Attaining a Starting Line
Shangrila walked to Anarkye's quarters a week later. Things were set up, finally in place. Her thoughts returned to a week ago without her bidding.
"He's . . . he's alive?"
"Been alive, an' no two doubts about it. He's slaggin' hard t' kill."
"That takes guts. I've seen him livid."
"He's nuttin' when he angry."
"I said livid. He's funny when angry."
"I'm his younger sister. I have to make fun of him."
"Slag, I know how dat is."
"When you two are done sharing experiences, I'd like to know how my sister is," Cheetor had butted in.
Shangrila smiled at Cheetor. Though she had Dinobot's optics, she had the complete opposite of his personality. "She's learning Predaconian standards the hard way, but I'm making it easy on her."
"How can it be easy," Cheetor accused, sitting.
"By me acting as her keeper, that's how. All Megs knows about me is that I'm unnerving to him, and that he can't seem to really get who exactlyI am. He sees Anarkye as nothing more than a young seductress."
"Gear down, kid. I didn't say that she was. She came to me on the first day here, completely ill at ease with our new companions. So I helped build this image, and, thankfully, she happens to be a wondrous actress, if you will."
"Who's after her?"
"Today's bachelor was Quickstrike."
"I was quite discouraging."
"How so?" Rattrap asked.
Shangrila grinned evilly. "I pulled off something my brother would have done. I ripped a sword rack off of the wall over where they were, and then walked away with it as if it were nothing. I think he nearly wet himself."
Still smirking over that incident, Shangrila opened Anarkye's door. The younger femme was lounging upon her bed, reading. She sat up the moment the raptor entered. "What?"
"Come with me."
Following without a complaint, the two nearly made it out, until Megatron stopped them. "And where would you two be going?"
Shangrila turned her head just so that she could look at Megatron out of the corner of her eye. "I'm training the young one in hand-to-hand defense methods. There isn't enough space in this base."
"And why not the surrounding lands, then, hmm? Ones that are in sight?"
"You think I want family secrets passed on to people who will abuse them? I think not." Turning away again, she walked off, Anarkye walking with a slight swagger of her hips that leaned towards the suggestive.
As soon as the duo were out of sight, Shangrila picked up the pace and changed directions. She led Anarkye upon a seemingly random course, until they ultimately ended up at the savannah. Once there, they saw the Maximal team walking closer to the appointed place. Shangrila walked out in beast mode, seeing one other raptor in the group. She had to nearly bite herself to keep from running at him and wrestling with him in her complete joy. Instead, she looked over her shoulder, and indicated Anarkye forward. Once the Maximals had stopped before them, Shangrila spoke. "Primal, I'm grateful that you've listened to Rattrap and Cheetor, believing them."
The leader was also restraining himself, she could see. Anarkye looked up at her mentor. "What are you talking about?"
Shangrila smiled slightly. "You want to know who you were before coming here? You're his daughter. They'll help you get your memory back."
"But what about you?" Anarkye asked, pouncing around to land before Shangrila.
"I cannot be with them."
Shangrila smiled, transformed, then roughly tumbled Anarkye to the ground, causing a puff of dust to rise. "Because Megatron will notice that I've defected. He would care less about you. That's exactly what I had planned from the beginning."
Anarkye sat up, then looked over her shoulder at Optimus. "He's my father?"
"And the one at his right is your younger twin brother."
"My brother . . ."
Rattrap's sister snorted. "You think that you can trick us? C'mon, Rattrap, you said that you know this chick! It's a Pred ploy! It's gotta be."
Dinobot transformed and stood over the smaller rat-bot. "I would beg to differ." He turned back to face Shangrila. "And my reasoning is just. Is it not, Shangrila?"
"It is," Shangrila replied softly. She smiled once more at Anarkye, then turned and started walking away. A hand placed itself upon her shoulder, turning her to face Dinobot. He just watched her optics, reading them easily. With a sigh, she turned away. "I can't let suspicion arise around her disappearance."
Not caring about what the Maximals would say later, Dinobot rested his arm around her shoulders, causing her to turn towards him. "My sister, I thought he had killed you."
She rested her forehead into his shoulder, unable to hold sobs back. Anarkye yelped, transformed as well, and would have run up to Shangrila, had Xephyr not gently took her arm, and held her where she was. "Hey, look behind you."
Anarkye did, and then blinked at her newfound father and brother. Optimus came up to her, but didn't touch her, not wanting to push her. His proximity and his Spark signature began hacking away at the wall that had been between the two parts of Anarkye's mind. Xephyr released her elbow, and the young femme fell into her father's arms, memories beginning to return to her. Cheetor ran over as well, and the three stood together. Finally, after changing her activation code, Anarkye looked over to where Shangrila had stood. By now, she was asleep in her beast mode, her brother sitting by her head, guarding her. Anarkye walked over to him and sat before him, not saying anything.
His voice wasn't too harsh in addressing the newest Maximal. Rattrap never really saw this side of Dinobot . . . the caring side. "Was she pushing herself?"
"Shangrila? Sorta. I guess that she wanted to be there for me."
"I have no doubts that she would want to be. You needed protection in that environment." Dinobot snarled, then looked down at his sister. "Blasted girl never knew how to respect limits."
Rattrap grinned, then stood before the raptor duo. "So, ah, she up for grabs, or what?"
Dinobot's face became a mask of complete shock. "What."
"I'm askin' 'ya if you'll care if I take interest in your younger sister, scale-face."
Anarkye grinned, then said,"You're Rattrap?"
"Huh? Yeah. What of it?"
"She likes you."
Dinobot's face paled. "Oh, Primus above, why me?"
Shangrila dragged herself into the Predacon base six hours later, collapsing just outside the entrance. Inferno dragged her to before Megatron, and woke her. The tyrant sighed. "What happened, Shangrila?"
"Ambushed," she croaked out. That wasn't a lie. She and her brother were hunting each other in beast mode.
"Maximals." Again, not a lie.
"And where is Anarkye?"
"I was unconscious." She didn't say whenshe was unconscious, of course.
"And why did you not call for reinforcements?"
Shangrila swallowed, then replied hoarsely, "I didn't think that I'd need them."
Megatron crushed something metal, then snarled. "Fine. Get her into a pool. I'll deal with her later."
The raptor couldn't have been more glad that she had accepted her brother's challenge for an all-out, no-holds-barred fight to test themselves.
Anarkye was playing cards with Rattrap, telling him as much as she knew about Shangrila. Dinobot hadn't opened up with any information about his sister, and Rattrap expected that. So he had asked Cheetor's sister. Cheetor was sitting in on the conversation, as well as Xephyr, each wanting to know about a mysterious ex-Predacon's relative. None of them noticed when Dinobot joined them, until he added in, "And she is my equal in the art of the sword."
Rattrap dropped his cards, then looked up at Dinobot guiltily.
The tall Maximal was watching Rattrap warily. "Chase my sister, vermin, and we shall have a long chat."
"Y-yeah. I gotcha, Choppuhface."
Xephyr sighed, seeing him leave. Anarkye grinned to Cheetor, then said, "I think that someone has a crush on my best friend's big brother!"
"What?! I do not!" Xephyr replied.
Rattrap blinked from one femme to the other, and just as the denial had flown through the air, something hit the base. He hit the emergency button, causing Sentinel to try to power up immediately, and then contacted all Maximals. "Pred attack, and Sentinel won't power up completely!"
Optimus was the first in. "Cheetor, take to the air."
"What about me?" Anarkye asked.
The leader blinked, then looked to Rattrap. "You keep an eye on her. You're both on cover fire. Xephyr, you're with Rhinox. Silverbolt! You're with Cheetor for aerial defense! Rhinox, Dinobot, you're with me."
"Frontal assault?" the tall bot asked.
"As usual. Everyone in position!"
Shangrila had her sword drawn, limbs slightly tensed for a fight. Megatron watched her carefully, wondering who she would go after in battle. Would it be their former comrade, Anarkye? Or possibly Primal, if she were that bold? Something about her ways and her attitude seemed familiar to the tyrant. Something about how she held herself said that she knew some of his deepest, darkest secrets. Something of the way she looked at him accused him of something that he couldn't quite grasp.
And he didn't know why it all unnerved him.
Sentinel fell, and the Maximals surged forward. As he went to engage Primal, Megatron saw Shangrila square off with Dinobot. That was something unexpected. Between trading punches and gunfire with his rival, Megatron took glances at the dueling pair. Each had taken hits, and each were on equal footing with one another.
Their optics . . .
Could she be . . . ?
Optimus scored an uppercut upon Megatron's chin. "What's the matter Megatron? Distracted?"
"Yes, if you wish to call it that, Optimus Primal."
"Well! I'm insulted!"
"Then so be it, Primal!"
Shangrila dodged what would have been a crippling blow, spinning to slash at her brother's arm. He dropped the sword and lunged at her. She put her own sword away and met his attack with a grin. When their faces were close enough for a conversation without being overheard, they had passed small bits of information to one another. For instance, Shangrila told Dinobot about how she had been received on the day when she had returned Anarkye. Then he told her about how Rattrap liked her. She knew that already, and teased him about how Xephyr was looking as if she was interested in a romance with him.
"Blast it, but why won't you let that one drop?!"
"Because it's cute, brother."
"You annoy me."
"I know. It's my job."
Dinobot grinned, and she pushed him away from her for a moment. They circled, and would have attacked each other again had Megatron not ordered a retreat. Shangrila sighed, then looked at her brother. "I'll see you later, then."
"When will you join us?"
"When I can, Dinobot. When I can."
She dropped to her beast mode, then jogged back over the savannah. Rattrap came up to Dinobot, saying nothing for a moment. Finally, the shorter bot said quietly, "You don't like the idea of Shangrila around Megatron."
"You're a better older brother than I am."
Dinobot looked down at Rattrap. "He had used her as a hostage to get me to join him in stealing the Golden Disk. He'd have no compunctions about hurting her again."
Picking his sword up, Dinobot looked at it, seeing small gouges where his sister's sword had bit into his. Rattrap watched him. Finally, Dinobot's gaze caught Rattrap's. "My sister's choices are her own, Vermin. If she . . . prefers you, then I will not get in her way."
"Dinobot . . ."
But it was too late. Dinobot was already walking away. Xephyr pranced up to him, all smiles, but he passed by her without even rewarding her with a glance. Instead, when Anarkye went up to him and wrapped her arms around his waist, sobbing bitterly, did he pull himself out of his reverie, if only to comfort the child. Rattrap remembered how Anarkye couldn't make herself shoot any of the Predacons. He also passed Xephyr by without a glance, and rested his hand upon Anarkye's head, explaining to a confused Dinobot, "She couldn't find it in 'erself ta shoot any of them."
He nodded. "Some are not meant to be in war."
Optimus came up to the trio, getting the same explanation. He managed to get his oldest child's attention. When she had looked up at him, he said, "You don't have to fight if you don't want to, you know."
"I-I know. But I want to help out. I . . . I really do, Optimus."
"I know that you do. Rattrap and Dinobot can put aside their differences for short times to train you, if you wish. They're more than capable of dodging objects."
"By the Pit, Primal! You have to bring that up again?!" Dinobot snarled.
Anarkye blinked from one to the other, seeing Rattrap grinning and Dinobot trying his hardest not to do the same. She made herself let go of Dinobot's waist, but he still rested a hand upon her shoulder, silently reassuring her. Gathering courage, she asked, "What happened?"
Rattrap answered her. "Ol' Choppuhface was in a tiff one day, an' I was stupid enough to be on patrol with him. We ended up throwing rocks at each other f'r a full day, not getting any patrollin' done." He grinned. "So we know how t' dodge stuff."
Anarkye looked from one to the other. "What about Shangrila? I . . . I might have to . . ."
Dinobot snickered. "It would be good to catch her every so often, Anarkye. Trust me on that one. She needs a reminder every once in a while that she has a part to play. Besides. It keeps her safe from the real danger."
Optimus smiled at how his daughter was starting to adapt. That's something she always had been good at. And he was more than happy that she had taken to Dinobot and Shangrila. They were a pair that would teach and mentor her well.
On the other hand, Megatron had cornered Shangrila in his room. Not only that, but there was a new Predacon there, waiting for her. "I would like to introduce you, my dear, to Rampage, yes."
Shangrila frowned. "Okay. So?"
Rampage moved quickly . . . too quickly, she noted, and pinned her to a wall. His green optics were deranged and filled with evil. "You are to be Megatron's . . . toy, shall we say, and I'm to be the one who will make sure that you obey."
"Wh-what do you mean?"
Megatron glared at Rampage, who let her down, then backed a few paces away. He then returned cold pink optics to Shangrila. "You know exactly what I mean, Chi. That wasyour name, wasn't it? Yes, yes indeed."
As the tyrant continued his deliberate walk towards her, all Shangrila could think of was that she hadn't done a good enough job hiding her identity. And that her brother was going to be hurt worse than she knew she was about to be.