Other Vengeance 2.0
Immediate Survival
( part two )

wayward@insecticons.com

"We found them," Dinobot announced as he, Airazor, and Tigatron escorted their prisoners into the control centre. He rubbed at a reddish discolouration on his jaw, winced, then scowled when he realised he'd winced. "My first thought was to lock them up again, but I decided you would probably wish to speak with them."

At least the Predacons were fairly easy to identify. Optimus didn't know them well enough to pick up on more subtle clues, but the changes weren't so extensive that he needed them. Blackarachnia was still black and gold and delicate and walked with an exaggerated swing to her shoulders and hips. Inferno was still big and red and in what Optimus thought of as the warrior's 'off' mode - stiff and controlled, as different from 'on' which was all fire and violence. Tarantulas, by elimination, was the one slung over Inferno's shoulder.

Inferno laid Tarantulas out on an uncluttered patch of floor, where Blackarachnia crouched over the scientist and fussed. "What happened to Tarantulas?" asked Optimus.

"We didn't touch him," said Airazor. "Blackarachnia and Inferno were trying to carry him out."

"Her," Blackarachnia muttered.

Airazor blinked at her. "What?"

"Well, were you an eagle before or a falcon?" asked Blackarachnia peevishly. "You, me, Bl - er, Tarantulas, Inferno, and the striped cat are female. I'll bet Waspinator is, too. The rest of them are male. Beast-modes, you know. I'm just striving for accuracy."

"At the moment, I'm more interested in the broad strokes and you can fill in the details later," said Optimus. "What happened?"

"Tarantulas attacked me before this change," Inferno supplied unhappily. "I automatically responded in kind, though I was not to do so. The Royalty will be angry."

Rattrap snorted. "Yeah, and you were in bits last I saw you, firebug."

"Tarantulas doesn't look burnt," said Cheetor.

"I'm going to go get a scanner," Rhinox announced, then left.

Optimus glared down at Blackarachnia. "And just where did you think you were slipping off to? Were you lying earlier when you said you couldn't get the stasis pod ship to work?"

The Predacon scowled back up at him. "I couldn't get it to work. I thought I'd try again anyway, but I wasn't halfway to the stasis hold when the wave hit."

And now I have Predacons, thought Optimus unhappily. "What am I supposed to do with you three?"

"Give us foot-rubs and let us go?" suggested Blackarachnia.

Inferno smiled. "The Royalty will come for us," she said with near-religious conviction, "and then you will all burn."

"You think ol' Meggy's gonna want you now?" asked Rattrap.

"Megatron will not abandon us!"

Optimus sighed. "Rattrap, don't bait Inferno. Inferno, be quiet."

"I need not listen to you," Inferno said contemptuously, but quieted anyway, turning her attention to sizing up the rest of the Maximals.

Rhinox reappeared with a hand-scanner and a toolbox, and sat down next to Tarantulas. He tapped at the controls, then frowned. "I'm getting some very strange readings. Maybe the scanner's damaged."

"Strange how?"

"Strange like I'm not even going to tell you until I'm certain the scanner's working properly," said Rhinox. "Hold still for a cycle."

Optimus let himself be scanned. Rhinox didn't look reassured. "I'll get back to you when I figure out what's wrong," he said, then went to go scan the others.

The others who included Predacons, bringing Optimus' thoughts back where they didn't want to go. He couldn't put it off forever. The sooner they knew the condition of the other Predacons, the better. "Rattrap, is the communications array working?"

Rattrap tapped a few buttons. "Looks like. Not real well, though."

"All right. Contact the Predacon base. Audio only."

Rattrap's hand hovered over the console. "You sure you wanna do that?"

"We need to know," Optimus pointed out. "If they're unaffected, they won't know that we were. They'll have the advantage, but won't realise it. If they are affected, they'll realise why we're sending an audio-only transmission and we'll be on equal ground."

"And we do have hostages. Though I doubt Megatron will care about that," said Dinobot. Inferno snarled at him.

"I don't like it. We should get the ship repaired first," said Rattrap.

"I don't like it either, but I like not knowing less," Optimus told him. "Contact them."

Rattrap theatrically hit a button. "Connection established."

Inferno lunged forward. "Royalty, the Maximals are -"

"Dinobot! Airazor!" Optimus ordered the closest people. "Sit on her if you have to, just keep her quiet!"

"Oops. I didn't hit the right button, boss," said Rattrap innocently. "Want me to try again?"

Primus bless all suspicious little rodents. Dinobot and Airazor seemed to have Inferno well enough in hand now. "Yes," said Optimus. He checked to make sure Rattrap had actually made the right connection and said, "Axalon to the Predacon base. Anybody home?"

There was a brief pause between the connection being picked up and the voice: "Optimus Primal. To what to I owe the honour of hearing your voice?"

Static distorted Megatron's voice and the smooth resonance was lost in something harsh and strained, but it was still recognisable. Sarcasm dripped off every syllable, but it wasn't enough to distract from the fact that Megatron had made a point of mentioning the lack of visual contact. Under the circumstances, it was a reason for hope. "Just showing neighbourly concern, Megatron. After all, that attack was pretty severe, and you're in a more tectonically unstable area than we are."

"How nice of you. I suppose you'll offer to help us with repairs next."

"Some repairs might be beyond our skill."

The radio was silent for a moment. Then, "Such as your communications relay, I take it."

"That, we can fix." Optimus steeled himself and took the plunge. "I'm willing to bet you have the same 'mechanical difficulties' that we do. Patch in your visual feed."

There was a sound like a sigh, then the viewscreen activated. Megatron glared at him through static. "Happy, Primal?"

Wide-set features, black hair, face dark and damp and marred by burns. No longer metal but still Megatron. Another figure - Terrorsaur - was visible in the background, slumped against a counter. Even in strange bodies, the Predacons were obviously in rough condition. "Not particularly," Optimus admitted. "How about a truce? A real one this time."

Megatron seemed about to speak, but turned away from the screen to cover a brief coughing fit. He turned back and sighed. "I suppose we have the same problem, yes."

"Come on over. We seem to have half of your crew here already."

"Hm, yes, I see that. Be advised that Inferno is not furniture. Do you really think I'm going to just walk into your base?"

Optimus bit back a sigh. "I wasn't even thinking of an ambush. All right - how about the plain below the plateau? I'll send exact coordinates."

Megatron glanced down to read the display. "Adequate. Megatron out."

The screen went black. Optimus looked back over his shoulder. "You suggested it," Dinobot accused from his seat on Inferno's upper back. He had a hand over her mouth.

Airazor, sitting on the Predacon's legs, shrugged. "Works, right?"

"If I knew you were gonna invite the Preds out, I wouldn't have activated the comm system," Rattrap complained.

"They have the same problem we do," said Optimus. "Even worse, from the look of it. Megatron isn't stupid. He must realise that continuing the fight under these circumstances would be idiotic."

Dinobot let out a yelp of pain. "All of you will burn!" shouted Inferno.

"She bit me!" Dinobot accused. "Are you certain I cannot shoot her?"

Optimus covered his face with his hand. "Not thirty seconds into a truce you won't!"

"We could wipe out half the Predacons, right now," Dinobot continued.

"I'm right here and I can hear you, you know," muttered Blackarachnia.

"No, Dinobot." The idea was tempting, Optimus had to admit. Not killing the Predacons, no, but at least locking them up. Seven against four would be over quite quickly, especially since they all seemed to be about even physically now.

"Let Inferno up," said Optimus. "You can't sit on her all day."

"If we free her, she will attack," said Dinobot.

Optimus crouched down. "You heard Megatron, Inferno. He'll come. Will you wait for him?"

"Yes."

"Let her up."

Dinobot and Airazor stood up, followed by the Predacon warrior. Inferno theatrically dusted herself off, then suddenly lunged at Optimus. "I will wait after I've prepared him a proper welcome!"

Inferno managed to knock Optimus down before Dinobot dragged her off. She struggled free, but was immediately tackled and pinned again by the other Maximals.

Optimus glanced back at the other conscious Predacon. "Blackarachnia, could you keep her under control?"

"I obey only Megatron!" Inferno yelled.

"She obeys only Megatron," said Blackarachnia.

"Fine," said Optimus, and reactivated the communications array. "Megatron?"

"What now?"

"Could you explain to Inferno that's she's not supposed to attack us now?"

"Oh, for ... Inferno! For now the situation demands a truce. You are to take no aggressive action against the Maximals until further orders. Do you understand?"

Inferno attempted to salute, but was being sat on again. "Yes, Royalty."

"Now let Inferno up and let me get back to work!"

Megatron cut the connection. At a gesture from Optimus, the Maximals pinning Inferno released her. This time Inferno just retreated to a corner of the room and glared at everyone.

"So," said Terrorsaur. "Optimus has invited us over. Any bright ideas how to get there?"

Megatron didn't even look at him. "If memory serves, there is a loader sled in the cargo bay. Go see if it's still there and if the cargo bay is actually liveable. If not, bring the sled to somewhere that is. Then contact me."

There was the brief silence of a minion who had forgotten that Megatron always had a plan, a muttered, "Whatever. C'mon, Waspy," and the swish of the door.

Megatron returned to the scanner readouts, trying to make sense of them through the pounding in his head. After several minutes, he was distracted by a groan. He was at his second-in-command's side immediately. "Scorponok?"

"Megatron? You look funny."

"The short version involves the aliens, the energy wave, and a total reformat. You're injured. You took the most damage from the volcanic gases."

His second-in-command had already propped himself up on his elbows. "I'm fine. Gyros are just off a bit." With that, he groaned again and sank back to the table. "What's the long version?"

Megatron explained, though the long version wasn't much more informative than the short version. He rested his hand on Scorponok's shoulder. "All told, I'd prefer if you were active instead of the flyers. They're useful enough in a fight, I suppose, but quite hopeless in this situation."

'Hopeless' seemed to be a good summary of the entire day. Even if I won the Beast Wars now, I can't return to Cybertron like this. For now, our best bet is the Discs and the knowledge inscribed thereon, but can we even use it if we find it? Can we even last that long? We were immediately injured by the atmosphere inside our own base, the CR tanks won't work on these forms, and I don't know how to repair flesh! He recognised the feeling as helplessness and violently rejected it. We are Predacons. We will persevere. Waspinator recovered. Scorponok will recover. Yes.

"You okay, Megatron?"

He realised that he'd set his jaw and was glaring at nothing, and forced himself to relax. "Hm? No, obviously. But nothing for you to concern yourself with."

Scorponok was a friend, but there were limits. Megatron was the commander of the Predacons. Admitting he was worried about Scorponok was out of the question.

A wall panel beeped. "Hey, Megatron."

Megatron walked over and hit the intercom. "Terrorsaur. You found the sled?"

"Waspinator found it!" Waspinator corrected.

"Come on down - the cargo bay's fine," said Terrorsaur.

The connection cut. Megatron looked back at Scorponok. He could probably use Scorponok's help, but not if the technician was just going to fall over on him. "You will be all right if left alone for a time?"

"Yeah. I think I'll just lie here and count the rivets in the ceiling for a while."

"Good."

"Have you two made any progress with Tarantulas?"

"None, Optimus," said Rhinox. He sat back on his heels, frowning at the unconscious Predacon. "According to my scans, Tarantulas is in perfect repair. She should be awake. I don't know what's wrong. And it gets worse," said Rhinox. "Here. It's what I noticed before."

Optimus accepted the scanner that Rhinox handed up to him, read the screen, blinked, and read it again. "This isn't possible."

"It shouldn't be," Rhinox agreed, "but we're living it. I checked everyone here. It's how I established a baseline to compare to Tarantulas."

Rattrap, with his unerring sense for trouble, seemed to materialise beside him. "What's goin' on?"

Blackarachnia started laughing, a raspy giggle of amusement that degenerated into hysteria. She regained control over herself quickly, muttering something about looking weak in front of the enemy. Even without her outburst, the rest of the Maximals were looking at them, sensing that something was wrong.

"You've double-checked your instruments. You're sure," said Optimus.

"I'm sure," said Rhinox. "And she double-checked." Blackarachnia started angrily field-stripping a small diagnostic tool, just to have something to focus on that wasn't their predicament.

There was nothing for it. Optimus looked up at his crew. "Maximals ... these aren't unusual beast-modes. We're fully organic."

Cheetor blinked. "What? How?"

"Well," said Airazor, "that explains why we can't transform. Not that I'd have ever guessed that reason ..."

"So instead of killing us, the aliens decided to insult us," sneered Dinobot.

Tigatron gave the warrior a look that should have vaporised him. "Organics are inferior, are they?" Her tone was still polite, but straining to contain a growl.

Dinobot turned on her and glared back. "In my experience, yes. And you cannot deny that these forms are weaker than our true ones."

"I don't like this," said Rattrap. "I mean, the aliens very deliberately turned us into squashy things. What's the point? Are they gonna try to kill us now or what?"

"I don't know," Optimus admitted. "Nothing the aliens have done has made sense. All we can do is stay alert and adapt until we find a way to reverse the change."

"If we find a way," Rattrap muttered.

"While we're thinking of adaptation, there is the matter of refuelling," said Tigatron. "Energon is obviously out. Organic beings eat. Often."

"That's not a big deal," said Cheetor. "We all used to eat before."

"We could eat almost anything as robots," Tigatron agreed. "But somehow I doubt that our stomachs could handle that. How strong a chemical do you think this flesh could contain?"

"Many species of plants and some animals are poisonous to ward off predators," said Rhinox.

"We can likely figure out just from scans what's compatible with our body chemistry," said Optimus. "But we need a place to start. We can't go around randomly putting things in our mouths hoping that we can convert them into fuel."

"Heh, the creatures on this planet are nearly identical under their skin," Blackarachnia said suddenly, then stifled a giggle. It was easy enough to guess how she knew, and she probably enjoyed the research. "There are a few differences, but generally all the internals are merely different proportional sizes. I'd say it's a safe bet that whatever species is most physically similar to us on the outside is also the most similar on the inside."

"That'd be the apes," said Rhinox.

Automatically, everyone turned to look at Optimus, who held up his hands. "Just because I wore the form of a gorilla doesn't mean I put a great deal of study into what they eat. I had a conversion tank like the rest of you."

"Judging by our teeth, we're omnivores," said Blackarachnia. "The local animals should be, ah-hah, fair game as a fuel source."

"The diets of apes are a start, though," said Rhinox. "Tigatron ...?"

The tracker shook her head. "I do not know the specifics. But I know where the nearest gorilla colony is and could likely reach it in a megacycle."

"Good. Keep that in mind but don't go yet," said Optimus. "We don't know when the other Predacons will arrive. Hm. Rhinox, you might as well help Blackarachnia take Tarantulas down to the xenobiology lab. See if anything down there will be of any use."

Blackarachnia smirked. "You make it sound as if we're staying."

"I'm just making a suggestion," said Optimus, shrugging. "Or you can just leave Tarantulas on the floor. It's no difference to me."

"Oh, sweet talker," said Blackarachnia sarcastically, but got her arms under Tarantulas' shoulders. "While I'm here, I might as well take advantage of any Maximal hospitality. Lead the way, big guy." Rhinox picked up Tarantulas by the feet and carefully led the way out.

"Water, as well," said Tigatron, still on her first topic. "Hydration is even more important than refuelling, from what I've seen."

"Well, we're right on a river," said Rattrap. "We can run up a big hose and install a pump easy enough. I'll go see if we got the stuff for it." He left.

"All I have been hearing is 'adapt'," growled Dinobot. "No one has said anything about 'cure'."

Airazor raised an eyebrow. "Do you have any ideas?"

The warrior shot a pointed look at Tigatron. "I am not the biologist."

Tigatron shook her head. "I do fieldwork biology, Dinobot. I know how animals live and can make educated guesses as to what these bodies need. But if we're looking for some way to reverse the change, we need a laboratory biologist. The only name that comes to mind is Tarantulas."

"And Megatron, to a lesser degree," Dinobot added. "He dabbles. Interesting, though, that our main hope at a cure is conveniently unconscious."

"I wish you would stop saying 'cure'," rumbled Tigatron. "This is a change, not a disease."

"Hnh."

"Hey! Don't touch that!"

Inferno looked ready to belt Cheetor for catching her out, but relaxed her hands and stepped back from the computer. Optimus had almost forgotten she was there - the Predacon warrior was usually so loud and active that sitting quietly had practically made her invisible. She'd only been noticed because she moved. "I wanted to check the scanners to see if the Royalty was coming. The rest of you don't seem to be paying any attention."

"We've got an array pointed towards the Predacon base. We'll know when they come," said Optimus.

Cheetor flopped back into his chair. "Well, what do we do until then?"

"Work on repairs. I'm going to go down and help Rattrap with the plumbing."

When the alarm sounded, Optimus and Rattrap immediately dropped work on the half-finished pump and returned to the control room at a run. The noise had been shut off by the time they arrived, but the tension in the air meant the emergency wasn't over. "Report!"

Inferno stood back and laughed. She stopped when Dinobot snarled at her, but continued to radiate smugness. The only one who didn't notice her outburst was Cheetor, who was scrambling at the monitor panel. "We've got something coming in from the direction of the Pred base! It's not real fast, but it's metallic and airborne!"

Optimus ran over to lean over Cheetor's shoulder. "Get it on visual! Now!" If only one Predacon was still a Transformer ... Inferno's here, I saw Terrorsaur in the background when I was talking to Megatron ... Waspinator? Are we all going to be killed by Waspinator?

"It's too big to be Waspinator," said Cheetor, who had come to the same conclusion. He tried to coax more information out of the damaged sensors. "It's not a stasis pod - the scanners would know. It's not giving off a personal energy signature. I think it's just a ... a thing."

"A thing. How eloquent," Dinobot sneered. "Optimus, I should go out and ..."

"Possibly end up a smear," said Optimus, already up to his elbows in wires trying to reactivate the outside cameras. "I think I've ... there!"

The picture quality was poor, but at least it laid his fears to rest - the Predacons were all affected as the Maximals were, they'd just rigged up a cargo sled for travel. The hoversled set down near the agreed-upon coordinates, but not directly on, probably out of paranoia more than bad driving.

"Rattrap, stay up here on monitor duty," said Optimus. Rattrap would be more able to deal with any mechanical problems in the scanners than Cheetor. "We haven't got radios so we'll be out of contact, but keep track of things as well as you can. The rest of you, we're going out to talk to the neighbours. You too, Inferno."

The Predacon warrior rumbled. "Of course."

Splitting up seemed an acceptable risk - Blackarachnia might have been tricky, but so was Rattrap, and Rhinox was twice her size. She seemed preoccupied with Tarantulas anyway.

"Well, where are they?"

Megatron glanced back at Terrorsaur, who was seated in the long grass, back to back with Waspinator, who had fallen asleep. The Predacon commander frowned. "Oh, yes, and you two make such a dignified and imposing scene."

"I'll get up when there's something to impose at," said Terrorsaur. "They could be ten metres away and we wouldn't know. We should have waited for more light."

"It's enough." Barely, Megatron could admit. The pre-dawn light was enough to make out shapes and little more. "They weren't going to come out here and wait. There's no cover and they had no idea how long it would take for us to arrive. If they saw us arrive - and I'm quite certain they were watching for us - it should take ten, perhaps fifteen cycles for them to walk here."

The air warrior shifted a bit. "So I've got time for a quick recharge, then?"

"You do not ..." But the harsh rhythm of Terrorsaur's breathing had already evened out. Megatron sighed and sat on the edge of the parked loader sled next to Scorponok. "Why did I hire those idiots?"

"They came to you."

"Mm. True."

They were all armed now - Terrorsaur had been allowed to retrieve his gun while the others had taken some of the smaller weapons from the armoury. Not that they'd do much good in the shape the Predacons were in, but they made Megatron feel better.

Being outside in the cool of the morning helped as well. His eyes no longer burned and watered and his skin no longer leaked, except a bit where it was burned. Breathing wasn't so much of a chore and the pump in his chest had found a slower, less painful rhythm. Even his headache had subsided a little. He still wished he had the luxury of slipping into stasis, though, even if just for a little while, for the respite from pain and the hope that his repairs would go faster. And now I must parlay with Maximals. Blast it all.

The plain gave no cover and the sun was rising, so after a few minutes, Megatron was able to make out the Maximal party approaching. He couldn't focus his sight properly to make out any details until they were too close for it to matter. Megatron waited until they were twenty metres away before getting up and kicking his flyers awake.

He amused himself briefly trying to determine who was who, but it wasn't much of a challenge. Optimus, Dinobot, Tigatron, Airazor, Cheetor ... Oddly, despite everyone being in similar bodies now, the Maximal cats had more differences between them than they had before the change. However, the part that held Megatron's attention was that they were all armed - like himself, not showing active aggression, but armed - except one. Well, given who it was, he couldn't really blame them for not giving him a gun.

"Royalty!"

Inferno crossed the rest of the distance at a run, but pulled up short and wrinkled his nose. "Er, Royalty ..."

"That would be lava fumes," said Megatron irritably. He stepped past his warrior to address the one he'd picked out as his Maximal counterpart. "Well, Optimus Primal, you didn't gun us down. Maximal kindness, I suppose."

"Probably," said Optimus. "What's your excuse?"

Megatron put a hand to his chest. "You wound me. I cannot have a fit of neighbourliness? I do note we're missing some people. The rat, the rhino ... and where are my spiders, Primal?"

"They're not hostages, if that's what you're asking," said Optimus. "Tarantulas never woke up after the change. She's alive, but we thought it best not to move her around too much. Rhinox and Blackarachnia are looking after her."

"How nice of ... Wait. 'Her'?"

"Don't look at me. Blackarachnia's the one who insisted on gendered pronouns."

"Odd. Tell me about Tarantulas."

Optimus shrugged. "There's not much to tell. Blackarachnia found her unconscious. Tarantulas had been badly damaged before the change, but so were others and they're fine now. Rhinox and Dinobot had both been in the CR chambers when the change hit. We found them fully repaired, though I know the chambers hadn't finished with them. Inferno had been seriously damaged and in stasis lock as well. As far as we can tell, there's nothing wrong with Tarantulas, she just won't wake up."

"Yet some of us are ... injured, despite being in full repair beforehand," said Megatron reluctantly. "Though that happened afterwards, I believe. The perils of having one's command centre above a lava pit."

"Dinobot developed a mark on his jaw," said Optimus. "Inferno punched him."

"I suppose it's useful to know that these bodies discolour when damaged. Dinobot's injury lends credence to my initial assumption. Whatever happened to Tarantulas must have happened after the change as well, since it didn't affect the rest of us adversely." Megatron went back to the hoversled and got on. "Optimus Primal, I thank you for looking after my people in this strange time, but I will be collecting up the spiders and heading back to our base."

There was a cough behind him, meant to be a quiet noise to draw attention but a damaged throat made the sound much harsher. "Oh, yeah, great idea. We can't go back there, remember?" Terrorsaur rasped, leaning heavily against Waspinator, though it was impossible to tell who was propping up who. "It was hard to breathe even in the clean sections."

Megatron turned back to glare at him. "Then we'll improve the environmental systems. Have you got a better idea?"

"Yeah. Not dying of lava fumes!"

"Wait, so you guys got those burns just from the air?" asked Cheetor. "Freaky."

"Even the air is out to get Waspinator," sighed Waspinator.

"Both of you be quiet," Megatron ordered his air warriors. "Terrorsaur exaggerates. Our entire command deck is swimming in lava, true, you know this. Even with the environmental controls at their limits, these bodies can't handle the heat or the gases from the lava for more than a few cycles without suffering detrimental effects. The rest isn't nearly so bad."

"What if your environmental systems burn out?" asked Optimus.

"What if you're struck by a meteor?" Megatron countered irritably, finding his headache returning full-force.

"We all have the same problem," said Optimus. "If we team up, we can focus our energies towards reversing the changes the aliens made in us. If we're undermining each other, we'll never solve this. In fact, I don't think either side could solve it alone."

Megatron inspected his fingers, trying to look calm and in control despite the fact that all he wanted was to retreat and get a chance to repair. "I would put my crew against yours any day. For an exploration crew, you seem rather lacking in scientists. What you have are engineers."

"Your scientist won't wake up. Even if she did, how long would Tarantulas last in her new body? You have abstract knowledge. You need practical." Optimus looked his counterpart straight in the eyes. "You're right - we need the Predacons to reverse the changes. But you need the Maximals to live."

Inwardly, Megatron sighed. He could blame Terrorsaur and Waspinator for being noisy whiners and giving away the severity of their situation, but the truth was that it was obvious enough. The Maximals could tell by looking that the Predacons were in bad shape, and between the smell and the burns they could have deduced the problems with the Predacon base on their own. And Optimus was right - Megatron already had several ideas on how the change could possibly be reversed, but none on how to survive in his new body until then. "Your move, Optimus Primal."

"We ..." Optimus stopped and frowned. "Excuse us a moment. Maximals?"

The Maximals moved off to talk amongst themselves. Megatron looked back at his own crew. "How nice to know that he has no idea what to do next."

"Er ... Do we?" asked Scorponok.

Before Megatron could answer, there was an indignant bellow from Dinobot: "Primal! You cannot be serious!" that was quickly shushed by his fellows. The general tone of the Maximal huddle grew more heated, but they were still too far away for the Predacons to make out the conversation.

"Optimus Primal seems to be having some problems keeping control over his people," said Megatron idly. "Inferno, did they say anything interesting while you were in the Axalon?"

Inferno frowned in concentration. "They worried that you might still be at full power. They wondered about Tarantulas' condition and whether she may be the only one who could reverse this change. They discussed fuels and maintenance issues."

"In detail?"

"No, Royalty. Even they are only making educated guesses based on the local wildlife."

"Which we have paid little attention to. Blast."

The Maximals returned, looking decidedly unhappy, though Dinobot was the only one looking openly hostile. The others ran from wary to trying to look neutral. Optimus was one of the latter. "We have space in the Axalon," he said without preamble. "We're still missing fifteen of our crew, after all. Your base might have more appropriate equipment for experimentation, but you can't stay there. As well, the Axalon has more ready access to the fuels we need. We should make the Axalon our base of operations and bring over whatever else we need from your ship."

Megatron blinked in surprise, caught off-guard by the offer. He had already run several situations through his mind, with appropriate counterplots, but this was not a possibility he had considered. "What?"

"You're done-in and you can't even go back to your base. Teaming up is the only logical way to deal with our mutual problem," Optimus pointed out. "I'm offering to let you stay at the Axalon, at least for now."

Maximal charity. By the Pit where burns the Inferno, by the Forgefires of Primus, Maximal charity. If I had to sum up the reason for the Predacon rebellion in two words, I would sneer, "Maximal charity." Caused here by environmental issues and illogical aliens instead of an oppressive, favourites-playing government, but the end result is the same. Oh, when I recover, Optimus Primal, when I no longer need your aid, you - will - suffer.

Megatron glanced over at Dinobot and caught his gaze, but Dinobot quickly looked away. I wonder, did you protest because you think we're a security risk, or was that sympathy, knowing that we wouldn't be able to stand hearing Primal's offer? You were one of mine - you might be a Maximal out of wounded pride and your odd sense of honour, but you remember why there are Predacon outlaws.

Aloud, Megatron said, "Very well. I understand the logic of your reasoning - a pooling of resources so to deal with this little situation more quickly. I dislike the thought of staying at the Axalon, but it seems my choices are limited."

"Don't worry," said Optimus dryly. "We won't be pleased to have you as houseguests, either."

"Ah, honesty. Standard 'no shooting' terms?"

Optimus nodded. "I'd think so. We can't disarm completely - there's still the local wildlife to contend with. It might start looking at us as edible. And I'd also say no fighting on board the Axalon, just for some neutral territory."

Megatron signalled his people to get back on the hoversled and activated it. "Lead on, then," he sighed.

For now, I have lost my strength and my base of operations. I have the Discs, but am unable to access them. All I have right now are my crew, so I must see that they are tended to before I weaken any further. Survival always comes first.

 

On to Immediate Survival - part three
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