Wheelie looked around frantically for any sign of IMVi, but he could move silently. He tried several times to listen for him, but couldn't hear anything. Suddenly he turned a corner, however, and Reverberate was there. He was down on his knees with his elbows against the floor, and his arms over his head. "Re...Reverberate!" he shouted, kneeling down beside him.
"Wh...Wheelie..." Reverberate struggled to say. "Please...I...I need...to get...to the core...while I'm...still in control..." he labored to say. "If...I...can get a large enough...electrical charge...through me...it will… delete IMVi's programming forever, and I'll...I'll be free...please help me..." he pleaded. Wheelie nodded, then helped Reverberate to his feet. The Autobot looked drained, like it had taken everything he'd mustered to break IMVi's hold, if only for a moment. The core wasn't too far ahead, just down one more long corridor that was tunnel-like, but had many twists and turns. Wheelie led him along, helping him walk. The electrical core could be heard ahead, and eventually could be see, a massive pillar of what looked like fluorescent lightning bolts striking from the ceiling to the base many stories below.
Rim Shot nodded. IMVi? Reverberate? I know you're there. We're coming to help.
"Rim Shot! Reverberate's presence is back, but just for now...please get to the core, I think it's the only way to eliminate IMVi's programming from him!" Wheelie's mind screamed back. The others weren't too far behind, at this point, since Wheelie had been moving slowly to get Reverberate to the core. He was so weak that he tripped several times, and Wheelie had to all but carry him.
Are you sure that's... okay to do, Wheelie?
He said it's the only choice we have, or else IMVi will retake control and then...it might be impossible to ever have Reverberate back...
They were near the core, now, approaching the circular pathway that went around it. Wheelie could hear the others close behind, coming towards them, their voices resonating off the walls.
"I don't like the looks of this," Sideswipe mumbled.
looked at Sideswipe. "Why do you say that...?" he said.
Optimus looked ahead; they were part of the way through the last corridor towards the core. Reverberate and Wheelie were standing at the end of it, looking at the core.
"Dear Primus," Sunstreaker breathed, "What are they doing?!?! One slip into that thing and that'll be it."
"It's okay..." Wheelie said back to them. "He just...needs to get enough electricity from it, and Reverberate will be back..." he said, with a smile on his weary face.
Reverberate smiled at the electricity a bit, tiredly. "This will work just fine...and I'll be rid of him soon..." he said, quietly. Reverberate sighed a bit. "You really did keep your promise to me, Wheelie...you really are a good friend..." he said, quietly, and Wheelie just smiled at him.
But Reverberate suddenly frowned, as he looked at the energy. "Unfortunately, your use to me has expired..." he said. Wheelie looked at him confused, for a second, before Reverberate suddenly turned and slashed his claws across Wheelie's throat. The small bot let out a cry, but it was cut short by the blow, and he fell back violently. Oil leaked out of the gaping wound on his neck and he seemed too stunned by pain to move.
"You really are a good friend, though..." Reverberate suddenly turned back into IMVi, still frowning down at him. "Unfortunately Decepticons don't have any use for friends. Only slaves. But I won't put you through that; you're better off dead than gutted and made into a sparkless husk. I told you I would spare you, but I didn't mean your life..." he said, darkly, looking at the energy core. "With this electricity, I'll be able to override that pesky program that Megatron installed in me that kept me from replicating..." he then smiled down at Wheelie, who just looked up at him hopelessly. "It was nice of you to help me, though...I got lost trying to find it. You're so naive and innocent, Wheelie...but I would have thought that given how much you hate Decepticons, you would have realized I was one all along. There was no Reverberate at all, he was just a fake programming that the Autobots installed into me to try and look like heroes. I was your real friend all along..." he chuckled a bit. "You're all so gullible..."
"No..." Wheelie said bitterly, his voice gurgling a bit.
OPTIMUS! Rim Shot shouted with his mind, out of fear. He hadn't meant to reveal his thoughts to Prime; they just slipped out. He frantically pushed his way past Retract, Ratchet, and Optimus and out into the core's holding room. He stood and silently glared at IMVi.
Optimus was startled by the outburst that went through his mind, but he could sense all of the fear and apprehension that was coursing through Rim Shot when he shouted into Optimus's psyche. He rushed ahead after the younger bot.
smiled at Rim Shot. "There's nothing you can do to stop me, Rim
Shot..." his smile was eerily genuine, almost innocent, not the
devious smirk he'd had before. "It will only be a moment
Wheelie struggled onto his side, gasping as oil leaked from his slashed throat. He looked like he was agony, and not just from the wound. He looked ready to break down and was shaking. How could he have let IMVi trick him?!
of metal feet on metal flooring could be heard during the tension of
the moment. The twins furrowed their eyebrow plates and looked behind
to see who or what was approaching.
"Did I miss anything? What's happening?" Crowbar frantically said as he pulled to a halt behind Sideswipe.
Sideswipe gave him an odd stare. "Why are you here?"
"Just thought you could use an extra hand."
Retract looked like he was out of breath. This was why he was a medic and not a full-fledged soldier. It was too much of a pain to run everywhere. "We...we're not sure how to get that virus out of Reverberate, chief..." he said to Crowbar. "But a couple of his friends came from Earth to help; they took off just a moment ago."
Optimus caught his breath as he and Ratchet finally reached the near end of the corridor that approached the energy core of the base. He glimpsed Wheelie with a quick look of dismay, then glared at IMVi angrily.
Rim Shot still stood and stared calmly at IMVi. He stepped forward a little bit before stopping.
IMVi looked at Rim Shot, as though he were bored. "Planning to use some of that freakish telepathy on me? Don't bother; you try entering my mind and I'll make sure you see every single spark I devoured during the Great War..." he hissed. "You don't want to see my memories. Take my word for it."
Optimus knelt down by Wheelie. The small bot winced and seemed like he was in a substantial amount of pain, and he couldn't talk with his throat cut. "Ratchet, try and help him..." Optimus said, quietly. "I don't think his wounds are serious, but he's just a kid..."
Rim Shot glared. It's not your mind I want, demon.
IMVi just smirked a bit. "I didn't think so. But you're not getting that brat, back. This is my body and my spark; he's just baggage..."
Rim Shot ignored IMVi's words and closed his optics in concentration, trying to drown out the vibrating hum of the core. Reverberate?
IMVi's aggravated thoughts and growls could be heard, but from beneath that Reverberate's weak voice came out. R...Rim...Shot...?
I...I...can't...get free... He sounded very distant, and very weak. Like he might fade out entirely.
Yes, you can. Just follow my voice.
I can't follow anything...it's like being in a dark and endless void in here...your voice sounds like it's coming from everywhere...
IMVi suddenly grabbed Rim Shot by the shoulder and hissed at him. "Enough of your little séance, I'm not letting you mess with my head..." he said, suddenly tossing the young Autobot away. "Reverberate is gone! Accept it, or don't. It makes no difference to me!"
Rim Shot grunted when he hit the floor, but he returned the favor with a swift kick, sending IMVi rolling into Optimus.
IMVi yelped and Optimus reached down and grabbed IMVi hard into his hand. "We need to find a way to separate them..." he said. IMVi just looked thoroughly angry and struggled to get free of his grasp.
Rim Shot calmly walked up to where Optimus held IMVi in his hand, his optics ignored the Autobot leader and stared at the squirming and wriggling body as if he could choke the evil being with his stare. Reverberate? Rim Shot tried again. I know you're there. We're waiting for you, Rev. Your friends are waiting. Wheelie's been trying his best to save you. Don't say you can't get out. You never know until you try.
I have been trying! Reverberate's voice all but screamed out of him. To Rim Shot, with his telekinetic abilities, it looked like Reverberate's spirit hovering around IMVi's form, like he was trapped inside of him both physically and mentally. IMVi is millions of years old, I've only been alive for a few months, now! I might have his memories and his knowledge, but I'm still a sparkling compared to him. I...I can't fight him away! He's just too strong, Rim Shot...he's a virus programmed to make it impossible for anyone to ever overcome him, I'm...I'm sorry...
Don't give up. You say he's strong, but you're stronger. All he knows is how to kill, how to destroy, how to... hurt. You know more than that. You have friends, you know how to love, how to save, how to care, how to comfort. If there's one thing I've learned in my lifetime, it's that good always triumphs over evil. Evil has its weaknesses, and sometimes is even the cause of its own downfall. You're only trapped in here because you keep saying you can't fight him away. I know you can do better than that, Rev. We need you to stay strong and help us get rid of IMVi. You do your part from the inside and we'll do whatever it takes on the outside. But you must help us.
Reverberate looked like he wanted to believe that. I...I'll try... He said, quietly. He started to try and concentrate his presence in IMVi to force his way back out. Slowly, Reverberate's image started to warp over IMVi's. IMVi didn't take too well to it. "I won't let you have him back!" the virus cried out. He suddenly rose his arms and slipped out of Optimus's grasp, landing on the floor and looking at the energy ahead. IMVi smirked at Rim Shot, then Ratchet. "Heh, you know what your EMP can do to Autobot's memories don't you, gramps?" he said, calling him that mockingly as Reverberate always had, as a sign of affection. "Imagine what that energy will do to little Reverberate when I reach it..."
Rim Shot reached and snatched IMVi by the nape of the neck. Suddenly an array of different voices filled IMVi's head at once, confusing the viral being. Reverberate, Rim Shot secretly contacted, IMVi is trying to get into the energy core. What will happen if he does? He keeps taunting us with it, as if something bad is going to happen. But at this point, I don't trust whatever he says.
If he reaches the energy, it...it could delete my entire programming, or all of his, or both of ours...I don't think he cares which it is, so long as I'm gone...
Suddenly, without warning, Rim Shot flung IMVi across the room past Optimus and Wheelie and Ratchet. "He must be kept away from the core." he softly spoke aloud.
Optimus looked at Rim Shot, confused. "What will happen if he reaches it?"
"It could destroy Reverberate or both of them."
Optimus nodded. "We'll have to find a way to restrain him, until we can either devise some way to get Reverberate back into full control, or separate them both entirely..." He wasn't sure about that second option, but IMVi seemed too potent and resistant to be held at bay forever, even if Reverberate were put back into control.
"I suggest we get somewhere safer..." Sunstreaker said through gritted teeth as he held his blaster next to IMVi's head. "Make one move and I'll blow those dreads right off your head."
IMVi smirked. "Go right ahead. Just remember whatever gets done to met gets done to your little friend..."
Sunstreaker powered up his blaster, "Yeah, yeah..."
IMVi shrugged, then put his hands behind his head. "You can't hold me at gunpoint forever."
Rim Shot turned and looked down at Wheelie. "I--Is he going to be alright?" he said in a low, timid voice.
Optimus looked down. "I think so. He passed out a minute ago, but Ratchet's bandaged his neck and the bleeding's stopped. We'll just have to wait. I think he just became too stressed from this."