Okey-dokey. New story! And a long one too, hopefully - let's see if I can do anything longer than my record of seven pages...
...by the way, thanks and cookies to everyone who reviewed all my one-shots before. Huge ego boost and much appreciated - I was on the ceiling for hours afterwards. Mainly because the 'cons got sick of me dancing around in glee and glued me to the ceiling.
By the way, Skins, how about sticking Skyfire into Seduction? It'd be interesting to see if the hurt feelings have the same effect as hate...or anything else that might happen. Snigger. I love that story.
Anyway, Starscream's glaring at me, so on with the show!
Skyfire heard the ruckus coming from the inner courtyard and sighed. The newest young mechs to join the Academy had only been here a matter of days, and already there was trouble. Stepping carefully around the scattered chairs, he gave the voice command to open one of the windows facing down into the square - as a flier, he preferred his classrooms to be airy. The larger-than-average windows not only made the room look bigger, though - when opened together they were wide enough for him to fit through. Now he only stuck his head out, just in time to see a knot of figures clustering in a corner of the courtyard being dispersed by another lecturer - Ripplewing by the sound of it, her acidic tone carrying to his audios as the students scattered before her.
"What is all this noise?! Never, in all my time at the Academy, have I heard such a disgraceful row - to think we let in such rabble nowadays! Get to your classes this instant - and as for you...Don't you ever let me see your sorry faceplate round here making such an appalling clamour again! Now shoo!"
Skyfire winced. Ripplewing had a sharp sense of right and wrong - usually with the students in the crosshairs. She never seemed to have any patience with them, and would often launch into shrill rants on the dire delinquencies of that year's chosen few - usually to Skyfire. Sure enough, storming through the corridor not two minutes later, hurling herself into Skyfire's classroom with a righteous, indignant expression enough to send anyone in her path fleeing for cover, Ripplewing bore down on the - much larger - cornered scientist like a battlecruiser.
"Did you see them? Did you hear them?!" She seethed.
"Hello, Ripplewing." Skyfire tried in vain to avoid another debate, not wanting his first class to walk in to slag-slinging from a staff member. To no avail.
"Don't you 'hello' me, Skyfire." The irate tutor fumed. "I swear to Primus, that new flier is bound for the gutter - starting shouting matches under my window! I will not stand for an insolent, cocky knowitall raising merry hell in my Academy - if he crosses the line I'll be on him so fast he..."
A welcome bubble of noise swelled in the corridor outside as Skyfire's pupils started to arrive. Patient as he was, the scientist barely held back a sigh of relief at missing the latest flood of bile on the new scapegoat Ripplewing had singled out. As politely as he could, he interrupted her with a raised palm, saying calmly "I'm sorry to interrupt, but it sounds like my class is here..."
Ripplewing whipped round to glare at the door as if it was to blame for her troubles. "The new group?"
"Watch out for that snarky flyboy - the red one. You'll know him straight away; screeches, causes trouble, doesn't listen...If he puts a finger out of place, so much as a finger, you let me know."
"I'll do that", Skyfire said diplomatically, opening the door for her as she stormed out and turned a megavolt glare onto a startled mech, who looked bewildered at the open hostility in the lecturer's stare and opened his red optics wide in puzzlement. Ripplewing snorted and stomped down the corridor, the wings of her skimmer transform quivering with righteous outrage and barely missing others in the walkway. Skyfire sighed, calling his attention back to the gaggle of young mechs and femmes standing staring down the passageway at Ripplewing's ramrod back.
Pulling himself together, he stepped half-into the corridor and said, "May I have your attention, please? My name is Skyfire, and I believe you are my new science class." A murmur of confirmation fluttered through the group.
"Excellent. I'm assuming you've all been introduced to each other in your earlier sessions, so you'll only need to tell me your names." He smiled at them reassuringly. "Follow me, and welcome to the Science Academy."
By the end of the class, Skyfire was proved right. As usual, Ripplewing had singled out a totally undeserving target - the red mech she'd pointed out was no more disruptive than any other in the class, excepting maybe the paired 'brothers' who seemed to have an instinctive talent for snobbery. Still, Skyfire was never one to rush into things, including hurried first impressions. He decided to adopt a wait-and-see strategy - wait to know the class better, and repeat "We'll see" when he saw Ripplewing. By the end of the next week, however, he was convinced. The red flier, the insolent cocky knowitall destined for the gutter, was one of the fastest learners Skyfire had taught so far. He seemed to have an uncanny knack for basic scientific procedures, and drank in new knowledge like energon - always ready for anything new or difficult. He did overextend himself at times - pushing boundaries, most noticeably the laws of physics, a little too far on occasion - but Skyfire was delighted at the progress he was making.
Sadly, Ripplewing couldn't find it in herself to sing his praises as Skyfire did. The xenobiology lecturer also had the new group for personal lab sessions, and constantly came down hard on the red 'flyboy' for not working hard enough on his own projects.
"All he does is sit there, or stand in a corner with his optics half-on and stare into space!" She complained to Skyfire a few days later. "Occasionally he'll lower himself to scribble a word or two on a datapad, but then he's mooning around again! It's not good enough, and I'll be surprised if he makes it past the tri-cycle review - he thinks he's too good to work hard, that's his trouble. I've seen it before-"
"Ripplewing," Skyfire interjected, her bile grating even his patience. "If you took the time to-" "Time!" The xenobiologist interrupted. "Time! I don't need time to tell that one'll come to no good. You mark my words - the day will come when we'll see his sorry aft slouch out of our halls permanently-"
"All right, Ripplewing - I've heard enough." Skyfire said flatly. "That mech is my best student, and I'm fed up of your putting him down constantly. I'll take the next lab session you have with that group and we'll see if another view can't shed some light on this."
"Hah! You're biased towards that cocky flyboy and you know it. Very well - if you want to see the other side of your precious Starscream, you're welcome to it. I could do with a reprieve from his inattention and idleness!" With that the skimmer turned on her heel and stalked off, seeming to trail shadows and gloom from her muted grey plating as she headed out. Skyfire sighed, and made a mental note to look up Ripplewing's schedule.
The time assigned for personal lab work was designed to give students a chance to use information and techniques they had learnt in class and apply them in a more relaxed - though still controlled - environment. A lecturer - in this class' case, Ripplewing - was assigned to watch over the projects and give guidance when asked for. The students themselves each had an individual 'booth' to work in, and usually contained a combination of lab equipment, tools, jumbles of datapads and, in one case, a smithy-come- smelter.
One particular student, however, had remarkably little scattered over his worktable. As Skyfire moved quietly around the empty lab awaiting the class, he noticed that the young flier, Starscream, had a small set of engineer's tools, a container of datapads with a case of writing apparatus inside and precious little else on his worktop.
The first few students trickled in. He stepped to the front of the class, carefully allowing them enough room to pass as he did so, and was immediately asked for a set of drone-basic equipment Ripplewing had locked in a side room "for safety's sake."
Sometimes Skyfire wondered why Ripplewing was a teacher.
It took him so long to find the slagging things the rest of the class had arrived and set to work by the time he'd re-emerged. Handing over the tools to the grateful student, he looked over to see Starscream seated at his tabletop, staring into space.
He frowned. Skyfire had been hoping Ripplewing had been exaggerating when she complained, as often happened with her love of bombast and amateur dramatics, but here was the proof. He decided to watch the flier a little longer before reaching a verdict - the last thing he wanted to do was rush into a bad decision. With that in mind, Skyfire set himself to answering the questions and troubles of his class.
Some time later, he regretfully realised he'd have to talk to Starscream. The mech hadn't moved a micron since the start of the period, whereas the rest of the class was still industriously working. Working his way to the back of the class, he noticed that the flier's optics were indeed only halfway online... His curiosity aroused, Skyfire stepped up to the mech's side and quietly said his name.
A little startled, he tried again. Still nothing.
He wasn't sure whether the mech was ignoring him deliberately or not, but he tried a third time, with a gentle shake for good measure.
Starscream jumped about three feet in the air. His optics blazed online, head snapping up. "What the-?!" He looked around and saw Skyfire staring at him, bemused and slightly concerned at the flier's reaction.
"Are you all right Starscream? You looked a million miles away." Skyfire probed carefully, hiding his flash of concern at the mech's behaviour.
"I did..? Oh...I'm sorry Professor, I was trying to work out some kinks in my project and I - I suppose I didn't hear you," he said with a twinge of guilt, looking at the lack of materials on his table and mentally comparing them to the others' for the first time.
Skyfire tried to come up with a tactful way of telling him it didn't look like he was working on a project full stop, but before he could say anything Starscream seemed to pick up on his train of thought, saying hurriedly "I know it looks like I'm not doing anything Professor, but I'm not totally sure this will work... If I can get my head round the theory on my own, I think I can get it, but I need to work it through before I can even start designing it." He looked up slyly at the scientist towering above him. "I know Professor Ripplewing thinks I'm not working."
Skyfire tried not to snicker. Starscream was growing on him more by the day. "You won't hesitate to ask if you do need any help..?"
He trailed off, smiling at the relieved expression on the mech's face. "No sir!" Starscream grinned. "Thanks Professor."
"I look forward to seeing this project when you do work it out. Good luck." As Skyfire moved away to another student, his mind at ease, Starscream fell back into his train of thought, streams of numbers, theories and plans flashing through his mind.
Totally unaware of the glares burning into him from the two bots across the room.
"Stupid smug seeker," muttered one. The other looked at him. "They shouldn't let his sort into the Academy," he hissed back. "Seekers are all war machines, Decepticons! He shouldn't be here!"
His brother frowned. "We need to save the Academy from itself. They need to realise he's a walking timebomb - he could do anything."
They looked at each other. "We've put up with him quietly for long enough. He's got to go."
They snapped round in their seats and scowled as a wild whoop split the air. Everyone in the room jumped and turned - to see Starscream scrabble madly for a datapad and start writing as furiously as if Ripplewing was after him.
Skyfire smiled. It seemed he'd found his way round the theory.
Well? First long-term project, and one I began with in mind before I signed on. Let me know what you think, and any suggestions of scrapes for the seeker to get himself into will be gratefully - not to mention eagerly - received. As well as reviews. Don't forget the reviews.