Rob's Pile of Transformers: "Other Consequences"

Here's my first serious attempt at a Beast Wars fanfic. It's set in early Season 2, between "Coming of the Fuzors" Part 2 and "Tangled Web". Enjoy!

Other Consequences

A neon-green beam swept forward, saturating its objective with a plethora of penetrating rays and sub-atomic particles. As the barrage of energy perforated the target, a finely-tuned sensor array reacted to the pyrotechnic display, and reported its findings to a battery of electronic microprocessors. The end result was a scrolling display of data across a small screen. That data, in turn, was scanned by another set of sensors -- optic, this time -- which passed it along to the processors that controlled them. After several minutes of absorbing and carefully scrutinizing the data, the processors reached a verdict: the subject of the scans was nothing but dirt.

"No life," Tigatron muttered aloud, turning off the bioanalyzer. "Not even the barest microbe." The earth he was studying should have been full of living organisms -- microscopic worms, bacteria, microbes, insects. But the soil in this region had been swept clean weeks before -- irridated by an alien construct that was intended to destroy the entire planet. Tigatron's teammates had managed -- barely -- to stop the device from annihilating the world they were stranded on, but a swath of desolation remained in the beam's wake. It had devastated the area it struck directly, spawning firestorms and geologic upheavals. The topsoil in many places was simply burned away, and the region's plant cover had gone with it. Subsequently, wind and rain storms scoured the remaining soil down to the bedrock in many places, leaving only barren granites or clays behind.

A distant figure in the sky above the pock-marked wilds caught Tigatron's eye. He drew his gleaming robotic form upright as the airborne shape dove directly at him, bobbing and rolling as it drew near. He gasped and took a couple of quick steps backward to avoid the winged apparition as it smashed into the ground in front of him.

Tigatron carefully knelt over the downed creature, a common sparrow. The little bird was still alive, wings shuddering weakly as it tried to regain the sky, its beak gasping silently at the air. But weeks of sparse hunting had left it a frail, almost skeletal remnant of its former self. Tigatron watched the tiny animal struggle to fly again, unable to help, but unable to tear himself away either -- as if somehow, his presence was a form of support whose withdrawal would be an act of treachery.

But wishing was not enough to make a difference. After a few moments, the sparrow's struggles ceased, as some part of its mind realized that it was not leaving this spot again. Its head sank to the ground; the creature's eyes seemed to Tigatron to glaze over with something that akin to mute acceptance. Its beak opened and closed silently, over and over. Tigatron turned away, to let the little creature have a final moment of peace. To avoid the final, sorry spectacle of its demise.

"We did this," he said softly.

It was a mantra he had repeated to himself a thousand times daily since they had left the Maximal base. He thought of it every time he scanned another sample of dead soil... every time he looked down upon another dull brown vista that had once been green... every time he passed the carcass of yet another creature unable to survive in the ruins of a once-bountiful ecosystem... every time Airazor descended from the sky and reported more of the same as far as her scanners could see.

He looked up as his scouting partner approached in beast mode, wings spread wide to reduce airspeed as she alighted. By contrast with the sparrow, Airazor came to a well-controlled mid-air halt, flapping her wings slightly to hold position, then transformed to her robot mode and dropped neatly to the ground. She contemplated him for a moment, head tilted slightly to one side.

"Something eating at your circuits?" she asked.

Tigatron shook his head listlessly and turned to where the sparrow lay; Airazor followed his gaze.

"It mistook me for food, and died at my feet," Tigatron said bitterly.

Airazor's large green optics turned from the dead bird to her travel companion, her voice subdued. "Beating yourself up over it won't bring anything back."

"But how can I forget that we bear the responsibility for it!"

"Tigatron..." Airazor took a tentative step forward. "You've been saying that ever since we left the base. You've gotta let it go."

Tigatron growled deeply; Airazor unconsciously stepped back again. "I cannot forget. Not when the death we caused surrounds us like this."

"Letting go doesn't mean you have to forget," Airazor said.

"Then what _does_ it mean?" Tigatron's words were tinged with darkness, anger.

Airazor glanced at the sparrow again. "It means knowing that you can't undo death. And that carrying the burden of it around like a ton of lead everywhere you go isn't going to help."

"It is the most I can do for this world," Tigatron shook his head. He straightened his frame, and components all across his body abruptly sprung to life as he transformed to his beast mode.

"The wilds were my home, and now they are destroyed," he continued, wistfully. "I am as one who has lost his entire family."

"You'll always have us," Airazor told him.

"A Maximal could not ask for more," Tigatron replied. "But it cannot heal the wound any faster."

"You haven't lost your family... you've lost part of yourself," Airazor said.

Tigatron gazed at her with wide eyes. "You know me better than I know myself."

Airazor concealed a grimace. *That* would be the day.

"Let's get moving. I got faint energy scans from the next grid -- it might have been a pod."

"A stasis pod?" Tigatron's tone suddenly lifted. "Why did you not mention it sooner?"

"You needed cheering up!" Airazor said as she glided aloft once more.

"Saving my life's not enough for you," Tigatron chuckled slightly. "You're determined to make me enjoy it as well."

"Rough job, but somebody's gotta do it."

The two Maximals vectored away from the sparrow's body, leaving behind a small collection of dusty tracks amid the ruined landscape...

...and a hulking form which sculked in the shadow of distant rocks, having monitored the entire conversation. With its quarry out of detection range, it cautiously but quickly skittered after the pair, careful to remain always out of sight...

- - -

"There! I can see it!" Airazor's voice crackled a bit over the com line, the result of several miles distance between her and Tigatron.

"Is it a pod?" he sent back to her.

"Yes! But it looks like it might be damaged."

"Don't wait for me," he radioed. "See if the protoform inside survived the landing. I will meet you there."

"On the way," Airazor answered. Tigatron closed down the radio link, and bounded away at top speed across the barren plains.

It was nearly ten minutes later when he reached the top of a rise that, according to the coordinates, was the last between him and the pod. He gazed down: before him was the pod... and Airazor, motionless, prone, and wounded.

Tigatron sucked in an anxious gasp of surprise. He restrained an impulse to rush to her side, and instead issued a vocal command to his auto-activation circuitry. "Tigatron, maximize!"

Invisible micro-seams in his beast flesh parted to reveal the robotic components beneath, as he unfolded back into his robot form, cryo blaster drawn and armed. Theoretically, this mode was his true self. As far as Tigatron was concerned, though, his tiger form was at least half responsible for making him who he was. But an organic tiger wasn't nearly as effective at fighting Predacons as was a Cybertronian robot.

Swiftly, Tigatron spun around, scanning the terrain with his full spectrum of sensors. There weren't many places to hide... and all his scans came up negative. As far as he could tell, he was alone.

Tigatron voiced a low _hmmmmm_, his brow furrowing. "Where are you hiding, Predacon," he whispered aloud. One of them had to be here. Somewhere. Somewhere close. But not on the ground. Somewhere else, then...

"Maximal base, come in. Code red," he spoke into his communicator. Trilling static replied to him, thumbing its nose at his efforts. No getting through today. *We've been followed,* he realized. A series of radio relays they'd left behind them on their journey should have passed his communication on to the downed starship that was their headquarters; up till now, the relays had worked fine. If they were jammed or destroyed, he and Airazor were cut off... completely on their own.

Cautiously, he advanced towards Airazor's inert form. His weapon was raised; his finger rested firmly against the trigger, ready to respond to whatever threat awaited him.

*The attack will come. It must come. There is danger here...*

He edged closer to the pod, to his companion. Fifty feet distance. The plains were still silent. Forty feet. Thirty. At twenty-five, he stopped, listening to some instinct, some twitch in the wind, some shifting of scents -- he didn't know what it was, but it cried out to him like a siren: _warning!_

He heard it and saw it in the same instant, a bright orange burst falling out of the sky towards his head. Without a thought he dove aside, as the firebomb tore up the ground where he had stood. A storm of the incindiary projectiles rained down on him, fired by a crazed figure who dove directly downward with a furious one-word battle cry: "ATTAAAAAACK!"

Tigatron rolled and leapt as Inferno's barrage hit all around him. The Predacon's manic assault was hindered by the fact that, in his battle lust, he rarely paused to aim carefully. The volume of fire he was unloading from his twin flamethrower cannons very nearly made up for it, however. Tigatron's agility and speed were pressed to the limits as he ran zig-zag through the hail of fire.

"The fate you inflicted on my colony will now be your own, Maximal!" Inferno shouted, waving his guns skyward for an instant. Unfortunately for (and unlike) Inferno, Tigatron was still in full possesion of his wits; the split-second respite was all the time he needed to stop, aim, and fire. Inferno took the shot in the mid-section, the components there turning blue-white as the heat energy abruptly drained out of them. His flight engines suddenly sputtered as their power was fouled, and very quickly he tumbled to the ground with a furious roar. Tigatron wasted no time in blasting him a second time, immobilizing him completely from head to foot. A look of furious surprise was literally frozen on the Predacon's features.

"It appears we're not as alone as we thought," Tigatron murmurred, holstering his cryo-blaster. He turned and dashed to Airazor's side, kneeling above her and inspecting her wounds. "Minimal damage -- thank the Matrix," he observed. Throwing open a few panels, he entered an override code that automatically shifted Airazor into beast mode, where her robotic components could begin to heal themselves. The action roused her somewhat; her eyes opened as the transformation completed itself.

"Rough day at the office?" she said weakly, glancing about at the charred terrain and Inferno's frozen form, steaming in the heat of mid-day.

"It may be rougher before it's done," Tigatron said grimly. "How are you feeling?"

"I've been better, but I've been worse," Airazor answered. "Inferno popped up out of nowhere when I landed -- I bet he's been trailing us a while now." She climbed to her feet, shaking her head. She spread her wings, tentatively, testing them. "What's the bad word?"

"You're damaged. Relax, let your beast form do its work," Tigatron said, motioning for her to sit. "We may need your strength soon. I can't get through to the base."

"Terrific. Just when we could really use Rhinox's help. I didn't get a good look at the pod, but it looked thorougly slagged," Airazor answered.

The pod! In the urgency of the moment, Tigatron had nearly forgotten it. Yet there it sat, only a few yards away... on its side, nose crumpled from impact, its side-mounted computer housing buried beneath it. "What about the protoform?" Tigatron asked in horror.

"Don't know. This is as close as I got."

A wide frown creased Tigatron's face; he quickly jogged over to the pod. The top shield was intact, sheltering the formless robot within from the elements -- and the all-critical Spark, the life-element that was the basis of the new Maximal's very essence, had managed to survive. Its blue-white pulse filled the pod with a faint, shimmery light. Carefully, Tigatron pulled the pod over so that it sat upright, then darted around to the computer housing that held the equipment needed to bring the new Maximal into full consciousness.

"No!" he breathed to himself. The housing was a ruin, nearly sheared away by the impact. Its exposed circuitry crackled and sparked when he put his hand near it.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's not good, right?" Airazor's voice came from behind him.

"There's more damage than I could possibly repair here in the field," Tigatron said, desperation in his voice. "We must get it back to the base, before the Predacons learn its location."

"Wouldn't our friend here have called in already?" Airazor gestured toward Inferno with a wing.

Tigatron stared for a grim moment, nodding slowly in agreement. "Then we can soon expect more visitors. Can you fly?"

"Think so," Airazor said, stretching her wings again, her features scrunching up as she did so. "I don't know about carrying the pod, though."

"You have to get within range of the base. Tell Optimus what's happening and bring help. I will hold the Predacons at bay..."

"Tigatron, you can't! What happens when Megs gets here? Even if you hold them off they'll destroy the pod if you don't hand it over."

Tigatron looked pensively at the horizon, as if expecting an attack at any moment. "We must get this pod to safety somehow," he finally noted.

"Maybe we can find some cover for it," Airazor suggested.

Tigatron growled a low, throaty rumble of unwilling assent. "That will have to do for a start. Try flying, see if you can locate something. I can tow the pod there."

Airazor tentatively spread her wings, flapping them a couple of times and groaning with the effort.

"Do not strain yourself --"

"I'll be fine," Airazor said, forcing her wings into motion and gently lifting off.

"Stay in contact," Tigertron called after her. "We must be cautious or the Predacons will surely take the pod."

"Uhh... got it," Airazor replied, painfully.

"You should not be flying yet," Tigatron said reproachfully.

"No internals damaged," Airazor said in a mock-deep voice. "Remember that one?"

Tigatron managed a short, humorless chuckle. "I suppose I am not one to criticize. But... be cautious."

- - -

The sun poured unrelenting heat onto the vast wastelands as Tigatron slowly pulled his burden across the flat landscape. A length of steel cable was clenched firmly in his jaws, and attached to two points on the pod. He had already stopped twice to allow his systems to cool down, and his synthetic organic portions were crying out for fluids that his overworked internals did not have time to generate. Above, Airazor drifted in wide, lazy circles, wings motionless, attentively watching the horizon in all directions for intruders, unable to help her friend struggling below.

It was a nervous race against the clock. They were only an hour or two's flight time from the Predacon base. The pod was digging a furrow behind it that even the most dimwitted tracker could follow like a roadmap. Tigatron blocked out the thought, focusing on the next step, the endless sucession of them. And tried not to think of the distance to the canyons, where shelter and defensible positions waited.

Airazor swooped low, passing only a few feet above him, and generating a welcome breeze in her wake. "Still nothing," she said simply. Tigatron nodded wordlessly, too tired to be pleased, and Airazor winged back into the sky, her circle widening as she rose.

Another step. And another. And another, and another, and another...

- - -

He thought it was a mirage at first, till Airazor radioed down to him: "We're only two miles from the hills!"

"That is good," he sent back, too tired for much else. Servoes aching, he bent to his labor with slightly renewed vigor. Two miles to the hills... but even getting that far wasn't the hard part.

One of them had to return to the base. While the other waited with the pod... alone.

The choices were obvious. She was faster; he was stronger and more well-armed. That didn't make it an easy decision, though. Splitting up, abandoning each other... it was the hardest choice of all.

- - -

Where before she had drifted lazily, allowing for her companion's arduously slow pace, Airazor now streaked through the skies in robot mode at top speed. For now, that was the only way she could help the protoform -- or Tigatron.

"Approaching grid Thyla Zobor," her internal tracking system informed her.

"Locate radio relay," she ordered.

"Radio relay not detected in this grid."

"Slag," she muttered. "Zero in on last known location." Graphics played across her vision, providing her with a pin-point location on the ground below. She swooped at it, senses on overdrive. A split-second glance was all she needed to see -- the radio relay was a charred and blackened ruin.

"Target location of next radio relay," she ordered her computer, and shot away toward the vector it gave.

- - -

Tigatron was well-used to being alone. Companionship was still something new to him; though it ran contrary to his nature, it had turned out to have its merits. But now he was finding that stewardship, by contrast, had nothing whatsoever to recommend it.

The pod was as well-concealed as he could make it -- which wasn't very much. His systems were revitalized and rested; he was ready for battle. But he had no way of knowing when the battle would come, or from where, or if at all. Nor could he anticipate how the battle would be fought. He could only wait, running through a rigorously disciplined scan of his surroundings: the horizon in front, the hills behind, the sky above, the murky world of internal sensors. Repeat, repeat, repeat, ad nauseum, for as long as it took to defend this new life. When the battle came, he would be ready... at least as ready as it was possible for him to be.

He was half-way through his visual sky scan when his sensors alerted him to incoming energy signatures. He tensed, checked his weapons one last time, and focused on the sensor reading.

"Head on approach," he noted. It was the Maximals, or the Predacons weren't bothering with subtlety.

"Predacon energy signature detected," his computer informed him seconds later.

"Then it begins," Tigatron said. He took cover about thirty feet from the pod -- close enough that he could easily reach it if the Predacons decided to threaten it to gain his cooperation, but far enough away that he wouldn't be attracting firepower or attention to it.

His sensors provided him with more information -- there were two signals, approaching by air. "Megatron and Waspinator," he noted, taking aim at the distant forms.

"Megatron, TERRORIZE!" came the deeply ominous voice of the Predacon leader. His metallic dinosaur mode shifted and split apart into his robot form; he was already firing when he hit the ground.

"Waspinator, TERROR-- IIEEE!!" Waspinator's battle call was interrupted as Tigatron's freeze gun blasted through the air, hitting his wings. The wings froze, but continued their frantic beating -- until they shattered, leaving the insectile Predacon to plummet head-first to the ground. Waspinator hit hard and didn't move again.

Megatron hardly even noted the loss of his lone trooper, and instead advanced on his foe, firing.

*Something's not right,* Tigatron's mind said to him. *Too few troops, not enough concern --- TRAP!* Tigatron spun around in spite of himself -- and sure enough, racing down the hills towards him in ground mode, was Tarantulas. Tigatron fired repeatedly, causing the spider to swerve, transform, and take cover before he could reach Tigatron. But Tigatron was now surrounded, as several shots whizzing by overhead reminded him.

Tigatron blasted at Tarantulas, forcing him back under cover, then raised up out of cover to attack Megatron. But his first shot missed, and Megatron's next blast took him in the chest. Tigatron flew backwards, slamming into the dirt.

"The advantage was always mine, Maximal," Megatron said, looming into Tigatron's field of view.

Tigatron did his best to look helpless -- which he was, since he had lost one of his guns, and the other was still stored away in its holster. Megatron raised his weapon again; Tigatron leapt at the motion. A shot missed him by a whisker's breadth as he charged Megatron, but as he reached the Predacon the tail gun lashed out at him like a whip, knocking him away.

Tigatron was already reaching for his holstered gun before he hit the ground; by the time he stopped moving, he had Megatron centered in the sites.

"Aaarg!" Megatron groaned in pain as Tigatron blasted him repeatedly. But before he could deliver a final debilitating shot, Tigatron was suddenly riddled by weaponsfire as Tarantulas advanced on him, shoulder cannons blazing. The damage was too much; Tigatron groaned once and dropped to the ground, motionless.

"Never turn your back on a spider, Maximal," Tarantulas told him.

"Success!" Megatron breathed. "The pod is mine now, to reprogram into one of our own, yesssss. And _you_ are in no position to stop me," Megatron spat the words out, kicking Tigatron away with his heel.

Tarantulas sniggered as he examined the damaged pod. "Poor little protoform, heh heh. No onboard computer left to give you your vile Maximal programming! Hah ha!" He pulled out a small device from a storage compartment. "Not to worry; we'll take care of -- blaaaagh!!"

A laser blast shattered the device in his hand, as a chorus of voices shouted from the air: "MAXIMIZE!!"

"Stand down now, Megatron!" Optimus Primal's voice rang out, as he charged towards the two Predacons. Behind him came Airazor, Silverbolt and Cheetor, with weapons drawn.

"NOOOO!!" Megatron roared in furious frustration.

Tarantulas spat out an inarticulate noise of anger, before drawing his blaster and returning fire. The two of them huddled behind the meager protection of the pod. "We cannot take them all, Megatron!"

"Indeed not. But if there will be no new Predacons today, nor will there be any new Maximals," he replied. His tail-weapon surged with power. "From the Matrix you came, and to the Matrix you return," he said, aiming at the pod.

Primal's eyes widened in horror as he realized what was happening. "Megatron, don't!" He charged, but a blast from Tarantulas knocked him down.

"For the Predacons!" Megatron said, and fired point-blank into the pod.

The pod erupted in furious white light. Surges of blue Spark energy ran wild as their binding coherence was destabilized, till life force became nothing but random electrical charges dissapating into the atmosphere. The pod's light died to nothing. Smoke rose from its blackened insides.

"You --" Airazor spat, and charged, firing. The others followed.

"Guh!!" Megatron shouted, as a wrist missile caught his shoulder. "I think our work here is done, yesss," he said, transforming to his mechanized tyrannasaur mode. His fanjets lit up with blasts of power, propelling his immense bulk skyward and away. From behind the pod, Tarantulas's wheeled transport mode suddenly shot off in a spray of dust and cackling laughter. The Maximals fired after them till they were specks on the horizon.

"Stand down, Maximals," Optimus said tiredly. "It's over."

"Tigatron --" Airazor hurried to his side; the others followed. The damage was severe, but he had regained consciousness.

"The pod - ?" he managed.

Airazor said nothing, her head bowed.

"Megatron got here just before we did," Primal said. "I'm sorry, Tigatron."

"All that remains in our wake is death," Tigatron murmurred.

"You did everything that anybody could have," Primal answered gently.

"And it still was not enough --"

Tigatron's voice choked off. None of them could answer his charge.

Primal finally broke the silence by transforming, his hoverboard charged and ready. "Let's get you back to base," he said, motioning Tigatron aboard. He obeyed without acknowledgement. The other three shifted to their beast modes, and the unearthly cavalcade hove off into the late afternoon sun.

- - -

The Maximal R-Chambers were a Cybertronian physician's dream come true -- literally. The medic who first perfected the process had claimed the idea came to him during a sleep-mode cycle. Previous attempts at an auto-repair device had been hampered by the wild variety of Cybertronian bodyforms, each unique, and each saddled with varying degrees of hyper-technology and intricate mechanisms. The inspired doctor, then, decided it would be easier simply to change the nature of the robot being repaired -- to create a body that was based on great numbers of a basic, microscopic mechanical unit that could be easily duplicated, repaired, and replaced -- the robotic equivalent of a cellular structure. The concept had been revolutionary, culminating in a mass upgrade to the new Maximal bodyforms. It was also a boon to small exploratory crews such as that of the Axalon, who were no longer required to have a full-time doctor on ship just to keep themselves in working order.

Tigatron knew all this, of course, having downloaded the standard datatracks from the Axalon's computer systems. Yet he still found the chamber harshly artificial and alien. He was glad when the massive door swung open. He immediately stepped out, briefly glancing at the points where his wounds had been.

"Heya, Stripes!" Rattrap's voice called to him, one hand resting on the machine's controls. "Nice ta see ya again... especially with all your bits where they're 'sposed to be."

"It feels good to have them there, Rattrap," Tigatron couldn't help chuckling. His vision blurred and refocused, and he took in the other Maximals around the room, waiting anxiously. He stared a moment at Silverbolt, who had not yet arrived the last time he'd been here, before his gaze came to rest on Optimus.

"You found us," he said, amazed. "How --"

"When you missed your regular call-in, we got worried," Rhinox explained from nearby.

"We started following the trail of your radio relays. That's when Airazor found us," Primal added.

"Yeah, and if she hadn't led us back to you so quick, Megatron woulda done a tapdance on your head," Cheetor said.

"Or perhaps he not have destroyed the pod," Tigatron reflected.

"Yeah, he woulda turned it into a Pred," Cheetor said derisively. Anything was better than that, right?

"You held out by yourself against three Predacons who had you surrounded. What happened's not your fault," Optimus told him.

"We must continue on our mission," Tigatron said, resolutely. "We have lost one. I don't think I can bear to lose another."

"Agreed," Primal replied. "But bring your path back towards the base from time to time. I don't want Megatron to be able to cut you off again."

"It'll cost them time," Rhinox noted.

"Time we can spare. We came too close to losing them today," Primal answered.

"We _did_ lose one today," Airazor said quietly

"But so long as I am on guard, I swear... we shall not lose another." Tigatron transformed to beast mode and walked toward the exit.

"Duty calls," Airazor said to the group, following him. "Be seeing you."

"We better!" Cheetor called out.

"You will." The elevator closed, and carried them out of sight.

The two of them paused beneath the base, regarding the still-barren terrain. "Still no life," Tigatron noted.

"If it's out there, we'll find it."

"If."

"Let's hit it! We won't find anything moping around here," Airazor said. She lifted into the sky. Tigatron chuckled and loped after her, reflecting that no matter what, there was at least one lifeform he could always count on finding there for him.

THE END

AUTHOR NOTES: The inspiration for this story came from two sources. First, Airazor never really got much serious development in her short time on the series, which frustrated me since (in all seriousness, babe comments aside) she's one of my favorite BW characters. Writing this story gave me a chance to ponder what little we know about her and try to figure out what makes her tick; near as I can figure, she's quiet, something of a tomboy, a little shy, but generally an optimist who is drawn to Tigatron partly because he's so dark and moody.

Second, when Stripes and the Bird Lady depart for their "world cruise" at the beginning of "Coming of the Fuzors", the implication was that they'd be gone for a long time. Yet, in "Other Visits" Part 1, it's like they're just in the next grid over or something. The story tries to explain how that might have happened. And hopefully it puts a new spin on Tigatron's reaction to the valley they find in "Other Visits" (man, that scene still gives me the creeps! Poor, poor Tigatron and Airazor...)

Back to Rob's Pile of Transformers.