Author's Note: I love Seekers and Coneheads, and I love Screamer and the Command Trine!
Disclaimer: No robots in disguise belong to me, which fragging SUCKS ENERGON. OK, seriously, Transformers belongs to Hasbro and Takara.
True to his name, Starscream shouted the single word and his voice caromed around the walls of his leader's private quarters. Megatron, to his credit, allowed the disrespectful outburst without even powering up his fusion cannon. It was one thing to openly plot treachery when in battle. It was something quite different to shriek like a spoiled sparkling in the private quarters of the supreme leader of the Decepticons.
"I'm sorry, Starscream. Did I give you the impression that you had a choice in the matter?" Megatron stared hard at his SIC. "You will do as I command and thank Primus that I've extended you the courtesy of telling your Trine-mates the news yourself!"
Starscream was about to raise his voice again with a word a lot stronger than "no," but he cooled his processor and tried to think. Thundercracker often said that in his sparring matches with Megatron, his main flaw was that he never thought through the point he wanted to make before just letting loose like an overturned cannister of energon. Starscream responded to that "friendly" advice with a "friendly" nudge with his null rays, but he recalled his wing-mate's words now. This was serious. This would require finesse. This would require thought. This would require … kissing Megatron's aft.
Starscream's optics glowed malevolently. To hell with thinking – yelling was much better.
"Do you have a single working circuit in that empty head of yours, Megatron? Do you understand what you are proposing? Trine-mates are never severed except for offlining. It is a relationship forged as sparklings that endures. You are not a Seeker. I do not expect you to understand the intricacies!" He glared hard at his leader. "But as a Decepticon with thousands of vorns as a soldier, surely you know what foolishness it is to sever any Trine, let alone your Command Trine!"
Megatron was silent, which unnerved Starscream. He gave another pointed glance at his leader's arm. Yes, the plasma cannon was still powered down. Feeling a bit uneasy, he continued: "The Secondary Trine is secondary for a reason! They are reserves and support our airstrikes! If any of them had what it took to be in a Command Trine then they would have been mustered into one long ago! I see no reason to dismantle my Trine in order to accommodate some Primus-forsaken whim of Ramjet's!"
Megatron still said nothing and Starscream could feel beads of coolant collecting on his lip. He should have known something was amiss when Megatron had summoned him to his private quarters just before recharge. Starscream wondered if the Decepticon lord had planned to offline him while the rest of the troops were cycling peacefully. Perhaps, but that still didn't explain his bizarre and insulting request. Starscream didn't enjoy the silence, but he knew that if he so much as twitched his wings, he'd get a blast right in the transistors from Megatron's cannon.
The leader finally walked over to a panel, never taking his optics off Starscream. "Megatron to Soundwave. Report to my private quarters immediately."
Starscream gulped and felt his spark pulse painfully in his chassis. It was late, he was in Megatron's private quarters and now Soundwave was being summoned? This … didn't bode well.
The door opened so quickly that Starscream wondered if the Communications Officer had been standing right outside.
"Reporting as ordered: mighty Megatron," the dark-blue mech intoned. Megatron gestured for him to stand next to Starscream and the Seeker felt his spark pulsing hard enough to dent his chestplates. He shot a sideways look at Soundwave, but the stoic mech was staring straight ahead, waiting for orders. Megatron sat on the edge of his berth before giving Soundwave his complete attention.
"Soundwave, play back 'Nemesis ambient sounds and surveillance' of this date.'"
Soundwave barely nodded. "Playback: commencing."
There was a soft squeal and then disjointed sounds of Decepticons stomping around the downed ship, faint sounds of the commlink, and then, voices that were low and garbled at first but then became clearer and more distinct.
"It's my fault – I caused it all. I nearly got one of the Elites destroyed! And by a slagging Autobot!"
Starscream frowned. He'd recognize Ramjet's voice anywhere, but what was he talking about? And, more important, who was he talking to?
"Aw, c'mon. No, you didn't dive as well as me – nobody can though – but nobody really blames ya, Ram." That was the idiot boaster Thrust. "Cool down and have some high grade. It'll mellow out your transistors a little."
"No, don't you get it? I'm not fit to fly. Because of me, Thundercracker nearly offlined! I was supposed to have his aft, but I got crossed up by slagging Powerglide of all mechs!"
Starscream's optics went wide. Now he knew what Ramjet was blubbering about. Two Earth weeks prior, the Autobots had launched yet another raid on the space bridge. As usual, the Decepticons were out to counter with superior tactics and firepower – the blasted Autobots just got lucky, that was all. The Secondary Trine of Ramjet, Thrust and Dirge was supposed to form a column in support of the initial strike of the Command Trine while the Decepticons headed by Megatron met Optimus Prime and his stronger soldiers on the ground.
Starscream had been leading the air charge so he had not been aware of what had occurred until later. Apparently Ramjet became distracted by that flying disgrace known as Powerglide and had missed his target. Thundercracker had doubled back to take up the slack and was caught in the crossfire of Ramjet and Wheeljack, who had been returning fire to save Powerglide from a direct hit. Starscream's spark had nearly stopped when he swung back to see his blue Trine-mate in an uncontrollable barrel-roll, spiraling toward the earth. The sound of the impact Thundercracker made with the earth still made Starscream's wings ache. The attack was called off and with Skywarp's help, Starscream had been able to retreat to the Nemesis with the injured Seeker without further mischief.
It had been bad – Hook had initially said that in order to keep Thundercracker online, his wings would likely have to be amputated. They had been very badly damaged and had been copiously leaking energon. Fortunately, the Autobots' raid was only partially successful. The Decepticons were able to operate the space bridge long enough for Hook to return to Cybertron for some much needed supplies, and Thundercracker's wings and life had been saved. He was back to active duty, though he said he still had a mild ache in the very tips of his wings.
Starscream thought about the white jet's solemn words and wondered at Ramjet's concern and remorse. During the time that it was uncertain whether Thundercracker would ever fly again, he and Skywarp had paced their quarters, fearing the worst for their Trine-mate. What was Ramjet sniveling about? It had been an accident, more or less, and he didn't even like Thundercracker – a feeling that was very mutual, Starscream knew. He tuned in to the rest of the tape when Ramjet began speaking almost incoherently.
"I'm going to go to Megatron and ask for Consignment."
Starscream gasped aloud. He wasn't the only one with that reaction – on the tape, there were sharp intakes through ventilators and some quiet cursing – Dirge, no doubt.
"Are you out of your mind?" Thrust sounded appalled. "Ram, he's all right! Hook's got him up and around again. The Command Trine was dog-fighting just three cycles ago!"
"It doesn't matter! I'm not fit to be a Seeker. It's the only way! I'll miss you guys -"
Megatron held up his hand. "Halt playback."
"Playback: paused," said Soundwave, and the recording skidded to a stop.
"Well, Starscream? What do you have to say to that?"
Starscream was still unable to get his vocals to cooperate, and his processor whirred in disbelief. Consigning was a ritual that had been done by ancient Cybetronian warriors many, many, many millions of vorns in the past. If they'd felt they'd failed in battle, they would go to their commander and request to be Consigned, meaning "consigned to the cosmos" – obliterated, in other words. Taken offline. Permanently.
Ramjet wanted to be Consigned for causing Thundercracker's accident? Starscream shook his head. The white mech was an impulsive fool, everyone knew that, but to want to take so drastic a measure was unheard of.
He surfaced from his thoughts to see Megatron watching him narrowly. Grimly, he nodded tightly at the Air Commander as if he were reading his thoughts, and turned again to Soundwave.
The tape squeaked and picked up with Ramjet's aggravated tone saying: "- Go back to Cybertron, and do what? Be assigned another Trine? Like that'll do any good. The only thing I could think of that would help is … maybe if I got assigned to work with Starscream. Closely, I mean. On my maneuvers, so something like this would never happen again."
"But we get aerial training every other solar cycle!"
"Yes, but as individual Trines. He trains with the Command Trine and then with us. And you know he pays more attention to his Trine-mates than he does to us. It's only natural. If … if I could be Trine-mates with Starscream for even a few solar cycles … that might help. I could learn new tactics, get a better feel for weaponry tactics ..."
"Forget it." Dirge's mournful voice came through with the relentlessness of a sentinel drone. "You don't split up Trines. Anyone knows that."
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Starscream couldn't help but aim his leader a look of triumph at those words. Megatron ignored him.
"Besides, Megatron won't allow it," Dirge went on. "Split up the Command Trine? And for what, so you can learn how to launch a strike without turning your nosecone inside-out?"
There were more words, but not as clear. The coneheads were moving away, likely toward the canisters that stored the day's ration of energon. Soundwave's visor sparked brightly for a moment then faded.
"Thank you, Soundwave. You are dismissed."
Starscream kept his optics on the dark-blue mech as he nodded acknowledgment and moved away. He thought he saw a slight shifting behind the visor, a pair of optics taking in his sleek form, but that might have just been a trick of the light. Or wishful thinking … Starscream sighed as Soundwave exited Megatron's domain. Primus, he's lovely. Can't he see -
"Starscream!" Megatron's imperious voice brought the SIC back to the present predicament. "Now do you understand why I've proposed such a measure?"
"No, mighty leader, I'm afraid I don't!" snarled Starscream, angry that Megatron had distracted him from a daydream about Soundwave. "Thrust, for once, was right. Thundercracker is fine. It was a lucky shot from the Autobots and there's nothing that Trining with me will do for Ramjet's battle expertise except make me very irritable!"
"You heard Ramjet," returned Megatron in a hiss. "The hotheaded fool was going to ask me to Consign him! He's lucky that Lazerbeak was lounging about the Throne room to record this tidbit of information. Had he come to me directly without my having heard this conversation, I would have reduced him to constituent particles for suggesting something so idiotic!"
"Then why not do it? The fool wants to be offlined, why not oblige him?" Starscream yelled. "Why drag my Trine into it?"
"Because, you imbecile, the space bridge is still down. I could not send for another Seeker to replace him!" snapped Megatron. "I am assigning you two new wing-mates. You will form a new Trine – temporarily."
"You can't -" Starscream's mouth shut so quickly, his circuits rattled. "Temporarily?"
"Yes. Temporarily. If you'd refrained from throwing a tantrum like a spoiled sparkling, I would've gotten to that!" Megatron stressed the words. "The Autobots might be back any day. I need this fool's confidence back up. If trailing in your wake is what does it, so be it! Try to teach him something useful."
Starscream shook his head. "That's just it, mighty Megatron. Of all the Seekers in the Secondary Trine, Ramjet is the best. His impulsiveness and his habit of crashing into every Primus-loving thing aside, he flies well and he usually is accurate with his weaponry. The others - now they could use work. Thrust is nowhere near as good as he thinks he is, especially at dog-fighting maneuvers, and Dirge … well, when he remembers to deploy his sonic blasts or his fear engines, he's useful, but aside from that, he's usually looking for the first sign of cover!"
Megatron frowned, tapping his servos against his faceplate. "Hmm. This is true. If anyone could use extra help, it's those two bumbling morons. But I can't have any weak links in the air defense." His optics suddenly glowed with glee and a slow smile spread over his face. "I think I have just the solution ..."
Thrust watched as Ramjet preened in the reflecting glass of his quarters. He shone from conehead to pedes, having taken advantage of the body-polishing machine Hook had installed near the portable recharge bays. He wanted to look his best, he said, as he was certain that within a few very short megacycles, he'd be in the constant presence of the mech of his dreams.
"You're a real fragging idiot, you know that, right?"
Ramjet looked into the glass and smirked. "Jealousy makes your cone droop. Just because I came up with a brilliant plan ..."
"Right. Going to Megatron and telling him you want to go offline. Spectacular." Thrust shook his head in disgust. "Primus, Ram! Do you ever think? Do you always have to just rush into something without considering the fragging consequences first? Megatron might have done it!"
"I saw Lazerbeak hanging around. I knew the little son of a pit would report back. You know how Megatron loves to spy on the Seekers to see if any of us plan to overthrow him," said Ramjet with a shrug. "Besides, space bridge is down. There's no way Megatron would bust up a Trine, not with those fragging aerialbots and Powerglide close by. Besides, I heard Megatron tell Starscream he wanted to see him before recharge. My plan was foolproof!"
Thrust watched his Trine-mate continue to primp and he felt his CPU start to pound. He was fine with Ramjet's very fragging obvious desire for Starscream. Okay, well, maybe he wasn't exactly fine with it. Thrust would not have minded if Ramjet had noticed that Starscream wasn't the only mech with a fetching red color scheme and a nice pair of wings. By Primus, what was he? Chopped energon? But nooooo, Ramjet only had optics for one Seeker and it would have to be their Air Commander and Decepticon SIC, of course. And so he'd hatched some half-afted plan right after Thundercracker had nearly gone offline in that battle against the Autobots. No one could have foreseen what would happen to the blue Seeker, but Ramjet had immediately seen a way to take advantage of the situation to get some faceplate time with Starscream. Never mind that their commander was quite obviously hoping that Soundwave would get his processor off his cassettes and give him a glance. Ramjet said it didn't matter – all he needed was some time with Starscream without his Trine-mates around and the Seeker would forget all about the monotone mech.
Thrust looked to Dirge, who was also watching their Trine-mate. He knew that Dirge didn't like the idea of Ramjet getting special training any more than he did, but Dirge was … Dirge. Thrust wished that for once, Dirge would grow some fragging ballast and tell Ramjet what a son of a pit he was being. Break up a Trine? Who did that?
The door slid open and the three Seekers jumped. When Thrust saw who it was, his spark sank.
Megatron did that, that's who.
"I hope I wasn't interrupting your recharge," Starscream said sarcastically, noting Ramjet's flustering attempts to not look as if he'd just been posing in the mirror. "But this couldn't wait. By order of our … leader, there will be some changes. Temporarily."
"C-changes?" Thrust could hear the barely concealed delight in Ramjet's vocalizer, though he could tell he was trying to sound concerned. "What sort of c-changes?"
Starscream threw him a withering look. "In light of recent events, Megatron believes it would beneficial if we form new Trines. I will be leading two of you in a re-formed Trine for training. The other will join my Trine-mates in the Command Trine for advanced training. We begin immediately."
Thrust and Dirge exchanged grim looks. Which of them would be the lucky mech who'd get to watch Ramjet drool all over Starscream's chassis for Primus knew how long? Thrust studied Starscream briefly. Fine, so he had an amazing set of wings. And yes, his optics seemed to be a brighter and more sparkling red than other Decepticons'. And sure, he had a pretty magnificent aft …
Thrust felt the energon pulsing through his wiring. By Primus, Starscream was pretty amazing to look at. The way those optics stood out in that dark grey face, the curl of his lip, the wings that flared delicately up and out, yet vibrated with intense power -
Starscream looked at him suddenly, and Thrust thought his spark might stop pulsing. "We fly tonight, Thrust. You're to learn the intricacies of night reconnaissance. You and Dirge. Come along. Recharge will have to wait."
At first, Thrust thought his audials were going, but at Dirge's choked sound, he knew he'd heard correctly.
"Dirge and … me? With you?"
"Yes," said Starscream briskly. "Megatron and I have decided that you, Dirge and myself will form an intensive training Trine. Ramjet, you will join the Command Trine to learn advanced maneuvers."
Ramjet's jaw dropped and Thrust thought for a moment that his wing-mate was going to purge his tanks.
"Advanced – but I … I nearly got Thundercracker offlined! I … I need intensive training! Training only you can give me! … Sir."
Thrust rolled his optics. It was sort of sad to see a mech beg. Sort of. Starscream arched an optic ridge at the white jet, obviously not understanding why Ramjet was insisting, despite evidence to the contrary, that he had no idea what he was doing and was a general failure of a mech.
"You fly adequately. You simply need more training on dog-fighting and evasive techniques. And being part of the Command Trine will ensure that you must think about your actions before you put them into motion. Or you may be the one brought home in pieces next time!" Thrust saw Ramjet jump and mumble something rude. He hid a grin.
Starscream frowned heavily. "You should feel honored, Ramjet. Flying in a Command Trine is a Decepticon Seeker's dream."
Ramjet said nothing, and Thrust knew that whatever his Trine-mate dreamed of, it certainly wasn't that.
"You will wait here. I've already talked to my Trine-mates about the new arrangements and they may want a word with you before you begin your training." A slender smile spread across his lips. " I think Thundercracker particularly wants to discuss your support of his attack during our last confrontation with the Autobots. Thrust, Dirge – we fly now. Come."
Thrust got to his pedes and followed Starscream and Dirge out, casting a glance back at Ramjet who looked as if he was reconsidering his request for Consignment. Noticing the slight sway of his Air Commander's magnificent aft, Thrust felt almost a pang of remorse for the white mech, but his transistors shivered in anticipation of being Starscream's wing-mate – if only temporarily.
Poor Ramjet … he thought with a small sigh, and he thought it again when, as they prepared to exit the Nemesis, they passed Skywarp and Thundercracker going down the hall toward the quarters of the Secondary Trine. Thrust noticed that Thundercracker was rubbing his servos in anticipation and he had a very nasty grin on his face. Thrust had the feeling that Ramjet was going to need to hit the body-polishing machine again soon, but for a very different reason.