Here is a post-movie "episode" I wrote a long time ago about Octane, the Decepticon smuggler who ended up working with the Autobots, if begrudgingly, in several post-movie episodes. I always loved this character, so it was fun to write as him, the Junkions, Cyclonus and the Sweeps, and so many of these other much-loved friends from another time.
The female Junkion in the story did actually appear on the show. I've included a screen capture for anyone who doesn't remember.
Anyway, I'm generally not a fanfiction person, but... enjoy! I've got a few of these around somewhere, might upload more later.
Oh yeah, and Happy Halloween! ^_^
Cyclonus was called to Galvatron's throne room by the sounds of an argument. It was a common occurrence, and one where familiarity bred contempt. Cyclonus was a patient and thoughtful soldier, and his loyalty to Galvatron was unwavering, yet he could not escape a certain weariness. He was exhausted by his role of referee, and of the battle to calm Galvatron's temper. It was a battle which Cyclonus most often lost. He feared that each of Galvatron's fits brought the Decepticon army one step closer to rebellion, anarchy, and collapse. This was an outcome that Cyclonus was determined to prevent by whatever means necessary. So, while part of him wished to turn away, he instead paused for a moment at the doorway, so that he might steady himself and collect his nerve, and then he entered the great hall.
The room was filled with smoke and there was a fresh layer of debris scattered about the floor--detritus blasted loose from where Galvatron's fire had struck the walls and ceiling. Galvatron stood before his throne at the top of the dais. Before him knelt Scourge, and behind Scourge huddled the Sweeps. Scourge's posture was one of supplication, yet he faced his leader, whereas the Sweeps were bowed, faces to the floor, shaking.
"Why?" Galvatron bellowed. "Why have you failed me, Scourge?" Another barrage of cannon fire shook the room, and one of the Sweeps sobbed audibly. "Answer me, answer me now!"
"Mighty Galvatron!" Cyclonus shouted, moving quickly to the dais. "What has upset you? Why do you terrorize the Sweeps?"
"Cyclonus," Galvatron said quietly. He looked down at his lieutenant and paused for a moment, seeming to almost not recognize him. Then he spoke, his voice dangerously low. "Listen well," he said, "so that you might understand. The Sweeps have been tasked with the simplest mission: to find the traitor Octane and return him to me. Scourge’s informant has already provided the details of Octane's itinerary. And yet, day after day, these pathetic excuses for Decepticons return to me empty-handed!" Again the room erupted in gunfire. "This is inexcusable!"
"But Galvatron," Scourge said, struggling to be heard above the blasts that shook the room. "Octane is now under the protection of the Autobots. Finding him was easy enough, but taking possession of him is another matter."
"More excuses!" Galvatron hissed. He took several steps down the dais, finally meeting Scourge, as well as Cyclonus, who now stood at Scourge's side. "This is the last time, Scourge. I will no longer tolerate your incompetence, or that of your whimpering menagerie." Galvatron leveled his fusion cannon at Scourge's face.
Scourge recoiled in horror, his hands outstretched before him. "No, Galvatron, please!" he cried. "The Sweeps have served you well! You have our undying loyalty!"
Galvatron laughed and said, "Undying, Scourge? Let us put your boast to the test!"
"Mighty Galvatron, please stop this!" said Cyclonus. Delicately, with restraint and respect, he reached out to place a hand upon Galvatron's weapon. Slowly, carefully, he lowered the fusion cannon until it was pointed toward the floor. "What Scourge says is correct. Octane dwells among the Autobots. Additional force will be needed to apprehend him."
"Additional force, Cyclonus?" said Galvatron. "Very well, then. You shall accompany the Sweeps on their next attempt. And be forewarned, you will share their fate should they fail me again!" Once more the cannon was raised, and again the hall was pelted by rubble from above. "Now, out of my sight, all of you!" Galvatron screamed. "Do not return here without Octane in your custody. Go! Go now!"
Cyclonus grabbed Scourge by the shoulder and pulled him down the stairs. "Quickly," he whispered. "Everyone out." Cyclonus transformed and rocketed out of the hall, followed closely by Scourge, and then the Sweeps.
Once they were safely away, Scourge came along Cyclonus and said, "Thank you, Cyclonus. You've saved us from another of Galvatron's rages."
"His rage shall be nothing compared to mine," said Cyclonus, "if I find myself in that predicament again due to your bumbling. Now, tell me. Where can we find the despicable Octane?"
"He's been conducting cargo runs for the Autobots," Scourge told him. "His route is predictable. We'll have no problem catching up to him. It's getting past his Autobot defenses that's the trouble."
"We shall see about that," Cyclonus said. "Take me to him."
* * *
Octane did not enjoy being a courier. He was a dealer at heart, a haggler, sometimes even a smuggler. What he was not, however, was an errand boy. There was no joy in that type of work. On this day, for example, he was charged with delivering energon to the Autobot allies on Junkion. After that he would take a shipment of raw materials from Junkion back to Cybertron, and then on to Earth. It was dull, dull, dull. Octane didn't exactly fancy himself a warrior, or an explorer, or an intellectual, but he needed a bit more stimulation than what a stale supply run could offer him.
Yet, he cooperated with minimal complaint. Octane knew why he was being tasked with these missions. It wasn't simply the reason that Rodimus Prime had given him--that Octane's expertise as a fuel supplier made him particularly suited to such assignments. That was true enough, but the bigger reason was that the Autobots were testing Octane's resolve. Octane was no Autobot, and they knew it, but the Autobots were willing to bring Octane into their fold, so long as they were confident that they could trust him. And Octane, for his part, was willing to be trustworthy, so long as the Autobots continued to provide him with protection.
Octane was no fool, and he knew that he would be easy picking for Galvatron's henchmen the second he was left to his own devices. Octane was certain that Galvatron was still on his tail, and he knew that Galvatron could be very persuasive when he wanted something done. The Decepticons charged with finding Octane would stop at nothing to bring him in. Sadly, the only way out of it for Octane was to keep running his boring supply runs and just keep hoping that something more invigorating would be entrusted to him in time. Meanwhile, he was provided with enough peace and quiet to think more deeply on what, exactly, was to become of him. Octane couldn't see himself ever wearing the red Autobot brand, but nor could he imagine a return to the Decepticons. Galvatron and his lieutenants would never allow it, not after the stunts that Octane pulled with Trypticon and Starscream.
Octane had just supervised the loading of his ship by a trio of Junkions. One of them saluted Octane upon completion of the task and said, "The best part of waking up is cargo in your truck."
"Yeah, great," Octane muttered. "Thanks, whatever...." He quickly read through the shipment inventory. The last thing he wanted was to discover a mistake in the order upon his arrival at Cybertron, requiring a long trip back to Junkion and even more time spent with the natives, who Octane found particularly grating. He had just finished up when he was approached by Wreck-Gar and a female Junkion. Octane looked up and said, "Hi, Wreck-Gar. What is it?"
Wreck-Gar put an arm affectionately around the shoulders of the female and said, "Contestant Number One is a home economics major and battle-hardened warrior with a heart of gold. Not to mention the main squeeze of Wreck-Gar, who is not only Junkion's leader, but also a client. Debria, come on down!"
The female, whose name apparently was Debria, clasped her hands before her and said, "Thank you, Bob, I'm so excited to be here."
"So, what exactly can I do for you?" Octane asked dryly.
Wreck-Gar turned to his consort and said, "Debria, what is behind door number three?"
A panel in Debria's upper thigh slid back, revealing a hollow storage compartment. From this she removed a large yellow-green canister. It was made of a highly reflective material and appeared to have a cap or lid, though there was no obvious method of opening it. Debria held the canister tightly in both hands. She twisted and pulled at it with all her might, but the lid wouldn't budge. Finally she said, "I really shake it up, baby, and twist and shout, but all I end up with are these terrible dishpan hands."
"So you can't get it open," Octane said. "But how can I help? If even Wreck-Gar can't open the thing, I won't be much use to you."
"Stay tuned," Wreck-Gar said. He held up a small handheld television and quickly ran the dial through several channels. Eventually he stopped at one and handed the set to Octane.
Octane found himself watching a commercial. He was looking at still shots of a massive warehouse filled with refrigerators, cleaning devices, and other equipment. There was also a narration.
"Stop in for Crazy Sales Days with me, the Appliance King!" said a cheerful voice. "Televisions, blenders, microwave ovens, we've got it all! Not to mention garage openers, can openers, openers for everything! We've got it all right here, during Crazy Sales Days!" The still shots cut to footage of a smallish robot standing at the entrance to the warehouse. He was a golden yellow color and had a familiar insignia on his chest.
"He's an Autobot," Octane muttered.
"So stop by and see me, the Appliance King!" said the Autobot. "Come on in while supplies last! Conveniently located on planet Automatia. Your credits and energon are always good here! Tell 'em the King himself sent ya!" With that, the commercial ended and the screen cut out.
"Okay, great," Octane said. "So you want me to take Debria to the Appliance King. Is that it?"
"You got it, kemosahbee," said Wreck-Gar.
"The chores, the stores!" Debria sang happily.
Octane held up his hands, trying hard to keep the irritation out of his voice. There was nothing that he wanted more than to decline the request--politely if possible, impolitely if necessary. He knew of planet Automatia and it was well out the way if his next stop was Cybertron. Yet, Octane knew that the Junkions were considered Autobots, and that the relationship with Wreck-Gar was considered a top priority by Autobot leadership. Barring an emergency, Rodimus Prime would expect the request to be granted.
"All right, all right, fine," Octane said curtly. "We leave in a few minutes. I need you to be ready to go. Otherwise, no promises. All right?"
"Sharing is caring," Wreck-Gar said, his voice full of emotion.
Debria leaned forwarded and planted a kiss on Octane's cheek. "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers," she whispered sweetly.
"Gaaah, cut it out!" Octane cried, pressing himself back against the ship. "Just get inside and buckle up. Next stop, Automatia."
* * *
Few Transformers could hope to outrun Cyclonus and the Sweeps, particularly over long distances, where both speed and endurance were pivotal. Cyclonus and his team were soon closing in on the expected location of Octane's shuttle, despite Octane's considerable head start.
"Rendezvous in approximately 600 seconds," one of the Sweeps reported.
"Prepare yourselves for combat," Scourge said. "Stay watchful."
"I still do not understand why Octane has given you such trouble," Cyclonus said to the others. "He was never much of a fighter. Or a pilot, for that matter."
"You don't understand," Scourge said. "The Autobots got wise after Galvatron's first few attempts on Octane's life."
"Meaning?" But the question was answered soon enough, as the Decepticons found themselves under attack from behind. "Decepticons, scatter and return fire!" Cyclonus barked. The Sweeps flew off in all directions, but quickly regrouped behind Scourge and reversed direction. Cyclonus was right behind them. "What was that?" he asked.
"There!" answered Scourge. "It's Skyfire!"
The massive Autobot air warrior appeared out of the darkness, cannons roaring. The Sweeps quickly broke formation to escape the shots, then immediately regrouped. Cyclonus, still caught off guard, took a small hit to the left wing. The hit left no real damage but still managed to sting both body and pride. He cried out in frustration.
"Back for another beating, are you?" Skyfire called with a laugh. "You Sweeps are even dumber than you look."
"Blasted Autobot!" Cyclonus said, growling.
"Now do you understand?" Scourge asked. "Sweeps, maneuver epsilon. Go!"
Cyclonus could not immediately recall the details of maneuver epsilon, nor was he particularly curious. Instead he dove, then quickly brought himself upward, putting himself safely below Skyfire, and hopefully out of the much larger Autobot's line of sight. He then let loose a rapid volley of his oxidizing laser. Skyfire managed to dodge the bulk of the shots, but still took several hits to his aft section. "Ouch!" he yelped, but he managed to maintain his course, which had him headed directly for Scourge.
"Sweeps!" Scourge called. "Prepare for maneuver--arrrgh!" Scourge was caught in mid-sentence by another blast from Skyfire, which sent him reeling.
"About time you shut up," said Skyfire.
"Our leader has been hit!" cried one of the Sweeps. "He has fallen!"
"Sweeps, do not falter!" Cyclonus called to them. "Honor Scourge's bravery by matching it! Follow me!"
The Sweeps fell in behind Cyclonus, taking on a classic V formation. It appeared that Skyfire would be caught in their shots, but he deftly rolled out of the way. He looped around for one more pass, moving above the Decepticons and raining missiles upon them. "Consider this my parting gift!" he said as he passed. Two of the Sweeps were hit and left damaged, though not destroyed. Cyclonus transformed and watched as Skyfire disappeared into the distance.
"The coward retreats!" Cyclonus said. "Well done, Decepticons!"
Scourge rejoined them, gripping a wounded shoulder. He was followed by the two injured Sweeps, who helped to support one another. "We've won nothing," Scourge said, glowering. "His purpose was to get us off of Octane's trail, nothing more, and he was successful."
"Drat!" Cyclonus said. "Well, have you any idea of Octane's destination?"
"Tough to say. He's been running errands to many planets lately, all of them allied with the Autobots. This area is the only point common to his routes. That's why we attacked him here."
Cyclonus thought for a moment, then said, "He is likely en route to Cybertron, or perhaps to Earth, but we dare not approach either in our present state."
"But what if he isn't heading there?" asked an uninjured Sweep. "Another planet might be less well defended. He might turn out to be an easier target."
"Yes," said another. "And how pleased would Galvatron be then?"
Cyclonus thought for a moment longer, then said, "Scourge. I think it may be time for another visit to your informant."
* * *
Octane had never been to Automatia before, and he was immediately struck by how small it was. It was easily one of the smallest independent planets out there, little more than a space rock, really. Still, whoever ran the place had done a brilliant job of cultivating it. Automatia was primarily a world of robots, and like Cybertron, large portions of its surface were dominated by plains of smooth steel and cities filled with spire-like towers. Yet, other parts of it were covered in green parkland and small blue seas that gave it a marble-like appearance. It was quirky and whimsical and appealing. Definitely a magnet for tourists and shoppers, which Octane thought would probably suit the locals just fine, if the Appliance King was any indication.
Octane was still utterly bored with the trip, despite the pleasant surroundings. He had said little during the flight over, as he did not wish to prompt Debria into conversation. Octane tended to be a loner anyway, and while the "TV talk" of the Junkions was intelligible to him, he found it maddening. Sometimes he wondered if the Junkions were capable of normal speech and simply preferred to talk in their bizarre fashion. If so, he thought their preference rude and unrelatable.
Debria had said little herself, preferring the company of the onboard communications array, which was able to pick up the television broadcasts that her kind were obsessed with. This suited Octane just fine. It kept both of them out of trouble.
As they approached Automatia, however, Octane could sense his companion's excitement building. "Octane, your friendly skies are good to the last drop," Debria said happily, as they set down vertically upon a helipad-style spaceport.
"Yeah, thanks," Octane replied.
Soon they embarked, and they found themselves in what was essentially a massive open air shopping mall. The place was crawling with visitors of all types, including humans and other organics, but consisting primarily of mechanical beings, including some Cybertronians. Octane wandered over to a five-sided directory that contained hundreds if not thousands of store names. He shrugged, feeling hopeless, then turned to Debria and said, "I don't suppose you happen to know where the Appliance King's store is. We could wander around here forever."
Debria studied the directory, quietly muttering to herself, "Hmmm, where's the beef...?" Finally she looked up said, "Good junk is like friendship: rich, warm, and strong."
"What's that?" Octane asked. "I don't get it."
Debria opened a storage compartment in her side. She reached within and seemed to be digging for something in particular. Finally she pulled out a handful of old gears, nuts, bolts, and other mechanical trash that clearly was not related to her internal workings, but possibly might have been at one time. It was a disgusting display, at least by Octane's standards, and the sight made him take an involuntary step backward.
"Debria, what are you doing?" he asked.
Debria rolled the items around in her hands like dice. "Does she, or doesn't she?" she asked, then she threw the items onto the ground. Most of them landed flat, but there was one washer that landed on its side and rolled away from them. It picked up speed as it rolled, and it moved rapidly down one of the promenade corridors, eventually disappearing behind a corner. It definitely seemed to be pulled toward something, or perhaps to even be moving of its own volition.
"Garbage, take me away!" Debria said cheerily. Then, after winking back at Octane over her shoulder, she ran after the washer.
"Debria, wait!" Octane called, but she was already getting away from him. He had no choice but to follow her.
* * *
Cyclonus allowed Scourge to lead their group to his source, and soon they found themselves back at Junkion. They alighted on a distant edge of the planet, far from Wreck-Gar's base. Cyclonus looked around but did not see any of the roughly-made structures that typically denoted the presence of the natives. Nor did he see any other sign of recent Autobot activity.
"Surely your informant is not one of the Junkions," he said.
"No," said Scourge, "but he is probably the next best thing. Follow me."
They walked a short distance through a cave that was formed by various pieces of large machinery leaning against one another. Flight was impossible within, but at least they were shielded from outside observation. Soon they came upon the rusting hulk of a fighter ship that rested in an alcove of the cave.
"Does someone actually live here?" Cyclonus asked. "I wouldn't have thought it possible."
"Watch," said Scourge. He pressed a button, or appeared to, though Cyclonus could see nothing on the corroded skin of the ship that looked like a button. A hatch opened; it was just large enough for the Decepticons to pass through without ducking. The inside of the old ship was dark, but Cyclonus could see a smaller, newer ship resting within the hold of the larger, ruined vessel.
"Ah, so that is how he survives here," he said. As he walked, a force field that he could feel more than see dissipated around them. "And it appears that we are welcome."
"Well, he hasn't turned us away yet," said Scourge. "He's definitely the most reasonable being on this twisted planet, though that might only be saying so much."
"I shall be the judge of his reasonableness," Cyclonus said darkly. "Now, let us enter."
The interior of the ship was cluttered with all manner of odds and ends, but even so, it was surprisingly clean and brightly lit. Definitely not a Junkion then, this occupant, but perhaps picking up on certain Junkion ways. A portal along a far wall opened, revealing a skuxxoid that carried a dish towel in its hands.
"Oh, hey, Scourge, how ya doing?" it said in its squeaky, nasal voice. "What brings ya back to Junkion?"
"We are still in pursuit of Octane," Scourge said. "We were tracking him earlier today, but lost his trail. We're hoping you can tell us where he was headed."
The skuxxoid smiled up at Scourge and said, "Yeah, yeah, I might have heard something, maybe. I might be able to remember at least a little bit, if ya pay me good, okay?"
Cyclonus grunted in disgust and strode forward. He grabbed the skuxxoid by the collar and lifted it until the two of them could see eye to eye. "Listen here, vermin," he said. "I bring you an ultimatum of our own, from the mighty Galvatron. Tell us Octane's whereabouts, and quickly, and I may yet allow you to live." He then threw the skuxxoid to the ground and tried to wipe the unclean feeling from his hands.
The skuxxoid landed hard and slid against the wall. It shook its head dizzily, then stood and primly smoothed its garments. After a time it looked at Scourge and said, "I think I prefer dealing with you, man, you know?"
"I know," said Scourge, "but I suggest that you listen to him."
The skuxxoid threw up its hands and said, "Okay, okay. I know a few things, and I'll tell you about them, all right? The Junkions found some kind of container out there, but they can't open it, okay? But they really want to know what's inside, see?"
"And what is inside?" Cyclonus asked. "Do you have any indication?"
The skuxxoid shrugged. "No way to know," it said. "So, Wreck-Gar asked Octane to take his lady friend to the Appliance King. If anybody can open that canister, the Appliance King can, okay?"
"The Appliance King?" Scourge asked.
"Yeah, he runs the consumer planet, Automatia. You ever been there? I can give you directions if you want, you know what I mean?"
* * *
Octane had started to doubt that he would ever find Debria. He followed her down corridors and over causeways, through alleys and around various shops and stands. He could imagine no way that the little washer had made this journey, and he didn't think there was any rhyme or reason to the route that they were taking. Yet, after some time, Octane rounded a corner and found himself at the entrance to a wide plaza lined with fountains and tidily-groomed trees. In the center of this was Debria, smiling, and flipping the washer in her hand like a lucky coin. And beyond her in massive neon lights was a winking, blinking Autobot insignia, and a sign advertising that this spot was the palazzo of the Appliance King.
"I don't know how you did it, and I don't care," Octane said to her. "I just hope you know the way back."
"Oh, what a relief it is," she said. Then, taking his arm, she whispered, "Come on, Toto. We're off to see the wizard."
The opulent exterior seemed an odd match for the spartan interior of the warehouse, which was absolutely vast. Neat rows of appliances stretched in all directions. Customers milled about and were attended to be flying drones with stick arms and saccharine smiling faces. One of these flew over to Octane and Debria and said, in a cheerful, childlike voice, "Good day to you! Would you folks happen to be the ones who just arrived in the Autobot shuttle?"
"Ah, yeah, we are," Octane said. "We're here to see the Appliance King. Can you take us to him?"
"Yes, yes, by all means!" said the drone. "Please come this way!"
They were led to a door at the back of the warehouse, half-hidden behind various crates and shipping boxes. The door was obviously designed with a much smaller being in mind; both Octane and Debria had to stoop to fit through it, at which point the drone left them.
Beyond the door was a small office. The Appliance King himself sat at a desk, watching himself on a television screen. Several broken or halfway assembled appliances lay strewn about on the desk, the floor, everywhere, in a scene reminiscent of Junkion. The office was windowless and lit only by florescent lamps that hung from the ceiling high above them.
"Well, well, nice to see a couple of Autobots around here," he said. His voice was surprisingly deep and gravely, considering his small stature. "As you can see, I'm the Appliance King himself, but you can call me Hubcap. Autobots should be on a first-name basis, you know? So, introduce yourselves already."
"This is Debria, an Autobot from the planet Junkion," Octane said.
Debria curtseyed as if before real royalty. "You've doubled my pleasure and doubled my fun," she said reverently.
Hubcap laughed and slapped his knee heartily. "Nice to meet you, too, Debria! And who are you, young fellow?" Just then Hubcap's face changed, and Octane quickly realized why: Hubcap's optics were locked onto the Decepticon emblem still emblazoned on Octane's chest. Hubcap jumped up, a laser pistol already in hand and ready to fire. "Hold it!" he shouted. "I don't take kindly to any double-dealing Decepticon bootleggers in my store!"
"Wait, wait, wait, you've got it all wrong!" Octane said, holding up his hands. "Galvatron kicked me out of the Decepticons! I'm working with the Autobots now! I know Rodimus Prime personally, I really do! I've got references!"
"Can you vouch for him?" Hubcap asked, cutting a quick glance to Debria.
"Octane is tough on grease, but soft on hands," she answered, placing an arm protectively on Octane's shoulder. "You've met the rest, now meet the best."
"Hmmm," Hubcap muttered. "Listen. Octane, is it? I don't like dealing with Decepticons. But if you're really working with the Autobots, then I can at least listen to what you have to say."
Octane sighed and said, "Yeah, I wish you would, because I'm not the one that needs help, she is! Show him, Debria."
Debria produced the mysterious canister from the storage compartment at her hip. She handed it to Hubcap, who turned it over in his hands, then tried to open it. "Shut tight," he said.
"Obviously, that's why we're here," Octane said. "You have a reputation for being able to open just about anything with your gizmos."
"Must have seen that stupid commercial," Hubcap muttered. "All right, all right. But this is one tough lid. It's gonna require some special attention. Let's step on out to the showroom floor. I might have just the thing."
* * *
It was not long before Cyclonus and the Sweeps arrived at Automatia. They, unlike Octane, had little appreciation for the planet's aesthetic charms, and even less understanding of the excitement with which other lifeforms flocked to it.
"Festering pit of mindless consumerism," Cyclonus said as they passed over bustling cityscapes. "It is no better than Junkion, but merely a different part in the same ruinous chain."
"Look on the bright side," said Scourge. "There are only so many places to hide on such a small planet. And a lightly defended one, at that."
"Your positivity is appreciated," said Cyclonus, "as is your insight. Sweeps, fan out and locate the traitor!"
* * *
Octane, Debria, and Hubcap walked down the center isle of the appliance store showroom, surrounded on all sides by various tools and contraptions. Hubcap surveyed them thoughtfully as they passed, looking each over in turn and evaluating its usefulness. All the while he turned the canister over in his hands, fidgeting and twisting and trying to loosen its lid.
Debria was enraptured by everything: the appliances, the crowds, and definitely the television monitors that filled the space above them as they walked. The TVs constantly blasted various commercials put together by the Appliance King, showcasing his wares and always prominently featuring his smirking golden face. Octane thought, this must be as close to paradise as a Junkion ever gets. As for Octane, his only interest was in completing his errand so that he could get back to his quiet, solitary, and peaceful routine.
The King, to his credit, tried just about everything to get the canister open. Simple can openers were tried first, but the canister's metal skin was entirely resistant to them. Next came openers with acetylene torches, and laser torches, and all other manner of energy beams. Next came a giant two-armed crane, where the lid was taken in one arm, and the base of the canister in the other, with tremendous pressure applied to separate the two halves. Yet, even this mechanical behemoth's efforts seemed to have no effect. All the while Hubcap was getting more and more flustered. He started muttering under his breath, then cursing, then finally shouting in frustration. Debria followed him like a puppy, looking down at him with admiration glimmering in her eyes. Finally, however, Hubcap sank to the floor, the canister dropping and rolling to a stop beside hm.
"Oh, Archie!" Debria whispered earnestly. "You can't stop the music. You're my only hope."
"I'm sorry, missy," Hubcap said. He stared at the ground, not wanting to look her in the eye. "I've tried everything I can think of. I'm fresh out of options."
Debria looked down at Hubcap for a moment, agape. She then turned to Octane and looked at him pleadingly. Octane only held up his hands. Debria frowned and stamped her foot. "Great balls of fire!" she said. "Wake up, America! We've got to turn the world on with our smile!"
"I told you, I'm sorry!" Hubcap said. He looked up at her, but quickly turned his face back toward the floor. "I've never seen anything so stubborn. I just don't know what else to try."
Octane growled, then threw his arms up in exasperation. "Are you kidding me?" he shouted. "I came all this way for nothing? Sure, I had nothing else to do, but that's not the point! I could be kicking back at Autobot City by now! Stupid piece of--!" He gave the canister a sound kick, which sent it flying across the showroom and into a wall. The canister bounced off the wall and rolled gently to a stop a few paces away from where Octane stood. Then, as the three of them watched, the canister's lid slowly turned in a corkscrew fashion, as if under its own power, and popped neatly off.
"Well I'll be!" Hubcap said, leaping excitedly to his feet. "Well done, kid!"
"Ahhh, sure, you're welcome," Octane said, stunned. "I guess. I don't know how it happened. You must have loosened it up for me."
Debria rushed over to the canister and picked it up. She gave it a gentle shake, and five small glowing cubes fell into her hand.
"Don't get mad, get glad," she said happily. "And look, a free surprise inside!"
"Hey, are those miniature energon cubes?" Octane asked, quickly stepping over to get a closer look.
"No," Hubcap said, approaching more slowly. "I've seen those before. You be careful with those, Debria."
"Well, what are they, then?" Octane asked. "Come on, speak up!"
"Those are--" Hubcap started to say. Just then, however, the entire complex was shaken by a loud explosion. "What in tarnation was that?" he shouted.
One of the store's attendant drones flew over and said, "Your Kingliness, it's just terrible! Automatia is under attack by Decepticons!"
Hubcap shot a dangerous glare at Octane. Octane threw up his hands again and said, "Don't look at me, I have nothing to do with it!"
Hubcap grunted angrily and said, "Well then, darn it, here's your chance to prove what an Autobot you really are. Come on! I'm not letting those creeps wreck my store!"
Octane, Debria, and Hubcap raced to the outdoor plaza. Much of the beautiful space was already littered with debris and scarred by laser fire. Trees were ablaze and patrons were running for the cover of nearby shops.
Cyclonus passed low overhead. "Ah, Octane!" he said. "We've found you at last. Meet your fate, deserter!" With that he opened fire, followed closely behind by Scourge and the Sweeps.
Octane dove for cover behind a large potted plant. Hubcap tackled Debria, knocking both of them out of the line of fire, though just barely.
"So you were telling the truth after all," Hubcap said over the cacophony.
"Yeah, thanks for finally getting it," Octane replied. Briefly he rose from his hiding spot to shoot a few rounds at a passing Sweep, but was then forced into hiding again by return fire. "What do we do now? You two don't even have weapons! I can't fight off the Sweeps by myself!"
"Maybe you don't have to," said Hubcap. "Debria, quick! Give me those prison cubes."
"Prison cubes?" asked Octane. "That's what was in the canister?"
"Yeah," said Hubcap. "I've seen these things before. Nasty things. Old Quintesson devices. Haven't seen one in ages, but if there's somebody trapped inside, then maybe they’ll help us in exchange for saving them."
"Well, how are you going to get them open?"
Hubcap sighed and shook his head in disgust. "Don't insult me, son. I'm the Appliance King. I can do anything. Come on, follow me!"
The three of them scurried back into the warehouse, keeping low, more crawling than running. Once inside, Hubcap sealed the door, then ran to one of the aisles of merchandise, where he quickly disappeared from view. He reappeared a moment later carrying something that looked to Octane like a laser pistol, but maybe also something like a hairdryer, and for all Octane knew, it might have been a peculiar combination of both. Hubcap motioned for Debria to throw the prison cubes on the ground, which she did. Hubcap then made a quick adjustment to the settings on his strange device, and fired a beam of light onto the cubes. The cubes began to glow from within and rapidly grew in size. There was then a flash of white light, and when the light dissipated, five robots stood where the cubes had been.
"Hey!" Octane said, seeing a familiar insignia on each one of them. "You're Autobots!"
"A'course we are," said a small, rather rough-looking Autobot with a militaristic green finish. "What's it to ya?"
"How long have we been out?" asked another smallish Autobot, this one red in color. "It was like I was kind of unconscious, but not all the way. No fun!"
"That's the last time I vacation with you bozos," said a blue Autobot. "An eternity with the Throttlebots? No thanks!"
"Throttlebots?" Octane asked. "Hey, aren't you the team that disappeared while on a recon mission a while back? Yeah, I remember hearing about it!"
"We didn't just disappear," said a white Autobot, his voice a whisper. "We were abducted by a Quintesson vessel out searching for Sharkitcon food." Turning to face his comrades he said, "I told you we were being followed! But you wouldn't listen, would you?"
"Great, just great," said blue. "Now we'll spend the rest of our lives hearing Searchlight tell us that he's not really paranoid, because this one time, he was actually right about something."
"I could care less, Freeway," said red. "Let's just get out of here already! I want to go home!"
"Cool it, Chase," said green. "Where are we, anyway?"
"No time for that!" shouted Octane. "We're under attack by Decepticons! Do you have weapons?"
"Of course we have weapons!" bellowed the last of them, an orange fellow much larger than the rest. "We're professionals! We don't head into the field without our weapons thoroughly tested and prepared, and--"
"All right, all right, just get out there and shoot!"
"You heard the man, Wideload," said green. "Let's do our duty, boys."
"But Rollbar, why should we listen to him?" asked Searchlight. "He's a Decepticon!"
"Well, so are those creeps out there!" shouted Hubcap. "We can talk more once you've chased them away from my store! They're scaring away my customers, for Cybertron's sake! Now do something already!"
"Good enough for me," Rollbar replied. "Throttlebots, roll out!"
The Throttlebots transformed and rushed out onto the plaza, led by Rollbar, who had a jeep vehicle mode. He was followed by Searchlight, Chase, and Freeway, who each looked like sports cars, and then the lumbering Wideload, a dump truck. Octane followed them. Debria and Hubcap brought up the rear, now equipped with firearms retrieved by Hubcap.
"Ah, so the turncoat shows himself at last!" cried Cyclonus, as he swept in for another attack. "Sweeps, destroy him!"
"Not so fast!" shouted Rollbar. "Throttlebots, take them down!" The Throttlebots scattered, taking up defensible positions behind pillars, trees, and other obstacles. They opened fire on the Sweeps first, striking several of them. The unlucky ones flew out of control, smoke billowing from their wounds. Octane, Debria, and Hubcap took up a position of their own nearer the entrance to the warehouse, from which they began their own attack on the Sweeps.
"We're outnumbered!" Scourge called to Cyclonus. "Where did these other Autobots come from?"
Cyclonus ignored the question, instead shouting, "Decepticons, regroup and counterattack!"
The Sweeps fell into formation again behind Cyclonus. The Decepticons moved as one over the plaza and belted it with a fresh round of laser blasts. The explosions shook the entire area, sending the Throttlebots to the ground and scrambling for cover.
"Will they keep on ticking if they take such a licking?" Debria asked, her voice nearly drowned out by the sound of explosions.
"I, I don't know," Octane said. "They're getting slaughtered out there. I've gotta help them!"
"Octane, don't!" Hubcap cried, but it was too late. Octane transformed into his tanker truck mode and raced into the center of the square, immediately drawing the Decepticons' fire. Then, without slowing down, he transformed into his cargo plane mode and launched himself upward, toward his attackers.
"Fool!" Cyclonus bellowed as he and the Sweeps circled around for another pass. "Prepare yourself for oblivion!"
"For the glory of Galvatron!" cried one of the Sweeps as it directed its fire toward Octane.
"No!" said another. "I shall be the one to slay him!"
A third cried, "No, I shall be the one to sit at the right hand of Galvatron!"
"Wait!" Scourge cried. "Let Cyclonus have him! We mustn't take our attention off of the other Autobots!" But Scourge's orders were ignored, and only seconds later, he watched as his Sweeps were plastered with fire from the Throttlebots, which left them hurtling out of control and off the battlefield. "Idiots!" he boomed, but then he, too, was plastered with fire, and he cried out in frustration and pain. "Sweeps, retreat!" he called.
Cyclonus, meanwhile, was closing in on Octane. At hearing Scourge's cry, however, his concentration was broken. "What?" he asked. His split-second break in concentration was all the time that Octane needed to dive out of the way, leaving Cyclonus an easy mark for the Autobots on the ground. Cyclonus took several hard blasts to the same wing that had already been singed during his dogfight with Skyfire. Now he, too, cried out in alarm.
"We are outgunned!" he said to the others. "Retreat, if you still can! Live to fight another day!" Cyclonus watched as Scourge led his Sweeps away from the fight. He then transformed and, hovering high above the plaza, looked down at Octane. "This is not the end, Octane," he said gravely. "Your feud with Galvatron continues, and your feud with me is only beginning." With that he transformed back into his jet mode, and in seconds he had vanished from sight.
"Yeah, great," Octane muttered. "Looking forward to it."
"Well," said Rollbar, as he led the Throttlebots over to where Octane, Debria, and Hubcap stood. "You did great, kid. Never seen Decepticons go at it like that with each other."
"I think they would tell you that I'm not that much of a Decepticon," Octane answered.
Rollbar shrugged and smiled at Octane. "There are worse insults," he said.
Turning to Hubcap, Octane said, "Look, I'm really sorry about all the damage to your store."
Hubcap shrugged. "It's not the first time we've had trouble," he said. "I'm still an Autobot, you know. That tends to attract the weirdos."
Octane looked to Debria and said, "Debria, do you think your Junkion friends could help to fix this place up?"
Debria smiled and gave a thumbs-up. "Satisfaction guaranteed," she said.
"And how about you guys?" Octane asked Rollbar. "Want a lift back to Cybertron?"
"I thought you'd never ask," Rollbar answered. "Boy, what a report we'll have to file, huh?"
Hubcap stepped forward and said, "Before you go, I'd like to give you something, Debria. Here." He handed her the strange laser device that he'd used on the prison cubes. "You might need this, in case you find any more of those cubes on Junkion. I can't stand the idea of somebody being trapped in those little things."
Debria saluted and said, "You're the top of the charts, King Hubcap. Y’all come and visit us on Junkion sometime, you hear?"
"You got it," Hubcap said, and he gave Debria an affectionate slap on the shoulder. He looked around and shook his head, saying, “Well, this was one Crazy Sales Days that went a little crazier than planned.”
“No kidding," Octane said. “Anyway, I'll tell Rodimus Prime what happened here. Maybe we can do something to bolster Automatia's defenses. And, like Debria said, we'll have the Junkions swing by to help with the cleanup." He sighed, then turned back to the Throttlebots and said, with a shrug, "Well, I guess that's it then. Let's go home! Finally...."
* * *
Somewhere deep in space, Scourge and his Sweeps limped along behind Cyclonus. Very little was said for a long time. Scourge could feel anxiety building among his troops. Finally he had no choice but to ask the question on all of their minds.
"Cyclonus," he said. "Where are we going? This course will not take us to Chaar."
"Indeed it will not," Cyclonus replied, his voice monotone. "I dare not return to Chaar, considering our failure on Automatia."
"Y-you don't think that Galvatron will destroy us, do you?"
"It is a possibility."
"But we are his generals, his most loyal soldiers!"
“Yes,” Cyclonus said simply. "And from all appearances, we are the least competent as well."
"Then, what are we to do?" Scourge asked.
There was a long pause, then Cyclonus said, "We must devise a better plan for abducting Octane. Only with that errand completed shall Galvatron forgive us for our shortcomings."
"And what is that plan, Cyclonus?"
There was a much longer pause before Cyclonus finally said, "Here is how I see it, Scourge. You and your Sweeps have until we reach the next planetoid to come up with a strategy. Should you have none, or should your suggestions fail to impress me... then you shall not need to worry about what happens next."