Screaming Blue Murder
Long Unwieldy Disclaimer(TM):
This story is a complete labour of love. The author neither claims nor (intentionally) implies ownership of the 'Transformers' brand, or any other character or concept herein, who are copyright 1984-present Hasbro/etc and used with much love and respect to their creators. The story itself is © 2008 A 'Keaalu' Scott, as are the original characters who invited themselves along for the ride along the way, and the idea of "Blue" (all of which she guesses no-one else would want anyway! ;) ) Bla bla bla, etc.
Keaalu am too wordy.
I guess you could consider this "CSI: Cybertron". ;)
Got some art of my little OCs on my devART (linked in profile, if I remembered).
Short version: I'm trying to be mindful of how the characters should behave, and I'm trying not to be too deliberately crazy-go-nuts out-of-character, but I'm also not so good at sprawling war stories or the whole theme of "giant robots smashing the living daylights out of each other". (Plus, of course, I'm not normally one for writing fanfics, I have enough problems keeping up with the goings-on in my own "pet alien universe".)
Happy to accept constructive crits and the like. Now, to see if I can understand the uploader thing…
"Nemesis, this is Seeker flight three, requesting boarding clearance."
"Clearance granted, flight three. By the way, nice job out there today, Angel – you're all over the news again. Even Megatron sounded like he was almost at the point of complimenting you, although – between you and me – I think he'd rather take a wrench to his voicebox than actually submit to temptation."
"I'd thank you for the compliment if I didn't already know you were being facetious, Rumble. Just bring the entrance up, already."
"Hehe, all right, don't get your afterburners in a pinch. Elevating docking platform now."
Low to the waves, the pale Seeker performed one or two lazy circles in the air, until the ocean roiled briefly and the spire of the docking platform finally emerged into dwindling daylight. The amber blush of sinking sun turned the purple into a sickly brown, but the tired mech considered even that unappealing sight the best thing he'd seen all damn day. No simpering, pathetic humans, no noisy, un-co-ordinated Autobots, no difficult heavy work, nothing. Just the freedom of the air, a tenderly cool sea-breeze over his nosecone, and now the promise of a little bit of relaxation. He drew another lazy circle for the hell of it before touching lightly down on the open gantry.
Thank Primus, home at last. The Nemesis might not have been Cybertron, but the relief 'Angel' felt at being back at base was almost palpable. At long last he could get a bath, get refuelled, and spend a few blissful joors in silent recharge – he was undecided over which of the three options sounded most delicious.
In terms of anatomy, he looked like pretty much every other Seeker of his class – long legs, foot-turbines, obtrusive shoulder vents, upswept wings, bulky chest. In colouration, he was oddly incongruous – mostly white (albeit currently streaked with dirt and grime), with a silver trim on the very edges of his wings, speckles of gold across his pale helm, and calm, crystal blue eyes. It was the humans who had temporarily dubbed him 'Angel', for both the obvious and not-so-obvious reasons, and the name had caught on with everyone else, Autobot and Decepticon alike. Angel was quite the mould breaker – a committed Decepticon, the purple emblem proud on his wings, but completely benevolent. No-one, not even the Autobots, knew who he was or where he'd come from, but they seemed to like him, regardless.
"Hey, 'Angel'," Skywarp greeted, dryly, as the lift from the surface finally came to a halt and disgorged the newcomer. He was lounging just down the corridor, in the doorway to one of the storage garages, square in the pale Seeker's way. "Life in heaven's still so over-rated you have to keep coming back to us in the Pit, huh?"
"The first time you said that, it was only vaguely entertaining, Skywarp – now it's just irritating," 'Angel' observed, pithily, his baritone voice descending into a growl. "Frenzy, have you got that solvent ready? I'm beginning to think I'm allergic to gold paint."
"Eh?" the cassette asked, looking up from behind the trolley of cleaners. "I don't think we should be bringin' new chemicals in here without Hook's say-so. What do Lergics have to do with paint, anyway?"
"That was just a subtle hint for you to get a move on."
"Subtle? Voice like yours? You are about as subtle as a brick."
"There's nothing wrong with my voice-!"
"Not now there ain't, no!" The kick wasn't particularly well-aimed, but Frenzy still had to skip sideways to avoid a long white scratch up his back. "Eh, watch it, Testy-!"
"Y'know, people are still wondering why you've not considered keeping that vocal mod in place," Skywarp added, examining the racks of paint-thinner and solvent and wondering if any could be press-ganged into service. "Save yourself a lot of stick in the long run."
"Pfft." Angel made a sound close in timbre to that of a retching human, gagged for a moment, then spat a small piece of circuitry out into his palm. "They might have convinced me if having the thing sat on my vocalisers wasn't so painful," he commented, his honey-sweet deep voice reverting instantly to a far more familiar nasal scratch.
"Well, you know, those humans have a saying." Skywarp lifted a finger, as if for emphasis. "No pain, no gain."
"Remind me what my gain was?" Angel/Starscream wondered, and instantly regretted it, knowing the second he'd closed his mouth what the answer would be.
"Well, there'd be plenty of gain for us not hearing your Primusawful screeching around every corner." Skywarp ducked the half-empty canister of paint-thinner that flew past his shoulder vent, grinning at the sound of it clattering across the deck plates and the low blop blop blop as solvent poured to the deck. "Hope that wasn't our last bottle, or you'll be rolling on the deck to get the paint off."
"For Primus sake! Can't you do anything without a running commentary?!"
"Well hello Pot, this is Kettle, I do believe you just called me black-"
This time the projectile connected, splitting on impact and cascading solvent all over Skywarp instead of the deck. The dark Seeker just stared for a moment, arms akimbo and dripping quietly, then snickered and snatched for his own bottle. Chucking solvent around would probably not be his least-flammable of ideas, but he could always pull the didn't start it, lol! card if it all went Pitwise.
Starscream intercepted and swatted the dark Seeker's hands away before he could get hold of any of the containers, not really wanting them to blow up the storage garage while they were still in it (again). "When formulating your master plan of me keeping the voice modulator, I don't suppose you considered what it'd be like for me, hearing someone else's voice when I speak?" he asked, tiredly, putting himself in between Skywarp and the trolley.
"Psh. After what you've inflicted on us poor sparks down the millennia?" Skywarp grinned, and waved a brush. "I'd have thought it was pure, unadulterated bliss."
I left myself right open for that one. "Please, Warp. Haven't I suffered enough already today?" he whined, spreading his hands, palm up, pleadingly. "I endured almost three cycles of Prime's preaching about how I should join them. I only ask for a few breems of peace and quiet… I promise, you give me a hand, and I'll spare you any further auditory torture."
"Oh, all right, you sour-tempered old scrap-heap," Skywarp acceded, at last. "Let's see if a miraculous transformation will come over you when all that… that white stuff gets washed off you."
"Miraculous transformation into what?" Frenzy wondered, making sure he was out of kicking range. He'd hooked a hosepipe and brush into one of the cans of solvent and was waiting for the pair to stop bickering so he could get on. "Grouchy into Clean-and-Grouchy?"
"That was a promise I'll only honour if you two shut up and actually help me get this paint off." If the 'bath' aspect was going this badly already, Starscream imagined his eagerly-anticipated 'rest' and 'refuel' would probably end up getting scuttled too. Why did I ever repeat that request for help to Skywarp? A brush on a stick would have been more useful.
It had been close to a lunar month, Earth time, since Megatron had shoehorned/piledrivered his Second-in-command into the unwilling role of "Benevolent Decepticon". It was a role which called for an individual so sickly saccharine it would have fouled up even an Autobot's fuel lines for a month, and Starscream hated it with a passion exceeded solely by his determination to do a good job of it, just to annoy Megatron.
…surprisingly, it seemed to actually be working. While the "Benevolent Decepticon" kept the humans distracted with eye-gougingly noble feats of self-sacrifice and heroic rescues – feats to which the mud-crawling little human insects responded in the most beautifully gullible manner – the real Decepticons sneaked around in the shadows and swiped what they wanted, unchallenged and unnoticed. The human public was – rightly so – completely confused by it all. Even the Autobots themselves were struggling to rally to an appropriate response, most struggling to work out where 'Angel' had come from and who he was, and a few of them apparently completely taken in by him.
In spite of his endless bitching, and in spite of the hated paint-job, even Starscream was finding it hard to maintain his usual outrage when things were going so beautifully in their favour, for once. Sure, they weren't making any enormous leaps forwards, but they were keeping the Autobots one step behind them and actually making a little headway of their own. And the energon they manage to sneak clean out from under Autobot noses was plentiful.
The most major drawback – because Starscream thought he could have quite enjoyed basking in all that freely-given adoration – was the Primus-awful disguise he had to wear, because no Autobot would have fallen for it without it. Starscream gone good? Don't be ridiculous! The paint was polymer-based, so it applied easily, dried quickly, and remained supple instead of flaking off and clogging joints, but it didn't make it any less annoying. For someone who throve on the acquisition of power and influence, being forced to defer that well-earned respect onto an illusory character who didn't even deserve to exist in the first place was almost physically painful. And Megatron knew it. And Starscream knew Megatron knew it.
The specialised paint that hid his crimson eyes had – until today – been a particular irritation. It had taken Hook weeks to get his "prismatic crystal masking" even translucent, let alone strong enough to mask vivid red entirely into a sedate blue, but he point blank refused to allow the scientifically-minded Seeker to help, which Starscream found almost as irritating as being forced into the role of "guinea pig". Almost. Being Hook's test subject was a painful (and more than occasionally humiliating) experience.
The glued-on smile that was usually part of his disguise had been entirely genuine once Hook had finally announced the formula was perfect. No longer did he have to endure the crippling side effects of staring out of optics coated in badly aligned prisms – the destabilising double-vision had cleared, he was no longer blinded by glare from even the smallest lights, and – joy of joys – he could see in the dark again.
…it still all had to be washed off, though.
"Ugh." As ever, solvent vapours were upsetting his system diagnostics. "If I never have to don this stupid getup ever again, it'll be too soon."
"Megatron wanted another two runs before the end of the month," Skywarp reminded him, using a brush to loosen the more stubborn traces of white from his wingmate's shoulder vents. "So we get to paint you up in silly colours at least twice more."
"See, that's the benefits behind being Second in Command, you get to delegate with impunity. You and TC are more than overdue for doing your fair share of the work. Besides, the humans will only get suspicious if I'm never around. I'm surprised the Autobots haven't twigged, yet," the slowly reappearing Starscream smirked at Skywarp's look of disgust. "What do you know, Skywarp, looks like you just got elected to get the honour of the white paint next time."
Skywarp muttered something unintelligible, and Frenzy grinned.
"You may have a fight on your hands, Starscream," the cassette observed.
"I don't believe I invited your commentary," Starscream glared and lifted one foot, directing the white-painted sole at him. "Get on with it."
"You're a braver 'Con than the rest of 'em if you trust him not to foul things up, anyway," Frenzy went on, ignoring his commander's snarling. He'd connected up a series of pressure hoses to a conveniently-positioned tap, gave the controls a gentle tweaking, then (daringly) offered one of the water-guns to Skywarp.
A couple of seconds work from the high-pressure jet of water began to reveal spots and speckles of a familiar red torso, blue hands. Most of the paint sluiced off easily, loosened by the solvent and a bit of firm brushing, and now the high-pressure jet of water rinsed the rest away.
"Hnnh…" Starscream was fighting against himself, trying to deny how good it felt to have all that revolting paint sluicing away from his chassis, but he had already dimmed his optics and slouched against a wall for support. "Careful where you, ah-… where you point that thing," he snapped, trying to save face but failing dismally. It was more like an enthusiastic massage than the usual damply uninteresting trip through the wash-racks, and it was impossible to resist the urge to just turn ever so slightly so the stream cut across the tender spots in his wings, the sensitive mechanisms just under the surface of his dark throat-
Frenzy hooted a laugh and gave him a quick spritz across the face, startling him awake. "Ain't supposed to be enjoying it," he scolded, waving the pressure hose and squirting a curtain of water across the deck, giving Skywarp a sly soaking in the process.
Skywarp was quick to retaliate. What was a pleasant massage to the larger Decepticon was a bodily assault on the small cassette – it worked just as effectively as physically kicking the little pain-in-the-aft, crashing him across the deck and into a wall.
"-underpowered overclocked pit-spawned walking scrap-heap of a-…" Frenzy was still spewing abuse in Skywarp's direction when he finally untangled himself and rejoined the two Seekers. "That wasn't fair."
"Well, I didn't ask for a bath, either," Skywarp thumbed his nose at the smaller mech.
Frenzy's immediate response was to direct a needle-fine jet into one of the more sensitive chinks in the flier's armour.
Skywarp gave a yipe and leaped out of the way as if stung. "Why, you-!"
"Hey, Sparklings," came the scratchy interruption. "I'm over here."
Two pressure hoses turned full force on his faceplate.
It took a good breem or so for Starscream to finally stop spluttering water out of his fuel intakes. "That was totally uncalled for-!" he snapped. "Do it again and I'll-"
The voice was puzzled, softer than his wingmate's usual catcalls. That alone attracted the Air Commander's immediate attention. "What?"
Skywarp had a funny, studious little frown on his face. "Not all this paint's washing off."
"What do you mean, not washing off…?"
Just outside the repair bay door, Hook stood and listened to the ruction within, smiling knowingly. He'd seen the two Seekers come barrelling down the corridor a breem or two earlier, as though Optimus Prime himself were shooting at their heels, and right on cue skid through the doorway, almost tangling wings in the process and leaving a trail of paint-transfers and stained water droplets in their wake.
"There's got to be some replacement optic crystals around here somewhere-!" Over the crashing of boxes being hastily rifled through, Starscream's painful nasal shrilling was unmistakable. "It's all that slagging Hook's fault, damn him. He's sabotaged me."
"Well maybe we just ran out! Maybe you should, I don't know, stop making Megatron shoot you, and we'd still have a few left?" And there was Skywarp, making his usual unhelpful commentary. Hook winced at a crash and a curse, although it was directed more at whatever had been broken than Skywarp's pained cussing. "Why in the Pit would Hook want to sabotage you, anyway? You're his best customer, to start with! And you didn't just threaten him with playing Prime's-long-lost-cousin-in-Seeker-form."
"I don't know why, and I don't really care! I just know that this," pause, demonstration, "is sabotage. For starters, one does not accidentally usethe enemy's colours in repairs-" His voice was scratching its way up through the octaves. "Now help me find those crystals before Megatron finds out."
Hook smiled, privately, and turned away.
"Megatron? This is Hook. You asked to be notified when-… yes. Yes, he has… No, I made sure all of those were securely stored away where no Seeker would find them… Of course, Mighty Megatron. I know my role in this. I await your next instructions with interest."
The very instant he'd closed the channel to Hook, Megatron had opened the shipwide intercom and 'requested' (in a tone of voice that brooked absolutely no argument) all senior officers to the main control room.
The trap is baited and set. Now, to see who wanders in, my little Seekers. The warlord relaxed back into his seat, and waited, smiling privately.
Successful or not, he'd begun to wish he'd never dreamed up this plan. Even at the very best of times, Starscream's ego had been a fraction or two too big to comfortably cohabit with Megatron's, and right now he'd got big-headed enough to be unbearable. Physical altercation shrank him enough to whine out apologies and ingratiate himself back into Megatron's favour, but he rarely stayed small and humble for long, any more. The days where a strong, single backhand whack across the faceplates put paid to treachery and backstabbing for more than an orn were long past. Cowing his Air Commander took far more imaginative punishments.
What was worse, the other two were growing mutinous as well – not just the dithering Thundercracker, who always needed a 'friendly' reminder of where his allegiances lay, but now even loyal Skywarp had begun to side with Starscream every now and then. Now and then, frag, it was becoming a regular occurrence. Slagging their ringleader used to intimidated the other two into obedience for a while, but now Skywarp had developed the nasty habit of needing to join Starscream in the medbay afterwards, for getting in the warlord's face about the way he was treating their commander.
It wasn't as if the Coneheads didn't make their own powerplays, but theirs was usually more to-the-point, easier to spot and easier to counter, and often done by one without the knowledge of the other two. The Seekers tended to be more like grains of sand in sensitive joint-spaces – persistent irritations that were usually quite hard to get rid of. Should never have let them bunk so closely together. Should have split them into new teams the second I noticed it. But they were formidable in the air, and splitting the trine apart would have been counterproductive – and probably increased their rebelliousness.
Skywarp and Starscream were last to arrive, as Megatron had anticipated – after all, it was a fair way from the repair bay to the command deck. For now, he maintained his watchful silence; there'd be plenty of time for the yelling and screaming of insults later, even if most of it would probably come from the same overly-vocal red-and-white source, and he preferred to keep his ears in good working condition for as long as possible. The pair had entered the room together, dickering over something inane as usual, and quickly involved a long-suffering Thundercracker in whatever their pointless diatribe was about. They stood around and quietly exchanged irritated noises for a while, their hiked-up shoulders and quivering wings speaking volumes about their annoyance. Megatron didn't bother trying to listen in – he'd only get half the story, as there'd be large chunks of invective being slewed silently over their private communicators as well as the verbal assault they were dealing on each others' audio receptors.
Megatron smiled, privately. He had a more than sneaking suspicion about what it was that had vexed the little trine, and the silly face-mask Starscream was wearing only served to reinforce the idea. Not unlike Soundwave's visor, the crimson material hid his eyes altogether – just not the compressed little line of anger that formed his mouth, more was the pity. He tapped his fingertips together and scrutinised his second in command, for a short time, until a badly-hidden elbow-to-the-cockpit from Skywarp alerted Starscream to the fact his superior's eyes were on him and he finally turned to look up. There was a flicker – just a flicker – of nervous hesitation in his manner, but then the familiar old arms-folded chin-up sneering hostility was back.
Good, good. All would seem to be going to plan. Jumped-up overblown little Pit-spawn might get his just desserts, for once.
"Is there a problem, Starscream?" Megatron asked, at last, now he had his attention, and drew a little line in the air in front of his own face, to indicate the visor.
The chattering rabble had gone quiet at the sound of the master's voice, as if hoping for a confrontation, and the Air Commander's words were loud in the still air. "No problem at all, Mighty Megatron." To his credit, Starscream's reply was smooth as buttered silk, which only confirmed he was hiding something. "Just a little damage. You called us away for this, ah… vitally important meeting… before I could get it repaired."
"We've all seen a little battle-damage before, Starscream," Megatron looked back to his console display, feigning boredom. "Take the stupid mask off."
"Of course, sir." It wasn't lost upon him that in spite of the verbal agreement, the Air Commander just pulled a face and kept his arms folded, defiantly.
"Um, begging pardon, sir, but… why are we here, Megatron…?" A wary voice piped up from the back of the room. Sounded like one of Soundwave's cassettes.
"Well, I was going to congratulate you all on a job done unexpectedly well!" the warlord smiled. "Energon recovery is up, and we even have a small surplus! And everyone else is still completely in the dark. The Autobots are completely rudderless. They haven't foiled so much as a single raid, or intercepted a single shipment." His smile broadened, but it wasn't a happy smile. "Upon reviewing the tapes, however, I had begun to notice some odd behaviours from some of you. Hence, this meeting is no longer just a congratulations for work done well, but also a little bit of an investigation, on my part. I am hoping to get to the bottom of the abnormalities."
Megatron looked back at Starscream, and the Seeker knew instinctively that when he said 'some of you', Megatron meant 'you, Air Commander'. He felt his insides immediately begin twisting into protective configurations, shields locking in place over sensitive conduits.
"Speaking of odd behaviour, didn't I just tell you to take that mask off, Starscream?" Megatron went on.
"I don't see why it's so important," Starscream planted his hands at his hips and puffed himself up, but Megatron was experienced enough in his Second's bluster to know when his arrogance was just there to hide something.
"What makes it important is the fact that I, your commander, told you to do it. Or are you having trouble remembering where you stand in the hierarchy? Again?"
"Oh, pssh. Can't you just get to the point?"
"My sentiment entirely."
Megatron's next move was unexpected, and Starscream didn't quite dodge back out of the way of the descending hand in time. The blow clipped the side of his face and sent the flimsy crystal faceguard flying.
The assembled Decepticons all took one single step back.
Red optics met blue ones.