To say Galvatron wasn’t too happy with the Stunticons’ failure to take the Mars base was an understatement.
“Incompetent fools!” he shrieked, bringing his fist down on the arm of his throne with enough force to dent the metal. “How could you lose to pathetic Autobots?”
Glory winced, trying to resist the urge to step back from the throne. The Decepticon commander was a bundle of contradictions – while he enjoyed inflicting terror on his subordinates, he was also quick to punish those that dared to show their terror in any way. Recoiling from one of his fits of rage or even trying to evade a blow were, in his addled CPU, expressions of fear, and would only set him off into a further rage. Best to weather this explosion and hope he wasn’t upset enough to start shooting.
“There were too many of them, sir,” Motormaster explained, not even bothering to hide his disgusted scowl. “They outnumbered and outgunned us.”
“I don’t want excuses!” Galvatron howled, half-rising from his throne. “I want the Autobots wiped out! And you sorry excuses for Decepticons couldn’t even manage to destroy a single base – a base built by humans no less!”
“Built by humans, protected and fortified by Autobots,” Dead End muttered.
“You dare backtalk me?” Galvatron thundered, and he raised his cannon-arm and fired at the maroon Stunticon’s feet. Dead End tensed visibly, as if it had taken all his strength not to leap back from the blast.
“If it pleases you, Lord Galvatron, I will take the Sweeps and show these fools how the job should be done,” Cyclonus offered from his position at Galvatron’s side. “The planet will be yours within a single planetary cycle.”
Galvatron opened his mouth as if to answer, but jerked as sparks snapped around his helm. His optics flashed, and his entire face contorted in pain as he waited for the spasm to pass.
“Lord Galvatron?” Cyclonus ventured.
“I’m fine!” Galvatron snapped. “And no, Cyclonus. You are needed here. I’ll send another team – one not as hopelessly incompetent as these six!” He glared at the Stunticons and Seeker a moment longer, then gestured toward the door. “What are you still standing here for? Get out!”
He didn’t need to tell them twice. Glory almost ran for the door, the Stunticons close behind.
“Well, we got off lightly,” Dragstrip noted the moment they were clear of the throne room, trying to sound chipper. “No one got shot or smacked around. He was almost cheerful for being, well, Galvatron.”
“He’s gonna kill someone one of these days,” Breakdown fretted. “He almost killed Dead End in there just now; what’s to keep him from finishing the job someday?”
“Last time I checked, nobody ever died from having their feet shot,” Wildrider pointed out.
“Breakdown’s right,” Glory retorted. “Someday Galvatron’s going to kill somebody. Just because he didn’t today doesn’t mean he won’t down the road. And I don’t know who’s going to stop him. Cyclonus sure isn’t.”
Motormaster snorted. “Cyc would probably be there cheering him on, knowin’ the creep. Traitor to his kind is what he is.”
“So whadda we do now?” asked Wildrider. “Go back to Mars and try again?”
“No, idiot,” Motormaster snapped. “We lay low until Galvatron forgets about this. He’s got a temper, but his memory’s shot along with his sanity. He’ll be on about somethin’ else in about a week and we can stop worryin’ about it.”
“And then what?” Glory asked, giving him an expectant look.
“Do what we’ve always done,” he replied. “Whatever it takes to survive.”
Glory couldn’t suppress a sigh. That hadn’t been the answer she wanted to hear.
“What’s your problem, kid?” Motormaster demanded, scowling.
Glory looked around, being sure they were far enough from the throne room that they could talk safely, then spoke in a low voice. “I was hoping you had plans for the future besides just surviving.”
The Stunticon commander raised an optic ridge. “What are you getting’ at, kid? What do you mean by ‘plans for the future?’”
“The future of the Decepticons,” she replied. “Not just surviving, but taking back what’s ours. Galvatron’s dangerous – not just to our safety, but the safety of our cause and our kind. Cyclonus isn’t any better either. We need to stop just bending to his will and hoping he doesn’t go psychotic enough to kill us… and start thinking about what’s best for the Decepticons as a whole.”
Breakdown squeaked in fear as he realized what she was getting at. Motormaster’s optics flared as he came to the same conclusion, and he grabbed Glory by the arm and pulled her out the nearest exit and away from the base. The other Stunticons made to follow, but a quick gesture from the Kenworth stopped them.
Once they were a good distance from the base proper, Motormaster stopped and turned the young Seeker to face him. “You’re talkin’ about overthrowing Galvatron, kid.”
“Huh.” His faceplates remained frozen in a scowl, but a hint of amusement crept into his voice. “You sure you’re Thundercracker’s niece? Seems you got a hint of Starscream’s programming in ya. Or is this his ghost talkin’ through your vocalizer?”
“Very funny,” she retorted. “I’m serious, Motormaster. Someone needs to take them down.”
“And you’re expectin’ it to be me?”
“You’re a good leader,” she insisted. “You’re strong, you’ve led the Stunticons for years, and you can command respect from mechs. You’d make a far better commander than Galvatron, and if we could just-“
“I may be crazy, kid, but I ain’t suicidal,” Motormaster snapped, cutting her off. “And I don’t care how strong ya think I am, I’m no match for Galvatron. He’d wipe the floor with me.”
“We don’t need to get rid of him directly,” she insisted. “But if we could get rid of Cyclonus… then it’d only be a matter of time before Galvatron self-destructs.”
Motormaster arched an optic ridge. “You’ve thought about this awhile, haven’t you?”
She nodded. She wouldn’t admit to him that it had been something she’d been considering on and off almost since her upgrade, or that she’d been keeping a careful eye on both Cyclonus and Galvatron ever since that day in the brig, watching both of them for possible weaknesses. She still wasn’t sure what sort of weak spot could be used to bring Cyclonus down, but she knew two things for sure. One, that Cyclonus was Galvatron’s biggest weak spot, and that taking him down would ensure Galvatron’s destruction. And two, she was not strong enough to take the Air Commander down… but there were mechs among the Decepticons who were, Motormaster included.
“Think about it,” she urged. “If you overthrew those two and became the leader, not only would the Decepticons be better off, but they’d see you as a hero. You’d not only be commander of the Decepticons, you’d be respected and even loved by them – the hero who led us out of our darkest hour and helped us regain Cybertron.”
Those words were carefully aimed at Motormaster’s ego, and he seemed to sense that. But he didn’t call her out on it, only pondered her statement with a thoughtful expression.
“What’s in it for you?” he said at last. “You want somethin’ out of this.”
“Yes, I do,” she admitted. “I want us to go back to Cybertron, and I want the Decepticons to finally have some happiness.”
“Is that it?” he asked. “You’re not doin’ this ‘cause you want a position for yourself or somethin’?”
She shook her head. “I’m not a leader. I just want things to be better for us.”
Motormaster narrowed his optics in suspicion. “I dunno… something seems off about all this. Never met a mech who’d make this kinda proposition without expectin’ to get somethin’ out of it for themselves.”
Glory blasted air out her vents in exasperation. “You’ve known me since I was a sparkling, Motormaster! Why do you suddenly not trust me?”
“Because blindly trusting a mech got us here in the first place is what,” he retorted. “Look kid, I dunno why you’re proposin’ this, but find another mech to be your scapegoat, okay? I know my team ain’t the brightest mechs in the universe, but we ain’t about to become someone’s pawns again. Especially since if this little coup you’ve cooked up fails, it’s all our necks on the line.”
Her spark dimmed in disappointment. She had so hoped that Motormaster would see reason and help her with her cause. Of all the mechs she had considered as possible allies, he had been the one she was closest to and trusted the most. His rejection hurt, and while she hadn’t exhausted all her possibilities yet, not having the Stunticon leader in her corner was a serious blow to her confidence.
“Can you promise me one thing, at least?” she asked.
Motormaster shrugged. “Depends on the promise.”
“Don’t tell anyone about this? Please? Just pretend this whole conversation never happened?”
Motormaster smirked slightly. “What conversation?”
Despite her frustration, she had to smile at that. “Thanks.”
“Get outta here,” he ordered, punching her shoulder lightly – though lightly in his case still meant she staggered back a step. “See ya for a sparrin’ match later?”
“Only if you’re eager to get your aft kicked,” she replied with a grin. “Take care of yourself.”
Whatever information Blast Off had to share, Swindle thought, it must be important. The shuttle-former Combaticon had transformed to robot mode almost before he’d completely touched down, going from flying to running within a few astroseconds. He bolted across the rocky plain and for his gathered teammates with an enthusiasm Swindle had never seen before, visor bright with excitement.
“Someone’s in a good mood,” Vortex noted.
“Makes one of us at least,” Brawl grumbled. “Maybe the Autobots’re finally making good on their promise to give us a planet.”
“Somehow I doubt that,” Onslaught muttered, arms folded as he watched Blast Off approach. “More likely he’s discovered an energon cache somewhere. Which we desperately need – with Galvatron violating the truce it’s only a matter of time before the Autobots use the Mars attack as an excuse to descend on us and wipe us out.”
“Does everyone have Dead End syndrome all of a sudden?” demanded Vortex. “Can’t this be something good for once?”
“When good things haven’t come to us for a while, do you blame us for being paranoid?” asked Swindle.
Before Vortex could cook up a reply, Blast Off skidded to a halt before Onslaught. He doubled over, body heaving as his fans worked overtime to cool his overheated body.
“Blast Off…” began Onslaught, but the shuttle-former began speaking almost immediately.
“Shockwave’s alive!” he blurted. “Picked up a transmission from him while scouting in the Beta Geode sector! He must have a base there!”
“Shouldn’t you be reporting this to Cyclonus?” asked Onslaught. “He is one of our chief officers and will want to know this.” His voice was bland, but Swindle caught the faint prodding in his voice.
Blast Off straightened and looked Onslaught in the visor. “He may be, but you’re leader of the Combaticons. I answer to you before I answer to him.” He said that last word with a bit of a sneer.
Onslaught nodded, pleased with the answer. “Continue. Did you reply to the transmission?”
“Affirmative. I informed him of the current condition of the Decepticons here on Chaar. To say he wasn’t happy with it was an understatement.”
“Can ya blame him?” asked Swindle with a grimace.
“Did he inform you of the state of the Decepticons on Beta Geode?” asked Onslaught.
“That… is the interesting part,” Blast Off replied. “Technically, Shockwave and the mechs under his command are no longer Decepticons.”
Onslaught’s visor flashed, whether in anger or in simple confusion Swindle wasn’t sure. “Oh? Explain further.”
“Beta Geode is a planet of neutrals, led by an exiled Decepticon general,” Blast Off explained. “And while they have no desire to fight under normal circumstances, they still rather outnumbered Shockwave and his troops when they reached the planet. Shockwave claims he saw it prudent to temporarily renounce their Decepticon status in order to gain sanctuary on the planet. The neutrals accepted him among their numbers, and he continues to build his forces in secret, biding his time to return to Cybertron and help overthrow the Autobots.”
Onslaught nodded slowly. “Clever. Quite clever.”
“Huh,” was all Swindle could say. He’d known of Beta Geode and its status as a neutral world – slag, just a few years ago Thundercracker had nearly sent Glory there to keep her from getting upgraded prematurely. He hadn’t thought Shockwave would take cover there, but it made sense when he thought about it. Shockwave had his flaws, but at least stupidity wasn’t one of them. Unlike certain other mechs he could mention.
“Does Shockwave have any intention of joining us on Chaar?” asked Onslaught.
Blast Off snorted. “Hardly. He claims moving his base from an energy-rich world such as Beta Geode to a dead world like Chaar would be ‘most illogical, not to mention highly suicidal.’ He has invited us to join him there, however, as it would be an improvement over our current situation even if we have to become neutrals to do it. I told him I would have to discuss it with our commander first.”
“And have you informed Cyclonus or Galvatron of this?”
“I informed my commander,” Blast Off replied. “What you do with the information is up to you.”
The other three Combaticons turned to face Onslaught, who had cupped his chin in his hand and was staring off into space. He seemed thoughtful, processing the information Blast Off had provided and making his own plans with it. That made Swindle relax a touch – anything that pleased Onslaught was fine by him. If only Galvatron and Cyclonus were so easy to satisfy…
“Good work, Blast Off,” he said at last. “I trust you have coordinates for this world?”
“Of course,” Blast Off replied, sounding just a bit offended. “I’m not so careless as to not note the location of a potentially valuable planet.”
“Good.” He lowered his hand and motioned for the Combaticons to follow him back to their canyon. “We carry on as before… but at least we have a safe sanctuary should the situation with Galvatron and Cyclonus become completely untenable.”
“Un-tena-what?” Brawl repeated.
“Unbearable,” Onslaught clarified.
“Ain’t it unbearable already?” demanded Vortex.
“We will depart Chaar only if it seems our demise under Galvatron is imminent,” Onslaught informed them. “Let it not be said that we abandoned the cause out of pure cowardice. If and when Galvatron and Cyclonus become completely unfit for command, however, we will depart for Beta Geode… and answer to the command of a competent leader.”
Swindle frowned. “By that time we could all be dead, though. Why not go now and save ourselves some pain?”
“Are you questioning my orders?” Onslaught demanded, leveling a cool look upon the jeepformer.
“No sir,” he replied quickly. “Just stating an opinion.”
Onslaught snorted. “If you truly think the situation here is beyond your ability to cope, by all means, you are free to abandon your post and go. But if you leave without your teammates, then know that you will be abandoning your place among us… and the likelihood of you earning said place back will be rather slim.” And with that vague threat, he strode off.
Swindle groaned. Sometimes he thought their leader was too cautious for their own good. Sure, he’d managed to keep the Combaticons alive and together during the past few years, and it was largely thanks to his efforts that they were able to avoid attracting much of Galvatron’s attention. But here they were practically being handed an opportunity to get out from under their psychotic commander’s thumb, and Onslaught was instead opting to stay on Chaar. He could see wanting to make the best of a bad situation, but not taking a clear shot at freedom just seemed pure stubbornness, if not stupidity.
He caught movement out of the corner of his optic, and he turned to see Glory standing nearby. He frowned, wondering how much of the conversation she’d overheard.
“Hey kid, what’s up?” he asked, waving her closer. “How’d the mission go?”
“Terrible,” she replied, kicking a rock as she approached him. “They had the Dinobots and the Aerialbots at the Mars base. We just barely got away intact.”
He gave a low whistle at that. “Yikes… you okay? Dinobots didn’t take a chunk out of you, did they?”
“The other way around, actually,” she said with just a hint of a smile, though it faded quickly. “Galvatron wasn’t too happy, though. He nearly shot Dead End’s feet off.”
“Yeah, that’s par for the course for our beloved leader, I guess.” He sighed and motioned for her to follow him. “That can’t be the only reason you look so low, though. You look like you had a fight with your best friend.”
“You’re not that far off,” she replied, but didn’t seem to want to elaborate. Swindle thought about pushing the issue, but decided against it. She would talk when she was ready, he figured.
They had almost made it to the canyon before Glory spoke again. “The name Beta Geode sounds familiar… where is it?”
Swindle wasn’t sure why that question set off a twinge of alarm through his systems, but it did. He tried to shove it away and answer casually. “Just a neutral colony off in some of the fringe systems. Some former Decepticons there, but it’s not really strategically important.”
“Oh.” She frowned, as if trying to place the name. “Isn’t that where Thundercracker tried to take me when I was a sparkling?”
“Um… yeah, I think so. When he thought you were being upgraded too early. You didn’t make it there, needless to say.” He forced a laugh at that. “Why the curiosity all of a sudden?”
“I just caught the end of your discussion with Onslaught,” she replied. “You were talking about going there… why? You guys aren’t defecting, are you?”
Swindle sighed. There was going to be no dancing around the subject, was there? “It was just an option we were discussing, kid. And Onslaught’s against it anyhow. Apparently he’d rather stay here and make the best of things than go neutral. We’re only leaving if things get so bad our lives are in danger.”
“And they aren’t already?” Glory muttered, making Swindle blink at the cynicism in her tone. “Why does Onslaught want to stay if things are so bad here?”
“I dunno, kid. Maybe it’s pride – he doesn’t want to be a coward. Or maybe he just thinks it’s better to die a Decepticon than survive as a neutral. It’s not like neutrals have the best reputation among Cybertronians, after all.” He shrugged. “I don’t know the answer, I’m not in his CPU.”
Glory looked thoughtful for a moment. “Do you think he could be staying because he thinks he can take Galvatron’s place? Because he’s planning his own takeover?”
Swindle halted in his tracks, just staring at Glory. What had brought THAT on? As far as he knew, Glory had shown no interest in how the leadership of the Decepticons changed hands before now. For her to suddenly bring it up like this was rather startling.
“Not so far as I know,” Swindle said cautiously. “Why do you ask?”
“Is there any possibility of it?” she pressed. “Have you seen any sign that he-“
“Whoa, kid, slow down. Why so interested all of a sudden? If anyone takes over in Galvatron’s place, it’ll be Cyclonus, right?”
Glory narrowed her optics. “I’m not stupid, Swindle. And I’m not a little sparkling anymore. I know that when a Decepticon commander is replaced, it’s usually because someone under his command got tired of him and thought he could make a better leader. And I know Galvatron’s incompetent – I’ve watched him long enough to figure that out for myself, even if you’ve been trying to hide it from me. Someone’s got to overthrow him, and soon, or the Decepticons are doomed.”
Swindle felt his optics blaze brighter in shock with every word she spoke. He never thought the day would come when Glory, the wide-opticked young sparkling he had played teacher and caretaker to, would be speaking words that were tantamount to treason. Reluctantly he admitted that she was right about a few things, though – Galvatron WAS incompetent, and he HAD been doing his best to shield her from the worst of what was going on with the Decepticons. Maybe that had been a mistake, but he had wanted to try to preserve her innocence for as long as possible, even if she had been upgraded.
But now he had to acknowledge that Glory had grown up. Whether because time simply passed more quickly than he wanted, or she had been forced to mature faster due to the rough circumstances the Decepticons had faced these past few years, who could say? Probably a combination of both, really…
“Onslaught won’t attempt a revolution,” he said flatly. “He’s more for laying low and trying to save our necks.”
Glory sighed. “You can’t convince him otherwise?”
“I’ve already tried convincing him the best way to save our necks is to get the slag off of Chaar, but he blew me off,” Swindle retorted. “He’s stubborn. As far as he’s concerned, his way’s not only the right way, but the only way.”
“Like someone else we know,” Glory said darkly. Then she shook her head, looking guilty. “I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have said that. Onslaught’s nothing like Galvatron.”
“I know you didn’t mean to insult him,” Swindle assured her. “And seems like every Decepticon has stubbornness issues. Galvatron’s just worse about it than most mechs.” He cocked his head. “You seem awfully eager to find mechs willing to stage a coup, though.”
“I just want Galvatron off the throne,” she insisted. “And no, I don’t want the job for myself, and I’m not doing this for my own gain. I just know the Decepticons will be better off without him. I thought Motormaster or Onslaught would be willing, but…” She spread her hands helplessly.
Now Swindle could guess what she had been up to before coming here, and he hoped this wouldn’t affect her relationship with the Stunticons. They had regarded her as a little sister before, and it would be rather tragic if they were to give that up now. “If you’re so eager to oust him, why don’t you try it yourself?” he ventured.
She gave him a look as if he’d suddenly gone crazy. “I’m not strong enough, Swindle, and you know that! And I don’t have nearly as much experience as the rest of you. If I went up against Galvatron, he’d kill me. I thought if I could find an ally, someone who’s stronger and smarter and knows what they’re doing, I could stand a chance.”
“Hey kid, you’re stronger and smarter than you think you are,” he insisted.
“Not strong or smart enough,” she countered. “At least I’m smart enough to know I can’t do this alone. I need help.”
He had to concede that point. “Who’ve you tried so far besides Motormaster?”
“He was my first choice,” she admitted. “Onslaught was next, but after what you said I don’t know if I dare approach him. I thought about approaching Soundwave, or Hook, or Astrotrain…”
“Don’t go to Astrotrain,” Swindle advised. “He might be willing, but he’s an idiot. His idea of a revolution would probably be to sic a sentient train on him.”
Despite her somber mood, Glory laughed softly at that. “That might be entertaining, at least. What about Hook or Soundwave?”
“Hmm… if I were you, I’d go with Hook. He might be a little stuck-up, but he does lead the Constructicons, which means you have smarts as well as Devastator on your side. I’d only go to Soundwave if Hook says no. No offense to the guy, but he’s been way too quiet lately for my peace of mind.”
“He’s always like that.”
“More so than usual, actually. At least when he was Megatron’s lackey we had some idea of what was going on in his CPU. Now he’s just been hiding in the shadows way too much. Dunno if he’s loyal to Galvatron or plotting against him, or if he has other plans entirely.” A thought occurred to him. “Do the cassettes talk to you much anymore? Maybe they have a little insight on what’s up with him.”
“They do, but they don’t talk much about Soundwave. And he pretty much just ignores me. I guess he figures I’m just handy for keeping Rumble and Frenzy out from underfoot.”
“Should have guessed as much. But don’t dismiss him out of hand yet. If negotiations with Hook fall through, at least being friendly with the cassettes gives you something of an ‘in’ with Soundwave. We can hope, anyhow.”
She smiled unexpectedly. “Thank you. I owe you for this.”
“You owe me nothin’, kid,” he assured her. “Least I can do for TC’s kid.”
Her smile didn’t fade, but her optics dimmed slightly at the mention of her uncle. “Do you think… he’d be proud of me?” she asked quietly. “Of what I’ve become?”
That, he wasn’t so sure he could answer to her satisfaction. He wasn’t so sure Thundercracker would have liked his niece plotting a revolt or discussing the assassination of their commander. Still, the blue Seeker hadn’t been stupid, and even if he wouldn’t have liked Glory’s current actions, surely he wouldn’t disagree with them. Maybe he would even have been helping her, advising her and being the source of wisdom and strength she needed to carry out her goals. Who knew?
“I think he’d support you,” he decided on. “He loved you like his own creation. He would have done anything for you.”
“Thank you,” she murmured. “That means a lot to me.”
“Not a problem, kid. Let’s head on back. We can talk to Hook in the morning, when you’re better rested.”
“All right.” She set off for the canyon, and he trailed behind.
Only when the Seeker and Combaticon had departed did the silent watcher emerge from behind a cluster of boulders. Buzzsaw shook himself, shedding a layer of dust, then spread his wings and took off, ready to deliver this latest news to his creator.