The battle at C.E.R.N. should have been an easy one. The Autobots had taken a beating that had decimated their ranks when they had turned Megatron's forces back at the Hoover Dam. Megatron knew most of the main fighters and leaders that were the serious threats had all taken damage, and decided to launch an immediate offensive at this point to take advantage of that. He had adequate ground troops, and even if Starscream had sulked over flying with only one partner, and that one wasn't even from his trine, it should have been a simple battle.
The opposition turned out by the Autobots was laughable at first, at least so it had seemed. That shuttle, with a still-damaged Sunstreaker, the noble, the scout, and a handful of other very small nuisances had shown up. As the fight was joined, it seemed that the former gladiator twin was calling the shots, with his savage determination to get his digits into Megatron's Spark chamber held in check by something. Megatron was rather pleased to have confirmation that yes, he had truly damaged Prime severely, because Megatron was betting that Sunstreaker was leading and holding his impulses in check only to live up to that foolish ideal of a leader.
Then his air support proved highly ineffective against the damned shuttle, and Megatron felt the battle turning in favor of the cyber-rat domestics under Sunstreaker's brutal guidance.
Starscream had once been more than proud of Skyfire's powerful shielding, of his infernal speed, and the sheer firepower that had been unusual for a shuttle-class mech, only present because they had taken missions that sent them into dangerous territory. Now, with glitch-brained Ramjet as his only aid in the sky, Skyfire's power was enough to drive them both away and send him into shrieking fury. He could see things going badly on the ground -- thanks to Megatron's inability to deal with that slagging nuisance of a twin -- and he rolled out of the way of one of Skyfire's shots. Why Skywarp had had to get himself damaged, when with 'Warp's ability they could have caught the shuttle between them?! Ramjet was nowhere near fast enough to get around his one-time partner, and he wouldn't shriek for help from the ground to deal with one shuttle.
If they didn't succeed on this, they were going to have to start sneaking energy just to keep the army functioning, and Starscream wondered for a moment if that knowledge would slow his traitor of a former partner enough to put him down. No, if Skyfire cared about that, he wouldn't have betrayed him! He flipped forms, using the transformation to twist in the air faster than any turn could be and target both of his null-rays at one of the shuttle's engines.
Sunstreaker didn't have time to watch the skies; he had too much to do with just driving Megatron and his force back away from the research center -- there was too much energy in that nuclear plant for them to let the 'Cons have it, and Prime would be upset if the human staff were damaged. Mirage was being useful, for once, and Perceptor's accuracy, even with a borrowed weapon, was turning out to be far more useful than he would have believed before. The scientist had already brought Hook down, with Hook and Scrapper as the only pieces of Devastator there. Sunstreaker had to keep his own participation to using his electron rifle, not trusting the hastily patched servos in his leg and right arm to hand to hand until he just had no choice, and to using the mechs he had with every bit of cunning he'd ever picked up.
Skyfire had been intrigued by the null-rays once he knew of them, which had led the transport-class mech to do as much studying them as possible from archived footage and damage reports, in hopes of duplicating and expanding on his one-time partner's work. Skyfire had seen potential to turn them into a less damaging option for disabling fighters, but had not gotten very far yet in his research. However, he knew more than enough to be aware of his chances of withstanding the full brunt of both rays against his engines, and reacted with the split microt of awareness of the threat to flip into mech as well, his weapon in hand and charged, aimed in Starscream's general direction. If Starscream fired first, his aim might be off enough for Skyfire to soak the damage and take his own shot anyway. If not ... Starscream was coming out of the sky, given the power of his own rifle.
The change in Starscream's engines had been enough for Megatron to check and be sure his treacherous lieutenant wasn't retreating from that ridiculous shuttle. He flicked his attention that way, unconcerned for his own frame; none of the Autobots could possibly damage him enough to matter in a microt's distraction. Optimus Prime wasn't among them, after all. He looked up and toward the quadrant of the sky to see the duel and its result.
Starscream shrieked a furious curse as Skyfire transformed just in time to avoid his shot -- and then the glow of Skyfire's beam cannon registered and he flung himself sideways in the air, diving. Of all mechs, he knew what that cannon could do best, and it was nothing he wanted to feel!
Sunstreaker saw Megatron looking up, instead of at the battlefield, and took the shot he had available, aiming straight for those up-turned and distance-focused optics, the edges of his attention on Tracks driving Ravage back into cassette form with his black-beam shots and Perceptor and Mirage sending Scrapper running from the field. Bumblebee had disappeared from Sunstreaker's immediate awareness, but that was not a problem; the small scout was supposed to be erecting some kind of field projector Wheeljack had made to actually fortify the human building's entryway.
Two things impacted Megatron's processor in roughly the same moment; the shuttle had anticipated Starscream's maneuver, which was surprising given just how capricious the jet was in his fighting style, and there was a stinging blaze of pain across the bridge of his nose. Reacting to spin on his foe kept him from seeing the result of the shot Skyfire had managed.
Skyfire, however, did see it, and felt that tear in his Spark from the whole necessity of having not only fired on Starscream with intent, but also from having actually damaged one tail fin and the exhaust port of the afterburners.
Starscream felt that ripping blast tear through his thruster and his stabilizer and he fell, gravity yanking at his unbalanced frame, curses blistering across the air as he struggled to re-set his remaining thruster. He couldn't transform with his tail-fin and thruster -- and, more importantly, the connectors -- shrieking damage warnings at him and disabled, he'd just go into an even more agonizing tailspin from the uneven thrust, and he dropped thrust completely, letting gravity be a stable drag so that he could fire back.
Sunstreaker held still as Megatron turned, snapping off another shot, shifting his balance to let him dodge the moment Megatron drew down. He wasn't disappointed, either, for Megatron's cannon came up on level to fire a quick, lower-powered shot in retaliation. A small part of his processor wondered if Starscream's infernal attachment to the shuttle was in the way of any chance of competent fighting today, able now to track the shuttle from the far side of his optic even as he drew in more power for a proper shot to get rid of the yellow twin, taking pleasure in knowing that the Autobots would all know very swiftly if Sunstreaker fell in battle, through his twin.
Skyfire braced, taking a chance he never could have if Skywarp had been present, by setting all of his shielding forward, and leaving his aft unprotected. However, he was certain that with the intensity of the shields that reinforced, he would not be damaged, and Starscream would be vulnerable to another shot without his speed of grace. "Don't," he called, despite himself, though, because it was Starscream he was thinking of injuring.
"Don't you dare try and tell me what to do!" Starscream shrieked at hearing that word, that half plea from his traitorous former partner, snapping his shot off in the midst of the words. He watched Skyfire's cannon start to glow again with an oddly detached realization of just how much this was going to slagging hurt, and threw all of the power he wasn't using to fly into his own defenses.
Sunstreaker held still, chronometer in his head ticking down the microts from the time the cannon pulsed, too aware that it looked like he was frozen with fear -- as though he ever would be!! -- and dropped flat with a quarter-astrosecond to spare, the blast going through the space where he wasn't, anymore.
::Hold still, Sunstreaker,:: burst across his internal comm, Mirage's aristocratic tones urgent, ::Megatron thinks he downed you, due to one of my illusions, but you're too far from me for me to hold it if you start trying to move. Once he turns, please do avail yourself of the opportunity.::
A long, sad sigh was drowned out by the sound of Skyfire's weapon discharging in a tightly narrowed beam that still brought to bear the full power. The tight beam was focused enough to punch through shields, though losing a lot of its impact, to hit a sensor cluster that was part of Starscream's chest near the right arm. The energy played havoc with those sensors, shorting and pulling at processor power with a chaotic conflict of data.
Megatron roared out with a vindictive snarl of victory at Sunstreaker falling, but before he could press his victory, Perceptor and Brawn, working together, brought Scrapper down in a heap near enough to Hook that both Constructicons took damage from the other's frame striking. A moment later, there was a flash, and Megatron read energy fields come up around the entirety of his goal with an intensity that had to be fueled from the same energy he had come to take.
Bumblebee, proud of himself, watched Wheeljack's device hum, and then turned to race back to the fight, fresh and relatively undamaged. He'd activated the field from it's outer perimeter, or he would have been stuck within, considering how strong the forcefield was. It was actually the technology for shields and holding cell fields combined into one, but the energy cost of it could only have been met here or some other high-yielding energy source.
Starscream shrieked, hand coming up to his processor, that chaotic burst of sharp pain and error-riddled data cascading through his systems and taking his attention off his distance from the ground for -- too long, and an agonized scream burst from his vocalizer at glass-shattering decibels as the tips of his wings slammed into hard-packed earth, crumpling under the force of his weight.
Sunstreaker barely bit back the furious snarl at Mirage's interference, making himself accept the opportunity no matter that he'd had help getting it, and used the moments he had to re-calibrate his rifle, deciding exactly where he was going to shoot -- and then the ground shook with an impact an infernal scream cut across the battlefield and his audios wailed in protest, human glass shattering in the parking lot and nearby buildings. He was grateful he was laying on his own sheet glass, hearing that. //Starscream,// he knew instantly, and wondered at the big, stupidly sweet shuttle's apparent skill.
Megatron's rejoicing at taking down Sunstreaker was firmly destroyed as he realized he had lost too many resources here. "Decepticons to the Nemesis!" he ordered. "Ramjet, take Hook and Scrapper!" He then fired three rapid shots, each hitting near an Autobot, forcing them back, as he went to go get his glitch-riddled lieutenant. The suspicion over Skyfire had evaporated; Starscream would never allow that much damage to his frame for anyone. As he moved, Ravage came back to alt form, snarling and hissing to reach his leader, knowing in his alt form that he could be carried easily, even if Megatron was going to have to carry Starscream.
Skyfire brought his altitude down, wincing at the sonics, and forcing himself to look at what he had done to Starscream. He hated everything in this moment, including himself, for the sheer waste of brilliance in this single duel of a needless, wasteful war.
Ramjet dove, transforming to catch hold of the Constructicons by whatever handle he could grab hold of, snarling curses at them about their lack of proper thrusters, and hauled with most of his strength, engines whining at being driven away from the bounty of energy here.
Starscream's intakes fluttered with his gasping pulls for oxygen, hydraulic fluids leaking from his destroyed wings, the pain in his frame agonizing enough to steal control of his vocalizer from him, and he could feel himself hovering on the verge of a temporary offlining -- he was not going to go out this far out in the field, not with all of these Autobots and humans around. He struggled, trying to force his gyros to stabilize so that he could get to his feet, and the new flare of pain ripped an involuntary shriek from him.
Sunstreaker wanted to strike again, but Megatron's back was to him, his slagging invulnerable plating a smoothly protective sheet, and with the Decepticons sealed from the facility and the order to retreat already given... Prime would be disappointed in him. He snarled, low in his vocalizer, and wondered if he could get Jazz to back him on the practicality of another attack if he did what he ought to do anyway.
"Do shut up already, Starscream!" Megatron snapped, kicking his thrusters to take to flight, aiming for his second. It was easy enough for Ravage to leap, transforming, and be caught to be tucked safely away in a normally sealed compartment. He noted the shuttle, and spiraled up the charge on his cannon, aiming that way. It would be practical to eliminate such a fighter now, but it would also cost him energy he could ill-afford to lose on such an undignified opponent. Of course, it would set Starscream off into a ranting wave of temper and distract him from his damaged frame...but Megatron decided he'd be generous and allow his second a chance to even the scores here on another day. He let Skyfire's halting in the air be enough acknowledgement of the threat, and then swooped for Starscream to grasp his hands for carrying.
Starscream hissed, fought his processor for control of his vocalizer, and snapped, "When do I ever?", trying to belittle how badly he was injured before Megatron decided it would be impractical to repair him, and he put his hands up to be caught, unable to do anything but allow the indignity of being carried through his own air.
Skyfire watched the retreat, Megatron's words back lost in his own reverie over war and what it was doing to everyone involved. Even once he had the Autobots safely within his bay to return home, all Skyfire could see was what he had done to his own partner. Though he could see no other alternative in order to stop the mindless destruction, he wondered if they themselves would survive as anything more than pale copies of their enemies in this war.