"As if losing this protoform was my responsibility?!"
"Well, if da boot fits!"
"Fortunately, I'd have to say that it is too small for my foot, Vermin."
"What?! Go eat cold slag, scale-face!"
"After you, cheese-eater!"
"Will you two knock it off?!" Primal finally bellowed, causing both of them to turn and look at their leader in slight shock. The Transmetal gorilla glared at each of them in turn, but said nothing more before turning on his heel and leaving the command center.
Rattrap looked at Dinobot. "What was dat for?"
Dinobot was still watching Primal, the usually angry scowl replaced with a frown of confusion. "I do not know."
Rhinox sighed, and said, "That protoform belonged to Optimus' eldest child. She's been reprogrammed."
Rattrap's optics bugged. "You mean . . . datwas . . . Oh, dis ain't good."
Cheetor came up upon the lift, shoulders hunched. He left the bridge before anyone could say anything to him. Dinobot watched the way that the young bot moved, saw the pain in his posture. The ex-Predacon looked back at Rhinox. "What is . . . ?"
"His twin sister."
"Hn. Worse things have happened."
"Yeah, but not to them. Neither of them knew that she had come on to the Axalon. Personally, I thought that she had been with her aunt." The technician put down a component he had been fiddling with. "This family hasn't been broken up by the Maximal Elders for a reason, Dinobot. They're direct descendants of Prime."
"Then why have Primal and Cheetor upon one exploration trip?"
"Dunno. Training, I guess."
"But would it not have been more wise to . . ."
"Would have been," Rattrap said. "But den again, da Kiddo wasn't technicallyold enough to be on a trip as a pilot. He's been training all 'is life. Optimus disregarded all da advise, simply because he wanted his son ta learn from him."
With a sigh, the sword's-bot sat upon the small island that separated two consoles, gently chewing the inside of his lip. He could not let his leader fall. Megatron had them outnumbered. And it would not be wise to be weak-minded in a time as this. Mentally, Dinobot ticked off the Predacons versus the Maximals. With Airazor and Tigatron taken by aliens, they were outnumbered by one. That one happened to be a reprogrammed relative of their leader and the twin of a flier. If Cheetor would take this badly, that meant that one air patrol would end up being vacant, and that would not be a wise move. The sector that Cheetor covered happened to have a lot of beachfront, more than a few chasms, and one large canyon that could not be crossed other than by air.
Dinobot was not pleased in the least.
Megatron looked this new femme over. Unfortunately, they didn't arrive in time for them to program in a suitable Predacon beast mode, thus . . . this slim cat-like thing would have to do. "Your name?"
"Ah. Pleasant." The tyrant cleared his throat. "Now. What of your robot mode?"
She transformed, revealing herself to be in possession of a slim-waist, a slightly larger than average bust, long legs, and a lovely face. Well, it would have been lovely, if that look of dull annoyance would leave it. Being a serval-hawk Fuzor gave her a generally tan appearance. However, her face was a shade of dull cobalt, contrasting sharply with gold optics that didn't seem to ever lose their look of attention to her surroundings. In one hand she held a whip, long and supple, while in the other a rifle that looked as if it could do damage. Her wings were longer in robot mode, arching gracefully around her.
Blackarachnia walked up to the new femme, glanced her over, then said, "Think you can survive in a Predacon group?"
Placing her rifle in subspace, Anarkye cracked the whip with an expert flick of her wrist, carelessly bringing a crow off of its perch upon a branch and letting it fall between herself and the spider. The younger femme's voice was soft, but dangerous. "If you wish to see more of what I can do, hand over one of your boys for me to play with."
Megatron watched the interaction with growing unease. These two were something of a kind, and they looked as if they would work together well. That must never happen, if he wanted to remain in the seat of power.
Anarkye looked up suddenly, then said, "Stasis pod."
"What?!" the others around her screeched, all following her gaze.
Megatron too kin the situation immediately. "Anarkye, Inferno! Come with me to secure that pod! Everyone else, back to the base!"
"Woah-no . . ."
Rhinox turned at the sound of Rattrap's voice. "What is it?"
"Another stasis pod! And . . . it's in Pred territory."
"How deeply?" Dinobot demanded, leaning over Rattrap's shoulder to watch the screen.
The Transmetal sighed. "None of us could get there safely or in time. Dat's two new Preds t'day alone."
"Where is Silverbolt?"
"On the western perimeter. Dis is on da eastern."
Dinobot released a drawn-out, hissed, heartfelt, "Ssssllaaaaagg! This is no time for us to be unable to retrieve reinforcements!"
"Yeah, tell me about it," Rattrap replied. "But I'm lookin' at da orbits of da other pods, an' one more looks ready t' fall."
"One more that wasn't wiped by the Quantum Surge, you mean," Rhinox said.
"Yeah. It was on da other side o' da planet when we were hit."
"Where will it land?"
"Dunno, other than it'll be in da northern hemisphere."
Straightening, Dinobot turned and left the room. Rattrap turned, blinked, then called, "Hey, where're ya goin'?"
"To tell our leader to get his head out of his tailpipe," came the growled reply. "We need to be ready for the next one."
Rattrap, for once, couldn't agree more.
"I'm called Shangrila."
Inwardly, Megatron was seething. Another raptor. And if she were anything like Dinobot, he would have to watch his back with more caution than he would reward others of his band with. Outwardly, however, he was cool and collected, seemingly a bit disinterested. "Right. I am Megatron, your leader."
"I know your types. Allow me to be ahead of the game, if you will. Shangrila, Terrorize!"
With an eerily familiar transformation sequence, she rested in her robot mode holding a nasty-looking double-edged sword. Her left fore-arm had a small missile-launcher of a sort upon the top, armed with what looked to be tactical high-powered ammunition. This time, disinterested blood-colored optics looked at him from nearly a midnight-blue face. Her beast mode's coloring was different from Dinobot's, being nearly a dark mahogany with nearly black stripes. White ribs stood out elegantly, showing off a waist slimmer than Anarkye's. Long legs again were in the package, as well as a well-endowed bust. She was the complete opposite to Dinobot, physically.
Maybe, the thought came to Megatron, they were only seductresses. That would be a bonus. As long as they weren't power-hungry and weren't in the mood for helping someone overthrow him, he was content. With a decisive nod, he turned and said, "Inferno, bring our new comrade back to base. We have a lot of planning to do."
"Yes, my queen!"
The two new femmes exchanged a look of slight disgust.
A week later had the Maximals gathered around the newly-fallen pod, each wary that Megatron would show up. Finally, the hatch opened, and out stepped a . . .
"A rat?!" Dinobot snarled. "Bleah."
"Oi! Slag off, scale-snout!"
"Xephyr?!" Rattrap asked, turning.
Rattrap's joy swiftly turned to anger. "You were supposed to stay home!"
"So I didn't wanna! Why? What's got your servos bent in a knot?!"
"You . . . you . . ." Rattrap let out a whining sigh of annoyance, then rubbed at his face, trying to make himself relax. "Aaah, slag. Everyone, dis is my younger sister, Xephyr. Xeph, this is our commander, Optimus Primal, Rhinox, Cheetor, Silverbolt, and dat's Dinobot. Call 'im what you want; he'll answer to it."
With a snarl, Dinobot shoved Rattrap slightly, then turned away, seeing something in that smaller bot's lavender optics that he knew to be the very beginning of affection. Her light bronze coloration blended well with the amber fur that covered the younger bot. Her stature was that of Rattrap's: Short and built well.
Why the slag was this all happening as it was?
Shangrila walked into the weaponry room, seeing Anarkye there was well, only . . . she was with Quickstrike, and seemingly about to enter a verycompromising situation. Shangrila ignored them, reaching over them to pull the entire sword-rack off of the wall, carrying it back to the door. Once there, she looked over her shoulder at the two bots staring at her in complete shock. She shook her head. "Anarkye, you have a meeting with Megs in less than five cycles. What the Pit are you doing?"
Yelping, Anarkye pulled herself together and ran from the room with sure, swift moves.Quickstrike sighed wistfully, then looked at Shangrila. "Yah really know how ta harsh a–"
"Don't wanna hear it," the taller Predacon said. "And I don't want you near her."
"Are yah her keeper or sumthin'?" the Fuzor asked in a taunt.
"Maybe I am. And I'll tell her what I told you." Swinging the rack so that it was over her shoulder, she left the weapons' locker, and returned to her quarters, where Anarkye was sitting upon her desk. "What did I tell you about that bot?"
"That he would try something like that the moment I was alone with him."
"You were right."
Blackarachnia came into the room, not bothering to knock. She took the bed. "Right. You called this. What's it about?"
"Have either of you two noticed how we're being paid minimal attention to by our leader? He hardly looks at any of us unless it's necessary."
"What are you thinking?"
"He thinks we're, Anarkye and myself, are seductresses."
"So act the part."
"Without motive? Hardly a Predacon way."
"Point," Anarkye said, holding a finger up. "So?"
"What say we find a motive?"
"Overthrow?" Blackarachnia asked.
"Tarantulus will help. He hates Megs almost as much as he hates the aliens."
Anarkye rubbed her palms together, then tapped a finger upon her chin. "What about the Maximals? We haven't seen them at all."
"Megatron's keeping us away from them," Shangrila replied. "I know this for a fact. Waspinator is always in an R pool for days after wewere sent out on a simple perimeter check or Energon survey."
"But why?" Blackarachnia asked.
"I know who I am, and who I was on Cybertron. I know who Megatron took with him to steal the disk. I had been a 'bargaining chip,' if you will, to get one of the bots to do the job. That bot isn't here. Three of the original team aren't here. That isn't sitting well with me."
"Two were destroyed in the Quantum surge," Blackarachnia replied. "The third is Maximal."
Shangrila took this in stoically. "The one I was used for would never become Maximal. He's too Predacon to even thinkabout it."
"I guess that I'm sorry. You cared about him?"
"He was my older brother. I looked out for him. He had a strange voice, though . . ."
"Yeah, one of the guys who died had a voice. Harsh on the audios?"
Shangrila sighed, then pushed the matter to the back of her mind. "But the girl here doesn't know who she was. And that's why Megatron's keeping her away from the Maximals."
Anarkye looked between the elder femmes. "So? Tell me."
"You're related to two of them. Megatron's keeping you in prime condition as a possible hostage. I've been through some of his personal records. He once reprogrammed an existing Maximal, with drastic results."
Blackarachnia groaned, looking away. "I most certainly didn't like that. Poisoned and webbed? Yeah. And Megs won't do that again. He's a dumb saurian, but he's not thatdumb."
"Watch it. I maytake offence," Shangrila snapped.
"Whatever. Look, what are you going to do?"
"I'm going out to see what these Maximals are like."
"I wanna come," Anarkye said, sliding off the desk lithely.
"No," replied the raptor, "not until I'm sure . . ."
"Sure? Of what?"
"Something that concerns me, and not you. You'll get your chance. Now go annoy someone. If you follow me . . ."
The deadly look within Shangrila's bloody optics warned Anarkye that she'd better listen.
As soon as she was safe in some woodlands, far from the Predacon base, the raptor stumbled into a clearing, unable to see clearly due to her tears. Why did her brother have to die? He had raised her with an iron thumb, not accepting any failure or disobedience, shunning them with sarcasm and nasty wit, but . . . he did that because he cared for her. She saw that when he had become a criminal for her to live.
Collapsing upon soft moss, Shangrila let her sorrow be wept out out.
Thus, she didn't see the two pairs of optics watching her. Rattrap looked at Cheetor, seeing him look away. The shorter Maximal sighed silently, then walked out, gun left beside his younger friend, and stood a safe distance away from the dark raptor. "Hey. You."
She transformed with a snarl, drawing her sword and glaring at the Maximal. Rattrap blinked, then said, "I'm unarmed. I just wanna know if you're one o' da new Preds."
"Well if I'm not on yourteam, then perhapsI may be."
"Ouch. Right. Well, see 'ya later, I guess. Yo! Kiddo! Le's go!"
Shangrila watched as Transmetal can smaller than she was walked out of the foliage and toss a pistol to Rattrap. He turned cold optics towards her. When Rattrap passed Cheetor, the cat turned and started walking after him. The Predacon's voice betrayed her. "Wait!"
"What," came a dull reply.
"Were . . . were you once called by the name of Navskip?"
Cheetor took a step closer, then stopped, and nodded. "What of it?"
Knowing that she was betraying Megatron in one small way, she put her sword away and replied, "Your sister is fine. I'm looking out for her. Her memory wasn't completely wiped."
Rattrap walked back, asking, "How do 'ya know dis?"
"I got to her stasis pod before Tarantulus or Megatron did. I erased the data, making it look as if it were damaged by the fall."
"Is she going to be all right over there?" Cheetor asked.
"She will be," Shangrila replied. "She's not Predacon by heritage, and she only has secondary programming to rely upon, but I'm keeping watch over her."
"Why do dis?" Rattrap asked.
"I lost my brother to Megatron. I believe that he's already perished in this war. I don't want to dishonor his memory by being selfish."
"Nevuh known a Pred ta . . . wait. Did 'ya just say 'dishonor'?"
"Your bro, how tall was he?"
"Easily two full feet taller than I am."
"An' you're tall . . . Primus above . . . you're . . . Ho, boy, dat bot ain't gonna be happy when he finds out."
"Who?" Cheetor asked.
"Choppuhface, dat's who," Rattrap said. He looked back at Shangrila, seeing the exact same optics as the ex-Predacon's upon her face. "He's her big brothuh."