The air inside the Decepticon citadel of Char was arid and stale, the walls of it's great hall blackened from bursts of fusion energy. Pieces of dead Decepticons littered the floor, along with pieces of some who were still living. Galvatron sat on his stone throne, his expression blank, looking thoroughly bored. While the exo-suit clad minions of Zarak busied themselves, clambering about Galvatron's body making repairs.
Zarak himself did not seem to be faring as well as his former subordinates. The humanoid had been strung up above the archway to the throne room, several severe scorch marks adorned the stone door where Galvatron had likely been taking pot shots at the poor creature for his own amusement. Zarak's once muscular frame had thinned, and his ragged clothes hung off him like dry, dead skin.
Skywarp stood in the centre of the room, flanked on either side by Scourge and the one who had saved him from Starscream's retribution, Cyclonus. Scourge's demonic like figure was diminutive in comparison to the stature of Cyclonus, who towered above everyone else in the room. Skywarp felt an odd sense of familiarity about them even though this had been their first meeting. Galvatron's aura, despite the way it had been warped, was unmistakably that of Megatron.
"So!" Galvatron's head shifted suddenly, and he stood up, flinging the Nebulans to the ground. "You're still alive!" Galvatron approached, his arms cupped into a welcoming motion as he approached. "How fortunate for you..."
"I return to serve at your side, mighty Galvatron." Skywarp bowed his head and shoulders, averting his eyes from Galvatron's gaze.
"You are-NOT WELCOME HERE!" Galvatron's fist flew faster than Skywarp could react, and he was hit squarely in the face, sending him sprawling to the dust stone floor.
"Mighty Galvatron! Please! This battle would have been in vain without his assistance." Cyclonus pleaded, he had clearly become used to acting as Galvatron's sense of logic and conscience.
"Silence, Cyclonus! This filth abandoned us in space! I'll have his monument in the Decepticon crypt demolished for coming back alive!"
"As if we could get that close to the crypt under your leadership." Scourge muttered, a little too loud for his own good.
Galvatron's fist flew out again without a moment's hesitation, knocking Scourge into the wall. The resulting tremors caused the beaten body of Zarak to quiver in his restraints.
"YOU WON'T EVEN GET A MONUMENT!" He ranted at Scourge.
Galvatron turned his back on Skywarp, and waved his arm dismissively at Cyclonus. "Take this trash to the holding cells, I want to be alone." Galvatron strode over to Zarak and grasped his chest in a closed fist. Zarak let out a futile gasp of protest as Galvatron yanked his body from the wall.
To Galvatron it must have been as insignificant as crushing an insect. Zarak's body detached from his arms, which remained chained to the wall. Zarak wailed in pain as the blood flowed from the gaping wounds now where his arms once were. Galvatron casually tossed the broken man to the dismayed gathering of Nebulans near the throne.
"Get rid of it!" Galvatron barked, and raised his arms to admire the spot where Zarak had been hanging. "Perfect! Cyclonus! I want Starscream's head mounted right here!"
Skywarp felt dismayed at Galvatron's actions. Perhaps owing to his experience as a human, but the cruelty and disregard for logic was nothing like he had been expecting. Megatron had been manipulative, and cruel to a degree, but this could only be described as... insanity.
"As you so order, mighty Galvatron." Cyclonus stooped to grasp Skywarp's arm, lifting him to his feet.
Without warning a wide belt of energon expanded to encompass and restrict Skywarp's movement. Galvatron began to laugh gleefully to himself, staring at the spot on the wall, no doubt picturing how Starscream's face would look embedded into it.
Cyclonus led Skywarp and Scourge out of Galvatron's presence and through the dim hallways of the crudely constructed fortress. Scourge broke off from their path, leaving Skywarp alone with Cyclonus. The two of them marched past assorted gatherings of Decepticons. Beaten, and low on energon, their eyes bored hungrily into the pair as they passed.
"What happened?" Skywarp asked. "How did things get this way? Megatron would never have let this happen."
Cyclonus stopped dead in his tracks, his face enraged he turned to face his captive. "I will not permit you to speak ill of Galvatron! He has led us to victory in many battles!"
The two of them arrived at the holding cells, located within a natural rock cavern adjacent to the Decepticon fortress. Cages were stacked neatly against a solid rock face. Each cage held a Decepticon in varying states of assembly. Blitzwing, a little charred but still functional, was still able to use his self repair function to fix the damage inflicted by Skywarp. Motormaster was occupying two cages. His torso, arms and head were laying still inside a cage, while the adjacent prison held his legs. Skywarp couldn't help but feel a little proud he had taken down so many Decepticons by himself, even if he had a bit of an unfair advantage.
Skywarp turned his head back to Cyclonus. "You're not going to win the war in this state. If it were Megatron-"
"Megatron is dead!" Cyclonus grasped Skywarp's throat, threatening to detach it from his body if he squeezed any tighter. "You saw to that, Skywarp. If it had not been for Unicron, I too."
The revelation that suddenly hit Skywarp felt like he had just received a blow to the head, despite the fact he had just received one.
"You were there!" Skywarp's eyes lit up, "Just like Galvatron! Which means you're either an Insecticon, or you-!"
"Enough." Cyclonus' commanding voice alone brought Skywarp's train of thought to a crashing halt. "I don't remember anything before Unicron. All I know is that if you left Galvatron to die, then you left us to die as well! You may have saved us this time, but if Galvatron doesn't need you then neither do we."
With that Cyclonus pushed Skywarp inside an empty cage and sealed it behind him. Hook of the Constructicons picked up the cage with his extendible arm and added it to the pile of prisoners, placing Skywarp squarely between Dead End and Starscream.
"I knew we were going to lose." Dead End said in typical resigned fashion. "I should have stayed on Earth, the Autobot cells were cleaner and I might have gotten a nice quick execution instead of drawn out Decepticon torture."
"Starscream." Cyclonus spoke as he retracted the cage door of the cell adjacent to Skywarp. "Lord Galvatron has summoned you before him."
The look on Starscream's face was a curious mix of fury and abject terror. Starscream wriggled in his bonds before being pulled out. "Please don't take me to Galvatron! Please! I'll do anything! ANYTHI~NG!" Starscream wailed dramatically as he was led off.
Skywarp grasped the bars of his cell and called out to Cyclonus. "If I said I had a way to get the Decepticons back to Cybertron without setting off the Autobot defence system, would Galvatron listen to me then?"
Cyclonus stopped again for a moment, and looked back to Skywarp. "In our condition, what good would it do us?"
"It could be your last chance. Cybertron is overflowing with energon... If we could get a group of Decepticons on the planet we could syphon off more than enough for a small group. WE could fight them from underground just like they used to do to us." Skywarp hadn't considered the implications of what he'd suggested, but the plan made sense, it even made a degree of sense to him shockingly enough.
"What are you suggesting? A Decepticon insurgency? That we lower ourselves to hiding in shadows and striking at scraps like pitiful Autobot rodents?"
"You're right. What was I thinking?" Skywarp sank back in his cell. "Decepticon pride, huh? Then I guess you'll be staying here to starve without energon, under Galvatron's heel."
Cyclonus didn't say a word, he turned his back on Skywarp and grasped the pleading Starscream by the head, leading him back into the main fortress.
"If it is any consolation," Dead End droned, "I thought it was a good plan. Of course, it was doomed to failure from the start."
"What are you SAYING?!" Came a malice ridden scream from the far end of the pile of cages. "That traitor blew us apart! As soon as I get my legs, I'm going to bust his nose cone wide open!" The scream had come from the unfortunate Motormaster, Skywarp had earlier blown apart using one of Blitzwing's explosive shells. It appeared that the loyal Decepticon forces had separated him from the missing pieces of his body just to frustrate him further.
"I told you siding with Starscream was a bad idea, but you didn't listen to me did you? Nobody listens to me." Dead End shook his head and sighed as the other Stunticons started hassling him from their respective cages.
Skywarp sat silent, at times like this it would normally have come naturally to him to start picking on the smaller vehicle based Stunticons from the safety of his cell. But as their raised voices raged around him, he found himself thinking deeply about himself and what he was going to do next. Thundercracker, Megatron, Shockwave, Unicron, Melissa... none of them were here to guide him and for once he would have to make a decision for himself.
It had taken several hours for the Stunticons to calm themselves and cease their bickering. Most of them had shut themselves down to preserve their own lives, and the stack of cages was now far too quiet. With the energon shortage amongst the Decepticons, there was certainly none to spare for prisoners, so with no one to observe his movements Skywarp had decided his best option was to quietly escape... somehow.
Starscream's attack had left the dimensional ripper off-line and the restraints placed on him restricted all of his transformation ability. All he had to work with were his brute strength and the power of his own central processor.
"I'm doomed." Skywarp droned, temporarily switching his voice to mimic Dead End.
Skywarp looked at the lock keeping the cage door closed. It was an entirely manual device, with the lack of power to spare it would seem the Decepticons had reverted to more primitive methods of keeping prisoners locked up.
'If it's just a mechanical lock how hard can it be to break?' Skywarp thought, rearing his fist back to strike it. Putting all the power he could muster behind the strike his fist flew unabated into the mechanism. Skywarp felt the plating on his knuckles crack as they struck the cage door he pulled his fist back and looked at it. As expected the plating around each knuckle was fractured, Nanites set themselves to work repairing the damage, but the lock remained unharmed.
'Alright so I need a new approach.' Skywarp thought for a second and surveyed his surroundings.
A single Decepticon stood guard at the cavern entrance. A rather bedraggled looking robot, with but a single blaster pistol to defend himself. One whom was clearly feeling the effects of the energon shortage just as much as everyone else. His body was dented and scarred, looking at the poor machine's life force slowly ebbing away made Skywarp think of how Thundercracker had looked the last time he had seen him.
'Hey, wait a minute...' That memory of Thundercracker was just the right thought he'd needed, and the puzzle pieces slipped into place one by one. 'Perfect!' Skywarp exclaimed internally. 'I just hope he isn't smarter than me. ... I'm doomed.'
Skywarp opened the cavity in chest, adjacent to the cockpit, and extended the fuel line used for energy transfer.
"Hey! Hey, you!" Skywarp called out to the guard at the cavern entrance.
The guard looked around at Skywarp, curious at the sudden attention from a prisoner.
"Hey! Want some energon? Since I'm stuck in here I've got plenty to share." Skywarp thought right about now he should be cringing if he were still human, this ploy was dismal, pathetic, there was no way it was going to work, he'd have to come up with something else.
The guard moved suddenly, his lethargic gangly stance had shifted into a sprint and before Skywarp's optics could refocus, the guard was at the cage. "Energon?! You'll really give me energon?! REALLY?!"
Skywarp gawked at the desperate machine now on its knees outside his prison cell. "Of course, even though I'm in here we're still on the same team right? The two of us against the Autobots."
"Right!" The guard wasn't really listening at this point, he was greedily eyeing the transfer cable in Skywarp's hand. "So, you'll give me some right?"
Skywarp wasn't going to press his luck with more banter, he reached through the bars with the fuel line in hand and offered it to the hungry guard. "Here. Drink your fill, my friend."
The guard's hand reached out to grasp the fuel he wanted so desperately, it followed the line all the way, even as it was falling from Skywarp's hand to hang limp at the side of his chest. Still grasping at the line even when Skywarp's outstretched hand had hoisted him into the air by his throat. Still grasping for it even as Skywarp repeatedly rammed the head of unwitting guard into the cage's top bar.
The guard dropped to the ground, his head smashed open, the interior of his laser core had been exposed to the elements outside and was slowly fading from bright white to a dark metallic grey. The guard's hand quivered as he lay on the ground, his arm still fumbling around looking for the fuel line.
Skywarp stared at the sparking carcass of the poor Decepticon he'd just killed. It was pathetic, and a little sad. Both that any Decepticon had grovelled that desperately, and had been so blinded by greed as to not spot an obvious trap still continued to blindly follow his greed, even after death.
"You must have been really desperate for energon to defy the war protocol like that." Skywarp mused. "As much as I'd love to give you a decent send off.." Skywarp's words trailed off when he realized the machine wasn't able to hear him. He was babbling to thin air like some mentally defective human talking to itself for amusement.
Reaching out to the body, Skywarp took the blaster that lay by its side and withdrew it back into his cage. It was a simple operation from here on, and there wasn't any need to think about it in depth. Using the weapon, Skywarp blew away the locking mechanism on the cage, and merely pushed it open to embrace the welcome glow of freedom.
As Skywarp stepped from the cage onto the rocky ground he saw a brief flash of light before his eyes and looked down, to see a pinpoint laser shot had just pierced the control cluster in his neck, cutting off his head from the rest of his body, including his power supply.
"Oh... Vector SIGMA!" Was the last thing that left Skywarp's lips before his body toppled and collapsed, sending up a cloud of dust in its wake. His core shut down almost instantly, not wanting to waste any energy reserves it had, plunging Skywarp's world once again into darkness and silence.
The glow returned to Skywarp's eyes, and the familiar diagnostic inventory scrolled across his display. Everything was normal.
"Normal?" Skywarp thought to himself., "Didn't I just get my head cut off?"
Skywarp looked down to see his body still where it should be, his neck showing no signs of damage. Looking around at his surroundings Skywarp could not make out any discernible exits, the room was barren stone, a dome shape that seemed perfect for solitary confinement.
The red light from Skywarp's eyes provided little illumination, and the lack of heat sources in the room made his optics all but useless. Skywarp brought the energy blade from his right arm to bare, it's purple light beating back the darkness with its rhythmic pulses of energy.
There in front of him was another Decepticon Seeker, the white of its armour plated body shining purple in the light of Skywarp's extended weapon. Recognizing Starscream instantly, Skywarp was about to jump into a defensive posture and bring his cannons to bare, stopping short only when he noticed that the body did not have a head.
Wherever Starscream had been taken, he had come back missing a little something, Skywarp mused, allowing himself a slight satisfying grin.
"That Galvatron..." Skywarp said aloud, leering over the decapitated form of his elder brother. "He's not Megatron, but he's still got style!" Skywarp punctuated the last word by swinging his foot into Starscream's side, flipping the headless Transformer over on the dusty floor.
As if on cue, a seam appeared in the smooth wall of the dome, and a portion of the structure slid back revealing an opening to a tunnel complex, winding its way through a mountain range adjacent to the Decepticon citadel.
Through the opening walked Scourge, one of Galvatron's lieutenants. While his thick armour was a cold metallic blue, Scourge had an almost organic look about him. His hands were tipped by vibrating claws designed to gauge into an opponent and tear away portions of their body, and from his chin protruded a thick black sheet of armour covering the delicate control clusters in his neck, almost as if it were hair growing from his face.
The most bizarre feature of this machine however were bat like wings which fanned out from his back completing the look of a bizarre creature created by human imagination, designed to scare imbeciles and small children.
Scourge brought his right hand up to chest level, the object in his grasp clipping the hard stone wall.
"Careful, you fool!" The object complained in a shrill voice.
Skywarp couldn't believe it. Somehow Starscream had weaselled his way out of danger again and had come back from Galvatron alive. Scourge tossed the head to the body on the ground with a disgusted grunt, Starscream howled in protest as he bounced and ended up face down in the dirt.
"What's going on?" Skywarp asked, keeping his blade at his side, ready to strike if need be.
Scourge looked Skywarp in the eye and his face curled into a snarl. "Cyclonus would never betray Galvatron, he will stay here to support him until they both run out of energy and their cores expire." Scourge lamented. "I, will not."
"And what's that doing here?" Skywarp asked, pointing his weapon at Starscream's cursing head.
"We will need a tactician on Cybertron, despite his treacherous nature." Scourge explained.
"On... Cybertron?" Skywarp asked, a stupid grin creeping across his face.
Scourge nodded, "I will hear you out. Speak quickly, because when Galvatron discovers his favourite trophy is missing his rage will likely bring down portions of the citadel. Cyclonus can only keep him distracted for so long."
Skywarp understood all to well even from the small displays of Galvatron's sudden rages that nobody would want to be around when he was truly angry.
"So tell me, Skywarp, how will we get to Cybertron?" Scourge asked, folding his arms across his chest.
Skywarp's grin widened and he stretched his arms out to express his confidence. "Oh, you're gonna love this!"