((Author's Note: Thank you to all the people who have reviewed. I'm not worthy! grovels It's hard to write for such an established series, let alone fit in amongst such distinguished authors. My only hope is that I can continue to provide entertainment for everyone, and not bring shame to myself or the material I'm stealing, er, "borrowing" from.))
Chapter Two: One Exceedingly Bad Day
To say that the next few days were a trial would be to state the obvious. Things have never been exactly calm around our HQ, but this strange shifting of minds had disturbed the tenuous balance that held things together. I suppose that a power struggle was inevitable.
But more on that later.
As I had promised, I spent most of my time thinking up strategies that would make allowances for both Starscream's and Megatron's disabilities. Unfortunately, this left me with precious few options to fall back upon. Of the current Decepticon army stationed at the moon base, my leader and his unofficial second-in-command are the only reliable ones. Starscream is a capable warrior when given the proper leeway to act, and I can even make use of Megatron's violent temper to some degree. With a proper plan, I can predict their actions and their probability for success.
The others are a different matter, entirely.
Nothing need be said in the way of Cyclonus; he's a loose cog if ever I've seen one. He's trigger-happy, crazed, and has a complete disregard for following orders when he gets overly excited. I don't understand why Megatron keeps him around. Such an unstable bot should be disposed of for the benefit of the universe. Still, I suppose he has his use as cannon fodder, provided his bloodthirsty antics can be aimed in the proper direction.
Demolisher, while loyal, hesitates too frequently. He's been known to abandon everything for the sake of a team member. While I appreciate his devotion to his allies, the fact remains that he is a soldier, and the mission takes priority over everything and everyone. Alas, I doubt that I could convince him to forsake the others in favor of carrying out his duty.
Sideways… He cannot be trusted, of that I'm sure. His main motivation seems to be self-preservation. I have heard reports of him going missing in battle, only to reappear later with a glib lie about his whereabouts. He is unreliable, and seems to follow orders only when he feels like it. For the most part, the work he does do is impeccable, which is why I am hard pressed to find too much fault with him. As I have mentioned before, he is an intriguing puzzle that I wish to keep an eye on.
But despite the few saving graces this dysfunctional unit possesses, they remain, for the most part, a worthless bunch of idiots. It is for this reason that I was dreading putting them in an important position while Megatron and Starscream adapted to each other's bodies.
No matter how sick of a joke Fate was playing on them, I had to send a little prayer of thanks that the Minicon alarm had remained silent since the unfortunate events a few days prior. Thinking on my feet is possible, if not a necessity for military personnel such as myself, but I prefer to iron out any kinks before setting a plan into motion. This takes time, and the interruption of a Minicon hunt would have been most unwelcome.
I also had a training schedule to formulate. This, I learned later, would be a source of great frustration for me. If you asked me to repeat the task now, I would laugh in your face and destroy you on mere principle. Nothing will ever persuade me to do that again. I have enough stress in my life from dealing with a base full of incompetents, let alone trying to teach a tyrant how to fly and a malcontent to have patience.
To give you an idea of the type of obstacle I was attempting to surmount, let me tell you of the first disastrous training day.
I assembled my unwilling pupils outside the base in the early hours of the morning. The Earth's sun would just be rising over the eastern horizon, and the Autobot's human pets would be devouring the fibrous substance they've dubbed "Wheaties" before heading off to school. The golden glow slowly spread over our vantage point.
"Ah," I breathed. "Look how the sun shines upon us. The signs are in our favor."
If I had hoped to impress my waiting audience, I was sadly mistaken. Both Starscream and Megatron yawned and looked uninterested.
I placed my hands behind my back. "Well then," I said in a brusque tone. "Shall we begin?"
I activated a series of training sims, choosing blank-faced droids rather than Autobot facsimiles. The time would come soon enough when fighting in these forms would be a matter of life and death for the two of them. For the moment, I wanted to stress the idea of practice rather than actual combat.
"I assume that you two have been testing your limitations these past few days," I continued. "Show me what you've learned. Depending on how well you handle yourselves, I may bump up the level of your training."
Megatron scanned the droids with a cold stare. "This is insulting. These low-level sims won't even be a warm-up."
Starscream grunted in agreement, but was otherwise silent.
I gave a low chuckle. "Prove it to me, then," I ordered, and waved a hand for them to proceed. "Decide which one of you will begin first."
"I'll show you how it's done." Starscream, ever brimming with confidence, stepped towards the sims. "Bring it on!"
"Commencing training!" I shouted, and the sims darted into motion.
Giving a wild cry, Starscream charged into the fray, giant fists swinging. He punched the first sim to get too close to him, but the others moved out of the way. He gave a growl of anger and extended those strange antenna-like antlers that are so much a part of Megatron's unique appearance. He wasn't able to grab any of the droids with those pincers, but this didn't stop him from lowering his head and using them like a bull uses its horns.
Megatron covered his eyes with one hand and groaned. "This is humiliating. Starscream, you pathetic moron! You're making me look terrible out there!"
"Your body is completely worthless in melee combat!" he snarled back, and tried to punch another droid.
Megatron spoke with condescending sweetness. "That's what the gun is for, you idiot."
"Huh?" Starscream's right hand fell instinctually to the gigantic gun at his hip. I knew his mind was racing. We've all bourn witness to Megatron as he wielded it, but I could sense doubt in every line of his borrowed form. It was unnerving to see Megatron's face assume a look of indecision.
"My, my. What will you do?" I asked of no one in particular. I doubt that Starscream could have heard me, at any rate. "This won't do. Hesitation leads to death." I activated the droids' weapon functions to help make up his mind for him.
He had a moment to utter a startled gasp as he came under fire.
Something you should know about our training sims: they are equipped with mild stun guns that emit a harmless shock to the parts they hit. What you might not be aware of, is that harmless or not, those shocks hurt. There is no permanent damage done to a Decepticon's system, but the memory of pain is enough to make them willing to do anything to avoid feeling it again. In this way, we condition our soldiers to accept pain as a part of battle, and force them to fight through it. Sentimental Autobots regard such training as cruel and unnecessary, which is why a single shot is sometimes enough to drop them on the battlefield. No Decepticon worth his fuel would fall so easily.
Starscream found himself faced with many such painful lasers headed in his direction and threw himself to the ground to avoid them.
"Get up!" Megatron raged. "Don't embarrass the both of us with such a shameful display of cowardice!"
It was quite humorous to see Starscream's body ordering Megatron's body around. I couldn't restrain myself from laughing.
Megatron turned his blazing optics in my direction. "This is hardly the time to find this amusing," he berated me.
"Feel free to jump in at any time," I offered in response.
He looked from me to his body rolling back and forth on the rocky surface of the moon, coating his green and purple paint in a film of white dust. With an inarticulate growl of rage, he reached to his left wing and ejected it into his hand, forming Starscream's signature sword.
He charged in with as much gusto as Starscream had, and I had to wonder if Starscream's first assumption hadn't been far from the mark. Charging seemed to be a decidedly Megatron move.
One thing has to be noted, here. Megatron is no slouch when it comes to combat, despite Starscream's inaccurate estimation of his fighting prowess. He does quite well when he is able to grapple with an opponent, and using the StarSaber has given him plenty of practice with swordplay. But saying all that, you have to remember that this took place before he switched bodies, when he had a large amount of sheer brute strength to fall back upon. Now, he was in Starscream's slender, streamlined form. The seeker was built for speed and maneuverability, not heavy-hitting combat, and this is where Megatron made his first mistake.
His charge had "surprised" the droids; I hadn't programmed them to react to such variables, since I hadn't thought that either of my unwilling pupils would be resorting to their old tricks. I knew this would cause some lag in the system, but the training sim froze altogether, leaving the droids completely motionless.
"Wait," I called. "I think there is a program error." Megatron finished his charge anyway, slicing through a couple of the droids and deactivating them. "Stand down, I said!"
He ground to a halt and gave me a dirty look. "Excuse me?"
Megatron has many virtues as a leader, but patience is not amongst them. Fast results are all that matter to him, and he dislikes anyone hindering that goal. Had things not been as they were, his tone of voice would have sent me scrambling with an apology until his temper cooled. But for the moment, I felt confident in my superiority over Starscream's body so I didn't even flinch.
I opened a panel in my arm and scanned the output. There was some unusual slowdown in the system that wasn't being caused by processing data.
"What's that?" Starscream asked.
I looked to where he was pointing. One of the droids was twitching, the hologram fading in and out like a badly recorded transmission.
"What's taking so long?" Megatron demanded, stomping his way back to my location. He obviously hadn't mastered his new weight yet, and was trying to maintain balance with his wings.
I frowned behind my faceplate. "I'm not sure. I'm running a scan, but it says that there's nothing wrong with the program." I watched the text and numbers scroll by at a near crawl. "The system itself is experiencing some sort of lag. Most likely, that is what caused the training simulation to freeze."
"Maybe someone's using the computers right now," Starscream suggested.
I thought about this and then nodded. "That is a possibility. Sideways said he would run some diagnostics for the warp gate." I shut down the screen in my arm. "Let me reboot the training program and we shall continue."
Megatron made an irritated noise. "And how long will that take?"
"Only a minute or two," I replied mildly. "You might want to rethink your method of attack in the meantime."
"There is nothing wrong with the way I fight!"
"Of course not, mighty Megatron," I soothed instantly, more out of habit than as a conscious effort on my part. "But remember, for all intents and purposes, you are not yourself. You're Starscream."
"Why, I hadn't realized that, Thrust. Thank you so much for stating the obvious."
There is no point in trying to reason with Megatron when he doesn't want to be reasoned with, so I sighed away his sarcasm and reinitiated the program. The waiting droids assumed their holograms again, though the last one to manifest was still glitched.
"I'm not sure how long the program will hold," I said to them. "It may well be that the sim will crash again. Let us make use of what time we have, shall we?"
I waited until both of them nodded their assent before sending the droids into action again. They darted to and fro around the Decepticon warriors, peppering them with laser blasts.
"This would be a lot easier if I had the Star Saber," I heard Starscream mutter as he took cover behind some moon rocks.
"Use what you have," I urged him. "If you start thinking more like a tank and less like a jet, you might actually get somewhere."
Comprehension dawned on his face, which was quite comical considering who's face it really was, but he took my advice. Literally.
"Star- er, Megatron, transform!"
In seconds, he had shifted into vehicle mode. He swung his cannon around to face the oncoming droids and unleashed a blast that destroyed anything and everything that got in its way.
"That…wasn't quite what I had in mind," I confessed. "But it's a start."
Megatron sliced through one simulation before spinning about and using the momentum to cut down the next one that danced too close to his blade. "That's how it's done." He turned to Starscream, who was just shifting back to robot mode. "You really are a-"
"Don't get complacent," I called, cutting off whatever Megatron had been about to say. "Here they come!"
Starscream cried out, "Try some of this!" and grabbed hold of the missile launcher at his hip. He took aim, which really means to just point it in the general direction of the enemy and hope for the best, and fired. The resulting blast destroyed several more of the sims completely, but also sent him flying backwards. His momentum was stopped by a boulder-sized moon rock which shattered upon impact. He lay in the debris, stunned.
Megatron fared little better. His sword could only deflect so many of the incoming shots as the droids closed in around him in a tight circle. Before long, blasts were making it past his guard and striking him in the torso and shoulders, in his back and legs. He shouted at the pain I knew must be ripping along his circuits, but that only seemed to make him go berserk.
Giving an inarticulate cry of rage, he charged the sims again. His sword met with empty air, and each miss was rewarded with more laser fire.
Starscream laboriously got to his feet. "Don't be a fool!" he shouted at Megatron. His scratchy voice was made rougher by his annoyance. "Transform and take them out from above!"
"I don't need help from the likes of you!" Megatron finally managed to cut down another sim. It exploded in a display of pyrotechnics as the program for it shut down in defeat. "As you can see, I have this under contr-" His words turned into another shout of pain as the remaining sims caught him in three-way crossfire. Unable to withstand the assault, he was forced to his knees.
"Such a disappointment," I said with a shake of my head. I had hoped that he would have done better, but I should have known that his overweening pride would get in the way. "I'm canceling the program."
I paused as two voices rose in defiance.
"I won't be beaten so easily!" Starscream straightened Megatron's frame to its full imposing height. "Keep it coming."
"This…isn't over!" Megatron grated out, his words almost lost under the sound of the blasts striking his borrowed body. Without warning, he transformed into vehicle mode and lit out of there like a shooting star. He executed an interesting aerial somersault and dove down towards the sims, unleashing a barrage of ammo at them.
"Not that way!" Starscream hollered. "Pull up!"
"Be quiet! I know what I'm doing!"
The end result was somewhat less than spectacular. Two of the sims fell before the onslaught, which ought to count for something, at least. But this was Megatron flying, and not Starscream. He had no concept of how to control the body he was in.
Realizing at the last minute that he was about to send his nose right into the ground, Megatron pulled up sharply. This worked at first; his downward momentum was starting to ease and his flight pattern was beginning to level out. But his speed was too fast, his trajectory too uncertain. I saw something in his wings give out, the metal popping out of place as they threatened to tear off his body. I heard a scream of anguish, and wasn't sure later if it had come from Megatron, Starscream, or both.
Completely out of control, Megatron landed gracelessly belly down on the moon's surface, skidding and scraping the whole way until he tumbled to a halt on his back. He didn't move.
Starscream hurried over, though I doubt his concern had much to do with our leader, and more to do with his mangled body. I moved a little slower than he did, and together we stooped to examine the damage.
There were giant rends in the seeker's body, with sparking wires and plenty of leaking mech fuel. Dents and scrapes marred the red and white paint. One wing was barely attached, and the other bent at an odd angle. Even if Megatron were online, which blessedly he wasn't, he wouldn't be able to transform in this state.
"The stupid fool," Starscream hissed to himself.
"We need to get him stabilized. Pick him up and let's get back to base." I watched to assure myself that Starscream was being suitably gentle in his handling of our inactive leader, then activated my comm. "Thrust to base. Come in, please."
"Demolisher, here. What's up?"
"We've had a little training accident," I said tersely. "Set up the repair bay, if you would?"
"An accident? Who was it? What happened?"
"Stop blathering and do as you're told!"
The comm went dead and I sighed. "Come on. Let's go." I took hold of the other side of Starscream's former body and helped heft our inert leader off the ground, which isn't an easy thing to do to a jet.
Starscream adjusted his grip to support our load better, and we began heading back to the base. He said nothing to me on the way, and I was grateful for the silence. Things had not gone the way I had expected them to, ending in tragic results. I needed some time to think about what my next move would be, and any interruptions would have caused me to snap.
I had reached a breaking point. The way Starscream and Megatron had handled themselves was disheartening, to say the least, but to have suffered actual damage in training was inexcusable. I blame myself for it, a little, because I hadn't realized how alien their new bodies would be for them. I also hadn't counted on Megatron's bravado getting the better of him. These were things I thought I had taken into account from the start. I am not accustomed to failure, and this training exercise could be counted as nothing else.
Next time, I thought to myself. Next time I won't overestimate their abilities. They will begin with the basics as if they were raw recruits, and I will brook no refusals on their part. I will not allow a repeat of today's outcome.I thought to myself.
I felt suddenly as if I were being watched. I'm ashamed to say that I dropped Megatron like a sack of screws and spun about. The last training sim froze in the act of sneaking up on me, weapon raised to fire, still flickering in and out of focus. Needless to say, I evaporated it in a single shot. Once the hologram had been disposed of, the program shut down on its own.
Starscream looked at me wordlessly from out of Megatron's face. I ignored him, lifted up our burden, and continued walking. He had no choice but to trudge along beside me.
I had the nagging feeling that something was amiss, there. I couldn't recall having programmed the sims to attack anyone other than my two pupils. In the end, I shrugged it off as a glitch and forgot about it.
Demolisher met us at the entrance to the base. I was about to ask him if everything were ready for us, but never got the chance as he lunged forward towards our fallen leader.
Demolisher's anguished wail set my teeth on edge. He dropped down beside the torn up jet and laid his hands gingerly against one of the rends. Megatron gave a faint shudder in my hands, the only indication that he wasn't just so much scrap.
"M-Megatron…" Demolisher's chin fell towards his chest as he lowered his head in despair. He seemed ready to believe that our leader's spark was already on its way to join the Matrix.
Of course, I had no patience for this, especially after having dragged Megatron's inert form all the way back to base. "Make yourself useful," I told him. "Help Starscream get him inside."
I went before them to assure myself that everything was in order.
One of the good things about this pile of junk we call home is that it does have some interesting technology. One such item is in the repair bay. Lacking a medic in our group, we discovered a handy machine that will enact any major repairs on us. I have no idea if the Minicons created it, or if it was a staple of all ships made back then, but I've never been one to pass up an opportunity to exploit someone else's hard work.
It seemed as if Demolisher had followed my orders. Everything was set and waiting for us.
I heard a footstep behind me and turned to find Sideways walking into the room.
He jerked a thumb over his shoulder as Megatron was being carried in. "Whoa. How'd that happen?"
I brushed past him to organize the others. "Don't you have work to do?"
He shrugged. "I'm taking a break."
"Well, take it somewhere else, if you don't mind." He didn't leave as I had hoped, but he did stop talking, and that was enough for the moment. We eased Megatron in his borrowed body onto the recharge berth and began hooking him up to the repair droid. The most extensive damage would be repaired by automated scanners and probes while the finishing touches would have to be done by hand once we got Megatron back online. Only he could tell us what fragile circuitry and wiring needed to be repaired.
All in all, this was turning out to be the most taxing day of my career.
"This is a disaster!" Demolisher moaned as he looked over our bent and battered leader. "First the body switching, and now the injuries! What's next?"
"As if you should talk. He's in my body! I'll be lucky if I'll ever be able to get my wings realigned the way I like them," Starscream muttered.
Demolisher chewed his bottom lip. "Will he…make it?"
Starscream waved aside his worries with a disdainful scoff. "Don't be an idiot, Demolisher. Of course he'll make it."
"I agree," I said, and finished adjusting the dials. "Most of these wounds are superficial and look worse than what they really are. He didn't tear any major fuel lines, and anything fractured can be welded back together." I took one last look at the torn-up jet before firmly shooing everyone out and closing the door behind us. "In any case, there is nothing we can do other than to wait," I said. Giving Starscream the once over with my optics, I gauged the damage done to his frame. "What about you?"
He gave me a suspicious look. "Me?"
"Yes. Since we're fixing him up," I gestured to the room behind me, "perhaps you should make what repairs are needed to yourself."
"It's nothing serious. Just a few scratches." In a low voice, he added, "You know, I'm surprised. I didn't take as much damage as I normally would." He sounded so shocked by this that I couldn't help but offer an opinion.
"Perhaps it is because your previous body was not designed to withstand heavy fire, whilst Megatron's body can. Use this knowledge to your advantage when next you train."
He made a soft growl in the back of his throat. I've come to recognize this sound as his "thoughtful" noise, the one he gives when he is absorbing information, or about to get lost in thought.
You may have noticed my habit of analyzing the behavior patterns of my fellow Decepticons. Why do I do this, you might ask. The answer is simple, really. There is more to combat than memorizing battle formations, and what artillery works best against what enemy. To formulate a strategy, one must understand one's enemies, or in this case, allies. A lot can be read in simple body language. If you know that a certain Autobot has the tendency to twitch his hand before he grabs for his gun, it is easier to avoid getting shot by a quick-draw that you didn't see coming. Likewise, by understanding that Starscream has a variety of growls he uses to express his emotions, I may not accidentally shoot him in self-defense.
Demolisher, ever the loyalist, planted himself firmly in front of me and glared. "Okay, I want some answers. What happened out there? How'd Megatron get so beaten up?"
With our leader safely tucked away in the repair bay, it fell to me and Starscream to explain to the others what had happened.
"It was his own doing," Starscream huffed. "I told him to pull up, but he thinks he knows everything."
"You weren't exactly brilliant out there, yourself, fly-boy," I remarked. "You both need extensive training, starting from the bottom up."
"Still, it's going to be a while before Megatron's up and functional again," Sideways mused. "What's going to become of us in the meantime?"
I glanced at him, but he appeared to be speaking to himself, deep in thought.
Demolisher blundered right on in. "You've got a point."
Sideways shook himself. "Oh, I was just talkin' out loud there. I'm sure you've got it covered."
"Well, you are Megatron's second in command, right?"
Starscream gave an incredulous laugh. "I hardly think so. Everyone knows that I am next in line!" He straightened up and smirked down at us. "Since Megatron is inactive for the time being, I shall assume control of the Decepticons."
"What!" Demolisher balled up his fists and stomped towards Starscream. "I've always been second in command!"
"Big talk for someone with a two-bit processor."
"You're really starting to fry my circuits, Starscream!"
I gave a mental sigh and leaned my back against the wall. I should have known something like this was going to happen sooner or later. Neither of them are fit to be leader, in my opinion, so I was planning to wait until the argument died down and then offer my "services" to whomever the winner was. I had a feeling that it would be Starscream, since Demolisher's argument tactics involve a lot of whining and falling back on past accomplishments, however meager or trivial.
"Look at 'em," Sideways muttered as he sidled up to me. "Fightin' for command like a couple of mangy vultures. Megatron's been out of action for less than an hour, and already things are going haywire. I'm glad that you're above all that, Thrust."
I glanced at him, once, then turned back to the argument, waiting to step in if it escalated too far. "I don't have the faintest idea of what you're talking about."
"Oh, I think you do. After all, who else is capable enough to take over? Starscream's too hot-headed, and Demolisher? Don't make me laugh!" And here he did laugh, a low and unpleasant sound. "I'm just sayin' that I'm glad we have you to count on. I feel a lot safer knowing that you're going to be the one calling the shots."
"Thank you. Your skill at flattery is almost on par with mine. But whatever it is you're thinking to gain by oiling up to me…"
Sideways looked as abashed as he could. "That's harsh. Who said I wanted anything?"
"In my experience, no one does anything without an ulterior motive. I just want to know what yours is." I pinned him under my gaze, and was gratified to see him flinch. If he was just acting, he was rather good at it.
"I meant no disrespect, Thrust. Just thought I'd let you know that I'm on your side…should anything happen."
I felt my fuel-pump quicken inside of me. I knew that he was dangling the proverbial Energon cube before me, and I knew that it would be foolish to take the bait. But he had intrigued me. Besides, I thought I might gain some knowledge of his plans if I played along.
"Is that a threat, Sideways?"
There must have been something in how I said it that tipped him off. "Hey, I didn't say anything would happen, just that it might. You never know when one of them might decide that you're the bigger threat and try to take you down." He grew quiet. Probably debating on his next course of action. I decided to give him a little of what he was looking for.
"And you have reason to believe that this will happen?"
He plunged ahead, heedless of caution, as I had expected he would. "C'mon. I know that you've seen the way those two look at you. They can't stand the sight of you, because they know you're better than them. They know who really holds Megatron's attention. Compared to you, they're just a waste of metal. To take you out, to defeat the undefeatable warrior… I'm sure you can see how tempting an idea that might be for them."
Now I knew what he was after. Sideways was trying to get me paranoid about my safety. By insinuating that Starscream or Demolisher would be waiting for the chance to backstab me, I know he was hoping that I would fly into a rage and take care of them personally. Two less obstacles in the way of whatever scheme was percolating under those ridiculous horns of his.
"Thank you for the warning," I said, and I knew he was beaming behind his mask. "But I can take care of myself." Stepping back into the argument, I held up my hands. "Peace, gentlemen. This is hardly the time or the place to debate this."
Starscream glowered at Demolisher. "He doesn't have what it takes to be a leader!"
"And Starscream's never had any respect for my authority."
"Enough!" I shouted, before the whole fight began anew. "Starscream, until you master your new body, your leadership cannot be relied upon." I held up my hand for silence before he could protest. "I am fully aware of how capable you are under normal circumstances. However, for the time being, we must concentrate on the well-being of the Decepticons as a whole. Would you not agree?"
"I suppose," was his sulky reply. "But you can't seriously put Demolisher in charge?"
"Why not? Would you rather have Cyclonus bossing you around?" I chuckled. "Now wouldn't that be an interesting sight?"
Starscream drew his lips back from his teeth, exposing pointed canines. "Nobody bosses me around, not even Megatron!"
"Yes, and your insubordination has thusly earned you three beatings in the past month. You would think a Decepticon of your supposed intelligence would know the difference between when to fight and when to simply shut your mouth." While my words sunk in, I turned to Demolisher. "And as for you…"
He turned his pair of mismatched green optics in my direction. "What now?"
"Currently, our leader is out of action, and I need someone I can trust here at the HQ…someone that Megatron trusted." I stared into his wide, oh-so-naïve face and lowered my voice. "Can I depend on you, Demolisher, to take care of things here until Megatron is revived?"
The lure of power that I was dangling in front of him was too tempting to pass up. "Oh…sure. No problem, Thrust. Just leave everything to me."
Inwardly, I smiled. "Excellent."
"This is insane!" Starscream ranted. "The mantle of leadership belongs to me by right. I'll challenge anyone who dares oppose it!"
"Oh, quit your posturing!" I snapped. "I've had quite enough of you for one day."
Stunned into silence, Starscream stormed out of the room. He went off, no doubt, to find a place to sulk.
"I'm going to stay here for a little bit," Demolisher informed me. He gave a worried look towards the repair bay. "I don't want anything to go wrong here, too."
Why he told me this, I have no idea. Perhaps he thought I might actually care, or that I might need to know where he was in case of an emergency. Whatever his reasoning, I did not like that he chose to rub my face in the fact that this day had turned out worse than anticipated, but there was nothing I could say that wouldn't make me seem petty.
I shrugged at him. "Do as you please," I said, and exited with the intent of retiring to my private quarters.
I found that I had an unwanted shadow tagging along behind me.
Sideways chuckled, falling into stride beside me. "You're really good at your job, ain'tcha?
I made a noise of exasperation. "Is there a reason why you're hounding me, today?"
"Not really. Just thought I'd let you know… Promising Demolisher an empty leadership? That was a nice move."
"I would have said anything to keep him out from underfoot and cease the bickering between him and Starscream."
"And you'll still be calling all the shots." Sideways gave a soft chortle. "Not bad for someone who pretends that he doesn't want to be leader."
I paused and looked down at the motorcycle-bot. "I never said that I didn't. But commanding you sorry lot would be akin to stripping my own wires, a painful experience that I'd rather not have if I can avoid it."
"Then why not let Starscream lead? He wants power so bad he can taste it."
I thought about this as we came to a halt outside my quarters. "I know he does. That lust for power is what will be his undoing. He has no patience for plots, and subtlety is just as foreign to him. That is why Megatron has fended him off for so long." I gestured at my door. "And now that I am at my destination, I must bid you adieu."
Sideways' dark optics twinkled maliciously. "Not going to invite me in?"
"And why should I do anything of the sort?"
He rolled his shoulders in a slow shrug. "Maybe for a drink?"
"I rather think not. I plan to get very hammered in a few moments to drown today's events from my memory banks, and I would much prefer to do that in private."
Yes, as sad as it is to admit, dealing with the daily trials of this band of miscreants has often forced me to find solace in solitude and strong Energon. I am not proud of this little detail of my existence, but it helps me make it from one day to another without going insane.
Sideways rotated his neck, popping the kinks out of his cables. "So that's a no go? Oh well."
I made as if to enter my quarters. "If there is nothing further-"
"Yeah, that's it for now. If I need anything else, I know where I can find you. All I need to do is look for the power behind the throne." He walked past me, talking over his shoulder as he went. "I hope your next training mission works out better for ya, Thrust."
You have no idea how badly I wanted to scrap him. But I needed his talents to fix the warp gate, and as insufferable as he is, Sideways has his uses. So I let him go, watching his shadow lengthen along the wall then dwindle to nothingness, all the while wishing that I were anywhere else but here.