Welcome to the third and final part of Reflector's guide. If you intend to become a Decepticon, this guide may come in handy.
I won't extend myself too much in these initial notes – I will do that at the ending better. So instead of notes, I want to send a billion thank yous to QoS for beta reading this chapter. Since I fell in love with the Stunticons because of her fics, I feel extremely happy every time she approves my characterization. Her grammar corrections and advice are a priceless bonus :oD ¡Gracias, Maestra!
Ultimate guide to become a Decepticon – and survive in the Nemesis
Ever since their creation, the Reflector triplets knew that separation was the name of their one and only archenemy.
Each one of them had a unique denomination, but if they had used it a miserable half a million times during their life, it would be too much . They were Reflector first, and Reflector they would be till the end – literally, because one couldn't function without the other two. That was the main thing that made them different from Gestalt teams – that and the fact that they didn't combine into a powerful super robot, but into an absolutely defenseless mini camera.
If a Gestalt lost a member, its components remained functional – somehow – alive and kicking to mourn their fallen teammate and also easy prey to chaos and depression. Apparently the Reflector team had gotten the small stick in the combiner deal, but at least suffering for a terminated brother was something they would never get to know.
An interesting variation in Gestalt technology happened when the Stunticon Wildrider and the Aerialbot Air Raid fragged everything up and demonstrated that, even if theory didn't allow for it, it was possible for two different Gestalts to exchange members – make that two very different Gestalts. That alone would revolutionize all of combiner technology, and it was also the reason why Reflector had decided to split into Viewfinder, Spyglass and Spectro to take different positions in the vast storage room at the bottom of sector GS-73, one of the most isolated parts in the Nemesis.
In their robotic modes they couldn't transform into individual cameras, so they were currently using their built-in visual and audial sensors to register everything that was happening in the room. Fortunately, the amount of damage in the walls and ceiling had created perfect spots for three – or a dozen – small robots like the Reflectors to hide without being noticed.
It was Spyglass who couldn't help wondering how much of that damage had been caused by the Stunticons and their peculiar training sessions. Viewfinder went beyond, guessing that most of the damage had been inflicted by Motormaster himself. Spectro agreed, adding that most likely Motormaster had created said damage with his teammates instead of his weapons.
One thing the three of them thought at the same time was that calling that spectacle a training session was more proof of how dysfunctional the Stunticon Gestalt team was.
And primitive as well. None of the Reflector triplets could understand why the Stunticons practiced in a wretched warehouse instead of a proper training room. Maybe it was Motormaster's idea to both keep his strategies private and his new teammate away from the public eye as much as possible.
Reflector had never paid the Stunticons too much attention, but those few solar cycles following Air Raid's arrival had imparted important knowledge. For instance, the insanity label that was so easily applied to the young team was somehow inexact, not to mention unfair. Motormaster, for example, was a specialist in psychological torture and thus a very intelligent – and cruel – mech, not the kind one would easily call a nutcase despite his sadistic personality.
There wouldn't be a more fitting moment to illustrate the next entry in Reflector's guide:
Rule number 7: Don't mouth off at your team leader, especially if he is a merciless murderer.
Air Raid was beaten and dented and his paintjob was a shame, but it was easy to tell that, most of all, he was exhausted. It had to be Motormaster's strategy, wear him out in order to make him forget about his anger and his reluctance to be part of a combat strategy that didn't involve flying. That alone had to beat the seventeen times the Stunticons had repeated the same exercise.
As humans liked to say, Air Raid looked like a fish out of water, and not only because he had been forced to go against his nature and stay on the ground, but because of the thick manacles restraining his wings. That had been a cruel tactic from Motormaster, and one that yet had to be successful.
Viewfinder noted in his data banks that the eighteenth repetition of the practice started at 0328 hours, terrestrial time. It all went exactly like the previous seventeen times: Breakdown and Dead End attacked a supposedly distracted Drag Strip, luring him to the place where his ambusher was waiting.
And just as it had happened those previous seventeen times, the phony ambusher failed to attack the yellow race car that charged at him at full speed, so he ended up being rammed. Once again, Air Raid refused to do his part and remained faithful to his wings.
"I win again." Drag Strip transformed and assumed the stance of a winner. "Note it down, Breakdown."
Spyglass, who was located above Breakdown and Dead End, noticed that Breakdown typed something on a datapad and quickly returned it to subspace.
"It's not my intention to sound repetitive, but the exercise will keep failing if Air Raid insists in not engaging the enemy," Dead End said, as if he was talking to the scratch on his forearm. The three Reflector components agreed that Dead End was more concerned about that small cosmetic imperfection than about anything else.
"Who are you calling the enemy?" Drag Strip spat. "You're the enemy! You're playing the Autobot, Dead End!"
"Yes, Drag Strip, I'm playing the Autobot." Behind his visor, certainly Dead End rolled his optics.
Reflector had understood ever since the practice started that Drag Strip was the one assuming the role of an Autobot enemy, but obviously Dead End didn't feel like arguing with his teammate. Just as he never felt like doing anything but resting, polishing his paintjob and filling his processor with fatalistic ideas.
Both Stunticons shut it as soon as they saw their leader approaching from the back of the room. They had been punished many times that single day for far lesser things than arguing. Motormaster was a perfectionist and demanded the same from his teammates, but he would break his hands pummeling them before they performed as the elite Gestalt he wanted them to be.
Curiously, he hadn't disciplined Air Raid yet, despite the flier being the obvious weak link in the chain.
"Look, how many times do I have to tell you?" The ex-Aerialbot walked toward Motormaster with his arms extended. "Ground combat isn't my territory! I'm a flier! I was built to fight from the sky!"
"You're no Seeker," Drag Strip told him venomously.
Air Raid turned to him and shot him a dirty look. "I'm better than a Seeker."
"How so? Seekers are handsome; you're not."
Motormaster pushed Drag Strip aside and stood in front of Air Raid. There was no doubt that the Stunticon leader saw potential in his new subordinate. Maybe that was the reason he hadn't beaten Air Raid for his constant failures during the current practice.
"Are you offlined or just stupid?" Motormaster's voice was threatening, but he didn't get physical as Reflector was sure he would. Was that lack of violence simple patience, or was it hiding something? "Simple strategies are for simple-minded idiots, and that's why I'm ordering you to perform the simplest of them all. Do I need to lower our standards even more for your useless aft to fit in?"
Viewfinder couldn't tell what Air Raid hated more, being called an idiot or having to fit into a team he hated. Through the bond he shared with his fellow spark-mates, the Reflector component could sense Spyglass' uneasiness and Spectro's fear. If violence, real violence happened between Motormaster and Air Raid, the Reflectors would be caught in the fire. And that wouldn't be friendly fire for sure.
It seemed that Air Raid would be happy to fulfill the expectation because he didn't back off from his leader's imposing presence. The aerial Stunticon stepped forward instead.
"I can succeed in any of your useless battle strategies, but you have to let me use my wings. This is humiliating! Crawling in the ground with my mech-hood tied at my back is not exactly my thing!"
Motormaster looked at the restrained appendices disdainfully. "I'm the one who says what your thing is. If I decide it's better to chop off your wings to make you follow simple instructions, then the fragging things will go down."
Air Raid was shocked, or at least that was what his face showed in the marvelous snapshot that Spectro took from his privileged position. Predictably, shock was followed immediately by anger.
"You may have beaten these idiots into submission and made them obey every one of your caprices, but you won't do it with me!" he said, pointing at his teammates. "I was beginning to respect you and even thought that your processor had some functional shells, but it seems that I was wrong. Shackling my wings is not the way to make me fit in the team. I'm no ground-pounder like you. I fight differently!"
Motormaster sneered. "I know exactly about the comedy act you call fighting. It has never impressed me." Obviously, the Stunticon leader was talking about the years in which his team had fought the Aerialbots, which was also the entire time both teams have been functional.
Reflector knew there were big egos in the Stunticon Gestalt, but at that moment, the only one standing out was the one that belonged to the new arrival.
"Oh, hasn't it?" Air Raid spat, his face going from rage to arrogance. "I could tell you at least thirty times in which I delivered each of your lackeys here their afts on a plate, including your royal , ugly rear bumper. Remember the time two missiles impacted your trailer and detonated the bomb you were carrying? Well, that was me."
Breakdown, Drag Strip and Dead End stepped back. Even the three Reflector components felt the need to do so. They knew about the incident Air Raid was talking about; the Constructicons had had to work two solar cycles to put Motormaster back together.
However, Motormaster didn't seem surprised, much less angry. He looked at Air Raid as if here were a clown from the Cosmic Carnival executing a very poor act. "Any coward can shoot a couple of missiles from a distance. A real warrior confronts his enemy face to face."
The former Aerialbot's features were a mask of rage. Reflector wondered if Silverbolt had ever been able to have that kind of effect on Air Raid. Even though the wayward flier had been his teammate only for a short time, Motormaster seemed to know exactly what buttons to push.
Air Raid advanced another step and pointed a finger at his leader's face, almost hitting him. "Remove these!" he yelled, the manacles clicking noisily at his back. "Remove them and I'll show you how real warriors fight!"
Motormaster snorted before turning his back on Air Raid. "Are you sure you are not still part of the loser team? I could've sworn you asked for help." He started to walk to the back of the room. "If you want the manacles removed, remove them yourself."
Air Raid narrowed his optics and lunged forward with his fists up. None of the Reflector triplets was surprised when the other three Stunticons stepped back even further.
"Take your positions," Motormaster ordered curtly, apparently not noticing that Air Raid's fist was close to impacting his head. "We'll start from the beginning."
For a moment, Reflector thought that the world had frozen. But no, Viewfinder was the first one to notice it hadn't been the world, just Air Raid. His fist stopped dead in the air, his aggressive intentions paralyzed with something that was perhaps a strange mixture of fear and respect – or maybe neither of them. Reflector couldn't tell what the slag was going on. Maybe it was Air Raid's restricted wings acting up, plus the absence of sky time that every flier needed desperately to keep functioning optimally. By depriving him of his natural element, Motormaster was forcing Air Raid to accept, even unwillingly, that his real freedom lay within his team.
All the Stunticons returned to their positions, Dead End dragging his feet and venting in a low voice how useless it was to practice battle strategies when death was an unavoidable outcome for them all. Breakdown followed him with the same lack of energy, but caused by fatigue rather than tedium. Only Drag Strip seemed somehow enthusiastic, although his fuel was his eternal lust for victory and not any improvement of his team's performance. Air Raid insisted on being the reluctant element, focused only on the impossible task of removing the manacles from his favorite appendices by himself.
The Reflector triplets shared a fast comm. Was it worth it to register the nineteenth practice of the day, considering that the previous eighteen had had almost the same result? A resounding NO circulated through their link, so the three small robots decided to keep their lenses quiet. One of the many disadvantages of their small size was the lack of storage space; they weren't going to keep filling their memory caches with useless data.
Still, once the Stunticons took their positions, Spyglass took a fast picture, realizing that, despite being separated in his individual components, that was a very accurate image of Menasor. There was no wonder the super robot hadn't succeeded in becoming the top Decepticon Gestalt if his body parts were so demoralized.
The exercise went predictably the same, with Breakdown, Drag Strip and Dead End doing their part, and Air Raid too busy fuming over the manacles to succeed in ambushing Drag Strip. The three Reflector components agreed that, in a real battle, such negligence would leave his teammates uncovered and easy targets for any Autobot sniper lurking around.
The triplets wondered about their prophetic nature when two flashes of intense light temporarily blinded them. Sparks flew in the most horrible way, ignited by the explosions that sent both Dead End and Breakdown to the floor.
Despite the courage he had been so stubborn in exhibiting since his arrival to the Nemesis, Air Raid fell on his aft, both confused and horrified. He must had been still wondering what the slag had happened when he saw Motormaster emerging from the fog and the flying pieces of burnt metal.
"Three astro-seconds late, two teammates terminated," the Stunticon leader said bluntly, his cyclone rifle still smoking in his hand.
Dead End and Breakdown were not terminated, of course, but they were badly wounded; Breakdown's arm was hanging from his frame and one of Dead End's legs was twisted in a very unnatural position.
"Wha… what did you do?" Air Raid managed to speak. "You almost killed them!"
Unlike everybody else in the room, Reflector included, Motormaster was the image of icy coldness. "You almost killed them. You left them uncovered."
"I…" Air Raid mumbled, still too shocked to maintain his rebellious attitude. "I would have made it in time… but my wings…" He shuddered when he heard Breakdown doing his best to keep his cries of pain at a low volume.
Motormaster reached out and grabbed the infamous wing manacles, lifting Air Raid up as if he were a doll.
"Excuses are not weapons," he said gravely. "Excuses won't keep your teammates from being slagged in the battlefield. Remember it next time, because the Autobots won't aim only to incapacitate as I did."
Still cursing themselves for having missed the picture, the Reflector triplets zoomed in on Air Raid's face. It was blank, simply blank; not even a trace remained of his previous fury.
That was something Reflector could understand. Spyglass, Spectro and Viewfinder had their inner problems and fights sometimes, but never, ever, would the anger of one surpass the survival of the three. Air Raid could rant all that he wanted, but he was part of a Gestalt that was linked to him as his spark itself. He wouldn't allow his ego to endanger his teammates again. He had learned his lesson.
The teacher, still grabbing Air Raid by the manacles, broke them with a single twist of his thick fingers. Air Raid fell to the floor unceremoniously. At least for that moment, his lack of dignity didn't seem to trouble him. Important teachings were being delivered, and he was absorbing them all.
Motormaster waited for him to get up before backhanding him so brutally that he made Air Raid swing around twice before he crashed against the wall.
"Call your teammates 'lackeys' again and see if you can keep talking without a vocalizer." Then Motormaster turned to the rest of the Stunticons. Dead End was already up, holding his almost severed leg and hiding his pain behind his face mask – all Reflector components made a mental note: we should get one of those. Drag Strip seemed hesitant about helping Breakdown or not, but a severe look from his leader made him make up his mind and he hurried to assist.
"Lord Megatron has given us an assignment," Motormaster said coldly as his team picked up their pieces – literally, in the case of Dead End. "Get yourselves repaired and fueled. I want all of you in top conditions in one solar cycle, as we will find opposition." When he looked back at the still fallen Air Raid, the Stunticon leader's optics were full of malice. "Aerial opposition."
There was always a tidbit of nostalgia when the words "The End" surfaced. Whether they did it in a movie – it was a good thing that Reflector had brought his movie collection with him when leaving Cybertron – or in a good holo-book, it was always sad to see an enjoyable experience finishing.
It was particularly sad when the experience finishing was one's life itself, and that was exactly the kind of experience that Reflector – back again in his whole camera-self – would face if Motormaster caught him spying above his computer station. But it had to be done, otherwise Reflector would never obtain the information to write the final chapter of his guide. He had become so obsessed with finishing it, that the current risk was worth being taken.
He had never felt that nervous, not even when sneaking into the War Room to add to his 'What Megatron and Starscream do when they think nobody is looking' file. He knew that Motormaster wouldn't take kindly to the fact that his team was being used to write the ultimate, and soon to be destroyed , guide on how to be a perfect Decepticon. If Motormaster discovered him, Motormaster would simply kill him. Perhaps it would be fast, but also extremely painful. And Reflector didn't want to die; he wasn't ready to see the infamous 'The End' words just yet.
Fortunately, Motormaster didn't seem to be aware of the presence of a spy inside his own room. He had been sitting in front of his computer for the past four terrestrial hours, going over the strategy he would follow in the mission to come, and also analyzing the possibility of equipping his new subordinate with a force field. Reflector was no scientist, but he could tell that a force field wouldn't fit a flier because it could affect his maneuverability in the air. Motormaster seemed aware of that too, because he had tried several virtual variations to make it work without affecting Air Raid's combat capacities. With his point made and proven, there was no doubt that Motormaster planned to make good use of his new teammate's wings, especially now that he had made it clear that they were at the service of the entire team and not of the owner's ego.
Reflector had begun to think that he was going to be stuck in Motormaster's quarters until Primus knew when without getting any really useful images, when the panel on the door chimed, announcing that someone was requesting access.
Reflector wasn't familiar with Motormaster's everyday life by any means, but he was sure that the Stunticon leader receiving visitors wasn't a common thing. It had to be something important, so the hidden camera's lenses were aiming and ready in no time.
When the door hissed open and Air Raid appeared on the threshold, both Reflector's patience and anxiety were compensated. Had he been in his individual components, each one of them would have rubbed their hands.
Air Raid seemed hesitant about whether to enter the room or not. One quick look at his surroundings seemed to surprise him. Reflector had had exactly the same reaction, amazed by the lack of Autobot body parts on the wall and the sobriety of the feared Stunticon Commander's quarters. Aside from writing his guide, Reflector was also learning a lot about the Stunticons.
For example, he could predict that Air Raid would go straight to the point, without any need for greetings, preambles or fake courtesy.
"I don't want to fight the Aerialbots."
The words echoed through the room. Motormaster's hard countenance didn't change.
"I'm not ready…" Air Raid continued, daring to invite himself in.
"Ready?" Motormaster turned off his console and rotated his chair to face his teammate. "And when do you think you'll be ready?"
Nobody said the word 'never', but every mech in the room heard it.
Air Raid didn't have the strength to hold his leader's gaze and looked down. "I just… I can't…" He shook his head. "I mean, they will be there, you know it as much as I do. Slag, of course they will be there! Every time we… they received a report of Stunticon activity, they made bets on who would be the first to get into battle… It was personal... Frag the war, frag the badges, all this time it has been personal!"
Reflector prepared for the fireworks, at least for some gray denting white, but Motormaster remained on his seat as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. "Is that all?"
Air Raid grimaced, signaling his anguish. "I don't care about the other Autobots. I'll fight them beside you if that's what the team needs, but the Aerialbots… Don't make me fight them… please."
It had had to be very hard to say the P word. Considering the ex-Autobot's personality, Reflector didn't doubt that it was the first time he said it.
Motormaster's mouth was hidden by his massive fist. It was impossible to know if he was grimacing or smirking. He looked calm, but then again, it could be the calm before the storm. All Reflector knew was that it wouldn't end up good for the ex-Aerialbot. Certainly Air Raid was aware of that, but the torture of having to fight his former teammates had to be stronger than any fear or respect he had towards his new leader.
He raised his head and looked straight at Motormaster. "I won't do it. I won't fight them. Beat me up as much as you want, tear me apart… I don't care. This is one order I can't obey. I'll do anything else you tell me to do. I'll steal, I'll destroy… I'll do anything you 'Cons do, but I won't fight the Aerialbots. I can't. They were my team! You have to understand that."
Motormaster lowered his arm, showing a perfectly calm countenance. He got up from his chair slowly and walked forward. If he was about to burst into fury and violence, he didn't show it. If anything, his expression looked amused.
"You will fight the Aerialbots," he said, making it clear that he was not giving a command, but predicting the future. "And not because you want to, but because you have to." He arrived in Air Raid's personal space and grabbed him by the back of his head. "It's personal, as you said, and it will always be. If you refuse, if you hesitate, your teammates will be destroyed. Your real teammates."
By then, Air Raid's optics were pools of horror .
"The one Aerialbot you forgive is the one Aerialbot that will kill your brother. You know that, because you've longed for that killing shot since you were created, and you actually tried to deliver it to me when you shot at the bomb inside my trailer. How many of your former teammates would have died that day, if you hadn't stopped me?" Motormaster forced Air Raid's head even further towards him, their faces so close that they created a tense energy field. "Our teams will fight to the death, not because that's our destiny, but because we choose it to be. Some cowards like to say that we were forced into a war that doesn't belong to us, and that's where they are wrong. We were built to fight a war, but we chose our enemies. We chose the Aerialbots, and you, as everybody else in this team, have chosen them as well, because each one of them is a potential assassin to your teammates."
Air Raid tried to speak, but he couldn't. His lip components were trembling—whether out of fear or trying to formulate words, it didn't matter. Reflector's powerful lenses could see through his optics. There was nothing there but void.
And defeat too. Every word that Motormaster had said had sunk deeply in his processor. That's how truth operated.
Motormaster was right. Air Raid's personal feelings didn't matter. The preservation of the team he belonged to was his primary directive, and that was above anything he loved or held sacred. It could be considered cruel, but it was the basis in which every combiner team was forged. A Gestalt super robot needed all its components to become one. Menasor had just put his feet on the ground and nobody, not even Motormaster himself, could go against his wishes.
Air Raid remained silent, but that said much more than a thousand words, each one of them a stab to his own spark.
Motormaster released him and nodded. Definitely the Stunticon leader saw a lot of potential in his new recruit, but he would still make sure to go step by step through the molding process.
The drone that was walking toward the door was certainly not the same bot who had entered the room, but still he stopped and turned around when he heard his leader calling his name.
"Since it's your first real battle as a Stunticon, you will prove yourself to me. When we return from the battlefield, you will have a present for me." Motormaster turned around and stared at the back wall, which looked barer than ever. "I want wings. Aerialbot wings."
From his hiding spot, the three Reflector components smirked, even in their camera mode. Finally, there it was, the most important rule of all, the one that truly defined a Decepticon as such:
Rule number 8: Kill an Autobot.
To be continued.
When Reflector says that he had barely used his – their – individual names a miserable half a million times during his life, I'm aware that it's a huge amount of times. But I thought that, considering that most of the Transformers we saw in the G1 cartoon were millions of year old, a number such as 500, 000 wouldn't mean the same to them as it means to us. I always try to put myself on the shoes of the character when writing from their point of view but, as it happens generally when writing a fictional character created by someone else, this is very relative.
I took some other liberties with the Reflector triplets. If you noticed, I stated more than once that if one of them died, the other two would be terminated as well. This is not official whatsoever, but just something I added in order to make their comparison with combiner teams more interesting.
The incident that Air Raid mentions, in which he detonated a bomb inside Motormaster's trailer, didn't happen in any episode or comic. I just thought that Stunticons and Aerialbots must have had plenty of very bloody battles during the time they have been active, thus creating the raw enmity that has made this member exchange even weirder than it should have been.
Does anybody remember the Cosmic Carnival from the Marvel comics? Yeah, that's the one Motormaster thought about. He has never been there, but I thought he would know about it since it was universally famous.
As for the 'What Megatron and Starscream do when they think nobody is looking' file… I guess we all can guess what it's all about :oP But yeah, we would kill to see the pictures! I know I would do.
Well, I hope you enjoyed Reflector's guide – enjoy it while it lasts, because he will destroy it to make sure nobody will know about its existence, as he does with everything he writes that could be considered treacherous. Now you know what to do if you want to become a Decepticon, although I wouldn't recommend it. In our case, I would add a very important rule: DON'T be human.
So a battle is coming… Make your bets, everyone, because it seems that the new Stunticons are ready to face the new Aerialbots. The possibilities are endless!
And endless is precisely what I don't want these notes to be… Stay tuned for the next chapter and please let me know your opinions.