Rattrap’s teammates were stunned at his information. “Have you lost it, Rattrap?” asked Cheetor. “Inferno is who?!”
“Roadblock!” insisted Rattrap. “Inferno is Roadblock!”
“N-No, no!” argued Airazor. “Roadblock’s an Autobot warrior! Inferno here is a…well, she’s not all there like Roadblock was!” Inferno then groaned as she got up and shook her head. She then transformed to beast mode. The Maximals did the same. “Roadblock?” asked Airazor. Inferno flashed her mandibles.
“Take it easy, Roadblock!” called Cheetor. “We’re here to help!”
“I don’t require help anymore!” snarled Inferno. “Not now that my dormant memories are back to the forefront!”
“It really IS you, Roadblock!” gasped Airazor. “But how-?”
“Ever since Tarantulas made me into what I am now, I was buried inside my new identity of Inferno! I couldn’t reach the surface, couldn’t communicate! But the whole time, I was watching, LEARNING!”
“We’ve recovered you! It’s great to have you back, Roadblock! With you on our side, we can beat the Preds!”
“Beat them?! Why should we go against the ones who know how corrupt the Dynasty of Primes is?!” That shook the Maximals.
“I AM INFERNO, NOW! Clean your optics, Airazor! The destruction of the Matrix is the only hope the Transformers have of achieving dominance!”
“IMPOSTER!” called Cheetor. “The Roadblock I knew would NEVER side with the Decepticons!”
“Spots, I hate to burst your bubble,” gulped Rattrap, “but she DID!”
“Then we need to bring her back to our side…by ANY means necessary!”
“Whoa, hold on a minute!” called Sonic.
“Cheetor’s right!” called Airazor. “We need Roadblock more than we need Inferno! Her Spark must have been corrupted! Rattrap, do whatever you need to do!”
“Oh, when the stars align!” chuckled Rattrap.
“Rattrap! Belay that order!” interjected Kong’s voice. He, Tigatron, and Rhinox joined them. “Maximals, stand down!”
“But, Kong!” protested Cheetor. “She-”
“We saw it all from the Oracle,” interrupted Kong. “Roadblock…Inferno…made a conscious choice.”
“I was afraid of that,” sighed Sonic.
“Well, she made the wrong choice!” urged Rattrap. “We need to get her head reset and-”
“If we tamper with her mind after she made a conscious choice,” argued Sonic, “we’re no better than her current bosses!”
“Besides, the Call came out,” reminded Kong. “This business IS concluded. Let her go.” Rattrap, Airazor, and Cheetor grimaced before parting to give Inferno room to pass. As she left, Inferno called back.
“Goodbye, Maximals. You recovered my memories for me, so I will spare you for now. When we meet again, after Hydran has made his address, you will have to kill me in order to survive.” She then disappeared in the trees.
“…I can’t believe YOU, of all people-!” Airazor snarled at Sonic.
“Look, both sides want this planet to run in harmony,” replied Sonic, “but harmony without free will is just oppression. We can only hope Inferno will remember that in time.”
“Maximals, Optimus also saw the whole thing,” explained Kong. “He’s going to have the Autobots keep the Decepticons off our backs as Hydran addresses us. Let’s go.” Kong knuckled his way to the front and Rhinox brought up the rear. Sonic headed back to Maximal City to pick up Knuckles.
“Roadblock?!” cried Prowl once he got the news. “She’s Inferno?! How?!”
“Someone with a knowledge of genetics, from what I could glean,” replied Optimus. “Either Shockwave or someone using her work. In any case, we have Maximal City’s A.I., Sentinel, back up and running. He’s sent auto-repair drones to fix the comms towers and has managed to pinpoint the location of all the Maximals. Even when they’re beasts, they still heard the Call.”
“Well, so did the Dyno-bots. They’ve headed off to the Pangea.”
“They helped Kong Primal’s team regain their old minds, they can help them restore the rest of the Maximals.”
“If you’re sure…”
“Well, all right. I guess the best thing we can do is to keep them in our prayers at the moment.”
Every form of metal beast arrived at an ancient starship, the Pangea, the colony ship that brought the original Cybertronian colonists to Animatros. As the Animatronians clamored, whether they were affected Maximals or Predacons still capable of transforming, a robot, wingless dragon stepped to the ship’s old entrance ramp. He roared for silence. “As I have repeated during each of these gatherings, as my ancestors have done before me, so I say now, I am Hydran, the Flame Convoy of Animatros! Why has communication between the Maximals and Predacons ceased?! Who was fool enough to take the Cyber Planet Key?!”
“Lord Hydran!” called Kong, “we accuse the Predacons and have proof of what happened!”
“…Not many Maximals claim to have proof,” remarked Hydran. “Who among you carries it?”
“That would be Nightscream, Lord Hydran.”
“Nightscream, step forward.”
“Nightscream, MAXIMIZE!” Nightscream’s beast feet and wings split away as the chest folded down and split into legs while feet folded down. As the feet’s rear toes folded to the sides to make thumbs, the beast head folded to the chest as the bot head popped up to take its place. His helmet made him look like he had hair all swept to the left of his face. Nightscream inserted a memory drive into a console. “The proof is here!” It then showed footage of Saurion’s attack with him brandishing the Cyber Planet Key.
“So it was YOU, Saurion!” roared Hydran.
“You DO value survival of the fittest, do you not?” asked Saurion. “Why else would I take it?! I had the strength to do so!”
“Stealing an artefact is NOT survival of the fittest!” roared Hydran. He then rolled his optics at the continued noise. “WHY DO THE MAXIMALS NOT STOP?!”
“Lord Hydran, I am Grimlock!” called the Dyno-bot leader. “We have a means of getting them to stop!”
“…Then do so, Outsider.”
“Actually, I think I’ll leave that to Kong Primal.” Kong nodded and began.
“Access Maximal Core Consciousness! Passcode: Kong Primal!”
“Passcode: accepted,” called all the computers of the Maximals. The afflicted Maximals roared.
“QUIET!” shouted Kong. The noise…stopped. “…Much better. Now, let me tell you how to help yourselves. You must first delete the programming block. Our ancestors may have needed it once, but that’s now a thing of the past.”
“So, what are we?” asked Hydran. “Robots or animals?”
“Both. We’re a blend of beast and bot. We are still the same when we’re animals. Deleting the programming block is just the first step. The key is finding the balance within yourself. Then, and only then, can you easily go from beast to robot and back again.” The Maximals growled…then found the programming block.
“Programming block: deleted,” came the voices of multiple computers. The Maximals then felt something calm them, then a new rhino spoke.
“You know, that sounds like something Tigatron would say,” he chuckled.
“That line of thinking was expanded upon,” replied Tigatron, “when my former students, the Dyno-bots, retaught that lesson to me.” By now, all the Maximals were talking as normal.
“A splendid show, Mr…I’m sorry, I didn’t ask for your name,” recalled Hydran as he gestured to Kong.
“I’m Kong Primal, head of Maximal City Security.”
“And now, you are Kong Primal, my chosen successor.”
“Well, it was no WHAT?!” The assembled Maximals and Predacons all repeated Kong’s question.
“That was the initial reason why I called you all here,” explained Hydran. “I was going to pick my successor. Kong, I say this only to state a fact, you are NOT physically stronger than me, but you are a perfect blend of brain and brawn. When I step down, YOU shall be the new Flame Convoy. Until then, I intend to get used to my new activation code. Hydran, MAXIMIZE!” His beast head, like many Animatronians, folded down to join the chest, the front legs became arms with hands of clawed fingers, and the beast mode’s rear legs served to hold the robot upright as the head popped up.
“…Lord Hydran, I’m both floored and honored,” replied Kong as he transformed to bot mode.
“The honor is all mine, my future leader,” assured Hydran.
“I think not, Hydran, no!” growled Saurion. He went to bot mode and fired a strange energy beam at Hydran. It enveloped him in a green aura and made him weak. “Predacons, we WILL have our day, one way or another! Return to the city!” The Predacons escaped as the Maximals transformed to bot mode and fired.
“HOLD YOUR FIRE!” called Kong. The Maximals turned to him. “We have bigger problems! Help me get Hydran to Fortress Maximus! I’ll explain more on the way!”