Wow. I don't even know when I started this. It's been awhile.
I had this idea back around the time The Hub aired Arise, Serpentor, Arise in January (?) 2012... that by the time of late TF season 2 and the beginning of GI Joe season 2, the path could be laid quite easily to put my beloved Starscream, from GI Joe's sister show Transformers, in allegiance with Cobra, and fighting Megatron/The Joes/The Autobots/everyone.
The end of TF season 2 had Screamer going rogue, building his own brigade, being exiled, gleefully plotting the destruction of Megatron... and then that all just kind of fizzled out. And meanwhile, over in Joeland, CC was being tossed out on his ear and replaced by... well, Rocky from The Rocky Horror Picture Show because Destro and the boys all got REALLY drunk one day and decided to build them a man.
I thought, come on. Starscream would be a much more awesome Cobra Emperor. Just think of the shenanigans he and power-mad CC could get up to. It's like Starscream vs Starscream!
I wanted to have Tomax and Xamot bringing this all together, because it was obvious to me that by ASA episode 3, they were already set to head for the hills. Serpentor was a terrible idea and they knew it. So here they come to save the day. Or make the day infinitely worse.
At first, I conceived of this fic as a joke/crack parody. I intended to do a little pictorial essay with action figures, but meh. I don't have the patience to pose me no figures!
So... here begins the alternate end of TF s2 and the alternate beginning of GI Joe s2!
For fun, sometimes Tomax and Xamot would vacation to a part of the world they didn't already own. Not necessarily seeking to purchase it, of course. They would hold full and steadfast dominion over the entire globe soon enough, no need to collect it bit by insignificant bit.
No, they liked to see how the other half lived. Liked to look at those not affiliated with themselves by allegiance to Cobra or dependence on Extensive Enterprises. Liked to wonder, just wonder, what must it be like to go about your life without any sort of mission? To buy food and go to work and spend time with your family and have no idea how much your life is about to change? To have no real desire for it to change?
Almost unfathomable to a pair who lived and breathed ambition.
Vacation time for them was slow and leisurely. Their minds raced with plots and analyses, but on the outside, they looked like regular (though extremely well-dressed) businessmen on holiday.
They had not yet decided where to land their private jet; a remote cluster of islands looked promising, if sparsely populated. A sparsely populated area would ensure privacy, to be sure, but at what price? No dedicated staff. Untenable accommodations. Unacceptable.
Tomax and Xamot had made a pledge some years ago following a particularly grueling mission:
"Let us never again lift a finger that we don't absolutely have to lift. Let us invest every drop of energy into the mission and let someone else handle the messy details whenever possible."
And once they made their first billion and realized how bloody easy it was to hire a guy (or five hundred) to do everything for you, why, it got so that they hardly knew how to live without at least twenty or thirty agreeable red-clad servants (minions, really) flocking about, ready to do their bidding.
For them, the current mission was simply relaxation and rejuvenation. A mental reset after the last overwhelming failure, so that they would be ready for the next attempt. The mission was a total renewal of mind and body, and if there was no jacuzzi, there was no deal.
So they were in no real hurry that day. Perhaps they wouldn't land anywhere at all. Perhaps they would just spend the day in their jet, sipping their cognac and wordlessly reminiscing. Perhaps an early night, going to sleep in their seats, with the stars zipping by and that unmarked moon painting the cabin an ethereal blue.
But there was always the recollection of failure. And its bitter flavor and putrid aroma and ability to suck the tranquility out of any moment.
"Cobra Commander has to go," Xamot muttered, taking a sip.
"That is all there is to it," Tomax nodded.
"Another incident like Springfield..." the twins shook their heads slowly, angrily.
"It will all go down in flames. All of it."
And then, all at once, as if fate was giving them an entirely unnecessary literal visual representation of their metaphor, it went down in flames. What it was had yet to be determined. They heard a muffled explosion, what sounded like a cry of pain... and directly out their window, there it was. An unfamiliar military plane, spiralling toward the earth in a whirling cloud of smoke and debris.
Tomax and Xamot cried out in shock, pressing their hands against the glass as they watched in horror.
One of the Joes?!
The color scheme... will you look at that paint job, Brother! Red, white, blue...
The insignia on the wings! Can you make it out?
Where did it-
Two Crimson Guardsmen ran past, clattering the glasses on the seat trays as they went by.
"Careful, you oafs!" snapped Tomax "This is Frapin Cuvée 1888!"
"What happened?!" demanded Xamot.
"No idea! We just flew right into it, Sirs! Our radar didn't pick them up! Bogeys at 12:00!"
"Bogeys? Oh, honestly, can't you be..." Xamot began.
"A bit more specific?" Tomax glared.
"Is it the Joes?" they asked in unison.
"I don't know what the hell it is! I've never seen anything like it!" the panic in the CG's voice was unmistakeable, and a bit contagious.
"There have to be seven of them!" cried another CG.
"They fired on one of their own! They must be... crazy!"
Tomax and Xamot reluctantly got to their feet and strode into the cockpit.
"What they must be..."
"Is none of our damned business."
"Unless they're the Joes..."
"Or unless they're firing on us."
The jet rocked dangerously. Once, then again.
"Turbulence, I hope," said Tomax shakily.
"I don't think so," replied one of the CGs.
Through the windshield of the cockpit, the twins got a clear look at the situation for the first time, and a shared gasp of shock escaped their lips.
There was no describing them. There really was no describing them.
But there were indeed seven of them, some planes, some... some not. Painted in shades of blue and black and purple and red. One of the... bogeys, a large blue... something- my god it looks like a man—raised its arm- its arm, why does it have an arm, how can it fly, why does it have an ARM- and fired a clean shot- with what, what the hell is that, is it a gun?! A handgun?!-at the twins' plane.
"Me and my big mouth," the twins said in unison as the starboard wing was blown off and they were thrown into the wall. "All hands, evacuate ship!"
"Evacuate?! Evacuate where?!" asked the CGs. Almost in perfect unison.
"Well, someplace where giant blue robots with handguns..."
"Aren't trying to blow us to kingdom come, perhaps?"
"We're miles out to sea! We'll never make it!" cried one of the CGs.
"Not with that attitude!" the twins replied, grinning.
Well, so they would be seeing that sparsely inhabited island after all. If they were lucky. Which, of course, they always were. To a degree.
They just had to hope it would be an acceptable degree.
And that the giant blue robot wouldn't try to fire on eight or nine smaller targets.
The deed was done, and Megatron soberly transformed back into robot mode. His crimson optics reflected the flames from the humans' engines as he addressed his remaining senior officers.
"Now... does anyone else have an opinion they would like to share?" he asked smoothly.
Skywarp glanced at Thundercracker, then silently flew into position at Megatron's right hand. And damn, did that feel good.
"Not a one!" the purple and black jet said eagerly.
"Good!" Megatron smiled indulgently at his interim second-in-command.
"Megatron," Soundwave droned, pointing downward, "The flesh creatures are escaping."
Skywarp hissed, and glared in Soundwave's direction. Well, that statement wasn't really an opinion, Skywarp supposed. It was actually kind of a fact. But then, Megatron might not be in the mood to split wires. And as Megatron's new right hand robot, Skywarp would hate to see Soundwave get shot down, too. They kind of needed him-
But Megatron only laughed.
"Let them escape, they are of no concern to us! If Starscream happens to survive, which I doubt, I'm sure they'll make nice little playthings for him. Or he for them, perhaps. No matter. I have spoken, and he has, at long last, LISTENED. Now, then... back to headquarters!"
And Megatron was as jolly as any general could be, who had just suffered crushing defeat and turned his anger on his own batallion for pretty much no reason.
The parachutes were helpless white marshmallows against the blackening sky. And yet, halfway through their descent, the bogeys departed without so much as a downward glance.
What they came for.
"What they came for", whatever it was, lay in a still-smoking heap amidst a cluster of fallen trees. The fall had done it no good; it had suffered a broken wing, a shattered cockpit, countless dents and scrapes.
The twins would land seven or eight miles (or so) out to sea; a brisk swim and they would be safely on land. From there, it would maybe be another several miles to the crash site. A bit of a jog, but that plane, assuming it didn't explode in the interim, would warrant some serious analysis.
They hoped that at least a few of the CGs could swim!
Air Commander Starscream had always dilligently maintained his systems, and it was to that dilligence (and his superior construction) that he could now owe his life.
He powered up in emergency recovery mode. In recovery mode, his self-preservation subroutine powered up first, even before his vocal, movement or transformation subroutines. And well before he powered up his pain receptors.
His optics flickered on, and he determined that his surroundings were relatively safe. Solid ground, darkness. Smoke.
Self-diagnostics, and with them, his emotional subroutines. Serious damage. Broken wing-broken wing, sweet PRIMUS! No, no pain receptors, not for a long time. Panic kicked in, and light-headedness. His wing! Megatron, that oozing pile of slag! As soon as Starscream got his hands on-
The first twinge of pain. No, no time. No time-
Starscream adjusted his sensation receptors to level 1, and his entire body fell into a lovely state of unfeeling bliss. He was only slightly aware of the ground beneath him. He would be unfit for flight in his state; sensation receptors would need to be set at at least level 7 for flight. The pain would make that impossible until-
And he continued his diagnostic as if from a great distance. Taking inventory of damage, taking inventory of the associated feelings. He turned his emotional receptors up to 10, relished the razor-sharp feelings against the dreamlike backdrop of this smoky night.
Anger. Lust (for vengeance, of course). Shock. But no betrayal. Where was the sense of betrayal?! Megatron had shot him out of the stars without so much as a word of warning. Had transformed into gun-mode. Had leapt into Soundwave's clumsy, decidedly unworthy hand, and that was it. No provocation, at least no more than usual. Unprecedented mindless cruelty.
He retained memories of the pain. The loss of control. He turned his emotional receptors back down to 6.
But still no sense of betrayal.
But then... his self-diagnostic was only 15 percent complete.
His transformation cog was intact. His transformation subroutine was functional. He decided he may be more comfortable in robot mode. More emotionally comfortable, anyway. His physical comfort was under control for the time being
The transformation process was slow, uncomfortable (imagine the pain, imagine it. And the anger), and loud. Metal grinding on dented metal, sparking. Vertigo. He fell to his hands and knees. Turned sensation up to 2. Regretted it. Even at 2, the strong sense of coming apart was overpowering. And he was coming apart, in a very literal sense.
Vocal processors were damaged. A helpless whimper came out growly and squeaky. Another whimper, and something that wanted desperately to be a scream.
And he turned his emotional receptors down to 1. Sensation receptors down to 1. Vocal processors off. He leaned against a tree, careful not to bump his decimated wing. Straightened his legs, tilted his head back and looked at the moon.
There was peace for awhile. And he didn't think. He didn't think about how he was stranded here, unable to fly, barely able to transform. He didn't think about how far he was from anywhere, from anyone who could... or would help him.
He didn't think. He did that quite well.
And then the flesh creatures came.
Sopping wet jackets slung jauntily over their shoulders and trouser legs rolled up to their knees, Tomax and Xamot hiked up the hill from the beach and regarded this strange new island of theirs.
Moonlit and unblemished, it was a veritable paradise. Rich with natural resources and breathtaking beauty. Lush and wild and dangerously inviting.
And then, there was that smoldering plane, sending an involuntary smoke signal.
Behind them, the CGs were straggling to shore, awaiting orders, guidance, anything. Grateful that they had survived, they would be far more pliable than they had been a few minutes ago when they had evacuated the now-burning and sinking plane. Oh, yes, they would follow orders.
But what would their orders be?
The twins flipped back their wet hair and simply resumed walking.
"Who built those things?" they murmured quietly. "And what do they want?"
"Competition?" mused Tomax.
"For us or for the Joes?"
They found that being so in the dark (figuratively and literally) quite disagreed with them, and so they picked up the pace.
"Sirs!" panted one of the CGs, a limping female named Cadet Lawrence, "Where are we going?"
"Why, to investigate the crash site," they responded.
"Is that a good idea?" asked Lawrence. "We have no idea what we're walking into!"
"We are well aware, Cadet, that we are utterly clueless."
"Should we radio for backup?"
The twins stopped, looked at each other thoughtfully. Backup. Possibly useful. Possibly wise. Possibly the difference between living through this and dying.
But backup would mean involving others. Others who may want to weasel in on their discovery. Others who may see potential for this island and for this situation, potential for their own benefit at the expense of the Crimson Guard and its commanders.
Whatever was happening, Tomax and Xamot were sure of one thing: whatever those things were, they were almost impossibly powerful. And they had one of them all to themselves, assuming they could repair it and figure out how it worked.
What were the dynamics of this strange group of robots and planes? They didn't know, but they needed to find out. For themselves.
So no, backup would not do. They shook their heads briskly.
"But sirs-" Lawrence protested.
"How many of you are wounded?" asked Xamot.
"Er- all of us?! We almost drowned-"
The twins shared another glance and a bit of an eyeroll, because really! These men and women were the elite! The best of the best! And so easily were they laid low. It was no wonder-
"Well, get whoever can walk, and keep up with us..."
"And the rest of you stay on the beach."
They ended up with no one. Which suited them just fine, they supposed. This was a mission, and they did better on missions with nothing to hold them back. And so their walk became a run, as their minds raced with ideas and wild fantasies they intended to make real.
They pushed through the trees and arrived at the crash site in record time. A satisfied breath-
And then they realized that their plane was sitting up and looking right at them with demonic red eyes. They couldn't help letting out somewhat girlish screams.
The flesh creatures began by screaming. An appropriate reaction, of course, but Starscream was in no mood to appreciate the irony. He lifted his right arm to blast them, but it dropped right back down. His energy levels were dangerously low, and it wouldn't do to waste valuable energy on swatting a pair of strangely identical insects. Never mind the fact that he wasn't even sure if he could.
But he could speak. Sort of. So he powered up his vocalizer and scoffed,
"Get out of my sight, fleshlings, before I destroy you."
The humans grew pale in the moonlight, and they looked at each other with wide eyes.
"Curiouser and curiouser!" they said in an approving tone.
They were drawn to it as if by magnetism. Though it had just threatened to destroy them, had even raised a weapon to them, Tomax and Xamot had a strong conviction that the upper hand was theirs. If it really meant to destroy them, it would have done so, and not just threatened.
"The plane?! Can it be the plane?" hissed Xamot.
"What else could it be?"
"It can speak," said Xamot. "So perhaps that was-"
"Its scream in the sky-"
"When it was shot down!"
"Can it respond to vocal commands?"
And Air Commander Starscream increased his emotional processor level in order to show proper indignance. Because he should have been insulted by being referred to as "it", by these impudent little dust specks much less.
He quickly found that the fact that he didn't feel insulted was far more unpleasant an experience than actually feeling insulted.
"I am commanded by no one!" snapped the robot. Its voice had a curious timbre to it; at once squawky and smooth. It reminded them of someone they knew- Destro, perhaps? Was this thing his handiwork?
"It can recognize speech!" cried Tomax.
"Can it answer questions?" wondered Xamot
"It is quickly growing tired of the noises you are making," the robot growled.
"Astounding!" the twins cried in unison, smiling broadly up into the scowling gray face of their newest conquest.
"Tell us," said Tomax, "What are you called? Who do you work for?"
"I am Starscream... future leader of the Decepticons." Starscream spoke with genuine bitterness, whispered in a tone that suggested a long life of misery and unfulfilled potential.
The twins could not hide their astonished confusion. Bitterness. Long-suffering misery. Difficult emotions to synthesize... emotions that wouldn't even be necessary to synthesize, really! Long-suffering bitterness in a robotic tool of destruction?! Whoever had built it—him—was well ahead of current robotic technology, and had some odd ideas about warfare.
"Decepticons?" the twins repeated the word. "Never heard of them. Who built you to be as you are?"
"You ask a lot of questions for a pair of soon-to-be-squashed gnats," Starscream said with another emotion, smug self-satisfaction. "Who built you to be so nosey?"
The twins had to smile. They took another few steps closer to the robot. It—he- did not make any kind of threatening movement.
"We are Tomax and Xamot, the commanders..."
"Of Cobra's elite Crimson Guard."
They bowed grandly.
Starscream very gingerly folded his arms across his wide red chest, cringing a bit as he brushed against his broken cockpit.
"Flesh creatures, calling themselves elite," was all he said.
"Are you familiar with Cobra?" Xamot asked. "Were you, perhaps, built by Cobra? Are you one of ours?"
"I was built over six million stellar cycles ago, human. I come from the planet Cybertron, and I am most certainly not one of yours. Now leave me alone, or I'll blast you to atoms!"
A long pause, and the twins stepped closer.
"Why... you can't," Tomax and Xamot realized.
"You dare to tell me what I can and cannot do?!"
"You would have already," Xamot said. "If we are merely insignificant insects to you."
"You were damaged in the crash. You literally can't fire your weapons," Tomax said with no outward malice. "Can you?"
Starscream said nothing, but his gaze shifted to a broken-off gun on his right arm.
"You need repairs," they said in unison.
"Impressive deduction," Starscream muttered. "Why point out the obvious? Go on about your business, as it may be, and leave me."
"Leave you, you say?" asked Tomax, frowning. "In such a state? You barely function, that is obvious. Now, perhaps we can be of some assistance."
"Assistance?" Starscream spat the word. "How could you presume to assist the mighty Starscream of Cybertron?"
The twins glanced at each other.
"Why, you see... Cobra has resources. Perhaps not as advanced as those on-" Tomax frowned,
"Cybertron," Xamot recalled with a snapped finger,
"But far more sophisticated than anything else you'll find..."
"On this planet."
"And we offer you our assistance."
"You... obviously need it."
"I don't need anything from you!" Starscream burst out with forceful disgust. He had clearly been growing more agitated with each sentence the twins shared. His voice creaked and broke, almost literally. "Pathetic germs!"
"Alright, alright, settle down. Can you repair yourself?" asked Tomax. Perhaps he could.
"Or, perhaps, will one of your fellow Decepticons come to aid you?"
And they had stumbled upon exactly the right thing to say. Now that they were close enough to see his face, they were awestruck. The robot's real-time facial expressions seemed to reflect genuine emotion, and Starscream all but wilted as he said,
"As long as Megatron lives, I have no fellow Decepticons."
The twins stepped even closer, now able to touch the robot. Metal, just as they had thought. On the surface, he felt like any earth airplane.
"This... Megatron? He is the one who shot you down? Your... leader?"
"Yes." A new emotion, one of deep suspicion.
"And he was the... the large... blue robot?"
"Megatron is the gun."
Tomax and Xamot blinked at each other.
"You take orders..."
"From a gun?"
"When you put it like that, it does sound rather absurd, doesn't it?"
The twins shrugged. Of course it did, but no more absurd than anything else they had seen that night.
"Then, would your-"
"Forces go to any trouble..."
"To retrieve you? For repairs or... otherwise?"
Starscream said nothing. A look of genuine pain and fear crossed his face.
"They... would not."
The twins exchanged another glance.
"Well, then... you certainly are lucky we came along. We shall return to the beach, have one of our men radio for pickup..."
"And the three of us shall be on our way!"
The twins snapped their fingers in perky unison.
"On our way?!" cried Starscream. "On our way to where?!"
"Our base," they smiled.
Starscream seemed to draw back from them, shaking his head.
"Why would you flesh creatures want to help me?"
The twins raised their eyebrows, took another step forward.
"Why, dear Starscream..."
"Surely you can understand that it disturbs us greatly to see such a..."
"Marvel of engineering..."
"So gravely mis-"
"Treated." the two corrected each other in unison.
"And by his own allies! Why, it grieves us!"
"As it should grieve anyone with functioning optic sensors!" Starscream cried. "It would vex you to madness if you knew the full extent of it! The way that Megatron thinks he can..."
Xamot patted the bottom of Starscream's foot.
"There, there! Don't..."
"...Strain your vocal..."
The twins grinned widely, their best "Seal the deal" smiles.
"We're on YOUR side!"
"Truly?" asked Starscream, marvelling at the folly of it. "No... why should you be on my side? What's in it for you?"
Tomax and Xamot shared a smirk, one that threatened to spill out into laughter.
What ISN'T in it for us?!
But, aloud, all they said was,
"Pish posh. We don't think in such terms."
They didn't think in such terms.
Flesh creatures! Their foolishness and self-destructive idiocy... why, it was almost pitiable. That these microscopic little germs sought, against all reason, to help and aid and rescue. Was there a single human on all the planet with even a modicum of sense? Even the tiniest spark of self-preservation instinct?
Humans disgusted him, they truly did. And in his dilapidated state, the disgust became almost physical. These smiling water bags with their immense hearts and tiny brains. It was pitiable. It was truly pitiable, no almost about it. To destroy them now would be to do them a favor-
But he couldn't, of course. Because they had been right. He couldn't shoot, he couldn't fly, he could barely stand, and stomping the insects was out of the question.
They had the advantage. But did they take it? Did they ever? Starscream felt a brief pang of nostalgia for the only human being he had ever truly respected, Doctor Arkeville. A man who would sooner hang his entire species out to dry than compromise. But even he had been weak in the end... weak the way Starscream was now.
He trusted them now, entirely... that wasn't even the question. Now that he had reaffirmed his suspicions, seen that these were just two more humans like all the rest, of course he trusted them to do exactly what they promised. Deceit was not a human virtue. And he had no doubt that they could do a miserably unsophisticated but barely adequate repair job. He had seen the fleshies work, and they could be quite efficient as they scurried about, always with a cheerful song on their lips.
But could he... allow them to defile him?! Could he endure the disgrace, the shame?! He, the mighty Starscream?! The pride of the Decepticon War Academy, patched up by a band of drooling meatbags?!
What was the alternative?
His diagnostic was 67% complete, and it became clear to him that there was no way he could possibly leave this island under his own power.
Meaning that the alternative... was grimmer than he could bear to contemplate.
And so, with all due imperiousness, Starscream dismissively waved at the two humans and dipped his head.
"Very well...I... graciously accept."