Running, always running . . .
Never stopping . . .
Irritation . . .
No rest . . .
Pain . . .
Fury . . .
Yes, that's all that's been keeping me going all these long years.
Looks like it's all been in vain, sadly.
Looks like my guise wasn't as well-established as I had thought. Blast.
"Optimus, you know that he's not who he says he is."
"I know, old friend. But what can I do about it?" came the mournful, heartbroken reply. "Do the others suspect anything?"
With an exasperated sigh, Optimus gave into his temper, roaring and hurling a small boulder over the cliff in sheer anger at his helplessness. "Blast it all! How could we have not known! How could I have not suspected anything!"
Rhinox transformed, resting his hands upon Optimus' shoulders. "You couldn't've known. It's not you."
"I thought that he . . ."
"We all did. He's known as 'Deceit,' after all."
The leader sighed, hopelessness setting in. "What are we going to do?"
"We wait, Optimus. We wait."
"Cheetor to Dinobot."
"Where are you? I've been lookin' all over the place for you!"
"So I am not in my usual sector, furball. Slagging deal with it."
"What! Hey!" The younger Transformer grumbled something, then sighed. "Whatever. So where are you?"
"Nowhere. Don't come looking for me."
"Optimus sent me after you. Says that you're to check in."
Interesting, thought the raptor. Very interesting. This was supposed to be an uninterrupted week-long assignment. Aloud, he acknowledged, "Very well. I am on my way. Stay in the assigned sector. Dinobot out."
As he walked, the ex-Predacon pondered over why he was being called in early from patrol. He had done nothing seriously bad to the wildlife population . . . only took what he had needed, which wasn't much at all.
Then could this be about . . . ?
"Dinobot, what took you so long?"
Not a very warm welcome, Primal. "I was a bit further south, investigating something."
"Which was . . . ?"
Pulling up the hologram screen, Dinobot pointed out the position he had been holding stake at. "Predacon forces have been rather . . . interested in this particular section of woodland. I was about to investigate further when you called me in via Cheetor."
"I know, I know, I'll notify him at once," Rhinox grumbled. "I don't want him getting tangled up in some situation where he'd need immediate backup."
"Thank you." The leader looked back at his scout. "I want to see you in my quarters. Now."
Dinobot followed, not liking the foreboding that was building up and creeping along his spine in chilly waves. No, he didn't like it at all.
"Look, Rhinox ol' buddy, I just wanna know what da two of dem are talkin' about."
"Dunno, I told you. And I wouldn't have the foggiest idea. Could be one of a dozen things."
"An' dose would be . . . ?"
Rhinox cast Rattrap a sidelong glare. "Things that probably you shouldn't even be thinking about poking your nose into."
"Gaah . . ."
They know? Yes, some of them know. One, at least. Possibly two. Not good. If two know, then I'd have to eliminate one so that the other keeps silent.
But if those two are who I think they are . . . that will be rather difficult.
Hmmm . . .
Well, whatever. I'll deal with it as it comes up. If it comes up at all. I could just be going paranoid in my age.
My age, indeed . . .
Aah, it's all too good to be me.
Another dawn broke over the horizon. Rattrap leaned against the map-table in the center of the bridge. "So, Choppuhface. What was it dat ol' Pop Ops couldn't talk about in da open wid you?"
Feeling dread, Dinobot replied shortly, testily, in his usual don't-talk-to-me moody voice, "Nothing you would care about. Slag off."
"Uh-huh. Yeah. Like I believe dat." Walking closer, the shorted bot implored, "C'mon, Dinobot, tell me. It couldn't've been dat bad."
"It is something that is a secret, Vermin. As in nobody else should know. And it is an issue between him and myself."
"Like da kinda issue dat you had when ya first joined da Maximals?"
Dinobot shook his head once. "Something far more discreet."
"Ya got dat fatalistic tone in ya voice, Choppuh. Like da kinda tone dat ya used before ya entered da valley a month ago." Rattrap sighed. "Look, I know you're physically over dat trauma, emotionally, not a chance, but are ya absolutely sure dat ya can't tell me what's buggin' ya? We promised ta be better pals ta each other."
"I cannot tell you, Rattrap. I apologize."
The Transmetal briefly rested his lightly-balled hand upon Dinobot's shoulder, then turned back to his post. "All right. I gotcha. Just . . . don't forget dat I told ya dat you can always unload on me, 'membuh? Friends do dat kinda stuff. At least, Maximal ones do."
Dinobot nodded, making a noise of agreement. That much he knew.
Secrets upon secrets, lies upon lies. What now? Who are the two that know who I am? Everyone is suddenly looking as if they have suspicion of me renting space in their diminutive brains. Do they not understand the glory of who I am? Will they continue to fear what I have become, a legend? For the legends are not that far from the truth.
And yet I have to wonder what truth really is.
"Silverbolt? Is Cheetor back?"
"Yes, and he went directly to his quarters, sir." Shaking his head and allowing his shaggy, short, silvery mane to resettle itself correctly, the Fuzor continued. "Did you wish for me to retrieve him?"
"No, I think that it'll be fine. I'll just talk with him later. Thank you, Silverbolt. On the other hand, will you relieve Rattrap and find Rhinox for me? I need to speak with them."
He wants to see me. I know it. He wants to find out who I am.
I'll lie again.
Like I always have.
Hah. Like I always will. Stupid, stupid Maximals. You never knew about the menace right under your nose, sheltered under your proverbial wing, Primal. Just like you have sheltered so many others, not knowing what they were. Befriended a few of them, even. Aaah, doesn't matter at any rate. They're dead, now. All thanks to me.
Dinobot heard the rustling ahead of him. Quickly, quietly, he found the target–
With a roar, the bot sat up completely, awake in an instant and drawing steel as he did so. Only to see Rattrap.
"He knows that some of us know," Optimus whispered to Rhinox.
"How do you figure?"
"Dunno. I just feel it."
Rhinox's optics seemed to unfocus for a moment, but they snapped back onto Optimus. "Something's about to happen."
"Get to Dinobot. He'll need your support."
A scream tore through the base, grating against audio circuitry, causing all to run towards the sound. Rhinox was the first there, and he drew his chaingun from his subspace pocket, aiming it at the offender. "Get away from them."
Dinobot was bleeding from a chest wound, his optics wild with battle-lust, pain, and complete and utter outrage. There was another form behind the wounded bot, unmoving, but still alive. Rhinox repeated the command. "Move away! Now!"
"I don't take commands from you." The voice was smooth, unaccented. "And I don't take commands from Primal, either. I just came on this doomed mission so that I'd be able to have a little fun while we were exploring deep space. Know what that means to me, the word fun?"
He was cleaning bloody hands. Rhinox knew that the once-thought-Maximal was trying to distract him. He had faced this one before. When they were both younger and hadn't looked as they had upon beginning this wretched exploration mission.
"Fun, to me, means death. Slow killing. Listening to anguished screams that you would think to be . . . bloodcurdling, as humans say. That you would think to freeze the very mech-fluid that runs through your body." Shrugging, the many-times-over serial killer let a small smile drift over smooth features. "But those screams would lull me to sleep, cradling my weary head," the deceptively peaceful voice turned abruptly into a snarl, "after listening to your pathetic plots, pep talks, and utter nonsense day after day after dat after day! Pit's flames, you never shut up, you pea-brained idiot, Primal!"
Rhinox was well aware that Optimus was behind him with the final member of their team. Everyone was here. Time to start the party.
"One last chance. Get away from Dinobot."
"And the boy behind him? Tough luck, chubby."
"Chubby?" Rhinox snickered. "Or well-built? We've done this before, you and I. Many times. It's time you gave up your charade."
Slight confusion rippled over the face of the rogue stealth agent. "We have? Ah, you must have had a rebuild after I almost killed you . . . ?"
"You bet. And you're going down this time. Once and for all."
The killer shot directly into the hole that already occupied Dinobot's chest. Optimus ordered the only member of the Maximals not directly involved with the scene over to protect him, before aiming a borrowed quasar-antimatter rifle at the killer. "Rhinox told you to move. You've obeyed me before. Move."
"Yes, but we were in the middle of a staged play, Optimus Primal," came the now-patronizing voice. "I had to obey you if I was to keep my identity safe." Pausing, he tilted his head quizzically to one side. "Out of curiosity, what was it that tipped you off about my true identity?"
"Couldn't you guess?" replied the smirking leader.
"No, not really."
Priming the weapon, Optimus replied, "Because you never were 'evil.' You never turned to the Predacons, or had even had a taste of Predaconian living. Everyone else here has, even if in Rattrap's case it was only for show." Tightening his finger upon the trigger, aimed perfectly at the murderer's Spark, Optimus' face hardened. "Have a good time in Hell."
Shock passed over the younger-looking face as the antimatter round was discharged.