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.
Story line: Starscream, weakened by a mysterious illness and grounded at the repair bay, ponders on his past and on his relationship with Megatron.
Category: Romance, Angst. Rated M for violence.
I express all my gratitude to Maraluch for the editing.
Disclaimer: The characters in this story don't belong to me (That's a pity, again!) but to Hasbro and Co.
Chapter 1: the Good Samaritan
A.D. 2025, Base number 0025 of the Earth Resistance Force (Old designation of the area: Japan, Tokyo)
Medical Repair bay 32
Starscream's sensors recorded strong vibrations as a new blast against the base shook the walls and rattled all the glass in the repair bay. Forced to reactivate his optics, he saw nothing but the cold and dark metal of the ceiling. Several meters above him outside the protection of this black ship, Transformers were battling against the Stalkers of the Empire of Sallonia. They were not fighting for revenge or to make the aggressors pay for the destruction of Cybertron; they were fighting for their very survival. And he, Starscream, the fierce aerial warrior, was lying on his berth, unable to join this battle. Unable to battle at Megatron's side.
The walls vibrated once again around him and some equipment fell on the flour. Starscream could hear the other mechs bustle about picking it up and he tried to lift his upper body to have a look at he damage. Unfortunately, he could not; his energy levels were still too low to enable him any movement. He was totally helpless and miserable like he used to be after a beating by Megatron. 'However, it never should have become a vicious cycle of provocation and beating between us,' he thought, his spark hurt by forgotten sorrows. A file emerged from the bottom of his CPU, the same memory he had visualized the day of his reactivation. The one he usually pushed away because he didn't want to remember it at any cost; he owed his life to Megatron.
Pain was unbearable. No circuit in his body was spared the general short-circuit created by his abrupt contact with the ground of Cybertron. He had crashed. He, Starscream, one of the best flyers of the planet, one of its most perfect creations, matching so well with his domain, the sky, had fallen. He was now nothing more than a battered shell, lying in the dust, too exhausted to move, and soon, to think.
Worst of all, he was a coward who had preferred leaving his friend to his cruel fate rather than rescuing him. Skyfire was lost forever and it was his fault. He had not been strong enough to carry on with the rescue operation; not optimistic enough to hope that his friend had escaped termination and was awaiting his help.
Yes, termination… It was what he deserved for failing, yet again. He was bordering death when he felt a slight pressure on his back and shoulders. Somebody was turning him over, carefully trying not to scratch his already wounded wings even more. He turned his optics on and stared at the bright silver armor he was pressed against.
"Skyfire, you're alive," he whispered, reaching for the bright face and gently stroking a cheek.
Flaming red optics flashed malevolently at the contact. 'No, it's not Skyfire!' he thought, panic sweeping over him as the return gaze hurt him as fiercely as a canon's shot. He pulled his hand back to his ruined chest, not able to suppress a shiver of fright. He quivered when a strong voice escaped the still and harsh face of the Transformer who was holding him.
"Fear not, Seeker. You are in good hands. I am Megatron, leader of the Decepticons."
Starscream was raised from the ground and strongly held in arms which were certainly more accustomed to slaying that protecting. But strangely, it was not fear he felt but a reassuring feeling of protection. He closed his optics and rested his head against the strongly built chest, lulled by the roar of the vivid engine pulsing beneath the bright armor.
He regained consciousness some time later, but couldn't say when. An eternity had passed since the silver Transformer had leaned over him and said something but he couldn't remember what it was. After powering on his optics he realized that the same harsh features were parallel to his own faceplate, peering into his flickering optics.
"Do you hear me, Starscream?"
The Seeker shivered when he heard his name, questions popping in his processor like meteors in space after the explosion of a planet.
"Who are you? Where am I? What am I doing here?" he screamed, trying to leave the berth. A very bad call as pain struck his torso, legs and finally, spread to his whole frame. He then noticed the abnormal temperature of his body, and felt that all his system were trying to crash; he was burning, devoured by the delirium of fever. Seized by panic, Starscream struggled against the pain before finally capitulating, and gave out a cry of despair. A warm 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 fully repaired," said the blurry silver apparition, "You'll 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.
"Critical stage to be reached in few joors. Solution advised; termination."
"Solution denied, Shockwave. I want the lad fully functional as soon as possible!"
"At your command, Megatron."
Starscream woke sometime 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 some time to make sure you were no longer in critical danger," purred the silver sentient, walking toward him.
"How do you know my name?"
"You repeated 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's not safe for a young and wounded Seeker to go in this area. You certainly ignore it, but the Idriacon Citadel burned few nights ago and the district is now under martial law."
Starscream looked up at him, while a premonition of disaster painfully tightened around his spark.
Burned to ashes. There was nothing left of the citadel of Shootingstarr which was passed down through his lineage for thousands of vorns. Struck by the visions of desolation reported by his optics, Starscream almost didn't notice the bows that the rare sentient creatures made when they walked through, and didn't mind answering the questions of Megatron. He didn't react at first when he saw the two severed heads on the console of the main Audience Room and the two bodies. He looked at their chests which were opened, displaying in an indecent way their most intimate contents: their sparks. They were dark, cold. Dead. He shivered while energon dripped from his optics in silence. In complete shock, he offered no resistance when Megatron pulled him into his embrace, gently patting his shoulders.
"Cry, son, it will ease your pain."
Starscream truly felt pain when remembering Shootingstar's words: "I warn you Starscream, you're no longer welcome in this citadel! No, you are not even my son anymore!" Why was he crying? For a tyrannical creator who had always considered him a loser and had ultimately disowned him? No, it was neither Shootingstar nor Sunstorm, that prideful brother of his that he mourned. He just felt terribly alone; reduced to seeking comfort from a mech he knew absolutely nothing about.
"You're the son of Shootingstar, aren't you?" asked Megatron, gently caressing his shoulders and neck.
This grating voice reminded him he was not alone. He silently nodded and ordered himself to stop crying. And failed. "Who did it?" he sobbed against the silver chest.
"The first investigation reached the conclusion that it was an Autobot commando that killed them in order to prevent Shootingstar from having the Seekers' faction joining the Decepticons," explained Megatron while still patting his shoulder.
"Autobots?" Starscream repeated, vainly searching what it meant. He knew very few things about the factions. He had left Cybertron so long ago that he had no clue what had happened in his absence. But it looked as though among the plethora of tribes he remembered very few had survived, and the Decepticons of Megatron were an important one.
"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 flyer noticed the red insignia on the shoulders of the square-shaped Transformer, then the purple one adorning Megatron's chest. Stopped by the dark accusing finger, the red robot slowly walked to them, his right hand rested on the riffle that hung at his waist.
"What are you doing here, Lord Megatron?" he asked with contempt.
"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 urge to retreat and flee far away from this uncomfortable gaze. Fortunately, Megatron protectively snaked an arm around him and drew him closer.
"And you, what are you doing here? Deleting evidence of the crime?" scoffed Megatron "I thought that only neutral investigators had the right to be on the crime scene!"
"Don't jump to conclusions so quickly, Megatron!" hissed Ironhide, "There is no irrefutable evidence the Autobots are involved!"
"Hmm, not yet! 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 and he laughed. "Anyway… Tell Prime that the Decepticons are now protecting Starscream, the heir of Shootingstar," retorted Megatron, and then leaning further in on Ironhide, "And just a forewarning, if happens anything to him. The punishment will be… proportionate to the measure of my wrath!" he added.
Concluding the 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 headquarter of the Decepticons. This is your temporary quarters."
Megatron's voice boomed from behind him and he turned around in panic. To his relief the warlord was smiling at him.
"I thought you might be shocked, 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 flyer, 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.
"Shhh… I'm glad if I can be of some help, otherwise, I wouldn't make this offer. Besides, your father was a good friend of mine and I can't leave his son abandoned in the city while assassins are after him!"
As the fingers left Starscream lips, he contemplated the massive frame that was completely wrapping him with its powerful presence. He quickly reviewed his other options – almost none – and decided 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 dizzily smiled as he recollected this period of his life. Knowing Megatron perfectly well after eons of war as Second in Command, he realized how naive and young he had been at that time. Immersed in the peaceful precepts of Skyfire, he hadn't understood how skillfully Megatron had manipulated him. Gifted with a natural talent in melodrama, the Decepticon leader had put together a remarkable performance, playing on Starscream's sensitivities: his need of affection, his feeling of loneliness, and the desire for attention from a father figure. Not only had Megatron deemed him fit to join the Decepticon army, but he also made him into the best ambassador of the Decepticon cause toward the faction of the Seekers. The Decepticon army registered unprecedented enrollment numbers from the time Starscream appeared at Megatron's side calling for revenge toward the Autobots. The Decepticon leader fairly rewarded him for this undivided support; Starscream became the true "Prince" of the Decepticon Academy. His origins, coupled with the top-ranks he achieved thanks to his outstanding skills and the recognition of the Decepticon Leader, brought him fame and adulation from the other students. Starscream liked it; it was so much more exciting than the strict and austere life to which he had been raised by Shootingstar, or to the simplicity of the life with Skyfire. He felt so alive that he couldn't imagine following another path.
However, he discovered that the life of a Decepticon was not a game when Megatron summoned him one day to Iacon, in the middle of a raid against the Autobots' main city.
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 flyer switched from tetra-jet mode to robot mode in a split second.
"You came at last. What took you so long?" casually asked the Decepticon leader.
"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 head, 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 the imposing stature of the warlord.
"How long have you been at the Academy, Starscream?" asked Megatron. His voice was not melodious, but it was filled with an undeniable authority.
"Two vorns, and 332 orns, my lord," he timidly replied.
"Then it's time for you to learn an important lesson," said Megatron. Starscream started when the mech's fusion canon 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 didn't go very far, and exploded in 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, where 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-" stuttered the flyer, falling in a deep panic at the thought of what was asked to him.
"I said kill him!" roared Megatron, seizing Starscream's hand and installing by force the riffle he wore at his belt, "That's an order, soldier!"
The riffle shakily pointed at the retreating back.
"I can't... I can't do that!" whined Starscream, trying to withdraw his hand to no avail. Megatron's grip on the riffle and his hand was too strong to free himself.
"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 Megatron to get free. The Decepticon Commander, having some difficulties in keeping his hold on the flyer eventually shifted behind him. One of his arms gripped Starscream's hand and forced him to hold up the riffle while his other arm snaked around Starscream's free arm and torso, immobilizing him.
"I'm not giving you a choice, Starscream. It's him, or you!"
"No please, don't make me do it!" cried the Seeker, energon tears blurring his optics.
"Oh, I won't 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 riffle. Starscream felt his spark jump with terror when he understood he could die. Megatron's hand set on his canopy, at the place where his spark was, increasing his terror.
"You see, Starscream... If you don't 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 cry; the Autobot fell on the ground in a metallic heap. As for Starscream, he was shaking like a leaf against Megatron.
"At last," sighed the warlord, "But it's not finished."
Keeping a firm hold on Starscream's hand, he walked to the fallen robot while pulling the quivering flyer 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 couldn't 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's 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 of his 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 flyer 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 died, and the head of the soldier shifted aside. A last shake and then the body was still.
"Oh, Primus! He's... He's dead!" cried Starscream, 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-" sobbed the flyer, looking away. "Please, don't- "
"Tell me what you see!" growled the warlord, 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 saw... the reflection of you... and me... in his optics."
"That's it, Starscream. That's 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 flyer 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're now a Decepticon! You're 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!" declared Megatron, cheerfully patting the flyer's shoulders. "Come with me to Sector 8; we have an Autobot Headquarters to bring down!"
"At your command, Megatron!" answered Starscream, briefly peeping 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 data bank for a trace of guilt or remorse but couldn't find any. He had been part of so many battles and he had sent to oblivion countless Autobots, but couldn't feel the slightest regret about what he had done in war. 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 he was into one of the fiercest Decepticon warriors.
A few days after that "initiation" raid, Starscream was surprised to see the Supreme Commander of the Decepticons 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 one of his most trusted lieutenants, Soundwave, was waiting, impassive and cold. Starscream tried to forget this disturbing presence to focus on what the exalted Megatron had to say and 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" granting him so much importance, didn't even tried to argue, much less refuse.
Starscream learned very quickly that Megatron had another nickname, the "Slag Maker," and witnessed with horrified optics the massacre of dozens of Autobots. Megatron was ruthless, merciless and quite 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. "Don't take the life of others," was the first commandment 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 him about his motives. And in this world destroyed piece after piece, being at Megatron's sides and listening to his advice assured him the biggest chance of staying alive. His reason, guided by a natural cowardice and a need for recognition, allowed him to become the most loyal servant of Megatron.
Indeed, Megatron wasn't giving his time sparingly; Starscream was constantly at his side, ready for a sparing session (Megatron taught him the handling of various weapons; from riffles to swords, including more antique weapons) or for listening to Decepticon philosophy. He also taught him the art of deception, another core value of a true Decepticon. Megatron always had opposition in his ranks and was used to getting rid of them discretely, or more openly if the situation required 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 allied forces of Autobots and the surviving Neutrals. Once again sent 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. After an orn he ran as quickly as possible to his leader's office.
Megatron was casually seated 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 power, aristocracy and an incredible charisma.
"I see that you are fully repaired and operational," purred the silver warlord. "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've done very well 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 flyer 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 war, but also imaginative, and I would say, deadly efficient," spoke Megatron, now brushing Starscream's cheek, absent-mindedly, "I have pondered how I could reward such talents, and I have now the occasion to do so!"
"But Megatron, you don't need to..."
"Shhh!" 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 in the arms of Megatron, 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-" stuttered the flyer, 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 light, and his lips outlining a kind of genuine smile?
"Never do it again-" said Megatron, "- 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...