A/N: I'm sorry if the whole 'Uneasy' title thing is starting to annoy people, it's only because I want to demonstrate that my stories are linked!
For those of you who don't know, this story is a sequel to my other stories, 'An Uneasy Partnership' and 'An Uneasy Alliance.' The stories focus on Starscream and Alexis. This story will probably read well on it's own, if you don't wish to read them. Not quite sure yet where this will go, so let's wait and see!
Kickback landed, skidding slightly to a halt and raising a cloud of silver dust. He shook himself and folded his wings, and began climbing the stairs that led to the tremendous archway; the gateway to Starscream's palace. He looked over his shoulder as he climbed, his wings twitching as he took in the vast landscape below. Huge towers reared up to the heavens. The sky was filled with the distant hums and whines of millions of decepticons flying here and there. The ground below was equally busy, the hustle of a thousand metal bodies glittering like shifting sand. Kickback did not visit the capital often. Unfortunately for him, Starscream possessed a distaste of Insecticons, and his kind had been practically banished, allowed to inhabit a rare area of swamp-like terrain far to the south. They were tolerated and left to themselves, called upon when needed, but their standing amongst the decepticons had been sorely reduced since the fall of Megatron.
Kickback cursed to himself as he dwelt on his kind's fall from grace. Damn Starscream! He could remember the days when the jet had been little more than a joke, someone who was only kept by Megatron's side because he could not be trusted anywhere else. Someone who flew into a rage at the slightest thing, only to be met with derisive laughter on all sides. Stupid, petty Starscream, the butt of jokes and scorn for centuries.
Not so any more. Starscream had finally put his skills to good use, cultivating favour and power, growing stronger, more influential and wiser. Megatron's invasion of the organic planet Earth had proven to be his undoing, as the disgruntled decepticons had turned to Starscream, whose love for their home planet was unrivalled. Starscream had discovered the most powerful weapon ever known- the Requiem Blaster, and killed Megatron. And here they were with a new leader. Their return to Cybertron, a sad, wasted wreck of a planet, had been the start of a new age for the Decepticons. Starscream had made good on his boasting, and now the planet thrived once again. Kickback shook his head, allowing a tiny amount of respect for his new ruler to nudge its way into his mind. If only Starscream would show the Insecticons the favour his predecessor had done.
Kickback ran a self-scan, the twentieth one that day, to check that his cargo was safe. With any luck, the audience he had been granted today would ensure his kind were treated with the respect they deserved. With that hope in his processor, he transformed into his upright mode, taking care to sheath his weapons.
He paused at the huge entrance, flanked by two guards. Kickback's narrow gaze took in the menacing figures, bowed his head and started to scurry inside, when a beefy arm stopped him in his tracks.
"State your business." The guard grunted.
"I'm here to see his majesty, Starscream," Kickback hissed, his wings clicking together. "He will not be happy if I am late. Let me through! My name is Kickback. I have an audience with our leader!"
He spread out one palm, and a hologram sprang up and rotated slowly in the air- the decepticon insignia in purple and gold. This was the symbol that the con projecting it was granted access to the palace.
The guard grunted and shoved Kickback roughly over the threshold. He snarled in anger, but did not draw his weapons. The two guards roared with laughter. "Hurry along, Insect!"
Kickback drew himself up, cold fury in his optics, struggling to bring himself under control. He composed his features, and began clacking over the onyx-like floor, deep into the huge palace.
Starscream gritted his teeth and fought to keep his temper from simmering over the edge. In front of his throne, Soundwave stood and intoned his latest report on the scourge of the rebel Autobot bases. Soundwave had to have the worst voice in the world to listen to for any long period of time. He knew this information was important. He knew it had to be him, the leader, to hear it. This was one thing he couldn't foist off onto the long-suffering Thundercracker. Starscream sighed inwardly. Being supreme ruler of the Decepticons, and most of the planet Cybertron was glorious indeed. Sadly it had to include moments like this, when he must hold court and be updated on the happenings of his realm.
He itched to go flying, and found his optics wandering to the soaring windows above, showing the twilit sky winking with distant stars. His thoughts wandered away, across the galaxies. I wonder what she is up to on that mud planet of hers…
Abruptly he was awoken from his reverie by Soundwave stepping smartly to one side, his report apparently finished. Starscream blinked his optics and mentally shook himself as Thrust stepped forward.
"Kickback is here to see you, Starscream."
"Who?" The jet asked, irritably. Later on, he'd decided, he would go for a long, hard flight, followed by a visit to the gladiator arena to watch a match. Enough sitting around!
Thrust neatly stepped aside, to reveal the Insecticon standing further down the hall. He stepped forward, somewhat nervously. "Starscream…"
Starscream gave a growl of annoyance, causing the Insecticon to stop where he was, looking to Thrust for help. "What do you want, Insect?"
Kickback, sensing Starscream's impatience and disinterest, stepped forward once more, determined that he should be heard. "Starscream, I have made a discovery that I think would interest you," he chirped, servos clasped together. "Something that could further influence our fortunes as a planet. It is a new element, found beneath our swamps. We have been trying to mine it for some time. We think there could be more of it, and thought it best to bring it to your attention…"
Starscream sat forward, steepling his fingers. "How much of this so-called new element have you managed to find?"
"Not much," the Insecticon admitted. "But what we have been able to process has proven to be more powerful than energon! We think there is much more, but…"
"But you have had difficulty extracting it, so only now have you chosen to bring this matter to my attention," interrupted Starscream smoothly, leaning forward on his throne. Kickback leant back instinctively. "If you had been able to gather this mysterious substance easily, perhaps you would have kept it for yourselves, mmm?"
"No, lord!" protested Kickback, his wings clacking together anxiously. "My first priority is to you, I swear!"
"In any event," said Starscream, sitting upright once more, "Do you think such a marvellous material, if it did exist, would have escaped my notice before now?"
This was where Kickback introduced his ace card. He drew himself up proudly. "With all due respect leader, I have some of the unrefined element with me here for you to inspect. You have not detected any trace of anything unusual as I entered your chamber, have you?"
For the first time a glimmer of genuine interest appeared in the jet's crimson optics. He glanced at Thrust, who shrugged. "No results of a foreign material in my scans, lord, apart from the usual residual traces left from energon."
Starscream nodded. "The same from my scans," he agreed. "I only detect the primary signs of space rust in your wing joints, Kickback."
Kickback looked up, aghast. "Space rust?"
Starscream nodded. "You ought to get that seen to. But, first, Insecticon, you will show me this material."
Kickback nodded, and withdrew from his chest compartment a lump of grey rock, extremely ordinary looking. He tentatively withdrew a laser, looking up to ensure this was allowed. With a nod from Starscream, he split the rock open. Inside was a glowing, oozing mass of dark blue, oily sludge. As the jet watched intently, Kickback applied heat to it, and it liquidized, becoming slick and runny in a matter of seconds. He looked up again.
"I will gladly take a small amount, to ensure no harm will come to you from drinking this, leader," he offered.
Starscream took the rock and raised it slowly to eye level, shaking his head, optics fixed on the oily liquid. Without taking his gaze off it, he motioned to Thrust, who stepped forward to decant it into a clear container. Then he spoke again.
"You are right, Insect. I can only detect this once it is in its refined state. I will be running further tests. How is it you were able to find it?"
"I don't know," Kickback replied. "Perhaps my organic parts were able to sense it. It has a peculiar scent, and I, well…. I can just sense it," he finished lamely.
Starscream tilted the beaker back, letting a small amount trickle into his mouth. Thrust and Kickback looked on expectantly. Even Soundwave leaned forward slightly to watch.
Starscream sat motionless for a few moments, optics half closed. Then he handed the beaker, still over half full, to Thrust.
"You will cease mining the substance until further notice." Starscream paused, and then grudgingly added: "You… did well to bring this to my attention."
He rose from the throne, signalling the audience was over. Kickback stepped forward. "My lord, wait a moment! How can you mine this without us? Surely the Insecticons are needed, we are the only ones who will be able to locate more seams for you, after all, we are able to detect this organic material, and you are not!"
Starscream turned back around, slowly, his optics glittering. "I see," he said smoothly. "Kickback wants a reward, a stake in this new treasure..." His optics flashed dangerously and Kickback gulped.
"Well, I only mean that you are not able to find this new energy source without organic assistance," he said humbly. "This makes us useful to you, surely? And…"
He broke off, his gaze shifting from side to side.
"And what?" Starscream drawled. "Out with it, Insect."
"Uh… we have had new hatchlings this year, Starscream. Close to fifty thousand. And with this discovery in mind, I have come to ask you if half of them will be permitted to join your Decepticon Army. As a token of…"
"I will consider it. Starscream replied. Then before the Insecticon could react, he raised his deadly ray, pointing it straight at Kickback's face.
Kickback gave a yell of fear and wrapped his arms around his head. A huge blast rent the air, making his audio receptors ring. Heat seared the left side of his cheek, blinding light filled his optics…
A few moments later, when he realised he wasn't dead, Kickback straightened up tentatively, trembling all over. He shifted his left foot, only to find no floor beneath it. With a cry he wobbled alarmingly, teetering on the edge of a deep crater right beside him. He scrambled back, staring at the smoking hole. Then he looked up at his leader, who was casually blowing smoke from his gun.
"Yes, you're right, it is superior to energon," he said conversationally. "Well done Kickback. Now, off you go. Oh, and one more thing," he added, as Kickback began to scurry away. The Insecticon looked back apprehensively. "If I find you disobeying me, and continuing to mine this material without my permission, I will send all of your precious hatchlings to the Arena. and I will personally dismantle... every... last... one. Are we clear?"
"Yes, lord," Kickback squeaked. He practically ran from the throne room, disappearing out of sight.
Thrust watched him go. "An interesting day, Starscream." he said lightly. "Is it really more potent than energon? And to think it was here all along, without our even realising it. This could make you more powerful then ever. I just have one question…"
Starscream raised an eyebrow. Thrust pressed on.
"I hate to admit it, but surely Kickback is right. He and his race possess organic elements, making them able to detect this new organic fuel. You and I can't sense it. Presumably we will need their help in finding it."
"We will need organic life to assist us in finding it, surely," replied Starscream.
Thrust frowned, then an expression of understanding dawned on his face. "You mean…?"
"Indeed," replied Starscream, a smile creeping across his face. "I'm am off for a flight. Do not disturb me, Thrust."
Thrust gave a short, smart bow. "Of course not, leader." He watched his leader stride out, and turned back, with a sigh.
"I'll… just get someone to mend the floor then."
He placed a digit on his com link. "Frenzy! Get in here, now!"
A/N: Next chapter we will find out more about Alexis and what she's been doing between now and the last story. Thanks for reading. :)