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Tantamount

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Tantamount.

 

“I’d like to state for the record that this is a terrible idea and I do not support you in the least.”

“As always Starscream, your scientific input is truly invaluable.” When Skyfire grins up at him Starscream has no choice but to flutter optics in annoyance, moving to gain a better view of his partner as the large jet balances precariously midair above the canyon. Below, of course, is one of the largest organic wells of raw energon Starscream has ever seen in his lifetime. So Skyfire just had to dive right in the highly unstable fount.

“Watch your jets, you’re getting too close!” He snaps, making a wide circle while keeping an eye on the flowing stream. Any factors could disturb the fragile system - namely Skyfire dropping too low and his booster pack igniting the pool! Starscream can fly fast, but he doesn’t want to know if he can outmaneuver an exploding planet!

“Almost complete.” Skyfire’s voice is too casual for Starscream’s liking, focused solely on driving the thin metal rods into naturally occurring crevices. There were seven in all, Skyfire was taking his sweet time with the last two.

“Well hurry up!” Starscream dared to move in closer, scanning Skyfire’s vitals for any signs of corrosion being so near the open energy source. “Because I’m not coming after if you trip and fall in!” Skyfire’s return chuckle is highly upsetting.

“You’re so caring.” He answers as Starscream skirts closer to the site and can feel the sting of radiation across his frame. Chooses to click on the protective shielding which makes space travel possible and has no choice but to wait. They should have found a less active stream, but no. Skyfire wanted as close to the fount breach as possible.

“There.” Skyfire removes himself from the canyon mouth with careful acceleration, engines dampened to minimal output. Starscream can't relax until he clears the threshold and lands off at a safe distance. Optics wide and pulsing from the prolonged exposure to the raw fumes. “That went well.”

Starscream smacked him in the hip as he landed, unable to reach higher.

“Next time you pull a stunt like that I’m leaving you to die.” Threatens with wings going rigid behind him. Skyfire dishonors him by not immediately begging for forgiveness.

“I have only seen naturally forming energon on planets closer to Cybertron.” Skyfire is flickering his datapad into existence, processing the new information as he seems unaware of Starscream's growing ire. “There is so much to focus on here. The conditions, the implication of a planet being manipulated by Cybertron’s radiation. Starscream,” He turns to his partner, bright eyed and eager. “We could be well on our way to preventing an energon crisis! Imagine! Cybertronian colonies and---”

Starscream was already walking away,

“Star,” Skyfire catches up in two strides, lining himself to his partner’s right as his great height struggles to bow low enough to comfortably meet the seeker’s frown. “What is it?”

“I don't care about colonies.” Starscream pushes the other back with an elbow and despite his size, Skyfire permits the small action to nudge him back. “I care about you! We're in the middle of uncharted territory! There is no medical station for light-years and you go diving into a virtual acid bath?!” Starscream flails his servos as if struggling against an unseen force. Skyfire has grown quite used to the other’s frustrated ticks. Unable to find relief he swallows his anger before he loses it and screams.

“We have a responsibility to our studies.” Tries to calm Starscream down with an easy tone. Cautious knowing how quickly that could backfire. “Should I ignore progress for fear?” He manages one step closer to the fuming seeker, wondering how things turned so volatile so quickly? He thought Starscream was doing better. “Even you take chances and our professors anger for results with your experiments. It's the nature of discovery.”

“But I dont risk my life! You're always doing this!” Accuses, and doesn't allow Skyfire closer. “One of these days you're going to be hurt and I won't be able to save you! Just--urgh!”

“Starscream,” He speaks up, a touch offended, yet quickly modulates his volume knowing how sensitive his partner was to criticism or the like.

Skyfire makes a show of settling down. Large body taking up a great deal of space as he sits on the terra sprinkled in dark organic growth. Starscream watches him in suspicion but rolls his helm upon realizing what the other was doing and allowed himself to be charmed. Skyfire extends a pale servo in hopes the seeker would accept.

“I go where you go.” His confidence steady in the face of Starscream's frown. “So you're right, I'll try to be more mindful, but there will be dangers we cannot avoid -- but never think I would ever put myself into a scenario which could take me from you.

Starscream suffers the gentle speech by stepping between Skyfire’s legs and smothering his pale shaded face with his servos. The shuttle erupts in low chuckles, bringing his hands to rest light on the seeker's jutting hips.

“You're Impossible.” Starscream laments and pinches the bridge of Skyfire’s nose as punishment. Sitting down he can actually meet the others gaze without craning his neck. Able to see his reflection in bright blue optics that never fail to reflect the world around them with such joy. “Let's head back to camp, see if your daredevil antics yield any results.”

“It was hardly a---" Starscream pins him with a glare and Skyfire adjusts his complaint with the quirk of a smile. Leaning in to kiss the seeker's dark cheek - and finding Starscream tilting his chin to catch his mouth instead. The briefest moment shared before he withdrew, as if shy from an imagined crowd who might see. “Of course Starscream.” And surrendered without complaint.

Base camp is a humble set up at a natural cliff overlooking the wide valley housing the energon breach. Skyfire’s expansive subspace engine (experimental and unsanctioned by the Academy) provided the necessary amenities for a portable lab. An opaque, honeycomb hemisphere served as their “home" for their travels. Scarcely able to accommodate Skyfire's height, but enough that they could camp on command and be spared any dangers of the immediate elements.

Skyfire had quickly busied himself with mapping the extensive network of the energon stream, implanted sonar rods emitting a strong enough signal to pierce the planets layers - while Starscream pretended to study soil samples. Claiming he was searching for unnatural alloys or basically anything that didn't belong, trying to link the planet to Cybertron.

It lasts three minutes.

“I think I deserve an apology.”

Skyfire forgot to look up at his partner, staring at the hologram slowly mapping the many veins through the planet’s layers. He makes a vague sound of acknowledgement and jots down his notes.

“I said...I want an apology.” Starscream repeats, more stern in his voice than before. Skyfire adjusts the scope of the hologram, zeroing in on a particularly fascinating divergence from pattern. “Are you even listening to me?” Possibly a dense cave system? They'd have to delve further to know for sure.

“Amazing…” Skyfire mutters to himself and forgets entirely about Starscream until the sound of a panel’s intimateclick pierced through even his dense science haze.

“Guess I'll have to do it myself.” Starscream hummed in the corner of their shelter and Skyfire almost knocked his helm on the shield ceiling standing too quickly.

“Wait! I'm present. I'm listening!” Skyfire spun and met Starscream’s gaze across the “room" to find the seeker’s hand already working between his own legs. One thruster heel propped like a show as he laid across the half sized berth Skyfire could never truly fit in comfortably.

His vents ran hard at the sight just as Starscream crooked a freed digit at him.

“Put the mapping on manual and get over here.”

This time Skyfire indeed knocked his head against the low ceiling doing just that.

---

Starscream lurches upright as the smallest tremor of the terra beneath them sets off alarms - optics dimming to narrow as he pauses in his motions.

“Did you feel that?” Asks, catching his breath in the moment to cycle through his heated frame. “Like the planet moved…” Beneath him Skyfire whined at the lack of movement, pale servos desperate where they clung to Starscream’s spread legs.

“I did. Please do not stop.”

“Skyfire I'm good but I'm not that good.”

The planet shudders again, this time with greater force that their equipment rattles and Skyfire onlines his sights to join Starscream in confusion.

“Seismic activity?”

“We should have gotten some warning from the--" Another low shudder and Starscream extracts himself with a low sound. The shuttle quick to aid his partner as they moved quickly out of the hemicircle shelter to search the expanse of the world below. It was dark as night had fallen during their “research” and quiet save for the startling shock of violet and blue dissecting the black horizon from a distance . “I can't get a reading, do you think it's from the fount?”

“One way to know for certain.” They transform in a singular motion, diving from the overlook in perfect unison. Starscream circles the shuttle once before pulling into an even speed just north of Skyfire’s position as they make for a careful approach towards the brilliant lights playing terrible illusions across the black sky. Beneath, the valley of dry soil and sparse foliage appeared swollen in the dark. With each strange tremor the ground seemed ready to split.

“Skyfire, there!” Looking ahead was the canyon exposing the energon stream: spewing violet fumes and filling the area with acidic gas. “A reaction?” The ravine was hissing and sputtering raw liquid energon across the earth, sizzling as it oozed forth and began eating away at the natural life. Two worlds which should not have combined. Skyfire was quick to steer wide around the formation as Starscream mirrored above, both baffled for a source of the change.

“Do you think it was our interference?”

“Your jets were close to the pool but that was at least an hour ago…” They switch to internal communications as the rumbling of earth and a snarling “river" of caustic energy dominate the space. [A reaction like that could mean---] Starscream wasn't prepared for the sudden crash of Skyfire’s bulky form into his side. He lets out a harsh shriek but doesn't fight the sudden clamp of servos over wings, spiraling as they just barely clear a scorching geyser of violet.

[SLAG!]

[Hold on!] The crevice splits with a sickening crunch of dirt and rock. The energon pool flaring to life beneath them as Skyfire, less dexterous, spins their entangled forms to dodge another jetting column of energy. Their wings sting with the proximity to the open source, Starscream shifting to transform in Skyfire’s grasp as another two geysers tear through the ground and force them apart.

[Go high!] Starscream already with screaming thrusters tearing through the onslaught of gushing towers. Forcing him to maneuver and weave faster than his computer can keep up. [Skyfire!] Across the distance of violent flares he spots Skyfire doing his best to climb out of reach. Heavy body not built for speed but his frame suffering less than Starscream in the tight fit between acidic liquid.

Starscream forgoes common sense and bolts through the chaos.

Narrowly avoiding deafening eruptions, the tips of his wings sizzling as the spray catches him around every successful dodge. Hissing in pain, but it doesn't slow him down. Reaching out for Skyfire as the shuttle found himself caught between two rising streams of energon.

It's enough to aid Skyfire’s ascent as they feel the harsh steam against their pedes bodies clearing the worst of it. Rishing high above the dark earth, watching it fracture in pale light like burst fuel lines and flood the surface with a terrible roar.

While Starscream doesn't loosen his hold on Skyfire, the other does readjust. Moves a broad, pale arm to wrap protective just beneath Starscream’s cockpit as they watch. enraptured at the spectacle below. The energon snaking through crust as it remodels the valley.

It takes some time for the geysers to calm, and even longer before Starscream allows their descent. Both wanting to investigate but still sensitive from earlier dangers. Even Skyfire, more lax in such scenarios, keeps Starscream close. Ready to curl around him should the worst occur.

In the end, the streams lessen, sinking back down to their original state below the crust and leaving gashes behind. Upturned slabs of rock and dirt as the valley is poisoned by the steam slowly retreating to a low gap beneath their careful steps.

“Look at that.” Skyfire motions where the worst geyser tore through. Heaving mountains of earth and across the valley and a large rock formation had been displaced in the chaos. Ripped from its grave deep beneath the crust - now a monolith at least four stories tall and splitting the dark night in half as Starscream reflexively pinches Skyfire’s wing.

“That was too much activity for one mere well.” Starscream notes while a smile blooms over his partner's face. Entirely unfitting their near-death experience “What?”

Skyfire almost wiggles in place.

“We are absolutely getting that additional funding.” He declares with bright pride as Starscream groans and allows the shuttle to kiss his brow before needing to wrangle the other from disturbing freshly calmed streams.

They spend one more orbit on the planet before needing to return to their journey. The sooner the better as Starscream had blackened wings and complained that the atmosphere reeked. He was ready to go home but they still had a full system to explore and with this new find, certain planets were more appealing.

They stop by the monolith before heading out at Skyfire’s behest. Wanting a souvenir and mostly ignored Starscream’s lecture as they landed. The shuttle approaching the large stone like a proud tower with a tool in hand. Starscream almost screeching when the flicker of a laser scalpel crossed the rock’s surface. But Skyfire was quick, pulling away before Starscream could stop him.

“There.” Pleased with his work as Starscream’s claws dig into his hip, trying to tug him away.

“You're just begging for me to leave you!” The seeker snaps, glaring past Skyfire’s form to observe...and almost laughing. “What is that supposed to be?!” Skyfire’s smile fades a touch.

“It's Vosian glyphs.” He insists as his partner has to cover his mouth with keep from snorting. “For found and conquered....” A touch doubtful. “Isn't it?”

Starscream kisses Skyfire's servo, tugging the scalpel and sealing it away to subspace. Best not to allow his partner to try and fix his work. “Sure.” He twitches with a smile, pressing digits over the engraved symbols. Admiring the work only makes the shuttle’s smile return and that's enough for Starscream. He can suffer without Cybertron if Skyfire stays with him.

Starscream snorts. “At least...almost. Ok. Not at all. When we get home we're rebooting your lessons. Something clearly corrupted.” And laughs finally at the shuttle’s embarrassment, stroking the glyphs one last time.

He knows now that Skyfire will never make it home.

“Starscream!”

Heavy arms grip around his frame and he's thrown down, crashing painful and sudden to the earth. The sound of gunfire and distant missiles seeking their targets erupting all around. The planets surface aflame with war and chaos.

“Get off me!” He claws at the chest holding him down, leaving sparking streaks down Megatron’s armor.

“Would you rather have been shot?!” Whether Megatron is screaming because the world around them is dying or because he's angry Starscream doesn't much care. Just glad when the heavy weight is lifted off him. Able to circulate vents freely until a black servo yanks him to his pedes, dragging him back to cover behind the large rock.

“I was merely...calculating my next move!” Lies and can still see the shape of glyphs, worn from years which should have washed them away but the smallest shape remains. Barely visible, nothing more than scratches in stone to any creature but Starscream.

“Stop calculating and fight!” The space beside them explodes with heat and dirt as above an Autobot vessel tries to herd them out of cover. Megatron shifts to the right, his body large enough to shield the seeker. “We need to bring down those ships.” He growls and it manages to bypass the volume of war and rumble through Starscream’s core.

Starscream overlays memories, tracking the original site of the energon stream to the multiple cracks in the surface. Filled in by time but still visible.

“I have an idea.” Smirks as he looks up to his leader and Megatron’s noble face immediately twisted in concern. “How fast can you run?”

It's easier for the Decepticon troops to scramble when ordered than for the Autobots. Caught in the sudden belief of victory as Decepticons “retreat" they linger too long in the valley before Starscream directs Megatron’s fusion cannon. One high power discharge and Starscream is reliving memories. Watching Autobot crafts try and fail to dodge the sudden eruption of destructive geysers of caustic energy left dormant until Starscream returned.

Megatron leans from Astrotrain’s open bay doors, his cannon smoking from the heavy blast, and finds Starscream in the mess. The sounds of crashing ships and Decepticon cheers no louder than Starscream’s memory of that day. His leader merely nods and turns to focus on commanding his troops now safe from the Autobot advance.

Orders are given and the Autobots are chased back to their remaining carriers or dealt with. The Decepticons victorious and Shockwave seems ecstatic with the planet's yielded resources. Starscream offers no scientific opinion on the planet and permits Soundwave to take command of all mining efforts as he seeks rest elsewhere, trying to remove himself from the war table as their next action is decided.

“Starscream.” Megatron stops him, a few optics glance up from their frenzied plans and sorting priorities. The seeker pauses only to grant the warlord a sneer. “Good work.” He commends and Starscream nods but Megatron is already looking away. Discussing with Scrapper construction times and necessary equipment.

Starscream makes his exit without pause.

---

“You left rather early...I usually have to throw you out of meetings. ” Megatron enters his own quarters, clearly un-surprised to find Starscream there. Settled on the berth, digging through his datapads strewn in a chaotic pattern across the surface. Starscream doesn't bother looking up, busy on the screen. They have grown used to invading one another's rooms. Small victories of territories gained. Slowly establishing themselves in each other's proximity over the past millions of years. "Did you not wish to command the collection efforts."

“What use would I be?” Scoffs indignantly. “You expect me to dig through dirt and soil? In this paint job? Never.” He expects Megatron’s touch down his wing, but it's exceptionally light as it trails across the red streak towards his back. Against his helm he feels the rumble of a sign and Megatron rolls onto the berth, heedless of the scattered tablets and datapads. Kicking them into similarly disorganized piles as they were before, but Starscream frowns nonetheless. “Rude.”

“My bed.” Megatron retorts and with a hefty groan falls back, arm quick to wrap Starscream’s waist without pulling him down as well. Truly exhausted from the battle, Starscream almost feels sympathy … but still he balances a datapad on his lord’s face as he continues his work. Megatron allows it for less than a klik before shaking it off, a loose frown to Starscream’s delighted smile.

“What happened today?” Megatron asks, optics dark as his focus trails up Starscream’s frame with a certain appeal, but not distraction.

“I won you a planet rich with resources, you’re welcome.” He answers and shifts to test Megatron’s “loose” hold around his frame. He thinks he could break it…

“I saw your face, Starscream.” There’s no obvious concern in his statement but Megatron has a far keener eye than Starscream ever gives him credit for and it ruins him often. He had to wonder how long he stood, staring at old sketches in stone, before finally coming to. It didn’t take much for Megatron to grow suspicious of him, even laid in the warlord’s berth he remained vigilant. Good thing Starscream had already forwent any plans to kill the other in his sleep - he’d never get away with it. Besides, Megatron managed to keep him too tired to plot when they shared a berth.

Megatron’s fusion cannon had sparked the same chain reaction at a much grander scale and had left the valley to collapse on itself leaving no traces of the monolith or Skyfire’s etchings. Starscream found he didn’t much care, probably for the best. Ghosts were unwanted in the corner of his mind and he chases them out with the weight of Megatron’s arm still belted over his lap. Warm. Familiar. Alive.

“It’s nothing. A momentary glitch.” Lies with ease and Megatron’s digits brush almost kindly down his side. The same hands which bring planets to their knees somehow able to tempt Starscream into something like complacency. He doesn’t need to move quickly to pull himself up and across Megatron’s hips. Legs parted obscenely wide as Starscream’s elbow rests just south of the Decepticon insignia. Pleased watching Megatron’s expression shift from quiet thought to a brief startle. “Aren’t you more interested rewarding me for my exemplary performance in the battle today?”

Megatron rolls his optics, but his servos are still pawing down the seeker’s pale legs. The frame beneath warm to the touch as Starscream curls his smile against the warlord’s chin. Shivering freely when black servos trace wild shapes across the surface where Skyfire used to draw star charts.

“Perhaps I should abstain from spoiling you. Maybe a bit of restraint on my end will have you more focused in battle.” He grumbles but Starscream feels him grin against his cheek when the seeker shifts. Wanting to feel Megatron’s system pulse against his frame as the warlord tempts his throat with a careful bite.

“For the record,” He purrs, thoughts quickly washed of ancient monoliths and maps cut from the sky. “I think that’s a terrible idea and I don’t support it in the least.”

“As always Starscream, your tactical input is invaluable to me."