Fan Fiction: "Underwater Beast Wars" by StratosFire aka AquaBuffalonius firstname.lastname@example.org Part 1: Rhinox's New Idea "...And I don't want either of you two trying anything that risky without the rest of the team's backup!" said the stern-faced Maximal leader, Optimus Primal, pointing a finger first at Cheetor then at Rattrap. "Is that clear?" Cheetor's ears drooped, and he sighed, "Yes, Optimus." Optimus looked at Rattrap, who was staring off in another direction. "Is that CLEAR, Rattrap?" he said with a frown. Rattrap looked at Optimus. "Oh! Yeah, yeah, sure. It'll never happen again, bot's honor." Rattrap saluted him. Optimus frowned again. "Dismissed." Rattrap stretched and yawned, then scurried off to see where Dinobot was. He was hoping to annoy him early today. He admitted to himself that he felt better after having a verbal spar with Dinobot. Cheetor slunk off down the corridor, his tail dragging on the floor. Optimus turned around and rested his hands on the computer console. He tapped the console screen and asked, "Any Predacon activity?" The computer displayed an infra-red sector grid and two crosshairs scanned the grid. The computer replied, "None detected." Optimus thought. It had been only yesterday, when Cheetor and Rattrap ambushed Inferno to try and bring him back to the base after Rhinox had stated that it might be possible to RE-reprogram Maximal/Predacon converts back into Maximals. He had said that they would discuss the matter at a later time, but Cheetor and Rattrap argued that they should try it now. When he objected, they pretended to go on a scouting patrol and ambushed Inferno. A short battle and a couple of CR-Chambers later, Cheetor and Rattrap were as good as new. However, their pride seemed hurt the most. Rattrap chewed Cheetor out for not striking when the time was right, and Cheetor blamed himself for being such a poor shot. Optimus remembered that he and Airazor had come to their rescue in just the right time. Optimus awoke from his reminiscing at a periodic rumble from behind. He turned around and saw Rhinox, his oldest comrade and trusted aid, lumbering towards him as he always did, with a strange device in his hands. "Hey, Chief," Rhinox said. "What is it, Rhinox?" It seemed to Optimus that every few days, Rhinox would come up with a new device to either help strengthen the team's communication links, or to upgrade their weapons systems. What Rhinox said next surprised him. "I think I've found a way to retrieve most of the stasis pods from orbit." For a moment, Optimus just looked at him. "You can...get the pods?" Optimus asked in disbelief. Rhinox grinned and nodded his head. Tarantulus cackled. He pressed the intercom button and broadcast the intercepted transmission all over the Predacon ship. Megatron was submerging his T-Rex cannon in a CR-bath when the transmission reached his auditory sensors. He looked up, and listened intently. "I'll call a meeting," Optimus said. He clicked on the intercom and spoke, "All Maximals...Priority One signal...report to base immediately." Far off on the plains, Airazor and Tigatron looked at each other. "What do you think it could be?" she asked. Tigatron rolled his eyes. "In these circumstances...anything. Come, let us make haste." Airazor transformed and flew into the sky, with Tigatron on the ground below, struggling hard to keep up. Cheetor ran into the control room and jumped on top of the table. He growled. "What's up, big bot?" "I'll tell everyone in a minute. Just find a place to sit down, and hopefully we can get this meeting started as soon as possible. Cheetor sat down. Optimus looked back at him. "On the floor, Cheetor." Cheetor reluctantly got off of the table. Airazor and Tigatron walked into the control room. "Well?" Airazor asked. "Just a minute," Optimus said. He slammed his fist on the intercom and yelled, "Dinobot and Rattrap! Report to the control room IMMEDIATELY!" Optimus took his hand off of the intercom. "By the Matrix..." he sighed, "They're right down the hallway, for Prime's sake." Dinobot and Rattrap came into the control room arguing. "...At least you can't smell MY feet down the corridors, vermin." "Yeah, put a sock in it, Chopper-face." "Will both of you be quiet?!" Optimus shouted. He didn't know why it always took so long for him to get his troops' attention. "Now...Rhinox has something to say." Everyone looked at Rhinox. Rhinox placed the device on top of the 3-D projecting console and pressed a button. A full schematic display of the device blinked into view, and rotated while Rhinox explained. "This device is a laser-encoded, drop zone uploader and initiator." He paused to let the words sink in. "When the proper grid and grid coordinates are fed into this device and are uploaded by laser into the atmosphere where the stasis pods are orbiting, the coded information initiates a premature reentry drop sequence. If the pod isn't damaged, it should drop out of orbit, fly to the zone specified in the grid, and land perfectly preserved...without any threat of Predacon reprogramming." Rattrap's eyes widened. "You mean we could get the pods to land RIGHT where we want 'em...eh, without Pred interference?" "I believe that is what he just said, vermin," Dinobot grumbled. "Eh, shut yer exhaust pipe, Dino-brain." Optimus spoke up before Dinobot had a chance to make a retort. "How soon can you clear a test run?" Rhinox shrugged. "Environment permitting...in one or two days." Megatron chuckled. He turned to face Blackarachnia and Scorponok, who were listening to the transmission as well. "It seems as though the Maximals have found a way to retrieve their comrades in orbit," Megatron said, smiling slightly. Blackarachnia turned her head to the side and mumbled, "Well, duh." Megatron pretended not to have heard. "We shall have to find some way to get into the Maximal's base...." He turned and looked at his troops. "Any suggestions?" Scorponok raised his claw. "M-Megatron..." "Ah, Scorponok, my trusted 2nd in Command. You have an idea, yesss?" Scorponok twitched a bit and clomped his claws. "I was wondering how we were going to penetrate their protection grid, Sentinel. If we could just get past that, we wouldn't have any problem getting inside. We could shoot at it, but it takes a lot of firepower to finally crack that shield." Megatron frowned. "We'll have to smuggle enough ammunition and armaments to weaken the shield enough to get inside." He scratched his chin. "Perhaps we can place the weapons far enough away from their sensors where they won't be detected." "Oh, I believe we could move the armaments MUCH closer than that!" a voice said, out of nowhere. Megatron spun around. "That sounded like Tarantulus," he said. Tarantulus materialized next to Megatron. His eyes widened. "With this cloaking device, we could hide the weapons from their sensors." "So it would seem, Tarantulus," Megatron said, eyeing Tarantulus, "I trust you can make another cloaking device?" "It will be done." Megatron continued. "I want the fliers, under cloak, to take the armaments close to the Maximal base, no less than ten clicks. On the day of the test run, we will strike!" Megatron clamped his T-Rex cannon, then walked towards the computer console. "Dismissed," Megatron said to the rest of his troops. They all turned to leave the room. "Ah, Tarantulus and Scorponok?" Tarantulus and Scorponok stopped and turned around. Megatron looked at Scorponok. "I have a new plan, and I trust you to keep it secret." Scorponok stood tall and saluted him. "Yes, Megatron." Megatron turned to Tarantulus. "Now, I have a special job for you...concerning your cloaking device..." Megatron threw back his head, and let out a long, maniacal laugh. Part 2: Predacons Attack! Rhinox sat at the table in the control room, putting the finishing touches on the device. Optimus came into the room, in Beast Mode, scratching his stomach. "How's it going, old friend?" "Almost finished...hope it works." Optimus patted Rhinox on the shoulder. "It'll work." Optimus though to himself, "It has to." Terrorsaur, Waspinator, and Inferno were high in the air, hovering over a hilltop nearly ten clicks in front of the Maximal base. "Wazzzz-pinator not sure Maximals cannot see us. Wazzzz-pinator not want to get blown to scrap." "Get a hold of yourself, Waspinator," Terrorsaur said, straining to hold on to the supplies. "With this device Tarantulus made, they shouldn't be able to detect us." Inferno spoke up. "Hurry! The Royalty wants this device and these weapons mounted as soon as possible." Inferno picked up a large cannon. "The Maximals will buuuurrrrnnn!" Terrorsaur strained. "Yes...but let's set this thing down quickly. My hydraulics are about to pop!" **** "Cheetor!" called Optimus. Cheetor came running in, as always. "What's shakin'?" Optimus wondered about why Cheetor used so many human catch phrases. "I want you to do a quick perimeter scan before we test Rhinox's device. You may be able to pick up certain signatures in Beast Mode that the computer can't. Rhinox and I will do a DNA scan for compatible protoform Beast shells." "I gotcha, Optimus." Cheetor ran off towards the exit hatch. Rhinox put his device down, and then sat down at his control panel. "I'm initiating the DNA scan." "Good," Optimus replied, "Any finds yet?" The computer whirred and beeped. Rhinox looked up at Optimus. "We have three scans now. One is a wolf, another is a buffalo, and this last one's a..." Rhinox looked again at the DNA sequencing. "...it's a lobster." "A lobster?" Optimus asked. "Question is...do we have any use for a lobster. It's not a good form on land, but in the water, it would be a good choice." "Maybe we could use the lobster another time. But we could really use the wolf and buffalo DNA." Optimus thought for a moment. "In the event that a stasis pod strays from it's course and drops somewhere else, could it be possible to save the DNA patterns and take them with us?" "I think so. Um, permission to do some experimenting with the lobster form?" "Well, what do you have in mind?" Rhinox smiled. "A Gestalt mode. I know we'd need at least three more components to form a gestalt, but having one would really make a difference when fighting the Preds." "You're always a step ahead of the enemy, old friend. But for now, let's keep it to ourselves." Cheetor was running the length of the perimeter, doing heat and Energon scans. He stopped all of a sudden, and sniffed the air. He couldn't help shaking the smell of something strange. He turned, trying to home in on the smell, and spotted a bush. He crouched down low to the ground, and crept towards the bush. He froze, then moved his tail from side to side. "It's probably nothin'," he thought. His muscles relaxed and he stood up. He turned and looked to the left. He saw a small scorpion crawling among some stones. "Scorponok!" Cheetor thought. "Cheetor, Maximize!" He transformed and cocked his gun. He aimed at the scorpion, and said, "All right, Scorponok! Freeze!" The scorpion continued to crawl along. "I said FREEZE!" Cheetor said again. Cheetor wondered what was wrong. He did a biomechanical scan. He could see nothing extraordinary about the scorpion in front of him. "Ah, it's real," he said in dismay. He lowered his gun. A flash of light to his right caught his eye, and he turned to it. A missile was headed straight for him. He tried to dodge, but was carried off the ground by the impact and explosion. Cheetor screamed in pain. He looked at where the missile had hit. His arm was gone. Mech fluid started to leak out. Cheetor patched through to the intercom. "Cheetor to base!" he growled. "I'm under fire and I can't see the enemy! I've been damaged...send backup...we're under attack!" Rhinox turned on the radar scanner. He could only see Cheetor's form. Then it disappeared. He looked at Optimus, "He just disappeared and I'm not picking up anything! You'd better get out there!" Optimus transformed. "Have Dinobot and Rattrap come in for backup. And signal Airazor and Tigatron." Optimus hit the ceiling panel and the ceiling panel slid open. "Prime jets...ON!" he said, and his jet packs fired up. He went blasting out of the base. High in the air, Optimus scanned the ground. He saw Cheetor's gun lying on the ground, with mech fluid splattered on it. "Cheetor!" Optimus yelled. He heard nothing but the sound of his own echo. Cheetor couldn't move. Terrorsaur had him pinned down, with his hand over Cheetor's mouth. Terrorsaur looked at Waspinator and whispered, "Are the others in position?" Waspinator shook his head yes. Terrorsaur's twin shoulder cannons fired two flares into the air. Optimus shielded his eyes from the bright flashes of light. He glided to the ground. "Predacons, ATTACK!!!" screamed Megatron. Predacons materialized out of nowhere, spraying lasers and bullets all over the field. Waspinator aimed his gun at Optimus and fired. Rattrap leapt at Optimus and knocked his to the ground. Optimus grimaced as he felt the impact. He looked down and expected a wound, but instead, Rattrap was on top of him. "We can't have our fearless leader getting scrapped, now can we?" Rattrap said, as he blasted in different directions. "Thanks," Optimus said. "Save it. We got big problems here." Dinobot deflected some blasts with his spinning tail shield and punched Blackarachnia in the face. "Optimus!" he shouted, "This is not strategically sound! We need to fall back and regain the high ground!" "Fall back to base!" yelled Optimus, "I'll get Cheetor!" Dinobot and Rattrap didn't argue. They fell back, still giving Optimus some cover fire. Optimus fired up his jet packs and flew in the direction that he saw the Predacons emerge from. He flew into Terrorsaur and fired his wrist gun into Terrorsaur's chestplate. Terrorsaur crashed to the ground and twitched a little. Optimus flew towards the bush, which now seemed to be warped and fluctuating. A hand reached out of the bush and fell to the ground. Optimus went in, and saw Cheetor lying on the ground. Sparks flew from the damaged arm and mech fluid dripped onto the ground. Cheetor was mumbling in a low voice, "Optimus, I've been hit...Optimus, I've been hit...someone help me...we're under attack...Optimus, I've been hit..." Optimus picked Cheetor up and fired his jet packs. He flew out of the field and towards the base. The Predacons were moving towards the base, firing their guns, and some were getting hit by the auto weapons. "Sentinel perimeter shields, on-line!" Optimus shouted. The moment they were inside, the shields went up. "Things are going EXACTLY according to plan...yessss!" Megatron said. He looked back at Scorponok. "Is Tarantulus inside?" "He should be...I mean, he's not out here." "Good. Now, I believe it's time to resort to the heavy artillery!" Terrorsaur groaned. Megatron waived his hand in Terrorsaur's direction. "Oh, and someone see to Terrorsaur." The CR-Chamber door closed around Cheetor, and the chamber began repairs. "From what I can tell," started Optimus, "the Predacons have a cloaking device." "And there's no way to tell how many cloak bubbles they have out there," Rhinox said, "Our sensors can't detect them." Rhinox displayed the radar screen, which was blank except for topographical details. Rattrap leaned over to Rhinox's auditory sensors. "How long do you think they've been there?" Dinobot slammed his fist on the table. "A more important question is...why. It seems...unlikely...that the Predacons would attack us for no reason. They MUST have an ulterior motive." "But what could dey be looking for, Dino-brain? We don't have nutin' 'cept weapons, shields..." "And this," Rhinox said, picking up his device. He looked at the other Maximals. "The only way they could have known about this device is if they could hear us. We've been bugged." Dinobot looked around the room. "But where?" he whispered. "It has to be in this room," Optimus said, "Or they wouldn't have picked up our discussion." Rattrap looked under the table. "And how could they have gotten a spy doohickey in here in the first place?" Dinobot growled, "They must have installed it when Starscream took over the base. They probably put it here just in case they lost their positioning." "Found it!" Rattrap said, smiling and showing the others a small box. The box started to rattle and a timer was displayed on the side of the box. "It must be rigged to explode!" Rhinox said. "Give it to me!" Optimus shouted. Rhinox opened the ceiling hatch. Rattrap threw the box to Optimus, and he threw it out of the hatch. A few seconds later, it exploded. Optimus turned to the others. "Now, then...We need to find a way to repel the Predacons. Even though they're not attacking yet, they may be amassing their forces." "But as long as we keep the shields up, we're golden," said Rattrap. "Not necessarily," said Rhinox, "The Preds could have hidden any number of things in the cloak bubbles...including ammo. If they had enough firepower, they could blast their way in." Optimus clicked the long-range intercom button. "Airazor...Tigatron...come in, over." A garbled reply came back. "We're here, and we're keeping position twenty clicks south of the base, over." "Good," said Optimus, "The Preds have some sort of cloaking device, and our sensors can't detect them. Hold your position...we're going to try an ambush. Optimus Primal, over and out." **** "The destruction of their shields are gonna be worth us lugging this Ion cannon all the way from our ship," Terrorsaur said, holding his chest as his Beast form effected internal repairs. "I didn't enlist you to jabber," Megatron said, "I want that cannon working in the next few minutes. Terrorsaur...can you fly?" "I...I think so." "Well, I have a job for you..." **** "How long 'til Airazor and Tigatron get here?" Rattrap asked. "They should be here shortly, but they're going to position themselves behind the Predacons. When they..." "We got something on the scanners, Chief," interrupted Rhinox, "It looks like Megatron." Megatron emerged from the cloak bubble in Beast Mode, then transformed. "Attention, Maximals," he said. "What is he DOING?" asked Blackarachnia. "Be quiet," said Scorponok. The ceiling panel opened up, and Optimus climbed out. Looking down on Megatron, with the Sentinel shield between them, Optimus replied, "State your business, Megatron." Megatron began to pace in front of the Maximal base, gesturing with his T-Rex cannon. "By now, you may have learned that you have something we want, Primal. Hand it over to us, and we MAY let you live. Refuse, and be destroyed. "You won't get your hands on the pods, Megatron," Optimus said defiantly, "Either go back to your base, or we'll send you back...in recycling bins." "Oh, we'll see how bravely you talk after your shield has been disrupted!" Megatron turned around. "Fire!" A giant green beam seemed to come out of nowhere and collided with the Maximal ship. Optimus fell through the ceiling panel. Inside, all of the Maximals were thrown off their feet. Rhinox climbed up to the control panel. He looked at the shield read-out. "We've just lost 25% of our shields. A few more hits like that, and we'll have half a ship to get back home on!" "Engage the auto-guns, Rhinox! Set them on random shoot!" cried Optimus. The auto guns emerged from their titanium housings. One shot into the air, and another shot low to the ground. Megatron cackled as the blasts went flying past. He aimed the Ion cannon at the hull and fired. The Maximal ship rocked from the impact. "Maximals, Maximize and engage the enemy!" cried Optimus. Rattrap screeched, "But..." "We'll need everyone on this...Airazor, Tigatron, move in closer, strike when the time is right. Dinobot and Rattrap, focus your fire on that bush out there. Let's move!" The Maximals headed for the exit hatch, already in Battle Mode. The hatch opened, and the Maximals jumped out. "Hehehehehehehe," cackled Tarantulus. Still cloaked, he went over to where Rhinox's device was. He picked it up and a voice synthesizer protruded from his helmet. In Rhinox's voice, he began to give it instructions. "Locate programmed stasis pod drop zone grid coordinates." The computer answered, "Coordinates located." "Copy and delete." "Coordinate deleted. Specify new coordinates." Tarantulus plugged in a small, triangular shaped cartridge and pressed a button. "Receiving new coordinates now." "How many pods will be signaled?" "Four." "Nullify and use new number seven." "Done." "Create new file. File components: subprogram." "Creating." Tarantulus pressed another button on the triangular cartridge. "Instructions received." "Erase all records of the new program and instructions." "Done." Tarantulus chuckled. Then he headed for the exit hatch and went to rejoin Megatron. Dinobot and Rattrap were shooting at the bush. The others were shooting randomly, hoping to hit one of the Predacons under cloak. One of Dinobot's blasts hit something in the bush, and the bush shimmered out of sight, revealing a small emitter. Rhinox stopped shooting and picked up the emitter. "It's a hologram projector!" he shouted. He looked it over. "From the looks of it, it's been upgraded with a new component. My guess is, it's the cloaking device!" A T-Rex cannon materialized and grabbed onto Rhinox. "Right you are, Maximal," Megatron said, now stepping out of the cloak bubble, "Now, I believe you have something I want." "Blast him, Optimus," Rhinox grunted. "Ah, ah ahhhh..." Megatron warned, "Throw down your weapons...now!" The Maximals hesitated, then complied. "Predacons, show yourselves!" Megatron commanded. Each Predacon stepped out of their cloak bubbles, weapons pointed at the Maximals. "We've won the day, Primal," Megatron said, smiling. **** Terrorsaur had set the six bombs to explode in three minutes. The Energon deposit fluctuated all around him. It was shame to waste all of this Energon, but he had his orders. He knew, by now, not to defy Megatron. He transformed back to Beast Mode and flew to the coordinates that Megatron told him to go to next. "Not quite, Predacon," said Tigatron, aiming his gun. Airazor hovered in the air beside him, both of her wrist lasers pointed at Megatron. "Do you really think that the two of you could stop all of us?" Megatron asked. Tigatron closed one eye, and shot Megatron in the face. "Urgh!" Megatron yelled, holding his face. He let go of Rhinox, and Rhinox pulled out his gun. "Destroy them!" Megatron commanded. Airazor blasted Tarantulus then Waspinator. Blackarachnia landed on top of her, and the two of them tussled. The rest of the Maximals picked up their weapons and rejoined the fight. Just then, there was an explosion, and the ground shook. All stopped fighting and looked into the direction where the explosion originated. Waspinator had the best eyesight, and he zoomed in on the mushroom shaped cloud hovering about 85 clicks, due east. "Energon!" Waspinator blurted out. "It's an Energon explosion, all right," Rhinox said to Optimus. "Predacons, withdraw!" said Megatron, returning to Beast Mode. "But what about the device?" Blackarachnia said. "That can wait," Megatron answered, running towards the Energon cloud. The Predacons deactivated their cloak bubbles and ran to catch up with Megatron. Inferno and Waspinator grabbed onto the Ion cannon, and flew with it back in the direction of the Predacon base. The Maximals stood around, looking at each other. Rattrap broke the silence. "Well, uh...job well done?" "I wish it was that simple, Rattrap," Optimus said. He sighed, "First order of business...check on the device. Second, track the Predacons on radar," Optimus looked around at Airazor, "Airazor may need some repair. You don't mind following the Predacons alone, do you, Tigatron?" "No," he replied, "I prefer to hunt alone." Tigatron transformed to Beast Mode and went off in search of the Predacons. Inside the base, Rhinox picked up his device. "Well, it's still here. And it still has its original settings. Odd, though, that the Preds would give it up so easily." "Well, I say that we test this baby out while the Preds are occupied and the gettin's good," Rattrap said. "That might not be a bad idea. And besides, we may need the extra troops soon if the Preds can actually do anything with this new Energon source. Are you up to it, Rhinox?" "Ready as I'll ever be." "Good, then. Rhinox, you, Rattrap, and Dinobot..." "...and Cheetor," said Cheetor, stepping out of the CR-Chamber. "And Cheetor," added Optimus, "...Go out and set up. I'll run a scan on the Energon cloud and contact Tigatron. If everything's okay, then we'll start." "Gotcha, Chief," Rhinox said, then motioned to the other Maximals to go outside. Optimus turned on the intercom. "Tigatron, come in." "Tigatron here," came the reply. "Found anything yet?" "Only that the Preds are all positioned here near the Energon explosion aftermath, and they're not doing much. It seems as though the blast took out most of the Energon and there's not enough left to use. I'll send an update soon if they head back to their base." "Good. We'll keep you posted on things around here as well. Optimus Primal out." Optimus turned around towards the other CR-Chamber. The door opened and Airazor stepped out. "Guess I wasn't as damaged as you thought I was," she said, smirking. "Let's meet the others outside," Optimus said, "They should be set up by now." "Megatron, you FOOL!" Blackarachnia screamed. Megatron grimaced at the pitch of her shriek. "We had the device IN our hands, and you abandon it for an Energon explosion?!" "Have faith, Blackarachnia," Megatron said, calmly, "I am not the fool you take me for, noooo. Waspinator....do a biomechanical sweep on the forest behind us." "Wazzz-pinator sweeping!" he chuckled. He looked at the forest and detected a faint biomechanical read-out. He gasped and whispered, "Tiger-bot!" "Positions, everyone," said Megatron. Megatron cleared his through, and said out loud, "This crater is useless to us! Bah, we should have seized the device when we had the chance!" Scorponok spoke up. "By now, the Maximals have surely put up precautions and restabilized their shields. Another attack would yield nothing." "You're right, Scorponok. The Ion cannon IS safely secured at the base, is it not?" Inferno saluted him. "Yes, your majesty." "Then back to base!" The Predacons transformed, and started walking. "Optimus Primal...come in," said Tigatron. "What is it?" "The Predacons are going back to their base. Any particular instructions?" "Come back to base. Rhinox is initiating a test run now. Optimus out." "Uploading...now!" Rhinox said, pressing the button on his device. A beam shot out of the device, and flew towards the atmosphere. "Rattrap, be ready to track the pods reentry when they're in range." Rhinox pulled out another device. "Here are the saved DNA patterns, Optimus," he said, "As soon as the pods land, I'll deactivate the scanner, and upload these patterns into the protoform." High in the atmosphere, rows and rows of stasis pods were in orbit, keeping each Maximal protoform preserved inside. Lights started to flash on seven of the pods, and those pods broke for the standard orbit. "Landing sequence initiated," said the pod computer. "They should be receiving the commands now," Rhinox said. He stared up into the sky, "It's only a matter of time." The seven pods arranged themselves in a line, and the pods started to descend, according to the programmed trajectory. "Can you get a read-out yet, Tarantulus?" Megatron said, somewhat impatient. "Not yet, Megatron. These things take time," Tarantulus answered. Megatron hoped that his plan worked. He did so hate being made a fool of in Blackarachnia's presence. "The pods are entering orbit now, Rhinox said," reading the information displayed on his device, "They should be in visual range right about now." "There they are!" cried Scorponok. The seven pods were high in the air, in a straight line, each spaced from the other about ten clicks, heading for the beach where the Predacons were. Megatron felt like leaping into the air and ridiculing Blackarachnia, but he resisted these outbursts of emotion. He felt that outbursts did not become him. Instead, he smiled in Blackarachnia's direction. "I don't understand," said Rhinox, "The device says they should be landing right in front of us now...but there's nothing here!" "Rattrap, get to the main computer and do a sweep for anything entering this planet's atmosphere," ordered Optimus, "Double-time it!" "Yes, SIR!" yelled Rattrap, as he was running towards the entry hatch. The pods were beginning to land. One crashed into the water. "Retrieve it," commanded Megatron. Inferno ran out into the water and grabbed onto the stasis pod. "Hey, guys, we got BIG problems! The pods are landing somewhere else!", Rattrap yelled. "Where are they?", Rhinox asked. "They're landing somewhere near the ocean about seventy clicks from here. And get this...there's Pred signatures over there!" "Optimus' face contorted from a look of surprise to one of horror. He was silent for a moment. He clenched his fist and grimaced. "Prime jets...ON!" Optimus blasted into the air and headed towards the ocean. "You'd better follow him quickly, Airazor," Rhinox said, "The rest of us will follow on foot." Airazor nodded and transformed to Beast Mode. She flew over to Rattrap and picked him up. "Hey, hey, hey, HEY, sister!" Rattrap yelled, "I don't remember exactly volunteering for this!" "You're coming along whether you like it or not," Airazor said, adamantly. Rattrap looked down at the ground far below. "Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt to go along for the ride," he said. Rhinox looked at Cheetor and Tigatron, already in Beast Mode, and sighed. "We're in deep slag, guys." Part 3: Deep Slag "How could I have been so stupid?" Optimus thought, flying towards the stasis pod's drop zone coordinates, "The Predacons probably slipped someone in under cloak to reprogram Rhinox's device. I should have seen it." "Prime jets...Maximum burn!" Optimus yelled, and felt the wind beat against his titanium frame even harder. He flew over the top of a mountain, and just over the rise, he spotted a line of stasis pods landing on the ground. All of the Predacons were there, and they were dragging the pods onto land. "I've got to hit the fliers first," he thought, "That way, there'll be no one to ambush me in the air." His two shoulder cannons flipped out from under his jet packs and he targeted Inferno. "Once we have crushed the Maximals, we shall strip their ship, taking the parts needed to repair our ship. Then we shall gather all of the Energon we can hold, and make another golden disk to show our Predacon comrades back on Cybertron." Megatron laughed out loud now. "Oh, it is a GLORIOUS day...yesssss!" Inferno was pulling one of the pods out of the water, when he was thrown back by an energy pulse. He looked up to see Optimus Primal barreling down on him. He reached for his gun and pointed it at Optimus. He started to shoot. Optimus dodged each of his shots, then stopped and hovered about one foot away from him. Inferno looked surprised. He aimed at Optimus, and Optimus snatched his gun away. Optimus aimed the gun at Inferno and fired. Waspinator turned around. "Optimus!" he screamed. Optimus turned around and fired at Waspinator with Inferno's gun and his shoulder cannons. Waspinator's dismembered parts slid to a stop at the feet of Megatron. "Attack!" screamed Megatron. The Predacons started to run towards Optimus. "Not you, Tarantulus," Megatron said, "I need you to reprogram the pods." Tarantulus knelt down next to one of the pods and went to work. Blackarachnia leapt at Optimus. He crouched down low and caught her foot in mid-kick. Then he threw her to the ground. Terrorsaur grabbed Optimus' arms and Scorponok took aim. Energy pulses rained down from above. Airazor was carrying a Rattrap in Battle Mode, and he sprayed pulses all over the battlefield. One blast hit Scorponok, and he fired a missile. Optimus broke free of Terrorsaur's hold and rolled to safety. Terrorsaur gasped as he saw the missile headed for him. The missile plowed into his chest, and he reeled back from the impact. "Deja vu," he whispered, and fell to the ground. Inferno shook his head and looked up. He saw Optimus and grabbed onto his leg, yelling incoherently as he always did. Optimus looked down at Inferno and punched him in the face. Inferno's head hit the ground with a clank. Optimus grimaced from a sharp pain. Blackarachnia had fired her grappling hook and it had imbedded itself deep within his shoulder. He grunted as he pulled the hook out, then tugged hard on the rope attached to it. Blackarachnia went flying and landed on top of Terrorsaur, who groaned again. Airazor released Rattrap, and he landed on the ground. Scorponok fired a missile at him, and he narrowly dodged it. He blasted a few rounds, and Scorponok ducked behind a rock. Optimus held his damaged shoulder and grunted. Airazor transformed, and landed next to him. Rattrap stepped in front of the two and blasted at the rock Scorponok was cowering behind. Inferno regained consciousness and got up. He spotted his gun on the ground and dove for it, then fired his jet engines. He blasted into the sky, yelling again. Blackarachnia jumped off of Terrorsaur, and dove behind a pod. "That's one," Tarantulus said, as the stasis pod accepted his Predacon programming. A panel opened up on the pod, and a DNA scanner came out. Tarantulus went over to the next pod. Megatron smiled. He motioned to Scorponok to attack. Scorponok emerged from behind the rock and started to fire more missiles. Rattrap, Airazor, and Optimus backed up, beyond his missile reach. Rattrap blasted into the sky and hit Inferno, who went screaming down on the sand below in a blaze of fire. Optimus huffed, "We must...stop them...from reprogramming...the pods." "Eh, we ain't doing nutin' from heah, fearless leader. We oughta wait for backup," Rattrap said. "No," said Optimus, "I'm not going to let them." He fired his jet packs and broke free of Airazor's grasp. He flew high into the air and then descended on Scorponok's position. Scorponok was too busy reloading to notice Optimus' disappearance. Optimus landed right in front of him, and Scorponok gasped. He stood up, and opened his claw. Optimus grabbed his claw and twisted it away from his face. He tightened his grip on Scorponok's claw and broke it off of his arm. Scorponok screamed and thrust at Optimus with his intact claw. Optimus kicked him, and Scorponok flew into the water, twitching from an Energon surge. Megatron stepping in front of Optimus. "Very well done, Optimus," he said. Tired from the battle, Optimus slowly raised his wrist gun and aimed at Megatron. "Leave the pods alone," he ordered. "That's two." Tarantulus chuckled. "Oh, I'm afraid I can't do that," Megatron said. Optimus fired at Megatron. Megatron dodged his blast. Optimus lunged at Megatron. He grabbed onto Megatron's tail-shield and Megatron clamped down on Optimus' damaged shoulder. "I said...leave...the pods...ALONE!" yelled Optimus, and crushed Megatron's tail-shield. Optimus ripped the shield out of his hand and threw it on the ground. "My, aren't we testy?" Megatron commented, squeezing Optimus' shoulder even tighter. Megatron jerked. Energon contamination surge lines began to cover his body. Optimus began to show signs of an Energon surge as well. They had been in Battle Mode too long. Both transformed to Beast Mode. Optimus glared and growled at Megatron. Megatron growled back. Airazor ran towards Tarantulus and aimed her wrist lasers. Blackarachnia stood up and fired her spider-leg gatling guns. Airazor's body jerked violently at the barrage of bullets, then fell on the ground. "Airazor!" Rattrap screamed. He ran towards Blackarachnia, firing his pulse rifle. Blackarachnia ran towards him, then jumped into the air, doing a flying kick. Rattrap leaned to the side, and she went flying past. She turned around and fired her guns. Rattrap shielded himself from her blasts, taking hit after hit in the chest and arms. He aimed and fired. The blast hit her square in the face and she clutched at it with her pincers. She screamed, the looked at Rattrap, as the mech fluid ran down her face. "You'll pay for that, Maximal," she said. Optimus ran towards Megatron. Megatron used his tail like a whip and knocked Optimus back. "You see, Maximal scum, you can NEVER win!" said Megatron, advancing on the downed Optimus. Optimus jumped up and leapt onto Megatron's head, clamping his mouth shut. Megatron reeled from the extra weight, and shook his head from side to side to try to throw Optimus off. Gravity prevailed, and both crashed to the ground. "That's three!" Tarantulus cackled gleefully. Rattrap fired again, and the blast blew off three of her legs. She leapt at him, and he dodged. He stood in front of a pod, and waited for her to turn around. She turned around and glared at him. She assumed a fighting stance, then leapt at him again. He dodged again, and she crashed headlong into the stasis pod behind him. "Heh," said Rattrap. He ran over to Airazor and touched her on the shoulder. "Hey, kid...wake up..." he said. She groaned. "Can you transform, kid?" "I...I think so," she replied, weakly. She transformed and lay still. Rattrap carefully carried her over to one of the rocks and placed her down behind it. "You'll be safe here, kid," he said. Rattrap looked over at Optimus and Megatron fighting, and looked over at Tarantulus who was working on another pod. Rattrap pulled his gun out. "Hey, spider-face!" Rattrap called, then fired. Tarantulus turned slightly and caught a bullet in the face. He fell backwards over the pod he was working on, and sparks flew from his face. The pod squealed out a warning siren. "Error...Maximal programming chip disabled...DNA scan on pause...insert programming chip or protoform will go into stasis lock in six cycles." "Oh, man!" Rattrap said, "This is Rhinox's expertise, not mine!" He ran over to the stasis pod and pushed Tarantulus off. He looked at the readout on the pod, which displayed a timer counting down quickly. Rattrap patched in to his communicator. "Rhinox, come in!" "Rhinox here," Rhinox said, puffing as he and the others were running towards the Predacon's coordinates. "Optimus and ol' Megs here are sluggin' it out, and I got a pod here that needs a program chip or something. You need to get here fast." "We'll be there in about two cycles," Rhinox puffed, "Try to hold the fort down for as long as you can." All of a sudden, the lid to one of the pods burst open. A giant claw emerged from the pod and waved around. "Razorclaw...TERRORIZE!!!" Rattrap stared with his mouth open as the giant Predacon stepped out of the pod. Tarantulus shook his head and looked at the new Predacon. "We are your allies!" Tarantulus said. He pointed to Rattrap and Airazor, "THEY are your enemies!" Razorclaw opened his claw, revealing a blaster rifle, and pointed it at Rattrap. "Aww..." said Rattrap, and reached for his gun. Razorclaw fired, and the blast took Rattrap off of his feet. "...Slaaaaaaaaaaggg!" Rattrap yelled, blown back by the blast impact. Rattrap jumped up quickly, then picked up his gun and started shooting. Razorclaw turned sideways, and deflected his blasts. With lightning-quick speed, he side-stepped over to where he was standing and knocked him down with his left claw. Rattrap kept blasting, and Razorclaw reached down with his claw and clamped down on him. He lifted him into the air, and slowly started to crush him. Rattrap steadied his nerves and placed the tip of his pulse rifle against Razorclaw's head. "Feeling lucky, Pred-head?" Rattrap grunted. Razorclaw released his grip, and Rattrap fell to the ground. Rattrap's chest was leaking mech fluid. He cringed from the pain, subconsciously lowering his gun. Razorclaw swung at Rattrap and knocked his gun from his hand. He then stabbed at Rattrap with his claw, knocking him to the ground. Rattrap did all he could to avoid being crushed by his mighty claw. Razorclaw leaned into Rattrap, forcing his claw closer to his head. Rattrap's hands strained to keep the menacing claw open and as far away from him as possible. "You...cannot...quell my mighty hand, my enemy," Razorclaw said, straining as well. Optimus punched Megatron in the face. Megatron faltered, weaving from side to side, then fell to the ground. Optimus wiped the sweat from his brow and looked around. He saw Rattrap and a new Predacon struggling, with a downed Airazor, and Tarantulus crawling over to another pod. "Optimus Primal...MAXIMIZE!" Optimus transformed and ran over to help Rattrap. On the way over, he kicked Tarantulus in the head, and Tarantulus blacked out again. Optimus jumped onto Razorclaw and put his arms around his head. Razorclaw was still leaning into Rattrap, and Rattrap was beginning to weaken. Optimus leaned back, pulling Razorclaw with him. Optimus picked Razorclaw up and then slammed him on the ground. Rhinox dove off of the hill and transformed in midair. He landed on the ground in Battle Mode and pulled out his guns. He aimed them at Razorclaw and started to fire. Razorclaw crouched down low and shielded himself from the barrage of bullets. Tigatron, Cheetor, and Dinobot transformed, and ran towards the battle. Another of the pods' lids opened up, and a brightly colored frog hopped out. It chuckled and screamed in a fluctuating voice, "Spittor...TERRORIZE!!!" Spittor leaned back and spat at Rhinox. Rhinox stopped shooting and jumped back. The spit splashed on the ground in front of him, and started to bubble. Razorclaw transformed and dug down into the ground. Dinobot leapt at the new Predacon and tackled him, making both fall to the ground. Rhinox started to run over to one of the pods. The sand in front of him moved, and Razorclaw burst out of the ground. Razorclaw seized Rhinox's arms, making it impossible for him to shoot. "I have you now," Razorclaw said, smiling darkly. An energy pulse hit the back of his head. He grimaced, then turned his head. Tigatron shot again, and the blast deflected off of his tough shield. Razorclaw dropped Rhinox and started to clomp over to Tigatron, deflecting blasts with his claws. Tigatron could see that his blasts were doing no good, and soon Razorclaw stood in front of him. He felt dwarfed in his presence. Razorclaw looked down at Tigatron, then turned sideways at his hips, his claw high in the air. Cheetor screamed, "Tigatron, look out!" Razorclaw whipped around, and backhanded Tigatron into the ocean. Razorclaw chuckled and turned towards Rhinox. Dinobot jumped in front of him. Dinobot chuckled. "It has been a while since I've faced a worthy opponent." "May it be your last," Razorclaw said, and lifted his claw high. Dinobot didn't move. Razorclaw brought his claw down hard, and Dinobot blocked it with his sword. Dinobot smiled and chuckled again. Razorclaw frowned. Dinobot pulled out his spinning tail-shield, and shoved it into Razorclaw's face. Sparks flew, and Razorclaw screamed out various obscenities. Dinobot pulled his spinning tail-shield back, and assumed a fighting stance. Razorclaw toppled backwards, and fell into the sand with a heavy thud. He put his hand over his head, and squinted up at Dinobot.' He stood up, with some difficulty, and opened his claw. Spikes shot out of the middle of his claw, and he started walking towards Dinobot. Dinobot crouched and waited for the spiked claw. Razorclaw drew back, then brought his claw forward. Dinobot thrust his sword towards his claw, and Razorclaw clamped down on his sword. With a hydraulic crunch, his claw snapped Dinobot's sword in two. Dinobot looked at his broken sword. It had failed him. Razorclaw reached over and impaled Dinobot on the spikes between his claw. Dinobot growled, and his eyes lit up bright green. "Eat SLAG!" screamed Dinobot. Dinobot's eye beams shot out and started to crack Razorclaw's shell. Razorclaw dropped Dinobot and backed off. He transformed to Beast Mode and dug into the sand. Dinobot's eyes lit up again and he screamed, "Face me!" Rhinox went over to one pod. He pulled out a device that had the previously saved DNA patterns on them. "Now, which one do you want, Optimus?" he said, "The lobster..." "Can't be too picky," Tarantulus said, raising himself from behind the pod, and shot Rhinox in the chest. Rhinox fell backwards onto the sand. The battle damaged Tarantulus pressed the download button and inserted the Predacon chip. "Nooooo!" Rhinox screamed. Cheetor shot Tarantulus, and he crumpled to the ground, his visor light blinking off. "Arr...freeze...alla ya," Snapper said, behind the Maximals. A woozy Megatron stood beside him, in Battle Mode. All of the Maximals disregarded this command, and started shooting at them. Megatron dove out of the way of the blast, but Snapper stood standing, with his shell-shield in front of him. He cocked his quad-thrusters and they hummed as they powered up. He blasted at the Maximals, and they all hit the sand. "Man, he's got some BOSS firepower!" yelled Cheetor. "Arr!" yelled Snapper, "I'll keel-haul the lot o ya!" Rhinox tried to get up. Optimus held him down. "You took some heavy fire...and at point-blank range...you shouldn't move," he said. "But...the pod...I've got to try to reverse the Pred program..." The lid of the pod burst open, and Sea Clamp jumped out. "Too late, my friend," Optimus said, "Too late." Rhinox blacked out. Blackarachnia woke up. She saw a strange Predacon blasting at the Maximals, and her other comrades were down. She looked over towards a rock where she saw Megatron hiding. "Blackarachnia to Megatron," she said. "Megatron here," he responded. "What the slag is going on?" she asked. "You should rejoice, Blackarachnia...we have four new Predacon allies...but...we are in a bit of a standstill. These new Predacons may know how to fight, but they know nothing of tactfulness. We need a diversion." "Acknowledged. What should I do?" "At the present time, the Maximals are unaware of your presence. Put charges on the remaining pods." "But...the protoforms!" "To the Pit with the protoforms. We have enough Predacons to tip the scales in our favor. And besides, if we can keep the Maximals from gaining any new comrades... well, that will be a day well spent...yess." Blackarachnia didn't answer, but instead took out some charges and advanced towards the other pods. She put one charge on the first pod and spotted Tarantulus. She nudged him with her foot. He stirred slightly. She kicked him hard. "Transform to Beast Mode, you idiot," she said. He did so. "What are you doing?" he asked. "Megatron wants a diversion...he wants to scrap the pods." "The pods? No!" protested Tarantulus. Blackarachnia looked at Tarantulus. "You're in no position to argue," she said, and placed the next charge, "Now go drag the others out of the blast zone." Tarantulus crawled off, mumbling to himself. Sea Clamp received a communiqué from Megatron and transformed. He jumped into the ocean, and swam off. Optimus wondered why he would pull out so suddenly. He didn't have time to think about that now, he had to focus on getting his troops out of there, with the pods intact, with as little battle damage as possible. Optimus looked over to where Tigatron had fallen in the ocean. The waves started to come up over his body. "Optimus to Tigatron." Tigatron shook his head and looked around. "Tigatron...here," he grunted. "Transform...quickly...we need everyone if we're to get the rest of these pods." "Acknowledged," he said. Blackarachnia contacted Megatron. "The last charge is set. I'm getting the slag outta here." "Good. We shall reconvene at the base, agreed?" "Agreed." Megatron disconnected. "You blundering idiot," Blackarachnia said. Megatron stood up and ordered Snapper to stop firing. The Maximals were perplexed by the sudden cease-fire. "Oh, Primal?" he called. Optimus stood up. Megatron started to back away. "Give my regards to the Inferno," he said. Megatron and Snapper turned around, and began to run. "What the slag?" said Rattrap, holding his chest, "Why'd they just take off..." He was interrupted by a beeping noise. Optimus looked over at the pods. They had blinking charges on top of them. "Prime jets...ON!" Optimus flew over to the pods. He snatched up charge after charge, then flew out deeper over the ocean. He released the charges, and turned back towards the beach. "Come on, big bot...you can make it," said Cheetor. The charges exploded in midair and the resulting explosion waves damaged one of Optimus' jet packs. Optimus fell into the ocean, then surfaced and swam towards the beach. "All right, Optimus!" Cheetor shouted. "Get over it, kid," Rattrap started, "He had a whole megacycle to spare." Cheetor frowned at Rattrap. "I am due for some serious overhauling heah," Rattrap said, transforming, "Effect internal repeahs." Dinobot walked over to his comrades, turning quickly every now and then to look behind him. "So, uh, did you get him, Dino-brain?" Rattrap asked. "He retreated into the sand, vermin," Dinobot started, "He would not face a true warrior." "Oh, he faced a true warrior...me. It's just when he got to you, theah was no more challenge. So he left." Rattrap laughed. Dinobot growled at him. Airazor, still in Beast Mode, limped slowly over to where the rest of the Maximals were, and plopped down next to Rhinox. Tigatron walked lazily onto the shore, with Optimus not too far behind him. Optimus transformed and walked over to Rhinox. "Rhinox, wake up." Rhinox opened his eyes. "Transform." Rhinox did so. He grunted. "What about the pods?" "We got the rest," Optimus said. "Good. I can't do anything right now, so you'll have to program the pods. Where's the DNA scan component?" "You mean dis thing?" Rattrap asked, holding up a damaged device. Rhinox sighed, "I guess we'll have to scan for compatible Beast shells the old-fashioned way." "I can do it, Optimus," said Cheetor, "Rhinox showed me how to initiate the DNA scan before." "Go ahead," Optimus replied. Dinobot was looking at the ground. He kicked a rock imbedded in the sand. "You need something to do?" Optimus asked him. Dinobot looked up and nodded his head. "Scout the perimeter, then. I want to know if any Preds are still in the area. And take Tigatron with you." Rattrap opened his mouth to protest. "Save it, Rattrap. I don't need the both of you arguing out there while the Preds sneak up on us." Rattrap closed his mouth and crossed his arms. Cheetor was typing on the stasis pod console. "There," he said, "That should to it." A panel slid open on the pod and a scanner emerged. It twirled in the air for a moment, then shrank back into its metallic housing. Cheetor walked to the next pod and started to initiate the DNA scan. **** "By the Inferno, Megatron..." Blackarachnia screeched, "You are the most incompetent leader ever!" Terrorsaur raised his hand weakly. "That's exactly why I should lead." Megatron looked over at Terrorsaur. "Give it a rest, fool." Blackarachnia wasn't finished with him yet. "The Maximals would have been blown to scrap if YOU hadn't run off so soon," she said. "What's done is done, Blackarachnia," he started, "We must now heal our wounded and engage the next order of business." "Which is?" "To welcome our new comrades, of course. Had it not been for them, I dare say that we may not have walked out of that mess alive." Megatron looked around. "Present yourselves!" Spittor was the first to step up. His brightly colored skin gave a look of beauty and danger at the same time. "Spittor at your service," he said, licking his chomps hungrily, and slobbering down the side of his face. "Ewww," said Blackarachnia. Sea Clamp sauntered up next to Spittor. His lanky form and giant pincers made him look like a Cybertronian hit-bot, ready for anything that dared come his way. "Sea Clamp. Mess with me and you're headed for a watery grave." "Oh, I like him, yesss," Megatron said. Snapper walked up, in his hunched over position. His shell looked harder than the hull of the Predacon ship, and his gun was slung over his shoulder. He saluted everyone and whistled at Blackarachnia. He walked over to her and knelt in front of her. "Arr! Me name's Snapper, darlin'," he said, taking her claw in his hand, "I'm the best there is at what I do, and what I do is kill." She snatched her claw away from him and sneered at him. "Arr! A lass with gall! I like that...has SPUNK!" She leaned down towards him and looked him in the eye. "Touch me again, and you'll be removing that arm from your disposal unit," she said. Snapper picked up a piece of metal and crushed it in his mouth, smiling and chewing happily. Megatron said, "Next?" Razorclaw stamped forward, his massive bulk intimidating even Megatron. His armor shone in the light, and his claws looked razor-sharp. "Razorclaw. I possess the power to destroy all of you. I am loyal only to my creator. That is all you need to know," he said, in a deep, menacing voice. "Hmm," said Megatron, "And who is your creator?" "Tarantulus," he replied. Megatron shot a look at Tarantulus, who shrugged. He eyed Tarantulus for a moment, then regained his calm composure. He turned towards his battle damaged comrades. "Under normal circumstances, I would require you do battle with our best fighters, but that will have to wait until another time," Megatron said. "What about you?" Razorclaw commented. "I would be too much of a match for you, I'm afraid," Megatron said. Razorclaw tightened his jaw and claws. "Would you care to test that theory?" he asked. "Would you?" Megatron replied. Razorclaw took a step forward. Inferno, Blackarachnia, and Scorponok pointed their weapons at Razorclaw. Razorclaw growled. "Calm yourself," said Tarantulus. Razorclaw stepped back. Tarantulus now looked at Megatron. Megatron frowned. "There is something else, Megatron," Tarantulus said. Opening his T-Rex cannon, Megatron asked, "And what would that be?" "I was doing an initial scan in the drop zone area and I picked up levels of stable Energon." "Stable Energon?" Megatron asked, lowering his weapon. "Yes. While I was doing the last calculations for the drop zone coordinates, I scanned the ocean. It has a large amount of Energon deposits which are stable, possibly due to the extremely cold water temperatures. As you well know, in theory, Energon COULD BE stabilized if submerged in a liquid kept at a constant temperature. The Energon cubes we used on Cybertron worked similarly, but with a malleable plasma as a substitute for the liquid." "So what do you propose we do, Tarantulus?" Megatron asked, "Cull the Energon from the ocean, only to have it destabilize once we bring it onshore?" "No..." chuckled Tarantulus, "We mine it UNDER the ocean, convert it into a usable energy supply, and transport it to our ship for use. And our new Predacon allies ARE best suited for work underwater." "Brilliant!" said Megatron, "Truly brilliant...but there is a flaw, Tarantulus...how would we mine the Energon and just how loyal to YOU are these new troops?" "Why, Megatron," Tarantulus said in his sweetest voice, trying to sound innocent, "THEY work for me, and I work for YOU." "I work for the highest bidder," said Sea Clamp, "To the Inferno with my creator." For a moment, Tarantulus looked perturbed. Megatron looked at Snapper and Spittor. "And what about the two of you?" Snapper slung his arm around Spittor's shoulder and smiled, squinting up at Megatron with one eye. Spittor continued to slobber. "Arrr, we're best buds, and we're inseparable, so we work for whoever treats 'os the best. A bigger slice o' the Energon would sweeten the deal, though," said Snapper. Megatron didn't look at Razorclaw. "Well, then, it's settled, Tarantulus. Take all the materials you need to construct this underwater station of yours. I want it up and running within the next week. Assemble your construction team, and get started." Tarantulus motioned towards Waspinator, now just coming out of the CR-Chamber, Scorponok, and the new Predacons to follow him. Rhinox had a sensor device attached to his leg in Beast Mode. He walked along the shore scanning for any stasis pods they might have missed. Rhinox couldn't help feeling that this whole thing was his fault. The lid to the first pod opened up and a shark flopped around on the inside. He flipped up and out of the pod and landed with a thud on the sand. "Cybershark, Maximize!" he yelled. Cybershark transformed and stood up. Optimus walked up to him and held out his hand. "Greetings. I'm Optimus Primal, leader of this Maximal team. You're Cybershark, right?" "Yes," Cybershark shook Optimus' hand, "Give me a moment...my memory core is still a bit fuzzy...it may take a minute to remember everything." "Ah, so you're weren't originally a protoform," said Optimus, "You must have been one of the few Maximals that actually signed up for this mission." Cybershark held his hand up to his forehead, "Yes, my original name was Blitzkrieg." "Finally," Rattrap said, "A guy who isn't a blank slate." "I'm afraid you've been brought out of stasis in dire times, friend...but I'll brief you on our situation later", said Optimus. "My question is," started Rattrap, "What're we gonna do with ol shark-bait heah? I mean, the moment he was in an Energon surge, he'd hafta transform, right? Right back into a shark. And, heh, unless sharks can swim on land, he ain't going NOwhere. No disrespect, guy, but you're useless to us." Before Optimus could reply, Cybershark stood up and yelled, "Useless?! USEless?!" He reached over and picked Rattrap up off the ground with his tail-pincer. "I'll show you useless, rat-face!" he yelled, and threw Rattrap into the water. Cybershark ran towards the water, then jumped into the air and transformed. With a splash, he entered the water and swam towards Rattrap. Rattrap surfaced and transformed. He spat out some water, and picked a string of seaweed from his shoulder. Cybershark's fin penetrated the water's surface, and it headed straight for Rattrap. "Should we do something, Optimus?" Cheetor asked. Optimus didn't reply, but smiled instead. "Optimus?" "Oh, right. Uh, I think Rattrap's in over his head this time, don't you think so, Rhinox?" Rhinox looked back, smiled, and nodded his head. He continued scanning. Cheetor looked surprised. Rattrap was busy trying to negotiate with the fin that was coming straight for him. "Waitaminute," he said, "I was jest joking, I mean-a, you obviously got something heah in the water, but I was jest saying...you know...jest saying." Cybershark collided with Rattrap and dragged him underneath the water's surface. The other Maximals looked at each other, then looked at Optimus. "Give it time," Optimus said. Rattrap and Cybershark breached from beneath the surface and Rattrap crashed on the ground, his head buried in the sand. Cybershark transformed and landed on his feet. Rattrap pulled his head out and spat sand all over Cheetor. He then wheeled around and faced Cybershark. "Why you no good, slag-eating..." Optimus walked over to Cybershark and put his hand on his shoulder. "I think you'll fit in just fine with the rest of the crew," he said, laughing. "Eh, he sides with the SHARK this time," complained Rattrap, "Next thing you know, he'll be hugging on a Pred." Cybershark was somewhat puzzled. He didn't believe that they hadn't disbanded him from their team for pulling that stunt. He could remember back on Cybertron the time he lost his temper and fired upon his comrade, causing his team to lose the most-wanted Predacon on Cybertron, Onyx Primal. He had been stripped of his rank and reduced to a sniveling beggar on the streets, trying to swindle Energon out of passers-by. He had heard the call for new recruits on a mission of exploration. He had jumped at the chance to join. But there was a risk involved in becoming a recruit for this mission...the newly designed Protoform Stasis Pods. Many Cybertronians didn't trust this new form of transportation...others equated becoming a Protoform similar to selling your soul. Scholars warned that robots that became Protoforms ran the risk of having their memories erased. He hadn't cared one way or the other if his memory would be erased...he only cared for a new life. But, unfortunately, his memory was slowly coming back. "Optimus!" called Rhinox. "What is it?" Optimus asked, running over to where Rhinox was. Rhinox had his scanner pointed out towards the ocean, and the device was beeping louder and faster. "If these readings are correct, there's stable Energon beneath the water's surface!" "But, how could that be?" asked Optimus. "This water is kept at constant sub-zero temperatures. It's not natural...it must be the result of an alien temperature regulator." "Those slaggin' aliens got everything wired on this stinking mudball," Rattrap said. "Well, can we get to it?" Optimus asked. "We could get to it, but the problem is, once we separated it from the water, it would become contaminated and unstable again." Optimus sighed. Rhinox continued, "But, if we could somehow convert the Energon, while it's underwater, we could store it and use it on land." Another pod lid opened up. A small ball popped up onto the rim of the pod and it rolled around the edges. It rolled off of the edge and hit the ground. "Armordillo, Maximize!" Armordillo transformed and stood up. "I'll explain to him," Cybershark said, "You guys continue." Cybershark went over to Armordillo, who looked quite timid in his cumbersome shell. Cybershark held out his hand. "Welcome to the Maximals," he said. Armordillo looked up at Cybershark and slowly stuck out his hand. Cybershark took his hand and shook it. "I'm a newcomer just like you," he started, "But the Maximals seem like pretty nice guys." "M-m-my name's Armordillo," Armordillo said. "I'm Cybershark," he replied, "And from what I understand, we're in the middle of a war with the Predacons." "H-haven't we always been?" Armordillo said, smiling. Cybershark smiled back. "Come on, let's join the others," he said. Cybershark and Armordillo walked over to the circle of Maximals. Cybershark announced, "This is Armordillo," and stepped aside, revealing Armordillo, wringing his hands nervously. "Hello," he said. "Greetings, Armordillo," Optimus said. Armordillo cringed from the loudness of his voice. "Right now we're trying to figure out exactly how we're going to harness this Energon in the ocean," Rhinox said, "It's stable only in water." "Well," Armordillo started, "Like I always s-say, if you can't make the Energon come to you, go to the Energon." Cheetor laughed. Rattrap rolled his eyes. Another pod opened up. Nothing came out. "I'll check to see if it's defective," said Cheetor, running toward the pod. Cheetor got to the pod and looked in. A tentacle reached out and wrapped itself around his neck, then pulled him into the air. "A...a little help?" squeaked Cheetor. "Sure, kid," said Rattrap, running towards the pod. "Hey! HEY in there! Peace, okay? We mean you NO harm!" Rattrap said, "Boy, do I sound stupid." The squid in the pod looked up at Rattrap with one giant, bubble-shaped eye, and loosened his grip on Cheetor. "Claw Jaw, Maximize!" he yelled, then transformed. The tentacles on his back writhed continuously. Claw Jaw pulled out his gun and aimed at Rattrap. "What is dis, 'Get Rattrap Day'?" Rattrap asked. "And who are you?" asked Claw Jaw. "Rattrap, second in command." Cheetor stared wide-eyed at Rattrap. "Hey! You're not..." "Quiet, kid, I'm trying to establish a chain of command." Optimus pushed Rattrap aside. "I'm Optimus Primal, leader of this Maximal team. We retrieved your stasis pod when it dropped out of orbit." Claw Jaw looked down at the pod he was standing in, then lowered his gun. He said nothing, but instead climbed down off of the pod. "Reeeaaaal friendly," said Rattrap. Optimus nudged him to be quiet. Rhinox transformed. He walked over to Optimus. "I was thinking about what Armordillo was saying, and I thought it might be possible to build something to convert the Energon while it's in the water and store it for surface use." "What's your idea?" asked Optimus. He knew that Rhinox felt guilty after they had lost four of the stasis pods, but this new idea seemed to take his mind off of it. Optimus could see the creative sparkle in Rhinox's eyes. "Well, with these stasis pods, we could take out the transwarp cells and easily convert the jet-ports into propulsion systems. From there, we could program the Axalon's main computer to form Beast shells over each reconditioned pod, and after the shells are made, put them together to form one functioning station." Rhinox looked up into the sky and smiled, "The station would have transformation capabilities, and..." "Slow down, Rhinox," Optimus laughed, "Everything sounds good. Just make up the plans and tell us how to carry them out." Rhinox smiled. **** "Just a moment, Sea Clamp," Tarantulus said, "Let me run a scan on your internal systems." Sea Clamp eyed him warily, then sat down on a table. Tarantulus plugged a chord into his arm which ran from Tarantulus' computer, and hit the BIOSCAN button on his console. "This won't hurt," said Tarantulus, "...much." Sea Clamp jumped from the electrical surge. "Hmmm," hummed Tarantulus, "It seems as though that Maximal did a little tinkering with your Beast Form." "Maximal?" said Sea Clamp. "Yes, I stole this program from him," Tarantulus said, still thinking, "Looks like you're part of a bigger plan, my boy...hehehehe...VERY big indeed." Tarantulus' cackles could be heard down the corridors. Part 4: VERY Big Plans Cheetor walked into the cargo bay, lugging two pieces of a stasis pod. Rhinox was busy welding away at another pod when Cheetor walked up to him. “Where do you want these, Rhinox?” Cheetor asked. Rhinox looked up at Cheetor then at the pod. “You’re finished with the configurations already?” he asked. “Yeah! Pretty soon, I’ll be the tech-bot around here.” Rhinox smiled. “Put them in the CR-Chamber over there. The chamber is preset to the beast-shell configurations.” Cheetor nodded his head and dragged the pod over to the chamber. Rattrap walked in, looking at the instruction pad of the pod he was supposed to reconfigure. He held the pad up closer to his face, then tilted it sideways. "How's dis ting gonna work, Rhinox?" he asked. "Since we don't seem to have any spare transwarp drives..." he said, sarcastically, looking around the room. He continued, "It'll run on fluid propulsion. It will have a system of pumps and pipes to take in the water and convert it to steam, putting pressure on the propulsion valves." "Geez," Rattrap said, "We're talking stone-age heah." "It's all we have to work with right now," said Optimus, walking in with his configured pod, "And besides, they couldn't have a power failure in that part of the mechanics... there's an endless supply of energy." "Will it have a computer console and communication relays?" Cybershark asked, looking at his pad as well. "Yes," Rhinox said, "That will be powered by the fluid systems as well. Congratulations. You're the first Maximal to have a base that runs on water." "Yeah, if we ain't careful," Rattrap said, "We'll have DIS base runnin' on water." Optimus raised his eyebrow at Rattrap. “Beast form complete,” announced the computer, opening the chamber doors. Cheetor walked over and reached in. He grunted, and pulled out a black and white dome. “What beast form is this, Rhinox?” Cheetor asked. “I did a long-range scan and picked up a killer whale.” “Whoa...killer,” said Cheetor. Rattrap rolled his eyes, “Will ya stop it wit da weak puns, kid? Ya driving me crazy!” “All the pieces will fit together and produce an entire killer whale. It will have transformation capabilities so you guys can get inside,” he motioned towards Cybershark and Claw Jaw.” “What about me?” asked Armordillo, “I can swim, at least.” “Well, once you guys get into the deep-sea area, Armordillo would have to stay inside. He may be able to stand water, but he wouldn’t be able to stand the extreme pressure.” “Are you up to it?” asked Optimus. “S-sure,” he replied. “Since everyone’s so full of questions, how’re we gonna get it to the ocean?” Rattrap asked. “We can launch it from the falls beneath the Axalon,” Rhinox said, “We can take all of the pieces down there and assemble it.” Optimus dragged his piece and put it into the chamber. “Well,” he said, “Let’s build us a whale.” **** "Put that down!" ordered Tarantulus, fuming at Spittor, who was beginning to put a wrench in his mouth, "This is very serious work!" Scorponok stepped up beside Tarantulus. "Where are the supplies to build this station of yours?" he asked. "We'll have to salvage the ship," he replied, "I'll need at least sixteen titanium rods, two computer consoles, any extra weapons we have, and the ion cannons' housing shells." "Retrieve them," Scorponok said to Waspinator. Waspinator shot him a look then went off, half buzzing, half mumbling to himself. "What are the functions of these parts?" Scorponok asked. "The legs...I mean, RODS will draw Energon straight from the water, powering all the systems inside the station. The consoles will act as the navigation and communication posts. The housings will be the main compartments for the passengers.” “It’s gonna be pretty small, huh?” “Well, there’s not much HERE to work with,” Tarantulus replied, “I estimate that the station will be at most fifteen meters long.” Tarantulus handed a blueprint display to Scorponok. “I’m leaving you in charge for now,” said Tarantulus, “I have to go check something.” Tarantulus left. Scorponok turned around and spotted Razorclaw standing in front of him. “What does my creator want me to do?” he asked. Scorponok looked at the display. “We’ll need some power couplings...um, a shield generator...” “We do not HAVE a shield generator,” Waspinator said, returning with a pile of titanium rods. “Well then,” Scorponok said, “We’ll get one.” “Shield generatorzzzz do not grow on treezzz,” Waspinator commented. Scorponok began to sputter, "W-w-what about Blackarachnia's stasis pod? We haven't totally dismantled it, have we?" Waspinator shrugged his shoulders, "Waspinator no want to ask female spider-bot about pod. Spider-bot in bad mood." "She's always in a bad mood," replied Scorponok. "I will ask her," Razorclaw said. He stomped off down the hallway. Scorponok looked at Waspinator. "Better him than us." Blackarachnia was typing at a computer console, working on her latest project. Razorclaw stamped up behind her and stood there, silently. "What do YOU want?" she asked. "I require the shield generator from your stasis pod for the station Tarantulus and Scorponok are building." Preoccupied, she pointed towards a table on the other side of the room and said, "It's over there. But don't touch anything else." He stamped over towards the table and stopped, looking at the pile of equipment on the table. Blackarachnia stopped typing for a moment and looked over at him. "You DO know what a shield generator looks like, don't you?" He said nothing. She sighed heavily and walked over to the table. She pushed him out of the way, saying, "If you want something done RIGHT...," grabbed the generator, then thrust it at Razorclaw. He took the generator in his smaller claw and nodded his head towards her. "A glorious woman," he thought, "My creator chose well for his lifemate.” He began to walk out of the room, then stopped and turned. "Lost already?" Blackarachnia commented. "No. Thank you for the generator." Blackarachnia stopped typing again and cast a look back at Razorclaw. Razorclaw left the room. "I swear," she said to herself, "These newer troops are more Maximal than Predacon." Razorclaw returned to where Scorponok and Waspinator were. He handed the generator to Scorponok. Razorclaw looked at the pile of parts before him. "Are we ready to build the station?" "Almost. I'm waiting for Tarantulus to return. I need to ask him..." Sirens blared from overhead. Megatron's face came up on the view-com. "Two pods have entered the atmosphere. They are headed for the Delta grid." "Scramble, scramble, scramble!" yelled Optimus, and the Maximals ran towards the exit pads. "Cybershark and Claw Jaw, you stay here. Finish up the modifications, we'll launch when we get back." The two saluted him, and Optimus exited The Axalon. The other Maximals, joined by their leader, headed towards the woodlands. **** “What is female spider-bot up to?” Waspinator asked, “Megatron has commanded us to retrieve stasis pods!” “I think Megatron will be much more interested with the results of my experiment,” she replied, “Tell him this is VERY urgent.” Waspinator grumbled, “Wazzzzpinator always messenger of bad news.” Blackarachnia pressed a button on her computer console, and a small, tubelike structure protruded from it. She took it in her claws and held it up to her face. The plasma-like substance contained in the tube pulsated and changed colors. “Soon,” she said, “Very soon.” Waspinator met Megatron as he and the others were exiting the Predacon ship. “Female spider-bot says she’s not coming.” “What?!” “Spider-bot says she is doing something imporrrrtant. Says it is urrrrrgent.” Megatron turned around. “Terrorsaur!” Terrorsaur turned around. “Stay with Blackarachnia...make sure to keep an eye on her....The rest of you, come with me!” Waspinator made a face at Terrorsaur. Terrorsaur grimaced and waved him away. The two stasis pods crashed into the treetops. One crashed into a particularly thick grove of trees and teetered on the edge of its branches. The other flew through the branches, richocheted off of a tree trunk, and crashed to the ground. The pod in the treetop started to initiate a DNA scan. The other pod crackled and hissed. A wolf warily crept up to the second pod and sniffed at it. A spark flew, and the wolf leapt back. The pod initiated a DNA scan. The wolf ran away through the woods. Inferno touched down at the edge of the woods. Using his infrared visor, he located the pods and started trudging towards them. “So, what are you working on?” Terrorsaur asked. Blackarachnia slammed her claw on the table, “Don’t interrupt me! This takes concentration!” Terrorsaur looked at her workstation. There was a miniature magna-pulse emitter, hooked up to a small tube. She typed in a few more commands. Terrorsaur was beginning to get impatient. She picked up the emitter and walked over to where her stasis pod was. She placed the emitter inside, and attached some wires to it. “Now...watch,” she said. She pressed a button, and the emitter started a low hum. The plasma-like fluid inside of the tube started to change colors more frequently. She picked up a scanning device and pressed another button. “Perfect.” she hissed. The emitter was now emitting a higher pitch, and the tube broke open. Terrorsaur leaned over to say something, but she waved him away. The fluid expanded and stretched out. The emitter was now emitting a pulse too high for normal sensors to detect. She pressed a button on the pod, and small lights turned on in a circle, surrounding the liquid. An electric field began to accumulate, and sparks of electricity shot out and penetrated the liquid. The liquid began to take on a familiar shape. Terrorsaur stared, “That looks like a...a protoform...” “You catch on quick, despite what others say,” she said, sarcastically. She plugged a small device into the pod and pressed a button. “Saved in this device are all the DNA scans I’ve done over the past few weeks. I think this form is appropriate.” She pointed to a small beetle on the device’s display. She pressed another button, and the device fed the information into the pod. The protoform began to solidify. Fingers formed, then knee joints, then a chest plate, then the head. The fingers moved slightly. “It’s alive!” she screeched, “It’s ALIVE!” Terrorsaur backed away a bit. Blackarachnia turned the machine off and stepped back. The form inside the pod twitched a little, then opened its optics. It slowly put its hand on the edge of the pod, and pulled itself up into a sitting position. Blackarachnia held out her claw. The form in the pod said, “Ramhorn...Terrorize!” and transformed into a beetle. It spread its wings and flew to her claw. “Astounding!” Terrorsaur said, “With this technology at my disposal, I could get rid of Megatron and rule the Predacons!” “Excuse me?” said Blackarachnia, pointing her gun at him. The beetle on her claw cooed. “Um, with you by my side, of course,” he replied. “The other way around,” she said. “Um, with me by your side?” “See? I told you you catch on quick.” **** Tigatron crept up to the edge of the clearing. He spotted a stasis pod on the ground, and saw another resting in the treetops. He ducked into the foliage as he heard a rustle in the bushes across the clearing. Inferno emerged from the shrubbery and looked around. He pulled out his gun and waved it around victoriously. “Another worker to add to The Royalty’s colony!” he shouted. “Think again, Predacon,” Tigatron said, transforming. He fired his gun, and knocked Inferno’s cannon out of his hand. “No matter, Maximal...you are still no match for me,” he said, advancing towards Tigatron. Tigatron fired away, barely denting Inferno’s outer hull. Inferno knocked Tigatron’s gun from his hand and punched him in the face. Tigatron weaved a little, then shook his head. A shot rang out, and a pulse ricocheted off of Inferno’s head. Inferno turned around and saw Airazor, gun in hand. Tigatron’s sight began to clear up, and he dove at Inferno, tackling him and pinning him to the ground. Waspinator landed just as a door opened on one of the pods. For a moment, he looked perplexed. He didn’t know whether to engage the enemy or do something about the new warrior emerging from the pod. “Are you Predacon?” he asked the robot stepping out of the pod. The figure smiled and said, “Wolfang, Maximize!” and pointed his gun at him. “Guess,” he said. Waspinator started to back away. A beam flew past Waspinator and hit Tigatron. Megatron stood at the edge of the clearing, and the other Predacons joined him. “Tsk, tsk, tsk,” he said, “The first pod is a waste...Waspinator...reprogram the other pod.” Airazor stood still as Inferno stood up and pointed his gun at her. Just as Waspinator was about to take flight, a roaring, “Wa-hoooo!” could be heard emanating from the treetops, followed by a “Bonecrusher, Maximize!” A shadow fell over all that were below. Megatron’s optics strained to see what it was. “What the slag?” yelled Scorponok. The figure in the treetops jumped and landed with a deafening thud on the ground in front of them, stirring up much dust. When the dust settled, they all stared in awe at the humungous figure before them. Optimus Primal landed in front of Bonecrusher and stared at Megatron. Cheetor and Dinobot ran into the clearing, and Rattrap and Armordillo, both riding on Rhinox’s back, came in next. Megatron looked around, then looked back at Optimus. “You have the day, Primal,” he said, then turned to leave. Inferno fired a shot in the middle of the clearing. The Maximals shielded their eyes from the explosion, and when the dust settled again this time, the Predacons were gone. Inferno’s jetpack could be heard above them, along with his laughter. “At least we recovered our troops,” Optimus said. He turned towards the new troops, “I’m Optimus Primal, leader of this team of Maximals...” **** Megatron slammed his hand down on the computer console. “Urgh!” he yelled, “Now, the score is even, Primal...our teams are almost evenly matched.” Blackarachnia stepped in front of him. “Then I have something you’ll like.” She stepped aside, revealing Ramhorn. Megatron stood with his mouth agape. He pointed to the new Predacon, “Where...where did this one come from? Was his stasis pod not tracked by the computer? “I MADE him,” she replied. “Show me,” he commanded. In Blackarachnia’s quarters, the Predacons all crowded around to see what was going on. Blackarachnia took out another tuber with a plasma-like fluid in it. She turned around and showed it to Megatron. “This is what a protoform starts out to be in its first stages. I made it from some spare molecules. THAT isn’t the hard part,” she turned towards her stasis pod, “The hard part is expanding the fluid, giving it shape, and creating a spark.” She picked up the magna-pulse emitter from the table and placed it in the pod. She put the tube of liquid in the middle of it. “I have devised a way to artificially expand and shape the form with the use of this emitter. Its electromagnetic emissions bend the liquid into its desired programmed shape,” she turned the machine on. The emitter hummed. “After that, it takes a concentrated beam of electricity, given by the ports I designed and built on the sides of this pod.” She typed in a few commands in her control pad. “Of course, you know that no two sparks can be alike, so I have to alter the electric signal just a bit.” She pressed the button on the pod and the liquid began to take shape. The electricity ports on the side began to light up. “Now, we watch,” she said. Megatron leaned in closer. The form took shape, and the electric waves penetrated its outer covering. A meter on the side of the pod showed a life pulse. She pressed another button and the device fed in a DNA code. The body started to form fingers and elbows, and shoulders, and a head. The shoulder twitched, and a finger moved. Tarantulus chuckled. The body moved, and stood up. Thin wings protruded from his back, and engorging themselves with mech fluid, they began to grow even larger. “Cicadon...Terrorize!” The robot transformed into a small insect, and flew towards Blackarachnia. It landed on her shoulder. Ramhorn growled. “You have done well, Blackarachnia,” Megatron said, “How many more will you be able to make?” “With the right materials, and enough energy supply...as many as you want.” “Good. Ramhorn, Cicadon...follow me...I would like to test your skills.” Megatron left the room. Ramhorn followed. Cicadon transformed and looked back at Blackarachnia. She nodded her head. Cicadon left the room. “WELL?!” she screeched at the other Predacons, standing dumbfounded around the room, “LEAVE!” Waspinator turned around and ran straight into a wall. Terrorsaur picked him up and guided him out of the room. Soon, all of the Predacons had filed out...save the one with his arms crossed, leaning against the wall in the shadows. Blackarachnia smiled. Tarantulus chuckled and walked over to her. “Do you think he suspects anything?” she asked him. “He probably has some suspicions...but no facts to base his suspicions on. Still, we better be careful to keep ‘our little secret.’” She ran her claw down his chest and stared into his eyes. He embraced her and kissed her gently on the mouth. He smiled. She smiled. He chuckled and turned to leave the room. Megatron, in the War Simulation room, the other two Predacons battling it out behind him, stared at the viewscreen at the two spiders and frowned. "Scorponok," Megatron said, "Come to the War Simulation room at once. I need you to run some tests..." **** The Maximals, all in Beast Mode, were just returning to the base. Airazor flew ahead to make sure everything was clear. “Cybershark,” Optimus said. “Cybershark here.” “Take Sentinel offline for now. We’re coming in.” “Aye. Over and out.” Wolfang and Rattrap hung near the back of the group. They were both laughing. “Hey,” Wolfang said, “Did you hear the one about the two robots walking into a refueling station...” Dinobot talked up front with Bonecrusher. “Have you had much experience in fighting?” Dinobot asked. “Well, back on Cybertron, I was involved mostly in street brawls, but...” “Ah,” Dinobot said, “But a warrior comes in all forms.” Cheetor and Tigatron were the first to go up the entry lifts. Tigatron was quiet as usual, and Cheetor was yakking away as he always did. When they got inside, Tigatron transformed and sat down at the main table, and Cheetor ran off to the repair bay where Cybershark was. Claw Jaw entered the room just as Optimus and Rhinox came up. “Are the modifications to the pods finished?” Optimus asked. “Yes. We’re waiting for your next order.” The lift returned with Wolfang and Rattrap inside. “...And he said, ‘That’s not MY Microbot you’ve got there, is it?’” Rattrap exploded with laughter, and put his arm around Wolfang’s neck. “I see we’re gonna get along JUST fine, kid!” he told him. Optimus smirked and shook his head. “C’mon, you guys, let’s go get these pods shells.” **** Sparks flew from the cannon housing. Scorponok stood back and surveyed his work. He looked back at the blueprint display. He leaned back over the housing, and welded some more. Tarantulus entered the room and looked around. Waspinator was welding one titanium rod to another with his eye beams, Razorclaw was clipping several lengths of wire, Scorponok was working on the housing, and Snapper and Spittor were just standing there. Scorponok looked up. “Almost done,” he said. “Good,” said Tarantulus, “And how soon will the others be finished?” Scorponok looked back at Spittor and Snapper. “It may be awhile,” he replied. Tarantulus walked over to where the two robots were. “And what are WE doing?” Tarantulus said in his sweetest voice. Spittor slobbered and smiled. Snapper said, “Ar, we be just admir’in the view.” “Razorclaw,” he said. Razorclaw stamped over. “Give these two slack-bots something to do.” Razorclaw clamped onto Spittor’s neck. He continued to smile and slobber. Razorclaw hefted him up and looked down at Snapper. “Come with me,” he said. Snapper did an overenthusiastic salute, and walked behind him. Tarantulus sighed and looked at the display pad. He picked up a coil of wires and went to work. **** Down at the falls beneath the Axalon, Cybershark and Claw Jaw dropped their pod shell onto the ground. Cybershark rested against a rock and sighed heavily. Claw Jaw remained silent, his tentacles still in motion. Optimus and Rhinox lugged a bigger piece of the station to where the other piece sat and let it down easy. Optimus squeezed his shoulder. It was still a bit sore from the wound Blackarachnia’s grappling hook made. Optimus looked up the bank, and spotted the rest of his troops slowly, but surely, making their way towards them with their shells. Rhinox pointed towards the water. "Your start point in the water will be about 300 meters away from the falls. That should give you enough time to get your bearings." Cybershark nodded his head. “Let’s get started,” Optimus said. Rhinox pressed a button on the inside of the shell, and a few wires protruded from it. A clamp opened up around the sides of the shell. Cybershark and Claw Jaw pulled their piece over to the other and put the two together. The clamp on the inside of the shell rotated into place and clamped on to the other piece. **** Terrorsaur returned from his scouting mission and ran to Megatron’s chair. “The Maximals...they have a base...and they’re going to launch it...and...” “Catch your breath,” Megatron said, “What are you saying?” “The Maximals...are building a base...it’s smaller than the Axalon, but it looks like a killer whale...and they’re pretty close to launching it...” “Tarantulus!” Megatron yelled, hitting the view-com. Tarantulus’ face came up on the screen. “It is evident that the Maximals know about the Energon deposits in the ocean...how soon will you be ready to launch?” “Not soon enough, I’m afraid,” Tarantulus replied. Megatron hit his computer console and growled. “Terrorsaur!” Terrorsaur make a slight squeaking noise and stood up straight. Megatron put his hand up to his head and thought for a moment. He then looked back at the new Predacons. “Take those two, along with Sea Clamp, Razorclaw, Blackarachnia, and Inferno. Your mission: destruction of the new Maximal base.” Terrorsaur saluted him and turned around. Megatron slammed his hand down on the console again. Again Tarantulus’ face came up on the screen. “Hurry up, you fools!” he yelled. **** At last, the station was complete. The killer whale, dubbed Orcanoch, sat upon the beach, its black and white shell gleaming in the afternoon light. "The solar panels that are imbedded into the whale's beast shell will power its transformation if it ever happened to get caught on land," said Rhinox. He patted the beast shell and smiled. Then he stood back and commanded, “Orcanoch...Maximize!” All of the Maximals stepped back. The whale’s internal engines whirred, and the front of it opened up slowly. The whale’s back split open and spread out in a platform, and the tail flipped up and out, revealing a gun port. The front of the whale jerked violently as it struggled to open all the way. “It’s jammed,” Rhinox said, running towards the front of the whale with a torque-wrench. He adjusted a few screws, and the front slid open fluidly. A panel opened up on the platform and a rod started to telescope upwards. At the end of the rod, a crow’s nest opened up. Finally, the station had finished transforming. “Where’d you get the idea for its shape, Rhinox?” Optimus asked. “It was something I read on earth’s history. They had these sea-going vessels, made out of wood, called “boats,” and I thought it would be neat to actually make one and see what it was like.” “Nice job,” Cheetor commented. “Thanks,” Rhinox replied. A pulse impacted with the ground in front of Claw Jaw. The Maximals looked up, and saw Inferno and Terrorsaur descending on them. “Battle positions, Maximals!” Optimus yelled. The rest of the team transformed and began shooting at the intruders. Blackarachnia and Razorclaw crept unseen to the fighting Maximals and circled around behind them. Sea Clamp transformed, and came attacking from the front. Inferno and Terrorsaur fired on Orcanoch. Sea Clamp fired randomly. Optimus shielded himself from one of the blasts. “Ungh!” he cried, “They’re aiming for the base! We’ve got to get it to water!” Rhinox nodded, then spoke into his comport. “Claw Jaw, Cybershark, Armordillo...get in the station and transform it...we need to get you guys to the water!” The three heard the command and ran towards the station. The others gave them cover fire. Rattrap and Bonecrusher kept firing into the air. Inferno and Terrorsaur hovered in the air for a moment, the blasts whizzing past them. “Go for the base!” Terrorsaur commanded. Inferno shook his head, and went into a dive. Cybershark jumped into his seat, and turned on the console at his station. Claw Jaw manned the guns and fired away. Armordillo stood on the platform and fired as well. “C’mon, c’mon, boot up!” yelled Cybershark, waiting for the console to warm up. Inferno landed on the platform with a thud. Armordillo stopped shooting and turned around. He looked up. Inferno had his gun pointed at him. “Death to all who oppose The Royalty!” he yelled, and was carried off the station by Claw Jaw’s ion cannon blast. Armordillo gave him a thumbs up, and Claw Jaw did the same. “He’s only ONE Predacon!” Dinobot screamed, motioning towards Sea Clamp. He, Wolfang, and Bonecrusher charged towards Sea Clamp's position. Blackarachnia and Razorclaw transformed and started firing from behind the Maximals. Rattrap was hit in the back. “What the slag!” he screamed out. Tigatron fired away, while running towards Rattrap's position. He crouched near him and looked at his wound. "I-is it bad?" Rattrap asked. Tigatron sighed, "You better go to Beast Mode." "Awww, man!" Rattrap said. Razorclaw was relentless with his pulse rifle, keeping the Maximals pinned down behind their positions. “No, no, NO!” screamed Blackarachnia, “Fire at the STATION!” Razorclaw obeyed, and fired at the station. With Razorclaw preoccupied, Rhinox stood up and took out both of his chain guns. He aimed them, braced himself, and fired away. Blackarachnia screamed as she saw the barrage of bullets headed toward her and put her arms in front of her to shield herself. Razorclaw saw her and jumped in front of her, taking the brunt of Rhinox's blasts. Blackarachnia smiled. She could get used to having her mate's lackey as a personal bodyguard. Razorclaw turned his full attention to Rhinox, his pulse rifle smoking from overuse. Rhinox ducked back behind the rock. The console screen finally came up and Cybershark typed in the commands for navigation. The console recessed into the hull, and a hand-activated navigation pad moved forward. Cybershark placed his hands on the pads and looked back at his comrades. "Let's DO this!" he yelled. Armordillo and Claw Jaw turned around. "Arooo-ha!" they shouted. Blackarachnia and Razorclaw looked at each other. Optimus looked at Rhinox and shrugged. Cybershark shouted, "Orcanoch...BEAST MODE!" Orcanoch transformed, slowly but surely, and the engines whirred in anticipation. Blackarachnia and Razorclaw continued to blast away at Orcanoch, most of their blasts deflecting off of the shield, weakened by all of the firepower being thrown at it. It was dark inside the station. "Lights," commanded Cybershark. A dim light source emanated from the front of his console. "The bare necessities," he sighed. In his huddled position, Cybershark yelled back at Armordillo and Claw Jaw. "Everybody all right back there?" Armordillo's face came up on one of the three consoles in front of Cybershark. "H-hangin' tight," he said. Claw Jaw's face came up next. He gave a thumbs-up towards the camera. "Rhinox!" Cybershark yelled over the intercom, "Give us a push, willya?!" Rhinox heard the transmission, and peeked over the rock that he and Optimus were holding their position from. "Cover me," Rhinox said. One blast hit hard, and Orcanoch rocked from the impact. Sirens wailed on the station, and Cybershark grimaced. "C'mon, Rhinox, we need you NOW!" The three felt a strong thud on the back of the station, and Claw Jaw heard a grunt. "Get ready," Rhinox said, "Cause here you goooooooo!" With that, Rhinox pushed the station towards the water. Blackarachnia and Razorclaw noticed the immense station headed straight for them. Both dove out of the way as the Rhinox-powered killer whale barreled past them. With a heavy grunt, Rhinox pushed hard and let go as the whale crashed into the water. "They're on their own now," he thought, as he readied his chain guns. He turned around and pointed his guns at the two Predacons. "Retreat!" Terrorsaur screamed, flying away. Rhinox stood over the two Predacons, and they looked at each other. "Mmmm, mmmm, mmmmmm..." Rhinox said. Under heavy fire, Blackarachnia and Razorclaw ran off of the beach and past Sea Clamp, who was being held by Wolfang and Bonecrusher. The two had Sea Clamp pinned down, and Dinobot was on the brink of either beating him savagely or taking him as a hostage. He didn't like either choice. There was no honor in beating a robot while others held him back, and he'd rather kill the intruder than have him still function. Dinobot's hesitation in judgment gave Sea Clamp the moment he needed. He saw his comrades retreating and was stricken with a mild case of cowardice. He caught the two holding him off guard and ran to catch up with his comrades. "Beast mode...everyone," Optimus commanded, "Back to the Axalon...we can determine Orcanoch's state from there." His troops transformed and headed back to the ship. Optimus walked with Rhinox. "Five Predacons and seven Maximals...and we couldn't hold them off any better than this," Optimus said, somewhat disheartened. "Remember," reminded Rhinox, "Most of us have absolutely ZERO combat experience." "I know," sighed Optimus, "I just wish we were better prepared." Optimus patched in to the comm. signal. “Change in plans, people," he announced, "Wolfang...you, Bonecrusher, and Cheetor go on a scouting patrol at the Predacon base. I want to be made aware of anything that's going on." "Acknowledged..." "And be careful." "No problem. Wolfang out." "I wonder how THEY'RE doing," Rhinox said. Cybershark struggled to get the station under control. After Rhinox had launched them, they had gone underwater and into a spin towards the falls. He knew he had to get the station stabilized before attempting to go over. "Everybody," he announced, "Hold on to something...it's gonna be a bumpy ride." Part 5: Anchors Aweigh "Alright," Cybershark thought, "We need to get the systems on-line." He spoke into the communicator, "Armordillo, get the valves primed for water flow!" "Yes, sir!" he replied. "Claw Jaw...get the cyberbladder filled...we need to get out of this spin." Claw Jaw started working. "Viewscreen," Cybershark said. The optics imbedded in the killer whale's beast eye turned on. Cybershark looked at the monitor. He squinted. It was hard to tell by sight how far they were from the edge of the falls. All of a sudden, the whale stopped spinning. "Stabilized," said Claw Jaw. "Fluid valves ready to go!" said Armordillo, "You can switch to hydro-power now." Cybershark typed in a few commands. He heard the roaring rumble of the water being pumped through the valves, and he put his hands on the navigation pad. "Engines, full reverse!" he commanded. The whale slowed and stopped. The valves and gears made a grinding noise, then the whale slowly started to propel itself backwards. "Alright!" Armordillo yelled. "We're not out of the battlefield yet, guys," Cybershark reminded, "We still need to get past these falls." He pressed a button on the computer console. "Release aqua-probe." There was a hissing sound, followed by a hollow thump. The probe was now in position. The mouth of the whale opened up and the probe shot out towards the falls. "Plot distance from Orcanoch to waterfalls and from waterfalls to the fall's wake." "Acknowledged," the computer said. Cybershark jerked back in surprise from hearing the computer's voice. "That sounds like Rhinox," said Armordillo. "Well, he DID design this thing," Cybershark commented. A graph replaced the viewscreen in front of Cybershark. It showed where the probe was, how it was moving, and traced the probe's path. "Distance from station to falls...approximately 130 meters ahead. Distance from falls to fall's wake...waiting..." A screen-saver came up. It showed the Maximal symbol, floating around in space. Cybershark pushed a button and the screen-saver was replaced by the graph. "...Probe damaged...unable to fulfill last request." "Oh, that's just great," Claw Jaw said, to the surprise of his crewmates, then he became silent again. "We'll just have to chance it," Cybershark announced. "Computer...use plotted graph to fulfill next commands...once Orcanoch is within five meters of the falls, deploy grappling hook. Allow four meters of cord to be released." "Computing..." said the computer, "Done." Cybershark pressed one of the buttons on the navigation pads. The station started to move forward. "Here we go!" he yelled. Orcanoch bumped into a rock and the crewmen inside braced themselves. The whale weaved back and forth under the ever-growing speed of the rapids. "Count down the distance to the falls," Cybershark said. "90 meters," the computer said. It made Cybershark feel a bit safer to know exactly how far away he was from the falls. Inferno landed on the ridge overlooking the falls. He pulled his gun out and cocked it. He took it off of its "flame" setting and waited. His optics zoomed in on the last few meters of the falls. "80 meters." "Where are they?" Optimus asked. Rhinox pointed to the graph. There was a small green dot moving southward on the graph. Optimus noticed a smaller red dot farther down on the graph. "Computer...identify red signal," he commanded. "Predacon signature," it replied. "I wonder if I could make it there in time," he thought. "Rhinox," he said, "Contact them over the comm...just in case I don't make it there in time." Rhinox nodded his head. Optimus transformed and fired up his jet packs. The panel on the ceiling opened up, and he blasted through it. "65 meters." Cybershark pressed the navi-pad harder and the station started to speed up. "50 meters." "40 meters." "30 meters." "Ambush!" yelled Rhinox, "There's a Pred up over the cliff's waiting to ambush you guys. Optimus should be there soon." Cybershark slowed the station to a stop. "Are there any weapons other than the grappling hook that we can use in beast mode?" "Nope," Rhinox replied, "Except for the Echo-guns, but they only work underwater." "Then we'll just wait it out." Optimus flew faster and faster between the cliff, hoping to reach the falls in time. Inferno spotted a shadow in the water. He put his optics on full magnification and saw that it was the station. He took aim and fired. The water splashed around Orcanoch. "Incoming!" Cybershark yelled. Inferno laughed. "Death to the Maximals!" Optimus hovered lower behind Inferno and took aim. "I'm afraid your mission will have to be postponed," Optimus said. Inferno turned around and caught a pulse in the chest. He fell to the ground. He pointed his gun at Optimus and fired. Optimus dodged his attack and knocked the gun out of his hand. He grabbed onto Inferno and picked him up. He disconnected the wire to Inferno's rocket pack and threw him over the cliff. Inferno went screaming all the way to the bottom and was silenced by the rushing waves below. He was carried by the strong current out to the ocean. "Must...get back to the Colony," he thought. Optimus patched into the comm. "You're clear." "Thanks, Optimus," said Cybershark. He pressed the navi-pad and the station moved forward. "30 meters." "20 meters." "10 meters." The grappling hook housing clicked, and the back of the whale opened up slightly. "5 meters...grappling hook deployment." The grappling hook shot out of the back of the whale and planted itself in the mud beneath the water. Orcanoch continued to move forward. Cybershark grimaced, hoping the grappling hook had caught. Armordillo grasped the sides of his compartment. Claw Jaw turned on a virtual video simulation game that Cheetor had let him borrow. He blasted away at aliens. Just as the station began to go over the falls, all movement stopped. Armordillo fell forward, then steadied himself. "Computer," Cybershark said, "Using the grappling cord, lower Orcanoch down the falls...alert me when all of the cord is used up." "Acknowledged." The cord started lowering the station. "Computer," he said again, "Build up some water pressure in the whale's beast head." "What are you planning?" asked Armordillo. "If we don't have enough cord, we'll have to fall the rest of the way...and I want the explosion of the pressurized water to give us some cushion." The grappling cord system creaked. The station stopped moving. "Cord is at its full length," the computer announced. "Computer...how far are we down the falls?" "Unable to comply...probe did not send back information." "Oh yeah," Cybershark though, remembering. The station creaked again. "On my mark," said Cybershark, "Declamp the grappling hook." "Claw Jaw," he said. Claw Jaw looked up from his game. "Yes?" "Get the cyberbladder deflated. I don't want to risk bursting the bladder on impact." "Yes, sir." Cybershark took a deep breath and waited. "Cyberbladder deflated," said Claw Jaw. "Mark!" yelled Cybershark. The grappling hook detached and the station began to fall. Armordillo held on tight to the sides of his compartment. Cybershark gripped his console. Claw Jaw paused his video game. "Ahhhhhhhhhhh!" screamed Armordillo, as the station sped up. Cybershark looked at the viewscreen, the wake of the falls rushing up towards him. "Release pressurized water!" he yelled. The mouth of the station opened up, and a stream of gas shot out, slowing the station's descent. "Argh!" cried Cybershark, "This won't be enough!" The station shook as it went faster and faster down the falls. Optimus watched as Orcanoch crashed into the fall's wake, displacing a huge amount of water on impact. All was dark on the station. "Everyone still here?" asked Cybershark. "What a RUSH!" yelled Armordillo. "What?!" asked Claw Jaw, now playing Cheetor's video game. "Lights," Cybershark commanded. The dim lights came on. "Inflate the cyberbladder, Claw Jaw," he said. The killer whale breached the water, its skin sparkling. Optimus smiled. "They made it." Rhinox turned to the others. "They made it!" The other Maximals cheered. Airazor hugged Dinobot, who happened to be standing next to her. Dinobot growled as she squeezed him. A somewhat-garbled transmission came over the comm. "Thanks...you guys...couldn't have done it without you..." "No problem...you guys need anything?" Rhinox asked. "Well, tell Cheetor I'll need a new game," Claw Jaw said, "I've almost beaten this one." Optimus and the others laughed. "You guys will be fine. I'm coming back to base," Optimus said. He fired his jet packs and flew back towards the Axalon. "We'll contact you when we find Energon," announced Cybershark, "Cybershark...out." The killer whale drifted out towards the sea. Part 6: Weaving Webs Of Destruction Wolfang, Bonecrusher, and Cheetor crouched at the perimeter of the Predacon's turf. All three watched the Predacon's activity. All of the Predacons were outside of the base, working like bees to finish up their station. "Whoa," whispered Cheetor, "What do you think they're building?" "I dunno," answered Bonecrusher, "But it probably has something to do with what we were building." "The Energon deposits!" exclaimed Cheetor, almost too loud, "They must be trying to do the same thing we're doing!" "What the..." said Wolfang, peering into the crowd of Predacons, "I thought there were supposed to be ten Preds." "Yeah, that's right," said Cheetor. "Then why the slag are there TWELVE?!" Cheetor jerked his head towards the group and his optics zoomed in. He spotted two new Predacons, both working on the structure. "Whoa, major pain...we must've missed two stasis pods!" Cheetor said. He spoke into his communicator, "Rhinox, we've got a problem here." Rhinox hit a button to broadcast the signal all over the ship. "Go ahead," he said. "We must've missed two stasis pods, cause there are two new Preds!" "But..." Rhinox said, looking over at the graph of the pods in orbit, "we have the same number of pods left in the stratosphere that we had after Wolfang and Bonecrusher arrived!" "Then there's only one other alternative," Optimus said, entering the room with Dinobot and Rattrap, "They've found a way to create sparks." Cheetor growled, "Well, we're not just gonna stand around and let them keep whatever is making these sparks, are we?!" Cheetor stood up. "Wait for reinforcements," Optimus said. "But..." said Cheetor. "THAT'S an order!" commanded Optimus, "Optimus out." "Let's go, Maximals!" he shouted, "Prime yourselves for battle." "What's the plan of action?" Rhinox asked. "We storm the Pred base. The others will get inside and get the device." "Normally, I'd be gung-ho for Pred-stompin' action. But we're only ten to their twelve," argued Rattrap, "Even with twelve, we'd hardly stand a chance. And besides, they have home-court advantage!" "They wouldn't expect an attack now," Optimus replied, "Maybe we can't give them heavy damage, but we'll at least serve as a diversion for the others to get inside and get their device. Now, let's go!" All of the Maximals headed for the exit ports. **** "Man, I hate all this waiting around," griped Cheetor, pacing back and forth. "Calm down, man," said Wolfang, "You heard Optimus; we wait for reinforcements. We'll all get our chance to bust some Pred-heads." Cheetor sighed, "Yeah...but...I wonder how Cybershark and the others are doing?" **** Out in the deeper parts of the ocean, Orcanoch weaved its way through coral reefs. "Inventory check," said Cybershark to Armordillo, "How many aqua-probes do we have left?" "About four more," he replied. "Good. Launch one of them now." "Launching." The probe shot out of the whale's mouth and started to transmit. "This should tell us where the most abundant Energon sources are," Cybershark announced, "But it'll be awhile before the probe's done gathering all of its information. Right now, I say we test this baby's systems out." Claw Jaw turned his game off and looked at his console. "We have to find a target first," he said. "Do we have any practice targets on the station?" Cybershark asked. "Yeah, about twenty. They're small, but they emit a strong signal," answered Armadillo, "How many do you want me to launch?" "Make it two." "Two it is." Three practice targets ejected from the whale's blowhole and went in separate directions. "I've set one to home in on our signal after about three cycles," Armordillo said, "The other is for hunting." "Let's do it," said Claw Jaw. Cybershark locked onto the first target and pressed the navi-pads, making the station move after it. "Target almost in range," Claw Jaw said. "I'll take the Echo guns," said Cybershark, "Claw Jaw, you man the ink jets and Armordillo, you sit tight...Rhinox said it'd be a week or so before they could integrate more weapons into Orcanoch's system." "Target in range," Claw Jaw said. Cybershark pressed a button on his console and a visor came down from the top of the cockpit over his eyes. Two shafts telescoped upwards out of the navi-pad, with a button at each tip. Cybershark held onto the shaft and pressed the buttons. A powerful echo emanated from the whale, headed straight for the target. It impacted with the target and broke its outer covering. The target then detonated. "Whoa!" said Armordillo, "How does that thing work?" "It involves echolocation, a communication and defense technique used by bats and dolphins to either communicate with each other or shock their prey into submission. It's a high-pitched sound that can't be detected by any other animals." A signal showed up on Claw Jaw's console. "We got another target coming up from behind," he said. "You know what to do," Cybershark said. Claw Jaw pressed a button on his console, and two holes opened up on the tail of the whale. Ink squirted out of the holes. Cybershark pressed a button on the navi-pads and Orcanoch veered to the right. The target went into the inky fog and stayed there, its sensors confused. Cybershark aimed at the black cloud and fired. The target blew up. "Handles like a charm," Cybershark said, patting the navi-pads. "Another signal's coming back," Claw Jaw announced, "It's the probe." "Run it to my console," Cybershark commanded. Information was displayed on his console screen. "Looks like this is it, boys," he said, "Energon, ho!" **** Dinobot stuck his head through the bushes. He "Pssssst"-ed at Cheetor. Cheetor turned around and walked towards him. "Our forces are in readiness," he said, "Optimus wants Bonecrusher with us. You two will get inside the Predacon base while we keep them...preoccupied." Cheetor nodded. "You may begin," said Dinobot over the comm. "Maxmials...MAXIMIZE!" Optimus yelled, and the Maximals charged out of the shrubbery towards the Predacons. "Agh!" yelled Megatron, at this oncoming onslaught, "Predacon's...ATTACK!" The Predacon's dropped the various equipment that each was working on and ran to engage the charging Maximals. "Wait for it," said Wolfang, looking at Cheetor, poised to run. Both teams dove at each other, and a horrendous clashing of metal ensued. "Now!" Wolfang said. The two ran towards the Predacon base, unhindered by the fighting Predacons. Both ran inside the ship. "I just thought of something," said Cheetor, looking around the humungous Predacon ship, "Where is it?" Wolfang transformed. "Well, since it is a device, an invention, per se, we have three choices..." "Scorponok, Blackarachnia, or Tarantulus!" said Cheetor. He transformed as well. "I've been in this base a few times, I think Scorponok's quarters are down that way," Cheetor said, pointing down a corridor. "I'll check Tarantulus' and Blackarachnia's." Wolfang ran off down the corridor. Cheetor ran in the other direction. Bonecrusher picked Waspinator and Terrorsaur up by the heads and slammed them both together. He dropped both of them on the ground and put his hands together. "Oh, I LIKE this!" he said. Optimus had Megatron's cannon in his grip, and his wrist cannon aimed at Megatron. Megatron leaned away from Optimus' arm and held it away with his tail shield. "Well done...Primal," Megatron said, struggling, "Catching us all off guard...you really have outdone yourself this time." "I...try, Megatron," Optimus said, struggling as well. "But THIS time, Primal," Megatron started, "I am prepared." Rhinox fired at the station that all of the Predacons were working on. Tarantulus screamed, "Nooooo!" "Now you know how I feel," he said. "You fool!" yelled Tarantulus, laughing maniacally, "You shall meet your doom!" Tarantulus turned towards Sea Clamp, Ramhorn, and Cicadon and screamed, "Transform! Phase One!" They all paid no attention to him. Tarantulus sputtered. "I said TRANSFORM! You are under MY control!" Megatron threw Optimus down on the ground. "I think NOT, Tarantulus," said Megatron, "For I found out about your little scheme, however brilliant, after Scorponok scanned them for me." Optimus stood up and listened. Megatron continued. "You, and Blackarachnia, had plans to use this weapon against ME. No doubt Terrorsaur hand a hand in this as well." Terrorsaur coughed. "However, I bear you no ill will. If it had not been for the conspiracies of the both of you, I would not have this great power. Thank you, Tarantulus." Tarantulus started to tremble. Blackarachnia backed away. Megatron turned towards Sea Clamp, Ramhorn, and Cicadon, who, along with the other Predacons and Maximals, had paused in their fighting to listen to him. "TriPredacons...TRANSFORM! PHASE ONE!" Megatron yelled. The three transformed. "Oh, no..." said Rhinox. "TriPredacons...TRANSFORM! PHASE TWO! AND MERGE INTO..." The three flew into the air and yelled simultaneously, "TRIPREDACUS!" A bright light flashed from the sky and all of the transformers shielded their eyes from it. Two giant balls of light flashed into place, and a roaring laughter resounded throughout a five mile radius. Then the balls of light disappeared and all of the transformers waited for their eyes to adjust to the change in lighting. Towering over all of them, a full five meters tall, stood Tripredacus. "Hmmm," commented Megatron, "Not as big as Devastator, but it'll do." Megatron looked over at Optimus and laughed. "Attack them Tripredacus!" he commanded. Tripredacus looked down at the Maximals. "PREPARE TO BE ONE WITH THE MATRIX, MAXIMALS." he said, "FOR THE TIME OF YOUR JUDGMENT HAS ARRIVED!" Tripredacus' eyes lit up, electricity crackling around them, and two beams shot out of them, leaving a crater in the ground and Maximals scattered about. Megatron felt an Energon surge and he turned to the rest of his troops. "Convert back to Beast mode!" he cried. All of them transformed and backed away to let Tripredacus finish off the Maximals. "Retreat!" yelled Optimus, a word he would have never envisioned himself saying. "What about Cheetor and Wolfang?" yelled Rhinox. Optimus turned towards the Predacon ship, as Tripredacus started to rumble towards them, recharging his eye beams. Cheetor and Wolfang came running out of the base, in Battle mode, and stopped when they saw Tripredacus. "Cheetor, Wolfang, retreat!" yelled Optimus, "Head back to base!" Tripredacus stood over Dinobot and Tigatron. He kicked Tigatron, who skidded to a stop just short of the forest, leaving a crater-trail behind him. Tripredacus reached down and grabbed Dinobot, then picked him up. He squeezed. Dinobot screamed, "Eat Slag!" and shot his eye beams at him. They made no damage. Tripredacus smiled, and reeled back. He then pitched forward, and Dinobot went sailing over the treetops. The other Maximals had just now gotten to the forest's edge. Optimus picked up Tigatron, and he ordered Bonecrusher to retrieve Dinobot. "After them!" commanded Megatron. Tripredacus stomped off through the forest, pulling trees out of the ground and grinding them into the ground. Airazor flew into the air and shot at the Predacon gestalt, trying to stay at a safe distance. Tripredacus threw a tree at her. It missed. He then shot his eye beams at her. One of the beams contacted with her arm, and she crashed to the ground. Rattrap was the first to get to her. He surveyed the damage and saw that her arm was gone. "Ah, kid, we gotta get yas to base!" he said. He picked her up and ran through the forest. Optimus opened a channel for all to hear. "Anyone who can hear me, try to lure Tripredacus towards the ocean...I've got a plan." Rattrap continued to run towards the base with Airazor in his arms, hoping he wouldn't go into stasis lock before he got there. Optimus, Rhinox, Wolfang, Cheetor, and Bonecrusher, were running in a group towards the ocean. Optimus felt an Energon surge. He transformed. Bonecrusher felt a surge, too, and transformed. The rest of them transformed as well, and they all hid in the shrubbery. "I couldn't find Dinobot," said Bonecrusher. "We got the device," puffed Cheetor. "Well, that's ONE thing that's good," puffed Optimus, "Put it in subspace for now." Cheetor did so. "I don't understand," puffed Optimus, "He should be feeling some form of Energon contamination by now." Rhinox sighed, "It's the way I designed the gestalt program. Once the Preds used my program for Sea Clamp, they duplicated it for the rest of them. Each piece contains one section of a shield generator. Once they're together, the shield generator is complete, and they have their own shield. While it serves to protect him from Energon poisoning, it also serves to protect him from any energy attacks." "Well, we have to take out that shield," Optimus said, "Once that's out of the way, we'll stand a better chance." Optimus looked over to where trees were flying from. "You say it deflects energy blasts?" asked Optimus. "Yep," Rhinox replied. "Well, how about a non-energy weapon?" "Optimus," a voice rasped over the comm. "Wh...?" "It's Dinobot." "Are you alright?" "I'll manage," he replied. "I overheard what you all were talking about," Dinobot rasped, "Tell me where the generator is, and I shall attempt to dismantle it." "That's too dangerous," said Optimus, "In your condition..." "I am AWARE of my condition, Optimus, but I will take this monstrosity down...one way or another. It is the Way or The Warrior. Where is the generator located?" "In the chest plate...right underneath the chest plate," Rhinox answered, "You'll have to use a non-energy weapon. The way this generator is built, that's the only thing that'll penetrate the shield." "My sword shall aid me." "We'll wait for your signal," said Optimus. "Just watch for an explosion," Dinobot replied, and switched off his comm. **** Claw Jaw deflated the cyberbladder, and Orcanoch slowly floated to the surface. "This looks like as good a place as any," Cybershark said, "Prepare for transformation." He spoke into the computer comm., "Orcanoch, MAXIMIZE!" The killer whale slowly transformed, with Claw Jaw up in the gun port, Armordillo on the platform, and Cybershark in the escape pod. Cybershark stepped out of the cockpit and stretched his legs. "Alright," he said, "Let's get the Energon filters out and..." His comm. squealed. He tapped it. A garbled message came in. "Come in, Cybershark...this is Optimus Primal....under heavy fire...Predacon gestalt...need your assistance...go to grid omega..." "Change of plans, fellas," he said. They each got into their respective ports, and Cybershark gave the command for Orcanoch's transformation. Orcanoch's engines fired up, and the killer whale swam at full speed towards the coordinates. Part 7: Ultimate Weapons Tripredacus stomped through the forest, knocking down trees and scanning for the Maximals. "YOU CANNOT HIDE FOREVER, MAXIMALS!" he thundered. "I'm confident that Dinobot can do this. He's a warrior," Rhinox said, to a worried Optimus, "...If anyone can do this, it's Dinobot." "Maybe you're right," said Optimus. Tigatron moaned and sat up. "What's going on?" he asked. He felt a sharp pain on the side of his head. "Wait...I remember," he said. "Dinobot is going to try to take the generator out of Tripredacus," Bonecrusher said. "We need to spread out," Optimus said, "After Dinobot takes out that generator, we need to be in a position to attack him from all sides." Tripredacus walked into a clearing. Optimus jumped out of the bushes and transformed. He pointed his wrist cannon at him and fired. The blast was deflected off of the shield, but the force of the blast pushed Tripredacus backwards. Tripredacus planted his foot in the ground to keep him from fall backwards. "YOU SHALL PAY FOR YOUR INSOLENCE, WORM." Optimus yelled up at him, "You have to catch me first!" Optimus fired up his jetpacks and flew away. Tripredacus thrust his arms into the air and roared. Lightning flashed, and a light drizzle began to come down. Tripredacus went tearing through the forest after Optimus. The other Maximals, hidden in the bushes, came out and followed the two. **** Finally, Rattrap reached the base. "Sentinel, stand down," he commanded. "Sentinel, off-line," the computer said, "Welcome, Rattrap." "Eh, stuff it," he replied. He took Airazor inside, and placed her inside one of the CR-Chambers. He walked over to the console and turned it on. "I gotta find out what the slag is goin' on," he said. Optimus was flying through the air, towards the beach, when his comm came on. "Heh, feahless leader, glad to see you're still functional!" "Rattrap! Where are you?" "Eh, Airazor got hit bad, and I brought her back to the base. Anything I can do from heah?" "Let me get back to you on that," he said, "Just keep the base secure. Optimus, over and out." Orcanoch made its way to the beach-line. "Optimus," said Cybershark. "Optimus here." "We're almost there, Optimus...but we have a few parsecs to go." "Ugh!" grunted Optimus, "I'll try to hold things off here, but we don't have much time." "Acknowledged. Cybershark out." Optimus stopped and hovered in the air. Tripredacus ran up to him and fired his eye beams. One beam grazed his jet pack. "Ahh!" screamed Optimus, looking over his jet pack, "That was too close for comfort." He landed on the ground, converted to Beast mode, and hid in the bushes. "ARRRGGGHHH!!!" yelled Tripredacus, "PRIMAL! FIGHT LIKE A ROBOT!" Dinobot swung from one limb to another and landed in a tree near Tripredacus. He crouched low and took out his sword. "Do not fail me," he said to the sword. He waited for Tripredacus to turn around. Tripredacus stayed turned towards the bushes. "By the Inferno..." griped Dinobot, his eye beams charging up. Tripredacus was reaching down when he felt an energy blast hit him. Tripredacus whipped around. "WHO DARES?!" Dinobot leapt from the tree and landed on Tripredacus' shoulder. He flipped his sword around and stabbed it into his chest. Tripredacus threw his head back in pain. "I SHALL CRUSH YOU, I SHALL DISMANTLE YOU, I SHALL DESTROY YOU!" screamed Tripredacus, clutching at his chest. Dinobot twisted his blade and started to force it downward. Tripredacus started to bat at Dinobot, but Dinobot kept weaving from side to side, and had his claws firmly imbedded in his chestplate. Finally, Dinobot reached the spot where the generator was. It was a round, spinning device, similar to the one in the Axalon, only with a Predacon symbol on it. He drew back and paused for a moment. Dinobot threw back his head and let out a roar then plunged the blade deep into the generator. The explosion threw Dinobot back into the trees. Tripredacus held his chest as his shield crackled, then fizzled out of existence. Surge lines appeared over Tripredacus' body. He spotted Optimus in the bushes. Jerking from the pain, he reached down and seized Optimus and hoisted him high into the air. "I CAN...AT LEAST...DESTROY YOU,... PRIMAL!" he yelled, and started to squeeze him. Optimus growled. "Now!" he yelled. The other Maximals in the bushes started firing at the humungous robot, and Tripredacus released his grip on their leader. "YOU...SHALL ALL...PERISH!" screamed Tripredacus, powering up his eye beams. All of a sudden, a killer whale breached from out of the ocean and sailed up and towards Tripredacus. He turned around, spotted the black and white whale, and his mouth hung open. The whale crashed down upon him with a deafening thud, and then all was silent. Bonescrusher found Dinobot over in the bushes, his entire body riddled with gashes and leaking mech-fluid. "Has he been stopped?" Dinobot gurgled, fluid dripping from his mouth. Bonecrusher put his hand on Dinobot's shoulder. "You did it, friend." Dinobot laid his head back and his eyes started to fade. "Hold on, buddy," Bonecrusher said, "You're going to make it." "If not," Dinobot replied, "You WILL give me a warrior's funeral?" "Count on it...but DON'T count on dying." Dinobot chuckled and coughed. Optimus ran over to Dinobot. "We need to get you to a CR-Chamber ASAP!" Optimus said. "How...astute of you to notice," Dinobot said. Optimus picked Dinobot up and fired his jet packs. He looked over at Rhinox. "Tell Cybershark I'll be back to thank him." Rhinox nodded, and Optimus took off and headed for the base. "Let's move Orcanoch," Rhinox said. Bonecrusher, Cheetor, and Tigatron got on one side, and Rhinox and Wolfang got on the other. "One, two, three, lift!" said Rhinox. They all lifted the station up and off of Tripredacus. They walked the station over closer to the water and put it down. "You can transform the station now, Cybershark!" said Rhinox. Orcanoch transformed, and the three soldiers stepped out. All of the Maximals present walked over to where Tripredacus was. He was in a whale-sized crater, in three pieces. Each Predacon had some sort of damage on their bodies. Each had contamination surge lines all over their bodies and twitched periodically. The Maximals stood over the downed Predacons. "Mmmm..." said Rhinox, "Just goes to show you that ultimate weapons aren't all what they're cracked up to be." "You know, Rhinox, there's a moral here, but I really don't care to think about what it is," said Wolfang. All of the Maximals broke out laughing. **** Airazor stepped out of the CR-Chamber and looked at her arm. Rattrap was standing in front of her. "You okay, kid?" he asked. She leaned over to him, put her hands up to his head, and kissed him on the forehead. "Thanks," she said. Rattrap looked perplexed for a moment then smirked. "Eh, don't mention it." The ceiling panel opened up, and Optimus, with Dinobot in his arms, landed. Optimus walked over to the CR-Chamber and put Dinobot in. Optimus turned around and looked at Rattrap and Airazor. "What?" he asked. Airazor leaned against the wall and cast a glance at Rattrap. Rattrap returned the look and put his hands behind his back. "Nutin'...nutin'. Everything's secure." Optimus lifted his eyebrow. "Oookay," he said. I've got to go thank Cybershark and the others, you two hold the fort down. "Done and done," said Rattrap. Optimus flew out of the ship. "Um," said Rattrap. "If you're wondering about the kiss, don't worry about it," started Airazor, "It wasn't intended as serious...just a thank-you." "A-ahem, well, that's a relief," he replied. "I'm going to go find Tigatron," she said. "Yeah, I can hold tings down heah...take it easy." Airazor opened the ceiling hatch and flew out. Rattrap slammed his hands on the console. "The ONLY female in de group, and I messed it up!" he said, "Man, I can't WAIT to get back to Cybertron!" Optimus was flying towards the spot where he last saw his troops. He spotted them, some on the ground, some standing. He landed. Wolfang was on the ground holding his head, and Cheetor was holding onto his arm. "What happened?" Optimus asked. "The Preds ambushed us," Cheetor growled, "They took the TriPredacons." "Well, what about the device?" he asked. Cheetor looked down, then at his arm. "Vaped." "Well, at least the Predacons don't have it." Cybershark walked up to Optimus and Optimus took his hand. "Thanks for your help," he said. "Glad we could be of assistance," he replied. He turned toward Claw Jaw and Armordillo. "Well, we found what looks like a good Energon deposit, so..." "So, you better get back to it, I understand. Just...keep in touch." "Will do." "Let's get back to the base," Optimus said, "I think we all need a rest." Part 8: Lt. Cybershark and His Howling Commandoes Orcanoch returned to its previous position in the ocean. After Armordillo retrieved all of the aqua probes, Cybershark initiated the transformation procedure, and soon the base was ready for Energon transfer. Claw Jaw served as a lookout in the crow's nest, his gun port pointed at the sky. Down below, Armordillo and Cybershark were typing in commands for the Energon suction tubes. The tubes emerged from the side ports and went into the water. Each tube snaked down into the water until the scan readings on the platform detected the most Energon. The computer then initiated the Energon transfer, and water began to be sucked into the station. The filters inside the station separated the water from the Energon, and spewed the water out on the other side. The converters further stabilized the Energon, making it pure. The now-pure Energon was condensed into solid cubes, which were transferred to the storage area in the station's underside. "Optimus Primal," said Cybershark, "Come in, Optimus." A garbled reply came back, "Optimus here." "We've found a good deposit here...we'll probably have a full cargo hold by this afternoon. Where do you guys want to rendevous to pick it up?" Optimus looked at the computer console's map display. "We'll it looks like the closet beach is about five kilometers from here. I'll upload the coordinates." Cybershark received the coordinates. "Alright, we'll be there." "Optimus out." **** Sea Clamp, Ramhorn, and Cicadon were submerged in the CR-Chamber. Megatron growled and looked at Tarantulus. He then cast a quick look at Blackarachnia and Terrorsaur. He slammed his hands down on his hover-chair. "You fools!" he yelled. The three in front of him flinched a bit. He put his hand up to his head and rubbed it slightly, as if a great pain were welling up in his cranium. "Tarantulus..." "A-hem...yes?" Megatron spoke calmly. Too calmly. "Finish the station...gather all of the workers you need to finish it..." "But since the attack, most of the parts have been des..." "I said FINISH IT!" Megatron yelled, "I did not employ you to whine, just DO IT!" Tarantulus left the main room. Megatron tapped his fingers on his hover-chair. Blackarachnia and Terrorsaur stood in front of Megatron, uneasy, waiting for their judgment. "Blackarachnia..." he started, "Can you duplicate the protoform procedure?" "No," she said, "The two Maximals left a detonater in my lab...everything's destroyed." Megatron made a low growl of disgust. He waved his hand at her. "Leave me...go assist Tarantulus." Blackarachnia left the main room. Terrorsaur stood there, trying hard not to shake. Megatron sat silently, as still as stone, his hand still on his forehead. Terrorsaur wondered if Megatron had forgotten about him. Megatron sighed and looked over at Terrorsaur. "Out of my sight, fool," he said. Terrorsaur almost fell off of the hover-pad rushing to leave the main room. Megatron thought to himself. "I'm surrounded by idiots...I should have never left Cybertron with these buffoons...and now I'm stuck on this planet; ripe with Energon...the Maximals defeating us at every turn...we should just surr..." He was shocked by his thoughts. Surrender? The thought had never occurred to him before...he had had the upper hand in almost all of the dealings with the Maximals. Surrender? Never. Only the weak surrender. And surely he was not weak. Perhaps his troops were, but as long as he functioned, he would not give in. The strong survive...and survive to conquer. The only thing to assure him an uncontested victory was to procure that which he came to the planet for in the first place...Energon. And now, the only stable Energon was located in the ocean. The Maximals already had a station, and were, no doubt, already mining the element. He HAD to obtain the Energon. That was the only way to destroy the Maximal and Autobot race. Then the Predacons would conquer the galaxy. The three TriPredacons emerged from the chamber. "Go assist Tarantulus...I want that station up and running." The TriPredacons exited the main room in search of Tarantulus. **** It had been days since Optimus and the others had rendezvoused with Cybershark and his troops. The two groups had talked for awhile, swapping jokes and stories, while Rhinox and Cheetor made modifications on Orcanoch. After that, the two groups parted company, and Orcanoch was back out at sea. Cybershark had made very few transmissions reporting the finds of deposits in the last few days, but that's not what worried Optimus...or his troops. "I wonder what the ole Pred-heads are up to," Rattrap said, playing cyber-chess with Rhinox. "Probably building that station," Rhinox said. Rhinox moved a chess piece. "Isn't dere a way we could stop em from doing it...maybe storm the base again?" Rattrap moved a chess piece. Optimus frowned. "I wouldn't risk another confrontation with Tripredacus," said Optimus, "Until we know exactly how to deal with him. Besides, the damage we inflicted on him has probably been repaired by now." "Oh, so ya saying it would be better if we stayed heah, like sitting ducks, waitin' for DEM ta come ta US?" Rhinox moved a piece. "That might be the best course of action." "I can't believe what I'm hearin' heah!" exclaimed Rattrap, throwing his hands up in the air. He looked over at his game and moved another piece. His piece blasted Rhinox's piece, and Rattrap's piece moved to Rhinox's piece's position. "Relax, Rattrap," Optimus said, "If it makes you feel any better, check in with Airazor and Tigatron...they're scouting over there now. But they haven't detected anything other than the building of the station." Rhinox moved his piece, and looked up at Rattrap. "Checkmate," he said. Rattrap looked surprised. "Yeah, well, maybe I WILL," said Rattrap to Optimus, and stood up. Rattrap looked at the gameboard, then up at Rhinox, and frowned. "Eh, you won," he said, waving at the board, then walked away. Airazor crouched with Tigatron in the bushes thirty feet from the perimeter of the Predacon ship. "Can't they detect us?" asked Airazor. "Rhinox said that, at this distance, their scans start to get garbled by the Energon fields. They may be able to detect us, but we have enough room to escape if they do." The Predacons were outside of the base, working more furiously than they were before. Megatron came outside now, and looked around. "The Maximals would not dare attempt an attack now," he said, "Noooo." He turned to his troops. Tarantulus warily walked up to Megatron. "We salvaged most of the parts, and it looks like we'll be finished within the next few hours." Megatron leaned over to him and looked him in the eye. "You have one hour." Tarantulus started to shake and dropped his instruction pad. Megatron looked down at it and pointed to it with his tail-shield. Tarantulus picked it up and went back to work. "Man, it's freaked-out city over there," Airazor commented. "Yes," Tigatron replied, "We must be careful. An enemy is most dangerous when it is nervous." Airazor looked at Tigatron. "Don't you mean, 'When the enemy is cornered?'" Tigatron smiled sheepishly and shrugged. Airazor looked at the Predacon structure. "Airazor to base." "Rattrap heah." "Oh...is Optimus around?" "Yeah...hold on." "Optimus here." "The Preds are almost finished with their station, it looks like." "Well, we'll just have to warn Cybershark and the others." "We're not going to try and stop them?" "I don't think we can risk another surprise attack." "Hmm...Airazor out." Optimus turned around. "We're on equal ground now, Megatron," he thought. Within the hour, the station was finished. "I call it Arachnid," said Tarantulus. "Big surprise," Sea Clamp said, "But you don't really NEED a name." "Whatever," said Tarantulus. He turned towards Megatron. "It is equipped with missile launchers and neutralizing beams. As an added bonus, it can function on land, using a small supply of the Energon it gathers from the ocean." "Get it to the beach," said Megatron. Tarantulus motioned towards Inferno, Cicadon, Waspinator, Ramhorn, and Terrorsaur. Each ran to a respective side, grabbed on, then blasted into the air. The fivesome carried the station towards the beach. Megatron transformed, and followed them. The other Predacons did the same. "They're moving," said Tigatron, "Do you think we should follow?" "Optimus said we're not going to attack. So I guess we better go back." Tigatron looked at the leaving Predacons, then back at Airazor. He nodded his head. Both transformed and headed for the Axalon. The five Predacons landed, with Arachnid, on the beach. Terrorsaur grasped his shoulder and grimaced. He transformed. "Internal repairs," he said. His body immediately started repairing his shoulder. "I HATE physical labor," he thought, "Megatron NEVER has to do anything...I WILL be leader...and they shall all pander to my every whim." He chuckled. Megatron and the others walked up to the station. "Launch it," he commanded. Spittor, Snapper, and Razorclaw jumped into their respective stations, and Arachnid transformed. The other Predacons pushed the station into the water, and Arachnid began to float. Arachnid's legs formed wide discs on its feet, which floated on top of the water, and the main part of the base rose into the air. "Arrr...what is our first objective?" Snapper asked over the intercom. "Find a suitable Energon supply and mine it," Megatron said, "After you have established a good mining area, bring the Energon back to the beach. We'll have someone here to take the mined Energon. Then you will find the Maximal station...and destroy it." Megatron turned around. "Sea Clamp?" "Yes, Megatron?" he asked. "You, Waspinator, and Terrorsaur will stay here. Wait for them to return, and bring the Energon back to base." Megatron turned to the others. "Prepare the ship for an Energon upgrade!" he shouted. Megatron and the others went back to the base. Arachnid powered up and floated out, away from the beach. Terrorsaur sat down. Waspinator and Sea Clamp transformed and joined him. "Ohhhh, Wazzzzpinator does not want to wait for..." "Save it," Terrorsaur said, flapping a wing at him, "I don't want to hear your complaints." He looked thoughtfully up at the sky, then back at the departing Arachnid. "If we could gain access to that station, keep all of the Energon for ourselves, we'd have an inexhaustible power supply...power enough to take on the Darkside, and overthrow Megatron!" "Ooooh, Wazzzpinator LIKE Terrorsaur's idea..." "I knew you would," he replied. "Haven't you learned by now," Sea Clamp interjected, "That you can't beat Megatron? To paraphrase Rumble, the Decepticon, 'Megatron is merciless; he can't be beaten! And you'll never be our leader!'" "THIS Megatron is not THAT Megatron, you idiot!" Terrorsaur replied, "He just stole his name. THIS Megatron's a total idiot...he deserves to be overthrown! And lest you forget...Starscream countered with, 'I will find a way - everyone has a weakness.'" Sea Clamp thought for a moment. "I'll help you...but if this plan of yours doesn't go through...I'm not taking the fall for anything." "Hehehe," laughed Terrorsaur, "That's two on my side." He looked over at Waspinator. "And no TURNCOATS!" "What?" Waspinator asked, "Wazzzpinator only worked for Spider-bottess for a little while." Terrorsaur disregarded that remark. "We will attack them today, after they return with the Energon supply," Terrorsaur said, "You know how Arachnid works, Sea Clamp...you give us the access codes, and that will be all we need from you." "As you wish," Sea Clamp replied. "Now...we wait," Terrorsaur said. **** "Arr...the wind in yer noggin, the saltwater clogging yer coils...THIS is the life!" exclaimed Snapper, sniffing the air. "Close that hatch," Razorclaw said, "Experience the elements on your own time. Our priority is to find Energon." Snapper grumbled something and then closed the hatch. "Begin the scanning procedure," commanded Razorclaw. Spittor gurgled and hit a key at his control panel. After a short period, the screen displayed a few coordinates. "Easy as taking programming chips from a protoform," commented Snapper. Razorclaw hit the thrust panel and Arachnid shot forward. "Won't be long now," Razorclaw said. "I can almost taste that Energon," Spittor said, drooling more. "Wait!" interrupted Snapper, "I'm picking up a blip near the deposit we're heading for...it's Maximal." Razorclaw gripped the thrust-controls and chuckled. "Well, what a surprise...two Swarms with one quasar rifle." "But Megatron told us to attack them AFTER we get the Energon," Spittor said. "I control this mission," he said, "And after we procure this Energon, we're taking it back to Tarantulus...FULL SPEED AHEAD!" Arachnid sped up. **** "Hey, Cybes?" asked Armordillo. "What?" "Predacon energy signal coming this way." Cybershark sighed. "Optimus warned us they'd try an attack." He clicked a button on his console. "Prepare for base transformation...battle stations." Orcanoch stopped moving forward and began to rise towards the surface. It breached the surface and transformed. Claw Jaw sat up high in the crow's nest, the turbo guns pointed in the Predacons' direction. "Don't fire until you see the reds of their optics," commanded Cybershark. "They're in total scanning range," announced Spittor, "They've transformed... they're ready for us." Razorclaw slowed the base. "We will transform here...and move towards their position." "They've stopped, Cybershark," Armodillo said, "They're transforming." "Launch five missiles," commanded Razorclaw. Snapper locked onto the Maximals' signal, and fired. "Four...no, five missiles headed this way," said Armordillo. "See if you can hit them from here, Claw Jaw," Cybershark said. Claw Jaw zoomed in with his optics on the approaching missiles, then fired. The energy blasts grazed the water, but the missiles went unaffected. "Slag!" yelled Cybershark, "We're gonna have to use the Echo-guns...but destroying those missiles at such close range might damage the base..." "The missiles are within one klick of our p-position," Armordillo said. Cybershark dove into the water and transformed. He swam towards the missiles. Once he was far enough away from the base, he transformed and readied his electro-claw. He now had a visual lock on the approaching missiles. He pointed at the missiles and fired. Electricity shot through the water and collided with the missiles. The missiles' internal circuitry shorted out, and the missiles flipped through the water out of control. Cybershark swam out to the missiles, all dead in the water, and completely disabled them. He then swam back to the base. "The missiles have been disabled," Spittor said. Razorclaw frowned and clenched his jaw. "Very well, then, Maximals...head-on combat it is." Cybershark came out of the water and sighed heavily. He looked back out over the water, scanning for the Predacons. "Almost didn't make it," he said. "I knew you'd do it," said Armordillo. "Spittor, you have the controls," Razorclaw announced, while climbing down into one of the torpedo shafts. "Prepare to launch." "Yur crazy," Snapper commented, "I'm liking ye better already." Razorclaw closed the door to the torpedo shaft. "Launch!" he commanded. One of the torpedo bay doors opened up, and Razorclaw shot out from it. Cutting through the water, he looked forward and saw the Maximal base rapidly approaching. He thrust his claws forward. "Cybes, they're sending a Pred by water-mail!" yelled Armordillo. Claw Jaw fired into the water and the approaching Predacon, but the force of the energy blasts were still absorbed by the water. Razorclaw slammed into the side of Orcanoch, and the base shook. Cybershark lost his balance, and fell into the water. Razorclaw stabbed his pincer into the hull and pulled himself out of the water. He laughed and pointed his pulse rifle at Claw Jaw. Claw Jaw spun around on the crow's nest and aimed the cannon at the intruder. Razorclaw fired first, and Claw Jaw landed in the water. Armordillo dove at Razorclaw and latched onto his back just as Cybershark pulled himself onto the deck. Razorclaw flailed his arms, trying to knock the Maximal off of his back. "Get off him!" Cybershark yelled. Armordillo did so. Razorclaw turned to Cybershark. Cybershark fired. Razorclaw toppled backwards and fell into the water. Claw Jaw hit him from behind. Razorclaw swung and missed. Claw Jaw's tentacles shot out from behind his back and Razorclaw became entangled in them. His claws were squeezed shut, and no matter how hard he struggled, he could not open them. Claw Jaw hefted himself and his Predacon baggage onto Orcanoch’s deck. “They’ve apprehended Razorclaw,” Spittor said, calmly, “What should we do?” Snapper smiled. “Fire ev’rethin’ we’ve got at ‘em.” “You fools,” Razorclaw struggled to say, caught in Claw Jaw’s tentacles, “Your resistance is futile...my troops will level this base if you do not surrender...” “That’s mighty big talk for a disabled guy,” Cybershark said, then pulled a device out of his claw. He reached over behind Razorclaw’s neck and stuck the device in. There was a brief crackle, and he pulled out a small, triangular chip. Razorclaw’s eyes dimmed, and his body went limp. “He’s in stasis lock,” Cybershark said, “He shouldn’t bother anyone for awhile.” Two sea-to-air missiles hit the deck. All but Claw Jaw and the disabled Razorclaw were thrown off the deck into the water. Claw Jaw released his grip on Razorclaw and leapt to his station. He fired at the Predacon base. “Gah!” Armordillo gasped as his head came above water. His filters spat out saltwater. “Cybes! Where are you?” “Right here,” he said as he picked Armordillo up and pulled the both of them out of the water and onto the deck. “Get to your station,” he commanded. Claw Jaw continued to fire at Arachnid. “Ahhh!” Spittor screamed, as his console burst into flames, “Abandon ship! Abandon ship!” Spittor jumped off the side of Arachnid and landed in the water. “The captain must go down with his ship,” Snapper said, heroically. He jumped up and stood on the edge of Arachnid. “Unfortunately, the captain isn’t here. It’s every bot for ‘imself!” He leapt off the side. Razorclaw’s emergency subroutine booted up, and his functions slowly came back online. He looked around. He saw the Maximals around him, firing at Arachnid, which was now engulfed in flames. He looked at his arm...his claw twitched. “Cease fire!” commanded Cybershark. He did a scan and detected two Predacon signatures in the water. “Armordillo...take us around to coordinates 4-7-3, mark 9.” “Aye.” Armordillo started up Orcanoch, and the base swung around to Arachnid. Cybershark leaned over the side of Orcanoch and looked down at the two Predacons in the water. “Well, well, what do we have here?” he said. “Looks like a couple-a cowardly Pred-heads!” exclaimed Armordillo. Claw Jaw pointed his gun at the two Predacons and laughed. Spittor and Snapper grumbled. “Idiots,” thought Razorclaw. His left leg moved slightly, and he used his upper torso to pull himself upright. “Fish them out of there,” Cybershark commanded. Armordillo grabbed a tow-cable and threw it into the water. Claw Jaw and Armordillo pulled the two Predacons up out of the water, and prepared to bind them. “No one move,” Razorclaw announced. Cybershark turned around. Razorclaw blasted him off the side of the ship. “Any more fools?” he asked. Everyone stood still. “You,” he said to Snapper, “Go put the fire out. And bring back a depth charge.” Snapper saluted him and jumped over to Arachnid. “Bind them,” he said to Spittor. Spittor began to tie the two Maximals together. Cybershark’s optics came back online. He looked around. He was slowly drifting downward. He looked at the gaping hole in his side. He transformed and started internal repairs. Then he started to swim back towards Orcanoch. Snapper jumped back over to Orcanoch, with a depth charge in his hands. “Fire’s out, cap’n,” he announced, “And here’s the charge you requested.” “Good,” Razorclaw said, taking the charge from him. He set the charge on the deck and pressed a button. Three magna-clamps flipped down and held the charge to the deck. “After we’re safely back on Arachnid, and we’ve put a good distance between us, we’ll detonate the charge and watch your precious base get blown to atoms.” Razorclaw said to the two Maximals, now bound together. “Throw them into their Energon hatch,” he commanded. Snapper and Spittor dragged the two Maximals and tossed them in. Razorclaw laughed as they closed the hatch. Cybershark leapt onto the deck, already in battle mode, and fired at the three Predacons. They all fell to the ground. Razorclaw, however, struggled to stand. Cybershark ran over to the Energon hatch and opened it. “Cybes!” exclaimed Armordillo, “Look out!” Cybershark ducked just as Razorclaw’s blast hit the inside of the hatch. Sparks flew while Cybershark cut the cable. The threesome leapt out of the hatch and proceeded to attack the Predacons. Spittor and Snapper were up now, weapons brandished. Each team stood on opposite sides of Orcanoch’s deck, weapons clicking and whirring as they powered up. “It ends now, Predacons!” yelled Cybershark. “You could not possibly be closer to the truth,” Razorclaw retorted, “...for when this day ends, I’ll have your heads polished for my display case!” Spittor took out a cord with a grappling hook at the end of it and started swinging it. Snapper powered up his twin-turbo thrust cannon. Razorclaw revealed his quasar rifle in one claw and unsheathed the cyber-spikes in the other. Armordillo’s hand separated from his arm at the wrist, and snaked out at the end of two cords. Claw Jaw’s chest pincer clamped in anticipation and his tentacles writhed more vigorously. Cybershark’s hand pincer gleamed in the sunlight, and the air around it crackled from the electric discharge. The air was still as each group waited for the other to strike. **** “They should be here by now,” Terrorsaur thought. He spun around and looked at Sea Clamp. “Do you have the access codes yet?” “Done,” he replied, “I only possessed one piece of the access code, and I had to hack into Tarantulus’ personal files to get his.” “Well,” Terrorsaur said impatiently, “What is it?” Sea Clamp fed the information into his portable computer. The computer processed for a moment, then displayed the final code. “Blackarachnia,” he said. Terrorsaur growled, “You had to HACK into his files to get THAT?! Any idiot could have figured that out!” “Not ANY idiot,” Sea Clamp said, staring at Terrorsaur. Terrorsaur growled again. “Just have the codes ready. Once the base is in range, you’ll feed in information to make Arachnid give off an electromagnetic shock, rendering the passengers inside unconscious.” “Then what?” asked Waspinator. “Then we attack Megatron!” cackled Terrorsaur. Spittor swung the grappling hook at Claw Jaw. Claw Jaw casually ducked out of the way. Cybershark rushed Razorclaw, and Razorclaw stopped him dead in his tracks. The two strained, trying to overpower the other. Armordillo leapt high in the air, and his wrists shot his hands out at Snapper. Snapper jumped back, and Armordillo’s hands, with the claws on the ends, imbedded themselves in Orcanoch’s deck. Claw Jaw grabbed Spittor, then turned him around suddenly to avoid his acid spit. He quickly subdued him with his powerful tentacles, crushing Spittor’s titanium frame until the hapless Predacon slipped into stasis lock. Claw Jaw dropped the limp Predacon and looked over at Armordillo. Snapper had him pinned to the ground, his cannon pointed in his face. Armordillo strained to push Snapper away, but Snapper was as immovable as a boulder. Snapper chuckled as he pulled the trigger. A bright flash of light came from the inside of Snapper’s cannon barrel, and the force of the blast made Armordillo slide to the other side of the deck. “Armordillo!” shouted Claw Jaw, running to his aid. There was an enormous dent where Armordillo had crashed. He had his hands up, covering his face. Claw Jaw pulled his hands away to see how much damage had been done. The left side of Armordillo’s face was burned badly, and the right side was fused together. “Izzit bed?” Armordillo said, his audio processors crackling horribly. “Transform, buddy,” Claw Jaw said, “I’ll handle him.” All of a sudden, he felt two arms wrap around him, and Snapper lifted him up. Then he started to squeeze. “Let’s see how YE like being crushed!” Snapper yelled, “Crush ME boy-o, willye?!” Claw Jaw’s tentacles snaked around Snapper’s arms and squeezed tightly. With one fluid motion, his tentacles picked Snapper up and threw him into the steel rod that was the base of the crow’s nest. Snapper stirred slightly, then collapsed. Claw Jaw picked Snapper’s cannon up and turned towards Cybershark and Razorclaw. He aimed the cannon and waited for the right moment. Cybershark spotted Claw Jaw just over Razorclaw’s shoulder. He broke off from Razorclaw’s grasp and jumped to the side. “SLAG HIM!” yelled Cybershark. Razorclaw turned just in time to feel the full force of Claw Jaw’s blast. After the smoke cleared, Razorclaw’s blackened, smoldering body weaved back and forth. Cybershark walked up to him, leaned over and blew a breath at him. Razorclaw toppled over and crashed to the deck. Armordillo, in Beast Mode, walked over to Claw Jaw and Cybershark. “So...what do we DO with ‘em?” “I’ve got an idea,” said Cybershark, smiling devilishly, “Armordillo, get an aqua-viewer ready. Claw Jaw...tie ‘em up, disable their communicators...and find that depth charge.” **** “Wazzzzpinator TIRED of waiting,” he complained, “Wazzzzpinator should be attacking Maximals, not waiting for Energon shipment.” “Shut UP, Waspinator!” screamed Terrorsaur, “I’M getting tired of hearing your complaints!” “There it is!” exclaimed Sea Clamp. Arachnid came up over the horizon. **** Razorclaw struggled. “Tarantulus, come in!” he yelled. Nothing but static answered him. “Snapper!” he yelled, “Can you get free?” Snapper struggled and replied, “They’ve tied us tighter than a mizzenmast, sir!” Razorclaw looked over at Spittor. “Use your acid spit to eat through the ropes!” Razorclaw commanded. Spittor looked down at his ropes and started to hock. **** “Let’s go,” commanded Terrorsaur, transforming and firing up his jetpacks. He looked over at Sea Clamp. “You stay here. Transmit the codes now!” Terrorsaur and Waspinator blasted into the air, and flew towards the approaching Arachnid. Sea Clamp transmitted the codes, and Arachnid emitted an electro pulse. The electro pulse surged through their bodies. Razorclaw yelled, “NOOOOOO!!!...” All went dark. Terrorsaur landed on Arachnid and opened the hatch. He looked in and spotted the other Predacons draped in their seats. He didn’t, however, see the ropes that held them there, nor the viewing device that trailed the floating base. Terrorsaur stood up and stuck his chest out triumphantly. “Terrorsaur to Megatron! Come in, Fool!” Megatron raised his eyebrow. “Has that fool gone mad?” he asked his troops. “Meet me at the beach if you’re not too much of a coward!” screeched Terrorsaur. Megatron stood up and motioned towards the other Predacons. They all transformed and followed him out of the Darkside. “Navigate Arachnid to the beach,” commanded Terrorsaur. Waspinator chuckled gleefully, and the two grinned at each other. “Finally,” Terrorsaur thought, “My time has come.” Megatron and the others strode up to the beach, weapons primed and ready for combat. “TriPredacons, transform, phase one!”, commanded Megatron. The TriPredacons did so. “TriPredacons, transform, phase two! The TriPredacons began their gestalt transformation, while shouting, “...and merge into...TRIPREDACUS!!!” Tripredacus stood tall over the other Predacons. “Attention, fools!” Terrorsaur announced, “I now have Arachnid and an unlimited supply of Energon at my disposal...” Waspinator landed on the command deck and looked around. Immediately he noticed the Predacons bound to the seats. “...You shall all follow my orders!...” Waspinator walked over to the nearest Predacon and started to use his eye beams to eat through the ropes. “...all traitors will be destroyed!...” Waspinator stopped and listened. He heard a slight beeping sound. “...as Supreme High Commander, my first command will be to scrap Megatron!” Waspinator walked over to where the noise was coming from. He opened a hatch and looked in. “Retrieve the fool,” Megatron commanded. Tripredacus started to wade out towards Arachnid. Waspinator saw the depth charge clamped on the floor, and he leaned down closer to get a better look. Tripredacus grabbed onto Arachnid and started to pull it ashore. “Wait!” yelled Terrorsaur, “I can give you all the Energon you desire!” Tripredacus thought for a moment, then released Arachnid. Tripredacus turned towards Megatron and crossed his arms. The read-out on the charge read: 0 0 : 0 7 “Guh-deep!” gasped Waspinator, as he turned and started to run towards the exit hatch. “You’ll PAY for your treachery, Terrorsaur!” yelled Megatron, shaking his tail-shield at him. Waspinator exploded from the hatch and crashed on the deck where Terrorsaur was. “Gah!” sputtered Waspinator, “BOMB!” Arachnid exploded, sending Terrorsaur, Waspinator, and the separate pieces of Tripredacus flying in every direction. “Hmmm, he paid for his treachery sooner than I though he would,” said Megatron, as the would-be tyrant crashed in the sand at his feet. Megatron leaned down. “You were saying?” Terrorsaur could only force an embarrassed chuckle right before he passed out. The aquatic viewing device transmitted the explosion to Orcanoch. The three Maximals thrust their fists in the air and yelled in unison, “Arooo-ha!”, then all three exploded into laughter.