Addicted! – Chapter 7
Closure; this was what Hot Shot truly sought. This was the concept he had run so far to find. All he wanted was an end to the whole story of that day at Uraya, but it would never come. Wheeljack was marked among the dead from that day, but not even a single rivet from his chassis had been found in the wreckage. This birthed an unending uncertainty in Hot Shot’s mind. Was his friend reduced to slag in the immense heat of the inferno, or had he survived? This was a singular hope Hot Shot left burning in his heart. Maybe, one day he would find out the truth; it was another reason for him to run so far and wide. Hot Shot’s never-ending quest for JaAm was fuelled by a purely physical need, an urge he could barely control, but beneath that impetus simmered an emotional need; that there was the possibility of him finding Wheeljack in one of the many places he’d found himself looking for the elusive enigmatic substance.
Today, that flickering ember of a hope for Wheeljack’s life was affirmed and exploded into a conflagration within Hot Shot’s spirit. He didn’t need to run anymore. He didn’t need the JaAm anymore. He had found his closure in the sight of his long lost friend, and no force in the universe would now stop him from going to meet Wheeljack. Especially not Red Alert’s pleading.
“Hot Shot, stop and think about this, he’s clearly dangerous and very aggressive. This may not end well for you…"
“I don’t care how it ends, Red." Hot Shot replied furtively,”It’s all over now anyway…"
Closure; finally Wheeljack was headed straight for it. It had taken him so many years, so many near misses, but he could now bring an end to his quest. It had all started on that day at Uraya, when Wheeljack burned. But he didn’t see it like that; he didn’t burn, he was forged anew. It instilled in him the only shred of purpose he had ever known and a newly found allegiance… While he was trapped, slowly smouldering beneath a red hot girder, he had accepted his end, and the Wheeljack that he was had died that day. Like a phoenix, he had risen from those flames, reborn, to walk a new path. All thanks to Megatron.
As he lay burning, any hope Wheeljack might have had extended to a rescue from his squadron. At first he was so sure Hot Shot would come to his aid. His dependable friend had taught him all he knew about the battlefield, and helped him out of tight spots more than once. Wheeljack had done the same for him, but now at his end, he lost all hope for his comrade; as every second passed his despair turned to anger and then hatred. Why wasn’t Hot Shot trying to save him? How could he just leave him to burn? At the point where his hate had irreversibly turned into something tangible, coursing through his circuits and taking root in his spark, he was rescued. But not by Hot Shot, not by his squadron, not even by Autobots.
A small group of Decepticons emerged from the dimming flames before him, the very ones who had ransacked the depot. Wheeljack expected them to deal him a swifter death than he was about to get from the fire, but he was stunned to find one of them, a heavy cyclopean flyer, lifting the girder that pinned him there. He was freed, but certainly wouldn’t be able to go anywhere. The Decepticons encircled him, a couple of them actually started making wagers on Wheeljack’s fate, then they parted and one more figure entered Wheeljack’s presence. A bot who until earlier would have commanded the greatest fear from Wheeljack, now all he could feel was hate, even for his would be rescuers. Megatron stood before him, and instantly saw the dark rage in his eyes. He smirked and offered Wheeljack a choice.
“Either we leave you to burn," Megatron stated and then added offhandedly, “or perhaps one of my men will shoot you, I don’t know… Or," his speech returning to valedictorian force, “you join my ranks and get to live to fight another day…" He paused, mulling over the expression that seemed to fuse Wheeljack’s face, “Against the one thing you now hate more than me."
Wheeljack was silent. Megatron continued.
“You seem to have trouble making up your mind, Autobot-“
“Don’t call me that!" Wheeljack spat.
“Oh! I see you’ve made your choice then. Hate really is a powerful drive among the desperate. Help him up, men."
As a couple of Decepticons Wheeljack never learned the names of took hold of his arms, some debris slid off of his chest. Megatron instantly noticed the power of the symbol before him. Where Wheeljack’s Autobrand once proudly shone, there now sat a charred and gouged badge. A huge rent ran across it diagonally, even exposing some circuitry beneath. It was as though it was crossed out.
“I think you’ll make quite a stir…" Megatron mused as he regarded Wheeljack’s scar.
After his initial induction to the ranks and not-quite-total repair, he changed his name and paintwork to better reflect his new nature; he was a road-eating monster, who would now answer to the name Rampage. Soon Wheeljack found himself at the front lines, fighting alongside former enemies against former friends. One day he had enough, and simply left the battlefield. Killing random Autobots gave Wheeljack no satisfaction. He had no interest in the progress of The Decepticon Empire, but was driven by his own personal inferno, one of revenge. He would find closure only in the sight of his old friend’s corpse, and no force in the universe would now stop him from going to kill Hot Shot.