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(Starscream-Iacon Science Academy)

“The rising rebellion continues.” *skip*

“Newly named the Decepticons.” *skip*

“Iacon security has increased; due to recent threats against territories.” *skip*

“Megatronus must be stopped, no matter the cost!” *skip*

“The rebels are only making the Energon crisis worse!” *skip*

“Rogue rebels have broken into the energy vault and are at large.” *skip*

“If we don’t find new Energon veins soon-”

Starscream turned off the news with annoyance. To his partner, a large, kind shuttle, named Skyfire, he said, “It’s the same old slag! Rebellion this-Megatron that! If only we addressed the Energon crisis in the first place, none of this would be happening!”

Skyfire frowned in a concerned manner, walking over to his friend. Placing his servos on the tense Seeker’s shoulder joint he started to massage them. All of the stress the Seeker was going through only hurt his fragile frame. With so much tension in his frame, it was a miracle Starscream was even able to walk, not to mention fly. As the white shuttle continued to rub his partner’s rigid frame he noticed with worry, just how much worse his friend had gotten.

To try to console Starscream, Skyfire said gently, “I know. Soon it will be solved. We’ll get the grant.”

The tetrajet snorted, “Puh-lease, you know Freezescope only gives grants to his favorites. He hates me!” The hidden words of ‘because I’m a seeker’ floated obviously around the two science students.

Skyfire sighed, what his partner said was the truth. Freezescope, the dean of the Iacon Science Academy, already had a mass prejudice against flyers and war frames. Unfortunately, Starscream was a flight-gifted war frame, or better known in Freezescope’s book as a ‘fragging waste of Energon and enrollment.’

In fact, Skyfire could probably bet that if Starscream didn’t leave out his frame and function off of the enrollment application, he never would have met his best friend.

The shuttle gave a weary smile, “We’ll get it, we have too. I promise.” As a side note, Skyfire added, smirking, “If only because Freezescope wants you out of his faceplates.”

It did the trick, Starscream’s musical laugh filled the dorm. Skyfire smiled happy and relieved now, it was a beautiful sound the white shuttle hadn’t heard in a long time. Ever since they started working towards the grant, 6 Decacycles ago, to be exact.

Starscream’s laughter ended on a soft note. “You’re right,” the Vosnian told his best friend, “We’ll get it.”

Returning to his pre-grant self Starscream asked mock-seriously, returning to his studies, “What did you get for 6 on the Chemistry assignment? It’s the only one I can’t get. I swear it’s impossible!”

This time it was Skyfire who chuckled, as he sat down next to his roommate, “You’re kidding right? Number 10 was way harder!”

The two students found their way into their normal gentle banter and joke during homework routine. The way it was in the old days when there was no energy crisis or talk of an ever going rebellion. Instead, they found comfort and continued through the evening.

 

(Thundercracker-Vosnian Law Academy)

Thundercracker picked up all of his books and was ready to leave class, with the other students, when his professor called him.

“Thundercracker, a word please?” The black and blue instructor asked.

Thundercracker immediately obliged, ignoring the snickers and ‘oohs’ coming from his classmates. Approaching the desk he said, wings flickering down respectfully, “Sir?”

“At ease Thundercracker. You’re not in trouble. I just wanted to talk to you. Take a seat.” Strikeray told his pupil.

The blue Seeker shifted into a more comfortable position. “Of course,” he told his instructor, as he sat down, “What’s going on?”

Strikeray looked intently on the younger Seeker, he ‘hmm’ for a moment, not helping Thundercracker’s worries, before speaking. “Word in the air is that you are looking for a job, any ideas on what you are thinking about?”

Thundercracker’s wings nearly sagged in relief. He didn’t even know he was tensing up, “Oh that! Well, I was thinking something with the Vosnian Enforcers, but being a lawyer sounds pretty interesting too.” The young blue mech spoke honestly.

Strikeray nodded and dipped his own wings in approval. He then asked a question that surprised his pupil, “Have you given any thought to the Royal Guard?”

It was Thundercracker who gave a little spot, “Not really, sir. I mean I’d love to have a job with them, who wouldn’t, but I don’t think they’d ever let me in.”

Thundercracker waited for Strikeray’s response. It was a widely known fact that both the instructor and his trinemates were Royal Guards to the late Winglord Aerostreak, even though most Cybertronians forgot that fact occasionally. Afterall, despite the older black and blue Seeker telling his pupil to be at ease, Thundercracker did not want to upset his mentor.

It was a while before Strikeray spoke again. He considered his words carefully, like always. Addressing Thundercracker he said, “I’d like you to at least apply. As one of the best students in this academy, I think you’d have a pretty good shot.”

Thundercracker nodded in mute shock. He was honored that the old veteran would think that highly of him. Finally finding his voice he said, “O-of course. I’ll get right on it. Thank you, Strikeray.”

The older seeker stood up at that and extended his servo. Thundercracker took it and they shook.

“You may go. Let me know if you need anything.”

“I will. Thank you again!” Thundercracker called, heading out of the classroom and to his dorm. He had a long night of homework and applications to do.

 

(Skywarp(Past)-Vosnian/Tarnian slum line)

A shadow darted out from the alleyway, holding on to her bundle. In the distance, the femme seeker could hear pained shouting behind her, and the scuffling of running pedes.

The seeker knew if she stopped, the enforcers would capture her. Well her and her sparklet. Her black and purple child started to wail, sensing his carrier’s fear. Trying to sooth and silence him she bounced him up and down cooing slightly.

When the sounds of the Enforcers came closer the femme knew there was no running. Quickly she wrote on a scrap piece of metal and hid her sparklet with it.

As the dreaded law mechs finally arrested her for her role in a series of crimes against her master, she was carted off with only one though. ‘Please Primus, let him have a better life.’

In her spark though, she knew her precious child would face many hardships. At least it would be better than being a slave to some sleazy grounder.

 

(Skywarp-Vosnian/Tarnian slum line)

As the small gang ran off, a young black and purple seekerling cackled with delight. “Hah! Take that, slaggers!” He cried out.

The gang leader on the ground commed him angrily ::Skywarp! Knock it off! Do you them to follow us?::

The seekerling subdued a bit, he hated it when his leader was angry at him. He commed back, meekly ::Sorry, sir.::

Breakjaw sighed, it was hard to remember the Seekerling was still a kid and was still learning the way of his gang. Honestly, the grounder should have expected this much, but it was starting to get annoying.

::One more mistake and you are out! Now get your aft down here!:: Breakjaw threatened. He couldn’t risk the others for some seekerling.

Skywarp landed at the rendezvous point, his wings lowered, knowing what was going to happen next. Every failure, or mistake as Breakjaw called it, ended in severe physical punishment. So far he had been punched, flogged, put in fire and acid, thrown off buildings with thrusters disabled, and was shot at. Subconsciously, though it hurt, the black and purple youngling wondered what his punishment was going to be this time.

Today, however, Breakjaw decided to take punishment one step further. Unsheathing his 3 tipped Energon whip, Breakjaw advanced on Skywarp, like a predator on prey.

Pitching forward Breakjaw descended his wrath on the Seekerling. He lashed out at every part of the youngling, especially his aft and precious wings.

“GAH!” Skywarp screamed with each touch of the sparking whip. “Stop! Ahh-help! Please!”

He started to struggle as the blows became even more intense. The precious lifeblood of Cybertronians started to trickle down the Seekerling’s frame. Skywarp’s struggles became so much that Breakjaw ordered him to be restrained. The other gang members obliged not wanting to share the Seekerling’s punishment.

Skywarp froze when other servos came down on his frame. The lashes stopped for a moment. Weakly he wondered if his punishment was over. But of course, it wasn’t. Breakjaw would never let his fun end so quickly.

Indeed, during this time Breakjaw switched out his whip for his more preferred weapon. A sinister device that Skywarp met quite often, but never could rid himself of the pain. In the grounder’s servo was a spiked iron staff. Behind Breakjaw’s back, everyone called it a very ugly spiked club. Obviously, though they wouldn’t share that knowledge with Breakjaw, who viewed it as the perfect tool.

Swinging hard, Breakjaw brought the weapon onto Skywarp’s exposed back. The Seekerling’s screams filled the airspace once more. They were so ragged and pained that more than one member of the gang winced.

It was breems before the punishment stopped. Through it, all Breakjaw continued to switch weapons so the kid never got too comfortable. Only two things came out of it. An injured Seekerling and the confirmation that no one in Breakjaw’s gang would dare disobey orders again.

Hiccuping as he stood up, tears streamed down Skywarp’s face. Without a glance in his direction, Breakjaw strode menacingly inside the gang’s headquarters. The other members slowly trickled inside after him, a few dragging their youngest member in.

In the base, stood a short, pale Praxian femme named Ember. The poor femme had the unfortunate luck to be the bondmate of Breakjaw. Every now and then she would tell Skywarp, how Breakjaw used to be a different mech, a kinder mech. It was hard for the youngling to believe her because ever since they found him and took him in Breakjaw was never like his rumored former self. The Energon Crisis, she said, took a large toll out of everyone, except the wealthy.

Ember frowned as she watched her husband stride in angrily. “What happened?” She asked softly, drying her servos on a tattered, worn dishrag. Unlike the wealthy citizens of Iacon or Praxus or Vos, who had drones to do such menial work, Ember was forced to do it herself. Day in and day out. A very hard task considering the mess the base always seemed to be in.

Breakjaw only grunted, “Ask your son.” With that, he marched into their shared room and slammed the door.

Ember turned around as she saw Skywarp being dragged in. Frame dented and covered with Energon, he was not a pleasant sight. The Praxian femme covered her mouth in shock, “Primus! What happened?” She cried running over to her adopted son.

Skywarp smiled faintly, “Heh, hey carrier.” Before losing consciousness.

Ember whirled around to Sidepunch, the only other Praxian member of the gang. “Set him over there.” She pointed at the pile of boxes they used for a medical berth, “What happened?”

Sidepunch did as he was told, with only a slight roll of his optics Like all members of the gang he genuinely liked the femme, respected her even, and would never disobey her unless ordered otherwise by Breakjaw. “The kiddo triggered the alarm. Almost got us caught. ‘Jaw didn’t take kindly to that.”

Ember sagged, of course, that would be what happened. “Alright. Fetch me that rag will you? Let’s get him cleaned up.”

Sidepunch obliged. He didn’t really like the young seekerling, but he knew it was wrong of Breakjaw to treat him like that. The kid went through a lot of hardship after being abandoned, he deserved a little more love. Then again, without Ember’s insistence, Skywarp wouldn’t even have this much. He started to wonder if it was better off like that.

 

(Starscream-Iacon Science Academy)

The two students worked until night. It may have been nearing the end of the semester, but that was no time for slacking. Afterall, if they wanted a better chance at their grant they needed to be at the top of their classes to be able to go. Packing up their books and assignments for the next day Starscream asked, “What do you think of that gladiator?”

Skyfire frowned thinking for a moment. It seemed that besides the crisis, the news was solely focused on a potential rebellion between the lower class, specifically the war frames. It was launched by who was it again? Magnatron? Mega-bot? Gladius? Skyfire gave up. “The Tarnian gladiator?”

The Seeker nodded, “Yeah, his designation is Megatronus.”

‘Oh that’s it!’ Skyfire exclaimed in his helm. Externally he shrugged, “I guess he’s fine. Peace would be nice. Not really sure if I agree with his methods, however.”

The white Seeker’s wings dipped a little, “Yeah…”

Skyfire noticed the wings and tone of his friends voice immediately. “You’re not thinking of…” ‘joining them’ was the part the shuttle trailed off at. He couldn’t imagine his kind and caring partner siding with those ruffians.

The tetrajet perked up, and cried out hastily “What? No! Of course not!” He paused for a moment, shyly he added, “Well, maybe. I’ll have to if the Winglord decrees it, which is probably likely. I agree with many of his ideas anyway, it’s about time someone’s tried to give us war frames equal rights.”

Though they were not intended to, the red and white Vosnian’s words stung briefly. Of course, it’s about that, Skyfire thought. In a way, he understood what his friend was saying, but it still shocked him. As a war frame, Starscream, Megatronus, and so many others were oppressed to the corrupt caste system, a reason for the current riots. Such rights that Skyfire grew up knowing that they were his, were an impossible dream for many at the lowest tier. Some such as Starscream were able to overcome that, but many still were left to die in the gutter. It was honestly no wonder that Starscream took a liking to the gladiator’s call for reform.

Skyfire sighed, “You’re right, Star. I’m sorry.”

The seeker shrugged coming back over to his partner, “It’s fine, I’ve got a long time to worry about it before I do something.”

Skyfire knew that wasn’t really the case, but didn’t press it. He glanced at his chronometer to check the time. “It’s late, we should probably be recharging.”

Meanwhile, Starscream had plopped himself down on the couch and pulled out a regular reading pad. He waved off in acknowledgment, “You go ahead. I’m going to finish this chapter if it offlines me. I’ll be there in a bit.”

Skyfire registered the words and nodded, “Alright, I’ll keep the lights on for you. Don’t stay up too late, we have that Engineering presentation tomorrow.”

Starscream snorted, “Only for you, carrier.”

The white shuttle chuckled at the sentence, as he proceeded to enter their shared berthroom. Everything was going to be alright for them.

 

(Thundercracker-Vosnian Law Academy)

In another dormitory across from Iacon, sat another seeker on the couch. The normally bright illumination was lowered to a dim glow so it didn’t disturb any of the other students trying to sleep.

Laptop in lap, the blue Seeker started to fill out his application for the Royal Guard. He already had sent a similar one to the local law firms and enforcer stations.

Most of the questions were easy enough. Designation, age, frame, city, and all the other normal questions. The second section is where it differed from the normal processes. It gave an aptitude questionnaire to figure out what position, if any, would be the best fit for a candidate. It wasn’t really hard perse but it definitely gave Thundercracker a better view of himself.

The tall blue Seeker worked on the application for a little longer. The Vosnian Royal Guard was a special elite group that served directly under the Winglord. They rarely accepted new members but if a former Guard told you might be good enough, that mecha was near guaranteed to get some spot in the unit.

By the end of the process, Thundercracker was full of dreams of what he might become. A Tactical Officer? A primary guard? Training specialist? Perhaps something with the court. Oh, the opportunities were endless if one could get in!

The mech stopped dreaming at that thought. He’d have to get in first, and with Strikeray’s approval or disapproval, he would still have to go through the same rigorous processes as everyone else. Unlike most jobs that had an application and an interview, flyers applying for this position were subjected to physical and mental training, background checks, surprise inspections, knowledge checks, instructor reports, on top of the normal application stages.

But Strikeray had faith in him, so Thundercracker did too. One way or another he’d be able to do this new, previously unexplored dream.

 

(Skywarp-Vosian/Tarnian slum line)

Joors after he was healed by Ember, Skywarp was up and about. Just in time, he had evening Energon with the rest of the gang, while staying as unnoticeable as possible from Breakjaw.

It was during dinner that Skywarp thought of today’s events and that of other times. As he slowly sipped his energon, the seekerling came to a conclusion. He decided that once the rest of the gang was in recharge, he would leave, and they would never see his faceplates again.

In the back of his mind, the black and purple youngling though of how that would affect Ember. He loved his adopted carrier, the only person in the world that actually cared about him, and the only one who would care if he left.

Well...that wasn’t entirely true. Breakjaw would care too, only because he wouldn’t have a good distractor for his crimes anymore. In fact, that was probably the reason Breakjaw kept the youngling around for as long as he did. He just needed someone ‘cute’ and ‘innocent’ to distract the Vosnian guards, while the gang committed a crime. That and the kid knew where all of the stolen stuff was, and he could easily report it to authorities.

By now the gang, besides the black and purple Seekerling had fallen into recharge. Now was his chance, Skywarp thought as he crept across the floor, as quietly as possible. He gathered up a few small energon rations and a few credits. Knowing that the world was tough and cruel, Skywarp also grabbed a few small weapons for the road.

As he reached the door to the outside world, and his freedom, the Seekerling decided to do one more thing. He grabbed a data pad and scrawled what he hoped said ‘thank you’ to Ember. Afterall, growing up in the slums never allowed for a good education. They had to fend for themselves with such luxuries. As such many mechas didn’t end up even attempting with it, which is why Skywarp knew the short note would at least show gratitude for his caretaker.

He placed the data pad on the table, where it would be easily seen. Then the Seekerling made his way out into the shadows. Alone in the night once more.

(The Next Morning)

Skywarp had a habit of finding trouble, Breakjaw always said. Indeed, barely less than a few cycles into the kid’s solo-life, he found himself running from an enforcer patrol.

After traveling to one of Vos’s wealthier districts, Skywarp found himself angry about how some mecha could be so snotty and rude while having so much, while he struggled with pretty much nothing. Originally, Skywarp probably would have left the rich youngling alone if not for one comment.

“What was Primus thinking when he made a disgusting creature like it?” The brat asked an older Seeker, undoubtedly his creator. The older mech either didn’t hear or care as he walked away from his creation and started up a conversation with another opulent mech.

Skywarp wings rose. He snarled, baring his denta at the other Seekerling. The verbal abuse had lasted for a few breems now, and with the silver youngling’s creator distracted it was time to act.

Using his thrusters, he had more control than others of his age because of his constant escapes from the law, Skywarp lunged at the kid. Taking out a blade, he noticed with amusement it was the first time the blade was being used on someone other than him, he held it over the other’s exposed neck cables. “Not a sound.”

The spoiled, silver Seeker youngling looked fearful and had tears already forming in his optics. Even though he wanted to scream, he only nodded mutely, optics staring at the blade.

“Why’d ya say that? Not everybot’s as lucky as ya, slagging scraphead. Maybe ya will think ‘fore you speak next time” He paused considering, “If I don’t just cut out your voice box .” Skywarp said threateningly, starting to press down with the knife. He loomed over the other youngling, who cringed back.

Almost instantly Skywarp released the applied pressure. He gave a sickly sweet grin, having mastered the art of it at an early age, “‘Course, I don’t gotta wreck ya fragile voice box. That is if ya give me what I want.”

Skywarp’s victim gasped for air. “O-Of course! I-I-I’ll do anything! Please spare me!”

The black and purple bot grunted, “Weakling. Give me your money.”

The rich youngling fumbled in his subspace, finally pulling out a bag full of credits. “H-here! Take it! Don’t kill me!”

The nano-click Skywarp grabbed the bag of credits, the bot’s creator turned around and saw the situation. “Guards! Stop that Seekerling!” He bellowed the soldiers nearby obeying his command immediately.

Then Skywarp ran. Sure he could use his thrusters but they were still weak and took up too much energy. He’d be exhausted and caught in breems if he used them. So he continued running.

All seemed to be going well until he hit a dead end in one of the alleys. Seeker Enforcers flew overhead, barricading the open end trapped the Seekerling in.

Turning around with his servos in the position of surrender. Skywarp flashed a nervous grin. He tried to channel his inner charm and innocence, “Now, now guys, I’m sure this is all a BIG misunderstanding.”

It seemed the guards did not have the same level of sureness, as they shot the black mechling with a tranquilizer. Skywarp’s last sight before the world faded to black was the sight of the Enforcers closing in.