Author's note: I do not own Beast Wars, Transformers, its characters or anything else. Everything is property of their respective creators.

Chain of Command

On the planet of the Beast Wars, shadows were cast as the second moon eclipsed the sun. Taking advantage of the darkness during the normal daylight hours, the Maximals, in beast mode, stood inside the massive circular stone structure they had discovered before their battle with the Predacons inside the Energon-filled mountain. Optimus Primal held a device in his dexterous digits scanning for any kind of energy signature. On a planet that was supposed to be uninhabited, this unnatural structure was of key interest.

"This isn't a natural stone formation," explained Rhinox, "Somebody, somehow, built this thing."

"Yea, well, uh, excuse my error message but," Rattrap said scratching his head, "I thought this planet was uninhabited."

"Something else is odd," said Optimus reading the scanner, "I'm getting an Energon reading, from underneath this pile of rocks." He gestured towards a large pile of boulders that was neatly stacked in a cone shape.

"Just like baitin' the mousetrap," said Rattrap, shuttering, "This place alternates my currents." Dinobot stepped past Rattrap further into the stone structure to examine the rock pile.

"You know, the Energon on this planet doesn't fit its geology," explained Rhinox, "Hard to believe it could have formed naturally."

"However it got here," said Dinobot, grunting as he lifted one of the stones free and dropping it on the ground, "We must remove it before the Predacons do."

"Ah Dinobot, that Predacon chip still ticks inside your traitorous hide," said Megatron stepping out from behind a pillar, "And I think we will take it, yes. No Energon crystal too small." With his introduction speech finished, Waspinator and Terrorsaur appeared beside him and transformed. Caught in the crossfire of the two fliers, the Maximals attempted to duck behind another pillar, but were cut off by Tarantulas and his machine guns. Splitting up, Optimus, Cheetor and Rhinox stepped around a different pillar than Rattrap and Dinobot.

"Oh man, your old friends don't miss a damn beat do they?" Rattrap snapped at Dinobot.

"Shut up and Maximize!" growled Dinobot, ignoring the insult. Both of the Maximals transformed and readied their weapons. Having already transformed, the other three Maximals stepped out from behind their pillar.

"Keep them away from the crystal!" shouted Optimus.

"Oh man, easier said than done!" shouted Rattrap. He fired a few pot shots at Scorponok, missing but tearing chunks from the rocks beneath his feet. Scorponok turned and readied his rockets to fire at Rattrap. Before he could fire, Cheetor rolled out from behind the rocks and fired, catching the Predacon in the chest plate knocking the Predacon off of the rocks and onto his face down on the ground below.

"Scratch one ugly bug!" shouted Cheetor. He turned hearing Tarantulas' evil laughter. Unable to clear his quasar cannon, Cheetor put his hands up ready to be shot. Before the spider could fire, a blast from Rattrap dropped him. Rattrap smiled and blew smoke off of his rifle. Cheetor smiled and gave his friend a thumbs up.

"Fliers incoming!" shouted Rhinox. Optimus fired his jets and headed into the sky after the two Predacons.

"They're mine!" he shouted. Arming his shoulder rockets, he fired and knocked Waspinator from the sky. Terrorsaur managed to barely avoid the missile. He fired towards the rock pile that contained the Energon signature. Optimus gasped in horror as the rocks exploded. The explosion sent all of the nearby Maximals and Predacons flying. When the smoke cleared, the Energon crystal began to resonate loudly from the shock wave.

"Terrorsaur, you idiot! You released the crystal's energy!" roared Megatron, "It is useless to us now! Back to base!" Following their leader's command, the four Predacons returned to beast mode and started to run back towards their base. The Maximals regrouped near the structures entrance.

"Beast modes Maximals!" instructed Optimus, "Prepare for Energon waves!" The crystal began to resonate louder as it gathered energy. The five Maximals ran as fast as they could from the screeching crystal. Instead of exploding, the crystal flashed brightly, causing the stone structures to glow. Hiding behind a boulder, the Maximals covered their ears when the center of the structure fired a beam into the sky, beyond the atmosphere of the planet. The beam continued far into space away from the planet, to parts unknown. Once the beam died down, the Energon crystal disintegrated, leaving the structure scorched and blackened, but the Maximals were unharmed.

"Like I said," Rhinox muttered, "Those stones aren't natural."

"What in the hell was that?" asked Cheetor.

"Looked kinda like a signal," explained Rhinox, "But to who?"

"Perhaps we'll learn the answer," said Optimus, "Someday."

Deep in space, a small pod emerged from a warp. The small pod floated on its way down to the planet, and entered the atmosphere. The first to notice the pod's decent, were the Predacons.

"Fliers, incoming stasis pod!" said Megatron to his troops, "Plot vector to crash point!"

Inside the Axalon, the Maximals discovered the pod as it descended.

"It's got the wrong profile for a stasis pod," Rhinox explained, "But it isn't a meteor either."

"Prime," said Optimus in a nervous tone, "Where's it headed?"

"Right for the standing stones," answered Rhinox.

Optimus and Dinobot approached the standing stones under cover of the night.

"Looks like somebody answered the call," said Optimus upon spotting the kernel-shaped pod, "But who?" Before Dinobot could respond, a stinger missile hit Optimus in the chest and knocked him flat.

"Ambush!" roared Dinobot. Waspinator descended from the sky as Megatron stomped up behind him.

"Whatever this fascinating device is," explained Megatron, "We, Predacons, claim it as our own, yes." Dinobot snarled at his former leader and bared his teeth. Both dinosaurs transformed to their robot modes and readied their weapons. Optimus groaned and stood to his feet, but didn't transform. Before any shots could be fired by either side, the pod started to glow. It began to resonate loudly like an unstable Energon crystal. The four warriors stepped back from the pod as it began to glow brighter and resonate louder. Without warning, the pod launched a shock wave. Similar to an Energon surge, the wave affected Megatron, Waspinator, Optimus and Dinobot. The four struggled as the wave overtook their major circuits and sent them into stasis lock. Optimus Primal could only scream as the fired a small beam at him. The flash that accompanied the beam made Optimus disappear. Only Dinobot was conscious long enough to see what happened.

"Optimus…" he groaned weakly before he fell off-line.

Dinobot awoke in a daze. He could barely make out what he saw, but as his sight returned, he began to panic. He was in some sort of chamber, with three Maximals standing at the opening, ready to torture him, or worse.

"Maximal torture chamber!" he shrieked in horror. With his Predacon instincts taking over, Dinobot leapt from the CR Chamber, tackling Rattrap and knocking him down. Jumping away, he landed on the holo-table in the center of the bridge. Turning around, he snarled at the Maximals in an open challenge.

"Easy, easy, power down!" said Cheetor, "You're on our side, remember?" With his wits finally returned to him, Dinobot calmed down once he recognized where he was.

"Affirmative," he said sheepishly.

"And Maximals don't have torture chambers," added Rattrap, "All though, you know, I could get behind dat idea."

"How…how did I get back here?" asked Dinobot, still a little woozy.

"We found you dumped in front of the entrance to the command base," answered Rhinox, "Scrapped down and alone."

"Aw, just like an innocent orphan in a "B" movie," remarked Rattrap.

"Optimus?" asked Dinobot after hearing that he was alone when returned to the base.

"Yea, we were hopin' da innocent orphan baby could tell us what happened to Optimus," said Rattrap. Turning away from the other Maximals, Dinobot stared into the computer screen.

"Optimus Primal was terminated," answered Dinobot. While Cheetor and Rhinox gasped in horror, Rattrap squinted his eyes in suspicion.

"An alien probe has landed at the standing stones," explained Dinobot, "It emitted an energy pulse during Optimus' transformation. He vanished."

"Wait a minute," interrupted Rhinox, "Why was he transforming?"

"It was a Predacon attack. We have no time for further analysis now," said Dinobot giving an answer, "We must make another attempt to secure the probe before the Predacons. Rattrap, come with me."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, standby here," said Rattrap, "Who died and made you Prime, Scaleface?"

"Optimus is most certainly scrapped," said Dinobot, "And I, as the most powerful of the group, shall replace him. Anyone who disagrees may challenge me now." Dinobot quickly transformed and drew his weapons in anticipation of a challenge. Rattrap stepped up to the much taller Dinobot and put his rifle to Dinobot's chin.

"You are messin' wit da wrong damn mouse, Chopperface," threatened Rattrap. Rhinox quickly stepped between the two and pushed them apart.

"Wait, we're not Predacons here," he said, "We'll settle the chain of command through traditional Maximal fashion, by secret ballot."

Megatron emerged roaring in both pain and rage from the CR Tank. Waspinator was lifted from the adjacent tank as Tarantulas, Scorponok and Terrorsaur stood around.

"Megatron back, Megatron back! Scorponok alone with Tarantulas and Terrorsaur, very bad!" babbled Scorponok incoherently.

"You and Waspinator were returned to us badly damaged," said Tarantulas calmly stating what Scorponok was trying to say.

"Yes, I remember now. Optimus, Optimus Primal terminated," said Megatron, "Quickly, Scorponok, you and Waspinator get back to the standing stones and guard that probe!" Bowing Scorponok and Waspinator turned and left the room.

"As for the rest of us, this is a perfect opportunity, yes. I know just how the rest of the weakling Maximals will react to Optimus' death," said Megatron, "Confusion, bickering, recriminations. The perfect opportunity for a surprise attack, yes."

Rhinox shifted through four blips on the small computer screen.

"One vote for Rattrap, one vote for Dinobot, another vote for Rattrap and…" he said, reading aloud the last blip, his voice fell disappointed, "Another one for Dinobot, it's a tie."

"Hey! Which one of you traitors voted for the Predacon?" demanded Rattrap.

"It's a secret ballot," explained Rhinox, "No one has to say who they voted for." Dinobot began to laugh at the three Maximals.

"Great system, your democracy," said Dinobot, "No mechanism to break a tie."

"Some power play leather lips," said Rattrap, "You know, I'm startin' ta wonder if that probe had anything to do with Optimus' disappearin'." Growling, Dinobot flipped the holo-table out of the way.

"I've heard enough from this scrawny thief!" he roared, "I will break the tie and be your leader, by force if necessary." Without warning, he blasted Rattrap with his optic beams and knocked him across the room into the lift door. He turned to Rhinox and Cheetor, but a voice caught his attention and stopped him.

"Maximal base, come in, are you receiving?" said Optimus' voice from the comm station, "Maximal command base, this is Optimus, do you read?" Rhinox approached the comm and picked up the microphone.

"Optimus? Optimus this is Rhinox, where are you?" said Rhinox into the mic.

"Hard to say, as near as I can figure, I have no body," explained Optimus, "My consciousness is intact, but my physical molecular structure is being stored and scanned inside the alien probe." Rattrap stepped up to the mic and shoved Rhinox back.

"We'll come and get you," said Rattrap, "Just stay static."

"Just beware of a Predacon attack. They'll be after you now that you're outnumbered," said Optimus, "Rattrap, you're in charge. I'm sure you worked out the chain of command peacefully." Rhinox patted Rattrap on his shoulder in congratulations. As if Optimus had been foreshadowing, the base shook and the alarms blared from Predacon missile fire.

"Well you're right about one thing," said Cheetor, "We're under Predacon attack!" The monitor screens lit up revealing Megatron, Terrorsaur and Tarantulas attacking the base.

"Well commander?" said Dinobot mockingly, "What are your orders?" Rattrap fumbled over himself trying to think of what needed to be done.

"Well uh, we're scrapped if we stay inside," said Rattrap, "Prepare, uh, for a sortie!"

"A frontal attack?" Dinobot questioned, "Pure madness."

"No, Rattrap's right," said Rhinox, "We'll be buried in here, let's go!" Rattrap stopped Rhinox in his tracks as he headed towards the lift.

"No Rhinox, you get to work," said Rattrap, "We need a device that'll extract Optimus from that probe." Rattrap turned and joined Cheetor and Dinobot on the lift descending out of the base.

"Oh no," uttered Rhinox.

Megatron, Terrorsaur and Tarantulas continued their assault against the base. The shields held firm, but were rapidly draining. The Maximals stepped from the descended lift and readied their weapons. The Predacons focused their fire once the Maximals were in sight. The blasts caused smoke to billow up. Megatron snarled as the Maximals, completely unscathed, ran towards them.

"So, they've come to meet their death, face to face," said Megatron charging at Dinobot. Dinobot met Megatron's charge with a flying kick to the face, sending Megatron sprawling. Cheetor and Rattrap charged Tarantulas and Terrorsaur firing their weapons. The two Predacons help their ground and returned fire. The amount of fire from Tarantulas and Terrorsaur caused Cheetor and Rattrap to dive for cover behind a rock.

Inside the base, Rhinox was busy working on the device.

"Make a device to extract physical molecular structure from an alien probe?" Rhinox said to himself, "Man, I've gotta be a miracle worker!" A stray shot shook the base causing Rhinox to drop the device on the floor.

"Oh no," he said covering his face with his hand.

Megatron had recovered from Dinobot's attack and stood ready for a duel. Dinobot motioned to begin the duel. Megatron stepped up and began to swing his claw to catch Dinobot's sword. Dinobot pushed Megatron back and swung with his sword, missing, but catching him with a backhand. Megatron knocked the sword away and swung his dinosaur head. Dinobot ducked and punched Megatron hard in the lower torso plate. Megatron doubled over opening the way for Dinobot to hit him in the face with his knee armor. Backing away, Megatron was too slow to avoid the furious assault of punches to his face and chest from Dinobot. Rattrap ducked down from a blast from Terrorsaur. Turning back, he noticed that not all the fire was concentrated on them, but the ship as well. The shields began to fade as an alarm sounded. Rattrap focused his vision on the main circuit battery; the power levels were almost empty. Turning back, he joined Cheetor in a rapid fire session at the Predacons. Tarantulas and Terrorsaur dove for cover at the sudden amplification of firepower.

"Dinobot, the shield circuitry's hit!" shouted Rattrap, "Get it back online!" Dinobot was lying on his back, trying to push Megatron's tyrannosaur jaws away from his face.

"I am currently engaged!" he yelled back.

"That's an order!" shouted Rattrap, "One more missile hit and our shields are gone for good!" Megatron smiled after hearing Rattrap's shouting. He began to swing at Dinobot much more viciously than before. Dinobot couldn't break away long enough to get to the shields.

"Come on please?" said Rattrap, finally giving up; he turned to Cheetor, "Cover me kid!" Cheetor didn't respond, but nodded and kept firing. Rattrap took off for the ship. Terrorsaur, flying high overhead, fired one more missile at the base. Rattrap raced past Megatron and Dinobot on a straight bee-line for the shield circuit. Terrorsaur fired one more volley at the base and smiled.

"Not this time!" said Rattrap. He quickly dove towards the lift, firing one shot at Terrorsaur as he rolled. Getting to his feet just in time, he slammed his hand on the circuit and rebooted the shields just before Terrorsaur's missiles hit. Terrorsaur shrieked when he noticed he failed, and shrieked again when Rattrap's blast hit him. Megatron had gained the upper hand in his duel with Dinobot. He was holding both of his arms back ready to crush them. Dinobot finally growled and blasted Megatron in the face with his optic beams. Megatron released Dinobot's arms and went flying back from the blast. He came to rest next to Tarantulas.

"I suggest we retreat Megatron," said Tarantulas, "The true prize, and reinforcements, await us at the standing stones."

"Yes, the alien probe," said Megatron, "Withdraw at once!" The Maximals regrouped and kept firing at the retreating Predacons until they were out of range. The battle had taken its toll on the Maximals as their bodies began to surge with Energon.

"We've been in robot mode too long!" said Rattrap, "Beast mode!" Obeying, Cheetor and Dinobot transformed back to beast mode and relaxed.

"Like we needed you to point that out," muttered Cheetor.

"Well, at least they're gone," said Rattrap.

"You were selfless in putting that shield back online," said Dinobot, "I ought to have followed your command I... am dishonored."

"Ehh... next time," said Rattrap. The Maximals turned back to the base to check on Rhinox.

The probe sat still in the same place it had landed before. The four Maximals transformed before it. Rhinox held up his device.

"I don't know if this thing's even going to work," said Rhinox, "But it's as ready as it's ever gonna be." Rattrap sniffed the air nervously.

"Eh, it's too quiet here," he said, "I thought for sure the Predacons would be makin' for the probe by now." Megatron stepped up behind the Maximals, flanked by his troops.

"Excellent prediction, Commander Rattrap," mocked Megatron, "Let's see how you fare on the battlefield!" The Predacons opened fire on the Maximals causing them to dive behind the probe for cover.

"Rhinox, get Optimus out of that probe!" shouted Rattrap between bursts from his gun.

"Optimus, can you hear me?" Rhinox said to the probe.

"Loud and clear big guy," came Optimus' response from the probe.

"I'm going to try and extract you, hold on!" said Rhinox activating his device. Megatron motioned for a flanking maneuver to Waspinator. Waspinator saluted and ran back behind the stones behind the Maximals. Rhinox grunted when the extractor failed.

"It's not working!" he growled, trying to readjust the machine. Waspinator crept up behind the Maximals, unnoticed.

"This whole place is full of stable Energon radiation from the probe," said Rhinox, "Like this whole place is a single device." Waspinator stepped out from behind the pillar and began to sneak up behind Rhinox. The large Maximal tilted his head up and noticed Waspinator's reflection in the probe's shiny surface. Wasting no time, he drew his chain gun and turned around unloading the entire clip into Waspinator's torso plate. Waspinator began to whine and fall to pieces from the hailstorm of bullets. His computer started to sound an alarm as his vision failed and his Energon dampers began to malfunction. Backing away, badly damaged, he ran into one of the pillars and started some kind of reaction. The standing stones all began to glow as they had once before.

"Hey, this whole place is a single device!" shouted Rhinox in realization. The probe began to vibrate. It opened like the petals of an evil flower. Inside the center device opened and fired a yellow ray into the air and from the ray, materialized Optimus Primal.

"Guess who's back, and feelin' Prime," said Optimus. Quickly using the Predacons' awe, he fired his wrist cannon knocking the four remaining Predacons off of their feet.

"Way to go Optimus!" shouted Cheetor. Megatron recovered and stood to his feet.

"The probe, and the day, is yours Optimus, yes!" said Megatron, "Just beware not all aliens are beneficent." Turning away, the Predacons transformed and left.

"You commanded well in my absence Rattrap," commended Optimus.

"Eh, commands a pain in the ass-plate," said Rattrap, "Especially with this pack of hyenas. You can keep it."

"I'm more concerned about this probe right now," said Optimus. As if hearing him speak, the probe faded away and disappeared. All of the Maximals turned and dropped their jaws.

"What the spotted hell was that all about?" asked Cheetor.

"I don't know," answered Optimus, "I supposed they learned what they needed to know about us."

"Yea, they know we've got destructive capabilities," said Rhinox, "And reasoning power."

"But why would they want to know?" asked Dinobot, "And more importantly, who are they? Friends, enemies, or... something more?"

"Good question," said Optimus, "I wonder when we'll find out." The Maximals all stared up into the sky wondering what was coming next.

The End

Author's Note: This is obviously the origin point of the Vok storyline. With some of the original stories I have planned, especially the extras to be added after the third season, I will expand on the Vok mythos introduced after Beast Wars originally ended.