The rain had started three days ago and showed no signs of letting up. Cheetor had gotten tired of it within an hour.

Optimus was in the command centre, up to his elbows in some project. Rhinox was busy going over Tarantulas' research in his room. Dinobot was on monitor duty - technically it was Optimus' shift but Dinobot was tired of holing up in his room and wanted something to do that didn't involve getting rained on. Quickstrike and Silverbolt were still sick and Airazor was looking after them because Tigatron had decided to brave the rain. Cheetor didn't know where Rattrap was except on the Axalon somewhere, so he set out to look for him. Hopefully Rattrap wouldn't mind company. If he did, Cheetor wasn't sure what to do. There were Predacons around but he wasn't sure that he wanted to hang around with one, no matter how bored he was.

He thought the cargo bay was as good a place to start looking as any. As it turned out, there were people there, just no one he wanted to see. Megatron and Scorponok were a short distance into the room, their backs to him and talking quietly. There were a few tools and chunks of metal sheeting near Scorponok's feet and some crates had been moved. This wasn't unusual or even particularly threatening. The cargo bay wasn't off-limits to the Predacons.

Then Cheetor realised they were looking down into a hole in the floor. Well, they probably shouldn't be taking the place apart. "Hey! What are you two doing?"

Megatron glanced back. "Did you know you have a corpse under the deck plates?"

"... What?"

 

Other Vengeance 2.0
This Most Bloody Piece Of Work
( part one )

wayward@insecticons.com
 

It would simultaneously annoy the Maximals and make them feel the Predacons were resigned to the truce, which meant it was Megatron's idea. Another Predacon might have complained about the work. Scorponok didn't. He liked working.

Scorponok was in the Axalon's cargo bay. He'd had to move a few crates to get at the spot he wanted, a quarter of the way in from the main door. He took up the bolts that held the deck plate, stuck a wedge in the crack, then stepped back to let the loader drone lift the metal sheet. This was a specialised device, built for the room. The Axalon's other two loader drones were something like barrel-shaped forklifts on treads. The one in the cargo bay was more like a ladder crossed with a forklift and a winch besides. It was on treads and stabilised by six legs - four on the bottom and two on the top to grip the ceiling. It bothered Scorponok that he had to use the drone. The deck plates in here weighed about the same as he did now and he'd always been able to lift several times his own weight before.

Deck plate removed and drone out of the way, Scorponok lay on his front to reach down and unfasten the lower plate that would give him access to the level below. His arms were too short to reach but the impact wrench would give him just enough range ... then he noticed the hand.

Scorponok yelped and scrambled back, nearly falling over in his haste. Maximal still metal! Very bad! He grabbed up a cutting torch, took a defensive position, and realised he wasn't being pursued.

The technician edged back to the hole in the deck, his teeth chattering nervously. The hand hadn't so much as twitched.

He prodded at it with the tip of his torch, then burned a small hole in one of the fingers. When it didn't move, he got up and removed two more deck plates to get a better look. This uncovered the left arm, the head, and part of the upper body of a dead Maximal.

Scorponok crouched down to inspect the body shell. It was lying on its back. Tires on the arms, so some kind of ground-alt. Off-road type, he would guess. There was a Maximal sigil stamped on the forearm. Light blue and tan paint. A few shards of glass left in the shattered optics. Scorponok lay down on his front so he could reach down and touch the shell. His fingers recognised shell-grade plating but detected no energy fields - all metal felt dead to his organic senses, anyway. The broken optics were the only damage he could see.

He propped himself up on his elbows, chin in hand. Scorponok briefly considered alerting Optimus since it was his problem but programming and habit took over and he used the Axalon's intercom to call Megatron.

Megatron arrived a few minutes later and frowned thoughtfully at the corpse. "Interesting."

"What do you think happened?" asked Scorponok, standing beside him and fiddling with his gloves. He wore them only to keep him from picking at the blisters on the backs of his hands. The gloves had no fingertips - like the rest of the Cybertronians, Scorponok didn't like to damp his tactile sensitivity more than he had to.

"Hm. A stowaway perhaps," said Megatron. "A strange hiding place, though."

"Yeah, but either too good or no good. No beast-mode either."

"Then he may have died before the ship even launched. Unless he was able to damp his energy signature, the Maximals would have noticed him." Megatron tapped a claw-toed boot on the edge of the hole. "If he was still alive after the ship crashed, he could have died of energon surges when we stole the Axalon's rectifier coil."

Scorponok shook his head. "I'd expect to see burn marks if he surged to death."

"He died before the change, certainly."

Attention absorbed by the corpse, they didn't hear that the door had opened or that Cheetor had come up behind them until he spoke: "Hey! What are you two doing?"

Megatron looked over his shoulder at the Maximal. "Did you know you have a corpse under the deck plates?"

Cheetor's mouth dropped open. "... What?"

"Some Maximal ground vehicle," said Megatron, casually stepping aside to let Cheetor see. "No one I recognise. If you'll give us a hand moving him, perhaps we can ..."

Scorponok doubted Cheetor could see much from where he stood. Apparently it was enough because the Maximal turned and bolted. Megatron made a derisive noise. "He'll be back with reinforcements soon enough. Enjoy the quiet while you can."

They managed to remove another deck plate before there were running feet and shouting. "Megatron! What the slag did you do?"

Megatron sighed and looked up from where he was kneeling. Cheetor had brought Optimus and Dinobot with him. "Hello to you too, Primal. Scorponok found a stowaway. I'm helping get him out."

"Back off," Optimus ordered, more harshly than Scorponok thought they deserved. After all, the Predacons had only found the corpse. Megatron shrugged, so they retreated several steps to give the Maximals space.

The first problem was that both the shell's legs and one arm had been secured to pipes with cable. A pair of heavy metal snips took care of the bonds. Optimus took the body shell by the arm and pulled but in the end it took all three Maximals to wrestle it into a seated position. Now Scorponok could see the back of its head. There was a small hole burned there.

Megatron smiled. "Well, well. The exploded stasis pod was one thing, but this ... Murder on a Maximal science vessel. This is getting interesting, yes."

Optimus glared at him. "Would you just go away? This is Maximal business."

"Scorponok found him, therefore it is our business as well," said Megatron. "Besides, we Predacons are the only ones who can't possibly have had anything to do with his death."

"You sound certain," said Dinobot.

Megatron rolled his eyes. "Oh, don't start. I'd never had the slightest interest in the Axalon until it started shooting at us and you know it. Not every dead Maximal is my work."

"Well, if you're so determined to help, you can help us move him," said Optimus sharply.

Scorponok glanced over at his leader but Megatron was too curious and in too good a mood to complain about being ordered around by Maximals. Which was lucky for the Maximals since it took all five of them and the loader drone to get the corpse out of the crawlspace and onto the floor - the legs had been carefully wedged between a couple of pipes and couldn't just be yanked out by brute force without damaging the ship.

"Oof! Are we taking him to the repair bay?" asked Cheetor.

"He's a bit past needing that," said Megatron. The muscles in Optimus' arms tightened as if he would have taken a swing at Megatron if his hands hadn't been full.

In the end they pushed three crates together and set some sheet metal on top for a makeshift table, then laid the corpse out on it. The Maximal leader turned to the two Predacons. "We'll take it from here. It's our problem, not yours."

"I suppose curiosity and entertainment value don't count for much around here," sighed Megatron, "but I haven't lived this long by ignoring Maximal dagger-in-the-dark shenanigans, no."

"If I promise to keep you informed will you just go away?" asked Optimus, exasperated.

Megatron considered that for a moment. "Yes. Say it."

Optimus sighed. "Fine. I promise to keep you informed. You and Scorponok go find something to do somewhere el ..." Something seemed to finally dawn on Optimus. "Why were you ripping up the floor?"

Scorponok shrugged. "I was laying pipe."

"... Why?"

"To move water."

"Why?"

"I'm renovating my quarters," said Megatron casually. "Knocking out a wall, adding a bath, getting the room up to my basic standards. Unless you have some objection, Optimus ..."

Optimus slumped. "Just go."

The Predacons left. Megatron waited until the cargo bay door closed behind them before laughing. "Well. At least he's too preoccupied with this little intrigue to care what we're doing to his ship."

"Good news, Inferno," Megatron announced. "You and Scorponok can be as loud as you like."

Inferno, seated on the berth in the quarters she shared with Megatron, set aside the datapad with the blueprints Scorponok had come up with and smiled, flashing even, white teeth. She wasn't the most mechanically inclined Predacon but she could follow simple diagrams easily enough. The rest of the berth was covered in various tools - neither of them actually used it for sleeping. "Finally." Trapped inside by the rain, unable to vent her violent impulses on the local wildlife, Inferno longed for destruction.

Megatron chuckled. "Be not too overzealous, no - we still must live here after all."

"Also, that wall's got two power cables running through it," said Scorponok. "Cut one and you'll electrocute yourself."

The warrior nodded. Another might have automatically protested that they'd taken worse damage but Inferno seemed to have an innate understanding of her body's limitations. One advantage to operating at such a basic level, thought Megatron. Her mind may be confusion but she adapts to new bodies easily.

Scorponok could fill Inferno in on the morning's events. Megatron left his minions to their work and stepped out into the hall. The quarters to his right were empty. In theory they were Inferno's, but she insisted on staying with her leader, so the room was going to be added to Megatron's. The quarters to his left were used by Scorponok, and were where Megatron had been working before he was interrupted by the dead Maximal. Which I will have to find some use for. Watching the Maximals get upset is amusing at least. Though it reflects badly on us that we Predacons had nothing to do with either dead Maximal on this planet.

Megatron and Inferno had moved their few belongings into Scorponok's quarters for the day, to keep them out of the way of the work. It made the room extremely crowded with the extra packing foam sheets rolled up and leaning in a corner and Megatron's oversized chair in the middle of the room, but such things were temporary. The alien disc was propped up on Scorponok's berth. Beside it was the device that Inferno had found under the Standing Stones.

There was a table, which only made things tighter. Scorponok had made it or dragged it in from somewhere but Megatron couldn't use it. It was covered with small tools, scrap materials, a personal computer, and the cyberbee Megatron had brought back from the Predacons' ship. The cyberbee's head was open and a few wires trailed out into Scorponok's computer. Like Megatron's personal computer it was a self-contained unit not tied in with the Axalon's mainframe. Lacking a transmitter, no longer able to command his cyberbees with a thought, Scorponok was trying to come up with a new control mechanism. Megatron inspected the cyberbee without touching it, resisting the urge to tinker. Cyberbees weren't just drones, they were pieces of Scorponok, and Megatron respected him enough not to meddle in that.

His cheek itched and he tried to ignore it. The blisters on his face were drying up, and where the damaged skin flaked away, there was new skin underneath it. He picked up the alien sphere to keep his hands occupied.

Megatron sat in his chair, turning the alien sphere over in his hands like a puzzle box. Scans had been useless. The gold band looping around the device was the same type of unknown metal as the disc and the blue sphere was a different kind of unknown metal. He wasn't even sure if the sphere was solid or hollow. There were symbols etched into the band but they were not the same as those on the disc. They weren't even similar types of symbols. It was maddening.

He looked up at the disc. The symbols changed again as he watched. Megatron sighed. Five spaces on the disc, each space cycling through three symbols at random intervals. Each symbol represented a place or a thing - four he was sure of, two he thought he knew, and the other nine were complete mysteries.

A tortured scream of tearing metal and Inferno's triumphant laugh came from his room, muffled by the wall. Megatron smiled faintly and shook his head. At least someone's having fun.

Dinobot circled the prone body on the makeshift table, then prodded at the wound in its head. "You know him," he said, "but why warn Cheetor not to admit so in front of Megatron?"

"Because I don't know what happened and I don't need to give Megatron another reason to laugh," said Optimus. The anger in him had left with Megatron. Intruder gone, now among friends, Optimus no longer had to pretend strength. Shoulders slumped, he stood beside the table, patting the shell's forearm like it was the corpse who needed comforting. Optimus had sent Cheetor off to run monitor duty and fill in Tigatron and Airazor on the situation, then called Rattrap and Rhinox down to the cargo bay.

"Hm." Dinobot brushed carbon dust off his fingers. "My first thought was that his death must have occurred long before you took command of the Axalon, perhaps early in its construction, but I take it that wasn't the case."

"His name was Crossbolt," said Optimus heavily. "He was supposed to be part of our crew. Rattrap was his replacement."

"Yeah, he vanished and the Axalon was ready to go, so I was dragged in at the last minute," said Rattrap.

Dinobot raised an eyebrow. "Why you?"

"'Cause I knew Rhinox."

Rhinox nodded. "They didn't want to stick us with an unknown at the last minute. Not on a long-term mission."

"So now we know what happened to you," said Optimus, squeezing the shell's hand. "Dinobot, I want you to find out what you can about his death. I know there's not much to go on ..."

"What?" Rattrap jabbed a finger at Dinobot. "This sorta thing is my kinda job! Why are you handin' it to this fender-headed, stinking ..."

"Predacon?" Dinobot asked sharply, and while Rattrap withdrew his hand, he didn't back down. "Because I can be objective - I do not know this person. I have no stake in this and I wasn't anywhere near the Axalon when he died."

"Oh, right, you were off stealin' a space cruiser and killin' people."

"But not this person."

"Megatron would believe that anyone else was biased in their conclusions," said Optimus.

Rattrap snorted. "Who cares what he thinks?"

"You're not the one he's going to be acting smug at. If Megatron is satisfied with what he hears, he won't try to find his own answers." Optimus suddenly glanced over at Dinobot. "I mean, I'd rather have him renovating his quarters than trying to hack Sentinel."

"Megatron will keep pushing to see how far he can go," Dinobot warned.

"I'll push back when it's important," said Optimus. "A bath isn't."

"It is to Megatron."

Rhinox touched Optimus on the shoulder. "If you need anything ..."

Optimus reached up and patted his hand. "Get back to work on trying to fix Quickstrike and Silverbolt." The engineer nodded and left. Rattrap shot one last glare at Dinobot before slipping away.

Dinobot looked back at the body shell. "Who was he, Optimus?"

It was several moments before Optimus spoke. "Crossbolt was a close friend of mine. Rhinox knew him, but only casually. Cheetor only met him once or twice. He was a trader between Cybertron and some of the colonies. He thought an exploration mission would be an interesting change of pace. Until now, I'd always thought he'd just backed out."

"I had not heard this before."

"No." No explanation but the tone was enough. I thought my friend had abandoned me. It hurt me to speak of him, so we never spoke of him. "We realised he was missing about three megacycles before take-off. When we couldn't find him, we thought that meant he didn't want to be found, so Rattrap was called in. We loaded the last of the cargo and left three megacycles late."

Dinobot frowned. "You didn't search long."

"There was no evidence of foul play and we were on a schedule," said Optimus. "Crossbolt was in the habit of leaving without telling anyone, anyway. It's not uncommon for people to have second thoughts and drop out of long-term missions. It's why we can call on replacements at short notice." He slumped, resting his elbows on the makeshift table. "The last thing he said to me was, 'Hey, you want I should start getting the stasis hold ready?' I told him yes. That was it - five nanoclicks and he was gone again."

"You could not know what was to happen."

"I know." Optimus groaned and shook his head. "I suppose I have to tell Megatron that I've put you in charge of the investigation."

"I will inform Megatron. Do not concern yourself for me." Best that I make myself Megatron's target. In your current condition, I don't think you can handle him.

Optimus left Dinobot alone in the cargo bay with the corpse. He pensively tapped his fingers by the wound. Investigation was never my function, but I have my orders ...

He had woken shaking and sweating from a nightmare into a small, windowless room in the enemy base and he was still a soft, organic thing. After a beginning like that, Terrorsaur was amazed to find that his day could in fact get worse.

It was still raining. He could hear it drumming on the hull. There was to be no respite from the confines of the Axalon. He'd gone to find Waspinator in her room, hoping that friendly company would calm him.

The fliers were sitting on Waspinator's berth, cross-legged so they could face each other, concentrating on each other and on their cards. Terrorsaur didn't know where Waspinator had found them. He couldn't see her asking a Maximal for anything, even something as simple as a deck of cards. Most of the deck and a few discards were stacked neatly between them. They were both quite good players. That wasn't what they were practicing.

Waspinator suddenly tossed her cards down in frustration. "Terror-bot is lacking bits! Waspinator can't read him!"

"We'll need to come up with some alternate signals," agreed Terrorsaur, gathering up the hexagonal cards and shuffling them again.

"Waspinator can't concentrate. Waspinator is hungry."

Which was when things went worse. Waspinator was friendly company, sure, but no amount of demands, threats, or asking nice would make her shut up about the crocodile.

It was because of Waspinator that no one had to go out in the rain to get more supplies. The problem was that Waspinator liked to remind everyone of it at every opportunity. It didn't help that the story got longer and less accurate with every retelling.

I don't have to go with her, Terrorsaur thought, following Waspinator into the refuelling centre. Except I'm also hungry and I hate the feeling. That and he didn't like being alone in the Axalon. Truce or not, he liked having Waspinator there to watch his back.

"... Then big water lizard knocked terror-bot over and terror-bot screamed," Waspinator prattled, reaching into the decontamination chamber to carve off a chunk of crocodile. "So Waspinator tackled water lizard and wrestled it to the ground ..."

I wonder if anyone would notice if I killed her. He sometimes liked having Waspinator there, he amended. Terrorsaur found a sprayer of cleaning chemicals and misted the table, careful not to get any on his hands. Inferno still had a red mark on the back of one hand where she'd been splashed.

The chemicals evaporated within seconds, taking any dirt with them. Waspinator dropped the meat straight on the table and cut off a bite-size piece. "... And Waspinator forced water lizard's mouth open and shot right down ..."

They'll notice because it's suddenly quiet. I wonder if they'll thank me. He pulled one of his three knives and started cutting off pieces for himself. "Shut up. You're driving me crazy."

"Jealous!"

"Waspinator," said Terrorsaur as evenly as he could manage through clenched teeth, "I've been stuck inside for two days. If I have a breakdown, I'm taking you with me."

"Oh." Had she still been a wasp, her wings would have buzzed contritely. Lacking those appendages, Waspinator simply focused on picking apart her food. Suddenly, "Maybe terror-bot should sit in a storage locker for a while."

"You have five clicks to make sense before I hit you."

Waspinator looked offended. "If terror-bot is in a tiny place, when he comes out, rest of ship will seem big."

"That has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever -"

The door opened and Terrorsaur's mouth snapped shut out of 'we don't talk in front of the Maximals' habit. Airazor hesitated only an instant before walking in, a little more stiffly than usual. Now, wondered Terrorsaur, is it just because we're Predacons or specifically because we're us?

If Airazor wasn't his least-favourite Maximal, she was certainly in the top two. It wasn't because she'd utterly shredded him two minutes out of her pod. That was bad but Terrorsaur didn't hold grudges for wounds inflicted in battle. It was that she was a Maximal who took up his airspace. He never felt Optimus counted with his jetpack and lack of a flight-alt, but Airazor was up in his sky like she owned the place.

"If you're looking for fruit there's none left," said Terrorsaur unnecessarily as Airazor checked the bin, trying to get her to leave faster. "Lots of crocodile, though," he added, glaring at his partner.

Waspinator, on the other hand, held grudges against anyone who'd ever taken a shot at her, but she also had a very short attention span. "Waspinator killed it!" she crowed happily. "Waspinator is still the best Predacon! Ahem ..." To Terrorsaur's dismay, she started singing. "Waspinator is wonderful! As everyone knows! She kept big lizard from biting terror-bot's toes! Waspinator is amazing! As all can see! She kept big lizard from biting terror-bot's knees! Waspinator is stupendous! As all are aware! ..."

I will kill her. I will feed her to her smelt-spawned crocodile. Then I will kill the crocodile. Terrorsaur glanced over at Airazor, who was by the decontamination chamber with her back to them, seemingly entirely focused on cutting small bits of meat, except that her shoulders were shaking slightly. And you can join her, Maximal!

"Waspinator is ... is ... Terror-bot, help Waspinator spell."

For the first time that day, Terrorsaur smiled.

Airazor retreated from the refuelling centre before she broke down laughing. She knew if she did at least one of the Predacons would take offence and then she'd have to deal with both of them. She had what she came for - two small containers of bite-sized bits of meat. She would go find her own fuel later, preferably after the Predacon fliers had left.

Quickstrike and Silverbolt had spent most of their short lives together. Their pods had come down in the same place, they stuck together in the wasteland, and they could usually both be found with either Rattrap or Dinobot, learning about Cybertron and disbelieving every word of it. They'd started malfunctioning at the same time. Sure they bickered and snapped at each other but they were just always together.

It came as a surprise to some people that they honestly couldn't stand each other.

The neophytes flat-out refused to wait around in the xenobiology lab, not because it was boring but because they wanted to be out of one another's company.

And sick animals hide, thought Airazor, pressing the chime on Quickstrike's door. It was something Tigatron had said once, soon after Airazor had come online. They were on a scouting patrol together and had happened across an antelope that was too weak too move. Tigatron had said it then, a bit surprised: "Sick animals hide."

"Why?"

"To show weakness in the wild means death."

Well, we're not animals, thought Airazor. If one of our own is malfunctioning, we look after him, we repair him. We won't eat him. Though I wouldn't put trying past the Preds ...

Quickstrike unlocked the door with a voice command and Airazor went in. He had been curled up, but he stretched out and propped himself up on one elbow when she entered. According to Tigatron, he spent most of his time sleeping. Quickstrike's body seemed to think it would heal faster in stasis and kept him unconscious as much as it could. "Just couldn't resist me or are you fillin' in for stripes today?"

"Tigatron's out. I told her I'd check in on you," said Airazor. This just involved looking in on Quickstrike and Silverbolt, making sure their conditions hadn't worsened, making sure they stayed hydrated and ate occasionally, and keeping them company so they wouldn't go stir-crazy.

He lifted an eyebrow. "Ain't it kinda wet outside?"

"She doesn't mind the rain."

Quickstrike looked awful. His skin had gone paler than hers, his hair was a worse mess than usual, and it was obvious he'd been wearing the same clothes for the last four days, unable to summon the energy to clean up and get changed. Unusually, he was wearing his sleeves long - he tended to have them rolled up to his elbows. He hadn't shaved either and now had a short beard. The only one who could make facial hair look good was Rhinox, Airazor decided. It just made the others who had it look scruffy. Quickstrike was the only one of those who didn't mind it - even Rattrap shaved occasionally, disliking the feel of fur around his mouth.

Airazor held up one of the small containers. "I brought food if you feel like eating."

The blond groaned and slumped so he could cover his head with his hands. "What's the point, sugar? It all just comes out again one way or the other."

She couldn't blame him not wanting to go through with it. Quickstrike's body seemed determined to reject any fuel he put into it. Even if he managed not to vomit, defecation was inevitable. Most of them just considered it a minor nuisance. For the neophytes it was painful and bloody. On the other hand, if he didn't refuel at all, his body wouldn't have the energy or material to try to repair itself. Airazor set down one of the containers on the shelf nearest the berth. "I'll leave it for you if change your mind."

Quickstrike peered out from under his arm. "Ain't my mind that's the problem, sugar."

Airazor left Quickstrike to sleep and went to the next corridor to see how Silverbolt was doing.

Silverbolt was drawn and pale but in better condition than Quickstrike. Where Quickstrike completely let himself go, Silverbolt kept his hair brushed and his clothing neat. The latter was mostly hidden at the moment since Silverbolt was sitting on his berth with his feathered cloak over his shoulders and pulled around his body. He set his datapad aside - he hadn't had the chance to get a proper computer for himself yet - and managed a smile. "Airazor."

"Hey, 'Bolt." She winced at a crash and a string of curses from the next room - nobody could swear like a Predacon technician. The noise of Megatron's renovations had been barely audible from Quickstrike's room but Silverbolt's was right next to Inferno's. "Are you sure you want to stay here while the Predacons are banging around? I know there are extra rooms."

"I will stay. I do not mind the noise." Silverbolt shrugged, ruffling his feathers. "I find I prefer it, actually. If I cannot participate in the life of the Axalon, I will at least hear it."

"Your choice, but if you get fed up with it, let me know, okay?" Then, remembering her original reason for being there, Airazor held up the container. "Do you feel up to eating?"

"Not really." But he had a faint smile that said he was willing to try for her sake.

Airazor handed him the small container and picked up the datapad so she could sit next to him. The text on the screen caught her by surprise. "You're reading the colony environmental regulations manual for fun?"

Silverbolt picked at the crocodile meat with his fingers, looking for the smallest piece. "I am told that I am a Maximal. I requested the manuals so I could learn how I should act."

I guess there's worse ways. "Anyone else been checking in on you?"

He finished chewing and swallowed before he answered. "Yes. Optimus Primal. Rhinox. Tigatron. However, Rattrap is the only one who visits for the sake of visiting."

"Rattrap? Really?" Rattrap was sociable but making calls on glitching neophytes was more altruistic than Airazor expected from him.

Silverbolt nodded. "He makes off-colour jokes but he stays to talk and answer questions and he brings me new datadiscs. I do appreciate him."

She debated telling him about the corpse in the floor and decided against it. The neophytes had enough problems without needing to worry about anyone else's. Let them concentrate on healing.

Small alien sphere in hand, Megatron went up to the materials lab. He wanted to see if he could open it. He also wanted to get away from the noise of the renovations for a while.

He had been perfectly content to ignore the aliens before this. They were just another unusual feature of an already unusual planet. They could be dangerous but they could also be avoided. Then they decided to be proactive and forcibly change his species. Megatron had immediately shifted his policy of 'avoid the aliens' to 'hunt the aliens down and force them to give his metal back.'

Blackarachnia was there. Megatron briefly wondered if she ever left the room, though he could admit she had little reason to do so. Here were tools and supplies enough to keep her occupied. She was sitting on the floor with her back to him and hoverpad parts spread out around her. She didn't look up when the door opened. "For the last time, I'm not putting booby-traps in anything!"

"Why not?"

The technician jumped and looked back. "Because Maximals keep dropping in and checking on me," she complained, turning to look at him. "When I'm done, I'm going to strap a big, obvious bomb to this thing. It'll make them happy."

Megatron walked over and tapped the thin handrail on the nearest hoverpad, another new feature. "And distract them from the real trap?"

"Oh, no. They'd never fall for that. Anyway, we are supposed to be helpful to our hosts," said Blackarachnia innocently. "Besides, between the rhino and the rat, they'd catch anything I did. If I need to sabotage something, I'll do it later, after they've checked everything over."

Megatron smiled. "Good. How is your work coming?"

"The ape let me use the ship's transmitter to find which of our jamming towers are still up - there's four within range at least. Scorponok and I plan on reprogramming them into signal boosters for the commlinks. As for the commlinks, the tiger's borrowed one of them. I've done as much as I can on them for now," said Blackarachnia. She tapped her pliers on the edge of the hoverpad. "Though these should help with the range testing. Of course, I can't test these either until it stops raining - I don't want to risk water getting in and shorting out the works."

"You might not need to worry about Maximals dropping in so much now. They're a bit preoccupied," said Megatron, then quickly filled her in on the morning's events.

One of Blackarachnia's eyebrows vanished under her bangs. "And here I thought Maximals had such dull lives."

"It's probably nothing we need to worry about since it has nothing to do with us," said Megatron, idly toying with the alien sphere. "Still, best if the news is passed around. You wouldn't want to go into the cargo bay and be left wondering why there was a dead Maximal in there, I'm certain."

Blackarachnia smirked. "You're wondering."

"I saw the look on Primal's face when he saw the corpse. There's more going on than the Maximals are admitting to," said Megatron darkly. "Though they don't know what happened. Dinobot of all people claims that he's looking into the matter. I will deal with him later."

Megatron set the alien sphere on the table and went to see what tools were available. He knew the gold band was the next best thing to indestructible, but possibly he could cut through the dark blue metal to see what was inside. The glass insets showed him nothing, even when he tried shining a light into them. When he returned to the table with a cutting torch, Blackarachnia was peering at the sphere. He nudged her aside. "Did you see one like it in the monument?"

"No. That all looked like machinery. This looks like an abstract sculpture," said Blackarachnia. Where Terrorsaur refused to talk about the times that he'd tried to take over the Predacons, Blackarachnia had no such recalcitrance. She failed, she was punished, she moved on.

"I would like to inspect the wreckage of the flying island. If it ever stops raining," said Megatron, clamping the alien sphere in a vice.

"I can't say I'm eager to go back."

The torch worked. Megatron cut out a small triangle, which fell into the sphere. He fished it out with a pair of long-nosed pliers.

The alien sphere was hollow and full of wires. Something like wires. They were very brittle - many had broken already and they crumbled on contact. The ones that the heat of the torch had touched had burned away like fine mesh.

He frowned. It's clearly metallic yet it makes me think of plants. It led to the odd thought that the sphere had been planted and the Standing Stones had grown organically from it rather than been constructed. The alien structure that spoke to Optimus, that was organic or something like it, at least in part. On the other hand, from all accounts the monument was built and I'm quite certain the Standing Stones were as well. Why is there no pattern?

 

On to This Most Bloody Piece Of Work - part two
Back to Other Vengeance 2.0
Back to In Space, No One Can Hear Starscream