Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers, and make no profit from the writing/posting of this story. It's all in good fun.

A/N: So, here it is, my first attempt at posting a TF fanfic here. I figured it was time to suck up the inferiority complex and just go for it. Hope you enjoy.

Summary: A failed attempt on Megatron's life condemns Starscream to be terminated. When his trine is tasked with retrieving his body, they are surprised to find him still online. Is it a failure on Megatron's part...or something else?

***

Starscream, Air Commander of the Decepticon army, walked briskly down the corridor towards his private quarters. His fists were clenched at his sides, his faceplates fixed into an ugly grimace, every step accompanied by the low hum of his turbines. Anger radiated from his chassis, effectively clearing the halls long before he got there. Starscream's hair-trigger temper was legendary among the lower ranks. And a hit from his primary weapons, the null-rays he himself had invented a long time ago, was nothing to laugh about. Few mechs found humor in the complete deactivation of their physical and mental functions. Though, depending on the mech involved, their comrades certainly could.

He finally reached his quarters and roughly punched in the keycode.

"Starscream!"

Starscream flinched at the deep, raspy voice that had shouted his name. His first instinct was to ignore it; he was exhausted, and he still had plenty to do before he could recharge. But he knew from experience that there was no avoiding the confrontation that was coming. Slowly, he turned to face the silver-armored mech storming down the corridor towards him. If Starscream had been enough to clear the halls of wandering Decepticons, this new arrival had them fleeing the entire sector. Such was the power of Megatron, leader of the Decepticons.

"Yes, my lord?" Starscream said, tone dripping with disdain.

"I thought I ordered you to remain in the command center," Megatron growled at him, crossing his arms and making sure that the massive fusion cannon mounted to his right arm was in plain sight. As the cannon was roughly the size of his arm anyway, this wasn't a difficult task.

"You thought wrong," Starscream retorted. "I didn't hear you 'order' me to do anything. You really ought to learn the difference between an order and a suggestion. Not all of us are so terrified of you as to do whatever you suggest."

Megatron scowled, and for a moment, looked like he would quite like to hit his second-in-command. "Your insubordination grows tiresome, Starscream," he said.

"As does your incompetence," Starscream shot back, his shrill voice rising in pitch as he closed the gap between them. There was a very real possibility of getting physically hurt, he knew that, but he wasn't about to let the tyrant intimidate him.

"Oh?" Megatron said in a warning tone. "Would you care to elaborate?"

"My Seekers had that mission!" Starscream snapped. "We would have taken out that convoy if you hadn't barged in trying to steal the glory!" He prodded Megatron in the chest with a finger.

Megatron's optics flashed in anger at being reminded of the failed mission. "You and I obviously share a very different definition of competence, Starscream," Megatron snapped, unfolding his arms to slap Starscream's hand away.

"That's the first smart thing you've said since the mission," Starscream hissed. His reward was a sharp backhand to the face, with enough force to knock him back a few steps. He glowered at the commander even as he raised a hand to check for damage.

"Aw, did I hurt you?" Megatron leered, every word coated in false concern.

Starscream instinctively stepped back as Megatron advanced on him. "Frag off," he said. "You've got plenty of mindless grunts at your disposal, go lord your authority over them. You're only making yourself look weak to me."

Megatron grabbed him by the neck then, his rough grip threatening to crush the sensitive wires and cables. "How's this for weak?" he snarled. "Get this straight. You may be my second-in-command. But you are still my subordinate, and I refuse to tolerate your belligerence. Consider this your last warning, Starscream. One more time, and I'll have you deactivated. Violently." He let go, watching impassively as Starscream stumbled back against the wall. "You're working a double-shift to make up for this little outburst. Don't get too comfortable."

Starscream, struggling to relieve the pressure on the critical wires in his neck, could only sputter and glare as the tyrant stormed away. Dozens of insults ran through his core processor, but by the time he regained the ability to vocalize them, Megatron was gone. "Slagger," he spat, once again punching in the keycode to his private quarters.

Though his status as second-in-command afforded him one of the largest quarters on the base, Starscream kept it sparsely furnished. The most prominent feature of the room was a small laboratory set up in the far corner. Starscream's specialities were best described as eclectic. Not only was he the single best aerial tactician and warrior in the Decepticon army - a skill envied by many, including, Starscream suspected, the commander himself - he also had a background in the sciences and deep-space exploration. Most of the time, the only advantage this gave him was the ability to insult Megatron in languages the warlord wasn't fluent in. There was, however, the odd occasion when this training would prove to be more...advantageous.

There was a buzz at his door, and he activated the comm link.

"It's Thundercracker," a deep voice filtered through.

Starscream released the lock on the doors, and walked towards his repair berth. He didn't bother to turn on the lights, using his infrared vision to make his way. He perched on the edge of the berth, crossing his long legs, waving one sleek blue foot in the air. "It's about time," he said.

"Well, excuse us," a higher-pitched voice snapped in reply. "We only had to cross the entire fragging base and sneak unauthorized into one of the most secure sectors. You're lucky we didn't just tell you to frag off!" The owner of the voice, another Seeker named Skywarp, hit the lights and dropped into the chair behind Starscream's desk with a huff.

Starscream didn't even wince at the sudden brightness. He had already anticipated that one of them would turn the lights on, and he had adjusted his optical sensors accordingly. He passed a scrutinizing gaze over his two trine-mates, both Seekers identical to him in every way but their colour schemes. As with most things Starscream involved himself in, his colouring was the most striking, bordering on garish.

The silence was too much. Starscream hopped off of the berth, holding out one sky-blue hand as he approached Thundercracker. "Well?" he said expectantly. "Did you get it?"

Thundercracker shifted on his feet, glancing worriedly at Skywarp, but finally produced a small glass vial.

Starscream felt a smile threaten to dislodge his damaged jaw hydraulics. "Excellent," he said. "I knew I could count on you, Thundercracker." He took the vial and held it up to the light, his cooling fans kicking in as he realized what the clear liquid inside actually was.

Thundercracker looked at Skywarp again. "Okay, 'Warp and I did our part," he said. "We want out of this."

Starscream, still fascinated with the contents of the vial and what they meant, had to do a double-take. "Out?" he repeated. "You're kidding me, TC, right?"

Thundercracker shook his head, holding up his hands in a defensive gesture. "This is crazy, what you've got in mind, Starscream," he said. "Even if you manage to kill him..."

Starscream felt a flash of rage surge through him. "What do you mean, 'if' I manage?" he snapped, marching over to stand toe-to-toe with Thundercracker, until their faces almost touched. "There is no 'if' in this. This army is suffering under the rule of that outdated, incompetent pile of scrap." He took a step back and straightened up. "Megatron will die, and I will be waiting to take his place as leader of the Decepticons."

Hearing himself speak the words sent a shiver through Starscream's frame. There was once a time when he had idolized the Decepticon leader. He had once kneeled at the tyrant's feet just like everyone else. But from his position at Megatron's right hand, Starscream saw things that the other Decepticons never did. He saw a leader struggling with the demands of his position. He saw a leader desperate to disguise his own failures in whatever way he could: most of the time by passing the blame to whatever subordinate happened to be closest at the time. No. He didn't see a leader anymore, just an weak old glitch that needed to be eliminated for the sake of the Decepticon cause.

"And what makes you think the 'Cons will take you seriously as a leader?" Skywarp spoke up. "The only way you're gonna earn everyone's respect is to defeat him in a one-on-one challenge."

"There's more than one way," Starscream said, turning on a thruster-heel and crossing his quarters to his lab. He didn't really mind the indifference towards his past life that the other Decepticons displayed; in fact, in this case, he was counting on it. "It doesn't matter how I destroy Megatron, only that I will. The others will come to understand that soon enough."

The two Seekers watched as their trine leader carefully studied the vial of liquid. He waited for a moment, fingers tapping impatiently against the desk, until data began to scroll across the vidscreen. "Amazing," he said. "I didn't think you'd be able to get your hands on a sample this pure." He carefully disposed of the test sample.

"What is it?" Skywarp spoke up, before a sharp glare from Thundercracker had him realizing that he probably didn't want to know. When it came to Starscream's ambitions, ignorance was bliss.

But that didn't mean that Starscream wasn't going to tell them. They might run to Megatron and confess if not for the fear of being labelled accomplices. "To us, it's a potent poison," he said. "Undetectable to the sensors. By the time the old fool realizes I've dosed him with it, it'll be too late. He should have just enough energy to declare me the new leader of the Decepticons before he goes offline."

Thundercracker and Skywarp shared another glance at their fellow Seeker's declaration. Starscream had always been the most ambitious member of their trine. That ambition, in part, had helped him climb the ranks of the Decepticons to the comfortable position of Megatron's second-in-command. Secretly, the two of them weren't sure Megatron had made the best choice; the promotion seemed to have awakened an unstable, ruthless side of Starscream, never content with what he had, always striving for more.

Starscream knew that look. "You think I'm crazy, don't you?" he said.

"Crazy doesn't cut it," Skywarp said stubbornly. "You've completely fried a processor."

Starscream raised one optic ridge as he turned his attention to Thundercracker. He knew he already had his trine-mate under his spell. Thundercracker had never been certain of the Decepticon cause in the first place, especially when it came to Megatron's reliance on brute force and mass destruction. If, maybe, there was a way to achieve their goals through more stealthy and guileful tactics, Thundercracker's uncertainties might ease. And of course, there was the trine loyalty; Starscream knew that both of his trine-mates would be more than glad to see one of their own take over as leader. Even if it was only for the boost in status it would earn them.

"Fine," Thundercracker said. "But if you get caught, 'Warp and I had no part in this."

"I wouldn't dream of implicating you," Starscream said, following as they walked to the door. "Just remember to keep away from Soundwave. I can trick that lousy telepath. You can't."

"Whatever," Skywarp said, hitting the switch to open the door. "C'mon, TC, we might be able to sneak out while security changes shift."

Thundercracker saw him out, then turned to Starscream. "I hope you know what you're doing," he said. "If Megatron survives and finds out you were behind the attempt on his life, you're gonna lose yours."

Starscream answered with a cocky smile, and the others wondered if he was capable of any other kind. "Oh, I doubt that," he said.

***

Thanks for reading! Next part coming up soon.