The Road Less Traveled

By: nightelfcrawler

Author's Note: No warnings immediately, though the story will develop M/M.



Chapter One

It was rather busy. At first, this was intimidating, as Skyfire had never seen anything quite like Iacon before in his life. The buildings towered over him, and this was impressive seeing he was easily twice the size of any ordinary mech. But Iacon was impressive. The buildings glowed brightly in the dark sky, mechs moving everywhere, their business taking them to and fro rushing to get there. It was all action, all motion, never ceasing, completely different from Kaon's slow and quiet pace. Still, it held a certain thrill of excitement for a country mech like himself. Even more so as he turned to stare upwards at the bright green and blue emblazoned words that claimed 'Cybertron Science Academy'. To think he was here, of all places. His creators had been so proud...

Skyfire smiled as he hitched his bag over his shoulder and started up the stairs. The entrance was very ornate, tall statues of mechs who had reached scientific prowess lining the hallways as he moved through the throngs of other students milling about, following the signs towards the registration desk. It wasn't hard to find, but getting there was another matter. The hall was packed, everyone forming lines to tables that seemed to be sorting alphabetically. Picking the correct line, he resigned himself to a long wait, staring around at the other mechs. It didn't appear there were very many fliers here, to his disappointment. Most science-types were not fliers, granted, but he'd hoped at least there would be a few others. He turned and blinked, smiling as he saw a pair of wings only a few feet away. They seemed to be attached to a small flier, one who was leaning against the wall with a bored expression, staring down at a data pad in his hand. He was several mechs ahead of him, out of speaking range, but nonetheless it made him feel a bit more reassured that he wouldn't be the only flier. Granted, he was probably the largest flier, and largest mech for that matters, but he was used to that. Instead, he pulled out a data pad himself and began to read to pass the time. As he read, he listened to snippets of conversation around him.

"Can't believe how many are here.... and to think only a hundred graduate a year..."

"What do you suppose our schedules will be like? Will they stick us in fields we hate?"

"I heard a rumor that the Prime's son was attending this year!"

"No!"

"Yes!" Skyfire's audios perked a bit, curious despite himself. Off to the left a silver and blue mech was talking with a red one, though they were speaking quietly, a great many mechs seemed to be listening, including the other flier, Skyfire noticed. "I heard that he's a genius. Figures, being the Prime's son. I wonder if he got in on a favor or merit."

"What do you suppose he looks like? I've heard no one knows who he is, even his name... He's been kept so secret."

"Yet someone leaked that he's going to be here...?"

"I know. Makes you wonder. What if it's that big guy behind us? Sheesh, he's big enough to be the Prime's son." Optics turned in Skyfire's direction, and he had to focus on his data pad pretending to ignore them. Nonetheless, he did manage to catch an amused smirk playing about the other flier's lips and he risked a glance up, azure optics meeting his own with obvious amusement. He grinned back and received a small nod in response before the white and red flier glanced back down at his data pad. The conversations continued, but it seemed the rumors were growing wilder and more fantastic as the mechs tried to speculate who was the Prime's son. Skyfire wanted to laugh, and held himself back. If someone that important were truly here, then it was likely they didn't want to be found out.

It was an hour later that he finally reached the registration table and slid his data pad over which contained his registration confirmation. "Name?" The mech asked, not looking up.

"Skyfire."

"Right....Skyfire..." The mech scanned the database, typing his name in and nodded after a moment, plugged in the data pad and handed it back to him. "You're in section A-1, top floor. Your class schedule has been uploaded, and your meal ticket is loaded. If you have questions please go to the front desk. Next!"

He quickly moved off to allow the next mech in line to approach, glancing down at the data pad. Section A-1 was apparently the main tower dorm. He made his way to the lifts, apologizing profusely as he bumped a few heads with his wings trying to cram himself in the crowded lift. He was a little surprised when most of the other mechs got off at the lower levels, and he eventually was the last one left as the lift took him to the top floor. When finally the doors opened, he peered cautiously out into a very nice corridor padded with carpet, polished walls and bright lighting. Each door had a number stamped on it, and it didn't take him long to find A-1 at the end of the hall. He input the code and pushed the door open, stepping inside and nearly dropped his bag right then and there. A-1 was a very large apartment with a completely unobstructed view of the city spreading out on all sides, complete with a wide balcony. The windows were already opened, a slight breeze drifting in filling the room with the musty scent of the city.

To his surprise, though he had indeed expected a roommate, he hadn't expected that roommate to be the other flier he'd spotted earlier. Glancing up from where he was unloading his bag into the booths over the recharge berth on the right side of the room, he curiously peered at him, pausing in his action when Skyfire entered. "Um... hi." Skyfire managed, grinning awkwardly as he realized he probably looked like an idiot gawking there with his mouth open.

"Hi." Was the reply as the flier straightened, turning to face him. His optics were bright and curious, a smile pulling at his lips. "So it's the Prime's son, is it?"

Skyfire laughed. "Not exactly." He grinned awkwardly. "I have no idea where they got THAT idea."

"Probably your size." The flier remarked studying him with obvious curiosity. "Valkyrie class?"

"You got it." He grinned wider, relief flooding through him as he realized that there would be no question of getting along with someone who actually KNEW his alt form. "I'm Skyfire." He offered a hand, which was accepted by a smaller blue one.

"Starscream." Was the reply, the mech peering up at his new roommate who still managed to tower over him.

"You're a...." Skyfire squinted, trying to place the mech's form. It was smaller than his, more streamlined which meant it was made for speed... which was odd since most fliers were clunky and awkward except for... He blinked. "You're a Seeker." He said suddenly, recognizing that the size was right. A tight smile was his answer, wary blue optics watching him. "I've never met one. You must be from Vos then?"

"Actually no." Was the response, the mech sighing a bit as he shrugged. "I'm a city mech, sparked and raised. Been to Vos a few times to visit, but never stayed long."

Skyfire blinked. Vos was well known for being the home of the Seekers, mechs sparked and trained for the defense of Cybertron, not that they really needed it in this day and age with the war ages past. Still, he'd never heard of any Seekers living outside Vos, but he supposed Iacon was a large city, it could happen. "Well that's great. I'm so lost in this place... I feel like a glitch-mouse caught in a maze."

Starscream snorted and gave him an amused smirk. "Well, I'm not much better. My creators were a bit... protective. I didn't get out to explore the city much, still I suppose it's better than not knowing anything about it." He shrugged, then turned and began to finish unpacking. "So what's your specialty? Not many fliers get in here."

"Yeah, what are the odds that the two of us get put together?" Skyfire grinned as he dumped his bag on the berth, eyeing it warily. It was an oversized berth, but still a bit on the small size. He supposed it was only natural, as they were built uni-size.

"Fairly good actually." Starscream replied, throwing him a grin. "I heard that one other flier got in other than me and asked to be placed with him. Seeing as we're the only two, I guess no one had a problem with it."

"Wow. Nice!" Skyfire grinned glancing out the wide windows. "Still... top floor, great view, large dorm... you really must have put in a good word."

"I have some influence." Was the smug response as Starscream dumped a pile of data pads into a cubby and neatly straightened them.

"I'm glad you do." Skyfire replied, finishing unpacking the few scant belongings he'd brought. "I thought I'd never meet anyone I'd feel comfortable around. Most other mechs find me intimidating because of my size."

"I've been around big mechs all my life." Was the simple response. "Size never bothered me."

"Well thank goodness for that. Oh I never told you my specialty. It's biological life and organic studies mostly, though I do enjoy geology and life studies. I'd love nothing more than to go out exploring some of the worlds out there, you know? There is so much beyond Cybertron filled with things mechs never dream of!"

Starscream nodded, flopping down on the berth and kicking his pedes up against the wall casually. "Yeah... that would be a grand adventure to go see what else is out there. I've read some of the field studies, and we as a science community has barely scratched the surface of what's out there. You know, some mechs I've met claim that there IS no other form of life other than cybertronic, they don't even believe in biology!"

"Narrow-minded mechs." Skyfire agreed shaking his head. "A pity really, but they don't know what they're missing. So what is your focus?"

"Theoretical improbabilities, experimental technologies and programming." Was the prompt response. "Though I'm versed in all fields really, those are the three that really draw my interest."

"Very impressive." Skyfire remarked. "Those are difficult fields. How did you get into them?"

"I do a lot of reading." Starscream gestured with one hand towards the data pads lining the shelves. "I've also published a few designs in a few science journals."

Skyfire's jaw dropped. "You've published findings already? But you're so... er..."

Starscream glanced over at him, smirking. "Young? Yeah tell me about it. Nothing I haven't heard before. Like I said, I have connections."

"Wow. That must be nice."

"I suppose... It's all relative any-" They were interrupted as a sudden trill came from off to the side. Both of them glanced in that direction and saw the communications panel on the wall was blinking.

Starscream groaned. "Primus... I'm gone for ONE day. ONE. Can't they fragging leave me alone!?"

Skyfire grinned. "Protective creators?"

"Just a bit." Was the grumpy response as he moved off the berth with a sigh. "Would you mind..." he gestured towards his head, and it took Skyfire a moment to realize what he wanted.

"Oh yes, of course." He off lined his audio receptors and turned his back to the wall, busying himself with finishing arranging his belongings. It didn't take him too long, and a quick glance over his shoulder showed him Starscream was speaking emphatically with whoever it was on the other end of the transmission, throwing his hands up in frustration. Smiling, he lay down and busied himself with some reading until a light tap on his left wing drew his optics back up. He on lined his audios. "Finished?"

"Thankfully." Was the tired response. "I TOLD them to give me my space, but do they listen? No."

Skyfire laughed softly, sitting up. "They must be proud of you though for making it in here."

"Oh yes." Starscream agreed shrugging slightly. "Quite proud. And insufferably insecure that I'm not with them anymore." He glanced up at Skyfire. "Are yours as insufferably protective?"

"Oh they were as I grew up." Skyfire grinned. "But since both of them are large, and I take after them, they know I can take care of myself. They weren't happy that I was going this far away, but they understood at least."

"Bah! I should have gone and exchanged to Vos."

"They'd still be able to call you there." Skyfire pointed out, smiling.

"Ugh... good point. Well as long as they stay where they belong and don't visit... Primus I'd never live it down." Starscream groaned, smashing his face into the soft headrest at the end of the berth.

"You'll do fine. They'll learn to let you go." Skyfire smiled. "They're just worried about you."

"Uh huh."

Despite their different backgrounds, Skyfire soon found he and Starscream had many things in common. Both of them had led fairly restricted lives due to their makes, experienced some prejudice as a result, but didn't let it get to them. Both of them loved to read, loved to tinker and work until they exhausted themselves into recharge, and both were very passionate about their interests. Both of them didn't have any close friends or activities they were into outside their specialty, though Starscream did mention that he'd spent some time flying with two other Seekers that he'd befriended in Vos. The more surprising thing he uncovered about his roommate was that neither of his creators were a flier. Starscream went on to further explain that this was why he spent time with his friends in Vos, so he could learn to fly with those familiar with the nuances. "So, how is that even possible?" Skyfire asked curiously. "I mean, it's rare isn't it for a spark to not take after it's creators?"

"Very rare, but I'm not the first." Starscream agreed. "There are documentations of item-transformers being sparked from vehicle-transformers and the like. It's rare, but not impossible."

"But Seekers are sparked from Vector Sigma, aren't they?"

"Yeah." Starscream agreed, leaning on his elbow and watching Skyfire as they lounged in their respective berths, too worked up to sleep despite the fact tomorrow was the first day of classes. "There's a few Seekers that have sparked their own offspring, but most of them are still mass-produced." He lazily rolled onto his stomach, wings sprawled on either side of the berth with plenty of room to spare. "Both my creators were really surprised when I came around." He smirked. "They went through dozens of protoforms before finally picking a flier for me. Then they were both against me choosing to be a Seeker, but frankly the rest of the models were NOT to my taste." He snorted. "No offense."

"None taken." Skyfire smiled. "I may not have had a choice of what body I grew into, but I don't mind. I like mine."

"It fits you." Was the cheeky smirk.

Yes, things were off to a nice start.

The first week of classes was busy. Both of them were loaded up on so much homework that Skyfire began to wonder if the professors EVER expected them to be able to recharge. Starscream didn't seem to mind, but then from what Skyfire noticed the mech was incredibly intuitive and just sucked in every bit of information he could get. He was always the first to finish reading, the last to go to bed thanks to working on side projects. He did everything from programming schematics of some new toys to writing reports on findings he didn't think were accurate. Neither of them were very social, which suited them both fine as they got along quite well. By the time the first month had passed, Skyfire was feeling much more confidant that this was the right place for him.

That is, until he opened the lift to enter the top floor hallway and found himself face-to-face with an armed guard. Blinking in shock, he stared down at the mech who seemed equally as surprised to see his large bulk, and had to adjust his stance to better directly face him. "No admittance." The guard said firmly. "You'll have to return later."

"Uh..." Skyfire said, a bit unnerved. "I live on this floor, can't I just go to my room?"

"Which room is it?" The guard asked, pulling out a data pad and waiting.

"A-1"

The guard didn't even glance at the pad, but stared up at him warily. "You are....?"

"Skyfire."

The guard nodded and tapped the side of his head, silently relaying something. Skyfire had to wait uncomfortably in the lift, hoping no one summoned it down below before he had a chance to exit. After a moment though, Skyfire didn't have to wonder who he was talking to, as the door at the end of the hallway started to open. "What's wrong with letting me meet him? You speak of nothing else." A deep reverberating voice echoed through the corridor.

"BECAUSE you'll just pester him with endless interrogations!" Starscream's irritated voice could be heard saying. "I TOLD you not to come visit me! You're only across town, I could come back when /I/ feel like it!"

"I was in the neighborhood." Came an amused response and the door opened further. Skyfire could catch sight of a tall silver mech with his back to him. "Besides, your father tells me you haven't been returning his calls, so I figured I would remind you not to torture him so, it's unlike you."

"For Primus' sake..." Came the annoyed groan.

The mech turned, and it was in that moment Skyfire recognized him. It was impossible NOT to, as his face was plastered on any news bulletin to do with Cybertron's security and defense. His spark seized in shock as he realized why Starscream had been so tight-lipped about his creators. After all, he would be if his father was the Lord Protector. Skyfire nearly melted into the floor with the desire to vanish into the bulkhead as the silver mechs' bold crimson stare focused on him, fierce and intimidating as it was meant to be, frightening those who dared oppose him. "Ah, here he is. It seems the argument is moot, Little Star. Come." He smiled towards Skyfire and gestured for him to approach. "Introduce me."

Skyfire could see the mollified expression of his roommate as Starscream reluctantly slumped forward, wings drooping, fans cycling fast with embarrassment. He glanced up at Skyfire, giving him a tight smile before he casually gestured to the tall silver mech. "Skyfire, Megatron. Megatron, Skyfire."

"Pleasure to meet my son's roommate." The Lord Protector said, taking the shaking hand of the shuttle and shaking it firmly. Despite his height, Skyfire still stood nearly as tall as he did, but felt as small as Starscream as his hand was nearly crushed in the firm grip. "He's told us much about you. I trust you're both doing well in your studies then?" His crimson optics bore into Skyfire with a sudden scrutinizing intensity that made Skyfire want to squirm.

"Y...yes sir." he stammered nervously.

"Good. I'm counting on you to keep him out of trouble." Was the firm response. Skyfire saw Starscream cringe out the corner of his optics. "He has the tendency to act with his spark and not his head when he gets worked up. I'm pleased that he has such a rational mech as yourself to depend on."

"Y...yes sir."

"Well." The Lord Protector released his hold on Skyfire's hand, leaving him to rub it in order to restore feeling to the limb. "I had best be going. Work to do, after all. Oh, and your father said if you don't reply to his calls he's going to come down here himself."

"But he PROMISED!" Starscream gasped, alarmed. "It'd cause panic! I'd never live it down!"

"Then give him a call, fool." Was the amused reply. "Avoid the situation, if I were you. Skyfire, good to meet you. Keep Star out of trouble." with a curt nod, the Lord Protector made his way down the hallway, the mechs that had been standing guard around him followed him out, leaving the two alone in the hallway, save a few curious optics that peered out of cautiously opening doors to watch the commotion.

Starscream groaned. "I'm fragged." He muttered, grabbing Skyfire's elbow and practically dragging him back into their room. "He just CAN'T leave me well enough alone. Gah!" He slammed the door and put his fist into it with a loud 'bang'.

Skyfire sat down on his bunk, feeling suddenly shaky. "Primus, Star... your creator is the Lord Protector?" Starscream glanced over at him wearily as his brain suddenly seized. If the Lord Protector was his creator.... His vents hitched. "Oh my."

Starscream was at his side in an instant, leaning forward. "You won't say anything to anyone will you?" He begged, optics wide with alarm. "I came here and asked them to stay OUT because I don't want everyone KNOWING." He groaned, his head sinking onto Skyfire's shoulder with a dull thunk. "But since when does HE ever respect my privacy anyway. He does whatever the frag he wants, and he KNOWS it irks me."

Skyfire glanced down at his roommate, his spark still beating rapidly inside it's chamber as he stared at the annoyed face of the Seeker. "I... um... guess I'd be feeling the same thing if I were in your place."

Starscream snorted. "Of course you would. Only idiots want to be mobbed and worshipped by aft-kissers wanting to get on the Prime's good side." He sighed, leaning back on Skyfire's berth, expression sulky. "I'm here because I want to prove that I can do this without the influence of who sparked me." He glanced over at Skyfire, optics pleading. "You can understand that, right?"

Suddenly Skyfire smiled. "Yes, I do." He said firmly, glancing over at the smaller flier slumped on his berth. "I understand completely. But I don't think you need to prove anything, I've seen your work, I see how hard you work every day. You're naturally skilled, you didn't just get in here because of your birthright."

"Tell that to them." He waved a tired hand out towards the windows, and Skyfire had no doubt that he meant the rest of the students and everyone else who might be curious.

"I won't." Skyfire said smiling gently. "I know why you want to keep this to yourself. I just... Primus, Star... it's incredible to me. I'm sure you hear that from a lot of mechs...."

Starscream snorted and turned his head towards Skyfire, grinning. "Actually, not as many as you'd think. I don't get out much." His expression turned rather sulky. "You have NO idea how miserable it is." He sighed. "I'm not allowed to just go out for a fly, even go to a shopping center without having a big hulking mech toting guns following me around in the shadows. I can't go anywhere without asking permission first, and then they have to make sure they have mechs in strategic positions so that if something DOES go wrong, they can control the situation and get me OUT quickly." He groaned. "I hate it."

"Wow, I guess I never considered that." Skyfire said quietly. It made sense, after all NO one knew who the Prime's son and only heir was. Everyone knew that there WAS one, but even he hadn't known, and to his knowledge no one knew, what the mech's alt form was. Of course, now he knew. His optics scanned over Starscream curiously. This small unassuming Seeker definitely hadn't been what he'd thought the Prime's heir would look like. Firstly, both the Prime and the Lord Protector were not tiny mechs by any degree. The Prime towered above most ordinary mechs, his tall frame easily identifiable not only for it's presence, but for the bold colors and intimidating presence. The Lord Protector was even worse, all silver and sharp angles, the kind of mech you would NEVER wish to meet in a back ally. Both of them were large and neither of them were fliers. Yet here was a Seeker, the very semblance of everything that wasn't high politics and nobility, a mech designed for combat and battle, sparked for one purpose, to fly and fight. That was what the entire Seeker line was supposed to be for. It was ironic therefore that the choice Starscream's spark had made was this choice for him, choosing something that wasn't socially acceptable to be, something that many mechs mocked as a result. In fact, he'd heard a few jibs thrown Starscream's way during their time here, and the Seeker had just ignored them, not seeming to care about the degrading things shouted his way. But Skyfire wondered if he really was able to handle it after being sheltered all his life in this manner. He decided to ask.

Starscream blinked at him and actually laughed. "You're joking right?" Skyfire blinked. "It's refreshing!" He grinned over at the larger flier with amusement sparkling in his optics. "The thing I hate most is aft-kissers. I grew up around them, everyone treating me like I'm some kind of doll waiting to be broken." He snorted. "Which is completely ridiculous and ironic if you think about it." At Skyfire's blank look he simply shook his head. "I'm perfectly capable of handling myself." He said firmly. "Megatron saw to that, he trained me in every battle tactic he could since I was old enough to ignite my thrusters. The same goes for Optimus." Skyfire felt a thrill go through his spark hearing Starscream speak so casually about the ruler of their people. "He taught me everything about politics and managing people until I nearly went blue in the face." He snorted. "So those idiots who think they're bigger than me, it's fun to listen to them think they're superior just because they're made to be a different model than me." He grinned up at him. "'Cause I could take them any day of the week."

"I'd love to see that some time." Skyfire laughed cheerfully. "I wondered how it was you could just ignore them. I've dealt with mechs making fun of me due to my size, but they usually keep their distance and congregate in groups since they know tangling with someone as big as me usually isn't a good idea, despite the fact I've never hit anyone in my life."

"Hmmm yes I could tell." Starscream smirked up at him with an amused grin. "You carry yourself like someone who's never had to fight."

"What can I say, I'm a pacifist."

"That's' not a bad thing." Starscream agreed. "I hate it myself, but not like I had a choice. They wanted to make sure that I was 'prepared for anything'. Still doesn't mean I LIKE our little training sessions." He shrugged. "But I suppose one day it might be useful."

Skyfire smiled. "Well I suppose I don't have to worry about whether I should watch your back for your creator."

He laughed shortly. "Trust me, he's far more overprotective than he needs to be. He trained me well, if I ever GOT into trouble with you nearby, I'd say you should hunker down and just duck."

Skyfire wasn't about to put that theory to the test, but it did help him understand his roommate a little more. Every time someone shouted something negative in the hallways about how a Seeker didn't deserve to be here, how fliers were meant for stupid brainless work, how it had to be a mistake that had gotten Starscream into the science academy. Each and every time, Skyfire saw a small smile of satisfaction pulling at the seeker's lips, and now he knew why. Because despite the negative comments, the jeers and jibes, the flier knew he was above all of that. He knew that it was just steam and no action, he knew that had he to prove his worth, he could. It was very inspiring, and all without a single word being said. Perhaps that was the truth of being a future leader, one didn't have to prove anything to anyone if they were confidant in their abilities. However, Skyfire still felt the fire and passion of Starscream's need to prove himself through his mind. He had a brilliant mind, hands down. Skyfire had NEVER met another mech who knew so much about every aspect of science. Starscream worked on experiments, documents, theories, plans and schematics non-stop. When he had free time, he was always reading or studying. The results on his test scores were always top of the class with no exceptions. The professors were always impressed, where at first they had been surprised to see such scores coming from a Seeker, and had done some prying to ensure he wasn't cheating, even going so far as to question Skyfire to find out his study habits. But once it became clear that there was no possible way Starscream could be cheating shy of reading minds, things really began to change. The professors started asking him questions genuinely wanting to know his thoughts, asking him to help them solve problems and volunteer in special projects. Skyfire was always there with him, as Starscream's thirst for learning was contagious, and while he never would claim to be anywhere on the same level, his own knowledge and learning spiked incredibly, drawn in by the intelligent conversations and discussions they had. Therefore, the two of them became fast friends, regardless of his knowledge of Starscream's origins. It didn't come up again in any of their discussions, and he felt no need to broach the topic further. There were times where Starscream's practical knowledge of simple things like riding the train or geography outside of Iacon did raise it's head, but for the most part it was easy to focus on the reason they had been brought there in the first place, to learn science.

Therefore when one day he saw a posting for volunteers for an exploratory mission during a hiatus in study, he snagged a flier and brought it up to their dorm to show his roommate. The moment Starscream read it, his optics began to glow. "This is a wonderful opportunity. Just imagine what we could find!"

"So you think we should apply?"

Starscream studied the manifest, his smile fading a little as he got down to the rules. "I can't do it." he said finally, voice grim.

"What? Why not?"

"If you're an undergraduate you need creator consent." He said dully, tossing the flier to the side. "And there is no way in the Pit that mine would ever give theirs."

Skyfire's smile faded. "Really? You think they wouldn't let you leave Cybertron at all?"

"No chance." Starscream grimaced. "Not in this life, nor the next."

"Even if they sent along someone to watch over you?" He asked, frowning. "Didn't they allow that before?"

"Sure, around Iacon. But I've never left the city without a private escort, I seriously doubt they'd let me just go off into the stars with only the two of us and an endless field of research."

"Well you won't know unless you ask. This IS a school function."

Starscream frowned, tapping his fingers on the wall for a moment as he considered that. "I suppose." he said reluctantly at last. "But I'm not too optimistic." He sighed and walked over to the wall to place a call. Skyfire watched, not wanting to interrupt as he contacted one of his creators, but curious at the same time. After a moment the screen lit up and a mech spoke on the other end. "Is he in?" There was a garbled response before the hold screen went up and Starscream tapped his fingers impatiently on the console while he waited. It seemed to be an exorbant amount of time, but finally the screen flickered on with the same mech's face who gave him a response. The screen flickered again, and then the familiar face of the Lord Protector appeared, his voice booming and loud.

"Well well, finally calling are we? What couldn't wait?"

"There's an opportunity for field work that we've been given." Starscream replied, his wings twitching a little, betraying his nervousness. "I want to go on it."

"Where is it?"

"Um..." Starscream shifted on his pedes. "Out... there." He gestured vaguely.

Skyfire could see the Lord Protector's optics narrow. "Off world?"

"Yeah..."

There was a loud snort, followed by laughter. In that moment, Skyfire knew Starscream had been right. There was no way he was going. The conversation didn't last much longer. "Good try, Little Star. No." The communication ended, leaving Starscream seething in silence.

"Fragger." He growled sourly, grasping his fist tightly, for a moment looking as if he might plunge it into the console before him. "Why do I even bother?" He sighed suddenly, wings slumping as he glanced over at Skyfire. "You should still go. It'd be a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Skyfire frowned. To be truthful, he was tempted. The expedition was exactly the sort of thing he wanted to do in his life. On the other hand though, going with a strange unknown mech, or solo, wasn't very appealing. With a warm smile, he walked over and squeezed Starscream's shoulder. "There'll be another time. Don't worry about it."

How sad that statement was just about as far from the truth as one could get.