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Pacification

Chapter Text

It’s quiet now.

Quiet was not something he expected in the Ark.  The Nemesis was always loud with fights and terrible whispers in the dark.  Parts of the ship had been relegated to disuse over time, and there was no limit to the nooks and crannies that it held; that it could hold.

Starscream missed it.

He was tired.  Interrogations were always tiresome.  They had been playing this game for millions of years at this point, and occasionally one of them got caught by the opposing side, roughed them up for information and then let them go.  Starscream supposed he was one of the higher-ranking officers to get captured in a long time, but it was not his first time by any means.  Maybe it was the first time on Earth.

They had dosed him with something.  He felt it like a blanket on his logic processor, trying to make him more suggestible.  They needn’t have bothered; he had always been a suggestible mech, even without pharmacological aide.  That didn’t mean he would give info up easily; no, it just meant he was open to whatever they had to offer.

This time, there were no offers.  Which was odd.

Like no, “if you tell us where Megatron is we will let you go,” or “give us some intel on Cybertron,” or “what are you plotting, you disgusting bot fragging son of a Cessna?”  No, he didn’t get any questions yet.  Just waiting.

Primus he was bored.  There were no other captives right now for him to make fun of, and no audience meant no showboating.  Just him and… Jazz.

Jazz.  That fragging “spymaster.”  Walking in with a flash of smile and just sitting there, watching him.  Saying nothing, asking nothing, providing nothing.  Just a smile and a watchful gaze.

Clearly, he was trying a new tactic.  Hoping Starscream would crack under the pressure.  Start talking and just give everything away.  Mech was so fragging stupid. 

Had they increased the temperature?  Frag it was hot.  His fans were whirring near maximum, and the heat made his processor lag.  He felt sick.

He put his helm on the table, trying to cool his cheekplate.

Slag, he felt drunk.

Oh wait.

“Why am I drunk,” he said into the side of the table.

“We’re celebrating, Starscream.  We won the battle and we got you.  Congrats.”

Starscream huffed his vents and turned his red optics to train on Jazz.  “Would think that there’d be more confetti,” he said irritably.

“It’s on backorder.  Confetti that would be appropriately sized for Cybertronians is hard to come by.  The small human stuff gets clogged in our vents.  Trust me, I’d know.”

Starscream huffed his vents.  “This is a strange interrogation,” Starscream said offlining his optics, feeling a swash of heat rip over his processor.  He felt awfully lightheaded.

“Who says we’re interrogating you?”

Starscream onlined his optics to see Jazz smiling with a tilt of his head.  Starscream slowly pulled back, lifting his helm off the table, but holding his servo up to his helm.  He was wincing, and his mouthplate was in a deep frown.

Starscream sighed.  “I’m bored with this already, you’ve kept me longer than usual.  What are you after, this time?”

Jazz said nothing.

Starscream tilted his helm to meet the saboteur’s optics behind the visor.  Jazz was just watching and smiling.

Dimly something registered in his processor that this was wrong.  Wrong, wrong, wrong- but Primus he felt lightheaded.  Untethered.  Undone.

“How are you feeling?”

That question was dangerous.  Always had been for him.  He felt loss, betrayal, sparkbreak, but also just annoyance and irritation at almost everything.  He felt disappointed when Megatron hit him, and sadder still when his schemes failed to materialize-

Oh.  He had meant physically.  Of course.

Starscream held up his other servo to his helm, grimacing.  “This idiocy is giving me a helmache.”  With a small spurt of fear, he realized he was not in stasis cuffs.  He was not bound at all.  He could stand up and do whatever he wanted, even attack-

Oh, Primus,” he said as his helm erupted in fiery-hot pain.

“Hmm, some pain? Dizziness?  Nausea?”

Starscream stared at the Autobot for a moment.  He looked to his servos, looked to the room, looked to the Autobot again.  Fear started to creep around his spark.

Something was terribly, terribly wrong.

“What did you do to me?” he whispered.

Jazz smiled.  “How are you sure we did do something?”

“Because I feel…” he stopped.  He couldn’t form the words.

“You feel what?” Jazz asked, barely concealing his excitement.

Starscream blinked and stood from the chair, backing away.  “What did you DO?”

“Don’t be frightened, this is only temporary.  We’re testing to see if it works,” Jazz said standing.

Starscream backed up until he hit the wall behind him.  He sank to the floor and folded his arms across himself.  Tears sprung to his optics.  He couldn’t help it.

“I… I don’t understand.”

“It will fade, don’t worry.  We just needed to see if it worked on a Decepticon.  But before that, let’s test it, shall we?”

Starscream turned his helm to stare at the saboteur. Jazz came to him, bent over and lifted a servo under his chin.  Then Jazz kissed him.  It was platonic, and less than a peck, but it was still shocking.

Starscream’s eyes burst wide but felt himself do nothing to stop him.

“Oh it definitely appears to be working.  Let’s try hitting you.”  He slapped him across the faceplate.  More tears were now flowing, and even a little energon dripped out of his now split lip, but still Starscream did nothing.  “Sorry about that,” Jazz said, wiping the energon from the seeker’s lip.  “We’ll get that fixed for ya.”

“What did you do to me?” he asked again, whispering.

Jazz finally relented, his optics softening.  “Pacification.  We found a way to remove violence from you.”

Starscream sat dumbly on the ground, letting the words “pacification” sting in his audios.  He’d heard the word before, used in this context.  He felt a deep-seated dread coil in his tanks.

“How long does it last?” he breathed out.

Jazz was seated on the ground next to him now, rapidly typing away at a datapad.  He looked up and saw the pain in the seeker’s optics, and it looked like he had just a tiny crack in his resolve.  He swallowed and shook of the feeling, his perfect mask of affability back on.  “It should last about a cycle in total from the dose we gave you,” he said.  “Tell me, what does it feel like?”

Starscream stared at the mech and frowned.  “This is a new low, Autobot.”

Jazz nodded.  “It is a little extreme for our usual methods,” then he tilted his helm.  “But this is not anything the Decepticons wouldn’t do, hmm?  Shockwave’s experiments?  The reprogramming of the Constructicons against their will?  Nothing beyond the precedent you all have already set.”

“So you aren’t any better than the Decepticons, then.  Glad that’s been established,” Starscream said hatefully, his vocalizer pained.

“The faster you tell me what I need to know, the less likely I’ll have to give you another dose.”

Starscream offlined his optics and sighed.  “It feels… like you opened my processor, got overenergized, and purged all over it.”

Jazz pursed his lips.  “Hmm.  Vivid.  How about your desire to hurt me?”

Starscream sighed, leaning his helm against the wall again, looking levelly at the Autobot.  “Nonexistent.”

“Do you feel like you could fight me if your life depended on it?”

Starscream hesitated and felt more cleaning fluid well in his optics.  “N-no,” he said his faceplate twisting.

“Hmm,” Jazz hummed.  “No capacity for self-preservation?”  He leaned forward, his field brushing up against Starscream’s.  In it, he only found fear and anger, but not an ounce of murderous intent. 

“Any helmaches?”

Starscream nodded.

“Dizziness? Nausea?  High-temperature?”

Starscream looked at him.  “Yes,” he said simply. 

“How do you feel about Megatron?”

Starscream deigned not to answer but felt it in his spark.  He no longer wanted to kill him.  That... was disturbing.  “How long did you say this lasted?”

Jazz checked his chronometer.  “Ah, should be wearing off shortly.”  He pulled out some stasis cuffs, and gently clicked them onto the seeker’s delicate wrists.  “Thank you for your participation.”

Starscream narrowed his optics.  “You didn’t give me a choice slagger,” he said angrily.  “When I get back, I’m going to make sure we cook up something… something…” He trailed off, his optics becoming unfocused.  His glossa swelled in his mouth, or at least it felt like it. 

Jazz looked at him and stood.  “Interesting.  Works even with threats or thoughts of violence.”

Starscream suddenly looked very, very frightened.  “Where… where did you get this formula?  This drug?”

Jazz waved a finger at the seeker on the ground.  “Ah-ah-ah, Starscream.  Trade secret.”

“No, please, Jazz?  Please.  I’m begging you.”

Jazz frowned and was unnerved by the sincerity.  “Why?”

“It’s not… it’s not wearing off.”

Jazz’s frown deepened.

Chapter Text

Jazz and Prowl were speaking in quickly whispered tones in the hallway.  Skyfire was helping to move some equipment for Wheeljack when he passed by the pair.  It had just happened that he heard the words “tacere-avem” and “seeker” and he dropped his equipment, its components breaking and pieces of it rolling across the ground.

He slowly turned around to see the pair looking at him with more than a little surprise.  “Tell me I didn’t just hear you say that.”

“Say what?” Jazz said, defensively.  Prowl put a servo on his shoulder.

“What do you know about it?” Prowl asked levelly.

Skyfire felt a rage bloom inside him as neither of them denied it.  “Is… is there a seeker in there?” he asked, his frame trembling.  “Did you drug him with… tacere-avem?!”

Both of the mechs pulled back at his change in demeanor.  He didn’t blame them.  He was usually so mild-mannered.  They also didn’t deny anything.  “Open the door.”

“Now wait just a minute-” Jazz said, angrily shaking his finger at the shuttle.

“OPEN IT!”

Prowl moved in front of Jazz to open the door.  He pushed it open and stood to the side, watching Skyfire very carefully.  The shuttle ducked to enter the room, and then felt his shoulders sag.

Of course it was him.

The seeker’s frightened optics flashed in recognition.  Skyfire felt his faceplate turn grim as he walked over to Starscream and knelt beside him.  “Are you… alright?” he said, noticing the split lip and the tear streaks on his faceplate.

Starscream’s optics were wide now.  “No,” he whispered.  “What the frag do you want?”

Skyfire sighed.  “Did they tell you what they gave you?”

Starscream’s optics closed.  “N-no…”

“They used tacere-avem,” Skyfire said.  But as soon as Skyfire had named the drug, Starscream lost it.

“No, no, NO, NO-“ he started to shout as he covered up his audios, as awkward as it was with cuffed wrists.  Skyfire grimaced and then pulled the seeker into a crushing hug.  The seeker should be thrashing, should be hitting him, but nothing happened.  He was still yelling, but his cries were becoming quieter and more plaintive. 

Eventually he pulled away and commed Ratchet. The medic was confused by the immediacy of the request from him of all mechs, but Skyfire just repeated the request saying that more details would be forthcoming.  He bent down and scooped up Starscream, still so small in his arms even after all this time.  The seeker did not resist, just stilled with listless optics.

Prowl and Jazz followed the shuttle and their prisoner, giving each other strange looks as they walked together to the med bay.  When they arrived, Skyfire gently deposited Starscream on a berth.  The seeker’s optics watched him as they gradually became more unfocused and lost.

He turned on the enforcer and the spymaster.  Ratchet had also appeared but was watching the proceedings warily.

“Where did you even find tacere-avem?” Skyfire started, his voice a deep rumble.  Ratchet’s optics immediately widened and then looked to the seeker and he deflated.  He walked over to him and began pulling out medical equipment and scanners to do a full sweep.

Jazz folded his arms across his chassis.  Prowl however flicked his optics to the various mechs around the room, calculating his next response.  “We found reference to a pacification program in Teletraan-1 and we attempted to recreate the formula.”

“Did you not,” Skyfire began, squeezing his servo into a fist, “notice that it had been ruled illegal by every known authority since its conception?”

Jazz took a step towards Skyfire.  “It had been declassified and used in clinical trials to help with PTSD,” Jazz said angrily.  “I tested it on myself before I was going to use it on anyone else.  I was fine after a few cycles.”

Skyfire turned his optics to the ceiling.  “It was ruled illegal because of how it affects flightframes, Jazz.  It’s permanent.”

Jazz looked like he had been stricken and took a step back.  “What? No… it’s not permanent.  It wears off.”

Prowl’s face paled.

“It was initially developed as an option to quell unruly flightframes.  It takes away all desire and capacity for violence.  Permanently.  It doesn’t effect other frame-types the same way,” he said, finishing quietly.

Prowl waited a few kliks.  “None of that was in the report about it.”

“No, I suppose not.  It was likely scrubbed of that information when Vos fell.”

Jazz looked despondent.  “We honestly… didn’t know.”

“I’ll be sure to pass that on to Unicron when I offline,” Starscream ground out from the berth.

Skyfire turned and looked at him.  “You’re not going to offline-“

“What do you think is going to happen to me the second Megatron finds out not only did I get captured but now I’m broken?!” he said, his voice rising in crescendo to a shriek.  “I am worthless now!”

“It can’t be permanent,” Jazz repeated, still in denial.  “Processor reboot or even a rebuild could fix it.”

“Ah, no,” Ratchet said, shaking his helm.  “This stuff is… nasty in how in integrates.  His violent tendencies aren’t suppressed, they are just… gone.”

“Then we can put them back,” Prowl said.  “Like a battle computer?”

“You don’t get it,” Skyfire said, still barely suppressing his rage.  “This is permanent.  Plenty of smarter researchers before us have tried and failed to fix this.”

Prowl looked like he was still calculating something.  “Why have we never met a flightframe that was permanently pacified, then?”

Skyfire sighed.  “They all died.  They can’t protect themselves, Prowl.  They can’t fight back under any circumstances.  They were glorified slaves during the darker times of the Golden Age.”

Starscream moaned pathetically.  “You idiots have killed me!  And not even on purpose.”  Jazz looked at the seeker with an expression between remorse and surprise.  Prowl was looking at the floor, still trying to calculate.

Ratchet pulled back some of his scans with a tight look on his faceplate.  He glanced sideways at the seeker who met his optics and saw the look. He crumpled further into his berth, now silent.

“I’ll go… alert Prime,” he said.


Optimus Prime sat at his desk staring at the datapads in front of him, describing the incident, and no less than 15 ways to deal with the situation from Prowl.  There were also formal resignations from both Prowl and Jazz on his desk, both of which he knew had no intention of accepting, but at least it meant they understood the gravity of what had transpired.

Starscream sat across the desk from him and had not made a single sound since Ratchet and Skyfire had escorted him in and set him down.  Skyfire was likely still keeping guard at the door. 

Prime sighed.  “A great injustice has been done to you,” he said. 

“Is that what we’re calling this.”

Prime shifted in his seat.  Of all the mechs for this to happen to, Starscream was going to make it the most uncomfortable.

“I believe the next steps are deciding what you want to do.  Your safety would be our top priority-“

“That’s rich.”

“-and if that means you would stay here, we could arrange that.”

Starscream actually seemed shocked into silence for a moment.  Then he sneered.  “You would… ‘keep’ me here?  What, like some kind of guilty conscience trophy?  Forever to walk the halls moaning about the injustice of your officers?”

“I believe what has been done to you requires that we accept responsibility.  What that looks like can be up to you.”

Starscream pulled back at that, somewhat surprised.  “… and all of your soldiers are okay with this?”

Optimus hesitated, and he knew Starscream had noticed.  The seeker was shaking his helm, even as Optimus tried to answer the question.  “The Autobots would honor-“

“You don’t even believe it; how do you expect me to?”

The Prime sighed.  “Then your other option is we return you to the Decepticons.”

Starscream froze and his optics widened slightly.  If fear could be a palpable, tangible thing, Starscream was grasping it and shoving it in the Prime’s faceplate.

“They’ll kill me,” he said, quietly.

Prime was discomfited again.  “They wouldn’t-“

“Megatron will.”

Optimus frowned beneath his faceplate.  “Megatron would not kill one of his own wounded soldiers.  Why would he have a medic if he did?”

Starscream smiled bitterly.  “You know him so well, do you?”  Starscream’s face darkened.  “He only allows repairs to mechs that are worth repairing, Prime.  As in soldiers that can fight another day.  What will I be except a berthwarmer or shareware?”

If Starscream wanted Prime unnerved, he had achieved it.  “Starscream-“

“That’s what this program was designed for anyway,” he said, his voice tremulous.  “I’m surprised that you haven’t already brought it up for your own pleasure.  Who wouldn’t want a helpless seeker to share their berth?”

Optimus exvented.  He realized that his comments were not only Starscream attempts to get under the Prime’s plating, but also allowing his own anxieties being voiced.  Starscream was terrified and apparently none of the options he had been presented instilled him with any measure of peace. 

“What do you want then, Starscream?”

The seeker shivered.  “I want my processor back.”

“Would that I could give that to you,” Optimus said sadly.  “Ratchet tells me the program has run its course.  It is permanent.  You should know though that the program has been stricken from our records and the formation of it has been erased from Prowl’s and Jazz’s memories.  They will also be facing disciplinary action.”

“So they get a slap on the servo, and you take my entire life away.  Fair trade, Prime.  Thank you for that.”

Optimus realized that the seeker wanted him to get angry.  To what end, he wasn’t sure yet.

“I have to tell Megatron about what has occurred.  I would like to know what you want to do before I do that.”

Starscream’s wings were practically vibrating in fear.  For the first time, he turned his optics away from the Prime’s as if contemplating something.  Then the seeker leaned forward in the chair, putting his elbows on his knees, calming himself.

“I would like to be returned to the Decepticons.”

Prime was a little surprised.  “Are you sure?  I’m sure Skyfire would protect you if you stayed here-“

“Skyfire doesn’t get a say in my well-being,” Starscream said distantly.  “I am certain.”

Optimus nodded.  “I will contact Megatron then.”


“Sick of him already then,” Megatron said on the communication screen.

Optimus sighed.  “Is this line secure?”

Megatron’s optic-ridges furrowed.  “Unlike you Autobots, our lines are only monitored by Soundwave-“

“Fine, fine,” Prime interrupted, much to the surprise of the Decepticon warlord.

Megatron looked amused then.  “It seems you have something to say to me, Prime.  Something you are reluctant to talk about.”

Optimus fixed his blue optics on Megatron.  “During our interrogation of Starscream, an accident occurred.”

Megatron almost started laughing.  “Wringing your servos over it like a nursemaid, Primus!  Starscream is nothing but resilient, unfortunately-“

“This particular tactic was done without my knowledge or approval, but of course we accept full responsibility.”

Megatron’s mirth slowly evaporated.  “Get to the point.”

“He was dosed with tacere-avem.  It’s permanent.”

Megatron at first didn’t react.  But then his faceplate started to fall into confusion, rage, confusion again, denial, and then it was carefully, neutrally blank.  “You… pacified him.”

“Yes.”

Megatron frowned deeply.  “This…” he started.  “This is a fate worse than death.  You would have been kinder if you had just killed him.”

Optimus struggled with this next part.  “We offered him refuge here, but he is requesting to be returned to you.”

Megatron just stared, but then a small flicker of recognition came across his faceplate.  “And you would just return him, with no trade?”

“I wouldn’t ask anything of you, no.”

Megatron looked forward and then nodded.  “I would speak to him.”

Optimus nodded, flicking his servo at the door to the communications relay where Ironhide escorted Starscream into the room. 

Starscream wanly looked at the monitor, seeing Megatron’s faceplate.  Optimus nodded and vacated the seat, leaving the room with Ironhide.

“Fine mess you got yourself into,” Megatron said exasperatedly.  His optics were jumping as if searching for something in the seeker’s sculpted face but saw nothing.

Starscream was tired.  He flicked his optics down to the floor with his wings sagging.  “Yes, and I just want out of it.”

Megatron sighed.  “That’s why you want to come back?  You want me to kill you?”

Starscream shivered.  “Is there another option?”

Megatron glowered.  “If that is what you want then don’t be a coward, do it yourself-“

“I CAN’T,” Starscream shouted, hoarse.  “I literally… can’t.”

Megatron watched him through the monitor.  Starscream likely made a pathetic sight.  He’d been repaired after the battle as he was unconscious when they had dragged him back to the Ark, but he still had paint missing.  He felt wretched.  His helm and processor ached from the recent changes that had been made to his very core, and it likely showed on his faceplate.  He also had lost something part of him; the fire, the feeling of being in control and unstoppable.

Megatron sighed.  “I will give you two options, should you still decide to return to the Decepticon ranks.  You are right to fear me, Starscream.  I have no use for a soldier who cannot fight, any more than I can for a weapon that cannot shoot.”  Starscream shivered.  “And despite your other possible assets, there would be no point as you cannot defend yourself and you hold too much knowledge.  You are an ambling liability.”  Starscream bit back a whimper.

“I will allow you a choice.  You can return to the Decepticons, but you must submit to a memory erasure.  Completely.  Your other choice is termination.”

Starscream stared at Megatron’s optics weighing his options.  “I would be no better than a blank sparkling.”

“Yes.  But you would have no knowledge that would be worth torturing you for.  Pacification also means you cannot prevent someone from accessing your mind or even your spark.  It is the definition of vulnerable, Starscream.  It will not be an easy existence, but you also would not know any differently.”

Starscream frowned, confused.  “You would… care for me?  I mean.  Primus, I don’t know what I’m asking,” he said pulling his servos over his face. 

Megatron’s face was inscrutable as ever.  “There are few noble reasons for this war anymore, but one of them was slag like this.  They don’t get to take away a mech’s ability to fight just because it doesn’t suit them.  You would be protected.  You and I might have a tempestuous relationship, but you are also my soldier.”

Starscream nodded, his face twisting as he felt his optics prick with hot tears.  “That might be the closest you ever got to saying you liked me,” he said laughing sadly.

“Don’t let it go to your head,” Megatron said, the ghost of a smile approaching the corner of his lips.  “We will prepare for your retrieval.”

“… affirmative.”

The line cut out and Starscream stared at the dark screen.  He would be alive, and he would be protected.  He would just lose everything. 

He had already lost everything.

Chapter Text

Eventually Optimus Prime and Ironhide came back in to collect him.  He explained that he would still be returning to the Decepticons, as if they didn’t already know. They still seemed disappointed somehow but had nodded and escorted him back to the brig.

He sat down in the cell and stared at the wall, finally alone with his thoughts.

The past day had been grossly unfair.  It didn’t take a genius to figure out that this could have happened to anyone, but it just so happened to happen to him.  He hadn’t been captured in eons, what had made this time any worse?  He could blame Megatron, as easy as that was, but they had actually been on relatively good terms lately.  Just a few friendly assassination attempts between old friends.  Nothing major.

It had been the Lamborghini twins who had officially grounded him, he remembered.  Can’t really blame them either, they had actually been good this past battle, he thought begrudgingly.  Can’t really blame his own people either: Skywarp and Thundercracker had obeyed his orders to retreat, and they hadn’t realized he was in danger.  Everyone had done their part; he had just been unlucky.

He supposed some anger could be reserved for Jazz and Prowl for cooking up this scheme in the first place.  But even that felt forced.  They had tested it on themselves and did not understand the historic implications of the drug.

He wrinkled his noseplate.  He knew that pacification was a program that removed the desire for violence and the ability to do so, but there had been rumors that it also made you just generally more agreeable.  He supposed it wasn’t enough that he lacked the ability to defend himself, he had also be happy about it.  Starscream felt that he should be rancorously angry, but in place of that emotion was just huffy annoyance.  That can’t be right. 

Maybe forgetting what he used to be wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.

He suddenly didn’t want to be alone.

“I would make one request of you,” he said to the empty brig, but knew that there was a camera observing him intently.  “Can you let me talk to Skyfire one more time?”

The shuttle was quickly produced.

“Starscream.  I am… sorry,” he said slowly.  Skyfire sat on a chair just outside the bars, looking carefully at the seeker.

Starscream nodded.  “Yes.  It is unfortunate what your friends did to me.”

Skyfire frowned.  “I know you are hurting, but I had hoped-“

“I… I’m sorry.” Starscream said.  “For shooting you.  At least twice.”  He waited for Skyfire to say something in return, but the shuttle had just closed up his mouth.  Starscream sighed.  “I… don’t even have time to tell you what a fragging piece of slag you are,” he said laughing bitterly.  “My memory will be erased when I arrive back at the Decepticons. I won’t remember you.”

Skyfire looked bereft.  “Wait. Wait, what? No.”

Starscream watched the shuttle, almost feeling touched.  He looked genuinely surprised.  Apparently the Autobots had not seen fit to tell him.  Just as well, he supposed.  “It makes sense.  I can’t be forced to divulge information if I don’t know anything.  I’m somewhat surprised your Autobots haven’t already tried to get something off me now.  Must be their idiotic sense of honor holding them back.”

Skyfire stood and started pacing around the room.

“We could… run away.”

Starscream furrowed his brow.  “What?”

“We could.  We could just leave, find a planet somewhere.  Exile.  Leave this slagging war behind us.”

Starscream was amused.  “How would we refuel?”

“Oh, we could build energon converters!  It’d be just the two of us, and it’d take a while, but we could do it.  Trade with some alien races or something.”

“And what about our shelter?” Starscream said, tilting his helm back against the wall, allowing the fantasy to play out in his mind. 

Skyfire nodded.  “We’d build a tower.  Something tall and big enough to land on, like the eyries of Vos.  Something ridiculously fancy and shiny, just how you like it.”

Starscream smirked and offlined his optics.  “And what would we do all day?”  He realized again that he was being agreeable instead of yelling at Skyfire like he thought he wanted to. Was this from the tacere-avem? Or was it more because of the clock clicking down on the life as he knew it?

“There would be so much to do! Studying the local flora and fauna or we could be inventing ways to make our homestead better.  We could add on to the tower, make it more like a mansion or a palace.  We could invent new energy sources. And… well, get to know each other.  Again.”

Starscream’s smirk broadened as he looked at the shuttle again.  Skyfire’s face was lit up with hope and maybe a touch of desire.  “You’ve clearly thought about this a lot.”  He saw the characteristic blush that he would get when he was being remotely romantic.  “Two berths or one?” Starscream said, his ruby optics dancing in the dim lighting of the brig.

“Two,” Skyfire said, smirking.  “One for us and one for the sparkling.”

Starscream felt his smile pinch and then his mood shifted immediately.  His wings sagged and he turned away from Skyfire. 

“I wish we could.  But someone would find us.  Find me,” he said after some time.  “Megatron is right, I have a lot of knowledge that would be… damaging.  At least with memory erasure, I won’t know what I’m forgetting about,” he said lowly.  “I’m sorry you will still remember.”

Skyfire stared at him, deciding something.  Then he quickly looked up at the camera in the brig and walked over to it, reaching up and crushing it in his servo.

“What are you doing?” Starscream said, confused.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” the shuttle said quickly. 


Skyfire stepped back and smiled one more time as the door to the brig was busted open by Ironhide and Red Alert who were both angrily yelling at him for destroying the camera.  Skyfire just kept smiling and nodding when they told him he would need to be court marshaled and gave a final wave to Starscream who waved back, biting back a smirk himself at the stupid shuttle.  Ironhide pulled him out of the room, angrily yelling curses about how big and foolish the shuttle was.

Red Alert looked back at the seeker, demanding answers as to what happened.  Starscream shrugged.  “I don’t kiss and tell,” he said with a waggle of his optic-ridge.  The Security Specialist seemed to go into anaphylactic shock, sputtering with surprise and blushing.  Starscream thought that might be the end of that conversation.

Already he could feel the last few minutes of time was receding from his mind.  Whatever had just occurred, he didn’t quite remember, but he was left with a feeling of trust and maybe a twinge of hope.

Eventually they all left him alone with his thoughts.  Things were still grim, but there was a little bit of that fire back in his spark.


The exchange went over quickly.  Despite his behavior just a few cycles before, they had to use Skyfire to help ferry them all to the predetermined site where Starscream would be handed back over to Decepticon care.  Starscream smirked at the shuttle despite the situation and could almost feel Skyfire smirk back.

They had not cuffed him because there was no point.  He merely sighed and walked back over to the Decepticons waiting for him, being Megatron, Soundwave and his trine.  Skywarp and Thundercracker looked beyond incensed and twitched with the desire to fire on the Autobots but held still after a glare from Megatron.

The gunformer gave Starscream an appraising look from head to toe and then gruffly told them to take to the skies. 

Starscream felt the itch to flee.  He could fly off, and attempt to outrun them.  But he also knew that he would then be alone and without anyone to help him.  Megatron had been right.  Even an organic fleshling was more equipped than he was, and despite hating the thought that he would lose his memories, he also knew that surviving was better. 

They returned back to the base without comment.

He had expected jeers, taunts, and other unsavory quips, but his walk to the repair bay was like a parade of the damned.  He saw much of the Decepticon army as he was escorted, mechs he had fought with and against all these years.  Their faceplates were arranged in a strange kind of mute respect or maybe it was pity?  Starscream wasn’t sure.  At this point all he felt was numbness.

When they reached the repair bay, Starscream paused at the threshold and looked to Megatron.  “Do… we have to do this now?” he asked quietly and without meeting Megatron’s optics.

He could feel Megatron’s gaze on him.  “Yes.  We will do this now.”  He opened the door to the repair bay and lightly pushed Starscream inside.

 Hook and the other Constructicons immediately swarmed him, subjecting him to various tests and questions as they guided him to the berth.  Starscream normally would have physically attacked them for how close they were to him, and how they were not respecting his usual bubble of personal space, but of course he could not do this now.  He merely felt annoyed and exhausted.

They asked him a lot of questions about the interrogation itself with Jazz; what he had felt and when.  He described it in detail and without embellishment, which he knew was odd for him.  But he also felt like there wasn’t much point anymore.  They explained they needed to know what to look for in the future and he aided them as best he could.  Hanging in the back of the repair bay listening to his tale was Megatron, Soundwave, and his trine, watching mutely.  He also noticed a few other helms poking around the corner of the door, looking into the room.

“I highly doubt it was an accident,” Scrapper said as he pulled out another scanner.  They were treating him with such concern and gentleness, he had a moment of confusion.  Did he actually come back to the right faction?

“They seemed genuinely surprised that it was permanent, as they had tested it out on themselves first, or so they said.  Something about how it had been altered in their computer and the references to its effect on flightframes was removed,” Starscream recalled, looking at the scanners as they showed no difference in his usual biometrics.  He was the same, just… declawed.

“When did you know something was wrong?” Hook asked, looking over a scan of his processor on the screen.  Starscream felt a little exposed with the map of his processor on the screen for everyone to see but didn’t comment on it.

“I had heard of the program before,” he said.  “And that the idea that it wasn’t just physical but mental as well.  He, uhm, got very physically close to me and I couldn’t move to stop him.”

That seemed to spur his trine up out of their seats.  “What did he do?” Thundercracker said defensively. 

“We will absolutely destroy them,” Skywarp said, with heat blooms coming off his null-rays as he let his temper flare.

Not for the first time since he had discovered his condition, he felt touched.  He had been wounded before, severely damaged, but never before had he seen such a desire to avenge him as he did now.  He felt his optics soften.  “It was merely a peck on the lips and a slap to the faceplate.  Nothing more.”

“But you can’t get revenge back on him now.  Or… you don’t even want to,” Skywarp said sullenly.  “That’s on a new level of disgusting,” he said.

Thundercracker looked to Megatron as he added, “It’s one thing to take a hit at us, it’s another knowing that the mech can’t return the favor later.”

Starscream’s optics glanced to Megatron who was glaring off into nothing, while Soundwave watched him carefully.  Everyone was behaving oddly today.

The Constructicons finished their final scans.  “We will be monitoring you through and after your procedure,” Scrapper said. 

Starscream nodded once indicating he understood.  They vacated the room and closed the doors behind them.  Thundercracker and Skywarp walked up to him and it seemed they could not stop themselves from giving him a hug.  “You will always be trine,” Skywarp said.  “Even if you can’t fight with us nomore.”

Thundercracker nodded.  “We will make sure you are safe.  All the seekers will.  This was an affront to all of us.”

Starscream felt himself taken with emotions he didn’t realize he had.  It was with some bitterness that he realized he had now the respect and admiration he had always wanted, but he was destined to lose it all.

“Thank you,” was about all he could muster as he hugged his trine back.  Reluctantly, they removed themselves and left him with Soundwave and Megatron.

Starscream felt his anxiety ratchet up a few levels but tried to force himself to relax as they approached him.  Still, he felt bold enough to try.  “Are you sure this is the only way?” Starscream asked plaintively.  “It appears I actually have a lot to lose, I just didn’t realize it,” he said tilting his helm back against the berth.

Megatron looked at him and sighed.  “It would be for your own safety,” he said.  “The Autobots are not the only ones who would attempt to do you harm for the knowledge you possess.  Even the humans would not be above hurting you, and you would be powerless to stop them.”  Then he allowed a small smile to creep into the corner of his lips.  “It will certainly be quieter around here.”

Starscream stifled a chuckle.  “I’ll still find ways to annoy you.”

“I’ll see you on the other side, Starscream,” Megatron said, giving a signal to the Constructicons that it was time to start.

Starscream felt a tug on his mind as Soundwave knocked gently with his telepathy.  His field was strongly sending calming emotions as Starscream started to panic.  “Will this hurt?” he asked quietly.

“Affirmative,” Soundwave replied.  “However, we will attempt to block pain receptors for you.  It will be unpleasant, but not terrible.”

Starscream exvented, feeling terrified.  But then he started to feel drowsy.  He looked at Soundwave who nodded, and Starscream surrendered to the emotions that Soundwave imposed upon him.

He felt them insert the cortical patch into the back of his helm, his limbs feeling heavy.  Soundwave was likely enforcing this sedate mood on him, he thought.  He had not realized the telepath had this ability.  Eventually the Constructions gave him additional sedative that did not fully put him out but did relax him further. 

It was good that he was relaxed for this.  Usually a cortical connection of this kind was done under very strict rules and parameters, where encryptions and passwords and firewalls prevented any unauthorized access.  Starscream realized that he had none of these protections anymore.  Someone could just walk up and view or alter his memories as they saw fit.  He worried distantly about anti-virals and his ability to fight off hacking attempts.  Likely with the same ineffectuality.

He felt the process begin, starting with his most recent memories.  They unspooled in his mind, spinning out like an unseated hard drive.  He watched them as they whited-out batches of memories, and entire battles and events were erased from his mind.  There was a monitor nearby where they spot-checked every once in a while, knowing how far they had gone back.  Eventually entire mechs disappeared from his mind.

That was when things started to hurt.

He hissed as everything from Earth had disappeared into blankness, and then they started to pick through the war.  These memories were older and more heavily carved into his databanks, so they required more effort to scrub them from his mind.  The early war had a lot of formative pieces to it, and it was dragged out of his processor with more than a little pain.  He distantly thought that this process was happening faster than he had expected, but then he realized he didn’t understand what was happening and why this was occurring in the first place.

He actually whimpered when Megatron was completely erased from his mind.

Then there was his trine, their antics, their faces.  It was ripped out of him and he felt his breathing come out in ragged, terrible gasps.

He wanted to ask them to stop, but he didn’t remember who they were anymore or what they were doing.  He didn’t know where he was or why they were hurting him, just that he was in pain.

“Just a little more,” said one of the mechs, patting his servo.  That was oddly comforting, but he didn’t know why.

Then there was Skyfire and losing him in the ice.  That memory was blessedly let go, but then there were others of him at the academy and meeting Skyfire for the first time.  Now his optics started to overflow with cleaning fluid.

Then there was not much left.

Then there was nothing.

 

Chapter Text

“Easy there, don’t push it.  There’s no rush,” came a voice. 

He felt himself sit up, and wince as his helm was ringing with pain.  He slowly opened his optics and saw a bunch of things pop up on his HUD, mostly tutorials and explanations of what all the various gauges and indicators meant.

“Wow,” he said.  “There’s uh, a lot of things on here.”

The voice beside him chuckled.  “Do you know how to dismiss them?” he asked. 

“No, I do not.  Do you?”

“Yes,” said the voice, with some amusement. “You move your optics to the upper right corner and think of mentally pushing the little X you see there.  That will get rid of them so that you can see.”

He did just that.  “Oh!” he said.  “That worked.  Thank you.”  He methodically worked through all of the windows on his screen and slowly the room came into focus.  He was also able to see the mech attached the voice.  He had a white face with a red visor, framed by a black helm.  He was also purple and green.  Not the best color scheme, he thought distantly.

“Where am I?” he asked, his optics sweeping around the room.  There were a lot of berths, a lot of medical and repair equipment, lights blinking in and out.  He understood the names of all these things but had no association as to what they were for.

“You are in a repair bay.  You were in an accident and damaged.  What is the last thing you remember?”  said the mech. 

He thought about the question for a moment.  “I… remember asking you how to dismiss the notifications.”

A slight huff of the vents.  “Yes, and before that.”

“You told me there was no rush.”

Anything before that,” the mech said, sounding a little irritated.

He thought hard about it but couldn’t find anything.  He felt his face frown.  “No, I’m sorry, there’s nothing there.”

The mech sighed and nodded.  “My name is Hook.  Do you know your name?”

“Oh, yes, I’m… hmm.  That’s odd.  Why don’t I know my name?”

“You were in an accident, and you lost your memories.  Your name is Starscream.”  The mech was watching him carefully. 

Starscream, he mouthed.  “Oh.  Right.  The accident you mentioned.  I was damaged.”

Hook watched him carefully with almost a smirk on this faceplate.  “Are you experiencing any pain, Starscream?”  It almost felt like he was being… patronized?  Of course, he didn’t really know either way.

Starscream thought about it and nodded.  “Yes, my helm does hurt quite a bit, actually.  Is that why I have memory loss, Hook?”

Hook nodded.  “Yes, that is why.  We’ll get you a pain patch for that.”  Starscream watched with rapt attention as Hook pulled a drawer out from a cabinet next to the berth and found a pain patch.  He coated the back in adhesive nanite gel and applied it to the cortical node at the base of Starscream’s neck.  Hook noticed Starscream watching his every move with curiosity and smiled. “You’ve always been an inquisitive mech, haven’t you?”

“Afraid I wouldn’t know, Hook!” Starscream smiled and tilted his head as the pain dulled. 

Hook almost started laughing.  “Fair enough.  Alright, I’m going to need to take you to... Megatron.  Our leader.  You will need to be respectful.  Do you understand what that means?”

Starscream nodded slowly, looking surprised.  “Have I been… disrespectful to you Hook?”

“No… but you might want to add some ‘sirs’ at the end of your statements, just to be safe.”

“Understood, sir.”

Hook smiled again and stood, indicating that Starscream should follow him.  He walked down the hallways following a few steps behind his friend Hook.  Other mechs almost froze where they were when they saw the pair walking by but Starscream just thought to smile and wave and keep walking behind Hook.  The mechs almost looked stricken and didn’t say anything back.

When they arrived, Starscream noticed there was a big grey silver mech sitting in a throne chair.  He didn’t look happy, Starscream thought.

“Lord Megatron, the procedure was successful,” Hook said.  Starscream felt contemplative at the word “procedure” but didn’t say anything.

The silver mech watched them carefully.  “Any complications?”

Hook glanced sideways at Starscream but shook his head.  “No, my lord.  He does not remember anything. Do you Starscream?”

Starscream almost jumped at being directly addressed.  “N-no, sir.”

Megatron watched them for another moment, and Starscream flicked his optics between Hook and Megatron.  Was this normal?  This kind of palpable tension and long dramatic pauses?  Finally, Megatron said, “Hook, you are dismissed.”

“Yes, milord.”

His only friend in the world turned and left without giving him a second glance.  He watched the receding back with some sadness.

“Are you sure this isn’t a farce?” Megatron said abruptly, standing from his large chair and advancing on Starscream.  Starscream looked at Megatron quizzically, wondering how best to reply to that question.

“Affirmative, Lord Megatron.  Memory loss is genuine,” came a monotonous voice from the shadows.  Starscream then noticed a dark blue mech with a red visor and mouthplate looking at him from the corner.  Ah.  That was whom Megatron was addressing.

That was kind of rude, wasn’t it?

“Oh, uh, hello. Didn’t see you there…” Starscream said indicating the new mech.

“Mechs often don’t see Soundwave,” Megatron said as if that explained everything.  He was looking at the blue mech with amusement.  Starscream felt a small throb of pain in his helm from trying to process the situation.

“Ah, Soundwave.  Pleasure to meet you… sir.”

Megatron’s optics snapped back to Starscream, and he felt himself startled at the look Megatron was giving him.  The silver mech was eyeing him carefully as if he had said something offensive.  Starscream searched the faceplate of this “leader,” feeling very out of place, tired, and confused.  He decided to take a small risk because clearly these mechs weren’t going to spell it out for him.

“Milord,” he said carefully, trying out the new honorific.  It felt oddly familiar on his glossa. “I-I have questions.”

“You do?” Megatron replied, his arms crossing in front of his chassis.

Starscream felt like his processor kept trying to access references on how to interpret the mech’s behavior, but nothing came up.  So far, the only mechs he knew in the universe were Hook, Megatron, and Soundwave, and he had barely known them for a cycle.  He was completely lost.  “If I… may,” he said finally.

Megatron waved a servo in front of him.  “Please.  I will answer if I can.”

Starscream swallowed, not sure why he felt nervous.  “I suppose I would like to know… who I am? Sir… my lord.”

The silver mech nodded and looked like he was weighing his next words carefully.  “Before the accident you were a warrior. A soldier.”

“Hmm.  Are you sure?”

“…why do you ask?”

Starscream crossed his own arms in front of his chassis, mirroring the posture of the silver mech.  “I don’t feel any like I could fight anyone.  I can’t even… fathom it, sir.”

“Hmm. Yes, your accident significantly changed you. So.  You are a flier.  Even more specifically, you are known as a seeker,” Megatron said pointing to the wings on Starscream’s back.

In truth, he had felt them, but had not really understood the significance before Megatron filled in the blanks for him.  He twitched his wings experimentally.  “Hmm. That tracks,” he said nodding.

Megatron sighed.  “Seekers were originally energon seekers, combing the universe looking for energy or fuel sources for our kind: Cybertronians from the planet Cybertron.  But now that you are recovered and… changed, I’m not sure what to do with you.  Is there anything you want to do?”

Starscream stood there dumbly for what felt like many, many kliks.  That was a lot of information in a simple couple of sentences, but it did seem to line up with his internal lexicon and reference material.  But also, he was being asked what he wanted to do, and in truth he didn’t even know what the options would be, and he didn’t want to sound foolish.  “I would like to be of use?  I know I can’t be a warrior anymore, but there are other things I could do… perhaps?  I’m afraid my experience is lacking in… everything.  I don’t seem to know anything, milord.”

Megatron watched him as he spoke, scrutinizing every word.  “There are certain things the accident did not take from you.  Reaction times, frame memory, proclivity to inventing and science.  Even without the knowledge you amassed over your former life, these things might come naturally to you.”  Megatron paused again and gave him one last searching look, then turned around and walked back to his throne.  “Why don’t we talk about this after some time?  I’m sure things are confusing for you and maybe in time things will become clearer.”

There was a long pause as Starscream just stared at Megatron. 

“Are you alright?” Megatron asked, with a hint of something bordering on concern.

“Yes,” Starscream rasped out, and then he swallowed thickly. “I have uhm- I have some processes that running that are making me… feel odd. Sir.”

“Odd?” Megatron said. 

Starscream took a big invent.  “I don’t want to be rude, but it appears I have feelings that I should be wary of trusting everyone.  But I have no reason not to trust anyone.  So, I am… concerned, sir.”

Megatron’s optics glittered in the dim throne room.  Starscream couldn’t be sure it was amusement, anger, or some other emotion he had yet to experience.  His social programs were basic at best and were not helpful in interpreting this enigmatic mech.  “Hmm. It is good to have healthy skepticism,” Megatron said wistfully.  “You are a member of the Decepticons: the name of my army.  We are at war with the Autobots.  Trust does not come easily to our ranks. By our very nature we have had to struggle for what is ours,” Megatron said thoughtfully.  “But. There are some mechs you can trust implicitly.”  He turned and nodded to Soundwave.

Two new mechs came through the door behind him.  Starscream noticed they too had wings and looked very similar to him.  Or so he thought.  He had yet to see what he fully looked like yet.  The black one looked like he was trying to hold himself back with something close to excitement.  The blue one looked more reserved.

“These are your trinemates:  Thundercracker and Skywarp.  They will look after you for now.  We will chat again soon.”

“Thank you, sir.” 

Megatron gave him one final inscrutable look.  “As long as you are here, you will be protected,” he said cryptically.  He then then waved a servo.  “You’re dismissed.”

Starscream nodded and then turned around mouthing the word “trinemates” before following the other two mechs out of the room.

Chapter Text

Once they had exited, the mech called Skywarp was immediately on him, giving him a hug.  Then he pulled back and immediately looked bereft at Starscream’s surprised expression.

“Oh Primus, sorry!” he said woefully.  “TC said to take this slow and not overwhelm you.”

Starscream felt his face soften.  “Uh, I was just surprised.  I don’t think I actually mind.”  He thought for a moment as he looked at the black seeker’s faceplate.  Skywarp had a smile of such hope and relief, Starscream felt his spark flutter. 

“I mean, I don’t mind, I just think I need… to sit down,” he said, feeling a rush of lightheadedness. 

Thundercracker gently took his arm to steady him.  “You have been through a lot today.”  His vocalizer was deep and rumbling.  “Let’s go back to our quarters and refuel there before we run into anyone else and risk more overwhelming.”

“How far away is that?” Starscream asked, feeling dizzy.

Thundercracker just smiled and glanced at Skywarp.  The black seeker winked at him and touched them both on the arm.

Suddenly they were in another room.

Starscream felt his intakes lurch.  Despite how disoriented his processor said he should be, he found his frame was very much okay with being in one place at one time, and a completely new place seconds later. 

“Uhm,” he said with his optics wide.

Skywarp laughed and guided him to a chair, gently setting him down.  “Yeah, I’m pretty fragging amazing,” he said smirking.

He wanted to ask for elaboration, but he was distracted by the new room.  The room was smaller than the throne room, but still comfortable.  Starscream wasn’t sure why the size of the room mattered, but he’d have to figure that out later.  There was a small table that he sat at with three chairs and some other furniture for sitting and relaxing.  For some reason, the three chairs felt… good.  Comforting.

This seemed to be some kind of common room.  There were four other rooms attached to this one.  Three of them were clearly berthrooms and one led to a what looked like a washroom of some kind.

Thundercracker sat down in a chair close to Starscream.  “I’m sure this is a lot for you,” he said with gentle optics.  “We were quite upset to hear about your accident and your memory loss.”

Starscream nodded carefully.  “This is a lot, but I’m also eager to get my footing.  I feel more than a little out of my depth here,” he said carefully, still not sure how to proceed with these friendly mechs.

“Does it… bother you?  The not-knowing?” Skywarp asked, sitting down next to him in a chair.

“Hmm,” he said, and gave a nervous laugh.  “Yes. It’s disturbing.”  He set his elbow on the table and then leaned his forehead into his servo.  “My chronometer says I’m over 4 million years old.  That’s a long time to have… nothing.”

He noticed the small glance between the other two seekers.  They then fixed their optics back on him with a look.

“Yes.  Yes, it is a long time” Thundercracker said quietly.

Starscream felt himself get frustrated, but it felt muted, somehow.  He sighed.  “Why does everyone look at me like that?”

“Like what?” Skywarp said.

“Like that,” Starscream said, throwing a servo at Skywarp’s face.  “I don’t know what it is or what it means.  Everyone’s doing it.  Except… Megatron, come to think of it.”  He remembered the silver mech as being intimidating and almost unapproachable.  But he didn’t give him this look. 

“Starscream,” Thundercracker said gently.  “You were injured.  We were just worried about you.”

Starscream wanted to be placated, but something still didn’t feel right.  “I also have this nagging feeling in the back of my processor that I shouldn’t be trusting everyone.  I asked Megatron who I should trust, and he said I could trust you two?  But he didn’t include himself in that.  Why didn’t he include himself?  Should I not trust Megatron?”

The two seekers just stared at him for a few moments.  Then Skywarp whistled and put his servos up in a kind of surrendered motion.  “I’ll… go pour some energon,” he said standing and walking away.  Starscream watched after him, feeling even more desolate.

Thundercracker sighed.  “Starscream, you will need to be careful about who you trust from now on.  But you can trust Skywarp and myself implicitly.  We are trine.  Megatron said he will protect you, and the whole base here has declared that they will help you as well.  You can trust in these pledges.”

Starscream searched Thundercracker’s optics.  In them, he didn’t sense deception, but then again, what did that even look like?  He had no frame of reference.  There were a lot of other questions rolling in his processor, chiefly being… was he someone important?  Why did they all care about his well-being?  Or was that how things were around here?  And there was something else…

“I understand the lexicon definition of a trine, but can you explain that more to me?  You are my trinemates?  What does that mean in practice?”

Skywarp looked shocked as he returned to the table with cubes of energon. He turned his optics to Thundercracker who sighed.  “It is a terrible thing that you have lost this heritage, but we will happily guide you through it,” Thundercrakcer said.  “We are seekers, and seekers are drawn together in groups of three, also known as a trine.  We function like a family unit.  We fly together, we work together, we protect each other.”

Starscream frowned slightly.  “Did they tell you the… details of my accident?”  Were they going to push him out of the trine?  He did not think he could protect them anymore as was apparently his duty.  Especially during a war.

That look again.  This time, Skywarp answered.  “Yes, we know about how you can’t fight anymore.  That’s why we’re going to protect you.”

Starscream felt his helm pang with some pain and he winced. 

“Are you alright?!” his trinemates said in unison.

Starscream felt… comforted by that.  He nodded weakly.  “I’m alright, just… tired.”

“Drink this, you will feel better,” Skywarp said nudging the cube closer to him.

Starscream grabbed the cube, drinking it.  He felt a little better, but he was still exhausted.  The taste was familiar, even though it wasn’t amazingly palatable.  Still, his frame recognized it as fuel, and he saw his gauge go up.

Starscream smiled weakly at Skywarp.  “Thank you,” he said.

The black seeker looked concerned and put the back of a servo on Starscream’s forehead.  “You’re running really hot,” he said looking to Thundercracker.  Starscream dimmed his optics and leaned into the servo that felt cool and comforting.  Skywarp’s optics softened.

“You get him into his berth, I’ll comm Hook,” Thundercracker said.

Skywarp stood and slowly pulled the unresisting Starscream out of his chair, guiding him to the far berthroom near the washracks.  Starscream leaned on his trinemate, who gladly took the weight. They entered the new room, and Starscream assumed it was his own quarters, but nothing seemed familiar.  Skywarp gently set him down on the berth and leaned him back. 

Thundercracker came in with a coolant pack in his hand.  “Hook says to just keep an eye on him.  The full effects of the accident might still be running through his systems.  This should help,” he said, gently applying the cooling pack to Starscream’s forehead.  Starscream made a small sigh of relief and closed his optics.

He heard them talking about him, but he couldn’t quite make out the words.  He felt a servo wrap around his and give it a squeeze before the pressure on the berth lessened and he heard them leave.

Suddenly faced the with prospect of being alone, he slowly sat up catching the cooling pack as it slid off his helm.  “Wait,” he said, his vocalization very weak.

Two pairs of red optics peered at him from the doorway. 

“Please… don’t leave,” he said, kind of hating how pathetic he sounded, but also not sure he could really do anything about it.  He was pathetic.

Through slightly hazy vision, he saw Skywarp’s faceplate brighten as he turned back into the common room with a squeak of excitement.  Thundercracker gave Starscream a soft look and came in to slowly guide him out of the berth.  “You have no idea how happy you just made him.”  Starscream was confused until he was back out in the common room, and Skywarp was adjusting the couch.  By pushing some hidden button, the three-seater couch expanded into a large, round berth.  It was at least three-times the size of Starscream’s original berth.

“We haven’t used this in centuries,” Skywarp said, smiling.  He bounded into his own berthroom and came out holding a multitude of blankets and pillows.

“I hope at least it’s more comfortable than something that hasn’t been used in centuries,” Thundercracker teased as Skywarp made up the berth.

“Hey!  This is a state-of-the-art expanding berth.  From Cybertron. Super high-end; stole it from some noble’s penthouse.  It’s probably one of the last ones in existence.”

“There might be a reason for that,” Thundercracker said in Starscream’s audio.  Despite his exhaustion, Starscream snorted.  Thundercracker’s optics glittered and he slowly helped Starscream into the middle of the berth.  Once the seeker had settled, laying his helm down against the pillows, Skywarp and Thundercracker crawled in on either side of him.  Thundercracker then gently reapplied the cooling pack to Starscream’s forehead, and the seeker melted in relief.

“Why haven’t we slept here in centuries?” he asked.  But his optics were already closed and he was in recharge almost instantly.

Thundercracker frowned sadly and met Skywarp’s optics over the sleeping frame of their trineleader.  Or… was he still the trineleader?  They were really in unknown territory now.

Skywarp was leaning over Starscream, caressing the side of his helm while watching him recharge.  “I’ve missed him so much,” Skywarp said softly.

Thundercracker was going to ask what he meant, because to anyone else, it would seem like they had actually just lost Starscream, not gotten him back.  But then Thundercracker felt Starscream shift and push closer into the touch of Skywarp, and he knew what he meant.

“He’s just… so adorable like this,” Skywarp said.  “I never thought I’d see him like this again.”

Thundercracker sighed.  “We will do our best to do right by him this time.”

Skywarp nodded and laid down his helm next to Starscream and closed his optics for recharge. 

Thundercracker turned so that he wings were flared out behind him, and faced the sleeping form of Starscream as well, seeing him recharge peacefully and in full trust of his trinemates.  This was a silver lining here, and he hoped they could grasp it.

But the thought that Starscream would never again be able to fly with them into battle still left a bitter taste in the back of his mouth.


Skywarp woke in the middle of the night, surprised that the sleeping form facing him was not the pale face of Thundercracker, but the darker one of Starscream.  He pulled back in fear for a moment, expecting to be yelled at, scratched, harassed, berated-

But then he remembered.

Starscream seemed to rouse a little at Skywarp’s movement, and blearily opened one optic and looked at his trinemate.  “Sky…warp?” he said sleepily.

“Hey there, Star,” the black seeker said quietly, smiling and laying his helm down again. His nose was practically touching Starscream’s and he could feel the light warm breath of his intakes.

“…’Star’?” Starscream repeated, with a small smile.

“Is it okay to call you that?”  Skywarp asked, bringing up a servo to stroke the side of Starscream’s helm.  When the red and white seeker didn’t object, Skywarp smiled bigger.  “We sometimes called you ‘Screamer too, but you never liked that nickname.”

“…because of my voice?” he said, bringing a servo up to his throat.  “No one else sounds like me,” he observed thoughtfully.

Your speaking voice was part of it, Skywarp thought wryly.  “We just like to shorten names I guess.  I get called ‘Warp,’ and Thundercracker is also ‘TC.’”

Starscream smiled softly.  “I’m fine with whatever you’d like to call me,” he said. 

Skywarp felt a small fluttering in his spark and felt magnetically pulled to the seeker in front of him.  It had been a long, long time since Starscream had allowed himself to be so vulnerable in front of his trinemates, and even longer since they were this close in a berth.  Skywarp knew he was more of a physical mech and touching and proximity were the ways he showed affection.  And he definitely was feeling affectionate.

He stopped petting Starscream’s helm and looked at him.  “Are you… happy?  With us?  I know to you we just met, but… have we made a good impression?”

Starscream furrowed his brow a little.  “When I woke up, I wasn’t sure I had anyone that cared about me.  I thought Hook did, but I realize now he’s just a medic.  And Megatron and Soundwave were… distant.  I was afraid of what my life was going to be like.  But then I learned I had you two,” Starscream said, pushing his forehead into Skywarp’s while closing his optics.  “And well, I don’t know why you care for me so much, but I’m happy you do.”

Skywarp felt like his spark was going to burst in his chest.

Starscream noticed his words were affecting Skywarp, but his optics showed doubt.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-“ he started, clearly misinterpreting Skywarp’s reaction.

Skywarp pushed forward his lips to Starscream’s in a kiss. 

Starscream froze and his optics widened slightly.  Skywarp drank in Starscream, and pulled him close, wrapping his arms around the pretty seeker beside him.  He had always been so attracted to the colorful seeker, and he had been so happy when he had agreed to trine with him and Thundercracker.  It had honestly been one of the best days of his life. 

It had been clear that Starscream had some demons, but they had loved him anyway.  They were a great trine, and nothing could stand in their way.  They quickly rose through the Decepticon ranks together and felt unstoppable.  But slowly, they began to fight more.  It was easy to blame Starscream for the change in their dynamic since he changed the most.  He became paranoid, ambitious, arrogant, and honestly mean.  But Skywarp and Thundercracker had also pulled back from the bristling trineleader, offering no support or affection, and practically built their own relationship together away from him.

They had participated in much of the cruelty their second-in-command had endured throughout the years though Starscream often made it easy for them to get over any guilt they might have had by being a glitch.

Still, Skywarp had always hoped they could bridge things, fix things.  He still wanted Starscream in his life after all this time.  Being an emotionally broken trine was hard on all three of them.

He kissed Starscream deeper, wanting him and wanting to show him how much he still loved him.  He opened his optics to see Starscream’s blushing faceplate and half lidded optics, but his optics looked… unsure.

Starscream had never been indecisive before.

In a rare show of restraint, Skywarp pulled out of the kiss. He moved lips up to Starscream’s forehead as he cycled his vents to cool himself down.  Starscream said nothing, but his vents also cycled loudly.

“I’m… stupid,” Skywarp said into Starscream’s forehead.  “I should have waited until you were sure you wanted this.”

Starscream still was not moving, and still holding his intakes.  “I’m… not entirely convinced I don’t want this either.”

Skywarp smiled and pulled back to look down at his trinemate.  “Even so, it’s too soon.  You need more… time.  More information.  Thundercracker told me to wait, and I should have listened.”

Starscream finally exvented, relaxing in his hold.  “You two are the best thing that has happened to me since I woke up.  I don’t want to disappoint you.”

Skywarp squeezed Starscream’s frame then untangled from the embrace.  “The truth is, Star, that’s the nature of relationships.  We will disappoint each other at some point.”

Starscream smiled despite the nature of his statement.  “So, you’re the wise one of our trine.”

Skywarp snorted.  “I promise you I’m not.  I probably just used up my entire lifetime’s worth of brilliance with that line.”  In fact, he was pretty sure he was misquoting the old Starscream saying something hateful.

“But I’m really trying to impress you so that’s probably why I sound so great.” 

Starscream’s embarrassed smile was adorable but he tried to hide it by nuzzling into Skywarp’s chassis.  “I look forward to getting to know you better,” he said.  “Oh, wise one.”

Skywarp chuckled and curled around his trinemate, thinking that he was going to get so much slag if Star ever called him that in front of anyone else.  But he also didn’t really care.

At the edge of the berth, facing away from them was TC, who smiled softly in the darkness.

 

Chapter Text

When Starscream woke, Skywarp was gone.  Thundercracker was still in the berth beside him, sitting up and reading a data pad, sipping some energon.

“Good afternoon,” Thundercracker said with a smile.  “I hope you are feeling better.”

Starscream slowly sat up and stretched.  “I am, thank you.  It seems the berth was more comfortable than we thought,” he said with a smirk.

Thundercracker handed Starscream his cube.  “Quite… comfortable it seems,” he said raising an optic-ridge.

Starscream’s servo faltered as he took the cube, managing to grab it right at the last second before spilling it.  He blushed and quickly sipped the energon to try and hide it.

“Star, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” TC said gently.  “I just wanted to make sure you had the chance to ask questions… if you wanted to.”

Starscream was incredibly embarrassed anyway.  “I mean I’m barely a day old now, so I guess it’s about time I start kissing mechs,” he said nervously.  He looked down.  Thundercracker had the decency not to laugh at his stupid joke.

Starscream swallowed.  “I guess I want to know…  Hm.  I guess I’m getting some conflicting information,” he started, rising his optics to look at Thundercracker.  The blue seeker looked concerned.  “We haven’t slept in the same berth in centuries, but Skywarp is clearly… interested in me.”

“You’re afraid he’s taking advantage of you and your lack of memories.”

Starscream was stricken by the statement, but with some reluctance he could admit that the thought had crossed his mind.  “How close were we?  Recently?”

Thundercracker sighed.  “We used to be closer.  I think you took more to being the most ambitious mech in the army, and we might have been… rivals to you.  We were civil… most of the time.”

“Civil,” Starscream repeated, perplexed and… saddened.

“I know… Skywarp wanted things to go back to the way they used to be.  And I wanted that too.  But I’m sorry, Starscream, I don’t know what you wanted regarding us.  If we had known, we would have tried to give it to you.”

Starscream considered this for a moment.  “As I told Skywarp last night… I don’t know what I want yet.  But I enjoy your company.  Maybe we can just see how things go?”

Thundercracker smiled.  “I think we would both like that very much.  But… we need to be open with communication.  Things can happen fast.” Thundercracker scrunched up his faceplate, like he was having trouble with the words.  “Eh, Star, you are going to have to be careful with this kind of stuff with others in the future.  You are going to have to be sure you trust them… I mean you are going to need to get to know if they are good… eugh that’s not right either,” he said frowning. 

Starscream was a little amused.  His trinemate was quite cute when he was trying to self-edit his statements.  TC seemed to dip into the caregiver role naturally, and though it did come of as patronizing it also rang of truth in his audios.

“TC,” Starscream said gently.  “I know I may have the knowledge of a sparkling, but I am actually not one,” he said raising his optic ridges in jest.  “I’m not going to go around trying to sleep with every mech I find.”

Thundercracker sighed, now embarrassed himself.  “I know. I… I realize that.  It’s just now… Star.  You can’t fight back.”

Starscream tilted his helm.  “Why would I want to?”

Thundercracker looked… shocked as his lips parted.  “If you were suddenly in a situation where you wanted to stop, you might not be able to overpower the… aggressor.”

“Why would I need to overpower them? I would just tell them I wanted to stop.”

Thundercracker looked extremely uncomfortable.  “But what if they don’t want to stop and don’t care how you feel about it?”

Starscream frowned.  “How can I possibly trust anyone then, if that’s the way things are?”

Thundercracker looked so sad… but also had the annoying smack of pity on his faceplate.  He was about to say more when Skywarp suddenly appeared in the room.

“Wow, both of you still in the berth?  And they call me lazy!” Skywarp joked.

The awkwardness of their conversation seemed to hang in the air, but Starscream didn’t feel like dwelling on it.  “I suppose I was more tired than I thought.  Where were you?”

“Monitor duty,” Skywarp said, wrinkling his nose.  “Boring as Pit, especially since the Autobots have barely left their base at all.”

“Is that… abnormal?” Starscream asked, looking back and forth between his trinemates.

“Perhaps a little.  Don’t really mind the down time though,” Skywarp said with a smirk.  “Speaking of which.  You up to meeting a few more mechs today?  Got cornered while on duty and couldn’t really say no.”

“Who?” Thundercracker said with thinly-veiled suspicion.

Skywarp smirked.  “Coneheads and the Constructicons.”

Thundercracker narrowed his optics.  “That’s an odd mix,” he said.

Skywarp shrugged.  “Look, more seekers for him to talk to: not a bad thing.  And it sounds like it was mostly Hook, but the others wanted to say hi too.”

“Hook wants to see me?” Starscream said, barely able to keep the excitement out of his voice.  Hook was… his first acquaintance since he had woken.  He couldn’t help but have some kind associations with the mech.

Skywarp grinned and held out his servo to Starscream.  “Let me get you set up in the washracks so that you look your best.  Not that it’s hard for you to look good,” Skywarp said, raising an optic ridge.

Starscream took the servo, giving the seeker a wry smile.  He allowed himself to be led into the other room.

Skywarp returned to the common room and tried to avoid TC’s gaze.  “I’m trying,” he said quietly.

Thundercrakcer bristled.  “Try harder, Skywarp.  Honestly, he’s worried you might be taking advantage of him.”

Skywarp looked horrified and then threw himself facedown on the berth in shame.  “I don’t remember liking him this much when we first trined.  It’s hard.”

“He’s your perfect type now.  Naïve but extremely curious.  Plus, it’s new.  Just rein in the flirting and late-night groping, or I will kick you out of our quarters so that you can’t corrupt him.”

“You just want him for yourself,” Skywarp said, half-joking, half-not.  He flinched at the pillow that was pelted at his head, but he knew he deserved it.

Thundercracker moved closer to Skywarp.  “We also have to be careful, because he doesn’t understand yet how he’s… pacified.  The memory wipe was hard enough, but the new coding has made him more vulnerable than I thought.”

Skywarp turned on his side to look up at his handsome trinemate.  “No one here is going to hurt him,” Skywarp said.

“Not on purpose,” Thundercracker said, giving the black and purple seeker a hard, knowing stare.

Skywarp winced a little.  “You win, TC, I get it.  I won’t rush anything.”

Thundercracker flicked his trinemate on the audio affectionately.  “Glad to hear it, oh wise one.”

Skywarp groaned.


They left a little early to explore the base, and his trinemates were taking care to try and avoid other Decepticons where they could.  They were relatively successful, with just a few mechs attempting curious conversation only to be sternly glared at by the blue seeker or even forcibly warped away in the case of Blitzwing.

They managed to get into the seeker’s private command center, where Ramjet, Dirge, Thrust and the Constructicons were waiting.  They all turned and looked at Starscream oddly when he arrived, but he swallowed the nervousness and forced on a smile.  “Well.  Pleasure to meet you all.  Again.”

This actually earned some light chuckling from the mechs, and it helped ease the tension the room had.  Starscream knew that there wasn’t likely to be a manual on how to approach this situation, but he thought that he was probably doing well.  Conversations were struck up with the Coneheads and his trine, and Hook made sure to come up to him, much to his delight. 

“Hook!  Good to see you,” he said warmly.

The mech gave him a confused but warm smile.  “Starscream, it is good to see you as well,” he said haltingly.  He turned to the other mechs around him.  “These are the rest of my gestalt: Scavenger, Long Haul, Mixmaster, Bonecrusher and Scrapper, our leader.”  Starscream inclined his helm in a little bow to greet them. 

“How have you been feeling?” Scrapper asked, tilting his helm.

“Oh, well, some helmaches.  Today is much better than yesterday,” he said, smiling warmly.

Hook frowned a little.  “Starscream,” he started, moving closer and lowering his voice.  “We wanted you to know that if you ever need anything- anything at all- we would assist you.  Please consider us your allies.”

Starscream couldn’t quite hide the confusion on his faceplate.  “…I appreciate the sentiment.  But we’re all allies here, right?”  He glanced around at each mech’s faceplate.  That look again.  He bit back a small flare of anger and frustration.

Hook nodded.  “Yes, you’re right.  I think a lot of mechs feel the same way as we do now after your accident.  We just felt compelled to tell you this personally because we have gone through something similar to you.”

Starscream looked at them with surprise.  “You also lost your memories?”

Hook looked confused again and was about to say more when Thundercracker arrived, handing Starscream a cube.  “Ramjet is going to blow a gasket unless you go over and talk to him,” the blue seeker said.  “He’s a little… much.  Don’t take it personally,” TC said conspiratorially.  Starscream smiled and walked away towards the strange grey and white seeker Thundercracker had indicated.

Hook looked at Thundercracker with concern.  “Does he not understand his… vulnerability?  His reprogramming?”

The blue seeker frowned.  “I have been trying to explain it to him, but he doesn’t understand.  He doesn’t have a frame of reference, so telling him he can’t defend himself doesn’t sound like something he should be afraid of.”

Hook matched the seeker’s frown.  “That might have been an unintended consequence to this.”

“Ah if it isn’t the disabled Air Commander,” Ramjet said, his armor fluffed out in what Starscream perceived a dominance display. 

Sure.  Fine. 

“Ah, I doubt I’m still a Commander in the army,” Starscream said with a smile.  “Fighting isn’t something I can really accomplish anymore, is it?”

This seemed to surprise the dark grey and white seeker, who clearly had a retort lined up but died on his tongue.  “You’d just… give it up?  Just like that?”

Starscream shrugged.  “Not sure I really have a choice, do I?” he said with a small smile.  “Do you mind me asking: did we know each other really well?”

Ramjet seemed taken aback by both the response and the question.  “I mean… yeah we knew each other.  Well.  Actually.  Not really,” he decided wrinkling his noseplate.  “You were our commander, not really our… friend.”

“That’s fine, I suppose,” Starscream said, waving his servo, though silently stowing away some sadness at that.  “I think what I’m really asking is: who was I closest to here?  Who knew me really well?”  Starscream might be taking a risk somehow asking a complete stranger for this information.

Ramjet folded his arms across his chassis and tilted his helm as if he hadn’t quite heard.  He seemed thrown off during this entire conversation, and Starscream thought that he had inadvertently made the right decision in how to interact with his mech.

“Erm well, honestly?  Probably Megatron?” Ramjet said with a shrug.  “And of course, your trine.  You also were oddly around Rumble a lot too, now to think about it.  But I eh, don’t think they are the ones you are looking for,” Ramjet said slowly watching Starscream’s faceplate. 

Starscream’s face fell a little at the explanation.  While he was happy about the confirmation about his trine… Megatron?  Really?  And who the slag was Rumble?

“Oh,” he said with disappointment.  “Well thanks anyway, Ramjet.”

The Conehead seeker frowned.  “You really have changed, haven’t you?” he said incredulously.  “I thought it was all an act.  Slag, ‘Screamer, I’m sorry.”

Starscream remembered Skywarp telling him he apparently didn’t like that name before, but now he didn’t really care.  “Was I so different before?”

Ramjet opened his mouth but then shut it like he had changed his mind about answering.  He shrugged instead.  “I guess you’re pretty tolerable now,” he said with a half-smile.

Skywarp slunk in next to Starscream, bumping his shoulder against his trinemate.  “You okay?  He say anything particularly stupid?” the black and purple seeker said with an appraising look at the Conehead trineleader.

Starscream leaned into his trinemate slightly, taking comfort at the contact and gave a grin.  “Not at all; Ramjet has been great.  Thanks for the chat,” he said.

Starscream turned around and walked back towards the rest of the crowd that was slowly getting louder as more high-grade was passed around.  He introduced himself to the other two seekers Dirge and Thrust and chatted with them.

Ramjet stepped up to stand next to Skywarp.  “I’m uh.  Sorry this happened to him,” he said.

Skywarp glanced at the usually insufferable seeker next to him and then shifted his gaze to his trinemate.  “I think we just have to make the best of it.”

The makeshift party continued for a couple of hours but was abruptly cut short by the arrival of three mechs: Megatron, Soundwave, and to everyone’s surprise, a big purple mech with a single optic and no other discernable facial features.

Starscream noticed the shift in the tone of the room as everyone stood straighter and quieted their conversations.

“Apologies, mechs,” Megatron said.  “I hope we are not interrupting.”

No one spoke for a moment, and Starscream got the impression that they might actually have wanted him to say something.  But then Scrapper intervened.  “No, my lord, just allowing Starscream to get to know us again while we had time off-duty.  We were about finished anyway.”

The new purple mech he didn’t know moved his optic to Starscream.  The seeker felt scrutinized.

“Ah, I see.  Well, we do have some official business with the elite trine,” he said, his optics running over the seekers in question.

The rest of the Decepticons bowed and left quickly out the door, leaving the three mechs and the three seekers staring at each other. 

“It has been decided that Starscream will be demoted from Air Commander and second-in-command of the Decepticon Army to become a Lieutenant.” 

Both Thundercracker and Skywarp snapped their helms to look at Starscream standing behind them, searching him for a reaction.  Starscream was surprised.  Starscream met their optics but then inclined his helm at Megatron.  “Acknowledged, my lord.”

This answer seemed to please the Decepticon leader.  “I am allowing him to keep a rank in the army in an honorary fashion, that he may still reap the benefits of being part of the Decepticon army,” Megatron said, his optics fixed on Starscream.  The seeker’s wings twitch at the attention.  “He still needs to be evaluated for what his possible duties could be.

“Thundercracker, you will be made Air Commander of the Decepticon Army.  Soundwave will become my second-in-command, and you will be my third.”

The blue seeker stiffened but managed to say, “Acknowledged, my lord.”

“Excellent.  In addition, Shockwave is here to help us evaluate the extent of Starscream’s condition.  He will need to report to the labs tomorrow morning at the beginning of first watch.”

Thundercracker and Skywarp dipped their heads and Starscream followed their lead after a moment of hesitation.

The three commanders turned and left without another word.

Starscream immediately put his hand on Thundercracker’s shoulder.  The blue seeker tensed a little until he saw Starscream’s face. 

“Congratulations, TC, this is wonderful for you!”

Thundercracker gave him the look but it melted into a smile.  He reached out and hugged the tri-colored seeker.  “It should be you, Star, you have to know that,” he said quietly and sadly.  “But thank you.  I will do you proud.”

Skywarp came up behind them and wrapped around the three of them in a gentle hug.


 

The next morning, TC escorted Starscream to the labs.  On the way there, the blue seeker listed off a litany of things to look out for around the purple gunformer.

“He’s very obsessed with logic, so he’s going to come off as rude,” Thundercracker said.  “And he tends to overstep in the name of science so if you are uncomfortable, just comm ‘Warp and he’ll be there.  We asked to be able to stay and observe, but Shockwave said it would throw off the experiment.”

Starscream listened intently.  There was always an undercurrent of worry to Thundercracker, and Starscream wanted to wrap his arms around his reserved trinemate and hold him until he let his anxiety go.  He found that now that the blue seeker had been announced as the new Air Commander, he carried a lot more weight on his already tired shoulders.  Even ‘Warp had taken on a little bit more of a responsible edge, and they both seemed exhausted when they came back to their shared quarters.

It seemed the responsibilities of a trine were being foisted upon two seekers, while one was practically worthless.

They arrived and TC and Starscream walked through the lab doors.  Shockwave had his back to them and was typing away on a console.  They stood there for a few moments until TC cleared his vocalizer.  Still, Shockwave did not acknowledge them.

It seemed that there were quite a few rude mechs in the Decepticon ranks, Starscream thought wryly.

“Sir, I’ve arrived for testing,” Starscream said, sneaking a small smile to his trinemate.

Shockwave still didn’t turn around, and just waved a servo in the air.  “You my leave, Air Commander,” he said clipped.

Thundercracker sighed and gave Starscream a quick squeeze of the shoulder as he turned and left the room.

Shockwave continued to ignore him for more than a few kliks.  Starscream began to suspect this was some kind of strange, theatrical display, making him wait on purpose.

Well, he didn’t have anything better to do.  His time wasn’t precious.

He observed the lab instead.  Megatron had said that he had proclivity to science and inventing, and he did find himself drawn to the various machines and equipment in the room.  He was curious as to what they did and what they were for.  Some things he could identify, but he knew he only had the most basic of lexicons installed. 

Finally, the purple mech had apparently tired of testing his patience, and his optic roved over the seeker’s frame with… an emotion.

Starscream realized he couldn’t read this mech at all.  He thought Megatron was difficult to interpret.

“You are here for us to test the exact limits of your condition, as apparently no one is quite sure about your boundaries,” he said.  “Most of what we know about your condition is based on legend, rumor, and hearsay, and not based in any form of reputable data.  So, we will have to start with the basics.”

Starscream knit his brow in confusion.  “Other mechs have had my condition before?  I thought it was an accident, and I was… changed?”

Shockwave’s optic did not waver.  “There have been others who had your condition before.  Let’s begin,” he said stiffly.

That wasn’t an answer to everything, but it would have to do.

“On the table is a blaster.  I need you to fire it at the target on the wall over there,” he said, turning to the console to start writing notes.

Starscream looked at the blaster, then at the target.  He wrinkled his brow.  “But that will mark the wall,” he said.

Shockwave stopped typing to slowly look at the seeker.  “Yes.  It will mark the wall.  But I am giving you an order.”  Starscream looked at the optic watching him carefully and sighed.  Then picked up the blaster and lined his vision down the sight; something that felt… familiar.

And then he felt overwhelming nausea.

He slowly set the blaster down and leaned on the table in front of him to steady his swaying pedes.  He could feel Shockwave watching him with keen interest.  “I apologize, sir,” he said weakly.  “I cannot comply with that order.”

Shockwave was beside him in an instant and was hooking up diodes to his frame and his helm that attached to a medical-looking scanner in his servo.  Starscream was unnerved by the mech now so close, but he also was trying to focus and force himself not to purge his tanks.

“Explain to me why you are disobeying the order,” he said, not angry, just curious.  He kept looking at his scanner, and it was beeping annoyingly.

“I… don’t have any desire to mar the wall.  It feels wrong somehow.”

“Even if it is a direct order?  What if I told you that your trinemates will be punished for your insubordination?”

Starscream blanched, unsure if this was a hypothetical threat or an actual threat.  His servo trembled and he went to try and grip the blaster again, but then stopped, his servo falling back to his side.  “No,” he said somewhat mournfully.  “I still cannot comply.”  He didn’t want his trinemates to be punished, but somehow marking the wall was worse.

That… can’t be right.

He looked to Shockwave who was quickly typing notes in a datapad.  “Highly illogical,” he muttered.

“Why can’t I obey the order?” he heard himself ask, hearing his vocalizer crack.

Shockwave said nothing and then grabbed his wrist and was pulling him along to sit in a chair.

Starscream landed in the chair roughly, feeling his frame smart a little at being thrown around.  But his processor was still reeling from the fact he was so damned obsessed with not hurting the wall that he didn’t really begrudge the treatment.

On the table in front of him was a little square, metal cube.  Shockwave indicated it.  “Lift this from the table,” he said, watching him with that incessant optic.

Starscream reached out and lifted it, feeling that it was stuck.  He gave it a little more force and then was able to pull it off, but it apparently had been glued to the table with some kind of sticky adhesive.  It took some of the paint with the table.

“Oh,” he said with surprise.  He had inadvertently damaged the table.

“Now put the cube down and lift it back up again.”

Starscream slowly put the cube back down, and tried to lift it, but noticed that the cube would likely damage the table again given the resistance he was feeling.

“I… I can’t,” he said with surprise.  He felt the overwhelming feeling to just not do what Shockwave asked.

Shockwave hummed thoughtfully.  He sat down at the table and stared at Starscream for a few kliks.  “Did anyone tell you about the history of your condition?” he said conversationally.

Starscream was more than a little confused, not only because of the turn of the conversation, but also the new, almost friendly behavior from the purple mech.  “No,” he finally said, shrugging.

Shockwave’s optic danced back and forth as he looked into each of Starscream’s optics, like he was searching for something.  “Your frame type has often been considered to be unruly,” he said turning his attention to the table.  “Based on my research, some of this was a deserved reputation, but not any more than any other frame type.  Some of it might have been from jealousy.  If things got bad enough on our home planet, your frame type could just fly away and leave.  You didn’t have to stay on the ground and deal with the problems that were developing.”

Shockwave turned his optic back to Starscream.  “Occasionally there would be edicts to try and bring fliers in-line, like imposing restrictions of where and when you could fly.  Then came the idea that you were just naturally violent and if that was taken away, you might actually be able to find a purpose that benefited Cybertronian society.” 

“Then came tacere-avem.  An insidious program that routes out any and all capacity for violence and makes you docile.  I had thought it was just violence towards sentient creatures, but apparently it is towards inanimate objects as well.”

Starscream felt like he had been slapped.  “…this… this was not an accident?”

Shockwave tilted his helm.  “My understanding is that the mechs who pacified you did not understand that it was be permanent.  But that does not matter now.”

Starscream despaired.

“We need to try a few more experiments,” Shockwave said.  “It will help us determine more boundaries.”

Starscream suddenly wanted to do anything other than find out more about his boundaries, but he also knew he didn’t have a choice.

Suddenly, Shockwave’s left servo, which was clearly a gun, was pushing against the cables in his throat.

Starscream did not move though he held his intakes.  His optics were trained on the yellow optic that was observing him carefully as Shockwave moved closer and stood over Starscream in a dominating presence.  The seeker was oddly calm looking up at the mech who held his life at the edge of a gun.

Though it was only a flicker, Starscream thought he caught something in Shockwave’s optic.  It was more than just curiosity that was making him move closer to Starscream.

This was the first time since he started his new life that he was completely vulnerable and at someone else’s mercy.  Thundercracker’s earlier words of warning were echoing in his processor.

Shockwave was cycling the gun up, and Starscream felt it warm against his neck.  Still, he remained where he was, looking at the optic with resignation.  There would be no stopping this, if this is what Shockwave wanted to do.

The gun lowered from his neck, and their optics remained fixed on one-another, even as Starscream went to rub is neck absentmindedly with his servo and released his held ex-vent.

“You would have let me kill you,” Shockwave said, more amused than surprised.  “What were you thinking in that moment?”

Starscream clenched his jaw a little, breaking optic-contact finally by looking down at the table.  “Nothing, beyond wondering why you are so cruel.”

Ah,” Shockwave said, sitting down.  “That sounded like the Starscream I used to know.”

“Most people say I am an improvement,” he said bitterly.

Shockwave tilted his helm to the side.  “Hm.  Maybe.”  The purple mech then scooted his chair closer to Starscream, who now was drawing back a little.  He was experiencing some distressed emotions for the first time, and he didn’t particularly like it.  “One last experiment, and then we will just do routine tests,” he said, almost sensing Starscream’s reluctance to continue.  Maybe even conceding that this had been the most stressful twenty minutes of his life.

Starscream sighed.

“I want you to slap me,” Shockwave said. 

Starscream wondered what it would be like to be a mech that just accepted that violence was a course of action like that.  He couldn’t understand it.

“I have no desire to do that,” he said.  “Even if you might deserve it.”

The optic danced merrily.  He reached down and lightly picked up Starscream’s left servo and placed it on the side of his helm, his own servo keeping it in place.  Starscream felt the warmth of the mech’s plating and could feel the subtle vibrations of the components whirring away beneath it, but he also felt the gentle pressure of the servo on top of his.  “I threatened your life for a measly experiment, Starscream.  I do deserve to be slapped.  Perhaps you could oblige me?”

Starscream frowned.  He didn’t understand the tone that accompanied Shockwave’s words, but for some reason it quickened the energon in his lines.  “I… can’t,” he said after a klik.  He couldn’t muster the desire or the ability to slap the mech in front of him.  Instead, it felt like he was being forced to caress the gunformer.  He felt his digits twitch.

The light-colored servo pulled back his servo from the helm.  “This might hurt,” he said in the only way of warning.

With some quick force, Shockwave pushed Starscream’s servo into the side of the purple mech’s helm, as if Starscream was slapping him with aide.

Starscream felt his vision go white and he whimpered in agony as a terrible, tingling sensation flowed from his servo all the way up his arm.  It hurt.

Shockwave didn’t release his servo but had pulled it down and was stroking the back of it with his thumb.

“So inadvertent damage against the insentient is permissible, but some inadvertent damage against something sentient is not.  Who came up with this program?” he said with derision.

Starscream felt strangely comforted by the stroke of the thumb.  It eased some of the painful tingling by giving himself something else to concentrate on. 

“Unfortunately, trying to find a loophole will likely hurt you more, and I didn’t enjoy that as much as I thought I would,” the purple mech said quietly.

Starscream lowered his optics.  “You… wanted to hurt me?”

Shockwave stopped rubbing his servo and stared at him for a few moments.  “I suppose… hurt isn’t quite the word I really meant,” he replied.  He stood and went to his console to type in a few more things into the console in silence.

Starscream pulled back his servo and rubbed it trying to ease the sensations still running up and down his left arm.  The seeker sat there staring off into the middle-distance, thinking about everything he had just learned about himself and feeling exhausted about the whole thing.

Eventually, Shockwave called Skywarp to come and collect his sullen trinemate, and Starscream only spared the yellow optic watching him carefully a short final glance over his shoulder.

 

Chapter Text

Both Skywarp and Thundercracker had pestered him about what had happened with Shockwave, and he told them the details dispassionately.  He explained what they had discovered that inadvertent damage to objects was okay, but not when it came to sentience.  He left out the part about his accident though, feeling emotionally and physically drained after the whole ordeal. 

Starscream wasn’t quite ready to have the conversation asking his trine as to why he hadn’t been fully informed about the nature of anything yet, given Shockwave was telling the truth.  Something told Starscream that the enigmatic purple mech had not been lying.

“Your wings are drooping,” Skywarp observed with a frown.  “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Starscream looked to his wings as if they had betrayed him.  “I’m really just tired, ‘Warp.  It’ll pass.”

Thundercracker sat next to him on the berth, pulling the tired seeker next to him in the crook of his arm.  Starscream felt a little bit of a blush flare up his neck at the sudden proximity to his attractive trinemate and could feel the blue seeker’s warm plating and whirring components deep within.  Thundercracker’s arm was draped around Starscream’s back, just below his wings.

“I’m proud of you,” he murmured, settling in to get comfortable with his trinemate.  “You’ve been through a lot, and you are trying to stay positive.  That is difficult.”

Starscream considered this for a moment and then leaned his cheek down so that it was resting on TC’s shoulder.  “I feel like I can only get through it because of you two,” he said.  He looked to Skywarp and held out his servos, inviting the third seeker into their pile of cuddling arms and wings.  He definitely didn’t need to be asked twice.

They lay there, talking quietly about nothing in particular, just enjoying each other’s company.  Starscream slipped into recharge quietly and drooped against Thundercracker’s frame.

“Do you want to talk to Shockwave, or should I?” TC whispered, his face dark.

“Or do we go straight to Megatron?”

“Not yet,” TC replied.  “Not until we know for sure.  Starscream is holding something back, and we can’t let him do that.  We need to find out what it is first.”

Skywarp chuckled lowly.  “He used to be so good at lying,” he said with a fond smile.

“Apparently, that was from practice,” TC said leaning down to kiss the forehead of his sleeping trinemate as he pet Skywarp’s helm in his lap.


Over the next couple of days, Starscream and his trine fell into a rhythm of sorts.  Starscream would wake and one of the other seekers would be out on some kind of duty, and the other one would be there, reading a data pad or watching something on their display with the volume turned down.  They would refuel and relax until the other trinemate appeared.  Then they would go to the flier training barracks where the other seekers, triple changers, and other flying types would run through drills with them.

Starscream watched from the sidelines with rapt attention, not only to the tactics but also to how Thundercracker led the drills.  It seemed he was pretty good at it, but it also seemed like the other fliers were giving him a lot of leeway.  Starscream had actually begun to notice when Thundercracker made a mistake in a command and began to take a datapad with him to write down notes.  He wasn’t sure he would ever show Thundercracker the notes, as he felt that it was not his place.  But it felt like it was going to overflow out of his processor if he didn’t try.

He threw the pad into subspace after training was done for the day.  Ramjet appeared beside him on the bench and threw an arm over his shoulder. 

“Ah, our little observer! What’d you think of my performance today?” Ramjet said boisterously.

Starscream smiled.  “Hmm, a tad slow today, don’t you think?  Your left leg was twisting and throwing you off balance.”

Ramjet paused and looked at Starscream with surprise.  “Yeah… I guess it was.  Twisted it on the last mission, still a little stiff.  You’re uh… smarter than you look,” Ramjet said slowly.  Starscream smiled a little broader.  They both heard the conspicuous noise of someone clearing their vocalizer.

Skywarp had affixed Ramjet with a frigid look, and the jet quickly removed his arm from Starscream’s shoulders.  Starscream couldn’t help but laugh a little but stood and gave Ramjet a gentle pat on the back.  “I think getting an alignment would help you,” he said, taking Skywarp’s proffered servo as he was led away.  Thundercracker turned and followed them out as well.

Ramjet watched them leave with a contemplative look on his faceplate.


To Starscream’s surprise, they didn’t go back to their quarters.  “We’re going to try refueling in the canteen,” Skywarp said.  “It’s… an experience.”  Starscream had begun to understand his trinemate’s humor that this meant to be on his guard.

They entered the canteen which had more mechs in it than Starscream had ever seen together in his short lifetime.  His optics were wide, watching mechs chatting, laughing, yelling, refueling, and carousing.  The sound in the room was almost deafening.

But when they were noticed, there was a ripple of silence that crashed over the mechs in the room, as they all turned to stare and get a good look at him.

He wanted to wince and pull back from the attention, but he swallowed the feeling and put on a light smile, throwing the crowd a small wave.  There were murmurs of surprise and a more than a few mechs waved back.  Some started to get up, making for the seeker when Skywarp jumped in front of them, shouting, “Alright, shows over; get back to your regularly scheduling fueling.  You will meet him eventually, so work on your first impressions. Because I can tell you, you all suck slag,” he said, earning raucous laughter from most of the mechs in the room.

Starscream was charmed all over again.

TC was smirking too, his smile reaching to his optics.  He took Starscream on a path around the outside of the tables to get to the back where the dispensers were.

Starscream almost walked right into two short mechs that matched each other.

“Heya, ‘Screamer,” one of them said, looking up through his red visor with a dumb grin.

Starscream was about to reply when Skywarp came rushing up behind him.  “Nope, nope, cassettes, get the frag away from my trinemate.”

“Hey frag off, ‘Warp-”

“Rumble, I swear to Primus, I’m going to stomp on you-“

“Wait, Skywarp,” Starscream said gently.  He put a servo on Skywarp’s arm to stop him from advancing.  “Rumble?” Starscream asked, looking at the little mech before him.

Rumble brightened.  “Yeah! It’s me, ‘Screamer.  You remember me?”

Starscream shook his head.  “No I don’t. But someone told me we went on a lot of missions together?”

Rumble extended his arm around so that his servo rested on the back of his neck.  “I mean yeah, we did.  There was the anaconda, the snow, the beach-“

“We get it,” Skywarp drawled.  “You’re an annoying little glitch that likes to hang on Starscream.”

This time Thundercracker intervened.  “Skywarp, cool off.”  The black and purple seeker bristled but relaxed his wings with a flick.

Rumble smirked but turned his attention to Starscream.  “Mind if we refuel with you?” he said sweetly.

“Absolutely not-“

“Sure,” Starscream said cutting off his Skywarp.

Starscream started walking again with the two cassettes flanking him on either side.

“So what do you think so far?” Rumble asked.  “Oh and that’s Frenzy by the way,” he said indicating his dark red and grey twin who grinned with flashing denta.

Starscream smiled at the other mech.  “What do I think of what?”

“The Decepticons!” Rumble replied, as if it were obvious.  “We haven’t had an outsider’s opinion in a long time.  Just curious what your impressions are,” he said with a grin.

Starscream felt a polite answer come into his processor and was about to say something along those lines.  But then he thought better of it.  “Honestly?  You all are pretty rude.”

Rumble, Frenzy, Skywarp and TC froze, and Starscream feared he had said too much.  But then Rumble and Frenzy burst into loud, squawking laughter, holding their stomachs and falling over with abandon.  Skywarp was laughing pretty hard too, and he could hear TC behind him trying to stifle a snicker. 

“Ru- Rude?” Rumble said, barely able to breathe out the word.  “Primus I suppose we are rude,” he said, wheezing. 

Starscream smiled, supposing that they were laughing with him, rather than at him.  Still.  Part of him wondered about these mechs he was allied with. 

Their mirth died down, and TC said he would go get them some energon.

“Actually, I was wondering if I could get it?” Starscream asked.  “I appreciate you all helping me, but I do need to learn how to do it myself.”

Skywarp slapped him on the back and pulled him into a hug.  “Our ‘Screamer is all grown up, going to get his own energon and everything!”

He called him ‘Screamer, now, huh?

Starscream felt himself squeezed and was now slightly annoyed at the teasing.  Even more frustrating was that he could no longer move.  It felt like the kind of situation that someone would just roll their shoulders to get the friendly mech off of them, but Starscream found that he could not.  He felt powerless and small.

He was reminded that this was probably because of his… program. 

“Skywarp, please get off of me,” he said gently.

Skywarp’s smile immediately dropped at the pleading note in Starscream’s voice.  “Oh, slag, sorry,” he said quietly.

Starscream tried to give his trinemate a smile, but found it was too much effort.  He turned and kept walking towards the energon dispenser, determined to try and figure it out for himself.  To his relief, his companions let him go by himself.

It didn’t look terribly complicated.  Still, he waited until another mech came up, pressed a button and cube appeared.  He pressed another button and gave a retinal scan to a lens near the buttons, and what he assumed was his allotted ration came out into the cube.  Starscream watched the mech take his cube and leave. 

Starscream then stepped up and performed the same actions, rather proud when his own ration came out into the cube.  He smiled, knowing that at least he knew how to feed himself now.

He was walking back over to his trine when he heard the bellowing roar of a mech nearby him.  He snapped his helm to see the mech tackle another one to the ground as they started to punch each other incessantly.  Pretty soon another mech had dogpiled on top, punching the mech below him.  Then there were others who were both encouraging more violence, and then others who were trying to drag mechs out of the rapidly growing chaos. 

A mech bumped into Starscream, and his energon cube went flying out of his servo and hit a mech on the cheek. 

Starscream sighed.

The mech was light and dark grey with two bladed wings on is back and a red visor.  His helm snapped to Starscream and stared for a long moment. Then he started advancing through the throng of fighting to get to the tri-colored seeker.  Starscream thought that yeah, he did look hostile, but it had been an accident and surely if he just explained what had happened-

A terribly loud noise echoed through the canteen.  It almost felt like it would have broken his audios if it had just been a little louder.

“Hey SLAG-cakes,” he heard Skywarp yelling into the surprised silence.  “That’s enough of that,” he yelled.  “Back to your energon or to your duties, don’t dawdle.”  The fighting stopped, and there were murmurs of complaint, but everyone obeyed.

Starscream noticed TC had a weapon on his back that was now powering down.  Maybe he had been a source of the loud noise?

Rumble appeared next to Starscream.  “Heya buddy, don’t think you want to stick around and see what Vortex wants to talk to you about.”

Starscream looked back to the mech who was looking conflicted about coming after Starscream and obeying the black seeker’s orders.  The seeker nodded and followed Rumble back to the safety of his trine.

“We’ll get you more energon,” TC said with a smile.

A feeling Starscream couldn’t quite identify the feeling coiled tightly around his spark.  It was heavy and unwanted.

Chapter Text

"I mean, there is no rush to get you on the duty roster, Star.  It's only been a decacycle since your accident."

"Skywarp, please.  Anything."

Skywarp regarded him suspiciously.  "Are you sure you're my trinemate? I could have sworn you were allergic to duty before," Skywarp muttered.  "Only one more adverse is me," he said with a chuckle.

Starscream tried not to let his frustration show.  "I just need to feel like I'm contributing.  You are all doing so much for me-"

"-and we are happy to do so-"

"-but I just need to have something small that makes me feel like I'm giving back."

Skywarp smiled indulgently.  "You know… it's impossibly sexy to know you are waiting back here for me when I get off shift," he said, allowing his tips of his digits to trace over his trinemate's forearm.  Starscream suppressed a shiver, trying to remain unaffected.  A sidelong glance from Skywarp told him he wasn't entirely successful.  "But… I understand the feeling of not feeling like you are helping enough.  Even though my warping ability is super fragging helpful, I could never keep up with you or even TC with contributing to the cause.  You two are… something else."  Skywarp looked a touch distracted then, lost in a thought or a memory.

He snapped out of it when a grin.  "So! Let's see what we can come up with, okay?"  

Starscream grinned back, nodding.  

"Shockwave gave a list of suggestions, but I don't know how serious he was being," Skywarp said, pulling out a data pad.  “Like… ‘janitor?’  He’s got to be joking.”  Then Skywarp started staring off into the distance with a serious look on his face.  “But if Shockwave is making a joke, then maybe we’re in the end times.”

Starscream rolled his optics.  “I don’t think he was joking,” he said with amusement.  “Cleaning would be something I could do as long as it wouldn’t damage anything.  It would probably make me slow, but very thorough.”

Skywarp gave him a look.  “You’re not going to be a janitor, Star.  First of all, I’m disturbed that you are even considering it.  Even Lieutenants aren’t janitors.  Second of all… I don’t think you realize how… erm. Messy? Decepticons are.”

“Are Autobots cleaner?” Starscream asked.

“Eh probably, if they aren’t too busy being morally superior and ruining our fun,” Skywarp replied picking up the datapad and scrolling through it. Starscream considered this for a moment, along with all of the other snippets he had been gathering about the Autobots and the Decepticons.  No one seemed to talk about their differences outright, and even the reasoning for the ongoing conflict was still murky to him.

“Let’s see: energon production, inventory management, conflict mediation officer- oh that would be a hoot, we haven’t had one of those in a couple of centuries.  Hmm, monitor duty, assistant laboratory technician… wait.  Wait, what?  Assistant? To whom?” Skywarp had tapped on the datapad and read through the paragraph and then growled.  “What the slag is he trying to pull, getting you to be his assistant?  I know what that is code for, so he can just frag off-”

Starscream didn’t understand what was upsetting Skywarp so much, but he knew that he was about to go on a tirade that would result in Starscream just vaguely agreeing and nodding along for more than a few kliks.  “What about monitor duty?  That is something you have to do sometimes, right?” 

Skywarp stopped ranting and gave Starscream a surprised look.  “Monitor duty is boring, Star.  I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, let alone my sweet trinemate.”

Starscream wasn’t sure he wanted to be called sweet, but he shrugged.  “Even if it’s boring, I’ll take it.  Seems like no one likes doing it, and it will help me learn more by observing.  And it’s… passive.”

Skywarp hummed thoughtfully and then commed Soundwave, asking if Starscream could be put on the roster.  In his clipped, odd speech pattern, it seemed Soundwave agreed and would add him to tomorrow’s duty schedule.

“That works perfectly actually,” Skywarp said, throwing the datapad into subspace.  “There’s going to be a raid tomorrow, so it’ll be good that you’re occupied.”

“A raid?  You mean a battle?” Starscream asked.

“I mean the Autobots likely won’t let us take the energon out of the goodness of their sparks,” Skywarp said with a laugh, and pulling Starscream close to him in what the black seeker had called “cuddling.” 

“Will… I be monitoring your battle?” Starscream asked, leaning into Skywarp and enjoying the closeness of his plating.  “I would like to know what is happening.”

Skywarp nodded.  “Likely yes.  Soundwave likes to record the battles as best he can to help with tactics.  And… this will be the first battle… without you.  So, he will want to see how things go.”

Starscream turned around and looked at his trinemate with concern.  “Will you be okay?  All of you?”

Skywarp’s faceplate softened.  “Yeah, Star, we’ll be fine.  We’ve done this hundreds of times, even without you.  It’s the Autobots who should be worried,” he said, his voice going a little dark.

Starscream nodded and planted a kiss on Skywarp’s cheek.  “Better be fine,” he said with a smirk. 

Skywarp gave him a dumb smile and laughed.


Monitor duty when there was a battle raging was harder than Starscream had thought it would be.

Soundwave had given him simple enough instructions.  Watch the reconnaissance feed as it came in from his cassettes, alert Soundwave if he saw any Autobots where they weren’t supposed to be.  The cassettes would also be reporting in, so Starscream was more like a second pair of optics. 

He quickly figured out though that he didn’t necessarily know the difference between an Autobot and a Decepticon yet, especially if he couldn’t see the insignias.  Luckily, it seemed Soundwave was being patient with him.

Or just being quiet about his frustration.  Soundwave was also hard to read.  What was it about all of the Decepticon officers being really inscrutable with their feelings?

He did manage to have a small win.  The Decepticon fliers he pretty much knew by heart, so when some new flying mechs appeared on the scene, he was the first to notice and give Soundwave a heads up.

“Megatron: Aerialbots are inbound.”

As expected.  Thank you, Soundwave.

“Correction: Thank Starscream,” Soundwave said, his visor flashing as he looked at the seeker at the console.

…Interesting.”

Starscream for some reason wasn’t sure that was a compliment, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to get singled out.  But he just swallowed thickly and went back to watching the monitors.

He was tense.  Because he wasn’t controlling where the feed was looking, he felt himself hoping that the feed would move so that he could see Thundercracker and Skywarp, or really any of the Decepticons he had started to get to know.  He had to admit that he was very concerned about the mechs.

It was also starting to dawn on him how dangerous the Autobots were. 

As time went on, finally Blitzwing commed that he had managed to get most of the energon that they were looking for, and so the seekers were able to cover his retreat.  Slowly the battle wound down as the Autobots realized they had lost this time and made overtures to leave the battlefield. 

Starscream heard someone clear their vocalizer next to him.  He looked up and saw Vortex looking down at him with something that might have been a glower.  Starscream couldn’t exactly tell because this mech had a visor and a facemask.  Still, he didn’t exactly look thrilled.

“Erm, hello?” Starscream said with wide optics. 

“Starscream: Monitor duty shift is over,” Soundwave called as an explanation.  “Starscream: Dismissed.”

Starscream nodded quickly and stood from the chair.  He went the opposite way around the chair and began to leave the control room without a second glance.

He figured he didn’t have long to wait until his trinemates returned.  He thought he might try the canteen again, since most mechs were likely on the raid, it should be quieter than usual.  He smiled, happy that his first duty shift had gone well.

He went around the corner and almost bumped into a mech he didn’t recognize.  “Oh, apologies,” he said to the light blue and white mech.

“That’s alright, Starscream.  I was actually looking for you,” the mech said.  He smiled and put a hand on Starscream’s shoulder.  “Megatron requested that you meet him at the elevator,” the mech said, pushing Starscream in the opposite direction of the canteen.

Starscream grimaced.  “Okay, that’s fine, but can you let go of my shoulder?  You’re gripping a little harder than is comfortable-”

“Oh, apologies,” the mech said, pulling out a blaster from subspace.  He squeezed the shoulder tighter and put the blaster to Starscream’s neck.  “The faster you move, the more comfortable you’ll be,” the mech said quietly.

Starscream knit his optic-ridges in confusion until he saw the insignia on the mech.  It was the red Autobot symbol.

“Ah,” the seeker said, glaring.  “Very well then,” he added.  He slowly turned and started walking.

They walked in silence, but Starscream’s processor was reeling.  He knew he could not release himself from the mech, and the blaster at his neck also made him feel compliant.  It was odd that he wasn’t really afraid for his life, but more about… causing damage.

He felt his faceplate heat with embarrassment.  He was just watching his trine and new friends fight a battle and here he was being marched off his own base by an Autobot.  Easily.  No resistance.

Why were they putting so much effort into him, anyway?  He was worthless.

He heard his Autobot captor mutter “slag” under his breath and suddenly the hand on his shoulder and the blaster disappeared from view.  Starscream was bewildered and went to move and turn around, but found he was still unable to do so as he was still being held.  “Get him to go away,” the mech said as he squeezed Starscream’s shoulder tigher.  Was he... invisible?

Without much time to understand what was happening, Starscream looked up and saw Shockwave coming towards him in the hallway.  The elevator was within sight behind him.

“Starscream,” the purple mech said with a touch of surprise.  “Going somewhere?”

Starscream looked up at Shockwave’s single optic and tried to will him to understand what was happening.  “I was going up to meet my trine as they came back in,” he said, managing to keep his vocalizer calm.

Shockwave looked down at the seeker with his optic, looking over his face as if trying to divine something.

“Are you alright?”

Starscream swallowed thickly.  “Of course.  I just had… monitor duty.  It was a lot more violent than I expected,” he replied.

“You had a strange reaction when you saw me, though,” the mech observed still watching Starscream carefully.  Starscream almost thought he was radiating concern.

Starscream felt the blaster dig into his neck with more force.  Starscream threw Shockwave a withering look.  “Forgive me, Shockwave, but the last time we met you held a gun to my neck,” he said pointing to the right side of his neck for emphasis. 

He hoped Shockwave would get the hint.

“I see,” Shockwave said, with disappointment.

It seemed he didn’t.  Starscream bit the inside of his cheek.

“I’ll just… be going then,” Starscream said feeling the mech behind him push a little in encouragement.  He gave one last look to Shockwave, hoping that the mech interpreted it as pleading.

Starscream was about five steps from the elevator, when Shockwave said something else.  “I held the gun to the other side of your neck,” he said pulling up his gun arm.

In a flash, Starscream felt himself pushed roughly against the elevator, his forehead smacking against the door.  The pressure on his shoulder and the blaster disappeared, but he heard some blaster fire happen behind him.  Starscream sank to his knees, reaching his servo up to his forehead to try and assuage the pain blooming there.  There was a little bit of energon dripping down from the wound and onto his nose.

Suddenly, the door to the elevator opened and he was being ushered in with a rough push.  He turned to see Shockwave running towards the door with his gun arm out.  The mech had taken some fire as his side and legs were sparking.

Starscream was about to scramble back out the door, his servo reaching out for Shockwave.  But then the door slammed shut and he felt the elevator start to move upward.

The Auotbot was tore out the control panel of the elevator and was undoing some wires and connectors.  Suddenly, an alarm started blaring and the elevator stopped.  But whatever the Autobot was doing seemed to make it so that the elevator had power again and it continued its ascent.

“You know, this isn’t personal,” the mech said, lifting up his blaster to shoot out a camera at the top near the ceiling.  He looked down at Starscream with a smile.  “I know you aren’t the same Starscream anymore.  This is just business.”

Starscream glared hatefully as he held his servo against his forehead wound.  “That makes me feel so much better,” he rasped.

The Autobot smirked and stared up at the ceiling in silence until the elevator stuttered to a stop.  He reached down and pulled Starscream to his pedes and kept a firm servo on his upper arm.  Starscream clenched his jaw without comment.

The door opened and the Autobot was rushing out, pulling him down a set of stairs that wrapped around the elevator tower to a small watercraft that waited at the bottom.  He threw Starscream in, holding on to his shoulder so that he couldn’t move. He then activated the engine, and they zipped away from the Decepticon base.

Chapter Text

Starscream realized this was the first time he was out of the base and was quite overwhelmed by what he saw.

It was mid-afternoon, judging by the declination of the yellow star in the blue sky.  It was giving off quite a bit of heat and radiation, but not dangerous to his plating or systems; he actually thought it quite a pleasant warming sensation.  He had noticed the underwater base where he had been was often cold, hence why he welcomed Skywarp’s or TC’s affections.

As far as he could see there was dark blue water in a slightly choppy ocean.  His optics danced from an organic creature with wings, to the giant formations of clouds above, to other things that his internal lexicon couldn’t quite categorize.

There was so much to see, he knew his optics must be wide.

The Autobot watched him with slight amusement.  “They haven’t let you out of the Victory yet?”

Starscream slid his optics back to the Autobot to his side, the servo still firmly on his shoulder.  “I suppose because they thought it might be too dangerous for me.”

The Autobot gave a haughty laugh and turned their watercraft towards the East without further comment.

They eventually approached a small landmass; it was a slip of an island, maybe little more than a sandbar.  The water was beautifully turquoise as it became shallower, and the island had some spindly looking organic growths.  The watercraft came up onto the beach and the mech jumped out to pull the craft up.  He then looked thoughtfully at Starscream.  “Are you able to fly?  I can disable your wings if I have to.”

Starscream frowned as he sat in the craft.  “I’m sure I could figure it out if I had to, but I have no intention of antagonizing you,” he replied, watching the Autobot carefully.  He probably should be more afraid, but he was honestly just irritated.

The mech reached out a servo, offering to help him out of the craft.  Starscream regarded it and sighed, then took it.  “Some of my compatriots lack basic manners, but I assure you, you will be well-treated in my care,” he said, affecting some kind of noble accent.

Starscream rolled his optics.  “What, like kidnapping?  My forehead wound?”

The mech smiled as if he, too, saw the irony, but didn’t comment.

He grabbed Starscream’s shoulder again, which was beginning to ache from this mech’s handling.  He was pushed into the middle of some undergrowth, and then the mech pushed him down so that he was forced to sit.

Starscream looked up at his captor.  “Is there a point to all this?” he asked, reaching up a servo to massage his shoulder. 

The mech smirked.  “Of course there is,” he said.  “Whether I share it with you, well, I’m not sure I will just yet.”

Starscream narrowed his optics.  “Why did you kidnap me?  You are clearly aware of my… condition,” he said swallowing.  He felt so weak at this moment, it almost hurt.  “I don’t have any valuable information for you.”

The Autobot leaned back against a tree.  “Yes, that is unfortunate,” he said.  “You always used to be good for some kind of tidbit, but I imagine they don’t really let you in on the good intel anymore, do they, ‘Screamer?”

The mech’s evasive answers gnawed at him.  Starscream sighed and just looked away, done dealing with this annoying Autobot.  His anxiety had started to increase as he still didn’t know what the mech wanted, and he was far away from anyone who actually cared about him.  He knew his trine was going to be furious when they got back to the base, and he worried for them, that they might do something rash.

He hoped Shockwave was okay. 

They both heard the noise of someone coming through the underbrush.  The Autobot turned his helm over his shoulder, pulling out his blaster, but then smiled and put it away.  “It’s about time you showed up,” he said.

“What is it that you found that couldn’t possibly have waited-”

A black and white Autobot with a blue visor stared at Starscream, open-mouthed. 

“Now, just hear me out-”

“What have you done?” the new mech said.  “What in Primus’s name possessed you to kidnap Starscream?”  The new mech was angry now.

“Jazz, listen, I have a plan.  It’s a good one.”

Jazz looked over at Starscream and took a labored breath in.  “Are you alright?” he asked, more gently, coming over to kneel beside the seeker. He clearly saw the wound on his forehead and visibly slumped, looking both furious and worried at the same time.  He unsubspaced a medical kit and began rummaging around inside it.  Starscream was too surprised to answer.

“Starscream, are you alright?” Jazz asked again, gently putting a thumb under the seeker’s chin and turning him, checking for more damage.

“Yes,” Starscream said, flicking a glare at the other Autobot.

Jazz found a nanite patch in the medical kit.  He pulled out a sterile cloth and showed it to Starscream indicating that he was going to try and clean his wound on his forehead.  Starscream leaned forward so that the mech wouldn’t have to reach as far.  Jazz cleaned it in stony silence, then applied the nanite patch.

“You have one klik to explain to me why you did this,” Jazz said through clenched denta.

The other mech nodded quickly.  “My plan: We take him back to the base.  The ‘bots that are all causing so much trouble talking about a new faction will see that he is okay and will rally around taking care of him.  It’s happening at the Decepticon base.  They’re being… nice… to him,” the mech said in such a way that he was surprised at his own words.  “We can even erase his memory so that he thinks he’s an Autobot if we have to.”

Starscream tensed and his optics went wide.  Why… why would they do that?  He’d forget his trine?  Everyone at the base?  His life and memories had been small so far, but they were still his.

Jazz noticed his fear and sighed.  “Mirage.  Do you not understand how you just made everything worse?  Honestly, mech.”

Mirage shook his head.  “No, Jazz, listen.  You didn’t do anything wrong!  They have no right to say those things about you and demand you leave the Autobots.  If all this trouble is for this damned seeker, then we can just give him to them-”

“Mirage, seriously, what the frag is wrong with you?!” Jazz said, standing.  “Just ‘give him to them?’ Like he’s some kind of toy?”

Mirage scowled.  “Fine. How about how about we talk how he’ll be much better off with the Autobots?  The Decepticons aren’t treating him right, Jazz.  They haven’t let him out of the Victory or even go flying since his accident.  Just holed up with his trine in their quarters.  Do you honestly feel safe just walking around the base?” he asked, looking at Starscream.

Starscream felt a coiled fury at how the mech was talking about his life, but for some reason he couldn’t summon the anger he wanted to yell at the mech.  Already his anger was relaxing and abating to a light simmer.  “I felt safe until you held a gun to my neck,” he spat.

Jazz rounded on Mirage.  “You threatened him with a weapon?! I… I don’t even know you anymore,” the mech said with fury. 

“Oh, come on, you said that Shockwave threatened you with a gun too?!” he said with a frown at Starscream.  “Jazz, listen, we can still use this to our advantage-“

“This, Mirage?  This?!  This is a mech.  A Cybertronian.  Unable to fight you.  You took him from his family and are now trying to use him to make up for my mistakes.  You’re so far from being righteous here, Mirage, I can’t even look at you,” he said with disgust.  He turned around and held out a servo to Starscream.

“I’m returning you, immediately.  This is such slag, I’m so sorry,” Jazz said with obvious regret.  Starscream was taken with the sincerity in his voice.  Starscream took the servo, though his own was shaking slightly.

“Jazz, you can’t, he heard us talking,” Mirage said through tight lips.

Jazz turned to Mirage.  “That is your fault.  Report back to the base.  I don’t want to see you or hear you until after I have talked to Optimus.”

“Jazz… I… I was trying to help.

Jazz looked at his fellow Autobot with pity.  “The path to the Pit, Mirage, is paved with good intentions.”

It seemed reality had finally caught up the blue and white mech.  His mouth went slightly slack and his shoulders slumped.  With a twist, he was leaving, heading in the presumed direction of said base.

Jazz stood there looking at the sandy ground for a moment, his lips in a tight line.  “Starscream.  I… don’t know what to say here.  This should not have happened.”

The seeker said nothing, just stared at the Autobot with a steely look.

“This was not a good first impression of Autobots, I think,” Jazz continued, lifting up his helm to look at him through his visor.

Starscream found his voice then.  “Neither was the battle earlier where you all were shooting at my trine.”

Jazz looked like he was about to reply but then stopped himself, slowly nodding.  “You’re right.”  Jazz then gave him another searching look.  “Are they treating you well?  Do you want to go back to the Decepticons?”

Starscream felt some fear stab his spark.  These Autobots did seem to have a problem with being morally righteous, like Skywarp had mentioned.  If Jazz wanted to, he could just decide that Starscream would be better off with the Autobots… Like Mirage had suggested.

He might never see his trine again.

“They are treating me fine,” he said, trying to keep the tremor out of his voice.  “I don’t know why this is so hard to accept for you.”

“They are not good mechs, Starscream, you don’t know what they’ve done-”

“It seems then you all are a lot more similar than you think.”

Jazz sighed.  “Still.  I wanted to ask if there was anything I could do to help you.  But if you want to return to them, I will take you.  Again, this whole thing should not have happened and I’m sorry.”

Starscream watched the mech carefully and swallowed.  “I mean, don’t get me wrong.  Wasn’t really a big fan of this little jaunt into the new world, but… no real harm done,” he said with a shrug.

“That’s… more than nice of you.  But that’s not what I meant.”

Starscream was confused and tilted his helm slightly at the mech.  “I don’t-” But then he did understand.  He remembered Shockwave’s words, and he put the pieces together.  “You… are the one that did this to me,” he said quietly.

Jazz sighed.  “I am.  I’ve regretted it every moment since.”

Starscream wasn’t sure what to make of this development.  Shockwave had told him as much, though he had said the word mechs, but that wasn’t important.  He had imagined a dark, obviously evil Autobot hurting him and inflicting this program that made his life difficult.  He hadn’t really expected a contrite Autobot to be practically wringing his servos in guilt.

Things… weren’t nearly as clear-cut as he thought.

Starscream looked over the mech.  The weight of his actions was clearly affecting him.  He did not seem well; the black and white Autobot was tense, exhausted, and gave off an acrid feeling of self-loathing.  He sighed.  “I can’t really tell you that I’m fine.  I think I am, but then something like this happens,” he said waving an arm around in the air, “and I’m reminded of how I can’t really function… normally.  Apparently, I’d rather my trinemates get punished than mark a wall with a blaster,” he said frowning.

Jazz seemed to sag a little at these words.

“But,” Starscream continued.  “Apparently I’m in a much better place with my trine now.  I’ve been told I’m more tolerable.  And I’m not completely useless like I was beginning to think.”  He shrugged.  “So, I guess… learn how to forgive yourself and then maybe we can talk more.”

Jazz looked so confused, Starscream was afraid that he had accidentally been speaking a different language.  The mech put his hands on his hips and turned away, looking like he was heavily weighing Starscream’s words.

Jazz then looked up at the seeker, his lips in a tight line.  “You don’t understand what you lost.  What I took from you,” he said, his vocalizer sounding pained. 

Starscream smiled.  “You’re right.  I don’t.  I don’t know if I’ll ever truly know or understand.  But I’m trying to tell you: it doesn’t really matter.  This is my life now, and… it’s not always terrible.”

Jazz snorted, looking up at the sky.  “I could use some ‘not always terrible’ myself.”

Starscream waited patiently as the mech thought through their conversation.  Eventually he came to some kind of conclusion and nodded.  “Alright, let’s get you back to the Decepticons.”

“I’m pretty sure they’ll shoot you, just so you know,” Starscream said.

Jazz met Starscream’s optics.  “They can try, mech,” he said with a bright smile and indicated that Starscream should lead the way back to the beach.  Mirage had not taken the watercraft, so Jazz was able to push it back into the water to transport them back. 


It was late afternoon now, and the sky had started to take on a dazzling array of colors.  Starscream was impressed with this planet’s ability to be somewhat pretty.

When they arrived, his trinemates were waiting atop the elevator, and nearly squawked in indignation when they recognized the Autobot.

Jazz, you have some nerve,” Thundercracker yelled angrily, aiming his null-ray at the Autobot.

Starscream jumped into the water and started swimming towards the base, not giving the Autobot another chance to change his mind about whether to “rescue” him or not. 

“Goodluck, ‘Screamer!” Jazz called as he quickly whipped the craft around and started going as fast as he could in the opposite direction.

Skywarp looked conflicted about chasing after the Autobot but flew down to Starscream instead.  He held out a servo and Starscream eagerly took it, not really liking the feeling of saltwater on his frame.  He pulled Starscream, now miserably wet, into the air and against his chassis, using his thrusters to gently glide over to the mast elevator that connected to the Victory.

Thundercracker called out the Coneheads to chase after Jazz and their jets screamed across the sky after the Autobot.

Skywarp gently touched down on the elevator tower platform, squeezing Starscream in a crushing embrace.  TC also jumped down to join them, gently running his digits over Starscream’s forehead.  Both Thundercracker and Skywarp looked grim as they looked Starscream over, and he had to admit that he didn’t mind the attention.  It seemed like they couldn’t stop touching him, their servos were worried and comforting.

He exvented the air he didn’t realize he was holding and just leaned into their touches.  He heard them murmuring things into his audials but didn’t register what they were saying.

“Are you alright?” Thundercracker finally said with the stern authority of an Air Commander.

Starscream nodded, meeting his optics.  “Yes,” he said as he felt relief wash over his trinemate’s frames.

Thundercracker nodded and also pulled him into an embrace.  “We failed you.  Again,” he said with a frown.  Starscream tried to shake his head in protest, but they held him firm.  Thundercracker pulled away and was clearly talking on a comm and filling in the other parties.

As the sun was setting, they got Starscream back into the elevator.

Chapter Text

“You’ve had quite the adventure today, didn’t you,” Megatron said in the dark throne room. 

Starscream knew that was technically a question, but more like a rhetorical one.  He held his glossa and resisted the urge to fidget under the scrutiny of the Decepticon leader.

“It seems your observation skills are still intact,” Megatron said.  “Tell me what you observed.”

Starscream swallowed, not really sure why he was so nervous.  “Mirage kidnapped me in an attempt to quell some kind of… disagreement that was happening with other Autobots.  He said the words ‘new faction’ and that somehow my presence would quell it.” 

Megatron’s optics blazed at this information but otherwise did not react. Starscream bit the inside of his cheek before continuing.  “He also suggested to Jazz that they wipe my memory and convince me that I was always an Autobot, that way the others would be assured of my welfare.”  Megatron snorted, but waved a servo telling him to continue.

“Mirage tried to suggest to Jazz that I had been mistreated, but Jazz was not pleased with Mirage’s actions and told him to leave before returning me to Decepticon care.”

Megatron considered all of this for a few more moments and then leaned forward.  “Did Jazz say anything to you?”

Starscream sighed and nodded.  “He apologized for being the one who caused my accident.”

He heard two surprised intakes from his trinemates that stood closer to the door.

Megatron watched him carefully.  “You must be confused as to why we didn’t tell you this ourselves.”  Starscream looked down, his glossa tracing over some of his denta in his mouth in thought.  “We thought that it might be easier for you to digest later on, though not everyone in command agreed,” he said giving a glance at Shockwave.  He stood off to the side, his optic watching Starscream carefully.  He looked like he had been patched up, but he was still favoring his left leg.

“Still.  It is clear we have to change how we handle your situation within the base.  We will be discussing what this means for you and you will be informed of our decision within a few solar-cycles.”

Starscream felt his spark sink, but he nodded in acknowledgement.

“Skywarp, take him to the medbay.  Thundercracker, you will join this discussion despite your biases.”

Skywarp and Starscream turned and left together. Thundercracker watched them leave with a worried look.


Starscream was extremely quiet.  It bothered Skywarp.

The old Starscream was hardly quiet.  He was loud, screechy, full of cruel laughs.  When he was quiet, something was bothering him or he was unconscious.  The new Starscream was definitely quieter than his previous incarnation, as he tended to be watching and waiting to figure out how to interact.  He was cautious, but also unafraid.

Skywarp was worried that he was learning he had things to fear.

The seeker had allowed the ministrations from the Constructicons with a hardened jaw as they scanned him and tutted over Jazz’s quick patch of his forehead.  Still, finding nothing wrong with him other than a tightly held field and maybe a tense frame they had released him.

Skywarp decided to let them walk back to quarters rather than warp.

A few mechs stopped them in the corridor to say how glad they were that Starscream was okay, telling Skywarp they would do anything to help him in the future.  His tri-colored trinemate still said nothing, merely nodding in thanks.

Skywarp was worried.

They finally reached their quarters and there Skywarp expected Star to break, to fall into his arms, to react in some way other than this frightening stoicism.

Still, Starscream was quiet.

“Star…?” Skywarp said, reaching out.

Starscream whipped around, pulling away from Skywarp with wide optics.  His ventilations were ragged, and his optics were welling with cleaning fluid. 

Skywarp felt his spark break as his servo fell down at his side.

Starscream softened and took a deep ventilation.  “I don’t want to be touched right now.”

Skywarp nodded though inwardly despaired.  Touch was the best way the black seeker knew how to comfort, and he desperately wanted to hold his hurting trinemate; if anything to confirm that Starscream was there and was alright.

“Do you… want to talk about it?” the black seeker said, wincing.  He was terrible at this kind of thing, and wished that TC were there to jump in.  He wasn’t exactly an Autobot.

Starscream was clearly conflicted.  The seeker still hadn’t figured out how to hide his emotions in his wings or on his faceplate.  “I feel so… worthless, Skywarp.”

The black seeker sat down at their little table.  “You’re not worthless, Star,” he said, feeling like he had already had this conversation with Starscream.  He tried not to let his exasperation show though because Starscream looked so… low. 

Starscream sat at the edge of the berth, looking down.  “All he had to do was hold my shoulder,” Starscream said.  “And I was powerless.”

Skywarp felt a lot worse all of a sudden. 

“Star-”

Starscream shook his helm.  “Hey, I’m just going to- I just want to be alone for a bit,” Starscream said, standing.  He kind of looked at Skywarp oddly, as if asking for permission, because he’d barely been alone since his new life started.  But he scowled a little as if recognizing this was silly, and he walked into his room.

Skywarp flinched as he heard the gentle click of the door closing as if Starscream had slammed it shut instead.


Shutting Skywarp out like that was unfair.  He regretted it immediately and almost walked back through the door to apologize.  But his servo hovered overed the panel and ultimately did not reopen it.   

Starscream turned and looked around the room that had belonged to the old him.  He hadn’t really been in here since this all started, not really finding a reason to be.  He hadn’t cared.

You know, this isn’t personal.  I know you aren’t the same Starscream anymore.  This is just business.”

“You always used to be good for some kind of tidbit, but I imagine they don’t really let you in on the good intel anymore, do they, ‘Screamer?”

“They are not good mechs, Starscream, you don’t know what they’ve done-”

“You don’t understand what you lost.  What I took from you-“

He leaned his helm back against the door. The words of the Autobots who both wanted to spare him torment but at the same time torment him rolled over his processor.  What was he supposed to do with all of this information? 

Was he supposed to try and become this “Starscream” again?  It seemed that in some ways, as much as everyone said they liked him more now, it was always in context of himHe could fight, he was brilliant, he was cruel, capricious, intolerable, arrogant- all the things that the new Starscream either wasn’t or could never become.  He couldn’t help but feel in some ways, the old Starscream was preferred because he wasn’t a burden.

And now he was left with the choices that his former self had made.  No real friends other than a broken trine and whatever he and Megatron had been.  Mechs legitimately hated him and had wanted to hurt him.  He was involved with a faction in a civil war that was potentially… bad?  He’d apparently been traitorous as well, given what Mirage had hinted at.

Starscream sighed.  He decided to snoop around his own room.  He got the sense his former self would likely be angry at the intrusion, but the new Starscream relished in that thought.  Just a little.

First was the desk. It was marred by scrapes, burns, gouges and it was clearly a place that the seeker had used frequently.  There were a few datapads on the table, but they were heavily encrypted.  Starscream added “paranoid” to the list of traits his former self was quickly earning in his mind.

The drawers were full of junk from circuits, to wires, tools, rocks, and other components.  “Hoarder” also appeared in his mind.  He looked on the shelves, the pads of his digits touching over the datapads, rocks, old inventions carefully as if they might bring back the associated memories.

One thing caught his optic as it looked as if there was an attempt to hide it.  It was a cube of some kind, about the size of his servo, but it was covered by a datapad leaning against the wall.  Starscream gently removed the datapad and held the cube for closer inspection.

The cube had seen better days.  It was cracked and the resin crystal was turning a murky yellow, obscuring an image inside.  He realized then it was a holocube.  He looked closer.

Two mechs with wings were looking off to the side of the image, lightly smiling.  Starscream noticed that they seemed to match each other’s colors in their detailing: reds, blues, whites, and greys.  The smaller red and white one was perched on the shoulder of the bigger white one, who was gently holding the sky-blue pede to steady him-

Starscream realized suddenly that the mech was him.  The smaller mech on the shoulder was Starscream.  He pulled the cube closer.  The two mechs genuinely seemed to be enjoying each other’s company.  All those traits that he had been adding to the inventory for the old Starscream… none of them were present in this image.

Clearly… not everyone had known him like they thought they had.

He studied the other mech.  Clearly larger, he had a kind faceplate with cyan blue optics.

Starscream pulled the cube close to his chassis.  He wondered if this mech was still alive so that he could talk to him.  There were no insignias on his wings or any kind of markings on the shuttle.  It was likely from a very, very long time ago. 

He smiled slightly. 

There was a ping at his front door that led into the corridor.  He almost jumped but managed to collect himself and replaced the cube in it’s hiding spot on the shelf.  His former self had seen fit to hide this, so he decided to do the same.

He then went to the door, palming the access panel and was greeted by the looming presence of a purple mech.

“Shockwave,” Starscream said, gently exventing.  “I… am not-”

Shockwave brushed past Starscream and entered his room looking around.  “This is not what I expected of your berthroom,” he said.

Starscream was annoyed.  “Really? What did you expect?” he said.  He had tried to make it more… angry.  But it came out petulant.

“I expected it to be more… ostentatious.” Shockwave turned and affixed him with his curious optic. 

Starscream folded his arms and arched an optic-ridge.  “Why would you think that?” 

“You always appreciated the finer things in life,” Shockwave replied, his voice amused.  “You were always trying to add ridiculous things to materials needed from Cybertron like Vosian wing polish and expensive paint sealants.  Things that you didn’t even necessarily use on yourself, but just wanted to have.”

Starscream tiled his helm a little.  “It seems you observed me a lot before my accident.”

Shockwave actually froze slightly, before relaxing.  His optic dimmed slightly.  “More so afterwards, I assure you.”

Starscream felt heat rising up his neck, and quickly cleared his vocalizer.  “I don’t mean to be rude but-”

“Yes you do,” the purple mech replied, his optic dancing a little.  “I just burst into your room without permission.  Of course you’d want to be rude.”

Starscream’s mouth moved to try and form words but couldn’t quite find the right ones.  He was just tired now.  “Why are you here?” he finally said with a sigh.

“To apologize,” Shockwave said.  “I apologize for not stopping the Autobot from taking you.  It should have been within my ability.”

Starscream felt some of his annoyance ebb.  “I… suppose it should have been within my ability to get away on my own as well,” he replied.  “But here we are.  I appreciate that you tried.”

Shockwave just watched Starscream for a little longer and then nodded.  He then turned and left out the door.

Starscream was surprised at the abruptness of the strange interaction, but eventually just shook his helm and smiled. 


It had been some time before the door to Starscream’s room opened again.  Skywarp tried to pretend he hadn’t been staring at it woefully during this entire time and moved to pick up a datapad beside him on the berth that had some kind of notes about their training exercises.  But… it was upside down.  He silently cursed, slowly righting it and raising his optics to look at Starscream.

His trinemate looked better.  He was watching Skywarp with a hint of amusement.

Skywarp nodded at Starscream, “Heya, how’s it going- oh?”

Starscream had quickly walked over to the berth and was now crawling on all-fours, right into Skywarp’s lap.  He gently took the datapad out of Skywarp’s servos and gently put it down on the berth beside them.  Starscream then turned to Skywarp and with a smirk kissed his trinemate on the lips.

Skywarp’s optics shot wide open, his servos hovering in the air for a moment before wrapping himself around Starscream and pulling him closer.  The red and white seeker moved his lips down Skywarp’s jaw and to his neck cables where he kissed and lightly sucked, smiling to the rumbling of Skywarp’s engine in response.

“Star- not- not that I’m complaining-” Skywarp attempted.

“Then don’t,” he heard Starscream mumble into his neck as he continued to give Skywarp his undivided attention.  “This is my apology,” he said, nuzzling his nose into the black seeker’s neck and letting his warm ventilations linger there for a moment.

Skywarp nodded emphatically.  “Oh, apology definitely accepted,” he said breathlessly.  “Though you really don’t have to apologize-”  Starscream moved his mouth over top of his again and they kissed deeply as Skywarp gently put his servo around the back of Starscream’s neck to help guide him into his mouth and against his glossa.

Starscream’s ventilations were increasing slightly, which definitely made Skywarp’s fans turn on just a little more.  He moved his lips to the side just a little to say, “Star, we should maybe slow down.  I’m not going to be able to stop-”

“Don’t stop-” were the sweetest words Skywarp had heard in recent memory.

With a guttural noise, he gently pushed Starscream down to the berth and began kissing him feverishly.  The black seeker lay gently on top of him, and Starscream reached up to hold Skywarp’s helm in his servos to allow him leverage to explore deeper into his mouth.  Skywarp’s fans were running on high now, and a small moan escaped Starscream’s vocalizer. 

Skywarp’s optics were dimming, and Starscream turned his own off, enjoying the sensations his trinemate was offering him.

TC clearing his vocalizer could not have come at a worse time.

Skywarp made an exasperated noise of surrender and his helm just flopped down to hide in Starscream’s neck.  Starscream gave a confused look to Thundercracker. 

“This was not my fault,” Skywarp said into Starscream’s neck.  The red and white seeker smirked and kissed the black helm cradled against him.

Thundercracker sighed and crawled into the berth next to his trinemates.  “Well then.  Don’t let me stop you,” he said with a smirk.

Chapter Text

Megatron was pretty sure he expected something very different from this call with Prime.

“Can you… repeat that?” the warlord said, shifting in the throne.

“It has come to my attention that you are mistreating Starscream, and we are demanding his release into our custody,” the Prime said with his full matrix voice.

Megatron looked to Soundwave with confusion, and the tape deck replied with a shrug.  Megatron then turned back to the display.  “This is the first I’m hearing of any mistreatment,” he said with curiosity.  “Didn’t Jazz tell you-”

“Jazz has been removed from command,” Prime said, short.  “As I said, we demand-”

“In what world,” Megatron said, snarling, “would I willingly give the Autobots my own soldier because they demanded it of me?  Especially after they were the cause of his disability?”

Prime straightened up in his chair.  “Starscream is not a solider nor a Decepticon.  I doubt he could even say the oath,” Prime spat.  “And we admit our part in his disability without qualms.  But keeping him cooped up in the Victory-

Megatron started laughing.  Prime was clearly irritated by this reaction and huffed his vents. 

Megatron’s laughter died down and he turned a fanged grin to the display.  “Clearly you are under some… pressures from within your faction, Prime.  Or, you are being manipulated,” he said.  “It couldn’t have happened to a better leader, I assure you.” 

The Prime affixed Megatron with a cool stare.  “We will help Starscream; take him back if necessary.  You have our promise on that.”

“And you cared for him so much before?” 

Prime was about to retort, but Megatron waved a servo dismissively.  “I get the gist,” Megatron replied.  “But make no mistake: Starscream is mine, no matter what state he is in.  And I will not be giving him to you.  But you are free to try,” he said menacingly.

The Prime pointed a digit at the display. “Your faction and base are not the place for a mech in his condition.  We did not realize you would be so cruel, but I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised.”

Megatron narrowed his optics.  This sanctimonious slag was really getting old, and the more Prime talked the more it sounded like flagrant hypocrisy.  

“Tell your new faction that I’d love to talk to them,” he said with a dangerous smirk.

He indicated to Soundwave to cut the feed.

“Interesting development,” Megatron said.  “Seems they are even more unstable than we thought.”

“Laserbeak: Reports most complaints are from flightframes Powerglide, Aerialbots, and Skyfire.”

“Interesting,” Megatron said again.  “I wonder if he is trying to appease them or cut them off.  See what else we can find out.”  Soundwave nodded.

Megatron commed Thundercracker to meet him on the bridge and bring his pacified trinemate with him. 

Megatron stroked his chin in thought.  The loss of Starscream as a warrior had certainly been detrimental to his cause, and the loss of Starscream’s scientific and inventive contributions could not be ignored (though Megatron had tried).  But it appeared the troublesome seeker still had something to offer the Decepticons, even if it was simply throwing off the balance of the war.

The two seekers arrived.  Both bowed forward slightly; obedient, ready, willing.

Boring.

He sighed.  That was an errant thought and should be purged.

“It seems that the situation with the Autobots grows more troubling by the day,” he said frowning.  “Prime was not penitent as we expected and still thinks he is their property.”

Thundercracker looked incensed.  “The least they could do is promise to leave him out of our war,” the blue seeker said, glancing at his trinemate sadly.

Megatron also regarded the tri-colored seeker.  He looked troubled.

“He cannot be left alone and must be guarded at all times,” Megatron said his optics still trained on the red and white seeker.  “I will let you be in charge of whom you trust to be his guardian when you are not able.”

Starscream’s wings drooped.

“Is that not amendable to you?” Megatron said, irritably.

Starscream bowed his helm.  “My lord,” he said.  “I hate to be a burden-”

“You are just as much a burden now as you were before,” Megatron said, keeping most of the irritation out of his voice.  “Just now, it seems your pacification has… tilted things.  In our favor.  The Autobots are unsettled and it seems power is shifting there,” he said.

Starscream looked up at him with pained optics but nodded.

Megatron thought him strangely endearing.

“You are dismissed for now,” Megatron said.  “Starscream staying in Decepticon custody is of the utmost importance.”

Thundercracker and Starscream bowed again, and left, leaving Megatron and Soundwave alone in the dim room.


Ramjet was being particularly surly, and he knew it.

They were practicing hand-to-hand combat in their regularly scheduled training exercise.  Skywarp had started leading them through drills, which had only worsened Ramjet’s bad mood.  Where the frag was their actual Air Commander?  Skywarp couldn’t lead a seeker to the sky.

When he finally showed up, late, Ramjet had been about to give the distracted Skywarp a particularly bad reminder as to why you never take your attention off of the conehead, but then he saw… him.

Starscream.

The Elite Trine were discussing something, and the red and white seeker was just staring blankly ahead, clearly not listening to anything his trinemates were saying.  Ramjet wondered if he was still shaken after his kidnapping. He had to be.

“Air Commander?” he barked.  “We gonna keep going or what?”

Thundercracker gave him a glare, and then turned to Starscream giving him a pat on the shoulder.  The seeker nodded and went to sit down at his usual spot, his helm hanging just a little lower than usual.

“Apologies.  We had a summons from Megatron that could not be avoided,” the blue seeker said, his voice rumbling through the training room. 

Ramjet sneered.  “Then maybe you should have informed us that you were going to be late, that way we too could blow this training off.”

Thundercracker didn’t even bat an optic at the taunt.  “Fall into sparring partners,” he said, looking around the room to the other seekers.  “Ramjet, you’re with me,” he said, his optics hard.

The conehead glared but followed Thundercracker over a corner and assumed a fighting stance.

“You have a problem?” Thundercracker said, taking the first swipe, which Ramjet avoided with ease.

“Yeah, actually: why are you the Air Commander now?” Ramjet spun to do a high kick.  Thundercracker met it with his shoulder and braced arm, pushing the leg back with force.

Thundercracker lunged forward for a series of punches.  Ramjet blocked most of them.  “You don’t think I’m fit?”

Ramjet snarled as a well-placed punch dented his plating on his chest.  Ramjet turned to the side as another punch almost landed in the same spot.  The sudden disappearance of his target caused Thundercracker to be slightly off-balance.  This gave Ramjet the opportunity to land a hard punch to the abdomen, knocking the air out of the blue seeker.

“I don’t think your trine is fit anymore; do you?” he snapped.

Thundercracker surged forward, clipping his shoulder into Ramjet’s chest, knocking the conehead to the ground.  He was angry now and growled as he got up, pulling up his shoulder-mounted gun and aimed it right at Thundercracker’s spark chamber.

Thundercracker narrowed his optics but put up placating servos.  “You’re breaking the rules of the training, Ramjet.”

“Frag the rules, I’m challenging you for Command,” he said through clenched denta.

The entire training room went silent and all optics were on the pair.  Ramjet felt Dirge and Thrust come to him on the periphery to back him up.

Skywarp slid in behind Thundercracker, his plating ruffled, and his gaze angry.

Ramjet threw a glance to the sidelines where he saw Starscream had stood with clenched servos.  His face was contorted in concern, confusion, and maybe a touch of irritation.  It seemed to be self-directed.

“I suppose it wouldn’t be fair to challenge the full trine,” Ramjet said his optics moving from Starscream and settled on the blue seeker before him.  “I would just challenge you, solo then.”

Thundercracker threw his chin out.  “This is not the time for a challenge, Ramjet.  The Autobots just infiltrated our base and plan to increase their attacks in the coming months.”

“All the more reason we need a competent leader and a competent trine at the helm of the air command, hmm?”

Thundercracker looked the part of imperious Air Commander, but Ramjet could see the undercurrent of insecurity.  Starscream had weathered countless challenges from Ramjet and many other seekers under his command, and the whole trine had fended off a few challenges in their tenure at the top.  But Thundercracker had never done this alone.  Not without Starscream.

“I accept.  Tomorrow at dawn.”

“Acceptable,” Ramjet said, his faceplate glowering.

Skywarp and Thundercracker sneered in their best “old Starscream” impression and turned to speak to one-another.  Ramjet smirked and turned around and walked out of the training room, deciding that training must be over. 

To his surprise, Starscream was waiting for him in the corridor.

The seeker was still as gorgeous as the day Ramjet had met him, but he had lost all of the sharpness and cruelty that had defined him.  He looked pensive and worried, and Ramjet had to steel himself to keep his face hard.

“What?” he barked.

Starscream didn’t flinch like he had expected.  “Ramjet, why are you challenging Thundercracker?”

The conehead took a step towards Starscream, invading his space.  Starscream didn’t move but met his optics unwaveringly. 

“Did Thundercracker tell you to convince me to back down?”

“What? No-”

“He can’t use his wounded little trinemate to get out of this.  That’s a low tactic, and it isn’t going to work.”

“Ramjet, no, this is just me, me.  Not Thundercracker.  This is… my fault.  I’m just trying to understand.”

“Your fault?” Ramjet sneered.  “What’s there to understand?  You are weakened, and so his trine is weakened, and so we are all weakened.  He should never had accepted Megatron’s commendation.”

Starscream grimaced at the words as if they had been blows.  “Ramjet, I-” Starscream started, his helm falling forward a little.  “I’m not fully aware of the nature of the challenge, but I’m asking you to reconsider-”

“Why does it matter to you?  What do you care if he’s the Air Commander or not?  If he’s demoted, he’ll have more time to protect you.”

Starscream sighed.  “He’s trying so hard, Ramjet.  He wants to lead, and he has potential!  He’s so much calmer than you are and he doesn’t try to challenge every mech he sees.  You know this.  Please rescind-”

“Absolutely not,” Ramjet said, jamming a digit in Starscream’s chassis.  “Stay out of things that don’t concern you, little seeker.  This is how command works, and he should have been prepared for it.”

Starscream looked up with him with those red optics, full of sorrow.  It honestly made Ramjet’s intakes hitch, but he couldn’t admit that.  No.  No, he couldn’t-

“But… maybe you could convince me.” 

Ramjet hated himself.

Starscream had always been a smart mech.  He was still so fragging smart.  The red and white seeker’s optics were calculating the meaning behind what Ramjet had said, but he had to already know.  Ah, there was a look of incredulity mixed with disgust.  That was the look.  That is what he had been missing.

The old Starscream was still there, buried deep beneath this soft veneer of vulnerability.

“How about it, ‘Screamer?” Ramjet said, taking another step forward, and Starscream took a step back, close to the wall.  Ramjet hated himself for doing this.  But he felt out of control.  Ramjet’s servo came up and slammed into the wall right next to Starscream’s helm, and the conehead leaned forward, blocking the seeker in.  His obsession with Starscream had only increased since the accident, so much so now it was clouding all of his judgement. 

“How could you convince me to take back my challenge?”  His optics roved over the dark faceplate before him.  The thick bottom lip, the well-formed nose, the optics that stared back at him with a small amount of revulsion were all easing Ramjet’s roiled processor.  Starscream was there.  Starscream as he had known him wasn’t completely gone.

He… he couldn’t be gone.

But then the optics before him weakened, and it was with absolute fear that Ramjet realized that this Starscream was different, and that he would back down, he would… acquiesce…

“I’m not sure you actually want this,” Starscream said. 

Ramjet froze, his mouth twisted, his frame tense.  “How would you know?” he said quietly.

Starscream raised an optic-ridge.  “A hunch,” he said.  The seeker frowned.  “I can only ask that you give Thundercracker a little more time before you challenge him,” he said.  “If you won’t do it for him… I would ask that you do it… as a favor to me.”

Ramjet found himself again and pulled back from crowding Starscream up against the wall.  “Why would I do a favor for you?” he asked scornfully.

Starscream was watching him carefully, as if he were the one broken.  “I think you do want something from me, but you don’t know what it is yet.  And so, when you figure it out, I would owe you.”

So fragging smart.

Ramjet relaxed.

There was movement behind him as he heard Thundercracker and Skywarp run into the corridor, and he could feel their gaze quickly assessing the situation.  Skywarp quickly went to Starscream, talking lowly into his audial, to which Starscream replied by shaking his helm.

Ramjet turned to Thundercracker.  “I’ve decided to rescind my challenge,” he said.  “Cooler helms have convinced me, and I might have been too quick try and take you down a size,” he said, surprising himself with how genuine he sounded.

Thundercracker looked to Starscream with a searching look and then back to Ramjet.  “I… accept.  I look forward to proving my worthiness to lead to you.”

Acceptable.  If not boring.

Ramjet turned to walk back into the training area without sparing the weakened elite trine a second glance.

Chapter Text

“But what did you say ?” Skywarp asked as they walked down the corridor away from the training facility.  Starscream’s wings were taut, flicking occasionally as Skywarp pestered him.

“I just asked him to rescind his challenge.  I told him Thundercracker was doing his best-”

Star, you can’t interfere in this kind of thing.  You might have made me lose face with him permanently,” Thundercracker scolded.

Starscream’s face fell.  “That… was not my intention.  I just wanted him to understand-”

“Again, not your place.  The official channels we have exist for a reason.  What if someone tries to get a favor from me by going through you?  And you can’t stop them.”

Something flickered in Starscream’s faceplate, but then his face took on a bland, neutral look.  “You’re right,” he said quietly.  “I apologize.”

Do you understand?  Or are you just telling me what I want to hear?” pressed the blue seeker.  He was still so livid with his trinemate, he felt that nothing could placate him.  Skywarp and Thundercracker had been discussing the strategy to take down Ramjet in the challenge fight, and then both noticed that Starscream was gone.  Dirge and Thrust equally noticed that Ramjet was missing at the same time and all four had shared a look of fear and dread, as no one was sure what they would find.

Seeing Starscream up against the wall with Ramjet a few paces away had incited a fury in Thundercracker that threatened to overwhelm him.  But… he held it in.  He always did.  He wasn’t the angry one in their trine.

Or… maybe he was now.

The thought stilled him.  He exvented and gave Starscream a searching look.  “ Please Starscream.  This is… so new for all of us.  I need you to trust in my abilities.  Trust me that I can handle my job .”

The red and white seeker flinched but nodded with his optics cast down.

Skywarp gave TC a look, but the three of them continued back to their quarters in silence.  With a sigh, the black seeker gave his goodbyes as he had monitor duty, leaving Starscream and Thundercracker to their common room and to the joy of avoiding optic-contact.

Thundercracker went to his own quarters but didn’t close the door.  He pulled out a datapad to start going over names of mechs that he felt he could trust at the Decepticon base to help guard Starscream should he and Skywarp both be busy with duties. The list started out long and he began categorizing them into yes, only if desperate, and categorically no columns.  With a sigh he moved the entire conehead trine to the no column.

It was like sparkling-sitting.  And the thought pained him.

He leaned around the door to look into the common room looking for his trinemate.  Starscream was sitting at the table, slightly hunched over, looking at a datapad laying on the table.  His servos were holding up his forehead, his elbows on either side of the datapad.

Actually, it looked like he might not have been looking at the datapad at all but was just staring at nothing right next to the datapad.

Thundercracker felt very guilty then.

Starscream had made it seem so easy to be trineleader, Air Commander, and second-in-command of the army, not to mention constantly trying to overthrow Megatron or aid him with some kind of over-the-top scheme (if he felt so inclined).  Thundercracker realized he may have been underestimating his trinemate the whole time.

He might still be underestimating him.

Thundercracker sighed.

He picked up his datapad and walked back into the room, sitting down next to Starscream.  The other seeker startled at his sudden proximity, and quickly shut his datapad off, which wasn’t suspicious at all.  Starscream still didn’t meet his optics but also didn’t move to leave either.

“I wondered if you wanted to pick out who could help guard you?” Thundercracker asked.

Starscream met his optics then, and his face was full of surprise.  “I would like that.”

The blue seeker nodded and laid out the choices.  They talked while going over the list, and they slipped back into uneasy comfortability with each other, but not mentioning their argument earlier.  They were mostly in agreement about the yes list except when it came to two mechs.

“Shockwave is fine to put in the yes category.”

Thundercracker narrowed his optics.  “Eh, I don’t even know how much longer he’ll be around,” the blue seeker replied, choosing not to go into all of the other reasons why Shockwave was a bad idea.

“…where is he going?” Starscream asked, confused.

“Back to Cybertron.  That’s where he was based.  He only came back here at Megatron’s request after your accident.”

Starscream looked disappointed.  “Oh,” he said simply.

“…why?”

Starscream shrugged.  “I find him amusing,” he replied, with a tug of a smile at the corner of his mouth.

Thundercracker had to bite back an indignant noise and many, many follow-up questions, but he chose to pick his battles carefully, especially after their spat earlier.  “Okay… I’ll put him on the list for now.”

“Oh, and Ramjet is okay.”

Starscream had to be testing his patience.  “… care to explain why?  We literally found you two in a corridor and he looked like he was harassing you.”

Starscream sighed.  “He… was.  He just didn’t realize what he was doing, Thundercracker.”

“Starscream,” the blue seeker said.  “You’re being vague, likely because you know I won’t like what actually happened.  But…” Thundercracker said, sighing deeply, “I’m going to trust you.  If you think you understand Ramjet, I will trust your judgement.  It’s your call.”

Starscream’s face lit up, and Thundercracker was reminded of their younger years before everything had begun to fall apart.  “He’s… grieving, Thundercracker.  I think he’s realized that the mech I was is really dead.  While you and Skywarp seem… mostly happy with my change, there are others that are not as enthusiastic.  I just need time to win them over.”

Thundercracker was stunned to silence for a moment.  Ramjet was… grieving ?  Starscream was purposefully trying to win people over? 

Starscream was already laying schemes. 

Was this a good thing?  It seemed benign enough.  He wanted to win mechs over in order to get along with them more.  That would make his life and the lives of everyone around him easier.  Maybe “scheme” was too pejorative, maybe he was just… politicking.  But even if it was a bad thing, Thundercracker was realizing that there was very little he could do to stop Starscream bar locking him up and never letting anyone interact with him.

That thought made him feel worse.

“Okay, Ramjet and the coneheads will be asked, along with everyone else.  I’m sending a message to all of them, seeing if anyone is available to take tomorrow morning as Skywarp and I will be on a reconnaissance mission.”  He sent the message and then looked back to Starscream’s datapad.

“What were you looking at?” he said smiling.  He didn’t want Starscream to get any better at subterfuge.  At least, not yet.

The colorful seeker bit the inside of his cheek.  “Given our conversation earlier, I never intended to show you.  It was just a way to pass the time,” he said, reluctantly handing the datapad over to Thundercracker.

TC opened it and found it full of detailed notes about his training exercises with the air armada.  The notes were unflinching in their criticisms, paying close attention to where he had been inconsistent, inefficient, or just plain illogical. But they also doled out his praises in how he was managing certain mechs, playing to the strengths and weakness of the armada, and his ability to be flexible and eschew confidence to his subordinates.

He looked up and saw Starscream watching him worriedly.

“Star… these are really good ,” he said finally.  Yes, some of the words stung, but he was no stranger to Starscream’s bluntness.  Interesting that that was still around.  “How did you know I was doing things incorrectly?”

“I wrote down everything you said or did until I figured out the pattern," Star said.

TC sighed.  "Maybe… We should get you some basic strategy training programs.  You still seem to have a knack for it."

Starscream flushed with pleasure.  "Really?  I mean… thank you.  Yes, I would love that."

"Though it is interesting.  Your suggestions here all revolve around avoiding violence.  Did you mean to do that?"

Starscream paused.  "I mean, isn't that the best strategy?  Less violence, less repairs, and then less resources and time are wasted.  It is the most efficient way to win the war."

Thundercracker stilled.  "You think you can end the war?"

Starscream looked embarrassed.  "I… just think about it.  A lot. I know I don't understand everything and I'm not trying to minimize it.  But yes, it'd be great if the war ended peacefully, don't you think?"

His trinemate was so sincere, it almost pained Thundercracker.  The blue seeker had also once entertained similar thoughts.

That was before they killed Starscream.

"It would be nice.  Unlikely.  But nice."

Right as he finished speaking, he got a ping from Megatron requesting his presence for a meeting.  Thundercracker knew that Skywarp would not be available for another few hours so he quickly checked his messages for anyone that could help guard Starscream.

He almost groaned when only one mech had replied.


"One of us will come get you as soon as we are done," he said, putting his servo on his shoulder.

Starscream gave him an indulgent smile.  "I'll be fine," he said almost laughing. His trinemate nodded once to him and once to Shockwave and then turned and left quickly.

Shockwave had watched the seekers with thinly veiled curiosity.  They were so affectionate with each other now compared to before.  He wondered what had changed.

“Something wrong?” Starscream said with amusement.

“Not at all,” he said.  “But I am curious why I was chosen to be your guard.  Logic would dictate that you both choose someone else since I failed to protect you during the last attack.”

Starscream smiled warmly, which was an odd reaction.  The seeker strode further into the lab and sat himself down across the lab table from Shockwave.  “I’m not sure anyone could have done better than you in the situation, especially without injuring me,” he replied.  “Besides, you were the first to respond,” he said with an arc of the optic-ridge and his smile widening.

Shockwave considered this and determined that Starscream was indeed correct.  Why had he responded so quickly?  Was it in a way to further apologize to the seeker?

Hmm.  He might need to evaluate that for later.  Shockwave had generally figured out how to behave somewhat normally with other Cybertronians who allowed emotions to rule their processors, and so sometimes he did things that didn’t have an immediate reasoning as a result.    

The optic-ridge arc though indicated that Starscream was thinking something.  Possibly dangerous.

“How are you getting along with your trine?” he asked.  Changing the subject was usually a good way to indicate the current line of conversation was less than ideal.

Starscream’s smile faded a little.  “Things are likely better than they have ever been.  But I’m still trying to figure out how I fit in here.”

“You likely won’t fit in here,” Shockwave said.

Ah.  That was the wrong thing to say.  Starscream’s smile had slipped away completely and he was looking down at the table.  It might have been true, but it was possibly emotionally damaging. Shockwave sometimes had trouble determining which was a higher priority. 

Talking to others was often taxing.  But… he wanted to talk to Starscream.

“I apologize-” he started.

“No, please don’t,” Starscream said quietly.  “I… am coming to the same conclusion myself.”  The seeker looked up at Shockwave.  “It appears that a lot of what it means to be a Decepticon has to do with how well you can fight.”

“It is the culture, yes.  The highest ranked Decepticons are the ones who demonstrated prowess in battle.  But there are other ways to contribute, should you want to be a Decepticon at all.”

Starscream pulled back a little at that, his wings tensing.  “What do you mean?  Of course I want to be a Decepticon.”  Shockwave detected a small tremor to his voice. 

Shockwave folded his arms.  “I’m not doubting your commitment, Starscream,” he said quietly. 

“Besides, what choice do I have?  If I’m not a Decepticon, where would I go?

Shockwave detected the tremor in his voice again.  He sounded afraid.  “You could become an Autobot.  Logically, you would fit in there more.”

Starscream’s wings hiked up and his face was turned into a grimace.  “I can’t do that.”

Oh.  He had said the wrong thing. Again.

He was usually better at this.  Or maybe he usually didn’t care?

“I believe you,” Shockwave replied quickly.  “I have upset you.”

Starscream exvented.  “Shockwave,” he started, the tension bleeding out of his frame slowly.  “You have been the only one to really tell me the truth and not treat me like I’m… broken.  Even if it upsets me, it is information I need to hear.”  Despite his words, Starscream looked so unhappy, and Shockwave struggled to think of the words that might make the seeker more amiable, like he had been when he first walked in.

“Would you like to help me organize your lab?”

Starscream was confused.  “My lab?”

“Yes, this is your old lab.  I can’t seem to find any sound logic to your organization, but it would help to have another… well a complete set of servos,” he said lifting up his gun on his left arm.

Starscream snorted.

“Sure, I will help.”

They fell into a companionable rhythm, where they unloaded all of the cabinets and drawers of their contents.  They found a few vials of things that were mysteriously labelled, like “In case of Rust Plague,” “Secret Stash of Megatron’s Medicine,” and “For Shockwave.”  Starscream tried to give him said vial, and Shockwave took it with thanks before quietly throwing it into the incinerator.  

Starscream was a hard worker, and asked many questions.  Shockwave was only too happy to answer, pleased to have an eager student.

They were laughing when Skywarp appeared to collect Starscream after a fashion.  The black seeker looked disturbed, but thanked Shockwave for his help.  Starscream smiled and waved goodbye.

Shockwave might have been sorry to see him go.

Chapter Text

Starscream’s optics brightened.  “Flying?” His wings twitched.  “Really?”

Skywarp grinned.  “Yes!  We are going to take you flying.  Permission from Megatron and everything.  We’re going to have guards watching us- it’s all arranged.”

Starscream’s faceplate had definitely lit up more.  “I’m so- why am I so excited?” He sounded slightly confused.

Thundercracker chuckled.  “You were made to fly, Star.  We should have done this earlier, but we needed to find a way to do it safely.”

“Was I… good at flying?” Starscream asked.  “I don’t want to embarrass myself.”

Skywarp shrugged noncommittally.  “I mean… you were passable,” he said giving optics to Thundercracker who looked like he was going to contradict.  “But I mean, we don’t know what your frame will remember or won’t… so it’s fine.”

TC either didn’t get the hint or was deliberately ignoring him.  “Skywarp is being facetious; you were more than passable.  But he’s right, we won’t know for sure until we get you up there.  And even if you aren’t naturally good at flying, it is a skill that you can develop over time.”

Skywarp narrowed his optics at Thundercracker but nodded slowly.  “Riiight. Let’s get going then!”

They took the elevator up.  Skywarp was practically vibrating with impatience, feeding off Starscream’s excitement.  It was like the first flight of a sparkling who had just upgraded into a new frame.  The eagerness to get into the sky was infectious for seekers, and Starscream’s engines were practically thrumming with zeal.

They reached the top of the mast, and Skywarp felt the orange morning sun warm his dark wings.  The air was briny and humid, but it was shaping up to be a beautiful day.  The water around them was not very choppy; the waves were gentle with occasional splashes as they hit up against the platform.   His flight protocols came online once they were out of the elevator, starting to take wind measurements, temperature and pressure readings, and general sensor data for weather predictions.  

He stole a glance at Starscream who had offlined his optics and was similarly absorbing the warmth of the sun with a light smile. 

Skywarp sighed.

“We’ll start with thrusters in bi-pedal form,” Thundercracker said.

They went through the general training, but Skywarp could tell that Starscream was trying to hide his impatience.  He was able to move through every command issued to him with ease and grace.  Finally, once they had gotten through the basics, TC gave Starscream permission to transform.

He was beautiful.

He shot into the air, and Skywarp quickly fell in behind him with Thundercracker observing and offering suggestions from below on the elevator platform.  In all honesty, Skywarp knew that TC didn’t have much to say.  Starscream was almost as good as he had ever been.

Skywarp was so in awe he almost missed the sound of Thundercracker opening a comm to him.  “Ramjet,” came his trinemate’s voice.  “Thank you for offering your assistance here.”

Skywarp swept his sensors down and noticed TC in bi-pedal with Ramjet hovering next to him in the sky.  Thundercracker had made the decision to use the Coneheads as guards for Starscream’s flight, apparently at Starscream’s insistence.  TC had likely opened the comm so that Skywarp could hear in case things got heated.

Starscream made a cheeky quick turn to the right and Skywarp had to quickly adjust.  His attention was divided and Starscream, the glitch, was noticing.

He’s still so talented,” Ramjet said.  Skywarp couldn’t agree more.  It looked like Starscream had been flying for ages, and his sheer love of sky was palatable.

I made a mistake earlier,” Ramjet continued.  “I appreciate the vote of confidence you have in us to guard him.”

“It wasn’t my idea,” TC replied.  “Starscream said he trusted you.  And I trust him.”

There was a pause.  “Should you be doing that?  He doesn’t… understand everything.

We have to start somewhere.  He’s still incredibly intelligent.  Managed to get you to behave, which was something he couldn’t seem to do before.

Skywarp did a twisting loop at that statement rather than burst out in laughter.  Starscream must have seen it because now he was doing loops, rolls, and other fancy maneuvers. 

Yes he’s… different now.” Skywarp heard the hesitation in Ramjet’s voice.  Skywarp had never been particularly fond of Ramjet, but right now he found himself liking him just the tiniest bit.  “He is… enthralling.”

Actually, he didn’t like Ramjet’s tone at all

Yes, his flying is still… extraordinary,” he heard Thundercracker say.  He had a slight strain to his voice, and Skywarp knew he was thinking the same thing.

He’s still taking up point,” Ramjet observed.  “Trineleader’s position.”

I think that’s just because he’s eager for sky,” Thundercracker replied.  Skywarp felt a little pang of sympathy in his spark at that.  If Thundercracker couldn’t establish himself as trineleader within their trine, he was going to have a hard time convincing the Air Corp that he deserved to be Air Commander, no matter what Megatron said.  Thundercracker was trying so hard to keep everything together and Skywarp wasn’t sure he was helping enough. 

Not a criticism, I promise.  At this point, I’m the least of your worries.”

Still, Skywarp turned up his thrusters and crowded Starscream so that he was forced to take up position behind him.  “Try and ride on the upwash from my wingtip vortex,” he said.  Starscream seemed agreeable to follow the command, falling into the space to the back left of Skywarp’s wing.

He was so amendable, it almost hurt.  He had no idea the implications of the power dynamics Skywarp was forcing upon him.  This maneuver was effectively taking him from Trineleader to third in formation, which had previously been Skywarp’s place.  In seeker culture, this was a little bit like slapping him to get him to stay in his lane.  The former Starscream would have been shrieking in anger about now.

But the new Starscream was so content and happy to accept his trinemate’s instruction.

I swear to you, Air Commander,” Ramjet said.  “I will help him in any way I can.”

The comm closed and Skywarp saw that Ramjet had transformed to take to the sky, likely to do a sweep.

Starscream had sped up a little and was now alongside Skywarp, their wingtips almost touching.

This feels amazing,” Starscream said over his shared comms.  If he had noticed Ramjet’s presence, he didn’t mention it.  “There are parts of my processor that are now awake that I didn’t even know were there.”

Skywarp snickered.  “It warms my spark to see you so excited.  Nothing like a seeker finally getting his sky.”  He then had a marvelous idea.  “Starscream, transform for a klik,” he said as he turned into bi-pedal.  Starscream expertly transformed and hung in the air next to Skywarp.

“Thundercracker, I wonder if he’s ready for a little game,” Skywarp said, stretching and eyeing Starscream who tilted his helm in a return smile.

“I think that’s a great idea,” TC replied over comms.  “Chase or race?”

“Oh, chase for sure,” Skywarp said.  He turned to Starscream who looked far too adorably curious.  “All you have to do is avoid me for five minutes. If I touch you, I win.”

Starscream smirked.  “What’s the catch?”

Skywarp leaned forward on his thrusters so that he was now face-to-face with Starscream, their noses almost touching.  “Anything goes, sweetspark,” he said, arching an optic-ridge.

“Ah.  Your ability.”  Starscream squinted a little, clearly trying to puzzle his way to victory despite his disadvantage.  “How would I counter that?”

Skywarp winked.  “You’ll have to figure it out.  TC, do you mind being the referee?”

Not a problem.  We have about ten minutes of flying time left.

“Better get a move on, Star,” Skywarp said reaching out a servo.  “I don’t intend to play fair.”

Starscream snorted and flipped back into a transformation.  He then turned on his thrusters and twisted into the air.  Skywarp found himself admiring the view.

Clock has started, ‘Warp.  Maybe you should get moving?”

“Right,” he said, transforming after him. 

Starscream was still incredibly clever.  He knew that he could win in a straight speed contest, but he still wasn’t sure about the extent of Skywarp’s abilities.  Instead, he allowed Skywarp to keep pace, and should Skywarp try to warp closer, he likely would try to bank quickly away.

But Skywarp had a little more experience.

He did a flip and started going in the opposite direction.  Starscream was clearly unnerved, not understanding the logic behind Skywarp’s actions.  He slowed down trying to gauge his trinemate’s next move.

Skywarp then warped ahead of Starscream and flipped into bi-pedal, his arm outstretched and reaching.

Ah, but Starscream maybe expected this?  He also flipped into bi-pedal and cut his thrusters, falling gracefully backwards.

Fear gripped Skywarp’s tanks as his servo missed grabbing his trinemate.  But Starscream’s falling face just arched an optic-ridge and laughed.

He heard snickering from Thundercracker in his comms. 

Skywarp transformed back into jet mode and put his thrusters on max.  Damn cheeky seeker and his fancy flying.  He decided to pull out the best moves he had.

He started a series of warps where he jumped across the sky as he dove after Starscream trying to confuse him as to where he was going to appear.  Starscream’s face furrowed in confusion as his optics tried to track Skywarp as he fell backwards.  Unable to predict his movement, he transformed and shot off, still with a downward trajectory.

Skywarp warped again, knowing all of Starscream’s blind spots and using them to his advantage.  He appeared next to him and immediately reached out, trying to grab a wing.  Starscream ducked by transforming into bi-pedal again, Skywarp’s servo missing by microns.

Skywarp smirked and warped one last time, predicting where Starscream was twisting.  He caught Starscream in his arms, and his quarry looked so shocked with wide optics.  But then Starscream melted into a laugh.

“You caught me,” he said, panting.  “How did you know where-”

Skywarp kissed him deeply.  Chasing Starscream always keyed him up.  Catching Starscream almost sent him to the absolute edge

Unfortunately, they had an audience that decided to make themselves known by whooping and jeering at the display of affection.  Skywarp pulled out of the kiss with a low growl even as Starscream just chuckled with more amusement.  Looking down, Skywarp saw some other seekers, some of the Constructions, Rumble, Frenzy, Shockwave, and… Megatron.

Thundercracker looked a little sheepish.  “Sorry, didn’t want to break your concentration to tell you.”

Skywarp allowed them to descend, gently putting his quarry down on the top of the platform around the elevator.

“That was amazing flying,” said Rumble.  Skywarp twitched his wings at the praise for his trinemate, both pleased for him and miffed that their private moment had been unintentionally shared.

Starscream smiled.  “Thank you.  I have excellent teachers.”

“It seems some things have not changed,” Megatron said.  “You’re still rather cunning.”

Starscream bowed slightly to Megatron, and everyone’s optics were on him.  “I hope my mind will continue to be a service to you, my lord.”

Skywarp grimaced but then quickly tried to smooth his faceplate.  He had thought for millennia that if Starscream could just be a little loyal to Megatron then most of his woes would be taken care of.  He wouldn’t get hurt, he wouldn’t be so cruel, and he might begin to be the trinemate that Skywarp had fallen in love with.

But now seeing it, it felt wrong.

Megatron too seemed slightly disturbed.  He had frozen and was staring at Starscream as if not really seeing him.  He then grunted and walked away back towards the elevator.

Starscream rose out of the bow with a slight smile on his face. 

Hmm. What did that mean?

Thundercracker came over and pulled Skywarp into a side-hug.  “You did wonderfully,” he said, planting a kiss on Skywarp’s cheek.  The other congregated mechs came up to Starscream and were asking him questions and complimenting him on his flying. 

“I barely caught him in the time-limit and he has never even flown before,” Skywarp whispered.

“His frame remembered.  And honestly, ‘Warp.  You were spectacular.”

Skywarp finally allowed himself to relax in Thundercracker’s hold.  “I was well-motivated.”

Some of the mechs had started to walk away, but Shockwave still stood there off to the side of the crowd watching Starscream intently.  Starscream seemed to notice and brighten. He walked up to Shockwave and struck up a conversation, his wings flicking.

Skywarp frowned and was about to interrupt, but Thundercracker held him back.  “Part of letting him grow up is allowing him be his own mech,” Thundercracker murmured into his audial.

Skywarp blanched.  “Surely he can be his own mech with anyone else.”

Thundercracker chuckled.  “That’s not how this works, ‘Warp.”

Skywarp sighed and tried to move forward again, and this time TC let him go.  Skywarp relaxed his wings, trying to will the tension out of his frame. 

“…wonder if your roles were reversed, if you could have done the chasing?  There is so much momentum involved in flying, I would imagine the program might have interfered,” Shockwave said.

“Hmm. You think it would interfere relating to the potential for accidents?  It would be so debilitating if that were the case,” Starscream replied.

“Yes.  You certainly weren’t debilitated by any means up there.”

Starscream’s wings flicked ever so slightly at the praise.  Or… maybe if you squinted, Skywarp supposed it was praise.  But was this… cute?  He wasn’t sure.

Shockwave bowed his helm a little, acknowledging Skywarp had joined them.  Starscream smiled at him, and more of his irritation washed away like rain off his wings.

“We will have to find a time to get you up there again,” Skywarp said.  “We just have to find the right schedule mix so that we can watch the skies for any Autobots.  Then we can… test your theories.”

“Oh yes, please!  Excellent, Skywarp.  I will come up with some things we can try, and Shockwave, maybe you could assist? I would appreciate your input.”

Shockwave’s shoulders hunched ever so slightly.  “I likely will not be able to assist.  I will be going back to Cybertron by the end of the week.”

Starscream’s smile faded just a little.  “Oh, well then maybe we can record it and get your input?  You’ve been… a big help in understanding how to navigate my condition.”

Skywarp watched his trinemate try to keep a brave face, but he was clearly not pleased by this development.  Skywarp just didn’t understand how he had grown attached to Shockwave so quickly and without him noticing.

“I would be happy to assist in any way I can,” Shockwave replied.  Was that… gentleness in his tone?

What the frag-

TC suddenly joined them.  “I think I can convince Megatron to let Starscream visit Cybertron at some point.  He should get to see it given everything that has happened.”

Starscream’s entire face erupted in a smile.  Shockwave seemed amused and nodded.  “I think that would be a worthy initiative.  Let me know if you need anything to assist you in your endeavor.”

TC nodded and started to walk back to the elevator with Skywarp following.  Starscream gave a reluctant goodbye wave and Shockwave awkwardly returned it with his servo.

Maybe this was cute.

 

Chapter Text

Starscream was gently being woken.

"'Warp?" he said groggily.  He rubbed the heel of his servo into his optic.  “I didn’t sleep past the alarm, did I?”

"Hey, sweetspark, no, you’re good.  We gotta move you,” Skywarp said lowly.  There was a small amount of tension in his voice prompting Starscream to come awake faster.

“I’m up,” he said quickly.  “What’s happening?”

“Autobots,” he heard Thundercracker say quietly from across the room.  He was at the doorway, listening to his comms.  His null-rays were primed and Starscream could hear the small pings of metal as they heated up and expanded.  “They managed to get down the elevator, but they are held up on the first level.  Still far away yet.”

“Is this… a normal occurrence?” Starscream asked, getting himself out of the berth.

“Not exactly,” Skywarp said, begrudgingly. 

“They don’t usually invade us,” Thundercracker added.  “Our base is at the bottom of the ocean and pretty defensible.  They are either desperate or stupid.”  TC’s optics dimmed as he received more comms.  “You should get going, ‘Warp.”

“I’m going to take you to the Constructicons, okay?” Skywarp said.

Starscream nodded, looking to Thundercracker with concern.  He opened his mouth to say something, but Skywarp had already grabbed him and warped away in a flash of purple light.

They were transported to the medbay and Starscream saw the Constructicons fortifying the entrance.

“Good, you’re here,” Hook said walking up to them.  “Been a while since we had an invading force, huh?”

Skywarp grinned.  “There’s a reason for that, isn’t there?”  He patted Starscream on the arm.  “Keep your comms on and stay here.  Please stay here and listen to the Constructicons.”

Starscream gave a mock salute, but his expression softened.  “Please be careful.”

Skywarp cupped his check and pinched it with affection.  He winked and then was gone.  Starscream felt his spark lurch at his absence. 

Hook smiled at him.  “It’s good to see you getting along with them.  Like a real trine again.” 

Starscream gave him a small smile. “Do we know why they are invading?”

“Well, don’t know if you have heard but there is a war going on,” Mixmaster said, sliding in next to Hook.  “They could have any reason to be here.”

But Starscream knew he was avoiding saying the distinct possibility they were here for him.  He didn’t want to be so conceited in thinking that everything was about him and his condition, but he still couldn’t shake the feeling that he was somehow responsible.  Mixmaster went back to prepping his weapons and helping Bonecrusher and Long Haul barricade the hallway. 

Starscream tried to stay out of the way when he noticed Hook’s side glance.  “Did you… want me to remove those?” he asked.

Starscream was confused for a moment until he followed his gaze to his null-rays.  “Oh… these?”

“Kinda useless to you now.  Might be worth getting rid of the extra weight?”

Starscream considered this.  He had apparently been outfitted with these null-rays for a long time according to that holocube he had seen; it seemed a shame to just “get rid of them.”  All of the seekers had them, he had noticed.  Maybe they were some kind of status symbol or other important piece of seeker culture he was unaware of?

Getting rid of them without knowing the full details of them seemed… rash.

He ran his digits over them, noticing that they had no sensation for him; as in, they weren’t actually part of his frame, per se.  They seemed well-made; white metal formed into a barrel tapered at the end.  He had noticed that not many of their kind had visible weapons always displayed, but seekers did.  Did that mean something?  Why didn’t seekers throw them into subspace when they weren’t being used?

There were still so many things he didn’t know.

“Thank you for the offer, Hook.  Though I think it is likely the Autobots all know my condition, maybe keeping up the appearance that I can defend myself might be useful.”

Hook tilted his helm as if considering his words.  “You have a point.  There are still humans and neutrals to consider.”

There were a few explosions that sounded distantly in the base, and the walls shook with their power.  Hook smiled.  “Particularly animated today, aren’t they?”

Starscream tried not to let his unease show.  He hadn’t been around battling and fighting yet that wasn’t scripted from a training room or an observed from a battle monitor.  Hearing it and feeling the tremors of the base shake were a different matter.  Dust shook from the ceiling panels, and the sound of fighting got louder above their helms.

He wondered idly how his former self would have reacted to this situation.  Would he have been a coward?  Brazenly brave?  Angry?  Starscream supposed it didn’t really matter at all.  He didn’t know why he kept trying to compare himself to his former life.  He didn’t have any of the same resources at his disposal, and none of the same experiences.  His personality might even have been altered if everyone’s reaction to him was any indication.

Hook patted his arm.  “How are you doing?”

Starscream startled out of his thoughts.  “I’m fine,” he said probably too quickly.  “It’s just all really… new.”

“New.  New and probably slag,” Hook laughed.  “I know it likely feels awful to not know anything.  But it really was a kindness taking your memories.  Knowing you and who you were, I doubt your former self would have survived knowing how you are now changed.”

Starscream froze, his intakes held.  “I thought the memory loss was tied to the accident?”

Hook paused, some shock coming over his features.  His mouth tried to move to say something, but he couldn’t find the words.  “No…” he finally said after a few moments.  “No.  Your memory loss was intentional.”

Starscream drew back from Hook.  A swirl of uncertainty and confusion clouded his processor and made it difficult to think. 

It was quiet now.

The absence of explosions was enough to unnerve all of them.  They looked around at each other, and Starscream thought he could see a small creep of panic on some of their faces.

A loud explosion came from the barricade in the hallway.  Debris exploded in all directions, ricocheting off the medical equipment and consoles into the medbay.  The sound was deafening, and Starscream covered his audials.  Hook upended a medical berth and hid behind it, throwing a beckoning servo to Starscream to get down as well.  Starscream followed him, his optics wide. Another, smaller explosion came from the barricade again.

There was shouting and now blaster fire.  Hook was rapidly talking into his comms, trying to contact reinforcements, but it seemed everyone was already engaged.  “How did they get down here?” Scrapper bellowed, jumping up to start firing a volley of blaster fire from behind his own upended berth.  Scavenger joined him, yelling for Mixmaster and Long Haul.  They were trying to drag Bonecrusher back into the medbay, but fire from the Aubobots was making it difficult.

Hook snarled and jumped up to provide cover fire.  Starscream peaked around the side of the berth to look at what was happening, but a stray blast of laser fire made him recoil and just sit there quietly, knowing there was nothing he could do.

Hook got shot in the arm and was down with a pained yell.  He swore colorfully, and Starscream scrambled closer to him to hold him steady.  Starscream looked around and grabbed a medkit from under the berth’s storage and offered it to Hook.  “If you tell me what to do, I can help?”

Hook, his face paler than usual just nodded.  “Get me a pain patch so I can think clearly, then we can move from there.”

Starscream opened the kit and quickly found the patches, opening one with his denta and then applying it to Hook’s arm.  Hook visibly relaxed with a sigh.  “Slagging Autobot blasters burn,” he said offhandedly. 

His comm crackled to life.  “Yeah, we’re about two kliks from being overrun,” he said to the comm with a sigh.  “Slag, does it have to be-” he grimaced.  “Okay fine, fine, yes send them.”

Hook grabbed Starscream by the neck and pushed him gently to the ground.  “Incoming welcome wagon, ‘Cons!” he yelled over his shoulder as he too went to the ground.

Scrapper and the rest of the Constructicons also fell down, covering the backs of their helms.

Hook smiled at Starscream’s confusion. 

Another loud set of explosions erupted around them and a new set of mechs appeared.  Starscream only recognized Vortex and maybe Blast Off. 

“Oh.”

“Oh, is right,” Hook drawled.  “The Combaticons.”

The fighting was intense.  The Autobot force was clearly not prepared for the ferocity and might of the Combaticons who came in with punches, blaster fire, and a certain kind of sadistic glee.  They were laughing, delighted as they brawled, and the disturbed Autobots were pushed back.

A yellow mech came around the corner to look on the other side of the berth.  “There you are, Starscream.  We’ve been sent as your saviors.”  He held out a servo.

Starscream looked up at him and took the servo as he was hauled to his pedes.

“Weird,” the mech said.  “You don’t look any different,” he said tapping his chin with a digit.

Hook pulled himself up, holding his arm.  “We don’t have time for this Swindle.  Get him out of here, okay?”

Swindle smiled a toothy grin.  “Sure, sure, no problem.  Come on, ‘Screamer, let’s get you somewhere safer,” he said with a helm tilt.

Starscream distantly thought there was something wrong.

Hook pushed past them.  “Get moving!  I gotta look at Bonecrusher,” he said, his attention already diverted. 

Swindle bowed a little and gave a flourish of his servo, indicating Starscream should lead the way.  Starscream went in the direction of the door to where the other Combaticons were waiting.

“Ah.  Starscream,” said one of them clearly in charge.  “How the mighty have fallen, hm?”

Starscream paused a little at his tone.  Swindle pushed him forward so that he kept moving.  “Don’t be shy now, Commander.”

“I’m not-”

“Hmm, we should get moving,” the in-charge blue mech said.  Starscream noticed that all of them had faceplates on except for Swindle.  It made them more intimidating.

Starscream felt crowded as Blastoff and Vortex pushed him forward through the hallway with Swindle, the leader, and another mech led them.

“We’ve got to keep you safe, Commander,” Swindle winked over his shoulder.  “What with you being so debilitated and all.”

Starscream had learned very quickly since he had woken up in the medbay to his new life that he needed every scrap of information he could gather.  These mechs around him lived for millions of years and had an insane amount of history, politics, and grudges that added up over time.  He had learned to hone his observation skills as one of the only tools he had that was left intact after his accident.

He was… definitely picking up on something dangerous here.  He started looking for an escape.

“I think this is a good spot,” the leader said, stopping at a console room.  Starscream felt himself pushed in and the door closed behind him.  Vortex and Blastoff stood outside.

“What do you think Onslaught?  I definitely think you were on to something.”

The leader mech apparently named “Onslaught” tilted his helm.  “I agree, Brawl.  The more I see of him, the more I’m convinced.  Swindle?”

“No doubt in my mind,” he said with a smirk.  “Definitely faking.”

Starscream narrowed his optics.  “Faking.”

“Yes.  See, we know you, Starscream.  You fragging created us after all,” Swindle said.

“…what?”

“Yeah, without energy absorbers, so thanks for that,” Brawl said, leaning forward menacingly. 

“I’m not sure you realized what you were unleashing though.”  Swindle’s smooth voice was chuckling.  “Drop the charade, eh, Commander?  It’s getting tiresome.”

Starscream slowly crossed his arms across his chassis.  “I was demoted, first of all,” he said with a slight edge to his voice.  “I’m a Lieutenant, now.”

“Yeah okay, sure, Megatron will have you back to being second-in-command in a few decacycles, guar-an-teed,” Brawl said, putting his hands on his hips.  “He’s stupid like that about you.”

Starscream watched them carefully.  So far, he hadn’t heard such blatant disrespect for Megatron, and he felt like that was more dangerous than any feeling he had so far.  Megatron so far had seemed… interested in Starscream’s welfare, even if he was just a pawn of some kind.  If the Combaticons disregarded him, Starscream realized his situation was perilous.

They radiated confidence and surety; they had no doubt that he was acting.  He wondered if anyone else in the base had thought the same thing?  How could he prove them wrong?

Onslaught took a step forward.  “I think it’s time you stopped the act.  It’s unique what you came up with, I’ll give you that.  Really sparked some fear in everyone thinking about what would happen if the Autobots could do it to them.  Seemed like we were actually united as a faction again.  But it’s you,” he spat.  “Everyone should remember how much of a manipulator you are.”

Starscream took a step back, but Onslaught had reached out a servo and caught his wing so that he couldn’t retreat anymore.  Starscream swallowed down his panic and thought very carefully about his next move.  What he said was true, he thought.  He still had the ability to manipulate mechs to get them to do what he wanted just by observing them and learning what made them tick.

He just needed to calculate the situation to turn it in his favor.

“You seem to be pretty sure this is all a trick,” he started carefully.  He forced his wings to relax despite the rough servo on it, he rolled his neck, and he straightened his posture.  “Let’s say it is, an act,” he drawled.  He felt like he was laying it on too thick but based on the reactions from the mechs… yeah, this was right.  “Are you saying you want to stop me, or you want in on it?” He was leaning on a part of his voice that sounded confident and arrogant.

Something like what he thought his old self might be like.

Swindle was grinning.  “I knew he was faking.  I knew it,” he laughed.  “There is no way you would have allowed this to happen.”  He held out his servo to Brawl who rolled his optics and gave him a bottle of high-grade.  It seemed Swindle had won some kind of bet.

Onslaught released his wing, much to his relief.

“Clearly you thought I had some elaborate plan.  What do you think it is?” Starscream kept the act up, folding his arms across his chassis.

Onslaught was watching him closely.  “To take down Megatron, like it always is.  Instill a false sense of security in everyone that you aren’t a threat.  If you’re pacified, it doesn’t become less threatening than that.  And all it requires is you NOT shoot someone for 99% of the time, except the one time you need to do it.”

Starscream nodded, as if this made complete sense and was totally what he had planned.  “And how did I convince the Autobots to go along with the plan?”

Swindle spoke up this time.  “Probably offered them some kind of deal to help you take Megatron off the board.  They’d see you as the lesser of two stupid evils.  Fooling your trinemates was quite the cold, but effective touch, I’d have to say.”

Starscream shrugged.  “You still haven’t answered the question, though,” he reminded them.  “Do you want in on it or not?”

Onslaught narrowed his optics.  “You haven’t actually admitted to anything yet.  Odd for you to not crow your victory.”

“But there’s no victory yet.  I haven’t won.  Megatron is not destroyed.  I would try to keep the act up as long as possible, right?”

“That… tracks,” Swindle said.  He too was now looking at Starscream somewhat suspiciously.

“Something is still not right.  You’re still hiding something,” Onslaught said, crowding Starscream’s space again.  “I think I still want to see you break in public. It’s be really satisfying to see everyone realize what a piece of slag you are.”

Starscream had almost had them.  He hardened his jaw and tried a different tactic.  “I’m not faking,” he said angrily.  “I am truly pacified,” he said with a touch of anxiety.

“Well, we’ll know for sure soon.  We’ll use you as a shield against the Autobots.  If you fire back so you don’t get hit, well then, victory over the manipulator. If not… our mistake.”

Starscream tried to take a step back again, but Onslaught grabbed him to spin him around and push him back though the door. 

“Let’s get moving.”