Chapter 1

Now under Prowl's command, the Autobots who had recently battled Straxus' drone army began to follow the trail of destruction that had been left behind by the marauding drove. As they neared Central Iacon, they could hear the sound of a multitude of drones growling and trudging their way through Iacon's city streets in their single-minded objective to reach the command post.

"At this rate, we won't reach the Command Center in time," Prowl informed them. He stopped to survey their surroundings. "We've got to find a way to stop them, somehow."

"Sir, allow me to create a decoy. I'll try to draw them away long enough for you to secure the Command Center," Optronix suggested.

Prowl considered his request, before nodding his approval. "Very well. Ricochet, go with him – but do not approach them, either of you," he advised, indicating towards the drones ahead in the distance. Then he turned to the rest of the Autobots. "The rest of you – make your way directly to the Command Center and secure it. Let's go!" he ordered, motioning to them as he began to pick his way through the debris as quickly as he could. As all the gathered Autobots began to follow Prowl's lead, Optronix and Ricochet remained behind, watching them go.

Ricochet turned to Optronix. "What's the plan?" he asked.

The cadet looked out across the landscape until his gaze settled upon a tall communications tower to the east. "I have an idea. Follow me. We must hurry," he replied, before transforming into his vehicle mode and then making his way towards the tower, gaining speed as he went.

"Whatever you say, Op," Ricochet said to himself, before he transformed into his alt mode and sped off after Optronix.

"Hope you don't mind me asking, but do you think Sentinel's going to give you the benefit of the doubt?" The Autobot stepped carefully over piles of rubble that littered the street, stopping every now and then to check his communications link. His pace was especially slow. "Name's Jazz, by the way."

"If he refuses to accept our help, it will be his loss, I can assure you," Megatron replied simply, remaining a few paces behind the Autobot. He was accompanied by five Decepticons; Starscream and his two trine mates, Skywarp and Thundercracker, Dirge, and Astrotrain.

"Oh, I know how stubborn he can get when it comes to Destrons," Jazz continued, shaking his head. "No offence, of course."

"We're Decepticons," Starscream corrected him, walking alongside the Autobot, and then stopped to point to an open cut in the Autobot's side. "You're losing energon – you need repairs."

Jazz looked down at his injury, noticing the pink fluid that visibly trickled down his right leg, but then shrugged it off. "Ah, I'll be all right, so long as I can make it back to the repair bay, I'll be fixed up as good as new." He began moving forward again, though the damage he had sustained was causing him to walk with a limp. "One of those things attacked me with an energized blade, just came right at me from behind – barely had time to jump out of the way, and then before I knew it we had a whole gang of them coming right at us…" Jazz trailed off, as the memory of his recent encounter with the drones replayed in his processor. Finally, he looked back at the six unfamiliar mechs. "So, you're the Decepticons, huh? There's been a bit of talk about you. From what I've heard, you've stirred up some trouble among the higher ups, if you know what I mean."

The Decepticon leader studied Jazz with reserved interest. "No doubt." Like the rest of his Decepticons, he wasn't sure whether the Autobots in Iacon would welcome their help without prejudice, or whether they would be faced with undue resistance. "We have come here to help stop the drones," he continued unperturbed.

Nevertheless, Jazz seemed to understand their reservations. "You're not sure whether coming here was the best thing to do, huh? Can't say I blame you." When none of them replied, he continued. "I'm sure things'll work out – believe me, they've got much bigger things to worry about right now," he said, indicating towards the Autobots in central Iacon.

They continued walking for a little while longer, until Jazz came to a stop at an elevated overpass and scanned the horizon. "I can't seem to get through to Iacon – my com link must be out of action," he informed them, and then pointed towards a domed structure in the distance. "You can try approaching Central Command directly. I'm only going to slow you down, and time's running out. Those drones are going to be crawling all over that place any klik now."

Megatron looked out towards the dome and nodded, as Astrotrain transformed into his shuttle mode without waiting to be asked, opening his side door. As the Decepticons stepped inside, Megatron indicated to Jazz. "You are welcome to join us," he said plainly.

Jazz hesitated for a moment. Normally, accepting help from Destrons – or, as the case may be, Decepticons – would have been a violation of command protocol; however, since the city-wide emergency alert had been declared, he was well within his rights to do whatever he deemed necessary in order to help stop the impending threat. "Don't mind if I do," he said warmly.

Once they were all aboard, the shuttle lifted into the air and started in the direction of the Iacon Command Center without delay.

Kup looked out over the sprawling expanse of Polyhex from inside the Autobot fighter jet Skyfire as the Darkmount fortress came into view below them. "Take us down – gently. Don't let them see you." Skyfire readjusted his power and pitch angle in preparation for a stealth landing, and safely cleared the deep canyon that encircled the stronghold. Kup turned to the two other Autobots who had been specially assigned to him for this mission: Mirage, an up-and-coming espionage specialist; and Guzzle, a tough foot soldier. The four of them had been chosen by Sentinel for a recon mission with the specific purpose of gaining information about the technology that Straxus had employed to create and power his drone army. Their mission would require them to get inside Darkmount's underground facility without being detected. "Alright, everyone; you all know what to do – and remember, no energy weapons against those things. Mirage?"

"Sir," the blue and white Autobot responded, standing at attention.

"You go first. We'll catch up as soon as you've secured the bridge," Kup continued, as Skyfire touched down beside a large, rocky outcropping.

"Sure thing, Sarge," Mirage responded, his expression smug. "Bye!" As Skyfire opened his canopy, the Autobot jumped out, and then simply vanished in mid-air.

"I don't think I'll ever get used to that," Kup said to himself, shaking his head.

"Think we're going to find any there?" Guzzle asked him, distracting his attention away from Mirage. "Those drones, I mean."

Kup looked back at Guzzle, and thought that the soldier shared the same attitudes and beliefs that he used to have when he had first joined the Autobot army. "I can't tell you that, Guzzle. But if there are, I've no doubt you're going to knock 'em dead."

"Deluge! Deluge, report to me at once!" The unmistakeable voice of the angered Destron war lord reverberated throughout the labyrinth of tunnels, his footsteps sending vibrations through the very foundations of the fortress. "Why are there no prisoners awaiting their glorious fate in my smelting pools?"

As he strode impatiently down the long hallway, a lone figure appeared from around the corner at the end of the hall. "My Lord."

"Ah, Deluge. I have been awaiting good news, but my patience is wearing thin." Straxus stopped, and watched as his chief scientist approached him.

"Yes, yes, of course. Good news… I have captured the leader of the Autobots–"

"Ah! That is good news, indeed! You please me greatly, Deluge," Straxus said, nodding in satisfaction. "You shall surely be rewarded for all your good deeds."

Deluge smiled in satisfaction, but said nothing. Instead, his mind was fully occupied on the task that lay before him. By the time the next stage of his plan was complete, the accomplishments he will have achieved would be absolutely glorious.

"Is the Prime ready to meet his death at my hands?" Straxus asked him expectantly.

The scientist hesitated, looking for the best way to reveal the next stage of his ingenious plan to the tyrant and hoping that he would still be pleased. "Ah, my Lord, if I may?" Straxus looked at him, expecting him to speak of death and suffering for their enemies, but the head scientist sought to offer the war lord an altogether different solution – one that he hoped would prove to be far more satisfying. "Our glorious Nemesis Army lacks a suitable leader. However, with your permission I can reprogram the Prime's Matrix of Leadership, and…"

A pleased expression suddenly appeared on Straxus' face, and he held up his battle axe in triumph. "Say no more, Deluge! Sentinel shall lead my new army."

"I'm glad you approve, my Lord," Deluge replied contentedly. "I shall begin the procedure at once."

"Your genius has once again spared you from a slow and agonizing death at my hands!" the war lord continued.

"You are indeed generous," the scientist replied, well aware that it was the closest Straxus would ever come to handing out praise to anyone.

Several hours passed, yet Sentinel's rage only continued to grow. Deluge had stolen his precious Matrix of Leadership – and, with it, his connection to the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of all the Primes who had gone before him – yet the despicable Destron had not taken away his will, or his determination to seek revenge upon his enemy. Strapped to the table as he was, he had no doubt that he would escape from this place relatively unharmed; his hand-picked team of elite Autobot warriors would be here any minute, and when they arrived Sentinel would have his revenge. But, until then, he had to remain patient, and keep that information to himself.

What concerned him more was whether he and his team would be able to recover his Matrix in time, before the Nemesis Army overtook Iacon.

Sentinel kept his gaze fixed upon Deluge as the scientist entered the laboratory, his casual shuffle belying his true arrogance.

"Ah, Sentinel Prime. I hope you've had ample time to think things through?" Deluge greeted him, as he moved around to one of the work benches and began to sift through an assortment of tools, offering Sentinel only a passing glance. The Matrix was nowhere in sight.

"I demand that you release me at once!" Sentinel reasserted, maintaining his authority. Deluge simply ignored him, so he tried again, his voice ominously low. "I will promise you this: by the time I'm through with you there will be nothing left but an empty head casing upon my wall, and your Nemesis Army shall be but a distant memory."

"Ah – here it is!" Deluge said out loud, holding up a precision laser cutter. Completely absorbed with his task, he did not seem to take any heed of Sentinel's threat at all. "Don't worry, it won't be long now, I promise you," he said to the Prime, his expression nothing but gleeful. Then he swiftly walked back across the room to the entranceway, stopping only briefly to speak once more. "Oh! Try to get some recharge – you're going to need all your strength after I've completed the procedure."

Sentinel spat at the scientist in anger, though the bright pink spot of fluid fell far short of its intended target, splattering on the floor beside him. "Imbecile!" he called out, though it only served to release some of his rage, as the scientist disappeared down the hallway, leaving him alone once again.