By: Sapphire (aka Malachite157)
"Well, two blips did come up on the scanners briefly in that sector, and then they disappeared," Optimus informed Dinobot.
"I could smell Tarantulas, and several new smells. There are others with him."
Optimus exchanged glances with Rhinox.
"No stasis pods have come down since Emerald's. Which means only one thing."
"More of the Six survived," Emerald said as she stepped out of the lift. Optimus looked worriedly at her, then noticed the hare.
"A new friend?" he asked.
Emerald looked down at the little animal. "I'm going to nurse it back to health. It has a bad back leg. Do you think you could check for fractures later, Uncle Rhinox?"
He nodded. Optimus cut in. "Fine, but we have more important issues right now. According to Dinobot, there are several new Transformers lurking in or around Sector 12, that neither of you could see."
"I can verify that, although my sense of smell isn't as acute as Dinobot's," Emerald said. Rattrap came up the lift and groaned as he stepped out.
"Why do I get da feelin' dis meeting has a dark undertone to it?"
Optimus sighed. "I'm afraid it does. Dinobot reckons there are some new transformers in allegiance with Tarantulas."
"Just what we need, more Kaiyas stalking the area," Cheetor mumbled, but shut up after Optimus shot him a scolding look.
"We're going to keep Sector 12 under close surveillance, and send Dinobot out there for regular patrols. If any more of the Six did survive, having them allied with Tarantulas could spell trouble for both Maximals and Predacons," Rhinox said.
"Right, well, until we know more, all I can suggest is that none of us go near Sector 12 without some back-up, preferably in the form of a flier. We don't know what we may find there."
"I shall keep a close watch," Dinobot informed his leader and then stalked off down the corridor.
Cheetor and Rattrap left the command room too. Emerald talked softly to her hare. "Don't worry, Lucky. Uncle Rhinox will fix your leg," she soothed.
"Lucky?" Optimus queried.
"Rattrap named her that, seeing as she survived Dinobot."
"Oh, so Rattrap's not your worst enemy anymore?" Rhinox jeered gently as he took the hare from her arms. It struggled pathetically in his strong hands.
Emerald blushed fleetingly, and then scowled. "Don't go there, Uncle R."
Rhinox chuckled and put the rabbit on the scan table. "Hold Lucky there for me, Optimus, while I scan her," he told the Maximal leader. Optimus put his hands over the hare uncertainly. Emerald giggled.
"What a cute sight! Optimus holding a little bunny," she laughed.
Optimus smiled. "It's a cute rabbit, I have to admit."
"A hare, actually, and one with a fractured leg," Rhinox informed them. "I'll have to bandage Lucky's leg with a splint so it will heal faster. You'll need to take good care of her while she's on the mend, Emerald. That means fresh roots and grass every day and a bowl of water at all times."
Emerald nodded enthusiastically. "I'll take the best of care of her, Uncle."
"I'm sure you will."
Emerald sat down patiently as Rhinox bandaged Lucky's leg while Optimus held the hare still. Finally Rhinox was done, and as he handed the hare to Emerald, he said softly: "I don't want to push you, but try to find time to talk to Rattrap, when you're up to it. I don't know what you said or didn't say to him, but he had hurt written all over his face when he walked in."
Emerald took the hare gingerly and sighed. "Okay."
She walked down the corridor and out of sight. Optimus turned to Rhinox.
"We need to discuss what to do in a worst case scenario," he told his scientist.
"We do," Rhinox replied grimly.
Rampage chugged along in tank mode towards Sector 12. He was quietly seething inside.
"Once again I am on one of that tyrant's goose chases! I'm tired of being a slave to him!" he thought.
He crushed an old skeleton of an antelope without even noticing as he carried on forward, grumbling and muttering.
Why was Megatron so interested in Tarantulas anyway? Why was it so imperative that he be watched? Something was about to happen. Something big, he could sense it.
Another distant feeling had been niggling at him. Depth Charge. He could feel his presence drawing ever nearer. Rampage estimated it would only be a few weeks before the manta ray bot arrived to seek his revenge. How much nicer it would be to face him with a complete spark!
Rampage paused in his drive toward the sector. If Tarantulas was such a threat to Megatron, then maybe it was time to ally with the spider against him. He'd have to see just what exactly Tarantulas had planned. If it came to a final showdown between the Predacons and Tarantulas, he'd rather back the spider, if it meant he might get his spark back.
Rampage snorted at the thought. It was a very dangerous game to play, but then again, no risk, no reward.
He resumed his hunt for Tarantulas with a little more enthusiasm, and sped up his pace toward the infamous Sector 12.
Lucky still cowered in the corner of the room, but at least she'd taken a nibble of his food. Emerald didn't really want to tame the animal, because then she couldn't release it back into the wild. She wanted Lucky to be free. But a part of her wanted Lucky to befriend her, so she'd have a little friend in the animal who gave her so much comfort. She's just have to see how Lucky was behaving by the end of it all.
"There there, Lucky. Nothing to be afraid of. No body is going to hurt you," she said, sitting at the edge of her bed, watching the little hare stare at her with its wide eyes. She could see its heart racing in his chest, causing its whole body to tremble.
It reminded her of herself when Rattrap had been holding her... Rattrap. Uncle Rhinox was right. She needed to talk to him. It had been, after all, over a month. Maybe it was time to stop avoiding him and give him a second chance. In all fairness, he wasn't himself when the...event, happened.
With a deep sigh, she stood up. Lucky shuddered back a bit. Hares and rabbits are always skittish when wild. And with good reason. They're the prey of many predators.
Emerald left her room, being careful to close the door without a bang, so as not to alarm her little friend.
She crossed the short distance to Rattrap's quarters and stood in front of it a moment. She was beginning to feel like Lucky. She drew in a deep breath and knocked.
She pushed the door open and blinked in the light. His room was brighter than hers. She'd kept the lights dull for the hare's sake, and had grown accustomed to the gloom.
Rattrap was sitting at his computer, but got up immediately when he saw Emerald. He looked surprised.
"Hey, Emerald. What brings you here?" he asked.
"Hi," she said and took a step inside. Why was she feeling so flushed; why were her cheeks burning, and her spark shuddering? There was a time she was totally at ease with this guy. For Primus sake, she'd grown up with him there!
She looked at him and noticed he was staring at her expectantly. It struck her then. She felt so uncomfortable, because she still had feelings for him. That had never changed. She'd been hiding from the fact that she still cared all this time... Even so, she didn't feel quite ready to just put everything behind her.
But maybe she was being too rigid? She used to hate people who clung to the past, who were strict and unforgiving. Was she becoming one herself?
"I...I came to, to talk," she said eventually. He nodded softly and pulled out his chair. "You wanna seat?"
"Uh, no, I'll stand, thanks."
He decided to stand to. It was an awkward situation; them standing as if one of them had some awful disease.
"How's Lucky?" Rattrap asked.
"Oh...oh, she's fine. Still getting used to everything," Emerald stuttered.
"If ya need any help collectin' food 'n stuff for her, I'll be glad ta help," he offered kindly.
"Thanks, Rattrap. I appreciate it."
A silence. Emerald knew she had to speak.
"Rattrap, this is silly. I don't want to keep up this cold atmosphere between us anymore. I'm ready to be friends again," she almost blurted, surprising herself at her speed. She just wanted the uncomfortable silence to go away.
He smiled a little mirthlessly. "Da way it's been draggin'...it's been killin' me."
She looked at him, her gaze softening into one of melancholy.
"I regret every day, Emerald. I am so, so sorry. I can't tell you dat enough. I miss our friendship. But I get da feelin' things will never be da same, fer one reason. You've grown up. You're not da li'l girl I used to know, an' it's because ya had to grow up real fast when you got here. I..." he glanced down, trying to compose himself. Gradually, his gaze met hers again, and he continued. "I've watched you mature into dis...amazing, wise young femme, an' I just wish I hadn't been one of da factors pushin' you outta yer carefree childhood. I also had ta grow up fast, Ems. Faster dan I would've liked."
Emerald felt a surge of emotions bubble up inside of her. She felt complimented and sad at the same time. She hadn't realized until now just how much she had changed. Uncle Rhinox was right in not wanting her to come. She'd seen and experienced more in her short time here than she had in her whole life on Cybertron. If she'd still been living there, she couldn't help shake the feeling she'd still be her wild, careless self. But then, maybe growing up wasn't a bad thing? Everyone had to mature eventually.
"War makes you grow, Rattrap. It's not your fault. It's mine. I stowed away, and came when Uncle Rhinox asked me not to. It's my fault I ended up in this situation. And, while I've seen and done some things I wish had never happened, I'd still rather be here with my Uncle, and with you and Optimus, than on Cybertron. I was so unhappy there."
"And are ya happy now, Emerald?" Rattrap asked earnestly.
She opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. She wasn't sure how to answer that question.
"I...don't...know," she said eventually. "I'll ge back to you on that."
She lowered her gaze, but could still feel Rattrap watching her. She heard him start to take a step forward, then pause hesitantly.
Her head was pounding again and she felt hot and uneasy.
"Emerald, is that all you wanted ta say ta me?" he questioned.
She swallowed hard. "I...guess so."
She could see him nod from the edge of her sight and she raised her head to look at him once more. He was watching her softly. A desire to hug him, to tell him it was all right, that Kaiya was gone, that it was all over, came over her. But she couldn't. She just couldn't.
"I got somethin' ta say, too."
She was breathing deeply now, trying to calm herself down. She was torn between running to him, and running away from him.
He let his arms fall to his side limply and a brief smile flickered and faded from his face.
"I'm happy you came, fer totally selfish reasons."
She chuckled a little and sighed. Before she could think about what she was doing, she walked forward and hugged him. She could feel his body almost jerk in surprise, and then his arms wrapped around her gently. She closed her eyes and breathed.
"I love you, Rattrap," she whispered, feeling sobs rising in her throat. "I love you so much."
Galena clapped her hands together and rubbed them in anticipation.
"Oh Tarantullaaaas, I think they've been 'prepped' enough!" she called to the spider. He was typing away at his console.
"Don't you think it's time we moved out?" she asked, looking through a crack in the roof and smiling. It was night.
Tarantulas hit a few more keys then turned to face her.
"We are the eager one, aren't we?" he said.
She grinned. "Death and destruction! Can't beat that for an evening show!"
Tarantulas snickered and looked over his troops. "Blage, Sandstone, Venox, Mirage! Transform to beast mode!"
Four acknowledgeds greeted him as the four of them became large cats. They'd be better concealed this way. Cats are low to the ground and good at stalking in silence during the night.
He turned to Galena. "Right! Let's go fetch Kaiya, shall we?"
"I'm almost hoping she's dead. She'll just be an obstacle, otherwise.""
"Unless she joins us?" Tarantulas offered.
"We'll have to see. Let's move out."
Tarantulas transformed to beast mode. "Follow my lead!"
The six of them left the cavern and wandered out into the night.
Rampage swatted a fly clumsily. His enormous hand hit it with such force it squashed against his palm. He flicked it off with disgust. The air was cool and dry and the sun was already melting into the horizon. It was evening. Ahead was a plain of tall grass and the odd obelisk and acacia. Nothing worth looking at.
He'd still found no trace of the accursed spider. Even so, he enjoyed these walks of solitude.
He was bothered by another fly, and, after he'd swatted it away he looked up and saw some movement in the distance. He walked forward and stepped on a large termite hill and surveyed the landscape. To his pleasant surprise, he saw it was Tarantulas hurrying in the direction of the Axalon, and following him, low to the ground, were a line of animals... He couldn't make out what they were, as they were hidden well in the tall grass, but he knew they could not be wild animals. They had to either be tamed, or transformers in beast mode. The latter made more sense.
"Rampage to Megatron," he spoke into his comm. link as he climbed off the now crumbling termite mound. Angry termites bit without success onto his metal. He shook his legs absently and moved away.
"Megatron here. Report."
"I've located Tarantulas. He's in Grid Eltron, can you see him?"
"No, he's not showing up on the scanners. He must have some kind of stealth device."
"Well, he and five others! He's heading towards the Maximal base with five large animals."
There was a muffled gurgle of exclamation on the other end.
"Five animals? Blast! He's revived all five of the others! Rampage, keep with them, and let me know if they so much as put a foot in our direction! Megatron out."
The connection cut abruptly and Rampage was left with Megatron's alarmed voice ringing in the silence.
"The other five?" he murmured. "No, I thought they were destroyed!" Rampage shook his head in disbelief. He transformed to tank mode and rolled through the grass, his mind buzzing with ideas. Tarantulas had control of the five. Somehow, they were on his side. They were all heading towards the Maximal base. This could mean only one thing, surely?
"So, the spider is out to pick a fight with the Maximals? This will be entertaining, until he turns towards the Darkside!"
He chuckled. "But who says I'll be the one being attacked?"
Megatron called all his troops to attention. They stood around him, alarmed at seeing their leader so agitated. Megatron was usually calm and collected, even in sticky situations, but at present he looked upset, even...afraid.
"The Six, you remember them?" he said. He did not pause for an answer. "The Maximals revived one but Tarantulas has revived the other five!"
There was a collective gasp of horror from the Predacons, except for Waspinator, who buzzed miserably.
"What are we going to do, Royalty? The Colony cannot withstand an attack from all five of them!" Inferno exclaimed.
Megatron glared briefly at his loyal soldier. He didn't need to be told that!
"We prepare the defenses, and make for the Maximal base. Rampage reported that was where they were heading. I hate to admit it, but if they take out the Maximals, we don't stand a chance against them. It's going to take all our firepower just to survive, never mind defeat them."
"What makes you think Optimus will agree? You killed him the last time we had a truce!" Blackarachnia pointed out.
"True, but even Optimus can see that alone, we cannot fight these aliens, especially if they're under the control of that ruthless spider! He'll be the end of us!"
"I wonder why Tarantulas headed for the Maximals first? I'd think he couldn't care less about them, that he'd hit us, take our Transwarp Cells and find a way off this planet. He has no real grievances with the Maximals," Blackarachnia said.
Megatron shook his head. "I'm not sure, but I think it might have something to do with the one the Maximals have. The female wolf. Perhaps he is going to try and get her to join him? Who knows. In any case, we have no time to spare. We must warn Optimus and make for their base, taking, I'm afraid, the long way around, so we come in from the rear of the ship. We cannot risk being seen."
"Will we get there in time?" Waspinator worried.
"Rampage said the Five were in beast mode. They'll take longer than us, if we travel in flight mode. Those who cannot fly, get a lift with myself or Waspinator."
Megatron moved over to the control panel, and opened a connection to the Maximal base.
Everyone, save Rattrap and Emerald, were in the control room to hear Megatron's grim report.
"I wish I were joking, Optimus Primal! But my scout reports all five of them! You and I both know we don't stand a chance on separate ground," Megatron growled.
Optimus rubbed his temples. "I hate to say it, but I agree with you."
"Well, let us not delay! We're heading over to you right now. Brace yourselves. I don't want you all dead by the time I get there!"
"Nice to know you care, Megatron," Optimus said dryly. Megatron frowned and cut the connection.
"Baaad news," Rhiniox stated the obvious.
Optimus shook his head unhappily. "Megatron's so worried about them annihilating us all that he's actually rushing over to us to help us fend them off."
"But that's a little dodgy, isn't it Optimus?" Cheetor said. "Maybe it's Megs who's got control of them and he's just tricking us into staying here so he can get us all in one big blast!"
"Cheetor's right," Dinobot said, "We can't be certain."
"Then maybe-" Optimus's sentence was cut off by a huge blast. Everyone fell off their feet and the red lights glared and the sirens sounded.
"Primus, we're under attack already!" Cheetor exclaimed.
"Slag! The Axalon's hanging on by a thread over this cliff as it is, thanks to the explosion!" Rhinox yelled.
Before anyone could react, the base jolted, and slid...
Outside, Tarantulas grinned at Rampage. The two of them had met on their way here. Tarantulas was more than willing to strike a deal with the crab-bot. Having another immortal on his team completed the six, even without Kaiya. Galena had done a scan for her. Kaiya was gone, and that meant she had been killed. Having Rampage fill her place was an unexpected bonus.
"See? I told you my joining your little band would be beneficial to you. If it wasn't for my telling you all to hurry here, Megatron would've arrived and hindered your plans," Rampage said.
Tarantulas snorted. "Well, what was the point in refusing your offer to join us? You're supposedly indestructible, very powerful and you loathe everyone on this dirtball as much as I do!"
"Just don't forget our little arrangement, Tarantulas. I help you, and you help me get my spark back."
"I won't forget," Tarantulas replied with a touch of condescension in his voice. He turned to his troops.
"Keep firing! The Axalon is almost over the edge!"
Galena blasted some high-powered ammo from her weapon. She looked at Blage.
"Blage, go ahead and give the Axalon one final push," she said with a sadistic grin.
Blage started to walk forward. Galena hear a beep emitting from her wrist panel and she called worriedly to Tarantulas.
"Tarantulas! The Predacons are almost here! What do we do?"
Tarantulas flicked his hand in dismissal. "Send Mirage to them. Create an image of a peaceful Axalon. That'll confuse them and buy us some time."
Galena nodded and gave Mirage his instructions.
Meanwhile, Blage strode forward to the Axalon until he was right in front of it. As if on cue, the others broke the shields. Sentinel shattered down like shards of glass and Blage took a step back. He then ran forward, and with all his might, he heaved. The Axalon rolled easily over the cliff edge.
"I love you too."
And then he fell over.
Emerald had barely caught his words when the entire base jolted. She and Rattrap were thrown into the wall as blasts pelted the base with such force it felt as if an entire army was firing at them.
"What da slag!" Rattrap exclaimed.
"The Six!" Emerald shrieked in terror and wormed her way out of his grip and hid under the table. "They're attacking!"
"Sentinel, offline," the computer hummed.
"Uh oh..." Rattrap blurted, and then his world cascaded around him. Everything slid over to the left as the ship tilted, slid and fell.
"Matrix! We're falling!" Emerald screamed.
Rattrap slammed against the wall and came crashing onto his table. He fell off and rolled into Emerald.
"What are we gonna do?" she cried.
Rattrap held her arm tightly. "Brace ourselves fer impact!"
It was then that the Axalon hit the water.
Megatron blasted ahead in flight mode at full speed. He could see the Maximal base coming into view up ahead.
He paused and hovered when he was about fifty meters away from it. It looked extremely peaceful. There was no sign of Optimus and his Maximals anywhere, nor Tarantulas and his troops.
"Wazzpinator thought we were meant to meet Maximalzz outside base?" Waspinator buzzed next to him. Megatron growled.
"So did I. Where is everyone?"
Megatron strained his hearing and heard distant laser fire. There was a deep groaning noise, an eerie silence and then a huge splash.
"They must be behind their base! Advance to the rear of the ship!"
Megatron sped forward, but as he started moving, a shot came out of nowhere and hit his blasters.
"Hnnrggh!" he snarled as he fell.
"We're under attack!" Blackarachnia exclaimed from under Waspinator. The Predacon was holding the femme in his insect legs.
He didn't register what was happening until too late, as another blast took him out of the sky. He crash landed a few feet from Megatron. The tyrant got to his feet groggily.
"Where?" he growled and scanned the area. Suddenly the Axalon shimmered and disappeared from view and instead he saw Tarantulas, Rampage and five of...
"The SIX!" Megatron cried out in dismay.
"The Five, actually," Tarantulas jeered. "Kaiya's gone, but as for the rest of them they're fully powered up to destroy you."
Inferno cocked his weapon. "You will buuurn before you destroy the Queen!"
"Shush, Inferno!" Megatron scolded, then shot Tarantulas a baleful look.
"So you managed to revive all five of them! But how...?"
"Me, that's how," the striped hyena femme spoke up and took a step forward. "He actually only revived me, but I have the technical knowledge on how to heal my siblings."
Megatron shook his head in awe. "Incredible!"
"It is, isn't it?" Rampage suddenly said sardonically. He walked forward maliciously.
"Rampage! What are you doing on their side! Get back here immediately!" Megatron snarled.
"I think not," Tarantulas said coolly.
"If you want us to spare you for now and give you a chance to prepare yourselves back at the Darkside, I suggest you hand over Rampage's spark this instant," Tarantulas told him.
Megatron froze in horror. "No," he nearly whispered.
"Do it Megatron, if you value your own spark!" Rampage threatened.
Megatron was uncomfortably aware of the sound of clicking weapons and the glow of power coming from the various members of the Five.
Grudgingly, he took out Rampage's spark box. The crab-bot's eyes widened and his fists clenched in anticipation. Megatron glared intensely at Rampage, before tossing him the spark box. It sailed through the air and Rampage caught it with relish.
"Mine, again!" he roared triumphantly.
Tarantulas took a wary step back from the crab as he opened his chest. Galena and the other four followed his example.
Megatron and his Predacons watched as Rampage prepared to place the core of his spark back.
"How can you let him do that?" Blackarachnia whispered. Megatron grunted. "Because he can't. He doesn't know how."
As if Rampage had heard him from all those meters away, he paused and closed his chest plate. He turned to the hyena bot.
"Galena, would you be so kind as to fuse my sparks together when we get to your lair?"
"I thought you were doing it a little clumsily," Galena grinned. She took the spark box from Rampage and slipped it into a compartment. Her gaze then turned to the Predacons.
"Well what are you waiting for? You've got a head start to your base!" she laughed wickedly.
Megatron's flight mode was out, so he had to be lifted by a struggling Inferno.
"Before I leave, I'd like to know what you did with the Maximals and their ship," Megatron asked.
Tarantulas folded his arms smugly. "We sank their ship, and they all went down with it."
Galena finished for him. "Drowned them like rats."
Megatron nodded grimly and then instructed Inferno to take him back to base. His Predacons followed suit.
Rampage waited until they were out of sight, then turned to Tarantulas.
"So, what next?"
"We give you your spark back, and then we retrieve the transwarp cells," Tarantulas replied.
"Looking forward to it," Rampage stated.
Tarantulas cackled. "So am I!"