"Oh scrap," Starscream cried out as he saw the motorcycle autobot enter the small enclosure he'd found in the cave. He had one hand on a minuscule deposit of energon, and was otherwise preoccupied with keeping himself clinging to the rock face a good twenty feet off the ground.
"Starscream, I had a feeling I'd find you here," Arcee said with a cold stare, raising two guns and preparing to shoot. "This is for Cliff-"
"Wait! WAIT! This cavern is unstable from over mining-!" He curled up and covered his head with his arms as two blaster shots came his way, descending to the ground at an alarming rate. The relatively short tumble was not nearly as concerning as the small rocks that hit him while he lie on the ground; only a warning of the much more substantial boulders that hurriedly followed.
Starscream moaned in discomfort as he came to, a sharp pain twinging right broad wing. Without thinking much of the situation he was in, he jerked left as he sat up. A sharp metallic sound echoed through the cave.
Craning his head to see what happened he screamed in denial. "N-no! No, this... this can't be...!" Nestled between two rocks, his wing remained, while he twisted and immediately tried to pry it out. It wasn't like when he finally wrenched it out he could do anything with it; though, and he ended up just holding it and whimpering at the clipped wing.
His attention was pulled from his grievance as another cybertronian came to. He heard Arcee call out in fury at being pinned beneath rubble. It seemed his adversary was trapped and he could make a clean getaway... but Starscream knew that he was in no condition to crawl out of this hole himself. They were completely caved in, and he was low enough on energon that he could barely move a boulder half his size.
Crawling over to where he heard Arcee's attempts to get free, he noted that she wasn't buried very deep, but had little leverage. Where as, the decepticon had all the leverage he needed. As much as he hated letting out the autobot that wanted his head on a platter, Starscream knew he needed her help to escape this mining cave.
"Why do I always find myself in these sort of predicaments?" The con lamented as he set his beloved wing to the side, dug his claws into an immense stone, and hefted it to the side. Three more removed and Arcee's face came into view.
He could hear guns charging up as she screeched," Starscream! I swear, as soon as I can move, I will-"
"Piteous autobot, do you really think I will save you if you threaten my life?" He purred out, relishing her look of confusion.
"Why would you waste your time to dig me out," She asked, her guns powering down. Her expression was hard and it was clear she didn't trust him at all.
"You know me better than you would like too, autobot. I help whom ever can help me."
Rolling her optics, she scoffed," Of course, that's the only answer."
"Among other reasons," He murmured to himself and then added in full voice," Seeing as I have had little luck these past few... well there's really no time frame applicable; I've never had particularly agreeable luck... I am in little energon supply. Digging you out is already seeming impossible and you’ve buried us under a scrapload more than just a few boulders." With a sigh, he asked," So shall we call it a truce? You can't even hope for a ground bridge down here, the alloys in this cave destroy signals of every kind."
"I don't see how I can work with the killer of my comrade," She spat out," I'd rather rust."
"Oh, come now, we've both done quite considerable damage to each other's teams," He dismissed. Seeing her incredulous mien, he explained," Do forgive me, sometimes I forget that while one is a tragedy, a million is merely a statistic. How many vehicons have you slaughtered?"
She growled out something incomprehensible and Starscream took it as his cue that he could continue to dig her out. As soon as her elbows were exposed, she was able to wrench her arms free and throttled Starscream by the neck with one hand and held a blade to it with the other.
"Please! Please, don't hurt me! I used my last form of defense saving you. I can't transform, I can't even fall back on my missiles, I'm completely at your mercy!" Relief flowed through him as he was released and shoved back. He watched Arcee dig herself out now that she had freedom to move her arms.
"Why did you save me from Airachnid?"
"Why, I told you. So we were even. What other reason would I have?" He asked, his voice slightly defensive.
"You're a decepticon, why would you care about becoming even?"
"Was! Was a decepticon," He corrected," and I felt it needed to be done. I may be megalomaniac, but a demon I am not."
With a shrug, she objected," I care to differ." With piercing optics, she stared at the con as she brushed off the last of the rubble that had trapped her.
With no more prompting than just the insistent gaze, he snapped. "By the Allspark! Can't a man keep his reasons his own these days," He cried out," If he is to be reviled by both sides and abandoned, left to his own devices for protecting himself, can't he at least keep his secrets his own?!" Standing up, he paced to the other side of their narrow pen.
"What was all that about?" She asked, noticeably less angered then before, now a little amused to add to the previous brewing of negative emotions.
Looking back, he stammered out," The last while has been... stressful... I'm just a little wound up i-is all..." Trepidation shivered through him and he averted his gaze.
"I hate being stuck in caverns," He spoke up suddenly in a last ditch effort to change topic. "It makes me feel so... grounded."
With a small laugh, she taunted," Like you need a cave to feel like that. Last I heard, your T-Cog went missing. And as I see it, your wings have been clipped."
She picked up his recently detached wing and he cried out in fury," Don't mess with that, it's mine!" She shrugged and dropped it the ground carelessly. "Y-You are an accursed wretch with no value for things that don't belong to you," He howled. He didn't care if she retaliated at his words, he was sick of being everyone's chew toy and being bullied around and receiving none of the respect he should've!
"Relax, it's not like it's ever going to do you much good," She brushed off, mildly amused by his choice of words to describe her.
She was vaguely surprised with just how much emotion rang through his voice as he commanded her silence. "I'm just saying-"
"No more! No more from you! Do you know how it feels to be stripped of power so many times as I? And finally discarded completely? To be a seeker incapable of flight?" He demanded to know. "How long and hard I worked for that lowlife, immoral, degenerate, and how shamelessly he tortured me over and over again?!"
"MY LIFE SUCKS," He shrieked with emphasis striking every word as he then stuck the cavern wall, egging more rocks to roll down upon them. "I don't need you to rub it in!"
"I- I didn't..." Arcee stumbled over her words as she took in the other cybertronian screaming in frustration. Her optics swept up to the rock above them that seemed a little closer to falling once more. Concern for her safety made her say," Look, we can talk rationally about this, we don't need to pound the wall in and trap ourselves even further."
His knees shook slightly before his knees gave out beneath him and he dropped to the ground in pain. "I don't have the strength to argue, I'm afraid," He spat out, cursing lightly as coughed up energon. Scrap, he had an internal leak again.
He couldn't help but notice actual concern in her voice, like she even cared about him. "MECH," He cursed. "MECH may be learning of our biology and technology, but they leave much to be desired in the caring department. I don't think it's possible to cause as much damage as they did while thieving me of my T-Cog without personally trying and putting in extra effort."
Quietly picking up the useless wing and walking over beside her enemy, she held it out to him and said," Here."
Snatching it away with an angered growl, he muttered out thanks and sat back against the stone wall.
Something iridescent and blue caught the femme’s optic. Arcee left his side and inspected the small hole in the wall, confirming that it held a small pocket of energon. The autobot plunged her first in and seized the crystal, pulling it back and finding a surprisingly clear sample about the size of her palm. "Starscream," She called, grabbing his attention before lightly tossing it to him. "Now we're even."
"Thanks," He sneered," I would have never been able to obtain this on my own had you not shown up." He'd had his fingers on this very piece before she caused the cave in.
"You're welcome," She said, completely ignoring the tones of anger and abhorrence lacing his words gratitude.
"Sometimes I don't even know what I see in you. Sure you have a slim body, that with a few modifications would be perfect for a seeker, and command a very bold and intrepid air..."
"What?" The autobot squeaked with surprise.
"I'm sick of being ridiculed for no reason, I might as well come out with how I've been crushing like some young sparkling on the autobot, and enemy, that probably wants me dead the most," He laughed, slightly hysterically.
"You need your head examined," Arcee said quietly in a shocked voice.
"Perhaps. It started well before you spared my life, as well," He continued," Similarities in how we deal with situations, our shared hatred of Airachnid-"
Stomping up to the fallen con, she furiously plunged her heel into his chest, earning a strangled groan of pain from him. "I hate that spider because she terminated my partner!" Stamping his chest again, she growled," Something you did as well!" He dropped the crystalline energon and moaned in pain.
"Yes, well," He coughed out, slipping his fingers between her foot and his chest. "That puts a strain in-" He squeaked out," Things!" as she reached down and backhanded him.
A little guilt must have prickled at her, because she retracted her limbs and stalked away. Starscream just seemed so pathetic and helpless, she couldn't bring herself to further beat him down.
He hated regret and hindsight... Staring down at the crystal, he suggested," Let's forget that I ever-"
"Agreed," She interrupted, not wishing to dwell further on it. "Let's just work on getting out of here."
"Just give me a bit," He said, claws gently tracing the contours of the crystal. "This energon is well needed."
"Whatever," She dismissed, inspecting their prison and how they could possibly get out. She began work of shifting boulders, soon joined by Starscream who seemed a little more stable. Contrary to what Arcee expected, he actually pulled his weight and went for the boulders that were too big even for herself.
They burned into the midnight oil, to the point that both were exhausted, but pleased with the progress they made.
"Scrap, I was hoping I'd be rid of you by now," Arcee mock-complained, taking a spot in the corner to relax for a bit.
Taking a comfortable position as far from the autobot as possible, Starscream brusquely replied," And I of you." He turned his back to the blue autobot, feeling he'd suffered enough humiliation for today.
"Starscream..." She trailed off, then in much different tone said," You know, when your loyalties aren't in question, you're actually quite proficient at your work."
"I'll keep it in mind," He said sourly, tagging on for amusement’s sake," I'll just keep my loyalties to myself and assume everyone else as an enemy."
"That's a shame."
He received no reply and went back to merely sulking at the general poor quality of life he currently lived through. "It's hard to keep loyal to any one group when every time you align with any of them, they inevitably try to kill you or use you," He commented faintly, in almost a dulcet voice. "I can't count the number of times Megatron threatened my life before he finally decided I'd outlived my usefulness. I helped MECH and in exchange I underwent organ theft. Before, when I pledged my allegiance with the autobots, I let slip something I did in my previous life as a decepticon, and I was nearly murdered..."
"I spared you..."
"Yes, and I have your mute friend to thank for that."
"He has a name. It's-"
With a sigh, he handwaved it and said," Yes, yes, I know. Bumblebee." He turned his head slightly to see the other. She appeared to be thinking something over, and had a sullen expression. "Don't waste your time pitying me," He hissed bitterly," If you wanted to waste your time doing that, you could've a millennia ago. Nothing's changed."
Getting to his feet with a groan, he said," Let's continue on. At least I am." He couldn't take another iota of this, time for emotional thinking, or whatever it was. His optics displaying images in low quality as he exhausted his systems, he continued the digging, just wanting to escape this cave already.
Examining him working, Arcee advised," You should sit out a bit longer, I'll take on some work right now."
"I'm fine," He dismissed, though clearly lying. He was making it out of this cave as soon a fragging possible, and escaping the autobot even sooner if viable. He sidled away slightly as she came up to help the process along.
They continued chipping away at the walls, both feeling progressively better as the wall seemed to be thinner. Abruptly, a mace of sorts came barreling through, catching Starscream across the jaw. Flying back and painfully making contact with a stone wall, Starscream yelled," You bumbling buffoon! Watch where you are swinging!"
The decepticon was ignored as Bulkhead clamored," Arcee, thought we'd never see ya' again!" He pulled her into a brief hug, much to Starscream's dismay. The large autobot was followed by Optimus and Bumblebee.
Her optics flashing to the injured decepticon, Arcee said," Yeah, same. Actually, it was Starscream who saved me from a large pile of rubble." She pointed to the fallen con and Bulkhead looked between the two with a mild air of confusion.
"Why would Screamers help you?"
The most panicked look that Arcee had ever seen came to Starscream's optics as Arcee began to answer. "Why else? The same reason as always. He needs medical attention. Again."
He looked away, seemingly embarrassed, but she caught the huge gust of relief blowing over him and the gratitude in his countenance.
"And," She added, smirking a little at the way he physically jumped," He wouldn't have been able to get out himself.
"I am proud of you, Arcee," Optimus Prime said in a deep, gratified voice, obviously alluding to the fact she'd managed to keep herself from killing to con who killed Cliffjumper.
"Well, the unexpected is always waiting to happen," She brushed off the praise.
Bumblebee posed a question, immediately followed with Prime answering," We will offer medical assistance since he helped one of our own." He still hoped that the other could have a change of heart and still regretted not offering Megatron the chance to change earlier in their war. "But we're going to need to take him back with us." He walked up to the ex con and took a knee beside him.
As the large bot reached for him, Starscream trembled and jumped at contact, but then looked down at his hand, perplexed at seeing the Prime actually helping him to his feet. He didn't understand... None the less, he rose to his feet with the other's help and looked around at the surrounding autobots.
Even when he knew they were here to help, it unnerved him to be surrounded by so many of the bots he had considered dire enemies for a very long time; especially since while they could all transform to escape should they need to, he was completely flightless.
"Forgive us, but you understand we can't let you enter our base consciously," Optimus apologized as Ratchet walked through the ground bridge holding an instrument that would put him into stasis no doubt.
Starscream meekly nodded as the doctor made his way over, began to use the device, and the con slumped into Optimus Prime's arms. "Autobots, let us return to our base."
"Just one second, something was left behind," Arcee excused herself, swiftly transforming to her motorcycle mode and heading back to where they had been trapped. She returned on foot holding the wing their enemy had left behind. "Um, he lost it, while saving me," She said, hoping it would be convincing to reattach it. She didn't actually know how the con lost it, and without his T-Cog, it was completely useless, but she knew would mean a lot to him.
As everyone headed to ground bridge, Ratchet took the broad wing and hummed in thought. "I'm not very practiced with wings, but I should be able attach it with little trouble."
As Arcee trailed the group, she kept her gaze to her feet, not daring to let her optics trail on the unconscious decepticon that had admitted feelings for her less than an hour earlier. Bumblebee pulled her out of her thoughts with a simple question, and she said," I'm fine, just a little exhausted. We dug through a lot of rock." As the word 'we' rolled out of her vocalizer, her optics found themselves on Starsream, and she wasn't so sure she was fine.
"This handiwork, it's so intricate," Ratchet commented as he worked on the decepticon in stasis. "Look at how many times it's been reinforced," He said, gesturing for Arcee to come over.
A mission had the other three autobots out of base, but the group had unanimously agreed that another bot had to stay behind with Ratchet since they had the enemy at base and it wouldn't be good if he awoke.
Coming over, Arcee felt a little uneasy about looking into Starscream's chest cavity, but she had seen worse, so she peered in anyways. "All I see is a whole lot of welded metal."
With a shake of his head, Ratchet continued," It tells a story. Everything done medically does. It takes a genius committed to the job to heal without marks of what happened." Tracing a particular section with his forefinger, he expounded," It's been reinforced right there so many times, it's almost as if he was getting healed only to get beaten immediately after."
'How long and hard I worked for that lowlife, immoral, degenerate, and how shamelessly he tortured me over and over again?!,' rang through Arcee's processors and she averted her gaze. "I'm sure working for Megatron wasn't easy," She mumbled out.
"I imagine not," The doctor concurred. “And the damage left by MECH would have become irreparable if he didn’t get medical attention within the next few months.” A few sparks flew as he started up work in the lower abdomen.
With a small laugh, Arcee said,“ I guess he’s lucky to have gotten us trapped in that cave.” Immediately feeling awkward in having phrased it like that, she went silent.
Ratchet was oblivious to the other’s sudden muteness and agreed,” Who knows how fate works, but his has an odd way of traveling.”
Starscream awoke in the middle of a forest, propped up by a boulder, and as far as he could tell, far from human civilization. He was dazed and confused, and couldn't recall how he got there, but remembered being put into stasis by the autobots. Surprise warmed the con as he realized how much better he felt. His systems must have been functioning at near optimum.
The joy was halted as he remembered his poor wing, but it didn't feel missing. Twisting his head around, he found to his surprise, it was once again attached. A thin band of lighter grey marked where it had been welded back on, buffed almost enough that one wouldn't notice.
His gaze fell to his forearms, only to be astonished once again. Though they weren't as impressive as what he was used to, a small missile adorned each arm. Had the autobots decided to give him full aide out of thanks? Or had Arcee...? Starscream plunged that thought out of mind. It was ridiculous and absurd; Arcee's only response to her finding out he had affections for her was to tell him he was insane.
It didn't truly matter he supposed, it was just good to be back in near fighting condition.
Arcee sat in front of the school, waiting for Jack to finish. Relief surged through the bot as the final bell rang and she was assured a small wait for her human charge. When he finally arrived and mounted the seat, she was ready to take off and did, well over the 15 mph limit for the school zone.
"Woah, Arcee, you okay?" He asked, still shoving his helmet on while trying to appear as if he was driving.
Curtly, she replied," Fine."
“Yeah, try telling me that while you’re not trying to run a red light.”
She must have just realized the traffic lights were yellow and screeched to a halt, her treads feeling the burn. “I could have made it easily.”
“What’s that you’re always telling me about the whole-”
“Jack, I’m not really in the mood for a lesson right now,” She interrupted. It had been only three days since being trapped in that cave and treating the decepticon ended up being more than Ratchet had anticipated and took a full day. Seeing the other completely helpless and having to hear and see all about his injuries old and new, it had spooked her, left her on edge, far more than it should’ve. The two days since they had left him, he’d made an annoying habit of popping into whatever she was thinking about.
“Arcee, you can tell. Whatever’s got you down, I’ll listen; I’m here for you,” He offered, placing a hand reassuringly on the dash.
“It’s Starscream,” She confided. “While we were in the cave...” She trailed off, unsure if she should continue. It was weird, or at least, she couldn’t get used to the idea. “He told me he had a crush on me.”
“That is the correct terminology, right?” She asked, feeling a little more insecure than she already had been. It was the term he had used, so she assumed it was right. “A mildly infantile conveyance of affection towards another?”
“Uh, yeah, that’s a way to put it,” Jack said, a little astonishment hinted in his voice. “Really? Starscream?”
Tentatively, the motorcycle autobot affirmed,” Yes, Starscream, and I don’t know how to react to it.”
Jack didn’t honestly know either, he knew what it was like to have a crush on a girl for a very long time, and to not even be noticed by the other. “I’ve had a crush on Sierra for... quite a while, and she didn’t even know that I existed until the day you first came into my life. She still doesn’t know, hopefully, that I have a crush on her since I haven’t really been able to... y’know...” He hadn’t had the guts to ask her out yet, that was the truth, but he didn’t really want to out and admit. “Uh, do you like him?”
“He killed my partner, Jack.”
“Oh, yeah...” He fell silent, not really sure how one continued off of that. Something came to mind, and he spoke up,” Optimus Prime says that people can change.”
“Sure, they can, but do they is the question,” She muttered, taking a sharp right a little less fluidly than usual. They were approaching the alley that they usually used for a ground bridge, but Arcee skipped the turn. They’d loop through town again; she wasn’t ready to return to base yet. Luckily, Jack seemed to understand, and didn’t mention it.
“How do you believe Sierra would react should you tell her that you have a crush on her?” She asked, hoping for insight into... something useful for how she felt now.
“I would hope that she would be, um, happy? I don’t know. I’m kind of afraid she’ll reject me.”
“Obtaining the Matrix of Leadership on an alien planet didn’t phase you, and then being attacked by an insecticon didn’t throw you off your game, but asking out a human girl is something to fear?”
Jack nodded to himself and said,” Yeah, pretty much.”
They rounded the corner and this time, Arcee entered the alley way for the ground bridge that Ratchet would be opening any moment. “Please, don’t mention this to anyone.”
“Of course,” Jack promised.
“We’re receiving a high frequency message,” Ratchet announced.
Bulkhead laughed and said,” I bet I can tell ya’ who it is!”
“And you would be right,” Ratchet affirmed, but then added,” It doesn’t make sense though. It’s complete gibberish.”
“Should we even bother? Maybe he just has us on speed dial and accidentally contacted us,” Arcee said, but then Bumblebee mentioned that maybe he didn't have the time to compose a full message if he was was being attacked. With hesitation, the blue autobot agreed," It wouldn't hurt to check into it."
"Alright, Autobots, special agent Fowler has requested our presence elsewhere, so I will send Arcee and Bumblebee," Optimus Prime said. "Bulkhead and I will attend to agent Fowler's needs."
"And if Starscream requires medical aid?" Ratchet asked.
"Then decide how best to take care of the situation," Prime decided. Giving Ratchet a nod, the ground bridge opened and he commanded," Bulkhead, let's roll out." The two shifted to vehicular modes and drove through the bridge.
Ratchet shut down the bridge, typed in Starscream's coordinates, and reopened it again.
“Well, I suppose we have to go now,” Arcee sighed and transformed into her motorcycle form, then speeding through the green portal, closely followed by the yellow muscle car.
Arriving on the other side in the forest they had left him, Arcee front flipped into robot form. Screaming came from behind the autobots, and Arcee turned to see the ex con running with all he had.
He swore as the ground bridge fizzled out and shrieked,” Run! Run!” His hands were bound behind his back with webs, and his run had a pained limp to it. “It looks like you autobots aren’t the only ones to find me!”
As if on cue, Airachnid came spinning into view, slinging a web at her pray. Starscream managed to leap out of the way, but with his feet off the ground, they became prime target for a web to bind them together. He fell ungracefully and slid to a stop in the mud. Frantically shuffling his feet, he succeeded in slicing himself free and leapt to his feet to keep running.
“Oh, Arcee! Is this your latest partner?” The spiderly robot came to a stop and laughed. Perched in a tree, she asked,“ Confronting me once again? Perhaps you desire another late partner?”
With a furious yell, Arcee charged the decepticon, guns blazing. Even with Bumblebee assisting in firing, Airachnid dodged every blast. “I’m afraid I don’t have time to waste. I had just been enjoying myself some with Screamer.” She jumped to the ground and drilled through easily, escaping the bots.
“Scrap!” Arcee said with a frustrated stomp. Bumbled offered to stay watch, and Arcee picked up the meaning. “Fine, I’ll go check on the coward.” Neither wanted to seek him out, but the seeker was beginning to become something like the team pet. She kept silent as she sought him out, weary of alerting Airachnid to her position if the spider was still in the area after all.
Hidden in the trees surrounding a clearing, she saw Starscream carefully walking and keeping a cautious eye out for any stalking predators. His walk was slow and pained, she noticed, but was more interested in what he was able to pick up around him and why he hadn’t broken free of the binding webs yet. Arcee could tell that he was aware something was watching him, but he finally gave in and roughly took a knee, extremely attentive to his his bound arms.
With a low groan, he attempted to use his heel to cut at the webs, but found it difficult to accomplish without viciously attacking the web. He was there for at least three minutes, warily tending to his bindings, when Arcee sighed and stepped into sight and asked,” Need help?” Her tone fully indicated how annoyed she was that she was bothering to provide assistance.
He almost immediately rejected the offer, but then said,” I would actually greatly appreciate that, I’m rigged to explode should I mess this up.”
Surprise rattled through Arcee as she asked,” Airachnid is using pyrotechnics now?”
“No,” Starscream answered dully,” but that blasted spider and her web slinging caught me mid firing of my missile and caught it as it was leaving its holster. I’m lucky it hasn’t blown up yet, what with the safety being off and it already set to go.”
“Wow, that’s impressive. How do you fail at timing your shots so tremendously?” She asked teased, making her way up to the decepticon. He merely grumbled something that she imagined to be quite colorful as she came up behind him and kneeled, picking up his hands. “I promise, if you manage to blow me to smithereens, you’ll have all of the autobots to answer to.”
“Hasn’t that always been the case? You autobots are rather close nit,” He said idly, trying not to let his concern show as she handled the missile. One wrong cut in the web and they were both goners.
She began to selectively cut thread by thread of the web and mockingly agreed,” Yeah, we care for eachother, how weird.”
He scoffed and grumbled,” You don’t know how strange it is. Wha- Hey! Be care with that!” She had wrenched his arms to the left to get a better angle.
“Do you want my help? I’m not obliged to give it.” The con was suddenly a lot more compliant as she continued the stressful work. One wrong snip and- “Oh frag!” She wrenched his arm again, but this time straight up into the air as the missile spiraled away, miraculously missing both of them in its voluted path.
“Look at what your clumsy fingers accomplished now!” He cried, staring up at the missile creating a light show in the sky. There went his only means of defense.
A yellow and black muscle car came racing into view and anxiously asked if everything was alright.
“Yes, Bumblebee. He was just the butt of Airachnid’s joke,” Arcee explained with a small smile. “If it wasn’t for me, he’d still be a walking bomb.”
With a jovial tune, Bee teased that maybe Starscream should just join the autobots if they were assisting him so much.
“Are you insane?! I’ll stay neutral, thank you very much,” Starscream spat as he stood to his feet rubbed his wrists. “Last time I tried to join the autobots, I was nearly murdered!”
Bee’s eyes whirred as his expression dropped and he looked over to Arcee, who looked suddenly very uncomfortable. “Ratchet,” She called placing her her hand on her helmet,” Ready to bridge back.”
“What was the situation?”
As Arcee watched Starscream walk away, a limp still noticeable to his gait, she hesitated before answering,” He was attacked by Airachnid, but she got away before we could engage her in a proper fight. Uh, Starscream...” She had scruples as to whether she should offer any aid at all. He was walking and not dripping any energon as opposed to normal... “Do you require medical assist-”
Raising a hand dismissively, he said,” I’ll manage on my own.” His words were slightly injured as his footing failed, but he continued walking into the forest without sparing a glance back.
Arcee didn’t understand why she was a little frustrated by this response, but she simply gave a sigh through her air intakes and finished her report with Ratchet. “It will just be Bumblebee and me, we’ll explain later.”
Not a whole lot of interaction between Starscream and Arcee in this chapter, but it's for the sake of story line v.v
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Prime?!” Fowler’s voice came through the console.
“What is it Agent Fowler?” Ratchet asked, Optimus Prime being gone with Bumblebee in South Africa and obviously unavailable at head quarters.
“Decepticons must have attacked one of my men’s bases, it has a small energon pool in it! I want to know why you guys don’t seem to even give it mind.”
“Woah, there, calm down. We didn’t know,” Arcee retorted, walking up behind Ratchet. “Is there anything you can discern as being their cause for attacking?”
“Well, here’s the strange thing. None of my men saw or heard anything, when presumably a twenty foot robot paraded through the base while injured. And, the intruder only took two missiles.”
“Only two? What kind?” Ratchet asked.
“A set of AIM-9L Sidewinders,” The other responded.
Arcee and Ratchet exchanging glances, they simultaneously voiced together,” Starscream.”
“Starscream?” The agent echoed.
Typing the coordinates that were presented as the assaulted base, Ratchet confirmed,” The base is not far from the last place we saw him, and he wouldn’t have had to cross through any moderately populated areas.”
“Then he can’t have gotten far. We should locate him,” Arcee said, receiving an incredulous look and asking,” What?”
“And what would we do when we found him?”
“Well, you could start with making the con return the missiles he stole,” Fowler said in an agitated tone. “I really would rather avoid having to explain.”
“We’re on it,” Ratchet assured Fowler.
“Well, I want a report if possible. Fowler out.”
Ratchet closed the comm link and sent Arcee a questioning gaze.
“I can do this, without a problem,” She promised.
“Alright, well I’ll send you and Bulkhead.” With a sigh, he grumbled,” I don’t know what we’re going to do about Starscream. We would hate to send him back running to the decepticons, but I highly doubt we could trust him to be an autobot, and we can’t leave him neutral as we can clearly see from several incidents, this one being minor in comparison.”
“I know, but he’s saved me before, and...”
“So he has had a few streaks of helpfulness, but I’d expect you of all people to remember how he’s wronged our side.”
Averting her gaze awkwardly, she agreed,” Yes, he’s been helpful before.” Though, it was probably for other reasons than Ratchet suspected. “And I can’t forgive him for what he did to Cliffjumper, but Optimus wouldn’t exact revenge against a defenseless opponent.”
“Well, we’ll play by ear then, try to figure out what he wants and decipher a correct course of action.”
“Bulkhead, gear up, we’re heading out,” Arcee called, readying herself to exit the ground bridge and search for Starscream.
The two autobots shifted to vehicular mode, when Miko came running up. “Hey, Bulk! Can I come along, please?”
“I don’t know...” Bulkhead said as he remembered the scene while he was holding up the collapsing mine’s ceiling and Starscream went out of his way just to frighten her.
“Just say yes,” Arcee sighed with a nettled air. Arcee’s bad mood wasn’t Miko’s fault; Starscream just couldn’t stay out of her life. “It’ll be easier to keep her safe when we know she’s there from the get go.”
With that the autobots and human took off, arriving at an army base within seconds.
“Bulkhead, you cover northeast, I’ve got southeast.”
As the all terrain vehicle followed the directions, Miko asked,” What about the rest of the cardinal directions?”
“Well from what I remember, a bunch’a cities are pretty close to the west,” He answered, gently rolling through the lush forest that was home to the military establishment. Fog curled around the vehicle as it rolled through.
“Oh, well I guess that makes sense,” She commented before saying,” Ooh! Turn it up, Bulk!” With the music cranked up, both were singing along, or as Jack would phrase it, ‘screaming along’, and they kept in search of the cybertronian thief. Little luck seemed to be greeting them.
Resting her chin on her hand, Miko sighed and mumbled,” This is boring. Where’s all the fire fights and brawling?”
“I hope it doesn’t come to that. He wouldn’t stand a chance.”
Abruptly, Bulkhead was pulling to a stop, having almost not seen a cliff in time because the fog was so thick.
“Whew! That was a close one,” Miko exclaimed with a laugh.
“You can say that again,” Bulkhead rumbled, about to back up when he realized a giant form was behind him.
“Scrap! I knew you autobots would come searching for me! Why can’t you leave me alone? I didn’t harm any of the fleshlings, and only took what I absolutely needed for survival,” a distressed Starscream exclaimed, both missiles pointed directly at the jeep.
“Woah, Screamer, put away the missiles! We just want to talk,” Bulkhead hurriedly insisted, not so much concerned for his own life as he was his passenger's.
“Unlikely, I’m no fool,” Starscream snarled,” You could crush me in seconds if I gave you the chance.”
“But why would I? We just want to know... diplomatic... discussion, and peacefully find out whatcha’ up to right now.”
This seemed to calm the other slightly, his cocked arms retracting slightly- though they were easily capable of aiming in the time it would take Bulkhead to access any weapon. He jumped at Bulkhead opening his door to allow Miko out so he could transform. His ruby optics didn’t hide any of his wariness at this.
“Are you hurt? We found energo-”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” The seeker quickly interrupted, holding one servo to his abdomen.
“Dude, you got creamed by Airachnid again, didn’t you?” Miko shouted, running to center stage between the cybertronians.
“Tell your insolent pet to behave herself!” Starscream growled, clenching and unclenching his servo in simmering anger.
“She’s not my pet! She’s a friend,” Bulkhead quickly clarified, and followed up with a defense,” And she isn’t insolent either!” He wasn’t one hundred percent on the words meaning, but he knew it was demeaning.
With a pout, the girl mumbled,“ I was just sayin’...”
“Miko, get behind me,” Bulkhead ordered gently. He couldn’t get the ex-con’s cold enjoyment of scaring Miko in the mine out of his head. She sighed, but followed his command, glumly dragging her feet as she walked around his large feet.
A shrill shriek could be heard as her foot caught some underbrush. Bulkhead swiveled his whole body, but not quickly enough. With horror, he realized the only way he’d be quick enough to grab her would involve crushing her in the process. He started to jump to the bottom so he could catch her there, but a spindly hand restricted him and suddenly he saw the seeker plummeting.
Basically doing a modified pencil dive, Starscream swiftly overcame the falling human and grabbed her, now focusing on the ground and how quickly it was approaching. Spreading eagle to create as much drag as possible, he only placed his feet beneath him at the last second, guiding the human in his grasp to the ground and removing the speed of her descent.
She groaned as he dropped her the last three feet, her whole body taking the brunt of the contact with the ground. “Ow, what was that for?” She got her feet and stretched out a sore shoulder.
He held in a grimace at the immeasurable pain screaming through his bearings at the landing. On the drop, almost 0 to 200 in 9.6 seconds. The landing, 200 to 0 in 0.3 seconds. “That is the gratitude I get? You can still walk. You’re welcome.” He wasn’t so sure he could himself, not immediately anyways.
“Holy scrap! You saved me in high heels! Wicked!”
“H-high heels? What are you blabbering about, human?” He shifted as she neared him and reached out a hand to his foot.
“You’re wearing, like, fragging stilettos!”
Deciding to completely ignore the blathering fleshling, he glared up at the cliff and moaned,” I hate climbing...” If only he could fly.
Bulkhead came driving recklessly down the cliff, calling out,” Miko...! Are you alright?!” Seeing her standing and smiling sent warm cheer through his whole body, his spark pulsed in absolute relief. Transforming back to robot mode, he clapped Starscream on the back and clamoured,” Thanks for saving her life!”
Sent sprawling a few meters, he cleared his vocalizer and said,” Hmm yes, Mention it to your friends.” Looking back, he hesitated before saying,” Assuming the invitation is still extended to me, I wish to join the Autobots.” Going neutral had been hard. Living while neutral had been intensely difficult. Surviving while neutral after losing his T-Cog, absolutely torturous.
“Uh, let me call base,” Bulkhead said, a little surprised. He’d come to retrieve the missiles Starscream stole, not Starscream.
“Autobots, we must reach a decision regarding the potential new addition to the autobot team. While he has hurt each of us in various ways, I believe him to possess a redeeming quality that he has never had the chance to reveal,” Optimus Prime started the debate with. They had to decide whether to let Starscream join or not, and if so in either choice, what to do with him.
“While it is true that he has dealt much damage to us, having an inside eye at the decepticons would be advantageous,” Ratchet offered pragmatically.
Bee interjected that Starscream had helped MECH with the T-Cog crisis, actually shooting the bot’s very own T-Cog.
“And he clearly deems humans as insignificant, caring little for their life,” Arcee spoke up.
“But he saved Miko,” Bulkhead pointed out.
“He’s been known to do stuff that he doesn’t like if it will earn him a favorable outcome,” Ratchet said.
“He killed Cliffjumper,” Arcee said softly, clutching at her spark. Her raw anger had morphed over her coming to know Starscream, but the residual desolation would never fade, and given the right ignition, blind fury could still come over his death.
The group thought over this predicament pensively. To allow the murderer of their partner solace and freedom under autobot protection seemed like an insult to Cliff’s memory, but to cast Starscream aside after having shown he wasn’t completely vile of spirit would bring them too close to decepticon standards for any of their likings.
“Pl-please,” Starscream spoke up, catching all of the autobots off guard. They had secured him so he couldn’t overhear their decision... He still wore the cuffs, but he’d managed to escape the room they’d locked him in. While the ex-con was glad that he didn’t require any cuffs on his wings, they were severely uncomfortable, it did get at him a little in proving just how much less of a threat they considered him now.
“Please, I’ve done terrible, atrocious things over my life. I regret them all. I wish I could take it all back by saying sorry,” he begged. Starscream was too clever by half; he was well aware of how profound his silver tongue was and how grandiose his successes were, but also how massive his failures ended up. His best chance of survival without his T-Cog, he’d come to realize, was to seek aid from the autobots. “I apologize profusely for the horrendous crimes against both cybertronians and humans I’ve committed.” He was thankful he managed to use a polite word for the earthlings, a few other choices had almost rolled out of his vocalizer.
Seeing a spark of hope in their curious gazes between each other, he continued,” You must realize however, most of what I have done, has been as a decepticon, but I’ve shed a new light. Taking first the tentative steps of neutrality, I wish to advance to the true side of good.”
“So you worked for MECH and shot Bee’s T-Cog as part of the decepticons?” Arcee asked darkly.
“I did say most, but old habits are hard to break. Please, if you will not let me atone for what I’ve done and join the autobots, at least grant me asylum. I need you all to help me not further the corruption of my spark. I need a strong moral presence to keep me from sliding once more. I beg of you.”
Arcee rolled her optics at the theatrics, but couldn’t help but feel there was some truth to his words.
No one was given the time they needed to think about the seeker’s desperate speech as a blaring alarm rang through headquarters. “Decepticons on the move,” Ratchet confirmed.
“Well, what are we waiting for? We can get back to him later,” Arcee said. They couldn’t afford to lose any energon race; resources were running so low.
“Ratchet, do what ever you deem necessary to secure our base,” Optimus Prime said,” We will alert you when we need a bridge back.”
“Understood,” The medic said as he typed in the commands and lifted the lever that controlled the ground bridge.
Starscream arched his orbital ridges as the fleshling with shocks of pink in her hair dashed to the portal, seemingly unnoticed, but didn’t say anything. That human had often accompanied the autobots in the past, so presumably she was granted access. The ground bridge closed, narrowly following the male humans passage; Starscream was mildly surprised they made it through.
Ratchet looked over to the seeker and said,” Well, it looks like it’s just you and me now.” He picked up energon cuffs and added,” If you please...”
“Hmm, yes,” Starscream agreed,” Just us.” He internally groaned. The other expected him to bind himself? Though, at least that meant he could do it as it was most comfortable. Starscream would have much rather be stuck with Bumblebee or Bulkhead; the scout seemed quick to forgive and innocent, and the prior wrecker had a gentle disposition. As he thought about it though, he’d committed far less offences against the medical officer in recent times, so maybe this was for the best. The seeker winced as the cuffs activated, effectively crossing his arms and locking them there.
Strolling around the control room, he tapped his claws against his arms in boredom. “I don’t understand why you let humans on your missions,” He commented offhand, not really knowing what else to talk about and it not being in his character to remain silent.
“Humans?” Ratchet asked, gaze swinging to where the kids often hung out. Seeing an empty couch, Ratchet’s shoulders drooped and he sighed.
“Yes, the female entered the bridge, closely followed by the other two.”
“Of course she did,” Ratchet muttered to himself before opening the comm link to let the other autobots know the kids were there.
“I take it they weren’t supposed to attend the fight?”
“No,” Ratchet admitted, as much as he hated letting the other know the autobots couldn’t even manage their human friends.
“Interesting,” The seeker commented before changing the topic and asking,” Must I really be bound?” It was so uncomfortable, and his missiles had already been stripped from him, it wasn’t like he could achieve all that much... Well, after glancing at the console the doctor stood next to, he conceded he could, but he knew it wasn’t in his best interest.
“I hope this doesn’t come as too big of a shock to you, but we can’t exactly trust you.”
“You wound me.”
Ratchet wished the seeker could have gone with the others; the medic had a lot to get done. That, and he couldn’t work on the sensitive material he’d scheduled for today. A frustrating day was nothing new however, and Ratchet continued messing with the computer terminal. The science officer decided to ignore the other and proceed working on the less secretive things.
Starscream sat down and abstractedly watched Ratchet working since he had nothing better to do. It’d been a long time since he worked at a computer station for any length of time. The other stole uncomfortable glances in his direction, obviously uneasy under his gaze. “How could I ever earn forgiveness after all of my transgressions against everyone?”
With a low hum as the scientist though over the question, he finally answered,” Honestly, I do not know. You’ve proven over and over again you can’t be trusted, and be it you immoral or amoral, you’ve stabbed many backs and wounded many sparks. Still... as Optimus has remained hopeful of, every mech is capable of change if they truly devote themselves and embrace a new life.”
“That’s rather idealistic.”
“Yes,” Ratchet said solemnly. Many times had he questioned the wide eyed idealism hidden under his leader’s growing despondency, but many times had it proven a relief that sometime optimism was rewarded. “But in these dark times, a healthy dose of optimism does the spark well.”
“As a decepticon, the only thing that rewarded optimism was harsh, bitter disappointment,” Starscream said. “At least if you were pessimistic, you could never be disappointed, just bleakly proven right.”
“Just another major divide between autobots and decepticons.”
Looking downwards, uncharacteristically timorous, the seeker tentatively asked,” Do you really think a mech can change?”
Ratchet looked over with mild surprise, reading the undertones. Do you really think a decepticon can change? Do you really think I can change? Of course, he didn’t get a chance to answer, though perhaps that was for the best. The medic wasn’t exactly sure what his stance on the matter was.
“Ratchet, emergency ground bridge,” Arcee called through the comm.
“Locking onto your coordinates.”
The autobots came screeching into the base, followed by enemy fire, a single blast making it passed the safety barrier and striking one of the tools on Ratchet’s table.
“I needed that!” The bot called angrily, shutting down the bridge. Great, that just added two things to his list of things to do (which was long enough, Primus knew). Replace his pneumatic wrench, and take a look at the safety parameters of the ground bridge.
“Miko, it is not safe for you on the battlefield,” Optimus Prime said as he unfolded to his great stature as a robot. His voice was thick with solemn concern and the slightest hint of exasperation could almost be recognised by someone who knew him well.
Jumping out of her friend’s cab so he could also transform, Miko looked up at the autobot leader and said,” But Bulk’s got my back.”
“Miko,” Bulkhead sighed,” I need to focus on the fight, not-” He cut off as he looked down at her, not really sure how to properly express what he meant.
Her eyes furrowed as he trailed off, feeling betrayed and hurt by the one being who had always seemed to get her. “Me? You don’t want to think about me? Fine. I’ll just be going then so you don’t have to watch your footing,” Miko said, rubbing at her eye as she stormily stomped out of the room into the halls.
Bulkhead tried to follow her to apologise, but as soon as he took a single clamorous step, she raised her hand out to signal ‘stop’, and said,” Don’t worry, you don’t have to think about me, so you don’t have to feel bad.”
Staring forlornly, he looked around to his buddies, searching for a shred of help as to what he was supposed to do. Starscream watched the proceedings, wisely keeping silent (though he had a few quips that he would have loved to use throughout the scene). Looked like the autobots had just as much drama floating through the ranks as the decepticons, even if not as perfidious.
“Oh! Starscream!” Miko squeaked as she jumped up to her feet, sparing the other only a quick glance before looking down to her equipment. She’d been sitting and idly strumming at the nuisance the fleshling called a guitar when the newest autobot entered the room. “Uh, sorry. Forgot they assigned you this room, it’s where I always hang out, er, I guess ‘hung out’, when I’m feeling down. The acoustics are great.”
The seeker glared down at her with a mix of amusement and curiousness. “The past tense ‘hung’, with any luck, is more applicable.”
“Right,” She said, as she quickly fumbled to unplug her amp and hightail it out of there. If she was completely honest, the ex con totally freaked her out. Of course she’d never admit it, but how cold he could be and how much he obviously enjoyed frightening her while she tried to save Bulk, toss in that he had been second in command of the decepticon army, and he’d assisted MECH with the whole T-Cog business, also frying Bumblebee’s in the process, and he was one completely twisted, terrifying cybertronian. Aside from all of that, however, her main reason for being so quick to leave was she didn’t want him to see. She’d been crying.
“You don’t need to be so quick to leave, so long as you do,” He said with a shrug. It wasn’t like he cared about time; he had nothing to do. Scrutinizing the human who kept rubbing at her eyes, he asked,” What is wrong with you eyes, girl?”
She stiffened at this and quickly shook her head, saying,” Nothing! Nothing at all.”
“You’re crying,” Starscream observed, getting to one knee and peering at the human with a little interest.
Knowing she’d been caught and couldn’t really deny it, she stared up and Starscream and asked,” What? Transformers don’t?” She propped her hand on her hip and tried not to come off as vulnerable as she felt.
“No, Cybertronians do cry, it’s just, never without reason.”
She went back to gathering her things and muttered,” I had a reason.”
“Really? A comrade or brother died? You’ve been horribly mutilated beyond recognition and marooned on an unknown planet? How about-”
“I get it! You’re problems are more important than mine! Whatever, I don’t care,” She snapped. She lifted the mini amp as soon as she had all the cords wound up loosely. One thing Miko hated was letting others see her tears, it was usually worse than whatever had made her cry in the first place.
Starscream realized with a little dread that if he let her leave and the autobots saw a crying Miko running out his room, that would be very, very bad. Getting to his feet, he crossed his arms behind his back and analyzed the problem. “You may sit, er, stay awhile,” He offered awkwardly,“ What’s bothering you?”
“W-what do you mean ‘what’? I offered for you to tell me what caused your crying. Isn’t that how human convention proceeds?”
“Well, yeah, but you’re Starscream. You’re like... anti-human and stuff...”
He shrugged and said,” I’ve recently turned a new leaf.”
“‘Cause you were sick of getting beat up every we-eek!” She covered her mouth with her hands as she realized she was insulting Starscream and Bulkhead wasn’t around to save her sorry hide if the ex-con decided it was one straw too many. Turning leaves were nice and all, but a leaf was really light, it didn’t take much wind to send it spiraling.
He growled and clenched his claws in subdued anger. He knew he wouldn’t get away with murdering the little girl, so he would have to put up with the impudent human.
Setting her stuff down, she sat and brought her knees in close. “Everyone’s annoyed with me. Today, even Bulk was.” She crossed her arms and laid her head down on them.
“To be fair, you’re brash and run off into danger all the time, causing more work for your friends then necessary. You cause more trouble than even I do,” He said offhandedly as he found a seat on the other side of the room.
Raising her head and twisting it to glare at him, she said,” Wha-Hey! You’re not supposed to make me feel worse!”
“I don’t know what you were expecting out of the conversation, I merely offered it. I may not completely loathe your kind anymore, but I still don’t really like you either.”
She laughed and he arched an eyebrow, then rolled his optics. Humans. “I said you didn’t need to be quick, but I still wanted you to leave,” He mumbled.
“B-but then you...”
“I just didn’t want you crying when you left.”
“You... nevermind. Thanks for cheering me up anyways, even if was by being aft,” She said in her usual buoyant voice, collecting her things and heading for the door.
He held silence as he watched the human leave, thinking of how vastly different his life was from times relatively recent. Preparing for recharge, he tried to find a comfortable position, but alas could not. Sleeping out of his alt mode always brought the dark feeling being on an operation table- something he’d slept on many times- but what could he do to change that? Without his T-Cog, he was restricted to many uncomfortable nights.
Oh, and sorry for those who don't like Miko, but I like to write it like it could actually come from the show itself, and therefore, all main characters will be seen at some point. That, and she advances the plot out of sheer drive of character.
"Starscream?" Arcee asked as she entered the main control room, seeing said mech sitting on the ground and holding holding his head in his servos. It was very late at night, so why was he up, much less in the control room?
"Oh, Arcee, forgive me," he pleaded in the tone of voice he reserved for when he was being most pathetic.
"Oh, Primus, what did you do?"
"I- I almost contacted Nemesis to give them coordinates!" He said, looking to her and getting to his knees, imploring her to forgive him more. "It was a moment of weakness, but I swear, I'll never be swayed, ever!"
Walking up to him, she glared down at him and placed her servos on her hips. "You said almost, right? Then I guess we can forgive you." She didn't really see the point of him owning up to it if he didn't actually go through with it.
"I had been thinking to appease Megatron, I don't what came over me!"
She scoffed at this. He had chronic backstabbing disorder, that's what. She glanced curiously as he continued his pleading for forgiveness routine.
"You're too kind, you're so merciful!" He said, hurriedly following up with," As it was, I did take down the telecommunications barrier before gaining strength."
"You did what?"
"I caught myself only a minute later and raised it once again. A minute only, I swear!"
"Do you have any clue how bad that is?" She asked furiously, taking a threatening step forward. He cringed at her approach and after a few seconds, looked up at her confused. It took a few whirring seconds of her processors for the bot to realize the significance. With an incredulous expression, Arcee said," I'm not going to hit you."
He seemed further confused for nanoseconds before switching to utter praise of how generous she was. Eerie relief flooded him, and the blue autobot felt slight disgust that he expressed she would've beat him (and that he'd given up to it without a second thought) until she remembered why his last attempt to join the autobots failed. Then the disgust redirected to herself and she averted her gaze solemnly.
"Should the decepticons have picked up our base, then we still have five minutes before they attack," he informed her," The procedure for finding autobot headquarters takes ten minutes to execute, but when it is executed, there will be a swarm."
"Then why are you staying here? You're completely unarmed," She asked out of honest curiosity.
"I- I had mind to flee," he admitted," but I wanted you to have fair warning whence they came."
The last part was soft, and it took Arcee by surprise. It came off so honest. Had the con really though to sacrifice himself for his mistake? Narrowing her optics, she accused," You weren't just awaiting your reward?"
His optics widened and he averted his gaze. "The thought had crossed my mind but I'm sick of winning his favor to..." He trailed off and Arcee could hear his plating clatter lightly as he shivered.
"It's as sore a topic as Airachnid for you," He snapped quickly. He held his hands in his lap, twiddling his fingers, and finished," So, please, don't pry."
She held her vocalizer silent, if only because he had startled her by bringing up the spider.
"Letting me roam free around the base was possibly the most stupid course of action your leader could choose," Starscream complained in frustration in his predicament. If the decepticons didn't show up, he was still in trouble with the autobots and would probably lose the few rights he maintained these sorrowful days. If they did arrive, then he would be split between whether to assist the autobots or decepticons, with dire consequences for each choice.
"Don't you blame Optimus for his generosity," She snapped. Giving his a rough glare, she added," Even if it was misplaced in affording it to you."
"But, I- I can't help but-"
"Backstab everyone who shows you kindness?"
"Two minutes left," Starscream stated, purposefully keeping his optics out of the autobot's view. They would reveal too much. How much he hurt. This would honestly be one of the only times he'd "backstabbed" someone who was every kind to him. Megatron was anything but nice.
"I'm well aware, I have a chronometer too."
Starscream acknowledged her statement with an idle nod and stayed silent. He didn't see the point in talking, it would only further the trouble he was in with the femme.
"Listen," She said awkwardly," If you ever need someone to talk to, you can always talk to me. I mean, it would keep you out of trouble and..." She obviously wasn't used to making such a personal offer, and Starscream was touched.
"The offer is mutual," Starscream said, hoping she'd take up the suggestion because while he wanted more time with her, he highly doubted he'd ever be comfortable opening up to anyone.
With a bitter laugh, she admitted," Probably won't happen, I don't like to talk about myself much."
"That is also mutual." He especially didn't want to talk of his failures and darkest hours.
Through the strange power of both agreeing they wouldn't want to use the chance to talk, Arcee began," That vile spider tortured my partner and me, tortured us for information we didn't have. Scrap, she tortured me like it was her personal play time from decepticon work and she was just using the 'information' as a construct for the torture..." She cut herself off and covered her optics as they leaked coolent liquid. "But what happened to me, it's nothing. I would endure it a hundred, a thousand, however many times over it took so Tailgate didn't have to be tortured along with. That fragging spider killed him, so... so slowly, and made me watch. Watch his spark fade, his optics dim and life leave painfully. She let him bleed out all the energon he had and pumped in more so he could endure the pain even longer. It lasted... so long. Days, weeks," She gasped and looked to the ex-con as his long, thin fingers wrapped around her shoulders.
He was clearly not used to comforting another, holding her at arms distance, or maybe he was just smarter than to attempt to get too close and personal. She had pretty much outright stated she didn't feel anything similar for him as he did for her.
She wondered how he'd managed to get to her side so silently, but stopped caring and rested her head against his chest. He gently pulled her to the floor, which she obliged and curled his arms around her now that he had sign she didn't mind closer contact.
"I'm no stranger to torture, either," He confided.
"Why? Because you've tortured so many?"
"I've been on the receiving end far more then the delivering side," he bit back bitterly. His smile echoed the bitterness at her shocked silence.
... How shamelessly he tortured me over and over again? and her conversation with Ratchet rang through her head and she remembered that just because he'd been a con didn't mean he hadn't been a victim of the decepticons, even if he got himself into the position.
"You've never worked for Megatron before, you don't know how easy it is to disappoint him to a dangerous level. How if he needs a victim to be a guinea pig for his experiments, he'll have no qualms in using the very mechs that worked to create the terrible creation.
The worst part is he'll bring you to within a second of your life, only to have you healed completely so he can do it again. He'll break you so you're dysfunctional and patch you up to put you back on the medical table again, and again..." Starscream shuttered his optics as he stopped himself from continuing that line of thought.
"You... are well aware of the cybonic plague, I assume?" He asked. Hearing the femme hum in an affirmative, he continued," I was one of the creators. He claims he created it, but that is a loose term, as he had twenty bots working on it, including myself. Biological weapons take sacrifices to complete in the first place, diminishing our numbers. We had to watch our fellow peers suffer through it. A terrible, terrible way to go..."
"I know," She murmured," I've seen it in action."
"Have you? How unfortunate. When we finished, there was no cure, and Megatron wanted one immediately. Seeing as we were the only ones to know its genetic makeup and scientists afflicted with a disease are incredibly motivated to find a cure, he infected us all." His air intakes hissed as he shuddered at the memory.
"You were infected with the cybonic plague?" Arcee asked, horror filling her as she remembered vivid memories of Optimus at the virus' mercy.
"Yes, and the only one of my peers to find and use a cure. I held out as they all died, trying to leave behind as much help for the current survivors in the hopes someone would make it out alive. I was the only one. I couldn't come up with the formula fast enough. I couldn't save anybody."
"Oh, Starscream..." She didn't even find herself hating the other right now, overcome with how gruesome his story was.
"It... It was a long time ago," He shrugged off. "Anyways, it was my first step towards power."
"Yeah? How did that work out," She asked sardonically, idly thumbing the decepticon sigil.
"It is well past the time they would've come." Of course they both were well aware of this, but served as a well needed conversation ender; Starscream's composure was slipping and he didn't really like the idea of feeling any more exposed than he already did.
Arcee nodded and broke away from the embrace. "I, um, will forget about this... incident, just this once, but I swear... Should you ever-"
"It won't happen again."
Arcee wanted to believe him, she found herself truly wanting to trust the mech, but simply sighed. "Alright, I'll be recharging. I advise you do the same." She left as a motorcycle and headed to her personal chambers.
Starscream watched her leave, feeling oddly relieved after talking about such sensitive topics, something he typically hated. Looking down at the decepticon shield, he considered maybe changing it. Later, he decided, he'd think about it later. For now, he'd recharge. The ex-con walked to the chambers assigned to him and rested.
The tip of his finger disintegrated as it came in contact with the computer terminal, rust having spread across his arms and servos in the final stages of the cybonic plague. He'd seen this happen to all of his colleagues, only one other survived. What monstrosity had he lead their team into making?
"Fallsteak," He coughed," I don't believe we shall make it through." He weakly turned his head, feeling the mechanics of his neck crumble as he did so. Starscream saw his companion gazing back with almost pink eyes, they were so dim. "I'm sorry," He apologized meekly. It had been on his suggestion that Megatron ordered the the biological weapon manufactured, and all for gaining esteem and power.
Rust rash covered the entirety of Fallstreak's face, and flaked off as he opened his mouth and said," Starscream, it's too late for apologies."
Pain constricted Starscream's spark and he had to look away from his suffering friend. Fallstreak was probably the closest friend Starscream had made since the loss of his thrine, he couldn't bear that the other acknowledged it was too late and Starscream was to be the murderer of both of them, along with the rest of the lifeless scientists that surrounded them.
"But I do not blame you. None of us has figured out a cure; you constructed it well as Lord Megatron ordered. Now only we remain, but I fear I cannot prevail much longer. In fact..." Fallstreak sunk forward and groaned. "I fear..."
"F-Fallstreak? No... Fallstreak..." Starscream stood up and trudged over, his knee giving out. In his descent, he frantically grabbed the table and landed his head beside his fallen and now silent partner. Fallstreak's air intakes didn't hiss anymore, and Starscream didn't have to try find out that Fallstreak's spark was extinguished. "Fallstreak... please..."
His shuttered eyes couldn't protect him from the knowledge that his biological weapon had just terminated the life of his last friend. Inspiration struck painfully, and he hurriedly ran to the lab station that had previously belonged to Cold Carnage.
He had to shove the large, inert mech, but found the cybertronian difficult to move in his decaying condition. With substantial propulsion from his still slightly functional thrusters, he managed to knock the mech off his chair and assumed the lab station.
It suddenly made so much sense as he mixed chemical compounds and constructed a cure.
The perishing seeker didn't have time for testing, so he immediately drained a partial vial into his systems. The world radically spinning around him, he desperately ran to Fallstreak and injected the other with the new serum. Fallstreak had to live. If he cured the plague, then maybe his spark could pull through... Maybe it could... It had to work, it had to work.
Desolate, Starscream finally acknowledged it was futile and slinked to the edge of the room, as far from the grey scientists, color drained along with their lives, as possible. The room was littered with bodies of his fallen comrades, and the last remaining seeker knew he had failed them all. He almost hoped his concoction wouldn't save himself so he wouldn't have to live through all of this. Letting them die only for him to make it out alive...
With a shudder, some more rust decayed metal fell to the floor, echoing eerily in the otherwise silent lab. Starscream shuttered his eyes and entered recharge.
Dread filled his circuits as he rose from recharge state. Silently without allowing himself time to think clearly, he arose and left his chambers, heading straight for a certain blue autobot's. His servo made a soft but high pitched ring as he rapped it against the door of Arcee's quarters.
The door opened as Arcee unfolded from motorcycle shape. "Starscream?" She walked over and asked," Why are you here?"
"I- I can't... I don't want..." He stumbled over his words before bowing his head and muttering," I don't want to be alone... Not again." He had been required to stay sequestered for a full stellar cycle before his results could be observed, the quarantine essential to ensure he truly wasn't still afflicted. A stellar cycle trapped with those less fortunate than he, all dead because he couldn't come up with a cure fast enough. Another half stellar cycle had been spent in a sterile room to further ensure he was decontaminated.
His optics couldn't make their way to the other; he was too embarrassed, but also too unnaturally lonely to leave. Realizing she wasn't saying anything, he weakly added," I wouldn't take up much room, may I recharge in the corner?" He finally had the courage to look her in the optics, and her gaze swiftly shifted as she could see his expression.
She stepped back to let him in and said," I have to bring Jack to school tomorrow morning, so you better not be a bother." She frowned as he simply nodded compliantly and asked," You want to talk about it?"
"Oh, no, by the Allspark, no," He immediately answered with a shiver.
"Oh, well, just sleep over there," She said, gesturing to the area farthest from herself, her voice betraying her awkwardness at letting him in.
He did as he was told, sitting by the wall, curling his feet in a conscious attempt to take up less space. He watched Arcee curl into her vehicular form, wondering if she did so in a similar attempt.
A motorcycle revving her engines roused Starscream, and he opened optics to find himself in Arcee's quarters. Seeing Arcee, he remembered his request from the previous night, and averted his gaze in humiliation. He had seriously came crawling to her and shamefully asked to recharge in her room because he was lonely?
"I thought you promised you wouldn't be a bother, you spoke all last night," Arcee teased on her way out.
"Wh-what? What did I say?"
"Sorry, I don't have the time to talk, I have to pick up Jack," She called as she raced down the hallway.
Starscream stared after her and frantically tried to recall what he had said, but alas, as he was recharging at the time, found himself unable.
Starscream stood in the corner of the room, observing the autobots during a time of rest. Miko and Bulkhead had already patched things up and were hanging out in a corner, Miko showing off the new song she'd learned. Ratchet was predictably working at the console and Optimus Prime assisted him. Jack and Raf were playing some earthling game on the television that sounded a lot like racing, and Bumblebee stood behind cheerfully rooting them on.
That left Arcee unattended for, and Starscream looked around, surprised when he saw her lithe form approaching him. Embarrassment flamed through his air intakes and he pretended not to see her. She'd said this morning that he had spoken during his recharging period, but not what he'd spoken of. If his intuition was correct, he'd dreamt of the cybonic plague, and that was so personal and painful. He desperately hoped he was wrong.
Starscream gripped his hands behind his back as cautiously greeted," Good evening."
"So how are you?"
"Fine, never better," He lied, feeling her optics on him, seeing right through it.
"And last night?"
"Well, ah..." he definitely didn't want to talk about it, and especially not in the presence of all the autobots. "Just a bad memory loop. Nothing to worry about."
"Uh huh, that's why you-" She cut off and said a little less caustically," Why don't I take you on a tour of the base?"
For once, the chance of being alone with Arcee didn't thrill him, but he didn't see anyway out of it. "What a lovely opportunity..."
The two walked leisurely through the halls, but Starscream was anything but calm.
"Only our audio receptors," She said, curiosity gripping her expression. "So, who's Fallstreak?" Arcee stopped and turned to look back at the frozen seeker.
He couldn't immediately trust his voice to be cooperative in his attempt to remain stoic, so the silver cybertronian merely looked away. After a few cycles, he sighed and spat out," Only if you talk about Tailgate." He didn't honestly know or care about the bot, or who he was to Arcee, but Fallstreak was too painful a subject. If he must talk of him, then he expected Arcee to say something equally doleful. Also, he expected she would drop it in favor of not having to bring up her past.
The blue bot surprised him by putting her servos on her hips and saying," Fine." Crossing her arms a little insecurely, she continued," He was brave and strong, and he would have hated the idea of Earth speed limits. He..." She broke off with a small laugh, body language loosening up slightly," was an interesting choice for a scout and was a little radical in his beliefs, but he just wanted the best for everyone. Everything he did was to help others."
Looking straight at Starscream, she whispered," He went out with a smile, trying to tell me everything was would be alright, even as Airachnid stabbed him. I was powerless to help him."
"I- I'm sorr-"
Cutting him off, Arcee shook her head slowly, uttering only the name," Fallstreak?" Starscream didn't need to apologize for Tailgate's death, that was Airachnid's doing. He needed to uphold his end of the bargain. She'd talked about Tailgate, now it was his turn.
"Fallstreak... He was a fellow scientist, and after Jetfire, and then my thrine, Skywarp and Thundercracker... I guess you could say he was my only... Friend. We worked on the cybonic plague together, and we were the last left while searching for a cure... Fallstreak was a seeker dedicated to science, and was by no means battle ready, but that was fine since he never dreamed of being a warrior; he simply wanted to contribute to the decepticon cause however he could. He followed me in my efforts to gain Megatron's favor, as I attempted the most intense leaps of science, and... It got him killed."
She averted her eyes and continued walking, gesturing to the left as she said," Medbay, though you should know that place rather well." Starscream quickly followed, walking double time until he caught up.
"And this is..." She trailed off before introducing Storage Room Delta. He knew the base well enough already; this "tour" was just a ruse to get the seeker to talk. "It must have been terrible." Starscream had mentioned that Fallstreak had died because he couldn't find a cure fast enough, right? "I mean, feeling helpless to save his life." It was something that she could unfortunately identify with.
"The truest cruelty is that I figured out the antidote less than a breem after his spark extinguished," He replied. The silver cybertronian had spent a lot of time hating himself because his processors couldn't have worked just slightly faster.
"How is a mech like you able to invoke sympathy?" Arcee asked herself in a whisper.
"Perhaps it's a prodigious talent of mine," Starscream suggested with a painful and bitter smirk. "I managed to disloyaly follow Megatron for eons, and it wasn't until recently he finally had enough of my... treachery upon his side."
"You killed Cliff," She said in a dangerously low tone," but yet I can't help feel sorry for your loss of so many partners. I hate you for what you did, but I still find myself... liking you a little bit..."
She shook her head lightly, staring down. Covering her face, she mumbled," Tour over." With perplexed despondency, the blue autobot stalked off.
She'll never stop hating me, was the revolving thought on his mind as he watched her leave him to his lonesome once again.
"Starscream, give me a hand," Ratchet requested. Everyone was on patrol, and the kids had school, but Starscream was on more or less a house arrest. The seeker walked over, obviously annoyed, and waited for instructions.
"Could you just hold this here?" Ratchet asked, pointing to a clip on the engine he was working on. Starscream obediently did so without the slightest quip, perking the doctor's interest. With some hesitation, the medic began," So..." He quickly ended his attempt to start up a conversation with the seeker. They didn't really seem have anything in common, and Ratchet wasn't much of a social butterfly anyways.
"If you're going for optimum output, might I suggest you reroute the power relays like this?" He traced a path that wound in a significantly different pattern than the pre-existing one.
"Hmm, I didn't even consider that."
"Yet, I'm sure," Starscream automatically added.
"No need for flattery here. It won't get you anywhere," The medic shrugged off. Taking a hypowrench to it, carefully set to the suggestion.
"Force of habit."
"I see." Ratchet turned on the engine and read its stats. Systems were running four percent more efficiently. "Well, it's not much of an improvement, but anything's better than nothing."
With a shrug, Starscream said," I've spent a long time in the field of science and engineering. I like to think that I can still offer something every once in awhile."
The autobot's medic thought about the silver mech's statement; maybe they did have something in common after all.
A buzzer alerted Ratchet to a human visitor, which the bot assumed to be be Fowler. His call of," Hey, autobots!" confirmed the doctor's assumption.
"Optimus Prime isn't currently here; he's in-"
"Actually, I was looking for you," Fowler said before laying eyes on Starscream. "What in Sam Hill is that con doing in our base?"
"I see I'm on the... down low," Starscream said, arching an orbital ridge at the doctor. Besides the fact he was an ex-con (and maybe that he had tortured this particular human) what reason would the autobots have for concealing his side switch? "Well, as I'm sure my reputation precedes me, as do... certain prior events... You shall be glad to learn I have set aside ambition since leaving the decepticons and learning my lesson with MECH."
"For now," Fowler said darkly, grabbing at his side where he still bore a "reminder" that Starscream had left to show he was in control. It had been a while ago, and he'd simply had to ignore having been kidnapped and torturously interrogated to continue on with normal life, but one never truly forgot, and he sure hadn't forgiven.
"He's provided us ample information and, for what's it worth, has done several noteworthy deeds, including saving two of our own in the last while," Ratchet offered in defense of their newest member.
"Two?" Starscream questioned, then nodded and said," Ah, yes, the human." He'd almost forgot the fleshling with shocks of pink in her otherwise dark hair. Forsome reason, he'd been rather caught up on Arcee.
"My reason for coming over is pretty insignificant to Starscream joining the autobots and the report I better be receiving by seventeen hundred hours."
"You will have a report," Ratchet assured the distressed man.
As much as it pleased Starscream to see he had such a lasting impression, he tried to cover it with the unease that also plagued him. He didn't know how much say the fleshling held in autobot affairs, but he knew the agent was important enough to have tortured him in the past. The seeker was really sick of his past coming back and ruining the present.
Reminding himself this was a tactical advantage, Fowler sighed and said," I'll just send you the debriefing via computer. I- I have somewhere else to be." He knew it was a lame excuse, but he needed to get out of there before trashing any positive relationship they had with the seeker.
"So, I see I am a secret..." He sent a questioning gaze towards the other, clearly asking why his change of faction was kept in the dark of the autobot's allies.
"After complications regarding Orion Pax's defection to the decepticons, and further troubles with MECH, we couldn't afford any possible negative publicity with America's government. We couldn't tell them of your joining us until we were completely sure you could be trusted." The doctor kept his gaze down as he messed with the engine a bit. It was a hard truth, but he would just tell it as it was. They couldn't trust the ex-con, and had to act on that. What terrible timing on Fowler's part though, they'd been planning to begin a formal report later that day already.
"Oh. I see," Starscream mumbled, trying to keep the hurt out of his sentence. "That makes sense." Really, it did, but it didn't change that all of his illusions were irrevocably smashed. He had just been starting to think that he belonged too. How foolish of him.
Starscream idly stood and observed the autobots once again, as he found himself doing so more and more often. He hadn't been confined to cuffs for quite a while, which made being in the presence of the earthlings and autobots slightly more tolerable, and sitting alone in his quarters was rather boring. That, and if he was lucky, one of the bots would awkwardly invite him to join them in what they were doing.
It was still painfully obvious that while they were trying to act like he was welcomed, everyone was (perhaps rightfully so) distrustful of his every move and leery of his company. Still, the façade upheld to comfortable levels, and they were noticeably less uneasy or rancorous around him than when he first joined. In fact, sometimes, it seemed like everyone was able to momentarily forget the vorns of him fighting against them.
"So she was trying to set the mood that dreams would be deferred?" Jack asked as he shut his book and sighed. The human had been talking about A Raisin in the Sun and its epigraph Harlem for the past half hour, presumably for a school assignment. Starscream hadn't really been paying attention, just curious as to why Arcee sat through such a boring conversation. Human theatrical performances, a real treat, he was sure.
"It has to be deeper than that," Arcee said offhandedly. From what her human charge had told her, one sentence explanations were never enough for his English teacher. "Why don't you read the poem again?"
Jack did so, and Starscream listened to the works of Langston Hughes once again. With an exclamation, the human started blabbering again, but this time Arcee seemed to think he had something.
Beeping roused Starscream from his eavesdropping and the seeker turned to face the scout that had approached him silently. How did a bright yellow bot excel at espionage?
"What is it, Scout?"
Raf was at some school event, and Bumblebee had been on a patrol with Optimus Prime, Starscream hadn't really noticed when they returned.
Coming off as fully sincere, Bee asked if Starscream was lonely. The seeker didn't really know how to respond.
"W-well, a tad bored. All I've done since joining the autobots is walk around, be looked down upon, walk around, and oh, walk around. All confined to this base," Starscream complained in as sour a tone as he could manage.
Looking down and thinking a bit, Bee gazed back to Starscream and offered to talk to Optimus about Starscream maybe joining a mission.
The scout understood how terrible being on lockdown felt, and the unyielding (insufferable in Starscream's optics) kindness of the yellow bot rendered him incapable of completely hating the ex-con, even if the seeker had been involved in what made him aware of just how bad having no T-Cog was.
"Don't bother. I may not be able to transform, but I'm not blind," Starscream sighed with a shrug. "I know full well that no one trusts me... Or likes me..." His gaze lingered on Arcee. When the silver cybertronian caught himself, he shook his head and added on acridly," And why should they?"
Bumblebee insisted that wasn't true, and that him being on their team just took a little getting used to. With a furtive glance at his blue teammate, Bee tentatively asked if Starscream liked Arcee.
"Wh-What? N-no...! Of course not. W-why...?"
Bee's eyes whirred in amusement, and he held up his servos to convey Starscream could calm down. He assured the other the he was merely asking, though it was slightly evident.
The seeker didn't bother denying it any further. When the aphonic took the time to talk, and also happened to be a scout, Starscream figured he might as well take it as it was. "Well, gee, thanks. Just raise my self esteem, why don't you? Now my limited secrets are common knowledge?" Obviously he knew that Arcee was aware, but if Bumblebee knew, then who else did?
The bot shrugged and said he wouldn't exactly call it common knowledge; he just happened to pick up on it. He assured the seeker that he didn't think anyone else knew.
"Then do what you do best, and stay mute about it." The silver cybertronian winced as he realized those choice of words weren't probably the kindest, and he had just been complaining about nobody liking him.
With a broken, shocked expression, the scout stared at him and Starscream fidgeted under his gaze. "Er, I didn't mean for it to come out like that. Um, don't tell anyone else... please."
With a small nod, Bee announced he was going to see what Bulkhead and Miko were doing. With a hesitant step, he asked if Starscream would like to join him.
"No thank you," Starscream declined. The strangest feeling of guilt prickled at his spark and wouldn't allow him to go. He watched the youngest autobot seek out his friends and remembered the night he shot the bot's T-Cog, and how he'd mocked him that night as well. With a bitter laugh, the seeker sardonically wondered when he'd be losing his vocalizer.
"I think I'm going insane," Arcee declared. Turning her head to head to face her human partner. They both laid outside in a hidden gorge, staring up at the night sky. She had insisted they go for a drive before she took him home, and he had an inkling as to why.
"Want to talk about it?"
"That infuriating mech! I should hate him, flat out hate him and that's it. He murdered my partner... but then he talks about his past, and I can't help but feel a little sorry for him."
Jack hummed in acknowledgement. The stars were bright tonight, contrasting with the topic of their conversation, anything but clear, and murky with confusion.
"I feel like if I like him, then it will be an insult to Cliff's memory," She confided.
Jack didn't know Cliffjumper well, no one would talk about him, so he didn't really know what to say to that. What was a good response? Was there such thing as a good response? "I don't know what to tell you, but my mom would probably say something cheesy like, 'follow your heart'."
With a small laugh, Jack nodded and revised his advice," Follow your spark." Pointing up at an object in the sky that could almost be mistaken for a star, he asked," See that red splotch?"
Arcee searched and nodded. "Mars, isn't it?"
"Yup. That's the God of War. The Greeks had named him Ares, and completely hated him, I think the word my teacher used was reviled, but when the Romans adopted him, they renamed him Mars and loved him."
Small warning of violence for this chapter. This is a dark chapter, but it's nothing worse than what they put into the show, but on DeviantART (DarthMomo) one of the first comments was "NOOO! POOR (insert character name here in all caps)!"
So yeah, be warned... XD
"Ratchet, do you read me?" Arcee called frantically.
"Yes, Arcee," The medic replied, back at base. "What is it that you need?"
"Back up and soon," she responded through static. Blaster fire could be heard in the background.
Starscream listened intently and swore he could hear a very familiar laugh. "Is that Airachnid?"
"Yes, she's in pursuit. Could we take this up later?"
"It just always has to be that spider doesn't it?" Starscream asked looking over to Ratchet. The doctor was too busy typing in coordinates and commands to the console to acknowledge his comment.
"I'll start regrouping and send the team to your location," Ratchet assured her.
"Send me in," Starscream said," Until the Autobots can get there, she needs someone." The auotbots were all scattered, it would take time to get them to the battle scene, and Airachnid was well known for her predatory disposition, and even among decepticons, considered severely sadistic and dangerous.
"You're in no position to fight, Starscream," Ratchet declined. A frustrated expression took hold on the autobot though as the console alerted him that it could not comply with his command. "The ground bridge is acting up today..." It would take time between every use to allow another passage; there would be a lot of downtime between bridges, downtime that could mean trouble for Arcee.
Typing in Arcee's coordinates, Ratchet said," Remember you only have two shots, so make them count." The first attempt to open the bridge failed, but the second one worked and he saw the seeker careening into the fight. Surprisingly, he found himself hoping that the mech wouldn't get himself killed. He had a bad feeling about it.
Entering through the green portal, Starscream found himself on the battlefield and regretted it. Sure, saving Arcee was great, but what was he thinking? All he had were his two missiles; he was going to get his aft handed to him!
Seeing Airachnid closing in on Arcee and readying a web, he called out," Airachnid!" This succeeded in drawing her attention from the blue autobot, but also succeeded in her locking her sights on him. "Oh scrap." He aimed both missiles at her, but had to dodge her blaster fire before he could actually fire.
"I have to say, you seem to be decaying right in front of my very optics, becoming even more pathetic everytime I see you. Not only do you let yourself be saved by the autobots, but then you helped them, and then you joined them?" She cackled at this, and managed to land an energon shot.
Starscream growled in pain and annoyance, retorting," At least I didn't lose a limb in my falling out with Megatron." This brought more rapid fire, but that was quickly cut off by Arcee engaging her in a fist fight with her forearm blades.
Hoping her attention was fully diverted, he tried to get closer but behind her so he could get a good shot; he only had two, and it would probably take both to finish the job. His foot found a dry stick that snapped loudly, and he was positive it would catch her attention, but it didn't. His sigh of relief did.
Swiftly turning, Airachnid slung a web at him, fully rendering his arms useless once again and pinning him to the ground. The spider pushed off from Arcee, launching herself at her prey.
Arcee shifted to motorcycle form and sped to Starscream, only beating her foe there by a second. That was all she needed however to do a wheelie into a backflip, feet catching and sending the spider crashing to the ground. "Not today," She muttered at the still recovering con and rushing to Starscream's side.
"Guess you owe me again," She said as she sliced the webbing apart. She gasped in surprise as the mech lunged forward, hugged her tightly, and rolled to the side.
"And now we're even."
Arcee saw two stabbing legs caught in the dirt where they had been moments before. Swinging her legs and letting the momentum take the rest of her, she kipped up to her feet and tried to shoot down their enemy. "Doesn't count, saved your own aft too."
"How cute, a bickering little couple fighting for their lives," Airachnid taunted.
"I don't know what he's fighting for, but I'm fight for Tailgate," Arcee declared as she came in close with a blade. She managed to nick the helm, but otherwise dealt no damage.
Starscream froze for only a cycle before rushing back into the battle. I'm fighting for you, he thought to himself, but shook it off. He had to be present minded or he would be terminated for sure.
Sprinting to the other side of Airachnid, he tried to assist by throwing in a few slashes to throw off the ex-con's game. Right as he was raising his arm to fire, he pulled the shot because Airachnid held a wrapped up Arcee as a shield. It had been too fast to track, but now Airachnid was simply euphoric as she held up the struggling femme, flashing a sadistic grin to Starscream.
With a quiet curse, Starscream charged. He planned to make her drop Arcee and lead the spider away so his comrade had enough time to free herself. Or maybe the autobots would finally arrive and help!
The two ex-cons exchanged jab after jab, and block after block, and Starscream knew she was toying with him. He was no Megatron, battle (especially melee) wasn't his strong suit; he was a mech of science, taking any chance he got (which had included quite a few unhonorable murders).
The seeker didn't care if this was all just a game to the spider though; his goal was being achieved, Airachnid and he were quite a distance from his immobile partner.
Green light from behind him reflected off her gold plating, and he smirked at her expression of mild fear. Then the unthinkable happened.
Her footing slipped long enough for his slender claws to snake around her neck and throttle the femme. Within milliseconds his other servo pointed straight at her chest. At this range, he may be injured by the shot, but she was for sure a goner.
"Ha! I've finally got you!" Starscream gloated, tightening his grasp on her throat and holding her down with his foot jabbing into her abdomen. "Say your last words," He commanded with a slasher smile. He held his missile directly at her, ready to launch any second. This had to be one of the most joyous moments of Starscream's entire life, looking down at Airachnid's horrified and helpless face.
He should've pulled the trigger already, he knew, but looking down at her, he just couldn't bring himself to do so. She seemed so defenseless and the fragging autobots were starting to rub off on him.
Suddenly, something went wrong, and he knew it instantly. The seeker didn't know what went wrong, only that her optics now held a glint of pure sadistic glee. "Take your own advice," She murmured dangerously, only letting him give a questioning glance before literally stabbing him in the back.
A pained and surprised gasp escaped him as a few small points of pain burned through to his front. Looking down he saw two claws sticking out of his chest plate, a third claw just beneath, trying to plunge through still.
The autobots must have realized what was going to happen before he felt the first prick, because he was vaguely aware that someone was finishing screaming his name and it hadn't been that long since he was stabbed.
His claws let go of his enemy as he felt his chest rip in all directions from her vivisecting ways. Airachnid was able to scuttle away after, and he saw her drilling into the ground for a final escape. He cocked his missile at her and attempted to fire, instead just dropping his arm as his whole body came crashing down.
His sleek, silver body was iridescent with the liquid energon freely flowing, and random parts were scattered for at least few meters radius around him.
The same bot kept yelling his name and he painfully swiveled his head to see a blue autobot running towards him. "Starscream," She said in a hushed whisper as she kneeled down beside him," Don't you dare even think of dieing on me!"
"Didn't plan on it... I've survived worse. With a little luck they can patch me up," He coughed out, adding to the growing pool of energon.
"Your luck is terrible," Arcee cried out, distraught as he continued to fall closer to death.
"Yeah," He agreed softly. With a shudder, he rose a servo as far as he could, which was taken by Arcee and held to her frame. "But I still can't help but feel I'm among the most lucky cybertronians in the universe."
"What do you mean?"
"I never thought I'd have anyone to mourn my passing, but I have you."
"W-well, I'm not mourning your passing anytime soon, alright? Because you're not dying anytime soon, understand?"
"... Sure," He agreed softly as his optics dimmed before shutting down completely.
"Wha- No! Ratchet," She cried, twisting her head to find the medic. "Ratchet, do something!" She finally located him and saw he was already on his way. The ambulance came to a stop beside Starscream and unfolded into his bot form.
"Believe me, I'm on it," He gritted out, scanning the seeker. "I'm going to need you to step out of the way, however." With a displeased sound, he transformed into his ambulance form and directed," Bulkhead, help Arcee to move his body into my patient compartment- make sure to get every piece you find!- and try to jostle him as little as possible. Keep his spinal column straight if possible, it will inflict the least damage to internal systems."
Grabbing each ankle, Arcee made eye contact with Bulkhead to ensure he was fully prepared to lift their patient. "On the count of three. One, two, three!" They hefted Starscream up, and brought him to the cab of their friend, carefully placing him in it. The cab was intended for human use of course, so he didn't fit well and he had to curl up slightly like Ratchet warned against, but it would have to do.
"Raf, this is an emergency. Can you open the ground bridge for me?" He hailed headquarters. "My coordinates are-"
"Got it," He received from the child as a green portal came into view. The doctor didn't waste time for gratitude and sped through the bridge into Autobot headquarters. The lab came into view and he opened his doors, waiting for the other bots to remove his patient.
Once he could transform back to bot form he glanced at his patient and grimaced. This was going to be a challenge.
Ratchet had been working a solid two hours, the latter with Bumblebee's assistance. He just couldn't get the mech to stabilize. Noticing the scout's servos starting to fumble, the doctor called," Arcee, I could use a hand over here." They couldn't afford time for tired minds, and surgery took its toll, especially for those untrained.
Coming as requested, she looked to the floor and apologised," I'm sorry, but I feel I'm emotionally compromised."
"I'm sorry," the doctor echoed snidely. "But he doesn't have time for emotionally compromised."
Arcee nodded solemnly, and asked," Okay, what is it you need me to do?" She was thankful to receive comprehensible orders. Ratchet knew how to control a medical situation, even in situations like this.
In an ideal setup, he'd have a team of bots, mechs who could tell the difference between a rotary linkage cable and the other black cable that the blue femme swore looked exactly like it. Or, he would at least have a few bots dedicated to the learning of medicine, who had steady servos, and who had no personal connection to the patient whatsoever.
In another two hours he had Bumblebee switch with Arcee again, and another hour later they were done. The patient was stabilized so that they could take a well needed break.
"Will he be alright?" Arcee asked, trying to keep herself detached, but failing. The look Ratchet gave her told her told her maybe she didn't want the answer.
"A lot of vital components were ripped out, and apart, but by the allspark, I did the best I could. He's alive for now."
Bumblebee asked about the spark chamber and earned a sigh from Ratchet.
"That's the part I'm worried about," The doctor confided. "Even a skilled master on sparks cannot necessarily fix a shattered chamber, and I only did slight study back on Cybertron."
"It didn't look shattered," Arcee said, not quite in denial since it was true she hadn't seen a crack, but as a sort of guard against the possibility the doctor had.
"No, it's not shattered, but there are fractures. I... should be able to weld them shut, but working on the spark chamber is a brutal task," He explained. One wrong slip and you send the patient into spark trauma. There were endless ways the procedure could go wrong, but he wisely left it at that.
The older autobot sighed and said," You two should rest up." As he began to leave to room, he added," I might need one of you when I'm set to go."
Both nodded and watched the medic leave, anxious at being asked to assist. Bumblebee's gaze swung from Arcee to Starscream and back. Tentatively, the scout asked if she wanted to talk about it.
"No," She immediately responded, then sighed and added weakly," But thanks for the offer."
Arcee stood in med bay, keeping her distance from the bot laid out on the medical table. She couldn't go near him, she was a magnet of doom. It was just hours after they had finished their first round of healing, and one thought refused to leave her mind, First Tailgate, then Cliffjumper... now Starscream?
The silver cybertronian was in multiple pieces, his chassis on the central table and the organized mess of misplaced organs and things on the workbench at the side of the room. Ratchet had said many of the parts would need to be fixed before they could even tackle the challenge of fixing up the mech. Several cables were clamped onto him, and his frame seemed completely devoid of life. Only the machines in the room told her otherwise.
"You jerk," she whispered to herself. "Had Airachnid killed you only a little while ago, I would have been happy, maybe only mad because I wanted to kill you myself." Her angry expression fell as her optics zeroed in on the source of her heated despair.
"But now... I don't want to lose you."
The myriad of machines surrounding him projected hopeful recovery, but Ratchet had admitted the spark casing had been cracked, possibly (and he couldn't stress enough how minute this possibility was in an attempt to assuage her worries) irreparably.
His silver body was even brighter in some areas with the scraped metal having lost its matte finish. Much of his lower abdomen was completely torn open, and his chest plate didn't even look recognizable. At least his face plate had been left unmarred. It was one solace in an otherwise completely terrifying predicament.
A spike in the monotonous ring of one of the machines alerted Arcee and she made ready to bolt, but it was a false alarm. He didn't wake up.
"You better," She mumbled, crossing her arms. "Or... I don't know, but you better wake up."
Starscream slipped out of stasis in the dark, the room only lit by the monitors and machines keeping him alive. Confusion didn't last long as vivid memories tore through his chest, and he attributed his paralysis to the effects of stasis wearing off. Something caught his peripheral, and he realized it was the slim form of Arcee.
He found he couldn't crane his neck very well, and coughed out," I can't see you well." She stepped closer and into his line of sight, but still retained her distance. "Can I help you?" He asked as she stood there silently, awkwardly.
Stood there apologetically.
"I'm sorry. I couldn't stop her in time-"
"I don't see where that is your fault. I treated talking like a free action and gave her the time to plot an escape," He said nonchalantly, a true show of how serious this was. He was always quick to pin the blame elsewhere. "You don't need to stand. There is plenty of room on this table," He joked, hoping to get under her plating with the remark. Her response astonished him.
In quick steps, she made her way to the table and laid beside him, resting her chin against the crook of his neck and curling a foot in between his. Gingerly, she thumbed his chest plate where his sigil had been. Only centimeters above the scratched metal, gouged metal was roughly patched back together awaiting extensive reworking. "Your shield is gone," She stated softly.
"I was thinking of changing it anyways."
"The injury has left you well-nigh paralyzed from shoulders down. Ratchet said it was repairable, but-"
"I've survived and walked away from worse."
With a thwack to his head she said," Stop that!"
"Wh-what?" He yelped as cringed from the spontaneous hit. Confusion rippled through him. What had he done wrong?
"Stop being so truthful when you say things like that! It makes it too hard to hate you." Her voice had a kind of proud sulk to it, like she was too proud to admit her true feelings, and he was shattering her cover up.
"Hate me?" He teased. He didn't dare ask why; it would ruin the mood since she had a real reason to.
"Yes, hate you. Which I do."
"Well, sounds about right. The bots who have loved me most have always hated me."
With another playful smack, she repeated," I said stop it!"
He laughed lightly before sighing and asking," Arcee, may I ask you a favor?"
"What is it?"
"Just... Could you hold me like this for the rest of the night?"
Shocked silence fell over the blue autobot, but she nodded. Unsure if he could see the simple gesture, she responded," Of course."
Darkness overtook his optics soon, and when he awoke, she was gone, but he could still imagine her presence. He could feel the lingering warmth of her systems. He knew she cared...
"Starscream?" A young voice called, rousing the immobile cybertronian out of his boring and mind-numbing staredown with the ceiling (neither had won yet, and Starscream was half to the point of vowing to blow up the ceiling once he got movement back so that he could win).
"What is it, fleshling?" He asked, glaring down at the boy with glasses, Raf he was pretty sure the name was. The boy had been thoughtful enough to remain in an area Starscream could see with his limited range of motion in his neck, or as the ex-con suspected, at least just happened to stay where he could see him out of luck.
"I know you don't like humans very much-"
"But I was wondering if you wanted to play a videogame with me. To relieve some boredom," He offered, holding up a small case that held what Starscream assumed to be the videogame.
He didn't know much about Earthling's videogames, but he did know that most required controllers or at least a moving body. Starscream had neither. "How would you have me play, little boy?"
"Well, I had Bee help me create an interface so you could play. We based it off the one he uses when we play in his car."
"The scout? Well, I suppose I could give it a try," He muttered," Any harm you wreak on my internal systems will probably be minimal to what's already been done."
With some confusion, since Starscream couldn't transform at all and therefore couldn't open any ports, and with Bumblebee's assistance, they finally got the game ready to go with a tv mounted in front of Starscream and Raf sitting on the ledge of the upstairs. It was the same game he played all the time with Bee, Miko, and Jack... and Starscream washorrible at it.
"Th-these stupid cars are rigged, the whole game is," He growled," I can't drive land based vehicles anyways, they make no sense." He had plenty of complaints, a few valid, but most just empty excuses as to why he was losing to a human. It didn't take them long to quit the game and Raf apologise and say that he'd take a better look at the interface. "Don't bother. I can't drive a car anyways. Anything with wheels is impossible," He sulked, pretending to go into recharge mode so he wouldn't have to talk further to the human after his embarrassment of losing to him.
The next day when Raf got back from school he approached the grumpy robot again, he held up his latest purchase,Velocity 4. It was the latest game in the racing genre, and consisted of flight based challenges. It had three modes, and Raf was sure that the other would like it, or at least he hoped he would. It had taken all of the allowance he'd saved up for a new motherboard for his computer he was building at home.
"Screamer, I bought a new game, and I think you'll like it! It's racing too, but-"
"Do not call me Screamer. My name is Starscream." He didn't want a human calling him by a nickname. Nicknames were demeaning when used by a lesser being.
"Oh, uh, sorry," He quickly apologized. When Starscream didn't have anymore to interject, he continued," It has racing too, but all air-vehicles. I spent all last night recalibrating the interface so it would work with this game."
Trying to keep the interest out of his voice, he asked," Does it have F-16's?" The car racing games had so many options for vehicles, perhaps this game would also have many options.
"No, but there are f-15's in one level, and then you can unlock it for all of them."
Starscream decided," That will do."
They played the game for three hours straight. Starscream won every single time. He also wasn't very shy in announcing it every time and proudly boasting throughout their gameplay, but Raf just smiled and continued to play. He was slowly getting a little closer to winning and that was fun enough for him, he was just glad that the ex-con was having fun.
"I have homework to do," He said once they hit four hours," And I have to get back for dinner, but we can play again tomorrow, 'kay?"
"I suppose if you want to, I can suffer through a few more games," Starscream dismissed, not wanting to seem like he actually enjoyed an Earthling game. Even through his words of repudiation, Raf could easily pick up the notes of excitement.
"It would mean a lot to me," He said with a warm smile, knowing that Starscream wouldn't play if he didn't make it seem like the bot was humoring him. "C'mon Bee, let's see how fast we can make it to city limits today!" Now it was time to make it up to his guardian for spending the whole day with Starscream instead of him.
Starscream watched the autobot taking off, quickly ascending in speed and Starscream idly wondered if he'd ever have the luxury again. Not wheels of course, but flight. He wanted flight so much. The game was entertaining, as much as a visual-only simulation could be, but he craved more. The ex-con wanted to feel the drag on his wings and hear the whistling air.
"Nnngh, watch it with that wrench!"
Ratchet sent his patient a glare and said," If you prefer, I could turn off your communications, or you could stop complaining-" He paused his speech to tighten a particularly tough bolt," -every time I so much as-" another pause "-screw in a pin. I did extend you the offer to be in stasis for this. It's not exactly general repairs."
"I'm not really fond of it," Starscream mumbled. He'd been stasis locked so many times, sometimes through his own over exertion, but often at another's whim. The seeker hated the feeling of coming out of stasis. He'd rather come out of it as few times as possible.
"Well, your choice," The doctor shrugged, rewiring a few nerves and receiving a groan of pain.
"Ugh, I don't know whether to be thankful or annoyed that you managed to save my life," Starscream grumbled. "This is excruciating."
"Good. I was worried that your tactile sensitivity would be shot."
"I would be so lucky."
Their bickering was a well needed anchor for the mech. His whole world was crumbling like his insides had. He hadn't seen Arcee since the night he first awoke, and that was over a day ago. Had she changed her opinion of him? Had her hate for him won after all?
The seekers thoughts were thankfully broken by a saw being activated. "Wh-what do you need that for?"
Ratchet lifted in his free hand an organ that he had just fixed up an hour ago. "To make room so I can get this back where it belongs."
"What do you mean 'make room'? If it came out, shouldn't it fit back in just fine?"
"I really don't feel like patching up your fuel lines again, so I have to make a new entry."
With a weary sigh, Starscream sighed and shuttered his optics. If he was completely honest, surgery made him a little squeamish. Who was he trying to impress? Why bother suffering through this? "Ehh, about that stasis..." He had been afraid of entering stasis and missing Arcee if she came by to visit him, but evidently she had better things to do than drop by his bedside.
Ratchet rolled his optics and put aside the organ, folding up his tool. Getting to his feet, he grabbed a cord and brought it over to Starscream, preparing the other for entering stasis. "I knew it was only a matter of time." The saw hadn't really been necessary; only for show to get the other to change his mind so Ratchet could start with the more rigorous repairs. They couldn't be stopped in the middle, and he knew the other would definitely change his mind during them, but the seeker had been insistent that he would much rather not enter stasis.