The planet's orange sun had risen high, heat rippling through the air, and still Starscream had yet to return with sustenance for the brood. Blasted seeker. Megatron wondered what was keeping him. Caught sight of his own reflection in a window and was preening likely.
The midday heat was too much for the hatchlings, their tiny useless protoforms ill-equipped for self-cooling systems, and with little shelter save for a half dead tree (from an occasion where Megatron had leant against it and uprooted the entire cursed thing) Megatron was having to shield the hatchlings with his own great frame.
It shouldn't have been a particular toiling duty -sitting on the ground and basking in the sun, listening to the soft chirps of the hatchlings between his legs and buzz of insects in the undergrowth- but the little parasites hadn't been fed for sometime now, and every so often, when a bird flew overhead or a carnivore roared in the distance and he was distracted, one of the vampiric is little monsters seized the oppotunity to bite him.
At that very moment needle sharp teeth sunk into a fuel-line beneath his calf armour. He snarled and whipped the tarp he'd been using as a shawl away from his legs to look for the culprit. A dozen mischievous faces peered up at him, but not a single one owned up.
With a warning growl that they knew meant the next one to take a chunk out of him would be plucked out from the safety of his embrace and left atop the dead tree for the vultures, he draped the shawl back over his legs, covering the hatchlings once again.
A moment of peace passed, before he felt them start shuffling around again, playing fighting and real fighting, occasionally growing rambunctious enough bump his thigh or scratch his armour. He grunted, looking up at the blue empty sky for the shadow of a jet.
Behind him, he heard a low rumbling growl.
Not far from his makeshift camp wandered large grey mammals. A herd of them, mothers with calfs clinging to their tails. He watched them carefully as they passed, slow and lumbering and deceptively harmless looking. But the males of the species were tusked and agressive and had been foolish enough to charge him in the past. They'd do little harm to him with his thick armour, but his hatchlings would not be so lucky. He had lost some to starvation already, and many more to the heat. He wasn't going to lose another, and certainly not to organic wildlife.
He roared, teeth bared, optics glowing under the hood. The mammals shifted back, huge ears fanning wide in alarm. The matriarch of the herd began to lead them away, wise enough to abandon the territory.
Megatron snorted. Good riddance.
Oblivious to the dangers of the outside world, someone below mouthed at his leg curiously. Megatron whipped the tarp away in a flurry of fabric before he could be bitten for the seventeenth time. The hatchlings froze, a dozen optics stared up at him in shock. One pair looked decidedly guilty.
"You." Megatron rumbled, pointing a digit to the hatchling beside his chewed leg.
A little head shook from side to side. Liar. Megatron immediately began thinking of him as 'Starscream Jr'.
They already had designations, given to them by Starscream himself when the seeker had been feeling particularly attached. Megatron couldn't recall them though, and he didn't require an identification system for the hatchlings anyway. Not when they were all equally disobedient.
"You will be fed when that useless seeker returns." He told Starscream Jr, and the others for good measure.
Another hatchling began to whine miserably, helm throne back and neck open wide, begging for fuel like one of the nesting chicks Megatron had witnessed screaming for it's parents.
"Be quiet." He ordered.
Then another hatchling started squealing indignantly, shaking a tiny fist at him.
"No!" Megatron thrust a digit at her. "Starscream is on his way this very moment with your fuel. You will wait for him with dignity, or I will throw you to the next carnivore that crosses this way."
Eleven dissident faces glared at him, all of them save for the whining hatchling, who was too busy stumbling to his front and clinging to him like a starved limpet. Megatron peered into the open sky again, audials straining for the boom of approaching thrusters.
"Blasted seeker!" He snarled aloud, as his resolve finally collapsing away. He began to rise, a challenge for a mech his size so badly damaged and hindered by the heat. His little monsters began chirping and squealing and running in circles in excitement.
"Stop acting like hooligans or you'll be fuelled nothing." He threatened with bluster, trying to herd them back towards him now that they'd escaped the prison his legs had created.
They scattered, running in opposite directions like a bunch of lunatics. With a lot of cursing and considerably less patience, he scooped them up, one by one, dropping their sharp, clawed frames to his shoulders so they could find themselves a comfortable little hand hold under the shawl.
He caught Starscream Jr by the ankle, and dangled him upside before lowering him to his shoulder. The hatchling instantly bit him.
Megatron cursed and tried to catch him, but the hatchling scurried around his back and found a safe spot between his shoulder blades where long claws couldn't reach. Megatron pulled the shawl tighter around his face with a huff, struggling to count the parasites clinging to his frame when they were still wriggling about and jostling one another for the best spots.
"Starscream reported seeing agricultural machinery west of here." He told the excitedly chirping hatchlings when he finally counted to twelve. "Organic fuel will do you no good, but it'll keep you from eating me at the least."
He was answered with a series of pleased squeals. The whining hatchling on his left shoulder peaked her head out from beneath the shawl to look at him. He nudged her back under, wary of predatory birds swooping down and mistaking her for prey.
"Do not tell Starscream." He ordered them.
He was answered with a chorus of chirps that could have meant anything.
If the seeker knew he'd been feeding the hatchlings junk whilst he'd been off searching for energon, he'd ever hear the end of it.