"Academic theft in the War Academy."

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Title: Plagiarism

Warning: Cynicism.

Rating: G

Continuity: G1 Transformers

Characters: Starscream (Skyfire)

Disclaimer: The theatre doesn't own the script or actors, nor does it make a profit from the play.

Motivation (Prompt): "All speech is vain and empty unless it be accompanied by action." -Demosthenes

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The fierce colored light of laserfire criss-crossed the warehouse district, a deadly colored lightshow against the black shadows. The area had been prepared, carefully emptied for this day. The time had been scheduled well in advance, and guards at the perimeter of the district monitored for stray civilians. They were strict, not even allowing bystanders to linger. The lightshow was meant to kill, not impress. This day was not one for bumbling observers.

A smart civilian would flee as the drone targets were loosed and began their pre-programmed dodging behind all available cover. A lucky civilian would see the first shots blast the little machines to scrap and scramble away. A stupid civilian might take his chances at hiding in a corner to watch. Sometimes, the clean-up crew found the corpses afterward. Most of the time the unpleasant discovery was left to some unfortunate warehouse worker, long after the drones were recovered, scrap cleaned up, and the day declared over.

Welcome to student examinations, War Academy style.

Starscream sneered as he transformed, landing heavily beside the smoking hull of his downed prey. The kill had no technique, no glory, but the holes proved what a written test could not: the transfer was real. The refugee from the Science Academy labs could study more military angles, calculate the brutal reality behind strategic formulas. He had been rejected by science, thrust from the hallowed halls of academia and thrown down among the heathen barbarian warriors. Today, Starscream passed the first test of action-and left old knowledge behind.

He'd spent a lifetime proving to the Science Council that a flyer's build could accomplish as much in the laboratories as on the battlefield. The shrill shriek of his voice always fought for recognition among his peers, verbal warfare from a weaker position pre-determined by his fighter bodyframe. It shouldn't matter what housed his spark and mind, but it always had. He'd argued his peers to a silence, aced every test the professors threw in his path, and it hadn't been enough. Two hundred twenty-three patents filed to his name hadn't been enough when stacked against stereotype and eons of prejudice. Patents and theories in the laboratories, hypotheses debated and disproved in the classroom, and it hadn't been enough. It could never be enough.

With a vote and genteel declaration, all his work had been deleted from the record. Every patent he'd filed, all the words he'd ever written, and by their decree, his work counted for nothing. They'd eliminated him as efficiently as a drone shot from the sky. Every acquaintance made through years of study and research suddenly not only wouldn't speak with him, but had never heard his name.

To the world of science, the world he'd forced his way into on the strength of determination and grim intellectual battles, he no longer existed. Had never existed, officially, by declaration and muted satisfaction in the echoing footsteps retreating across polished floor as he sat outside the council hall and numbly read through the Science Council's verdict. A verdict hand-delivered by some flunky after the council session finished, not witnessed in person, because the risk of letting a war-build into the esteemed presence of the Council could not be condoned. The only record they could not touch was the spoken one, words said that they could not un-remember, so the best solution was to simply never allow him the opportunity to speak. Who knew what damage his words could do to their precious memories?

After all, look what had happened to his partner.

Rather, no one could see what had happened. Skyfire had vanished without a trace. The rogue warbuild's real nature showed through when he returned to Cybertron without the foolhardy scientist who'd argued so passionately in his defense. Starscream's grand act of remorse and urgency had been too wild, too uncontrolled to be believable. Too many authorities had been contacted. He gathered them with too-frantic need, and the squabbling over rescue missions and chances of survival had increased tenfold the louder he called for help. In the end the mission hadn't launched. Resources were too low, the personnel too divisive, and each agency abandoned the mission for political or financial reasons.

Starscream had returned to the one place that couldn't write Skyfire off for someone else to save. He hadn't had choice, but neither had they. It wasn't charity or mercy or a voluntary act to rescue Skyfire; he was one of their own. They owed him a rescue attempt.

Didn't they?

Instead of a rescue mission, they'd held a forum. They launched a debate, words sniping from all angles until in unison they turned accusing fingers on the flyer, the warbuild, the deceptive machine of death masquerading as a scientist. It had tarnished their school's proud history to graduate the pretense of a scientist, to grant a warbuild's curriculum vita the elegant script of a science degree. It was laughable to think a fighter could hold one degree, let alone multiple. Everyone had known the dangers of letting Starscream into the Academy. Skyfire had paid the ultimate price of plagiarism, letting Starscream leech off his accomplishments until there was nothing left to take, and this casualty, this tragedy was the result. Really, the shuttle had brought it on himself by petitioning the Council for a fighter's admittance. Taking him as a full research partner had only killed him. Skyfire had been a brilliant scientist but a fool to trust Starscream at his back out where no one could control the warbuild. The exploration mission had been the death of him, but his too-trusting nature had been the cause.

The Science Council had been disgraced for too long, and an open-ended mystery, a rescue attempt that could be prolonged for shameful ages? No. They were done with Starscream, and there was no one who would speak for him.

Ejected, rejected from their ranks, he'd been meant to spiral down into a crash and burn. They wanted him to disappear from academia, never be heard from again. All his accomplishments disappeared, but history can never be fully destroyed. What's discovered, what's proven, can never be undone. His former colleagues moved in, claiming patent designs and thesis statements as their own, and Starscream could do nothing but watch from the outside. He had no way back in. No protest would be heard. There no longer remained a way to prove the work as his own.

So he watched. He spiraled down and down, further from the rescue that never happened, the career taken from him, down and down, and he took note of every theft committed against him without a word spoken as he fell. No one would hear what he said, the words left behind at the top of the dive with the friend now gone and academic rules followed until they vanished into a past stripped from him, a record purged. Gone, all gone, and he fell.

Flyers fall, but that is part of flight. To fly is to miss the ground. The farther the fall, the faster the flight. The more control is needed at the end, to pull out in time and salvage something from the loss of altitude. No words could save the plummeting jet, no verbal method of winning a battle against gravity, and Starscream had been losing a war against the world all his life. He'd reached an apex and been shot down, but it wasn't the first hit he'd taken. The hard volleys of carefully measured words sent him into a tailspin, but he'd flown the practice flights for this reality. His former life crashed and burned away, nothing but words painstakingly deleted from individual files, but hadn't he been told all his life that his kind was not made for words?

Above all, Starscream was a survivor. From the wreckage of a career, he could pull working parts. From an academic life, he could regress and return. From criticism he could find inspiration. He'd remember every trick pulled, every slight made, and by Primus, he'd find some way to learn from the experience.

If the warbuild barely tolerated in the Science Academy's hallowed halls had been an excellent flyer, the warrior who entered the War Academy's cruel proving grounds was superb. Nothing and no one, no vote by a council or records made to have never been, would bring him down again. No going back to the scientist, because the scientist was nothing but hearsay anymore. Only the warbuild lived on, and action.

The proof smoked, sparks sputtering in the dark places where armor had been pierced. Academic theft in the Science Academy had been fought with memos and heated debate, with judgment ultimately handed down from above. Confrontations over plagiarism in the War Academy, however, were more…direct. Starscream kicked aside his rival's corpse and launched himself back into the air. There were more drones to kill, and more students trying to steal his hard work. The final body count-no matter whose body-would determine his final score today.

He'd like to see that in the Science Academy's curriculum.