Greetings again! Hope I didn't make anyone wait too long for my promised sequel. Had to move back to the States from Japan with a small stop-over in Europe along the way. But I'm back now, so all's good.

Fortune Favors Fools

Chapter One: The Coming of the Storm

A long, deep roll of thunder rumbled somewhere in the distance. Giant banks of storm clouds blotted one corner of the night sky an even darker shade of black. The smell of rain hung heavy in air. A hot, humid breeze drifted across the desolate plains of volcanic land and buffeted Dinobot's face. It was the only thing to disturb the otherwise stagnant summer night - the literal calm before the storm. As Dinobot glanced in the direction of the approaching storm front, a jagged bolt of lightning flickered downward and illuminated the entire western horizon and underside of the approaching storm clouds in a brilliant wash of white.

Moving swiftly, the raptor wove her way through jagged outcrops of cooled lava flows deeper into Predacon territory. The tips of her beast-mode's elongated toe claws made harsh scraping sounds against the ground as she navigated the treacherous landscape. It was only when she came within the last half mile or so of her former faction's flagship that she slowed to take cover behind a large protrusion of rock.

"Dinobot, maximize," she whispered. In a flurry of shifting limbs and armored plates she transformed into her bipedal form. Keeping low, she pressed her back against the rocky protrusion and carefully craned forward to sight around the corner. The individual sections of her sword spun in slow, steady circles by her side.

In the distance, the wrecked remains of the Darksyde sat in the middle of a partially active lava flow. The underside of the once fearsome battleship was lit in a demonic orange glow, as if the very fires of the Pit burned beneath it.

Dinobot slowly withdrew back behind the rock face. So far she hadn't come across any perimeter defenses, but she wasn't about to take any chances. Despite all of Megatron's shortcomings, outright stupidity wasn't one of them. He'd make sure all angles of approach to his base were covered either by guard patrols, security cameras, or automated weapons systems. Dinobot had already spotted Quickstrike and Terrorsaur patrolling the eastern and southern borders of the Predacons' territory, and had slipped past both of them without being noticed. She'd seen Waspinator buzzing around the Darksyde's entrance, but other than that from as far as Dinobot could tell the Predacon base was for all intents and purposes deserted. All signs of Megatron and his other underlings - namely Tarantulas and Inferno - were suspiciously absent.

No matter. In fact their absence worked in favor of Dinobot's plans.

Almost subconsciously, the warrioress glanced up towards the overcast night sky. Despite the approaching storm front, she knew somewhere high above the cloud cover a full moon hung low in the sky.

One solitary full moon…

With the destruction of the alien satellite, the primitive planet the Predacon and Maximal forces had crash landed on was orbited now by only one planetary body. This revelation brought into question the validity of Megatron's claim that he had not misled them to the wrong planet.

Dinobot growled low beneath her intakes. If the clues were to be believed, then the entire focus of the Beast Wars was about to change. Whether for good or bad, Dinobot still didn't know. So far none of the other Maximals had given the planet's single moon much notice. Dinobot was no gambler, but if she'd had to she would have bet everything she possessed that the planet's new nightscape had not gone unnoticed by Megatron. If he had, then there was no telling what Megatron's next step would be. She had to know for certain if her suspicions were correct before she could devise any sort of battle plan. And the only way for her to do that was to check the one source of information whose theft had sparked the entire Beast Wars in the first place.

Keeping low, Dinobot carefully slunk out from behind her cover and continued her strategic advance on the Predacon warship. A hundred yards from the ship's main lift Dinobot spotted several gun turrets posted at overlapping vantage points around the perimeter. For a moment Dinobot balked. Before she'd defected from the Predacons one of her many duties as Megatron's lieutenant had been security detail. She's chosen this particular weapons system herself. The guns were motion and heat-activated and designed to fire several hundred rounds of armor-piercing bullets in sweeping sprays in under half a minute. The chances of escaping fire once one was caught in the gun's targeting system were minimal. It was one of the main reasons she'd chosen it. Now she began to regret her overenthusiastic choice.

There was one flaw she'd discovered about the weapons system, however. While the guns automatically targeted any large moving heat sources, the guns continually swiveled from side to side on rotating bases; and if the guns' sensors were not actually turned in an approaching enemy's direction they failed to register the encroaching threat. It was a flaw that at the time had troubled Dinobot, but one which she was more than happy to take advantage of now that she was on the opposite side of the gun barrel.

Quickly looking around, the Dinobot spotted what she needed: a shallow puddle of mud. While many of her Maximal comrades would have physically shuddered at the idea, the warrioress did not even hesitate as she began to liberally smear the viscous black sludge across her superstructure. The mud was cool and wet: perfect for masking an intruder's heat signal and making her virtually invisible to the gun's sensors.

It took little effort for Dinobot to systematically creep closer and closer each time the gun swiveled away from her on its turret while freezing in place every time its slowly swept back in her direction. Only when she'd dispatched of one of the turrets with a single thrust of her sword into its control box did Dinobot wipe the excess mud from her face, arms and chest. Thunder rumbled somewhere behind her on the horizon.

Continuing a cautious approach, Dinobot met no other forms of defense until she's already crept up the ship's main lift and into one of the corridors she knew led to the ship's command deck. It was there that she heard the approaching drone of insect wings and unintelligible self-mumbling of her former faction's most inept member, Waspinator.

Dinobot couldn't quite keep a grin from her facial plates as the insipid buzzing grew louder and the wasp unknowingly sped straight towards her down the hall. If a faulty weapons system and Waspinator were all Megatron had left behind to guard his flagship, her mission was going to be easier than she'd initially anticipated.

Pressing herself into the shadowy space between two large heating ducts on the one side of the corridor, Dinobot waited until Waspinator had almost passed her before pouncing from her hiding spot onto the unsuspecting bug. Her claws easily found their way around the flier's skinny beast-mode neck and slammed him backwards against the opposite side of the corridor. The tip of her sword was instantly pressed to the underside of his mandibles.

Waspinator gave a shrill, audio-piercing shriek at the sight of the warrioress, making Dinobot involuntarily wince. "Don't cut off Waspinator's head!" the flier squealed in open terror. "Waspinator still remembers how much it hurt last time lizard-bot attacked him! What did Waspinator do? Waspinator did nothing to lizard-bot. He hasn't said anything mean about lizard-bot except that one time."

"Shut up," Dinobot hissed. Waspinator instantly froze and stared up at her in terrified silence. Dinobot could feel the smaller Predacon literally trembling in her grip. She inwardly smirked. Fear always made interrogations easier…

"You've seen the moon?" she asked without preamble.

Waspinator hastily nodded. "Only one moon now. Other one disappeared after alien attack. Now moon just like picture on gold disk."

Dinobot's lips pressed into a thin line. "Has Megatron noticed?" she demanded.

Waspinator hesitantly nodded again.

"So then Megatron did not lead us astray after all," Dinobot thoughtfully murmured. "That means…"

"Earth," Waspinator replied with a trembling nod.

Dinobot's frown deepened. It was as she'd thought. This changed everything. This could spell either death and destruction or unimaginable glory to whomever used this information to their advantage first. She had to act quickly…

"Where does Megatron keep the disks?" she growled into Waspinator's terror-stricken face.

"H-his rooms," Waspinator stammered. "He doesn't let anyone see them, not even Waspinator! Keeps backup files on them triple encoded."

"I see," Dinobot nodded. "I would have expected nothing less than that from him. Especially when the objects in question possess such intrinsic value. Although I am more than certain such measures will ultimately prove useless in stopping me from claiming them as my own."

Waspinator hesitantly met Dinobot's optics, his papery wings fluttering nervously against the wall. "What is lizard-bot going to do with Waspinator now? He told her everything she wanted to know. Is lizard-bot going to cut his head off again?"

"No," Dinobot replied.

Visible relief washed over Waspinator's facial plates. He sagged against the wall behind him.

"I'm just going to knock it off with my bare fist."

The words barely had time to register in the flier's processor before Dinobot's knuckles smashed into the side of his helm and sent his head spinning in circles on his shoulders several times. Waspinator's optics blinked offline and his body clattered lifelessly to the floor at Dinobot's feet. His head finally stopped spinning with his face turned backwards over his wings.

The warrioress didn't even spare Waspinator a second glance as she stepped over his crumpled body and proceeded deeper into the ship. Allowing old memories of her time on the Darksyde to guide her, she quickly navigated her way through the twisting hallways to the crew's personal quarters. Although she'd never been inside she knew exactly which ones they were Megatron's. If the extra wide, double-reinforced steel doors weren't a dead give-away, the extra security locks lining its one side should have been.

Rarely do the dreams of sleeping tyrants stray towards peaceful gardens or heavenly delights, Dinobot darkly mused. For he who rules by fear is continually roused from his slumber by the chill of Paranoia's cold presence standing over his bedside in the night…

Despite the extra locks and required key codes Megatron had installed, they gave only minor resistance to the warrioress's amateur hacking skills (not to mention the sharpened edge of her sword and three quick blasts of her optic lasers at close-range to their internal circuitry.) When the doors - now charred black in several areas and locks hanging from their hinges - finally slid aside to reveal the inner sanctums of Megatron's room Dinobot instantly spotted what she'd come there for.

Suspended in a zero-gravity field in the very center of Megatron's rooms two large golden disks slowly rotated end over end in an endless dance of weightlessness. Unintelligible alien hieroglyphs and pictures decorated both sides of each disk.

Dinobot wasted no time in covering the distance between herself and them and snatching the two disks from their floating display. Tucking them both under one arm, the warrioress turned back to the door. There was no saying when Megatron or any of his other cronies were going to return, nor any guarantee Waspinator wouldn't suddenly come back online and raise the alarm. She wanted to be far outside of Predacon territory before either of those things happened.

But not before she made sure there was no way for Megatron to somehow compensate for the loss of the two disks…

To her left sat Megatron's personal computer terminal. With ice-cold precision, the warrioress activated the laser nodes in her optics and sent half a dozen blasts of concentrated green energy flying towards it. The terminal burst into flames. Circuits crackled and motherboards snapped in half under the intense heat. It was only as tongues of flames began to lick the underside of the ceiling did Dinobot finally cease her assault.

There was no way any kind of backup files would be salvageable now…

Mission now complete, Dinobot turned to leave. With both gold disks held tight against her side, the Maximal warrior backtracked the same route she'd taken inside. She found Waspinator still laying in a motionless pile exactly where she'd left him. A sharp wind had begun to blow by the time she jogged down the Darksyde's main lift and out into the night. A bolt of lightning streaked across the sky directly over the mountain chain only several miles to the west. A ground-shaking boom of thunder followed closely on its heels.

The storm was almost upon them.

Wasting no time, Dinobot converted to beast-mode and took off in the direction she'd originally come. If she hurried, she might still be able to make it back to base before the storm hit and unleashed its full fury on the earth.

After she made a small side-trip to a secretive spot in the hills just south of the Maximals' territory, that was…

These disks could very well spell the fate of not only herself but countless others spread out between several different galaxies and countless generations. But whether the history that had already happened and been recorded was immutable or still subject to the consequences of their present choices and actions was still the question.

So until she knew for sure, she would hide these disks away from both sides - both Maximals and Predacons alike - and wait to see what course of action would provide her with the best outcome…

"Looks like this storm's going to be a big one," Rhinox murmured as his optics slowly scanned the screen's readouts. "Better batten down the hatches."

Optimus Primal looked over Rhinox's shoulder and inwardly frowned. From what he could tell, Rhinox was right. According to the Axalon's long-range sensors, they were all in store for a massive electrical storm approaching from the west. "Looks like you're right," Optimus murmured. "I'm a bit worried about Airazor and Tigatron. They're still out scouting sector delta-five for any energon readings. There's not many places in that area for them to take shelter if the storm hits unexpectedly."

"Eh, I wouldn' spend too much time worryin' 'bout ol' Stripes an' da bird-lady," another voice piped up from the opposite side of the Axalon's bridge. "Dey both know wha' they're doin'. Dey know how ta take care 'ov themselves in da field."

Optimus turned and threw Rattrap an exasperated look. "Even the best trained scouts can be overtaken by the elements of an alien planet, Rattrap," he sighed. "It's my responsibility to look after the welfare of my crew both on and off the ship."

Lounging in his seat at another computer consol, the spy carelessly shrugged his shoulders. Rattrap didn't even try to hide the fact that he was playing one of his games by minimizing it to the bottom of the screen when he should have otherwise been doing monitor duty. "Wha'eva ya say, boss monkey," he said. "All's I'm sayin' is dat after spendin' so much time on dis dirt ball planet we've pretty much gotten used ta whatever it can throw at us."

"We've only been on this planet for little more than a stellar cycle," Optimus replied. "That's not enough time to say we've experienced all the different climate changes that are possible. We still have to be on our guard."

But Rattrap was no longer listening. He'd already turned back to his game.

Optimus heaved a frustrated sigh. It was times like these he wondered what he'd been thinking when he'd agreed to captain the Axalon's crew. Since crash landing on this alien planet he and his ragtag crew had come together to form a team that, on occasion, even felt like some kind of dysfunctional family unit. But sometimes, just like in a real family, Optimus felt as though he was being driven to the very brink of sanity by those he'd been entrusted to protect. Primus give him the strength to see them through this war and get them all safely back to Cybertron…

"Hey, Optimus," Cheetor called from another monitor. "I got a heat signature coming towards the ship fast from the south."

Rhinox and Optimus both turned to the nearest screen as the engineer pulled up footage from the outer perimeter's security cameras. "Looks like Dinobot," Optimus said. "Have Sentinal stand down so she doesn't have to stop and wait for it to recognize her." Out of the corner of his optic, he didn't miss the way Rattrap perked up in his seat at the warrioress's name.

"So Scalebelly's finally back," he said, closing down his game. He leaned back in his chair and glanced towards the nearest lift. "Been wonderin' where she's been all day. She's lucky she got back when she did, 'cause it looks like she jus' beat da storm."

Optimus had to inwardly smirk at Rattrap's poor attempt at looking casual. It was pretty much an open secret he and Dinobot were romantically involved. How serious their relationship was, Optimus couldn't really say for sure given how the two of them had never actually come out and publicly acknowledged it to anyone else. But he wasn't the only one who had noticed the way Dinobot and Rattrap's bickering was no longer malicious or tinged with misguided hate. Or how their insulting titles for each other had lost their sting and become more like backhanded terms of endearment. Not to mention on several different occasions now since Dinobot's rescue he'd heard one of them quietly sneaking past his quarters late at night down the hall to the others' room.

To say that Dinobot and Rattrap were like two little lovebirds, however, was so far from the truth the notion was almost funny. The mental image of the fierce warrioress and spy secretly whispering sweet words of affection to each other and holding each other's hand in the moonlight was enough to almost make Optimus burst out laughing. Despite whatever kind of relationship the two of them had developed since Dinobot's rescue from Megatron almost a lunar cycle ago, Rattrap and Dinobot were still the same two antagonistic, short-tempered, frustratingly annoying 'bots they'd been before.

At first Optimus hadn't been quite sure what to make of their relationship. But after thinking about it for awhile, it began to make sense in an odd sort of way. Dinobot and Rattrap were both hard-headed and stubborn and enjoyed taxing each other's patience 'til they found just the right button to push to get the reaction they wanted. Despite all their differences - or perhaps because of them - they complimented each other perfectly. Whatever one lacked, the other made up for in abundance. Wherever one faltered, the other was always somewhere nearby to equal out the imbalance. Working together, they made an efficient team (even though there was still a fair amount of name-calling and sharp-tongued insults being thrown around between them.) In truth, Optimus had more than once wondered if Dinobot and Rattrap's arguments and occasional threats of violence weren't really some sort of verbal foreplay.

But that was a line of code he really didn't want to process in any way, shape or form; and so wiped it from his neural circuits as quickly as possible…

The hum of the lift's hydraulics activating sounded from the other side of the bridge, and Dinobot slowly rose into view.

"Looks like you just made it back in time," Cheetor cheerfully called as the warrioress, still in beast-mode, unfolded herself from the narrow lift. "Rhinox says we're going to be in for one heck of a storm tonight."

"I am more than well aware of it," Dinobot snorted. With a quick command she transformed to robot-mode. Glancing in Optimus's direction, she said, "I observed the approaching storm front while I was returning from patrol. I counted at least six massive lightening strikes half a dozen miles west of us. We should increase the ship's shield output to at least sixty-five percent to reduce chances of any our equipment being damaged by an electrical surge. One hit could take out Sentinal and our entire security network."

"Good idea," Optimus nodded. If there was one thing he could say about Dinobot it was that she was dedicated, especially when it came to security and base defenses. On more than one occasion she'd proven herself an indispensable asset to the Maximals. If it hadn't been for her in their first real clash with Megatron after crash landing, Optimus was almost certain the outcome of that fight would have been very different.

"Any sign of Predacon activity while you were out?" he asked as Rhinox increased the ship's shields without him even having to order it.

Dinobot shook her head with a scowl. "Negative. While patrolling the eastern border I detected several Predacon signatures doing basic patrols, but nothing more."

Optimus nodded, his troubled expression mirroring Dinobot's own. For the last several weeks ever since Dinobot's rescue, they'd detected little movement from the Predacons. Despite the nice respite from fighting considering the commotion Dinobot's kidnapping had caused, such prolonged silence from Megatron was a troubling sign. Optimus tried to tell himself the warlord was just licking his wounds from such a humiliating defeat, but his instincts told him otherwise. There was no doubt in his processor that Megatron was concocting some new plot to use against them. And not knowing what this unnamed threat might be made Optimus's intake tank churn uncomfortably.

They'd just have to be careful for the unforeseeable future until they figured out what Megatron was planning…

"Well, it's good ta see ya were doin' at least somethin' useful while you were AWOL all day," Rattrap piped up from across the bridge.

Optimus inwardly sighed. There just couldn't be one peaceful moment on this ship, could there?

Just as expected, Dinobot instantly turned to glare at the spy. "Unlike you, Vermin, I prefer to go where my warrior skills might be of some use to this crew instead of sitting comfortably onboard all day playing computer games."

Rattrap leaned back in his chair with a smirk, openly enjoying Dinobot's annoyed expression. "So says you, Bronto-breath. Who knows wha' ya could be doin' out der all day with no one watchin' ta make sure yer not plannin' somthin' underhanded."

Dinobot growled low under her intakes. "You should be less concerned about what I do off this ship than what I am capable of doing on-ship right under your pointy little nose," she replied with a menacing glare.

"Dat a threat, Lizard Lips?" Rattrap said, arching one optic ridge at her.

"No, Vermin," Dinobot hissed. "It is a promise sworn on my very honor."

Unlike Optimus, Rhinox and Cheetor had long since turned back to their workstations. After more than a year of listening to Dinobot and Rattrap's bickering, it had become almost second nature to the crew to tune out their arguing and go on about their duties as if it was nothing more than background noise.

"Now if you are finished wasting valuable time at that computer terminal I want to use it to log my report," Dinobot growled as she stalked towards Rattrap and gave him a none too gentle shove out of the way. Rattrap's chair flew backwards in its runners and spun around in several circles.

"Watch'it, Scalebelly, or I'll put a round right between yer ugly optics!" Rattrap snapped, leaping to his feet to face Dinobot.

"With your aim?" Dinobot gave a condescending snort. "That would be highly unlikely." Then, turning her back on him, the raptor bent at the waist over the keypad and began to furiously type.

Rattrap stood staring at Dinobot's back, his optic ridges scrunched together in the center of his face. For a moment Optimus was sure Rattrap was going to fire back with another insult. The spy continued to stiffly glare at the warrioress as though trying to think of a suitable comeback. But then, as if deciding against it, the tension in Rattrap's shoulder relaxed and he turned towards the nearest exit.

Optimus was just about to send a silent prayer of thanks to Primus for being spared one of their more volatile arguments and go back to the three-dimensional holo-map he'd been studying before Dinobot's return, when out of the corner of his optic he caught Rattrap shoot one servo out towards Dinobot as he strode past and smoothly run his palm along the lower curve of the warrioress's aft.

The touch was quick and over before Optimus could even process what he thought he'd just seen. The only thing to prove he hadn't been hallucinating was Dinobot lifting her head to glance in the direction of Rattrap's retreating back. But instead of curses, battle cries or promises of bloody retribution as Optimus might have expected, Dinobot remained surprisingly calm and quiet - her expression edged with only a mild look of annoyance. Then, as if nothing had happened at all, the raptor turned her attention back to the computer screen and continued typing.

Optimus quickly turned back to his holo-map before Dinobot or anyone else could see him staring. He could feel his facial plates grow hot with an embarrassed rush of mech fluid.

Oh, yes. There was definitely something going on between those two. And nothing of the platonic type either. He'd suspected it for some time now ever since Dinobot's rescue. But somehow seeing his suspicions proven right - and in such an open, non-uncertain way - was an entirely different matter. And one in which he felt the less he chose to know, the better it was for his and everyone else's good…

Thunder cracked overhead, its boom literally shaking the ground underfoot. Lightning flashed and illuminated the barren landscape of jagged cliffs and slick-sided gorges in a blinding wash of light. A strong wind - a mere herald of the tempest that was about to unleash its fury on the land - whistled through the narrow canyons and sent dirt and small pieces of rock scuttling across the ground. The smell of rain was heavy in the air - sharp, clean and cold.

It is a fitting setting, Megatron grinned as he craned his optics upward and watched a jagged fork of lightning slice across the sky. Thunder rumbled almost immediately in its wake, like the hungry stomach-growl of some titanic demon-entity.

"My Queen!" Inferno's voice called over the building howl of wind. "The storm is almost directly overhead."

"Excellent," Megatron grinned and turned away from the broiling black storm clouds towards the gigantic metal structure he and his servants, Inferno and Tarantulas, had constructed high in the desolate mountain region just north of the Predacons' border. He'd chosen the area mostly because it was so far outside of the Maximals' long-range sensors. The jamming tower he'd had installed on the far edge of their territory helped, but he wasn't about to take any chances with Optimus Primal and his ragtag crew anymore. He wanted no interruptions to what he was about to do…

"Is the machine ready?" he demanded as he strode up to Tarantulas at the base of the structure. The scientist was currently engrossed in inputting numerous codes into the structure's main computer.

"Almost, Megatron," he nodded without even looking away from the screen. "I'm just working out the last few transmetal gene sequence codes. It should be ready within the minute."

"Hurry," the warlord growled. "We cannot afford to let this storm pass us over. We do not have the generators needed to produce the energy necessary to complete the process, and there's no saying when another electrical storm of this magnitude will come again."

"I'm working as fast as I can," Tarantulas muttered between gritted mandibles. The mad scientist's pinchers flew across the keyboard. Cybertronian symbols and schematics flashed across the screen so fast Megatron did not even attempt to decipher them. That was why he'd brought Tarantulas along to worry about them anyway…

Almost directly overhead another crash of thunder sounded. The storm was upon them. They had to hurry.

"Inferno!" Megatron yelled over the wind. "Bring the stasis pod. Quickly!"

"Yes, my Queen!" Inferno saluted and hurried off to the side where an unactivated stasis pod lay. Megatron watched as the fire ant dragged the pod towards the structure and up the long ramp that led to its power couplings.

"Careful," he barked as Inferno hefted the pod upright and began to connect it to the structure. Through the small window in the front, the silvery protoform inside limply bounced from side to side. "If anything happens to that protoform, it will be your life."

"I will not fail you, my Queen!" Inferno cried over his shoulder as he hurriedly connected the last few cables and wires to the pod.

Despite his servant's assurance, Megatron continued to closely watch him until the fire ant finally stepped away from the pod and came back down the structure's ramp.

Inferno stepped to attention in front of Megatron and snapped off a smart salute. "It is done, my liege!"

Megatron spared Inferno only a half-sparked nod of approval. His attention was wholly focused on the pod. Inside that pod lay the future of all his recent plans. His redemption. His prize.

Even now almost a month after Dinobot's escape, Megatron still seethed with memories of his defeat. He'd been so close. He'd all but had his ex-lieutenant completely back under his control. But then Optimus Primal and that annoying little rat had shown up with the rest of Dinobot's adopted crew. If it hadn't been for that conniving black widow, Blackarachnia, and that soft-sparked excuse of a Predacon recruit, Silverbolt, he would have defeated the Maximals and already had Dinobot fully bonded to him as his own personal warrior and pet. Of that he had no doubt. But both had betrayed him and helped his drugged ex-lieutenant escape.

Megatron grit his dentals in lingering rage. Not only had he lost to Primal and his meddling Maximals, but worse he'd ultimately lost to the smallest member of that pitiful crew. Just the memory of the rat's sticky bomb was enough to make Megatron's circuits burn with hate. Even now several weeks later and no less than four days spent in a CR tank, he still got occasional stabs of phantom pain through his right arm's neural lines where the bomb had stuck to his superstructure. He was going to take nothing but the greatest pleasure in one day stripping that tiny, foul-mouthed rodent apart piece by piece until he was nothing more than a heap of rusting scrap metal. And not just for the bomb either. That walking piece of plague had also stolen his prize.

Megatron was gritting his dentals so hard he could feel them begin to warp under the pressure.

Dinobot was suppose to have been his! He'd staked his claim on her the instant he saw footage of the warrioress in her true form and realized the potential of having her as his bonded mate. She would have been like an unstoppable weapon: deadly, swift and completely at his - and only his - command. Not to mention the private liberties that usually went on between bonded couples behind closed doors would have been an added bonus. Despite all of Dinobot's less than feminine qualities, there was no denying she possessed a certain element of violent carnal energy he'd never seen in another femme before. She would have fought him every inch of the way - bonded or not! - to his berth and made him earn his gratification.

Oh, he would have made it worth Dinobot's while too. Even he was not that selfish to completely ignore his own sparkmate's needs. A content (though perhaps not necessarily happy) soldier was a productive soldier, after all. He could have given Dinobot everything she'd ever strove for on a silver platter: wealth, power, respect. And what had she gone and done with his offer? Spat it back in his face. And for what? A group of sniveling peace-mongers?

If that was what that Maximal-loving traitor wanted, then fine. She'd had her chance. Rejected and snubbed, he'd turned his attention to other ways of getting what he wanted from the warrioress, but without all that troublesome honor and pride getting in the way…

It had seemed almost fated that several days after Megatron had emerged from the CR tank - ego bruised and hatred smoldering - another of the Maximals' stasis pods was knocked out of orbit and sent crashing to earth deep inside Predacon territory. At first the Predacon warlord had been extremely disappointed to learn the pod did not contain an active protoform, but rather one of the Maximals' reserve units which was really nothing more than a sparkless shell. But then he'd realized the potential such a protoform had. Megatron was just glad he'd had the forethought to collect a small sample of Dinobot's DNA not long after he'd subdued the warrioress with Tarantulas's neural serum.

For what better way was there for him to have his warrioress without another confrontation with her overprotective comrades than to just make another, more willing servant himself? He'd already done as much when he'd made a beast-mode clone of Dinobot in order to infiltrate the Maximals' base. That had been a complete failure - mostly because of the clone's inability to transform. But with a sparkless protoform to use as the base for his creation, the possibilities were endless.

The only concern had been creating a viable substitute for a spark. Luckily for Megatron though, he had a skilled scientist on his crew who had no ethical qualms about solving such a problem. Although he hadn't asked Tarantulas too many questions about the procedure just because he knew he wouldn't understand all the technical aspects of the answer, what he had gathered from the spider's scientific rambling was that when all was said and done a spark was really nothing more than a concentrated ball of energy. With the right know-how and lack of ethical government regulations in place to delay them, creating an artificial spark was really not that hard, relatively speaking. For a scientist like Tarantulas, doing such a thing was not much more difficult than creating a clone. And he'd already successfully done that once. The only thing that had delayed Tarantulas from completing his genetic masterpiece was having to wait for a powerful enough electrical storm to power the final step.

Until tonight, that was…

"It is done!" Tarantulas suddenly gave a triumphant shout beside him. "Everything is ready. All that is needed now is one massive surge of energy to activate the cell replicators."

"Raise the pole!" Megatron shouted.

Tarantulas hit a button and a long, slender conducting rod slowly rose over the generator-structure into the night sky.

A bolt of lightning flashed across the sky. Megatron could almost feel the sir crackle with electricity.

He eagerly motioned to Tarantulas. "Activate the transmetal conductor!"

The scientist flipped a large level and the structure began to hum. A plume of tiny sparks exploded from one of the cables connected to the pod. A flickering glow rose up inside the pod to briefly illuminate the sparkless protoform inside before it was lost from view in a halo of blinding white light.

"Ye~eess…" Megatron crooned as a bolt of lightning sliced the air close to the conducting rod. It missed, but another flash shot towards it almost immediately afterwards.

A flurry of rapid beeps sounded from the structure's computer.

Tarantulas spun towards it and began madly punching in complex lines of code. "The power cells are straining to hold the charge, and the lightning hasn't even directly hit it yet. The circuits could overload!"

"Make it hold!" Megatron screamed over the building hum of energy and a deafening crash of thunder overhead. "I will not be defeated. Not here. Not now. Not when I am so close!"

Tarantulas's pinchers furiously pounded at the keyboard. "I'm trying, but the power levels are dangerously close to short circuiting the entire system and the transmetal driver hasn't even been activated yet."

Megatron tore his optics away from the glowing protoform just long enough to shoot Tarantulas a scathing look. The scientist caught the warlord's glare and silently turned back to his computer screens.

Another bolt of lightning cut the air and struck the conducting rod.

The power readings on the computer spiked. The rapid beeps of it's warning system had become an almost continuous drone. Spark exploded from numerous points across the giant structure like miniature fireworks, showering the pod in a curtain of fiery light.

"Yes," Megatron crowed. "Ye~eeeesss…"

Above them another bolt of lightning slammed against the pole, sending crackling white wave of electricity racing down its length.

The structure began to violently shake. Thin tendrils of smoke were seeping from the corners of a service panel on the generator's far side. Numerous warning boxes flashed across the computer screen.

"It's going to overload!" Tarantulas yelled.

"Royalty," Inferno said, worriedly stepping closer to Megatron. "We should move back. If it should explode-"

"It won't," Megatron snapped and shoved Inferno away from him. His optics could see nothing but the light-encased pod. "I will not be denied my prize again…"

A dangerous sounding hum was coming from the generator, slowly building in pitch. There was a sudden pop from deep inside the computer's housing box and small spray of sparks exploded from the keyboard.

Tarantulas had begun to slowly back away from the smoking consol. "It's not going to hold anymore!"

"Royalty!" Inferno plaintively beseeched.

"No!" Megatron growled, taking a step towards the shaking, glowing pod. "I will not admit defeat now!"

The hum continued to build until it seemed to literally vibrate the air. Lightning flashed overhead. Wind howled.

"Yes! Let this tempest be the setting of your unholy birth," Megatron called over the crashing boom of thunder. "Let its fury greet you as you emerge as the symbol of my impending reign. Come! Emerge and meet your master!"

There was deafening crash of thunder overhead. As another flash of lightning illuminated the area in a brilliant flash of white, there came a muffled thump from inside the pod. Another bump followed closely in its wake. And just as the generator's grating hum crested and a series of small fires erupted at different points across the generator's front and the blinding light of the pod exploded in a sharp flash, the door of the pod flew open and cracked against the adjacent side of the structure.

A clawed hand slowly appeared and wrapped itself around the edge of the pod. Another hand appeared on the other side. And as Megatron watched in awed silence a figure emerged from the pod - its body framed in a final shower of sparks from the now silent, smoking remains of the structure. For a moment the Predacon warlord could only stare, drinking in the sight of his creation.

Tall and built just as solid as her original counterpart, the clone of Dinobot was a thing of savage beauty. While Dinobot's armor had had layers of artificial raptor-striped organic skin, this cloned femme was all shiny off-white transmetal armor. Darker in color than her original, the femme's single red optic seemed to glow even brighter than normal from against the backdrop of her charcoal-grey face. Her left optic was monocled with what looked like an external laser fixture. A transmetal tail agitatedly lashed the air behind her. But the one feature that stood out the most to warlord was not the clone's different coloring or new appendages, but rather the sets of eighteen inch blades on either of the femme's reformatted hands that seemed to have taken the place of any other kind of discernable fingers.

"Beautiful…" Megatron murmured as he took several measured steps towards the transmetal femme.

The clone looked up at his approach. Megatron could almost see the femme searching the uploaded information of her memory banks before a look of recognition settled over her harsh features.

"Lord Megatron," she greeted, bowing her head to him as he came to a stop in front of her. Her voice reverberated through the warlord's audios like the whisper of a blade slicing the air: cold and self-possessed in its deadliness.

Megatron was unable to keep the satisfied grin from his facial plates. He slowly reached out and ran one finger along the flat of one of the clone's finger blades. "What impressive talons you have," he noted with a grin.

"They are yours to command as you please, my lord," she replied. The corners of her lips pulled back in a vicious smirk to reveal two rows of sharpened dentals.

Megatron nodded, pleased beyond words for the success which he'd achieved. "Then that is what I shall name you: Talon. For I will not have you share the same name as that Maximal-loving traitor."

"As you wish, my lord," Talon bowed.

Megatron grinned. Above them the clouds continued to broil and writhe and finally released their hidden stores of water. Rain pounded the ground as lightning and thunder cracked above. It seemed fitting somehow to the warlord as he watched the storm break loose around him and his newest loyal servant. Because with this violent deluge he swore he could feel the tides of power slowly shifting in his favor…

Please be so kind to leave me a review if you'd like to see me continue this!