation.
"That's Riotgear!" Strongarm gasped. "He's a member of the High Council! What's he doing here?"
"Nothing good," Bumblebee grumbled.
"Be silent," Optimus chided as Riotgear began speaking.
"...progress seems to be going slow," the mech started in an unpleasant voice.
"We're working as fast as we can sir-"
The head scholar was silenced with a wheeze as Riotgear fell on top of the poor 'Bot. Workers froze at the sight of the High Councilor settling his full weight on the operation head, causing cracks to form across his armor.
"You were due results orns ago," Riotgear spat. "We grow impatient."
"P-p-puh—" the poor Autobot sputtered.
"Hmm?" The High Councilor—the Decepticon—leaned forward, making metal groan as he shifted more of his weight on a single spot.
"High Councilor!" a miner cried. "We found something!"
"Lucky you," Riotgear sneered before promptly stepping off.
The victim gripped his chassis in pain and rolled over, groaning. The Decepticon meanwhile stormed over to a crowd of workers, which immediately parted at his approach. He plucked something from the miner's servos. An odd little device, the shape of a sphere, which Riotgear held between two claws.
"A Lightbender," Strongarm gasped.
"What are those?" Bumblebee asked.
"Ancient technology used to cast illusions to deceive even the strongest of scanners," Optimus explained.
"Cyclonus will be pleased," Riotgear rumbled. Suddenly there was a flash of light, and the menacing-looking Decepticon turned into a broad, smooth, cerulean Autobot.
The spying Autobots gasped. Unknowingly loud enough for a nearby scholar to hear.
"What was that?" he asked aloud, turning his head in their direction. He squinted his optics at the forms above. There weren't supposed to be any new arrivals... "Intruders!"
"Scrap..." Strongarm gasped, flinched back from the edge, but it was too late.
"Destroy them!" Riotgear bellowed.
Immediately several miners and even scholars shifted their arms into blaster, firing upon the interlopers.
"Autobots, fall back!" Optimus ordered the team. Fighting hardened Decepticons was one thing, but fellow Autobots and civilians were another entirely.
Only when they turned to flee, a line of works cut off their path.
"Looks we don't have a choice!" Bumblebee grounded out, pulling out his Decepticon Hunter.
He charged forward, Strongarm following his example. The workers were not as trained as the experienced warriors, falling easily. Optimus Prime, although reluctantly, joined the battle, his mere presence forcing the more educated ones to flee due to his presence alone. However, the sheer numbers of enemies proved challenging. Whenever an enemy fell, another one would just take their place. Bumblebee couldn't keep track of them all and fell victim to a few lucky hits. His energy began to drain and his movements became slower. Above him, he heard bellowing laughter.
"Yes, Autobots! Yes! Fall before the new rulers of Cybertron!" Riotgear crazed, doing nothing to assist his subordinates, as if it was below him.
Optimus glared up at the evil mech, only for a portable drill to slice into his leg. With a hiss, he fell to all fours. Hearing his comrades' shouts, he looked up, only to see the spinning tip of a drill.
Suddenly a roar of thunder filled the air. Many of the workers froze, even Riotgear, glancing up at the sky only to see no clouds. Instead, they saw the menacing shadow of Predaking.
"A-a Predacon?" the High Councilor gasped.
Before he could react, the Predacon's emblem brightened as his inner fire flared. He sent a jet of fire into the crowd, sending the workers running in every direction like headless prey. Riotgear bared his fangs in rage and transformed his arm into a barrel. He took aim at the hovering dragon's head, preparing to finish it.
Only for a bold of dark energon to collide into his weapon.
He snarled, whipping around to blast his attacker into atoms when he saw none other than Megatron. The sight of the tyrant had him stiffening in his tracks before attempting to flee.
"Cyclonus will hear of this!" Riotgear snarled as he transformed into his all-terrain vehicle.
Soundwave raised his Decepticon Hunter to use his weapon's namesake, only for Megatron to force the staff down.
"Let him go," the former Decepticon leader ordered.
"But he'll warn the Council!" Sideswipe protested, jogging up to the pair.
"We're trying to get to Iacon in one piece, not in buckets!"
"Cyclonus will fear me."
Sideswipe widened his optics at the sterling tyrant, convinced he had lost his processor.
"Guys, Optimus needs to have his leg looked at," Strongman insisted as she helped the much larger 'Bot to his pedes, his wound bleeding profusely.
"Then we must get to Kaon quickly," Megatron announced.
"Hey, guys!" Grimlock called. "What's this doohickey?"
In his claws was the Lightbender, which looked ridiculously tiny compared to the rest of him. Before anyone had a chance to observe it, the former dictator swiped it out of his grip. There was a flash of light.
Optimus's optics widened at Megatron's changed appearance. He almost looked like his old frame before the War. Silver and red metal ended in smooth armor, though his true size was no different. The burning red optics had been covered by a mask of calm blue ones. That frown was still there, ignoring the Autobot's gasp.
"Whoa! You're different now!" Grimlock gasped.
"Yet he still smells the same," Predaking grumbled, landing and transforming beside the group.
"At least we can get into Kaon now, without being swarmed by law enforcement," Strongarm stated.
Megatron grinned, which revealed crooked denta instead of sharp fangs. "Indeed."
Quickclaw could only stir minutely in the bright yellow liquid he had been suspended in. He was so very tired, barely able to think through the heavy fog that had flooded his mind. Several tubes and cords had been attached shortly before the glass prison had been flooded. He jerked when a small current ran through his frame, optics widening before falling nearly shut again.
He could not see, but he could hear voices beyond.
"Shockwave, how is the Predacon's progress?" Cyclonus requested. Jack and Ravage retreated at the voice.
"It will take time to correct the programming," the scientist replied. "But this pod will stabilize his genetic structure until he is transferred to a more suitable frame."
"Will he be as big as the other ones?"
"Cyclonus!" a new voice bellowed, baritone high-pitched with panic. "It's M-Megatron! Megatron has returned!"
"Impossible! That coward would never step foot on Cybertron," the Lord Protector protested, almost sounding confident in his words.
"He's here, my Lord, with Optimus."
"So one traitor allies with another..." The low hiss ended with a pause. "Shockwave, send your pets. I will like to see how the mighty Champion of Kaon and the Last Prime fare against them."
"Very well, Lord Protector," Shockwave conceded, sending the signals to activate the two currently out of stasis.
"I expect this beast to be finish within the orn! I want no delays!" Cyclonus demanded impertinently as he stormed out of the room, his heaving pedes echoing.
Quickclaw cracked open a single optic, staring through the murky liquid. He saw his creator standing away from him. He saw Shockwave's optic brighten fiercely after the mech left.
"Only my calculations will determine when my creation is combat-ready," Shockwave muttered, bitterness breaking through his monotone voice. There were a couple pings as the scientist meddled with something. "Skylynx, Darksteel, find them."
Quickclaw head furious, high-pitched roars, before the world disappeared.
Megatron's lip curled as the group moved through the crowded streets of the former Decepticon capital.
"This place has certainly changed," he mused, sounding displeased.
The same, towering skyscrapers still dominated the landscape, but Megatron noticed a few monuments missing from the skyline. Darkmount had been completely demolished, Soundwave's prison had been converted to hold criminals instead of war prisoners, and Shockwave's laboratories lay in ruins. Instead of the bold and proud symbol of the Decepticons, the bright and obnoxious emblem of the Autobots was everywhere. It agitated his processor. But he wouldn't give Bumblebee the satisfaction of knowing that.
It the was lieutenant's idea to split up. Eight Cybertronians along with eight Mini-Cons would draw attention, even in this busy city. Soundwave, unable to acquire a Lightbender and just as (in)famous as Megatron in these streets, decided to take the underground tunnels that he knew so well. He ended up being the guide of Predaking, whose monstrous form would get them caught in a klik. 'His Majesty' was less than thrilled being paired with a 'thief' but after some nagging, finally saw it wiser to stay quiet. Megatron just hoped seven Mini-Cons could hold him back from biting poor Soundwave in half. Not that he doubted his former TIC could handle himself.
Optimus and Strongarm went off on their own, as well as Sideswipe and Fixit, and Grimlock and Drift (the former saying something about 'team within a team' teamie nonsense). Leaving the disguised former Decepticon leader with the Autobot scout-turned-lieutenant. Perfect.
"Quite a team you've acquired, scout," Megatron said as he watched them go, the Dinobot talking excitedly with the exasperated Drift. A grin tugged at his lips. "It's no small wonder to imagine how Cybertron has once again fallen into the hands of Decepticons."
"Just keep moving. I don't want to be here any longer than you do," Bumblebee ordered stiffly.
"As you wish," Conceded the warlord mockingly to his killer, allowing the scout to take point.
The Autobot lieutenant made a face and Megatron noticed how he made sure there was a few units between them.
"The sooner we find something to treat Optimus's leg, the sooner we can get to Iacon," Bumblebee said, not even looking back at his tormentor.
"Ah, yes, it would be a pity if something happened to Optimus. Again."
The Autobot's wings shuddered in irritation, but he kept his voice level as he retorted, "You're not even half the leader Optimus is."
Megatron ignored the jab, instead asking, "Then what does that make you, scout?"
Finally Bumblebee broke, wheeling around to confront the tyrant. "It's lieutenant now."
"Promoted, I see. A reward for extinguishing my spark, I presume?"
"I became team leader because of my skills alone."
"Yes, the ability of speak must do wonders for you."
Bumblebee's optics dilated a few degrees. "You stole my voice. And I won't let you steal Quickclaw, either."
"Ah, but you're already too late for that, aren't you? By thirty some earth years if I'm not mistaken," he continued to jab the lieutenant, if only because there was nothing else to do.
This time the Autobot lieutenant's entire frame shuddered and Megatron braced for the runt to strike him. He was mildly impressed by Bumblebee's self-control when he didn't, despite the fact the scene had attracted several curious optics.
"That's why I have to find him, and bring him home," Bumblebee vowed.
"And if he does not desire to return to the Autobots?"
"He is different from the Jackson you once knew, Bumblebee." Megatron relished the way the runt flinched at the mention of his name.
"Jack is in there. I know it," Bumblebee said firmly, voice unwavering.
"Just don't be so disappointed when he chooses Predaking over you. He has come quite attached to the beast."
"That doesn't mean I don't care about him."
"Why are you so convinced you are the only one?"
Bumblebee blinked at that, mouth gaping, unable to think of a reply. What... what did Megatron mean by that? Surely he was speaking of Predaking? Before the lieutenant could get his voice back, the silver giant moved on again. It was an uneventful journey, neither of them able to find a triage or a medic or even a friendly face. At least they weren't recognized. Both kept their scanners on sensitive settings and their EM fields tucked in close, warily eying any 'Bot that came too close.
It was Megatron that realized they were coming up the old arena. The Pits of Kaon.
He had heard a rumor that the new High Council outlawed gladiatorial fights, something that disappointed him, but it seemed to please plenty of others. He was curious to what they did with his old fighting grounds, and the place he found his name. Where he became leader of the Decepticons. Only when they arrived, Megatron was froze stiff, almost looking like he was in stasis-lock.
"What in Primus..." he muttered lowly, in one of his deep, menacing growls that promised pain and destruction. "...is that."
The Pits of Kaon had been converted to a large plaza. Autobots—scholars and workers and citizens—dozed across the space in deep conversation or in a hurry, oblivious they were loitering on the burial ground of countless gladiators. In the center of the refurnished plaza, standing tall and erect and proud was—
"A statue in honor of Optimus," Bumblebees tone was quite smug, a grin tugging at the little bug's mouth impudently. "They felt it symbolic—Optimus triumphed over you so they built this statue in the former Decepticon capital. Like it?"
Megatron sneered contemptuously. His own statue, made in his honor, was long gone it seemed. Perhaps even melted down and recycled to make this abomination.
"I rather be gutted by the Star Saber a second time," he spat.
Bumblebee was about to offer an arrangement, but was cut off by a shrill, high-pitched scream. Above him.
The Autobot lieutenant glanced up, only to see broad, dark silhouettes. He instinctively leaped out of the way, having a horrible scrap of claws on metal come from where he just once. He looked back up, pulling out his Decepticon Hunter, only for the energon in his veins to freeze.
It was two monstrous creatures. They balanced on four legs, each ending in wicked talons. A long tail whipped in the air behind each off them, and broad, metal wings bristled. Fierce, burning optics glared at Bumblebee, just like—
These were Predacons.
Different from Predaking, Megatron noticed as neither took the serpentine form of dragons, but were dangerous nonetheless. An enemy that neither of them could afford to underestimate.
The common mechs and femmes in the streets were yelling and murmuring, most standing to watch in awe as the two descended on Megatron and Bumblebee. The warlord scowled, eyeing the scout out of the corner of his eye.
"I hope you're prepared to fight these beasts," he said as he unsheathed his sword.
Suddenly one let out an awful war. In a movement too quick to follow, the Predacon lunged on top of the warlord, claws extended. Megatron blocked the talons from digging into his armor with his sword. The beast wasn't as strong or big as Predaking, but it still pushed against the robot-in-disguise, fangs scraping against his helm. With a hiss, Megatron twisted and fired a volley of dark energon into the creature's head. It let out a shriek of pain and stumbled, but was still intact. With a deep, menacing growling, it slowly turned its glare back to its prey.
Bumblebee, not as physically strong as Megatron, was not as lucky. He swiped at the Predacon, only for the griffin-like creature to snatch his weapon and rip it out of his grip. The Autobot shifted his arm into a blaster, only for a great talon to shove him into the ground, creating cracks. Before the lieutenant could even recover, a sharp beak wrapped around his throat.
Instead of decapitating him, the Predacon plucked him off the ground. Bumblebee wailed as he was shook back and forth viciously before being thrown through the air. He crashed into the statue of Optimus Prime, falling to its feet like a ragdoll, large chucks of debris falling with him.
Megatron didn't even bat the other fight an eye, instead swinging his sword at his attacker. The Predacon leaped back, flapping its wings to leap into the air. The warlord let out a shout as it unleashed a jet of flame upon him.
Jumping back, he retaliated with volley of energon, striking the beast several times. One managed to strike its wings, sending it to the ground after clipping the limb. A fierce shriek rung out as the beast crashed into the ground, managing to lunge at the warlord despite its fall.
Megatron merely kicked it back. The brute was all brawn, and no brain. It only attacked with ferocity and power, and lacked the finesse of a fighter. The ex-gladiator had fought plenty beasts like it. It was in this very arena Megatron became a Champion of Kaon.
Bumblebee, however, was having a more difficult time. His small frame was pinned underneath a pile of rubble, groaning as he tried to free himself. The beaked Predacon stood above him, emblem glowing and flame building in the back of its throat.
Enough of this!
With a growl, Megatron ripped off the Lightbender attached to his wrist, revealing his true colors. And the Dark Star Saber, attached to his back. The titan gripped the wicked hilt with two servos. The Predacon, which was climbing back to its talons, widened its optics as a wave of dark energon filled his vision. It screeched as it was sent through the air—right into the legs of Optimus Prime.
The massive statue collapsed, falling on top the pair of beasts, hopefully finishing them off once and for all. Turning back to the other, he saw that Bumblebee was only just now getting up.
The beasts neutralized, Megatron climbed to the plaza floor. On all fours, Bumblebee blinked when he saw a clawed servo in front of his face. He followed the limb back up to Megatron, who was looking down at him expectantly. Not trusting his balance, Bumblebee reluctantly took the offered support. He did not comment how the ex-gladiator almost pulled his arm out of his socket, instead stepping away from Megatron once he got to his pedes. He glanced at the rubble that once made the statue of Optimus Prime, burying their attackers.
"You did that on purpose, didn't you?" Bumblebee accused with a glare.
"It was the statue or you, scout," Megatron retorted in a growl, as he reattached the Lightbender, once again hiding his true form and the Dark Star Saber. That crooked smile returned. "Though, it was not any less gratifying."
Huffing, Bumblebee rolled his optics at the former Decepticon leader's pettiness. "Let's just go before law enforcement show up. Someone may have seen you without the disguise. We need to get out of here."
Megatron nodded in agreement, only for a rumbling sound to come from behind them. With widened optics, the pair turned around as one. They were greeted with the mountain of scrap being blown apart. In its place was the duo of Predacons. Very angry Predacons.
"Time to go," Bumblebee squeaked.
Not waiting for Megatron, the lieutenant transformed into a Camaro and sped away. Realizing he was outnumbered and abandoned, the former Decepticon quickly transformed into a Cybertronian flyer and jetted after the Autobot. The monstrous roars of the Predacons followed them.
The Cybertronians raced through the streets of Kaon, avoiding collisions with startled Autobots, sending walkers scrambling and vehicles veering off the road. Megatron merely skittered around transports effortlessly. The same could not be said for their pursuers, whose clumsy bulk sent them into almost every obstacle in their way. However, the skilled hunters kept pace.
"This isn't going well!" Bumblebee cried.
Megatron was braced to turn around and properly finish the menaces, only for a familiar vehicle to pull onto the street. A sleek, shiny red sports car came beside Bumblebee, just as fast as him.
"Hey, what's the hurry?" A familiar, haughty voice drawled.
"Knock Out!" Bumblebee gasped.
"The one and only!" he exclaimed proudly, his engine humming steadily as he easily kept up with Bumblebee. "Haven't seen you in ages—"
"Love to chat, Knock Out, but right now we really need to get out of here!" Bumblebee shouted as another shriek sounded, drawing Knock Out's attention to the beasts in the skies.
"Uh, oh," the medic elegantly summed up after viewing them with his side mirrors.
He turned his attention to the Camaro. "I have a lovely little abode—"
With that, the Aston Martin, apparently still enjoying his human alt mode, made a sharp turn. Bumblebee followed him, skidding across the street. Suddenly a small door opened, just broad enough for them to slip in one of the time—Knock Out in the lead, Megatron in the rear. The slab of metal closed after them, cutting them off from their pursuers.
The Predacon in the lead wasn't able to turn in time, having its partner slam into it. Their furious shrieks echoed off the towers of Kaon.
"And viola!" Knock Out greeted cockily as he transformed into his bipedal form. "Safely hidden away from our beastly pursuers. You're welcome, by the way."
Bumblebee ignored him as he transformed to two pedes, looking around their hiding place. It looked similar to the medbay on the Nemesis—medical tools and other obscure items laying across tables. Apparently Knock Out was still practicing his surgical skills, his role as a medic not— Bumblebee's optics went wide.
"Knock Out! This is perfect!" the Autobot exclaimed. He would have preferred Ratchet, but...
"Why, thank you—" Knock Out started in a self-boast, but was interrupted by Bumblebee.
"We need to call Optimus here! He needs help!"
"Oh, so the mighty Prime needs my help. My, do I feel special."
"Spare the self-flattery, Knock Out," Megatron groaned, probably used to chastising the vain Decepticon.
The medic's narrowed in a suspicious glare. "Who's the grumpy grandpa over here?"
Megatron removed the Lightbender. Knock Out was on his knees in an instant.
"My liege!" the Decepticon cried underneath his former leader's glare. "Please! Forgive my assumption! You're not old! I mean, you are, but not that kind of way—you're as spry as ever!"
Bumblebee rolled his optics as he watched Knock Out dig himself into a deeper hole.
"Enough groveling," Megatron barked like a order. "I have relinquished my throne."
Oh," Knock Out said bluntly. "So...you're not trying to take over Cybertron anymore?"
"No. Never again," he muttered, narrowing his optics at the medic, who flinched at the fierceness of his scowl.
"A-ah-ha, of course, Lord Megatron. …Or is it just Megatron now?"
It was the silver titan's turn to roll his optics with a groan. He turned to Bumblebee. "Contact the others, tell them we are here."
The lieutenant narrowed his optics disdainfully, disliking it how it sounded like an order.
"I'm not one of your foot soldiers," the Autobot grumbled, but sent a message to the rest of the team anyway. Megatron turned back to his former medic.
"Knock Out, are there any loyalists remaining in Kaon?" he asked.
"Well, there are a few, but..."
"Tell them I am in need of them."
"Of course, Lord Megatron," he nodded quickly to keep from angering the warlord. "Though, uh... what for? If you're not going to conquer Cybertron—"
"Cyclonus will learn not all Decepticons see him as the Lord Protector."
"And what about you?" Bumblebee snapped, overhearing. Megatron merely glared down at the runt as he stormed over. "You promised to help us stop the High Council! Not build an army!"
"I agreed to get you to Cybertron, nothing more. Cyclonus is merely a mutual enemy—and now he is aware of our presence."
"Because of you let Riotgear get away!" Bumblebee yelled, cutting a servo through the air.
"In the end, it would have not mattered," Megatron retorted. "There is still an army that lies between us and the High Council."
"What happened to the speech that we could take them on?"
"That was before I learned they had Predacons."
Bumblebee blinked at that, realizing the warlord had a point—the presence of the beasts was an unexpected turn of events. They were Predacons, but they were... different. As if their only order was to destroy the infiltrators, and they only thought that. They didn't display the same intelligence Predaking showed, even if the same ferocity. It was almost like—slave coding.
"How could the High Council be enslaving Predacons?" Bumblebee gasped.
"How to you think?" Megatron retorted.
Bumblebee did not want to say it, just the thought turning his energon into ice. But it was the only logical explanation.
The Predacon shifted restlessly in his tubing as the liquid was slowly being drained, causing him to drift to the bottom with it. His body was curled tightly, like a bitlet in an egg. Coming to awareness was slow and arduous, his limbs wobbling from disuse. The air was cold and biting. Red optics flickered to life, but it was hard to see. Suddenly tiny claws stroked his helm, almost as if in comfort.
"Finally, you are complete, my pet," Shockwave hummed, excited pride breaking through his impassionate voice.
The Predacon rumbled at the hand stroking the metal—his master, his creator, the one he existed to serve...
"It will not be long now, when we will serve our master," Shockwave continued, trailing down his long neck and stroking his broad side. Suddenly there was a sound of a door opening and a controlled stride. It paused, for just a moment.
"Your beast is most impressive, Shockwave," Cyclonus praised, his low volume filled with awe and satisfaction.
The Predacon rumbled at the mech, the threat, the— The firm servo on his side silenced him. Instead, the beast merely stood still and calm as the Lord Protector neared. The monster did not even flinch or make a noise as Cyclonus's servo lay across his long snort, even daring to near his face to meet the creature's fierce optics.
"You will help bring glory to Cybertron, my precious one," the Lord Protector purred, as if he owned the Predacon, and not the Creator. He turned his attention to Shockwave. "You said that it was once human?"
"Yes, Lord Protector."
"Could you replicate the experiment?"
"The conversion takes time, and I will require several more subjects to perfect it."
"Then you will have it, Shockwave," Cyclonus vowed, finally stepping away from the Predacon.
"As you wish, Lord Protector," Shockwave said as was expected of him, stilling the beast as his agitation grew, was evident by the twitching of his tail. It was when Cyclonus took his leave that the Predacon snarled fiercely, snapping in the direction that the hated mech. "Be still. You shall have your chance."
The Predacon snarled as the voices murmured. Instead of arguing they murmured in unison.
They hated Cyclonus.
The last time Optimus Prime had set foot in his home city, it was a smoldering ruin. The monuments and halls that filled with capital city had been demolished in the fires of war. Even the great Hall of Records, where he spent his life as Orion Pax, had been violated by the Decepticon's greed. Now it was restored to its full glory once again.
Beautiful skyscrapers glittered in the sunlight, transports raced to and from in swarms, scholars and councilors and nobles walked across the shining streets. Proud and grand statues stood above plazas and energon poured from fountains. For Orion Pax, it was home. For Optimus Prime, it was his greatest treasure, and greatest failure. Megatronus had been fascinated by the luxurious life of Iacon. Megatron had detested it.
Looking over now, Optimus saw the disguised warlord held a guarded expression.
"Never once did I think I would return here of all places," the sterling titan said as his optics scanned the skies. Knock Out hummed in agreement.
"Neither did I. Seeing the old gang back together... brings back memories, doesn't it?" the medic chuckled, smirking wryly while Bumblebee scowled at him.
"Yes, it's odd to be here and not try to conquer it."
Optimus gave his counterpart a sideways look. Bumblebee had told him that Megatron had began gathering his followers on Cybertron. Knock Out was a welcomed surprise, the medic effortlessly welding the wound in his leg. However, Prime could not help but to be wary.
He had no intention of returning to Cybertron to start a civil war. There were plenty on both sides that were tired of it. However, an army, no matter how small, marching into Iacon to challenge the High Council was an act of aggression, especially if majority did not see the deception of their leaders.
Knock Out had informed them of events while they were away. Sure enough, Ratchet and Megatron's story held true—the High Council was arresting any commander or "instigator" of the war—Decepticon and Autobot alike. Many of Megatron's generals had been swayed by Cyclonus's false words, and if they refused, they were executed. The same held true for Optimus's lieutenants, who either groveled at the High Council or were in chains. The news made his spark ache.
The High Council had to be stopped, before other worlds were poisoned by its madness. Optimus only wished it was done without bloodshed...
"What's the plan, Optimus?" Bumblebee asked.
"We cannot navigate the city without drawing attention," the Autobot leader mused. "We will have to divide."
"Because that went so well the last time," Megatron grumbled.
"I will find the ones you claim to be Predacons," Predaking announced, stepping forward, disrupting the Mini-Cons that were snoozing on his back. He given up on ridding of the hitchhikers a long time ago. "And I will show them their true King."
"We have to get there, first," Drift pointed out.
"Indeed," Optimus nodded. "Strongarm, Sideswipe, Grimlock, provide a distraction to cover our approach. Drift, Fixit, investigate the cells beneath Iacon, see if you can free any of our accused brothers. ...And Decepticons."
Megatron shot him a surprised look, but suppressed it when he turned to Soundwave. "Soundwave, assist their infiltration."
"Affirmative," the third-in-command droned.
"Knock Out, gather our allies."
"Yes, my l—Megatron," the medic fumbled, but quickly corrected himself.
"What about me?" Bumblebee complained.
"You will gather any Autobots that resist the High Council's laws, and have them aid in our efforts."
"On it, Optimus," Bumblebee nodded in confirmation, "What will you do? What about Megatron?"
"It is time to challenge the High Council, and I will hear the answer to their crimes personally."
"If I may, Optimus," Aerobolt's voice came. The gentle giant glanced down to see the Mini-Cons had scampered off of Predaking's back. "We will like to assist you."
"Anything you may provide will be fruitful."
Aerobolt nodded and turned to his brethren. Then, one-by-one, the Mini-Cons shifted into weapons, each pairing themselves with a Cybertronian. Predaking was surprised when an axe fell into his claws; Megatron was not when none came to him. Optimus merely glanced at Aerobolt, who refused to pair with anyone. Apparently the flyer preferred to watch his brethren from afar.
Optimus Prime looked back up, fixing the skyline with a hard stare. Countless lives were lost for the battle of Cybertron. He would not allow their deaths to be in vain.
"So we... just walk up to the High Council Chambers?" Sideswiped echoed. "That's your ingenious plan?"
"And we start smashing everything!" Grimlock added gleefully.
"As a law enforcement officer, I can get us close," Strongarm argued.
She was cut off at the sound of a blaster. Followed by several more. Then a lot more. Sideswipe made a face when he looked around to see they had been completed surrounded by dozens of Aerialbots. He wondered how many were Decepticon. How many were Autobots. How many were code-enslaved. At the head of the miniature army, which outnumbered the trio at least three-to-one, was an green and azure femme. Skyjack, Air Commander of Cybertron.
"You are under arrest for conspiracy against the High Council," the High Councilor spat."Aerialbots! Destroy the rebels!"
"You were saying?" Sideswipe groaned.
"I was saying that we can fight our way through!" Strongarm shouted as she moved out of the way of the incoming fire. "I'll take point! Sideswipe, flank them on the right!"
Sideswipe yelped as he flailed around the rain of energon sent his way. Behind him, there was a mighty, challenging roar as Grimlock transformed. He leaped up with impressive height, snatching an Aerialbot out of the air. Strongarm was already shooting and ducking for cover. The red mech only stared at the impossible odds. There was no way they could take this many!
"Autobot," a voice called from below him. Sideswipe glanced down to see the gold Mini-Con, Lancelon, staring up at him with a determined glare. "Use me!"
Before the mech could question what he meant, the Mini-Con leaped up and transformed into a gleaming, sharp-edged sword. The hilt shaped itself into Sideswipe's grip. The weight was perfect and natural, better than his own sword. Suddenly a surge of power coursed through the Autobot's veins.
"Let's take them together!" Lancelon declared.
Sideswipe nodded. He hated he had to knock some sense into his fellow Autobots, but he would not let them destroy his friends. He lunged forward and brought his supercharged weapon on an unfortunate Autotrooper, then another and another.
Grimlock tossed the Aerialbot he had caught into another, only for a bolt of energon to sear his side. He hissed in pain and glared at the attacker with a growl. Suddenly there was a sound of transformation, and the Dinobot glanced down to see the Mini-Dinobot was in his claws. In the shape of a blaster.
"What—" Grimlock gasped.
"No time!" Tricerashot cried. "You aim and I'll shoot!"
Suddenly raw energy filled Grimlock's spark and with a wicked grin, he raised his newfound weapon. He shot down Aerialbot after Aerialbot, grinning with glee.
Meanwhile, Strongarm shot down a few of their opponents with well aimed blaster fire. Through the haze of battle, the law enforcement officer locked on their target—Skyjack. The High Councilor hid behind a line of troops, sneering down at her. It was time to wipe it off her face.
"Bashbreaker!" Strongarm called.
Automatically, the light blue Mini-Con transformed into a hammer, attaching to her palm. Strongarm felt their sparks merge—their power becoming one. With a yell, she charged forward knocking down any fool that stood in her way. Skyjack shrieked when her guards were taken down in seconds. She transformed into a flyer, only for Strongarm to grab hope of her dragging her to the ground. The law enforcement officer settled her weight on top of the crook, pinning her.
"You're the one under arrest, Decepticon!" Strongarm snarled.
As beautiful a city Iacon was, not many knew there was a dark prison underneath its surface. Before the War, it was small and housed only petty criminals that disrupted the peace. During the War, it had tripled in size, in Zeta Prime's zealous campaign to cage anyone with Decepticon sympathies. Many were falsely accused. It wasn't until Optimus Prime took his place as leader of the Autobots that the prison dwindled, and emptied when the prisoners' were liberated by Megatron's forces. Soundwave was the commander of that raid. Being back in the bowels of the Autobot prison was odd to say the least.
He had the entire layout memorized in his mind, knowing exactly where which path led to where, escape routes, entrances and exits... provided it hadn't change in the millennia since then.
The Autobots trailed behind him, with the group of Mini-Cons, including Drift's students. The tallest Cybertronian eyed him warily and one of his symbiote's grumbled that Soundwave was leading them into a trap. The surveillance officer pretended not to hear. If they wanted to waste energy believing such things, let them. If Soundwave truly wanted to terminate them, he would have done so a long time ago.
The first few hallways were what the Decepticon expected—silent and dark and empty. Then his sensitive hearing detected it—muffled moans of pain and misery, along with pitiful cries of release and snarls of death threats. Typical sounds of unwilling prisoners.
"What is it?" Drift asked when Soundwave stopped moving. The faceless mech held up a hand, signaling for them to cease their useless chattering as he attempted to seek the source of the sounds.
"Laserbeak: eject. Mission: investigate."
At his order, his faithful cassette detached and fluttered around the corner on silent wings. It was only a few moments the flyer confirmed Soundwave's suspicions. A few moments later, with a couple strangled gasps, Laserbeak pinged an all-clear. The Decepticon stepped forward.
This hallway was brightly lit and full of sounds. And full of Autobots
The walls had been replaced with bars of cells, each one occupying a sorry-looking Autobot, most of them having dents and scratches and dried energon on their armor. Some had multiple in a cell, crammed together in a too-tight of a space.
"What...is /this/?" Drift asked, optics wide as he examined the prisoners in their cages.
"Prison: contain any Autobot that spoke out against new regime," Soundwave explained.
Pitiful pleas were his response from the countless prisoners.
"We have to help them!" Fixit cried.
"Slipstream, Jetstorm, find the controls," Drift ordered. With a nod, the duo scampered off. When the Autobot glanced back the cells, his optics locked onto a familiar figure. "By the AllSpark! Ratchet?"
"Heh. Long time no see," the medic muttered, looking worse for wear than he ever had.
Ratchet was slumped against the wall, optics barely open as he watched them. Peering through the darkness, Soundwave noticed he wasn't alone. A small, bright-red femme, her broad wings dented. Windblade, shut down in forced recharge.
"Who did this to you?" Fixit cried.
"Who do you think?" Ratchet snapped, but it wasn't as fierce as one of his famous barks. Suddenly his dim optics flickered as he noticed the tall figure standing behind them. "What is he doing here?"
"There are those that believe the High Council must be stopped," Drift explained. "Both Autobots, and Decepticons."
"...Now I've seen everything."
"So have I," a new, raspy voice announced.
All heads turned to see a large mech, bigger than even the bulk Riotgear. He had dark-violent armor with neon-green highlights. High Councilor Treadshock. At his pedes, were the unconscious Jetstorm and Slipstream.
"Students!" Drift cried. "Release them!"
Instantly, the Mini-Con Windstrike shifted into a sword and Drift took the hilt without even looking. He would force the Councilor to return his Mini-Cons. Soundwave was nearly immobile as he observed the false Decepticon.
"Soundwave," Treadshock called, ignoring the Autobot. "How about you help against these losers? Show them the real Decepticons rule Cybertron!"
"Megatron: one true Lord and Master of the Decepticons," Soundwave argued.
Treadshock scowled at the flyer. "Megatron has long since abandon our cause. Surely you can see reason?"
Soundwave pulled out his combined Decepticon Hunter, the power surge cloaking him with blue armor. His answer was obvious, provoking an infuriated snarl from Treadshock.
"Decepticons, attack!" the High Councilor bellow.
At his bellow, the fool's lackies charged, weapons ready. In reflex, Drift raised out his newfound sword with a scowl and Fixt transformed his servo into a welding tool with a wince. The Autobots' assistance was unnecessary.
Soundwave held out his weapon, pouring his will through the Decepticon Hunter. Without warning, a beam of ice shot out, striking the charging army. Screams and wails echoed off the walls as the false Decepticons, along with Treadshock, were covered in a thick, unbreakable layer of ice. Some of them still had their optics open, which quickly went dark, and others were frozen in mid-stride, as they were forced into stasis lock.
The Autobots merely gapped at the event, but they didn't have a chance to comment as the Decepticon fired again, this time at the control console Treadshock had been guarding. The monitor burst into flames and a buzz filled the air. Suddenly the gates of the cells disappeared.
"Soundwave: superior. Autobots: inferior."
Knock Out hummed to himself, almost bored as he observed the comings and goings of the small bar that he had driven to, where mechs and femmes of various shapes and sizes were calling it a day.
It reminded him back in the early days of the war, when it wasn't so devastating, where he would hang out with Breakdown. How they would laugh and joke with one another over a cube of high-grade energon. He really missed Breakdown—
Knock Out's nostalgic thoughts ended abruptly when a crunch of metal sounded through the air, followed by a great deal of thuds of metal on metal. There were startled gasps and overcharged complaints. The medic glanced over only for his optics to go wide and bright as the looming figure of Riotgear stormed into the lounge. The Elite Guard included.
"Decepticon agents have infiltrated the capital city!" Riotgear called over the rambunctious crowd, his bellow effectively silencing them. "We have a right to question every single one of you!"
There were protests, but they fell on deaf audios as Riotgear stormed across the space. Knock Out became as stiff as a statue as the so-called Decepticon noticed him and stormed over to him. The Councilor was twice his height, having the brute loom over the small medic.
"I know you," Riotgear snarled. "You were Megatron's lapdog."
"Moi?" Knock Out gasped, putting a servo on his chest in mock offense. "Never!" He could tell Riotgear knew it was a lie, but he just happened to stall long enough for a bulky figure to approach. "He on the other hand..."
Riotgear turned, only to be greeted with Onslaught's fist. The Councilor wailed as he was sent across the room. Without warning, several "overcharged" patrons leaped to their pedes, activating their weapons and pulling the Elite Guards to the floor.
"Lapdog?" Onslaught snarled.
"It's a compliment," Knock Out tried. "You are the head of his special task force."
The Decepticon scoffed, but turned to his team. "Combaticons! Attack!" He raised a victorious fist. "All hail Megatron!"
"Alright, Bumblebee, how do we do this?" the lieutenant asked himself.
Finding the Autobots was one thing, but convincing them was another matter entirely. Sawtooth was balancing on his shoulder, optics scanning for any signs of danger. Just in time to notice a figure approaching them.
"Stop right there, lieutenant," a sharp voice called.
Bumblebee stopped, but more at the obstacle in his way, rather than actually obeying. The flyer that had cut off his path transformed into an azure femme, about his own size. Her optics were blue, but fierce and cold as she shifted her servos into dual blades.
"This doesn't have to end in a fight, Cyberwarp," Bumblebee said, knowing Optimus would not desire any unnecessary bloodshed, but kept his guard up. The High Councilor snarled at him.
"Cybertron has been weakened by war for too long," she spat. "We must stand united if we are return to our former glory. To become empire we once were."
"And why do others have to suffer for our benefit?"
"Sacrifices must be made for the sake of progress," she countered coolly.
"Then you leave me no choice," Bumblebee growled in the same manner. With that, Sawtooth transformed into a staff into his hands, and the Autobot and Mini-Con became one.
He charged, meeting the lone Councilor head on. She ducked underneath his initial swipe, and the ones after. Cyberwarp danced around him effortlessly, as he struggled to keep up with her fluid and agile movements. Finally she slashed her dual blades across his back, provoking a harsh cry.
"I hate to stain the new Cybertron with fresh energon," Cyberwarp murmured resentfully, "but this if for the greater good."
"Yeah, so is this!"
The Councilor widened her optics as the gravelly voice, whipping around. Only to meet a spiked ball, striking with such force it sent her flying into a nearby wall. She fell to the ground, unconscious. Bumblebee couldn't believe his optics.
"Long time no see, 'Bee," the Wrecker greeted causally, smiling at his old comrade. "You noticed something wasn't right, too, huh?"
"The High Council are Decepticons," Bumblebee explained. "They want to use Cybertron's military to conquer the galaxy."
"You don't say.?" came a familiar drawl. The lieutenant looked over his shoulder to see Wheeljack, lightly kicking the fallen Decepticon. "Nothing ever changes around here does it."
"They have Jack." That seemed to grab their attention. Both Wreckers' optics went wide and bright and simultaneous began stuttering. "It's a long story, and I don't believe it myself, but we have to stop the Decepticons before they hurt any more humans."
Then a new voice spoke up, full of longing and fury and determination.
"Where. Is. He?"
Predaking pressed his wings together tightly to prevent his wings from scraping against the walls uncomfortably. He hated being in these cramped tunnels, so unlike his home back on Earth. Just being here, with so many potential threats, made his plates itch.
"You... you know where you are going, correct?" the Mini-One, Buzzstrike, asked.
"These tunnels spread across all of Iacon," Predaking answered. At least, that's what the Yellow-One, Bumblebee, had said. "It will take us directly to the Chambers."
"If the High Council is there?"
"I will tear them apart."
Buzzstrike rolled his optics at the dragon's stubbornness on this suicidal mission, but the Mini-Con knew he could not change his mind. Suddenly a sharp scent tickled Predaking's chemoreceptors. He knewthat scent. One not unlike his own, that he had encountered many times when he was a slave to the Decepticons. He widened his optics before narrowing them into slits, growling deep in his chest.
When his miniature partner expressed his concern, he answered, "That scent... Predacons..."
With that, he stormed onward until he came to a large room. His optics brightened at the sight. The space was large enough for him to take flight, but it was not empty. Instead, dozens and dozens of cables came from the ceiling above, each one attached to a large, cylinder glass tube. Each tube was filled with sickly yellow liquid, and dark silhouettes that came in every shape and size, curled tightly inside the tubes. Predaking's inner fire blazed.
Predacons! Alive! His brethren were not extinct! The Great-Hunters-of-the-Skies would rule again!
He transformed, laying a large hand against the tubing, eyes alit with wonder and awe. He and Quickclaw were no longer the last of their kind...
But...if there were Predacons here, it meant that someone must have created them. And there was only one mech capable of such feats...
"Your Majesty!" Buzzstrike yelped.
Predaking turned to see two, wicked-looking Two-Walkers nearing. Yellow, burning optics glared at him through the darkness and sharp fangs and claws flashed. The scent struck the Great-King's chemoreceptors. His acute sight locked onto the emblems on their chest.
"Look, Skylynx," one Predacon growled, "a rat has stuck its nose where it doesn't belong."
"I think you mean lizard, Darksteel," the other Predacon chuckled.
"So you are my successors," Predaking rumbled. "I presume Shockwave created you two as well?"
"They are the ones that attacked Megatron and Bumblebee!" Buzzstrike accused.
"Those weaklings?" Darksteel purred. "Pity we could not finish the hunt, they would have made fine prey..."
Although Predaking would not mind seeing Megatron fall a second time, the endeavor would not save Quickclaw.
"The Autobots are not our enemy," the Great-King decided. "It are those demons that wear false skin of the High Council."
"We serve Shockwave. Not weakling Autobots."
"You are to serve me," Predaking proclaimed. The need to flare his superiority over the two almost overwhelming. "We are the last of the Predacons. Proof our mighty race may rule the skies again. The High Council and Shockwave wish only to make us slaves."
"And who made you boss?" Skylynx snarled.
Predaking's inner fire flared and his sharp plating bristled.
"Boss?" he echoed in a low growl. His yellow optics burned. "I am your King!"
Both Predacons, smaller than him, bristled and shifted at the declaration.
"Not king of us!" SKylynx declared hotly, shifting into his beast form.
The pair of Predacons lunged for Predaking, claws extended. They weren't fast enough to clear the distance, giving time for Buzzstrike to shift into an axe and fall into Predaking's talons. His inner fire surged into raw heat that coursed through the Predacon's veins.
With a ferocious roar, the Great-King struck Darksteel's head, hard. The Predacon wailed as it was sent through the air, landing in a tangle of claws and limbs. Predaking turned at a howl, only to be greeted with Skylynx's bulk. He was sent skidding across the ground, Buzzstrike falling from his grip. The Predcaon grunted as he collided into a console, sending sparks and shrapnel into the air.
Hissing, he swiped his talons at Skylynx, only for the Predacon to jump up onto the console above Predaking. Claws wrapped around his broad shoulders, effectively pinning him in place. Predaking widened his optics at a screech, seeing Darksteel charging for him, flame at the back of his throat. With a furious bellow, the Great-King snatched the claws holding him and yanked Skylynx back down. The griffin yowled in protest as he was sent into his comrade, sending both Predacons sprawling across the ground.
Predaking transformed into a dragon, pouncing on top of the downed duo. The three intertwined in a deadly ball of claws and fangs and spiked tails, plating and energon splattering across the floor. Finally both Darksteel and Skylynx settled on Predaking's back, trying to pin him down with their combined weight. The Great-King roared in fury, craning his neck to snap at the attackers. He ripped Darksteel off his hide, throwing him to the floor. With a vicious shake, Skylynx was sent onto the ground next to his comrade. Both Predacons scrambled to get to their talons, but Predaking was faster.
He pounced on them, pressing his talons onto their chests. The Predacons screeched and roared in protest, flailing their claws and tails. The Great-King willed his inner fire to rise, the back of his throat lighting with flame. Threatening to punish the insolent runts.
Darksteel and Skylynx transformed.
"All... hail... Predaking..." they ground out in unison, bowing their heads in submission.
Predaking swallowed the fire, but buffed his chest in pride. He was the one and only Great-King.
"An impressive display from my creations," a familiar voice drawled. Predaking glanced over, hissing. Shockwave. His Creator. "But would it not be more logical to employ your might elsewhere?"
It was strange to walk the steps of Iacon, a place Optimus knew so well, but instead, he felt like a stranger. He did not know what to expect when he neared the Chambers, but he couldn't help but feel surprised at the mass of the Elite Guard that greeted him. With a familiar figure in front.
"Ultra Magnus, stand down," Optimus Prime ordered, pausing a safe distance from the dozens of blasters trained on him.
"And who is an impostor such as yourself to give me commands?" the mech stated with barely concealed anger, his face set into a grimace. "I was there the day Optimus Prime gave up his spark for Cybertron—do you think me so easily fooled?"
Optimus Prime's spark wrenched. He had been on Earth for so long, he had not realized word of his revival had not spread to Cybertron. The mercy of the Primes had sent him to Earth to halt the resurrection of Megatronus. Meanwhile, the High Council's lies were worse than he thought.
"The High Council are deceiving you, my friend," Optimus Prime explained, his voice calm and patient.
Ultra Magnus's optics peered at Optimus suspiciously. "I have no reason to believe the words of someone trying to usurp Cybertron for themselves. Stand down."
"Please, old friend, that is not my intention. We fought together to end a war, not to start one. You know that well, despite what the High Council may have told you. I would lay down my life for Cybertron's peace." Optimus held a fist to his spark, bowing his head humbly. "This I vow, with my all spark."
Magnus's optics widened briefly, recognizing that passionate tone. "Optimus...?"
He knew his commander and old friend anywhere, but Optimus Prime was dead. He had his doubts about the High Council's investigations, arresting a great deal of both Decepticons and Autobots for war crimes. He had stood on trial himself, but Cyclonus had mercy on him, saying Ultra Magnus was not at fault. As Head of the Elite Guard, it was his duty to serve the leading government of Cybertron, which at the time of the war, was a Prime. He was beside Zeta Prime and his prejudice campaign; he was beside Optimus Prime when he tried to restore the peace. He was doing his duty, nothing more, and under the new regime, he would atone for his sins. Ultra Magnus, as much doubt as he had, saw it a better proposition than prison, or execution.
"Haha, yeah!" a giddy voice cheered. "I knew it was you, Optimus!"
The Elite Guard ignored Magnus's bark as he broke formation, running to the Prime's side.
"You have no idea how good it is to see you," Smokescreen was grinning widely, optics bright. "Being stuck on Cybertron with these slagheads and with Ultra Magnus having a scrapper up his aft..."
The rookie and the Prime exchanged warm smiles, before Optimus fixed his former second-in-command with an icy, hard stare. One that Magnus recognized quite well.
"O-Optimus," Magnus stammered. The Elite Guard head never stammered. "It is you."
The Prime's rigid stature seemed to relax slightly. "Yes, old friend. It has been too long..."
Magnus did not understand how the legendary martyr was back from the dead. What he was doing on Cybertron, and why he was marching on the High Council? He made a vow to serve the Primes. A vow he would keep. He raised his servo and opened his mouth to bark an order—for the Elite Guard to stand down.
Only for a high-pitched sound to cut through the air and tear into the commander's spark.
Time seemed to slow as Ultra Magnus's entire frame shuttered. Suddenly his knees buckled, as if his leg stabilizers could no longer support his weight. His brilliant optics flickered, as his upper body sunk towards the ground. There was only a muted thud as the Autobot commander collapsed on the floor. His optics were dark.
Optimus Prime only stared at the husk that was once his closest ally, the energon in his veins frozen.
"It is always a pity when those with rare competence fall," a cold, dark boom resonated through the Chambers. Optimus glanced up to see the tall, menacing form of Cyclonus, slowly descending a staircase. His optics were a poisoned violet hue.
"You will not prevail, Cyclonus," Optimus drew his sword, the Star Saber, containing the rage and grief he felt at the death of another comrade.
"Prevail?" Cyclonus echoed. "My duty as Lord Protector is to ensure Cybertron's security. I desire nothing more." The High Councilor paused at the base of the steps. "You, however, Optimus Prime, have endangered the mechs of Cybertron and have returned war to its streets. The Matrix of Leadership within you has become corrupted—you are a False Prime."
Optimus narrowed his optics at the accusation and Smokescreen shouted in protest. However, the Elite Guard, though rattled at the death of their commander, stilled at the Lord Protector's words. That solemn determination returned.
"If you were truly a guardian of Cybertron," a gravelly voice bellowed, echoing through the Chambers. "You would know that the Matrix of Leadership cannot be corrupted!"
Optimus glanced up at a roar of thrusters, seeing a large silver streak above him. Megatron landed before him, Lightbender removed, Dark Star Saber in servo.
The Elite Guard recoiled at the sight of the titan. Cyclonus's purple optics flared with rage.
"So, both traitors are conspiring with each other against Cybertron. Hardly surprising," the Lord Protector sneered. "Perhaps now is the time to reveal my latest asset. Guards! Release the beast!"
The group of infiltrators had mixed expressions from confusion to fear, but did not have time to question it. Suddenly a deafening, deep roar echoed through the air.
A giant bulk came from the levels above, landing on the ground with a terrifying quake and a scrape of claws on metal. Infiltrators and Elite Guards alike recoiled at the monstrous being that towered over all of them. Optimus immediately recognized the Predacon, but... it couldn't be.
The creature held the same silvery hide and crimson optics, but that was where the similarities ended. The Predacon was bigger, much bigger. He was only half the size of the giant Predaking, but was still larger than most mechs in the room. Sword-like, fully erected spikes came from his crown of horns, which were longer and sharper than before, to his whip-like tail, that ended in a trio of wicked blades. Extending from his sides, made of blades of metal, were wings.
"Oh, c'mon!" Smokescreen wailed at the slight of the monster. "I thought we finished these guys off last time!"
The beast snarled, bearing fangs. His wings flared threateningly and his tail whipped across the ground, leaving deep grooves.
"Predacons once ruled this planet with their dragonfire," Cyclonus told as he stepped forward. He boldly placed a clawed servo on the shoulder plating of the Predacon—Jack, Quickclaw, Ravage. The beast growled lowly, which sounded like an earthquake, glaring at the intruders. "And with their dragonfire, I will conquer this universe." A slow, satisfied grin spread across the Lord Protector's faceplates in a victorious sneer. "Starting with Earth, the homeworld of my enemies and the shell of Unicron. It is only fitting."
"You won't live long enough to even serve out the orders, Cyclonus," Megatron sneered, taking a bold step forward. The dragon turned its head to him, but did not snarl or growl in the warlord's direction. Megatron's brow furrowed deeply. There was only one mech capable of dealing with Predacon creation. "Jackson! I know you're still in there and you will heed my commands!"
The Predacon narrowed his optics at the sterling titan. Images flashed across his vision. Him as a fleshling, as Jack, cold and trembling in the warlord's grip. He did not stop shivering until he was pressed against the Cybertronian's spark that radiated with warmth, comforting enough he fell asleep with a claw gently stroking his back. He remembered Quickclaw, enjoying that brief touch underneath his jaw, how the titan was careful not to harm him. Ravage knew the Master would never hurt his most prized creation.
"Where are you going?!" Cyclonus demanded as the Predacon stalked away with heavy steps. "I command you to destroy them!"
The Predacon ignored him as he continued in long, graceful strides. The Elite Guards jumped away with gasps of fright, while Megatron merely gave a toothy grin at the beast's approach. He reached out, stroking the Predacon's crown gently. The silver dragon purred as he nuzzled him. Ignoring Cyclonus's furious shouts, he moved over to a staring Optimus Prime. He tucked his long snout underneath the Autobot leader's servo.
Jack would always respect the legendary leader, who taught him to always fight for others. Every sentient being had their right to freedom. Quickclaw knew this mech would not hurt him. Ravage did not trust this mech, but if the Master stood beside him, so shall he. The Predacon turned to Cyclonus, his captor. A liar, that thought him nothing more than a beast. No—a tool. All so he could claim power he had no right to have.
Jack, Quickclaw, and Ravage agreed. They would kill Cyclonus.
Fangs were bared, a deep, guttural growl in his chest while fire plumed from his mouth in small bursts. Without warning, a jet of flame shot toward Cyclonus, the mech moving swiftly out of the way to avoid the heated blast.
The Lord Protector pulled out a long staff, humming with power. He aimed its spiked end at the interlopers and willed the long-ranged weapon to fire. Right at the Predacon.
He moved to dodge it, only for a bright, glowing sword to intercept the blast of energon. The Star Saber.
Optimus narrowed his optics and Cyclonus snarled in frustration, his false mask completely gone.
"Elite Guards!" he bellowed. "Destroy them!"
None of the Guards moved, only to continued to state at the leaders with shock and awe. They made a wide arc around them, avoiding the glowing swords that thrummed with imaginable power. The stalemate ended when suddenly Megatron took a step forward, and another and another, in a slow, measured stride. A moment later, Optimus moved forward as well. His long stride matched Megatron's, so that the leaders walked side-by-side, Sabers in servos, as the sea of Elite Guards parted before them.
Leaving the path to Cyclonus clear.
"What are you doing?" Cyclonus demanded angrily. "I ordered you to attack!"
"I am quite tired of your babbling," Megatron grumbled. "And do believe its time to settle scores when you tried to terminate me."
"Cyclonus, today you stand for your crimes against Cybertron," Optimus Prime declared.
"I rule Cybertron!" the mech stated arrogantly, sending another bolt from his weapon, this time blocked by Megatron's Dark Star Saber.
The Predacon raced forward, intending to rip the traitor limb from limb. Seeing the beast nearing, the Lord Protector aimed his blaster at the threat. Just as he fired, Optimus threw down the Star Saber onto his weapon, forcing the bolt into the floor. Both mechs growled as they tried to unlock their tangled weapons. The stalemate ended when Cyclonus struck out, his claws scrapping against Optimus's battle mask as he sent a vicious blow to his helm. The Prime grunted as he fell to the floor, sending sparks into the air.
Before the Decepticon could follow up with an attack, Megatron lunged forward, clearing the distance between them in a single bound.
"Your reign, quite fortunately, will be short-lived," Megatron stated as he raised the Dark Star Saber. "Just as you will be."
He brought it down on the Lord Protector, only for Cyclonus to leap backward, flipping into a transformation. The giant mech shifted into a broad flyer, blasters engaged. Before Megatron could leap out of the way, a volley of energon struck him in the chest. The warlord snarled as he was sent to the floor next to Prime, his armor scorched and Dark Star Saber flying out of his grip. Before Cyclonus could fire upon the fallen leaders, bright blue bolts fired at him, one even striking a wing.
"That was for Ultra Magnus!" Smokescreen cried, firing another volley from his blaster.
The Lord Protector floated higher out of range. The Elite Guard winced as suddenly his cannon glowed purple, prepared to fire. Then suddenly a screech sounded from above. A blue streak shot through the Chambers, landing on top of the flyer.
Aerobolt let out a furious shriek as he dug his talons in Cyclonus's wing, tearing plating and wires apart. The Lord Protector shouted in pain and the instability it caused, his aerodynamic compromised. He listed and was sent back to the ground, Aerobolt still latched onto him, clawing and striking and screeching. Before the Decepticon crashed onto the floor, he transformed back into bipedal mode, landing ungracefully on all fours. Before the Mini-Con could flutter away, he let out a screech of protest as claws pinned his wings to his sides.
"Little pest," Cyclonus growled lowly.
That was the least of his worries as the Predacon rammed into his side, clawing his chest and attempting to snap his jaws around the traitor's neck.
"Rrng!" Cyclonus roared, striking the Predacon in the head, disorienting it just enough to give the Decepticon a chance to breakaway from his assaulter.
The Predacon snarled, already moving to attack his opponent, only for the Decepticon to stomp a clawed foot on the beast's neck.
"I should have known better than to allow Shockwave to create you brutes," Cyclonus spat. "The scientist spends too much time with his work, thinking they are greater than they truly are. You are just a failed experiment."
"And you are a failed King!"
The thundering voice boomed across the Chambers, full of rage and power and fire. Suddenly something huge slammed into Cyclonus with a horrible sound of claws on metal, smothered by the sound of a long, furious roar. The Lord Protector was sent into a pillar with such force the entire buttress collapsed on top of him.
Predaking stomped forward as a beast, tailing swinging and lips pulled back in a snarl. There were more thuds of impact, showing two more Predacons, only half the size of their Great-King. The Predacon's inner fire flared. Great-Hunters! He was pleased that his liege had managed to find more Predacons. He had thought they were the last ones...
Another harsh roar echoed, but it was not of a Predacon. Cyclonus burst from the pile of rubble. The Predacons bristled as a strange, dark aura poured from the Lord Protector, a purple flame enveloping his frame. His poisoned optics glowed brilliantly, filled with a lust to destroy anything in his path.
"You cannot terminate me! Not while dark energon runs through my veins!" he boomed, his voice dark and distorted. "I am the Lord Protector of Cybertron! I will bring our empire into a new age! The age of the Decepticons! Lesser beings will fear us! We will conquer our enemies, we will conquer this galaxy! Starting with the heart of dark energon—Unicron himself! Earth will be ours and the humans will be our slaves! The Predacons will serve as our army!"
"Thank you so much for clearing that all up," Smokescreen quipped, a broad, smug look on his faceplates. Undaunted by the Decepticon's terrifying appearance.
"What are you babbling about, parasite?!"
It was then a small figure that had being hiding in the shadows stepped out. Camera in hand, lenses focused on the dictator.
"Now all of Cybertron knows what you truly are," Arcee announced. "Surrender, Cyclonus!"
The flame around the Lord Protector flared with fury. With a strangled, unnatural roar, he raised a servo, pointing it at the little spy. Raw power gathered in his palm, swirling in the air around his wrist.
"I am Cybertron!"
He willed to destroy his enemy. Only for a bright light to enveloped his vision. Cyclonus screamed as the Star Saber sliced across his chest, the blessing of Primus disrupting the curse of Unicron. The Decepticon stumbled back, violet energon seeping from the gash across his spark. Only for Cyclonus to fall onto a second blade.
"One does not deserve the blood of Unicron, if they do not know how to wield his gift properly," Megatron hissed in the Lord Protector's audial receptor. The warlord twisted the Dark Star Saber and pulled it from Cyclonus's frame. The Decepticon fell to all floors, holding a servo to his fatal wound in a futile attempt to stop the dark energon from pooling on the floor.
"Cyclonus, your reign as Lord Protector has some to an end," Optimus Prime declared, cold optics narrowed at the tyrant.
"As gratifying as it would be to deactivate you right now," Megatron snarled. "I believe that privilege belongs to someone else."
Before Cyclonus could even process the words, silver claws wrapped around the back of his neck in a crushing grip. He was tossed across the room, landing in a tangle of limbs. Energon pouring from his wounds, optics flickering, he was too weak to rise. A large shadow fell over him. The silver Predacon was above him, growling deep in his chest, fangs glinting in the light. Blazing, crimson optics were narrowed in a glare of a predator cornering its prey.
"No! This isn't supposed to be how it ends!" Cyclonus shouted desperately.
"On the contrary, I would have it no other way," Predaking growled menacingly, hungrily.
The silver Predacon lunged forward, digging his fangs into the prey's throat. His screams were cut off abruptly as all four Predacons descended upon him, tearing plating, seams, and struts apart, consuming the spilled energon for themselves.
Many looked away, horrified by the sight of someone being so brutally torn apart alive. Optimus grimaced, not condoning such a violent death, but with it, came the end of Cyclonus's mad grasp for power.
Predaking was the first to raise his head high, letting out a long, victorious roar. His Predacons were quick to follow. The entire Chambers filled with monstrous, deafening thunder, so loud and so fierce the screams could be heard outside the grand building. With a spying camera, all of Iacon heard the rise of the Predacons.
The silver Predacon turned his head at the voice. He was greeted with a small Two-Walker, little wings pressed to her back and her servo curled over her spark. Her optics were a peaceful blue, filled with too many emotions for the creature to name. He knew this Autobot.
His guardian. His partner. His best friend.
The Predacon lunged forward, closing the distance in a single bound. Many of the Elite Guards, including Smokescreen, recoiled, fearing the savage beast's intentions. Even Megatron held his Dark Star Saber, to interfere if the Predacon's bloodlust drove him to attack. Instead, a strangled, staticky growl filled the air, but clear all the same.
"Ar-cee!" the Predacon cried.
He was upon her, taller than even she, but instead of throwing her to the ground, his movements were controlled and measured. He curled his great neck around Arcee, snout pressing against her back. A loud, rumbling purr erupted from the Predacon's chest.
"Mirsst yoo. Luff yoo," he croaked.
Slowly, cautiously, Arcee placed her servos on his size, his chassis was too thick for her to completely envelope his middle. Soaking in his warmth, hot but not burning, she held him tighter. The Autobot dared to place her helm on against his foreleg and chest.
"I missed you, too, partner."
"Long time," he grumbled, nuzzling her with a slight rumble in his chest that Arcee would almost dare to call a purr. He craned his neck until he was face to face with his dear friend, slender hands cupping the edge of his jawline. Both smiled slowly, but broadly, flashing denta and fangs. Arcee pressed her helm to his crown, the Predacon bumping against her.
Red optics turned blue.
They were one once again.
The Predacon bounded excitedly through the space bridge the second it had opened, the others not far behind. Predaking chided him gently for his overenthusiastic behavior, but it was light and fleeting.
Earth, their home, greeted them on the other side. A lush, green landscape stretched out before the Predacons, a blanket of trees over the valley floor. Tall, guardian mountains of stone surrounded them, the snow-capped peaks disappearing in the clouds above. The brilliant forever-fire-in-the-sky burned just above the horizon, having the realm ablaze. Bright shades of orange and crimson and violet were splashed across the great-plains-of-the-sky, warming as the Predacons as they stepped onto soft grass that crunched beneath their great pedes.
"No one will disturb you here," Optimus Prime rumbled as they eyed their surroundings.
"And energon?" Predaking asked, eyeing the youth that was already taking in every possible scent.
"To be delivered regularly by a trusted ally—either myself, Bumblebee, or Arcee." Optimus supplied with a warm, small smile.
"I might pay a visit or two now and again," Megatron stated with a wry grin. "To check on the boy once in awhile."
"It will be an interesting case study," Shockwave agreed. "This will be an ideal location for a lab. The rest of the subjects can easily be relocated here."
"Just make sure its in the next valley," Darksteel ordered drily.
"Because this one's ours!" Skylynx added.
With that, the two transformed into Great-Hunters. With a flap of wings, the pair soared into the sky. Predaking craned his neck down at the younger Predacon, who was still significantly smaller than him, nuzzling his snout with his charge. His Little-One hummed in content and closed his optics. The Great-King spread his broad wings, the crimson shade fierce underneath the sun's gaze. He joined his brethren in the domain he ruled.
Allowing the Predacon to turn to another familiar figure. He stepped towards Soundwave, slow and calm. He crooned when blunt fingers stroked his neck.
"Ravage: remembered," the Decepticon vowed.
The Predacon leaned back, craning his neck and buffing out his chest. He placed a single claw on the Predacon emblem over his spark.
"Quickclaw, now," he told. A single nod was his response.
The touch lingered for a moment longer, caressing that tender spot under the jaw before Quickclaw turned. He unfurled his great, silvery wings to join his brethren in the sky for the first time.