End Game

Chapter One: Falling into Chaos

By: Sapphire (aka Malachite157)

Writer's Note: I took a few liberties here. One thing I did was make it possible for Transformers to drown, unless they've been upgraded to Transmetal. I figured, when that snake was strangling Cheetor in Dark Voyage and he said he couldn't breathe, that in order to keep their beast modes alive (which is half of their being) they have to breathe. And there are numerous other occasions where Beast Warriors have been panting in robot mode and such. Some may argue with this theory, and that's fine, but for dramatic effect, that's how it goes in this fic. Also, even though it plays a miniscule role in the fic, the idea of spark-mingling is also mentioned. Enjoy the last fic of the series!

The entire base rumbled and groaned like a dying animal. Objects of all sorts went flying across the room, as well as the occupants. Optimus crashed into a CR chamber and then found himself sailing to the other side of the room. The base had now tilted completely to one side, and was diving towards the river below. It was falling.

Cheetor yelped as the heavy bot crunched into his leg. The sirens continued blazing until a chair smashed into the computer, and then, for an eternal moment, all went silent. It was surreal; everything seemed to be happening in slow motion in that second before impact.

Rhinox squeezed his eyes shut and held his breath as he felt the impact ripple through the base. The ship jerked and bobbed for a little, and then there was a terrible, screaming snap and moan. A few second later, a wall of water started to come towards them through the main hallway. Optimus commanded the door to shut, but it was offline. Dinobot was quick to react, and he manually pulled the metal door across and stopped the water from coming in. He kept slipping and sliding, as the base was at an angle.

He turned and looked at them all gravely. All was now still and everyone could feel that they were sinking. "I believe the base has been torn in half."

Rhinox sighed and shook his head. "And we're sinking, and leaking, too."

They followed his gaze to the door and saw a little flat, wide stream of water come sliding down like a sheet towards them from under the door.

"Rattrap and Emerald! They're...they're in the other half!" Cheetor exclaimed.

"Optimus!" Rhinox cried out in alarm as he rose unsteadily to his feet.

Optimus looked grimly at the water coming from under the door. "There's nothing we can do for them until we can figure out a way to rescue ourselves, Rhinox. We need to stop this water from getting in. Help me block it!"

Rhinox moved slowly, burdened by worry, towards the door. Cheetor stared, wide-eyed, at his leader.

"But Optimus! Emerald's not a transmetal like you and I! If she gets trapped under water...she'll drown."

Optimus was on his knees, gripping with wet hands on a metal bar to keep himself up at the angle he was in. He had a can of sealant in his hand, already given to him by Dinobot. He paused a moment and shook his head. "I know, Cheetor, so we have to hurry."

Emerald beat her wings against the torrent of water that hit her suddenly, and then consumed her. It rose with speed and she screamed in panic. The noise was deafening, and everything was sliding and moving. The ship had jerked, moaned and plummeted and the water, cold and fast, swirled around her.

She squeezed her eyes shut and gasped in what she imagined would be her last breaths. The lights flickered and died and she was left in the dark wet that surrounded her. Distantly, she heard a noise and then a clatter and suddenly, all went quiet. She opened her eyes and blinked. The water had stopped rising. She was standing on the bed, and the water was about her shoulders. Sparks of electricity lit the room in short, erratic bursts and she felt nasty little shocks stun her form. One dull, emergency lamp glowed in a pale blue light in the far corner of the room and she could see the dark water, swirling like black liquid. The ship moaned distantly and she could hear things still snapping and breaking, the noises echoing through the vents.

Her own shaky breathing was masked by the deep noise of rising bubbles. She stared at an area of disturbance and saw large ripples. The disturbance moved towards her and she backed up against the wall. "The aliens!" she hissed in terror.

Suddenly, the surface of the water broke and a form lurched out of it. She screamed and felt two hands clasp her arms. The form was coughing and spluttering. Then it said: "Shh! Emmie, it's me!"

Frightened and disorientated, Emerald's eyes opened and she saw Rattrap standing on the edge of the bed, the water lapping at his shoulders.

"R-Rattrap!" she blurted, the relief slow to come. "How did you stop the water from getting in?" she asked.

"I closed da door. This room, like yours, has totally sealed doors. You asked fer it, remember? I adjusted yer doors ta be sound proof, so ya could play yer loud music without botherin' everyone?"

She smiled weakly. "Yeah, I remember."

There was a loud, ominous creak. "Rattrap, I'm scared. How're we gonna get out?"

His gaze lowered. "I dunno yet, Emmie. But I'm gonna think of something."

"It's only a matter of time before we get pressure bursts, and water will come through the vents as well. I'll drown."

He looked at her. "I promise you, I won't let dat happen."

Her optics glowed brightly in the dark. She was frightened, he could see.

"What about...the aliens?" she whispered, visibly trembling.

Rattrap found her hands and held them tightly. "Dey think we're dead. As long as dey think dat, we can hide until we find out a way ta overcome 'em. An' we will beat 'em, Emerald."

"What makes you so sure?" she said, somewhat bitterly. Rattrap knew what her bitterness stemmed from, and he felt a little pang of hurt and guilt.

He drew in a breath and looked at her softly. "Because I'm not gonna allow dem ta take you away from me. Not again."

She turned her head away and drew back her hands.


"What? Yer Uncle Rhinox would kill me if I let anythin' happen ta you! My hide's on da line 'ere too, ya know!"

A smile broke out across her face and she giggled. "Of course."

There was a sudden jolt followed by a few creaks and moans.

"I think we've hit the bottom," she murmured. "How deep is this river?"

"Pretty deep. It ain't far from da ocean."

She sighed. "Great, so we have crocodiles and sharks to worry about!"

"Life's a pain in da butt, ain't it?"

"Tell me about it..."

Rhinox listened to the groaning of the ship. It wasn't going to last much longer, before more leaks burst open and the room flooded.

"We have to get out of here," he breathed. "And rescue Emerald!"

"I know, I know," Optimus frowned in worry.

"There's only one thing to do. Blast out way out and swim to the surface. I suggest we do that soon," Dinobot said as a trickle of water spilled onto his raptor snout.

"Rhinox, you and Dinobot will be the first to swim to the surface. Cheetor and I are transmetals, so we'll last longer underwater than you."

"But Emerald!" Rhinox protested.

"I'll get her out. At least she has Rattrap with her," Optimus comforted.

"What if the alien bots are waiting for us to surface? They'll surely kill us when we surface!" Cheetor panicked.

"Cheetor may be right. We will be sitting ducks to an attack," Dinobot pointed out.

"Well, thankfully three of us can fly, so I'll take Rhinox, Emerald can take Rattrap and Cheetor can take you," Optimus said.

"Assuming Emerald's alive," Dinobot snarled. Rhinox made an angry move towards him, but Optimus put an arm out.

"It's only been a few cycles. She's still alive, but we have to act fast. And we're going to have to break out of here with careful firing. We don't want to be squashed to the floor by a torrent of water."

The Maximals took out their weapons, and waited for Optimus's instructions.

Rampage stepped into Tarantulas's lair with a muttered exclamation.

"You have quite a place down here," he told the Transmetal spider. Tarantulas scuttled past him in beast mode.

"I'm a quick builder. Of course, having the added genius of Galena has been a great help, as my loyal drones have been too," he explained.

Galena brushed some dirt off her coat. Mirage and Sandstone came up behind her.

"I've stationed Venox and Blage near the Axalon. If any of those Maximals break for the surface, they won't make it beyond that."

"Excellent," Tarantulas cackled. He transformed to robot mode and pointed to a lab table.

"Lie down. Galena and I need to operate."

Rampage shuddered. "Wonderful. You're her assistant."

He lay down on the hard, cold lab table and watched as Galena looked down at him. Tarantulas passed her some tools. She took out his spark box and he sighed as the pulsing blue energy ball came into his sights.

"I've missed you," he told it. Galena smirked. "I'm sure you did. Now hold still. This is going to hurt..."

Megatron did not enter his ship. Instead he stood in front of it and paused for thought.

Blackarachnia shook her head worriedly. "He doesn't know what to do! The four of us against seven! We don't stand a chance," she said, mainly to herself but Waspinator was listening, as was Inferno.

"The Royalty will find a way to protect the colony!" the antbot said confidently.

Suddenly, Megatron's head snapped up and he stared right at Blackarachnia.

"You and Tarantulas shared minds, didn't you?"

"I'm sad to say it, but yes," Blackarachnia told him as she walked up to him curiously.

He nodded and rubbed his chin before continuing. "The one called Galena helped Tarantulas revive them, but clearly only in body. They are drones loyal to Tarantulas and his female companion. That means they are running on basic programming."

"And programming can be hacked," Blackarachnia caught on to his train of thought.

"Exactly." Megatron looked at the dark femme earnestly. "We cannot fight them by force, but we can try to distract them while we hack into their systems."

"But how? We'd need to be in Tarantulas's lab to do that, using his computers," Blackarachnia pointed out. "We don't even know where that is!"

"I have a pretty good hunch where it is, yesss."

He called Inferno and Waspinator over.

"I want you two to head to the Axalon. I want you to rescue as many as you are able to. We're going to have to lead the seven of them away from the lair, while dear Blackarachnia hacks into their systems."

"Me! What makes you think I can do it?" she exclaimed.

Megatron glared at her. "You shared his mind! Surely you must have learnt something from the experience. Don't cut yourself short, Blackarachnia. You are skilled on the computer."

"Flattering me is no guarantee that it'll work," she warned him.

"We don't really have a choice. I just hope that Rhinox survived. He would be very useful right now, yess."

He growled at his two soldiers. "To the Axalon, and watch out for guards! Tarantulas may be watching that the Maximals definitely don't survive. One of you might have to act as a diversion while the other rescues. Understood?"

"Yes, my queen!" Inferno said and took off. Waspinator followed him grumbling.

Megatron turned to Blackarachnia. "They'll be after the Transwarp cells for certain. Help me hide them elsewhere."

Blackarachnia was too fearful for her own life to argue and got straight to work.

Emerald gazed up at the ceiling. It was leaking in three places already.

"We have to get out," she muttered. "You may have sealed the door, but the ceiling is another story."

"Dere's only one thing for it. I'm gonna have ta shoot a hole in da roof an' we swim out."

"I can't swim!" she told him worriedly.

"I can, an' I'll guide you to da surface."

She bit her lower lip. "It's quite a swim up. I need to breathe."

He shrugged. "I'll swim fast."

The ship groaned and suddenly one of the little leaks burst into a shower of water.


Rattrap drew his weapon and tried to fire, but the water had jammed his weapon.


Emerald panicked. She pounded on the ceiling with her fists. Rattrap kept trying his gun, but it was no use.

"Damn weapon is water-logged. It's meant ta be water proof, but it got damaged."

"NOW you find that out! Great!" Emerald cried. The water was around her chin, now.

"Hold on, Emmie. I'll get you out."

"Rattrap!" she wailed, then gurgled as the water closed in around her. She was totally submerged.

Holding her breath, she watched as Rattrap ejected a bomb from his wrist compartment and stuck it onto the ceiling near he leak - a weak point.

He set the timer then swam to Emerald and pulled her away from the bomb to the edge of the room. Emerald could already feel her body craving air. She remembered this experience from when she was in her pod. Suffocating was not fun.

He pushed her into the corner and pressed his body against her protectively as the bomb exploded. The shockwaves knocked what air was left in her out of her system and she gasped in water. She started to flail and panic and she spluttered. Finally, the rocking motion of the ship ceased and Rattrap moved away from her. She could see the alarm written across his features, even underwater. She tried to kick her legs but was too weak to move properly.

He put a hand on her chest and held her still and he pushed his mouth against hers. He breathed into her and she took the oxygen gratefully. After that he took her arm and started to swim through the hole. She kicked furiously as they hurried to the dim surface. It was so black and confusing to be underwater at night. Her eyes were squeezed tightly shut as she let him guide her to the top. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, her head broke the surface. The first thing she heard was laser fire. She gasped for air.

"Uuuugh! Rattrap!" she wheezed. He too was breathing heavily. "We gotta swim to da edge, Emerald. I can hear gunshots." She opened her eyes and looked around her. There were no laser bullets pelting the water around her. The noise was coming from the cliff, out of her sight.

"The fighting's on land, for now," she said.

He started paddling towards the edge. There was no river bank her to climb onto and when he reached the edge, he gripped futilely to the vertical rock face.

"Can you fly?" he asked.

She shook her head somberly. "My wings are drenched. No way I can fly now."

Suddenly there was a chopping noise and both looked up to see Inferno.

"The Royalty commands that I rescue you! Obey!" he said as he stretched a hand out to Rattrap.

"Ya ain't gettin' any complaints from me! But take Emerald first. She can't swim."

Inferno nodded abruptly and took Emerald by the underarms and lifted her out of the water.

"Who's shooting?" Emerald asked him as he flew her above the water, being careful to stay below the cliff line.

"Waspinator is distracting the sentries. He is an incompetent Predacon. I must hurry."

Inferno flew up a few moments later and dropped her at the edge of a forest, quite some distance away from the fighting. "Stay here!" he ordered and flew off to retrieve Rattrap.

Emerald sank down onto her knees and coughed for the first time since she'd surfaced. She threw up water and gasped in air.


She swiveled around to see Dinobot emerging from the shadows.

"Dinobot!" she exclaimed joyfully and ran on shaky feet to him. she didn't care about what he might think when she embraced him. she was simply so happy to see him.

"You're alive! Where's the vermin?" he asked, patting her back awkwardly.

She leaned against him for support more than anything, feeling exhausted.

"Inferno's getting him."

Dinobot nodded. "Optimus is looking for you. Cheetor dropped myself here, and Rhinox is a little way into the forest too. We must seek cover!"

"Uncle Rhinox?" she whispered, then collapsed. Dinobot gathered her up in his arms and stalked into the forest. He opened a comm. channel.

"Dinobot to Optimus. Emerald is with me, and Inferno is fetching the rat..."

Waspinator got the signal from Inferno to retreat. He was so glad for it.

"Who sayzz Wazzpinator incompetent?" Waspinator asked the ether as he flew away from Venox and Blage, who fired after him dumbly. Their purpose was to fire at any Maximal or Predacon in that area, and being drones, they had not deduced Megatron's plan. Waspinator flew away from them and they returned to watching the water below. They had missed the entire rescue operation. Megatron's trust in the dumbness of drones proved worthwhile.

Meanwhile, in the forest several hundred meters ahead, Optimus Primal met up with the rest of his crew.

He smiled at the touching sight of Emerald cradled in Rhinox's arms. Rhinox's eyes were closed in relief as he savoured the moment, obviously greatly pleased to have his niece back with him. Rattrap was coughing and leaning against a tree and Cheetor and Dinobot were watching Inferno warily.

"Glad to see we all made it," Optimus said as he landed and transformed to robot mode. He glanced at Inferno.

"Megatron ordered you to rescue us?" he asked the antbot.

"He did!" Inferno stood up and approached Optimus.

"Why?" Cheetor asked suspiciously.

"Because I need you," came a deep voice from the right. Everyone turned to see Megatron come lumbering out of the forest thicket in beast mode. Blackarachnia was by his side.

"Well isn't this an occasion," Optimus said, surveying the odd gathering.

"Desperate times call for desperate measure

"Optimus Primal," Megatron replied. He looked them all over. "We are fortunate to still be alive, although I'm sure that won't last if we sit here and do nothing."

"What are your suggestions?" Optimus asked.

"It is obvious that we cannot defeat Tarantulas's drones by force. Rather we will need to cause malfunctions in their computers. Blackarachnia has agreed to hack into their systems, although she needs all of our help."

"I don't like the idea of a single Predacon taking possible control of those drones," Optimus voiced his concern.

"I imagined so, and she may need help to do so, anyway. That is why I suggest we let Rhinox and Blackarachnia get to work on that plan while we distract Tarantulas and his soldiers."

"But their systems can only be controlled by Tarantulas' main computers. We'd need to get into his lab for that," Rhinox said.

Blackarachnia answered him. "We know where that is, but we'll need to draw them away from the lab if we want this to work."

"I have already thought up a plan," Megatron informed them all. He had everybody's attention.

"Tarantulas will be after my transwarp cells. I've sent Waspinator out to scout for him. I just received a report from the wasp that he hasn't advanced on my base yet, which is good. He'll be expecting me to put up a last stand there. I say we do that, and put up such a fight that he utilize all his soldiers."

"He'll wonder where Blackarachnia is. I mean, you can always make up the excuse that Rhinox drowned and explain his absence, but Tarantulas will surely be suspicious if she's missing from the battle, too," Optimus noted.

"I do not believe we will be able to lure them all away from his lair," Dinobot spoke up.

Megatron nodded. "You may be right. We'll need to send someone with our two scientists to help them get in."

"I shall go!" Dinobot offered.

"No, Dinobot, you'll be of better use defending the base. We will need your fighting skills," Optimus told him.

Megatron's gaze fell on Rattrap. "A trickster will be more beneficial, I think, yess."

Rattrap cocked an eyeridge. "Oh, so I'M da bait! Faaaantastic!" he groaned.

"Drones are stupid. No offence, Inferno," Megatron went on. Inferno blinked at him, unaware of the insult. "Tarantulas will most definitely show up for the final battle. Chances are he'll station one soldier to guard his lair. Your task will be to outwit it, vermin, while the scientists move in."

"Are you up to it?" Optimus asked Rattrap.

Megatron growled impatiently. "He has no choice!"

Optimus glared at Megatron. "Unlike you, I ask my troops whether they want to do a dangerous task like that!"

"It's a miracle you have survived this long," Megatron snorted. Optimus ignored him and looked at Rattrap. "Well?"

Rattrap shrugged. "I outwit Inferno every week. One thick-headed drone ain't gonna be a problem."

"Yeah, but it'll be one seriously powerful thick-headed drone," Emerald piped up as she stood from her seat next to Rhinox. She looked at Rattrap anxiously.

"It's okay, Emerald. No way I'm gonna get vaped by a dumb drone. Heck, dose aliens were a lot scarier when dey were, well, aliens. Dey're just mindless machines of Tarantulas now."

"The vermin has agreed, then. I suggest we move out now. We must get to the Darkside before Tarantulas does, otherwise he will be very suspicious indeed."

The Maximals and Predacons gathered together except for Rhinox, Blackarachnia and Rattrap.

"I'm assumin' Megs told ya where spider-butt's lair is, right?" Rattrap asked the black widow.

"Sector 12, and I have a hunch of my own where exactly in Sector 12 he is."

Rhinox gave her a curious look. "You seem to know Tarantulas well," he commented.

"It's a long story," Blackarachnia sighed.

Emerald and Optimus came up to the group.

"Good luck, you three. And try to work fast. I don't know how long the rest of us can hold up against such powerful beings," Optimus said.

"We'll do our very best, Optimus," Rhinox said with a forced smile. Optimus returned the gesture and took to the air.

"Emerald, are you coming?" he called.

"Just a sec, Optimus! I wanna say goodbye."

"Make it quick!" Optimus told her.

She walked into Rhinox's arms. "Take care, Uncle Rhinox."

"For you, I will take the utmost care, Emerald," Rhinox spoke to her softly. She sighed and pulled out of the embrace. "You take care too," he said.

"I will," she replied. She caught Rattrap's eye and smiled at him. The two of them walked to a spot a little way away from Rhinox and Blackarachnia.

Emerald blushed and gazed at the floor. "Thanks for saving my life, Rattrap."

Rattrap took her in his arms and patted her softly on the back. "No problem, Emerald. I'd better make it count, though."

"Be careful," she sighed and nestled her face against his shoulder. He put a hand under her chin and brought her face up. He looked down at her earnestly. "I will be."

Emerald leaned forward and kissed him. For the first time in her life, she was in a perfect moment. No longer did she feel uneasy or insecure. Finally, she'd been ready to cross that bridge, and she felt happy to have reached the other side. Rattrap held her closely to him. Gradually, she pulled away from him and smiled a small smile.

"I think Uncle Rhinox was watching," she said and blushed deeply.

"Eh, so what? It's me who's gotta watch out!"

She laughed and stepped away from him, transformed to beast mode and flapped her now dry wings.

"See ya," she said, and flew up into the sky.

"See ya," he said after her. Blackarachnia moaned.

"End of the world romance. Give me a break!"

Rhinox folded his arms and stared at Rattrap. The transmetal caught his eye and shrugged with a goofy grin.

"She made all da moves!"

Rhinox chuckled. "Don't worry, I saw, and I'm not unhappy about it, either."

The three of them regrouped, and set off for Sector 12.

Rampage clutched at his chest and stumbled away from the lab table.

"Ohhh, the power! I can feel it all returning! I didn't realize how weak I'd been without it!" he exclaimed.

Galena patted her hands together. "Right, well, I suggest you recover quickly. We don't want to give Megatron too much time to prepare."

"He is a sneaky one. He always manages to think of something," Tarantulas added.

He opened a comm. channel to Venox and Blage.

"We're leaving for the Darkside. Regroup with us."

"Yes commander."

Tarantulas cut the connection and transformed to vehicle mode.

"You ready to kill, Galena?" he asked.

She grinned. "Always." She turned to Sandstone and Mirage.

"Let's go!"

Megatron laded with a thud just outside his base. He voice commanded the autoguns to stand down for the Maximals.

"Waspinator, get inside and reprogram the autoguns to fire only at Tarantulas, Rampage and friends," he ordered her. He nodded and dashed inside.

Dinobot clicked his weapon and glowered at the surrounding landscape. Beside him, Cheetor, Emerald Optimus, Waspinator and Inferno braced themselves.

"I'm not looking forward to this fight. I think I'd prefer it if it were against you," Optimus remarked dryly to Megatron. The Predacon laughed mirthlessly. "I'd prefer to fight me, too!"

Dinobot growled and everyone followed his gaze.

"Here they come," Cheetor breathed anxiously.

"Sooner than I was hoping for," Megatron sighed. "This is either going to be a very long, or a very short battle."

"If it entails us surviving, it's not going to be a short one," Optimus said gravely.

Waspinator came outside and groaned. "Evil-bots here already? Wazzpinator barely set out autoguns."

Tarantulas was the first to reach them. He braked a hundred feet ahead of them, transformed and ambled towards them arrogantly.

"Ah! All my enemies grouped together! This will be delicious!"

Galena came up beside him in beast mode. "I had a feeling the Maximals wouldn't drown so easily. So, how'd you avoid my soldiers?" she asked a little disinterestedly.

"Waspinator," Megatron replied flatly.

She sighed. "That's the problem with sparkless drones. They're not very stable, nor very bright. Not a problem, though! We'll be here to supervise your destruction, this time."

"Comforting," Dinobot said sarcastically and aimed his weapon.

"Not yet, Dinobot. Wait for my order," Optimus instructed him quietly.

The puma and ocelot came up behind Tarantulas, just as Blage and Venox arrived.

"May I introduce, Blage, creature of brute strength, Sandstone, queen of the earth's forces, Venox, master of poison and Mirage, the illusionist," Tarantulas said with relish.

"And let's not forget the cherry on the top!" Galena cried and nodded at Mirage. Rampage flickered into view, a mere ten meters away from Megatron and Optimus. The crab, were he able to, would've been grinning smugly.

"Rampage! With a completely intact spark to add."

"I'm going to enjoy tearing you to shreds, Megatron. It is, in fact, my specially appointed task...to watch that you are completely and utterly terminated," Rampage said darkly.

"Let's get on with it!" Dinobot hissed to Optimus.

"Not yet, Dinobot! We're going to stall them as long as we can! The more time we buy ourselves, the more time we buy Rhinox."

Optimus spoke up: "How did you do it, Tarantulas?"

Megatron picked up on Optimus's strategy. "Yess, I want to know how you managed to revive Miss Galena from such a state of injury."

Tarantulas glanced at Galena and she transformed gracefully to robot mode.

"She wasn't dead. I carried her to my lair and painstakingly manually repaired her more delicate parts, before using a highly advanced CR chamber. How else do you think I've survived so many explosions?"

"Indeed. And the others? They were bits and pieces when we left them," Megatron pressed on.

"I have the power to heal, and the technical knowledge to rebuild. It took me a few weeks, but here they are, fit and healthy," Galena said with pride.

"Do they still have alien influence?" Optimus asked.

Rampage snarled. "They're stalling! Let's just kill them, can we!"

Tarantulas shrugged. "It's what we do, us evil geniuses. We draw out our victories."

"It's not a victory until they're all dead! Kill them now, before they do something funny!" Rampage barked. He drew his weapon but Dinobot shot it out of his hand with his eye lasers.

"Your move, lizard," Tarantulas growled, and opened fire.

Rhinox, Rattrap and Blackarachnia peered over a large mound. Tarantulas's lair was unguarded, it seemed. To be on the safe side, Blackarachnia called Megatron.

"Blackarachnia to Megatron," she hissed.

"Ooof! Grnnnaaa! Yes!" She could make out the sound of intense battle. Rhinox grimaced.

"Are all of the Five with you?" she asked.

Blam blam. Zoooit. Zooit. "Grrngg. Yes! Argh! No wait! One of them's an illusion!"

"What?" she gasped. "Which one-ACK!"

Before Rattrap and Rhinox could even turn around, they were sent flying through the air. They landed hard on the dry terrain and skidded painfully to a halt. Rattrap sat up gingerly and looked across to see Blage holding Blackarachnia by the throat.

"Intruder," he said, his voice low and expressionless with a metallic ring to it.

"Back off, kitty!" Rattrap shouted and fired at Blage's hand. The monster cat dropped Blackarachnia and turned to Rattrap. He started to advance on him.

"Get inside, you two! I've picked a fight wid' dis guy, like I was meant to."

"You were meant to trick him, not combat him!" Rhinox protested.

Rattrap stood firm as the catbot strode towards him, heavy with malice. "Who says I can't trick a guy while fightin' 'im?"

Rhinox realized he didn't have time to argue, so he and Blackarachnia scrambled over to the rocks and started searching for an entrance to the lair. It was not too long before Blackarachnia found it hidden under a large rock.

"Can you hold out, Rattrap?" Rhinox called.

"Leave it ta me, Big Green!"

Rhinox nodded and followed Blackarachnia into the tunnel.

Blage leapt silently into the air and glided through it like he was weightless. Rattrap had to admire the sheer agility of cats. But he was agile too. He sprang from his spot and out of Blage's way, turned in midair and fired. His bullets had no effect on Blage, who was exceptionally quick. Before Rattrap knew it, Blage had cuffed him and sent him flying again. Rattrap slammed into a rock and slid down, groaning.

"Dis guy means business," he grumbled as he stood up.

"Time ta bring out da joker, den."

Blackarachnia pulled a face at the rotting carcasses lining the dull walls of Tarantulas's lair.

"Ugh... Keeping the six of them fed seems to be a messy job," she remarked.

Rhinox wasted no time into settling in front of the computer.

"Unauthorized access. Type password to proceed," the computer scolded. Rhinox pointed to the computer and looked at Blackarachnia.

"You know the password?"

She snorted. "It was one of the first things I got from his mind when I shared it," she said as she tapped away at the keys.

"Access granted."

She gave Rhinox a side-ways glance.

"You do the heavy work, I'll do the hacking. I know a lot of passwords."

He nodded and the two of them set to work. Five minutes passed and Rhinox was growing impatient.

"For someone whose lair is secret, Tarantulas certainly puts up a lot of firewalls on his computer!"

"He's a cautious one, for sure," Blackarachnia said as she tried yet another password to enter the next part of the mainframe.

"Access denied."

She slammed her fist onto the console. "Slag! He must have changed it."

"Then it's time for some heavy duty hacking," Rhinox said and pushed her aside gently.

A few moments later and Rhinox tore through the firewall and the mainframe was laid bare to them.

"Great, now we have to FIND the program files of the Five. Let's just hope they're tuned into his satellite," Blackarachnia muttered.

"I'm sure they would be. If anything went wrong with them, Tarantulas would want to be able to shut them off from home. You can never be too safe with robots, intelligent or otherwise."

Blackarachnia smirked. "Very true."

Rhinox tapped away ruthlessly until he found something. "I think I've located his personal files."

She shuddered. "Careful what you open. Tarantulas is a sicko."

"Any idea as to what he might have named the program?" Rhinox queried.

She shook her head. "No clue, but steer clear of anything marked 'fun'. His idea of fun is...sinister."

Rhinox took note of that and cruised through the folders with some caution.

Megatron grabbed the sides of the ravine that had suddenly appeared. He was very glad that his flight blasters had self-repaired and he was able to blast out of the gap in the earth that had been caused by Sandstone. He starred clear of a surge of hot lava that tore out from the crack.

He glanced back at his ship and regretted picking a fight so close to it. Sandstone only had to get the idea of making the lava levels rise around the ship and it would be smothered.

"Megatron, behind you!" Megatron flew out of the way, just as a green shot of cybervenom soared past him.

He gave Optimus a briefly thankful glance before dodging another blow of cybervenom The autoguns were already kaput, Cheetor was unconscious or dead to his right and Dinobot was missing an arm. Wonderful.

Megatron fired a few blasts at Venox, only to discover his target was yet another mirage. Mirage himself shot Megatron from behind, sending the tyrant sprawling to the ground.

With a growl, Megatron got to his feet, only to be blown off them again by a missile from Rampage. The blast totally wrecked his legs. Grounded and severely wounded, Megatron lay on his side and fired and fired at the advancing crab-bot, who seemed undeterred. Megatron could see the wounds healing as he approached. just when he thought it was over for him, Optimus landed in front of him and shot ruthlessly at Rampage. Rampage cried out in fury and returned fire. Optimus managed to dodge most of the blasts, but one clipped his elbow and sent him toppling over Megatron. The two landed up in a heap.

"This is not working, Optimus Primal!" Megatron complained. Optimus struggled to his feet. "Tell me about it!"

"My Queeeeen!" Inferno cried out and with the added firepower of the ant, Optimus was able to keep Rampage at bay.

Waspinator was ducking and diving from flying bolts of lava that came out of the nearby lava pits and chased him in the sky. Sandstone was summoning them and ordering them to spout out in his direction. Waspinator had already lost one leg and half a mandible to the intensely hot substance.

"Wazzpinator unable to keep thizz up forever!"

Dinobot fired with his one arm and shot laser blasts at Venox with his eyes.

"Cheetor has been poisoned, Optimus! I am fighting this creature on my own-ack!"

Galena kicked his legs from behind and Dinobot crashed to the ground. Galena grinned down at him. "I may be a medic and scientist, but I know how to fight, raptor. Don't discount me!" she ended by kicking him on the head.

Optimus fell over again as Rampage fired another missile into the ground nearby. The Maximal leader once again tripped backwards over Megatron.

"I know your legs are wrecked, but can't you at least drag yourself out of the way!" Optimus moaned. Megatron almost pouted.

"I am in much pain, but I will try not to hinder you!" he said sarcastically and with his powerful arms dragged himself out of the main battlefield and settled behind a boulder, and from there, he sniped. He was proud to hit the real Mirage for a change. The illusionist toppled over, surprised.

Emerald swooped down and dropped a bomb onto the temporarily grounded cat-bot.

"A gift from Rattrap!" she cried out and flew off hurriedly. The bomb exploded, leaving behind a still relatively intact but very charred Mirage.

Galena was still kicking Dinobot when he suddenly grabbed hr ankle and pulled her down. He rolled on top of her and raised his only fist. He was suddenly knocked off by a shot from Tarantulas.

"Leave my ally alone!" Tarantulas snarled. Galena stood up and dusted herself off.

"I'm so touched, Tarantulas! You...you really care!" she sniffled in mockery. Tarantulas cocked an eye-ridge. "You should have been the actress, Galena."

A blood-curdling scream shattered the air and everyone turned to see Rampage attacking Megatron. The crab bot was kicking him repeatedly, and had already totally crushed the Predacon's laser arm. Optimus was pelting the crab with shots, but to no effect. Inferno was being held down by Sandstone, who'd finally nailed Waspinator with lava flash.

Dinobot was inches from stasis lock and he surveyed the battle scene with a grave face. Not long until they were all dead.

"You're losing," Galena informed him of the obvious. "It's over."

"I'll tell you when it's over!" Dinobot spat and with the last of his energy he fired a blast from his optics, right into her eyes. She shrieked horribly and stumbled backwards, holding her face.

"Tarantulaaaasss!" she cried out mournfully. Tarantulas opened fire on the raptor and put him out of contention. He hurried over to Galena. In truth, he did care for her, but only because she was a valuable asset to him in his quest for Universal domination, along with the Tripredicus council.

"Galena, get back to the lair. I need you for more important duties than battle," he told her. She wailed in pain. "My eyes!"

Tarantulas grumbled. "Go to beast mode, then, and get out of here! Not long until this is over. Don't risk your body in the tail end of this battle."

Galena transformed into beast mode and bit irritably at the air, before trotting off. Tarantulas hit the ground as Inferno squeezed off a shot at him, even from his position under Sandstone's foot.

The blast was strong enough to knock Tarantulas out for a while, but now Inferno had to concentrate on his leader, who was taking a pummeling from Rampage.

"Nobody harms the Queen like that!" he roared and with surprising extra strength, he threw off Sandstone and socked her with a punch. She stumbled back, shocked and dazed, giving Inferno enough time to run towards his leader and set Rampage on fire.

The crab bot yelped as he felt the flames creep up his back. He sprang away from Megatron and fell backwards, smothering the flames in a roll.

Megatron groaned in agony as Inferno reached him. "In...ferno...get...me inside," he rasped.

"Yes my Queen!" Inferno said remorsefully.

Optimus was busy dodging cybervenom from Venox when he saw the antbot fly hurriedly, carrying a mangled Megatron, to the Darkside.

"Well that's just Prime! Leave it to the Maximals!"

Suddenly, he realized he and Emerald were the only Maximals left. It all went very quiet and he looked around. Emerald had landed softly beside him and was also looking about anxiously. Mirage, Venox and Sandstone faced them. Sandstone had a bolt of energy in her hands, Venox had his cyber gun aimed at them and Mirage too had a weapon in hand. Rampage got up with a grunt of pain and stared at them.

"Tarantulas is down for the moment, but us four aren't. It's you two against us. I'd give you a chance to surrender, but that's not my style," Rampage said coolly.

Optimus gave Rampage a pleasing look. "Let Emerald go, Rampage. She's just a girl!"

Rampage's green optics burned into Emerald's intensely. "She's just a girl. Don't hurt her. Hmm hmm hmm. I've heard THAT before on Omicron. didn't stop me then, and it won't stop me now."

Rattrap grinned down at Blage. The enormous catbot had shot him, kicked him, punched him and torn off his shoulder blade by the time he'd got him down, but hey, he'd done it!

Blage was stuck in one of Tarantulas's energy webs. He used them to catch antelope. The web was originally on low voltage, but Rattrap had charged it to maximum, which was the only think keeping the monster of a robot from breaking free. Blage jerked and jolted with energy, but still managed to glare at the small Transmetal rat.

"You ran right into it like a fly. How predictable," Rattrap sniggered.

Blage tugged hard and one of the web tendrils snapped. Rattrap's smile faded. Blage tugged again and another thread broke.

"Slag! What does it take to STOP you!" he cried. He popped a bomb out from his wrist and placed it in front of Blage.

"One more tug, and I'll set it off!"

Blage tugged with incredible strength, and the web snapped. It was still stuck to him, but it was no longer attached to anything else. Rattrap backed away with wide optics. He pulled out a detonator, and pressed.

The explosion coupled with the energy of the still electrically charged energon web was enough to send Blage flying twenty feet in the air. The jaguarundi crashed down with a loud thud and lay there, sparking. Rattrap froze and stared after him. Blage didn't move. He sighed out in relief. "I think I got 'im down...fer now."

His comm. rattled to life.

"Rhinox to Rattrap! Have you secured the sector yet?"

"Just," Rattrap replied wearily, suddenly aware of his own pain. He sank down to the ground and clutched at a wound to his stomach. "How're you holdin' up?"

"We found the file. We're going to give it a try now. I want you to keep an eye out for Galena. She has a spark and isn't under Tarantulas's control. If we start messing with the drones' systems, she'll be the first to come rushing here to stop us."

"Rodger that," Rattrap said.

He heard a click from behind and a cold, metal object being pressed against the back of his head.

"Whoops," Galena said sarcastically, and fired.

Rhinox heard the blast from inside the lair, but he had no time to worry about that now.

"Let's do this fast!" he told Blackarachnia. She adjusted the frequency on the satellite as Rhinox typed in the commands.

"I'm praying to Primus that this works," he murmured and hit the Enter key.

"Satellite's transmitting the signal," Blackarachnia informed him.

"Not for long!" came a snarl from the entrance. Galena aimed her weapon at the satellite and fired a shot. Blackarachnia dived in front of it and took the bullet.

"How heroic of you!" she spat, shaking her head. Blackarachnia rolled onto her back, clutching at her stomach. Galena was using a modified weapon, and a powerful one at that.

Rhinox leapt from his seat.

"I'm getting reeeeal sick of you!" he yelled, and picked up his chain guns. Galena just had time to open her eyes in horror as the volley of shots wracked her body.

Rhinox fired and fired until he'd used every last bullet. And it worked. Galena was designed to fight, but not to withstand combat as well as the others. She was out for the count.

Rhinox hurried over to Blackarachnia. "You okay?"

"Ugh...I think I'll survive. You keep hammering in those codes, I'll watch the satellite stays on track," Blackarachnia rasped. He nodded and headed back to the console.

"I am your lieutenant, Tarantulas told you so!" Rampage addressed the three. "So I command you to fire!"

"Acknowllllllllll..." the three of them chorused and started jolting and jerking.

"What! What's the matter with you, I said fire!" Rampage cried out furiously.

Tarantulas had just picked himself off the ground. "Oh no! Someone's messing with their programming back at the lair! Somehow they managed to get by Blage!" the spider shrieked.

"Incompetent idiot!" Rampage roared. "I'll have to do it myself, then!" He reeled on Emerald and shot her. She was not expecting such a fast reaction and was sent into stasis lock immediately.

"HEY!" Optimus cried and answered with a throw of his mace. It hit Rampage square in the chest and stuck, sending energy ripples through him. He pulled it pout gingerly, and the wound started closing up.

"Forget it, Optimus Primal! You're no match for me!"

Rampage turned Tarantulas. "Get back to the lair and fix this problem! I'll deal with Optimus!"

Tarantulas hurriedly transformed to vehicle mode. "Come with me! I may need you," he said and sped off.

Mirage and his sibling were on the ground now, twitching and blurting out garbled streams of vocabulary.

Rampage prepared to terminate Optimus, but was blown off his feet by a returning Inferno.

"The Queen orders your destruction, traitor!" Inferno yelled.

Optimus couldn't help but sigh in relief at the sight of the brave antbot. Nothing deterred the guy.

Rampage's comm. crackled. "Rampage! Leave them! I need you here! Who knows what I'll face when I get back?" Tarantulas shouted.

Reluctantly, Rampage stepped away from the Maximal and Predacon. "You haven't seen the last of me! And tell your Queen that I'll be hunting him every waking moment of the next few days of his life!" With that, Rampage fled the scene, and Optimus and Inferno were finally left alone - the last two standing.

Optimus sank to his knees, body rippling with blue energy. "Stasis lock commencing."

"Mind of I use a CR chamber?" he asked with difficulty.

"The Royalty commands that I spare you for now, so, yes, you may use our CR tank," Inferno said. The antbot was very damaged himself, but his sheer determination was keeping him going. He gathered up Optimus and took him inside. Optimus managed to get a message to Rhinox to let him know of his success, and of Rampage's approach, before he finally passed out.

Rhinox sighed in a mixture of weariness and relief.

"We did it. The four of them are malfunctioning so badly now they're useless. But we better get out of here. Tarantulas and a very peeved Rampage are on their way here."

Blackarachnia nodded as Rhinox helped her walk out of the lair. He paused and plucked off Galena's anti-signature device, mounted on her shoulder, before leaving.

"One last thing," Blackarachnia said and turned to his computers. She took out a disc and slipped it into the computer. With a grin, she withdrew the disc and stumbled back to Rhinox's supporting frame.

"What was that?" he asked.

"A virus. That'll take care of any of his attempts to get his precious soldier back online, before we can finish them off."

Rhinox helped her out into the light of dawn. This had been going on the entire night.

He transformed to beast mode and she got on his back as he trotted over to Rattrap.

"Oh no..."

Blackarachnia slid off and scanned the Transmetal. "He's alive. Barely."

She got back on Rhinox back, taking Rattrap with her.

"Pick up Blage and take the long way around to the Darkside. We don't want to bump into Rampage and Tarantulas in our condition."

Rhinox heeded her warning. Because of his heavy load and that they'd taken the long route, it was two megacycles later when they arrived.

Chapter Two: Planning for the Future

Two Days Later:

Waspinator survived. Cheetor just made it. Rattrap pulled through and Optimus and Megatron made a good recovery. But Dinobot was not so lucky.

Emerald sobbed over the raptor, seething in pain and fury. Rhinox put a comforting hand on her shoulder. Dinobot had been announced as having a ten percent chance of survival. At present, he was lying on a table, unconscious and internally damaged beyond CR tanks. The only hope he had were internal repairs, but considering the battering he had taken, chances were they wouldn't be enough.

"Oh, Uncle Rhinox...is there nothing we can do for him?"

He sighed and looked down at her apologetically. "I can't do anything more, Emerald. It's up to him."

"Hold on for me, Dinobot," she whispered. "Please...you're my only friend. I need you..."

Rhinox turned away from the scene. It was too much to bear. Dinobot had been her only friend. He had rescued her on more than one occasion and was there for her through thick and thin. To lose a friend like that would be a terrible blow.

Megatron walked into the room with a slight limp. His legs would never be the same again, but he was still strong and fit. He and Optimus had made a pact to share the base until they had decided what to do with Rampage. He was, along with Tarantulas, an enemy to both.

The t-rex settled into his chair and watched the little green femme cry over his former comrade. Although he'd never admit it, Megatron was not pleased to see Dinobot dying with someone mourning over him. The warrior was going out in a way of honor, but he'd never intended to leave anyone behind. It was the reason he made no friends, Dinobot had once told him. It seemed unjust that Emerald should suffer, even if he didn't care much for the little bird.

"I lost my bunny and I'm losing Dinobot," Emerald whimpered miserably.

"Actually, Cheetor has a hare living in his make-shift quarters. He brought it in a few hours ago."

Emerald sat up and looked at Rhinox.

"I meant to tell you. Optimus asked Cheetor to go out and rescue your hare. Turns out your room was very well sealed, thanks to Rattrap."

Emerald sighed softly and nodded. "At least Lucky made it."

Her grieving was interrupted by a two-bleep siren. "Unit Galena approaching base."

Rhinox and Megatron were at the computers in a nano-click.

"What's your business?" Megatron demanded.

"I know you're not going to believe me, but I've left Tarantulas. He went insane after you melted my siblings in the lava pits. He doesn't know what to do with himself. It's pathetic."

Rhinox raised an eyeridge. "Did the virus help him get that way?"

"It certainly pushed him over the edge. Even I couldn't crack that virus! Not that I really tried. I'm getting sick of that spider." She sighed, and it came out as a rasping sort of noise through the speakers. "My siblings are dead, my purpose has gone to the Pit and my only ally has lost his marbles. Can I join you?"

Megatron exchanged glances with Rhinox. "Join who?"

"You. The lot of you. You're all under one roof, aren't you?"

"Not for long, I hope," Rhinox said.

Galena shrugged on the computer screens. "Whatever. What can I do to prove my allegiance to you?"

Emerald rushed to the screen. "You can heal Dinobot! He's dying!"

Galena nodded slowly. "Yeeeeeahhh, I'd expect that. I'm kinda responsible for that."

"Then rectify it," Emerald said through gritted teeth. She looked at Rhinox pleadingly. "Let her in, please?"

Rhinox was in charge while Optimus continued recovering. He'd gotten passed the critical stage in the CR tank but now he was resting in his quarters. Rhinox made the decision on behalf of the Maximals. "I say we give her a chance."

Megatron snorted. "I don't trust her, though I must admit having a medic of her skill could prove very useful when fighting Rampage."

He re-opened the audio lines. "All right, I'm shutting down defenses. You're in. But we'll be watching your every step," he warned.

Rhinox had rewired the anti-signature device to pick up on other anti-signature devices. He nodded to Megatron, to let him know she was indeed alone.

"Thanks," she answered flatly.

Megatron called a quick meeting and when Galena found her way into the control room, she was greeted by all the Predacons and the Maximals, except for Optimus who was still sleeping.

"Wow. I've got an audience," she remarked.

"Just heal da raptor, hyena-face!" Rattrap snapped and glared at her.

Galena moved over to Dinobot and put her palms over him. A light emitted from them and she closed her eyes as energy ran into his body, carefully repairing his various internal injuries. It took several moments and Maximal and Predacon alike were watching closely. Suddenly, Dinobot lurched forward.


He blinked and looked at them all, confused. Emerald raised a hand and waved softly. "I'm here, Dinobot."

The raptor stared at her and the turned to Galena. "YOU!"

"Wait, Dinobot. She's on our side now," Rhinox put a hand in front of him to stop him. "Thanks to Emerald's determination and Galena's healing power, you're alive."

Dinobot eyed Galena suspiciously, and then looked around. "I'm back in the Darkside? This is all very confusing."

"It is, indeed. But for now we are allies," Megatron spoke up. "Rampage still has his entire spark and I find working together against a common foe is better than as isolated teams. But I assure you, Dinobot, as soon as he's no longer a threat, I'm booting you all out."


"Is still healing. We all made it, Dinobot," Rhinox informed him. Dinobot sighed, relieved.

"Glad to have you back, DB," Cheetor said with a smile.

"And I'm especially glad," Emerald said and put a hand on his knee.

"I heard you, you know," Dinobot told her softly.

"Really?" she asked.

"Really," he said and cracked a crooked smile.

Megatron rolled his eyes. "I'm going to take a leaf out of Optimus's book and have a rest. Inferno guard our guests, would you please."

"Yes, my Queen!"

The Maximals erupted in chortles and snickers. Megatron scowled at them. "A malfunction, I assure you," he said before stalking off down the corridor, hiding his embarrassment.

That evening, Emerald sat atop the roof with Rhinox to try and get away from the heat and smells of the lava pits.

"Not a nice environment around here," she commented, grimacing.

"Pretty fitting for the Predacons, I'd say," he replied.

She shrugged. "I dunno. They're not all bad. They pitched into help when push came to shove."

"True, although that was more out of necessity than anything."

Emerald nodded absently and gazed out. "Do you think Rampage is going to come for us?"

Rhinox sighed. "I'm not sure. He's not stupid. Picking a fight with both teams is a rather risky plan, even for him."

She sighed. "I don't want to stay here forever, though. Waiting for it."

"You won't have to."

Emerald looked up with wide eyes at her uncle. "Huh? Explain."

"I've mentioned it to Optimus, between the CR tank and his bed, poor fella, that while I was in Tarantulas's lair I stumbled across a secret file labeled 'Ark'."

"As in, 'The Ark'?" she asked.

He nodded. "Tarantulas located it. Blackarachnia was with me when I found it, so she knows too. However, she has promised not to tell Megatron. No doubt he'll want to destroy the Autobots therein and that means the end of her too, as she was originally a Maximal protoform."

"Wow...so...when are we moving in?"

Rhinox chuckled. "Always so impatient! Well, we move in as soon as Optimus is able to lead us again, which will be tomorrow, I'm sure. We can't all just pack up and leave. But we'll find a way there, trust me."

Someone cleared their throat behind them and they turned to see Rattrap. Rhinox turned his head to face Emerald. "I think he wants to talk to you. I have been keeping you all to myself, lately, I must admit."

She giggled. "Oh, Uncle Rhinox! I'm always happy in your company! I need you."

"And Rattrap needs you," he whispered to her, and got up. "I'll speak to you later, Emerald. Good night."

"'Night, Uncle R," she said and flashed him a warm smile. Rhinox returned it and walked away. As he passed Rattrap he said something quietly to him and the Transmetal rat just nodded, keeping a straight face. When he was sure they were alone, Rattrap came over to Emerald and sat down beside her.

"I won't ask what yous were talkin' about. I hope I didn't interrupt anythin' too important," he said.

"Nah, it's ok. I've got the rest of my life to talk to Uncle Rhinox. He is, unlike myself, a patient guy."

Rattrap looked at her curiously. "Ya seemed pretty patient wid' me."

She looked away, trying to hide her burning cheeks. They were burning from the memories, not from shyness.

"I didn't want to give up on you. I may be impatient, but I'm pretty adamant when I have my mind set on something."

"Me too," he said. She turned and looked up at him slowly.

"We've come a long way, haven't we, Ems?" he asked as he slipped an arm around her shoulders. She leaned into him with a thoughtful sigh.

"We have, yes."

"Any regrets?"


Rattrap laughed and Emerald chuckled with him. When their laughter died, Rattrap looked at her with smiling eyes.

"You're a great gal, ya know dat Emmie? I don't deserve you."

Emerald smiled lopsidedly. "Aw, don't get soft on me, RT! I like you when you're playing the tough guy!"

"Hey! I am a tough guy! I ain't actin'!"

"Oh yeah!" she laughed. "A tough guy who falls for a little green bird-bot like me!"

He grinned. "Dere's more to us tough guys dan we generally show, Emerald."

"Like?" she asked, raising her eyebrows suggestively.

"Like...we're generally good kissers, sensitive lovers, highly intelligent-quick-thinkers and good guys ta know when you're in a tight spot."

"I like all those qualities, and I can vouch for the first one," she said and bit her lower lip playfully.

"How'd you know? It was yer first kiss!"

"Second," she pointed out. "Although I liked the second one better."

"Well, dey can only improve," he said and kissed her gently.

Emerald pulled out of the kiss and sighed. "Uncle Rhinox is gonna LOVE this."

"Don't worry, we've talked an' gotten things straightened out," Rattrap assured her.

"Really? What things?"

Rattrap counted on one hand. "One: I don't break yer heart again or he'll break my neck, Two: I'm sensitive an' nice ta ya at all times. Three: No sex 'til yer older-"

"Eeee! Enough! Enough!" she squealed. "I get the point."

He patted her on the head teasingly. "Heh heh, I know you do."

They sat in silence after that and looked over the dry, grey barren landscape.

"Rattrap, do you know about the Ark?" Emerald finally asked.

"Yeah. Comfortin' thought, ain't it? Dat we gotta place ta go to."

"It is. And I'm glad Dinobot will be joining us."

"Eh, I got mixed feelings."


"What? I'm a rat, he's a raptor. Dere's a problem dere!"

She laughed and shook her head, grinning.

"But at least we got a future ahead of us. If we've survived all dat we've been through these past few months, I swear, we can take on anythin'', don't ya think?"

Emerald smiled and closed her eyes as she leaned into him. "Couldn't agree more," she said.