A/N: Imagine the upcoming characters and all three Seekers with new, shiny, movie-verse graphics, but with very G1 stylings and personalities.
This story is dedicated to my editor, Malachite Circle, because it ate her soul and doesn't seem too keen on giving it back. It ate mine too, come to think of it.
Disclaimer: Transformers is property of HasTak and some other companies whose names elude me.
'Til All Are One
Prologue: Taking Shots
He didn't have a lot of energy left. He was going to need to take rest somewhere and soon. Those slagging, stupid fleshy humans with their backwards technology had actually been able to put a good dent -- several decent-sized dents!-- in him. And here his armor was supposed to be able to withstand anything those fragging squishies could dish out. There was nothing that would require him to make the long trip back to Cybertron. The minor damage would fix itself in due course. But it was all just... unfair, somehow.
At least crushing those humans beneath his heel would be extra satisfying.
Starscream burned his way through the void, making tracks to the fourth planet in this system; the red planet the humans called Mars. He didn't like it much. It was dusty, red, very boring and the dirt got everywhere. So, he had decided to rename it the "damned rusty rock of abysmal boredom". Otherwise known as DRRAB.
Before he had arrived on that stupid little organic planet searching for the AllSpark, he had arrived with some members of his team. Not the Coneheads, Primus no. He didn't trust those three not to harm themselves with a blunt screwdriver.
No, Starscream had arrived in this system with Thundercracker and Skywarp. As per his orders, they were waiting on Mars. Or least, they still should be. Starscream didn't anticipate that they would wait patiently. They were probably off blasting asteroids to relieve boredom.
As long as they were still functioning and coherent when he arrived.
The Seeker touched down the rusty red surface of the planet, quickly shifting out of the alt-mode he had chosen and sent out a signal that would bring his fellow Seekers running.
Starscream might have tapped his foot in impatience when Thundercracker and Skywarp took their own sweet time in turning up. But they did.
"You're late!" Starscream snapped when they landed in front of him.
"Sorry." Thundercracker said respectfully. "The asteroid field always scrambles transmissions."
"And you shouldn't have expected us to be hanging around here all slagging day!" Skywarp complained, crossing his arms. "The little red organics here aren't much fun to chase around. They all jump into their little holes and short of blowing up the ground--"
"Spare me the details of what you do in your free time." Starscream interrupted, raising a hand and sighing heavily. Sometimes, he wasn't exactly sure why kept Skywarp around. Competent as he was, there were often times where he came across as-- well, rather stupid.
"We did find an Autobot in the asteroid field." Thundercracker informed him, crossing his arms as well. With a pointed look, he added: "That yellow annoying one who always jumps on us. But we had to let him go when you called."
"You incapacitated him first, right?" Starscream asked sharply.
"Who do you take us for? We're your Seekers." Skywarp said, sounding insulted.
Starscream relaxed, remembering why he trusted these two more than any of the other Seekers. In addition to the fact that they had all been friends long before the war, they were actually competent. And competent Decepticons were becoming rare to find these days; they usually got blown up by the Autobots before they could really live up to their usefulness. There had been one such mech; Starscream's old friend, Skyfire. He actually might have made a good Seeker if he hadn't disappeared on some backwater planet long before the war had started.
Really, the best you could hope for these days was a mindless drone who obeyed orders without question.
"Starscream. Did you find the AllSpark?" Thundercracker asked, sounding suddenly excited and breaking the Seeker out of his thoughts. "Was it on that planet?"
"It was." Starscream said, subtly emphasizing 'was'. "Megatron is dead."
He didn't expect gasps of shock and he certainly didn't get them. The two Seekers took the news with blank expressions.
"What happened?" Thundercracker asked.
"The Autobots. That's what happened." Starscream said; that was all that neededto be said, really. "The AllSpark was destroyed in the heat of the battle."
"So what now?" Skywarp wanted to know. "Megatron's dead, and if the AllSpark's gone, doesn't that mean the war is over?--"
"No." Starscream said, intruding on the 'over'. He turned around to face the empty horizon and raised his arms. "This war won't be over until the Autobots are eradicated permanently and the Decepticons reign supreme over the universe!"
Thundercracker and Skywarp exchanged weary looks, knowing precisely what was coming next.
"Megatron has fallen! I, Starscream, am now the leader of the Decepticons!"
He burst into a string of maniacal laughter, unaware that Thundercracker and Skywarp had mouthed those words along with him and mimed his pose in a ridiculously exaggerated fashion. They were far too used to their leader's frequent bids to take over Megatron's position to try and talk him down. Well, now he had it, and on some level, they were happy for him. The turn of events had proven what Thundercracker had known for a long time -- that Megatron wouldn't have fallen to Starscream alone, as only the combined might of the Autobots had taken him down. But neither of the Seekers would be at all surprised if Starscream had taken some shots at Megatron during the battle.
"So then, Lord Starscream. What do we do now?" Thundercracker asked, wondering if his slight sarcasm would go noticed. Really, this was all so sudden he was having a hard time taking it seriously. Starscream turned, a feral sort of smile creasing his faceplates. He liked the sound of that "Lord". He liked it very much.
"Without the AllSpark, Cybertron is a lost cause." he declared. "We have no more reason to keep the rest of the army there. We're moving them."
"To where?" Skywarp asked while comprehension dawned on Thundercracker's faceplates.
Starscream's smile grew just a bit more wicked when Skywarp seemed to lose his composure. He puffed up, whether out of excitement or he was about to lose a good deal of lubricant.
"This system is the perfect place to begin building the foundations of the new Decepticon Empire." Starscream went on. "The third planet is rich with resources. All we need to do is weed out a few pesky Autobots and then the planet is ours for the taking. You will need to acquire native alt-modes until the Autobots have been destroyed. Thundercracker!"
The blue Seeker looked up.
"Send a message out. Call for Soundwave and tell him to bring the rest of his cassettes. And then send a message to any more Decepticons in the area on the encrypted channel three-three-two-seven-zero. Tell them to come to the following coordinates: Seven-six-one-three-nine-zero by zero-two-two-seven. Relay the information of Megatron's destruction, the AllSpark's destruction and be sure to let them know that I, Lord Starscream, have taken command of the Decepticon forces."
Thundercracker nodded and moved away to make a clear transmission, thinking that Starscream was getting too much glee out of glorifying himself with that title.
"Skywarp, find that Autobot again and kick his aft from here to the sun. We can't have him finding Optimus Prime and possibly warning him. There is a chance that he might have overheard our discussion."
"Doubt it, really. But whatever you say, Screamer." Skywarp said. He backed off a few steps and reverted back to his Tetrahedron jet mode; ripping out of the red planet's atmosphere.
A blurbling noise drew Starscream's attention. He looked over and saw one of the locals. It was short, red, and remarkably ugly; wrinkled skin, large but beady eyes, and crinkled antennae. It didn't show Starscream any fear, but rather shook one of its three-fingered fists at the Seeker while carrying on in its blurbling voice. Starscream stared at it for a moment until it scooped up a rock and hurled at the mech. The rock bounced harmlessly off his legs.
Starscream blew the thing into oblivion in one shot.
It was a beautiful planet.
If nothing else, Optimus was quite glad that the AllSpark had chosen this planet to crash-land on.
The war with the Decepticons had led the Autobots to fight on many planets and places and they rarely got a chance to survey the new location; get a chance to get a feel for it or even enjoy it. The Decepticons were always quick to follow and by the time the battle was over, the planet ended up as little more than a charred hunk of rock flying through space and the Autobots had no other choice but to move on.
But this planet, Earth... Optimus had fallen in love with this world in less than a day. Sure, he had crashed into a patch of green somewhere in the city and had been panicking a bit because of the close proximity he had been in to two natives, but when he had seen the wild beauty outside the city, his spark had been instantly drawn to it. He hadn't been able to help it. Something about it had called out to him.
Cybertron was gone, but Earth was free of the Decepticon presence. It was safe. And he knew it could be home. He would do whatever he could to protect his new homeworld.
Optimus looked away from the red-orange-gold sunset to the two young humans reclined on Bumblebee's hood, whispering and giggling, unaware that their words could be easily heard by any of the Autobots, but Optimus chose not to listen. After all the help they had given the Autobots, Sam and Mikaela deserved some time together to nurture their blossoming relationship. Optimus wondered if they would become bond-mates in the future.
Sam winced when his fractured wrist was accidentally jostled and Mikaela immediately started to act like a worried femme around an ailing youngling. Optimus watched with amusement as Sam tried to fend her off, claiming that he was alright and that the painkillers were only wearing off; nothing to worry about.
One week ago, Optimus would not have imagined becoming friends with those two, but he realized nothing could have happened as fast as it had and Megatron might have not been defeated if it hadn't been for the humans' assistance. Optimus knew that humans had merely been trying to protect the only home they had, rather than fighting for the sake of the entire universe. To them, Earth was their entire universe. They knew nothing else. The Autobots and the Decepticons were the first sort of extraterrestrial contact humans had ever had and they certainly weren't ready to accept it. Not yet. Maybe one day. There were humans out there who whole-heartedly believed that giant alien robots were behind the destruction in Mission City -- according to the various sites on the World Wide Web -- while many others were convinced that the giant robots had been some kind of government experiment that had gone haywire.
Optimus was content to let them believe what they wanted. The day would come when the Autobots would reveal themselves to the world, but for now, they were more than content to sit back and relax a little.
After all, they had earned it.
But there was something that was still bothering him.
Optimus waited until Bumblebee was gone to return Sam and Mikaela home before their respective curfews and until Ironhide had returned to the Lennox's residence to continue his watch over the family unit he had been, more or less, accepted into. He waited until the look-out point was empty before he approached the good medic Ratchet.
Ratchet was sitting on the edge of the bluff, staring up at the dome of stars overhead and kicking his legs back and forth like a youngling. Optimus carefully sat down next to him and prepared to engage him in an important conversation.
"Right there." Ratchet beat him to it, pointing to a far-off patch of sky.
That had to be the most unintelligent thing ever to escape Optimus's vocal processor, but it wasn't often that his subordinates and friends caught him off-guard like that.
"I've been triangulating the last-known coordinates and with an estimate of the current drifting speed," Ratchet explained. "I do believe that Cybertron is in that direction; around there."
"Do you miss it?" Optimus asked.
"Every day." Ratchet replied. He put his hand down. "Was there something you wanted to ask me?"
It never failed to amaze Optimus how perceptive the medic could be. Perhaps that was a prerequisite if one was going to be spending their life fixing up damaged and often grouchy mechs.
"It's about Jazz." Optimus replied, knowing that he had Ratchet's full attention. "I wanted to know if there was any way..."
Blast it; he couldn't quite bring himself to finish that question. It was like even asking if Jazz could be rebuilt was too much to hope for. But he couldn't let this go, not when even the smallest hope existed.
"He was torn in half, Optimus." Ratchet said. "The damage that had been done to his systems was extensive. I would have to cannibalize quite a lot of metal and wire to manage it and I'm not sure where I could get those." His optics narrowed. "Are you looking to give him a proper send-off?"
"Normally, yes, but..." Optimus hesitated briefly before reaching into subspace and pulling out the remaining fragment of the AllSpark he had rescued from Megatron's chest.
"The AllSpark!" Ratchet gasped. "Is it-- Is it all that's left?"
Ratchet looked between the fragment and Optimus several times before it dawned on him.
"You want to use that to bring Jazz back." he stated.
"Yes." Optimus said. "I've kept this from Bumblebee and Ironhide so far. Even Sam and Mikaela. I don't want them to get their hopes up about Jazz returning. There is every chance that this will not work, but if it is even remotely possible to bring Jazz back, I will not turn away from it."
Ratchet had taken the AllSpark fragment from him and was examining it with a critical eye. After a few moments of close examination, he gave his verdict.
"There is a chance. Jazz's spark-case is still completely intact and-- Well, this is the AllSpark. Frankly, we won't know anything until we give it a shot."
Optimus smiled. "Then we will give it a shot."
Over the course of the next week, Ratchet was the one in charge. With instructions to Ironhide and Bumblebee to explore and get to know their new home, Ratchet proceeded to drag Optimus to car junkyards all over creation -- and by that, he meant the state of Nevada -- and pick up scrapped parts. Optimus didn't often spend time under the medic's care or in his company, but he soon learned why Ratchet was (affectionately) called "the Hatchet" by many of the other Autobots behind his back. Ratchet as was driven and determined as a soldier of a battlefield. Now that he knew there was a chance to restore Jazz, however slim, he wouldn't let it go. Optimus was afraid that if this didn't work, Ratchet would blame himself for it.
But at the moment, the medic wasn't thinking about that. He was too focused on restoring Jazz's body to working condition and converting the scrapped car parts to usable material. It was almost fascinating to watch Ratchet work. Jazz's body went from two battered halves to a single unit with startling swiftness.
Finally, the day came to finally put the AllSpark fragment to use; to see if their efforts would yield the desired results or if it turned out to be all for naught.
"It had frag-well better." Ratchet grumbled. He sounded tired. He must have spent very little time in recharge all week. "After all this work..."
"Have faith, Ratchet." Optimus said, laying a calming hand on the medic's shoulder. "Although, Ironhide has been asking quite a few questions as of late. He wants to know where the two of us have been up to all week. He thinks we're hiding something."
"He can wonder." Ratchet snapped crankily. He had spent most of the morning polishing Jazz's body until it fairly shone in the early afternoon sunshine. It certainly didn't need any more polishing, but Optimus knew that Ratchet was trying to stall. He was plagued by doubts that this plan would work, so he was trying to put it off for as long as possible. Optimus didn't blame him for that, but it was very eerie to him; seeing this empty shell that had once been a good soldier and a better friend.
"Ratchet." Optimus stopped the medic's arm. Ratchet threw down the rag almost reluctantly.
Currently, they were standing in a car scrap-yard that they had decided would be a good place when they had noticed its out-of-the-way location and extreme lack of use. As far as they were aware, the government was still searching a place that would be suitable for the Autobots to call home-base.
Ratchet produced the AllSpark fragment from subspace and stared accusingly for a moment. He looked at Optimus, who nodded. Ratchet opened the empty spark-case and inserted the fragment, then closed it up again and waited. So fixated on the unmoving form before them, they didn't hear the rumble of a GMC Topkick's engine that was approaching the scrap-yard from the distance.
For a long moment, it seemed, absolutely nothing happened and Optimus bowed his head, despairing but willing to accept reality. Then Ratchet grabbed his arm and pointed. Optimus looked. Tendrils of blue light were racing along the few exposed wires and over the metal skin, like nerve impulses. And then, to his complete joy, a finger twitched and then the hand curled into a fist and loosened. Optimus felt a surge go through his own spark, one that filled his entire mechanical body. His gaze shot over to Ratchet, who stared back in equal awe and joy. No words passed between them, but each knew exactly how the other felt.
The two mechs crowded over their comrade, waiting for Jazz to come online. His mental state still needed to be assessed, after all, but for the most part...
The blue visor lit up.
The next Optimus knew, he and Ratchet were straining to pin down a screaming, flailing Jazz. Of all things that could have happened, Jazz had woken in full, raging battle-mode, locked in that last moment when Megatron had been tearing him in half. Jazz was not a large mech, which would have made him easier to restrain under different circumstances, but here he was running on pure fear and anger. That made things very difficult for the two larger mechs. Jazz's main cannon was still fully online and the last thing either of them needed was him firing off a few rounds. Particularly on them.
And then Ironhide came barreling into the area, cannons primed and ready to start shooting things up. He faltered when he saw Jazz.
"Wha-- Prime, what's-- Jazz?" Ironhide asked weakly, his cannons powering down with a confused sort of whine.
"Would you get over here and give us a hand, you slagging scrap pile?!" Ratchet shouted, nearly thrown off by a well-placed whack to the chassis from Jazz's arm. Looking rather confused -- slag, he had only come to tell these two that the government had found a potential home-base for them and if they would please come look at it and make sure they found it suitable -- Ironhide rushed over to assist in pinning down the flailing mech. Jazz seemed to panic even more when he saw Ironhide. While trying to keep a grip on Jazz's arm, Ratchet grabbed the metal pole he had been using to beat stubborn car parts into submission and whacked Jazz in a specific place across the head with it.
The effect was instantaneous. Jazz went limp immediately, visor darkening.
"Hmm... Normally, that takes several seconds." Ratchet said thoughtfully, peering at the metal pole. "Either my aim has gotten much better or this is harder than what I've used before."
A groan issued from Jazz, followed by: "...Ra'chet... hate ya..." His visor flickered back to life, taking in the scene before him. "Hey Prime, Ironhide. Miss me?..."
"It is good to hear your voice again, friend." Optimus said, smiling. "It is good to have you back."
"Good t' be back..." Jazz started to sit up, but Ratchet shoved him right back down and started to run diagnostics. "Primus, hasn't even been a minute Ratchet. C'n't I have a moment t' say 'hi'?"
"Jazz, you've been in two pieces for well over a week." Ratchet informed him. "You'll forgive me for wanting to make sure there are no unwanted side-effects."
Jazz grumbled, but otherwise submitted to the checks peacefully. Ironhide was glaring at Optimus for not giving him even the smallest hint that something like this was going to happen and Bumblebee was likely to be even less happy about not being informed of this.
But Optimus was too pleased to notice or care.
The AllSpark had done its final duty as a bringer of life.
Shooting stars often went unnoticed in the middle of the day, at noon when the sun was high in the sky. Unfortunately for this particular shooting star, it was the middle of the night. More than one person noticed a ball of fire streak over the Nevada sky to crash in a field some sixty miles from Tranquility, sending waves of dirt and sod several feet into the air. The people passing on the road nearby stamped on their brakes when they glanced out their car windows to have a look.
From the crater that had been created, a damaged protoform slowly emerged at a crawl, leaking slow trickles of coolant and energon, but most fortunately, nothing life-threatening. The leaks would stop soon enough. However, what was more pressing were the native creatures approaching rapidly. The mech's internal systems whirred, blue optics peering curiously at the small, bipedal creatures whipping out small mechanical devices. Then its processor registered "danger". Some of those were communication devices and it had no way of knowing if who or what they were contacting was a threat. Best not to take any chances.
Momentarily forgetting about the damage to its body, the mech heaved itself to its feet and half-ran, half-staggered away, trying to lose the small organic creatures in the deep mountains it saw and prayed that the organics had the sense to not follow.
After several minutes of hard running, the mech made a short sweep of the area. Sensing no life forms in the immediate vicinity, it allowed itself to collapse in the dirt and hard rocks, its right leg throbbing angrily from the abuse it had just been forced to endure. The mech stayed there, too exhausted to move, but ran a check on its battered systems. It had lost its long-range sensors while entering the atmosphere -- it had been entering at full burn, which probably hadn't been a good idea in retrospect. Long-range communications had been gone for some time now. The short-range sensors were shot and no doubt the short-range communications were in much the same condition. It trans-scanner was still in working condition -- of all the things to be working perfectly!-- but the transformation cogs might not survive past one transformation. The heating and cooling systems were working at 48.7 percent efficiency and the self-regeneration system was down around twenty percent.
Slagging brilliant... I think I can forget about trying to learn the local language...
Eventually, it occurred to the mech that it couldn't stay here; not like this, in this form. It stuck out way too much. It had to get hidden before its enemies found it. It was far too damaged to be much good in a fight anyways.
Slowly, the mech rolled over, hisses of pain escaping its vocal processor. It sat up and dragged itself over to the nearest boulder, so to lean against it, and gingerly held its right leg, poking and prodding very gently, trying to sort out the wires and metal. Unfortunately, its leg was a bit of mess at the moment. It couldn't make any repairs.
I am so slagged once Ratchet gets a hold of me.
The mech shifted and winced, clutching its leg. It had enough sense to realize that walking was a big no-no. It was still very much exhausted; in need of a long recharge and repairs. There were other things it badly wanted to do, but logic was quickly overriding emotion. It needed to get to safety. For now, the safety of a stylish alt-mode would do, and then it needed to find its comrades. They were definitely somewhere on this-- this extremely organic planet. The mech was certain it was crashed fairly close. It needed to warn its comrades of the coming attack.
It was going to come.
It was definitely going to come.
It was just going to come a lot sooner than the mech thought.
A sonic boom shuddered through the night air, the shadow of a jet already far ahead on the ground. The F-22 Raptor banked sharply, momentarily blocking out the moonlight. The mech jerked its head up to watch the progress of the jet, optics narrowed in anger.
A Decepticon... A Seeker... Slag!
The Seeker dived and skimmed low over the ground, throwing dirt and rocks at the mech. Forcing the dust out of its intakes, the mech stood up, leaning heavily on a large rock, just in time to see the jet land on the uneven ground and transform in an annoyingly familiar Decepticon.
"Starscream!" the mech roared, reaching hastily for the gun stowed in its subspace compartment.
The Seeker smiled wickedly and raised his twin null rays.
"Bye-bye Autobot!" Starscream shrieked and fired.
Maybe it was the darkness or maybe it was just a stroke of luck -- or maybe Starscream was a worse shot than he let on -- but the null rays missed by just enough. The mech rolled to the side and hit the dirt. Right leg largely useless, it crawled away rapidly, trying to put as much distance as possible between it and the Seeker. Retreating was a coward's move and went against ever shred of pride it possessed, but fighting back really wasn't an option at the moment. Growling and grumbling up a storm and wincing in pain every so often, the mech crawled for cover. It reached its gun and then turned to fire on the Seeker, but the Decepticon was gone.
Starscream had taken to the air. Reaching the required altitude, he wheeled about and locked on to his intended target, then dropped one of his new cluster bombs. The stupid Autobot didn't even have time to react, he noticed. There was a massive explosion of dirt and rock. Starscream dipped low to see if the bomb had hit and a thrill of pleasure sang through his circuits when he saw that it had. Humming a victory song of sorts, the Seeker climbed back in altitude and disappeared back into the night sky. True, he had assigned Skywarp to the task of scrapping the errant Autobot, but when it came to things like scrapping Autobots, he just hated to be left out of the fun.
A singed and smoking mech was left behind, but not nearly as dead as Starscream would have liked.
A single finger twitched.