A/N A *bit* spoilery? Perhaps? For like...issue 1 of the movie adaptation comics. And if you know canon, yeah, this is probably a wee bit depressing.
Starscream hated waiting. It chafed, worse than this silicate grit that got into his joints, fouling his gyros, grating over the piston rods of his legs. It seemed he'd been waiting for ever, Megatron insisting, always, that the time was not yet right. Patience, planning.
Megatron's first plan had been too hasty-scarcely an hour from his captivity, he simply had not had the strategic intelligence. He was…too determined not to make that mistake now, and thus they squatted in this filthy sand, this barren waste, where the heat blasted against the hatchlings during the day, shimmering off the narrow ribbon of road that marked a human transportation artery.
Starscream was still not used to waiting. When he had been in charge, he had never needed to wait. Or at least, not wait this idly. There was always something to be done on the Nemesis: data to be analyzed. Plans to be made. A whole hive of activity, bustling with action, always some minor crisis needing managing.
Here…there was just waiting. And the hatchlings.
Starscream squatted down, ducking under the spurious shade of the human's parachute they had rigged to keep the worst of the blazing midday sun off the hatchlings. Above, the sun was white, cutting shadows like knives, leaching color. Inside, the air was sickly green through the nylon, the sides rippling from the draft of air Starscream had brought down with him, as though bringing down part of the sky.
The hatchlings squawked, stirring dully at his arrival. He frowned, mouth calipers pinching. They weren't getting enough stimulus. At this rate, they'd never develop sentience.
Megatron might be content with an army of mindless drones; Starscream was not. Mechs should know who they were, why they fought. Decepticons were strong. Conquerors, with a proud past of defending Cybertron. And Cybertron waited their return, once they had recovered the means to save it.
But these? They were not conquerors. They could not even stand.
He squatted down, bifold legs collapsing neatly, his long, clawed toes digging into the soft sand. A few of the hatchlings mewled, crawling toward him, their lavender, undifferentiated optics whirring to focus on him. Starscream moved his hand, the long talons tracing an intricate pattern in the air, studying the hatchlings, the few that tracked the movement. "Here," he said, dropping lower, so he could stretch his hand out over the lot of them. The old droneling protocols came to his cortex, but here…there was no dronemaster to arrange for their development, to keep them interested, processing, to shape them with newness and rules. Here, they just…sweltered and starved.
Some of the bleats and beeps were hunger, purple optics focusing, driving by want. The human fuel was bad for them, twisting some of their metal, warping their circuitry as they grew. That idea Starscream had cut off. He could process the human fuel, and he did, sucking down gallons of it that Megatron brought back in his trailer. It was crude and vile and burned its way through his systems, but he drank it, he endured as he had endured so much else in this war.
And he drank it, so he could do this:
One long, elegant talon, a sharp, quick slice down an inner energon line. Energon spilled from it, raining like a blessing down upon the small crowd of hatchlings. They scrabbled for it, messily, tilting their misshapen faces to it, some, clever, licking it from their bodies, their neighbor's body.
And one…listless, the energon spattering over its face, barely blinking as it hit its optics. Starscream hissed. Better to let it die. Better, in fact, to tear it apart, let the others feast upon its systems. It would do some good that way.
But…his old efficiency, the hard will that had kept the Nemesis going, searching, moving, for all those millennia, fought with his sense. They needed mechs, every last one. And there had to be a way to salvage. To eke out a chance. To scrape some hope from this gritty desolation.
Starscream's turbines cycled on his back, at his own weakness. Megatron had told him, always, he was too weak to command.
So, perhaps he was. But he was too strong to let another suffer while he had a way to help. He scooped up the listless hatchling, sliding armor aside, one of his dual thumbs nicking a newly exposed line. If it would eat, here, bathing in the radiant hum of Starscream's spark chamber, it had a chance. This, Starscream thought, is as far as I will extend myself. If not this, the creature, the thing, deserves to die.
Rationalization. Always he rationalized loss, creating scenarios where death was deserved, earned. He knew it wasn't true; had fought in enough battles to know that death was capricious, the will to live a mobile will-o-wisp.
"Live," he snapped, the word an order, bursting from his vocalizer. If only it were so simple, Starscream.
It never is. It never was.
But the hatchling stirred, small hands clutching over the heavy seal of the spark chamber, giving a petulant cry as the spill of energy stirred over his weaker, unshielded systems. And the mouth moved to the nicked line, licking at the droplets as they appeared, one by one.
It was a metaphor, he thought, dropping his weight to the sandy ground, the fed, sated other hatchlings beginning to creep and explore in the pen he made of his outstretched legs. It was a symbol of something, to restore another's will to live this way—cut, bleeding, exposed. He curled his long hand, careful, extra careful of the vicious barbs on them, around the tender hatchling plating. "Live," he said softer now. A hope. A plea.