Psychological Dependence: Part 1

     The Autobots are all over us.
     Plan was to drag this deep-space refueling station back to
Charr, but those blasted Autobots are once again in our way -- how
dare they?!  Feel it's their responsibility to protect all the insignificant
life of the galaxy, and damn them, they're doing it.  There's just too
many, they've got us pinned.  Laser fire flashing all over, seems like
it's burning into my brain.
     I won't stand for it!  I am Galvatron, imperial ruler of the
Decepticons, and I refuse to retreat!  If I can't have this space station,
no one can.  I turn and fire on the fuel tanks.  Fireballs go up to all
sides, incredible blasts of light and heat.  Beautiful!
     The entire structure of the station is crashing down around us.
The Autobots are taking off, grabbing up stray flesh-creatures as they
run.
     "After them!" I command.  I revel in the destruction, motion
my Decepticons forward.
     A smoldering support beam collapses with a metal-rending
shriek, slamming me down.  Can't get free -- flames all around me!
"*Cyclonus!*"
     He appears instantly out of the smoke and flames, throws his
weight against the beam, over and over, showering me with sparks
from the impact.  It moves aside ever so slightly.  I try to pull free --
can't.  Heat so intense.... "Cyclonus, I'm burning up! Do something!"  I
scream at him.
     He calls to Scourge and the Sweeps, slams himself backward
into the beam and braces against the lurching floor.  The outer layers
of the metal beam have turned molten and sizzle into his arms and
shoulders.  He cries out in pain, but keeps pushing.  I feel the horrible
weight lifting, feel the Sweeps grab me and drag me out from
underneath.
     Through the smoke and fire, I see the last of the Autobots
retreat out into space.  Scourge and Cyclonus drag me out the other
way, through the nearest opening and out into the welcome cold of
space.
     There's a small asteroid field nearby.  We land on one of the
larger ones.  Cyclonus makes as if to examine my injuries, but I wave
him aside.  "Look," I point out, "look at the space station!"  It explodes
with an optic-sensor-searing burst of light and absolute silence in the
vacuum of space.  The incredible display almost makes up for our
failure in claiming its fuel for ourselves.  For a moment, I'm nearly
pleased.
     "Too bad the Autobots weren't aboard when it went up,"
Cyclonus mutters.
     I remember the Autobots retreating out into space, away from
us.  I whirl on Cyclonus.  "Autobots?!  Didn't I order you to go after
them?"
     "Yes, but --"
     "Imbecile!  You let them escape!"  I hit him as hard as I can.
My fist connects with his jaw in a satisfying crash of metal, sending
him sprawling backwards.  That fool -- we would have had them!
     It takes a moment for Cyclonus to move, where he's fallen.
Then he slowly drags himself up, keeping well back.  His eyes burn
into the darkness, staring me down.  Don't think I've ever seen quite
that look before, from him.  I'm somehow uneasy.  It's as though he's
reached some kind of a momentous decision.
     Ridiculous.  Cyclonus always comes back for more, regardless
of what I do.  Where would he be without me, after all?  I turn away,
intent on enjoying the last smoldering embers of the space station as it
burns itself out above us.
     "Galvatron."  Cyclonus' tone is a low, dangerous growl.  I
turn back to look at him, curious.  Not preparing to fire on me, is he?
That would be ... amusing.  I'd let him get in a few shots, then have
the Sweeps hold him down so I could reduce him to a pool of molten
metal with my fusion cannon -- very slowly.  I smile in anticipation.
     But he hasn't drawn his weapon.  "That was the last time," he
says.  "The last time I pull you back from the edge of death, only to be
rewarded by your own unique brand of gratitude.  No more playing
mediator between your maniacal whims and the rest of the troops, who
would have turned on you long ago if not for my intervention.  No
more intercepting Autobot laser fire for you.  No more dragging you
out of the way and taking missile hits meant for you.  Although, I
would have done all that gladly, if you appreciated it.  But now, you'll
have no more Cyclonus to scream at when you want to let off steam, or
to bash around when you're angry with the universe and think that
hitting me will make you feel better.  It's over, Galvatron.  Finished."
     His eyes are flame, his tone is ice.  Cyclonus has always been
predictable.  This is not like him.  Why do I have that uneasy
sensation?  Never mind.  He just needs to be put back in his place.  "Is
there a point to this little tirade, Cyclonus?" I ask, letting each word
drip sarcasm.  "Or are you just showing off for the Sweeps -- showing
that every now and again you're able to stand up to your leader and
voice a minor complaint?"
     I laugh; he is not amused.  "The point is this," he says, very
calmly and without inflection.  "My faith in you has been misplaced.
I'm placing it elsewhere.  I'm leaving."
     He doesn't mean it.  Never.
     He transforms into his space-fighter mode and hovers,
prepared for takeoff.
     I taste something near to a tiny sizzle of panic in my brain.
He means it.  "If you leave now," I scream at him, "I'll brand you a
traitor to the Decepticon cause!  You'll never be welcome in my ranks
again!"
     "Spare me your small favors, Galvatron.  See how well you
get along without me."  He shoots away into space, bright flames
jetting from his engines.
     "Without you?!" I scream after him.  "I'll be better off without
you!  You think I need you for anything, you blundering incompetent?
You can't even follow orders and finish off a few lousy Autobots!
Good riddance!  I hope you crawl away and die with the dregs of the
universe!"
     Shaking with fury, I turn on Scourge and the Sweeps.  Why is
Scourge nodding as though he thinks Cyclonus did the right thing?
Maybe he's next in line to get thrown out on his audial sensor -- no,
wait.  Next in line, of course.  With Cyclonus gone, Scourge inherits
the second-in-command rank.  Of course.  Cutthroat ambition I can
understand.  Appreciate.  "Congratulations, Scourge, on becoming my
new second-in-command."
     Scourge feigns amazement.  Nice touch, but false modesty is
unbecoming a Decepticon warrior.  Unless he's not faking.  He grabs
the Sweep closest to him, thrusts him forward.  "No, no, I'm not
worthy of that rank," Scourge assures me quickly.  "This warrior has
served me faithfully -- he'll be much more appropriate."
     The Sweep glares at him.  "Thanks a lot," he growls.
     Fine.  If Scourge wants to immobilize his career in a rut, let
him.  Anyone stupid enough to pass up such an opportunity, I don't
want as a second-in-command.
                    * * *
     Back on Charr, the other Decepticons are less than pleased
that we don't return with a space station full of fuel.  They say I
promised them results.  I promised them nothing.  I'll feed them a few
blasts of my fusion cannon if they don't settle down.
     My new second-in-command takes up his place beside me as I
confront the crowd of warriors that has gathered before my fortress.
     "We need fuel, Galvatron!" shouts Motormaster from among
the crowd.  "We're too low on energon.  If the Autobots attacked us
now, we couldn't even defend ourselves!"
     "There are other sources of fuel."  I glare at him.
Insubordination.  I'll remember this.
     "Translation:  he botched the plan," I hear Swindle say to his
comrades, not even bothering to keep his voice down.
     "So what's the *new* plan, Galvatron?" Dragstrip demands.
"At least tell us that."
     "I'll tell you my plans when I see fit to do so," I growl.  "I
don't have to answer to underlings!  I am Galvatron, my power is
supreme!  Now go away!"  The group mills about angrily.  "Cyclonus,
get rid of them," I mutter, then realize my mistake.  The Sweep looks
at me blankly.  "Well, what *is* your name?"
     "Razorwing, my lord," he says, inching backwards.
     "So get rid of them!"  I turn to enter the fortress.
     Behind me, I hear Razorwing trying to placate the crowd.
"Look, guys, relax, okay?  Galvatron's got a plan, he's just -- yeah, he's
just saving it for a surprise, that's all--"
     Oh, wonderful.  Maybe I should have kept Scourge as second
after all....
                    * * *
     The throne room is dark, empty.  The way I like it.  Easier to
think.  Only the flames to both sides and slightly in front of the throne
dance before me, casting leaping shadows on the cold metallic walls.
     Must come up with a line to feed the Decepticons -- at least
long enough to shut them up, long enough to form a real plan.
Cyclonus would know.
     The thought of him rouses renewed fury in me.  Damn him.
Hope he got caught in an ion storm, a solar flare.  Hope he contracts
cosmic rust and shrivels to pieces!  Desert me, will he?  Well, maybe
after I've tracked down a suitable fuel source, I'll send a few Predacons
after him and teach him a *real* lesson.  Yes!
     The thought delights me for a moment, but the clatter of
metal from outside drifts in and distracts me.  Those idiot warriors!
Low on fuel, and brawling to burn off even more.  Must think of
*something*.  This is all the Autobots' fault anyway -- if they hadn't--
     Autobots!  The thought is like an electric bolt, a revelation.
The Autobots have plenty of fuel!
     I leap up from my throne and rush through the fortress, out
into the eternal cursed dimness that is Charr.  My warriors are actively
engaged in a free-for-all at the gates of the fortress.  My first impulse
is to wade in and join them, bash a few skulls.  Instead I let loose a few
random blasts from my fusion cannon.  "Silence!" I scream at them.
"You miserable wrecks!"  Activity ceases in a hush of dead silence.
     "Save your fighting prowess for the Autobots.  We will have
energon.  We attack Cyberton at moonrise!"
     "Cyberton!" Scourge echoes, staring at me in open disbelief.
     A collective mutter goes up from the others.  I catch the
phrases "lost his mind," and "totally crazy."  Some stare at me with
undisguised hostility.
     How dare they?  This is *not* how it's supposed to go.  I am
Galvatron, my power is everything!  Almost ... everything.  Any one of
them I could take on alone -- but all of them together?  All at once? ...
Maybe.
     Scourge is trying to be reasonable.  "We can't attack
Cybertron, Galvatron.  The Autobots--"
     "Have energon!" I cut him off.  "You did say you wanted
energon?"  I glare at the assembly.
     "But their defense systems--" Scourge begins again.
     "Are not prepared for the unexpected," I finish.  "Think of the
element of surprise, you unimaginative clods!  The Autobots will never
be expecting us few Decepticons to launch a direct attack on their
strongest position!  We'll be in and out of there before they know what
hit them!"
     They all stare at me.  The silence is deafening and
interminable.  Why does this feel like I'm running a laser gauntlet
without a deflector shield?  A single wrong move....  Wish Cyclonus
were here.  He'd make them understand.  I realize I've never faced the
Decepticons down before, without Cyclonus in the background.
Maybe I was a bit hasty, throwing him out--
     "You know," muses Thrust, "it just might work."
     A slow ripple of agreement passes among the warriors.
     Yes!  I've got them -- they bought it!  "Decepticons, fuel up
with what energon we have left, and prepare to attack!  Our supplies
will soon be restored!"
                    * * *
     I lead them against Cybertron.  We strike hard and fast,
blowing out their defense shields on our first run.  Scourge leads half
of the army to engage the Autobot sentries, while I lead the other half,
smashing our way into the storage silos where glowing cubes of
energon await us.  I summon anyone with any sort of cargo-carrying
capacity -- Thrust, Dirge, Ramjet, Astrotrain, Vortex, Blast Off,
Sweeps -- all of them loaded to overflowing with energon cubes.
"Take off!" I command them, and they lumber clumsily into the air,
ungainly with their heavy loads of fuel.
     The Autobot warriors have become wise to our presence in
full force.  They're converging on us, trying to shoot down my
transports.  I feel the thrill of destruction as I fire on them again and
again, the delirious rush of carnage and desolation --*this* is what I
live for, to crush and mangle, to rend and lacerate -- to gorge myself
on the sweet taste of my enemies' agony, their twisted metal bodies
shattering under my assault--!!
     Someone calls my name, as if from an immense distance
away.  It is only some moments later that I realize it's Razorwing, that
he's right beside me, shouting at the top of his voice.  "Galvatron, the
transports are safe!  We must get away!"
     The Autobots surge forward like a breaking tsunami.
Turning, I fire into a few of the broken storage silos, igniting the
energon cubes that remain within.  I shoot up into the sky after the rest
of my army, Razorwing close beside me.  Below us, the silos explode
into blasts of flame and a hail of deadly, needle-sharp shrapnel.
     I ride the screams of the stricken Autobots all the way home
to Charr.
                    * * *
     So much energon -- my head spins from it.  Too much.
Maybe I shouldn't have overenergized all that much.  But the others --
the others are worse off.  I lean back against the pillar at the entrance
of the fortress and survey the evidence of the celebration, of the past
few hours.  Most of the warriors have passed out from
overenergization.  At best, some are semi-conscious, lying at all angles
and in the most unlikely positions in the courtyard, draped over the
stairs, leaning against the gate.  Some hum drunkenly to themselves
before shutting down completely into oblivious sleep.
     Victory, delicious victory.  The floor spins under me, but I
don't mind.  Even considering this little indulgence, we have enough
energon cubes left to power us for weeks.  Through blurry optics I see
the cubes stacked into an unruly pyramid just inside the courtyard.
They give off a soft pink glow.  I let myself slip toward dormancy.
Told you, Cyclonus.  Told you I didn't need you.
     Next thing I know, the air burns with laser fire.  I struggle up
from unconsciousness to meet crashes and shouts -- for a moment,
everything is hazy, in slow motion, can't be real -- but it *is* real,
Autobots, crashing in through the gate, all lasers blazing.
     Can't move as quickly as I need to.  So dizzy.  I pull myself
up along the pillar, try to aim my fusion cannon, but can't seem to
stand steady, my shots go wide.
     "Decepticons, on your feet!" I command -- some trying to
stand, some even shooting, but it's useless, the damn fools are so
drugged up with energon that the Autobots are making off with our
supply of cubes as easily as if they were taking it from their own silos.
     The glowing pyramid is all but gone.  "That is *my* energon,
filthy Autobot thieves!" I scream at them, rushing toward the last of
the cubes -- but the stairs catch my feet, sending me crashing down
into the courtyard.  The impact sends daggers of pain through my head
-- flashes of light explode behind my eyes, then everything goes dark.
     But I fight it.  Can't lose consciousness.  They're taking *my*
energon!  I force myself partially up off the floor.  The fusion cannon
on my arm feels like it's made of compacted lead.  I drag it forward,
trying to get one of the retreating bastards into my sights ... *fire*!
But the blast skitters along the ground, useless, hitting part of the
mangled gate.
     "Losing your touch, Galvatron?" one of the Autobots jeers.
"A little too much energon, maybe?"  The others laugh as they vanish
from sight.  Laughing at me!  Of all the humiliations.... I let my head
sink back to the ground.  Only hope none of my warriors saw that.  I
think I'm going to be sick.
     But no time even for that.  Someone is shaking me, trying to
pull me up.  "Galvatron, you'd better get it together!" comes the urgent
voice of Scourge.  He and Razorwing drag me to my feet.  Still hard to
find my balance, my head is throbbing.  I look up, and suddenly feel
cold.
     The Decepticons are gathered before me in the courtyard.
The sickly light of Charr's single moon glints in pale yellow off their
plating.  Their eyes burn into the darkness with anger and accusation.
Guns and laser swords are prominently displayed.  The menace is
unmistakable.
     "You call yourself a leader, Galvatron," Motormaster
rumbles.  "Of all the stupid--"  He gropes for the right words, too
angry to find them.
     "Letting us overenergize like that," Swindle accuses, "leaving
us as sitting targets for the Autobots!"  Good old Swindle.  Never at a
loss for words.
     "*You're* the idiots that overenergized!" I accuse back.
     "And you didn't?" snaps Astrotrain.
     "Right!" Onslaught continues.  "It's *your* responsibility, as
our 'leader,' to restrain our barbaric and self-detrimental impulses.
Furthermore, leaving the remaining energon cubes in plain sight --
talk about inept strategy!  You might have at least forced the Autobots
to break through several layers of defenses to steal them back."
     "Hell, even stashing 'em in the basement of the fortress
would've been better'n leaving 'em in plain sight like that," Wildrider
puts in.  "Kind-of makes it look like an open invitation -- you know,
'Come and take our energon.'  Some leader."
     "*Cyclonus* would have considered that," Hook says
pointedly.  "He'd never have let this happen.  You're out of control,
Galvatron."
     "You ungrateful rabble!" I snarl at them.  "You wanted fuel --
you got fuel.  You're still not happy.  You're nothing but whiners and
ingrates, not worthy of the name Decepticon."
     "Wrong, Galvatron," Motormaster growls.  He brandishes his
laser sword in one hand, levels his gun at me with the other.
"*You're* not worthy.  Not worthy to call yourself our leader!  Now
get lost, while we're still willing to let you walk out of here in one
piece."
     As one, the others train their weapons on me.  This is
impossible!  Their brains must still be so fogged with energon, they've
forgotten their proper fear of me.  "You're all crazy!" I shout at them.
"You'll never survive without me!  I am Galvatron, my power is--"
     "Absolute, right," Swindle cuts in.  "We've heard it all before.
Truth is, you've been more trouble for us than the Autobots!"  The
others nod, their eyes flashing coldly.
     "Traitors!  The Autobots will run all over you, without a
leader," I insist.
     "Some leader."  Motormaster spits the words contemptuously
and raises his laser, ready to fire.
     "Scourge, Cyclonus -- I mean Razorwing -- take them!" I
command hastily, ready to lead an army of two into my final battle.
     They step off to the side, away from me.  "Sorry, Galvatron,"
Scourge says.  "The others have a point.  You'd best leave while you
still can."
     Without even that backup, what can I do?  For a split-second
longer I stare down the eager gunbarrels of my warriors, and then
make a dash for the sky.

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