Hunted Species – The death wish
This story is a side-story to the fiction "Hunted Species", and takes place between the chapters 15 and 17. It includes 5 chapters.
Storyline: Starscream, weakened by a mysterious illness and grounded in the repair bay, ponders on his past and in his relationship with Megatron.
Category: Romance, Angst. Rated M for violence.
Disclaimer: The characters in this story don't belong to me, but to Hasbro and Co.
Time units: Astrosecond = 0.283 seconds; Breems = 8.3 minutes; Joor = 1 hour; Mega-cycle = 93 hours; Orn = 13 days; Meta-cycle = 13 months; Vorn = 83 years
Length units: Klik - 1 kilometer; Mechanometer = 1 meter
Italics: scene taking place in the past
'Text': thoughts of a character
(Text): discussion through comm.-links
Chapter 1: the Good Samaritan
Forward Operating Base number 0025 of the Earth Resistance Force
Medical Repair bay 32
Starscream's sensors recorded strong vibrations as a new explosion shook the walls and rattled the glass of the portholes. Forced to reactivate his optics, he saw nothing but the cold and dark metal of the ceiling. Several meters above him, outside of the black ship, the Transformers were fighting against the Stalkers of the Empire of Salonia. They were not fighting for revenge and make their attackers pay for the destruction of Cybertron; they were fighting for their own survival. And he, Starscream, the proud air warrior, was slumped on this berth, unable to join this battle. Unable to fight alongside Megatron.
The walls vibrated again, and some medical equipment fell on the floor. Starscream heard the mechs scream and then rush to pick them up. He tried to lift himself up to have a look at the damages, to no avail; his energy levels were too low to allow him to make the slightest movement. He found himself completely helpless, as miserable as if he had been beaten up by the Slag Maker.
'And yet, it should have never evolved into such a vicious circle of provocation and violence between him and me,' he thought bitterly.
A file emerged from the depths of his CPU; it was the same one that he had visualized the day of his reactivation, when he had been seriously injured by a Stalker (*). It was also this file that he was accustomed to ignore because it remembered him an inconvenient truth; he owed his life to Megatron.
The pain was unbearable. No part of his body was spared the short circuits caused by the shock of the crash on the ground of Cybertron. He had crashed; he, Starscream, one of the best fliers of this planet, had come down from the sky. He was now no more than a battered shell, lying in the dust, too exhausted to try to move.
But he was still able to think, and to overwhelm his overtaxed CPU with reproaches. He was a traitor who had abandoned his friend to his cruel fate, without being able to rescue him. He had not been strong enough to resume the rescue operations, or rather optimistic to believe that his friend was counting on him to save him. It was because of his weakness that his friend had met with his fate. His termination.
Termination… It was exactly what he deserved for running away, once more.
He was losing consciousness when he felt a slight pressure on his back and shoulders. Someone turned him on the back cautiously while trying to not further damage his injured wings. He powered on his optics and stared at the silver plating against which he was pressed.
"Skyfire, you're alive," he whispered as he reached out to touch the blurry face.
The flaming red optics flashed malevolently when his fingertips ran on a sharp-edged cheek.
'No, he is not Skyfire!' he thought, panic sweeping over him as the gaze pierced him with the intensity of a laser shot. He let his hand fall back on his chest, expecting the worse, and could not refrain from shaking when a deep voice escaped the thin lips of the mysterious Transformer:
"Have no fear, Seeker. You are in safe hands. I am Megatron, leader of the Decepticons."
Before he could articulate a word, Starscream was lifted off the ground and cradled in strong arms, which were certainly more accustomed to crush sparks than to spare lives. Strangely, he felt no fear, but rather a welcomed feeling of being protected. He closed his optics and rested his head against the strong chest, lulled by the sound of powerful engines and the pulse of a vivid spark.
He later regained consciousness, without being able to measure how long he had remained in stasis. An eternity seemed to have passed since the silver Transformer had looked upon him and told him comforting words. He lit his optics, and realized that the same silver face was parallel to his, peering into his face.
"Do you hear me, Starscream?
The Seeker shivered when he heard his name, while various questions urged in his CPU at the speed of a meteor in the space.
"Who are you? Where am I? And why am I here?" he cried, instinctively trying to get up.
It was a very bad idea: no sooner had he tried making the slightest movement that pain exploded in his chest and legs, then widespread in his body. He noted his abnormal body temperature, and felt that his CPU would crash. He burned, devoured by the overheating of his damaged systems. Seized by panic, Starscream struggled before surrendering, and let a cry of despair. A hand settled on the nap of his neck, another on his cracked cockpit, and he was gently guided back to the cool surface of the berth.
"Calm down, you're not completely repaired," the silver mech murmured, "You will only aggravate your wounds if you move!"
Overwhelmed by pain and complete mental exhaustion, Starscream could only comply with the stern advice. The comforting hand continued caressing his neck, slowly guiding him into the darkness of recharge. Through the cloud of his mind, he heard another voice, speaking to the silver Transformer.
"He will reach a critical stage in a few joors. I suggest an immediate termination."
"Solution denied, Shockwave. I want the lad fully functional as soon as possible!"
"At your command, Megatron."
Starscream woke some time later, and this time his internal clock indicated that he had been in stasis for two orns and six joors. He was in personal quarters, lying on a wide recharge berth, and he understood who the owner of the place was when he spotted the bulky form of the silver stranger. His savior, to be more precise. Feeling uncomfortable waking up in the intimate personal space of an unknown mech, Starscream shifted to a sitting position. To his relief, he felt no pain or discomfort when moving.
"I see you feel better, Starscream. It took a while to make sure you were no longer in critical danger," the silver mech purred, walking toward him.
"How do you know my name?"
"You mentioned it in your delirium. How do you feel?"
Starscream was about to repeat his questions about his presence here and the name of the stranger, when he remembered that the Transformer had already told him. Scanning his memory bank, he found the name, and couldn't help thinking it conveyed a certain expression of power.
"I feel better, yes, thank you, Lord Megatron," he replied, slipping out of the berth. "I must join my creator now. I am sure he will reward you greatly for saving my life."
"I see," replied Megatron, looking thoughtful. "Forgive me for asking, but... Where does your creator live?"
To his surprise, black ebony hands settled on his shoulders, and pushed him back to the berth. Starscream took notice of the strength of Megatron's energy field: fiery, powerful. Overwhelming.
"You shouldn't go by yourself, Starscream. It is not safe for a young and wounded Seeker to go in this area. You probably ignore it, but the Vos Citadel burned a dozen of vorns ago. The Autobots have placed the whole city under martial law since... this tragedy."
Starscream looked up at him, while a premonition of disaster painfully tightened around his spark.
The citadel had been reduced to ashes. There was nothing left of the palace of Shootingstar, which was passed down through his lineage for thousands of Vorns. Devastated by the visions of desolation, Starscream almost didn't pay attention to the rare Seekers who bowed before him when they walked through, and didn't mind answering the questions of Megatron.
They finally arrived at what was once the main audience room where Shootingstar used to lead his army, but also to receive his most distinguished guests. Here again, there was nothing left, except a half melted throne.
"How and where have they been found, again?" he asked absently.
"Starscream, I've already told you. It is not healthy to..."
"I want to hear it again..."
Obviously reluctant, Megatron told him once again that the two decapitated heads of Shootingstar and Sunstorm had been found before the throne, their bodies lying a few steps away. Their chest had been opened, and their sparks removed. Overwhelmed by grief, Starscream shivered, feeling energon leaking from his optics, as every time his emotions were becoming too strong. He offered no resistance when Megatron pulled him in his embrace, gently patting his shoulders.
"Let it go, son, it will ease your pain."
Starscream felt his pain increased when he remembered the last words Shootingstar had thrown him; "I am warning you, Starscream, you are no longer welcome in this citadel! No, you are not even my son anymore!" His father had disowned him, so why did he feel such a pain? Was it for this tyrannical creator who had always considered him as a loser, and that had ultimately denied him?
No, it was neither Shootingstar nor Sunstorm - his overly proud brother - that Starscream was mourning. He simply felt alone, reduced to seek comfort from a mech which he knew nothing about.
"You are the heir of Shootingstar, aren't you?" Megatron asked, gently caressing his shoulders and neck.
The deep and raspy voice reminded him that he was not alone. He nodded, and tried to regain control of his optics, which still oozed energon. In vain.
"Who did this?" he whispered, burying his face in the silver chest.
"The initial investigations have concluded that it was an Autobot commando who killed Shootingstar, to prevent him from having the Seekers' faction joining the Decepticons," Megatron explained, still stroking his back. "That is why the Autobots have declared martial law throughout the area."
"Autobots? Decepticons?" Starscream repeated, vainly searching in his databank what the second name meant. He remembered that shortly before he left Cybertron, the Autobots were ruling the planet, and that different factions had begun to rise against the established order. Then, he had been absent for so long - over a million Meta-cycle- and had no idea of the last political developments. However, it seemed that among the plethora of factions, the Decepticons of Megatron had considerably strengthened.
"Yes, Autobots, the enemies of the Decepticons. Like this sorry excuse for a Cybertronian!" Megatron harshly stated while he gestured toward a short red bot.
The designated Transformer stopped and detailed them from head to toe, and then resumed his walk. Starscream noticed the red insignia tattooed in his shoulder and, for the first time, discovered that Megatron also wore a sigil; in the center of his chest, purple and white.
"What are you doing here, Lord Megatron?" he asked grumpily.
"Ironhide… Isn't that obvious? Supporting the heir of Shootingstar in his mourning!"
The so-called Ironhide looked at Starscream with distrusting optics, if not antipathy. Not really able to process what was happening, the Seeker felt the need to retreat and flee far away from this uncomfortable gaze. Fortunately, Megatron protectively snaked an arm around him and drew him closer.
"By the way, what are you doing here? Deleting evidence of the crime?" Megatron sneered, "I thought that only neutral investigators had the right to be on the crime scene!"
"Beware of drawing hasty conclusions, Megatron. There is no conclusive evidence that the Autobots are involved!" Ironhide hissed.
"It is Lord Megatron! And I am sure that the truth will be known one day…"
"Don't speak of truth when the truth is nothing to you except something else for you to ridicule and twist every breem of your existence!" shrieked the red bot.
Ironhide's threatening tone didn't impress Megatron the slightest, and he laughed.
"Anyway… Tell Prime that the Decepticons are now protecting Starscream, the heir of Shootingstar," Megatron retorted, and then leaning further in on Ironhide, "And just a forewarning, if anything happens to him. The punishment will be… proportionate to the measure of my wrath!" he added.
Concluding on this threat, Megatron drew a limp Starscream outside the ruins.
Starscream woke from a deep recharge in a room that didn't look like Megatron's quarters. He drew a hand to his still humid and blurry optics, wondering how and where he had once again landed.
"You lost consciousness when we exited the ruins. I took the liberty of bringing you back to Dark Mount, my citadel and headquarters of the Decepticons. This is your temporary quarters."
Megatron's voice boomed from behind him, which made him turn around in panic. To his relief, the warlord was smiling at him.
"I thought you'd be in shock, if not afraid, and beside- you have nowhere else to go." Megatron motioned to the berth and leaned over the dejected shape of the young flier, peering with glowing optics at the blurred optical components before him. "Would you like to join my army, Starscream? You would be safe, learn to defend yourself, develop and use your skills to avenge the murder of your father and brother," he offered softly.
"I… I don't know. You've done so much for me already, I don't know if I should."
Cool fingers brushed his cheek and then trailed down to his lip component, silencing him.
"Shh… I am glad to bring you some help, otherwise, I would not have made this offer. Besides, your creator was a good friend of mine, and I can't leave his son abandoned in a ruined city while assassins are after him!"
As the fingers left Starscream lips, he contemplated the massive frame that completely wrapped him with its powerful presence. He quickly reviewed his other options – almost none – and came to the conclusion he should accept Megatron's offer. He had nothing left in his life, after all.
"I accept. Thank you, Lord Megatron. Thank you for everything!"
Starscream smiled blissfully as he recalled this period of his life. Knowing now perfectly well Megatron after eons passed as his second-in-command, he realized how much he had been young and naive at the time.
Immersed in the peace precepts taught by Skyfire, he was far from suspecting that Megatron was manipulating him skillfully. Endowed with a real talent of actor, the Decepticon leader had managed an incredible performance, pulling at Starscream's heartstrings: his need for affection and recognition, his feeling of loneliness, and the desire to attract the attention of a father figure. Megatron had not only considered him worthy to join the army of Decepticons, but he had made him his best ambassador to the faction of the Seekers. The army of Megatron recorded an impressive array of enrollments as Starscream appeared alongside Megatron, calling to avenge the murder of Shootingstar.
The leader of the Decepticons largely rewarded him for his help; Starscream became the "Prince of the Decepticon Academy". His origins, as well as his new rank in the army of the Decepticons and the recognition of the supreme leader, brought him popularity and adulation from the other recruits. Starscream worshiped this new life; it was so much better than the strict and austere life in which Shootingstar had educated him, or the simplicity of life with Skyfire. He felt so alive that he could not imagine living otherwise.
However, he discovered one day that the life of a Decepticon was not paved with good intentions, when Megatron summoned him to Iacon, in the middle of a raid against the main town of the Autobots.
Standing on the middle of a destroyed street, Megatron seemed to completely ignore the various projectiles that the Autobots were shooting at him from the ruins of a building. He turned his head in the direction of Starscream when the young flier switched from tetra-jet mode to robot mode in a split second.
"You finally came. What took you so long?" the Decepticon leader asked casually.
"I had to change my flight plan several times, Sir. Ambushes from every high building," replied Starscream, visibly concerned, "I don't think we should stay here any longer. There are snipers all around the place!"
"Forget the snipers and come here!"
Megatron beckoned the Seeker to stand beside him and Starscream obediently complied. He stopped when a laser beam passed very close to his helm, but resumed his walk when the silver warlord glared at him. Megatron didn't like cowards, he knew very well, and didn't want to be considered as such by his leader. He stopped beside Megatron, briefly admiring his imposing stature.
"How long have you been at the Academy, Starscream?" Megatron asked. His voice was nothing melodious, but it was filled with an undeniable authority.
"Two vorns, and 332 orns, my lord," he timidly replied.
"Then it is time for you to learn an important lesson," Megatron concluded.
Starscream shuddered when the mech's fusion cannon powered on and blasted the wall of the next building. He heard screams from the inside, and then saw two mechs - certainly Autobots - jumping out of a breech and running for escape. One of them didn't go very far, and exploded into tiny pieces when Megatron hit him with a fusion blast. Starscream watched the scene, horrified; that was the first time he witnessed an act of war, in which the life of a Cybertronian creature was cut short in a brutal way.
Megatron turned to him, then pointed at the escaping robot. "Kill him," he calmly ordered.
"But... I... can't... I-" the flier stuttered, falling into a deep panic at the thought of what was asked of him.
"I said kill him!" Megatron roared, seizing Starscream's hand and placing by force the rifle he wore on his belt, "That's an order, soldier!"
The riffle shakily pointed at the retreating back.
"I can't... I can't do that!" Starscream whined, trying to withdraw his hand, to no avail. Megatron grabbed again his hand, and forced him to keep his aim.
"How could I forget? This is the first time you will practice on a living target. Well, you'll see... It's more thrilling than anything!"
Megatron's words only increased Starscream's panic and he struggled against the warlord to get free. The Decepticon Commander, having some difficulties in keeping his hold on the flier eventually shifted behind him. His free arm snaked around Starscream's torso, pinning him against his own bulk.
"I'm not giving you a choice, Starscream. It's him, or you!"
"No, please, don't make me do it!" the Seeker cried, energon blurring his optics.
"Oh, I will not force you... But he will! Look!"
The fugitive Autobot, driven back to the ruins that blocked his escape, had turned around and was now aiming at them with his rifle. Starscream felt his spark jump with terror when he understood he could die. Megatron's hand rested on his canopy, at the place where his spark was, increasing his terror.
"You see, Starscream... If you do not kill him, he will shoot, aiming at your spark. My hand will be shattered, but even worse, your spark will be extinguished. You will die, Starscream!" he heard Megatron whispering in his audio.
As if in a nightmare, he saw the other mech powering up his canon, and his finger pulled the trigger almost by itself. There was a detonation, then a scream; the Autobot fell on the ground in a metallic heap. As for Starscream, he was shaking like a leaf against Megatron.
"At last," the warlord sighed. "But it's not finished."
Keeping a firm hold on Starscream's hand, he walked to the fallen robot while pulling the quivering flier with him. The Autobot was still functional, although the blast had caught him in the middle of the torso and had severed several important systems. He voiced incoherent noises when the two Decepticons approached. Standing over the moribund robot, Starscream could not take it anymore, and tried to turn his face aside and look somewhere else, but Megatron gripped his chin and forced him to stare at his victim.
"And now, the most important lesson: look at his optics, and tell me what you see!"
Fear and pain, it was what he saw: the fear and pain he had caused. And disturbingly, he could see also himself, struggling in Megatron's grip, reflected in the blue optics.
"I see... me... and you... Fear... Pain..."
"Look closer, and tell me what you see!"
Megatron's fingers slipped in the palm of Starscream, then set on the trigger. The flier let out a horrified choke when the weapon powered once again, and the beam entered the wound on the chest of the Autobot. The glow in the blue optics flickered and then died, and the head of the soldier shifted aside. A last shake, and then the body was still.
"Oh, Primus! He's... He's terminated!" Starscream cried, his legs almost giving way under him.
"Tell me what you see..." Megatron whispered, his lips almost brushing his audio receptors.
"I... I can't-" the flier sobbed, looking away. "Please, don't-"
"Tell me what you see!" the warlord growled, shaking the trembling frame.
Panicked at the idea that Megatron could take on him if he didn't reply, Starscream did his best to clear his mind. "I see... the reflection of you... and me... in his optics."
"That's, Starscream, is the essence of a Decepticon's life: watching his own reflection in the optics of the enemy he has killed. Take care you keep seeing your reflection in dead optics in battles! The day you don't see it anymore would mean you're dead!" Megatron chuckled darkly and continued, "Or that you had ripped off his optics."
Megatron released his pressure on Starscream's limbs, almost sending the flier falling to the ground. With an effort he wouldn't have thought possible, Starscream managed to steady his balance and blankly stared at Megatron.
"Ye... Yes, Megatron!" he stuttered.
"Perfect, Starscream, you are now a Decepticon! You are not weak; the others are. You fear nothing; the others fear you. You won't be killed like your creator; you will kill the ones who assassinated him!" Megatron declaimed, cheerfully patting the flier's shoulders. "Come with me to Sector 8; we have an Autobot Headquarters to bring down!"
"At your command, Megatron!" Starscream answered, casting a last look at the dead optics of the Autobot. This time fear did not agitate his spark. Instead, he felt the warmth of relief and security. He was not weak anymore.
Starscream killed two other Autobots that day, without the help of Megatron.
Starscream searched his database for a trace of guilt or remorse, but could not find any. He had taken part in too many battles, had sent to oblivion too many Autobots, to feel any regret about what he had done that day. He didn't even hold it against Megatron for transforming him into a murderer; he would have died if the warlord hadn't changed the naive and weak scientist in one of the fiercest Decepticon warriors.
A few days after that "initiation" raid, Starscream was surprised to see the Supreme Commander waiting for him at the exit of the repair bay, where his new talents in battle had sent him. Megatron congratulated him out loud, so that all the Decepticons passing by could hear him, and made no reproach about his first hesitation with the killing shot. Not far from them, Soundwave - one of his most trusted lieutenants – was waiting, impassive and cold. Starscream tried to forget this disturbing presence to focus on what the exalted Megatron had to say. He obediently followed him when he was pressed to accompany him to his office. Megatron seemed extremely satisfied with his behavior on the battlefield, and wanted to continue his "training" by himself. Starscream, so thrilled at the idea that the "Great Warrior Megatron" granted him so much importance, never thought to argue, let alone refuse.
Starscream quickly learned that Megatron had a nickname, the "Slag Maker," and witnessed with horrified optics the massacre of dozens of Autobots. Megatron was ruthless, brutal and very imaginative. A few times he asked Starscream to finish off his victims, lavishing advice on how to "make it painful". Here also, Starscream decided to comply, and forgot the precepts taught by Skyfire. "You shall not take the life of others," was one of the first precepts he buried deep in his memory bank.
He didn't try to understand Megatron's reasons for continuing in this conflict against the Autobots. He considered himself too emotionally connected to the "Silver Tyrant" - another nickname for Megatron - to leave the conflict or question his motives. And in this world destroyed piece after piece, staying alongside Megatron and listening to his advice assured him the biggest chance of staying alive. His own reasons, guided by a natural cowardice and his need for recognition, allowed him to become one of the most loyal servants of Megatron.
Indeed, Megatron wasn't giving his time sparingly; Starscream was constantly at his side, ready for a sparring session. Megatron taught him the handling of various weapons; from riffles to swords, including more antique weapons. It sometimes happened to Megatron to give him a philosophy course, or to initiate him to poetry. He also taught him the art of deception, another core value of a true Decepticon. Megatron had always encountered opposition in his ranks and was used to getting rid of them discretely, or publicly, if it was necessary to make an example. He showed him the skills needed to mislead his prey, to strike and to assassinate with no mistakes. He quickly put Starscream to use in this: the Seeker became his secret executioner, along with Soundwave.
The first real recognition for Starscream came the day after a major push against the coalition forces of the Autobots and the surviving Neutrals. Sent once again to the repair bay after an audacious raid through the enemy lines, he was summoned by Megatron for a private meeting as soon as his wounds were healed.
He ran as fast as possible to his leader's office.
Megatron was casually sitting on his impressive throne, a smug expression on his face that didn't even bother Starscream. For a long time now, he had decided that Megatron's features bore nothing but strength, power, aristocracy and an incredible charisma.
"I see that you are fully repaired and operational," the silver warlord purred. "Come closer, Starscream."
"Yes, my Lord..." Starscream replied, feeling a little nervous.
The Seeker walked as fast as he could without losing the distinction he knew was appreciated by Megatron, then knelt in front of the throne, waiting for the Master to speak.
"You were impressive in this last battle, Starscream." Megatron rose suddenly from his majestic chair and walked down the stairs until he reached his kneeling Seeker. "Rise!"
The flier rose to his feet, not daring to look at the fiery optics of the Decepticon leader, but hung on to his every word. He tensed when one of the large dark hands set on the top of his head and patted him as if he were a pet.
"I've been watching over you these last battles, and you prove to be extremely competent in the art of aerial warfare, but also imaginative, and I would say, deadly efficient," Megatron spoke, now brushing Starscream's cheek, absent-mindedly, "I have pondered how I could reward such talents, and I have now the opportunity to do so!"
"But Megatron, you don't need to..."
"Shh!" The index of Megatron warningly pointed at Starscream, silencing him. "How many times do I have to tell you to never interrupt me? As you know, Skydust, the current Air Commander, has been incapacitated for a long time, if not permanently. I want you to replace him, as Air Commander, and fourth in command of the Decepticon army!"
Starscream's optics almost bulged out of his face and his mouth outlined an "Oh!" of surprise, awe, and joy... every strong feelings that can go through a young spark, promoted to a senior rank. It sent him straight into Megatron's arms, chanting like a litany: "Oh, thank you, Sir! My Lord, I will be loyal to you till the end!"
Megatron swayed a little, and after a few seconds, pushed him back gently, but firmly.
"I'm sorry, Sir! I didn't mean-" the flier stuttered, realizing what he had just done. "- I'm sorry for being over familiar."
Was it him, or were Megatron's optics shining in an unusually soft glow, and his lips outlining a kind of genuine smile?
"Never do it again-" Megatron warned him, "- and now, you are dismissed. Be ready for this afternoon's meeting, I will officially announce my decision to my other officers."
Starscream bowed as he had never bowed before, and he left the office in awe.
To be continued...
(*) reference to Hunted Species, chapter 4.
Text edited in May 2015