Title: Bad Press
Author: Koi Lungfish
Disclaimer: Based on characters and situations from The Transformers ((c) 1986 Hasbro, Ltd). Used without permission. Text (c) 2007, Koi Lung Fish (Mark of Lung. All Rights Reserved.)
Continuity: G1 cartoon, Season 2.
Startled, the Air Commander dropped what he was holding, and cursed as it fell screaming into a container of liquid nitrogen. (What is it, Megatron?)
Starscream's sensors flash-reset in a full-body blink. (Explain what?)
(Did you have a total cognitive array failure or am I supposed to have installed long-range wall-piercing sensors recently?) Starscream asked, using tongs to pull his now frozen experimental subject out of the nitrogen. He held the humansicle up and turned it this way and that, examining the odd shape it had torqued itself into and the expression of rudimentary agony on its rubbery face. There goes that experiment, he thought.
(Get over here now, you sarcastic dolt!) Megatron yelled.
Tossing his head in exasperation, Starscream flicked the dead human into the waste-to-fuel incinerator and went to find out what the fuss was about.
Entering Megatron's quarters, he found the Decepticon leader standing over a large computer console. Megatron was fuming and Starscream was faintly surprised, given the old glitch's expression of barely-contained rage, that the console wasn't as well.
"Explain this!" Megatron shouted, pointing to the console's screens.
"I didn't do anything!" Starscream protested as he moved closer, wondering whether he was being blamed for something Skywarp had done, or if it was just Megatron using him as the world's most handsome scapegoat, and whether or not he should just skip the shouting and run right now.
"When you were an explorer, you were a xenologist!" Megatron said, still shouting, as if it made sense of everything. "You specialised in xenolinguistic analysis!"
"Well, yes, amongst other things," Starscream said, reluctant to admit to something that seemed liable to get him battered. "What of it?"
"Look at the blasted screens, you fool," Megatron said, scowling.
Starscream glanced. The main screen was full of text - human text, written in a language developed from but distinct from English - and all the subscreens displayed similar contents. "It's human writing. They call it ... " he began, then stopped in mid-superciliousness as the actual substance of the texts filtered through his processors. " ... lubricated ... rubber ... balls ... ?"
Megatron nodded, still scowling. "Explain."
"I didn't write that!" Starscream exclaimed immediately, more keen to distance himself from the disturbing words than out of any sense of being blamed.
"I credit you with better translation skills than that," Megatron said, the anger starting to fade.
The danger dormant for the moment, Starscream slipped into the seat before the console and examined the main text more closely. Four paragraphs down, the words "I - you - up my thrusters?" exploded from his vocaliser.
"Check the one on subscreen four," Megatron said, leaning on the back of the chair.
Starscream did. He read. His optics widened and he pushed himself away from the screen, deep into the seat, fear on his face. "What new lunacy is this, Megatron?" he asked, voice low.
"Soundwave found it, trawling the humans' 'internet' for power source data," Megatron said. "He said it is called 'fan fiction'."
Starscream flipped through the subscreens, reading with a morbid interest that bordered on nausea. His fingers hovered over the keyboard as he stared at one text on the main screen. "Can you even make sense of this?"
"Make sense of it?" Megatron asked. "I can't tell what language it's in."
Starscream ran the text through a few translators, but it remained much the same - incomprehensible, densely littered with clots of punctuation and single characters. "It looks like ... Braverrian?"
"It looks like bad Braverrian," Megatron said.
"Or worse English," Starscream said. He flicked to another text. "Who are these humans and why are they calling themselves by our names?"
Megatron leaned forward, and Starscream felt the gunformer's chest clink against the tops of his air scoops. "I think they're supposed to be us."
"But we're not human!" Starscream shouted, waving a hand in the air. "What kind of fleshbag can't tell the difference between me and a glob of protoplasm?"
"Obviously a deaf one," Megatron said, dryly sarcastic.
"As if we'd tolerate such indignity!" Starscream snorted.
Megatron chuckled, a scratchy sound. "No worse than being turned into a tree."
"Rumble's stupidity knows no bounds nor laws of physics," Starscream said, tapping the keys to read through more of the texts. He suddenly sat bolt upright, clonking Megatron in the chest with his air scoop. "Who is this vermin and why does it presume to hit me with a mallet?"
"I might find it in me not to lay waste to these bumbling fools after all," Megatron said, leaning back.
Starscream turned his head to look up at Megatron with poison in his glare. "Laugh all you want, but read the rest of the page first."
Megatron regarded him with suspicion, the screens casting barred light across his face and chest so that he appeared striped with light. He looked at the screen, the light on the angles of his face like war paint. His optics narrowed and his mouth straightened with disapproval. "What, me, bond myself with a human? After the heat-death of the universe and not before!"
Starscream's hands were already on the keyboard, cycling through the texts. "You'd think these fleshbags would notice that we're invading their planet ... oil there? ... Optimus Prime? I would never - "
"I had often suspected it," Megatron said with leaden sarcasm.
Starscream snapped at him, ruffled to see himself stretched out across reams of bad prose, twisted into unrecognisable beings - a wanton flyaway with no interests beyond sensual promiscuity, an emotional wreck dependant on a traitor's smothering comfort, a masochist begging Megatron for cruelties, a soppy xenophile coddling humans from their petty problems, a hysterical incompetent lashing out for Megatron's approval, a pompous clown with the intellect of a cleaning drone, a fragile psychological disaster-area clinging to Megatron for emotional support. "Who is responsible for this wretched nonsense? I need to express my displeasure with high explosives!"
"They're scattered all over the globe," Megatron said, waving a hand at the screen. "Hunting them down and destroying them for their crimes against our reputations would take months. A waste of fuel and time."
Starscream continued to flick through the texts. "I can feel my higher cognitive functions shutting down in self-defence," he said. " ... oh, it's just Autobots in this one, that's a - what? Me? A female Autobot?" He jumped up from the chair, wings pulled up like blades, shoulders tense, fists clenched. "I'll rip the plating off anyone who dares say such a thing about me!"
"Good luck finding them all," Megatron said, more amused than angry now that someone else was suffering humiliation by amateur prose.
"There's more than one?" Starscream asked aghast, turning to face the gunformer. "As if I'd ever -"
"I saw seven before I called you over," Megatron said, straightening up. "And worse."
Starscream tipped his head, optics so wide they were almost round. "How can it get worse?"
"They frequently portray me as your creator," Megatron said. "I must have been having a bad day when that happened."
Starscream jerked his head back, indignant. "Did you call me here simply to insult me?"
"These abominable texts do that well enough on their own. According to some of these things, we reproduce the same way the humans do - via internal parasitism," Megatron said, glaring at the screens.
" ... ick," Starscream said, flinching at the thought and ignoring the gunformer's ignorance of organic biology. "That's disgusting." He saw Megatron's smirk. "Oh no. Not me."
"Yes, you," Megatron said, nodding his head, expression stretched between amusement and horror. "Two of them were mine and one was ... "
Starscream stared, too revolted to ask, shaking his head in disbelief.
"They invent new Decepticons," Megatron said, grimacing. "Very strange ones."
"If they believe we do ... " Starscream looked over his shoulder at the screens, " ... those things, I cannot begin to imagine what they conjure up."
"Nobility," Megatron said, spitting the word. "Honour. Compassion. Mercy. Paperwork."
Starscream leant against the console. "What was it you wanted me to explain?" he said, voice softened by confusion.
"Why?" Megatron said. "What are these flesh-things planning? Do they hope to defeat us by embarrassing us into deactivation? Are the Autobots seeding the human population with misinformation, deliberately staining our reputations to glorify themselves? Or is this some form of allegiance by propaganda? Perhaps they seek to bolster the humans' morale by spreading lies about us, or keep them ignorant of our strength in order to ensure that the humans remain their allies."
"A little manipulative for Prime," Starscream muttered, frowning at the floor as he kicked his higher cognitive processors into overdrive and activated his xenoculture analysis routines. "It's hard to process this babble," he said, wincing as he re-assessed the texts he'd read. "It makes me want to wash my brain module out with acid." He heard Megatron hiss. "Whatever disgusting thing do they have us doing now?"
"Declaring undying love and devotion," Megatron said.
"Oh, for Cybertron's sake!" Starscream shouted, throwing his arms in the air. "Will they leave us nothing of our Decepticon programming?"
"Apparently not," Megatron said, looking disgusted. "Well? Analysis?"
"They fear us," Starscream said. "We have absolute power at our disposal and nothing to restrain us from unleashing it upon them except the Autobots." He started to smile. "At some deep level, not fully processed by their primitive wet brains, they realise and understand that we are more terrible and more awesome than anything they can ever hope to be, that we are gods to them!"
Megatron turned a hand towards him, gesturing for him to continue.
"Your lack of an education is a disgrace to the Decepticons," Starscream said, shaking his head.
"There's little time for sociology when you're being hunted by Guardians," Megatron said. "Keep explaining."
Starscream sighed. "In order to quell their pathetic little terrors, they write this - this drivel - to make us small, make us weak, to bring us down to their miserable level. They depict us in relationships familiar to them because that is all they can imagine. They show us performing those revolting acts together because they have no idea what our highly advanced and vastly superior technology is capable of. They seek to make us - sometimes even literally - human."
Megatron frowned, folding his arms as he thought. "So this is not a coordinated attack on our collective dignities?"
"Oh no," Starscream said. "It's nothing more than the frantic scrabblings of vermin who know but cannot admit that their time is over."
Megatron nodded. He lifted his head, and Starscream felt a twinge of fear and anticipation at the High Commander's smile, the look of intent in his optics. "So, you'd never consider using lubricated rubber balls -"
"Not a chance!" Starscream shouted, tossing his head huffily and crossing his arms as he turned his back on Megatron.
"Not even if I were to -"
Starscream could feel Megatron's gaze on the back of his wings like a fierce heat. He could almost see the old glitch's smirk, the familiar glint in his optics promising dents and sensations that made the dents worthwhile. Starscream's optics dimmed as he basked in the moment of anticipation, Megatron's sensor signals washing over his back and wings, and smirked. "Well ... maybe ..."
Author's notes & addenda:
Feedback always welcomed.