- Motto: "All I have to be is exceptional."
- Weapon: Battle Blades
The gravitational well drew closer to his spark. The Titan knew this new pain -unlike the brutal redesign the Quintessons had imposed upon him- was a signal for the end. What he knew and had inferred from the scientist Phaedrus was that this process was inevitable, and would be his death knell.
He had faced the end before, fighting alongside his brothers against Mortilus and his enraged spawn Trypticon. He had been ready to die then, fighting for the future of Cybertron.
Now, he was the host of the Quintessons' schemes, and sacrificed for their plan to rebuild their empire. It was hard to draw solace in the end, knowing what his death would lead to.
The pain would end for him, but for his fellow Cybertronians there was far more pain to follow...
Lugnut lunged. Ransack dove for cover as the bruiser struck with his gravity singularity fist in the snow runoff beside the missile, and the explosion struck the hull of Shockwave's weapon.
The hologram of the cyclopean flickered and vanished, as the metal casing split away and raw, natural energon spilled out, along with wires, circuitry, and phosphex.
Though ripped open, the missile continued to function in some state, as another piece of the hull opened, revealing a scatter blaster and an X18 scrapmaker. Ransack glanced back at Lugnut as the Kaon Crusher watched the weapons rise.
"Beginning self decommission," came Shockwave's voice, recorded somewhere within the metal tube. "Neutralizing hostile presence."
The weapons discharged, unloading scrap on Lugnut. The bruiser stood his ground, his thick armor barely touched by the attacks. As Ransack watched, however, he saw the missile's temperature rise, the snow turning to a puddle of water in seconds... it was going to ignite the phosphex and explode! The weapons were mere diversions to the missile's own programming.
The raw energon left was barely more than three crystals. Still, with a little jury rigging from the spare parts and the insertion of proper fuel, their ship might've flown again...
...Ransack moved, knowing he was rushing from one explosion to another, and hoping he would be fast enough-
-when the missile and Lugnut both were struck by an energy field, and remained stationary, their weapons powering down, their temperatures falling.
And Lockdown, EMP generator deployed, stood above the pit with Terradive and the other Insecticons.
"Glad you could make it, boss," Ransack noted.
"You were very lucky," Lockdown replied. "Of course, if you'd just stayed with the ship..."
Ransack pointed at Lugnut. "This one went right off the deep end."
"We have our alien guests to thank for that," Lockdown replied, turning to glance back at the glowing, crumbling Titan. "Maybe they'll be more inclined to share now that they're stuck out in the cold too..."
The Bailiffs finally stepped out onto the tundra, the ramp being pulled up into the collapsing superstructure behind them. They joined the bridge crew in the snow with the immobilized Praefectus and Phaedrus in tow, the latter watching in horror but unable to speak.
Praefectus's ensign tried to stir his commander. "What do we do?"
Praefectus could not reply, but his mind was racing. With the leviathan's destruction, a signal would be sent back to their fleet and the Imperium. Reinforcements would arrive instantaneously to counteract such catastrophic failure, before the Cybertronians or the Galactic Council could find any remnant of the leviathan.
And, of course... to punish the commander who had failed them in his appointed task.
The bridge crew were split between retreating and watching the process unfold. If they proceeded outside the immediate vicinity of danger, they could avoid the inevitable release of solar radiation and wait for their comrades to rescue them.
But as they pressed their evacuation, they found their path blocked by the Decepticons they'd tried to imprison, minus the large one Phaedrus had reprogrammed.
Lockdown stuck his EMP generator in the ensign's face. "Explain. Now."
The ensign was frantic. "We have to retreat! We aren't to the minimum safe distance!"
"Then walk and talk," Lockdown ordered. "Or I'll immobilize you too and you can freeze and burn to death."
Lockdown waved his claw at the yellow sphere forming within the collapsing Metrotitan. "What did you do?"
The ensign was frantic. "We- please, we just need to get further from the axis of rotation, or the gases will incinerate us all! Take us... further, away... and I will tell you everything!"
"Yes," Lockdown agreed. "You will."
The Decepticons under his command waved their guns at the Bailiffs, who reluctantly surrendered their spears. The Insecticons herded them, while Terradive brought up the rear with his trident. As their parade marched past the dig site, Ransack waved down at the bottom of the pit, the stolen energon crystals still in hand.
"What about Lugnut?" Ransack asked.
"We'll come back for him," Lockdown answered. "If he lives."
Once back at the wreckage of the Death's Head, Lockdown set Ransack, his only competent subordinate, to install the energon into the ship. If possible, they could raise the ship's shields and survive the collapse of the solar cloud and radiation discharge.
Lockdown loaded several of the squids into the ship, while the bailiffs and lower ranking squids continued to flee, hoping their slow hover could reach minimum safe distance in time. The former bounty hunter turned his attention to the ensign and Phaedrus.
"Now, then," Lockdown instructed. "Everything."
"The leviathans' space bridge has always been our tool," the ensign answered. "Both to quickly move our forces and to reverse engineer into our own technology. Dr. Phaedrus-" He gave the immobile scientist a guilty look. "-found a way to rebuild the flow regulator to accept an energy source that the leviathan wouldn't be able to convert into an energon substitute.
"The crystals are fuel like your energon, but provide sustenance to organics as well as synthetics," the ensign continued. "They are also composed of pre-solar grains, and the particle composition within them could be activated via a nuclear reaction brought about by significant gravitational pressure.
"By using the leviathan's space bridge, and the leviathan itself as raw material, we could create a miniature sun." the ensign finished.
"Sounds like you have all that you need," Lockdown noted. "Why did you need Shockwave's missile?"
Phaedrus finally stirred, though only his lips seemed able to move. "The Decepticon scientist used your crystals -your energon- in an attempt to create additional supplies of resources. Instead, his tampering with planetary structures had a variety of unexpected results, here and on other planets."
Lockdown eyed Phaedrus suspiciously. "And why did that interest you?"
"With a single ore, Shockwave broke a planet from the time stream," Phaedrus answered. "Another he seeded radiated cold so powerful it could be weaponized. That technology... could not only provide us with our own fuel sources, but allow us to alter the structure of planets under the control of our enemies..."
Beginning to regain control, Phaedrus continued to play still, moving only a single tendril behind his back. They'd left him unbound...
"Enemies," Lockdown mused. "And how is it you know so much about Cybertronians?" He'd been rebuffed by Praefectus, but the scientist might've been more chatty.
"We have always been your keepers," Phaedrus answered, subtly activating his long range comms. "And you our willing slaves."
"You squids sure like to dance around simple questions," Lockdown observed.
In orbit above Arduria, a second leviathan warped in, responding to the automated distress call of its comrade. The ship's commander ordered a long range sensor sweep, even as the crew remained in orbit, watching the star form beneath them.
"We have been to Cybertron, before." it came, barely coherent through gravitational interference. "We will go back and begin again."
"And who exactly, is 'we'?"
"Positive identification of a Cybertronian," the ship's communications officer noted.
"Isolate the signal," the commander ordered. "Prepare the hangar and crew quarters for orbital jump."
"We are many," Phaedrus answered. "Kings without thrones."
"One more time, squid, before I take off one of those extra faces," Lockdown snarled. "Who are you?"
Praefectus, less subtle than his scientist, rose from the gathered Quintessons in the ship, and leveled a blaster at Lockdown.
"We are your makers, Decepticon," Praefectus answered. "And now... we will unmake you."
Lockdown swung his arm around to discharge his EMP generator. Praefectus prepared to fire.
And abruptly vanished in a flash of blue, alongside his comrades, disappearing within an energy burst.
Lockdown stared at the empty hull for several seconds before realizing: "Orbital jump-!"
The former bounty hunter glanced up at Ransack. "No go on the shield generator."
"You tell me this now?!" Lockdown raged.
"Yeah," Ransack replied with a toothy grin. "I think I can get the engines to hold together instead."
Aboard the leviathan in orbit, the Quintessons under Praefectus' command appeared, one of their comrades lying dead following a blaster bolt.
"The Decepticons!" Praefectus raged. "We can hit them with an orbital bombardment!"
An ensign waved him off. "The solar discharge will handle the rest."
Praefectus looked down at the surface of Arduria, as the new sun began to expand...
Aboard the Death's Head, a very tense Lockdown watched Ransack seal the thruster. "Well?!" the captain demanded.
"Fire 'em up," Ransack said. "And, uh, don't stand near the windows."
Lockdown raced up to the bridge and fired up the primary ignition.
The Death's Head began its slow move along the surface, the ice already melting from the intense heat of the sun forming on the planet's own surface. Lockdown took the helm and tried desperately to pull up, everything behind his ship indistinguishable behind a sphere of pure light.
The ship continued to skid along the surface, occasionally riding on empty air...
...the ball of light behind him was growing larger, and Lockdown pushed the engines to maximum burn. If the energon couldn't carry them off the surface, they'd be dead anyway.
Shame about Lugnut...
...the Death's Head was airborne. There was no clear view through the ice and debris in the air, but the ship's telemetry confirmed they were on course.
Terradive and the Insecticons looked on from their stations. No one was concerned about being shot down or astro-navigation; they were all fixated on Lockdown's attempt to reach escape velocity.
They heard a subtle boom. Behind them, a cloud of dust was launched at high speed, blasting towards them, accelerated all the more by the release of particles.
Warning lights flashed on the fuel gauge. Ransack stood by the engines, liberally applying coolant as they struggled to stay together.
The ship was struck by the release of energy at the rear. The Death's Head tumbled through the atmosphere...
...stars, blackness. Space, right in front of them...
The Quintessons watched the energies recede, the miniature star hovering over the planet, barren rock exposed over nearly a quarter of the hemisphere. The ice had receded and melted. Vast oceans poured in over the empty rock, stopping at the edge of the star and the hole its gravity well left in the surface of the planet.
Premature, perhaps... but exactly as they had expected the process to go.
The ship's commander turned to Praefectus and Phaedrus. "The Imperial Triumvirate will decide what to do with you. For your sake... I hope you have something to show them from this misadventure."
Praefectus hung his head. He knew what awaited.
At least he could take solace in seeing the Cybertronians burn...
Passing out of Arduria's orbit, Lockdown looked up at his sparking console. His ship was still damaged, its fuel nearly depleted...
...but he was alive, and from the chatter he could now hear, it seemed so was his crew.
Lockdown glanced at Ransack, standing near the engines, spitting out black smoke and sparks. "Damage report?"
"We're not dead?" Ransack suggested.
Lockdown nodded. "Good enough."
He glanced back at the planet, and the Titan in orbit over it, and the sun now hovering just barely over the planet's surface.
"Power down everything," Lockdown commanded. "We're gonna' have to wait a while..."