"Megatron, is that you?"
"Here's a hint!"
Oblivion was so bright.
By the time Starscream sorted himself out, he was alone. The rest of the Decepticons were gone. What had Megatron done to him this time? Automatically, he started checking internal diagnostics.
There were no diagnostics. Unnerved, Starscream tried to activate his other systems--engines, sensors, fire control, energon management. Nothing.
Starscream tried to examine himself for damage visually--and got the worst shock of all. He couldn't see himself. He very badly wanted to see himself--and was rewarded with a dimly colored blur where solid metal should have been.
What had happened? He could remember burning pain, and a terrible brightness--then nothing. No, more than nothing. He remembered... falling away, nothing left to hold on to, no wings to fly with, just falling into darkness. Then nothing more.
A sense of loss filled him, for what, Starscream could not say--until he saw the broken fragments of the crown--his crown!--laying at the foot of the stairs. In that instant, he knew.
Overwhelming grief filled him; it was all over. All the bitter years of struggling and scheming until he finally reached the top--gone in an instant. Everything he'd sacrificed to his ambition--wasted. All the plans he'd made, the dreams he had for rebuilding Cybertron as a true empire--ruined, dead as his own drifting ashes. Everything that had ever mattered to Starscream was gone.
I was Air Commander Starscream of the Decepticons. I was the Leader of the Decepticons! The Imperium was mine--
--for one glorious moment. All gone now.
Megatron actually did it. He finally killed me. He didn't listen to me, he didn't wait for me to grovel, he just killed me, like I was nothing.
...and now I am nothing. I don't even have wings to fly with anymore.
How long Starscream crouched intangibly upon the dais, alone with his anguish, he could not have said. Eventually, he noticed he was no longer alone.
"Screamer? Hey, anyone home?" A familiar, friendly voice. "I think he's sulking."
"I can't try out dazzle camouflage on him this time," another familiar voice pointed out. "He's dead, we're dead, and I left the paint and airbrushes back at the base."
Starscream lifted his head--
"I think he's coming out of it. Heya, Screamer!" A very familiar sky-blue Seeker stood in front of Starscream, waving his hand in Starscream's face. Another Seeker, this one purple and black and equally well-known, leaned down to look him in the eye.
"Thundercracker? Skywarp?" Starscream leaped to his feet in astonishment. "But--you're dead! I let them kill you! But--I'm dead."
Skywarp snickered. "Told you he'd figure it out," he said to Thundercracker. "Though we were taking bets on how long you were going to sit there imitating one of Slog's sculptures," he said to Starscream.
Thundercracker laughed, and told Starscream, "Good thing Galvatron completely fried you, or you'd be one of Slog's sculptures."
The gears of Starscream's mind finally unjammed. I'm listening to Warp and Thunder make stupid jokes about my death! I'm.. listening.. to Skywarp and Thundercracker.
... I'm pretty damn lively for someone who's dead. So are they. I may be dead, but I'm more than nothing!
"And I have no doubt Swindle would have made a pretty profit selling my spare parts to Slog in the first place. He must have been so disappointed that there was nothing left to salvage," Starscream said dryly.
Thundercracker shrugged. "Knowing him, probably so, but I haven't had a chance to ask him. He's still alive."
"About that..." Starscream looked up at the stars. "I wish things had.. gone differently. I.. wish we could fly together again."
Thundercracker smiled and gave Starscream an affectionate punch in the wing. "We will, Starscream, we will. I know what you're saying."
Skywarp folded his arms and said, "It's okay, Starscream. We were dying--getting dumped just sped things up a bit."
"Just what are you--are we--all doing here?" Starscream asked.
"We're a sort of welcoming committee," Thundercracker said, including Skywarp with a nod. He held out his hand to Starscream. "Let's blow this dump. Time to fly, Starscream!"
After a slight hesitation, Starscream took Thundercracker's hand. He felt a jolt go through him, and a lightness as if he had just thrown off the last links of a chain he had worn so long that he had forgotten its existence--
Everything flashed white again--but this time, it was not darkness that followed.
I do have wings!
- FIN -
Acknowledgments: My previous story, "Nothing to Fear" (now taken down, as this one covers the same moment in more detail) for Starscream's wake-up reactions, and Wayward Martian for inspiring the Slog & Swindle references.