It was only when the third outpost stopped responding that the Decepticons realized there was no turning back.
"Oh slag, oh frag, what are we gonna do now?"
"I don't – I don't know. We didn't tell them about the rust this time, and they still denied us docking. One of the other stations must have sent out quarantine warnings on us!"
"This is it. I always knew it would end like this," Dead End bemoaned.
"Shut up!" Dreadwind snapped. "We never invited you along anyway."
"I didn't have anywhere else to go!" The rest of the Stunticons had long since expired.
"This is your fault!" Darkwing stabbed a finger at his partner, only to witness that finger fall off his hand. "You were the one who wanted to check out Antilla and loot it!"
Dreadwind flung his arms in the air. "We took all the precautions! It's not my fault the equipment failed on us!"
"Yes it is! You were the one who bought it at discount! You should have known something was wrong with the stuff."
"Look, look. We know who's really to blame..."
Swindle tossed the rag into the incinerator once he was done polishing his cannon. He took pride in his appearance and the excellent condition of his body. He fastidiously laced the polish back in its proper place within the endless shelves of merchandise. His entire inventory was accurately catalogued and priced, and he liked to keep it that way. Business was slow these days, what with his clientele dropping roughly in half with the end of the War. So he had plenty of time to keep things organized.
As a salesmech he always needed to look his best. Sure, he had enough spare parts to last him a century, but with his body's tech being quickly outmoded, he would have to be frugal. He hadn't exactly been granted amnesty, so he couldn't just waltz in and get himself a Predacon upgrade the legal way. And those bodies were still too new and rare to "acquire" through less than honest means. Slag him if he was going to put himself in a Maximal shell – he still had his pride to think about. He could wait until Predacon bodies became more common. Holding out for the right opportunity was 25% of the sales business, after all. And sales was more than a business, it was a way of life.
As he exited his warehouse and crossed the threshold into his front office area, he picked up a Pz-Zazzian dart and flung it at a picture of ol' Onslaught's head that hung on the wall. Good riddance to his former commander. He had been the one who's sent the Autobots/Maximals the anonymous tip of his teammates' hideaway when the war had ended, and he had done it with glee. They would only have held him back. And Brawl, well… he had just used Brawl's hand to throw the dart.
"Missed," a raspy voice said behind him.
Swindle turned around and shot reflexively, but the figure took the shot to his torso and just kept coming. He screamed as he leapt back with the realization that he had successfully blown a huge hole through the crumbling body and it made no difference. This was a dead mech walking. Cosmic rust.
Their core processors must have already started corroding; they had no energy signatures to trigger his security systems. Swindle cursed his short-sightedness at not springing for the full sensor package. But he relied on walk-in business these days and he couldn't afford to accidentally be shooting down prospective clients.
"Don't touch me!" he shouted.
But even as his attacker dropped to his knees, Swindle felt another set of arms wrap around him. He turned his head around to see his attacker, but he knew the damage had been done even before he registered that the second mech had lost his lower jaw.
"GAAAAAAH!" he screamed.
"Don't be such a coward," a third mass of red-tinted crumbling metal said as it approached him, slapping a stasis inhibitor onto his back.
Swindle felt his whole body numb, no longer responding to his commands. There was no escape for him now. By the time the inhibitor rusted away, he would be too far gone himself to get to his emergency corrostop supply. Like these three.
"And face your fate like a Decepticon," Dead End finished.
But Swindle didn't want to face his fate with dignity. Instead, he screamed again as the three bodies held him down, moshing themselves against him and spreading their disease threefold all over his beautiful body.