SunBeam woke up.
He wished he hadn't.
He was very crudely held in-place by a set of chains. Flanking him were two more drones, looking exactly like Ass-09. The original (he assumed) was facing him right now, and talking.
Ass-09: Ahh, good, you're awake. So, what do you think of my plan?
SunBeam: "What plan?"
Ass-09: "The one I've been telling you about while you were out. About how Megatron was on the right track, but approached it from the wrong side."
SunBeam: "Refresh my memory."
Ass-09: "Sigh. Remember, when I was explaining to Electrum Beast that it would be better for Cybertron, and the universe if all Transformers eschewed their vehicle forms and took on Beast Modes? They would be in harmony with the organic enviornment."
SunBeam: "That's all well and good, but what the hell just happened? Why did you attack me?"
Ass-09: "Because, don't you see? With all these ready-made techno-organic drones we have here, we could make a very good start. I thought perhaps you'd like to be the first volunteer."
SunBeam: "For what?"
Ass-09: "To take on a new form. Come, come, you can have either one on the side of you. True, your spark would be subservient to mine, but at least you would be eco-friendly."
SunBeam: "To slag with your plan! I like my body! I'm not giving it up!"
Ass-09: "Sigh. You just have to do this the hard way, don't you? Well, so be it." From the back of his hand, Ass-09 deployed a rather crude, very nasty-looking spark extractor.
Ass-09: "I had hoped not to use this. It was another crude device that belonged to Megatron. But I suppose, any port in a storm..." Ass-09 advanced on SunBeam, who struggled uselessly in the chains. A flick of the switch, and the spark extractor came to life....
Optimus Prime: "I asked you a question, soldier."
Uncle Whiskey Breath: "Um... well, you see Sir, I...."
Optimus Prime: "Uncle Whiskey Breath. 10 Years ago I sent you to Earth to be the Guardian of the Midwest. To prevent exactly the kind of disaster that is occurring right now. What do you have to say for yourself?"
Uncle: "Optimus... Sir. It's not been easy. If I could just explain...."
Electrum Beast, the Leader, and several others stood transfixed. They'd never seen Uncle so rattled before. Then again, it wasn't every day you came face to face with the Supreme Leader of the Autobot High Command (and more recently, the leader of all Cybertron). Much less have that same Leader chewing you out right in the middle of genocide. Whatever the problem was, he hoped it would be addressed soon, before MotorMaster took everyone here offline.
The Leader: "Hey.... what happened to his accent?"
Electrum Beast: "Pardon?"
The Leader: "Didn't you notice that Uncle doesn't have a trace of the accent in his voice?"
WashOut: "Hey, if you were talking to Optimus Prime, you'd drop the act, too."
The Leader: "You may be right."
Motormaster grappled with the sight of this new entity. And the smell. For reasons he did not understand, he could smell the power emanating off this new interloper. He could even sense parts of their conversation. He'd never heard of this particular Prime before, but it didn't matter. All he knew was, at one time, he and MegaZarek had thought all the Autobots destroyed. Now, he was faced with an entire valley full of them! It was a dream come true.
But he couldn't let his guard down. Nooo. He wanted, first and foremost, to repay Hotspot for his kindness. He'd been beaten senseless by that rustspot; he'd thought he'd actually been about to go offline for good. Somehow, fate intervened; he'd found the Artifact, and this strange cr chamber. It healed him. Made him powerful. Powerful enough to destroy Spot.
Powerful enough to destroy everyone here.
Including this unknown new Prime.
He called out to the new entity.
"I know, sir. Things have gotten out-of-hand. The situation has become pretty complicated. As you can see, we're in the middle of a battle. And we need your help."
At those words, Optimus nodded. He'd spent a considerable amount of time in the Sanctum preparing for what lay ahead. In the distance, he felt more than saw the threat Uncle was referring to. A being, very powerful.... possibly as powerful as Megatron... was on the rampage, tearing thru the Dairycons like tissue paper. And he was calling out to him somehow. He wasn't sure how he knew. And there was more; this being seemed to be fueled...
Prime: "By the Matrix!"
Prime: "That entity over there, the one you are all fighting. He's the reason I'm here. He's powered by some type of matrix energy. But it's been turned. There was.... a Decepticon once who had an affinity for the matrix as well. However, he became controlled by the energy, and eventually lost his life. He was manipulated by dark forces, much like our friend there."
Uncle: "In english?"
Prime: "This may be the most dangerous Decepticon in the Universe."
Uncle: "So what do we do?"
Prime: "He must be stopped... no matter the cost."
Optimus transformed into vehicle-mode. Uncle watched as a small mustache-wielding human stepped out.
Uncle: "So who's the little guy?"
Prime: "This is my friend Peter. Or rather, this was made in honor of him. I did not know it at the time, but this particular human would become very special to me."
Uncle: "So what does he do?"
The spark extractor was dangerously close.
Ass-09: "Come, come, no sense letting all these drones go to waste. It will only hurt more if you struggle. Don't you want to be a good example to the others?"
SunBeam: "Like hell. And how do you even have control of them?"
Ass-09:" Of that I'm not yet sure. From what I can tell, they were ursurped by someone for a much larger, much darker purpose. But that doesn't mean I can't borrow them for awhile, eh?"
SunBeam: "You're insane!"
Ass-09: Yes, I was afraid you might feel that way. Your small friend felt the same way, which is why I had to dispatch of him. A shame, really; his spark would have been useful to me as well. Ah, well, what can you do?" Ass-09 advanced with the spark extractor. Just then, a clatter arose behind him. Ass-09 turned to look at the source of the noise.
It turned out to be the head of a drone.
A head that had been pinched off its body.
There was a sudden shout from above:
The small man stepped out of the truck, smiled, and waved at the Dairycons, who loomed large over him. He knew that his long journey was finally coming to an end. He winked. A strange energy enveloped the man, and he began to grow. Armor plating seemed to appear out of nowhere to form around his clothing. There was a sudden flash of light, and before them stood:
A very large, very armored man.
Wearing a cowboy hat.
Optimus Prime transformed back to robot mode. The Pretender shell towered above even him.
Spot: "Holy Crap, is that..."
Optimus Prime: "It was made to allow me to blend in better with the humans. Needless to say, that proved more...difficult than I thought. However, given the threat we now face, it seemed vital to bring back this particular technology to full force.
Electrum Beast: "And it's funny as heck when you think about it."
Optimus Prime: "I beg your pardon?"
Electrum Beast: "It's the only thing you haven't been in over 25 years."
Optimus Prime: "Er, yes, ahem. In any event, we need to get his attention. I will go first. The rest of you will flank his position and fire on him. But not until the time is right."
Spot: "How will we know?"
Optimus Prime: "You'll know."
Pinchbottom dropped down from the ceiling. He landed, transformed, and snipped the chains holding SunBeam. Freed of his impediment, SunBeam stood and dispatched the drones on either side of him with two quick shots to each of their heads.
Ass-09: "Aargh, I *told* you to stop doing that!" He lunged at SunBeam with the spark extractor, but it was too-late. SunBeam transformed, and with PinchBottom hopping in, drove out of the bunker and away from the drones.
They had to warn the others.
Campaign Car: "OK folks, get his attention, like Prime said. Draw him off to the side of the scrapmetal rift."
The Leader hovered above the target. He felt... constrained, for lack of a better word. There were any number of ways he would have dealt with this (up to and including simply making him disappear) but when no less than an Ancient *and* the greatest of all Primes tells you differently, it... paid to consider it.
It was still hard to imagine that he could be all, or even partly to blame for this. Still, he had a history of being naive. This could concievably have been something he overlooked. He would consider the ramifications after this was over and he was safely back in his interspace.
The Leader: "Deploying weapons." The Leader wasn't familiar with this so-called 'pretender' technology. Still, he was confident his armaments would destroy him at full strength. However, he'd been asked to use low yields, to steer him. He would trust in the plan for now. If it failed... he would clean up this mess *his* way.
The energy globs fell from the sky, onto Motormaster's position. He looked up, took aim, and fired. His cyclone gun created a number of small gale-force winds, driving the Leader back. The Leader made it appear as though the weapon was pushing him to the designated area.
It would be up to the others to take it from there.
SunBeam was moving at top speed.
He wished, not for the first time, that he'd had an alternate flight mode. In this deep, soft sand, he wasn't able to get good traction. Insane as it might seem, Ass-09 and his army of drones were gaining on him. If they caught him before he could warn the others... about the drones, about this supposed dark deity, and the apparent insanity of one of their own (he never particularly liked Ass-09, but now...) then they were all doomed.
He saw them gaining in his rearview mirror. At current speeds, they would catch him just before he cleared the ridge.
SunBeam redoubled his efforts.
"One shall stand, one shall fall."
The battle was joined. Optimus Prime, encased in full enlarged Pretender Armor, squared off against his foe, who was similarly clad. In point of fact, it might be said that these fellows were evenly matched; both possessed similar Pretender technology. Both were touched by the Matrix. However, one was good, the other very, very evil.
It remained to be seen which one of them triumphed.
Optimus had made sure that Motormaster saw him enter his Pretender shell. It would be crucial if this plan was to work...
MotorMaster: "You're dead. I saw you die."
"Different Optimus. Where's the rest of your combiner team?"
"Doesn't matter. They're gone. You're gone. I'll kill you. I'll kill you again and again and again. As many times as it takes."
"You're confused. It was I who defeated you. Your mind has been clouded by the Matrix. You should remove it before it destroys you."
"Shutup. Destroy you. Rip tear the spark from your carcass. Prove once and for all who's King of the Road."
Optimus Prime continued the verbal sparring with the lunatic, taunting him. He was almost ready.
"Come, why do you hide? Are you a coward? If you want to really prove you're the strongest, why don't you come out of your shell and face me, 'bot to 'bot? One charge, head on, to see who wins?"
Motormaster: "You've got a deal!" There was a momentary hum, then the shell began to split on its side, allowing Motormaster to step out of the side of it. Optimus Prime did the same. The shells quickly sealed themselves up again, and stood at the ready.
Motormaster: "You're a lot smaller than I remember. You'll be easy to destroy! Get ready for a head-on collision, Prime!"
Optimus Prime: "Put it in neutral, Motormaster. Now. Fire!!"
The shots came from everywhere at once, striking Motormaster at all possible angles. The plan was simple; if Motormaster could be seperated from his shell, then he would be easier to dispatch. The combined firepower of the remaining Dairycons should, in theory, be enough to do exactly that. So they'd hidden themselves, under the sand, and waited for the moment that Optimus said would come.
It did not come quietly.
Motormaster screamed; in addition to a second carpet-bombing by the stormsword jets, Spot and Uncle Whiskey Breath fired their blizzard bazookas, effectively freezing him in his tracks. Unable to dodge out of the way, Campaign Car fired off a volley of concussion grenades. Flatfoot and Bunny Convoy propped up Washout, which allowed him to aim and fire his main gun. The combined blasts actually managed to damage motormaster's inner robot mode. cracks and sparks began to show on his shoulder, chest, and leg armor.
Motormaster screamed again, this time in pure fury. Those accursed Dairycons had actually managed to damage him. And Prime... Prime tricked him. Where was the vaunted autobot loyalty, the trust in his word? Decepticons regularly broke their word as a matter of course, but for an Autobot to do it...
Motormaster: "You lied to me! Liar! Coward! Face me!"
Optimus Prime: "I did no such thing. I'm merely leveling the playing field."
Motormaster: You want it level, huh? Raaaaahhhhh!" The anger reached a fevered pitch; a large black wave of energy pulsed out from the Decepticon, knocking all the combatants to the ground and shorting out their weapons systems. There would be no more weapons fire, at least for the moment.
Motormaster: "Now, we'll do this my way!" Motormaster painfully transformed to vehicle mode, gunned his engine, and shifted into gear. Optimus Prime did the same. The two had some distance between them; if they both reached top speed by the time they hit (and it looked like they would definately hit), it was very likely that *neither* of them would survive the crash.
Knowing this, the two only increased their speed.
Plothole, the Ancient of Space, was true to his word about not speaking or interfering in this fight. Matters were rapidly coming to a head, and these particular Children of Primus must find their own path. It was easy to see that Motormaster carried a dark, tainted force inside of him. And now, it seemed, a large, lifeless force was heading this way as well. PlotHole pondered the connection between these two events, and shook his head sadly. Those poor Dairycons. Even with their greatest hero fighting alongside, this was likely to end in disaster. Of all of them, only one had even an inkling of what was coming. And he was powerless to do anything about it.
They thought they had their enemy figured out.
They were wrong.
The two seemed intent. There were scant moments left before Optimus and Motormaster would collide grill-first into each other. At their current speed, it was unlikely that either one would survive. Optimus thought it worth the cost, if it meant ridding the universe of the evil tainting this particular Decepticon. Motormaster simply didn't care, intent as he was on destroying his foe.
The hit was imminent.
"Moooo!" Out of nowhere, Heffer suddenly appeared, in vehicle mode as well, smashing into the side of Motormaster at a high rate of speed, knocking him from his intended target by mere feet. Optimus careened by, missing Heffer's tail section by inches. It would take him a few moments to slow down and come back around.
In the meantime, Motormaster and Heffer, having a huge hit of their own, rolled several times in the dust and sand before coming to rest several yards from the point of contact. At first, there was no movement. Then, Heffer transformed. Slowly, painfully, as though he had a huge weight on his chassis. He hobbled over to where Motormaster lay, on his side, with two huge holes in his frame from where Heffer's horns had punctured him. Heffer wasn't the smartest of the Dairycons, and he certainly wasn't one of the most fuel-effecient, but when it came to raw guzzler-powered heroics, there were none who were his equal.
Including Motormaster. Stupid con, trying to take out Prime. Prime was Heffer's friend. The Leader had told him so, whispering to him moments before the fight began, and whisking him into position. The rest was up to Heffer to figure out, and figure he did, that his truck mode beat out everyone elses. But man, what a headache. Better make sure the job was finished, though. Be just like a con to play possum.
As Heffer approached Motormaster's prone corpse, he felt a sudden, sharp blow to the back of his skull. Stunned, he staggered away, trying to get distance, when he felt another fist smash into his head, this time driving him to his knees. As his vision began to close around him, he turned, trying to get a look at his attacker.
It was Motormaster's pretender shell.
Scoot had finally managed to stabilise Ticker. She sparked back to consciousness. There was little downtime; The first words out of her mouth were:
"Alert! Omega-level threat approaching! Take precautions!"
Another spark, and the light faded from her eyes.
Scoot continued to work.
The call from Ticker was verbal, but it also broadcast over the inter-dairycon radio. They had yet to salvage the Motormaster situation. Prime was swinging around to take a second run. Motormaster's inner robot seemed incapacitated, but his shell was running amok, pummeling Heffer. Help was not immediately available, as those Dairycons who had been functional previously had their weapons shorted out during the Motormaster attack. It would take precious moments to reset. Moments they didn't have.
And now, this!?
SunBeam: "Attention Dairycons! I am being followed by a large hostile force commanded by (static). Repeat, this is (static). I am (static) by a large (static, transmission cuts out)!!!."
Electrum Beast: "Has anyone seen SunBeam recently...?"
The answer came quickly, in the distance, a large dustcloud approaching the Dairycon's position. SunBeam, in vehicle mode, driving at an unsafe speed, just ahead of it. The sound of loud thunder, or in this case, the thundering of thousands of hooves.
The Apocalypse had arrived.
To Be Continued in 'Dairycon 2010: Return of Convoy!' Part 2.
Available in 30 days.