Transformers: Vapour Trails
Disclaimer: Transformers ultimately belongs to Hasbro, with the movie universe this fic is based in being claimed by Paramount, Dreamworks, and probably a few other companies I can't remember at the moment. Oh well. Anyway, I'll make no money, this fic's writen for my own amusement etc.
Author's Note: Thanks to Lady Tecuma, Litahatchee and Hearts of Eternity for your insights, your ideas on Transformers, and, above all, your friendship. Everyone who reads this story should also check out their Transformers fics!
Extended Author's Note: Some of my previous readers may remember that the femme featured in this story used to be named "Nightshade". I originally came up with the idea for her when I didn't know of any female Decepticons, and I wanted to change that. Stealth Fighters were my favourite military jets, and there was one featured, briefly, at the beginning of the first Transformers movie, so I figured, why not take the opportunity to create a female Decepticon, one that was capable, intelligent, everything you'd want a good villain to be.
Unfortuately, I learned of something in the fan fiction community called a "Mary Sue". A very annoying character-type to say the least. Even more unfortuately, I learned over the years of the tendency of any original female characters to be regarded as Mary Sues by passing readers, no matter how well written they may or may not be. If an OC, especially a female OC, is featured, there's a tendency to just pass the story by. It's a real shame for people who do take the time and effort to create engaging original characters, but that's the way the internet works. Don't try to tell me this isn't the case; I have to admit, I've been guilty of passing by potential "Mary Sue" fics myself.
So, I'm renaming Nightshade to Nightbird, after the closest thing there was to a female Decepticon in the original 1980s Transformers cartoon (look up the Season 2 episode, "Enter the Nightbird" on Youtube if you've never heard of her). After a little research, I found I could keep my character pretty much the way she was, with a few differences which will be elaborated upon over the course of the story. After all, it's nothing Hasbro doesn't do themselves, using G1 names on later characters that may be quite differrent. For example, my Nightbird's love for insectoid symbiote Decepticons - Waspinator, here in the first chapter - can homage back to how Bombshell helped reprogram G1 Nightbird into a Decepticon in the first place. I think, with a little creativity, I can have an engaging female Decepticon, without her being immediately dismissed as an OC Sue. Which is what I wanted to do in the first place as a writer. Besides, it's about time Nightbird was given some sort of personality.
I am, of course, always open to suggestions as to better incorporate my character with her G1 "ancestor". Please, feel free to tell me if something seems too OOC, but remember that this is not G1 Nightbird. She's not a human-made experiemental "ninjabot", she's a Decepticon, a true Cybertronian, and will behave as such.
For those of you first reading this story, thank you for giving me the time of day. For those of you who read back when Nightbird was Nightshade, thank you for givng me a chance, and I hope the change isn't too jarring.
Now, as the Tragically Hip once said, throw away your rudders, and float away on Vapour Trails!
Chapter 1: Famous Last Words
You have failed me yet again, Starscream.
Starscream spiraled in the air, as if the twisting of his frame could shake loose the reprimand echoing through his processors. Failed? FAILED? When it was I who never let our people give up, never surrender to the Autobots? I spent the last million-odd vorns searching for the Allspark AND your miserable frozen carcass, no matter what fools like Blackout would like to think, and this is how you repay me, by saying I failed? He laughed bitterly as he climbed out of Earth's atmosphere, his borrowed jets transforming to space-capable Cybertronian hyperjets without changing the rest of his form. Failure my sine functions.
Failure was what happened after the return of their "great Leader". Not only was the Allspark destroyed, but all the members of his team were now either dead or missing. Blackout, Bonecrusher and Brawl were smashed to pieces under the metal fists and plasma cannons of the Autobots, as well as the primitive weapons of their new favourite pets. As for Barricade, Frenzy and Scorponok, he had heard nothing from the bad-tempered "cop", the hyper little hacker or the useless bug since before Mission City. Finally, what had happened to his so-called Leader, the great and mighty Megatron?
Deader than a stomped glitchmouse, that's what! While Starscream was not exactly upset with this turn of events, he reluctantly admitted that not all Decepticons shared his enlightened viewpoint. An uncomfortably large percentage of his people had been craving their lost Leader's return, and that would be a problem, but a problem he was determined to solve.
Even at the incredibly high speeds Starscream was capable of without reverting to his protoform, it still took cycles to fly to the next furthest planet from the system's sun. As he thickened his belly armour, preparing for the heat of reentry, he remembered the planet's name, trivia from some otherwise long-forgotten mission briefing: Mars, named after an ancient human god of war, the crimson colour of the planet reminding the organics of their own spilt bodily fluids – what were they called again? He remembered: blood.
When I return, I will personally ensure that your planet drowns in the blood you once imagined covered this one, and before the last of you go extinct, you disgusting little savages, you will fear a new God of War. Starscream!
Compared to the thick nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere of Earth, the thin carbon-dioxide skies of Mars provided less lift, requiring more energy from Starscream's engines to keep him aloft, but he preferred that to dodging missiles. He had made this planet his base of operations in his search for the Allspark on its sister world and had began to think of its desolate, rusted landscape as his own. One feature he especially liked was the giant canyon system the humans called the Valles Marineris, which stretched across an entire hemisphere of the planet. The labyrinth of cracks and crevasses dispersed through the unforgiving red rock was an aerial playground to the Seeker.
Usually he enjoyed the flight through the fissures to where the Nemesis was waiting near the centre of the partially tectonic, partially water-carved system, but not this time. Instead of skillfully maneuvering through the chasms he impatiently raced above them, then nose-dived violently downwards to the ship, transforming mere mechanometers from the surface, the crimson ground quaking as he slammed into it feet and one hand first. He reared up, to see the cold red optics of the Nemesis' caretaker, his main Intelligence agent and human cultural researcher, staring harshly at him.
"What in the Pit happened?" she demanded.
Starscream growled in irritation. "How like you, Nightbird. No concern for my well-being after an orbit hop."
He eyed the black, strangely angular-armoured Decepticon femme. Her arms were crossed in front of her, but her thin, triangular battle visor was retracted (for once), as was the protective collar which slid up over her neck and the lower half of her face in times of war. He saw no sign of the deadly rapier and smaller blaster-blade that were the spy's primary weapons, but that annoying metal insect she called a pet, Waspinator, was perched on her left shoulder, staring at Starscream with the same kind of simple-minded intensity he saw as characteristic of all Decepticon symbiotes.
As if determined to prove his stupidity, Waspinator left his perch and hovered over Starscream's head, buzzing annoyingly. Starscream growled and swatted at the insectoid.
"Leave him alone, Starscream. He's just worried about you; Primus only knows why." Nightbird complained as she recalled her partner.
"I'm flattered," Starscream said sarcastically. He started to stalk back towards the ship, but Nightbird was not a femme who just let anyone walk away from her. Not when she wanted answers.
"Blackout stopped transmitting cycles ago. What went on down there? Where are the others?" She paused, and glared at him accusingly. "Where is my mate?"
"Megatron's dead," Starscream said bluntly, unapologetic, waiting for the leaking optic fluid he expected usually followed telling femmes of their Sparkmates' demises.
Her optics narrowed, but she did not cry. She turned away from him, but did not collapse in shock like Starscream half-expected. She did make a noise, but one so unexpected it took his CPU a few astroseconds to comprehend what he was hearing.
Nightbird was laughing. It was a disbelieving, sarcastic kind of laugh, but laughter nonetheless.
"Megatron dead? For Primus' sake, I thought you'd come up with something a bit more creative than that!"
"Yeah, right. Whatever! This coming from you, of all mechs. What's wrong, Screamer? Your usual lines not working anymore?" she snickered, then whined in a very irritating high pitch "Megatron has fallen! I'm the Leader now! Everybody follow me!"
Infuriated, Starscream grabbed Nightbird by the throat and slammed her up against the nearest canyon wall, lifting her off her feet, with Waspinator sent flying off his mistress's shoulder.
"First of all, I don't sound like that –"
"Yes you do."
Nightbird was large for a femme, almost Seeker-sized, but still smaller than the massive Air Commander. Despite this obvious difference in size and strength, her optics held no fear, especially as she kicked Starscream right below his cockpit, squirming out of his grasp as the sudden pain loosened his grip. Before she could summon her swords, Starscream's jets fired and he backflipped up and over her, landing in front of her. He pounced on her, pinning her to the ground.
"Second," he hissed menacingly, locking optics with her, then promptly forgot what he was going to say as she stared up at him defiantly. He felt her struggling body prone beneath him, her chest plating up against his. Even through their armour, he could feel her Spark flickering wildly in her chest, his own doing the same ... with desire. He smiled evilly and lowered his mouthplate to hers …
Just as an incredibly loud and annoying buzzing filled his audio receptors. Waspinator shot his stinger lasers at his head and shoulders, more an annoyance than a real threat, but enough to distract him as Nightbird slid out from underneath him, got to her feet, and delivered a resolute kick right in the Seeker's face.
"Don't. You. EVER touch me again!"
Starscream got up, rubbing the side of his face. "The Allspark is gone and your mate is not coming back," his rage was replaced with smugness over their new situation, the delicious irony! Since Megatron had claimed her all those vorns ago, no other mech had dared even think of taking Nightbird, but now things were different - so delightfully different! "Why not become my sparkmate instead?"
"Frag you!" It was not an unexpected response.
"It's now your duty as a femme to continue our species," he reminded her coolly as he slid up next to her, but was careful not to touch her, "and who better for you to do that with than your new Leader? I know you have a thing for … power."
"Idiot! I hope Megatron kicks your aft from here to Cybertron for that thought even crossing your CPU!" She started to stalk away, and then stopped suddenly. Without turning around, she asked, "You're not lying this time, are you?"
Starscream could not help but grin a self-satisfied smirk. "I told you I wasn't."
"Tell me everything."
"…and then that brat shoved the Allspark into his Spark instead, killing Megatron and destroying the Allspark at once." Starscream finished as his holoemitter shut down. They had returned to the bridge of the Nemesis, Starscream sitting in his command chair, Nightbird in the chair to his right, where his lieutenant would usually sit, instead of her usual spot at the communications console.
For a few breems Nightbird was silent, absently scratching Waspinator behind his antennae as the horrible images replayed over and over in her processors. Megatron standing over the twisted, beaten body of his Autobot brother, then the missiles from the human jets tearing into him, shredding his armour, the human child ignoring Optimus Prime's suicidal orders and sticking that fateful cube into her mate's exposed Spark instead …
His optics glowing fiery red in hatred, right before they faded to nothingness.
"I'm sorry, Nightbird."
She rolled her optics. "We are so fragged …"
"I don't see it as being fragged. Think of it as an opportunity." Nightbird knew that tone: Starscream was getting ready for one of his infamous rants. "Now that we're not distracted with finding that frozen tyrant, we Decepticons can actually focus on winning the war…"
She half-listened to him rant on, still petting Waspinator and adding in the occasional, "I see" or "oh, really", distracted by her own thoughts, but when he got to the inevitable part of the rant praising his own supposed superiority, Nightbird could take no more.
"Not now. As I was saying, with my leadership ..."
"Starscream, has it occurred to you that not everyone will automatically accept your leadership?"
"What are you talking about, femme?"
She turned in her seat to face Starscream directly. "A lot of Decepticons followed you only because you were Megatron's appointed Second. Assuming – and this is a big assumption – that this isn't one of your tricks and Megatron really is dead, most of your support just evaporated."
"How many times do I have to tell you …" he stopped. "Frag it, I hate it when you're right."
"Then you know what you'll have to do?"
Starscream nodded. "I'll have to prove myself in a Leadership Battle." Decepticon law in this matter was as old as their people and not even Megatron had dared to disobey that precedent. "Shockwave's going to give me trouble, isn't he?"
"With Megatron gone, he'll find it 'only logical'. I have a feeling he's been planning your 'removal' since Megatron first went missing."
"And that coward's going to lead me on a turbofox chase, I know it," His frustration evident, Starscream's claws dug deep into the arm of his chair. "Not to mention I still have unfinished business on Earth. Barricade and the others might still be alive, and the Autobots are still down there."
"Let me take care of that." Nightbird got up, and slinked over to him. "You have more important things to worry about now, my Leader," she smiled alluringly.
Starscream narrowed his optics. "Why are you so supportive, all of a sudden?"
"For several reasons: First, Megatron did appoint you as not only his Air Commander, but as the second-in-command of all his forces, and he wouldn't have appointed anyone to that role he didn't think was capable of it. Second, you have led us for the entire time Megatron's been missing, and you haven't done that bad a job of it. Third," she paused, and chose her next words carefully. "Shockwave's a cold, Sparkless bastard. I would prefer to have Megatron back, but I'd rather serve you over him any day."
"Aw, I'm touched. You like me after all."
"If you call preferring you over a lens-headed, glorified calculator liking you, then sure. Whatever. Just remember that Shockwave has no doubt gathered his own followers by now. If you intend on surviving on Cybertron for long, you will have to do the same."
"I know that, I'm not an idiot!" Starscream snapped.
"Could have fooled me," Nightbird mumbled to herself.
If Starscream had heard, he ignored her. "Skywarp and Thundercracker should be on Cybertron by now, or at least nearby …"
"That's a good start, but I had someone else in mind."
"Are your circuits fried?" Nobody's more loyal to Megatron than that …" he started to say something insulting, then remembered that doing so in front of the femme Soundwave had personally trained was probably not the best idea he ever had. "…mech," he settled. "What makes you think he won't shoot me on sight?"
"You just answered your own question. Soundwave won't kill you immediately because you're Megatron's Second, if for no other reason. When he finds you, and knowing my Master, he will find you first, you had better be able to convince him that you're a better choice for Leader than Shockwave."
"Won't the word of his dear little student be enough?" Starscream asked sarcastically, "or is there another reason you're so adamant on getting him back?"
Nightbird smiled coyly. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
"You little tease," ignoring her earlier warning, he wrapped his arms around her. "You know, we could have a little fun before my trip."
To Starscream's surprise and delight, Nightbird leaned closer, pressing her mouthplate enticingly close to his audio sensors. "Stop thinking with your Spark, Screamer," she whispered, before pulling away from him teasingly. "If you want me to help you, then you'll find Soundwave and you'll convince him to join our side."
"Oh, I want you, don't worry."
"So you'll find him then?"
"Yes! Fine! Any more requests?"
"I'll let you know if I think of any," she started walking towards the airlock, Waspinator buzzing obediently after her. "Are you coming, or what?"
"If you want to spend the next few vorns flying back to Cybertron yourself, that's your business, but I know a shortcut."
Had the "lens-headed bastard" actually finished it? Starscream chased after Nightbird and exited the ship just as she transformed into her alt mode, an F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter. "When'd you pick that up?" he asked, somewhat impressed. Like the F-22 Raptor he had chosen, it was the closest thing on Earth to Nightbird's Cybertronian form, and he had to admit, the oddly shaped but strangely beautiful plane suited her perfectly.
"On my last field mission, remember? I scouted out the Qatar base before Blackout … took care of it."
Ah yes. Starscream remembered Blackout reporting that he saw her taking off just as he was coming into the base. Next time, I'll let Nightbird do the data extraction herself; she probably would have made less of a mess of it, he thought as the Stealth took off into the dusty pink Martian skies, the Raptor following an astrosecond later.
After a short flight, the two jets landed at the summit of one of Mars' extinct volcanoes, located only about a hundred megamiles north of the canyons. Built into the sides of the crater and cleverly hidden with holograms, like the Nemesis itself, from the prying cameras of the humans' Mars Global Surveyor satellite, were the ring-shaped walls of something that up until this point Starscream had only seen in his old theoretical physics texts from long before the war.
"So this is a spacebridge," he said as he transformed. "I thought it would be flashier." He would never admit it to Nightbird, of course, or anyone else, but the tiny part of his Spark that still pulsed like a scientist's was intrigued.
"I don't care what it looks like, as long as it works." Nightbird transformed as well, with a small "bomb" under her wing transforming into Waspinator. "If it does, it'll definitely be better than taking the Nemesis through transwarp, especially with our energon reserves as low as they are."
"You mean you want me to go through this thing and it hasn't even been tested?" Starscream shrieked.
"Of course it's been tested! Shockwave sent one of his drones through just a few orns ago. It turned inside out, but it still came through."
"I'm not getting in anything that's going to scramble my circuits across the universe." Starscream said stubbornly as he examined the control console next to the crater's rim. "Get that idiot on the comm. and tell him to send another drone."
"Oh, there's a great idea – announce to your rival that you're coming! I take back what I said earlier; Primus only knows how you managed to stay in charge for so long!"
"I'm not going through it until it's tested." Starscream repeated. "Figures there aren't any Autobots around when you need them. I wouldn't mind seeing that little yellow vermin-loving pain in the aft get torn apart atom by atom."
"That would be fun, but I'd rather send you through in one piece … for now. I'll see if I can contact anyone besides Shockwave on the other side, but it might take a few breens." Her visor slid down over her optics as she connected with the computers in the console, scanning the other end of the feed for a friendly, or at least a won't-shoot-Starscream-on-sight, signature.
Starscream watched her work impatiently. He did not know how she could concentrate with her annoying symbiote hovering over her shoulder like that … that's right. Waspinator.
With a malevolent smile, Starscream grabbed the buzzing insectoid by his stinger and casually tossed him into the middle of the ring. He just as casually pressed the biggest button on the console, right under where the preoccupied femme was looking.
"Happy trails, warrior."
"Starscream, what the Pit? … Waspinator!" Nightbird screamed as a whirlpool-like portal opened up over the ring, sucking red dust and a panicking metallic wasp into its vortex.
"What do you know? I found a guinea-bot after all," Starscream remarked, before feeling something long, thin, and sharp up against his neck.
"You Unicron-spawned son of a glitch!" Nightbird pressed her rapier dangerously close to one of Starscream's coolant lines. "You better pray to Primus that Waspinator's still functioning!"
"You were going to throw me in there."
"That's different! I like Waspin…" she was interrupted by the sound of confused buzzing from the console's speakers. Forgetting the Seeker, she quickly activated the viewscreen, which showed the puzzled-looking bug-bot safely on the other side of the bridge. "Waspinator! Are you okay?"
"See, he's fine."
"Just shut up and send him back as soon as you get there."
"It's not like I want to be stuck with the little pest anyway." Starscream complained. "While I'm on Cybertron, go to Earth and find the others, then all of you return to Mars."
"What about the Autobots?"
"What about them? Let them play with their new pets if they want, I don't care."
"It would be a mistake to ignore them."
"I'm not. We'll worry about them after I'm officially Leader. Don't engage them on your own, that's an order!"
"Alright, fine. I won't," Nightbird resigned. "Are you going or what?"
"Almost," without warning, Starscream pulled Nightbird close and pressed his mouthplate forcefully against hers, electricity crackling between them with the kiss. After what seemed like far too long for Nightbird, he pulled away. "So Megatron did save the best for himself."
Nightbird forced herself to smile. "You had better get going, my Leader."
"I love it when you call me that," Starscream smiled wickedly as he stepped into the spacebridge. "Later" she barely heard him promise, as the vortex reopened.
As the interstellar gateway closed, Nightbird turned away from the console and looked towards the Martian skies, not even turning when she heard the spacebridge activate again, Waspinator soon taking his familiar perch on her shoulders. He buzzed an inquiry.
"Yes, Waspinator, we'll be going soon," Nightbird answered him and absently wiped her mouthplate with the back of her wrist.
She closed her optics, and in her processor still saw those fiery red optics, defiant and proud to the last, just as a true Decepticon should be. She would not let him down.
With a familiar five-tone melody, the Decepticon femme and her symbiote transformed.