Megatron reviewed the report pad handed to him, scanning it over before he circled the nest of hatchlings.
As he had suspected, Starscream had rigged the creation process so that the majority of them possessed at least some of his coding. However, Megatron saw that Shockwave had been nearly as careful to use a retroviral code to insinuate his own base programming in many of them.
Of Soundwave, he found very little but one hatchling had made itself apparent as the listener of the group, repeating chitters in conscious, deliberate patterns.
"Ravage. Buzzsaw." The most recent version of Ravage came out of the shadows, accompanied by the other flying symbiont. Reaching out, Megatron plucked the communicator free of the nest, amused at its flip between fearful chitters and angry screeching. Ravage, unlike Frenzy, had always taken the precaution of hiding away a frame with a memory core ready to launch if the current version was destroyed. Being symbiotic to a fully sparked Cybertronian allowed for a little bending of the rules concerning new mech creation. Of course, Ravage was oldest of the remaining brood, memory wise, and had tricks for his own survival that possibly predated Soundwave's influence on his existence.
"You wish something, Megatron?" the smaller, more sinuous flying symbiont asked in a listless tone.
"Take this. Teach it. Use it. Make it be what I want it to be," Megatron said, depositing the hatchling where Ravage could pick it up with his mighty jaws, prompting a squeak of terror before the rest of the nest collectively hissed at losing a member.
Ravage ignored them all, trotting off with the soon-to-be symbiotic spark-bearer in his mouth, Buzzsaw following along.
Megatron then focused on the rest of them, narrowing down his choice for the one to be trained for replacing Shockwave. The overbearing, slightly forceful hatchling was one that was known to push and prod the others into lines when Megatron had started training them to obey commands. With ease, he reached out and caught the brute of a hatchling, ignoring its attempts to free itself.
He scowled, realizing the current lead cadre of Constructicons were not known by him, but that hardly mattered. As he walked out of the nest area, his sensors paid attention to the four candidates he had considered based on code alone for the last of his trio of lieutenants' replacements.
One of them immediately puffed up and started pushing its brethren, as it realized the biggest threat to it was gone. Megatron marked it out in his processors, intent to come back for it so he could begin a little experiment.
Thundercracker was seething inside, enough to have his fields on maximum perimeter and buzzing with it. Skywarp, for once, was unwilling to follow suit, and stayed well out of range as the angry de facto Air Commander stormed into Megatron's council chamber aboard their aging vessel.
"How dare you!" the Seeker spat at him. He did not even hesitate to push right into Megatron's personal space as the Lord High Protector planned and rearranged duty rosters on making the Nemesis capable of bridging the distance to Cybertron.
Megatron, without even finding out why his second was in a temper, flung the flier away from him in a sweeping motion. However, for once, Thundercracker was not being pushed around as easily as Starscream had been. The flier dug his heels in, used his inertial dampeners, and shoved right back.
"Why, Thundercracker; if you want my attention..." Megatron growled in his throat before turning and putting all his bulk into pinning the lithe flier on his wings beneath Megatron's own weight on the decking. "...all you had to do was ask," he continued, keeping the flier pinned with expertise learned over countless vorns.
Thundercracker continued to struggle, despite the damage growing from his sensitive wing-sensors grinding against the deck. Nor was his field pulsing with anything save anger.
"You cannot isolate a Seeker!"
That told Megatron just what this was over, and he shifted his weight to keep the flier pinned while also catching the other mech's face in one taloned hand. "No one tells me what I can or cannot do," he said, voice dropping to a sibilant hiss. "And he is not isolated completely. Limited contact, always in your care, or a designated flier of your choosing that is not Skywarp."
"He should be given over to a trine or duo like the others were!" Thundercracker's fist connected solidly, and Megatron felt a surge of lust that had everything to do with the frame class and less to do with its owner. How often had Starscream made him be dominant, made Megatron force his submission?
Thundercracker, however, was not the kind to eventually submit, and Megatron would not break the tool of his loyalty to sate his lusts. The leader caught the swinging fist in a harder grip than Thundercracker could easily manage, despite the Seeker's attempt to not show pain, and then bore down so their faces were nearly touching to make his point clear. "Your class got all but three of them. One of those three will fly. You don't get more than that. I have plans for him."
With a forceful shove, Megatron came up off the floor, and waited as Thundercracker's fans whirred and cycled while the mech regained control of his senses. When he had, those engines dangerously revved with the crippling harmonics, making Megatron power up weaponry in counterthreat.
Thundercracker's optics narrowed, and then he powered down.
"Maybe you really are damaged in the processors," Thundercracker told him in a non-threatening, dry tone. "If you think you can repeat his experiences after framing to produce a new one, you really are."
Megatron filed it away that Thundercracker truly was the smart one of the three, but he scowled. "I knew him before any of you did. We are all creatures born of our spark, experience, and coding. I can shape him to be far less damaged than he was before. More of a benefit to me, to our needs."
That desperate, emotion-laden demand drew a smirk from Megatron. "Where is my triumph, if I have none to gloat over? Prime will keep calling his own to his new, chosen world." Megatron looked displeased, but resigned to Prime's choices along that line. Perhaps, though, Prime was right. Separating their factions for now, until a new generation was ready to rise up might allow them to forge a stronger race in the end. He shifted, though, his body fully displaying the arrogance and might of the powerful ruler he intended to be, had been all along in his mind. This was about Starscream, about finding a suitable replacement for the pleasure of success that Megatron had lost when his idiot second had been destroyed. "I want to have the satisfaction that not only did I do all we ever dreamed of as younger mechs, but I survived every single treachery he attempted and outlived him. This... experiment, gives me much satisfaction since he had the poor taste to go and be deactivated!"
Thundercracker shook his helm. "You'll regret it. All three of them will be mistakes. You think you can take all their skills and tame them to your use, but they were made for the war, not rebuilding!"
"We'll see, Thundercracker. We'll see."
He already knew he did not register on any spectrum of the sensor ranges he could access; none of the others of his frame type had noticed him.
He couldn't reach the voice calling to him in that shining place. The other half of his spark was already there, and yet Starscream, master of all he cared to be, was incapable of being where he belonged.
Now, it seemed, he had a purpose other than floating aimlessly around, observing and incapable of touching a thing. He settled down on the solitary nest made in the quarters of Onslaught and his teammates. "You see me. You hear me. That's all that matters. Let Megatron shape you, and think you are his. I know what he expects you to be, and I know what I will make you," he crooned softly, and the hatchling chittered softly, understanding none of it, but susceptible to it nonetheless. In isolating the hatchling, Megatron had left it needy for contact that none of Bruticus's members knew quite how to give. Starscream held no compunctions against manipulating that, beginning the process of subverting Megatron's experiment.