He was a scientist by nature, once, but that was long, long ago. So long ago. But before he knew of science he knew of flight—any Cybertronian with wings did. The feel of the solar winds underneath your wings, the sun beating down upon you as you dipped and dived—there was nothing like it, nothing that could make you feel so calm, and free, and oh so powerful. And he once questioned it, why he was given this capability when he performed science as a trade. But that was many vorns ago, before Cybertron became a target for enemies—before he was ordered to work in the military sector under Lord High Protector Megatron. Now—now he was here, training to become something else—training to become a weapon.
To say Starscream was anxious was an understatement. As he stood motionless in the large battalion of those capable of aerodynamics, awaiting his first inspection—to be chosen, he corrected himself—his fingers twitched. Such discipline. It was difficult. He knew little to nothing about what the High Protector was like except that he was fierce, strict, and accepted no failure. Such a switch from Optimus, who had headed the science sector for Primus knows how long, who let him work at his own pace, perform personal experiments on the side, and supervised his subordinates with a firm but gentle hand.
Is this why I was built? he asked himself. As a precautionary measure when peace was no longer an option for Cybertron?
Who was he to say? No one really knew the motives behind their creators—slag, no one knew anything about them. One day, you onlined and just…were.
The sharp movement of the battalion snapping into a salute jolted him suddenly out of his musings, and he hastened to correct himself, to blend in, hoping his fault would go unnoticed. He was not meant to be a solider. How could he be? He had never even once activated his weapons—had never once had a need to.
Starscream's first glimpse of Cybertron's High Protector was small, only out of the side of his optics, but he still couldn't help but marvel at the stark differences between the High Protector and his former supervisor. It was common knowledge that Megatron was Optimus' brother, but whereas Optimus' frame was smooth and rounded off, almost harmless-looking, the High Protector was all coarse lines and sharp corners, dangerous and powerful. Even the most steadfast of the battalion seemed to cower under his gaze as he inspected each mech from head to toe, though it seemed to be more of a cursory once-over, almost like they weren't worth his time.
His hand twitched ever so slightly again as the mech stopped in front of him, not daring to drop his salute—after all, none of the others did.
The High Protector gave the cursory once-over like he did the rest before cocking his head in what might have been slight confusion or consideration before issuing Starscream's first order, so quiet that his audile sensors barely processed it.
The scientist brought his arm down in a sharp snap, partly from training, partly from the sheer power oozing from the other's voice.
Megatron began the inspection again, more thoroughly this time, looking over each specific part of Starscream's frame before grabbing him roughly by his clavicle armor and jerking him around so that the by-now traumatized jet faced the mech behind him, who looked equally as frightened. He wondered why the High Protector hadn't just asked him to execute an about-face, but immediately berated himself, for the answer was excruciatingly simple. Megatron was at a high enough rank that he didn't need to ask. There was no one above him, as far as Starscream knew, so who was he to answer to for his actions?
He suppressed a grunt of discomfort as he felt a large hand inspect one of his alt-mode's engines. He had gone through some intense flying sessions with the battalion in the last few deca-cycles with only very little recharge time, causing slight overheating that he was not used to. It wasn't that the feeling was uncomfortable, per say, but more that he was not accustomed to the sensation. Built for flight or not, there was only so much one could handle at one time.
"You are literally a walking weapon…" his new commander muttered, and Starscream wasn't sure if he was speaking to him personally or to himself. Perhaps it would be better if he did not ask.
Suddenly, the same hand spun him around again violently and jerked him upright so his feet dangled slightly off the ground.
"Designation?" Megatron demanded, his voice holding a rather forceful bite this time.
"Starscream," he replied immediately. Had he done something wrong—something to upset his superior? "Designation number 001-6593-4079."
"Scientific and experimental studies."
"Not good enough!"
Starscream suddenly found himself knocked to the ground and a foot planted on his chassis, impeding his movement.
"You were built for speed, battle—war—and yet you work under Optimus? How pathetic."
He wasn't quite sure what happened next—what caused him to say what he did—but his vocal processors pushed the words past his labial plating before he could stop himself: "Go get smelted. I do what I am told to do, whether I was originally built for that purpose or not."
The foot pressed harder against his chassis—almost as if trying to crush the spark casing that was held inside—before he suddenly felt it easing off and that same silver hand lifting him up by the wrist, though not forcefully this time, and setting him back on his feet.
"And that is what makes you a warrior."
The briefing room was tiny, perhaps only fitting about five large Cybertronians—maybe a sixth if you were really intent on getting him in there—and yet to Starscream, it felt much bigger than it really was. Surely he was not the only one that the High Protector had chosen. After all, there was nothing special about his build design, was there? Starscream could not deny that being among the first chosen—to be considered worthy enough—was quite the boost to his ego. Maybe he really was better than the rest. There was competition in the science sector, to be sure, but it was all very toned down. What one did better, you made new discoveries from later. Here, instead, competition was all that there was. If you were not better than everyone else, termination was imminent in battle.
It seemed he had been waiting in that room for vorns, even though his processor told him it had only been a few joors, staring at the startlingly blank walls, when the door slid open, and he glanced up, almost hesitantly.
A light blue jet—whom Starscream recognized as Thundercracker, an occasional flight mate—who seemed just as haggard from the day's events as he, stumbled in, looking rather worse for the wear, dropping down on the berth in the other corner of the room.
"Took a beating, did you?" Starscream chuckled, resting the side of his facial plating in his hand, looking rather amused.
The other jet just grunted his assent.
"You have no idea how lucky you are," Thundercracker said, almost begrudgingly. "After your inspection, it became near impossible to reach Lord High Protector Megatron's expectations. Unfortunately, not all of us are built for both speed and power like you are."
Starscream cycled his vents in a snort of disgust.
"Now you are just making excuses. There is no difference between you and I."
"Then you are deceiving yourself," the other jet retorted. "You have no idea how you look in the air." He flexed a hand. "If it weren't for my sonics, I would have been beaten to a pile of slag and taken for disposal."
"And Skyfire? Has he been inspected yet?"
"Mech's scared out of his processors. Barely got a glance out of the High Protector, fortunately for him."
Starscream sagged, half in relief, half in disappointment. The fellow scientists were fast friends, but it was really not so surprising that his inspection ended the way it did. The mech was the compassionate sort, totally absorbed in his studies, definitely not cut out for battle—may never well be. At least Skyfire could stick to what he was best at.
"How many were chosen after you?" he asked.
"Skywarp was, but he's in the med bay right now. Lord Megatron did quite a number on him. He must have offlined at least twice during 'inspection'."
Again, Starscream flinched. He didn't know Skywarp personally, but to be beaten to the point where your own ocular senses shut down of their own accord—twice—was a brutal attack. Apparently, the powers of the High Protector were not exaggerated. Then again, he had no comparison for strength, not even against his own.
"And what does injuring your own subordinates prove?" he asked.
"I would say power, but the High Protector certainly has nothing he needs to prove to us in that category, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was to test our durability and stamina. At least three others offlined and never came back on again, even after the med team dragged them away. Ratchet's probably got his hands full right now."
"And the others?"
"What about them?"
"Surely Megatron doesn't expect Cybertron's air forces to be made up of only three mechs."
"We were just first picks, considered skilled enough." Thundercracker straightened, almost as if letting the other jet know that he was not the only one chosen by the High Protector. "Though when I was told to leave the recruit battalion, Megatron was only about half done. There will be more of us yet, I think. Ironhide's choosing the secondary forces. The others, I suppose, will be sent back to their former posts."
Ironhide. He checked in with Optimus every so often, just to see what was going on in the science sector, but Starscream had only seen him very rarely on these occasions. He was the commander of the ground forces, and was one of Cybertron's fiercest warriors. It was what he was built to do. Nothing more, nothing less.
Is that my real directive? Starscream wondered once more. Am I just a…backup plan? He grit his dental plates together. No! I refuse to believe that is my primary function! It is possible to be built for two different functions, isn't it?
Noticing Starscream's rather brooding silence, Thundercracker smirked.
"Surely you are not jealous of those who will return to Optimus' task force?"
"It is…complicated," Starscream mused, though it seemed more to himself than to the other jet. "This wasn't something I had planned for."
"You cannot plan everything, Starscream," Thundercracker pointed out wryly, his mouth twitching upward in an involuntary smirk, "no matter how much that scientific processor of yours thinks it can."
"I know that!" the other snapped, lashing out at him with a hand in a frustrated gesture, even though the mech was on the other side of the room. "I am not the idiot you think I am!"
Thundercracker looked like he was about to retort, just to see how far he could push Starscream, but was interrupted by the door sliding open once more, admitting another figure, though his stature was small.
"And here I thought that a former scientist could keep his vocal processors quiet when others are working," the smaller mech said, crossing his arms and leaning against the doorjamb. "Shows what I know." His tone was mocking, sarcastic.
Starscream's optics narrowed.
"And what exactly are you doing here, Barricade?"
It was no secret in the science sector that the two mechs did not quite get along, despite the stark contrast in size difference. Barricade's snide remarks could more than make up for his small height.
Barricade spread his hands.
"My job. I was transferred to Megatron's task force barely a deca-cycle ago. Intelligence infiltration in the military sector does not differ much from that in the scientific one. But then again, that's not what you're here for, I presume?"
"Then you presume correctly," Starscream hissed. "Though shouldn't you be doing whatever you were assigned to do instead of getting on my wiring?"
The smaller 'bot chuckled.
"Finished early. Can't help that I'm good at what I do, not that'd you know anything about that, would you?"
"Go and slag yourself."
"Mm, and you're vocabulary is just as impressive as your skills, apparently."
Starscream bit back a retort, as he heard a rougher, deeper voice coming from down the hall.
"Barricade! I certainly do hope that you are not bothering Megatron's aerial force recruits."
The intelligence officer looked up at the larger autobot that was frowning down upon him, nonplussed.
"Oh, is that what they're here for?" he replied, feigning innocence. "And here I thought they were rejects headed for the smelter."
Both jets in the room snarled at his comment.
Again, he chuckled.
"All right, Captain Ironhide. If you insist that Ratchet needs that much help in the repair bay, which you are, of course, implying, then I will do what needs to be done. Just don't be surprised if those two terminate themselves from their lovely spark-to-spark talks that practically ooze through the walls."
Ironhide stood there, watching the mech leave until he rounded the corner of the hall before turning to address the two rather irritated jets, who both tried tempering their glares at him, with little success.
"You two slaggers have aerial training at 0700 joors tomorrow. And you, you failure of a warrior, have basic artillery training with me at 0500 joors, since you have not once activated your weapons." At this, Thundercracker gave Starscream a triumphant grin as Ironhide subsequently pointed a large finger to the bronze-colored jet. "Do not make me wait. It is a waste of my time already, as it is."
Just watch me, Starscream mentally snarled. Just you wait and see. Just watch…
Author's Note: A small plot bunny combining the '07 movie-verse backstory with G1-like elements. I personally think it's not strong enough for my other profile, so I finally posted something back up here. Starscream isn't the arrogant, cocky 'bot that we all know and love yet, but he'll get there, I promise. Barricade's fun to write.