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Leading from Behind

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The trouble with Dark Energon—aside from the rumored "damned forever by the blood of Unicron" aspect, which Knock Out scoffed at—was that the substance was supposed to be purely the thing of legend and storybook.   The only "Dark Energon" Knock Out had ever seen on Cybertron had been regular blue Energon infused with purple dye, hawked by shady street vendors.  

And while those brought problems of their own—bots who consumed them usually developed rashes that made their paint flake off—they were nothing compared to the mysterious substance that Megatron had unearthed.  Since Dark Energon was a thing of myth, Knock Out initially had no data on the physiological or psychological effects of the drug.

But he'd quickly developed a professional opinion that Dark Energon led to irrational decisions,  impulsive actions, and paranoia.  Doctor's diagnosis: it was bad news.  Not that anyone ever listened to his expert opinion!

At least there was only one bot on board sampling it, as far as Knock Out knew.  True, a few of the Vehicon guards had dabbled with the substance as well, but Megatron had discovered their little bender and disposed of them.  Poor, dumb genericons!  Less work for Knock Out, though.  Now he only had to worry about the Decepticon lord . . . the one currently pacing back and forth through his med bay, his optics blazing purple.

"None must know of this meeting, Knock Out!  None!"

"Oh, of course not,"  Knock Out said, wondering once again what was important enough to drag him out of bed in the dead of night.

"Forces beyond your meager comprehension swirl in a maelstrom, and I am in the center!"

Perhaps florid descriptions were a side effect of the drug?  Then again, Megatron had been a poet once. "Yes, my liege?"

"I have enemies everywhere," Megatron slammed a fist down on a table, destroying several delicate tools.  "Enemies waiting to strike!"

Well, Megatron wasn't wrong about that.  But Knock Out was counting Megatron's behavior as paranoia anyway, based on the way the former gladiator's optics flitted frantically around the med bay.  Knock Out decided he'd better calm him down.  "Ah, but the Nemesis is your domain, Lord Megatron, your stronghold.  You are perfectly safe here."

Megatron glared at him for a long moment.  "Of course I am.  Those that say otherwise will quickly learn of their folly.  For as the Covenant of Primus says, I am the alpha and the omega—"

Knock Out knew he should pay attention, out of self-preservation if nothing else, but frag it all, Megatron was reciting half the blasted Covenant!  The medic fell into a stupor, nodding at strategic intervals as Megatron ranted about how this and that passage of an obscure religious text pertained, naturally, to himself.  Poor Starscream, Knock Out mused. Second to Megatron in everything, even egotism.

"That's certainly a lot to live up to, my lord," Knock Out said, seizing his chance when Megatron paused between quotations.  "But I'm afraid I'm still puzzled as to my role in all this.  Are you feeling unwell?  Perhaps an examination is in order?"  

"Don't speak nonsense, Doctor.  Do I look unwell?"

As Megatron's eyes were currently skewing in opposite directions, Knock Out elected to tactfully change the subject.  "Then perhaps you desire new weaponry? I happen to have an attractive little missile launcher with a range of—"

"I do not need your trinkets, Knock Out.  I have power beyond that which your feeble imagination can encompass!" The warlord swept his arm to the side as though to brush away an annoyance and, with a flare of purple energy and a resounding boom, his fusion cannon added a new passageway into adjacent storeroom.  The fact that Megatron blinked at his cannon in apparent surprise did not comfort Knock Out (now cowering behind a table) in the least.

"Lord Megatron, perhaps we should discuss this in the morning when you're feeling bett—when you're feeling more alert?"

"Silence!  I am always alert!"  Megatron glared first at Knock Out, then at the smoking hole.  "And fix that immediately!"

Knock Out silently pinned a tarp over the hole; this seemed to satisfy Megatron, who nodded to himself and even smiled slightly.

"I will be frank, Doctor," Megatron said, calming to the point where he actually sounded rational.  "I am not here regarding my health or my offensive capabilities;  I am here about my spark."

Alarm bells went off in Knock Out's head.  "Lord Megatron, any spark irregularities must be treated seriously!  How long has it troubled you? Is it spinning too fast?  Too slow?  Please, allow me to scan it—"

"My spark is as strong as the dark power that infuses it, Doctor," Megatron snapped.  "The issue is not its condition, but its placement."

"Its . . . placement, Lord Megatron?"

"In my chest, Doctor!  My chest!"

"Er, yes, that is where sparks normally reside . . ."

"Precisely!"  Megatron was pacing again, his arms behind his back.  "And that is where Optimus Prime will aim when next we meet.  He has grown more passionate, more savage, Knock Out, and while our stockpile of relics has grown, so too have the Autobots'.  Therefore . . ." He paused meaningfully, staring at the medic.

Knock Out stared dumbly back.  Megatron, undeterred, forged onward.

"Therefore, Knock Out, my spark must not BE in my chest."

"Uh.  But, I mean, then, where?"

"Lower, Doctor, lower."

"How much lower?" Knock Out asked faintly.  

He was not prepared for Megatron, Lord of the Decepticons, to turn around and solemnly cup a servo over that polished silver aft.  "The only logical place."