"We have arrived."
Though the gestault towered over Steers, he seemed... well, smaller than others of his ilk. Though he bore the countenance of a Prime, he wondered if he shared the essense as well.
Steers: "Well, Pilgrim... much obliged, but what's your deal?"
"Please restate the question."
Steers: "I'm sayin'... you look like someone I know, but you can't be him. You don't sound right."
"We speak for the One. All are One."
Steers: "Yea, about that... so, um, can you speak plain english?"
As if noticing him for the first time, the gestault peered down at him. Steers got the distinct feeling that he was peering right *thru* him. It was eerie.
Obviously, the gestault had come to a decision, because he suddenly stiffened, then began to disassemble.
When the smoke had cleared, in-place of the one robot, there were now... six.
WannaBee: "Sorry about that. We tend to think some pretty high-minded concepts when combined, and it kinda cuts down on our ability to communicate. I'm WannaBee, and this is my team. You're Steers?"
Steers: "Yep. Leader of this little expedition. We're here to find our friends."
WannaBee: if this were a marvel comic, this is where I'd have all of my partners introduce themselves to you. But that can wait. The fans can read our bios on the site."
(It's true! check out the site to read all their bios! - editor)
After the indroductions of the team were over, another group pulled into the parking lot. Sporting a flat black paintjob and a number of rusty crates in the back, the new arrival transfomed... as did his bretheren.
ElCowMeno: "Greetings. You may call me ElCowmeno. These are my Mexicons."
Steers: "Howdy, partner!"
WannaBee: "We may CALL you ElCowmeno? What, isn't, that really your name?"
ElCowmeno: "aH, ER... what?"
Steers: "There's no time to pursue this here potential clue right now! Short version: Our friends and fellows have been kidnapped by unknown forces. We have to track them down, save them, and possibly kick the enemy's butt. Scratch that. We WILL kick the enemy's butt regardless."
FlipOff: "Who died and made you Prime?"
ElCowmeno: Steady, my Mexicons. Of course we will help you find your missing fellows. Where shall we look?"
WannaBee: "We could start by checking that abandoned spaceship parked in orbit."
WannaBee: "Sure. When we were warping over here- did I mention that our combined form can repair time and space as well as physical fortifications?- we noticed that the ship you were sending signals to was seemingly adrift. We were gong to go up there first, but figured it wouldn't be a story unless you led us there."
Steers: "I can see that this story will be moving along quickly."
(Just then a small rift opened above Steers head.
"Don't count on it!"
A hand reached down and dropped a cassette tape on Steers head. Thinking he was under attack, Steers yelped and ducked to the ground as the tape clattered to the pavement.)
Steers: "I'm hit!" Dairycons, attack!"
ElCowmeno: "What our friend is trying to say, is that you're fine. It's a tape. Information storage medium. Earthen, from my initial scan."
Steers: "Well, I'll be a burning furry monkey's uncle! Plug it into me!"
Steers transformed, and hit the eject on his kenny rogers 8-track. It skittered under Steers passenger seat, where it would be lost and forgotten until the story required it. WannaBee picked up the small tape, walked over to Steers window, and...
WannaBee: "Um, I don't think this is compatible."
Steers: "Don't be a coward, Pilgrim, just shove it in there!"
(Not wishing to argue, WannaBee did as he was told, and forced the tape into Steers console. There was a scraping, and a sparking as Steers systems tried to access the tape with his internal scanning proccesses.)
Steers: "Woo....we. This ish one tough hombre. I.... can't... codes, the codes... oh-oh..."
WannaBee: "I tried to tell him."
ElCowmeno: (looking up) "Shouldn't we be concerned that the rift has not closed yet?"
There was no further time for thought, as the tape inside Steers turned red, hard red. Code flew out of Steers like an infection. Electrostatic tendrils lashed out, touching everyone present.
Everyone that the tendrils touched turned red as well.
WannaBee: "Oh no. It's the... raaahhhh!!!" Too-late, he had realised that the tape had triggered a modified form of tha hate plague. His higher brain sysems shut down. All that was brimming at the surface was a blinding glow... a hate.
Unthinking, he reached over to Hook and began punching him, unaware that the Mexicons, also glowing, had transformed and were gnawing on his ankle.
Brother against brother. All the assembled Dairycons glowed red now, fighting, mindless hateful.
It would be only a short time before this virus would spread from the Cybertronians to the rest of the planet.
And in the middle? Steers, growling and mindless more than the others. The carrier of the virus, he glowed the most, and would have been eaten up by his own hate right then and there if the same hand that dropped him the cassette hadn't also reached down and pulled him, literally, from his existence...
Only ElCowmeno had witnessed it. Somehow, when the tendril lashed out, he was unaffected. Intending to pop the tape out of Steers before the hate could destroy him, he now tended to the containment of the infected Dairycons.
He spared no further thought to where, or why, this happened.
Hi-Q could not accept it. Bad enough that he didn't have the ability to gather all the pieces of the Essence; that he should have left all of these fellow 'bots lying here was unacceptable.
A psyche, already on the edge from years of resentment, finally snapped.
It was at this moment that the console beeped. Hi-Q answered it.
"How goes your mission?"
Hi-Q: "How do you THINK it goes? I am overwhelmed! I need help!"
"Perhaps. We offer you a proposition. You are on VsQS now?"
Hi-Q: "Well, yes, how did you..."
"How we know what we know is not important. A package will arrive shortly. You will keep them detained for us. Perhaps your answer lies within."
Hi-Q: "Wait, what do you mean, 'them'? What answers? How..."
There was no further time for thought as a warpgate opened, and a large console with numerous stasis pods came thru. The warpgate closed; whatever power was levitating them ceased, and the entire apparaus crashed to the ground. Hi-Q, in a panic, hurried over to them.
The pods were intact.
He called up a display. There were a number of beings here, none damaged, but all locked within stasis... and all bearing that same faction symbol as he'd found on the sparkless chassis buried outside the City.
Of Course. Dairycons. A LOT of them. And fully powered. Perhaps enough to save the sparkless ones.
Perhaps enough to complete his mission.
The hate was soothed.
The hand that had pulled him from the battle had given him a mint. In addition to making his breath fresh, it had seemingly cured Steers of the plague.
Before he could ask his mysterious benefator what the heck was going on, another rift opened, and he was kicked thru.
Steers landed rather unceremoniously on his chassis as the rift closed, leaving him stranded.
Steers: "Where the heck am I supposed to be now?"
But looking around, he recognised it immediately; this was the shuttle he'd been trying to reach without success. The one from where his friends had gone missing. WannaBee had mentioned (before things got a little screwy) that the shuttle was abandoned and adrift, and it had been his intention to get up here and find out why... but he'd intended to bring the entire team. Who was the mysterious stranger in the Rift, and why did he put Steers up here by himself?
For that matter, what was with the cassette tape, and the plague he'd unwittingly let loose on his friends?
The tape. Oh, no! Concentrating, Steers ejected it from his console. The tape had returned to it's original color, and no longer glowed red with the virus that had infected him earlier.
No doubt about it, this tape was important... but what was he supposed to do with it?
First things first. He would search the ship, and make sure there was nobody left on-board. Then he'd try to figure out this tape.
Then he'd try to save the earth below. The way Steers figured it, he didn't have much time.
To Be Continued!