by Robert A. Jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)
All characters depicted or mentioned in this story are the trademarks and/or copyrights of their respective holders, except for those that aren't. Any resemblance to actual people, alive or deceased, is coincidental, etc., etc. Geez, it's just a story, guys. Don't get too uptight over it... * * * Once, they reigned. The planet Cybertron, home of the mechanical beings known as the Transformers, was finally united. Through sheer persistence and ruthlessness, the ones known as Decepticons had beaten their foes and established themselves as masters of the planet. Though the Autobot resistance still survived, their numbers were few and their defeat was imminent. Already, the Decepticons were planning to take their empire to the stars. Then came Unicron. What he was and where he came from was undecided and irrelevant. He cared not for the Autobot-Decepticon war. He merely wanted to destroy Cybertron, to consume it as he had done to numerous worlds before. It was just another step in his grand destiny, to eliminate all life in the universe and leave nothing but chaos. Countless Transformers died before Unicron fell. But the damage was done; his attack had uprooted and ravaged the budding empire. The few Decepticons that survived were scattered among the stars. The Autobots returned and easily regained control of the planet. Now the Decepticons are a tattered shadow of their former selves. On the remote planet of Charr, they gather their numbers and struggle to rebuild their power base. They know that, with the right leadership, they may someday restore the glory of the Decepticon Empire. Many wonder, however, if their current leadership will lead to their downfall instead... * * * Trojan unplugged himself from the computer console and wearily climbed out of his seat. He consulted his internal chronometers, then blinked orange optics in surprise as he realized that he had spent close to ten astro-hours on the net. <By the Matrix! No wonder I'm exhausted!> He slowly meandered out of his quarters and headed for the lounge. In the corner was Dreadwind, sitting alone as usual. Without waiting for an invitation, Trojan slid his slender gray-and-black frame into the seat across from the PowerMaster. "Hello, Dread." Dreadwind didn't bother to look up. "What's it to ya?" He idly twirled the canister of liquid Energon in his hand and continued to stare at it blearily. Trojan suppressed a chuckle. Dreadwind was nobody's idea of pleasant company, but Trojan enjoyed talking to him because his constant gloom merely made his own troubles look mild by comparison. He sat still, his silver face mask hiding the smile on his face, and waited until Dreadwind spoke again. "Where have you been?" "Pounding on the computer, as usual." A grunt. "Does Galvatron really expect you to find a hole in the Autobots' data net?" Trojan chose his words carefully. "You never know. A lot of their stuff's open air." "Huh. Nothing important, though." "No, nothing important," Trojan conceded. His black metal fingers laced and unlaced as he continued, "But Galvatron said so, and that's that." Dreadwind grunted again, speaking volumes with one syllable. It was no secret that the Decepticon leader was madder than a March hare, with military planning no deeper than "OBLITERATE IT!" But none of the Decepticons dared to defy him, much less overthrow him. He was paranoid enough to spot any attempts at subversion, real or imagined, and his laser cannon had the power to enforce his rule. Worse, Galvatron's mental balance changed without warning; periods of prudence and caution were offset by bouts of ranting and madness. Only his willingness to delegate tasks to certain subordinates kept the Decepticon army from total collapse, as his underlings were smart enough to make wise choices that helped advance the cause. Even so, their lack of trust and coordination, plus Galvatron's occasional desire to take control, prevented any major gains. Silence passed and the conversation quickly stalled. Trojan looked up as Astrotrain entered the room, then waved to him. Grudgingly, Astrotrain pulled up a chair and joined the two, subtly sitting away from Dreadwind. "Hi, Trojan. Hello, Dreadwind. What's going on?" Dreadwind bobbed his head towards Trojan, who said, "Oh, just talking about Galvatron a little." "Oh, please," Astrotrain blurted, then clamped his mouth shut. He glanced around the room, relaxed when he saw that no one had overheard, then leaned forward slightly. "He's been making me run patrols out near Serrius sector for the last six daycycles. Do you know how DULL it is out there?" Dreadwind took a drink, then wearily asked, "Patrols for what?" "He says in case the Autobots are building a secret base. Well, let me tell you, there ain't enough of anything out there to build a toaster oven with, much less a base." Trojan decided to steer the conversation away from dangerous waters. "You know, back on Cybertron, I was out in Kelsar doing hack work for Lord Thunderwing." "Huh," Dreadwind snorted, "Thunderwing. He was a blow hard." Trojan shrugged. Too many Decepticons had disappeared after the "final battle;" anyone who hadn't found their way to Charr was simply presumed dead. He continued, "I saw a lot of personnel records in my duties, but I don't remember hearing of Galvatron before. I didn't even know he existed until I got here." Astrotrain tapped the table's surface. It lit up dimly, displaying a list of recent news items and bulletins. He glanced over the headers as he replied, "That's not surprising. Nobody ever saw Galvatron, or Cyclonus, or the Sweeps until right before Unicron popped up." "Oh, yes?" Trojan leaned closer. "Yeah." Astrotrain tapped the table again, and the surface filled with a summary of recent Autobot activities gleamed from spy patrols. "I first saw him when I got back from Cybertron. Megatron led the invasion on Autobot City, on Earth, where he killed Optimus Prime." Dreadwind grunted as Astrotrain continued, "But Megatron was really dinged up from the fight, and I was low on fuel for the trip back, so Starscream got him dumped in space. Then Starscream got himself named as Decepticon leader -- I'm still not sure how -- and we were at Warriors' Hall for his 'coronation ceremony'." Astrotrain rolled his eyes at the memory. Trojan nodded, his black helm bouncing slightly. "Starscream was just starting to make a speech when Galvatron and Cyclonus showed up. Starscream must have been really surprised or something, because he got confused and thought it was Megatron at first. Galvatron then blew him away like he was nothing." "Heh," Dreadwind chuckled, and a brief smile flickered across his face. "He had it coming." "Yeah," Astrotrain shared in the smile. "Anyway, nobody wanted to mess with that kind of power, so Galvatron became top 'con." His voice dropped as he continued, "He wasn't loopy then, either. I didn't get to see him much then, but you could sense that he was cunning and merciless, the kind of Decepticon you could admire, you know? But I think he lost it after Unicron was destroyed. I'm pretty sure those two had something going." Trojan asked, "Why do you say that?" "Well, I remember something soon after Unicron chomped on one of Cybertron's moons. We were all still at the Hall, and Galvatron shouts, 'No, Unicron! Cybertron and its moons belong to me!' Then he keels over in pain, clutching his head, and Scourge says, 'We belong to him.' Something like that." "Hmmm." "Anyway, Galvatron ran off and staged several attacks, but I got reassigned and didn't see most of that. And after Unicron got blasted, they found Galvatron lying face-down in a lava pool on Charr, just burbling away. Never heard how he got there, but I'll bet that's the reason we're on this rock right now." Astrotrain tapped the tabletop again and the display winked out. "Maybe he's attached to this place," Dreadwind mumbled into his drink. He drained the last of it with a slow swallow. "Yeah, well, he can get REALLY sensitive about Unicron. You remember when Needlenose got knocked up in the infirmary last month? That was because he had suggested to Galvatron about setting up an outpost at Unicron's head, to make it easier to spy on the Autobots. Nose didn't get in an accident; Galvatron did all that damage. They said he was ready to tear the guy to pieces if Scourge hadn't butt in." Trojan teased, "You make it sound like Galvatron's not fit to lead." "Hey, not me!" Astrotrain blurted loudly. "I'm just telling you what I heard. That doesn't mean I believe in any of that stuff." He glanced around once more, then continued, "Anyway, I have to go." "I better be going as well," Trojan said as he rose. "I've got to get back to work. Good-bye, Astrotrain. Good-bye, Dread." "Mrmph." As Trojan returned to his quarters, he pondered the situation. He KNEW that he had never heard of Galvatron before Unicron. His infallible memory banks had profiles of over fourteen thousand Autobots and Decepticons, and detailed records for two thousand more. Galvatron, Scourge, or Cyclonus should have been known to him long ago, but they weren't. The Charr computers had no record of them, either. Trojan trusted his skills implicitly, and knew that he had ferreted out every hidden file and classified record in the (admittedly skimpy) Decepticon system. Trojan sat behind his desk again, and his right index finger flipped forward to reveal a datalink cable. He plugged himself into the computer and resumed "prowling" the Autobots' system. But even as he worked, he knew that the only reason Galvatron's past could remain unknown to him was because that data was never entered at all. Astrotrain had provided him with a treasure trove of new information. His curiosity thus piqued, Trojan had to know more. * * * Once, Cybertron had two moons. Smaller images of the parent planet, the smooth metallic spheres had became one of the last refuges for the fleeing Autobot forces. But then, like a gothic mockery of a diner sampling aperitifs before a meal, Unicron had eaten the moons -- first Kron, then Gyruss -- prior to his attack on Cybertron itself. The Fates would not have that, and Unicron was destroyed in an explosion that some wags later called "the worst case of indigestion ever." In a final twist of irony, his head was thrown into an orbit around Cybertron, forming a new moon to replace the ones he had destroyed. Now, Unicron's lifeless gaze fell on the planet, his visage forever frozen in a look of shock and anger. The current residents of Cybertron opted to keep the garish satellite, both as a reminder of the battle and a monument to those who died fighting it. But in keeping it, they also developed an unspoken taboo; no Autobot would approach the Head of Unicron, at least not willingly. Settling, exploring, or developing it was simply out of the question. For the Decepticons, a certain fear about the head kept most of them away from it also. One exception approached Cybertron on a sweeping, indirect path, the craft's low profile and black finish making it nearly invisible against the void of space. Short and small, with a blunt nose up front and a pair of slender delta wings jutting from the sides, it quickly closed the distance, keeping the head between itself and Cybertron. Only until the last moment did its course change as it skimmed the surface closely, banking around the top before diving through Unicron's shattered eye. Reaching a suitable ledge, Trojan quickly transformed to his robot mode. Wings folded into forearms, limbs unfolded to reveal gray thighs, biceps, and abdomen, and the nose flipped open and retracted down the back to uncover his face. Though he had never heard the term "lanky," it suited him perfectly. His survival had always relied on stealth, speed, and information rather than brute strength and firepower, and for that, he preferred the agility in his current design. Trojan's first steps were hesitant. He stopped and caught himself, surprised that he was genuinely frightened. He had been on the opposite side of Cybertron when Unicron attacked. By the time he reached the surface, prudence prompted him to run, and Unicron's death came after he was a safe distance away. Trojan realized now that this was the closest he'd ever been to the Chaos-Bringer. He stood still for several seconds, microphones and optics alert for any signs of activity. When none came, his curiosity began to supersede his fear. A lamp on his helmet lit up and he started exploring. <If Galvatron knew I was here,> Trojan thought, <he'd blow my brains out.> He had left Charr on the premise to search for asteroids near Cybertron that might be suitable for a computer/communications monitoring center. A lie, but Galvatron had agreed. Trojan relaxed considerably when it appeared that Unicron was a mechanical construct. Buckled metal plates, snapped cables, exposed electronics and dead sensors were all that he could see. Some Transformers said that Unicron was the grand scheme of a mad scientist, an instrument of pure destruction. Others preached that he was a force of the universe, the mortal enemy of Primus, the spirit of Cybertron; that he had adopted robot form in a mockery of the Transformers. Trojan was one of the many who didn't care about theology or origin theories. He was instead intrigued by the grand scope of it all -- the engineering and coordination required to build anything like Unicron was beyond belief. He peered casually through the wreckage, regretting that he didn't have the scientific background to appreciate what he was seeing. Instead, he went deeper into the head, looking for something that he WOULD be familiar with. He found it twenty minutes later in a large hexagonal room. Dark video monitors filled four of the walls, two on each side of the doorway. Across the room, opposite the wall Trojan entered through, was an open bank of electronics. A quick search revealed his prize: a printed circuit card, apparently used in data routing. Trojan's left ring finger flipped open to reveal a metal clip. Taking an educated guess, he attached the clip to a suitable part of the card and tried to access the system. Trojan's first surprise was that he found anything at all. He had expected the network to be dead, and was prepared to spend some time rigging a power system before he could actually read any information. Instead, the familiar presence of packet streams and synchronous pulses told him that some parts of the system were working. Trojan probed a little deeper and was rewarded with a sensation of vastness -- countless tetrabytes of data just waiting for him to plunder. His second surprise came when a voice spoke. /...WHO.../ Trojan looked around in confusion. Had he imagined the voice? Was it a recording? Slowly he stammered, "...hello?" /WHO ... DARES?/ It was definitely not a recording. Trojan disconnected himself and addressed the ceiling. "Unicron?" Even in his disembodied and weakened state, the voice of Unicron commanded awe, hinting at power beyond reckoning. /...YES.../ Trojan stopped, uncertain of how to phrase his next questions. "I...thought you were dead...?" /I ... FUNCTION. ... BARELY ... SOLAR COLLECTORS ... WHO ... ARE YOU?/ "I, I, er, my name is Trojan." /WHY ... ARE ... YOU ... HERE?/ Trojan sensed the effort Unicron placed into each word, and figured that he was safe in Unicron's presence. <If he could have stopped me, he would have done something by now.> Deciding to speak the truth, Trojan replied, "I was looking for information about Galvatron." The walls shuddered with a low bass rumble that quickly built to a crescendo. Unicron's howl was an expression of unbridled anger and fury that refused to be tempered. The room rocked from the volume, and Trojan slammed his hands over his microphones to protect them, but he could still feel it wash through his body and wrack his frame. Only with great reluctance did the tsunami of vengeance died away. Finally, Unicron spoke again, /WHERE ... IS ... HE ... NOW?/ Trojan told him, and soon the two talked for several hours, with the Decepticon answering questions about recent events and Unicron answering queries about Galvatron. It was a slow process, due to Unicron's feeble state, but Trojan's thirst for knowledge gave him the patience he needed. Unicron learned about the rise of the Autobots, the fall of the Decepticons, and how Galvatron's leadership was even now driving them to the brink of extinction. In exchange, Trojan learned all about Galvatron's origins. About how Unicron had found the dying forms of Megatron, Skywarp, and several other Decepticons in the void of space, after they were discarded on the trip back to Cybertron. About how Unicron had agreed to give them new forms, as Galvatron and Cyclonus and Scourge and the Sweeps, in exchange for their servitude. And about how Unicron implanted pain receptors in Galvatron's braincase to ensure obedience. They concluded that Galvatron's madness was induced by his damage in the lava pools of Charr, where the heat must have left them permanently activated. His insanity was thus caused by his constant torment from the pain they inflicted, and his bouts of rationality occurring only when he could ignore the pain. Finally, Trojan asked the fateful question. "Is there a way to cure him?" The response was immediate. /NO./ Trojan sighed, his head bowed with thoughts of the future. "Then the Decepticons are doomed." /NO./ "What?" /A SOLUTION ... EXISTS./ "But you said you couldn't cure him!" /CANNOT CURE ... CANNOT REPAIR ... I HAVE ... ANOTHER ... IDEA./ "What? WHAT?!" /FIRST ... YOU MUST ... HELP ME./ * * * "Can you make them?" "Of course we can!" Sledge boasted. "Easily!" added Knockout. Hammer said, "But you KNOW how dangerous this is?" "Yes, I know," Trojan replied in exasperation. "That's why I came to you." Grit replied, "Well, just don't think that because the Micromaster Constructor Squad is small, that we're also idiots!" "Right," added Excavator. "If Galvatron knew what you were asking, he'd fry you on the spot!" "And throw us in for company!" Stonecruncher yelled. "Especially THIS one," Sledge warned, waving a shimmering laser disc in his hand. "You're asking for an early deactivation with this alone!" Trojan shook his head. The Micromasters were harmless by themselves, but having all six prattling voices speak at once was pushing his patience to the extreme. The small robots swarmed at his feet like toddlers around a shopping-mall Santa. He took a deep breath and tried again. "Look, I don't care HOW dangerous it is, can you do it?" "Of course we can!" "But it'll cost ya!" "Lots!" "Security!" "Secrecy!" "Testing!" "Okay, okay," Trojan agreed. "How much to have it all in three days?" "Three days?" Sledge pondered for a moment. "It's rather short notice. How about 500,000 kiloergs of Energon?" "What?" Trojan snapped; that was far more than he had expected. Accessing his internal memory, he replied, "100,000. Period." "One hundred?" "Don't make us laugh!" "Highway robbery!" "Forget it!" "Get lost!" "You're crazy!" Trojan smiled, a predatory gleam in his eye. "100,000 kiloergs ... and I won't tell Galvatron about that high-impact personal armor that you guys haven't been sharing with the rest of the Decepticons." The Constructors blurted as one and started babbling with each other in shock. Sledge's voice cut through the ruckus as he sharply asked Trojan, "How'd you know about that?" "I have my ways. Now, do we have an agreement?" "...all right." * * * Time passed. On Earth, it would have been a hundred and thirty-three hours, or five-and-a-half days. On Charr, it would have been more than six planetary rotations. On Cybertron, just under four. At the Head of Unicron, without a sun to orbit or rotations to count, it was just -- time. The ship took the same path as before, but it was not the same ship. Though the shuttle was not as large or as nimble or as fast as the scout craft, it made a respectable copy of the route, using the Head of Unicron to hide it from anyone watching from Cybertron's surface. At the last minute, it skimmed over the top, then banked around and dove through the shattered eye with plenty of room to spare. The purple shuttle landed quickly. A moment later, Trojan stepped out through the side door, pulling an anti-grav cart behind him, carrying a dull steel rectangular casket that rested upright upon it. When both cart and carrier were clear, Astrotrain transformed to his robot mode. "Boy, this place is creepy," he said while glancing about. Trojan nodded. "It's not bad once you get used to it." The two headed down the winding passageways, Trojan in the lead. Astrotrain asked, "HOW many times have you been here?" "Just once." Trojan moved faster now with familiarity, and Astrotrain stepped up his pace to follow. "C'mon, Trojan. At least tell me what you've got in the box." "It's a surprise." Astrotrain sighed heavily; he had joined in this excursion through a combination of boredom, Trojan's sweet-talk, and his own curiousity, but Trojan refused to divulge any details about what they were doing. With the specter of Unicron nearby, he suddenly snapped, "I'm sticking my neck out for you already! If Galvatron knew we were here, he'd pop a gasket big time! I think I deserve to know SOMETHING!" Trojan remained undaunted. "You'll find out soon enough." He paused briefly before adding, "Besides, if I told you, you'd have said it was impossible." "You mean I wouldn't have helped you." "That, too." They continued in silence, not stopping until they reached a large, hexagonal- shaped room. Trojan wheeled the cart to the exposed circuitry at the far wall, then lowered it to the ground. "We're here." A faint whisper breezed through the room. /WELCOME./ Astrotrain jumped. "Aaaaah!" Trojan was by his side in an instant, steadying him with a reassuring grip on the shoulders. "Astrotrain, calm down!" "That's Unicron!" he shouted. Trojan grabbed harder to stop his struggling. "Control yourself, will you? We're safe. He's going to help us." Astrotrain composed himself, then looked at Trojan with pure skepticism. "Help us? How?" "Let's open the box and you'll see." Trojan pressed his palm against a square on one face; the lock popped open with a soft click, and the lid swung open. Astrotrain gasped. "MEGATRON?!" He was just as Astrotrain remembered. The imposing form of steel and gray, master of all Decepticons and scourge of the Autobots. Astrotrain recalled his last view of Megatron, when the barely-functional body was tossed away like so much scrap. Now Astrotrain cautiously stepped forward towards the immobile former Decepticon leader. Nervously, he waved one hand in front of Megatron's face, but there was no response. Finally he noticed that the eyes were the dark red of deactivation. Astrotrain turned to Trojan and asked, "Is it a dummy?" "No. It's him -- most of him, anyway. Now to set up the rest of the gear." Trojan reached towards Megatron's feet, dragging out a large metal cube and a Y-shaped length of cable. The cube was two meters on a side, and transparent walls revealed a densely-packed collection of circuitry and crystals within. The cables were shielded and thick, joining together in a small metal case with a single button as its only feature. As Astrotrain watched, Trojan reached for Megatron's forehead and revealed a hidden data access port, then plugged one of the cables into it. A second cable was plugged into the large box, and the third into a port on the wall of circuitry. Trojan then spoke to the ceiling, "Is everything in order?" There was a long pause before Unicron replied. /YES ... PERFECT ... I AWAIT ... YOUR SIGNAL./ Without any fanfare, Trojan pressed the button on the metal case. At first, Astrotrain wondered if something was wrong, as there was no sign of activity. Then he noticed that the crystals and the lights in the cube were beginning to light up. He whispered to Trojan, "What's going on?" "Unicron is copying himself into the storage cube," he replied, pointing. "At the same time, Megatron's personality is being downloaded into the body." "What? Where'd he get Megatron from?" "Unicron found Megatron in space, and remade him as Galvatron. Apparently, in the process, Unicron also made a copy of Megatron's personality and memories ... for study." "So what about the cube?" "That's part of the deal: he'll restore Megatron if we revive him, too. The cube's storage until Unicron gets a new body." Astrotrain didn't respond; he was instead seriously debating the wisdom of unleashing Unicron on the universe once more. He was not long in thought before a new voice interrupted them: "...wh..." Trojan and Astrotrain rushed to Megatron's side and stared in amazement. His optics glowed a soft red as consciousness began to return. "Megatron!" Astrotrain cried, "can you hear me?" The silence stretched to an unbearable length before he replied, "...Yes..." He looked quickly at the two robots before him, and relaxed when he saw the Decepticon emblems they wore. The two stepped back as Megatron stirred. With cautious movements, he disconnected the cable from his forehead, then took a few tentative steps out of the casket. "What happened?" "You've been 'gone' for over two years now," Trojan tactfully replied. "What do you remember?" Megatron pondered, flexing his fingers to test them. He smiled slightly and said, "I remember ... Optimus Prime." Then an angry scowl. "Starscream." Then: "Unicron. He found me ... repaired me ... made me into Galvatron." With careful movements, Megatron glanced around the room. "You know that?" Trojan asked in surprise. Megatron paused, sifting his memories as he searched for the right words. "Yes ... It seems I have been given ... additional information." /MY WORK,/ Unicron spoke. "Yes," Megatron acknowledged. "I remember now. You--" he turned to Trojan, "--came for information about Galvatron, and forged a deal with Unicron to restore me." Trojan nodded. "We need you, Megatron." "Do we ever," Astrotrain added. "Galvatron's done nothing but drove the Decepticons into the dirt ever since he took over." "TRAITORS!" The three wheeled as one. In the doorway across the room was Galvatron and Cyclonus. Galvatron's laser cannon was pointed at them, and Cyclonus had his own rifle at the ready. Galvatron pointed an accusing finger at Trojan. "I KNEW you couldn't be trusted! You'll both pay for this, after I obliterate this upstart!" Megatron turned to Astrotrain. "Galvatron?" Astrotrain nodded. With that, Megatron charged. He tackled Galvatron just as the other fired; the blast strayed and struck the ceiling, raining sparks on the room. Astrotrain pulled Trojan to safety behind the casket, while Megatron slammed Galvatron into a bank of video monitors. He was kicked away an instant later and skidded to the center of the chamber. "FOOL! No one defeats Galvatron!" A second bolt of energy roared from his laser cannon. Megatron dodged, and the monitors behind him shattered in a burst of shards. Trojan popped out from his hideout and fired from his arm-mounted mortar cannon, but it easily missed. As Galvatron turned to the new threat, Megatron dashed and delivered a powerful punch to the jaw. Yelling to the others, "He's mine!" he grabbed Galvatron and tossed him across the room. Galvatron struck another wall of monitors and fell to the ground, sprinkled and surrounded by fine glass fragments. "No! I am INVINCIBLE!" His laser cannon fired again, a pure green burst that caught the rampaging Megatron square in the chest. As Megatron staggered back from the impact, Galvatron ran over and tripped him, sending the former leader crashing to the ground. Standing triumphantly above, Galvatron pointed his cannon at Megatron and proclaimed, "NOW we shall see who is TRULY fit to lead the Decepticons!" Megatron rolled and dodged the fatal shot. One leg lashed out and knocked Galvatron's cannon away, then continued the swing and caught Galvatron in the chest. "You talk too much," Megatron admonished as he climbed to his feet. Galvatron sprinted for his wayward cannon, but was felled suddenly as he screamed, "AGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGH!" Trojan and Astrotrain came out from behind the crate; Cyclonus, who was hiding behind the doorway outside, stepped into the room. They gathered to watch in morbid fascination as Galvatron writhed. "CycloneeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" Megatron, in understanding, looked to the ceiling. "Why?" Unicron chuckled; a dry sound of vengeance. /HE ... BETRAYED ME./ Galvatron screamed louder as the level of the torture increased. Cyclonus winced. "Stop it," Megatron ordered their unseen host. In response, Galvatron screamed again, even louder. The shriek of his torment was an inhuman sound, too painful to be completely purged. Megatron pointed his fusion cannon at the box containing Unicron's copied essence. "STOP IT!" The screaming halted. Galvatron laid on the ground, twitching nervously, optics closed. His face was twisted in a macabre portrait of agony. "Galvatron," Megatron spoke, poking the Decepticon leader with his foot. When that garnered no response, he pulled Galvatron to his feet. Without a pause, Megatron spun him around, placed him into the metal crate that he had rested in earlier, and shouted, "Galvatron!" As his pains slowly started to recede, Galvatron's eyes slowly fluttered open. "...wh...whut..." Megatron waited patiently, until the look of recognition finally appeared in Galvatron's eyes. Too weak to react, all he could do was stare while Megatron asked once more, "Galvatron?" "...yes?..." Megatron smiled in hideous delight. "Good-bye." He tucked his fusion cannon under Galvatron's chin, then fired. The bolt was brief and sickeningly quiet. Megatron stepped back. Half of Galvatron's head was simply sheared away, revealing exposed components that sputtered and smoked. The body remained motionless for several seconds, then toppled forward and crashed to the floor. The corridor outside echoed from the sound of the impact. Megatron carefully watched the corpse, in case it dared to move. It didn't. With warm satisfaction, he finally said, "Good riddance." He turned to Cyclonus and watched him with a hard, piercing glare. Cyclonus showed no signs of nervousness, but stood impassively. Finally, Megatron snarled, "What is your name?" "Cyclonus." Megatron pointed to the body. "Why didn't you help him?" "I wanted to see if you were better. Galvatron's leadership was inept; he meant nothing to me." Megatron's glare hardened. "And what about MY leadership?" Coldly, Cyclonus said, "You have my total obedience so long as we defeat the Autobots." There was a long moment of silence, during which no one moved. Finally, Megatron smiled. "Very good. Very, very good..." Turning, Megatron continued, "Astrotrain!" "Yes, Megatron!" "Do I have your total and undying loyalty?" Astrotrain smiled brightly, and stiffened to attention. "Of COURSE, mighty Megatron!" Megatron returned the smile, then paced until he stood before Trojan. "And YOU ... Trojan. You have never served me before, have you?" "No." Megatron pondered for a moment. "You know that Galvatron would have terminated you if he had learned what you were doing. Weren't you afraid?" Trojan replied, half-lying, "No." Megatron smiled softly. "You have initiative, Trojan. Courage. Intellect." Silently, Trojan basked in the pride, grateful that Megatron could not see the broad grin that grew on his face. Suddenly, Megatron grabbed him by the throat and shoved him into the empty casket. His hand constricted tightly as he growled, "You have TOO MUCH initiative, Trojan. You're very dangerous. How can I be sure you won't betray me someday?" Trojan tried to speak, but couldn't think of anything to say. He squirmed helplessly instead. Megatron continued. "Galvatron couldn't scare you into submission. That was his mistake, and it killed him. Starscream was mine, and he killed me. But I'm back, and I won't make that mistake with you." He pointed the barrel of his fusion cannon at Trojan's face. With a sinister grin, he added, "Don't take this personally." Just before reality ended, Trojan realized that he had finally found the true cause of Galvatron's madness. * * * It was several minutes before Astrotrain finally asked. "Megatron?" "Yes, Astrotrain?" "Why did you leave the box behind?" "You mean Unicron?" "Yes." Megatron spoke slowly, as if each word was extracted at great pain. "He forced me into becoming Galvatron. He made me his pawn, through Galvatron. As Galvatron, he tormented me, tortured me, and took delight in hurting me. No one -- NO ONE -- gets away with that." Astrotrain paused before continuing. "But you broke the promise." Megatron laughed. "Promise? What promise? Trojan made the promise with Unicron, not ME. Unicron picked a poor ally." Astrotrain said nothing but flew on. Cyclonus, in the seat next to Megatron, continued his uninterrupted streak of impassive silence. Shortly, Astrotrain announced, "We're here." "Full stop. Turn us around." Astrotrain complied. From the windows of the shuttle cockpit, Unicron's head was in profile view, facing Cybertron on the right. Megatron watched in appreciation, absolutely motionless, lost in his innermost thoughts. Finally, he smiled, and solemnly proclaimed, "My warriors. I give you ... the birth of the new Decepticon Empire." He pressed a button on the armrest. With a silent, blinding flash of white, the Head of Unicron exploded. Astrotrain rocked, buffeted by both the force of the blast and the ensuing torrent of debris. Soon, however, it was over. Nothing of the Chaos-Bringer remained, nothing to even hint of the morbid monument that once orbited Cybertron. The shuttle turned once again; with a roar of rockets, the three headed directly for Charr. Megatron was going home. THE END #Trojan Function: Data Acquisition Group: Decepticon " Total knowledge leads to total power. " | Stren. | Intel. | Speed | Endur. | Rank | Cour. | Firep. | Skill | 4 8 8 7 3 7 5 10 Insatiably curious. Vast memory remembers everything. The ultimate hacker, uses computer skills to infiltrate systems; leaves no files unseen. Acts friendly to get information from others. Knowledge used for blackmail and to find foes' weaknesses. As space cruiser, files up to 30,000 miles. As robot, fires arm-mounted mortar cannons. Fingers have various data link access connectors.