+ prologue: the night starts here +

His hands dropped, ever so slightly, as the weapon slipped into position. Sparing but a slight glance to confirm his grip, Starscream's attention immediately swept the field, scanning for spies but expecting none. Summer stars gleamed haughty and cold high in the dark Arizona sky; on this moonless night, the hull of the Ark would be barely visible to standard optical scanning. Thermal imaging told a different story.

Defensive systems remain operational. Starscream reported silently via encrypted commlink. Clearly, Soundwave had not yet achieved his objective of hacking into Teletraan-1. We wait.

For a long moment there was silence, and Starscream returned his attention to the weapon, this time examining carefully the simulation Earth pistol under which he had the grave misfortune to serve. In this form his commander, the mighty leader of the Decepticons, was easily at his most lethal, supercompressed density similar to a planetary core. No flesh creature could wield him, despite the outward resemblance to a outdated German 9mm of nothing but quaint historical relevance. It was heavy; he was heavy.

Idiot, Megatron signaled at last. Enter autistic mode immediately. Abruptly the signal was severed as the weapon flickered offline.

Splendid. Starscream shut down his communication network as well, stifling a dismissive shrug as he pondered his leader's foolish paranoia. The signals for communication were not only encrypted, they were transmitted via extremely low gain frequencies, and therefore ought not be detectable by those lazy fools across the valley.

Without a doubt, the Autobots were engaging in some meaningless self-congratulatory debauchery. Anyway, wasn't this the time that notorious Autobot propaganda, The Dukes of Hazzard, was broadcast? Surely they wouldn't be diligent about examining other signals at this time.

Nevertheless, the decision pleased Starscream. Talking to the weapon was exhausting under all circumstances. He usually ended up revealing a lot more than he intended to say, blurting out his every fleeting thought under the influence of his commander's disdainful attention.

Starscream slouched further behind protective cover. He was hiding at the bottom of a large rolling hill, behind some boulders left behind from Earth's glacial times. He returned his attention to the Autobot base. With luck, Soundwave's hacking wouldn't take too much longer.

As a Seeker, he itched to act, and these feelings only intensified when he was so superbly armed. Forget the null ray (although he was inordinately fond if it); thus compacted, his leader's fusion capacities were practically limitless. The ultimate weapon. Maintaining this state took tremendous amounts of energy, which was why the alt-mode was something Megatron only used during special circumstances… either when lethal force was urgently needed, or at times when stealth was most critical. Times like this.

This was a raid for him alone. The others were deployed elsewhere, performing other important tasks. His was the most dangerous. Megatron might be with him, but as a weapon, he could not lead. It would be Starscream's decisions, his skill as a sharpshooter, determining which Autobots would die. His skill would ultimately determine the fate of this mission. His alone.

Megatron was merely a tool.

It had been his… talent… in directing Megatron's furious energies that had won him his status as second-in-command to begin with. For various reasons, this was a fact unknown to his peers. They sneered at him, thinking him to be a sniveling coward, treasonous and small-minded. Somewhat true, he didn't mind admitting to himself… but so what? He had a hold on Megatron none of the others could replicate. Others tried: by necessity, the weapon he held now had been wielded by various Decepticons at need. Soundwave was his principle rival, but it was no accident that if there was a choice, he, the illustrious Starscream, would be the one holding the primary offensive instrument of the Decepticon army.

The math was very simple. By rights, Megatron belonged to him. By rights, therefore, he should lead.

Unfortunately, no one else saw things this way. At another time he might resent the fact that his contributions would go largely unnoticed, both by his commander and by his fellow Decepticons, who would inevitably attribute any successes to Megatron (all failures, however, would of course still belong to him). But as his hand tightened on the grip of his weapon, Starscream's habitual resentments melted away. There would be time enough later to catalogue the extensive litany of his woes.

He himself was not a weapon; but in wielding one, this one, he was supremely powerful. Lord of the firmament indeed. The stars themselves smiled down their distant approval.

. + .

No one dared ask him what it was like, inhabiting his alt mode.

Few of his kind had ever been created, so curiosity might be expected; in his early days Megatron himself had wondered with a certain undefined envy over the experiences of Cybertronians designed for motion. Particularly those designed for flight. He could fly in his robot mode, but it wasn't the same; perceptions in alt-mode were wildly different, with completely separate and parallel sensory arrays coming online. He could merely fly; those designated as Seekers were flight.

In alt mode, function defined not only what you were, but who you were.

Collapsing in upon himself, Megatron did not suddenly feel small or inert. In fact, it was impossible for him to perceive the change in size, because most of his usual sensory arrays went offline. He did not lose awareness of the world, but it was very much like being blind. He had no sensation of being held, and minimal perception of most of the outside world. And yet, in another way it was the opposite of blindness, because a whole new array came online, and this array directed his attention like an arrow towards his target.

He could not choose where he was pointed, but he was always pointed somewhere.

For all of his innumerable flaws, Starscream had the one skill he valued the most: a steady hand. A hand that had been cultivated only through millions of years of combat, true, but steady all the same. In other ways Starscream was a clumsy, overreaching oaf, and when using that damnable null ray of his, Starscream often allowed his boastful self-confidence sabotage his innate abilities. But with Megatron as his weapon, Starscream's aim improved. He was less ambitious then.

It was ironic, really. Both he and Starscream were at their best when they worked together.

At the moment, the Autobot home base dominated his consciousness. He hadn't needed Starscream's sneering report with his habitual triumphant criticism of the failings of others. He could see for himself the full extent of the Ark's defensive array. Targeted, he could see it better than any other mechanism existing. No one else, for example, could see what he was observing now: the poison-like incursion of Soundwave's hacking.

It was typical Starscream idiocy. After all this time, and all that tedious and shameful testing, one would think that even that dolt would have figured out this aspect of his power. Going offline was almost entirely about getting him to shut up; silence was golden where Starscream was concerned.

The thing that most interested him about Starscream, practically the only thing, could not be found in anything he said. As Starscream scanned the Ark, viewing it through Megatron's scope, Megatron in turn gathered a sense of how Starscream's mind worked. As a Seeker, his vision was quick and decisive, continually scanning for threats even when still. In his normal robot form, Megatron could not take in even a tenth of what Starscream could; he imagined that the gap would be far wider if he compared himself to Starscream's own alt mode. If his own focus was tight and heavily internal, Starscream existed almost entirely outside of himself, floating on the need to see and experience everything all at once.

It was… intriguing. The vicarious pleasure was, to use crude fleshling parlance, visceral. A dirty word, visceral. Comparing one's cleanly inorganic exalted self to the slimy and crawly things of the Earth was somewhat of a taboo, and using such terms towards other Cybertronians was the deepest, rawest form of insult. And yet, Megatron could find no other word to describe this reaction to being a gun in Starscream's hands. Perhaps such feelings were imposed from without, but he'd embraced them and made them his own.

Megatron could make anything his own. Given enough time, even Starscream would belong to him.

The thought filled Megatron with a perverse, illicit pleasure. At times like this he was glad he'd never quite followed through on his periodic fleeting resolve to forever dissolve Starscream's right to function.

There was complete silence in the valley as Teletraan-1 seized up, succumbing at last to the final stages of hacking. Insidiously snuffing intelligent life was never so fulfilling as doing it the old fashioned way, through massive violence. But it would do.

Megatron paused, deciding to wait a moment. How long would it take before Starscream realized Soundwave had completed his task?

Not too long, it turned out.

"Finally." With a vicious little flick of the thumb, Starscream disengaged Megatron's safety, not bothering to hide either his caustic scorn or his impatience. His voice was quiet, however, as he brought the gun up beside his face, barrel aimed for the sky. "Orders, almighty Megatron?"

If only he could grind to powder Starscream's grating arrogance.

. + .

Author's Note: Credit for the title of this fic goes to John Lennon, obviously. The title of this chapter comes from a song by the Montreal band, Stars. The concept of "autistic mode" is borrowed directly from the anime series Ghost in the Shell.

Thanks go to my best friend and beta reader, Anax, whose support and enthusiasm made this story possible.

In the following chapter, OCs will be used. These are "story essential" original characters. I have no special attachment to them, and although I made sure to give them interesting personalities and issues, the focus of the chapter will primarily be on Megatron. After the backstory in that chapter, the rest of the story will be filled with familiar canon characters. So please don't be alarmed.

Lastly. This story has already been completed. I will release each chapter as soon as the beta editing has been completed. There will be nine chapters total.