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Spectral advisor

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When Skyfire saw Starscream standing at his desk, he thinks he’s had too much Energex. It would not be the first time he’d drank more than he’d intended to, but he had never straight-up hallucinated.

Starscream didn’t acknowledge him, busy as he was trying to flip to the next entry on Skyfire’s personal datapad. His hands were phasing through the controls, and he was scowling at the thing in a manner that suggests he would toss the datapad out of a viewing port if he could touch it.
Skyfire had seen Starscream’s coronation, where he announced himself as the new leader of the Decepticons. It had been broadcasted on any and all Cybertronian frequencies through the galaxy, in glorious detail. In the first few moments after Starscream’s live death, Skyfire had wondered if there was enough of Starscream left to have a funeral for.

Maybe that should have been the first sign that his mental state was taking a nosedive. Or maybe he ws still suffering from all those millions of years frozen in ice, and the effects were only now showing up.

“Starscream? …” He said breathlessly.

Starscream jolted, and it was a good thing he phased through whatever he touched or all of Skyfire’s desktop would have ended up on the floor. For a moment, they simply looked at each other in silence. Skyfire in a pained hope, and Starscream in-… excuberation?

“You can see me?!” Starscream yelled.

He was loud – far louder than Skyfire would have expected him to be as a hallucination. He’d been expecting something more morose and depressing, with crying and guilt tripping, but this Starscream was just as lively as ever, his wings angling through a wide array of emotions as he waved his hand towards Skyfire’s face.
“How many fingers am I holding up?!”

“I- … All of them?” Skyfire reached out to grab Starscream’s hands by habit, as he used to whenever Starscream got a little too physical in a discussion, but his fingers slipped right through.

Starscream did not look bothered. “I knew it! I knew it!” He crowed. “It wouldn’t have made sense otherwise! Yes! This changes everything, oh yes-!”

“Starscream-…” Skyfire reset his optics, watching as Starscream celebrated. “How are you here? Aren’t you…You’re dead?”

Was being the keyword in that sentebce.” Starscream replied. “I didn’t STAY dead, as you can see, and that’s what matters the most. Well, actually, it matters a lot more that you can see, because surviving death when you cannot interact with the world is terrible. I would know!”

Skyfire shook his head incredulously. “I-…How could you come back from death ? You-… There was a breeze and your frame literally fell apart and blew away. ”

“Well, I just woke up like this.” Starscream replied flippantly. “I assumed that my lust for vengeance allowed me to return so I could haunt Galvatron, but it turned out he couldn’t see me. The best I could do was disrupt the signals to his entertainment hub, and that got old very quickly. I then attempted to communicate with the living, with similar underwhelming results. ‘Commlink acting weird …’ You’d think a scientist like Wheeljack would figure something out that someone is trying to communicate from beyond the Allspark!”

Skyfire had nothing much to say. Just as when he’d watched Starscream die, it seemed that his emotions were on break, waiting to swoop right back into the fray as soon as the shock died down.

“And don’t bother going to see any of those ‘mediums’. I visited Dirge, and then a depressingly long list of filthy little organics, and none of them could hear a single word that I said!” Starscream was getting agitated just thinking about it, judging by the way his wings snapped up. “But, all of that is in the past, because now, I know that I am real, and that I can actually do something with all the things I’ve seen and heard in this state!”

“Oh. I could see that being... frustrating.” Skyfire nodded. All senses other than his optics and his audials were reporting that there was, in fact, nobody in front of him.

“You have no idea.” Starscream complained. “I have enough dirty secrets in my brainmodule to topple a government, and that is barely an exaggeration. All I need is someone to help me bring this information into the world, in a fitting manner!”
Starscream’s optics were piercing and red, and they held Skyfire’s gaze long enough that Skyfire could begin to see through him and into the room behind him. Skyfire had many memories that featured that very same look; Starscream’s patented look of persuasion.

“… It’s for a better world too, before you get upset at me for my ambition.”

“… You have to understand that I’m not sure you are real right now.” Skyfire said in a measured tone. “I was buried in ice for a few million years, lived through some war, avoided the doctor, and I think I drank a little too much energon.”

Starscream blinked. “I-? … Do we really have to go through that!? There are things to DO! Urgent things!”

“… If you are the real Starscream, you would agree that it is a bad idea to listen to random hallucinations.” Skyfire replied.

“Fine.” Starscream bit back. “I will give you proof . What is the name of the current Prime?”

What an odd question. The answer was obvious, wasn’t it? “Optimus Prime?”

Starscream smirked. “No. Not anymore. He got someone to succeed him. Want to take a guess who that was?”

“...Ultra Magnus? Magnius Prime?” Skyfire could tell he was wrong the moment he said it, if only because Starscream’s grin grew two ticks wider.

“Wrong!” Starscream crowed. “The new Prime is a young mech hailing from Nyon. A racing frame, raised on a neutral colony. I was a witness to his ceremony, where he became a Prime by the simple act of trying to hand the Matrix to Ultra Magnus. Upon becoming the spiritual leader of our race, his first acts as Prime was to mortally wound himself so he could gain advice from the Matrix.”

“…This has to be something I am hallucinating.” Skyfire said. “He-… the Matrix wouldn’t let a Prime do something like that… Is Optimus really dead-?”

“Go ahead and call Bumblebee. He was there to see it happen.” Starscream continued. “Oh! Maybe ask Arcee or Kup instead, they were both there when ‘Hot Rod’ arose to Primehood.”

“...”

“And I’ll say that his name fit his personality very well. He was apparently a berth-hopper before Primehood.” Starscream smirked. “Verrry kinky, judging by what I found in his private quarters. I could tell you his commlink number and you can embarrass him by asking him about that fake spike he keeps under his berth.”

“Okay – stop, just… Give me a moment.” Skyfire squeezed his optics shut, and stroked the transformation lines on his helm. It felt like his head was shrinking around his brain module. “I’ll call someone on Cybertron.”
Starscream leaned against something invisible, and made a ‘hurry up’ motion with his hands.

Skyfire looked through his commlink contacts, scanning for Bumblebee’s name in between old pre-war contacts. With the distance between himself and Cybertron, it took a few moments for the call to connect, and the first few glyphs spoken were garbled by static.

//Uh, Hello, Skyfire?// Bumblebee said. //I wasn’t expecting you to call, after you left. Without saying anything to anyone, or leaving a message…. What’s up?//

“Hello Bumblebee.” Skyfire said. For a moment, he felt compelled “I’m calling to confirm a rumour; is it true that a new Prime has been chosen?”

//I… Where did you hear that?//

“That news is travelling far faster than the Autobots think it is.” Starscream said, impatiently tapping a foot a few inches above the floor. “The Junkions really enjoy broadcasting whatever gossip they can get their hands on, and Cybertronian gossip is very sought after. Lately even more so, with the Quintessons searching for Cybertron-”

“Starscream – I am in a call!” Skyfire stage whispered, trying to keep his voice low enough so that his commlink wouldn’t pick it up.

// Skyfire? Are you still there? //

“Oh! Yes, sorry Bumblebee. I was-… It was on the news. Just, please tell me who the new Prime is.”

//Okay, that’s good. Are you okay? Nobody has heard from you, and the war is officially over, so you could come back to Cybertron and help to rebuild it.//

Skyfire offlined his optics. “I just want to know who the Prime is, Bumblebee. Before I do anything else. Just to be sure I’ll be of any help, you know?”

//O-kayy? Well, you probably know Ultra Magnus was next in line, but he’s not the Prime. Someone grabbed the Matrix to hand it over, and the Matrix chose him. His name is Rodimus Prime. //

Skyfire’s optic’s met Starscreams. “…. Is that derived from ‘Hot Rod’ ?”

// How did you know that? // Bumblebee asked quickly. //Who told you?!//

“I told you, didn’t I?” Starscream said with a smirk. “Is there anything else you want to confirm, or can we talk business now?”

Skyfire didn’t answer him, still too busy staring at a most-likely-real Starscream apparition. Back from the dead to meddle in politics of all things.
In his spark, he could feel the telltale hiccups that meant his shock was coming to an end. He wasn’t sure what he was feeling just yet, but it wouldn’t be very long.

//He’s- well, I haven’t been around him too much, but he’s very different from Optimus.// Bumblebee continued to chat in Skyfire’s commlink, oblivious to SKyfire’s shifting attention. //I think it could be good. A new Prime for a new time, you know? Jazz seems to like him. You could meet him, if you came to Cybertron to meet him. //

“Yes. I will have to think about that.” Skyfire said. He didn’t take his eyes off Starscream for a moment. “I have things to do, Bumblebee, if you’ll excuse me. Good orn.”

//Um, alright? Good or-//

He closed the commlink connection to Cybertron before Bumblebee finished speaking, and focused his attention on Starscream.

“You. Are real.”

“Yes, I do believe we proved this now.” Starscream replied.

“You came back from the dead, from being vaporised into fragments so small that nobody could even find me a vail full for a proper burial … And the first thing you do when you come back and talk to me, is to try to take part in politics ? Together with me?” Skyfire spoke slowly to let the meaning of his words sink in for the both of them.

“… Yes.” Starscream said, not a trace of shame or guilt in his face.

Skyfire closed his optics. Underneath the joy of seeing his friend again, and the knowledge that a second betrayal would win nothing for Starscream, that first betrayal still burned.
Starscream was not a mechanism of easy apologies. The Starscream that Skyfire had known well and intimately, had preferred to tell himself a story on why his choices were the correct ones instead of stooping to an apology.

“… Will you help me?” Starscream prompted him. “Skyfire?”

There were whispers in the back of Skyfire’s helm that sounded like Autobot voices. In the madhouse that was the future, Starscream’s name had become synonymous with betrayal and scheming.

Skyfire scrutinised how he felt, and let it settle in his frame. Despite the anger, the betrayal, and the grief Skyfire refused to believe that Starscream had become that bad. If that meant he had to get burned a second time, then so be it.

“Yes, Starscream. I’ll help you, as much as I’ve ever helped you.” He replied with sincerity. He would have grabbed a hold of Starscream’s hand, had it been solid, and judging from the way Starscream held his hand outstretched, he would not have minded.

“Yes! Yes! I will make you a great figure of power! We will save Cybertron together-…” Starscream’s smile was radiant and triumphant in answer to Skyfire’s reply, until a sudden realisation washed it down. “… I am suddenly reminded of all the previous times you helped me, and I realise that this might not be as much of a triumph as I was thinking.” His voice was not without humour, though it sounded a little more bitter than it should have. “At least half of our cooperative projects were compromises, if not more.”

Skyfire felt a smile for the first time in cycles. “You used to say that you liked my…what did you call it? ‘Loyalty to myself?’ ”

“Stubbornness.” Starscream replied. “Stubbornness was the word I used, I’m fairly sure.”

“My memory is fresher.” Skyfire quipped back. “And you were not much better, especially not when we first started working together! The amount of times you said ‘yes’ to my faceplate and did ‘no’ behind my back… You have gotten back into that habit, haven’t you?”

Starscream flicked a wing dismissively. “I unlearned it once, I’ll unlearn it again. It will help a great deal to know that your preferred method of payback involves pouting rather than petty violence.”

“…. Well. I am sure we’ll be able to find a middle road in what needs to be done.” Skyfire said. He was not thinking of ruling an empire with a spectral Starscream at his side. Rather, he imagined Starscream, back in a functioning body, together with him.
If he had to play some politics to keep Cybertron functional enough to make that an option, he would help Starscream.

“Well then.” Starscream said. He sat back and flicked his wings to get comfortable. “You best get something to take notes, because there is actually a lot I need to fill you in on before we can get planning.”

Skyfire grabbed a datapad from the floor, and wiped it clean. He doubted that its info would be useful in the short term. “Lay it on me.”

BREAK

It never quite became clear how Skyfire came to infamy. Sure, mecha can tell you why everyone looks over their shoulder for his spies, or why his advice is more sought after than pre-war vintage Energex, but nobody can tell you how he did it.
Mecha that knew him from the war, a handful of Autobots, can only say that he was a withdrawn and quiet mech. More suited for transport and reports than for politics or battle.

He hadn’t been clairvoyant back then, or the Autobots would have won the war before the Quintessons had even begun their invasion plans.
He hadn’t been able to predict the motivations and intentions of the other players on the political playing field, nor had he seemed remotely interested. He hadn’t been able to produce top-secret information as a side-thought, or he’d chosen to keep it all to himself.

After Skyfire had been dug from the ice of Earth to partake in the war, he’d taken a short break. For a few decacycles, Skyfire had withdrawn from any and all Cybertronian ongoings. When he came back, he slowly but surely oozed his way to the upper command. Not as an officer or a recognised civilian rank, but as the mech that always seemed to know when to show up, and what to say to who.

The only little flaw about him, was that he talked to someone when he was alone. He argued with a mech nobody could detect, and had an unhealthy interest in inert dolls or unsparked shells.
Of course, this meant that any theories about Skyfire’s sudden change in interest and capability were accompanied by a plethora of ghost stories. Odd tellings of old lovers, Unicron’s return, sparkeaters, and other horrors.

So, nobody truly knows how Skyfire senses coups, or how he picks his enemies. All they know is that, no matter how much he argues with a non-excisting voice, he always comes out on top.