Part 4 Even a corpse can still have life, if you're a transformer. At least, a special kind of transformer. Spot was one of these. Latent engrams of the multi-mind Defensor were still stored in the backup circuits in his chest. Usually called upon when the Protectabots combined, these circuits stored and processed the disparate memories and personalities of the gestault robot, allowing him to function as a synergized being. The seperation of this being into his individual components did not completely erase their presence; there was always an 'echo' of sorts that remained. It was theorized that this echo was what allowed group-mind transformer units to be in-tune with other minds, to empathize, to 'feel' things (such as the death of a massive number of their fellow beings, for example, or the ability to communicate with the Swarm). Thought of as a type of latent-telepathic ability, it was not often discussed, and never understood. With a war raging, precious little research was done into the subject. It remained...a mystery. There was no mystery about why the headless body of Spot was beginning to stir, and stagger to its feet. With the dominant brain-center gone, control was reverting to the back-up circuits. The unit was hardly 'sentient' in the traditional sense; without the actual merger taking place, this was merely a collection of processes and memories that continued to provide function to the unit. Thoughts whirled around this echoed-mass-mind that called itself Defensor; thoughts about how a great injustice had been done, and that while even a spark of being remained, it was its duty to try to stop the enemy, with whatever resources were available. If Spot had still been alive, he would have been proud of Defensor for taking up the fight.... The body shakily got up. Most of the sensors were destroyed with Spot's head when it was blown off; therefore Defensor could not see where it was. It transformed, reverting to a firetruck, and activating what sensors remained in that mode. It began to scan and track for signs of Cybertonian life in the area. It found five transformer lifesigns several miles south from its position. Not able to process the reasons why it would find more than one, it simply fired up its engines, and headed toward them, hoping that with its remaining power, it would be able to finish the job that Spot started... ++++++++ Flatfoot was the first to spot Campaign Car. "There he is, boys! Let's hit him fast, and hit him hard. Autobots, attack!" Flatfoot transformed; pulling his pistol out of cyberspace, and took aim. Washout remained in vehicle-mode; stopped, and targeted Campaign car with his main cannon. Overdrive remained moving, merely flipping out a pair of blasters from the front of his vehicle-mode, and wings out from the sides. He sped up, and began to take to the air, the pointman for this maneuver. Campaign car was calmer, now. The unthinking rage was gone, replaced by a deep, deep desire for revenge. "I'll rip out his optics for doing this to me," he said to himself. It was all Electrum Beast's fault, Campaign car reasoned. Bringing him on-line in the first place. Training him, equipping him, yet not trusting him with the secrets of *why* they were operating under such clandestine circumstances. It was no wonder that when the Decepticon Crackup came along, with his promises of power, and above all, truth, that Campaign car broke with the Autobot ranks, and took him up on his offer of further training and enlightenment. They called Crackup a manipulator, a swindler, but Campaign car knew better. He could trust his new mentor...unlike his old one. His new master manipulated for the greater good, while Electrum Beast manipulated behind the scenes for no apparent reason at all. "You've come a long way, my boy," Crackup had said to him, and he was right. Campaign car *had* come a long way. Obviously, Electrum Beast was hiding something at the base in Milwaukee. Something that would break the Pax Cybertonia, and undoubtedly destroy many innocent Decepticons along the way. Crackup told him that only he, Campaign car, could infiltrate the base and stop Electrum Beast...that the old Master was actually *afraid* of him -else why would he set up the electrum-cheddar subterfuge?- and thus, he was the best candidate for the mission. Crackup was always right about everything, and it looked like he would be right about this, too. Why else would Electrum Beast have sent two agents to try to stop him? Obviously because of his secret at the base. It made perfect sense...after all, its not like he would be trying to protect those worthless humans, or anything. Tools, merely tools. Anything that interfered, that did not serve the Cybertonian Cause, would quietly, and without malice, be eliminated. Surely these human organics fit the bill. They were obviously nothing more than slaves for Electrum Beast. When their usefulness ended, he would dispose of them. So what was he *really* protecting at his base? These were the thoughts that went thru Campaign car's head as he spotted the first of the defenders flying toward him, blasters firing. He skidded, and transformed back into robot mode, trying to take aim. With his optics damaged, he wasn't able to get a precise fix. He fired and missed, as Overdrive dove toward him in a strafing run, puncturing several small holes in his armor. Campaign car winced; the fact that the shots had actually managed to penetrate him meant that these fighters must have come directly from Cybertron; weapons powered-up with high-grade energon, and not running on lower-yield earth energies. "So," Campaign car thought to himself, "the Master has gotten ahold of reinforcements. No matter. My weapons are charged with cybertonian-grade energon, too." He took aim again, and fired; this time, he managed to clip one of Overdrive's wings. Smoke began to pour from the wing as Overdrive veered off, heading back the direction he came. Campaign car grumbled; he was aiming for the center of his underside. "Targeting systems still a little off. Compensating." Having made his adjustments, Campaign car took off at a trot in the direction that Overdrive was flying. ++++++++ Flatfoot and Washout had taken up positions alongside the highway when Overdrive came flying back toward them, billowing smoke. He retracted his wings, and transformed, coming to rest on the road in a three-point stance, brushing off some remnant charring from his body armor. "He's juiced with homebrew, just like us," Overdrive told his companions. "Get ready." Overdrive kept his front-blasters extended, and drew an additional two blasters from his storage compartment. He stationed himself in the center of the road, with Washout and Flatfoot flanking him. They didn't have to wait long. Campaign car came over the hill shortly, gun drawn. And revenge on his mind. ++++++++ "About 50 klicks to base," reported Ticker, as the shuttle continued to Milwaukee Base. Scoot didn't acknowledge her; he was too-wrapped up in the dataset that Electrum Beast had sent him. Sure, there were the various standard info tracks included, such as target, weapons type, expected level of resistance...but it was the other information that interested him more. The presumed reasoning *why* the attack was occuring. There was really nothing at the base that was of strategic significance; it was merely a personal grudge. He pondered that, and wondered what the missing piece to the information was, when Ticker interrupted his train of thought. Ticker: "So why would Campaign car do it?" she asked. Scoot: "I don't know. Anger can be a powerful motivator. I guess he feels Electrum Beast did something to him, something so horrible that the only way it can be paid back is with his spark." Ticker: "An odd motivation for an Autobot, wouldn't you say?" Scoot: "What do you mean?" Ticker: "Well, we've all been thru the same things. We all have our personal grudges. But we're still Autobots; we find other ways to deal with the situation. Pax Cybertonai nonwithstanding, why isn't his agression turned toward our sworn enemy instead...why a fellow Autobot?" Scoot: "I've been pondering the same thing, Ticker. I suppose we won't know until we get to base. Perhaps then, Electrum Beast can fill us in on whatever he's not telling us." Ticker: "It's a shame about Campaign car. I'd like to avoid bloodshed. wonder if he can still be reasoned with?" +++++++++ Judging from the carnage around him, the answer to Ticker's question would probably be a resounding *no*. The overpass took the brunt of Campaign car's first blast, concrete shattering into a thousand pieces, pelting the Autobot defenders. The second blast hit Overdrive squarely, knocking him to the ground. He responded by transforming into vehicle mode, and charging Campaign car's position, firing his blasters all the way. Campaign car dodged, and prepared to kick Overdrive back down the hill, when he transformed again, leaping into the air, and firing both handblasters directly at Campaign car's leg, where his armor seemed to be the most vulnerable. He grunted; once again, Overdrive's shots had scored, causing internal damage. He could feel his leg becoming sluggish as hydraulics strained to reknit themselves and get him moving again. He was pondering his bad luck and lost mobility when a thought occurred to him; they weren't trying to kill him. They were deliberately holding back, only trying to slow him down and contain him, not destroy him. The other two Autobots hadn't even joined the fight; they were standing by, waiting to see if he advanced further. "Those fools," Campaign car thought. "They don't consider me a threat. They think they can merely disable me, and that this will be all over." It angered him that they were taking him so lightly. He, one of the most powerful and talented Cybertonians on this planet, and they thought he was a lightweight! They were laughing at him! He was sure that was a condescending smirk he could see behind all of their faceplates. The memories, the anger, and the mounting pain overwhelmed his newly-found calm, and he switched over to full-battle mode. He'd show them. He'd show them all. "How dare you not take me seriously!" he shouted. "Electrum Beast has you all fooled! He's the real enemy! I'm trying to stop him!" Overdrive stood behind Campaign car, training both his blasters on Campaign car. "All I know", said Overdrive, "is that you're endangering the humans. Whatever beef you have with Electrum Beast is not our concern. We're here to keep you from doing further damage." Campaign car turned around to face Overdrive, the bewilderment clearly shown on the undamaged portion of his face "He really has you fooled, doesn't he?" A harsh, bitter laugh erupted from deep within him, sounding more like a bark than a chuckle. Overdrive tensed, not knowing what to expect next from this fallen Autobot. It was obvious that he'd flipped his diodes. That made him even more dangerous than he first thought. He considered changing his directive from contain to destroy, when Campaign car spoke again. "It's always about the humans, isn't it? You constantly fail to see the larger picture, the larger danger. It isn't about the humans, or even this mudball planet. It's about the survival of our very race." Campaign car lost focus in his optic. "I cannot allow you, or anyone else to stop me. Electrum Beast must pay for what he did to me...and what he's doing to others." With that, he flipped up his gun, and fired. Overdrive was caught unawares...he had nowhere to dodge in any case. The shot hit him directly in his chest, detonating his blasters inward. The implosion wrecked a number of key components within Overdrive's chassis. Repair systems struggled as Overdrive fell, the light fading from his eyes, and smoke pouring from his gaping wound. The body hadn't even hit ground as Campaign car turened, transformed, and charged the other Autobot's position. "He's down!" Flatfoot yelled. "Fire!" Flatfoot and Washout opened fire, strafing the oncoming Campaign car. The road was alive with fire and debris as he charged closer, dodging what laser-fire he could, while simply absorbing the rest. Within moments, he was upon them....and then past him, continuing toward his destination. Flatfoot fired his blaster uselessly at Campaign car's rapidly disappearing form; Washout had not been able to turn around fast enough. He transformed, and headed toward the prone form of Overdrive. "He's taken a lot of damage," he told Flatfoot. "Radio base for an evac. Tell them that the target has gotten past, and he should prepare for imminent attack." While Flatfoot made the call, Washout began to work on the prone form of Overdrive, praying that his spark was not too-close to the brink. He was a soldier, not a medic; but he would do what he could in the meantime. "Come on, buddy, hold on," he told Overdrive's corpse. "Help's on the way." He prayed, for his comrade's sake, that he was telling the truth. It was understandable that the fighters didn't notice a damaged blue firetruck roar past their position, apparently in pursuit of Campaign car. Even if they had noticed, they probably would not have given it a second thought. The identicode module was destroyed when Spot was killed in the fight. To their sensors, it would be nothing more than another human vehicle.... To be Continued. ++++++++
ONWARD to part 5!
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