The Sale of the 24th Century


By Lizard (lizard@vnet.net)


Author's Notes



NOTE:The following involves characters from two unrelated universe. No
violation of copyright is intended or implied. This story may be copied
or printed for personal use, but may not be sold or used to add value to
any product sold. The purpose of this disclaimer is to respect all the
copyrights involved and to clearly state I intend to challenge or
infringement;this story is intended as a tribute to the creators of the
fictional universes involved, which have given me much enjoyment. If I
did not word this in the correct legalese, sorry. If anyone tries to use
the existence of this story to challenge legitimate copyrights, I'll
serve as a witness against you. 

For continuity nuts, this story is based mostly on the TV series
continuity, taking place pre-movie.


Chapter 1



	Swindle spun off the narrow asphalt path, onto the flat desert
rock and sand. This new form, the closest  analogue his personality chip
could form from the crude Earth vehicle Starscream had used as a matrix,
was hopelessly primitive, but it had it's uses. His old form, he mused,
could not have navigated the primitive, unmechanical landscape of Earth
nearly as well, and it seemed he was stuck on this planet for the
forseeable future.
	In any event, he had a meeting.
	Within minutes, he reached the primitive oil rig. As he
approached, a fleshling stood up, walked towards him. The creature
showed no sign of fear NOW, of course....but their first meeting had
been rather different. Imagine, a flesh-creature trying to STEAL a
Decepticon! Naturally, Swindle had been impressed by the man's bravado,
and, sensing a kindred spirit, did what he did best. Cut a deal. 
	Pulling up to within a few feet of the human, he transformed,
becoming a tan and purple robot roughly twelve feet tall. The human
whistled, then shook his head. "Always gets me when you fellas do that.
Saw them Auto-guys on TV last week....blasted goody-two-shoes. Hmph.
What you got for me?" 
	"The usual, human. Targeting devices for your weapons trade.
Explosive compounds. And...." Swindle's mettalic features twisted into
the semblance of a human smile,"...something new. Would your fleshling
clients want a device that can jam primitive Terran radar?" 
	"D'you mind not calling me 'Fleshling'? Sounds kind of...I
dunno...dirty. But, hey...a radar jammer, you say?"
	"I do indeed 'say'. What is it worth to you?"
	"How many you got?"
	"Let us just say I can get as many as you need. "
	"Well then....let's say a quarter-cube of Energon each."
	"A full cube."
	"Two fifths, and that's my final offer."
	"There are many others who would eagerly offer me five sixths of
a cube."
	This went on for a quite a while...this was the only activity
Swindle genuinely enjoyed. And imagine...trading outdated junk, of no
use in the war, to these primitive humans for good Energon...Energon
that could be stockpiled and sent back to Cybertron, where it was worth
hundreds of times what it was worth on Earth...trade THAT, through his
contacts, for other antique technology that these humans were desperate
for...Oh, Starscream, you never dreamed how wealthy you would make me
when you resurrected me. Swindle's internal circuitry nearly purred with
the thought. 
	Hours later, the haggling was done. The human, as was his
custom, drank some low-grade fuel (at least that's what Swindle's
analysis told him "Schlitz" was), and Swindle ingested a small energon
cube. Then, carrying a small load of the cubes in his vehicular form's
trunk space, he rolled off. Why, he wondered, did that pompous oaf
Blast-Off get the body with the massive cargo hold? Life can be so
unfair at times....In a manic instant, he wondered if Optimus Prime
would trade one trip to Cybertron, loaded with Swindle's purloined
Energon, for the contents of Megatron's supposedly "secret" war
computer. Of course he wouldn't. That sixteen wheeled nitwit was far too
"honorable" to even consider such a deal! His vehicular form bounced
slightly, a robotic shrug, and sped towards the Spacebridge. 
	It was supposed to be tended only by Dead End. It wasn't.
Swindle rapidly transformed, shifting his cargo into subspace. 
	"Starscream! What are YOU doing here?"
	Starscream turned from his work, hastily slamming a small panel
shut. "Why...just making sure the Space Bridge is fully functional! I
*was* a scientist before the war, you know!" His optical sensors
darkened. "But what are YOU doing here? There are no transfers scheduled
for today!" 
	Think fast, Rabbit, thought Swindle...a line he'd learned while
trying to understand Earth culture, so as to better know how to deal
with the fleshlings. "I'd heard the Auto-fools might be planning an
attack, so I came by to investigate. But, I see YOU are here, and since
you can easily withstand any assault...." Would he buy it? Of course he
would. Starscream was notoriously gullible....and cowardly. 
	"Why...yes, Swindle. I *could*. But someone must...er...warn
Megatron! You guard the Spacebridge;I'll fetch the others!" He leapt
into the air, transforming as he did into the form of a terrestrial
warplane, then ignited his afterburners and flew off. 
	Dead End languidly approached from the nearby rocks, where he
had been laboriously removing some slight scratches from his red metal
finish. "Why do you bother, Swindle? You can't take it with you." 
	"Fine, I can't. Neither can you. But you still want what I can
get, and I can only get it from Cybertron." 
	"Very well. Waste the few eons of existence you have in futile
pursuits, see if I care...."
	Swindle shook his head, then shifted back to vehicle form and
rolled towards the Bridge. Dead End would activate it, and that would be
that. 
	A few miles away, Starscream smiled, a grin far different than
the simpering expression he usually wore. Swindle actually believed I
fell for his ridiculous story! As if I don't know about his little trade
route! Starscream's optics switched to high intensity magnification,
focussed on the Spacebridge. A perfect test subject for my little trap,
he thought Assuming it works, I can easily dispense with that depressive
malcontent and lure Megatron here. If it doesn't....well, no great loss.

				*  *  *

	He laughed, a dark chuckle that would have scared those who
thought they knew him. Let the others think I'm a coward and a buffoon.
It makes it that much easier for me to manipulate them. He settled back
to watch. 
	Dead End manipulated the controls, as he had done a dozen times
before. Some of the readings were odd, but it didn't really matter.
Nothing did. He watched as Swindle rolled toward the discontinuity
point, entered it, then.... 
	[SENSOR OVERLOAD:COMPENSATING BY SYSTEM SHUTDOWN] flashed
through his mind. He found himself on his back, as damage readings
scrolled through his mind. External damage...superificial hull
burns...optic sensors overloaded, switching to back up....auditory
sensors nearly destroyed.... 
	As his secondary optics came back online, he looked at the
spacebridge. A huge rip appeared in the sky above it, and the dark of
deep space, scattered with stars, appeared in the rift. Swindle was
there, too, floating in the void. Then the rift closed, instantly, and
the spacebridge came back into focus...battered and charred. 
	Dead End staggered to his feet. He was half tempted to simply
ignore it....after all, everyone had to go sometime. But there were
worse things than dying, even for a Transformer, and Megatron was quite
good at inflicting them. He shifted to his vehicular form and sped off,
his constant depression magnified by the damage done to his outer shell.
It will be WEEKS before I've cleaned up.... 
	In the rocks beyond, Starscream scowled. THAT was not the
intended effect. Best to play along with Swindle's story and play the
fool for Megatron yet again. He leapt once more into the sky, this time
heading for the nearest Decepticon stronghold. I wonder what DID happen
to Swindle, he thought. Well, at least that's the end of that ingrate
Bruticus.

	[SUDDEN DECOMPRESSION:SEALING EXTERNAL SYSTEM] 
	[RAPID TEMPERATURE DROP:INCREASING FUEL BURN TO COMPENSATE]
	[GRAVITY - NULL:ADJUSTING BALANCE CONTROLS]

	Swindle transformed into robot mode. Deep space? Had Dead End
betrayed him or...no! I don't *believe* it! I trusted STARSCREAM? I
deserve to be marooned in space...again!
	Starmaps were called up from long-unused storage banks in the
crystalline matrix of his mind. Nothing matched. Wherever he was, it was
not someplace Cybertronian astronomers had charted. Communications? He
began broadcasting on a wide range of bands, used by Decepticons,
Autobots, and the several dozen starfaring races he knew. As he spun
slowly through the void, he adjusted his optics across the
electromagnetic spectrum, looking for the unique signature of industrial
life. 
	Hours later, he found it.
	Elsewhere.....
	"Commander, we've got something on the sensors. Small, mettalic,
emitting signals across all frequencies. Possibly a probe...we're
detecting no life signs." 
	"Does it appear hostile?"
	"No, sir...wait. It seems to have spotted us. It's sending a
hail."
	"On screen."
	The oval viewscreen flickered from a view of the surrounding
stars to an image of a strange, mettalic face.  "...gon. Repeat:I have
been marooned due to an unfortunate accident and am in need of help. I
can pay in high-quality energon. Repeat..." 
	"Energon?"
	"Perhaps some sort of fuel, commander. But...pay for help?
Sounds like this probe was built by Ferengi." 
	"I'm not so sure it is a probe, Dax. But, in any event...send it
directions to the docking ring, and let's welcome the latest visitor to
Deep Space Nine." 


Chapter 2



	Benjamin Sisko, Commander of Deep Space Nine, put his hands
behind his back and  turned to the eerie robotic face that filled the
main viewscreen of Operations. 
	"Do you have manuevering capability in either of your forms?"
	Dax, Major Kira, and Chief O'Brien turned to stare at Sisko.
Forms? What was the Commander talking about. Sisko noted their
consternation, and inwardly enjoyed it.  One of the privileges of rank,
he had decided, was keeping your subordinates in the dark for at least a
few minutes.
	"Negative, Fle...Commander. I am drifting." came the reply.
	Sisko nodded, then turned to O'Brien. "Chief, can you lock a low
power tractor beam on our guest and bring him to Pylon 3?"
	"Aye, Sir...but...what is it?"
	"I'll tell you in a moment, Chief. As soon as you get him close
to the station, run a detailed visual scan in all spectrums and bring me
the results. Pull him in slowly...I want some time to do some research.
Dax, come with me." He tapped his communicator. "Odo, will you meet me
in ops? We might be facing a rather...unique situation."
	Sisko walked up to his office, and sat behind his desk. He
picked up his favorite baseball and began tossing it idly in the air.
Dax quickly sat down, then snatched the baseball out of the air.
	"You're hiding something, Benjamin. I know that."
	"Patience, Dax. I want to see something...ah! Come in, Chief."
	"The scans are in your computer, sir. Er...what exactly IS that
thing? You call it 'him'.  Do you recgonize it?"
	"Not that individual, no. But I'm pretty sure I know his race."
	"Race? Sir, that's a robot! You mean the race who built it?"
	"HIM, Chief. That's a free-willed, sentient life-form...just
like your Commander Data.  Now, let's take a look at those scans...."
	"Free willed? Like Data? Sir, what ARE you talking about? There
are only a handful of Soong-type androids in existence, and certainly no
robots like that."
	"A bit of Earth history they don't like to talk about at the
Academy, Chief. Or tell aliens about...sorry, Dax."
	Sisko brought up the holographs. The robot was mostly tan. He
could make out wheels, clearly useless in the current form...a ground
vehicle, indeed. While deducing one mode's configuration from another
was difficult, this one seemed to form some sort of open-topped craft.
Hmm. 
	He began to shift the scans through the EM spectrum, while Dax
and O'Brien looked on in consternation. After about two minutes, he
stopped, frowned, and sighed deeply.  He rotated the hologram to face
the others, just as Odo appeard.
	"Yes, Commander? I'm very busy...every minute I'm here is
another minute I'm NOT watching Quark. He'll have half the station sold
out from under you in the time this meeting takes."
	"I'm glad you're here, Odo. We're about to have trouble."
	Dax slammed her fist on the desk, startling the others. "Blast
it, Benjamin! Tell me what is going on here!"
	"That's Kurzon talking, not Jadzia.", Sisko said, smiling. "But
I'll tell you."
	He enlarged the hologram to about two feet in height. It was
colored oddly, the result of the spectrum shifting he had just been
doing. In glowing red was a symbol resembling a scowling, crowned face,
carven from geometric shapes.
	"Our guest is a Decepticon. A member of a race called
Transformers." Sisko noticed Odo's sudden attention, but said nothing.
	"'Decepticon'", Odo sneered. "Sounds charming."
	"They are. Generally speaking, they are violent, treacherous,
imperialistic and cruel.  Those were their good points."
	"'Were'? Benjamin, who ARE these beings? What do you know about
them?"
	"Alright, Dax, Odo, Chief...here's the facts. This isn't
supposed to be common knowledge, but you need to be prepared.
	Centuries ago, Earth was used as a base by two warring factions
from a world called 'Cybertron'...don't look so amused...in their
language, we come from a world called 'Soil'. There were two main
factions:A relatively peaceful group called 'Autobots', and their foes,
the 'Decepticons'. At least, that's what the Autobots told us. Over the
years, we learned nothing was quite so clear cut....
	In any event, these beings were...ARE...free willed, sentient
robots...with emotions, drives, desires all their own. They all possess
at least two forms...a robotic form and some other mode, usually a
vehicle.
	The war lasted into the early 21st century on Earth, and was
responsible for Earth developing many technologies. But it also led to
factionalism and the horrors of the late 21st century. By the time we
had cleaned up that mess, they were gone...and it was something that the
World Government, the forerunner of the Federation, decided was  best
left out of the history books...UNLESS you were slated for command.
There hasn't been a transformer seen since around 2020. Until now.
	"Odo, he's probably dangerous. Keep a *very* close eye on him.
Dax, O'Brien...find out how he GOT here. Look for a ship, a spacerift,
anything....he obviously isn't a space traveller, unless he's a
triple...."
	"Triple, Commander?"
	"Never mind, Chief...it gets pretty complex."
	Swindle felt force surround him, gently tug him towards the
station. He accelerated towards it, hoping these fleshlings weren't
about to smash him into a wall or something...but as he approached, the
beam slowed him, and an airlock cycled open for him to enter. It hissed
hust behind him, there was a moment's wait, and an inner door opened.
	He had to stoop to enter...this was cleary a flesh-creature
station, but the corridors were tall enough to accomodate him. The
angles were odd, different than those Earth construct. Asymmettrical,
coldly mechanical. He liked it, somehow.
	There was someone waiting for him...a flesh creature? No, not
quite. In the normal visual, it APPEARED that way...but it radiated
oddly in the non-visual spectra, and included subspace extensions. Very
odd. What, he wondered, have I gotten myself into?
	He extended a hand, as he knew humans did. The odd creature
accepted it, cautiously.  "I am..." Suddenly, Swindle decided that his
Decepticon codename wasn't going to go over well. Centuries of dealings
on Cybertron had taught him to smell "lawman" at a dozen miles. Who was
that Autobot whose transformed mode resembled his?  "...Hound."
	"Of the Decepticons.", said the humanoid, flatly.
	Swindle felt his inner polymetal muscles tighten. Wherever he
was, they knew of the War...and from the sounds of it, these fleshlings
had sided with the Autobots. Well,  best to go with the flow, until I
know what's going on.
	"More or less. I prefer to think of myself as a free agent." The
humanoid wasn't buying it.
	"Well, follow me. Do you need repairs? How long do you expect to
be here?"
	"I am mostly functional...the damage done is purely external. I
expect..." (CLANG)
	Swindle looked at the low beam he had just walked into. This
wasn't going to work. He folded himself down into his vehicular mode,
then swung open one of his doors.  "Fleshling, will you simply DRIVE me
to where we need to go?" 
	Odo had watched, nearly shocked, as the giant robot had folded,
spun, twisted...and turned into a perfect replica of an Earth-style
vehicle, all in under a second. He understood, perhaps for the first
time, how people viewed his own shape-shifting.  Carefully, as if
anticipating a trap, he stepped in. The seat that had formed was 
comfortable, soft...yet there had been no evidence of anything but metal
and exotic plastics in the robot form. VERY curious. No one could have
told this form from the genuine thing. He smiled, in sudden
understanding. Decepticons, indeed!
	Swindle allowed the humanoid to manipulate his vehicle mode
controls, as they moved slowly through the space station, attracting odd
glances from the various life-forms that seemed to live or work here. I
might be here for a while, he thought. Let's see if I can build a little
camaraderie...find this guys weak spots. "You know, fleshling...."
	"My name", the humanoid said sharply, "is Odo."
	"Ah...you know, Odo, we have something in common."
	"Oh?"
	"Yes...you possess subspace extensions, just as I do. I've never
met a fl...a humanoid like that before."
	"Subspace....extensions?" Odo worked to control himself, but
this was truly fascinating.  If this...machine...wasn't deceiving him,
it might hold some clues as to his origin.
	"Yes. You're a transformer, like me, aren't you?"
	"I'm no robot!"
	"No, of course you're not...but you have another form, don't
you. Come on, I showed you mine."
	"I have MANY forms. This isn't even my real one. But tell me
more about these...subspace extensions."
	"When you change forms, haven't you ever wondered where your
extra mass goes?"
	All the time, thought Odo. No one was ever able to solve that
problem. "Not really.", he said.
	"Well, it goes into subspace. Just like mine. It's something
nearly all shapechangers have in common."
	"Hmf. Fascinating, I'm sure. Stop here."
	Odo stepped out, and Swindle transformed, he looked around.
Instantly, he felt at home. This was a marketplace! His audio sensors
filled with the sound of deals being made, coins changing hands. He
swept the huge expanse of the Promenade, tracing patterns of exchange.
In a few minutes, his internal computers had built a map of the various
trade patterns. He traced the map, sought the major nexii, then
cross-indexed them to find the center of real activity. 
	He found it, and moved towards it.
	Rom hid behind Quark, peering over his brother's shoulder.
"It...It's coming this way, brother! What will we do?"
	"What will we do, Rom? We will offer it a drink."


Chapter 3



Note:Trauma, mentioned in this segment, is not a "real" (toy)
transformer, but one I created. He is a decepticon surgeon/battlefield
medic whose personality is somewhere between the Marquis de Sade and
Jack the Ripper....

---------------------------------------------------------------

	Elsewhere.....
	Megatron sat, immobile, in the vast command center. He was
seated in a massive chair, sculpted to his robot-mode configuration,
that was part throne and part virtual-reality center. He played out
scenario after scenario of the next battle with the Autobots over this
planet's fuel resources. Would the Decepticons superior air power be
most useful here....or there? How could he use the Autbot's innate
cooperation and concern for each other against them...and how he could
he channel his own troops bickering to constructive purposes? Use the
gestalts as shock-troops or swarms? So many decisions....but I am
capable of making them. I have led the Decepticons for six million 
years, and nothing has yet...
	He disconnected from the stimulation, still unmoving. Starscream
had returned. Dead End had been spotted rushing homeward by Laserbeak.
Something was wrong with the Spacebridge.
	He waited and watched, through scanners and relays and hidden
sensor-nets, as Starscream landed, transforming as he did so. The hidden
doors of the Decepticons current fortress, bargained for from some
fleshling "terrorists", swung open to allow him to enter, then sealed
again, merging seamlessly with the mountains. 
	It took only a few seconds for the Starscream to reach the
command center. "Oh, mighty Megatron....", he began. Megatron decided he
couldn't stand another picosecond of Starscreams practiced ingratiating
whine. 
	"I do not need your flattery, Starscream." His voice could have
cut titanium plate, and several of the other Decepticons stepped back,
half expecting him to vaporize Starscream on the spot. "Simply make your
report and get out of range of my optics."
	"Swindle...of the Combaticons...." he began, looking chillingly
at Onslaught and Vortex...."...reported a possibile assault on the
Spacebridge. I returned here to alert you to this...rumoured...attack. I
*know* you would not wish me to leave even the slight possibility that
Swindle was telling the truth unverified. And, in truth, as I flew away,
I DID detect an explosion...oh, look! Here's Dead End now."
	Dead End walked in, one optic a shattered mass of crystal, the
other one flickering madly. His outer shell, laboriously polished, was
pitted and charred. When he moved, i  was with a definite jerkiness, as
if some of his motive generators were misfiring.
	Megatron turned towards him, looked down. "Your report,
Stunticon?"
	"The inevitable occured," the smaller robot replied, and turned
to leave.
	Enough of this, thought Megatron. His huge shoulder mounted
cannon fired, gouging a hole in the floor. "REPORT!"
	"Very well. The spacebridge exploded. Swindle is lost."
	"You saw no Autobots?"
	"None. I wasn't really looking. I didn't think it was
important."
	"Get down to repair. I'm sure Trauma will enjoy working on you.
Starscream?"
	"Yes, glorious leader?"
	"Can you offer an explanation?" Megatron's cannon, still
smouldering from it's recent use, began to throb with a build up of
power. You don't need to slaughter your troops, the Decepticon leader
mused, so long as they are convinced you will at the slightest excuse.
"We have lost Swindle, which robs us of Bruticus, which leaves us
unbalanced against the Autobots. Gestalts are not easy to come by! YOU
were at the spacebridge most of this day. I look forward to hearing your
story."
	"I have told you all I know, my leader! Perhaps the Autobots had
sabotaged the spacebridge, hoping to trap you! Had I but known, I would
have sprung the trap myself!"
	Megatron seethed. He knew Starscream had plotted this, but had
no proof. He weighed, carefully, the punitive effect of simply
destroying the treasonous warrior against the risk the other Decepticons
might see him as too mad or unstable to serve as leader.  Finally,
slowly, he powered down his weaponry.
	"Leave me, Starscream." He turned to the main communication
panel. "Constructicons!  Head for the spacebridge with all the supplies
you can carry! I want that system repaired by this world's next solar
cycle, or I'll have you broken down for scrap!"
	A quick chorus of "Yes, Megatron!" "At once, sir!" "As you
command!" echoed through the chamber as the various members of the team
replied. A human would have sighed, but Megatron simply returned to his
throne and began replaying the  simulations. Let us assume we lack
Bruticus, but the Autobots use Defensor. That would mean....

Elsewhere/Elsewhen

	Quark stepped forwards, adopting his best "humble barkeep" pose.
The large mettalic entity was walking smoothly across the promenade
towards him. The Thirty Fifth Rule of Aquisition sprang to mind:"New
Species Mean New Opportunities". The machine could not sit at the bar,
so it stood there, it's round purple eyes looking down at Quark.  Quark
smiled, baring his twisted teeth. "Can I get you something? Romulan Ale?
Lubricants?"
	Was he imagining things, or were the multiple metal plates that
formed the robot's visage shifting into something resembling a human
smile? "Low-Friction lubricant WOULD be useful, fleshling."
	"Call me Quark. Anything you'd like, we can get." He turned to
Rom, kicking him surreptitiously. "You heard the..man. Get the stuff we
use on the cargo loaders. And put it in a NICE glass!" He turned back to
his guest. "My brother will have your refreshment shortly. Hmmm..." He
left the bar, and walked around the transformer,  whistling
appreciatively. This was one of the most sophisticated machines he had
ever seen. And what it had done when it arrived....changing from a
vehicle to a humanoid configuration....he'd seen some much more
primitive examples, but nothing as sophisticated! His lobes were
practically burning with anticipation.
	"If I might ask...where do you come from? The Gamma Quadrant?
Are there more like you? Ah! Here!" He handed Swindle a crystal goblet
brimming with a viscous grey-gold liquid. A panel in Swindle's chest
swung open. He poured the liquid in, returned the goblet.
	"I come from Cybertron. I do not know what...quadrant....it is
in. My species does not use your coordinate system."
	"You didn't come through the wormhole, then?"
	"No." Swindle stopped, looked around, then re-focused on the
flesh creature...'Quark',  it called itself. "Quark. You run things
here, don't you?"
	Quark gestured noncommittaly. "Oh, I dabble here and there. But
I'm mostly just a simple bartender, happy to serve my customers...."
	The robot pulled back, and it seemed to look disappointed. "I
see. I was misinformed, then. I was told you were the man to see about a
deal...."
	"....and part of serving customers is seeing to their special
needs." Quark hastily added, barely missing a beat. "Why don't you and I
go someplace more...private? Like my office?"
	Rom was in there, counting out bars of gold-pressed latinum.
Quark turned to him.  "What are you doing in here? Go out and see to the
customers!"
	"But...Brother! Today is the day I get to count the profits! You
promised!"
	"I lied. Get out there and serve. And don't bother me again!"
	"Yes Brother...." Rom shuffled out. Quark shook his head.
"Relatives. What can you do? I don't suppose you have any siblings."
	"Not as such....", said Swindle, thinking of his cantankerous
teamates...."but I think I understand."
	"Now then...", Quark began, as he placed himself in a low lying
chair, "I believe you mentioned the word 'deal'"
	"I did."
	"What can you offer?"
	Swindle grinned. This time Quark was sure of it. "Myself. You've
never seen anything like me before, have you? My technology is totally
alien to you."
	"Let's just say it's not common. But I don't think you're going
to trade off pieces of yourself."
	"No....but I can fill your computers with technical schematics,
basic engineering principles, theoretical constructs....things your
scientists might not discover for centuries. You could let these
discoveries leak out slowly, and reap tremendous rewards."
	"That's delightful. But what do you expect in return?"
	"Two things. First, energy. Lots of it. Secondly....a way home."
	"A way home? You don't know?"
	"I arrived here by accident. I don't plan on staying."
	"Well, I'll see what I can do. As for energy....I might be able
to score some dilithium, fully refined."
	For the first time, Swindle was put at a slight loss. His
internal databanks held no record of 'Dilithium'. He knew this 'Quark'
was going to try to cheat...that was a given in this line of work. But
not so soon. Whatever he was offering WAS valuable. But what was it?
	"I'll also need a computer terminal to work from." It would take
seconds to transfer the sum of the stored data on this station to his
own storage units.
	"Certainly. There's one right over there."
	Swindle walked over to it, careful to not disturb the
furnishings that cluttered the room.  He knelt down in front of the
terminal and slid back a small hatch covering one finger.  A tiny probe
extruded. He placed it near the main input jack of the terminal, and the
probe instantly altered to fit. Swindle jacked in.
	Cyberspace was barren here, a vast plain dotted with occasional
dull grey obeslisks representing data. These people made little or no
use of the cybernetic world, Swindle realized...they might not even be
aware it exists! This is going to be too easy!
	He approached the first monolith. The entry point was guarded by
a...oh, how laughable! A voice interface! It was pathetically simply for
him to input the correct frequencies...and a torrent of data flooded
into his personal storage. He let most of it slip by, unanalyzed, but
kept a filter on for 'Dilithium'. Eventually, he found it.  Crystalline
mineral....rare but naturally occuring...used to channel and
direct...ANTI MATTER?
	Swindle nearly jacked out in shock. These...primitives had
stumbled, somehow, on the secret of controlled anti-matter! Megatron
used anti-matter as a weapons system, but he couldn't channel it to
create energy. This one secret would give the Decepticons are 
permenant, fatal edge over the Autobots. The War, the six million year
old War, could be over in weeks...and he could go back to doing what he
did best, and never see his fellow Combaticons again. Thank Primus!
	If I can get home. If...
	He jacked out. Quark was hurrying over. "If there's a problem,
I'll be glad to run the system myself for you. Here, let me...."
	"There's no need. I'm done."
	"Done? But you were only there for...Hm. Well. Is there anything
else I can do for you?"
	Swindle looked down at him, and Quark seemed to sense, for the
first time in their encounter, something resembling sincerity. "Find me
a way home, Quark."
	Quark watched as the robot left. Find him a way home? I don't
even know where he lives! Hm. I'll bet Sisko and the other's are working
on it, too. Let's see....there are three hu-mons stationed in Ops this
shift who owe me money, and two I have blackmail on. Getting this
information shouldn't be too hard. And then there's the Grand Nagus.
He'd know, if anyone would...but he'd want a share of the profits! But
if I don't do something, there won't BE any profits! The Fifty-First
Rule Of Aquisition:Profits shared are better than no profits at all. But
first, I'll see what the hu-mons know.
	He left his office, and noted that the robot...he'd never even
learned it's name!...was talking with several aliens in a corner. Fine.
Keeps him out of trouble. "Rom!"
	"Yes, brother?"
	"What are you doing out here? You're supposed to be counting the
take!"
	"But brother...I...you...the machine....oh, never mind."
	In Ops, a familiar scene was being played out. Sisko was sitting
behind his desk, trying to remain calm. Major Kira was pacing in front
of his desk, trying to destroy the station by shouting. Or so it seemed
to him.
	"You allowed a giant, terrorist robot on board this station? Why
didn't you just shoot it?  This could be an advance scout for the Borg,
or a Cardassian plot, or..."
	"Major...."
	"And you evidently kept an entire WAR out of your history books?
Here I am trying to convince my people the Federation are their friends,
and I discover you revise your own history! And furthermore...."
	"Major...."
	"And if that isn't enough, he's been seen talking to QUARK!" She
paused, suddenly registering the fact he had spoken. "What?"
	"Destroying sentient life without cause isn't the Federation
way. If that had been a crippled Cardassian ship out there, we would
have aided it, too. And the Decepticons are not Borg. If they were, we
wouldn't be here by now. And, lastly, I didn't write the history books.
You'll note I've done nothing to keep, ah, Hound's prescence on the 
station a secret."
	"'Hound'. Silly name for a giant killer robot."
	"Believe me, there were some with worse. Besides, they're
codenames. All of the Transformers humans encountered were part of one
of two vast military units."
	"Oh. So he's involved in a war. And what happens when his
enemies show up? I hope you're not planning on dragging Bajor into this,
because..."
	"That's the other reason I brought him on board. I want to know
what he's doing here.  He shouldn't exist now...none of his kind have
been seen for nearly three hundred years. If the War is flaring up
again, we need to know and be prepared. Now...let's see what the others
have found."
	He stood up, walked around the desk, and gestured to the door.
Kira began about three different sentences, bit them off, and finally
stormed out. Funny, thought Sisko.  Whenever she walks like that, I
think she's trying to knock a wall down with her forehead.
	Shaking his head, he followed her out.
	"Dax, O'Brien....what do you have?"
	"Well, Commander....there is definitely some sort of phenomenon
out there, a few light-seconds past the station. Near the wormhole, but
not inside it."
	"Also, Benjamin, it seems to be fairly stable. Possibily even
two way, though it seems to be 'closed' at the moment. I'm not sure if
we can reactivate it or not."
	"If we did, would we be able to reseal it? The last thing I want
is more of them coming through."
	Dax and O'Brien looked at each other, shrugged. "We'll get right
on it, Commander."
	It was, of course, impossibile for seven people to run a station
the size of DS9. Jadzia Dax and Miles O'Brien were both skilled,
competant individuals...and a large part of that skill involved
coordinating the work of others. They laid out plans and offered 
theories, passing the grunt work down to subordinates. One of these
subordinates, a young Bajoran woman who had made one too many mistakes
at Dabo, found her way to Quark's bar during an off shift.
	"Quark, I shouldn't be telling you this, but..."
	"Yes?"
	"They've found a rift, not connected to the wormhole.
Our...vistitor probably came through it. They might even be able to get
it open again."
	"Excellent, excellent!" He turned to go back to his bartending.
	"But...wait! How much does this reduce my debt?"
	Quark looked momentarily shocked. "Reduce your debt? Madam, if
you wished me to PAY you for that information, you should have fixed a
price FIRST. But, since I'm a nice guy, you can have one glass....a
*small* glass....of anything you'd like from the bar. Good stuff,
too...not replicated. Rom! See to the nice lady!"
	The young woman hissed as he left, "May the prophets curse you
for this!"
	Quark turned back, smiling, "You have your prophets, I have my
profits. Let us each take care of our own." He strolled over to the Dabo
tables. Swindle, still calling himself  "Hound", was there...and to
Quark's horror, he was accumulating many bars of latinum!
	"Now...ah...friend..."
	"Call me Hound, Quark!"
	"Hound, then. Why don't we go into my office and discuss our
arrangements...away from all this noise and bother?" And away from my
gambling tables!
	"Yes, that would be fine. Let me simply take these..." Swindle
gathered up the latinum into a small pile, then transformed into is
vehicle mode, drawing startled gasps from the onlookers. "Put those
coins in my trunk, will you?" His rear storage hatch opened by mental
command. Quark, seeing no alternative, loaded the precious bars in. The 
hatch slammed shut, and Swindle reformed to robot mode...his gains
safely shunted into subspace.
	"How do you DO that?" Quark asked, as they both headed towards
the office area.
	"When you've paid me, Quark, you will have the answers."
	Quark clenched his fists. What I need are more Bajorans and
fewer robots! This one is practically a Ferengi! It will be worth much
status to out-deal him.
	They entered the office. "Now then, Hound...about your payment."
	"My agents have located the rift which brought you here. They're
working on reopening it. I'll keep you posted."
	"And the....dilithium?"
	"Oh, yes...dilithium. Look....why don't we just agree to meet
halfway? Say....half your data for the key to the rift?"
	"All or nothing, Quark. We have a deal."
	"A quarter of your data?"
	"If you can't meet my needs, I'm sure someone else can....you
people have a leader, don't you....a Nagus, I believe? Perhaps HE could
aid me..."
	How did the machine know that? Who told him? Rom! Must have
been. That idiot....
	"The Nagus is very busy. You'll wait weeks...no..years before
you can see him. But....he happens to be a very close personal friend of
mine, and I'll be happy to intercede for you. Why don't you
go...ah...play some more Dabo, while I take care of this trivial 
matter?"
	"Very well. I'm sure our arrangements will continue to be
profitable."
	Quark glowered as he watched the robot walk smoothly out.
Dilithium, why did he HAVE to mention that? Should have just bargained
on the rift. The Nagus generally allowed his underlings free reign, but
dilithium was something he controlled tightly.  There was no choice. No
choice at all...
	Resigned, he headed for his personal subspace communicator, the
one not tied in to the stations databanks. Carefully, he entered a long
string of digits that would serve to tie him directly to the Nagus...if
he wasn't off cementing a deal...
	"Yes, Quark? What is it? Why are you bothering me? Time is
money, you know!"
	"Yes, Grand Nagus, yes. I have a potential profit to share with
you."
	"Profit? Why didn't you say so? What is it?"
	Quark explained, hesitantly at first, then, as he saw the
Nagus's interest, more confidently. The Nagus wasn't badgering,
complaining, or threatening....this was very odd behavior. Finally, he
spoke.
	"Quark, you've done *very* well. I'm very proud of you. I'll
send a cubic meter of dilithium on my personal shuttle. But...I'd like
to meet this charming machine you mentioned. Make sure he stays there
until I arrive."
	"Certainly, Nagus. Certainly. How long will that be?"
	"Oh, a day or two. Don't worry. I'll cover all your expenses!
Nagus...OUT!"
	Quark began to worry. Cover all his expenses? The Nagus was
definitely up to something, and Quark began to see profit slipping
through his fingers.
	Light years away, the Nagus turned pale. This was not something
that was ever supposed to happen, but he knew what to do when it did. He
opened a small box and removed a device that had been handed down from
Nagus to Nagus for untold millenia.  With a trembling, wrinkled finger,
he pushed a tiny button. A small light began to blink, in coded pulses,
and a message went out....

Elsewhere/elsewhen....

	The last echoes of Dead End's screams were fading from the
mettalic halls as Megatron, in tank form, rumbled down the halls.
Reaching the combination operating  theatre and interrogation center, he
transformed.
	"How is your work progressing, Doctor?"
	Trauma, his white form splattered with dark machine oil, turned
to Megatron. "Very, very nicely. Here, Megatron. Notice how reformed
circuits pulse when I activate this probe?" He slashed a sparking rod
down the length of Dead End's exposed spinal power conduit, noting with
glee the twitches that wracked the Stunticons prostrate form. 
	"Quite fascinating, Doctor. Is he functional?"
	"Yes. " He picked up a metal plate and sealed it back into
place. "Get up." Dead End did as instructed. "You could have let me
expire from my wounds. Why do you insist on prolonging this existence?"
	"Your wounds weren't fatal. Not even close! Believe me...I know
terminal damage when I infl...er...see it. Now, transform. Let's see if
that works."
	There was a moment's paralysis as newly laid circuitry
interfaced with the old, then, Dead End shifted smoothly into his terran
form, a sleek red sportscar. After a few seconds, he transformed back.
"Can I go now? Not that I have anything worth doing..."
	"Yes, you do. Get the rest of the Stunticons and meet me in the
main bay. I have a mission for you." Megatron didn't wait to hear Dead
End's response, he simply walked out.
	In the bay, Megatron surveyed the selected troops. The
Stunticons and Combaticons eyed each other warily. They had long seen
each other as rivals, but now, with Swindle presumed dead, the balance
of power had shifted.
	"Decepticons! Attend!" Megatron's voice cut through the
murmuring that consumed each group. "I have heard from Hook that the
spacebridge has been repaired.  Apparently, it was sabotaged....probably
by some Autobot...and took Swindle through a rift in both space and
time. Fortunately....we can replicate the phenomenon, but only for a
short while. In a few hours, the changing patterns of spacetime will
render the rift unreachable."
	"Stunticons, I want you to go through the rift and return
Swindle." Now, Megatron thought, the fun should begin. Onslaught or
Brawl?
	Brawl smashed his way to the front of the line. "Hey! We all
think Swindle's a lying, cheating, rustbucket...but he's OUR lying,
cheating, rustbucket. No way are those overgrown go-carts gonna rescue
him! Besides, I still owe him for what he did with my brain!"
	"I'm amazed he could find it.", sneered one of the Stunticons.
Drag Strip? Didn't matter, thought Megatron. This was all going
perfectly.
	"Why you lousy...." He transformed to tank form, smaller than
Megatron's alternate mode but still bluntly powerful, and rolled towards
the assembled Stunticons. Onlaught leapt to hold him back, while
Motormaster did the same for Drag Strip. Not that they cared if someone
got torn to pieces, but Megatron expected them to keep their troops in
order...or else.
	"In your own ineloquent way, you are correct, Brawl." Megatron
fairly purred. "I rescind my decision. You and the rest of the
Combaticons form the rescue team.  Motormaster, your Stunticons will
serve as escorts to the spacebridge. And, lest you get any ideas,
Laserbeak will be watching the whole time...and reporting to me! Are
there any questions?"
	There were, of course, none. 
	"In that case...roll out!"

Elsewhere/Elsewhen

	"Odo, this is Commander Sisko. How are things going with Hound?"
	"I've been watching him all day. He's cheated at Dabo, but I
figured that's poetic justice. He's been talking to nearly every alien
who'll listen, and he never tells the same story twice. He's a liar, a
thief, and probably a lot worse. Reminds me of someone ELSE we have on
this station...."
	"At least he hasn't killed anyone yet. Do you know what sort of
weapons he uses?"
	"There are no weapon on *my* promenade!"
	"According to what I remember from the histories I managed to
find, they keep weapons stored in a sort of personal subspace fold. If
he ever decides to go into combat mode, he'll summon them out. With any
luck, he won't do that. Anything else?"
	"Yes. His name's NOT Hound. That much I'm certain of. He's
slipped up once or twice.  I know when a man...or a machine...is using
an alias."
	"I suspected that, Constable. Stick close to him. Sisko out."
	Dax ran into the office. "There's an alien ship coming through
the wormhole. It's like nothing we've ever seen before."
	Commander Sisko walked out into Ops. On the screen was a huge
ship, nearly half the size of DS9. It resembled, more than anything
else, a mettalic helix. It was obviously well armed and armored.
	"We're receiving a hail."
	"Onscreen."
	Despite years of experience will aliens of all sizes and shapes,
something about the visage the filled the main viewscreen caused the
crew of DS9 to recoil. A bulbous, mettalic skull, with features
seemingly carven of pure malice. Underneath the spherical head dangled
an array of metal tentacles. The eyes were lattices of dark crystal, and
when it spoke, it was with a voice like razors on a chalkboard.
	"We are the Qunitessons. You have...."
	And then the creature rotated around it's central axis,
revealing a second face, totally different but just as hideous, and a
new voice, like shattering glass. "....our property. Return it to us or
face...."
	Rotate again, and a voice like tortured animals, "...dire
consequences."


Chapter 4



	"Dax, close channels."
	Dax touched a switch, and the skull-like head vanished, replaced
by a view of the ship floating just off the station. Sisko stared at it,
silently, for long moments. Finally, Major Kira broke the tension.
	"Well? Do you know what THEY are? Is this another little secret
war we're not supposed to know about?"
	"No, Major. I have no idea what they are. But I do know what
they're after. Our robotic friend down on the Promenade."
	"I'll have Odo ship him right out." Kira said, smiling, as she
turned to leave. 
	"Not so fast, Major. What makes you think they have a right to
him?"
	"A....right to him? I don't understand?"
	"While he's not exactly the most honorable being you'll ever
meet, that machine is still a sapient being...and under Federation law,
we can't return him." 
	O'Brien chimed in. "What about the Prime Directive? Can't
interfere in another culture's affairs, and all that rot."
	"You weren't so eager to invoke the Prime Directive when your
friend Tosk was involved, Chief."
	O'Brien was silent.
	"Ask their commander to come aboard. We'll get this all
straightened out. Meanwhile, I'm going down to the Promenade."
	It was growing late, the station entering night cycle. The large
machine was still there, squatting down, and talking pleasantly enough
with a cohort of aliens of all species. Sisko recognized a lot of
them:Mercenaries, smugglers, pirates. This creature certainly has
interesting tastes in friends, he thought. 
	"Hound. I need to talk to you."
	The robot ignored him, until one of his associates, a hulking
man half covered in worn battle armor, tapped him on the elbow. "Eh,
Hound...it's for you. Big shot!" 
	Swindle pulled back from the crowd and stood up. The long hours
sitting crouched to talk to these fleshlings without unduly intimidating
them had caused some lubricant blockage, and one of his servo's whined
loudly as he straightend out. He turned to Sisko.
	"What can I do for you, Commander?"
	"You're prescence here has attracted some unusual guests. I'd
like to know what you know about them. They call themselves..." he
stopped. His communicator was beeping. Irritated, he tapped it.
	"Sisko here. What is it?"
	"Sorry to trouble you, sir." said O'Brien, "but we've got
another problem. The Grand Nagus is arriving on Pylon 1."
	"Right on it, Chief." Everything at once. A commanders work is
never done. "QUARK!"
	The Ferengi shuffled up in the characteristic manner of his
race. "Yes, Commander? A drink? A holosuite? Anything you want, you can
have it...at very reasonable rates! How about a free spin of the Dabo
wheel?"
	"Quark, what is the Nagus doing here?"
	Quark paled visibly, his pointed teeth chattering. "The...the
Nagus? Here? Now? You wouldn't joke about that, would you commander?"
	"No. I wouldn't."
	"Don't you mean....don't you mean his SHIP is here? His shuttle?
Not him?" 
	"No. HE is here. Docking pylon one. And..."
	A voice echoed through the promenade then, a voice that managed
to be both ingratiating and commanding at the same time. "Quark! I've
decided to take over this deal *personally*! That's how much this means
to me!"
	That's what I was afraid of, though Quark. "But, Grand
Nagus...this minor trade isn't worth your bother! Please! Let me handle
it!"
	The Grand Nagus walked up, moving rapidly despite his great age.
He was accompanied by three younger Ferengi, one of whom was carrying a
large box. 
	"No, no, Quark! You've done so much already!" He hastily brushed
Quark aside and began examining Swindle, inspecting him as a human would
a fine horse. "Very nice...very, very nice. You're a Transformer, aren't
you? Autobot or Decepticon?" 
	Sisko frowned. The Ferengi weren't supposed to know about that.
	"I am....a free agent." Swindle said.
	"Heh! Heh! A Decpticon! An autobot wouldn't lie!" The Nagus
laughed again and slapped Swindle in what was supposed to be a jovial
manner (or so he assumed), the winced in pain. Swindle's body was
armored and quite tough. 
	"If I may ask, Grand Nagus," Sisko began, "how do you know about
this being's race?" 
	"Trade secret, hu-mon. Ancient Ferengi history. Very secret. 
But...for a reasonable fee...." He smiled, showing cragged teeth, and
held out a wizened hand, as if expecting payment. 
	"I'll live in ignorance, thank you."  He turned back to Swindle.
"Hound, would you come with me? We need to talk...privately."
	"One moment, Commander. Quark, we have a deal...."
	The Grand Nagus smiled broadly. "You're deal is with me now. 
Here..." he tapped the box..."is your end of it. Now...for mine."
	Swindle nodded. "Yes. Do you have a data storage device?"
	Without speaking, the Nagus handed Swindle a small grey tablet.
Swindle carefully opened one end, inserted his data-transfer probe, and
poured carefully prepared files into the machines databanks. He noted
the machine was totally blank...this Nagus wasn't quite a total fool. 
	The Nagus snatched the device back and activated it. Hastily
paging through the data, he saw blueprints, schematics, pages of
scientific notes....well, that was for the scientists to figure out! He
motioned to the box.  "That's yours." 
	Swindle transformed. Sisko had seen the transformation on the
station's monitors, but seeing it directly was a new experience. He
looked at the tan, old-style open-top vehicle that was in front of him.
No. There was no way to tell. Every detail, right dwn to the texture of
the seats and the labels on the primitive radio, was perfect. I wonder
how paranoid the humans living during their civil war must have been
about their vehicles. What could you trust? 
	"Nagus. Place the container in my trunk."
	Zek, the Grand Nagus, waved his hand. One of his flunkies ran
forward, picked up the box, placed it in. He saw the large pile of
latinum bars already in there, and whistled quietly.
	"Commander? I am ready now."
	"Thank you. Do you mind if I..."
	"Ride? Hop right in!" A door swung open. Carefully, as if
expecting the vehicle to suddenly mutate again, Sisko got inside, sat
down. "Towards that shaft, make a right, keep going until you get to the
large cargo bay. There's a lift at the far end." 
	In a few minutes, the large cargo lift opened onto Ops. As he
exited, Swindle transformed and stepped out....this area had huge,
vaulting ceilings. He could walk freely.
	He looked around. A control center. He had the whole station's
layout available for immediate access, of course..their entire computer
system was opened to him. But it was best to play ignorant.  "Never let
them know what you know". A rule to live by. 
	Suddenly, his eyes locked on the main viewscreen. That was a
Quintesson ship! How...how had they found him?
	It was clear. The fleshlings intended on selling him back to the
Qunitessons. Well, I'll take a few of them with me when I go! Mentally,
he locked on to the image of his scatter blaster in subspace. His gun
hand twitched. At the right moment.... 
	"Hound, do you recognize that craft?"
	"Yes, Fleshling. It's a Qunitesson craft. Why did you summon
them here?" 
	"We didn't. They claim to own you. Do you agree with this."
	The scattergun was locked in his mind. He brought his hand up,
so it would materialize in firing position. "No, fleshling. I don't."
	"Very well. " The human turned away. "Kira, radio that ship.
Tell them, 'No deal'!" 
	Kira did as requested. Immediately, the visage of the Quintesson
filled the screen again. It spoke in a voice like melting metal. "You
have made a grevious error. You will..."
	It rotated. "...be destroyed."
	Swindle unreadied the scattergun. These...fleshlings were
willing to face destruction! Their station had no armament worth
mentioning. They knew he was a Decepticon, knew of the War...and yet,
they were willing to risk their lives for him! 
	What utter idiots. 
	Sisko turned back to the monitor. "Commander...or whatever your
title is...." 
	"Call me Supreme One!"
	"Supreme One....why don't you beam aboard. We can work this out
like reasonable beings."
	"No deal! Return our property to us in...." there was a pause as
the universal translator groped with obscure time-referents "5.351209
minutes, or face..." 
	Rotate.
	"...total annihliation!" 
	The image blinked out. Sisko sighed. Could things get any worse?

	Elsewhere/Elsewhen

	"We've been sittin' here for hours. When are those lazy bums
gonna' be done? I wanna HIT something!"
	"Brawl, you always want to hit something. I'm glad I don't share
your baser instincts." 
	"Watch it, Blast-Off, or I'll hit YOU!"
	"Can you fly? No? I didn't think so. Don't anger me, Brawl,
or...."
	Onslaught rolled up, his huge missile-launcher form shifting and
mutating into an imposing robotic shape. "That is enough from BOTH of
you. We have a mission. We must plan strategy carefully. We do not know
what awaits us on the other side of the rift."
	"Strategy? You hit it 'till it stops moving...then hit it some
more!"
	Onslaught dearly wished to turn his subordinate into scrap
metal, but thought better of it. Brawls aggressiveness formed part of
Bruticus' mind. And his mindless love of violence was easy to use. 
Point him at the foe, and that was that. Still....he wondered, suddenly,
if Hotspot, his Autobot counterpart, ever had these sorts of problems.
	His musings were interupted, finally, by Hook. "The repairs have
been accomplished. We can maintain the rift for one Terran hour. Work
fast."
	At last! "Blast-Off! Transform!"
	The arrogant Combaticon did as ordered, growing into an immense
replica of a primitive Terran space-shuttle. Though not quite so large
as the "real thing", he was nonetheless impressive, dwarfing, in this
form, all the others. 
	His cargo bay swung open. Onlaught easily climbed in, but the
smaller Brawl needed a lift from Vortex. When all were inside, Blast-Off
closed up and lifted off, heading straight for the rift.  Twin particle
accellerators appeared on his dorsal wings. Whatever he was going to
face, he would face it *armed*. 
	Unlike Swindle, Blast-off was built for space. The sudden
immersion in hard vacuum was invigorating, not shocking. THIS was his
home, not the ground! Oh, it would be so easy to abandon the others and
simply take off.... 
	No sense wasting time in idle dreaming. That's for lesser
beings. He began broadcasting on several Decepticon frequencies, looking
for their missing partner. He couldn't have drifted far...it's only been
a day or so... 

	Elsewhere....

	"Commander?"
	"Yes, Chief?" I know I'm not going to like hearing this....

	"The rift has reopened...from the other side. A spaceship
appears to have come through. Sir? It looks like...an old Earth space
shuttle. I remember them from my days at the Academy. But....the energy
readings we're getting are off the scale. And...it appears to be
mounting weapons?"
	Sisko looked skyward, wondering if the Bajoran prophets had it
in for him. This was getting out of hand, and in a very short while this
station could be in serious jeapordy. "Friend of yours?" he asked
Swindle. 
	Swindle, at that moment, received a hail. "Swindle, you lummox.
Respond if you're reading this. Repeat. Swindle, you...."
	"Associates, Commander. They..."
	Silently, he was transmitting. "Blast-Off, this is Swindle. I
read you. I have the key to victory over the Autobots! Can you return
home?" 
	"Of course I can. Unlike *you*, I know what I'm doing. Get out
here. We don't have much time."
	Swindle turned to the human commander. "Fleshling, I need to
rejoin my associates...and leave. Thank you for your hospitality...but I
won't be seeing you again." Especially since the Quintessons are going
to turn this station into orbiting rubble in a minute or less.
	"There's an airlock on level six you can use. " Sisko was deeply
puzzled. It couldn't be ending this easily...could it?
	Silently, Swindle signalled again. "Blast-off, this is Swindle.
Meet me by this facilities airlocks...and hurry!"
	Rapidly, he rolled down the corridor, into the lift, out the
lift, around the corner down the hall, causally bowling over any
fleshlings too slow to get out of his way. There's a time for making
nice with the organics...and it isn't now! In under forty five seconds,
he had reached the lock. Switching back to robot mode, he worked the
controls...not fast enough...he summoned his scatter blaster and smashed
open the outer door, leaping into space, just as the space station.... 
	...didn't explode behind him? What were the Quintessons waiting
for?
	"Sir, hull breach on level six...in an airlock.  We're
containing the damage." 
	"Benjamin, the Qunitesson ship is pulling away... it seems to be
going after the shuttle." 
	Inside Blast-Off, Onslaught was fuming. "Why didn't you TELL us
there were Quintessons here?"
	Swindle stammered,"Be...because they were supposed to be busy
blowing up the Fleshling station while we slipped away! How was I to
know they'd go after us first?" 
	An explosion rocked the transformed shuttle. Then a  second,
then a third. Through the hull, they could hear the distinctive whine of
Blast-Off's particle beams. 
	"Blast-Off, open your bay!" Onslaught screamed. "We have only
one chance!" 
	"If I stop evasive manuevers to do that, I'll be destroyed..and
all of you along with me!" 
	Back on the station, the crew watched the battle. It was clear
that the tiny shuttle was no match for the huge ship. Sisko was worried.
The Qunitessons would gladly destroy this station, and Bajor, as soon as
they were done with the robots. Suddenly, it clicked. A jeep. A space
shuttle. His old history had been skimpy on details, but he remembered
this. It was risky...very risky...but they faced certain death at the
hands of the Quintessons. Any risk was better than that. 
	"Dax, Chief...try to jam their sensors. Give those robots a
little breathing room...as it were."
	They complied. ECM systems were activated. The Quintesson ship
faltered in it's barrage, its' shots going wild.
	"They're shooting like Autobots! Now!" Blast Off willed the
cargo bay open. The other four leapt out. He closed the bay and moved
into position, waiting for the signal from Onslaught. It came, just as
the Quintessons targeting devices realigned and refocussed on the five
Decepticons. 
	"COMBATICONS! MERGE AND FORM....BRUTICUS!"
	"Benjamin, subspace distortions are increasing tenfold...what
are those robots doing?" 
	"Merging into a single entity. With any luck, he'll destroy the
other ship and then leave."
	"And without any luck?" Kira asked.
	"He'll destroy the other ship...and then us. Now, watch. One way
or another, this is something we'll never see again."
	They watched. Each robot seemed to be undergoing a rapid series
of contortions and changes. Energy crackled between them as they were
pulled together. Hands appeared, and in the hands, a huge rifle. A head.
Feet. Floating in space, in just a few seconds, was a gargantuan robot,
bristling with weapons. Activating foot-jets, it aligned itself and
moved towards the Quintesson ship. 
	"That...that thing must be fifteen meters high!"
	"Ninteen-point-two, Major." noted Dax.
	Sisko watched. He'd known what ot expect, but still...."Now,
perhaps, you understand why we decided this didn't belong in the history
books. Sixty foot tall beings conducting their wars on your home
planet....takes something out of a culture. Imagine what it must have
been like, then. Major...imagine, if you will, that you went down to the
docking bay to take a runabout...and it suddenly transformed into a
robot like that. Then, imagine if your own tricorder were to do the same
thing...just leap from your hand, unfold itself, and begin battling, for
no reason you could see or understand. We *had* to cover that up, at
that point in our history...there was no way we could face the reality
that our world was being used as a battlefield for another races' wars."
	"Er...Sir. What do we do if the robot wins?"
	"Assuming it goes towards the rift, we close the rift as soon as
it's through. If it doesn't....put the station on evacuation alert now.
We'll try to get as many people off as we can."
	"And if it doesn't win at all?"
	"Then evacuation won't do more than buy us some time."
	The silence following that pronouncement was as deep as the
silence of the void. Bruticus moved rapidly towards the Quintesson ship,
his massive form easily deflecting the weapons aimed at him, while
multiple weapon ports opened and fired from all across his body. The
massive cannon on his back continued to build up power for a single,
overwhelming attack. 
	His thoughts were chaotic. There was Bruticus;he was aware of
himself and his body. But there was blind rage, from Brawl. Cold genius,
from Onslaught. Treachery and deceit, from Swindle. Arrogance and utter
confidence, from Blast-Off. Directed malice, from Vortex.  The best of
each of them merged together in the mass-mind that was Bruticus. He was
all of them;they were all parts of him. None of the non-gestalt
Transformers ever understood what it was like to be joined like this. It
was something only they knew. 
	The enemy. The enemy was in front of them. Bruticus released the
energy he had been building up. It lanced into the Quintesson ship, and
the shield buckled, warped, collapsed. The energy surged through,
tearing metal and sending explosions rippling up and down the helix. It
passed through and faded off into space. 
	The great ship turned, ponderously. The weapons which functioned
were trained on Bruticus, splaying energy across his body. Minor damage
was recorded, slowly growing. Backup circuits cut in. Deep within the
mass-mind, Brawl's anger was brought to the forefront. He raged, as he
always did, and Bruticus acted on that rage. The huge fist formed from
Vortex pulled back, then lashed into the prow of the Quintesson ship.
	It easily smashed through the weakened shields. Once inside, it
summoned a plasma cannon and fired.
	The blast ripped along the long axis of the ship, travelling
down the central core to the engines. It hit the engines, ignited them. 
The explosions travelled back up the ship, consuming it in silent fury,
wrapping itself around Bruticus. Bruticus absorbed the energy, though it
pained him greatly, and laughed silently in the vacuum. He had won!
	The jets fired again, turning him towards the rift. It was
closing, now, the proximity of the battle destabilizing it further.
Onslaught asserted himself, his mind rapidly calculating angles,
vectors, accelerations. Jets fired, stopped, realigned, fired again. He
advanced rapidly on the rift. 
	On DS9, the Ops staff watched as the robot moved into the
twisting hole in space. Through it, they could see the pale blue sky,
brown desert. Then it was through, dissasembling as it passed, into its'
components. 
	"NOW, Chief!"
	O'Brien slammed the launch buttons. The stations carefully
horded photon torpedoes shot outwards, targeted on the rift, and
exploded outside it. The resulting spatial distortion shut the
rift....instantly. 

				*  *  *

	Below, on the Promenade, the Grand Nagus was preparing to leave.
	"Well, Quark...it's been profitable!"
	"Do you really think that information was worth that much
Dilithium?"
	"Dilithium??? Quark, you're not as sharp as I thought you were.
That was *replicated*!"
	"But...Dilithium can't be replicated. That's why it's used to
back latinum..." 
	"Oh, it can be, it can be....if you've got a replicator with the
restraint circuits locked out! But it doesn't last more than a short
while before it crumbles to dust! Utterly worthless! Oh, this is
delicious. Well, goodbye Quark...and don't take any replicated
dilithium!" Chuckling inanely to himself, the Nagus returned to his
transport. 
	Quark shook his head ruefully. Replicated Dilithium. Well,
that's why he's the Nagus. Clever, clever, clever.

	Elsewhere/Elsewhen:
 
	Bruticus emerged from the rift above the Spacebridge,
fragmenting as he did into the Combaticons. Brawl, Swindle, and
Onslaught crashed roughly to the ground. Vortex and Swindle took to the
air until they had gained their bearings, then landed and transformed.
	Back at the Decepticon base, Megatron listened intently to
Swindle's story, carefully questioning the many discrepancies and using
a balanced mix of threat and promise to keep the devious robot to the
truth. After many hours, and many scarred spots on the floor, the story
was out. 
	Megatron scowled, beginning to power up his main cannon. This
shot, he mused, would not be a threat. "You gave schematics of our
technology to FLESHLINGS?" 
	"No, of course not, mighty Megatron! Listen...the fleshlings
always want our technology. So, back on Cybertron, I had some fakes
specially developed and encoded. They look like the real thing. They
contain just enough truth to seem real. But they're totally nonsensical!
The best fleshling scientists could spend their lives trying to follow
them and never build more than a fancy toaster...that wouldn't work!" He
laughed again, thinking of what the Nagus would do when he finally was
told that none of the data was useful.... 
	Megatron smiled. "Very good, Swindle. Perhaps I will make a
warrior of you yet. Now...let's see this 'dilithium' you claim to have
received...." 

				-FINI-

(Like this story? Be sure to check out the epilogue!)

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