AN: Greetings friends, and welcome to my latest attempt at a Starcee fanfiction! The plot for this thing has been through numerous edits and revisions over the last couple of years (yes, I've been working on it for that long, even if not all of it is written yet) and as a result it's barely recognisable from its original starting point. Also, I think I should point something out if there are actually any followers of The Art Of Persuasion still kicking around: it is unfortunately going on permanent hiatus unless inspiration physically descends from the heavens to punch me in the face. Sorry about that.

Anyway, the basic gist of this is that it is AU from the beginning of the TFP episode Patch, and completely disregards the entirety of season 3. So onwards, if you enjoy Starcee, seekers, and secretive sparkmates!

"Few things of value come without a price. So tell me, Starscream... What is it that you wish in return?"

The seeker's jaw was set as he knelt at Megatron's pedes, the four Omega Keys spread in a fan between them. Steeling himself, he raised his helm to meet the warlord's gaze.

"I ask that you use the Omega Keys to restore Cybertron to its rightful glory, my liege," he replied, stammering slightly as the Decepticon commander glared. "And once you have done so, I ask... I ask for my city. My price is that I am granted independence and instated as the ruler of Vos." He lowered his helm, voice developing a slight rasp. "I realise now that I was foolish to believe I could restore our planet alone. However, it is my dearest wish to lead my home city and personally see that it remains ever-loyal to the Decepticon cause."

Megatron scrutinised the smaller mech for several long, loud seconds. Finally, he gave a slight jerk of his helm in assent.

"Very well, Starscream," he agreed. "Once I have restored Cybertron, you shall have independent rule of Vos. It seems a reasonable price for the Keys. But be warned - if you abuse your independence; if you cross me in any way, the consequences will be as severe as it is within my power to make them."

"Understood, my liege," Starscream replied, delight evident in his expression despite the threat. The larger mech turned to leave and the seeker scrambled to his pedes, hastening to follow. "I - you have my word that I will remain loyal, I swear!"

"It would be wise for you to keep that promise," Megatron warned.

To himself, he added. "This time not only for your sake."