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Stick me in a room with a Life Orientation teacher and it will lead to this. Other than that, I have the odd urge to write Swindle firecracker!angst.

Life's a Beach

"Have you thought of finding another job, maybe?" she suggested. "One that doesn't involve killing Autobots?"

He stared at her.

"I'm a Decepticon war machine. Killing Autobots is what I do."

Alexis sighed.

He really didn't mind the small human so much. She was nice to him, in an obligatory sort of way, and was intelligent enough not to bother asking him too many questions.

And he was…surprised. He had travelled to some of the farthest corners of the galaxy, and had learnt that 'sentient' had an awful lot of range. That quadruped thing that the fat human had shown off to Optimus the day before-was that sentient? And why not? It communicated, didn't it? It expressed emotion, in the same limited way as humans, didn't it?

Obviously, it wasn't like them, Starscream told himself, and by them he'd meant other transformers. It couldn't be, just like humans couldn't be, because…because…

...they were so small.

The fact that one transformer alone could outlive the lifespan of a planet, with all its fallen civilisations, tended to endow one with a generous ladle of perspective. Admittedly, the fact that this perspective was generally warped beyond all recognition was something that tended to escape much notice.

The war had taken its toll upon alien research, beyond the energy they had available and the weaponry they had guarding that energy. After the first billion years, sentient recognition had settled down to a rocky 'anything that lives half as long as we do.' Starscream had flownscoutingroutes that took longer than the average human lifespan.

So the fact that he liked Alexis far more than most of the soldiers he spent his day fighting with or against was beginning to make him feel a bit peculiar.

Behind him, Runway set off another firework. It raced into the sky, narrowly avoiding Sonar, and burst into a thousand green lights.

"Okay", the small human said after a time. "Fine. So a career move is out of the question. What about a change in diet?"

The edge of the pencil tapped expectantly against her knee. He turned his head to look at her in irritation. "What are you doing?"

She closed her optical receptors-eyes, he reminded himself, eyes- and recited, "An essay on the factors of change and environment that lead to the growth of healthier, longer-living individuals with a comfortable place in today's societies."

"Your environment is dreadful. Your society is backwards. And I'll live longer than you."

"That's not really helpful."

"Allow me to reiterate; Decepticon. War. Machine. If I am helpful, I am obviously not doing my job."

Crimson and white-gold light up the sky briefly, bathing the annoyance on the female's face in red.

"You know, I could do this paper on someone else."

"Go ahead."

"On the other hand"- the pencil tapped impatiently on the side of her clipboard- "I doubt any of the Autobots are as socially-underdeveloped as you." Her tone of voice implied that this was an obvious point and that he was a fool to have missed it.

An image of Sideswipe popped unnervingly to Starscream's mind.

"…I wouldn't be so sure about that."

"Well, if you're going to be fussy about it, maybe I'll just ask one of the Minicons."

Her nose tilted up, she was still able to cast him a scowl that put him strangely in mind of Megatron. He brightened up suddenly, in a way that wasn't entirely to do with the rocket that had just launched itself past his shoulder, rapidly pursued by Sonar and a high-pitched, bleeped "Whee!".

"That's a good idea."

"What is?" she asked, opening one opti-...eye to glare at him. He shifted round to face the sand dunes below. Sonar and Jetstorm were preoccupiedwith playing in the phosphorescent waves. Swindle was handling the fireworks, and trying to avoid getting sand in his tires.

Upon being summonsed, he handed matters over to Runway, who eagerly accepted the post, and he crawled up the dune to their side.

"Ya yelled, boss?" he beeped.

"Alexis has a few…questions to ask you."

"Oh, criminy."

As Alexis smiled a wide smile and made her way towards the next target, Starscream shifted back and watched the lightshow. It was nothing compared to some of the battle field skies he'd been witness to. On the other hand, you couldn't get a ruptured fuel tank explosion in half as many colours.

(Except on Charr, of course. But the resultant chemical fallout there would kill you before you had time to see the show and would do it again fifteen times if you showed even the slightest hint of being alive.)