Beast Wars Chronicles
Lady in Red
By: Eliot Lefebvre (aka Stormcloud)
It had taken her a long time, but by now Airazor was almost used to the sound of music wafting from Tigatronís cavern. *Why must you stay here?* she thought wistfully as she stepped inside. *So far from the Maximals... so far from me...* She stopped. This time, the music was... different. Sad, just like that last piece... that... "Moonlight Sonata"... but in a different way. This one seemed to be a more immediate sort of sad, instead of an aching sorrow that stretched for years. She tried to catch the lyrics, but, having never bothered to learn English, she could not. With a shrug, she stepped into Tigatronís main room. The lights were already on, and Tigatron was prancing around the room, absurdly swaying in tune with the music. "Tigatron?" asked Airazor, stiffling a laugh. "What are you doing?" "Dancing!" replied Tigatron, grabbing her around the waist. "Try it!" Airazor shivered as he embraced her, but it was not because of the cold. He stepped, and somehow she instinctively followed him. And as they danced, she began to see the pattern of the movements, the grace inherent in its form. She didnít want the music to end. Unfortunately for her, due to simple law of reality, the music had to end sooner or later. As the last note wafted off, Airazor smiled. Tigatron recovered his composure and sat down. Airazor did likewise. "Now, Airazor," said Tigatron, "I know that you never come here without reason. Whatís new and exciting in the world of Maximal society?" "Pathetically little," replied Airazor. "However, there was another stasis pod that landed not too far from here. You want to check it out with me?" "Why not?" he replied, transforming to tiger mode. "It might be worth the trip." "Yeah, like last time," muttered Airazor, remembering how eerily similar this was to the night the two of them found Juliet. "I beg your pardon?" said Tigatron. "Nothing at all," she said, transforming to hawk mode. "I'll lead you to the pod." * * * * * * * * * * Hi-Tech was not enjoying herself as she spun across the snow. It wasnít really the snow she disliked, or the spinning, even. It was the fact that twenty klicks ahead of her was a vertical drop. With a sigh, Hi-Tech launched herself skyward, and soared over the vertical drop. Slamming into the nearby ice mountain wasnít much better, but hey, it was a start in the right direction. Planting her legs firmly against the mountain, she gave a push and yanked her head out of the mountain, then turned to watch the stasis pod. Airazor dove, transforming as she went, and skidded to a halt in front of the stasis pod. Behind her, Tigatron roared, then sprang into the air and transformed. Airazor knelt over the pod. "What's the deal?" asked Tigatron, looming over her. "Something isn't right here," she replied. "The power levels of the protoform are too high... the scanners aren't transferring the scanned DNA... the pod is allowing the protoform to exit prematurely..." Her eyes widened. "Get back! The pod is going to -" As the seal of the pod ruptured, a torrent of energy blasted out. Airazor and Tigatron were blown back, skidding along the snow. Hi-Tech was only spared that fate because she tried to take off to get a closer look. She plunged into the snow, which she only became thankful for after she saw the energy whip across the land above. When it had passed, she climbed out, and continued to observe the proceedings. Gripping the sides of the chamber, Crimson pulled herself out. She felt this body weakening, and knew that she would need to find another... a body that was ready... Her eyes fell upon the prone form of Airazor. Her face split into a derranged grin, and she shambled over to Airazor. Picking her up, Crimson raised her above her head by the throat, and smiled as she felt the power build. Hi-Tech shielded her eyes with one of her wings as a massive power surged out of the red female's body into Airazor's. Airazor twitched once, then both bodies fell to the ground, unmoving. Glancing around nervously, Hi-Tech prepared to take off. "Nothing more to see here," she reassured herself as she sprang skyward. She fell and slid in the snow, then launched herself again, and this time stayed airborne. Turning, she streaked off towards the Soundwave. * * * * * * * * * * Tigatron awoke to a world of hurt. "Are you all right?" asked Airazor, helping him to his feet. "Something really nailed us out of that stasis pod. I'd say we're lucky we weren't vaped on the spot." "And... the inhabitant?" "See for yourself," replied Airazor, gesturing at the collapsed and still smoking body of the female. Tigatron leaned over it. The body structure was basically that of a female Seeker, but it was heavily modified, towards some unknown different structure. Tigatron snapped a picture of it with his internal camera, then continued examining it. No faction signs visible... no identification... nothing to hint at who this person was. He stood again. "We'd better get back to the Axalon. Stormcloud and Vixen's wedding is in a few hours." Airazor nodded. Tigatron transformed and began running towards the Axalon. Airazor's eyes glowed red for just a moment, then she transformed and followed. * * * * * * * * * * "I _still_ think it looks wrong," said Cloudspin. Vixen sighed. "For Primus's sake, Cloudspin, it's a silk cape and sash! How can it be positioned wrong?" "I don't know, it just is!" replied Cloudspin, equally exasperated. "And that headdress? Please. That's just ridiculous." "It's tradition!" "It's stupid! The damn thing covers your eyes AND mouth, it has more layers than an exo-armor, and it doesn't even LOOK good!!!" "We all know who's single, don't we?" asked Vixen sarcastically. "It's just a slagging veil! You had an objection to the dress, too!" "SINCE WHEN HAVE WE WORE A DRESS TO WEDDINGS?!?!?" shouted Cloudspin. "Quit following Earthern tradition!" "When you get married, Cloudspin, you can do whatever you want," sighed Vixen. "But since you AREN'T, I think that I'LL choose what I wear." Cloudspin flopped into a chair. "Fine, don't listen to me." "Were that only possible," said Vixen. * * * * * * * * * * Windrider glanced at Rhinox again. "Are you sure he's really a priest?" "No," replied Stormcloud. "But that's okay. You're not really a best man." Windrider looked at him threateningly. "Kidding!" said Stormcloud, grinning. Windrider glanced over. "The procession is beginning." Ground Zero leaned over to the recorder, and pressed the "Play" button. The soft, melodious sound of "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" blared out. Everyone stopped, staring at Ground Zero. "Whoops!" he said, blushing. He stopped the recorder, and pulled another out of subspace. "Must've been the wrong recorder. This is the right one." He pressed the play button again, and "Welcome to Paradise" blasted out. "Ooops," sighed Ground Zero, grabbing another from subspace as he stopped the current one. "Maybe I should label these." "This may take a while," sighed Windrider. Ground Zero pressed the play button again, and finally, "Here Comes The Bride" drifted out. "Yahoo!" he shouted. "Right on the third try!" With a shrug, Windrider and Stormcloud both turned to watch the procession. Arms locked, Optimus Primal and Vixen walked towards the podium. Behind Vixen walked Cloudspin, Bandit, and Nightpounce. In front, Rattrap, Razorbeast, and Armordillo tossed flowers. "I feel ridiculous," growled Razorbeast. "If I had known THIS was coming, I never would have rescued her," grumbled Rattrap. Finally, Primal and Vixen reached the podium. Stormcloud stepped over, and Vixen slipped her arm around his. Together, they walked up the small flight of stairs, and stood in front of the podium. "Dearly beloved," began Rhinox, "we are gathered here today to witness the union of two of our own. The commander of Computer Operations and designer of our gestalts, Stormcloud, and our chief medical officer and psychologist, Vixen." Rhinox flipped through the pages of the book in front of him. "Why don't we just skip ahead to the important part. Stormcloud, do you take Vixen to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, in sickness and health, in sadness and in joy, for better or worse, so on and so forth for about twelve pages, till death do you part?" "I do," he replied. "And Vixen... same thing to you, names reversed?" "I do," she replied. "Rings?" said Rhinox. Cheetor, with his usual entusiasm, bounced up, a pair of rings on a small tray. "The pillow got torched," said Cheetor with a shrug. Stormcloud slipped the ring onto Vixen's finger. It was not an energon crystal like her engagement ring. Instead, it was a braid of gold, silver, and diamond. Vixen wasn't exactly sure how the diamond got in there, but she wasn't asking questions. She picked up Stormcloud's ring and slipped it on his finger. "By the power vested in me by the two of you, I pronounce you husband and wife." He gestured at the two of them. "You may kiss the bride." Stormcloud proceeded to do exactly that. "Windrider, it's your turn," said Rhinox, descending from the podium. Windrider shrugged, then jumped onto the platform and behind the podium. He cleared his throat. "This is, really, only the second time that I've had to give a speech. The first time was when the Axalon was about to take off. Unfortunately, I was supposed to be in stasis by that point. I only got as far as 'It's good to see' before I was dragged off, so I guess it went pretty well." Laughter. "Anyways, me and the other Aeriomals really owe a debt to Stormcloud, so when he asked me to be his best man, I was honored. As for Vixen... well, any female Stormcloud picks for something important has got to be quite a person. Except for Cloudspin." More laughter, and an accompanying, indignant squawk from Cloudspin. "But, to get to the point... I'm really glad Stormcloud decided to do this. After all, he's almost like the father I already have." More laughter. "So... all I can say is have a good day today, and for Primus's sake, don't spill anything!" Still more laughter, and the crowd dispersed. Most headed to the ceremony. Airazor began to head in that direction, then her eyes flashed red. She turned and began to head back to the Axalon. "Airazor?" asked Vixen. "Aren't you going to hang around for a little while?" "Ummm... I have a couple things to do inside. I'll be back out in a little while," replied Airazor. Vixen nodded. "Okay." Airazor moved slightly faster towards the Axalon. * * * * * * * * * * "What are you doing back in here?" asked Claw Jaw, somewhat suprised. "I thought you would be sticking around the reception for a while." Airazor's eyes flashed red, and she stalked towards Claw Jaw seductively. "And... what if I'd rather spend some time with the people still gaurding the base?" she asked in a high voice. Claw Jaw seemed to blush. "Umm... Airazor, I -" She rubbed against him. "Oh, don't say anything," she said, placing a finger on his mouth. "We'll just keep this OUR little secret, okay?" Claw Jaw did not reply. Airazor smiled, and wrapped her legs around him. She placed a hand on his forehead gently. Without warning, power erupted up her arm, and Claw Jaw convulsed, trying to scream. Airazor diisentangled herself from him, simply watching as he writhed in pain. Then, he stopped. Airazor clenched her fist. She could already feel the added energy. *If all the males are this deprived, then it'll be like shooting fish in a teacup,* she thought with a grin. She then turned on her heel and walked towards the med room, knowing what she had to do. * * * * * * * * * * "So then she says, 'I don't know... how well can you purr?'" Trailblazer and Bandit laughed. "Good one, Ground Zero," said Bandit, sipping her drink again. "Aww, just call me GZ. All my friends do." Stormcloud walked over. "And look who decides to join the party!" said Trailblazer, jokingly punching Stormcloud. "How is our latest departure from the singles scene holding out?" "Damn good," he replied. "We'll probably take a shuttle, fly up to one of the moons, and honeymoon around there for a little while. It's not much, but when we get back to Cybertron, we can take a second honeymoon to someplace really exotic." "Don't you mean _IF_ we get back?" asked Ground Zero. "I mean when," replied Stormcloud. "Sooner or later, we WILL get back there." A gasp began to sweep through the crowd. Trailblazer, Bandit, Stormcloud, and Ground Zero turned to look. "Oh my..." gasped Bandit. "By Primus..." whispered Stormcloud "Holy slag..." breathed Trailblazer. "Cool," said Ground Zero. "Airazor," said Stormcloud, unsure of what to say. "You're very... umm... well... red." It was true. She was very red. Instead of brown and gold, she had changed her coloration to crimson and black. Her wings wer longer, more bladelike. Her helmet was sharper, more threatening. Her body was more voluptuous, more feminine. "I take it you like it, then?" she said, an odd grin spreading across her face. Vixen took a slightly more objective viewpoint. "What in the world did you do to yourself?" "Oh, this?" she asked innocently. "Just a few minor structure changes, added a little extra DNA to my beast mode, and voila! It's a whole new me." "Didn't Claw Jaw try to stop you?" asked Nightpounce, suspicious. "Claw Jaw?" she asked innocently. "I didn't run into him. Maybe he was somewhere else at the time." Vixen sighed and dashed into the ship. Stormcloud shrugged, sighed, and followed Vixen. * * * * * * * * * * "What happened to him?" asked Optimus. "Physically, nothing," replied Vixen. "However, mentally, it seems like a portion of his mind was simply ripped away from him by another being. There's no trace of it left. It wasn't a virus - then the damage would be precise and targeted. This was simply ripped away indiscriminately." "Might Airazor have something to do with it?" "I don't know. Those modifications... they weren't made casually. They were made towards a definite design, and she knew full well how to make the modifications. And the fact that Claw Jaw was fine before she entered..." Optimus sighed. "I don't understand her actions. It just... seems like somebody else." "I know," replied Vixen. "But I'd need to get her in here to be sure. And as you could guess, she's declining my requests for an examination." "Could you scan her telepathically?" "In theory, yes. However, if there IS another entity in control, it's probably got much more formidable defenses. I'm no master psion, and if it has the sort of mental capability I would assume it has, then I can't get in there." Optimus nodded. "I just hope we can figure all this out soon. I'm already upset that it disturbed your wedding reception." "Ahh, no big deal. It's just a once-in-a-lifetime thing." Stormcloud leaned into the med room. "Okay, I did a quick scan of Airazor. All of the modifications she made are all right - she won't collapse out of the blue. You guys coming back to the reception?" "Yeah," said Vixen, putting Claw Jaw into the CR Chamber. "He should be fine for now. Let's get out there and have some fun." Optimus, Stormcloud, and Vixen walked out of the ship, trying not to dwell upon the recent events. * * * * * * * * * * Razorbeast stumbled into the ship, weaving back and forth. "And IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiiiiiiI, will always loooooooooooooooove yooooooooooooooooooooooou," he sang in a slightly slurred voice. Armordillo, right behind him, slapped him on the back. "Razorbeast, man, I can't believe you actually ACCEPTED that dare to drink yourself silly and sing 'I Will Always Love You'." "I can't believe he actually knows all the words," commented Rattrap. "How many times did you _watch_ 'The Bodygaurd', anyways?" "Fifty, fifty-five times," replied Razorbeast, looking up at him in a haze. "Why? What's your point?" "You just made it," sighed Rattrap, slipping into his quarters. "See ya. Armordillo, help Razorbeast to his room, and make sure he doesn't mistake the table for the recharge bed again." "Gotcha," said Armordillo, helping Razorbeast around the corner. Rattrap shook his head, then turned into his quarters. On his bed, on her hands and knees, was Airazor, a seductive smile on her face. "It's my birthday already?" asked Rattrap sarcastically. "Seriously, sister, what are you doing in here?" "What does it look like?" she asked. "Now... come over here and make me feel special." *Okay, let's see here,* thought Rattrap. *On the one hand, Airazor seems to be acting awfully strange lately, and might not be herself, so sleeping with her would be taking unfair advantage of her. On the other hand, this is the first woman that has wanted to sleep with me in Primus knows how many years, and not asked for some form of payment. Hmm... morality or enjoyment. That's an easy one.* Rattrap grinned suggestively, and stepped over to the bed. "So, exactly how do you want to -" Airarzor pulled him down, and pressed herself against him. "I'm going to enjoy this a great deal." As she brushed her hand across his forehead, Rattrap expected an electric feeling. However, the power surge that erupted up her arm from his head was not quite what he was thinking of. As he ceased to move, Airazor gave a quiet chuckle. * * * * * * * * * * "All right, I think things are pretty much in hand around here," said Stormcloud. "Skydive can take care of any medical problems, and Skyfall can deal with any real technical problems. Not that I expect there will be any." Optimus shook his head. "A full month... I'm not sure if we can last that long without you two." "I hope you can, because we aren't going to be here, no matter what you say," said Vixen, smiling. "We've got enough energon for our stay. We'll be back before you know it." "Besides, you know where to find us," said Stormcloud. "The first moon is sort of a mirror of the planet. We'll be fine." "Then have fun," said Primal. Stormcloud nodded, then waved as he and Vixen stepped onto the shuttle. It rose, then shot off into the sky. Primal's comm beeped. "Go ahead," he sighed. ~Well... I know that Vixen didn't expect a problem so soon after she and Dives left, but... Rattrap was found in his quarters. Same situation as Claw Jaw. And... as for Airazor...~ "What about her?" asked Primal, somewhat concerned. ~Umm... you'll really have to come down here and see for yourself, sir.~ "On my way," said Primal, switching off his comm and dashing to the medical room. * * * * * * * * * * Skydive was right. Airazor now had two long, arcing claws coming off of her wrists, in between her missiles. Her eagle head now had teeth, and horns arcing from the back. Her wings were sharp, thin razors, curving like a scimitar. Her entire head had been changed, and was now full of sharp angles, with dark, reptilian eyes, and curving, attractive features. Her entire structure was now smoother, more seductive, but also looked more powerful. "It's my body and I'll modify if I want to," said Airazor, an evil smile on her face. "Besides, what's wrong with me touching myself up a little?" "The fact that both modifications appeared at the same time two of our crew members suffered a similar fate, and that you were unavailable at both times?" suggested Skydive. "Ease off, Skydive," said Primal, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Airazor, do you have any explanations?" "WHY DOES EVERYONE SUSPECT ME?!?!?" she bellowed, leaping to her feet. "I haven't DONE anything except make a few harmless modifications!" "Harmless?" "OF COURSE!" she screamed in Skydive's face. "And I'm getting REAL tired of everyone thinking that any two events that happen in similar times are connected! If we defeated the Predacons, and a rockslide occurs, do you assume the rockslide caused our victory?" "She does have a point, Skydive," said Primal. "EXACTLY!" she shouted. Turning on her heel, she stalked out of the room. "I can see this is going to be a long month," sighed Primal. "Well... maybe I do have a few points over Vixen," said Skydive, producing a small disk. "I managed to scan her while she was sitting there." "You wee TRYING to make her fly off the handle?" "Of course I was. I'm no psychologist, but I have a slightly better bedside manner than THAT. But getting her to start ranting was the only way to get a complete scan." Primal chuckled. "You'll have to spend more time in here when Vixen gets back." "I certainly will," he said, popping the disk into a computer. "It'll take a while to analyze all of the data, so I'll be busy here for a while." "Understood," said Primal. "Just keep me posted." "Yes... oh, and sir? If I were you, I would try to keep track of Airazor." Primal nodded, then walked off to the command room. * * * * * * * * * * Skyfall glanced around the room. Here and there lay pieces of half-finished weaponry. A multitude of devices were strewn on the floor, some of which Skyfall recognized, some of which he did not. Various recorders sat around, and there were all sorts of knicknacks covering the remaining horizontal surfaces, except for the floor - and even THAT was only barely a step away from a landfill. "Absolutely apalling," sighed Skyfall, sitting on a chair. He picked up one of the recorders and read the label. "'Human Literature: The Dragonlance Chronicles, Volume 2: Dragons of Winter Night'." Out of sheer curiousity, he hit the play button. ~"The net's opened too soon again" -Gnosh shook his head- "and that's the second time today that's happened on Skimbosh alone and thisdefinitelywillbebroughtupatthe nextmeetingoftheNet Guild -"~ ~Tas stared, open-mouthed, at the sight of Fizban whizzing through the air, propelled from below by the tremendous force of the catapault, and suddenly the kender saw what Gnosh was talking about. The net on level fifteen - instead of opening AFTER the mage had flown past and then catching him as he started to fall - opened BEFORE the mage reached level fifteen. Fizban hit the net and was flattened like a squashed spider. For a moment he clung there precariously - arms and legs akimbo - then he fell.~ ~Instantly bells and gongs rang out.~ ~"Don't tell me," Tas guessed miserably. "That's the alarm which means the net has failed."~ ~"Quite, but don't be alarmed (small joke)," Gnosh chuckled, "because the alarms trip a device to open the net on level thirteen, just in time - oops, a bit late, well, there's always level twelve -"~ Skyfall stopped the recording, chuckling. "Amusing," he said. "When Stormcloud returns, I will have to ask him if he has any more of these books on recorder." He shook his head, then began filing away the devices and weapon pieces. There was a small beep at the door. "Come on in," he said, looking up. Icebreaker stepped in the room, glancing around. "Horrid," he said. "This disorginization is all wrong." He leaned over, picked up several devices that Skyfall had just put away, and redeposited them were they were in the first place. "There. Now that's much better." "What in the Pit are you doing here?" asked Skyfall angrily. "That's somewhat of a long story," replied Icebreaker with a shrug. "Since Iguanus destroyed the iceberg we were using as a base, the so-called 'Polar Division' has been re-integrated with the main force. So, I'm assissting you in substituting for Stormcloud." "You're joking," said Skyfall in disbelief. "Were that but true," said Icebreaker. "You're stuck with me, pal." He wiped his brow. "And could you turn down the thermostat? It's roasting in here." "This temperature is perfectly acceptable for my beast mode," snapped Skyfall. "Not mine. Computer, adjust temperature down fifteen degrees." There was a beep, and the air became signifigantly colder. "It is FRIGID now!" complained Skyfall. "Computer, revert to previous temperature settings." "Oh no you don't! Computer, revert to last modification!" "This is going to be a long month." * * * * * * * * * * "Enter," said Nightpounce as she heard the beep. The doors to her quarters slid open, and Dinobot walked in. "Well, good day, Sunshine," said Nightpounce. "What brings you here?" Dinobot sat down. "This is a rather... awkward situation." Nightpounce thought about their brief encounter on the space station a week ago. "I assure you, the feeling is entirely mutual." "I have... never done this before... so I suppose it is best to be blunt." "That's one way." "Err... would you please me with you company this evening?" Nightpounce laughed. "You know, the expression 'Will you go out with me?' would work just as well." "The question stands, regardless of wording." Nightpounce thought for a moment. "You realize, of course, that if I accept, it may lead to an actual relationship with another living being." "I know," said Dinobot. "I don't relish the idea myself, but it's unavoidable." "In that case, Dinobot..." said Nightpounce, standing up, "...I would be honored to accompany you this evening." Dinobot nodded, then turned to leave the room. Nightpounce paused, then left as well. * * * * * * * * * * Cheetor was having a great day. The wedding yesterday was just great. He knew it would be the last he'd see of Stormcloud or Vixen for a while, but hey, they would be back soon enough. And that was enough for him. Besides, for him, nothing had gone wrong yet, or looked like it would. He spotted Airazor walking by. "Hey, 'Razor!" he shouted, always happy to see her. Sure, she had been doing some sort of strange stuff to herself lately, but he was hardly one to judge. "What do you want?" snarled Airazor, a malicious glimmer in her eyes. "Whoa! Nothing, 'Razor, just wanted to talk with you a little. Y'know, shoot the breeze, compare our positions in life, that sort of thing!" "Why the slag would I want to do that?" she asked. "Umm... because we're friends?" suggested Cheetor. Airazor laughed. It was not her normal, graceful, easy laugh. It was harsh, grating, and bitter. "FRIENDS?!?!? Why in the world would I want to be friends with a smart-mouthed, overexcited twerp that can't follow orders and spends twice as much time gawking at some useless object as he does doing something useful?" Cheetor recoiled. "Gee, 'Razor, what's the problem?" "You just don't get it, do you?" sighed Airazor. "I should expect that of a peabrain like yourself. For all I care, you can go nibble on Megatron's leg for a while. But I will hurt you unless you remove yourself from my path." "'Razor, if there's a problem -" Airazor hooked her blades around Cheetor's neck, then flipped him upside down and slammed his head into the ground. "GO TO INFERNO!" she shouted at him. She then unwrapped her blades, and stalked off. Cheetor stumbled to his feet. *What the slag...* he thought, fuming. * * * * * * * * * * As she crept along the hallway, Bandit reflected on the defense structure of the Axalon. While the ship was quite difficult to enter, once inside, or if you were ALREADY inside, it was fairly easy to move around without having to keep to the shadows. She would have to bring this up later. Pressing against the wall, Bandit leaned near the control panel for the door to Airazor's personal quarters. "Computer, open door, authorization code B871JS9." The door slid open. Drawing her small hand pistol, she slipped into Airazor's quarters. "Freeze," said Airazor as the door slid closed. Bandit felt the tip of the claw on her back, even though the darkness did not allow her to actually see the claw, and wondered how the hell Airazor had ever gotten so stealthy. Airazor turned Bandit around, then pulled her close. "It's a pity you chose to do this, Bandit," she said, putting her hand on Bandit's forehead. "But I am going to enjoy this." Airazor's eyes widened as Bandit slammed her knee into Airazor's crotch. Unlike humans, the equipment in that general area was as painful when kicked for both genders. Pushing Airazor off of her, Bandit let loose her small partner, Skippy. "Go!" she shouted at Skippy. Skippy nodded, and began to look for a fire hydrant. Bandit sighed. "No, no, no, get out of here!" The light of realization finally dawned in Skippy's eyes, and he scurried out. Airazor lunged for him, but missed, and wound up slamming into a wall. "I think I'll be following Skippy's exmple right about now," said Bandit, creeping towards the door. "Oh, you're funny," said Airazor, grabbing Bandit and putting her hand to Bandit's forehead again. "This isn't going to hurt, because by the time it would, there won't be enough of your thought patterns left to realize it." Power arced up through Airazor's arm, and she laughed as Bandit tried to scream. * * * * * * * * * * "This has become quite a problem," said Primal, looking at Airazor. There were now barbs on the tips of her claws. Her wings were longer and more leathery, more like a pterodactyl's than an eagle's. Her eagle head had teeth, and a longer, serpentine neck. Her feathers were harder and seemed almost scale-like. Her entire body was increasingly more angular, more threatening. "What? I finally start showing a little personality to all of you damn MALES, and all of a sudden it's a problem?" snapped Airazor, her eyes narrow and flaring red. "Get off your damn high horse." "No, you finally start acting like a feminist Rattrap, and are somehow connected to all of the injuries of crewmen," replied Skydive. "THEN it becomes a problem." "Slag off," she spat, storming out of the room. "What a bunch of losers." "Skydive, any idea what is going on with here?" asked Primal, somewhat worried. Airazor was always so... placid. Not someone you push around, but still, nothing like this. "I only know that this isn't her acting," replied Skydive. "Something is definitely wrong with her." "No offense, Skydive, but duh." Primal was about to continue, but he felt the Axalon shudder slightly. "Great, a Pred attack." He beeped on his comm. "Cheetor, get Ground Zero and Bonecrusher out there. Wolfang is still on patrol - he'll join you there." ~Gotcha, big bot,~ said Cheetor, winking out. * * * * * * * * * * "Slow down, for Primus's sake!" snapped Arachnid, riding on Bloodclot's back in spider mode. "You're going to kill us both!" "Aw, shuttup!" said Bloodclot, spiraling at the Axalon. "You spiders spend too much time worrying! Tarantulas rambles about the aliens attacking, Blackarachnia rambles about Megatron finding her out, and you ramble about everything else!" "Caution never hurt!" shouted Arachnid. "A Maximal could be right behind us!" Bloodclot was about to reply, but was cut short as several missiles flew past him. Whirling around, he saw Ground Zero hovering there, weapons at the ready. "Smart, that one," he said, gesturing towards Arachnid with a grin. "You should listen to him a bit more, Bloodclot." "Right. I'll be going now!" shouted Arachnid, leaping off Bloodclot's back and transforming. As he landed, he saw that Manterror and Scorponok were having their own problems. "I get the ugly one!" said Wolfang, drawing his shield and crossbow. Manterror began to motion to stop him, but Bonecrusher slammed into him. Scorponok made no such motion (*Lot of help you are,* thought Arachnid), but simply moved away from Cheetor yet again. Transforming, Bloodclot brandished his blade arms. "This time, _I_ will defeat you!" said Bloodclot, lashing out with his shoulder cannons. Ground Zero rocketed upwards, then dove down and to one side and drew his cannon from subspace. He lanced out once, and Bloodclot twirled away, bringing his shoulder cannons back to bear. Rising higher, he fired. "Without that energon shield, you're no match for me!" spat Ground Zero, flying away from the blast. His missile launchers all primed, he braced himself, then let loose with all of them at once. Bloodclot tried to dodge, but twenty-six missiles is not something you lightly dodge. The missiles pounded into his leg, and Bloodclot bellowed in pain. Extending his leg holsters, Bloodclot reached his real hands into the holsters and withdrew his two handguns. Aiming, he blasted one after another, trying to hit Ground Zero. Ground Zero grinned, and spiraled away, rockets flaring. "Face fact, Bloodclot! You never COULD beat me, and you never WILL beat me!" he shouted, lancing out with his particle cannon. Bloodclot strained, and rocketed behind Ground Zero. Ground Zero tried to turn around, but his maneuvering rockets were not very powerful for turns, and he was unable to turn in time. Bloodclot transformed, then stuck his mosquito's probiscus into Ground Zero's back. The vital fluids flowed into Bloodclot, and he laughed. Bonecrusher continued to slam his fists into Manterror. "Boy, you're a sad sight!" he exclaimed, continuing to hit Manterror. "I mean, you should be fighting back, and least! What fun is it to beat you up if -" Manterror suddenly slammed one of his claws into Bonecrusher, and tackled him. "FUN?!? This is WAR, you fool! It is long, it is turmultuous, but it is NEVER fun! Are so stupid to ENJOY it???" With a grin, Bonecrusher blasted a missile out of his mouth, slamming into Manterror's chest. "No, but one long dirge of depression isn't going to help anything," he snapped back at the Predacon, rising upwards into an uppercut. Manterror tucked and rolled backwards, then flipped a pair of disks at Bonecrusher Bonecrusher sprang away, then transformed and charged. Arachnid saw Wolfang charge towards him, and froze for a moment. Then, he suddenly sprang into action, flipping backwards, away from Wolfang's crossbow bolt. "Don't make me hurt you!" he said, yanking his missile launcher out of subspace. Loading a web-bolt, he fired, trying to snare Wolfang. Wolfang dived to one side, and the bolt hit a tree stump, wrapping itself around it. Wolfang and Arachnid both looked at it. "Look at the bright side," said Wolfang, reloading his crossbow. "The bolt works. You're just defective." Whipping his crossbow to bear, he loosed the bolts, then flipped back into the woods. Arachnid glanced at his lightning-fast moves, then stepped to one side, away from where the bolts would hit. "Defective, huh? I just sidestep, and these stupid bolts miss me entir-" Arachnid was cut short as the explosive bolts pounded into the ground. The explosion knocked Arachnid to one side, and Wolfang, now in wolf mode, sprang out of the woods, teeth bared. Arachnnid glanced at Wolfang, then rolled to one side, missile launcher at the ready. Wolfang landed, then leaped at Arachnid again. "You'll get hurt, Cheetor!" shouted Scorponok, standing as far away from Cheetor as possible. "I'll... um... that is... er... you'll get hurt, Cheetor!" Cheetor shook his head, and blasted his quasar cannon at Scorponok. Scorponok rolled to one side, and blasted the launcher in his claw at Cheetor. With a growl, Cheetor leaped away from the missles, then skidded to a halt and charged towards Scorponok, transforming as he ran. Scorponok panicked, and desperately tumbled away from the charging Cheetor. Skidding to a halt, Cheetor transformed again. "What's the matter, chitin chips? The Bad Kitty's too much for ya?" He made a lunge towards Scorponok, but Scorponok gracelessly scrambled away from him. Cheetor pulled his quasar cannon back out of subspace and blasted Scorponok in the chest. Scorponok tumbled backwards, then dug his stinger into the ground to halt himself. "You asked for it! Whatever 'it' is, you asked for!" His stinger shuddering, Scorponok lunged forawrd, stabbing his stinger at Cheetor. Suprised, Cheetor rolled away, and Scorponok dug his stinger into the ground. Cheetor grabbed the stinger, then picked it out of the ground and whipped it onto the ground. Scorponok slammed into the ground, and Cheetor heard a faint >whooosh< as the air was knocked out of Scorponok. Scorponok lashed his tail to one side, knocking Cheetor down, then got up and aimed his launcher. Reaching to his back, Ground Zero grabbed Bloodclot's probiscous, then tugged to one side. Bloodclot made an indeterminate noise (hey, what other kind of noises do mosquitos make, besides the buzzing) and flew away, then transformed, slightly shaken. "NOBODY does that to me!" he bellowed at Ground Zero, lunging at him with his blade arms tracing a figure eight in the air. Ground Zero yanked his roto-claw out of subspace, trying to block Bloodclot's slashes. Bloodclot furiously slashed at Ground Zero, trying to keep him from being able to start up his roto-claw. It was working. Ground Zero flew backwards, trying to get some airspace. With a grin, Bloodclot raced forward, stabbing Ground Zero in the chest. Ground Zero winced, but pulled his roto-claw off to one side, and it roared to life. Bloodclot's expression drooped. Ground Zero slammed his roto-claw into Bloodclot's blade arms, and the arms snapped like dry twigs. Yanking the stump of a blade arm out of his chest, Ground Zero flipped out his full array of missile launchers again, his gaze narrow. "Like I said, Bloodclot - you can't beat me," he growled as the launchers roared to life. Bloodclot strained himself, trying to avoid the missiles, but Ground Zero tracked his path and continued to fire. The missiles slammed into Bloodclot, and he hurtled to the ground, smoking. "YEAH!" shouted Ground Zero, pulling his arm back emphatically. "Chalk up ONE MORE for the GOOD GUYS!" Manterror rolled aside as the bison charged past, then transformed into his praying mantis mode. The two animals circled one another, and Manterror suddenly lashed out with his claws, digging into Bonecrusher's flank. Bonecrusher snorted, then pulled away from Manterror, turned, and charged. Manterror began to move away, but before he had the chance, Bonecrusher smashed into Manterror, knocking him over. Transforming, Manterror lept onto Bonecrusher's back, and slashed mercilessly at it. Screeching to a halt, Bonecrusher transformed, throwing Manterror off of his back, and then turned to blast one of his mouth missiles at him. Flipping more of his razor disks at Bonecrusher, Manterror launched himself at Bonecrusher, tackling him. Bonecrusher shoved Manterror off him, then gave a low sweep kick. Manterror made a small jump, then kicked straight at Bonecrusher's head. Bonecrusher rolled to one side, then uppercutted the still-airborne Manterror, knocking him backwards. As Manterror skidded to a halt, Bonecrusher transformed, then charged straight at Manterror. Shaking his head to clear his vision, Manterror slammed his claw into the back of Bonecrusher's head. The shock caused Bonecrusher to transform back to robot mode, and Manterror slammed his claws together in a sort of clap, smashing into Bonecrusher's head. Bonecrusher toppled, and Manterror gave a quiet chuckle. Wolfang's pounce was cut short as Arachnid pounded into him with missiles. His wolf form withdrew, snarling. Arachnid fired more missiles at Wolfang, and Wolfang transformed again, then blocked the missiles with his shield. Bringing his crossbow to bear, Wolfang fired repeatedly at Arachnid. The explosive bolts knocked Arachnid away, and he skidded to a halt. Wolfang move his shield away. Praying to Primus, Arachnid fired a web-bolt at Wolfang. Unprepared for the assault, Wolfang was struck dead on, and the webs began to ensnare him. Struggling, Wolfang was unable to break the webs, and Arachnid got to his feet, loading his launcher again. He stalked over to Wolfang, who was still trying to snap the bonds of the web. Arachnid aimed his launcher at Wolfang's head, then fired. With a burst of effort, Wolfang rolled to one side, and the missile hit the ground. Extending the claws housed in his hands, he finally slashed through the webs, but Arachnid had already aimed another missile at his head. Wolfang reached to one side, hoping that his crossbow was there. It was his shield. With a slight shrug, Wolfang slammed the shield over Arachnid's head, knocking him out. Grabbing his crossbow, Wolfang began to tie up Arachnid. Grabbing Scorponok's launcher, Cheetor exercised speed that was incredible for a fifteen-foot-tall robot and flipped Scorponok over, then pummeled him with punches. Scorponok grabbed Cheetor's head in one of his claws. Cheetor grabbed the claw, but while he was fast, he was not very strong. He could not pry the claws apart, and he felt his head begin to crumple from the pressure. Scorponok suddenly let go of Cheetor's head. Cheetor and Scorponok both looked behind Scorponok, to see what would make him release. Hovering there, Ground Zero lashed out towards Scorponok with his particle cannon again. Scorponok rolled to one side, but Cheetor grabbed his quasar cannon and blasted at him again. Springing backwards, Scorponok blasted a series of missiles at the two Maximals, but they evaded his clumsy blasts and continued approaching. Manterror grabbed Bloodclot and flipped a group of disks at Ground Zero and Cheetor. "Come on, Scorponok! We need to get out of here!" Scorponok glanced at the comatose Arachnid, still being restrained by Wolfang. "W-w-what about Arachnid, though?" "He's a calculated loss," shouted Manterror, beginning to fly off. "Besides, he was never very useful anyways. Come on!" Scorponok shrugged, then activated his recently-installed flight system and rocketed after Manterror. Cheetor blasted a couple of parting shots at the trio. "Why do they always get away?" "It's not that bad," grinned Wolfang, holding the tied-up Arachnid. "We have a prisoner." * * * * * * * * * * Cheetor poked the electro-prod into the cage again. Arachnid scuttled away, to a far corner of the cage. "That's it, feline!" he snarled. "I'm going to go to robot mode and yank that damn prod out of your hand! "I wouldn't do that if I were you," said Rhinox. "Stormcloud and I set up the cages to emmit a low-power energon field. Enough so that anyone inside that tries to transform will go into stasis lock." "Yeah," grinned Cheetor. "So you can't do squat." He poked the prod into the cage again. Rhinox sighed. "C'mon, Cheetor, just leave the spider alone," he sighed. "It's not like you have a reason to torment him." "Ahem. 'No reason'? Did you miss something? Like a war?" "ASIDE from that, Cheetor." "Yeah, well, I need to let off some steam, anyhow." He poked the prod in again. "And this Predadork is the best target I have." "What's got you so ticked off?" asked Rhinox, concerned. Times when Cheetor and him could actually have a normal conversation were few and far between, and he relished the opportunity to try and straighten out the kid. "AIRAZOR, that's what!" he snarled. "Every time I pass her nowadays, she doesn't greet me, doesn't talk with me, just walks past me! I mean, her and I are practically SIBLINGS! And then she goes off into this slagging mood swing! I mean, yeah, Vixen explained the whole process that organic females go through... and I gotta admit, I'm glad that I don't have to deal with THAT... but this is WAY off the target!" Angrily, he shoved the prod into the cage again. "I know..." sighed Rhinox. "She's been treating me the same way. She's always acted so warm... so kind... so forgiving... and now, she's changed completely. I don't know. I thought it didn't bother me too much... but I guess I was just fooling myself..." He sat down next to Cheetor. "Are there any more of those prods?" Cheetor tossed him one, and the pair of them poked at Arachnid, who snarled angrily at his current weakness. * * * * * * * * * * "I think I figured out the problem Airazor has," said Skydive. "Then explain it," said Primal. Skydive nodded, then began to bring up a series of holographic displays. "I began to piece it together when Tigatron gave me the footage his internal scout camera recorded. It would have helped to have Airazor's footage... but, for obvious reasons, that was not a viable option." "Of course," nodded Primal. "What it appears is that when the pod opened, the burst of energy wasn't anything unusual in a technical sense. It was simply a defense mechanism designed to stop anyone trying to open a stasis pod that was not properly sealed - most likely used by a pod a stowaway would steal. "Now, when the Axalon took off, we had several empty pods." "For pickup on Earth," said Primal. "I remember." "However, when I looked at our mass readings, we had a little bit of extra mass. Not enough to affect astronavigaton, but just enough to make up for one more Transformer." "A stowaway." "Precisely," said Skydive. "And, when we launched the stasis pods, there was one more launched then there was supposed to be in the group at that time." Primal shrugged. "So the stasis pod was the pod of a stowaway. What does that have to do with anything?" "Ah, that's where it gets interesting," replied Skydive. "The stasis pod's inhabitant died soon after landing, but I think that it had nothing to do with the planet. I think that she was dying as she got on the Axalon. "Tigatron's scan showed that the dead female was a heavily modified Seeker. I could trace the modifications, but that itself told me nothing. Then, when I traced Airazor's modifications, the two combined provided a definite pattern, towards a single body shape." A body was holographically projected on the table. "I can see the resemblances towards the new Airazor," said Primal. "So, let me guess... you had Icebreaker check the records for females with this body structure?" "Bingo. There was only one female with the same structure. Crimson. A female Decepticon, built nearly at the start of the war. She died several millenia afterwards." "So how is she involved in this?" asked Primal. "Okay. This is just speculation... but I think that Crimson DIDN'T die. At least, not in the normal sense. I think that her body died, but some vestige of her spark remained. But not enough to make it a full-fledged ghost. "Crimson needed a host, and she needed something to strengthen her spark enough to dominate that host. So she became a sort of psychic vampire, stealing the active energies from those who 'got in her way'. Modifying the body to become more like her original body." "And you think that Crimson's latest incarnation was our stowaway?" asked Primal. "I'm almost certain of it," replied Skydive. "So, doesn't that mean that Airazor is dead?" asked Primal, concerned. "No, it doesn't," said Skydive. "Crimson is leeching off of her spark at the moment. Airazor's spark is getting consistently weaker, and while she still has some influence over Crimson's actions, she won't for much longer." "Any idea how to get Crimson to release Airazor?" asked Primal. "Actually, I have half a plan as far as that goes," replied Skydive, picking up a small gun. "I've set this thing up to pull both of the sparks out of Airazor's body. After that, I can seperate Airazor's spark from Crimson's spark and replace it in her body." "Let me guess. You're missing the half that involves actually firing that thing at Airazor." "Yeah, that's it," said Skydive, grinning sheepishly. "That's just prime," moaned Primal. Primal's comm beeped. Flipping it open, he said, "Optimus Primal here. What's up?" ~Just thought you might want to be posted on this...~ said Cloudspin over the comm. ~I just saw Airazor headed towards Tigatron's quarters. He's there at the moment, so...~ "And THERE'S the second half of my plan!" shouted Skydive, grabbing the gun. Primal picked him up and rocketed out of the room. * * * * * * * * * * Tigatron glanced up as Airazor enetered the room, swaying seductively. "Is something the matter?" asked Tigatron. Airazor grabbed him. "I love you, Tigatron." She moved her hand towards his forehead. "You don't know how much." Tigatron began to embrace her, and she planted her hand on his forehead. The door was smashed through as Primal raced in. "Couldn't you have just opened the door?" asked Skydive as Primal set him on the ground. "Hey, it's my ship." "Goody! More meals!" said Airazor, shoving Tigatron away. Raising her arms, she fired her wrist missiles at Primal and Skydive. Primal activated his jets and shot upwards, drawing his twin swords. Skydive rolled to one side, then finished priming the gun to fire. Taking careful aim, Skydive squeezed off the shot. Airazor sprang away, and the shot hit the wall. "Oops," said Skydive, sheepishly grinning again. Claws flashing, Airazor launched herself towards Skydive. Her barbed claws stabbed through his shoulders, and he dropped the gun. It spun across the room, slamming into the wall. Airazor grinned, and placed her hand on Skydive's forehead. Before she could do anything, however, Primal blasted his arm cannons at her, knocking her away. She skidded to a halt, then aimed her missiles at the gun. She was cut short as Cloudspin slammed into her. "Are we having a party?" asked Cloudspin. Shaking her head, Airazor flung Cloudspin against the wall, then aimed at the gun again. Tigatron sprang forward, grabbing the gun, and Airazor's missile hit the wall. "How do you prime this thing?" asked Tigatron of Skydive. Skydive did not reply. Sighing, Tigatron aimed and fired at Airazor. She tucked and rolled away, and the shot hit the wall. Cloudspin recovered, then blasted Airazor with her particle cannon. "Tigatron! Toss me the gun!" Without a word, Tigatron prepared to toss Cloudspin the gun, but Airazor lunged in front of her. Tigatron suddenly rotated on one foot. "Primal! Catch!" he shouted, tossing him the gun. Primal glanced over, and lunged over to snatch the gun out of mid-air. Airazor turned to grab Primal, but he smirked and tossed it at Skydive. Skydive began to get up, then saw the gun coming towards him and grabbed him. Airazor fumed. "This is, without a doubt, the most INFANTILE attempt to stop me that I have ever -" Airazor nearly shot herself as the gun whizzed past her head into Primal's hands. Primal juggled the gun in his hands for a moment, then tossed it to Tigatron. Tigatron grabbed it, then whirled it around on his finger, then tossed it back to Primal. With a backspin, Primal slung it at Skydive, who grabbed it and lobbed the gun at Cloudspin. Cloudspin grabbed the gun, twirling it once on her finger. "Perfect," she said, taking careful aim. "I never miss." Cloudspin squeezed off the shot. It flew past Airazor's head and slammed into the wall. "Okay, well, almost never miss," shrugged Cloudspin, firing again. The blast hit Airazor dead on. Her body twitched and sparked, and she let out a blood-curdling scream of pain. Then, her body collapsed, still slightly sparking. Skydive braced himself against the wall, and took the gun from Cloudspin, then pressed a few buttons on the gun. "There we go. I've set the gun to release Airazor's spark into her body." He aimed the gun at her body. Cloudspin took the gun. "I think I ought to fire this." Skydive shrugged. "Whatever." Cloudspin shot, and the blast hit the immobile body. It sparked for a moment, then Airazor sat up. "Did I miss something?" she asked. "As usual," said Primal. * * * * * * * * * * There was a beep at Tigatron's door. "Come in," he said. For the second time, Airazor stepped in. But this time, her body was back to normal. "Airazor! How are you feeling?" asked Tigatron emphatically. "Better," she replied. "It's so much nicer to have my own body back. I was having trouble keeping my front from toppling me over." Tigatron chuckled. "What did they wind up doing with Crimson?" "Well... that gun has amazing range, so Skydive just blasted out into space to Primus knows where. With any luck, she won't find another host, and she'll be forced to die from lack of sustenance." "And without any luck?" "Then I'd better read up on Madonna," she replied. "Now, um... I have something I need to talk with you about." "What?" he asked. "Well... when I said that I loved you..." Tigatron put his hand on her shoulder. "I understand that it was Crimson's influence. You don't need to -" "No, no , no! You don't understand! That was really ME!" A suprised look came over Tigatron's face. "I really DO care about you! Crimson used that information to exploit you, but it was based on ACTUAL FEELINGS!!!" She paused. "I know you don't have any feelings for me, but -" "I do," said Tigatron softly. "- even if you hate me, I - WHAT?!?!?" replied Airazor, not quite processing the information. "I didn't want to jeproadize our friendship by making any advances... I thought that your concern was merely that of a close friend." "So - you DO care about me?" asked Airazor, suprised. "Like Stormcloud for Vixen... like Dinobot for Nightpounce... like Trailblazer for Bandit... like Rattrap for... well, no-one for Rattrap, but like -" "I think I get the picture," said Airazor. "So, does this mean... we can actually... get together?" "I think so," said Tigatron. Reaching over, he pressed the button on a recorder. A melody wafted out. "What's that?" asked Airazor. "The title is... actually, I don't remember the title. Some Terran named John Lennon sings it." "John Lennon? What kind of a name is that?" "Beats me." He extended a hand. "Care to dance?" Airazor took his hand, with a broad smile.