Changing Steers!

The Adventures of Tarmac!

Part Three


It was a dream. All a dream.

The Leader. Washout. Overdrive. It was all some sort of fevered spark-dream. They were all dead or in stasis. Had been for awhile. Only he was still alive. Spark only knew why. Ticker had saved him. Again. And now they were both captive of a deranged human with delusions of PrimeHood on a planet in the ass-end of nowhere.

Things couldn't possibly get worse.

Hi-Q: "So as I was saying, I collect the various essence of the Prime. Parts of himself that have scattered to the winds over various incarnations. My job has become difficult, until now. You see, it occurred to me that, if I captured the Essence himself, there would be no more pieces. We could merge together again, and my mission would be over. Rather genius, wouldn't you say?"

FlatFoot: "More like deranged. Why didn't you just take Prime? Why all us?"

Hi-Q: "My boy, you do not appreciate the delicacy of my position. The Council wanted me to keep you all here, detained, while I completed my work. I don't know why, and I don't care, because it gave me the opportunity to study all of this technology... autobot, decepticon, diaclone, future Dairycon... all at once! By studying your friends, I've found a way to merge the essence. The 'master process, but to the n'th degree! The old way was too-slow, too-painful... but by studying your friends, I'll be able to complete my mission! And you, dear FlatFoot, are the key!"

Flatfoot: "How?"

Hi-Q: "Because, my boy, you are the living proof! I was able to bring you back. And I'll be able to bring back all the others as well. One life for many! How can Prime refuse a deal like that?"

FlatFoot: "I won't help you."

Hi-Q: "My dear FlatFoot, you really have no choice." Pulling a device out from behind him, he took aim, and fired. Not at FlatFoot, but at Ticker.

She collapsed to the ground, energy sparking around her, as the glow faded from her eyes.

FlatFoot: "Monster! What have you done?!"

Hi-Q: "I have simply placed her in a low-powered state so that she may be stored for the journey. Come, come, place her in a stasis chamber. Quickly!"

Fuming, Flatfoot did as he was told. Cradling his savior gently, he placed Ticker within her chamber. The lid closed, as the chamber hissed, and the glass turned opaque.

Hi-Q: "She'll be fine, now. Come, let us leave. The drones will store your friends on my shuttle."

FlatFoot: Where are we going, exactly?"

Hi-Q: "To Earth."


The Council.

"Things are proceeding?"

"As planned. We must take this time to pick a new champion."

"The Leader?"



"Unreliable. And Small-minded."

"The Third?"

"Yes." A button is pressed; a panel slides away to reveal...

"Nemesis Magnus! It is you we choose to be our champion."

Nemesis Magnus: "You're kidding, right? Me? I'm what you have left? Things must be worse than I thought."

"Silence! You will proceed to the coordinates. Wait for the signal. Failure is death."

Nemesis Magnus: "Yea, yea.... sigh."



It would be the last time a Dairycon would set foot on this planet. Too-much had happened here. And the rest... well, the rest was being loaded aboard Hi-Q's shuttle.

The Dairycons remained in-stasis. Some whole, some disassembled.

Some deceased.

Flatfoot was one of the deceased. But thru the efforts of Ticker and this mad human, he'd gained a new body, new powers... and a new lease on life.

He hated it.

He was a pawn, plain and simple. And Flatfoot was nobody's fool. A quick assessment indicated at least 12 major violations of the Cybertonain Codex in this room alone, and if he thought for one minute that...

Hi-Q: "I wouldn't."

Flatfoot: "What?"

Hi-Q: "You're watching, observing. Looking for the right moment to undertake certain actions. I assure you, I am operating with full Council approval. Which means you sit, and wait... and do what I say."

Flatfoot: "And if I don't?"

Hi-Q: "Then you doom your friends."

And so, he sat. Hi-Q claimed he had a way to ressurect them all, restoring his friends to the highest function. But it would require additional power. And... the Essence.

That's what he kept calling Prime.

For the first time, Flatfoot found himself alone, unsure... and wishing for the guidance of another. The few 'bots Hi-Q had left active were busy working on the shuttle, and had no interest in talking about the project they were undertaking. Even Big Max, who was basically leaving the bulk of himself behind on this City forever, seemed to believe in Hi-Q's cause.

So... it was up to him. He'd once again assume a role of Leadership. Find a way out of this mess. Push the doubts deep inside so he could stop Hi-Q and rescue his friends.

His friends.

His friends were all aboard the shuttle. Flatfoot stood, and walked confidently to the loading ramp of the shuttle. Seating himself in one of the jumpseats, Flatfoot buckled in. The shuttle began its takeoff sequence; slowly, ponderously, the high gravity pushing back every step of the way, Hi-Q's shuttle lifted off from the planet.

Next stop: Earth.



Hi-Q's shuttle had long since left.

The City began its power-up sequence. It would soon lift-off from the planet and follow behind the shuttle. The amount of energy required to do this would be tremendous. Luckily, Hi-Q had provided that energy.

One could wonder who would be more surprised...



Near Earth orbit.

He'd made it.

CosMoo tumbled out of warp, his energon store nearly depleted. His instruments told him everything he needed to know: he'd arrived at Earth. And Prime's ship was still here.

He was sure Prime could help. The great Optimus, leader of men, possessor of that which Hi-Q sought... surely *he* could save his friend Heffer, and the other Dairycons.

Cosmoo had a built-in sense when it came to homing in on other classic Dairycons. No matter where they were in the cosmos. He could sense Heffer, very far away (but getting closer). He could sense Steers. And he could sense Prime. In the shuttle. Oh, happy day!

CosMoo was so full of joy that he failed to notice certain various and sundry space hazards in-between him and the shuttle... until he clanged into them.

Cosmoo: "Oofda!"

Tarmac: "Hey! Ouch!"

Chodebot: "Watch where you're going, turd-bot!"

Fernando: "C!"

Cosmoo: I have no time. I must get to the Prime. Hey, that's a nice sword. Can I have it?"

Tarmac: "What? No! What the hell. Get lost, you moocher."

Cosmoo continued on his way, paying no further heed to the 'bots floating in space.

Arriving at the shuttle, he keyed the emergency com. Respoding to his call, the shuttle opened the docking doors where Cosmoo was floating. He gratefully transformed and clanked to the deck floor, cycling gobs of air into his starved intakes.

Cosmoo had little time to catch his breath, however, as the moment he took his first gulp he heard a loud click. He looked up.

Steers had a gun pointed directly at him.

Cosmoo: "Er, moo?"

Steers: "That's right, Pilgrim. The Man. the legend."

Cosmoo: "Liberty Valance?"

Steers: "No, you jackass! I'm Steers! We met on VSQS?"

Cosmoo: "I know that. I was asking about the movie quote."

Steers: "What movie quote?"

Cosmoo: Never mind that. Can I borrow 5 bucks?"

Steers: "What?"

Cosmoo: "I'm thirsty, man! Come-on, help a 'bot out. It was a long trip."

Steers: "Why. Are. You. Here?!"

Cosmoo: "Oh, that. Yea, man, far out. See, there's this little tin plated dude, and he's bringing everyone with him, so it's gonna be a party."

Steers (pinching temples): "I have no idea what you just said."

Cosmoo: "Where's Prime?"

Steers: "He's going to land us on Earth to search for the others."

Cosmoo: "Oh. Well, that's convenient."

Steers: "Why?"

Cosmoo: Because that's where Hi-Q is going to go. He has all our kidnapped friends."


Deep Space.

Heading for Earth.

Hi-Q checked the controls. With Big Max piloting the shuttle, he was able to focus more on the apparatus they were carrying.

As soon as they arrived on Earth, he would put his plan into action. Thanks to the Dairycons in-stasis, he had all the power he would need. But Prime would not know that. He planned to tell Prime that unless he submitted willingly to Hi-Q's experiment, the hostages would be killed and the Earth would be drained of energy. Not true, of-course, but effective. One way or the other, the Dairycons would be saved... repowered...

And he would once again be united with Prime.

It had taken him many years to find a way to reverse the Powermaster process. The study of these Dairycons had helped. They were the final piece in a very large puzzle. One that would be completed soon.

Prime would not know that the City was in-space, following close behind. Only Big Max, sitting in the pilot's chair, would have that knowledge. Once Prime agreed, Big Max would bring the rest of the City to Earth, and Hi-Q's plan could begin in earnest.

The Dairycons would be brought back to life.

Hi-Q would be merged with the Essence.

It would be glorious.


Deep Space.

This was stupid.

Nemesis Magnus pondered the thought as he piloted his small craft on an intercept course for Earth. There were easier ways to travel. The Council could have simply teleported him there. But no... he was to do a short hop from this craft onto the Dairycon ship. And only at the proper time. What that time was, they didn't tell him, but they were sure Nemesis Magnus would know.

Sighing again, he put more power to the thrusters. Bad enough having to find a way to fufill his primary mission; how exactly he was to provide a distraction for the council was anyone's guess.

The answer hit him. Literally. Tarmac and his two friends impacted on his hull, and stuck there. The added mass brought fuel consumption on the ship to the redline. He'd run out of fuel just as he arrived at Earth. Apparently, these three were looking for a way to get... somewhere.

Nemesis Magnus smiled. He supposed he could send them on their way.

Approaching the Dairycon ship, Nemesis Magnus set the controls, and teleported off. The ship would clang harmlessly against the hull just as he arrived amid-ships, thereby confusing the security sensors.

He'd be inside. With no-on the wiser. And those three rustspots would get the blame.

He loved it when a plan came together.


Deep Space.

The City was operating at minimal power during the flight. It would need the bulk of its energy once it arrived at Earth. Though the bulk of the City's spark now rested inside the Big max robot onboard Hi-Q's ship, enough of the rudimentary intelligence remained to operate City systems.

The City knew what Hi-Q was planning. Knew that it was wrong. But with the Big Max spark inside the smaller form, it was helpless to intervene.

Events would unfold as they may.


Near-Earth orbit.

"So let me get this straight," Prime asked the small Dairycon. "Hi-Q has kidnapped your friends, and is coming here to merge with me? Seems... convenient."

Cosmoo: "Eh?"

Optimus: "It seems... too-simple of a plan. Hi-Q was the foremost scientist on Nebulous. I've been a part of him, and he of me. I know his mind. Could he have truly fallen so far?"

Prime took the news personally. Like others that had undergone the 'master process, Optimus had felt a kinship with his binary-bond partner. The loss felt by such a paired being is traumatic, to say the least; although the details were fuzzy, Prime was sure he....

And that was what caught his attention. The details were fuzzy. That was... impossible. An organic being would have a fuzzy memory, but Optimus was a sentient machine. If it had happened, he would remember it with full digital clarity. There was no mystery about the workings of his own mind.

So why was the memory of how Hi-Q and he became separated so... fuzzy?


The Council.

"He knows!"

"He knows what we want him to know."

"But he is a Prime! He has ways!"

"So do we. Our Champion is on his way. He may provide us both with a distraction as well as his primary mission."


Steers watched them talk. And fumed. He thought he could trust Cosmoo to keep things safe back at the farm. But he'd let some scrawny human take over the place, kidnap their friends... it was a betrayal, plain and simple. Steers didn't take kindly to such a thing. Just because Prime was willing to forgive Cosmoo didn't mean he had to.

The second-stringers watched their defacto leader with some alarm as he polished his gun, and mumbled to himself.

WannaBee: "Should we... should we say something to him?"

ElCowmeno: "Ah, I wouldn't, young friend."

Hook: "Let 'em. It would serve him right."

ElCowmeno: "That is not our way."

Hook: "It's not *your* way. It would be mine."

ElCowmeno: "I liked you better when you were a 'con, my friend."

Hook: "And I liked you better when you were an external floppy drive."

ElCowmeno: "... your mother..."

Hook and ElCowmeno continued to argue. Steers continued to polish his gun. Events would come to a head soon. Things would try to spin out of control...

Steers would make sure they didn't.


Near Earth orbit.

The ship clanged against the hull, sending a shimmer into Prime's ship. The Dairycons were on-alert; klaxxons sounded in the ship as the main bay doors opened. A tractor beam shot out, pulling the small scout craft in, along with Tarmac, Fernando, and C-bot.

Nemesis Magnus took his moment, teleporting into the ship proper.

The bay doors closing for the second time, the scout ship was brought to rest. Tarmac and friends crashed to the deck. Looking up, they found thirteen figures pointing guns at them.

Tarmac: "Um... hi."

Steers, his oil already at the boiling point, shot Tarmac in the knee. Activating the hatch, the scout ship and the three travelers were blown back into space, not to be seen again this episode.

As the hatch cycled shut, the alarms sounded yet again. Startled, they checked the portable monitor system:

Hi-Q's shuttle had arrived.



The Council.

"Soon, now. Soon, all will be one."



Near Earth orbit.


The image of Hi-Q flared to life.

Hi-Q: "At last. We meet again, old friend."

Optimus: "I know why you're here."

Hi-Q: "Then you must also know I have the means to accomplish it."

Optimus: "Taking innocent beings hostage? That's not the Hi-Q *I* remember."

Hi-Q: "Tell me, how *is* your memory?"

Optimus: "..."

Hi-Q: "That's what I thought. Odd that you can't seem to remember, isn't it? How we became seperated, when the Last Autobot made us One."

Optimus: "Release the hostages."

Hi-Q: "Consider it done, in-exchange for a single courtesy. We meet in-person. In space. In between our two ships."

Optimus: "An odd request."

Hi-Q: "Indulge me."

Prime nodded. The screen flicked off, and Optimus prepared to leave the shuttle. Departing the command deck, he issued orders to his subordinates:

Optimus: "I'm going out. Under no circumstances do you follow me. The others are aboard Hi-Q's shuttle. You focus on rescuing them."

Steers: "But Prime..."

Optimus: "I've scanned his ship. He doesn't have enough energon to power a full-scale assault. Ready me for launch!"

There was no room for argument in his tone of voice. A clear parasteel helmet clamped over the head of his Pretender Shell. The airlock cycled; Optimus stepped off the deck and floated into space. Cosmoo transformed, and clamped onto the back of him, to provide extra maneuvering thrust.

Optimus: "The original Dairycons are key, Steers! Lead the others aboard the ship to rescue them. I'll keep Hi-Q occupied."

The airlock cycled shut, and Optimus left the ship. Steers turned to face his troops. Herding them together, he spoke:

Steers: "All-right pardners, you heard 'em. We go to rescue the other Dairycons!"

ElCowmeno: "But, my friend... if we are rescuing them, who will rescue Prime?"

Silence fell upon the cargo deck.


Hi-Q's shuttle. Near earth orbit.

Hi-Q: "I'll be stepping out for a moment. Do take care of our precious cargo, won't you?"

Big Max: "Affirmative!" The small bot maneuvered the shuttle into position. Hi-Q stepped to the platform, which rose to the top of the shuttle.

Hi-Q: "You can keep an eye on things here and outside?"

Big Max: "Affirmative!"

Hi-Q: "Very well then. I'm counting on you, old friend. Come, Flatfoot. We're off to meet the new me." The platform ejected them into space. Flatfoot grabbed hold of the small human, and used his built-in maneuvering thrusters to blast clear of the shuttle. Hi-Q and Prime had agreed to meet in-between the two ships.

It would allow them room to move.

Room for what, Flatfoot could only guess.

As the two got closer to each other, Flatfoot saw Prime's shuttle begin to move. In an instant, Flatfoot decided to place his hand in-front of Hi-Q, so as to block the other's sight.

Hi-Q: "What do you think you are doing, dear boy?"

Flatfoot: "Protecting you from microscopic asteroid debris, sir. Safety of the humans is our primary function, after all."

Hi-Q: "Excellent thinking. You serve me well."

Flatfoot: "Yea, well... I'll be glad when this is over. If I were a Decepticon, I would just have crushed you by now. Your armored form wouldn't protect you."

Hi-Q: "How interesting."

Flatfoot: "What?"

Hi-Q: "You seek to distract me for some reason. Suggesting you'd crush me, and admitting that you know how strong my armor is. Strong enough for the rigors of space. I wonder why?"

Flatfoot said nothing.


The shuttle maneuvered, but could not get close to position.

Wannabee: "We got it moving, but it will take awhile to drift toward the other ship. At least, if we want it to look natural. Is that good?"

ElCowmeno: "Ahhh... I suspect it is not."

Steers: "We're going out. Board the ship individually. Two teams. First team, the Reinforcements. Second team, the Mexicons. Take the vessel. Secure our friends."

WannaBee: "And what will you be doing, fearless leader?"

Steers: "I'll be crashing the ship."


Optimus Prime and Hi-Q arrive at approximately the same time.

Hi-Q: "It is good to see you, old friend. I feel as though a part of myself has been missing."

Optimus: "I have done as you have asked. Release the hostages."

Hi-Q: "Ah, not so fast. First, send your little friend back. Then, I would like to talk."

Optimus: "CosMoo can leave. But we have nothing to discuss until the hostages are released."

Hi-Q: "Very well. If you give me your word of honor that you will stay here for the duration, I will release them now. Big Max! Have the other Dairycons arrived to effect a rescue?"

Big Max: "Affirmative! They are breaching the airlock!"

Hi-Q: "See to it that they retrieve their friends unharmed. Keep the others from interfering. Transport off when they reach the command center."

Big Max: "Affirmative!"

Hi-Q: "There now, you see? I am a man of my word. Would you like to know why I am here?"

Optimus: "I am told you seek parts of me. What I don't understand is why?"

Hi-Q: "You should ask the Council that, when you see them again. Or rather, I will ask the Council."

Optimus: "Yes, you seek to destroy me and take my place."

Hi-Q: "No! That is NOT what I seek! I simply wish to undo that which the Council has done!"

Optimus: "You speak in riddles."

Hi-Q: "Then let me be perfectly clear: You and I will merge. Become one being again, as before. You're always going on about 'until all are one.' Well, what do you think the prophesy is about! Don't you want to *be* One again? To have all your divergent parts made whole? How does it *feel* to have memory loss. The Great Optimus Prime, a victim of another's folly! For Primus' sake, do you know how long I've been cleaning up after you?! A body here. A data disk there. Hell, you can't even hang onto your precious matrix! How many times has *that* gone missing? Do you really feel you have what it takes to be a Leader, fragmented as you are?"

Optimus Prime was silent. For Hi-Q seemed to know him better than he knew himself. There were many doubts that plagued him over the years, none so much as the nagging thought that he was missing *something*.

Something vital.

Hi-Q: "Oh yes, you call me crazy. But this has happened before. You don't remember, do you? Why is that, do you suppose? Well, allow me to refresh your memory. You *died* battling Unicron. It's not the first time, either. But in this instance, your essence flowed into *me*. I became *you*. I was then rebuilt *into* you by the last Autobot."

Prime remained silent. None of this sounded remotely possible. Yet, somehow...

Hi-Q: "You really don't remember. Unbelievable. Well, let me tell you what else your precious Council did. They couldn't stand the idea of their fearless leader being contaminated with organics. So THEY HAD ME REMOVED! I still don't quite know how they managed to do it. We were one merged being. But here I am, thinking I'm still the Prime, yet there you are, with my body. Well, that's it. It took me a long time to sort things out in my head, running around doing the Council's bidding, but that is at an end! We're going to undo the damage they have caused us, and then we're going... I'm going... to go there in-person and... and... and..."

Hi-Q trailed off at this point. Though unseen, Optimus could hear a quiet, choked sob coming from the small being. How could this man have been reduced to tears? What had the Council done to him?

To them?

Optimus: "You mame a compelling case. And we will get to the bottom of this, I promise. But I'm going to have to refuse your offer to merge. Though you claim your intentions are pure, I cannot ignore the fact that you've kidnapped and damaged a number of my friends. If you were truly the Hi-Q I remember, you would have found a better way to accomplish this goal."

The quiet sobbing stopped. A cold, hard glint could be seen in Hi-Q's eyes.

Hi-Q: "I'm sorry, but you seem to think I'm giving you a choice!"

A giant hand reached out from the darkness of space, grabbing Optimus Prime.

Hi-Q: "Behond the fruits of my labor, Optimus! A fully repowered City! One that you've merged with before.... that *we* will merge with again. At last, all the pieces have come together! We'll be reunited. We'll restore all your precious Dairycons! And then... then we'll make war on that traitorous Council! Big Max, initiate final merge!"

Big Max: "Affirmative!"

Using his control link from the shuttle, Big Max commanded the City to fully transform. In space, with none of the restrictions of a high-gravity planet, it was the work of a few moments to shift completely into robot mode. The giant hand holding Optimus began to maneuver him into the compartment on his chest.

"Big Max! Final Mode!"

Optimus: "I won't let you get away with this!"

Optimus struggled mightily, but was unable to break free of the giant robot's grip.

Flatfoot: "Nooo!" Unthinking, he tossed Hi-Q toward the big robot, and attempted to maneuver closer to Prime. Perhaps, if he moved fast enough...

Hi-Q: "Young fool, you are undone!" a quick blast from one of Hi-Q's wristguns disabled Flatfoot's maneuvering engines. To add insult to injury, with a swift command, the giant robot's hand flicked Flatfoot away like so much rubbish. And with the added momentum provided by Flatfoot's toss...

The glow began. Hi-Q entered the chamber first, immersing himself in the operation of combination. The large robot inserted Prime next, the energies of the merge chamber growing with intensity each passing moment. Brighter and brighter, until the glow enveloped the entire structure. A large head began to emerge from the top of the robot torso. Becoming solid, the being began to speak.

"At last! We are... I am..."


"I am scrapped, for sure."

The two teams had converged on the ship. Wannabee had led his team thru the cargo hold, while ElCowmeno had led his Mexicons thru the airlock.

They met in the cooridor leading to the command deck.

Wannabee: "The hostages are secure. Most of them are simply out of juice. A few are... a few are... well, I can't say I rightly liked what I saw."

Hook: "It's an abomination, really. And I've created a few in my day."

ElCowmeno: "There doesn't appear to be anyone else on the ship. Escape pods are launched, but not recently. Scans indicate one occupant, in this room."

Wannabee: "Confirmed. He's scrap, do you hear me? On the count of three. One.... three!"

The Dairycons charged the door to the command center. The fact that it opened just as they were about to hit it came as quite a surprise.

The two teams of second-stringers tumbled to the floor in a heap.

Wannabee untangled himself first. Standing to face the occupant of the room, he drew his weapon and took aim.

Wannabee: "Are you the commander of this vessel?"

Big Max: "Affirmative!"

Hook: "Put the gun down, he obviously expected us."

Big Max: "Affirmative! This unit's function has ended. This unit surrenders! Please take crash positions and prepare for impact!"

Wannabee: "What's he talking about?"

Hook: "Oh.... sh*t. Look out the window!"

The Dairycons looked up in time to see their own shuttle bearing down on them.


"I am Optimus Prime!"

The gargantuan robot looked around himself. Looked at his hands. This wasn't like the last time, when the universe was at stake. This was... this was...

Something was wrong.

Prime sensed all the components within him. The Big Max robot. DiskPrime. Pete, his armored Pretender shell. But something... something was missing.


It was the work of moments to locate him. Internal sensors had picked him up in the combination chamber. For some reason, Hi-Q didn't become part of the merge.

Hi-Q had failed.

How was that possible?

Optimus had no further time to ponder the question, as alarm klaxxons indicated an impact was imminent.


The second-stringers didn't have time to buckle in. All they could do was marvel as the ship roared into their viewscreen, until it was too-large to even see completely. The deck plates rattled as the ship... suddenly veered off, the hull plates scraping as they went by. Not a 'bot was left standing, and alert klaxxons were still sounding throughout the ship... but they were alive.

A cheer went up from everyone on the command deck when they realise they'd just been saved.


The ship careened off the other shuttle, and headed straight for him. Optimus moved the Big Max robot as an extention of his own will, commanding the giant robot to -gently- catch the ship in both hands and halt its progress. If a robot could sigh, he would have. The crisis averted for the moment, Big Max transformed, and Optimus had the shuttle dock with the City.

The ship had been saved.

Optimus Prime was still himself.

The crisis was over.

So why in Primus did he feel like an idiot just now?



Nemesis Magnus pulled on the controls. That stupid Dairycon would have crashed the ship and killed them all. What kind of hairbrained scheme was that? Was that how he intended to save his friends? By putting them all in one place and then killing them?

This made less sense all the time.

Locking the controls, he stepped over the unconscious bot. He'd had to knock Steers out cold when he realized what he intended to do. Pulling the ship out of the crash dive at the last moment had nearly caused him to crash into the moon instead; the big robot outside saved them from *that*.

So... crisis averted. For the moment.

Nemesis Magnus left the command deck, impact klaxxons still screaming. Let them. He did *not* want to be discovered just yet. He'd bide his time, and try to figure out what had happened. Someone was pulling all their strings.

Nemesis Magnus knew something about that. It left a bad taste in his mouth. He would savor the moment when his mission was completed.

If these idiots didn't get him killed first.


"The merge was unsuccessful!"

"We thought it might not be."

"No, *you* thought it might not be! You never told the rest of us why!"

"Isn't it obvious? *He* interfered. Again."

"But how is that possible?"

"Can you think of another reason why this plan didn't succeed?"


"Neither can I. But don't worry. We'll still win."

"What do you mean?"

"You're not the only one keeping secrets here. I've set a contingency in-motion. Our work will soon be done. And we can finally put this whole sordid mess behind us forever."

"What contingency?"

"You'll find out soon enough."


It had been quite an adventure.

Everyone made it thru, and mostly in one piece this time. Old friends and new were united in a common cause. Ticker had been recharged first, and with her help, the others were on the mend. Most needed only to be refueled. Others...

He tried not to think about it.

Optimus watched as these self-styled Dairycons got to know one another. Friendships renewed, friendships created.

Though he keenly felt the loss of one in-particular.

Hi-Q should have had it better. Considering how often he'd served the cause, to end up like he did... it wasn't right. The Hi-Q he knew would *never* resort to digging up corpses in order to accomplish his goals. To revive the dead. Such... nonsense.

He caught Flatfoot's eye. Restored to function, hale and hearty. Thought about how many times he had been brought back to life seemingly from the brink.

Perhaps... not so much nonsense after all.

Optimus would dedicate himself to finding Hi-Q some help, now that the crisis was over. The others would assist, no-doubt. They'd have to find out about the Council involvement as well. Perhaps he could then dedicate a moment to himself, to wonder why Hi-Q's plan didn't work. He was a brilliant scientist, as the restored Flatfoot could attest.

So why didn't his plan to merge work? Insanity? Or something more?

The cargo deck seemingly full of Dairycons, Optimus prepared to exit. He would worry about his difficulties later. There was a course to plot. Unfinished business, Ticker had called it. Something about a project left on Earth.

It was on a thought such as this that the air began to shimmer around the cargo deck. Dairycons jumped to the side as a warpgate resolved itself in the center of the room. A silver hand. An arm. a head. And a giant t-shirt.

It was a robot wearing a giant yellow t-shirt. And it was reaching out toward Heffer.

"Let's see... ah, there we go!" Pulling hard, the robot grabbed Heffer by the horns and yanked him thru the warpgate. There was a startled, "Moooooo!" as he vanished. As the warpgate closed, a *second* warpgate opened in the same area. The two warpgates interacted with each other. A blinding flash! When everyone's optics had cleared, there were five small beings in the center of the room. All wore a stylized, futuristic symbol of the Dairycon/Maximal Alliance.

One of them was familiar.

Burning Furry Monkey: "Oh, no. We came back too-far. I already exist in this timeframe. This could be a problem."

Shining Spider: "It can't be helped. This is where we were sent."

The others nodded. They'd let Shining Spider speak for them.

Shining Spider: "Fellow Dairycons! I bring you Greetings from the Future!"

Burning Furry Monkey: "Yea, that's original..."

Shining Spider: "An event has necessitated our return to your time! We need your help! Heffer has gone insane at the Dairycon 2040 Convention! He's tearing up the Park! We have to stop him! Come on, everyone!"

The Future Dairycons jumped thru the warpgate, returning to wherever they'd come. The present Dairycons all looked to Prime expectantly. With the barest of nods, Optimus led the charge as the entire phalanx of Dairycons poured into the warpgate for parts unknown. Questions would have to wait. Destiny called, and our intrepid heroes answered!

Next stop: The Future !!


-WHO are the members of the mysterious Council?

-WHO are the future Dairycons?

-WHAT is Erector doing at the Dairycon 2040 Convention?

These questions answered and more, in Dairycon 2040: Erect and Proud!

Available in 50 days!

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