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The Kidnapping

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 Radishes

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The Kidnapping

 

Chapter Two: Vos

 

He crashed into the sand beneath them, rolling a few times, then stopping. It hurt, the crash had barely dented his armour, but his right wing edge had not been so fortunate. And Starscream didn’t even want to look down and check his paintjob. Sand and paint nanites never went well together.

“Ready to give up?” teased a voice.

He spit out a bit of the sand. “Never.” He looked up and glared at Thundercracker, then disengaged his wingblade. “Let me show you your place, trine brother of mine.”

Thundercracker smirked, copying the move. It was smooth and fast, speaking of vorns of hard training and excellent teaching. His blade gleamed dull in the sun, despite the excellent upkeep Thundercracker bestowed upon it. It was the only outward sign that this was not a forged weapon, but one grown with the help of their heritage and the very first upgrade any seekerlet received.

“Give your best, Screamer,” said Thundercracker, deliberately using the nickname his brother hated, as he got into position. It was the slightly ridiculous looking stance of Form Three – the defensive form. It was the one that emphasized most that a wingblade was the last line of defence for any Seeker and a Master was able to protect himself and any charges for joors against a multitude of enemies. “Maybe you can land a hit on me.”

“Maybe I will slice you apart,” answered Starscream confidently, his own stance less rigid and more outward. He had always preferred to act instead of reacting and Form Five – the war form – was ideal for him. It took more energy, but if it hit, the enemy rarely stood up again.

He attacked, his deadly slices clashing with Thundercracker’s unmoving defence. With seemingly barely any effort his trine brother blocked, thwarted and shoved aside everything Starscream could throw at him. But Starscream only smiled and heightened the speed. A single mistake on Thundercracker’s side and it would be over. And Starscream was fast, very fast. Slowly, but surely he kept accelerating, showing off his greatest strength.

For a single moment, Thundercracker nearly faltered, Starscream struck – and was blocked yet again, if barely. In the background he could hear the crowd screaming with excitement.

Again a mistake, again Starscream ducked beneath the defence and aimed at his brother’s spark. Thundercracker let himself fall down and back, rolling on the sand, until he was again standing.

“Good strike,” Thundercracker commented.

“Good defence,” answered Starscream, wasting no more time to attack again.

He couldn’t let Thundercracker recover; if he did, his trine brother would exhaust him and win in the end. Again the wingblades clashed and Thundercracker’s optics blazed with concentration as he used every advantage the economic movements of Form Three provided him with.

Starscream felt himself waning. He was slightly smaller built than Thundercracker. Not much, but in these duels one didn’t need much to lose. What his inherent speed gave, Thundercracker met with endurance.

Another clash, sparks flew through the air, and suddenly Thundercracker ducked, hitting Starscream’s leg with his own. Starscream, off balance, let himself fall and roll, barely escaping a strike that would have ended the duel. Using the same movements as Thundercracker before, he tried to stand – and froze.

A wingblade hovered next to the main cable line of his throat.

On the other end of it, Thundercracker gave him a smile. “I win.”

Starscream snarled wordlessly, but there was nothing more to be said. In a real fight, he would be dead right now. He raised his hands and let his blade fall into the sand. The crowd around them went wild, the sheer noise ringing in Starscream’s audios.

Thundercracker turned away and towards the crowd. Starscream picked his own blade up again, after all a true Seeker never was defenceless out of his own free will, and stepped up next to his trine brother. Together they raised their hands, holding the blades and crossed them – the traditional greeting after such a duel. If it had been a duel between enemies, maybe even to the death, only the victor would stand with his blade risen. But they were trine brothers, One in everything that counted.

“In the Winglord’s name, Vos Rise!” Thundercracker and he declared and the crowd answered enthusiastically “Vos Rise, Vos Rise, Vos Rise!”

The chant resonated within the ground and the open stadium, filling it, until there was nothing else. The wingblade in his hand vibrated, and even the sand beneath his pedes jumped.

“Let’s fly,” he said to his brother.

Thundercracker only nodded, and they lowered the blades, taking a step away. Starscream concentrated, before jumping into the air, transforming and igniting his thrusters only centimetres above ground. The sand melted into glass, as the two Seekers left the stadium with thunderous speed and another show of their skill.

As they had cleared the last of the ranks, their third appeared out of nothing next to them, turning their flight into a formation. Effortlessly, they changed their flight to correspond to each other and raced further into the starry, cloudless sky.

It was glorious perfection for a moment. It was trine.

Below them the hundreds of Vos’ towers pierced the sky, gleaming columns of the flier’s might. Between them was only darkness, and far, far below was the Rust Sea, sloshing silently against the towers’ bases.

Beside them, Skywarp whooped and teleported above them, just to enter a deep dive, which was immediately followed by his brothers. Playing in the air, dancing on the edges of the wind, they let themselves drift, racing through the night. After a joor, Starscream and Thundercracker were slowing down, their sparks settling from the fight and Skywarp wasn’t teleporting anymore, egging them on to let go of the fight lust warframes like them possessed. Their sparks were peaceful and One.

Only then, they fell into formation again, something that came near deep-coded to them, and took the fastest way to the highest twenty towers of Vos, standing together in a circle, connected through bridges and surrounding a red-golden tower in the middle. It was the seat of the Winglord, the Spire of Wind.

Their trine flew to the tower on the utmost left, nicknamed Black Diamond Tower for the decorations on it. They landed on a balcony at the very top of the tower, right outside of Starscream’s rooms. On the same level were only two other balconies, two other apartments, but neither Thundercracker nor Skywarp protested that they hadn’t gone to their rooms.

Starscream didn’t waste a further astrosecond and hurried into his living room to activate the news screen. His apartment favoured clear lines and forms, without any clutter or needless decoration anywhere. But what he did have was of the very finest material available and statements of power and taste.

His news screen as a result wasn’t merely something any mech could put in some corner of their living rooms, but a sleek device covering half the wall with an integrated holomatter device made from the a black metal that was only mined in another sun system.

But the only thing Starscream right now cared about was that the screen worked and showed a picture of him and Thundercracker, standing in the arena with their blades crossed.

“Don’t worry, you two looked great,” said Skywarp from behind him, now sipping a highgrade cube from the energon dispenser. “Really. It was everything a try-out should be.”

“We can only hope that it was enough,” muttered Thundercracker behind him. Only the slight tension in his wings showed how much this meant to him. It had been their first try-out, and as such the most important one. A bad impression would be impossible to repair.

“It was, you’ll see.” Skywarp’s voice had moved to the right and was followed by a soft sound. “We left the Rainmakers standing in their own fragging rain and that Sun trine doesn’t look as shiny anymore.”

Starscream didn’t need to turn around to know that his trine brother was laying on his couch. A couch he only still had because of Skywarp, else he would have replaced it long ago with a more stylish model. But Skywarp claimed it was “comfy” and so it stayed.

“Storm trine,” he corrected. “The Winglord has offered our brother trine that title, you should use it.”

“Oh come on, Star, even the civilians call them Rainmakers!”

On screen, they zoomed out from the video showing Thundercracker and Starscream fighting and a sleek civilian flier, who was one of the most popular moderators in Vos, appeared, smiling widely at the audience:

“Welcome to our talk of the try-outs! As you can see, we had the pleasure of watching the long awaited finale between the Princes Starscream and Thundercracker. Despite being trine brothers, and their trine as of yet having no title, they gave each other not a single wingspan. We have invited Nacelle, the famous Flight Academy instructor and war decorated Seeker. What can you tell us about this finale, Nacelle?”

Nacelle smiled on the screen. “First of all, allow me to say that the finale of the Crown Princes’ tournament was all I hoped for. After the races, where Prince Starscream defeated all his brothers easily, we were aware that he is without a doubt one of the fastest Seekers alive. On the other hand, Thundercracker had already proven in the ground duels previously that he is an extremely dangerous and clever fighter with wingblades and any other weapon. It is remarkable that they are both within the same trine.”

“Yet, Thundercracker defeated Starscream…”  the moderator pointed out.

Starscream crossed his arms. “Luck,” he muttered, even knowing that it hadn’t been.

Thundercracker next to him only gave him a long look. Behind them both, Skywarp snickered.

Nacelle nodded. “Yes, but not easily. The only reason he won the flight duel was for his Sigma ability and I might point out that Starscream’s Sigma ability is still yet unknown.”

“There are rumours he doesn’t have one.”

Starscream clenched his hands to fists. He had known that there were speculations out there. But that didn’t help a lot against the hot feeling of indignation running through his cables. He forced his wings to hold still, so that his brothers wouldn’t know how much the meaningless comment affected him. Considering that not even Skywarp was offering any banter, either he was succeeding spectacularly well – unlikely – or failing. Wonderful.

“Very unlikely.” Nacelle scoffed. “Of all nine creations of the Winglord, eight have proven to have powerful Sigma abilities. Starscream’s own trine brother, Skywarp, has one of the most unique and powerful Sigma ability on record. Why shouldn’t Starscream be as blessed?”

“Then why hasn’t he shown it this orn? It might sway opinions in his favour.”

“They are right,” said Thundercracker quietly. “It is becoming strange that you haven’t declared your Sigma ability.”

“So what? It’s just an ability,” said Skwarp. “He is still the resident genius.”

Thundercracker shook his head. “Intelligence isn’t seen as a blessing of Primus.”

Nacelle smiled. “There might be several reasons. He might simply be a late developer, Starscream’s trine is the youngest one after all. Or it might need augmentation to fully use it. Or it might be some small Sigma ability which he thinks useless.”

“I understand.” The civilian nodded thoughtfully. “But let’s return to the wingblade fight, which was the highlight of this try-out. Would you say Prince Thundercracker deserved this victory?”

“Absolutely. Thundercracker clearly is becoming a Master of Form Three and he is solely focusing on the Third Form.” Nacelle was clearly approving of this. “Starscream on the other hand has switched for some time between Forms Four, Two and Five, which gives him a bigger repertoire, but ultimately let him fall behind Thundercracker in regards to mastery.”

“So, are you saying that Prince Thundercracker might be a better future Winglord?”

Starscream looked over to Thundercracker, who gave nothing away. Typical. His brother had always been the calmest of them all. Even Skywarp, who so often wore his emotions on his wings, was now as difficult to read as a slip of cloud.

Nacelle’s wings showed indecision as they fluttered back and forwards. “If we want a Seeker to defend us, yes. But Starscream is more flexible. He is trying to find a balance in defence and offense, and I have to admit that has a certain appeal.”

“Yet he lost.”

“Only to Thundercracker, his own trine brother.”

The moderator looked down on his datapad for a moment, before turning the conversation into a new direction: “Many say that Sunstorm, Prince of the first trine, should be the future ruler. He hasn’t taken part in this set of try-outs, because he still is on pilgrimage, so we haven’t yet seen a direct comparison between him and the youngest trine. But from previous try-outs, we know that he is an experienced fighter, devout and with the most powerful Sigma ability ever observed. Many believe him to be blessed by Primus and fated to be the next Winglord.”

“Fated, because his Sigma ability is radiation? That isn’t a very good reason,” Nacelle said with a clear frown. “We could argue that Skywarp’s ability to teleport is just as strong as sun radiation in its own way.”

“They mentioned me!” Skywarp sounded gleeful.

“Yes.” Starscream huffed. “Congratulations.”

“Sunstorm’s trine brothers Solarflare and Flareburst also have strong Sigma abilities tied to light…”

“Very true. Yet they both haven’t shown any desire for the throne. Just like Prince Skywarp, who is also powerful and a good flyer, but hasn’t shown any ambition…”

“Solarflare and Flareburst both have stated that they believe Sunstorm is fated to be the Winglord. Does Skywarp believe the same about his trine brothers?”

“Well, I think the answer is ‘No’. He certainly seemed more competitive than Solarflare and Flareburst, but he grew up with his brothers.” Nacelle grinned. “Who are both strong candidates. In my opinion it says a lot positive that he knows his own limits, but is supporting them.”

The civilian seemed a bit more sceptical. “What about the second royal trine, the Royal Storm trine of Vos… would you say they showed any aptitude for the Winglord title?”

“They had without a doubt the best teamwork among them. If I didn’t know better, I would call them telepathic and even their Sigma abilities complete each other.” Nacelle’s wings lowered. “Yet, this is also their weakness. A Winglord needs a strong trine, but essentially he is the first among Seekers and not one among a trine.”

“The polls seem to agree with you.” He called up a holo screen. “Sunstorm is currently at the top, the religious fliers flocking to him, followed closely by Thundercracker and Starscream. The other princes have all far fallen back…”

Starscream deactivated the screen. He had seen and heard enough.

“We didn’t beat Sunstorm,” he growled.

“We knew that, we are the youngest. But our trine as a whole definitely is the strongest one.” Skywarp grinned. “Our brothers underestimated us.”

“Sunstorm underestimated us,” agreed Thundercracker. “He didn’t even bother to compete this time beyond interrupting his pilgrimage,” he spat the word, “for the Sigma show.”

“His loss.” Starscream sighed. “Still, if with such a brilliant try-out we are still behind him…”

Thundercracker nodded. “We need either the religious ones to back us as well, or some other boost.”

“Everyone loves a victorious Seeker,” suggested Skywarp.

“War?” Thundercracker frowned. “I am not looking forward to dying young.”

“We are Seekers, TC! Warriors of the Sky! War is what we were made for,” answered an exasperated Skywarp. Thundercracker rolled his optics.

“Anyway, Vos is at peace currently,” Starscream pointed out. “And it’s not like we can just walk over to Praxus and ask if we can join Prowl’s army like common mercenaries.”

Skywarp snickered. “Still sounds strange, Prowl and army.”

“Well, he is a second heir…” Thundercracker smiled. “Though the most bookish, boring and nerdy second heir I’ve ever met.”

“He cried easily too,” said Starscream amused.

Skywarp laughed. “Yes, remember when I threw him into the mud and he stood up, completely covered and just looking like the saddest thing ever?”

“Oh yes. And then you laughed, and kicked his datapad also into the puddle.” Thundercracker grinned. “Primus, I’ve never laughed as hard as when he chased you across the courtyard, whacking you with the datapad like a tiny avenger.”

“Yes! Good times. He always had a temper.” Skywarp smiled. “So, when becoming mercenaries in Prowl’s army is out, what else can we do to prevent Sunstorm from ruining Vos forever?”

“We could try to appeal to the religious fliers too,” suggested Thundercracker.

Both his brothers stared at him. “Really,” said Starscream. “Us. You want us to praise Primus, look all shiny and important, and piteous.”

“Praying every orn, doing some boring pilgrimage and bonding as fast as possible? We haven’t even had a single compatibility test yet!” added Skywarp disbelieving.

“… on second thought, no. I like Vos standing and the idea of Skywarp procreating makes my wings shiver.” Thundercracker sighed. “Any other ideas?”

Starscream groaned. “Charity? Always gets one a few plus points, even with the religious types.”

Thundercracker nodded slowly. “Yes… I like the idea. Skywarp?”

“Why not. I claim something with younglings.” He chuckled. “They will be fun to be around.”

“Good. I will try doing something at the military academy. And Starscream… you should really try to get your Sigma ability under control.”

Starscream looked down at his fingers, trying to hide his anger. Thundercracker was right. Slagging Sigma ability. He twitched his wings, wanting to go for a flight again. “Whatever,” he decided and stood up. “Let’s go flying. That is what we are clearly the best at.”

Thundercracker laughed, the rumble of thunder in his voice. “We will rule the sky.”

“’Cause we are the best,” laughed Skywarp and teleported. From outside he yelled, “What are you waiting for? Come on, slow-pokes.”

Starscream ran, throwing himself out of the balcony, Thundercracker behind him – and they flew.

~

Starscream would have loved it if Sunstorm were as naïve as he sometimes appeared to be. He wasn’t. Arrogant, self-centred and a zealot, yes. But not naïve or stupid. As a result, Sunstorm reacted to the try-outs results and became a serious contender for the position of the Crown Prince. He was still the favourite, but now there were two other strong options – who were working together.

It was fortunate that his trine agreed on the fact that whatever happened, they wouldn’t accept Sunstorm wearing the Corona of Vos. Not now, not ever. Too deep were the memories of their youngling days, when the older Seeker had laughed at them, burned them with his radiation and scared them for nothing but his own personal amusement.

Seeker culture had always been competitive and sometimes harsh, but all three of them would never forgive Sunstorm for being the reason for their first scars. So, yes, Sunstorm was going down and afterwards… afterwards Starscream would claim the throne with a smile, no matter what Thundercracker said.

His plans were only made slightly more difficult by the fact that Sunstorm was targeting Starscream nearly exclusively, pointing out that he apparently didn’t possess any Sigma Ability, wasn’t blessed and as a result certainly Primus didn’t want him as the future Winglord.

As if! Starscream just had to find a way to make his Sigma Ability more powerful. Somehow. But he knew that it was possible, even if so far all his secret experiments had failed. He just could feel it, that these small stun lasers from his fingers weren’t possibly everything.

Still, Sunstorm’s plan was succeeding. Starscream was losing in the polls, falling behind his brothers and no amount of charity or public attendance was changing the trend.

It had made Starscream’s search for a solution to his Sigma Ability all the more frantic. He rarely left his private laboratory in his apartment anymore, if it wasn’t needed. Nearly on the side, he completed his education as a chemist, moving on to physic, because chemicals hadn’t seemed to hold any solutions.

A knock at the door let him look up. “What?” he snarled agitated.

“My prince,” came the muffled voice through the door. “You have received a long distance call.”

He blinked. A long distance call? There weren’t even that many mechs Starscream knew outside of Vos, even less who would want to call him. It intrigued him.

“Coming!” he yelled and put his current experiment away. At least it was just some lenses and nothing that could explode if he wasn’t there for a breem.

The long distance communication room was at the centre of the tower. That the tower had one at all was more of a power statement of a previous Winglord than anything indicative of need. Vos had become isolationist two generations ago, and since then it was usually only a military campaign that let them fly to the continent.

The servant closed the door behind him, and Starscream was alone in the circular room with a round table, surrounded by three chairs. He was the only one here, as expected. Thundercracker was probably at some function and Skywarp used every joor of his orn to work at some youngling charity he had created. He touched the stone, and waited.

It lit up once, twice, thrice, then a shimmering face, followed by an upper body with doorwings appeared. Starscream frowned slightly, the colours were always muted over long distance calls, but this mech seemed like no one he knew. Still, he seemed familiar… if he imagined him slimmer, younger, carefreer and with less scars…

“Prowl?” he guessed.

The Praxian nodded. “Yes. You seem uncertain. Have I changed that much?”

“Not really,” he answered. Not if one knew. The paintjob was the same, the chevron and doorwings were still there. And yet, the face was utterly different with a coldness that hadn’t ever been there before. Unconsciously, Starscream spread his wings, trying to look bigger and more intimidating. A ridiculous reaction, and he immediately pulled them down again.

“We haven’t seen each other in quite some time,” he said. “How long was it, 80 vorns ago?”

“93.” Prowl’s doorwings twitched. “If I remember right, the Winglord of Vos decided then that there wouldn’t be a military collaboration between Praxus and Vos anymore.”

“Well, yes.”

Vos hadn’t been able to stand the pacifism of the Grand Dukes, and Starscream’s and his brother’s complaints of Prowl being boring and nerdy certainly hadn’t helped. They had been sister cities, with Praxus south bordering on the Rust Sea, but their shared past hadn’t seemed to lead to a shared future. Until the assassinations, until everything had changed and Prowl took control.

Starscream was very aware that many Seekers were looking at this mech favourably now, claiming him to be a reincarnation of their shared warrior past and analysing his battles during polite dinner conversation. Even the civilian fliers were looking towards Praxus with fascination and new apprehension.

It was understandable. The Prowl who had cried when hit by a bit of mud was long gone. This mech carried the scars of war and behind his optics Starscream could see calculations running at the speed of lightning. Prowl knew every detail of why the Winglord of Vos hadn’t let his youngest trine visit Praxus anymore, and what the old collaboration in all war matters had included. This wasn’t a random call.

Suddenly, Starscream smelled it in the air – opportunity.

“But I am certain that the acting Grand Duke of Praxus isn’t just calling me to reminiscence about the past. Haven’t you just won your civil war?” He smiled sharply. “I watched the executions of your own cousins, and Yellowstripe, you know. I really hadn’t thought you had it in you… but my respect for doing it anyway.”

“They rebelled against my family and they paid the price,” was the calm answer of the Praxian. “But you are right, this isn’t why I have called.” Suddenly, Prowl leaned forward, optics intent. “In three orns, my armies will attack Polyhex.”

Starscream spluttered. “Polyhex! You are invading the Dukedom of Polyhex?!”

“Yes.”

“But why?” This was completely coming out of the blue. No one anywhere was expecting this! Starscream hadn’t even heard it among the most absurd rumours. This was big and would potentially change more than a few alliances.

“Lord Straxus kidnapped Smokescreen.” And the repressed rage in the words made Starscream pause.

“Ah,” he said. “Your brother.” And warframes Seekers might be, competitive and arrogant, but they all were created as triplets, as trine, and as such Starstream knew brotherhood as intimately as he knew few things else. All the highs and depths, and the never, ever changing fact that his trine brothers and brothers were his. Even Sunstorm was, when it came down to it, his brother. And while the brothers were allowed to harm each other, no one else was.

“Yes.” The doorwings on Prowl’s backs flicked sharply. “We tried negotiation, but he demands that Praxus bows and becomes nothing more than his vassal state. I refused.” Prowl’s optics blazed. “Lord Straxus can only hope he hasn’t harmed Smokescreen so far, or I will turn the Polyhexian plain into his funeral pyre.”

Of course he had refused. No second heir or warframe would have ever accepted such a price without fighting. That Lord Straxus had even demanded it… wanted that fool war? Because Prowl certainly was ready to give it towards him.

“Right.” The Seeker slowly nodded, feeling a slow respect growing for the new Prowl in front of him. “… yet why are you calling me?” And not the Winglord? Or even better, why was Prowl informing Vos at all?

“I want Vosian air support.”

Starscream frowned. “Our treaties have crumbled…”

“But they were never officially called off.” Prowl folded his hands, face full with confidence. “And things have changed.”

How very true. Prowl had changed them a lot. 50 vorns ago the thought that Praxus would attack Polyhex would have been a fine joke. “That isn’t enough and you know it.”

“Of course.” Prowl smiled. “But I know that your trine is competing for the Crown Prince position…”

Starscream froze, wings snapping upwards. “Yes.”

“And wouldn’t it be very, very helpful to have a successful military campaign under your wings? Even better, to have restored the treaty with Praxus as it was in the past? Vosian fliers and Praxian warriors. We always were deadly in combination.”

Starscream wetted his lips. Prowl was right. If it worked… it would be a huge boost in their popularity, and the Winglord would probably even give his trine the title they had been waiting for. “It is the Winglord’s decision.”

“Naturally. But you and your trine know Praxus and me best.” Prowl’s doorwings twitched. “If you support this loudly, it would swing things in my favour.”

Would it? Probably, yes. Oh yes. Starscream suppressed a delighted shudder. “Why us and not Sunstorm?”

“I know you too,” was the calm answer. “And if I have to choose a Winglord, I would prefer one from your trine.”

What a manipulator. Starscream could admire that, truly he could. Outside support had rarely decided the choosing of a future Winglord, but it would help

Really, there were only advantages for them, even if they had to risk their lives on the battlefield. But then, they were Seekers, trained and created for this. Sooner or later Vos would send them into battle anyway, probably for worse reasons.

“Deal,” Starscream said. “If my trine supports this, we’ll go to Winglord Stormraiser.”

~

“You did what?!” screeched Thundercracker a mere half joor later.

Skywarp laughed. “Don’t get your wings all dented, Starscream did the right thing.”

“He signed of us up for a war we know nothing about!” hissed his brother.

“Then ask Prowl,” Starscream snapped. “But don’t say no just because you are a coward!”

Thundercracker huffed, and stalked to the communication room.

In the end, it was simple. Thundercracker called Prowl and asked him new questions about strength of the opposition, how many warframes Polyhex and Praxus had and so on. Prowl answered mostly with full confidence, something that hinted at an extensive spy network.

“He needs us,” Thundercracker concluded afterwards, “because he doesn’t want this invasion to become too bloody.”

“And Polyhex has warframes, but few fliers.” Skywarp smirked. “Low risk for us.”

Starscream looked up from the desk which was covered with datapads. “So, we do it?”

Two determined nods answered him. For the princes, it was relatively easy to get an audience with their own creator. Relatively, because of the fact that there was this one secretary who really disliked Skywarp. With good reason too, as everyone admitted. Still, they had their audience in the highest level of Spire of Wind, the throne room. It was a circular, light room, covered by a dome high above which was painted with Vos’s creation story, a floor made of milky glass and diamonds, and high, wide windows reaching between the two, holding the elements off through elaborate force fields. The force fields themselves were the most expensive art in the room, soundless and invisible they were impenetrable for anyone but the Winglord and his bondmate. Everyone else, even the trine brothers and Princes, had to take the elevators. A security measure unlike any other, it had saved the Winglord’s spark in the past.

“Please tell me you are not here to complain about Sunstorm,” were the first words their creator greeted them with, sitting behind his desk, the Corona golden and bright on his helmet. Behind him stood the more elaborate throne. Few knew that the desk and its chair were capable of vanishing into the floor when needed.

The trine blinked. “What?” said Skywarp.

“Very eloquent, winglet,” sighed the older Seeker and put his stylus down. “Well, you three, by the surprise on your faces, I guess this truly isn’t about him?”

The three brothers exchanged meaningful glances. “Why should it be?” asked Thundercracker carefully. “We haven’t seen him in quite some time.”

“You haven’t, yes.” The Winglord’s wings twitched. “But your elder brother saw it fit to regularly visit me.”

“To complain, obviously,” muttered Starscream, then shook his head: “No, creator, we are here because something happened. Something important.”

Stormraiser gave his youngest trine a considering glance. Important meant many things to young Seekers after all, but when none of them budged, he nodded. “Tell me.”

The Winglord Stormraiser listened quietly to their tale, face and wings barely giving more away than interest. When they finished, he looked to the ceiling, thinking. “You were right,” he said. “This is important. And delicate…” He looked down to his youngest trine. “Yet, in some ways it is also quite simple. Lord Prowl is more than just within his rights to attack Polyhex. If we support him, we support justice and Prime’s laws. Considering that Sentinel Prime has proven not to be very … let us say supportive of Vos, this might help us in the long term.”

“Sentinel Prime is just unwilling to recognise the Corona and the true meaning of the Winglord’s position,” said Skywarp. “He might be Prime, but he is Prime of the groundbounders.”

“He is Prime,” said the Winglord. “And that makes him our Prime as well. No matter what I am.” He shook his head. “Besides that, I am more interested in the prospect of having Praxus as our true sister city again. We have become isolated and while we are the strongest force within the skies, on the ground we are weak. Praxus…  Praxus was always the solution for that.”

Stormraiser scrutinised his creations. “And you three truly think that Lord Prowl will be able to become our ally? That he would stand on our side against any enemy?”

“Yes.” All three answered at the same time and looked a bit surprised by it. Starscream elaborated, “He isn’t weak.”

“Not as weak as you three once described him to me?”

They blushed. “Not at all,” answered Thundercracker. “He still likes numbers a bit too much, I think, but that makes him probably just a better tactician.”

“He definitely isn’t a cry-cry anymore,” added Skywarp, a touch wistfully. “Became all icy and stoic.”

“I see,” said Stormraiser carefully, and all three had suddenly the feeling that he might be understanding the situation far better than they were. “Have you considered that he might be lying about his reasons to attack Polyhex?”

“Yes,” admitted Starscream reluctantly. “But I do think it unlikely and we lack the time to launch an investigation. The flight to Praxus alone takes a few orns…”

“I am aware,” Stormraiser interrupted him. “Fortunately, I have received many reports from Seekers and fliers in Lord Prowl’s Airforce. Some official, many of private nature. They all spoke of a Warlord they were proud to follow, a mech that despised Contract-breakers and traitors above everything else.” He paused. “It would certainly be to our advantage if Lord Prowl continues to rule Praxus instead of some unknown, very likely worse heir. Very well, the chances are worth a little bit of risk.”

The three young Seekers’ wings went upwards in anticipation.

The Winglord continued, “We shall honour our old connection and you three will fly for me. Polyhex shall be a test of your trine and strengths and of Lord Prowl’s resolve. Each one of you, choose a division and leave Vos as fast as possible. The flight is long and Lord Prowl will march soon.” He smiled at them knowingly. “You will not want to miss the battle.”

Starscream’s spark glowed with sweet triumph. It was time to show the universe the might of the next generation of Vos’s Seekers.