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High Stakes Wager: The Rebirth

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(In which Galvatron goes too far, and something must be done to stop him.)

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Starscream could feel his bond-mate approaching the hidden bunker they had made into their home. Dug into the side of a cliff that formed part of Cybertron’s Great Rift, they were well camouflaged against visual detection. The entryway required the ability to fly in mech form to access, which further concealed their abode from casual discovery. Starscream could fly the canyons to stay in practice and to ward off the sky-hunger craving that plagued all those of Seeker make. It was safe enough so long as the Seeker kept below the lip of the highest cliff. No one could live in the Great Rift, and so there were few patrols and fewer surveillance systems that targeted the area.

Built long before the battle at Autobot City and therefore unknown to their enemies, the safe house had been the abode of Starscream and most of the Cassetticons ever since the Seeker had tricked Unicron into returning him to life. Soundwave had been rightly paranoid about his newly acquired and long coveted bond-mate being discovered, while Laserbeak, Buzzsaw and Ratbat had latched onto Starscream with previously unseen vehemence and refused to leave his presence. After seeing how Cyclonus and Scourge treated what few Decepticon flyers remained, Soundwave knew that his creations had made the right call. Rumble and Frenzy mostly skulked around the Charr bases, seeking out ‘traitors to the Decepticon cause’ under the ironic order of the ever-more-paranoid Galvatron.

The hiss of the security bulkhead depressurizing broke Starscream from his thoughts, and he turned away from his consol just in time to catch Ratbat as the youngest of the Cassetticons launched himself through the gap in the blast doors. The little flyer had greeted Starscream in the same manner after their every separation since the Seeker had become Soundwave’s bond-mate. No matter if they had been apart for a breem or an orn, Ratbat would get his hugs from Starscream every time he came through the door. Starscream smiled as Soundwave followed his excited creation into the small base, slowed by his larger frame and the necessity of waiting for the doors to open completely before he could fit through.

Once again, Starscream found himself admiring Soundwave’s new aesthetic. The satellite form was so much more pleasing to the optic than the form the technopath had worn on Earth, miserable little mud ball that it was. The rest of the Cassetticons followed their creator in a small mob, optics bright with active battle protocols.

“What’s going on?” Starscream demanded immediately, alarm making his wings vibrate with sudden tension. Soundwave never brought the entire team to Cybertron, not since the Autobot’s had managed to retake the planet. It was far too great a risk! What if Galvatron, may he rust in the Pit, noticed their absence? How were they supposed to circumvent the Autobot security net without someone on the outside to run a distraction?

“Starscream: Be calm.” Soundwave gathered his high-strung mate into his arms, Ratbat scrambling onto the top of Starscream’s shoulder vent with an offended squeak.

Soundwave, don’t you placate me.” Starscream pushed back just far enough to scowl up at the spy-satellite. “Something must have happened to bring you all here. What was it?”

“Galvatron has retaken Cybertron.” Soundwave intoned, and the emotionless monotone was an unmistakable indicator of his unease. “Plan: Destroy the star designate Sol to cause destruction of Planets Earth and Cybertron.”

What?” Starscream howled, optics flaring in equal parts terror and outrage. “How is that half-clocked glitch even managing this insanity?”

“He installed a new planetary engine.” Frenzy shivered and huddled closer to his twin. “He’s gotten worse, Screamer, and he’s teamed up with this... this creepy alien squishy-thing.”

“It calls itself Zarak, and it transforms into a head in order to control a city-former.” Rumble growled, trying his hardest to be tough, but his unease showed through in the way he clutched at Frenzy’s hand.

“Zarak brought along the city-former called Scorponok and some Autobot prisoners.” Laserbeak spoke up, perched up close to the ceiling next to Buzzsaw. Images began to pop up on the terminal screens as the cyberhawk spoke. “Those Autobots had a human-biological with them. A weakness Galvatron took advantage of in order to obtain the Key to the Plasma Energy Chamber. This Chamber is currently providing the power for the planetary jets. Galvatron intends to use the energy from the Chamber to detonate Sol.”

For a long moment Starscream stared blankly at the screens. A strangled sound of outrage escaped in a furious hiss. “He’s going to use the Spark of Cybertron to blow us all up! That Unicron-spawned, overheated, slag-circuited, cross-wired, misfiring lunatic!”

“Um?” Frenzy ducked out of the way as Starscream lunged for the nearest consol. “Ack! What the frag are you talking about, Screamer?”

“The so-called ‘Plasma Energy Chamber’ is where the Original Thirteen Cybertronians were spawned. After the Fallen was banished, Prima sealed off the Chamber and passed the Key into the safekeeping of his line. The knowledge was sealed into the Matrix of Leadership and the remaining Twelve created Vector Sigma to maintain the population of Cybertron in the event of a massive population loss.” Starscream’s claws flew over the consol, data streaming by at nearly unreadable speeds. “That uppity Autobot Alpha Trion corrupted the purpose and impartiality of Vector Sigma when he uploaded his spark and cortex into the mainframe. This has been constantly producing error codes in the planetary network ever since, which would be the most probable explanation for Galvatron’s ability to keep the Chamber open long enough to irradiate Sol into a nova cascade. The error codes are interfering with the automatic failsafe functions – it’s being read as a medical override, and with the Key in his possession Galvatron has legitimate authority to maintain the override indefinitely. Curse his spark to the center of the Pit and let it gutter! The fool is going to destroy us all!”

“The Plasma Energy Chamber is a giant spark chamber?” Rumble asked, head swivelling as he tracked Starscream’s hack across the data screens.

“You did see Unicron, correct?” Starscream bit out, slamming his fists into the side of the consol as he glared at the image of Galvatron and his alien ally streamed from a hacked security camera feed. The situation was too dire to avoid risk, and even if the hack was detected there was not enough time for the Decepticons to track them down. “Primus is much the same. A planet sized transformer. Cybertron is the body of Primus, and so thus is in possession of a spark chamber. Our cities were built over his plating.”

“Starscream: Discovered much while discorporate.” Soundwave mused from where he had been covering Starscream’s electronic tracks on a different consol.

“I did indeed.” Starscream narrowed his optics at the data displayed on his screen. “We need to move quickly.”

“You have a plan, Starscream?” Ravage padded over to look up at the Seeker with determined optics.

“I do.” Starscream nodded, sweeping an arm towards the airlock. “Come along, scraplets, we have much to do and little enough time to do it in. I will explain as we fly.”

“Acknowledged.” Soundwave could sense his creative mate’s impressive intelligence working on a method to salvage the situation. “Cassetticons: Launch.”

“Well, this will be fun.” Buzzsaw mused with heavy irony as they followed Starscream out into the air of the Rift.

/.../

Starscream snarled a wordless challenge, blasting another Hive shock trooper away from the entrance to the Chamber. This was taking too long! They had already passed the threshold point, Sol was doomed to go nova and would incinerate Earth when it reached critical, but they could still save Cybertron if they could just get the fragging Chamber closed! Slaggit all!

A swirl of light had Starscream whirling, crouched before the Chamber with a savage snarl from his engines, a sword in each hand dripping the vital fluids of his enemies. How he wished he could use his null rays, but it was unwise with the Chamber still open and leaking radiation everywhere. Soundwave was silent death at the Chamber door, cables locking him in position as the technopath tried to hack into the controls. All of the Cassetticons save Ravage were acting in their Creator’s defence. Ravage had been deployed to find and return with the Key. It was a race against time – time, they had no more time!

The air in front of Starscream glittered like stars, like a healthy city at night, swirling like a nebula as an enormous Seeker strode through. Taller even than Prime, white and teal and glittering gold plating untouched by the battle taking place, and a blade that defied sensors, radiating some indefinable energy.

His fans ran hot in the stifling atmosphere, Starscream threw aside the Hive soldier that had been his latest opponent and gave the new arrival a dark grin, something like recognition in his expression as his voice rasped out in the hushed pause. “Vector Prime, so the legend comes to life. Have you come to help, hinder, or simply bear witness?”

“I did not think it possible, descendant of the Fallen, but you redeem my unlamented brother’s build-line.” Vector Prime inclined his head and turned away, saying nothing more as reality shredded around his frame. As the ancient Prime faded away, another form stepped forward out of lighted nothing. Then another stepped forward, and then another, until the tide of battle turned in favour of the Cybertronians.

“Creator!” Ravage tore across the antechamber at full speed, skidding to a halt next to Soundwave and inserting the Key in its proper place. It took less than a klick for the Chamber to begin closing, and Starscream’s reinforcements routed the last of the Hive troops as the Chamber was once again sealed shut.

“Soundwave! Report status of the surface situation!” Starscream snapped out, stressed systems blaring overload warnings across his HUD. The Seeker hissed in frustration, blocking out the alerts that did not impact his battle-readiness.

“Sol: Unstable. Beginning solar eruptions. Galvatron: Defeated by Prime.” Soundwave detached his probes from the Chamber’s systems with a shake, quickly retracting his cables and striding over to stand at Starscream’s side. “Energy flare detected. Impact imminent.”

“There has to be something-!” Starscream gasped, they were so close to success, they could not fail now! Every mech in the antechamber stumbled as the Planet bucked around them, the floor pitching and heaving like the deck of a naval vessel in a storm, sending every standing Cybertronian crashing into the floor or clinging to the walls for anchorage. Light flowed and pulsed, shining golden and growing ever more brilliant as depleted planetary systems woke to fully-powered life. When the storm of light and fury ended, Starscream surged back up to his pedes, dragging Soundwave up with him. “Hurry! To the surface! I don’t know how the Autobots managed to reroute the solar flare but we must make certain that Galvatron has been stopped or he will simply try again!”

“Agreed. To the surface.” Soundwave followed closely on his mate’s thrusters, going up, up and out from the catacombs just in time to see Galvatron escape from the disoriented and distracted Autobot forces. Starscream did not stop to gloat or posture or threaten. Things had long since progressed past that point. The Seeker simply struck.

Starscream struck fast and hard and without warning, merciless in his attack. As Galvatron was messily reduced to a smear of parts scattered across the gleaming landscape, Soundwave crashed through the Command Deck viewport. Scorponok’s defence systems were easily held in check, the city-former’s sensor net still reeling from the solar energy surge to the point that Soundwave hardly had to think about disabling the Command Deck security system. The technopath easily located the organic creature he sought. Zarak was screaming something no doubt vile, but Soundwave paid no heed to the words. This was the creature that had very nearly caused the complete destruction of Soundwave’s race and home planet, but more importantly, this creature had threatened the safety of Soundwave’s mate and creations, and for that there could be only one response.

Organics really made the most disgusting sounds when they expired. Soundwave shuddered and scraped the bottom of his pede off on the closest corner.

Scorponok moaned pitifully, in shock from the abrupt end to the Headmaster bond, and Soundwave encouraged the city-former’s lapse into stasis lock. It was the best thing for the city-former to stay in stasis for the moment, at least until someone could take the time to remove the slave-programming from the gigantic mech’s cortex.

Soundwave climbed wearily back out of the hole he had made in order to return to his exhausted mate’s side. The golden glow that had built and crackled over their plating during their time in the Plasma Energy Chamber was fading away, the extra speed and power it had gifted them unnoticed ebbing away as the light dimmed. Soundwave caught his mate as Starscream stumbled away from Galvatron’s remains, the Seeker’s optics pale with shock. Soundwave crooned a worried note. “Starscream: Status report.”

“Tired but victorious, oh mate of mine.” Starscream slumped into Soundwave’s arms as they slid to the ground, locked together in a tight embrace that was equal parts relief and residual terror. A hysterical giggle escaped the silver Seeker. “I truly cannot believe that we managed to succeed.”

“Agreed.” Soundwave rested his helm against Starscream’s wing. “Outcome: Statistically unlikely.”

The Cassetticons scrambled over the remains of the battlefield, having been kept busy finishing off the last of the Hive army. The group hit Soundwave and Starscream’s huddle and clung in frantic relief. The ground around Scorponok’s now-unconscious base form was littered with the bodies of Hive soldiers. What remained of the Decepticon forces after Galvatron’s insane rule appeared to have staged a revolt and were in the process of destroying the last of the Sweeps. Aside from the mess left by the Hive, Cybertron shone like something out of a recharge fragment. Starscream stared numbly at the pristine scenery and tried to make sense of the last few cycles. The sound of thrusters, of Seeker grade thrusters, a sound Starscream would know anywhere and had long since despaired of ever hearing again, dragged Starscream’s attention away from the horizon.

“Hey there, Screamer.” Skywarp’s grin was just as tentative as it had been on that long ago cycle when he first approached Starscream with a request to form a Trine. Starscream’s intakes hiccupped in shock.

“Starscream. We didn’t have time to say hello earlier.” Thundercracker’s smile was wan and tired but real and full of soft emotions.

“... You two...” Starscream hiccupped again, overwhelmed and realizing for the first time that the ache of his missing trine-bond had stopped hurting with Vector Prime’s wholly unprecedented interference. “Primus, how?”

Starscream made to stand but his trine-mates hit together, arms wrapping tight around their wing-leader and rocking the three Seekers into Soundwave. The technopath stoically adsorbed the impact of the trine-pile with little more than a quiet huff of exhausted amusement.

Seekers were touching down all around them, the scattered Decepticons gathered in a mildly traumatized group next to Scorponok’s outer wall. They sat quietly for a few breems, the tattered remains of a once-unstoppable armada, and occupied themselves with staring out across their revitalized surroundings. Going from certain doom to a complete planet-wide reformat was just the tiniest bit stressful and they wanted to take a moment to process everything.

Seated a short distance away from the Decepticon’s and apparently having an argument was a small huddle of Autobots. Starscream watched them squabble for nearly a full breem, his mind blank for once, until his processor had finally cooled enough for rational thought to reassert itself. “Weren’t they reported deactivated? I’m reasonably certain I killed that one myself.”

Soundwave looked at the Autobots in question, mildly curious about what had caught his mate’s attention. Yes indeed, Soundwave had personally watched as at least five of the Autobots in question turned grey after their sparks guttered out. “Starscream: Correct. Memory is accurate.”

“I take it they came through with the two of you?” Starscream directed the question at his wing-mates, who seemed unlikely to release their grip on the silver Seeker at any time in the foreseeable future.

“Long story.” Skywarp mumbled, firming up his grip on Starscream and glaring at the Autobots out of the corner of his optic.

“We’ll tell it to you later.” Thundercracker looked fully prepared to throw an epic tantrum should anyone interrupt their cuddle time. After all, dead trine-mates returning from the dead was not a thing that happened every cycle.

/.../

The Autobots stared at the Decepticons. The Decepticons blithely ignored the silly Autobot fools, and chose instead to remain seated in little groups of tactile comfort. The remains of the Sweeps and the Hive soldiers had been dumped to one side, but the Decepticons had refused to bestir themselves any further than that. Starscream had left his flock only long enough to mount Galvatron’s detached head on a spike before returning to his spot in the middle of the pile up.

A large shadow blocked out the light. Starscream activated one optic at the lowest setting possible. The identity of his guest prompted him to power up both optics, but Starscream flat out refused to move. Slag off, Starscream had not had cause to be this happy in vorns, let the mech bask in peace.

“Optimus Prime.” Starscream drawled in the mildest tone he could manage to produce.

“Starscream.” The Autobot leader paused looking around at the peaceful battlefield. Amusement filled his tone. “I take it you are in charge here?”

“Hmm.” Starscream waved one hand noncommittally, smiling in something like exhausted pride.

“According to Prowl, I have you to thank for saving our planet.” Optimus watched as Starscream grinned in apparent amusement at the Prime’s word choices, and then the Seeker simply sunk deeper into the embraces of his flock. Optimus watched silently for along moment, but then he turned and looked over at the gathered Autobots, Humans, and Nebulans who stood shell-shocked in the aftermath of a near-apocalypse, torn between laughter and tears. Optimus turned back to Starscream. “So where do we go from here?”

“I’m willing to trade a peace treaty, one that is signed, sealed, delivered, in exchange for grants of amnesty for everyone here.” Starscream grinned up at the Prime. “I doubt much resistance will occur to the decision should we act swiftly.”

“Agreed, Starscream.” Optimus shook his head and moved to return to his troops. Talk about a surprise ending! Optimus grinned behind his battle mask. Now then, they had a victory to celebrate.

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