AN: Wow, so for everyone who's still reading even after a severe lack of update-age, I'm so flattered! You guys are awesome! There's no new content in these updates, just me fixing all the bugs I've found. But yes, I'm also writing new content. Fear not!
She wasn't expecting the pain. Not pain like this at any rate. Airazor already had her share of laser burns and shrapnel scars. Those she could sleep off after a few cycles in the CR chamber.
(I should have known. No normal plant grows back that quick. We should have known. And now I can't even warn the others...)
Pain leaves no room for thought, and Airazor felt the last thought wrung out of her mind as her body became too soft and too hot to bear...
Scorponok remembered the crushing heat and fire shooting through his circuits. He remembered feeling his body change and change again. And then his memory went blank. Or had it been wiped? Was he even functional? He was almost sure this wasn't the Well of Allsparks. For one thing, he couldn't see or hear anyone else. For another thing, the Well of Allsparks wasn't supposed to smell. In fact, Scorponok wasn't supposed to smell either. And yet...
He'd once heard a human audio recording. He'd stumbled on it, while surfing the internet: "The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout..."
(Well I definitely have a snout now. What the heck is a pinochle?)
Rhinox, supine in his chair, remembered the impact as a...something...hit the base, cutting through Sentinel like an energon scalpel. The spider must have deactivated the shield, made it possible for the alien device to infiltrate their defence grid. Rhinox was going to have a few words with Rattrap about the wisdom of bringing home pushy Predacon psychos when he came online.
(Wait, if I'm thinking, then I must be online. Why can't I see? My optics should have responded to...Oh no...)
Terrorsaur couldn't breathe. This was really scary because he'd never breathed before in the first place! He began clawing at his faceplate, and pushing up into the only direction he knew would be safe. Up! Into the sky! He'd get out of this slagging mud and then...and then...
Tarantulas had the most pleasant sensation that he was tied up in his web. He could feel something pressed to his eyes, something soft binding his wrists and ankles together and...and...
"I have wrists?"
(Oh brilliant.) And then something sounding uncomfortably like the cocking of a gun next to his ear told Tarantulas that this bondage session was about to get kinkier than he was altogether comfortable with.
"Alright ya stinkin' spider. We trusted you and you brought the Aliens right to us. Now fix this or we'll blow a hole in your head and make it even uglier than it already is."
(Oh Rattrap, you charmer. Is it any wonder why I'm mad about vermin?)
"You didn't think I was, ah, ugly, when you brought me here," Tarantulas said. He stopped from adding that Rattrap seemed to enjoy being "convinced" of anything as long as Tarantulas was doing the talking. It also gave Tarantulas time to figure out how his face worked.
Because it certainly wasn't in the same configuration as when the Axalon had been hit by some kind of Alien ray. His hearing was altogether too acute. He could, for example, hear Cheetor (Dear sweet Cheetor) murmuring about all the things they could do to "that spider" instead of interrogating him. Tarantulas didn't wonder that Cheetor had learned some of his more colourful language from the vermin. Whom he could smell, yes, so his sense of smell had remained more or less intact. His mouth, on the other hand...
"I didn't know Maximals were into torture," Tarantulas said, to give himself practice with this strangely mammalian mouth-part.
"We aren't into torture, ya sick Pred! You're the one who let the Aliens on to us!"
(And what did that have to do with anything?) Had the Aliens decided that nuking the planet was unfeasible and thought it might be fun to play "re-arrange the molecules" with their cybernetic tenants instead? Only the Aliens would find it amusing that Tarantulas now had a (he had to repress a shudder) a tongue. (I'll bet I look just like one of those vile anthropoids. Little better than a monkey. I'm all soft!)
"What did you do to the shield? You were the last one to use the scanners when that Thing hit. What did you tell the Aliens?" Rhinox said.
(Rhinox, and in a bad mood too. Perfect. I'm about to get perforated by a rampaging rhino and his chain guns of doooooom and for once I didn't do anything wrong!)
Involuntarily, Tarantulas felt his squishy new tongue dart out and lick his lips. (I have lips! Oh for the love of pinky mice!)
"I didn't do anything to the shields," Tarantulas said aloud. (Sure, they'll believe me.)
"Prove it! Make him prove it!" Cheetor snarled, presumably at Rattrap. The hairs on the back of Tarantulas' neck crawled (and mercifully enough he still had some hair!). Tarantulas wasn't sure he liked the way Rattrap sighed.
"Get ready for a shock," Rattrap said quietly. Tarantulas could feel his moist (moist?) breath on his neck and shuddered again. (Robots should not be so wet!) He felt the thing pressed to his eyes loosen and then slip off. He blinked. Actually, the blinking in itself made Tarantulas feel nauseous because,
"I have binocular vision!"
"Err, sorry Eight-Eyes, but you have two eyes now," Rattrap said. Again with the quiet, almost apologetic tone. It was like he was sorry Tarantulas couldn't play "rat and spider" anymore. Tarantulas shook his head and blinked again, not convinced he wasn't space-happy on low-grade.
There were two bipedal mammals standing in front of him. Sure, they had the voices of Rhinox and Cheetor but they sure as slag didn't look like the Maximals.
"Quit wasting time, Rattrap! Spiderboy here obviously did something to our shields and turned us into these things! We should scrap him!"
(Oh Cheetor, you're so cute when you're angry. If only I could have you in my web again, you'd be so fascinating to take apart.)
"He couldn't have done this," Rhinox said. Tarantulas wasn't sure, but he could almost imagine the Maximal sounded regretful. He wasn't wielding his chain guns, at any rate, which was all to Tarantulas' liking.
Tarantulas had one hell of a time trying to use his two eyes comfortably. While superior to his beast mode's vision, it was miles behind his robotic sight. And for another thing, he had no idea how to read those silly rubbery human faces. What possible good was a nose?
"The Maximal's right. I would never have turned you into some squishy hominid, Cheetor. You were so much more interesting as a kitty."
"Shut up!" Cheetor said lamely. Tarantulas giggled. He liked the sound of his voice but oh his poor face felt so strange making a smile. Tarantulas was spun around to get an unlucky eyeful of Rattrap. He hadn't improved at all with biology. He still had a rat face, all beady black eyes and sharp rodent nose. And he was so small! Tarantulas was eye-level with him and sitting on a stool!
"Catch me up, Rattrap," Tarantulas said, practicing what he thought of as a seductive purr. Although he had no idea how it would look, he tried making his horrid lip-things into a moue. "What happened? After I located the Alien base?"
Rattrap, he was pleased to see, gulped and took a shaky breath (Oh god! I'm breathing as well!)
"They just appeared here, like they'd homed-in on our signal. Then they hit the base with, I dunno, a beam or a ray or something and we were all knocked out."
"And then we woke up and we were human!" Cheetor shouted. With his newfound audio-acuity Tarantulas imagined Cheetor was close to tears. It did wonders for his libido.
"We could all be worse off, pussycat," Tarantulas said over his shoulder. He even winked in Cheetor's general direction. As he turned his head back to Rattrap he caught a glimpse of himself in the panel of the CR chamber.
(Oh god. I'm "gorgeous".)
Tarantulas wished longingly for his pedipalps so he could massage some life into his face, and maybe nibble a bit on the poor pussycat. He looked so...so...human! And Tarantulas, aware suddenly not only of his lungs but his fluttering heartbeat (I'm a warm blood!) felt an unpleasant taste rise in his esophagus. He doubted there was a cure for humanity.
Optimus woke up to his own raspy breathing. He felt battered and sore, sore in a way he'd never known. He'd taken his fair (and more than fair) share of punishment in these beast wars. The only mech on this planet who'd taken more damage was Waspinator, and Optimus hoped he'd have an easier recovery than the Predacon. (Speaking of the Predacons, where are they?) Optimus opened his eyes (even my eyes hurt!) and tried to clear his head. He remembered the alien base and the Predacons taking control...
The humans were new.
"Ngh! Um, hey!" Optimus could tell he was in beast mode, his old beast mode, because he could feel his face and throat straining. He pushed down the nagging thought that he hadn't been in beast mode, and tried to push himself up. There were humans lying nearby, their limbs bent and broken as though they'd been in a fight. Optimus didn't have to think hard to guess with whom.
"Hey! Hey little guy? Can you..." Optimus knew the little human nearest him wasn't going to respond any time soon. Although his arms weren't made for knuckle-dragging, Optimus managed to pull himself over to the little fallen human.
Optimus loved new planets, loved new life. He'd never seen a human up close before but there was no mistaking the human (Man? Boy?) curled up on the ground, his eyes closed.
Rhinox, when they'd first landed, had claimed this planet was uninhabited. Optimus would have liked to argue the point further, especially when they'd met the hominids. But even he'd been sceptical of finding other sentient life.
This was definitely new. And definitely a problem. (Prime.)
"Hello? Can you hear me?" Optimus put a hand on the little boy's (he decided the human must be a boy) chest and could feel it rising and falling gently. There were no obvious wounds, and yet the boy wasn't stirring at Optimus' voice. He guessed there might be internal trauma. (If Rhinox were here he'd be able to diagnose him safely.) Optimus looked at the other humans nearby and sighed. There were five visible, each one as crumpled and fragile-looking as the boy. Optimus, not in fighting trim himself, decided to concentrate his efforts on reviving the boy. Then he'd at least have help with the others.
"C'mon kid," he muttered, wracking his mind for things that might help a human. Air, food...water? Could he make it to a water source and bring some back in time? Optimus finally decided to stand. His legs (Legs?) shook as he stood and lurched an unsteady step forward. He looked down at himself, hoping he wasn't also damaged.
(Looks like I am in beast mode. But...no...I can't be...)
He felt his chest, his arms. He flexed his toes. Looking down at it, he knew this was his body, he could feel himself living inside it, and yet it wasn't his beast mode. It was human.
"They...they turned us into humans..." he said aloud. Hearing the words made the fact immutable. Somehow, some way, the Aliens had figured out how to transform metal into flesh. (Their way of removing the threat, I'll bet. And if I'm a human...then that means that these people are the Predacons! I have to tell the base! If the Aliens haven't got to them too.)
Optimus looked with newfound wariness at the boy at his feet. Now that he knew what he was looking at, he could see this boy couldn't be a native human. Native humans didn't have green and gold streaks in their hair.
"W-waspinator has a headache in his whole body," the boy lisped, proving Optimus right. Waspinator blinked his enormous eyes and coughed. Optimus, feeling guilty, knelt down and offered a hand.
"Hey Waspinator. You're going to be okay. Just take it slow."
"Ah...fleshybot has come to laugh at poor Waspinator. First Megatron makes Waspinator do slag jobs, now ugly fleshybots come and kill Waspinator. Universe hates Waspinator," human Waspinator mewled. Optimus tried not to laugh.
"I'll bet the universe doesn't hate Waspinator as much as Waspinator hates Waspinator," Optimus said. Waspinator wrinkled his nose and pulled a deeply sceptical face.
There was a lot of the insect left in Waspinator's human face. With his orb-like blue eyes open, there was almost no mistaking him, and Optimus wondered if the Predacon would recognize him. He was certainly staring at Optimus with a twitchy insectoid scrutiny.
"Do you remember what happened?" Optimus said. He wasn't going to give himself away until he learned more. Even if it meant translating Waspinator's interesting verbal tics.
"How does fleshybot know Waspinator? Waspinator doesn't know fleshybot!"
"One thing at a time, Waspinator."
"Waspinator isn't talking to strange fleshybot until fleshybot tells Waspinator who he is!" he said. He sat up so fast Optimus took a step back.
"How about you introduce yourself first," Optimus said. He couldn't help grinning. (Good old Waspinator, trust him to stay exactly the same.)
"Waspinator is Waspinator," he said. Optimus snorted and felt his face working to stay straight. Waspinator pouted and stuck his tongue out. Then he blinked and smacked his lips. "Waspinator tastes something strange."
"You're going to be in for a surprise, Waspinator. I'll tell you who I am and then I'm going to tell you what you are. But first, you have to promise not to panic."
"Waspinator isn't promising anything," he said, shuddering. Optimus wondered if he really did have an internal injury. Waspinator's eyes clouded over with pain.
"I'm Optimus Primal. You know me. The Aliens turned me into a human...a fleshybot,"
"Hmph! Waspinator finally found someone worse off than himself!"
"Don't tell Waspinator. He's human too?"
Scorponok was impressed with how well his hands dug through the muck choking him. He'd never had well-articulated hands before (backhoes didn't need them) but he was definitely liking the opposable thumb. Once he was free however, a whole new problem emerged, in the form of a big ugly ginger.
"WuaghAGHleurgh!" the ginger shrieked. He'd popped up from the ground nearby (just like a flower) coughing and gagging to raise the Pit.
"Hey big guy, you oughtta calm down! You could hurt yourself," Scorponok said in his most reasonable voice. The big ugly ginger continued to hock up mud and the unpleasant slimy stuff (Scorponok could feel the same sliminess in his own mouth) and shriek as though he was dying. Which, considering they'd both struggled out of the earth, was a distinct possibility.
"Are you lost? Are you hurt?" Scorponok tried again. The ginger wiped some muck off his faceplate and glared down at Scorponok. Now that some of his features were showing, it was obvious what ginger was. "Hey, you're a human. How did you get stuck in the mud?"
"Proto-fragging slag-eater!" ginger squawked. The voice, without the mud garbling it, and the swearing, was uncomfortably familiar. Scorponok took a closer look at ginger.
"Of all the slagging, sparkless...what happened?"
(Yep. That's Terrorsaur.)
"Terrorsaur, don't you recognize me? I'm Scorponok."
"A human! Ack! You'll be eating plasma, you hairy humanoid! What did you do to me?"
"Terrorsaur...you're panicking. It's only me. Scorponok. Can't you see?"
Terrorsaur looked like he was in some kind of beast mode, all stork-limbed and brittle. He continued to flail around and make squawking noises, which wasn't helping Scorponok's headache.
"ACK! I can't fly! ACK! ACK! ACK!"
Scorponok had no choice. He hauled back and punched Terrorsaur in the gut, but without much feeling. Terrorsaur's new beast mode looked a little weak. Although Scorponok no longer had his claws, he still packed a wallop and Terrorsaur went sprawling with a grunt
"Quiet! You're even louder than normal! What's gotten into you? It's just me."
"Ooow, OW! You punched me! You knuckle-dragging biped!" Terrorsaur snarled from the mud. Scorponok sighed again and shook his head. Something soft thudded against the back of his neck and without stopping to think about it he reached behind his head and came up with a braided rope of...stuff.
"Hey...what is this? My cables are showing," Scorponok said mostly to himself since Terrorsaur was moaning and whimpering in the mud. Scorponok gave the cables an experimental yank and felt a pain in the back of his head. So they were his head cables, but it was funny that they didn't seem to do anything. "I think I'm damaged. My cables are sticking out of my head," Scorponok said. Terrorsaur stood up and pulled a sneer. His beast mode, just like his old robot mode, had a face and like his robot mode, seemed to be permanently stuck in a smirk of superiority.
"Are you stupid? That's your hair!"
"My hair? I don't have hair," Scorponok said. He felt the braid again. Much too soft and fine to be cables, even fiber-optics. And then it clicked. His new hands, while wonderful, were way too sensitive. It was like they were alive. And if his hands were alive then that meant that the rest of him was alive. And if the rest of him was alive then – "I'm human!"
"Yes you are! Numb-nodes," Terrorsaur snapped. Scorponok sized him up again with a new perspective. Sure Terrorsaur looked like a beast mode, but he didn't have his wings, and was somehow even more flimsy and fragile-looking than his pterodactyl body. And then there was the obnoxiously red hair sprouting from his head.
"You're a human too!"
"I am not!"
"Am not!" Terrorsaur said, flapping his (arms?) arms. Scorponok ignored him and looked around, feeling his funny human face wrinkling with worry.
"Do you think Megatron is okay?"
"Who cares! What about Waspy! And Inferno?"
"Look, look! We're...we're in the base...sort of," Scorponok said. He pointed up. Still wearing an expression of programmed meanness, Terrorsaur looked where Scorponok pointed.
One of their old guard towers loomed up out of the rise. They had both popped out beside the base of the tower, under the broken prow. The Darksyde looked even worse-for-wear than before.
"Do you think the Aliens got them?" Scorponok whispered. The base was eerily silent.
"Waspy?" Terrorsaur said and for the first time didn't sound like a jerk. He and Waspinator had been wingmates. Scorponok decided there was no right answer and that Terrorsaur was the last person to know. He trudged into the silent base. "Hey, hey! Wait for me!" Terrorsaur squawked. Scorponok winced but continued walking.
The lava around the base had long since cooled off. The interior still stank of it but at least it was cool enough for their human bodies. Scorponok strained his every muscle for a sign of anything; life, the Aliens. Anything at all. Terrorsaur wandered aimlessly around, slack-jawed and staring.
"Terrorsaur? What are you looking at?"
"This place. It's so big...we're so small. I'm a human being! You know what this makes us?" Terrorsaur said, his voice almost a wail.
"What?" Scorponok said. He wasn't sure he wanted to hear.
"We're freaks! Mutants! We're...we're...we're human!"
Scorponok felt his face frown deeply, his strange flexible human mouth pulled down.
"Well...Megatron will know how to fix it," Scorponok said slowly. Terrorsaur flapped his arms and snarled,
"Megatron, Megatron, Megatron! He's not even here! He's not perfect!"
"Well do you have any better ideas?" Scorponok said, trying not to get impatient. He really wished Megatron were here, or at least Waspinator. They knew how to deal with Terrorsaur and his noise pollution. Terrorsaur gulped and swallowed another round of swearing.
They crunched into the depths of the ship, their footsteps echoing and reverberating in the huge empty space. Scorponok could tell long before Terrorsaur said it that the ship was empty.
"They aren't here," Terrorsaur said at last, in an almost soft voice. Scorponok grunted. (If Megatron was here, he'd be on his throne.) He looked up into the upper deck without much hope. Megatron's throne was indeed unoccupied. Scorponok felt himself swallowing a lump of all his fear and worry and confusion.
"We'd better go. If the Aliens got them we shouldn't be here," he said, his words coming out hoarse and choked. (Why couldn't humans just have speaker grilles like normal organisms?) Terrorsaur began wiping his faceplate...his face and making strange animal noises. Scorponok didn't know what more to say so he turned away.
A squawk made him turn back. (Why can't Terrorsaur just talk like a normal mech?)
"I'm leaking! My optics are leaking!" Terrorsaur waved his hands in front of his face; then held up a muddy, damp finger to Scorponok. There were streaks down Terrorsaur's dirty face.
"Is it... (C'mon, what do humans call it?) blood?"
"I don't know! I'm leaking, I'm broken! My body is leaking!" Terrorsaur's voice cracked. Scorponok really wished he could punch him again.
"If it's not blood then it probably isn't serious," Scorponok said. He didn't mean to sound cold but Terrorsaur drove him crazy at the best of times. And Scorponok had a feeling the times would only get worse. "We should look for the Maximals. Maybe they have the rest of the crew?"
"Oh sure, they somehow dodged the Aliens while the rest of the crew just walked into their death ray, right?" Terrorsaur said, but without his withering sarcasm. Scorponok took a deep breath and it made him feel a little better. Not much, but a little.