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Ghosts of Cybertron

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When he had a spare moment, Rodimus would put in some time in the medbay: patching lines, replacing armor plating or minor gears, nothing much more elaborate than field repair, but he'd been good at it as Hot Rod and saw no reason to let his skills get rusty. Thus it was that day.

The noise when he entered the medbay might lead one to believe that a large number of Autobots were injured, perhaps in the aftermath of a skirmish gone wrong, but the repair berths near the door were surprisingly empty. Rodimus made his way to the back of the room, following the commotion. To his surprise, he found three medics and only one patient, a squalling Red Alert.

"What happened?" he asked quietly when First Aid had a moment to spare.

The senior medic gave him a dry look. "Exorcism injury."

"Ah." Rodimus roused himself with a sigh. "I'll be right back." He walked out of the medbay, down the hall and into one of the rooms where his Iacon headquarters kept its processing units with a very calm, deliberate step.

"Starscream!" he shouted.

The ghostly Decepticon was slow to respond, but that was just how he was. Starscream emerged halfway from a processing block, scowling. "What?"

Rodimus put his hands on his hips. "How many times do I have to tell you to stay out of our communication systems? There's nothing in there you don't already know, and I need my Security Director halfway functional, thank-you-very-much!"

Starscream scoffed and rolled his optics. "It's his fault for trying to drag me out!" Rodimus's only answer was a stern glare. "Oh, fine," Starscream huffed. "I'll try not to break him."

"Thank you," Rodimus said, and as Starscream faded, muttered, "...jerk."

"Killjoy," he heard the reply echo through the walls.

"Lunatic dead guy."

"Good little Autobot."

The Prime had to smile at that as he exited the room.

*

"I can stay here all night," Starscream pointed out, voice rising in that way that meant he was thinking of charging up his null-rays. Or would be, if he still had null-rays. "And all day. And all the next day. I can out-wait you a thousand times over, and I don't have to stop to recharge!"

Skyfire idly considered the large flask in his hand, tilting it this way and that so that it caught the light. There were definite flecks of a metallic silvery element in there - evidence that the moon in the Tyron system might be worth its weight in platinum. He made a quick notation on the datapad, then tapped the stylus thoughtfully against it as he considered which tests to run next.

"Centrifuge," said Starscream from just over his shoulder, close enough that his vents would have been blowing hot air over Skyfire's back, if Starscream had vents these days. "And bake some of it up in the specimens oven, that ought to give you an idea of the ratios. What were you doing all the way out in the Tyron system, anyway? It's all boring lumps of nothing, if I recall correctly. It's probably just trace elements, nothing worth your time."

Skyfire placed the flask back in the rack and picked up the next near-identical one in the row.

"Primus! Are you actually going to stare at them one after the other? Why don't you start doing something?"

Skyfire thought he could see a faint red tinge in this sample. He noted down the possibility of water creating rust deposits, and moved onto the next flask.

"I can't believe how childish you're being about this."

An alarm beeped twice from Skyfire's console. Absently skimming through the datapad as he stood up, he returned the rack of samples to storage, then headed for the door.

"SKYFIRE!" Starscream had lost all pretence of control; his voice rose in a screech of indignation. "How dare you ignore me! I won't let you ignore me! You'll see, I'll--"

The door hissed shut, bringing with it silence, at least for a few moments before Starscream shot through the wall into the corridor.

"--until you wish you'd never been created with audio circuits!"

"Good evening, Blurr," Skyfire said politely to the startled blue bot who'd just come around the corner.

"HiSkyfire!" Blurr eyed Starscream warily. "Um, didyouknow that Starscream'sfollowingyou? He looksprettymad."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Skyfire replied blandly.

"I hate you so much, you stupid great lug of a shuttle, I'm going to make you wish you'd never been defrosted--!"

"Um," said Blurr, speechless for once.

"See you later," Skyfire told him pleasantly, and headed to the rec room for a quiet cube of energon.

"SKY. FIRE. GET. BACK. HERE!"

*

To the right honorable Emperor of the Decepticons, Ruler of Charr and associated outlying suburbs, insert more ego-stroking stuff here, Dear Galvatron,

I did receive your last missive regarding one Starscream, fugitive from Decepticon justice. In fact I received the last four missives regarding the same subject, and I confess myself a bit curious. How, precisely, did you intend to punish him again? He is an ex-Seeker. Granted, it hasn't slowed him down much, but aside from ritually stuffing him in some artifact or other (which you've made clear you have no patience for), there's not much you can do. In any case, even if I was of a mind to box him up and ship him over (thus violating the terms of his surrender and losing the trust of the ex-Con community here on Cybertron), I couldn't do it. Yes, I can keep him from possessing people, but that's the only control the Matrix gives me over Cybertron's restless dead.

In other news, thank you for the information regarding slaver activity in the Targenian system. We'll be systematically kicking their afts over the next few weeks; I suggest you stay away from the area...

Rodimus leaned back from his console with a sigh; correspondence with his rival could be interesting but on the whole the day had been filled with too much paperwork and not enough really accomplished. He hated days like this - made him restless, made him think too much.

He felt Starscream's presence before he spoke, so he didn't jump at the offended shriek. "You know I hate it when you contact him!"

"Deal with it," Rodimus muttered, not moving from his seat. "He's the leader of the Decepticons. I have to deal with him."

"He killed me!"

"Yeah, well, you killed him first," Rodimus pointed out, finally finding the shimmer of a ghostly silver wing above him. "What's wrong with you anyway?"

Starscream materialized just enough to give him a furious scowl. "Absolutely nothing, Prime, not that you care." He flickered out again in a whirl of angry red sparkles, and Rodimus hunched over his desk to rub the bridge of his nose - which fortuitously let him avoid the globe pegged at his head.

"Hey!" he yelled as the globe shattered, surging to his feet - but Starscream was gone.

*

It was... difficult, to say the least, to carry on a conversation with Skyfire while a disembodied Seeker was shrieking insults at him, but Silverbolt did the best he could. If Skyfire could ignore the ghostly form that occasionally hovered in front of his optics in a desperate attempt to get his attention, then surely he could as well - and it wasn't like Silverbolt particularly wanted to acknowledge the ex-Decepticon's presence at the best of times.

And he had to admit that watching Starscream utterly lose it over such a little thing was really quite satisfying.

The others weren't doing so well. Slingshot wasn't even trying, far more inclined to snicker at some of Starscream's better efforts than to take Skyfire's side, while Skydive was regarding the pair of them with the weary look that said he felt the whole thing was beneath him. Fireflight and Air Raid were making a fine attempt at playing the "pretend there isn't a furious transparent Seeker shouting over the top of our conversation" game, but Air Raid couldn't help snapping back occasionally and Fireflight kept taking offence at some of the nastier things Starscream had to say about Skyfire.

Silverbolt thought he was getting a headache, but he was pretty sure that it couldn't be as bad as the one Skyfire was probably dealing with right now, so he kept up his end of the conversation as well as he could.

He was starting to wonder if Fireflight hadn't been onto something with that 'Ghostbusters' movie he'd dug up.

Abruptly, Starscream shot up through the ceiling. Silverbolt paused mid-sentence, waited, then shot Skyfire a look half hopeful, half weary.

"Has he actually gone?"

"I think so." Skyfire leaned sideways in his chair and covered his optics with a hand. Silverbolt didn't like to think too closely about why Skyfire could tell when Starscream was around even if he wasn't visible, but at least it meant they knew for definite that he wasn't listening in. "I wonder if I actually could take my audio capacitors offline...?"

"I don't think that would be a very good--"

Skyfire sat up suddenly, expression going neutral again, just as a blurr of red and silver spun back into the room - and flung a chair at the shuttle's head.

"Skyfire!" Silverbolt yelped.

The chair bounced harmlessly off an invisible barrier a few spans from Skyfire's back. He didn't even look around.

"Silverbolt?"

"Er..." Silverbolt tried to remember what they'd been talking about. "... so... when were you planning to... -- Look out!"

This time it was two chairs and a datapad. Again, they failed to connect with Skyfire's seemingly unprotected head. This time Starscream came with them, howling up to hover in Skyfire's face like an angel of vengeance.

"A personal shield, Skyfire? Are you insane?! You'll drain your power core too fast to replenish it! Even someone your size can't sustain those levels of energy output!"

Skyfire appeared to be contemplating the scenery outside the the window - and through Starscream, not that he was giving any indication that he was aware of this - but now that Silverbolt looked, his optics were rather pale...

"Is he right?" asked Silverbolt, abruptly concerned. "Skyfire, you're not doing anything stupid, are you?"

Skyfire shot him a faintly betrayed look, while Starscream whirled to snarl, "You stay out of it!"

Skyfire got to his feet.

"I think I'll get back to the lab," he said, to no-one in particularly, and headed for the door.

The chair he'd been sitting on bounced off his invisible shield just before he reached it, ricocheting off a wall and nearly taking Springer's head off.

"Hey! Watch it!"

"Or you'll do what?"

Springer shot Starscream a disgusted look. "I'll think of something. Are you done with your tantrum?"

Starscream shrieked.

"Tantrum? TANTRUM? I haven't even STARTED yet!"

*

From under the table, sometime later, Silverbolt sent a rather snappy comm to Skyfire: If he weren't already dead, I'd kill him myself.

The reply didn't make him feel much better:

I don't think he'd stay dead even then.