Answers to the questions you are asking:
Yes, I am aware that the idea of Transformers-as-Humans is overdone. I started this for a contest back in December 2002, didn’t win, and decided to finish it anyway.
Generally, the story explains things. You wouldn’t believe how many people ask why most of the Predacons are women, despite it being explained in the story. If something isn’t explained, the reason is, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
As to Waspinator, think of who he became in Beast Machines. That’s why Waspinator is being written the way he is in this story.
Another asked, Mercy?
Another recited, That which is not part of the One shall become Void.
It said, They are now part of the One.
It said, We who create life should not destroy it.
Another said, But the Experiment …
It interjected, Will continue. Let the random factors live. They will expire soon, and cause no damage. When they are no more, all trace of them will be removed. The Experiment will not be harmed.
Another asked, But what if they breed?
It said, They are too few for a sustainable colony. They would not outbreed with the native dominants. They are no threat. There is room for mercy.
Another stated, They will be watched. If any random element tries to upset the pattern …
Then, it said, it will be destroyed.
Somehow, he had expected to be dead.
He was pleased that he wasn’t, certainly, but a bit surprised. Still disoriented from the blast, Megatron decided not to get up quite yet and just spend a moment in quiet contemplation of the ceiling of the Predacon base’s command centre.
What was it that Optimus Primal had said when he left the alien structure? “I think I got through to them.” Megatron hadn’t believed it then, and he had even less reason to believe it when one of the planet’s moons had vanished and became something else. Something that had slowly built up a charge …
Tarantulas had meant to destroy the thing, and he took Blackarachnia with him to steal the necessary equipment from the Maximals. The scientist had thought he worked in secret, but Megatron knew, mentally wished him the best of luck, and sent Inferno after the spiders to guard them.
Whatever Tarantulas had planned never happened. The thing that had been a moon had sent down a wave of energy …
Now, as sense returned, Megatron was aware that the deck felt strange under his back; too hard, as if his scales had been removed, exposing the leathery synthetic flesh beneath. There was a weight on his legs, and his vision was strangely clear and blurred at the same time …
After a second, he realised what was wrong with his optics, at least – there was no datascreen superimposed over his sight. But his vision wasn’t as sharp as it should have been, and his optics couldn’t properly compensate for the darkness in the Predacon base.
Deciding that he’d put it off long enough, Megatron sat up, and was annoyed to find that the weight on his legs was Scorponok sprawled across them. At least, it had to be Scorponok. There hadn’t been anyone else standing with him on the upper deck.
Except that Scorponok was supposed to be a Transformer.
Megatron freed his legs, then rolled what should have been Scorponok onto his back. It turned out to be an organic biped with light skin, dark hair in a long braid, a lantern jaw, and an obvious swelling on the side of his head. He was dressed from head to foot in dusty indigo leather … the same colour as Scorponok’s carapace, when Megatron thought about it.
When he let himself see them, Megatron saw that his own hands were not the ones he had grown accustomed to over the last year. These were soft, encased in gloves of purple leather.
The aliens’ device had done this. He could have strangled them.
The creature lying on the deck groaned, and Megatron helped his lieutenant to his feet. Scorponok was still dazed, either from the blast or the blow to his head. Megatron found himself wondering why a dent would swell outwards rather than cave inwards, but pushed the thought away as not of immediate importance. A slight movement to his far right caught his attention; Terrorsaur seemed to be regaining consciousness as well. He couldn’t locate Waspinator.
Terrorsaur got to his feet, using the command console for support. Megatron could only see the back of the air warrior, but he was instantly recognisable; all red and gray leather with his gun strapped to his back, red hair tied back and taking on the same foolish curl that his crest used to. Watching him carefully, Megatron caught the sudden tightening in Terrorsaur’s limbs that meant that he had just realised what had happened and was seconds away from panicking. Megatron decided to distract him. “Terrorsaur! Status report!”
Automatically, Terrorsaur’s hands went to the console and activated the necessary circuits. “Minimal damage to the ship, Megatron.” His voice was still rasping, but organic vocal cords had taken the edge off it. “A few lights were blown by the surge. The shields weren’t even touched.”
“Are the long-range sensors still …”
Megatron was interrupted by a commotion below him. The liquid of the CR-tank surged, and a figure scrambled to cling to the side of it, coughing violently. By elimination, there was only one person it could have been. “Terrorsaur, aid Waspinator!”
The redhead obviously had the same idea, and had manoeuvred his hoverpad down to the CR-tank before Megatron finished giving his order. With those two occupied and Scorponok damaged, Megatron climbed back into his command chair to try to get the base’s systems back online. If there was one thing they were fortunate in, it was that they remained close to their proper sizes; they could still use the ship’s equipment easily. They would need to update their voice-codes, at least …
Movement at the corner of his vision signalled that Terrorsaur and Waspinator had arrived on the upper deck. The scout was huddled at Terrorsaur’s feet, either frightened by the change or by nearly drowning in the CR-tank. Like the others, Waspinator’s colours remained much the same; greens and golds with violet eyes, though he couldn’t explain the shoulder-length black hair. Oddly, Waspinator seemed to be lighter built than his robot-form would have implied.
Megatron glanced up to find Terrorsaur levelly meeting his gaze. The air warrior reached back over his shoulder. “It occurs to me, Megatron, that I’m the only one here who’s still armed.” Unlike the others, Terrorsaur’s weapon hadn’t been a part of his body.
“You’re going to try another takeover?” asked Megatron incredulously, glancing up from his workstation. “Now?”
Terrorsaur let his hands fall back to his sides. “Are you kidding? Get us out of this!”
“Calm yourself. We will not get anything done by panicking, no.”
“Who’s panicking?” asked Terrorsaur. “Why should we panic just because we’ve been turned into … into … what are we?”
“Some sort of organic beings. Something like humans or Nebulans, I believe, given our size and shape,” said Megatron, who turned back to his screen. “Both allied themselves with the Autobots during the last War. Honestly, Terrorsaur, as a Predacon, you should know this.”
Terrorsaur rolled his eyes. “I’ve only been a Predacon for as long as I’ve worked for you. Pardon me if I’ve been too busy surviving since then to brush up on my history.” He coughed and brought a hand up to rub his throat. “And why is it so hard to talk?”
“Switch to Dialect Six,” Megatron said after a moment of consideration. With that, he switched languages himself. The words were still Cybertronian, but modulated for different ears, with the unpronounceable sounds given pronounceable values. The effect was that to the others’ now-organic ears, Megatron now sounded more like himself than when he was trying to speak Cybertronian proper. “It should be part of your basic language programming and it will be easier on your organic vocal apparatus.”
“Are we the only ones who were changed?” asked Waspinator quietly.
Megatron didn’t have a chance to wonder why his scout wasn’t speaking in third-person; the commpanel chose that moment to beep, signalling an incoming transmission. Megatron sighed wearily. “You just had to say that, didn’t you?”
With some trepidation, certain of what was about to happen, Megatron activated the viewscreen and found himself looking into the deep red eyes of a tanned organic in blue and gray. If he didn’t recognise the face, the voice easily gave it away: “How about we call a truce, Megatron? A real one this time?”
Megatron bit back a snarl of frustration. “Very well, Optimus Primal. We seem to have the same … problem. Yes.”
“Good. Come on over; it seems that half of your crew is already here.”
The short man two consoles over ran a hand through his brushcut brown hair. His skin was a bit darker than tan, and even a trained ethnologist wouldn’t have been able to assign his features to any one race. “Did you just invite the rest of the Preds over?” Rattrap had heard properly and he knew it, but his nature compelled him to ask anyway.
“Yes, Rattrap.” Optimus blamed himself for the change. He had been so certain that he had managed to convince the alien wearing Unicron’s face that he and the other Transformers were no threat to whatever it was the aliens were doing. On one hand, the aliens hadn’t killed them. On the other …
“Yes, fools, let the Royalty into your nest!” The new voice was deep, almost triumphant, and sounded from near the floor. The Maximals had been rather surprised to find that Inferno had become a furious, tan-skinned female of Amazonian proportions prowling the lower decks, but it didn’t stop them from capturing her. Currently she was pinned on the floor of the Axalon command centre.
One knee in the middle of Inferno’s back, his hands holding her arms, Dinobot looked up and snarled, “Are you certain I cannot shoot this one?” He was a large, dark man with a severe, sharp face.
“Yes, Dinobot.” Optimus was developing a headache and found he quite disliked the sensation. “We don’t want to kill anyone and we don’t know what kind of punishment these bodies can take. If you don’t want to listen to her, cover her mouth.”
“I tried. She bit me,” Dinobot muttered. He shot a look at the other conscious Predacon. “Cannot you do anything to shut her up?”
“I obey only Megatron!” shouted Inferno.
“Does that answer your question?” The woman Dinobot had addressed, jaw-length hair slicked close to her face, eloquently rolled her dark, slanted eyes. Blackarachnia was also under guard; Airazor – a slender female in gray with pale skin and dark brown hair – had found a hand-laser in a storage locker and now had it trained on her. Tigatron, now a dark female in white and turquoise with a white streak through her black hair, was also standing guard, to assist Dinobot or Airazor if either needed it. The Predacon wasn’t paying her any attention, caught up in her own problems. She was crouched over the still form of her last comrade.
Tarantulas lay on her side, curled tightly into herself. The dark female in purple was breathing, barely, and Blackarachnia was trying her best to wake the scientist up.
The Maximals wanted her conscious as well – of all the Cybertronians, Tarantulas had the most training in the biological sciences. Rhinox, now a dark, heavyset man wearing a beard and a bulky hooded sweatshirt, crouched down opposite of Blackarachnia, and ran a scanner over Tarantulas. Blackarachnia snorted. “How can that thing tell what’s wrong? It’s set for Transformers, not organics. We don’t even know what species we are!”
“I reset it using this body as the base-line,” said Rhinox, tapping his chest. He frowned over his device. “As near as I can tell, there’s nothing physically wrong with her. Though if she stays like this too long, we’re going to have to find some way to keep her body functioning.”
Cheetor, standing out by virtue of an unusual combination of dark skin and blond hair, found himself with no direct purpose, and drifted over to Optimus. “One thing I don’t get – why are there the two subsets? We had all been the same type before.”
Blackarachnia heard him, and threw a contemptuous glance over her shoulder. “Most organic species have gender, so ours was based on our beast-modes. When the other Predacons arrive, you’ll find that Waspinator is female as well.” She giggled suddenly, then stopped, shook her head, scowled, and returned her attention to Tarantulas.
“I still don’t like us just inviting them over,” grumbled Rattrap. “You know what happened last time we called a truce?”
“Megatron called the last one, remember?” Megatron was also the one who broke it. Optimus shook his head. “Look, we’re all in the same boat here. Whether we like it or not, the aliens have decided the battle for us. It’s over, and neither side won. All we can do now is live.”
A while later, the radio in the Axalon activated: “We’re almost within range of your ship, Optimus Primal. Now, call me paranoid, but I would like to make absolutely certain that your auto-defence systems are offline, yes.”
Optimus glanced at the panel. “They’re off. Come on over.”
“That was quick,” said Dinobot, still sitting on Inferno. He found guarding the Amazon much easier once he’d torn a few strips off of her red leather trench coat and used them to tie her hands. She was also much less irritating after he used another strip to gag her.
Rattrap flipped a switch for an external camera feed. “Nah, they cheated and used a big hover platform. You know, the kind used for cargo.” He frowned at the screen. “They’re still holding back, boss.”
“He did ask to call him paranoid,” sighed Optimus. “Tigatron, go escort them in.” Tigatron nodded and vanished down one of the lifts.
Within minutes, most of the Maximals and Predacons were gathered in the Axalon’s control centre. Inferno had been duly untied against most everyone’s better judgement, but Megatron pulled her aside and managed to calm her down to the point where she had at least stopped muttering, “Burrrn,” every few seconds. Megatron looked around. “We seem to be missing a few persons.”
“When we found Tarantulas, she was in some kind of stasis,” Optimus told him. “Rhinox and Blackarachnia took her down to the lab for observation. You might want to send him down, too,” he finished, nodding at Scorponok. There was an off-coloured swelling on Predacon lieutenant’s head, and he was leaning heavily against Terrorsaur, though trying not to look like he was.
“‘M fine,” Scorponok mumbled. “Gyros are just off a bit.”
Megatron considered that for a few moments, but finally frowned. “Scorponok, go.”
“Cheetor, escort him to the lab.”
With some grumbling, Scorponok allowed himself to be led out. Megatron turned back to Optimus. “Well? Do you have a plan?”
“You understand that the colonies have joined for mutual benefit.”
Dinobot and Tigatron stood back and watched the exchange with no small amount of worry. Organics had to eat, so a hunting party was quickly put together, and Megatron had volunteered Inferno. Unfortunately, this meant trying to explain the concept of ‘the Maximals are currently our allies, yes’ to the Amazon.
“You will be foraging, not fighting. Do you understand?”
Inferno saluted. “Perfectly, Royalty.”
She seemed entirely agreeable to the idea, which Dinobot didn’t trust for many reasons. Still, Inferno was too simple to have any hidden agenda. She obeyed without question – if Megatron said that the Maximals were now friends with the Predacons, then they were, and that was that.
Megatron nodded. He, at least, seemed satisfied. “Good. On this mission, Dinobot is in command. You will obey him.”
Here Inferno faltered, but only for a second. “The trai … No, he is a nestmate now. It will be as you command, Royalty.”
The Predacon commander turned to leave, but was caught after a few steps. “Far be it from me to question the great Megatron,” Dinobot hissed, too quiet for Inferno to hear, “but are you certain this is wise?”
“On this mission, she will obey you. I told her to.”
“I am not … entirely confidant in that.”
“Call it a test if you like,” said Megatron. “If Inferno kills you out in the woods, we Predacons aren’t to be trusted.”
He left. Dinobot scowled at Inferno, who regarded him with a neutral expression. After a moment, the warrior turned on his heel, signalling to the other two. “Come along, then.”
Terrorsaur felt miffed. Unreasonably, perhaps, but he felt he was being treated unfairly. He would have preferred to go hunting with Inferno and the others, but they needed no extra people in their group. Messing around with plants was not what he had signed up for.
He aimed a glare at Rhinox, who he was currently teamed up with. The Maximal scientist didn’t notice, and probably wouldn’t have cared even if he did. With a sigh, Terrorsaur tapped a few buttons on his handheld scanner. Their body chemistry had been programmed into it, and it was his task to look for plants that wouldn’t clash with it too badly.
Terrorsaur yanked a smooth-edged leaf off of a bush. He had a love-hate relationship with plants. He had made a study of them early in his life, but only because he was eager to learn and there wasn’t much other reading material he could get his hands on in his sheltered life. As it turned out, he now had a decent working knowledge of things he preferred not to think about because they brought him back to the place he had run away from.
The scanner declared the plant inedible. He got up and wandered over to a splash of white in the green. They were flowers on long stalks, one moon-pale petal wrapped into an ornate cone, the stamens on one yellow stalk almost as large as his little finger. This is a calla lily, he mentally catalogued, pulling one from its stem. He had never seen a live one, only holographs and sculpture, but he would know the type anywhere …
Terrorsaur looked up and glared. “What?”
Rhinox shrugged. “You were staring at that flower for ten minutes. Find something interesting?”
“Huh? No.” He crumpled the blossom and let it drop. “Nothing at all. I just drifted.”
‘Bored’ didn’t begin to cover what Waspinator was feeling.
She sat on the edge of her chair, idly kicking her feet. She would have preferred to be outside where she could at least have found something to do. Instead, Megatron had wanted her to keep an eye on the Maximal control centre, just so whoever was on monitor duty didn’t get any bright ideas and, say, turn on the security system or something. Waspinator had come to the conclusion that watching Rattrap mess around with the scanners was dull.
At the very least, she decided, she could run a weather scan or check the sensors to see if anyone was hanging around outside the base. She scooted the chair over to the nearest computer.
“Hey! Hands off the console!”
Waspinator made a face at him, then primly crossed her legs and rested her hands on her knee. “I’m just bored. I’m not after your dumb Maximal secrets.”
“Truce or no truce, no Preds touch the computer on my shift,” grumbled Rattrap, then spun around to properly face her. “Y’know, I bet I know why Megs left you here instead ‘a any of the others – in this whole mess, you throw me the worst. Everyone else still either looks or sounds like themselves.” It was true enough. Form wasn’t terribly important, so it wasn’t the fact that one of the weirdest-looking Predacons was now a reasonably-pretty young woman nearly so much as the voice and mannerisms. She still hummed a bit and drew out her words, but the buzzing undertones were lost, and, most obviously, she no longer referred to herself in third person. “You’re like a different person. What’s up with that?”
“None of your business.”
“Just tryin’ to make conversation. You’re the bored one. Bet you don’t know, anyway.”
Waspinator knew, but she didn’t have any interest in telling anyone. Her vocal glitches and apparent stupidity were a physical problem – due to damages, she simply couldn’t access a large portion of her mind. Her habit of using ‘-bot’ nicknames and third person had been tied to that – she often forgot other people’s names, and if she didn’t say her own name often, she forgot it and had to wait for someone else to use it to remind her. The aliens hadn’t simply upgraded the Transformers, for want of a better term, but had made entirely new bodies. New body, no glitches. She had her memory again. All of it.
Waspinator was certain the others would figure it out, eventually. They were all very smart, and she was just poor, dumb Waspinator.
Blackarachnia was working feverishly …
I am working, the voice in her mind said testily. You are simply moving things around in physical reality.
“Shut up, Legs,” growled Blackarachnia. She wouldn’t have answered if the others were still around, but Rhinox had left to do some botany outside and Scorponok had wandered off for reasons of his own. Blackarachnia knew what the cause of Tarantulas’ coma was. She had known all along, but Tarantulas wouldn’t let her tell.
Tarantulas had wanted to destroy the alien device that had once held the appearance of a moon. To that end, he had needed one of the Maximal stasis pods to convert into a spaceship so he could reach the device. Blackarachnia hadn’t known that at the time; she thought he was building an escape ship. Tarantulas and Blackarachnia snuck into the Axalon, found a pod, started working …
Something had gone wrong. Tarantulas had slipped up somewhere and received an electric shock massive enough to put him into stasis-lock. Blackarachnia, working for her own survival, had plugged herself into Tarantulas’ mind to download the remaining datatracks required. Somehow, through that connection, he had transferred his consciousness into her mind.
It would have been an easy matter to upload him back to his body … if they were still Transformers.
It might work anyway, said Tarantulas. Of course, the necessary equipment isn’t here. I’ll need you to get me to my lair …
“I’m not carrying you back myself, and I doubt they’ll let me borrow the hoversled.”
I’m certain you can convince them to let you bring me back. They seem to think I can help, after all – a lunatic to counter the lunacy, you know.
Blackarachnia snorted and checked the intravenous drip. She wasn’t entirely certain what was in it – nutrient solution of some sort – but Tarantulas had told her what to do and it seemed to work. “I doubt it. Me, I just want you out of my head. I’ll see what I can come up with.” She paused, then, “Can you help?”
Rattrap looked up when he heard the hiss of the lift. “Yo, we got a problem, boss-monkey … boss-primate, anyway. Scrap. Now I gotta come up with new nicknames for the lot of you.”
“I hope that’s not the problem, Rattrap,” Optimus said, stepping off of the lift. Two Predacons were in the control room as well; both seated, Waspinator quiet in a corner, Scorponok with his head on his arms, napping at the table. They weren’t causing trouble, at least.
“No, no, I can come up with new names, no skin off my tail … hnh. No tail, either,” muttered Rattrap, peering around at himself. Then, “Nah, this is bigger. Much bigger. Bigger than having the Preds hanging around.”
Neither Scorponok nor Waspinator paid any attention to the comment. “What, Rattrap?”
“Put delicately, our plumbing ain’t up to our new forms. Put not-so-delicately, we could use a bathroom.”
“Slag.” It wasn’t the largest problem they could have had, but it was yet another annoyance piled onto an already trying day.
“I can do that.”
Optimus glanced back to the table, where Scorponok had drowsily propped himself on his elbows. “You?”
Scorponok glared, but couldn’t hold the expression for more than a few seconds before he slipped back to neutral. “Yeah, shouldn’t be hard. Just need a pipe going down to the river, a pump to bring the water up, and another pipe for waste … preferably a ways down river. Easy, at least as soon as I wake up properly. I’ll need to know what your current systems look like, though.”
When there was no immediate answer, Scorponok managed a smile. “Of course, this could all be a clever trick to learn the layout of the Axalon’s systems.”
Optimus rolled his eyes. If he could put up with Rattrap’s jokes, he could put up with the Predacon sense of humour. He tapped a few keys on the table, summoning the schematics of the Axalon. “I don’t want to hear anything from you, Rattrap. This needs to be done. Rhinox is busy and Scorponok has the skills to do this.” Rattrap looked ready to protest anyway. Optimus shrugged. “If you’re so worried, help him. Call Airazor back and put her on monitor duty.”
“Aw, for …”
“I’ll see what materials we have down in storage,” Optimus continued. Then, remembering his own decreased strength, “Waspinator, come with me.”
Waspinator shook her head. “Megatron told me to stay here.”
“Spying,” Rattrap opined.
“Go with him, Waspinator,” said Scorponok. “They’re trusting me with the schematics, we’d better trust them.”
“See, Rattrap? Teamwork.”
Save for a light wind through the trees, the forest was silent. Not even the insects buzzed – it was a waiting silence. The antelope grazing in the clearing realised that this silence was dangerous.
Not that the knowledge did it a bit of good.
There was an explosion of movement, a fierce cry, a stab of pain, and nothing.
Once the antelope stopped twitching, Dinobot withdrew his sword and knelt to clean it on the grass. “Hunting finally has some challenge,” he said when he stood again. Their first three attempts had managed to get away. While Dinobot didn’t like failure, he still found that he was enjoying himself.
Tigatron just shook her head. “We are a part of this world now. To hunt when we must, yes …”
Dinobot tuned her out. He’d heard enough of Tigatron’s ‘respect the planet’ speeches that he could see where this one was going. Still, he was a hunter, and with the truce, Predacons were no longer fair game. He would have to find a new …
At the thought of Predacons, he looked around. “We seem to be … missing a third of our party.”
Tigatron stopped in mid-sentence. “When did Inferno part from our group?”
“When did you see her last?”
“My attention was on the trail of the antelope!”
“I cannot believe you lost Inferno!”
“Perhaps my impression that you were watching her was mistaken.” Tigatron wasn’t usually snappish, but given the day’s assorted stresses, Dinobot guessed she felt entitled. “If we return to the Axalon without her, the Predacons will assume that we disposed of her.”
Dinobot hissed. “I know that. Which one of us is the resident expert on Predacons, hmm?”
A wild laugh and the crash of underbrush solved their problem. Inferno marched up to the two Maximals, blood-soaked and grinning, some type of wild boar draped over her shoulder. “Success! The Queen will be pleased.”
Almost simultaneously, the Maximals arched their eyebrows, but chose not to ask. Given Inferno’s worldview, they didn’t really want to know. Deciding that the Predacon was as cooperative as she’d ever be, Tigatron shrugged. “Our hunt was also successful. Let us return to the base.”
“What do you mean I cannot take a shower? Move aside!”
“I mean, firebug, that the chemicals we used to use to clean ourselves would do nasty things to us now,” Rattrap retorted from the hallway floor, where he was up to his elbows in piping. “Synth-skin, hey, yeah, it’s fine. Not on the real thing. Not unless you got an urge to lose that pretty brown hide of yours. And put the flamethrower down! You shouldn’t even be carrying that in here!”
She glared at him. “I am covered in blood and sweat, and I smell of burnt fur. If you do not …”
“Nobody uses the shower until we get a water pipe running up here,” Rattrap finished, immoveable object to the irresistible force. “We’re working on it. Keep yer leather on.”
The Amazon growled. “Listen, rat …”
Rattrap reached up and tapped a button on the wall, activating the intraship commlink. “Rattrap to Megatron: I’ve got an armed, angry, pyromaniac warrior babe up here about two seconds from detonation. Can you talk some sense into her?”
A snarl that became a sigh filtered through the small radio. “Expand on the situation.”
“Inferno wants to take a shower. We haven’t converted the pipes yet.”
“Oh, for … Inferno, are you listening?”
“Go down to the river and wash up there.”
“Yes, Royalty.” Without another word, she turned on her heel and marched out.
Rattrap shook his head. “Your girl’s got some weird hang-ups, Megs.”
“Ants are very tidy. Unlike some Maximals.”
“You seem to be settling in quite nicely.”
Scorponok stood up quickly, lucky that he wasn’t under anything to damage his head any further. “Megatron! I was just …”
“Installing the plumbing,” Megatron finished. “So I heard. A good way to gain the trust of our hosts, yes.”
“I just … I just volunteered to do it because it needed to be done,” Scorponok explained quickly.
Megatron nodded. “Even better. I do hope this is finished soon. Inferno gets a bit testy when she cannot get a shower.”
Just because he’d known his leader for centuries and considered him a friend didn’t mean he had the faintest idea how his mind worked. “Megatron …” Scorponok trailed off uncertainly. “What are we going to do?”
Megatron smiled. “Our plans continue.”
Waspinator was sitting on the ground, leaning against one of the Axalon’s landing legs. Night had fallen, and she wanted to be alone, just for a little while. She had her own problems to think about.
The moonlight spilled over her, providing the only illumination. It seemed too dark outside, but then, Waspinator had been used to optic sensors with night-vision. Amongst other things – organic sight made everything seem dead. She looked up at the moon – there was only one now. There was something familiar about it, something she couldn’t quite place …
She heard the hiss of the lift, and scooted back into the shadow of the ship to see who it was without being noticed herself. If it was a Predacon she might have called out to him, but as it turned out, it was Dinobot.
He looked around as the lift touched down, slightly crouched, sniffing the night air. But he didn’t notice the woman in the shadow, and he stepped out into the moonlight.
He stopped, staring at the moon.
After a minute, he clenched his fists. “So …”
Waspinator held her breath, but all Dinobot did was turn and stalk back to the lift, any other plans forgotten. He had noticed it as well. And now, after watching his reaction, she knew why she recognised the moon …
Sleeping arrangements were another matter entirely.
“I am not sharing with anyone.”
“Territorial much, chopperface? Ehn, I’ll room with anyone who isn’t a Pred and doesn’t snore.”
Holding a coldpack to his head, Scorponok learned over to his leader and muttered, “Why don’t we just go back to our base if there isn’t enough room here?”
“Many reasons, mostly involving the fact that our base is in the middle of a section of lava-filled wasteland, while the area surrounding the Axalon is much more temperate,” Megatron replied. Then, louder, “This debate is ridiculous. We will be taking shifts anyway, will we not?”
“I call whatever shift Terrorsaur doesn’t,” Blackarachnia piped immediately.
“Why not?” asked Scorponok, apparently feeling much better than he had that morning. “Then you won’t need an alarm clock.”
Terrorsaur glared at them both, but Waspinator interrupted before he could say anything. “I’ll share space with Terrorsaur. I don’t mind.”
“Oh, that wasn’t a given,” Scorponok scoffed, rolling his eyes.
Apparently feeling the need for revenge, Terrorsaur winked at him. “You’re just jealous. Besides, we all know where Inferno’s going to end up …”
Megatron clamped a hand down on Scorponok’s shoulder before he could lunge at Terrorsaur, then glared at the redhead. “Stop bickering. Now.”
Terrorsaur settled back against the wall, grinning innocently. Rattrap raised his hands to the heavens. “Just great. Predacon home life. If this is how you gearheads usually act, I’m gonna walk back to Cybertron.”
Every Predacon in the room began to smile. Optimus cut in before any could say anything. “Rattrap, don’t encourage them.” Then, to the room in general, “Look, can we just decide this? We’ll figure out a proper schedule in the morning. This is all temporary anyway.”
“Fine.” Blackarachnia rose gracefully to her feet. “I’m going back to the lab to keep an eye on Tarantulas.”
“You really think it’s safe leavin’ her alone all night in …”
“She was in the lab unsupervised all day, Rattrap,” Rhinox reminded him. “The base hasn’t exploded yet.”
Tigatron stood. “I have no set quarters in the Axalon. I will return to …”
She was cut off by Airazor. “She’s with me. How often am I even in my room, anyway?”
Scorponok and Inferno were still arguing, quietly but intensely. Megatron sighed. “Inferno, you will room with Scorponok. Drive each other crazy for a change.”
“But, Royalty …”
The Predacon commander glared them both into silence, then settled back in his chair. “There. We’re done.”
Once she had got her hands on a flamethrower, even her current Maximal-built one, Inferno refused to let it go. There had been a minor row about that – the truce stated that weapons weren’t allowed in the Axalon. It had taken all of Megatron’s bargaining skills to convince the Maximals that Inferno wasn’t going to use it on any of them as long as the truce lasted; Inferno never attacked anyone she considered a nestmate unless she or Megatron was openly threatened.
The Maximals weren’t happy. Neither was Megatron, for that matter. “I cannot believe the fuss you put up, Inferno. For now we must get along with the Maximals.”
Humbly, Inferno lowered her dark eyes. “I … forgive me, my Queen. My motives were selfish. I … I need my flamethrower …”
“Why? We have a ceasefire.”
Inferno drew the weapon against her chest, as if afraid he would try to take it from her. “The fire is … part of me, Royalty. Even this poor substitute …”
“Very well. Keep it,” sighed Megatron. He knew Inferno was a pyromaniac, but he hadn’t been aware of how deep the obsession ran. As a Transformer, Inferno’s flamethrower had indeed been a literal part of herself. Fire defined her. Now, as an organic, she had to rely on an external device for something she always felt she was the source of.
He sighed again when he realised that the Amazon had taken up a guard’s stance by the door. “Nothing is going to happen, Inferno. Go. You’re quartered with Scorponok, not me.”
She wasn’t easily deterred. “My place is to protect you, Royalty.”
“Inferno, at least go to sleep before you collapse, yes?”
“I do not need to sleep.”
He gave up. Inferno wanted to learn the hard way that sheer force of will wasn’t always enough, so he would let her. Megatron looked over his new room appraisingly. “I will certainly need my computers brought here, yes. And as soon as Scorponok finishes with the main plumbing, I want my hot-tub again …”
Terrorsaur sceptically looked at the floor of what were now, for the time being at least, his and Waspinator’s quarters. The berth wouldn’t be any better; it was also made of metal. Then he shrugged, took off his jacket, and folded it into a reasonable pillow. After a moment’s thought, he unbound his hair and took off the gloves and boots as well. A few of the others had problems with the idea of clothing; they saw it as a part of themselves, as unremovable as a Transformer’s outer plating. Terrorsaur had encountered modular armour before; clothing was nothing new.
He settled back into his usual sleeping position; hands behind his head, feet crossed at the ankles, looking up at the ceiling. It wasn’t comfortable on the metal deck, but he sternly informed himself that it was temporary and he could handle one night of anything. Terrorsaur wasn’t worried about getting cold; the room had temperature controls. He was a little worried that Waspinator might prefer to have the lights off. Terrorsaur always slept with the lights on – not out of a fear of the dark, just because he liked to immediately see where he was when he woke up … especially now that he wasn’t in his own room. Still, he was certain they could compromise, whatever his friend’s preference. Terrorsaur sat up, intending to ask, but paused.
Waspinator was sitting on her side of the room, facing away from him, trembling silently. Terrorsaur got up, walked over, and knelt down in front of his partner to lay his hands on her shoulders. “Waspy …” He trailed off. Asking if she was all right was an obviously stupid question. Asking what was wrong was similarly foolish. Instead, he asked, “Do you want to talk?” It was up to her. One of the basic rules of their rather loose friendship was that they never, never pushed for information.
She looked up at him, a drops of clear liquid trailing down her cheeks. Worried, Terrorsaur wiped one of them away as if he could still determine its chemical composition with his fingers. “Primus. You’re leaking or something. C’mon, let me help you down to the lab …”
Terrorsaur managed to get Waspinator to her feet before she protested. “N-no. It doesn’t hurt. I’m fine. Just a … a stress reaction, I think.” Suddenly, she all but collapsed against him. “I’m scared, Terrorsaur. What’s going to happen to me?”
“Shh. We’re all scared. It’s just nobody’s showing it.”
Waspinator continued, as if to herself, “I know what will happen to everyone else. I just don’t know what will happen to me …”
She was babbling, working herself up worse. Firmly, Terrorsaur steered her to his side of the room. “You’re tired. Things will still be lousy in the morning, but at least you’ll be coherent.”
“Never be better.” Despite her continued muttering, she didn’t resist as her friend pulled her down. “Always alone, eventually …”
He patted her shoulder again. “You’re not alone. Not if I can help it.” If he couldn’t do anything else, he could at least be there. She would have done the same if their positions were reversed. Waspinator mumbled something else incoherent, but settled her head against Terrorsaur’s chest and fell asleep. She would feel better in the morning. So he hoped.
Terrorsaur wasn’t thrilled about suddenly being forced into the role of the mature one in their friendship. Well, he admitted to himself, that had always been his place, but Waspinator used to have a weird kind of stability about herself. Waspinator unbalanced worried him.
It was probably just stress. She’d be resigned to the situation soon enough. Waspinator was nothing if not adaptable.
And there was something nice about the way she settled against him so trustingly …
Terrorsaur casually pushed the thought aside. Waspinator was Waspinator. Even when she was an organic biped.
To be continued ...