Skyfire onlined slowly, aware of dim light, gleaming as though filtered through... something. Cold. Deep cold, and he could not move... but there was light. The storm must have ended. Something was beeping quietly in the back of his awareness, a quiet steady signal repeating perhaps every breem or so. Automated. No code he recognized.
He was very low on energy. Too low, and Skyfire could not access most of his systems, but he could think enough to know that staying where he was would lead only to stasis again. Dihydrogen monoxide. Yes. In its frozen state, but if he could melt it... Skyfire rerouted his remaining energy to his boot thrusters, heat melting the ice sufficiently for him to re-angle his pedes upwards, water dripping down his plating and slipping inside cracks. Cut them off as soon as he hit air, wriggling and kicking enough to crack the ice surrounding the rest of him, wishing he could bring his rifle out of subspace and blast his way loose.
It took too long, and Skyfire slipped into involuntary recharge while he was struggling, waking again to the same quality of light but with the water he had melted now frozen inside his systems, expanding and spreading the cracks in his plating. But he had not slipped into stasis, and he continued to fight, glad for the surprisingly-thin layer of ice over his frame that let him eventually break free.
Where was Starscream? The thought formed slowly, dripping in pieces into his processors like a stalagmite, finally finishing itself – there was no one nearby, and only that one unknown signal over the comms, no sense of Starscream anywhere... he had not crashed when Skyfire had, he -- surely he had not crashed later. He had simply managed to fly his way clear and settled somewhere on the planet or its satellite to wait until the storm had eased, and was searching some other section for Skyfire. He was not trapped as Skyfire had been. He was all right. There was no other truth that worked for Skyfire's perceptions of Starscream.
But whatever that signal was, though it was not Starscream, it was Cybertronian, and Skyfire lacked sufficient processing power to understand how such a thing could be when neither of them had brought such a signal with them. He pulled the solar collector from subspace, glad for his own caution in making certain even with his fuel reserves that he had carried the not-quite-standard piece of equipment, and set it up to collect energy while Skyfire slipped into recharge again.
He would search for whatever that signal was after he had regained energy. And Starscream would find him, and then they would go home.
It was a ship. A ship? It would explain why Skyfire was so low on energy, if Starscream had had to go back to Cybertron and fetch assistance in order to retrieve him, embarrassing though such a thought was, but that explanation did not suffice for why the ship was damaged. Weapons fire scorching its plating, dented... asteroid, perhaps, Skyfire was familiar with such damage, but his optics narrowed, wary and confused.
It was the only Cybertronian signal that Skyfire had picked up, and Starscream might be in there. And Skyfire was curious. He entered, looking about him at the still mechs on the floor. It looked like they were in stasis. Had the ship crashed? Another storm, or damage from whatever battle it had been in, or something else entirely?
He stopped wondering when he saw Starscream, crumpled against a wall as though he had been flung there by the force of whatever had crashed the ship. Skyfire went to him instantly, running his hands over his bright-painted frame, hissing at the cracks and chips he saw. Not many, Starscream was for the most part unhurt, but Skyfire had always hated any damage Starscream took. He had managed to collect enough energy that he had a little to spare, enough to hook his system to Starscream's and transfer energon, backing away when Starscream's optics flickered.
Starscream could not quite understand that his Spark was pulsing with reaction to its complement. His processors were scrambled by the brief vacuum exposure before he got his fields up, and then the violent re-pressurization by atmospheric entry. He'd be forever cycling his atmosphere mix at this rate...no, what? His processors were sending back biometric data that indicated a stasis period, as repairs had been halted after reaching the bare minimum of proper functionality.
And his Spark felt lighter, brighter, almost bursting with... No, that was impossible! He brought his optics on by force of will, a defiant snarl ripping from his voder in defiance of anyone touching his treasured memories that way. He'd kill Soundwave...
"You're online," Skyfire murmured, relieved, relaxing, crouched just far away enough that Starscream would not feel trapped. "Shh, the fight is ended, you're safe, there is no threat here -- Starscream, are you all right?"
"Skyfire..." Red optics, ruby and bright with fading anger, reacted to his mate's presence, before he turned his sensors outward, and realized no one else was out of stasis. A smile creased his faceplates; this was a most profitable awakening in so many ways. "Of course I am, Sky..of course." He could fix everything quickly enough with fresh energon.
Skyfire smiled back, glad to hear his voice, reaching out to touch his helm gently. "What happened?"
"Megatron was an idiot, as usual," Starscream complained, rising to stretch his body out. He surveyed the detritus of the crash and battle with some satisfaction. Here were some of the highest-ranked officers of both sides, all at his mercy.
"You think everyone is an idiot," Skyfire pointed out, smiling helplessly despite the tinge of gentle mockery in his tone. "What makes this one different?" And why was Starscream looking at this wreckage with satisfaction? Skyfire glanced away from him too look at the scene, trying to see what pleased Starscream in it, and shuddered before he looked away again.
Starscream failed to notice that, lost in his calculations of what to do. Destroying Megatron...no, he could not. This was no fair test of himself. Besides the fact, there was the potential for recoil-damage, depending on just how Megatron had achieved that link of his. However, Soundwave could not be permitted to recover. His abilities had been the thing to keep Starscream's ambitions in check for far too long. And the symbionts....they were too much a risk as well. They would be trapped within Soundwave for all time. "Megatron fails to listen to me, as he should."
"Clearly the most foolish mech to ever walk upon Cybertron. Starscream, what are you planning?"
Starscream looked again to his mate then, shaking his helm. "Nothing that needs worry you, Skyfire." He went to the mech's side, running a hand along that well-known, long-lost frame in appreciation.
Skyfire relaxed again, leaning into Starscream's touch, dropping his helm to nuzzle at Starscream's shoulder. "I think my memory banks are damaged -- the stars look different."
"Oh, Skyfire." That hit Starscream hard in the Spark, to hear that, to remember how long it had been, and all his bitter hate at the Science Council welled up again. "It has been as long as the stars tell you, my Sky."
Skyfire looked at him, confused, drawing back to see him more clearly, tilting his head in bewilderment. "But you -- you weren't trapped, you're far too skillful... what happened?"
"Later." Starscream pointed gently toward the door. "Go, as I sense the solar radiation is prime for gathering right now. I will be out shortly."
Skyfire hesitated, glancing out the door. "... I do not wish to leave you again," he confessed, dropping his helm back to Starscream's shoulder. "It would be more efficient if you came with me and we both could collect energy."
"Yes, but Skyfire, you see the threat of the fight I survived, yes?" Starscream entreated. "Let me be certain we shall be safe, my Sky."
"They are offline," Skyfire pointed out, not understanding. "And in stasis. What sort of threat could they be?"
"And if this planet does one of its geoseismic actions?" Starscream asked. "That is a repair drone there. If this ship shook one into it..."
Skyfire stared at him, trying to understand, and then his optics widened in shocked horror. "You surely do not plan to deactivate them? They cannot harm you, look at them. If you woke up the others with your symbol, surely between you all your opponents could be contained long enough for an understanding to be reached."
Starscream shook his head at the naivete his partner still had. "Beloved," he said, certain no one could hear him be sentimental. "Things are not that simple. Now go outside, where you need not be bothered by necessity."
"But they can do you no damage," Skyfire said again, not understanding how even Starscream's ruthlessness can go so far. "Why is this necessary? The repair drone can simply be rendered inert, if you insist on it."
Starscream sighed inwardly; how could he make ... of course. "Skyfire. I allied myself to those who would be useful in recovering you. But Megatron...there...was foolish enough to tap the event horizon of a black hole for his energy. I seek to insure those who would follow him will not ever set that energy free to devour us all. And the others...they are violent rebels against the state of Cybertron!"
A black hole? Skyfire flinched, looking at the silver-grey mech with horrified pity. He must be mad -- if he was not when he had tapped a black hole, the poor mech must be now, warping his processors with that sort of endless drain. "I don't understand," he said softly, grieving -- violent rebels? What had happened? He turned his faceplates in against Starscream's frame, wanting to be close to him, Starscream's presence easing Skyfire's sorrow, too palpable in his tone. "This is... Starscream, this is appalling. You are certain it is necessary?"
"I would not do anything I did not think was needed for us," Starscream crooned. It was the absolute truth; he could not keep Skyfire close if he let them live or escape this place, even if he was unsure how to destroy Megatron. He balked at the idea of even trying. What lay between he and Megatron was complicated by a need to know he was strongest. Enough to get rid of Soundwave and the symbionts for now.
"But they cannot defend themselves -- this is not self-defense, Starscream, it is an execution!"
"Criminals against the state should be," he said.
"You hate the Senate," Skyfire pointed out. "And you dislike the Overlord."
"They are no longer the State," Starscream cooed.
Skyfire's head came straight up, shock vibrating through his struts. "They what?"
Starscream laughed with an edge of delight. "They manipulated things too far, Skyfire. They are the main reason it took me so much time to find my way back here! Because of their bungling, war erupted, and you see the leaders of that war in this ship! Now, by you waking me, we can truly save Cybertron from further ravages!"
"Of course I woke you, most-adored, you -- what do you mean, war?" And how could he laugh saying such a horrible thing?
Starscream sighed softly, affectionately, and patted gently at his lover/partner/mate's frame. "Outside, Sky. I can tell you all of it on our journey home, once I am fully repaired, and you are as well."
"You are certain this is necessary?" It was a plea, grief-filled and desperate -- they could not harm Starscream, could not defend themselves, hurting them was wrong, but Starscream had far more experience with these people and this situation -- war? -- than Skyfire did, Starscream knew what to do, but... but it was wrong. "Please, Starscream -- "
"Skyfire, in a way I am being far more merciful than they would be. I know the atrocities of both sides, the things done to try and gain full power," he told his lover. "Let me spare our world the potential of anymore suffering like that?"
What Starscream was suggesting was wrong. It was wrong to kill something which could not defend itself, wrong to kill something which was not a threat, but... but if Starscream truly thought it necessary... then surely it was, and Skyfire simply lacked the data to understand. "You should not do this alone," he said softly, wanting to offer something, support Starscream through the necessity of such an awful task.
That did not suit Starscream. He frowned, shaking his helm. "No...No, Skyfire," he said in his gentlest tone, one he had no cause to use for so very long. "I want you to begin restoring yourself."
Skyfire hesitated, still hating this, loathing the necessity of such an action, looking around at the stasis-locked mech and back at Starscream, his optics wide and pleading. "You... are truly sure this is necessary, Starscream?"
Starscream locked optics with his longtime partner. "Trust me." He knew just what effect those two words would have on Skyfire, and it was better to use the mallet now, bring Skyfire safely to heel early. He loved Skyfire; it didn't make him blind to how much of a risk he was taking. Still, with the right truths spoken, various ones omitted, he would have Skyfire to guard his back long enough to wrest all of Cybertron from Shockwave.
"Of course I do, love," Skyfire said, and was able to make himself smile, brushing the back of his knuckles over Starscream's cheek. "How could I do anything else?"
"Exactly." Starscream forced energy to his heel jets, hovering up so that he could be face to face, leaning in to savor a kiss of his lips to his lover's. Skyfire relaxed, his lips parting under Starscream's, glossa flicking out to trace his lip gently, easing for Starscream's touch and the faint pressure of his mouth. Starscream felt every pressure with the intensity of every sensor he had, this first kiss all the sweeter for it to be on the brink of his victory forever.
"I love you," Skyfire murmured against his mouth, pressing closer, hand running gently over Starscream's frame.
"Of course you do, Sky. I am me!" Starscream said, with his best smile, and warmest tone, before nodded his head to the door. "Go, and let me finish my task here."
Even amidst this wreckage, Skyfire had to laugh for Starscream's familiar, adored arrogance, then sobered again at the words. "If you are certain... I will go."
"Good." Starscream clung to his position; it was necessary after all.
Skyfire carefully left the damaged ship, stretching back up to his full height once he was outside, glancing back in hesitantly before he set up the small solar collector again -- Starscream was right, he needed more energy than he had available, but... but what Starscream was doing was wrong, but Starscream said it was necessary, and Skyfire trusted him, loved him. Sometimes Starscream was wrong. But right now Starscream had all the data and the experience, and the ship certainly was very damaged, and Starscream didn't lie to Skyfire. He was petty, malicious, sometimes cruel, his ambition a driving force, but Skyfire knew Starscream loved him and knew Starscream's flaws. If Starscream said this was necessary, he meant it.
Inside the ship, Starscream considered all his options, taking note of who was in here. Skyfire was right in essence. And there was a large part of him that wanted to gloat on his victory. Still...Soundwave could not be permitted to survive. He walked directly over to the dangerous intelligence officer, and powered up his blaster for a close range processor shot.
Skyfire winced, listening to that quick sharp blast, turning his face away from the ship. At least it was quick, Starscream was right, he was being merciful -- but it was wrong, and Skyfire's wings clicked against each other, drawn in tight to his body in distress and shame for permitting it. But it was necessary, Starscream said so.
Starscream debated his other choices, then decided against wasting further energies. The symbionts couldn't do much of anything without their master component. Destroying Megatron....was not an option he wished to take right now. If he was going to leave Megatron to be gloated over at some point, it would be wise to keep Prime around, just in case. Still, there was Jazz...and Prowl. It wouldn't do to leave Prime both his best brains, and Jazz was almost as sneaky as a Decepticon. However... Prime was known to be sentimental over Jazz. Prowl, it would be. He moved over and fired again, before turning his attention to salvage of both energon and parts.
At least the solar collector, having still been in subspace, was undamaged, and it beeped quietly to itself as it finished, letting Skyfire drain the collected energy before he let it go back to work, trying not to hear the two shots replaying in his memory banks.
Eventually, Starscream emerged, looking supremely satisfied. The leaders of the armies were stranded on this pitiful, volatile planet, and he was free. He had also ended the life of the one Decepticon that could rein in his ambition, while insuring that, when he came back to gloat, neither leader would have their best thinkers available. All without taking too much time, for Skyfire would have eventually returned inside to protest. This way....they could repair each other and go home.
Starscream's visible satisfaction was a wrench in Skyfire's Spark, and he had to look away from him, hating the necessity of what had been done, hating that Skyfire had been unable to produce cogent reasons why it was not necessary.
"Easy, Skyfire." He brought over the energon slips he had salvaged. "Drink this."
Skyfire took it obediently, sighing with relief and pleasure as the rush of energon hit his system, warnings in his HUD quieting again as his system quietly began replenishing itself further. "Thank you."
"I'll take care of you, Skyfire." He reached out and stroked a wing edge with gentle fingers. That would be something to learn again, and he viciously stomped on that inner voice reminding him of the early days of the war, of how it had felt to have such a savage lover as Megatron. Those memories were long gone anyway. "Let me inspect your frame and wings, Skyfire. Then you can tend the few damages I have."
Skyfire leaned into the touch, turning his head to smile at Starscream affectionately before he obeyed, kneeling to give Starscream better access to his wings. "I know. That is what partners do."
It did not take Starscream long, with what he had salvaged, to mend his partner, or to allow his partner to take good care of himself. This, Starscream mused, would be a perfect triumph. Not only would he finally lead, but he would have his Skyfire at his side once more, the very thing that had been denied to him and sent him into the spiral of ascension into political power.
Skyfire kissed his helm, tucking the last few wires back into place. "Was there anything else you wished handled?"
"I'll tell you everything on the way home, Skyfire," Starscream said, transforming into his sleek jet-form, looking decidedly more dangerous, but still so beautiful. He was ready to go, though he had a few shots left to fire above the ship for a rockfall, a precaution to protect the animal life they could see he would tell Skyfire.
He was much better-armed these days, though the lines of him remained nothing but familiar, and loved. Skyfire had to regret that, even as he returned everything to its proper place and shifted to his own alt-mode, hovering close to Starscream and brushing affection over his field. ::I know. You said you would. I trust you.::
Starscream would take that trust and use it. It would be a delicate dance, to tell the truth to his complete advantage, and keep Skyfire's opinion from interfering, but Starscream could do it. All that was left was the going home, and overthrowing Shockwave. He broke into a dizzying loop, came back for the ship and made sure to bury it well, before aiming for space with his long-lost partner.