Electrum Beast looked on with horror(and perhaps a touch of fear?) as Crackup emerged from Campaign car's storage compartment. A wide grin was evident upon the small Decepticons' face. And when he spoke, it was with a voice not unlike that of a buzzard about to swoop in on its prey....|
"Soooo...this is the secret hideout of the elusive Electrum Beast. I must say, I am impressed."
"Crackup," said Electrum Beast, barely containing a snarl of disgust. "I should have known you'd be pulling the stings from close-by."
"Not at all," Crackup replied. "This was all Campaign car's doing. I was merely along for the ride."
"You are seldom just, 'along for the ride', Decepticon. What purpose did you have in corrupting my best student? Just to get to me? Well, here I am. So what good did it do you?"
"Oh, getting TO you was just the beginning, you pompass bag of spare parts." replied Crackup. "It was getting to your base that is much more important."
Electrum Beast: "And what could *you* possibly need with a research facility? You're no scientist. You don't even know what goes on here."
Crackup: "Oh, that's not entirely true. I know that you re-engineer and retrain Autobots here. I know that you do advanced research into the same. And I know that you have a few interesting 'projects' going on as we speak. All things that concern the Decepticons greatly. And me in-particular. From what I've seen of your work, you're about to come into something rather powerful. I mean to possess that power for myself."
Electrum Beast gave pause. The Decepticon was spot-on in his assessment. He *did* conduct advanced research here. There was no sense denying it; no doubt Campaign car told Crackup everything he knew. And it appeared that he even knew about some specific projects. Not good. Still, the situation might be contained. What Electrum Beast needed to know is what the Decepticon knew about exactly, and what he planned to do with that ill-gotten knowledge. Right now, he could still just be on a fishing expedition...
Electrum Beast: "I see that you've been busy pumping information out of my second-in-command. So you know about a few experiments. So what? I still fail to see of what use that could be to you."
Crackup: "Why, it's quite simple, really; I plan to take your research and make it my own. We can't have the balance of power tipping too-much in your faction's favor, eh? Specifically, I want two things: the research material on protoforms, and the prototypes for the universal powerlink process."
Damn. He knew too-much. Time for plan B.
Electrum Beast: "I don't know what you're talking about."
Crackup: "Come now, don't be foolish. Give me copies of the files, and the three prototype robots in your lab, and I'll leave peacefully. No one gets hurt. Now what could be more reasonable than that?"
Electrum Beast: "You're a rotten liar, Decepticon. You may have fooled others, but you can't fool me."
Crackup: "No....I suppose not."
With that, Crackup pulled a blaster out from subspace, and shot at Electrum Beast's head.
Poor Campaign car. Only now, in the harsh light of reason, did he finally understand that he'd been played for a fool. Crackup had lied to him all along. And he fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. "And I thought *I* was the one with the hypnotic sparkle," he thought to himself. Crackup told him that they were here to erase research, and get revenge on Electrum Beast for what he'd done to him. Obviously, that was a lie. Crackup was here to *steal* the research. And Campaign car had helped him do it. This wasn't how things were supposed to work out.
In his current condition, he was unable to render assistance. He....couldn't make things right. Electrum Beast would likely die. And it would be his fault. Sure, he wanted to strangle him with his bare hands just a moment ago (and he still wasn't thrilled with him) but...he hated being manipulated so easily. Campaign car's hate was nothing more than a tool for Crackup, something to use to his advantage.
The damage too-much for his systems to handle, Campaign car slid inevitably into stasis-lock.
Electrum Beast took another vicious punch to the midsection. He winced; Crackup seemed to know all his weak points. And without a suitable environment, his beast-mode would be useless in combat. Still, he fought on, refusing to give an inch. If Crackup wanted this victory, he would have to earn it...the hard way.
"Although," Electrum Beast thought, "the only one this seems to be hard for is *me*." Another punch; this one easily blocked. Electrum Beast countered with a punch of his own, this one to Crackup's chest. As usual, he'd left a mark...but a dented body didn't seem to slow Crackup even a bit.
"Face it; you've lost." said Crackup. "You've been out of your element for far-too-long. My victory grows closer with each strike."
"Don't count your eggbots before they hatch," replied Electrum Beast. "I've still got a few tricks up my sleeve." Electrum Beast had already lost the immobilizer-ray. While Crackup was distracting him with his little speech, he hadn't noticed the gun he had hidden in-hand. Before Electrum Beast could take another shot with the immobilizer, Crackup had fired; the shot, intended for his head, instead hit the immobilizer as Electrum instinctively raised his gun-hand to cover. With the gun useless for shooting, Electrum tossed it, and clamped down on Crackup's wrist instead. Since then, the combat had been nothing more than a dance of one-armed punches, with Campaign car as an unwilling spectator.
Although seemingly outmatched, there were still other options Electrum Beast could try. "Computer, activate pool sequence; rapid-deploy." The computer responded; the floor beneath the three bots' feet opened quickly...too-quickly for anyone except Electrum Beast to react. As Crackup and Campaign car fell, Electrum Beast transformed, and plunged into the waters below. When he first commissioned this base, he had the pool installed to allow him to test his prototype 'beast'-mode from time to time. Although he rarely had a chance to use it, the situation demanded that he try to do so now. While the other two splashed and flailed, sinking inexorably toward the bottom, Electrum Beast dived, razor-sharp teeth extended.
He had a sharp bite.
He snapped at Crackup's gun, taking it out of the combat...along with the hand and wrist holding it. As Electrum Beast swam to another corner to chew on his snack, Crackup howled; underwater, the screams travel quickly. Clutching his stump, and clouding the water with his leaking-lubricants, he kicked his legs upward, in an attempt to get back to the surface. He made an amazing discovery:
Robots can't swim.
At least, not like this. As his feet touched bottom, he cursed at Electrum Beast, whom he could no longer see. That wasn't a problem for the manta-ray, who could see just fine as he slammed into him from behind, knocking Crackup off his feet. Crackup made a nice, resounding clang as he hit the bottom of the pool. While he continued to curse, Electrum Beast swam to a corner of the pool and transformed, accessing a waterproof control panel. Within moments, the pool began to drain, leaving an intact and standing Electrum Beast; a fallen and Damaged Crackup; and a completely short-circuited and unconscious Campaign car. It looked as though things might be shaping up yet. Accessing another control, the floor they were on began to ascend. In moments, they would be in the command center again, and it would all be over.
Flatfoot and Washout descended in the elevator. Having done all they could for the humans, they continued their pursuit of Campaign car within the Milwaukee-base. Alarm-klaxxons and computer-warnings greeted them along the way. Upon reaching the lower level, the elevator stopped. Unfortunately, the doors wouldn't open. "Mmph. Must be stuck," said Flatfoot, as he pushed uselessly against the bent doors. "What a brilliant observation," replied Washout. "They teach you that in detective school?" Pushing Flatfoot aside, Washout eyed the door carefully, probing along the seam of the closed doors. Then, straightening up, he kicked; the force was enough to knock Washout backwards into the elevator car, hitting his chassis against the rear of the pod. The doors, however, had not moved an inch. Frustrated, Washout let out a gurgle and transformed, leveling his turret at the stubborn doors. "No! Wait!" Flatfoot shouted. "There isn't enough room....!" Washout didn't hear him as the thunderous shot echoed out of his gun, ripped thru the elevator doors....and bounced off the wall in-front of the elevator, sending a goodly portion of the energy back into the elevator pod. Flatfoot had time to utter only a single bad word as the white-hot blast hit them both square, detonating the elevator all around...
Unfortunately, Electrum Beast was wrong. As the floor raised up to the command center, so too, did Crackup rise up off the floor.
"You should have killed me while you had the chance," Crackup said. He stood up; no longer leaking lubricants, he instead sported an energon-blade where the stump of his hand used to be. "Unlike you, I always come prepared for a battle. You'll find that this planning comes in handy...for your downfall."
Crackup slashed; caught unprepared, Electrum Beast couldn't dodge in time. He was skewered, along with the control panel behind him, just as they reached command level. The panel shorted out and blew up, knocking Electrum Beast to the ground with resounding force. A blackened-hole could be seen in his back as he struggled to get up, with Crackup gleefully waving his blade in-front of him. The shockwave rippled thru the command center, knocking out systems, and silencing the alarms.
Security was off-line.
With the blast finally subsided, Washout finally crawled out of the rubble. The blast had detonated the elevator, the power-supply, and most of the shaft's equipment. What was not detonated had fallen on their heads like so much rubbish. It had taken this long just to dig their way out. Slowly, painfully, Washout climbed out of the hole, followed by Flatfoot.
Flatfoot: "Well, this is another fine mess you've gotten me into."
Washout: "I *said* I was sorry!"
Flatfoot: "For all your vaunted intelligence, you really do some dumb things sometimes. Did you have a drink before we left?"
Washout: "...yea....but it was a small one."
Flatfoot: "Sigh. Well, come-on. With any luck, we'll still be able to stop....(the base alarms suddenly cut off). Hey, did you hear that?"
Wahout: "Hear what?" he said, as he turned around and clanged the barrel of his plasma cannon into Flatfoot's head. Without a sound, Flatfoot lost consciousness, and slipped to the floor, a sizeable dent in the side of his head. When Flatfoot awoke, Washout reasoned, he'd be a mighty unhappy bot. After careful consideration, only one thing came to Washout's mind:
Uncle Whiskey Breath arrived to find...a locked door? "Well, dis doesn't make any sense," he said. "What da heck would the command center be locked, unless...." He didn't get to finish the thought, as the first of several people plowed into him from behind.
The day was lost.
Electrum Beast hung skewered, like so much dead fish, from a pipe hanging from the ceiling. How he remained conscious, he didn't know, with all the energon he was losing. Well, he hadn't lost it, actually. He could see it on the floor, right above his head, pooling there as it dripped out of his wounds. Hanging upside down, his limbs slashed to nonfunction and quickly bound, there was nothing more he could do to stop Crackup as he poked and pushed at the various controls in the Command Center. At least the first thrust of the blade that had skewered him had also shorted out the computer.
With any luck, someone else might come along and stop him before he discovered the base's secrets. As things stood, it wouldn't be him. He was seemingly done for.
Electrum Beast hung there, and tried to make peace with his Maker...Primus, or Vector Sigma, or whoever. Without the computer, any voice commands he could give would be useless. Not that he was strong enough now to communicate, in any case. Never mind the fact that Crackup had shorted out his vocoder with one stab, taking no chances on Electrum's shenanigans. "Amazing how efficient that energon blade is," he thought. "Not that it does *me* any good, at the moment...
Crackup fiddled with the controls, getting an image up on a small auxillary monitor. From what he could make out from his position, Electrum Beast saw that Crackup was accessing the research files.
He supposed that Crackup would have gotten Campaign car's research codes, too. Why he hadn't seen fit to completely delete his access to base systems, he'd never know. Probably a false hope that Campaign car would eventually return to the fold.
Stupid. And now, it would seem, fatal. In addition to the research database, it looked as though Crackup was messing around with the internal defenses, and the central powercore. To what purpose, he wondered? He'd already compromised the security systems. The only reason he'd need the internal defenses up and running would be to buy time for his escape with the research. But the powercore? There was no reason to access those controls, unless....
"Oh, Electrum Beast, you're still conscious. Good," said Crackup. "I just wanted to tell you- I lied. Getting your files is nothing more than an added bonus. I was sent here to destroy you and this accursed research facility. But cheer up...at least part of your research will live on. Under *my* guidance, of course. I just thought you'd like to know."
Electrum Beast, needless to say, did not respond.
Ticker and Scoot rushed after the newly-minted defender, who moved at a pace quicker than any they could match. They thought they would arrive too-late to render any assistance. When rounding a corner, they found themselves to be just-in-time....to crash into the growing crowd of people stopped in-front of the Command Center door. A yelp, and Scoot stopped just short of running into Uncle...until Ticker ran into him, who ran into Uncle, who was trying to pick himself off the door after the new Defender and three little bots had plowed into *him*. Finally unable to untangle themselves, Uncle looked down and eyed the newcomer suspiciously.
"Eh, wait-a-minute! Your ID-code checks as Overdrive, but you sure don't look like him. You de intruder dat we're all here to stop?"
"Eh, no," replied Scoot, speaking for him. "He's not the intruder. But he's not Overdrive either; I knew we forgot to reset something...."
Uncle sighed at this bizzare declaration from the engineer, wondering what he meant by resetting something. He chalked it up to just one of the many projects going on that he didn't understand. "Well fine, yer not an enemy, and yer not Overdrive then. So who *are* youse?" A blank look came across his face as the new Defender realized that he didn't have an answer. "I...I don't know. I hadn't given it much thought. There was no time..."
"Eh, well fine. Introductions can wait. The tree little 'bots behind youse don't have names yet either, but they're here to help too, aint'cha?" The three little bots beeped excitedly in-return, ready for action.
"Fine, we're all here to help," said Ticker. "But first, we've got to get thru the door." Scoot stepped up and punched some codes into the keypad. "Hmmm....lock isn't responding. Computer, open door." Nothing. "Computer, respond." Still nothing. "Strange. The alarm's been turned off. But the computer isn't responding. And neither is the locking mechanism. Ideas?"
"I've got one," said the new Defender and Uncle Whiskey Breath in-unison. Uncle took aim with his blizzard shotgun and fired; the cold went straight thru the door, freezing it solid in seconds. The Defender then turned around and kicked at the door, knocking it clear off its hinges and shattering it, sending debris flying into the Command Center. Everyone stared wide-eyed for a moment, before cheering. "Eh, dat boy's got da right stuff," said Uncle. "Charge!" With Uncle leading the way, the entire team piled into the Command Center, and to Electrum Beast's rescue.
The power was out.
It was a fairly obvious conclusion, considering the energon bars in front of the door had disappeared. When the alarm had sounded, the guard left his station. Good. There was no one standing in his way. As much as he would have liked to rip off his jailer's head, he knew it wasn't his fault. The guard was just doing his job, after all. They all were. But they also had to understand that freedom was the right of all sentient beings. That included *him*, despite Electrum Beast's insistence otherwise. He was as much a 'bot as the next fellow, despite outward appearances. A feral grin spread across his face; with the way clear of all obstructions, it was time to pay a visit to the commander of the Milwaukee base. Perhaps make him see things a little more clearly than he had previously. Swinging out of the branches lining his cell, he made a break for the exit. Or at least, he tried. A snarl escaped his lips; he was stopped just short by the chain on his leg. The beast was still shackled to the tree. Tugging with all his might, the trunk seemd to hold fast, until eventually, inch by inch, the wood began to splinter and give way. Finally, it snapped, leaving the chain attached to only a small chunk of leftover bark. Beating his chest and screeching triumphantly, he made his escape, dragging a piece of his former prison with him.
Going-in first was a mistake, Uncle reasoned, as soon as the laser-turret hit him square, knocking the shotgun out of his hand and him onto his back. Grunting, he activated his Cloak, rendering him invisible for a few moments, he hoped, to the laser-turret's scanners. Anything to buy enough time to retrieve his blizzard shotgun, he reasoned.
No such luck.
The laser was equipped with thermal tracers, and continued to fire in Uncle's position, scoring direct hits. He couldn't move out of the way. He could barely block the shots with his arm as the Cloak wavered, then fell away like so many shattered ice crystals.
"Stupid base defenses," said Uncle. "Firin' at da wrong target. Should be blastin' da decepticon, not me." He reached into his storage compartment, and pulled out a small yellow wedge; with the skill of a master horseshoe player, he threw it at the laser-turret, scoring a direct hit. The turret exploded, showering the floor with debris. "Well, dat ought to make tings easier fer da others," he said, retrieving his wedge from the smoking debris.
Unfortunately, 'easy' was not what Crackup had in-mind for the others.
Ticker and Scoot were locked into a magnetic confinement field, unable to move. The three little bots were doing a dance around Crackup, dodging his energy blade as he took futile stabs at them.... and the nameless Defender was in the middle of the room, hopping mad! His new body wasn't responding! He'd tried the mental command he'd used to transform in his old body, with no luck. He tried flexing his concealed limbs, hoping to jar them into reconfiguring. Nothing. The power simply wasn't reaching maximal levels in his transform circuits. He was effectively modelocked.
This was getting ridiculous! There was a battle going on, and he couldn't join in because that stupid engineer Scoot had probably forgotten to reset something *else* on this new form. Frustrated, he tried the only other thing he could think of to transform: verbalizing the command.
To his immense surprise...the verbal input worked. His exterior form shifted, as his bulk grew and changed shape, revealing the robot hidden inside. Hints of his old form remained, both in design and coloring. But he was a new 'bot, this was a new day....and he had finally thought of a name:
To Be Continued.