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Powermasters are a cross-factional subgroup from the Generation One continuity family.
THEY'VE GOT THE POWER TO SURVIVE!
See also: Godmaster.
Marvel Comics continuity
After months of devastating war on their planet, the Nebulans no longer cared whether the Autobots or Decepticons won, as long as the fighting stopped. When the forces under the command of Fortress Maximus and Scorponok left their planet for Earth, the Nebulans took advantage of the opportunity to poison all of their fuel and energy sources, tainting it in order to render it unusable by any Transformer.
The scientist who had devised the toxin, Hi-Q, soon had a falling out with his partner Hi-Test, who was jealous over Hi-Q's success. When a pair of Decepticons named Darkwing and Dreadwind appeared to menace the planet, and were immobilized by the tainted fuel, Hi-Test saw an opportunity to act. Undergoing a binary bonding process with the inert Decepticons, Hi-Test changed himself and his ally Throttle into the first Powermasters. Using this new process, the Decepticons were able to function on the poisoned planet of Nebulos by using their Powermaster partners as living batteries.
A small team of Autobots arrived on Nebulos, hoping to construct a new body for their leader, Optimus Prime. Seeing the Decepticons running rampant, they tried to stop their reign of terror, but soon began to run low on fuel. Hi-Q took action and used the same binary bonding process as his rival Hi-Test, bonding himself to the body of Optimus Prime. His fellow scientists, with one exception, followed suit in bonding themselves to fallen Autobots as well. The revitalized Autobots quickly defeated the two Decepticons.
Most of the Transformers known as "Powermasters" were the result of this initial bonding - the procedure is otherwise quite rare.
As with the other "Master" technologies, the Powermaster procedure requires extensive cybernetic surgery and specially designed power armor used by the subject. These changes allow an organic being to transform into a powerful engine/power cell and bond themselves to a properly modified Transformer. The primary advantage to this procedure is survival: Powermaster partners are able to filter and counteract the radioactive toxins within Nebulan fuel, allowing a Transformer who has been poisoned to function normally.
Aside from serving as an advanced filtration system for any impurities or toxins that may be in their associate's body, a Powermaster partner can also function as a power booster or turbo accelerator, giving the Transformer he is bonded to a surge of additional power for increased strength or speed in dangerous situations. This benefit allows a Powermaster to be much faster or stronger than most normal Transformers for brief periods of time. In addition, a Powermaster engine is more adaptable and efficient than a standard Transformer fuel cell: far from requiring energon or refined fuels, Powermasters can run on almost any energy source - including food. This makes it much easier for a Powermaster to adapt to the available resources, without needing to waste time or energy converting them into a more palatable form.
Being a living battery places a heavy strain on the bodies of those who wish to be Powermaster partners. The procedure leaves the organics involved with extremely high metabolisms, meaning that they need to eat large quantities of food at regular intervals just to keep themselves from starving to death.The Transformer that they are paired with is often drawing his power directly from their own life energy - if stretched too far they can easily be left exhausted, hungry, or even dead.
Over time, the bonding procedure for Powermasters seems to be similar to that of some Headmasters, in that there is a risk of both partners being absorbed into a single being with only one mind and identity. This happened to Hi-Q, who over time began to change and merge with his Transformer counterpart until he actually became Optimus Prime.
A Transformer who has undergone Powermaster formatting is also at a disadvantage if separated from their partner. Even more than a Headmaster, a Powermaster needs his bonded partner to function. Without them, he cannot transform, fight, or even move. His partner is basically an advanced form of life-support, and should they be lost, killed, or even damaged, the Transformer will be in mortal danger. However, there is at least one known example of a Transformer who has survived losing its Powermaster partner.