Disclaimer: All names you recognise are property of Hasbro/Takara, and I am merely toying with them for my own amusement.
The Spires of Altihex
From the first moment he laid eyes on the huge white shuttle, Starscream hated him. He watched as the out-dated administrator showed the new researcher around the complex, and already loathed the very sight of him.
"And there's easy access to all the reactors, though some of them require special permission from the seniors."
"What are the restrictions?" Asked the white mech, looking around in casual interest. Frag, even his voice was annoying! He spoke in the calm, slightly slow way of those who have limitless patience and subconsciously want others to be aware of that fact. Starscream despised that.
"Almost anything involving cybertroid or its alloys, highly volatile explosives, that sort of thing. There's a reference list posted around, if you're unsure just give it a check."
Starscream watched in disgust as the new robot looked around approvingly at the facility. He wanted the tall white mech – and he was fragging huge, towering over the administrator (who was almost a head taller than Starscream himself) – to melt into a pile of slag. There was only one mech currently at the facility who still needed a laboratory partner. Starscream preferred to work alone anyway.
Die, he chanted in his head as the white scientist noticed him for the first time. Die, die, die!
"A seeker? Here?" Questioned the shuttle as soon as he laid optics on Starscream's lithe form, a puzzled smile flashing over his light face, and Starscream snarled at the term. "I thought they had all been stationed down in Kaon, have there been terrorist attacks here too?"
"Oh." The senior scientist turned to follow the newcomer's gaze, and his face twisted in a gross expression of distaste. "That's Starscream. He's not here for military ends, he's an... anomaly. I'm sorry to say that he's your new lab partner - protocol requires our researchers to work in pairs in case of accident, and he's the only one here at the moment who has no workmate..."
Perhaps Starscream would have cared to feel offence at the casual contempt that dripped from his superior's voice, had he not expected such. Baring his teeth, he made no effort to show that he had even heard the remarks, spoken as though he wasn't even there, though he swore that he would extract a painful revenge for each of them.
"Do you want me to show you back to the main hall?" The senior researcher had lost interest in his disagreeable student, turning back to the newcomer, who had seemed quite shocked at the dislike apparent when Starscream had been introduced.
Surprisingly, the great white head shook in decline. "No, I would rather stay and get to know my new partner. If we're going to be working together..."
"You sure?" Only disbelief showed at the shuttle's resolute nod, the administrator staring a moment before shrugging. "Suit yourself. You can remember your way around?"
"Hum, Nova Cronum is certainly a lot larger than the labs in Altihex, but I think I remember most of it. I shall ask someone if I get lost."
"Very well. See you later. Inform one of the maintenance or administration drones if anything untoward arises."
The senior robot strode briskly away, leaving Starscream scowling in distrust at his new research partner, who was studying him in apparent fascination.
"So you're Starscream, are you?" Asked the tall white scientist kindly, the obvious dislike on his companion's grey face not seeming to faze him in the slightest. "Pleased to meet you. My designation is Skyfire, I specialise in xenology and developmental energo-chemics."
"I don't care."
Skyfire was lost for words at Starscream's curt and dismissive response; he'd probably been expecting his partner to be welcoming and to greet him with open arms. Ha, Starscream crowed in his own mind, he was going to make his unwanted labmate feel just how little he was needed. The seeker turned his back as the larger mech struggled for anything to breach the awkward silence.
"So, uh, we'll be working together quite a lot, I take it... what's your specialisation?" He pressed, though the degree of confidence had somewhat faded from his voice at the rude reply he had received for his honest and friendly note of greeting.
"Drop dead." Snarled the smaller robot, his rich tenor voice grating slightly in his anger as he flashed an ired, hateful glare at his companion but sparing nothing else. Truthfully, he'd always been curious about xenology... but he was willing to deny his interest if it meant that he didn't have to pay any more attention to this big white moron.
"Come now!" Skyfire rose his own voice, righteously indignant and somewhat offended at the hostility he was being received with. "There's no reason for that! We're going to have to work together, at least do me the decency of a civil conversation!"
Starscream whirled on his foe. "I don't need you! I don't need a partner, so leave me alone!"
For a klik or two, the only sound was that of Skyfire's vents expelling air as he tried to reign his fraying temper back under control and calm himself. Under the impression that he had passed his emotions on well enough, and, in a twisted way, proud that he had shattered the supposed 'limitless patience' in less than a breem, Starscream turned away again, indicating that he desired the conversation (if it could even be called that) to be finished.
No such luck. Skyfire spoke again, again pleasant and collected, speaking as one might to an angry sparkling, an almost falsely jovial tone that set the tetrajet's teeth on edge. "Well, I... I haven't heard of a seeker in academia before, what made you decide not to be a warrior like your fellows?"
He had changed the conversation slightly, as though hoping that would ease Starscream's irritation, but if he had hoped that this question would persuade Starscream to be more talkative and friendly, he was sorely mistaken.
"Shut up!" Screamed the smaller robot, turning with a enraged, almost crazed expression on his dark face. It was an expression so intense that the larger mech started back in surprise. "Don't you ever call me a seeker, you hear me!?"
Skyfire was stunned. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend -"
"Just shut the frag up and leave me alone!" Huffed the tetrajet, making as though to disappear down the corridor, though he was stilled by Skyfire's voice, which was heavy in resignation and, at the same time, somewhat sheepish.
"One moment – before you disappear, could you direct me back to the main conference room? I'm a little lost..."
Starscream had the fleeting urge to point the big white idiot in the wrong direction, but he stilled his hand, knowing that, in order to retain his place in the Nova Cronum research facility, he would have to accept the shuttle as his work partner. He'd already strained their relationship enough with his first impression, there was nothing to be gained but expulsion from the labs if he had no partner.
Mutely, he jabbed a blue finger down the corridor, stalking off before Skyfire could thank him. Primus, even thinking about working with someone else made him feel ill. The thought that, after all his hard work and effort to secure a place here, after all the challenges and hardships he had been forced to overcome, that someone else would be assigned as his partner, to steal his theses, to take credit for his ideas...
It repulsed him.
Even if safety procedures required robots to work in pairs, or sometimes even trios if the project was deemed particularly hazardous, the grey jet did not have to like it. Still riling in dislike at his new labmate, he swore to himself that he would make the shuttle's life so hard and friendless it would force him to resign. Then he could go back to working on his own, as he wanted.
From the first conversation, Starscream hated the white shuttle. Working with him was going to be the epitome of hell.
To his disgust, it was the big white shuttle who greeted him on his way to one of the fusion reactors some orns later. Starscream stared at him blankly before turning away without deigning to respond. He should have expected it. Skyfire was the only one dumb enough to even try speaking to him – every other mech at the Nova Cronum facility had learned to keep away from him by now.
"I'm afraid we got off on the wrong foot when we met." Continued Skyfire amiably, falling into step with his smaller partner. "I apologise, this is my first time out of Altihex, and I spent most of my time there on solo short-distance xenological surveys. I'm not really used to meeting new people."
"Whatever." Grunted the smaller mech, speeding his step slightly. To his upset, Skyifre easily matched his pace.
"Where are you headed?"
"Fusion reactor." Was the curt answer. Starscream spared a sideways glare at his lab partner and saw only a pleasant patience displayed on the light face.
"Oh? I don't remember you mentioning what you specialise in..."
"That's because I didn't tell you. Leave me alone."
Skyfire gave up his futile attempts to start a relatively civil conversation with his abrasive and offensive new laboratory partner, understanding why the senior scientist who had shown him around had been so apologetic about landing the tetrajet as his workmate.
"Look," he sighed, tone measured carefully, "I don't know why you've already decided you don't want me here, but the protocol dictates that researchers work in pairs. That's what I was told. So you're going to have to cooperate and accept me as your partner whether you want to or not. It will be much easier for both of us if you could be a little less rude. We do have to work together."
Starscream ignored him and kept walking. Unhappy at being brushed off so curtly, Skyfire reached out and caught the tetrajet's shoulder.
The reaction was distinctive and unexpected; Starscream hissed and pulled his shoulder from the gentle grip with a irritable glare. "Don't touch me!"
"No! Shut up!" Starscream snapped, flailing with one hand to dissuade his larger companion from reaching out to him again. "I don't want you here, telling me what I should and shouldn't be doing! I don't need a partner, so go the slag away!"
"Telling you – no, Starscream, partners work together, as a team..." The white shuttle shook his head as Starscream slammed into one of the few restricted reactor chambers, upset at his endless inabilty to make the antisocial tetrajet see the situation from his point of view.
As he watched Starscream, who was in high bad-temper, tampering with a various number of carefully divided and labelled liquids in flasks on the work surface, the shuttle realised which room they had just entered, and curiosity overtook his patient mind again.
"Starscream," he muttered quietly, not wanting to provoke the tetrajet to snap at him again but somehow feeling it was inevitable, "don't you need special permission to use these reactors?"
"I got permission, and I can do what I want in here as long as you," here Starscream sneered; he had obviously debated this clause in his permission long and hard, but to no avail, "watch over me. Ha!"
Skyfire carefully ignored the blatant contempt. "What are you researching?"
"It's my thesis, not yours." Came the answering waspish growl. Again, Skyfire shook his head in exasperation.
"I'm curious, and I can help, if you would just tell me what you're trying to achieve."
"I don't need your help!"
"Then at least tell me what's in those flasks." Skyfire tried, his patience with this insufferable seeker wearing painfully thin.
"Raw energon in various stages of refinement and catalysts of my own choosing. Now shut up." Without another word, the lithe scientist began to carefully measure out volumes of viscous neon red-pink liquid – pure, unrefined energon, riddled and toxic with impurities.
Interest piqued, Skyfire moved closer to examine what Starscream was doing, watching as the seeker alternated between his measurements and scribbling incomprehensible notes on a small datapad that had certainly seen better days.
Unable to understand his partner's shorthand, and reluctant to ask the surly, disagreeable mech to explain it to him, Skyfire gave up trying to make sense of the recorded data and instead watched Starscream work, trying to ascertain what his aim was without speaking to him.
For a war machine, the grey jet had extraordinary precision when it came to reaching the exact volume he wanted. At irregular intervals, he would mutter to himself – complex strings of elemental abbreviations and hypothesising most possible reactions from a given starting point at an impressive cognitive rate. Skyfire was quietly surprised, having (probably quite arrogantly, in retrospect) assumed that a being programmed to be a soldier would be unable to cope with even the most simple elements of chemical theory.
The beakers on the work surface were all filled with what seemed to be liquid compounds. The two at the far right were obviously energon; the vivid shades of luminous hot pink in one and neon, optic-jarring violet in the other were all the evidence needed to draw that conclusion. Most of the others were not labelled, or had hurried writing in Starscream's illegible handwriting. Quite the strangest, though, was a misshapen lump of what seemed to be, from the density, rock, hidden under a cloth shroud in the centre of the work surface.
He chanced another glance at the datapad. Among the spiky, messy Cybertronic characters were a series of formulae; NaCy3COH3C, 6CyH, 3NaCy2... the list went on. Some he recognised as being parts of the molecular structures of, in turn, impure energon, refined energon, cybertrates...
Most compounds with cybertroid element in shared one distinct quality – a dangerous instability, and the likelihood to either chemically bond with or detonate any other materials they came into contact with. This volatile attribute was partly what made energon such an efficient source of power, especially in Transformer biochemistry.
Starscream was handling these explosives with a casual disdain and careless lack of worry. He hadn't even thought to don necessary apex armour to protect vulnerable circuitry. He hadn't even worn a visor to protect his fragile optics.
And the shrouded lump in the middle of the desk, which Skyfire had thought to be just a rock, turned out most shocking and concerning of all. Starscream whipped the covering cloth away, revealing a sizeable fragment of pure, crystallised energon. Rough edges still shone, gleaming, to show how recently it had been hewn from the mines in the distant corners of Cybertron.
It was fresh. And that meant it was unstable.
"Starscream," he said, voice low, only meaning to alert the seeker to the dangers of what he was attempting, though certainly having no intention to hinder any research.
"Shut up!" Starscream jerked and Skyfire flinched automatically; the cylindrical measuring apparatus held gingerly in the blue hand had come worryingly close to splashing its contents over the energon crystal.
"Careful!" The white shuttled hissed. Starscream turned to glower at him, and there was such anger, such hatred in the red-eyed gaze that Skyfire backed down.
Without another word, without deigning to honour his labmate with such, Starscream turned back to his work, ignoring that his partner was even in the room with him, though he could still feel the piercing azure eyes on his back, boring right through him. The sensation set his wings on edge with the desire to turn around and kill. Another indelible part of his programming, to bristle at the thought of being so exposed...
Skyfire began to speak again, and Starscream, who had been so caught up in his mental processes, jerked in fright again, this time splashing a small amount of thick reddish liquid on the table, where it sizzled and began to dissolve the metallic surface before bursting into a small but lively orange flame.
"Shut the frag up!" He screeched, whirling on the tall shuttle, slamming the flask of compound down on the work surface with a force that matched his anger, not noticing Skyfire's automatic wince. The white mech was backing away from the terrible aura of fierce rage that radiated from the tetrajet. "How many times do I have to tell you!?"
"No, Starscream, the liquid -" Skyfire tried, holding his hands up hopelessly even as he was analysing the fire (which had already burned itself out). The easy dissolving of the metal, that was down to a cybertrate compound, and the bright, distinctive orange of the flame? That had to be sodium.
Sodium cybertrate. Not good. He started towards the table, to try and clear away the leaked chemical before it became a safety hazard, but he was met by the barrel of a laser cannon as Starscream raised his arm. Skyfire stopped dead; he had forgotten that the smaller scientist not only had inbuilt weapons but had been designed and programmed to use them.
"You stay away from my thesis! I don't want you stealing the credit for my ideas, I've worked too hard for this!" Ranted the smaller mech, waving his hands emphatically, the snarling contempt on his dark face almost unbelievably strong. "I don't need you, why won't you frag off!?
"Listen!" Tried the taller robot desperately, disarmingly holding his hands where his antisocial partner could see them; the spillage on the desk was seeping steadily closer to the energon crystal. But Starscream would not be reasoned with.
"I don't need anyone, I work fine on my own! I should kill you right now!"
"Starscream! Your crystal!" Shouted the white shuttle, and, finally, it seemed to get through the obstinate, stubborn tetrajet's thick-plated head. Starscream turned as Skyfire started towards the table again, seeing the imminent calamity and trying to prevent it. The cybertrate touched the edge of the solidified energon, absorbing into the crystal matrices. Starscream reached out for it in a flurried panic.
White filled his vision. A mixture of yells and an oddly deafening silence filled his audios.
The room exploded.