More Raptor Than Robot
By force, hath overcome but half his foe.
Paradise Lost. Book i. Line 648.
It was not an obsession.
Well, he kept telling himself that, whenever he caught himself picturing a new move being played out on her sleek grey body. How could he, Starscream, grand Air Commander for the Decepticons soil himself with thoughts of lovingly ripping out her power core and using a laser scalpel to delicately sever her spark from her Energon-spouting corpse? No, it was mere planning for a time when he was able to perform such tasks. He was not obsessed with the lowly, dirt-slagging female-based robot. No, not ever.
"Obsession" was what the rest of his Decepticon comrades called Starscream's intensely-nursed hatred of the Autobot Solarflare – behind his back, for the most part. To his face when they were being snarky and had a head start.
On one particular day, confined to the bowels of their underwater, defunct spacecrusier, the Seekers and the Cassetticons Rumble and Frenzy had convened (minus Starscream) to entertain themselves. Having run through most of their pirated copies of VH1's Pop-Up Video series, the Seekers sent the Cassetticons into the vault to find something of more meritous entertainment. After a good deal of squabbling and shoving, the two emerged with a slim black volume; no words were written on the outside, nor upon examination of the inside. It was completely and utterly beneath their notice – but they decided to pop it in and watch it for the slag of it anyway.
"Maybe it's a secret Pleasure Hall holo," sniggered Thundercracker, throwing his long legs up on the scarred coffee table.
Rumble sniffed. "Yeah, but of who?" he asked.
Thundercracker reached down and plucked the thin case from the blue bot's hands, holding it up and out of reach, grinning as Rumble danced his ubiquitous dance, arms flailing above his head as he jumped, twisted and contorted in a vain effort of retrieving what he'd found. "Uh-uh, pipsqueak. Mine now. Warp! Catch!"
Easily done. The teleportationist snatched the case in midair, deftly popping it apart and sliding its contents into the viewer port.
… private log: air commander starscream … scrolled across the screen. Someone hooted in the back, an instinctual response to this major oversight. Everyone knew that Starscream was a fool, but to leave a record of his personal logs so that any low-ranking melee warrior could find it? That was beyond comprehension; Starscream had many failings, but he was not one to be caught with his exhaust port out.
… object: autobot solarflare
… class: communications
… technical data thus accumulated …
Seekers and Cassetticons leaned forward, lip components slack in the face of this information. They longed to look at each other, in the glaring violet light of the virtual log, but they couldn't tear their optics away for one parsec. As their optics took in the diagrams and charts of Solarflare's weaponry, her flight and fighting capabilities, their cortexes worked over memories of the past, when they had teased Starscream mercilessly for his obsession. It had been in jest, really … now they were unsure.
In their stunned silence, the rec room door slid open, completely unnoticed. Until a shrill exclamation of rage shattered their stupor.
"YOU DARE DEFILE MY PERSONAL PROPERTY!"
Unfortunately, Rumble found his vocalizer component first, and offered up the most inane of apologies: "Well, it was in the vault, Screamer. Your name wasn't on it."
Anger piqued, Starscream stormed stiff-legged through the open space of the rec room and reached for the remote held by Thundercracker. Galvanized by the Air Commander's femme-like response to his logs being rifled through, the blue Seeker made the mistake of laughing. Starscream's black fist smashed with deadly precision into the left side of Thundercracker's face; metal caved inwards, up at an angle which caused a jagged piece of malleable Cybertronian plating to slam into the Seeker's optic. If Thundercracker thought he had gotten the wrong end of an energy conductor at the blow, he was sorely mistaken; howling like a banshee in a windstorm, the blue Seeker shoved himself to his feet, thick black palm plastered to his damaged face. Between clenched fingers, sparks spat in a stream of gold and white amidst the hissing of a punctured cable.
"Way to go, Screamer," Skywarp snarled. "Now we all know you're obsessed with the Autobot bitch." He stood and grabbed Thundercracker by the elbow joint, leading him out the rec room door and down to Scrapper's domain for repairs.
Curling his lip, Starscream reached out for the discarded remote, only to discover that it was bent in the middle, impressions of giant fingers striping the uniform greyness.
In a fit of rage, Starscream threw the remote against the wall and wrenched the chair Thundercracker had been sitting in from its bolted position and heaving it across the room to meet with the remote. The images upon the screen remained as they were: a frozen, eternal moment in time – the Autobot femme Solarflare, her talons sunk deep into Decepticon plating, moments before she would flare her wings out and take a chunk with her.
Eying the destruction with a certain level of self-satisfaction, he turned around and saw that Frenzy and Rumble were watching him. "Get out of here!"
"Yeah, sure, Screamer," Frenzy sneered, grabbing his brother by the arm and bounding out the door. "Just clean up after you're done! Megatron doesn't like oil stains on the furniture!" It was a good thing the little Cassetticons were nimble; they barely ducked under the furious weight of the coffee table as it came sailing through the air to smash into a tangled heap on the floor.
Grumbling to himself, Starscream pivoted to face the screen, his lip curling in extreme distaste. He had enough restraint left in his burning circuits to gently push the eject button and reclaim his stolen property. Lifting the cube to his crimson optics, the Seeker gnawed on his lower lip component; how had his log gotten into the vault, anyway? Everything he owned was under several layers of security – what little he had managed to salvage from the Nemesis.
It was tempting, so very tempting to crush this little cube and spend the rest of his miserable life upon this dirt hole denying it ever existed. It wasn't enough that his fellow Seekers failed to take him and his plans seriously; now they possessed more potent ammunition. Starscream pinched the cube between thumb and forefinger; he heard the casing groan under the pressure, threaten to burst at the seams.
"Rrh! Damn you, bitch," he snarled, and tucked the cube into the relative safety of his personal subspace domain. Something had to be done – and quickly. As Starscream walked the tilted corridors of the underwater cruiser, his complex cortex was running through various assassination possibilities. There was no chance of setting Soundwave down to the Ark – for one, the communications lackey wouldn't listen to him unless he was given a direct order from Megatron, and even then, it was with thinly veiled contempt. Also, these days, Ark security made slagging sure that the orange ship was locked tighter than a turbo-fish's ass … That blasted Red Alert, he snarled under his vocalizer. Not to mention that colorless femme rarely left her quarters. Yet another difference between the Autobots and Decepticons – Megatron demanded that all soldiers fight, original programming or no.
Starscream thought fleetingly of Senneca, one of Megatron's few femme operatives. Too bad they'd never been able to recover her, save the head those infuriating twins dropped at their door. With Senneca, they'd had a chance … now, who knew.
As loathe as he was to admit it, the only solution Starscream could come up with involved himself. But how? Therein lay the crux of the matter. The Air Commander paused at one of the viewing windows and laid his forearms upon the bar, staring out into the cool, deathlike stillness of the ocean. Without rhyme or reason, his gaze flitted to the sandy bottom, strung with lines of coral. As he watched with abstract distraction, a sea cucumber undulated by, its bulbous body filling the Seeker with a sense of revulsion. Still, he watched, as there was nothing better to do, and he needed the time alone to think. Down below, the cucumber wriggled into a hole in the coral; moments later, its head – or what Starscream assumed to be such – popped out the front. When it didn't move again, the Seeker became agitated and turned away from the window. Ugly little worm, he thought contemptuously.
And a light went off in his scientific, devious cortex.
Why not a worm? A virus! A computer virus designed to eat away at Solarflare's mind until she was nothing more than a slavering husk destined for the scrap heap! "Yes, Starscream, you are a genius," he muttered to himself, pivoting around to stare at the sea cucumber. "It seems that there is intelligent life on this mud ball!" The sea cucumber could have cared less; it slowly slunk backwards into the relative safety of the coral hull.
Shoving himself free of the rail, Starscream walked with brisk pace towards Scrapper's lab, hoping that the Constructicon would be out at this hour, possibly working topside on one of Megatron's failed projects. Yes, a virus, he thought with devious delight. The scientist in him thrilled at the prospect of creating, the Decepticon in him reveled in making sure that Solarflare's torture lasted as long as possible; that she would be aware up until the last minute that everything she had been was slowly disintegrating.
As luck would have it, Scrapper was not in residence. Quickly, for time was short, Starscream ripped into the lab, taking up the microscope, the solder, chips, pins, wires … all that he needed to create his viral program. As he sat down with the tools of destruction laying in precise arrangements around him, he considered the method of introduction. Long association with the Autobots made him acutely aware that they would do everything in their power to save their comrades – to the point of suicide missions. Thus, he had to be subtle. Megatron wouldn't be too pleased if a contingent of Autobots showed up at their door.
Subtle, very subtle.
As Starscream was running the program through the simulator, light suddenly spilled across his worktable. "Do care to enlighten me, Starscream," began that cold, calculated voice. "What in the Pit are you doing in Scrapper's lab?"
Jolted, Starscream scrabbled to cover up his work. Too late – Megatron strolled up to the table, his canon arm in perfect alignment with the Seeker's head. "A project," he spluttered lamely, half his cortex still focused on his scheme.
"Really." Clearly, Megatron was far from impressed. "I did not sanction a project – especially one spearheaded by you." The canon flitted casually from Starscream's head to the datapad simulator. "A virus, Starscream? Don't tell me that this is your newest means of trying to take over leadership." Spoken by anyone else, the words would have been jestful; spoken by Megatron, they were deadly serious.
For once, Starscream had no reason to lie. "No."
Megatron frowned, unimpressed. " 'No'? Then what is it?" He leaned forward, casually placing his thick hand on the back of Starscream's neck, fingers slipping under precious cables. "Who is this virus for, if not for me? Optimus Prime, perhaps?"
Starscream's lip components moved up and down, torn between the truth and the lie that would inevitably save him. "Yes," he replied; and it sounded as fake as he knew it to be. Megatron's fingers dug into his plating, into the cables that brought coolant to his head. Starscream gasped as the pressure increased; he felt the coolant being cut off and his head starting to feel a little warmer than usual.
He could fight this out. He could withstand the strain. He … couldn't! "For the bird!" he shrilled, fingers gouging deep lines into the worktable. Megatron's grip slacked, if but a little. Coolant rushed to Starscream's head in a tidal wave of relief. His cortex swam with the intensity and he swayed slightly on his stool.
A pale grey face with demonic red optics pressed close to his own. "You are using my resources to augment your personal vendetta, Starscream? How droll … how … stupid." With a careless shove, the Decepticon leader threw Starscream backwards; the Seeker tumbled off his stool in a tangle of wings and legs. From his position on the floor, he watched as Megatron lifted the viral program to his optics. No, he gasped, not that!
"Mighty Megatron!" he wheedled from the floor. "Don't!"
" 'Don't'?" The word was spoken low, almost casually. "Dear Starscream, there is no 'don't', there is only my word and my will. And it is my will that this program be destroyed!"
Think! Think fast! "But – Megatron! If my virus runs as I predict, we can use it on the rest of the Autobots! Tailor it to infect them in different manners, so that they will be kept busy trying to find so many solutions that they'll run out of time."
The datapad dropped low in Megatron's grip as he considered Starscream's words. "Is that so."
"Yes," the Air Commander rasped, starting to sit up. He could see it – that light in Megatron's optics. He was contemplating it.
The datapad rattled to a stop at Starscream's feet. "Very well, Starscream. Take pleasure in acting out your revenge. Just make sure that it works as intended. Otherwise I might have Scrapper use it on you."
Starscream scraped obeisance on the floor, just grateful that for once, his invention hadn't been crumbled to dust. Now, to figure out how to implant it – and most importantly, when would he get the opportunity to? Starscream sighed; surveillance wasn't his cup of Energon. But it would be done; he would have revenge – and perhaps an inch of Megatron's respect, at last.