As they dug their way through, Bumblebee decided to get some answers. “Tell me, Fulcrum,” he asked, “you’re a kamikaze trooper, right? How come you’re so willing to risk your life for bots who would treat you as expendable?”
“How come you’re so willing to risk your life for bots who want to enforce their brand of order at any cost just to save their shells and feel good about themselves, Prisoner Bumblebee?” replied Fulcrum.
“You’ve got a lot to learn about Autobots, pal.”
“And you of Decepticons.” The rocks then tumbled away, startling both mechs for a bit. “…Teamwork, hm. Looks like it can clear away a lot of things.”
“Nice work. …Ah, slag! There’s a fork in the road! All right, left or right?”
“…Left. Prisoners first.” Bumblebee shined his lights down the left tunnel. It looked like the beams had a limited range before they were swallowed up by darkness.
“…Pretty dark down there.”
“Not as dark as the right!” Fulcrum’s voice was almost an octave higher.
“…Fulcrum, are you…experiencing a churning sensation in your fuel pump?”
“Maybe a little light-headed? Caused by the Spark pulsing at a faster rate that drains the Energon needed for the brain. …Oh, and the weak leg frames.”
“Is…Is there…a name…to these symptoms?!”
“It’s called fear.” Bumblebee’s intakes were cycling air a little faster. “I feel it whenever something’s wrong. …It sounds like you do as well.”
“Are you calling me a coward?!”
“No, Fulcrum! I’m calling you a fellow sufferer!” Fulcrum’s terrified face explained his whole mood.
“…Oooo, I’m a disgrace to the Decepticons!”
“Fulcrum, there’s nothing wrong with being afraid. It’s what you do with it that matters.”
“I’ve often thought of admitting to these…disgusting impulses! Now…with no weapons, no comms…nowhere to run to!”
“Grim, isn’t it?” asked Bumblebee. “But, there IS a bright side to all this.”
“We’re the only ones down here.” A noise cut Bumblebee’s statement down. An apt description, considering it sounded like swords being drawn.
“…That…came…from the left!” gulped Fulcrum.
“Yes, it did. …I was rather hoping I had imagined it.”
“Then…then I’LL go first! To the right!”
“Hold on! You DID say ‘Prisoners first’! No need to risk yourself unnecessarily!” It was then that seven sets of purple lights slowly appeared, along with seven wicked grins. Fulcrum then observed something.
“D-do you see it?!” squeaked Fulcrum. “Surrounding the lights?! I-In the darkness?!”
“No. All I see are the lights. I-It’s too dark t-to s-s-see anything else!” Bumblebee’s fear was starting to take over.
“B-But doesn’t it l-look like th-th-the darkness itself…is alive?!”
“You’re s-seeing things, Fulcrum! F-Fear will do th-that!”
“I AM NOT AFRAID!”
“A lie, Fulcrum!” replied seven voices in unison. Fulcrum and Bumblebee then looked down the tunnel. “Seven normals and six specials…” remarked the lights. The shadows then formed many hands.
“See?!” whimpered Fulcrum. “The darkness! It’s…it’s…MOVING! IT’S ALIVE!”
“…all blended to become me!” continued the lights.
“It’s not just darkness!” wailed Bumblebee! “It’s Unicron! HE’S AFTER US! RUN!” Bumblebee and Fulcrum then ran down the right tunnel, screaming in terror, with Unicron’s extensions in hot pursuit, laughing all the while.
Bruticus laughed as he was assaulted with his opponents’ strongest attacks. Soon enough, the Cyber Keys locked their hosts’ powers again, giving Bruticus enough time to toss them to the ground hard! “Is that all you got?” he taunted. “Bruticus is disappointed. You are all supposed to be stronger than me! You are supposed to be examples of teamwork! But look at you now, lying at Bruticus’ feet! Bruticus is teamwork incarnate!”
“Are you sure you’re about to win?” asked Silver as he panted. “You’re burning through a lot of Energon, and I’d hate for you to waste it.”
“…Why mention Energon?” asked Bruticus. It was then that the Maximus started flashing and chanting.
“Timing out. Timing out. Timing out.”
“Timing out?” repeated Bruticus. “…Wait, not the…?!”
“Hypothesis confirmed!” declared Shockwave. “Transformers weren’t meant to be in a gestalt state! The Maximus serves to unite certain Transformers, then undoes the combination process after a certain amount of time so the individual minds are safe! At rest, you stay in a combined state for much longer! In combat, you only have an hour!”
“NOT TRUE!” wailed Bruticus.
“Well, Bruty,” laughed Galvatron, “looks like you’re gonna be crying like a little glitch!”
“SHUT UP!!” Bruticus then took to the air and was surrounded in an aura of white light. “WE’LL SEE HOW YOU STAND UP TO EVERYTHING BRUTICUS HAS GOT!!” He then thrust his arms to his enemies. “TASTE BRUTICUS’ UNITED WRATH!” HE fired every ounce of energy at his opponents and the whole island was engulfed. The light died down, but the dust had yet to settle. Bruticus was panting.
“10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4,” droned the Maximus.
“Hard enough for you?” asked Bruticus.
“3. 2. 1. Time over.” Bruticus then felt a jolt and his limbs fell off before each component returned to their individual robot mode. The Combaticons floated in the air for a few seconds before making their way down.
“Who’s crying now?” asked Onslaught.
“Take friggin’ that!” snarled Brawl.
“I wonder how long it will take for the Maximus to recharge so we can recombine again?” asked Vortex.
“Roughly half-an-hour,” answered Swindle. “I managed to find a sort of operator’s manual inside the Maximus’ code.”
“It would be prudent for all of us to read it,” suggested Blast-off.
“Doing so WOULD allow for more effective strategies in combined form,” mused Onslaught.
“You’ll get the chance once we’re done with you!” snarled Galvatron’s voice. The Combaticons turned in fear to see everyone still standing as the dust finally settled. Onslaught and his brothers couldn’t move, frozen in fear. “Like I told you lot, like a glitch!”
“Sh…shut up! JUST SHUT UP!” shouted Onslaught as tears leaked from his optics in frustration.
“Oh, Sweet Amalgamous Prime! You’re actually crying!”
“I’M NOT CRYING! …I’M NOT!”
“Honestly, now I just feel bad. Usually I would just thrash whoever opposed me, but, with YOU, Combaticons, I’ve gotten rather attached. It’s sort of like putting down Ol’ Yeller.”
“How is THAT a thing?!” asked Rodimus.
“I believe we’reARUGH!” Galvatron clutched his head in pain and fell to the ground.
“What is it?!” asked Shadow. “What’s wrong?!”
“It…It’s Unicron!” gasped Galvatron. “He’s got…got the Specials!”
“Hiding in a cave from Unicron!” grumbled Crankcase. “What’s the universe come to?!”
“It’s about to be turned into ashes if we don’t hurry!” urged Megatron.
“Megatron, we can’t go any further without a breather!” argued Optimus. “Not all of us are built to withstand this amount of Dark Energon!” Sludge moaned in concurrence.
“RUN, YOU LUMBERING IDIOT! RUN!” shouted a new voice.
“Is that…?!” asked Optimus.
“WE CAN’T OUTRUN HIM FOREVER!” called another voice. “WE NEED TO HIDE!”
“I don’t believe it!” muttered Megatron.
“Nor do I!” grunted Flywheels as Bumblebee and Fulcrum rounded a corner. “FULCRUM!” shouted Flywheels.
“Flywheels! Sir!” yelped Fulcrum as he saluted.
“You’re stopping to salute?!” protested Bumblebee. “Who are you more afraid of?!”
“That’s a good question,” rumbled Megatron.
“Oh, it’s you.” Krok then approached Fulcrum.
“Fulcrum, you said ‘hide’ earlier. Hide is not a word used by a TRUE Decepticon.
“With all due respect,” gulped Bumblebee, “we need to table that!” Bumblebee then saw Optimus. “Sir, we have to get out of here! He’s right behind us!”
“Who is?” asked Optimus.
“I am!” laughed multiple voices as one.
“It’s him! It’s Unicron!” explained Bumblebee as the darkness with evil, ginning faces appeared by the group. A new face was added. “The darkness behind! He IS the darkness!”
“What of the coward?” asked Krok.
“Bumblebee’s right,” rumbled Megatron. “The time to consider what does or doesn’t constitute a true Decepticon is not here, not now! Not while the Blendtrons are at our feet!”
“Is that who they are?!” asked Bumblebee.
“According to Misfire, they’re renegade Decepti-drones assimilated into Unicron’s will!”
“A mere trick for the 9th Platoon!” laughed the darkness’ faces as the shadows shrank to reveal Transformers built exactly the same with an Autobot symbol on their chests.
“Auto-troopers?!” yelped Pyra Magna.
“Looks like Insecticons and Basic Auto-troopers,” muttered Optimus. The seven were two jets, a tank, two cars, and two insects. They all stood behind one Krok recognized.
“Spinister! He’s alive! He’s safe!” he cheered.
“Is he?” asked Spinister.
“…Doesn’t he mean something about the birds and the bees?” asked Crankcase.
“Surprised by him not speaking in non-sequitur?” asked Spinister.
“Spinister, what’s going on?” asked Krok.
“Spinister can’t hear you right now!” laughed a voice Optimus and Megatron knew. “Mind if we take a message?” Nemesis Prime and the Terrorcons then stepped out of the shadows. Krok then saw one of the Terrorcons.
“Governor Straxus?” he asked. “Why are you here?”
“He’s here to make sure his plan worked!” answered one of the insect-mechs.
“He, Makeshift, and Deceptitran led me to Spinister!” laughed a jet-mech.
“They cut him into pieces,” cheered Spinister as he drew a sword, “and I easily absorbed his mind and essence into me!”
“What are you talking about, Spinister?!” demanded Krok. “Where did you get that sword?!”
“Don’t you get it?!” wailed Sira. “He’s dead! Just like the guys behind him are dead!”
“They’re right here, not dead!” argued Krok.
“They ARE dead!” insisted Misfire. “I saw them! They…!”
“Silence!” ordered Krok.
“The Auto-troopers are dead! Spinister is dead!” At this point, all the Blendtrons were speaking in unison, Spinister included. “And soon, YOU shall be dead! Do you know me, Followers of Primus?!”
“…Unicron! The Chaos Bringer!” hissed Optimus.
“Good! Now know me as Unicron…YOUR DESTROYER!” The Blendtrons leapt at the team and clashed mightily! Blades against blades. Optimus then shoved his opponent back and addressed the Blendtrons.
“I humbly request your ear, Lord Unicron!” The Terrorcons arched an eyebrow as the Blendtrons looked on.
“…And what would a Prime be so compelled to say to me?” asked the Blendtrons in unison.
“I make this appeal, not for myself, but for this planet which you constitute and the beings who inhabit it. Human and Mobian kind rely on you for life, sustenance! Your resurrection would only result in the destruction of species which evolved from the seeds of your very greatness!”
“So, these Mobians and humans, you consider them MY progeny?”
“Indeed!” The Blendtrons then snarled.
“PARASITES! They, too, shall know my wrathful hand…once I am finished with YOU!” The fight resumed and Spinister fired a beam of purple energy into Optimus’ chest, knocking him to the floor. “The line of Primes has grown weak in my absence! And, thus, you shall FALL!”
“That outcome is inevitable,” gasped Optimus, “but not on this day!” He then fired on Spinister with his gun, not stopping until Spinister grabbed his hand and flung him aside. He then grabbed his sword and sliced Misfire in half. Flywheels tried to run but was instantly surrounded.
“Primus, save my Spark! Primus, save my Spark!! Primus, save my Spark!!! PRIMUS, SAVE MY SPARK!!!!” His prayer was unanswered as he was run through the Spark Chamber with the sword. Spinister then fired streams of purple light into the two dead Cons. He then stopped as the corpses moved, and their wound healed. Their optics were now glowing purple, and their faces had a wicked grin.
“Yes, Disciple of Primus! On this very day!” This time, Flywheels and Misfire joined in the voices. “For Unicron may be one, but we, all, are UNICRON!”