Title: Sound and Fury
Author: Mirage Shinkiro
Warnings: Violence, language, adult themes.
Genre: Angst and hurt/comfort with eventual mech/mech, a.k.a. intimacy between androgynous but male-"pronoun'd" 'bots. The Transformers are canonically sexless despite having a social gender, but if mech/mech bothers you, don't read.
Description: Transformers is the property of Hasbro, and although I wish I could make money off the TF franchise so I could be independently wealthy, I am not. Alas, I remain poor and am just borrowing the lovely robots.
Summary: G1. After his latest fight with Megatron, Starscream finds himself facing his true reasons for hating the tyrant. The answer takes both Starscream and Megatron off guard.
Inspiration: Megara-Liancourt's sci-fi epic fanfic "Hunted Species" challenged me to make time to write some fanfic and explore the complex and problem-ridden dynamic between Megatron and Starscream.
A/N: Set shortly after "Enter the Nightbird" in G1 season two. The story is meant to disrupt the future as mapped out in season 3 and the animated movie, and it switches back and forth between the present and the ancient past.
Edit-units of time (source, TFwiki): nanoklik=1 second; klik=1.2minutes; breem=8.3 minutes; joor=roughly an hour; orn=a day; decaorn=10 days; stellar cycle=year; and vorn=83 years.
"[Life] is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Chapter 1: Fury
The monitors flickered dimly in the darkness of the Nemesis' control room, Starscream having reduced their brightness for the sake of his 'headache.' As though honoring the fall of night, the room sat in a near silence broken only by a soft electronic hum. Outside the port window, the ocean's blackness reduced visibility, and the shark that surged past the ship's hull gave the Seeker a mild start.
Punishment. In a simple word, Starscream's disgraceful relegation to the graveyard shift was humiliating punishment. Starscream's decision to shoot Megatron's newest toy in the back had resulted in the second-to-worst beating of his life once his fellow Decepticons had caught him. Granted, he'd taken supreme satisfaction in Megatron's hissy fit over losing Nightbird, and his trine's secret but growing unease over the human-created 'bot had resulted in their allowing Starscream to out distance them long enough for Megatron to get past the point of wanting to kill him. Nevertheless, when they'd captured him, Megatron's unleashed rage had resulted in the Constructicons having to retrieve his various pieces before he could be repaired.
However, to Megatron, Starscream's extreme agony had not been enough. Hook had been ordered to finish the minor repairs slowly over the course of several decaorns, leaving Starscream with a multitude of aches and pains, and then the second-in-command had been relegated to the graveyard shift "until further notice."
"Bastard," Starscream hissed under his breath. To be sentenced to stare at monitors all through the night! To be unable to work on his latest project! And to have those stupid Coneheads snicker every time they passed him or Rumble and Frenzy openly laugh at him in the mess hall! It was a humiliation not to be borne.
"Plotting my demise again, are we?" called a taunting voice from the doorway.
Starscream glared at Megatron's lurking form, his optics narrowing into red slits. So the tyrant had stopped by to gloat over his newest round of abuse. "No more than you are mine, oh mighty leader."
Megatron snorted and crossed the room to tower over him. "I was not the one fool enough to sabotage the most useful addition to our ranks in millions of stellar cycles." A smirk twisted the corner of his mouth upward. "With her upgraded programming, all she lacked was a vocal processor. I maintain she was good enough to replace you."
The same insult again and again, only rephrased. It seemed to Starscream that he could never escape the accusation that he was subpar. A fool. Rage seemed to convert the energon flowing through Starscream's body into boiling oil. "Then you are too easily impressed, mighty Megatron. Even reprogrammed, no human creation could equal a Decepticon."
"You think so?" Megatron leaned into his face, his voice a soft growl. "I agree, but only in the sense that I was fool enough to promote you to my SIC. If I had the ability to transverse time, I'd reverse my decision."
The words seared him. That was Megatron's goal, of course, and Starscream knew it well. He tried not to rise to the bait, to not reveal his outrage, but the pain which bolted through his spark like lightning overcame all his resistance. Even after so many millennia, no one could hurt him the way that Megatron could. "If I could travel through time, I would shoot you the instant I met you! And if you do kill me, I swear I will haunt you."
"Haunt me?" Megatron laughed and turned toward the door. "Every fool knows that sparks cannot wander the universe disembodied. Stop picking up those stupid human myths." He paused in the doorway, casting a look of mock pity upon him. "However, I suppose if such a thing were possible, you would be petty and vindictive enough to do it. But you're not dead - yet - so enjoy your desolate shift. I plan to make you keep it for quite some time."
Starscream glared at the doorway long after Megatron had left, sick to his tanks with hate, but then his shoulders sagged. Had he ever won an argument with the megalomaniac? After all the times his unheeded warnings or advice had turned out to be correct, had his foresight ever been acknowledged? Although over the millennia Starscream had come to enjoy questioning Megatron's plans and intelligence - had come to coat his words with sarcasm and disdain - in truth it was a sub-commander's job to be a sounding board and a failsafe, not a high-ranked lackey. As an ex-scientist and an aerial tactician, Starscream was supposed to respectfully point out cracks and fissures in his leader's logic and plans.
"I was a naïve fool," Starscream whispered to the quiet room. Megatron had made sure he spent every shift alone, so no voice answered him. The soft whirl of the computer's cooling fans kicking on was the only response to his admission. "Why did I ever respect him? Why did I ever look up to him?" He always calls me a fool, and I give as good as I get. But secretly, I can't argue. I am a fool. What did I see in him that made me so blind?
Even after millions of stellar cycles, the question was still rhetorical. The countless beatings Starscream had undergone had never damaged his memory banks. He remembered quite well what he'd felt when he'd joined the Decepticon cause, and the pain of those memories was far greater than Megatron's worst punishments.
The tetra jet held his wings high as he walked through the citadel. Today was graduation at the Cybertron War Academy, and as the valedictorian of his class, Starscream had the distinction of leading the other jets in a flashy flight demonstration for the audience. Although Starscream had at first been irritated at returning to an academy when he was no longer a youngling, he had quickly found many of his classmates were returning students as well, thanks to the war. Relieved by this knowledge and boosted by a science degree and years of experience as a deep space explorer, Starscream had quickly risen to the top of the class.
So it was with great pride that he strutted down the main hallway toward the take off ramp where the other jets awaited him. With a magnetic crown emblem attached to his chest, indicating his status as valedictorian, Starscream knew that every Cybertronian who looked upon him saw his success. Since the audience was still assembling and many were socializing, he was nearly drunk with happiness as whispers broke out around him.
"I heard he's the fastest among all the Seekers," one mech whispered.
Starscream pretended not to hear, but he had his audio sensors attuned as finely as possible. He wanted their praise. He needed it.
"Heh. Isn't he Stardust's son? You shouldn't be so surprised. That old son of a glitch doesn't turn out anything but the best."
Starscream mentally flinched at those words, but he didn't lose his smile for a moment. This was his day, after all.
"I feel sorry for whichever faction fails to sway the remaining Seekers," came another whisper. "This particular class has many strong candidates, and I heard that one is their top flier. And air power will likely turn the tide of the war."
A warm sensation washed through Starscream, kicking on his cooling vents for a brief moment but making him radiate joy. Had he realized this reception could await him, he would have agreed to attend the War Academy sooner. He smiled upward at his classmates and friends, Thundercracker and Skywarp, who had already taken their spot on the ramp. Skywarp was gesturing wildly about something and laughing, and Thundercracker was smiling softly at his animated friend. However, when they caught sight of Starscream, they both turned and waved for him to join them. Having found both relief and camaraderie with them after the painful loss of his best friend, Skyfire, Starscream returned their smiles and increased his pace.
Until he saw his father.
Stardust, an ancient mech by most anyone's standards, stood with his arms crossed at the ramp's bottom. To each side of him hovered his other two remaining children, Spitfire and Solardance, both of whom leered at Starscream. He tensed instantly. His siblings had graduated from the War Academy at the top of their respective classes some millennia earlier and were clearly unimpressed with his accomplishment. As for Stardust himself, the grey and navy Seeker looked as though he'd downed three cubes of sour energon. Although the loss of his bondmate and other five children had made the old mech irritable, he had never been particularly approachable.
"Father," Starscream said in greeting as he stopped before the taller Seeker.
"Looks like the runt thinks he's earned the title of warrior now," Spitfire said before their father could reply. "Look how high and mighty he's acting, strutting through the Academy like he owns the place!"
Starscream narrowed his optics at his sibling, irritated by the red mech's usual antics. He was actually faintly taller than both Spitfire and Solardance, but since he was the youngest of all Stardust's children, they had nicknamed him 'runt.'
"No joke." Solardance snickered. "He acts like he's done something special by graduating at the top of his class! As if all seven of us didn't do the same prior to him!"
That much was true. Half of Starscream's joy this day came from achieving what all seven of his siblings had. He searched his father's face for an indication of satisfaction or, at the very least, acknowledgement.
Stardust's features remained neutral, unreadable. He ignored the taunts of his older children and focused on his youngest. "In the end, I simply have one question for you."
Although he fought to keep his own face equally neutral, Starscream felt his spark dim. All his endless daydreams of being congratulated by his father had been a foolish waste of time, he realized. A fantasy. "What is that, Father?"
"Now that you have graduated from the War Academy, do you understand why you should have attended it from the beginning?" Red optics narrowed. "Now that you have seen what it means to become a warrior, do you realize why it was a waste of your talent to attend the Science Academy and flit around the galaxy as a mere explorer?"
In truth, Starscream didn't want to give his creator or siblings the satisfaction of seeing his pain, but he couldn't contain a hiss of rage. "If anything, Father, the knowledge and experience I gained as a scientist and 'mere explorer' are what enabled me to outstrip everyone in the class."
When Stardust tilted his head to the side and scoffed, Starscream knew he'd made a terrible mistake.
"Oh! The runt still thinks he's something special!" Spitfire began howling with laughter.
Stardust sighed, his disappointment evident. "You are such a fool, Starscream. Your siblings achieved the same thing with no prior experience other than the training I gave each of you. All you have done is underscored your weakness and, frankly, your cowardice." He turned and gestured for his older children to follow him. "You have finally redeemed the family name," he called over his shoulder to his youngest. "I will no longer have to listen to others' snickering and insults over having a scientist in my ranks. But never be so arrogant as to think you have attained or surpassed our family standards."
"Yeah," Solardance yelled as they retreated into the crowd. "And don't embarrass us during the air show!"
For long moments, Starscream couldn't move or speak. He felt as though someone had fired straight through his spark. However, unbeknownst to him, Thundercracker had walked down the ramp toward him and now set a hand on his shoulder. Starscream jumped faintly from the unexpected touch.
"Was that your family?" he asked.
Starscream knew the question was half-rhetorical. "Yes." His voice was utterly flat, devoid of all emotion. He wondered how much his friend had overheard.
"Your siblings are obnoxious." Thundercracker smiled. "Especially the solid red one."
Starscream nodded. He'd always hated Spitfire the most of all his siblings or, at least, the ones that were still alive when he'd been created. He wondered sometimes if the ones who had died before his creation had been total slaggers, too.
"Well, that's a bunch of slag," Thundercracker murmured. "Come on, Star. It's almost time for our performance, and you know we all have it down perfectly."
Skywarp teleported over to them and apparently caught the end of the conversation. "Yeah, 'Screamer! Let's go!"
"Don't call me that," he said drily. He'd taken enough insults over his unusual vocal processor when at the Science Academy.
Skywarp was oblivious. "Let's go! Let's go! I want to blow all their minds away."
Starscream summoned a smile he didn't feel and nodded, following his classmates to their assigned locations. He thought he'd be faintly nervous while awaiting the cue to begin the sky show, but his father had killed not only his joy but all his emotions. He felt nothing.
Therefore, it was with clinical interest that he noted the cue from the master of ceremonies. With the cold, collected voice of a battle veteran, he gave the order: "Seekers! Transform."
All ten transformed in perfect synch, igniting their thrusters and soaring into the sky over Cybertron. With the air blowing across his wings, Starscream forgot his pain and gave himself to the dance, to the perfectly timed and coordinated demonstration. Freeing his spark as only flying allowed, he led his classmates through a series of graceful loops, hairpin turns, and tactical stunts. The routine Starscream had been allowed to lead and help design was the most complicated one in two hundred stellar cycles, and that fact helped him to relax and enjoy giving the show. Even if his own family didn't care, surely everyone else could see the extent of his planning and the perfection of his and his fellow classmates' performance.
For a moment, nothing in the universe mattered except the rushing wind and singing jet engines. To break away from the restraint of gravity, soaring through the atmosphere, wings catching the current . . . gliding, turning, flipping . . . to shoot forward, thrusters at full, snap through a turn only a topnotch tetra jet could manage . . . it was the embodiment of the greatest gift Primus could give.
At the show's conclusion, Starscream landed gracefully, transforming with effortless precision. His classmates landed behind him, and they were greeted with a thunderous round of applause. A quick glance at the audience revealed his family wasn't impressed, but Starscream found the sting far less painful in the light of the crowd's admiration.
What he also noticed was a tall, rather unusual mech standing at the very back of the crowd. Broad-shouldered and silver with a warrior's helmet, the mech leaned against a column, his arms crossed. Beside him stood a bulky, one-opticked mech. Neither of them was applauding, but the silver mech's attention seemed riveted on Starscream, and even at a distance, the Seeker could see his smile.
The scientist within Starscream was immediately intrigued, and he wondered if he could find the mech afterward and meet him.
Once the ceremony ended, Starscream found himself surrounded by congratulatory Seekers who praised the air show. In light of his father's and siblings' blatant shunning of him for the company of other nobles, he couldn't deny himself the simple acknowledgement that he had done well. Still, he scanned the crowd for signs of the strange silver mech. Finding none, Starscream's curiosity left him disappointed.
He didn't remain disappointed for long.
As all the other graduates left with their families for some high-grade energon and celebration, Starscream traced his way through the corridors toward the students' living quarters. His family had come just to put in an appearance, of course, and even if they had invited him home, he would have refused. It was there, in the abandoned foyer of the students' apartment tower, that Starscream found the silver mech. Once again, he was leaning against a column with his arms crossed, but this time he had an enormous fusion cannon mounted to his right arm.
Starscream halted abruptly at this sight, unsure how to interpret the addition of such an overwhelming weapon.
However, the silver mech merely smiled. "Shall I introduce myself, Starscream son of Stardust?"
Starscream examined the stranger more closely this time, his scientific habits of mind still ingrained deeply within him: powerful frame to match the warrior's helmet and fusion gun, extraordinary height compared to most other mechs, and a gleam to his armor that suggested special, damage-resistant alloys. He was reminded of Spitfire's ravings about the gladiatorial games that used to take place and thought the silver mech looked like he could have been an arena champion.
The stranger's smile suggested he noted Starscream's detailed attention. "I am Megatron, leader of -"
"The Decepticons!" Starscream interrupted, shocked. He'd heard the name countless times, spoken with both admiration and hate. In the War Academy, most students traded stories of the Deceptions' battles with a feverish glee, clearly finding the faction more appealing than their Autobot enemies. Starscream's family had remained among the neutrals thus far, although he knew Spitfire was a Decepticon sympathizer, and he himself had ignored the war at first, finding science a far more interesting endeavor. However, the war had come to most everyone's door, and neither Starscream nor his family would be able to remain neutral much longer.
Megatron pushed away from the column, his grin seeming a touch smug. "That's right, young Seeker." He stepped close and rested his hand on Starscream's shoulder. "I saw your performance and was most impressed with your abilities. Although you come from a strong class, your talents are clearly superior to your classmates'."
Opening his mouth, Starscream began to reply only to find himself speechless. Praise from someone as famous as Megatron despite their just having met? It was as though some small segment of his daydreams had managed to cross over into reality.
"Also, I'm aware of your previous position as a scientist, as well as your inventions." Megatron tapped the null ray gun attached to Starscream's right arm.
He glanced downward at his arms. The null ray guns had been his culminating project for the War Academy - a scientific invention, yes, but one befitting a warrior. Despite his teachers' praise, his father had been singularly unimpressed, as usual.
"Impractical," the ancient Seeker had declared. "Why stun or cause dysfunction when you can kill with one blast?"
Starscream raised his gaze to meet Megatron's, searching for traces of sarcasm or disdain. None were present, only fascination and interest. "They can serve many functions," he finally replied. "It's a versatile weapon."
Megatron's optics shone brightly. "Indeed." He placed his other hand on Starscream's shoulder as well, then squeezed lightly. "You have a scientist's gaze and knowledge, but a warrior's heart and training, not to mention your speed and precision in flight, which are outstanding even among your peers. Such talents are needed in the Decepticon army. It is time, young Seeker, to make your choice. Which faction will benefit from your abilities?"
The question was blunt and straightforward. Megatron's intentions were clear, but so were the implications. This famous warrior saw and recognized what Starscream had to offer, and he didn't discredit his scientific pursuits. Above all, he actually wanted him in his army because of his abilities. No disdain. Just flat out interest and recruitment.
Once again, Starscream found himself rendered momentarily speechless. Somehow his dream had peeled itself out of his databanks and brought itself to life. Finding his voice, he managed to reply to the question beneath the question. "Of course," he said, his tone resolute but quiet with awe. "I would be honored to join the Decepticons. Any true warrior would."
Megatron's smile dazzled him with its blatant approval. "Excellent, Starscream." He stepped to the side, put his arm around his shoulders, and led him away. "Let us go celebrate, then, with a round of high-grade."
Starscream gazed up at the silver mech with a sense of pride he couldn't squelch and a wave of wonderment he couldn't repress. Suddenly, it meant the universe to him that he prove to Megatron that his beliefs were well-placed, that he really was as talented as the air show suggested. He wanted to see that smile again, over and over, to hear the words "Excellent, Starscream" repeated countless times.
He allowed the older mech to guide him away from the Academy for a celebration with his new 'family.'
"Fool," Starscream whispered to himself, sinking his head into his hands and ignoring the dim monitors. How young and stupid he had been then to think Megatron held any real interest in him except as a way to recruit the remaining neutral Seekers among his peers. True, he had risen to the rank of second-in-command and air commander, but ultimately he was expendable, not to mention that Megatron never listened to his advice, no matter how obviously it fell within his realm of scientific expertise.
No. All Starscream was to Megatron was a punching bag, as his current aching joints and wings proved, and the tyrant had invented insults to hurl at him that Stardust had never dreamt of.
"If I could travel through time, I would kill you the instant I met you," Starscream repeated to his absent leader.
As of late, Starscream had begun wondering if his revived ex-friend Skyfire was right. Maybe it would have been better to have remained a scientist, to have found a way to stay neutral or at least stay out of the way. For all the many exciting battles he'd seen, millennia of Megatron's abuse made him wonder if such excitement was worth the price.
But time could not be reversed nor his decision undone. All he could do now was try to dethrone the tyrant and take his place. No more insults would be hurled his way then, for if anyone tried, he would execute them immediately.
Despite all these dark thoughts, though, there was one question, one memory that Starscream did not broach: why Megatron hated him so especially much and why he even still cared.
That was a subject to be avoided at all costs.
Postscript: Thank you for checking out my first TF fanfic. I hope you will leave a review. I also have a request. Someone please have pity on me and clarify TF time increments. Thank you!