Chapter 1

The destruction of Straxus' Nemesis Army, thanks to the Constructicons' newest combiner technology, was still a hot topic of conversation one week later. Scrapper had given the combined form of his team a name – Devastator – which had become famous throughout all of Cybertron's major regions and city states, as the amazing feat of its heroic actions to crush the Nemesis Army and save Iacon had become the top news story across all public channels.

Inside the control room at the base in Kolkular, several of the highest ranking Decepticons were gathered around the center table to discuss various matters. Some of these matters concerned only the Decepticons, whilst other matters affected all of Cybertron; in particular, the imminent planet-wide energy shortage.

"Soundwave, have the Autobots made any advances towards preventing or alleviating the energy shortage?" Megatron asked, though not expecting any positive news in that regards from Sentinel Prime, or the Autobot Council of Elders – the supervisory and decision-making arm of the Autobot Command structure.

The Decepticon communications officer had been prepared for such a question and his response was immediate. "None, Megatron." He paused, watching the reactions from all the gathered Decepticons. Starscream, Thundercracker, Skywarp and Shockwave listened attentively, interested in what he had to report, as did Scrapper, Onslaught, Dirge, Ramjet, Thrust, Astrotrain, and Blitzwing. Indeed, the reality of a planet-wide energy shortage directly affected them all. "The Council of Elders has just imposed several power consumption restrictions for each region, according to critical demand. Most of Cybertron's energy output has been diverted to Iacon and the other Autobot controlled city-states, whilst the neutral territories have been given what is left," Soundwave informed them in his heavily synthesized, deeply resonating voice.

The latest decision by the Autobot Council to prioritise available power to the Autobots, and the remainder to the civilian areas, clearly showed that they were unwilling to share even a small ration of available energy with the Decepticons, regardless of the recent truce that had been made between the two factions. This left them all with feelings of anger and mistrust towards the Autobots; they should have at least been willing to share the energy and work together to achieve a common goal, but apparently they still considered the Decepticons to be as unworthy as all other Destrons.

Megatron stood up from his seat and walked over to face the main view screen in an effort to shake his growing frustration. "Soundwave, contact Sentinel Prime," he said after a moment of thought.

"Yes, Megatron," Soundwave replied, and a few seconds later the main view screen came to life, displaying a clear image of the Prime Commander.

Sentinel's expression turned to one of surprise and mild curiosity at having been contacted personally by the Decepticon leader. "Greetings, Megatron. This is indeed a surprise. What can I do for you?"

Megatron did his best to keep his irritation from showing, but his impatience with the Prime came through nonetheless. "I see that the Autobots are not too concerned with preventing a critical planet-wide shutdown," he said and then waited for Sentinel's reaction, unwilling to elaborate further.

The Prime appeared puzzled for several moments, before it dawned on him what Megatron was alluding to. Regardless, he decided to feign ignorance. "Of course we wish to prevent such a disastrous situation from occurring. Why would you believe otherwise?" It was clear that Sentinel was not going to make this easy.

"It seems that the Council has decided to cut off our share of all available energy production; neither have they bothered to seek our help in coming up with any workable solutions," Megatron stated bluntly.

"Hmm. I see." Sentinel nodded solemnly. "It is a justifiable precaution on their part, I must admit. However, I do agree that we must combine our resources if we are to find, as you say, a workable solution." He paused, again in thought. "Let me speak to them," he added, and then severed the video link without waiting for a response. Megatron returned to his seat, looking none too pleased.

After several tentative moments, Starscream broke the silence. "Well, it's obvious that we won't be getting any help from the Autobots, then."

Megatron nodded, weary of trying to reason with the controlling faction. "Indeed. Until such time that they come to their senses, we will simply have to explore other options. It's about time that somebody on Cybertron devised a far more efficient method of replenishing and storing our energy, before we reach a state of critical depletion. Shockwave, Starscream, Scrapper – and everyone else, for that matter, this is to be considered a priority," he said.

The Air Commander nodded, all too happy to share his scientific knowledge with his fellow Decepticons to come up with an answer. "Of course, Megatron. We will begin looking into possible solutions immediately," he replied, speaking also for Shockwave and Scrapper. The purple guardian acknowledged him with a small nod, whilst the Constructicon leader placed a hand under his chin in thought.

"What is the current status of our energy resources?" Megatron wanted to know.

Thundercracker answered him. "We're down a little, after our confrontation with the Nemesis Army. We aren't at critical levels yet, though without our share of the baseload we'll need to be more careful."

"Agreed. Thundercracker, see to it that unnecessary usage is avoided. Our defenses, as well as our laboratories, must be given precedence," Megatron told him. He hated to have to restrict their own energy usage, just as the Autobots had done, but he saw no other choice.

"Will do," the blue and grey seeker replied.

"We should probably stop accepting new recruits, too," Onslaught suggested, "at least until our energy reserves are back up."

Megatron pondered the situation for a brief moment. "How many do we have?" he asked in curiosity.

"We've had a lot of interest just in the last week – though it's really no surprise after what happened with the zombie army. I'd say about twenty have completed their initial training with us and are ready to join, plus another twenty-five have just started. And that's not even counting those who failed initial tests," Onslaught explained. He and his team of Combaticons were in charge of new enlistments.

These were good figures, reflecting the steadily increasing number of new recruits wanting to join the Decepticons every week. Most of them were Destrons, though some were mechs who had come from non-Destron regions of Cybertron.

"I agree with your recommendation," Megatron said to the Combaticon leader. Then he glanced once more at all those gathered, noting an absence. "Where is Blackjack?" he asked. His Decepticons exchanged doubtful glances with one another; they did not know the current whereabouts of the leader of the Stunticons – the team of Destron car-formers previously led by Motormaster, but which had then joined the Decepticons under Blackjack's leadership.

"Blackjack's location is unknown. I sent him a request prior that he be in attendance at this meeting," Soundwave informed him. "I can track him down if you wish."

Megatron waved a hand dismissively. "No, we have more pressing matters to deal with." Then, before ending the meeting, he added, "But if you happen to see him tell him I wish to speak with him."

"Yeeee haaaw!"

The screeching of tyres could be heard echoing around a circular track within the central district of what was normally the uneventful industrial region of Tagon Heights. Several onlookers had ventured out from the dwellings and factories nearby to watch a group of five car-formers race around the makeshift track as if there was no tomorrow, and tough luck to any mech who needed to use the highway for travel.

Wildrider swerved dangerously close to avoid his team mate, laughing like a crazy mech. "Come on, Drag Strip, last one around is a cyber chicken! Yeeee haaa!"

The yellow race car revved his engine and hit full throttle, shooting past Wildrider without a second thought. "Eat my dust!" he said, and was already several car lengths ahead of his team mate before Wildrider straightened out and sped down the track determined to catch up and overtake him.

Meanwhile, Dead End was enjoying disrupting traffic by scaring away any road users who dared to venture too close, forcing them to take an alternative route. "Hey, watch it!" he yelled out after Wildrider in irritation, "I spent all day yesterday using the ultrasonic cleaner, you know."

His team mate, Breakdown, was not impressed, as he practiced tight turning circles on and off the road and pedestrian walkway. Ignoring Dead End's complaint, he spotted their leader in robot mode walking towards a nearby domed structure. Blackjack had promised them a fun day out, and had led them several hundred mechano-miles away from their base in Kaon to the neutral Tagon Heights, where they did not need to worry about bumping into any Autobots or Destrons. "Hey, where are you going? Wait for us!" he called out.

The black Stunticon leader quietly turned to glance back at him. "No, just wait here. I won't be long." Then he continued on his way, and slipped quietly into the building.

The interior of the domed structure was dark and sparsely furnished, with a few tables and chairs set out along one wall. On the opposite side of the room, a sealed door led into an underground passageway. As soon as the door of the main entrance slid closed behind him, Blackjack stopped to look around the room until his gaze settled upon the mech he had been expecting to see, who sat at one of the tables waiting for him, his partner and sidekick sitting beside him.

Blackjack approached the two and gave the larger, silver and red mech a curt nod, then sat down in a chair opposite. He glanced briefly over his shoulder for a moment, making sure he was alone. "What do you want, Black Shadow?"

"To put it simply, I want that new merging technology that the Decepticons have created," Black Shadow said bluntly.

Blackjack gave him a doubtful look, and then shook his head. "You want it, or Overlord?"

The other mech shrugged. "Does it really matter?" There was a brief lull in the conversation, and then he prompted, "So, can you get it for me?"

Blackjack thought for a moment. "I'll have to convince the Constructicons to share it with me." He imagined requesting the combiner technology from Scrapper, only to be told that he would have to run it by Megatron, or would simply be refused outright. It wasn't going to be easy, but he was willing to try if the incentive was good enough.

"I don't care how you do it. Just get it for me," was Black Shadow's reply.

"What's in it for me?" Blackjack asked after a moment of contemplation.

Black Shadow grinned, snapped his fingers. "Blue? Show 'em."

The mech sitting beside Black Shadow, who sported a sleek blue build, reached down with one hand to retrieve an unmarked case. He lifted it up onto the table, stood up and proceeded to unlock the case. Then he opened the lid and turned the case around so that Blackjack could see its contents: an entire caseload of sparkling pink natural energon crystals. There was enough there to satisfy his and his team's energy needs for many months at least.

"Keep it; this case is yours. And there's more where that came from, too," Black Shadow told the Stunticon leader with a satisfied grin. He knew that Blackjack would not be able to resist his offer. "So, are you in or what?"

With a straight face, Blackjack slammed the lid closed and locked it down, and then stood up from his chair, nodded once. "You've got yourself a deal, Black Shadow," he answered assuredly before turning and heading for the exit, clutching the case securely by his side as he went.

When he stepped outside again his fellow Stunticons were waiting for him, curious to know what he'd been up to, but Blackjack simply transformed into a black coupe, safely stashing his case of crystals inside his vehicle alt mode. "Come on, I'll race you guys back to Kaon!" he said as he moved off at full speed onto the highway, tyres spinning as he went.

Wildrider was the first to race after him down the highway, eager for the opportunity to release some of his excess energy on the roads – and on other unsuspecting road users. "Woohoo! Let's gooooo!" he called out before crossing back onto the highway from the walkway and almost colliding with a startled pedestrian, leaving Drag Strip, Breakdown and Dead End behind. It didn't take Drag Strip long to follow suit, and then finally Breakdown and Dead End, who were not particularly eager to race against their team mates but were unwilling to be left behind.