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"Army of the Undead"

Chapter 1: Downfall

Initially, the slight tremors felt by the shuttle's occupants could easily have been attributed to space turbulence. The slight gravitational tug from a nearby star or planet could sometimes be enough to alter a ship's course.

The rumbling throughout the ship grew to audible levels, however. Then, the hull exploded.

Brawn whirled around in his navigation chair as tiny fragments of charred and melted metal showered his armored body. He narrowed his optic sensors as something began to tear away at the breach in the shuttle wall. An automatic force field had kicked in to sustain the shuttle's integrity, but it could not prevent this impure invasion from contaminating the Autobot space craft.

A pair of black, gleaming hands slashed away at the few remaining cords and wires, forging a makeshift entrance for a most unwelcome presence.

"Megatron!"

Brawn had been aware of the possibility of an attack before he had left Moon Base One, but he had prayed that his shuttle would pass unnoticed through Cybertron space. If stopped now, on a desperate run to Earth for a few precious energon cubes, the Autobots' chances of faring much longer in this horrible war were questionable, at best.

"Decepticons!" Brawn shouted, as Megatron's army began filling the aft section of the ship. His words acted like lightning on the other Autobots present, jolting them to readiness. Prowl readied his formidable acid pellet weapon; Ironhide and Ratchet each sprang from their seats in a defensive stance. The shuttle's built-in computer, perhaps anticipating the outcome of the ensuing encounter, scrambled to send an emergency distress signal to the Moon Base.

Megatron sauntered into the brightly illuminated bridge, the lights dancing off his silver and grey armor. The murderous fiend looked positively smug.

"Die, Autobots!" he bellowed. He jumped into the air, tumbling and shifting into his smaller weapons mode in a matter of seconds. He fell perfectly into the waiting hands of Starscream, who wasted no time taunting the Autobots. He fired the weapon, unleashing a lethal fusion blast at his foes.

Brawn charged at the Decepticon fearlessly, but he was struck in the shoulder by the powerful blast, stopping him dead in his tracks. The shot tore through his armor plating, igniting every sensory circuit in his body, and exited through his back. A cold numbness washed over him. Paralyzed, clutching at the gaping hole in his armor, he fell where he stood.

Prowl was gunned down next, faring no better against the Autobots' deadliest foes. The Decepticons, powered by weapons technology considerably more advanced than the Autobots, quickly took out the remaining shuttle crew in rapid succession. The last thing Brawn saw before losing consciousness was a crippled Ironhide, desperately clutching Megatron's boot, with a fusion cannon aimed directly at his face.


Approaching Earth in the Autobots' own shuttle was a stroke of pure genius, to Megatron's mind. It was an inspiration of such supreme irony that he couldn't help but allow himself some small amount of self-satisfaction.

Megatron could taste the end of this war now, like the first drop of energon from a full, glowing cube splashing on his tongue. Having at long last gained control of Cybertron was only the first step. After Optimus Prime was dead at Megatron's own hands and every last Autobot soldier melted down for scrap, Megatron planned on converting Earth into his strategic base of operations. While he had drained the humans' world of over half its energy resources since his unintentional arrival on that planet some twenty years ago, it still housed enough reserves to make for a very comfortable headquarters.

It had taken Megatron much longer than he had planned to conquer his home planet--his accidental diversion and subsequent shutdown on Earth had cost him four million years. Losing a quarter of his life, perhaps more than any other miseries Prime had inflicted upon him, angered Megatron to the point of primal rage.

But now, secreted in the Autobots' own transport shuttle, Megatron would sail effortlessly into Autobot City, taking those do-gooding fools completely by surprise. Megatron only wished he could see the faces of Ultra Magnus and the others as they realized what a devious trick Megatron had played on them.

"Megatron," said Skywarp, "we're entering the Earth's atmosphere now. Should I activate the ship's defenses?"

"Negative, Skywarp," Megatron responded. He had thought he'd explained his plans clearly enough... but then, none of the Decepticons had such an intuitive grasp of deception and cunning as Megatron did. "We will do nothing. The Autobots will accept us with open arms."

"Yeah," chimed in Frenzy, "then we'll open up their chassis! And their brains... and their hearts... and maybe their tummies..." He laughed a wicked little laugh.

Soundwave, mimicking the Autobot transponder frequency, received clearance from the communications tower to land on the outer fringes of Autobot City, only a short distance away from Metroplex itself, the heart of the city.

Megatron was overcome with a delightful fit of laughter. "Where are you now, Prime? Where is the Autobots' greatest hero, now that he is needed so very desperately?"

A volley of laser bolts smacked Megatron in the legs as a response. He whirled around as another barrage came, from outside the shuttle, knocking Starscream over.

An Autobot had spotted them! Megatron didn't know who this gallant warrior was, but he'd die by Megatron's hand yet!

"You imbecile!" he barked, glaring at Starscream. "Our cover is blown!"

"It was your stupid strategy!" Starscream whined, nursing his wound as though he were looking for sympathy.

Another succession of Autobot laser bolts blew a hole in the front of the shuttle; readouts and monitors flickered sporadically. The ship was a loss.

It only took Megatron a nanosecond to compute a new strategy--one which would require a considerable sacrifice of energy, but could still lead to almost certain victory. Megatron briefly considered summoning the Stunticons and Combaticons from Cybertron, but then thought better of it; he didn't want to risk Prime intercepting the communique and learning of his ambush.

"Abandon the shuttle!" he shouted, soaring through the breach in the shell of the ship. "Hit those lowly Autobots with everything you can muster! Decepticons--attack!"

Immediately behind Megatron were Starscream and his five jets, now in aerial mode. Soundwave, the Triple Changers, the Insecticons and the Constructicons all followed suit.


As the battle for Autobot City began, the crippled shuttle limped through the sky, rumbling through the sky over the acess ramp leading to the city.  Huffer had been overseeing some routine road maintenance when the immense shadow of the transport shuttle momentarily turned everything dark.  He jerked his head up, straining for a good view past the bulky armor that obstructed his peripheral vision, and finally uttered a curse under his breath.

"Autobots," he barked to the others, "we've got to save them!"

The shuttle was already beyond repair, from the looks of things, but there had to be a chance that they could still save the shuttle crew.  If the Decepticons had managed to enter and exit the shuttle without so much as a scratch, then that means they'd caught Ironhide and his team by surprise.  The shuttle crew was likely immobilized—or worse.  Huffer had to find out.

He transformed to vehicle mode, launching into the highest gear at which he was capable of driving.  Bluestreak and Hound were following close being, but Huffer knew Bluestreak was having difficulty adapting to the new energon cubes the Autobots had recently begun using, and Hound had been in a perpetual funk for what seemed like forever.  It was unlikely they would give this one everything they had, so Huffer made sure to redouble his efforts.

He raced up the ramp to Lookout Mountain, the bulk of which had been destroyed by Decepticon laser fire.  He dodged flying Insecticons and laser bolts and falling debris as he raced up to the top of the mountain as quickly as was possible for a semi-tractor trailer cab.  It was days like these that he remained ever thankful he had opted not to adpot a trailer module as part of his transformation.  

As the shuttle passed overhead, Huffer launched himself straight off the broken edge of the plateau, effecting a switch back to robot mode and grasping at the hull of the shuttle.  Hound and Bluestreak would not be able to follow him—his timing had been true, but the others would arrive mere seconds too late to do the same.  Huffer's long, silver fingers scraped across the bottom of the shuttle's hull until they caught the edge of a panel—maybe the landing gear door.  It didn't matter.  Now that Huffer had a secure grip, he drew back, allowing his arm to momentarily telescope into itself before he threw a mighty punch into the outer skin of the crippled shuttle.  It crumbled like an accordion, allowing the mighty Autobot an access port inside.

The scream of the shuttle cutting through the atmosphere was nearly deafening and Huffer knew that his time was limited.  He stole a quick peek out the canopy window and saw the landscape speeding towards him at an uncomfortably accellerated rate, with the dark blue depths of the ocean also coming into view.

Huffer scrambled to the prone body of Ratchet, still gripping his weapons tightly.  Huffer cradled the head of the Autobot medic, looking for some sign of consciousness.  He found none.  If Ratchet were dead, that meant the odds of the other Autobots surviving this savage assault had just dropped considerably.

Huffer lost his grip as the shuttle wing tilted and hit a snow-capped mountain top.  Autobots and weapons and assorted debris were thrown to the front of the bridge like rag dolls, and Huffer slammed into the navigation controls with enough force to cause the control panel to illuminate again—but only for a moment.  Huffer grasped at the joystick and began keying in emergency protocols, but the ship refused to respond to him.  

Huffer had done a lot of complaining over the years.  He griped about just about anything, whether he found it personally irritating or not.  It had just always been part of his personality make-up, for as long as he could remember.  Maybe he had some kind of incompatible software conflict.  That seemed to be the problem with Gears, anyway.  In any event, at this particular moment in time, all the many things that Huffer had complained so bitterly about, well, somehow they suddenly didn't seem that important.

"This is not good," were the last words he uttered before the shuttle broke into the surface of the cold, dark ocean of the Atlantic.

***

Chapter 2: Emergence

Galvatron sat in his throne, his purple fingers raking at the grooves made by countless past contemplations. His mind, while undisposed to any particular machinations, was nevertheless being seized by an overwhelming haze. It was like a cloud had taken root in his brain, masking his clarity and allowing only his deepest feelings through. At the moment, his strongest emotion was anger--a feeling comfortable to Galvatron through familiarity.

Cyclonus entered the decrepit throne room cautiously, groping at a support column for a moment while his optic sensors adjusted. Galvatron liked his audience chamber darkened; the last time anyone had tried to install light fixtures, Galvatron had immediately blasted them to pieces.

"It took you long enough," Galvatron sneered at his cohort, baring his metal teeth.

"My apologies, mighty one, but I only just received your orders to report to you a moment--"

"Silence!" Galvatron exploded, springing up from his crumbling throne. Cyclonus stiffened, bracing himself, as though he were suddenly expecting an attack from somewhere.

Galvatron took a long breath and shook his head. The pain was returning, but he couldn't let it obscure his clarity... not again.

"Mighty Galvatron?" Cyclonus stepped forward, showing a touch of concern.

Galvatron gathered his internal resolve, as he had many times before. He had to be strong. He was Galvatron; he possessed no weaknesses. His power was nearly infinite. He could overcome anything.

Galvatron smacked Cyclonus across the face, sending him spiralling into a support column. That merited a faint smile. Some part of Galvatron took a perverse pleasure in catching Cyclonus off guard.

"I should kill you for what you tried to do to me," Galvatron hissed viciously. He waited, almost eagerly, for a rebuttal from Cyclonus. Something to give him an excuse to hit him again.

"I had nothing but the best of intentions," Cyclonus answered coolly. "The Quintesson who directed me to Torqulon assured me they would be able to help you."

"What makes you think I wanted your help?!" Galvatron screamed. He was nearly trembling with rage for this creature before him--his most trusted ally--the Decepticon that tried to kill him. "You had no right--"

"Forgive me, mighty one, but you were in no condition to give me permission," Cyclonus said with a sadness to his voice. What was that expression on his face... pity?

What Cyclonus did not mention was that, according to the therapists' documentation, one treatment simply would not be enough. Without follow-up attention, Galvatron's mind would begin to degrade once more, particularly when under stress. Nothing short of replacing his mind completely--or erasing it, as they had tried to do--would ever cure him. Cyclonus only prayed that Galvatron had many more years of a rational existence, rather than only a few months as one of the therapists had predicted.

"I can only imagine what it must have been like for you..." he continued. "Battling the rage within your own mind for control over your actions."

"You have no idea what you're--" Galvatron began, but stopped himself. Perhaps Cyclonus did understand. He always did have an intuition into Galvatron that he himself lacked.

Galvatron had a vague memory of the Decepticon he was supposed to be--a leader, in control of both his army and his faculties. In a strange way, he was jealous of that Decepticon--Galvatron felt his presence like a shadow looming overhead, a constant reminder of what Galvatron no longer was... perhaps what he could never be again.

The robot Galvatron once was had died. Galvatron existed as a mockery of that life, a living death.

"Maybe... maybe you have a point," Galvatron finished lamely.

"Has it gotten any better since Torqulon?" Cyclonus asked.

Galvatron looked into his eyes with an earnestness that surprised him. "I... I think so. Those aliens lifted some of the fog... It still pervades my vision, but... at least for the moment, I can see clearly again."

Cyclonus' heart was hopeful. If Galvatron had indeed regained his sanity--a condition Cyclonus had not seen in evidence since Unicron was still alive--then perhaps there was still hope for the Decepticon empire.

"What are your plans, mighty Galvatron?" Cyclonus probed, standing at attention. "The Sweeps and I are prepared to follow your orders at a moment's notice." Perhaps Galvatron intended to kill Rodimus Prime and seize the Matrix? Or possibly lead an assault to cripple Autobot City? Or maybe he had finally developed a plan to retake Cybertron itself?

"I want," said Galvatron, leader of the Decepticons, "to go swimming!"


"There is only one thing I detest more than water," said Headstrong, kneeling on top of Scourge in his hovercraft mode.

"Yeah? What's that?" Swindle said, staring down at the ocean and marveling that no one had ever tried to bottle and sell such a plentiful commodity.

"Being in it," Headstrong grunted.

Scourge suddenly teetered in mid-hover, nearly sending the Predacon toppling into the Atlantic. Swindle, seated atop another Sweep, began giggling hysterically.

"You did that on purpose!" Headstrong bellowed, punching Scourge's vehicle hood.

"Shut up, both of you," Galvatron barked, hovering a few feet from the water's surface. "We were lucky to even get past EDC's defense grid. They hardly ever pay attention to the oceans since we left our underwater base. Scrapper, conduct your scan."

Scrapper, also perched on a Sweep, produced a hand-held device with half a dozen antennas protruding from it. "There's no guarantee this will work, Galvatron. Metallurgy really isn't my forte, and there's no certainty that it's even--"

"My patience grows exceedingly thin, Scrapper," Galvatron seethed.

"Of course, noble Galvatron. Now let's see..." His voice trailed off for a moment, as he studied the readout on his scanner. "There's a large metallic object about four miles below sea level. Possibly cybertroid alloys; I can't tell with this equipment. It's worth checking out."

Galvatron's face brightened. "Decepticons, this is it! Dive! Dive!!" He sailed up into the air and back down, breaking the water's calm in a graceful dive.

Cyclonus transformed to robot mode and stared at the ocean disparagingly. "I have my doubts about this..." he said slowly.

"You have to admit, though," Scourge said, "this is the most lucid we've seen him in weeks."

"Enough banter," Cyclonus ordered. "Decepticons, submerge!"

The remaining six Decepticons splashed into the water; the Sweeps activated their vehicle-mode beacons. Cyclonus had a tough time keeping up with Galvatron--he was like a robot possessed. He wondered whether Galvatron's enthusiasm for this mission was borne of a profound sense of clarity... or more of his trademark lunacy.

Suddenly, behind a great pink coral reef and half-submerged in sand, something became visible. It was covered in algae and rust, but it matched the profile of an Autobot shuttle.

"There it is!" exclaimed Galvatron. "Headstrong, do the honors!"

Headstrong transformed to his rhinoceros form and sunk to the ocean floor. He charged into the side of the shuttle; it shattered effortlessly upon impact. The seawater corrosion had weakened the hull, Cyclonus supposed.

Galvatron was next to enter the ship, gesturing to the others to follow him.

"Scourge, the Autobots may yet have detected our presence on Earth," Cyclonus cautioned. "You'd better wait out here."


The interior was barely recognizable as a ship. Marine life littered the walls and ceiling; ferrous oxide had turned everything a dull brown color.

Scrapper swept some seaweed off the navigation controls and studied the panel. "I'd love to examine some of this technology," he said.

"Me, too," chimed in Swindle.

"There is something far more valuable on this ship," said Galvatron cryptically. He stood on the deck of the bridge, examining the hull breach on the other side of the ship. It was almost entirely grown over.

Cyclonus took a step back and stumbled to the floor; he had tripped over a chunk of red, algae-covered metal. He picked up the offending component by a dangling wire, brushing some of the plant life off its surface. Cyclonus almost did a double take when he realized it was an Autobot forearm.

He dropped the component in disgust. "Galvatron, if I might inquire... what are we doing here?"

Galvatron was on the hunt: legs spread wide, arms outstretched, darting from corner to corner of the shuttle as though chasing some unseen prey.

"There," he said, pointing to a green metallic mass in the far corner, overgrown with debris. "Pick it up."

The two Sweeps looked at each other in terror.

"I'm not touching that thing," one of them said.

"I protest, Galvatron," the other pleaded. "I am simply not worthy to--"

"Spineless jellyfish!" spat Galvatron. He pushed the Sweeps aside and grasped the object; strands of seaweed and flecks of broken metal fell from its surface as Galvatron lifted it over his head.

Scrapper and Swindle gasped in unison as they realized the object of Galvatron's desire was none other than the lifeless, decaying form of the Autobot Brawn.

***

Chapter 3: Dark Revival

After a reluctant Swindle had examined Brawn's body and determined that he was, indeed, still in emergency stasis, the Decepticons transported him, along with the bodies of Prowl and Huffer, back to the surface. Astrotrain awaited, flying a few feet above the water, to take them back to Chaar. Swindle had assessed the damages to Ratchet and Sideswipe and deemed them severe enough to have brought about permanent dysfunction; there was no point in even taking them. As for Ironhide, there was clearly nothing that could be done with his scattered remains.

Despite Cyclonus' probing, he could not wrest any specific information from Galvatron regarding his plans for the Autobots. Cyclonus had a terrible feeling he knew exactly what it was Galvatron had in mind, and the very idea sent chills down the circuits of the normally impassive Decepticon.

Back on Chaar, Galvatron summoned the rest of the Constructicons and Combaticons. They murmured anxiously amongst themselves as Galvatron carefully laid the weathered body of Prowl on a makeshift operating table in the center of what had once been a large, domed building. The building itself had long since fallen into a state of disrepair, but the room remained in use as the Decepticons' repair bay.

"How vulgar," Blast Off whispered.

"Creepy," Vortex added.

"You think that's bad," Swindle muttered, "I actually had to touch him!"

"Cyclonus, do you remember our last encounter with Optimus Prime?" Galvatron asked, wiping his hands clean.

"Of course, mighty one," Cyclonus responded. The question had caught him off guard; Galvatron had made it clear on numerous occasions that the name of the Autobots' former leader was forbidden in his court. To hear the name spoken now felt taboo, somehow.

"According to Ratbat," Galvatron continued, "the Quintessons used some kind of circuit implants to temporarily reactivate him. I intend to go one step further--to revive these Autobots and turn them into Decepticons!" He let loose a chilling cackle that swept over the room. A few of the troops joined him in half-hearted laughter, but it was clear even they were a bit taken aback by the idea.

"Mighty one," Cyclonus protested, "these Autobots have been soaking in that ocean for months now. Their circuits are probably corroded beyond repair. Perhaps it would be best if--"

"Perhaps it would be best, Cyclonus," Galvatron snapped, "if you left the thinking to others!"

Cyclonus nodded. He felt an involuntary shudder; he had no idea Galvatron was capable of this level of... evil. Was this the personality that had always lurked beneath the madness? This was the Galvatron that Cyclonus remembered from the early days---not the one that obsessed over defecting troops or sent his warriors chasing after garbage scows, but the Galvatron that had executed Starscream on the spot and had Ultra Magnus torn limb from limb.

Glancing over at the twisted, lifeless Autobot, Cyclonus wasn't sure whether this development was a good thing or not.

Scrapper had just finished programming some computer simulations into his data pad. He presented the results to Galvatron, shaking his head. "I don't see how it can be done, Galvatron. Reprogramming living robots is one thing; resurrecting them is another matter entirely. The Quintessons are millions of years ahead of us in technology. I wouldn't know where to begin creating the kind of circuitry you require."

"Besides," offered Hook, "even if we could treat the corrosion to their systems, their battle wounds are too severe. They would never survive."

Galvatron pointed his fusion cannon at Hook's face. "If you wish to survive one astro-second longer," he growled, "you will carry out my orders!"

"I-I suppose I could come up with an FE2O3 neutralization agent," Mixmaster said.

"And I'll bet an energon cube the Scukzoids can find me some Autobot-compatible parts," Swindle added.

Galvatron smiled a broad, vicious smile. "That's what I thought you'd say."


In the Autobot base on Cybertron, Rodimus Prime eagerly awaited a communique. He rapped his knuckles on Teletran II's control panel, staring into the monitor as though willing it to activate.

Blurr's blue and grey visage suddenly filled the screen, jolting Rodimus into alertness.

"Make your report," he said, trying to sound as authoritative as possible.

"Well," began Blurr, "I looked for Decepticons everywhere, because you told me to look for Decepticons, but I couldn't find any Decepticons, even though I looked in all the places you usually find Decepticons, except the Decepticons aren't in any of the places I looked!"

Rodimus took a moment to digest Blurr's frantic appraisal before responding. "So what you're trying to tell me," he said, "is that Galvatron hasn't been spotted in over a month?" He found that impossible to believe.

Wheelie appeared on the screen and waved. "Blurr speaks the truth; he's a very good sleuth! We looked and looked, near and far, searched every planet, every star. Decepticons are not on Chaar; Wheelie don't know where they are!"

Rodimus pushed aside the regret that he hadn't sent Springer and Arcee on this mission instead. "Keep me posted. Rodimus out." He switched off the communicator before either of the two had a chance to respond.

Ultra Magnus entered the control room, his expression grim. "Did Blurr and Wheelie have any luck?"

Rodimus shook his head. "Whatever Galvatron's up to, we've got to find out. He's got to be up to no good!"

Ultra Magnus placed a hand on Rodimus' shoulder. "Maybe the Decepticons finally gave up, moved on to other parts of the galaxy," he said.

"I only wish that were true, old friend," Rodimus sighed, the despair evident in his voice. "No, the Decepticons are up to something downright twisted. I can feel it through the Matrix. It's trying to tell me something... I only wish I knew what."


The planet Chaar was an intricate maze of tunnels and caverns, extending almost to the core of the planet itself. There were no records of the civilization that had lived there before the Decepticon claimed the planet as their own, but it would have taken them at least ten generations to excavate the network beneath the planet's surface.

After the Decepticons' initial exploration of the planet, several troops had become lost within the maze. The Insecticons had disappeared for almost two weeks, and one of the Sweeps had yet to be seen again. Cyclonus had immediately scrapped the idea of mapping the tunnels; even the most skilled cartographer would spend years creating a workable map of the planet. In the end, it had been Galvatron who devised a means of keeping track of the planet's insides: He shot the cavern walls as he went. If the surrounding tunnels were littered with fusion blasts, he knew he had been there before; if the cavern was unmarked, he was careful before venturing forward.

Perhaps Cyclonus had judged his leader too harshly. Galvatron was still a very intelligent and powerful Decepticon; he doubted that he would have been able to withstand the constant agony that Galvatron had tolerated every day of his life since crashing on Thrull. He had bathed in those plasma geysers for months; there was no telling what that could do to a Decepticon's metaprocessor. The fact that Galvatron survived at all was a testament to his stamina.

This new experiment troubled Cyclonus deeply, however. It went beyond anything the Decepticons had done before; to tamper with the dead was an act so vile that Cyclonus was surprised the Quintessons had attempted it. He had rationalized that perhaps to the Quintessons, the Transformers were still unfeeling machines. To them, altering a robot to meet their desires might be no different than tinkering with a laser gun or a ship's engines.

But Cyclonus knew better. A Transformer was more than just the sum of his components; the instant he was brought on-line by Vector Sigma, he was alive. Likewise, the moment his laser core was extinguished, that robot was dead; to desecrate his body beyond that point was unthinkable.

Except, it would seem, to Galvatron.

He hovered over Scrapper, Hook, and Swindle like a storm cloud, occasionally interjecting "Work faster!" or "Well, how much longer?" None of the technicians dared explain that their work would progress much more smoothly if Galvatron weren't swooping overhead like a vulture.

Scrapper wiped a bead of lubricant from his brow and groaned. "Well, we've done what we can."

"Yeah," said Swindle, "now all that's left of to infuse this sorry scrap heap with some energon and see if it takes."

Galvatron's eyes grew wide. "Do it!"

Hook's hand retracted into his forearm; a cyberdermic needle appeared in its place. He punctured Prowl's neck, vitalizing his body with the fluid of life.

Prowl's body was still coated in a thin layer of rust; his inner mechanisms were still visible inside the gaping hole in his lower torso. His right hand still clutched tightly his acid pellet gun. Cyclonus shook his head at the sheer futility of such an experiment.

Then, a trace of light flickered in the Autobot's optics. He let out a quiet, almost inaudible breath.

"It's working!" Galvatron exclaimed excitedly. But the Autobot remained immobile.

"No," Scrapper said with a sigh. "Ventilator reflex. Simply a mechanical response to the energon."

Cyclonus felt the need to comfort his leader. "It was a valiant effort, Galvatron. No one could have done more."

"Wh... where am I...?" came a weak, strangled voice.

Impossibly, Prowl sat up on the work table slowly, using his left arm for support.

"De... Decepti... cons...!" he managed, when he realized he was surrounded by dozens of optics, none of them friendly.

"Your life is now mine, Autobot," Galvatron said. "You will serve me well... after you beg for me to spare your miserable existence!"

Face to face with Galvatron, grim determination set on his face like stone, Prowl slowly raised his rifle. He seemed to be mustering every last bit of effort he possessed, just to lift his arm. He touched Galvatron's Decepticon insignia with the tip of his gun barrel.

Galvatron's cannon blast tore Prowl's body into dozens of pieces. The Autobot fell apart on the spot like a marionette whose strings had been cut.

"Galvatron!" exclaimed Scrapper, staring in disbelief at the culmination of a month's work, reduced to scrap in an instant.

"You will do it again," Galvatron said, "and this time do it right!" The unspoken threat was clearly evident.

"Mighty Galvatron, enough!" Cyclonus pleaded, surprised at the stern tone to his own voice. "They did what they could, but you ask the impossible. Let it go!"

Galvatron hit Cyclonus with such force that he knocked off one of the spires from Cyclonus' helmet. Cyclonus hurtled into the wall and crashed through the brittle, putrefying metal.

"Consider that notice of your suspension," Galvatron huffed. He pointed his arm-mounted cannon in Cyclonus' direction, but then thought better of it.

Galvatron turned to Hook. "What went wrong?" he demanded.

Hook touched his hand to his chest, as though the very suggestion pained him. "There was nothing wrong. My modifications were flawless; I calculated the formulas to one hundred thirty-two decimal places."

Swindle just shrugged. "Eh, his logic circuits were just over-programmed. It would take a year of debugging just to unravel it all."

"If we had a subject whose circuits weren't so complex, it just might work..." Scrapper mused.

"You have two Autobots left," Galvatron warned. "Fail, and you will suffer Prowl's fate."


Brawn awakened from a horrible dream which felt like it had lasted an eternity. He had been operated on by Decepticons, who planned to turn him into one of their own. They had tampered with his internals, violating his circuitry, and he was powerless to stop them.

Then he opened his eyes to the cold, night sky and discovered that he had awakened to a real-life nightmare.

"Subject has achieved full consciousness, Galvatron," reported Soundwave, standing directly behind a Decepticon whom Brawn had never seen before.

Although he was awake, Brawn still felt groggy and lethargic, as though his body was still deactivated. He could barely move, and his entire chassis ached with a pain he had never known.

"You Decepti-creeps run out of puppies to torture?" Brawn asked, discovering his arms were shackled to the operating table on which he sat.

"We've invented a new sport, Brawn," Galvatron said with a sneer. "How ironic that you did not die that day on the shuttle. For now, you will experience a fate far worse than death. I think you'll agree soon enough that it's a... galvanizing experience."

Brawn gasped in horror. The Decepticon's colors and armor were unfamiliar, and his voice was an octave higher, but there was something Brawn saw in his eyes: a flame burning bright, one whose fires could only be stoked by one soul.

"Megatron?" he whispered hoarsely.

Galvatron guffawed. "In another lifetime, perhaps. You see, we share more in common than you might think, Brawn. Like me, you are about to come back... from the dead!"

With that, Soundwave pulled a switch on the control panel behind Brawn. His body arched involuntarily as ten million volts surged throughout his mechanical form. He was unable to scream in pain; he was unable to strain against the chains holding his arms. A moment later, every conscious thought departed from Brawn's mind.

"Welcome to my world now, Brawn," Galvatron said darkly. "Give in to the pain. Each time you resist, you only weaken your unsophisticated circuitry further. Accept your fate and your life will be bearable. Fight it, and you will wish you had never died... and never been brought back."

***

Chapter 4: Ultimate Fate

Galvatron barely gave the Constructicons time to down an energon cube or two when he gave them their next orders. Traveling to an asteroid belt near Chaar, the Constructicons set up on a gigantic comet of ice. They began building a gigantic rocket engine on the surface of the comet, powerful enough to remove it from its path along the asteroid belt and push it into space.

Galvatron's ambitious plan was to drive the comet straight into Autobot City. There was no doubt in his mind that the Autobots would find a way to destroy the comet long before their precious city was endangered; in fact, he was counting on it. Metroplex possessed some of the most impressive defensive weaponry Galvatron had ever seen.

The comet was only a delivery system. Once near the Earth, the Decepticons would abandon the comet before the Autobots launched their missiles to break it apart. Then, while the planet was being showered with thousands of ice fragments, the Decepticon army would fly straight past Earth Defense Command sensors into the heart of the Autobot camp.

Then the fun would begin, for Galvatron had two warriors under his command which the Autobots would never dream of hurting. They were none other than their old friends, Brawn and Huffer, back for a little visit with their former Autobot brethren. Once inside the city, however, they would hunt down and tear apart every Autobot they encountered. And even if Rodimus Prime did have the courage to attack, he would not be able to kill his friends. They were already dead.

It was a delicious plan, one which Galvatron relished. Even he had to admit that just a few months ago, he would never have possessed the mental clarity to execute such genius. It was a plan worthy of the name Megatron.


"Prepare to fire the engine," Galvatron ordered, as the Constructicons finished fine-tuning the enormous rocket. He had arrived a few days ago to oversee the final stages of construction.

With Cyclonus relieved of his duties--at least for the time being--Soundwave had insinuated himself into the position of second-in-command. Galvatron had always been pleased with Soundwave's performance.

"But Galvatron," Soundwave said, "is that wise? We still need tests."

Scrapper had mentioned something about being unsure as to the rocket's capabilities, but Galvatron had ignored him. He had no time for Scrapper's artistic modesty. "We will test the engine," he said, "as it shoves this ball of ice towards Metroplex."

Galvatron gestured to Bonecrusher, who activated the propulsion system. A tremendous howl emanated from the twin thrusters as they came to life, slowly pushing the body of ice into outer space. Earth awaited.

Nearby, Decepticon soldiers Brawn and Huffer stood at attention, awaiting their orders. Galvatron grinned deliriously. He couldn't wait to kill even more Autobots and add them to his army of the undead.


Ultra Magnus hated leading his own missions; it wasn't because he couldn't handle the responsibility--he had plenty of responsibilities back at Autobot City--but because he much preferred following orders to giving them.

Unfortunately, when Perceptor had alerted Rodimus Prime to a possible Decepticon base of operations in the Cybertronian asteroid belt, Rodimus could not bring himself to lead a team to investigate. His depressions came and went, seemingly with the waxing and waning of the moon, so Ultra Magnus had reluctantly agreed to lead the expedition himself.

Ultra Magnus had dearly hoped Perceptor's sensor readings had been a malfunction, but coming from Perceptor, that seemed highly unlikely.

The Autobots' ability to fly was limited, but it served well enough in space. Approaching the asteroid belt, Perceptor took a sensor reading, and his suspicions were confirmed: a rocket engine platform, integrated into a comet, large enough to propel the comet out of the belt's gravity.

Magnus gave the order to attack. With any luck, this mission would be over soon enough.


Down below, Galvatron was utterly shocked when the attack began. How could the Autobots have possibly known he was there?! "No!" he screamed, the rage boiling from within him. "Not when we're so close to victory!" The Autobots' constant attempt to thwart his machinations infuriated him! Why were they so bent on stopping him at every turn, hounding him like dogs?!

Galvatron's anger overwhelmed him; it blanketed him and wrapped itself around him. He gave himself to it, allowing it to seep into every fiber in his being. Galvatron was a willing sacrifice to the gods of rage, throwing himself into their billowing fires in an effort to appease them.

A red cloud obscured his vision, but he needed his senses no longer. The fury would guide him to nirvana as long as he became a willing slave to its whimsy. He roared in a mad power rush, firing haphazardly at the approaching Autobots.

He was Galvatron, and no one could take that away from him.


Brawn was at the mercy of the circuit implants, infecting his body like a gangrenous organ. He was compelled by some unseen, unheard, internal force to destroy the Autobots who now approached the comet. To resist was as impossible as refusing to breathe; a moment later he was overridden by a stronger resolve that conquered him and tortured him for his futile efforts.

Nearby, the Constructicons combined into the six-robot monstrosity known as Devastator. A moment later Broadside, in his aircraft carrier mode, came crashing down on him from space, crushing the icy floor beneath the Decepticon conglomeration.

What was it Galvatron had said about Brawn being his slave? Fight it, and he would wish he had never died. Each time he resisted, he would only weaken himself further. But he couldn't allow the demons in his mind to take over. He couldn't turn on his fellow Autobots, even if it meant suffering his unliving fate for the rest of eternity.

Galvatron had also said Brawn's circuits were too simple to overcome the Decepticon technology implanted within his body. Perhaps therein lay the answer... Brawn might not have been high-tech, but he was one of the toughest Autobots who ever lived. And while he lived no longer, his inner strength remained.

And so Brawn allowed the Decepticon programming to take control. He raised his Decepticon-issue gun, and focused every microchip in his being on firing the weapon. The reason for his entire existence now came down to this single instant.

Brawn's mind let go of all control, and he fired the gun.

The shot rocked the powerful engine, causing the entire comet to rumble and quake. Combatants on the icy surface stopped and gaped at the engine as it sputtered and coughed, sending the entire comet out of control.

Galvatron turned to the Autobot, consumed with more seething, burning, blinding ire than he had ever known. Too furious to scream, he fired a look of hatred at Brawn, honestly believing he could burn a hole through the putrid Autobot if his gaze were filled with enough rancor.

He only had an instant to try, however; Ultra Magnus had spotted him and was charging toward him. Galvatron transformed, but didn't even have a chance to aim; Magnus was on top of him, wrestling Galvatron in cannon mode.

As the comet tumbled out of control through the black void, Galvatron completely lost whatever coherence he had remaining. He let loose his most powerful fusion blast at the filthy Autobot who was attacking him, but he must have miscalculated Magnus' position. The shot ruptured the rocket engine, destroying it in a magnificent shower of fireworks.

Brawn was unable to react; his free will had been completely strangled. But his optic sensor shed a single hydraulic tear, leaving a trail of shimmering steel as it washed away the layer of rust and dirt from his expressionless face.


Moments later, as the comet hurtled without direction or purpose toward a small inhabited world, the Autobots attempted to deflect the gigantic mass of ice from its course. Galvatron intercepted Magnus and his troops, promising the Autobots that they would suffer.

Then, a wave of sonic energy washed over the entire universe. Even in outer space, it somehow formed a kind of music. Lacking tempo or individual notes, the tune was composed of feelings: love, hatred, jealousy, relief. It was both silent and deafening; invisible and radiant; painful and blissful. It rocked each of the Transformers floating in space, radiating them with an impossibly powerful aura. Each of them stopped in their tracks, each in his own personal heaven.

For a brief instant, Brawn was released from the Decepticon spell. The music filled his body and mind with peace. It was perfection put to song. It was Brawn's death hymn.

The sonic wave washed over the comet, imbuing it with pure emotion. The comet detonated in a shower of microscopic particles; the explosion was, itself, somehow musical.

There was never any funeral service for Brawn; none of the Autobots present on that day were even aware of his existence. No Autobot would ever know what he had done, the sacrifice he had made.

Nevertheless, Brawn died a hero.

THE END

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