Chapter 23

Airazor, Depth Charge, and Shadowfang ran along the hall, watching the walls, floor, and ceiling slowly transition from earth and rocks to smooth metal.

"We must be getting closer…this must be Tarantulas' lab." Depth Charge commented.

"That means that slagging Pred must be ahead…" Shadowfang snarled.

"Maybe now…we can put an end to this…" Airazor said, rather quietly.

Depth Charge started to slow down as the hallway was blocked off by a sealed doorway and turned to Airazor, who also stopped with Shadowfang behind her. "Airazor…Shadowfang…whatever's happened to you children will be undone, I assure you…"

Airazor smiled slightly. "That's not like you…usually you'd be telling us to "stay on guard" or some other uptight advice."

Depth Charge gave her a small smile. "I can understand when it's the time to give some comfort rather than combat orders…"

Shadowfang walked up to the doors behind Depth Charge and gave it a push. It swung open surprisingly easily and the three of them walked in. They entered an enormous room, filled with computers, tables with datapads and vials with various liquids spread across the surface, and half finished machinery. Off to the side, however, was a large cage and inside sat Macha, her back against the wall and scrolling through a datapad in her hands.

"Macha!" Shadowfang ran up to the cage, his shout making his daughter look up.

"Daddy!" Macha set her datapad down and ran to the edge of the cage, reaching though to give her father a hug.

"Are you ok? You're not hurt anywhere are you?" Shadowfang asked, looking at his daughter at arms length.

Macha shook her head. "Nope, not at all."

"Where's Tarantulas?" Depth Charge asked, also approaching the cage.

"He went out for a little, said he had to go pick something up…" Macha answered, as if she was telling them he went out to buy some groceries.

"Then let's get you out of here…" Airazor said, hurrying over to the cage door and pulled at it. It swung open with ease and the three adults blinked in confusion.

"It wasn't locked…" Macha mumbled, picking up her datapad and walking out of the cage.

"What…? It wasn't locked…?" Shadowfang looked dumbfounded. "Then…why didn't you run away…?"

Macha shrugged. "I wanted to stay with Nightwing for a while…Tarantulas said he could cure him…"

"But Macha…Nightwing was never sick…" Airazor tried to reason.

Macha shook her head. "Yes he was…he said so himself. And I saw it too, he started to change…get colder and less like himself everyday, until he asked Tarantulas to help him."

"This doesn't make any sense…" Depth Charge said. "Why did he even capture you two in the first place?"

"To get what was changing Nightwing apparently…" Macha said, placing her datapad on the closest table.

"You mean Skyhunter's spirit?" Depth Charge asked.

Macha nodded. "I guess that's what you could call it…but the process is still in progress so we decided to stay until it was done. Parts of Skyhunter are still entering through Nightwing and Tarantulas is taking it out bit by bit."

"What does he want with Skyhunter's spirit?" Shadowfang asked.

"To create the perfect subordinate…" A voice said behind them all.

They all jumped and spun around to see Tarantulas standing there, his blaster pointed at the three.

Macha somewhat skipped over to Tarantulas. "I finished locating those parts you wanted…you were right…the warehouse won't be easy to enter…seven security check points, all of which require a separate code or type of varification. You're not getting in without the correct id codes and what not…"

"You had her hack into military databanks?!"

Tarantulas gave Depth Charge a shrug. "What can I say? She has a knack for these things…" He looked at Macha. "I suppose you got a way in there…?"

"Of course…it's all in there…" Macha pointed at the datapad she was just working with, which sat on the table behind Airazor, Depth Charge, and Shadowfang.

The three of them looked back and tried to snatch it up before Tarantulas did anything only to find a foot stepping firmly on top of it. They looked up to find Skyhunter standing there, his foot on top of the datapad.

"Sky?!" Airazor cried in shock as he bent down and picked up the datapad.

Skyhunter didn't respond to Airazor, however, and simply walked past them to Tarantulas.

"Thank you so much, my reliable underling…much more useful than those failures your son took care of…" Tarantulas said.

Skyhunter made no reaction, merely stood there looking blankly at Tarantulas.

"Skyhunter! Listen to me!" Airazor shouted. "Don't do this! You can't work for Tarantulas!"

Skyhunter's audio's twitched ever so slightly but otherwise he made no movements what so ever.

"Enough of this…!" Depth Charge growled and looked at Shadowfang. "Let's go!"

Shadowfang nodded and he and Depth Charge charged at Tarantulas, Skyhunter, and Macha.

Tarantulas sighed and clicked his fingers, causing Skyhunter to immediately face those that were coming right at them. Skyhunter flew forward, arms outstretched and catching both Depth Charge and Shadowfang in the stomach with his arms. The both of them were knocked back, staggering and holding their stomachs. Airazor flew forward but was shot back immediately by Tarantulas' blaster.

"I don't think so…" Tarantulas said. "If you keep acting foolish I might not be able to fulfill my promise to the sparklings that their parents would be spared."

Airazor got to her feet. "Skyhunter, don't listen to him! You have to fight his control! I know you can hear me!"

Tarantulas laughed at the seemingly useless effort. "Don't waste your breathe, even if he could hear you he wouldn't be able to do anything about it." He clicked his fingers and Skyhunter opened his spark chamber, revealing his spark and the starfish like entity wrapped around it. "I believe you've already met my newest Shell Program; irremovable, irreversible, and gives me full control over the host."

Airazor ignored Tarantulas. "Skyhunter, please! Listen to me! Fight him, I know you can!"

Tarantulas gave an impatient sigh. "You know what to do…" He said, clicking his fingers again.

Skyhunter closed his spark chamber and reached up to his wing for a feather, pulling it out and making it extend into a sword.

"The other ones still had their personalities and their faults to them…or maybe that just shows the incompetence of Predacon underlings…" Tarantulas continued, as Skyhunter started towards Airazor.

"Sky…please…" Airazor whimpered, watching Skyhunter approach her.

Depth Charge quickly got in front of Airazor and fired several shots from his chest at Skyhunter, who deflected them with ease. "Get your head together, Airazor! Don't just stand there frozen like that!"

"But, what can I do…?! I can't fight him…!" Airazor watched helplessly as Shadowfang ran at Skyhunter, daggers withdrawn and slashed at Skyhunter.

"But you're the only one that can stop him!" Depth Charge shouted at her, pulling out his blaster and firing at Skyhunter.

"W-why me?"

"Last time the only thing that Skyhunter was after was you, even when he was supposedly under Tarantulas' control…Maybe you still have an effect on him…"

"But you just saw, nothing I say will get through to him!"

"You have to try!" Depth Charge ran forward and slashed at Skyhunter with his sword, and Skyhunter parried.

Airazor felt it was pointless trying to reason with Skyhunter, not when he was under the control of Tarantulas' Shell program. She turned to him and flew at him, grabbing him and forcing him against the closest wall.

"Let Sky, go!"

Tarantulas cackled. "What makes you think I can? The Shell programming is irreversible, not even I could undo it even if I wanted to!"

"But you must've had some sort of fail-safe! What if something went wrong with the program?!"

"I'd kill the subject…duh…" Tarantulas gave Airazor a shrug.

There was a yell and Airazor turned to see Depth Charge fall to his knees, a long slash across his chest. Shadowfang had been thrown behind a lab table and Macha was currently trying to wake him. Airazor shut her optics tightly, trying to decide what to do. She gave a frustrated cry and flew straight at Skyhunter, plowing into him and ramming him into the opposite wall before he could do anything.

"Skyhunter I know you're still in there! You have to wake up!" Airazor shouted. "You can fight it, you have before!"

"Though the obsession over you was kind of…awkward, to say the least…" Depth Charge mumbled.

Airazor snapped at him. "Now is not the time to grow a sense of humor!" She turned back to Skyhunter. "Fight it, Sky…just give me some sign that you're still in there…"

Tarantulas scoffed. "There's nothing you can do…to…" Tarantulas' voice trailed off as Skyhunter reached up to gently stroke Airazor's face. "What are you doing?! Take her down now!!"

"You can't control him…not when she's with her…" A voice said. Everyone turned to the door that Airazor, Depth Charge, and Shadowfang had come through to see Blackarachnia, Lio, and Silverbolt standing there.

"What are you talking about?!" Tarantulas growled. "My shell program is perfect. It gives me total control over any Transformer!"

"But Skyhunter goes beyond the idea of a Transformer…he's a spirit…" Lio walked over to Airazor and gently pried her hands from Skyhunter's shoulders. Skyhunter didn't move from his place, standing still and silent next to Airazor. "When a spirit isn't merged with the All-Spark, it means they have an attachment to the physical world. In Sky's case, it was Airazor. The thought of her kept him bound to this plane of existence, making her the root of his entire continued existence..."

"A little corny when you think of it but it's what happens," Blackarachina picked up after Lio fell silent. "You can't control a single, concentrated emotion like that, especially if you're basing it off of a normal living mind. His thoughts will leak out and his actions will become focused on the thought. As soon as you tried to take a bound spirit, your experiment failed."

"No! It was perfected! I didn't miss anything!" Tarantulas shouted. "Skyhunter, attack them now!!" Skyhunter looked down at Airazor but didn't move.

"It's over Tarantulas…please come quietly…" Silverbolt said, pointing his blaster at Tarantulas. "I do not wish to show these ladies my ugly side, but I will use force if necessary."

"Enough with the righteous knight routine, 'Bolt…we'll just kick his aft and be done with it." Blackarachnia pulled out her own blaster as Lio and Airazor did the same.

"Sky…would you like to help us out?" Airazor asked in a sweet voice.

Skyhunter didn't respond but opened his wings to their full extent and fired a volley of missiles as the others fired their blasters. Tarantulas was blasted off his feet and landed a good 20 feet behind where he was standing, laying there in stasis lock. As soon as Tarantulas was knocked out, Skyhunter's empty optics lit up and he staggered forward as he suddenly relaxed his tense posture and fell forward.

"Sky!" Airazor and Lio turned around just in time to catch Skyhunter before he hit the ground. Slumped over, the four-legged starfish like entity seemed to phase through Skyhunter's chest and fell to the ground, unmoving.

"Airazor…Lio? Where am I…?" Skyhunter asked with a small groan.

Tears welled up in Airazor's optics as she hugged him tightly. "Where you belong…"