A/N: I apologize for neglecting you readers as well as this story. My life has been chaotic lately with personal matters so writing has not been high on my priority list. But rest assured I haven't abandoned this story and hope you enjoy this next installment.
Trying to be an Autobot
"Chapter 8: Scouting Mission"
By Leah King
The next day…
Bulkhead had Miko and Raf in his front seats as he drove them from school to the base.
Miko's feet were propped up on the dashboard, "So how come Ratchet can't bridge us to the base?"
"Our Energon supply is really low, Miko. We're trying to conserve it as much as we can and the Ground Bridge uses a lot of Energon." Bulkhead explained, his dashboard flashing with every syllable.
"No big deal Bulk. I like the ride." She tapped Raf's arm, "Hey Raf, challenge you to a game of Road Masher when we get to the base!"
The boy smiled but shook his head, "Sorry Miko, but Starscream and I are building a cleaning drone."
Bulkhead's radio panel flashed as his voice became incredulous, "What? YOU and Starscream are building a cleaning drone…together?"
"Yep." Raf nodded.
Miko blinked as if Raf had grown horns and a pink Mohawk, "Why?"
Raf shrugged, "Starscream wanted to and I thought it would be fun since I've never built a robot before."
Again Miko gestured with that same expression, "But why would you want to work with Starscream? He's a super jerk!"
"Kinda…but he's not so bad." Raf admitted.
"Not SO bad?" Bulkhead barked, "This is the same Con who tried to kill Miko and me…not to mention he's the mech responsible for killing countless other Autobots on Cybertron."
Raf looked at the floorboards, "Yeah…I know. But he's an Autobot now."
"He's NOT an Autobot." Bulkhead said with finality, "He's a prisoner. He never wanted to be an Autobot, he just wanted an excuse to save his own hide. I thought you understood that."
The boy frowned, "He'll never be an Autobot until YOU guys accept him as one."
"Accept him? The moment we do he'll stab us in the back!" Miko interjected.
Raf leaned back in the leather seat and looked out the window, "You know I tried out for the little tykes soccer team once…and I actually made the team. I was so excited. For the first time I had made it onto an actual sports team." He sighed, "But it didn't last."
Miko quirked a brow, "Ok…what's that got to do with Starscream?"
"It didn't last because no one on that team wanted me there. I couldn't stand going to practice every day and have every player on that team completely leave me out of the game. No one would pass me the ball. So I quit." He stared at Miko pointedly, "No one is passing the ball to Starscream either."
There was a silence in that statement until Miko said, "We'd pass him the ball if we were certain he wasn't still playing for the other team."
Raf sighed, "All I'm saying is try to give him a chance. It might make a difference."
The trip was mostly silent until they reached the base, which was the scene of a heated discussion between the other Autobots. Bulkhead let the children out and transformed.
"What's going on?" he asked.
Arcee faced him, "We need more Energon. Optimus wants to send Bumblebee out on a scouting mission, WITH Starscream."
Optimus nodded, "Starscream was the leader of the top Energon Seeker Squadrons on Cybertron."
"As he's so fond of pointing out." Arcee crossed her arms.
"He would be a valuable component to finding more Energon." Optimus said.
Ratchet shook his head, "Expertise aside, what's to stop him from running straight back to the first squadron of Decepticons he comes across?"
"There is that risk, but if I know Megatron he's not going to accept Starscream back if he thinks his former SIC was providing us with information against the Decepticon cause." Optimus explained.
Bumblebee whirred, "So he's in just as much danger of being shot at as I am."
Ratchet still didn't look convinced, "I don't like it. This is JUST the opportunity for him to try something."
"What do you think Bulkhead?" Bumblebee asked.
The big green mech blinked a second, and then seemed to think a moment before saying, "Well…I guess we haven't really given him a chance to prove himself. Maybe we just need to…pass him the ball."
The Autobots looked at him as if he had lost his head. But from the walkway Raf was smiling.
Optimus nodded, "I agree, Bulkhead."
Though Arcee and Ratchet didn't look so convinced, Arcee uncrossed her arms reluctantly, "Alright. Let's give him a shot. But if he blows this…"
"He won't."Raf piped up involuntarily which made all the Autobots look at him.
Optimus smiled at the boy, "Very well. We will give Starscream a chance."
Starscream was brought into the atrium and the situation was explained to him carefully. The Seeker twitched his wings with hidden excitement but then seemed skeptical.
"So…you want me to scout for Energon in this sector?"
"With Bumblebee." Optimus reminded.
Starscream looked to the yellow scout, "Not to question your wisdom on the matter Optimus Prime, but your scout will not be able to keep up with me from the ground."
"He won't have to. You will relay your findings back to him. If you find an Energon source then you will wait for Bumblebee to back you up."
Starscream gave a barely noticeable twitch of his optic at the thought of taking orders from an Autobot Scout but asked, "And if I happen to run into Decepticon opposition? How am I to defend myself with my weapons disabled?"
"That's your incentive to not get too far ahead of Bumblebee. He's your backup." Ratchet explained bluntly.
"You expect me to rely on a ground roller to defend me in the air if I'm attacked?!" Starscream's voice rose, punctuating the derogatory reference to their alt modes.
Arcee huffed, "IF you haven't noticed, we "ground rollers" have won almost every skirmish we've had with your Decepticon flyers."
Starscream rolled his optics briefly, "That still doesn't change the fact that your Scout MAY just let me get shot down if I'm attacked."
Bumblebee shook his head with a harsh buzz, "I wouldn't do that!"
The former Decepticon gave him a doubtful glare, "Oh please. What a convenient excuse that would be: "I tried to help Starscream Optimus, but I just couldn't shoot in time to save him." Oh yes, then your burden of me would be alleviated." He flared his wings and stepped back, "Unless I'm granted use of my weapons then I will respectfully DECLINE this "opportunity" to find more Energon."
Optimus set his mouth firmly, "That is your choice Starscream. But know that Bumblebee will do everything he can to defend you should you be attacked."
"Says you, Optimus Prime." Starscream sneered, "Were the situation reversed and YOU were in my position, would you go into a potentially dangerous situation weaponless?" There was a long pause and Starscream smirked, "Exactly. Make no mistake, I can find Energon for you, no problem. But I'm not going to risk my Spark on uncertain promises."
Optimus thought hard for a moment before taking Ratchet aside and quietly asking, "Would it be possible to reconnect Starscream's weapons for this mission?"
Ratchet huffed loudly, "Of course, if I wanted to get myself shot in the back later."
"Could his flight inhibitor also control his weapons?"
The medic raised a brow plate, "Hm. I few tweaks could make that work…but STILL! Giving Starscream flight capability was risky enough, but giving him his weapons back?!"
Optimus nodded, "Only for the mission at hand."
Ratchet sighed heavily, "Fine…fine. I'll make it work."
A few hours later…
After a quick reconnection and a thorough briefing of the mission, Starscream and Bumblebee awaited the opening of the Ground Bridge.
Raf looked up from his game with Miko, "Good luck finding Energon!"
Bumblebee beeped and gave a thumbs-up to his friend. Starscream approached the Ground Bridge as it engaged, revealing the swirling portal.
"Good luck Starscream!" the boy added.
The Seeker grimaced but gave a nod. He glanced over his shoulder at Bumblebee, "Try to keep up."
With a small leap and a graceful transformation, Starscream assumed his jet mode. A thunderous roar from his thruster and he shot through the Ground Bridge like a bullet. Bumblebee whirred with surprise.
"If anything goes wrong just let me know." Ratchet said quickly as Bumblebee transformed and peeled out before he sped into the portal.
On the other side of the Ground Bridge Starscream soared upward above a vast open plain of desert and very spare tree cover; "Australia" was what the Prime had called the location. The heat was very disagreeable to his metal plating, but at least he was flying. He happened to scan downward and see the billowing dust tail left by the Autobot Scout.
"With all the openness he would have nowhere to hide…" Starscream automatically pondered. "But without the signal from the Scout, his weapons would not be activated anyway."
He put his devious thoughts away and set to the task of Energon seeking. How long had it been since he'd sought Energon himself and not sent out underlings to do the task? Too long. But no record would deny he was the greatest Energon Seeker Cybertron had ever seen. Starscream activated his long range sensors to try and pinpoint the Energon sources they sought. He was looking for a particular algorithm; a "blue spike" as it was called; that signaled the presence of Energon.
Starscream soared higher, gaining a better scope of the landscape. For several minutes he scanned, waiting for that magic blue spike to scream at him. Instead he got the Scout.
"Picking up anything?" Bumblebee chirped over his communicator.
Starscream growled with annoyance, "If I detect Energon you'll be the first Bot to know."
And at that moment a blue spike jumped on his scanner.
"Hello. What have we here?" he crooned to the algorithm.
The blue spike jumped a couple times as he zoned in on the source: a large rock formation that resembled the back of some enormous beast rising from the sand below.
"I have a possible source at these coordinates." Starscream transmitted to the Scout far below.
The dust cloud behind the Autobot grew as he accelerated to his maximum speed. Starscream chuckled wryly…what would a ground roller know of true speed? With a curt roll he angled down toward the rock formation. In seconds he landed atop its peak and transformed. He looked around, pinpointing the blue spike in a large crack in the mighty back of the rock. With lightness in his step, he approached the crevice, seeing the faint glow of raw Energon crystals deep within.
"Ah…there you are." He uttered with triumph, reaching inside to touch a claw to the blue crystals.
His Energon seeking skills had definitely not waned.
Starscream could hear the scout's loud engine reverberating off of the rock face below. He stood and slowly walked to the rock's edge to peek over at his "back up". The Autobot had transformed and was looking up at him. Starscream smirked; enjoying his higher vantage like a cat staring at a human from atop the refrigerator.
"Do you see anything up there?" he beeped loudly.
"A sufficient deposit." Starscream replied casually.
The yellow scout scanned the side of the rock a moment, "Ok, I'm coming up!"
With that Bumblebee jumped, grabbing a ledge on the rock face and then finding his foot holds. Starscream could only shake his head as the Autobot climbed.
As he watched his comrade climb he suddenly heard a fine hissing roar in the distance. Starscream's head snapped up at the sky with all the alertness of a hawk. His fine-tuned optics scanned the skies until he spotted five black dots tens of thousands of feet above. The shapes were but mere dots but Starscream could see the distinct forward swoop of the wings. It was a Decepticon scouting party; most likely detecting the same blue spike he had just found. For a moment he smiled, thinking he'd be rescued. But then his caution surfaced like a mental typhoon. No doubt Megatron already knew of his capture and had thus written him off as either KIA or a traitor to the cause. It would be preferable to be considered offline by the warlord because the fate of a Decepticon traitor would be far more dreadful. Starscream knew that if the scouting party discovered him they'd either shoot him on sight or capture him and bring him back to the warship for Megatron to personally dispose of him.
Panic asserted itself violently into Starscream's spark. Not one of his more admirable traits to be sure, but his survival instinct was even stronger than his pride. With a quick sprint he dove off the opposite side of the rock, transformed, and hastily flew in the opposite direction.