An Inverted Insignia

An Inverted Insignia Part One: Basic Training By: Sunstar

Authors note:

The Cybertron War Academy was once the most prestigious of the Decepticon Military Colleges. Graduation through high grades and credits was a bonus, the real passing grade was not getting killed.

This fic is an event that occurred in the distant past of Starscream. This is not based in any particular continuity other than what the author calls Seekerverse or Starscream Chronicles.

If anyone wishes to assist in editing this fic, please contact Sunstar. My email is at the bottom of the page

Chapter 1 Recruitment
Chapter 2 Insignia
Chapter 3 Analysis
Chapter 4 Hunger

Chapter 5 Silver Snake
Chapter 6 Wings
Chapter 7 Slingshot


Earthdate: 9.75 million B.C.E. (Before Common Era)
Day one at the CWA

The blue sun rose over the metallic surface of Cybertron, its light shining off city's skyline. Many of the buildings were made of metals such as Titanium, Tridium or Trinium. The Cybertron War Academy was made of the standard Cybertronian alloys, what made the Academy stand out against the glistening city was the dichroic glass. During the day it appeared red, and at night, it seemed to be blue - The change in colour had a somewhat sinister feel about it.

The Academy was bustling with students, the word on the wind was war was about to break out and the Cybertronians were deciding their allegiances. Cybertronians were as much as one race, broken down into different countries with different traditions, methods, and ways; each city-state had its own laws for carrying out justice. A number of Conflicts had occurred between two nearby cities, one in which Megatron resided, and One in which Alpha Trion resided. It was argued that the laws for all of Cybertron should be streamlined. It was countered with the argument that the No Flying laws would impede the Seekers in their City of Vos, where flight was practised by almost every person living there. The Decepticons, as they called themselves, were led by Megatron. He spoke out against the Oppressive ways of the Autobots, how their ideals were suppressing the many freedoms his people enjoyed.

Seekers flew in from Vos, and landed in a courtyard area. Many of the Seekers were showing their allegiance to the Decepticon Faction and were having the badge marked into their chromoderm. The tattoo was created by an electrical charge that changed the pigmentation cells within the chromoderm. This was achieved by altering the signal the spark sent to the dermis layer. The effect was permanent until, for whatever reason, it was turned off again by a reversal of the procedure.

Starscream walked to the gate of the Academy; unlike his Seeker brethren, he did not fly. He hesitated looking at the words "Cybertron War Academy" across the bronze gateway. He looked about and tipped his head toward the sky watching as yet another group of Seekers streaked in, their colours glinting brightly in the sun. This caused him to think back a decade into his past. He left Cybertron on the Solar Holiday and saw the colour of his spark for the first time. His best friend and colleague, Skyfire, insisted they leave that day as the solar wind would be most powerful in the direction of the flare event. Starscream desired to stay and watch the festivities the Seekers and their rainbow squadrons would partake in. Such an event would happen again in a few hundred thousand years, maybe as late as a million years. It was very, very rare. But he agreed to go with his friend, leaving Cybertron behind to visit an undeveloped world that had the potential for being rich in energy and resources.

His effort on the science mission had some promising results, that is until Skyfire got swept up in the polar storm. He let his emotions take hold, let his frustration, fear, and grief grip him as he searched for his missing partner. Skyfire had detected a strong Energon reading beneath the Ice Cap on the northernmost part of the planet. Starscream strongly argued against going into the colder area of the world as Cybertronians were not well adapted to cold climates: their systems were known to freeze up and malfunction; and if not treated fast, death would soon follow. Energon reading or not Starscream would rather flag the location in a data report and go back at some other time, or with equipment better suited to the task. Skyfire had been a little more gung-ho about the discovery and left Starscream to study and take samples from the surface tar pits several hundred kilometres from the glacial edge of the polar ice cap.

He had received the brief may-day call and then all he received was static. Within seconds, Starscream was in the air. His jet engines caused great herds of mammalian animals to scatter in all directions, but he paid them little attention. His goal was to find Skyfire. The Seeker continued to ping his partner hoping for a response. When he neared the Arctic, he could feel the cold penetrating his systems, but he circled the ice cap several times in a Hunter-Seeker search and rescue pattern. If he had only written down the location of the energon vein, then he might have a clue as to where to start his search, but the squalls and the cold took their toll. Starscream had to break off his search, heading back south to warm up before trying again. The Seeker spent a month searching for Skyfire; each day he was left with less hope of finding his partner and more worry that he, himself, would be stranded or die on the alien planet.

Without Skyfire, Starscream's return trip would be extremely challenging. It never occurred to the young Seeker as they embarked on their missions together that he could end up attempting the return trip on his lonesome. They never used a shuttle to fly to their destinations; why would they when Skyfire himself was large enough to carry passengers within his altmode. Fortunately for Starscream, he was able to break planetary gravity and enter space; however, it was an energy-consuming task. His small size would require him to make frequent stops to obtain energy as he flew across Orion's Arm. A trip that would take Skyfire up to a year to complete would take ten times as long for the much smaller flier, even with the use of the ancient warp gates. And the worst thing about this was: Starscream would face being alone, without companionship for the entire time.

Much had changed for Starscream when he arrived back on Cybertron: There had been significant political upheaval. Gladiator-gone-Politician Megatron was bringing people together to fight back against their neighbours who wished to impose their wills and ways upon the provinces near them. Starscream, as soon as he returned to his home world after a decade of mentally-scarring "solitary confinement" in space, compiled his report to submit to the University at Crystal City. What happened at the University devastated him as much as losing Skyfire... Perhaps it was the rumour of war brewing, or perhaps it was that Starscream was a Seeker, a race of Cybertronian who were flocking to Megatron's banner, or perhaps it was that Starscream survived where the brilliant Skyfire had not. But the University revoked Starscream's degree, 'tore up' the report and promptly kicked him out.

Suddenly without a certified profession and now homeless, as his residence had been taken by the city and sold while he was "lost in space" and without any friends or allies, Starscream felt like his world had been spinning out of control. He contemplated his options: remove his T-cog and plummet to his death by leaping off a chasm ledge, or join the war effort. Being that the Autobots had elected to remove his status, Starscream decided between ending it all or joining the Decepticons. He was now without doubt a pauper once more. Ending it all did not appeal to the Seeker. He had strong survival instincts. His ability to adapt to meet the needs of an ever-changing situation gave him the ability to look past the desperate moment and see that there could be a future ahead of him in an upcoming war. If anything, there would be more dignity and honour to die in battle rather than die by a cowardly and pointless act.

The bronzed gate of the War Academy beckoned him in. He grabbed the few scientific tools he had, the single journal he had been using to record the details of his existence and quietly walked into the Academy. There were so many people around and Starscream felt a bit ill at ease. He had been on his own for a decade in space, having other beings around him felt strange - being on solid ground felt stranger still. He walked up to the clerk who was registering applicants.

"Name" the clerk asked, scrutinising the Seeker.

"Starscream," the Seeker replied.


"Scientist, I specialise in geology and meteorology although I have also studied chemistry and biology..."

"Scientist is enough," the clerk said, holding up his hand to stop the Seeker from continuing. It might have been just as well. Starscream was about to launch into how he was just recently stripped of his degree by no fault of his own. "Any other skills or abilities?"

"Err... flight would be obvious - I can emit a low level Electro-Magnetic Pulse - its' not very focused, so I can generally neutralise anything that is directly touching me... That's it I fear. I am also a meticulous record keeper."

"Your age - approximately?"

Starscream tilted his head, smiling in a youthful manner. "Nine-hundred and fifty-three thousand years. Give or take a few hundred."

The clerk wrote the age down, rounding it up to the nearest million and filled out the rest of the form. He handed it to Starscream along with a datapad. "Go to the red barrack and meet the Quartermaster. He will equip you and then you can choose what courses of study you wish to explore while training to become a warrior.

He took the papers and the datapad in his hand and looked them over carefully. His mind once again turned at the concept at hand. Was he really going to step from science and go to warfare? He looked at the datapad and scrolled through the options for courses. Meteorology, Science, Chemistry, Bio-technology, Field Medicine and Astronomy. He read through each one until he walked into the back of somebody.

"Hey! Watch it dirtball!" said a Seeker. He was white and black with violet accents. His face was quite youthful but he did appear older.

Another Seeker placed his hand on the aggravated one's shoulder. He was blue as the sky, white with red accents like Starscream's. "Easy there Skywarp, no need to bite his head off - errr...what's your name Seeker?"

"I am so sorry," Starscream replied to Skywarp. "I'm Starscream, a scientist. I just got back from a ten year sojourn in space...." Starscream extended a hand in greeting.

"He's a geek," Skywarp interrupted. "We don't hang around geeks, Thundercracker."

"Scientist eh?" Thundercracker replied, ignoring Skywarp's less than friendly remarks, and shaking Starscream's extended hand. "I'm a construction worker - or was. I oversaw the construction of buildings, buildings and towers of Vos. My friend here is nobody important. But he is okay once you get to know him."

"Hey I resemble that!" Skywarp responded- then he smiled, a creepy sinister smile. "He's still a geek though..."

"I'm sorry if I am not very outgoing... I have been in space for so long, alone... I am not used to people..." the red Seeker explained hesitantly.

"Not to worry there, Screamer," Skywarp said, placing an all-too-friendly arm around Starscream's shoulder. "We'll keep out of your way soon enough."

Starscream felt a little disconcerted by Skywarp's sudden change of attitude. "Please don't... don't call me Screamer."

The dark Seeker pawed at Starcream's paperwork, yanking it out of the young scientist's hands. "Look, Thunder, he's got Red Barrack too, we're roomies!"

The red Seeker looked appalled and rather disturbed and pulled his papers back. Without any more talking, he quickly took his leave of the strange pair and all but ran into the barracks in hopes he could get accommodations well away from the pair that followed in behind. The barrack was large with many platforms, most of them double platforms. He also noted that those already in the barrack were also Seekers. They were divided up then by species, Seeker or Grounder. He groaned. He wondered how many Seeker barracks there were and perhaps he could transfer.

The officer inside the barrack was also a Seeker. He had the insignia marked on his wing. It was bright, shiny and quite attractive-looking. Starscream wasn't sure he wanted to go through with it. The idea of tattoos did not appeal. He was perfectly happy with how he looked and did not find any need for decoration. "Papers?" the officer asked gruffly, holding his hand out. Starscream placed the papers in the open palm and the older warrior nodded as he added to the information.

"There isn't a chance there is another Seeker barrack is there? I'd like to go to another one."

The soldier shook his head. "No. Platform 48-b is yours. Your footlocker is 48-B. This is your key, and you are to head to the tattoo station to be marked."

"Is the tattoo really necessary?"

"It is, if you don't want to be blown out of the sky by friendlies, I strongly suggest you get it very soon. It'll be a black mark against you if you are not in uniform."

"Yes, very well..." Starscream groaned and as he was about to turn he felt a hand smack him in the back almost sending him flying head first into the registration table.

"Hey there, Screamer!" It was Skywarp.

"I said don't..."

Skywarp had turned to the officer, "you said he's in 48? 49 a and b open? We're old friends, me and Screamer, we work well together!"

The red Seeker spun around . "That's a lie; I never knew you before now! And don't call me Screamer!"

"Your papers?" the soldier asked Skywarp. Skywarp grabbed Thundercracker's as well and thrust them at the officer and stood back to attention.

"I thought we did not hang around geeks, Skywarp," Thundercracker reminded.

"Error of judgement, I think he's gonna be so much fun," the other replied, smiling in a sinister manner once more.

"If you can back out of this, Starscream, I suggest you do...Skywarp has a strange sense of humour," the blue Seeker warned.

He groaned, "I'll take it under advisement, I think I am bound by my decision now..."

"You three will report to the tattoo station and get the mark," the officer said, looking straight at Starscream; the red Seeker felt it was more of an order than a request this time.

Saying nothing more, Starscream turned and found his bunk, his footlocker and put the few items he owned in it. Quickly and quietly the Seeker made his way to the station to get the mark of the Decepticons added to his wings.

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Day one at the CWA

The tattoo station had several platforms where the subjects sat to get the insignia marked on them. The artists themselves looked pretty gruff, scarred, marked with many shapes, symbols or even pictures edited into their chromoderm; somewhere amongst their various paintings, they had the insignia themselves. It was brighter, almost surreal against the pictures of robotic dragons, or giant metallic fish.

"I'm here for the mark," Starscream said to the artist who wore a patch over his optic. He bore a gladiatorial mark on his arm.

"So are we!" Skywarp suddenly said from his right-hand side. Starscream all but leapt out of his plating as the other startled him with his abrupt presence. The artist looked up unfazed.

"We?" Starscream asked, looking around. He spotted Thundercracker moving at a jog toward the station.

"Oh Thundercracker will be here in a moment. We want to share this experience together."

Every time he attempted to get out of the way of the enthusiastic Skywarp he found him suddenly next to him. He did not understand how the dark Seeker found him so quickly and so quietly. But every time he turned around, Skywarp would be there with his friend only a dozen or more meters behind. "I don't know how you do it..."

"Trade secret, Screamer," the other smiled. "If I tell ya, I have to kill ya." Skywarp tapped the side of his nose and slyly smiled a knowing smile. The dark Seeker turned to face the newly-arrived Thundercracker and grinned. Thundercracker frowned at the instruments that were laid across the artist's workstation.

"So, who's gonna be first?" the artist asked, picking up the needle-like instrument.

Skywarp's face blanched slightly and he glanced at Thundercracker. "Oh, it better be him," Skywarp said, pointing at Starscream. "He was here first after all."

The red Seeker shrugged his shoulders and spared a brief glance at the array of tools and then at the artist. On the table was a set of templates of varying sizes. Some of the insignia templates had slight variations in style. Starscream sifted through the patterns and chose one he liked. It had three points in the central crown with triangular eyes. It was one of the larger designs but not the largest. It would be easily spotted and identified at a distance. He poked it with his finger and the artist gathered it up along with his tools. As soon as the young scientist sat down to have it placed he struck upon an idea. "Can I make a request for placement?"

The artist paused and nodded. "Well yes, but I suggest that Seekers have it placed on their wings, as it's prominent in both modes." He pressed the template to Starscream's wing, but the red Seeker raised his hand, requesting a moment.

"Yes, I see that and I don't doubt the value in that location hence I am not going to argue it. However, it's the position on the wing that interests me... I want it inverted. Does it really matter?" Starscream replied.

"Inverted? You mean upside down," the artist asked perplexed. He stared at the Seeker as if he had developed a second set of wings. Skywarp and Thundercracker looked equally confused. The dark Seeker tipped his head looking at the one on the artist as if trying to see it in that position. He nearly lost his balance and Thundercracker steadied him before he could fall over.

"Same thing, different word. Yes. Upside down if you will," he agreed with a curt nod. His wing flicked back so the artist could have easy access to the surfaces.

Flipping the template around the artist looked at it as if it was toxic. "We'd probably consider that improper or immoral," he protested.

"Think about it this way," Starscream responded, "while I am flying in my alt-mode, the insignia will be facing forward and 'correctly'. And again, I ask what does it matter? It's going to be inverted one way or another. I really do not see what the fuss is about which way up it goes; anyway, I am quite proud of my alt-form and I would sooner have the insignia visible to my friends in battle the right way up. So do it... and these two also will have it done thus, if they wish to remain in my company."

"Hey, do we get to choose what badge we want?" Skywarp asked quickly. He was not as keen on Starscream's selection, and desired something simpler.

"Pick whatever, but if you want to hang off me like you have been, it's upside down."

Skywarp glanced at Thundercracker then picked one of the standard choices. He smiled. "Then this will be ours!"

The artist nodded, seeing the logic and settled down to mark the Seeker's broad wings. Starscream winced as the painful procedure took place. The cells were being changed and the colour was showing up a vibrant violet. Skywarp and Thundercracker exchanged glances when they realised they were about to join Starscream with his insane inverted insignia idea.

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Two hundred Seekers stood together in eight flights of twenty-five members each. Each flight was chosen by location of sleeping bunk which meant that Starscream was once again saddled with Skywarp and Thundercracker. He did not mind Thundercracker, the blue Seeker seemed well grounded and mentally sound. Skywarp on the other wing appeared to be more easily distracted and prone to strange humour. He was still unsure how Skywarp always seemed to be next to him without warning and Thundercracker declined to explain it to him. Starscream was rapidly growing tired of Skywarp's use of Screamer as his name. His name was Starscream and he was most proud of the handle. Shortening it to Screamer sounded derogatory and mocking. He could tolerate being called Star easily enough - but his end preference was his full, unaltered name.

As the units ranked up, dishevelled and disorderly, the drill sergeant strode out into the hall with extreme purpose. He marched in front of the motley group of Seekers, slammed a foot down hard, then turned sharply to face the group.

"ATTENTION!" he barked. Sloppily the Seekers shuffled and stomped into something that resembled attention. The sergeant looked disgusted. "I am Sergeant Darkstar and your lives are now in my hands." He was larger than the other seekers, by far the largest Seeker most of them had ever seen. His face was dark grey, his wings coal black, and his body was a deep cranberry red. He had blue accents and silvery grey wing stripes. The mech's eyes burned with an intense fire and his voice suggested he had seen many more years than most of the Seekers. "You little scraps of metal are about to step into the greatest military machine that this world has ever seen and a good many of you won't step out of it - except in a box being sent to the crypt." The Seekers in the flights started to twitch restlessly. Starscream's tanks started to churn uneasily and he wondered what he just got himself into.

"You fledglings are going to find this academy increasingly difficult as you advance through the levels. The higher you go, the more difficult your lives will become. Not only are you attempting to excel at whatever study focuses you choose, you are also attempting to survive; because, look around you, each one of your neighbours is going to be your enemy at some point. This is no Crystalline University of posh standards where luxury and comfort are your constant companions, here at the CWA you will experience starvation, sleep deprivation, injury, pain and your creators you won't be here to save your sorry, wretched afterburners from what we are about to put you through. Your final wills will be made tomorrow. If you don't, anything you own will be absorbed by the state upon the cessation of your worthless sparks." The drill Seeker's voice was heavy, loud and projected clearly over the mass of untrained cadets. The Seekers shuffled and glanced at one another: some showed fear, some showed defiance and determination.

"I will proceed by doing a brief inspection of your sorry wastes of sparks to get an idea what scum of Cybertron just crawled up from the chasms and answered the Decepticon call to arms." Darkstar walked slowly in front of the eight flights, looking at each one carefully. He made notes on his clipboard of any cadet he wished to address at some later time. He observed their cleanliness, whether or not they had insignias, their postures and their colours. He noted the three Seekers with the inverted insignias and frowned intensely. "You, you and you, fall out of formation immediately and step in front of your flight." Skywarp glanced at Thundercracker and they both looked at Starscream who had tensed up. The three stepped forward, turned and walked in front of the unit where they lined up in front. They waited in silence until the Drill Sergeant finished the remainder of the inspection.

The huge Seeker made his way back smartly and stood in front of the trio, glancing at them once more. "You three best start by giving me your names."




They each spoke in rapid succession. Sergeant Darkstar's optic flickered slightly at Starscream's name but it cleared quickly as he glanced at their wings. "Would any of you three care to explain why you dare mock the Decepticons with this disgusting violation of our proud insignia?" he walked around them, sizing them up, looking at the position of the insignia on both sides of their wings.

"It was my idea, Sergeant!" Starscream said sharply. His voice was sure and clear.

"Yours was it now?" The huge Seeker stopped in front of Starscream, glaring balefully into the recruit's optics.

Inhaling a deep breath and swallowing hard Starscream prepared himself to explain. "It's not meant as an insult or mockery, I surmised that the insignia would read better in flight and be clearer to our allies."

"'Surmised'; what manner of language is that? You're an 'educated' mech aren't you? You think you're smarter than us? What brings you to this rabble?"

"Chance of pace, Sir! I decided it may be more exciting to fight than it would be digging up dirt samples." The units chuckled in unison and Darkstar rapidly silenced it by a fiery glare.

"Scientist are you?" Darkstar translated. "You won't survive long here, not with those marks."

Starscream said nothing. He remained silent wondering why this faction appeared to dislike scientists. He however felt Darkstar was very wrong, he believed that he would succeed. He intended to prove it to this Sergeant, his new wingmates, and the rest of the cadets.

"Well you three are on to an excellent start in the CWA. You shall all report to my office after meal hour for extra duties. Dismissed!" Starscream, Skywarp and Thundercracker all groaned. Skywarp glared at Starscream and Thundercracker sighed heavily.

The units dispersed and scattered to their barracks, or the meal hall. Starscream parted from the other two and quickly returned to the barracks. He felt that they would not wish him to be near after the humiliation he brought down on them. The survival aspect of the Academy was entirely unexpected. He had heard it was a tough course and he considered it as a challenge, yet he was unsure about the actual life or death game. He was no stranger to living through tough situations, however this appeared much more dangerous than he had imagined.

Starscream sat on his bunk, with his back to the wall. Allowing himself to be able to see the whole room. His face was toward the door which enabled him to view anyone entering the room. He decided that this would be a good habit to develop; that way he was not open to surprise attack. He then opened the enrolment datapad, which displayed a list of courses he could enrol in and their description, duration, and credit value. He selected several sciences to study from, including sciences from the university he was ejected from. Starscream was determined to get his degrees back and truly proclaim himself a scientist once more, he also figured that he could simply write the exams to prove his knowledge level and go from there. The Seeker also selected field medicine as an elective. This he felt would be useful for dealing with battlefield injuries on himself and others, and considering what the Sergeant threatened, it might be useful to know in case of near future injuries. Starscream was determined to survive. He was not concerned with mastering medicine, however he would leave that as a possible option. Scientists could also make good medics.

He had been busy filling out the forms so he could embark on re-education when he had an eerie feeling he was being watched. He glanced up from his paperwork and inhaled sharply: he realised he had become fully distracted and unaware of anyone entering or leaving the barrack. Across the room the drill sergeant stood staring at him with intensity. Their optics met briefly and Starscream could tell the other was trying to figure him out. Did they know each other at some point? The young Seeker was sure he'd remember someone like Darkstar in his past. He doubted any previous connection. So why was he singling him and his wingmates out? The insignia? There had to be more to it than that. The badge was inverted. It was not coloured red like an Autobot insignia, it was also not the Autobot insignia. So why the big deal? Then there was that flicker of recognition in Darkstar's optics when Starscream had spoken his name. It was unmistakable. "Who are you? Darkstar," Starscream asked himself. He figured he would not know the answer- ever.

What Darkstar wanted to learn about Starscream was beyond him, yet he felt targeted by this sergeant and knew his life may be in a lot more danger than it was before and all because he decided to invert the insignias. He guessed that he and his newfound friends already had the feared black marks on their records. This meant they would have to work harder to go forward. He felt this Sergeant would do all he could to hold them back. After a while Darkstar turned and left the room. Leaving the young Seeker to worry in his private thoughts.

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Day one at the CWA

Thundercracker and Skywarp returned to Starscream a little over an hour later. The blue Seeker had some fuel cubes in his hand and handed them to Starscream who appeared somewhat surprised at the gesture. "You missed the meal period," Thundercracker said quietly.

"Yes, I'll be fine," Starscream replied, tucking his datapad away. He ate a couple of the offered cubes and tucked the rest away.

"They said we'd end up facing starvation," Skywarp reinforced, "that means no fuel for days... going hungry, I hate going hungry."

Starscream shrugged briefly and smiled knowingly. "I'll gorge tomorrow and then maintain it. I can refuel once a week and be comfortable."

"You can actually do that?" Skywarp asked, optics bright with amazement. "And not starve?"

"Yeah, I can, it's how I can travel through space- but I can't tell you how. Trade secrets, you know?" Starscream replied, glancing up. "I suppose we ought to report to the Sergeant... before he hunts us down." The red Seeker got to his feet and slipped off his bunk, landing on the floor with grace. "I got a feeling he's gonna be on our case from here on in."

"Yeah no thanks to you and those upside-down insignias - what on Cybertron were you thinking..." Skywarp grumbled.

"That it was merely a method of seeing how strongly you wished to remain with me," he said, leaning toward Skywarp. "You could have said no, but you did not. You chose to follow my lead and now we are marked as a group," his voice was low, barely audible to Thundercracker who stood nearby. "It may be prudent that we maintain this new alliance to get the three of us through this academy alive," he said, raising his voice loud enough for Thundercracker to hear clearly. "Again this choice is yours to make - we don't have to become enemies." Starscream looked at the two other Seekers watching them glance at one another. "If we can form some sort of 'trust' between us, make a pact now, agree to back each other up, through thick and thin we can get through this alive and perhaps come out on top. We could call ourselves... a Trine since there are three of us."

"It's a sound idea..." Thundercracker rumbled, nodding, "Which of us will be the leader?"

"Great! I'll be the trine leader!" Skywarp exclaimed. Hoping to his feet in near boyish glee. His rapid movement nearly sent the datapads flying from Starscream's fingers.

"You Skywarp?" Thundercracker asked with a disbelieving half laugh.

"Why not?" the dark Seeker replied, his tone was nearly hurt. "I can lead, just give me a chance!"

"Because you're lazy, Skywarp," his friend replied, "I have not known you to do an honest day's work in all the millions of years I have known you."

"Well, I can try..." Skywarp started. "I'm here aren't I? That means I am trying to get a real job."

"As a killer, something you do as a hobby anyway."

Starscream shook his head listening to the two debate Skywarp's work ethics or ethics in general. "I'll lead the group," Starscream interjected firmly, "and I say this because I have tricks up my sleeve - which I will reveal in due time," he was not sure what tricks he would have, just that he would come up with something.

"You Starscream?" Thundercracker said this time without humour. "You're a scientist - I mean, no insult intended, but I've led a work crew to build great towers or cities. If anyone can lead here it's me..."

Holding up his hand in a silent bid for a moment, Starscream continued with his explanation. "Yes, you can follow a plan, it's your job right; but can you engineer a plan? Can you tackle a problem with formula or method, observe the intricate details as things happen and react, to see what is working and what is not? Then formulate another strategy or another idea of how to work around the problems presented. A scientist is capable of reading clues that slip by most people. Trust me..." Starscream said softly. "If I can lay out a plan, you can follow them - that is your skill as a construction worker. Although, I am still trying to fathom Skywarp's usefulness in this, but I am sure there is more to him than I initially see."

"Hey! I'm useful! Just you see!" Skywarp defended himself, "trust me at being your thief in the night, or secret assassin!"

The young Seeker studied Skywarp. He seemed very confident in his abilities to steal or kill. He wondered how he could, being that they had no weapons other than small knives.

"Fine," Thundercracker agreed sharply, "You are the trine leader, we are a trine, we will work as a group to get through this academy and into the battlefield," he took a breath. "And after the Academy what then?"

Pursing his lips, Starscream sank deep in thought. His mind considered the possibility of maintaining the alliance after the academy, but was it possible? Would they get stationed in different areas? "If we can survive this, perhaps we can remain as a trine throughout our tour of duty with the Decepticons - but I can't promise it. I don't even understand how we'll be stationed in the end."

Thundercracker nodded. "That's a fact. Well, we better get moving..."

"...Before Darkstar peels the plates off our frames," the red Seeker said, hurrying off to the officer's building searching for their sergeant.

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The Sergeants office area was a comfortable size for a Seeker of his dimensions. The walls were bronze coloured with pictures of alien aircraft that were suitable as Seeker Alt modes. Book shelves nearly lined with books, most of which covered military tactics, or military formations, drill, and flight manoeuvres. Some of the books covered sciences or hacking of databases.

The room also had a couple comfortable chairs across from the desk and a metal bench against the door side wall. It would be the place where he would seat cadets who needed significant reprimanding.

The desk that Darkstar sat at was brushed titanium with an obsidian glass top. It was inlaid with a computer display that could project holographic images as well as act as a flat topped touch screen. There were two other monitors on the desk as well as a projection-holo screen. All the information in the world was at his fingertips.

Those fingertips drummed on the obsidian top as he wore a perplexed expression. He wished to learn more about the trio of cadets that would be arriving in his office soon. He opened up a datalink to Iacon, and then accessed directly to the hall of records. Such information was not isolated to those who lived in Iacon, but it was the massed database of all Cybertron history and its people for as long as records were kept. He decided to check the summarised histories of the three cadets starting with the oldest.

Thundercracker, it appeared, was one of the Oldest Seekers aside from himself. Already close to three million cycles of the Cybertronian sun and was the product of one of the earliest Seeker productions. He was a tower builder, foreman and was one of the mech who was responsible for the construction of the Original VOS in its glorious heyday; a spectacular city. Darkstar remembered it drifting above the planet's surface before it was finally brought down planet-side during the short war. Darkstar frowned as he remembered the grounding having been elsewhere at the time. He mourned the loss of life that resulted when the city crashed into the chasm. Thundercracker was intelligent, artistic although extremely discriminatory toward grounders. Perhaps as a direct result of the grounding of his beloved VOS. Thundercracker was also somewhat of an introvert yet he was typically even keeled and peaceful. Not what he would consider made for military work.

Skywarp was younger than Thundercracker at about one and a half to two million years of age. He did not seem to have any set form of employment. Skywarp was a troublemaker, being arrested multiple times for various small offences and almost always escaping from incarceration. He had a taste for mischief and tended to pull pranks on people that could have devastating if not lethal results. Skywarp's record indicated that he was suspect in several murders, yet no one had been able to find the bodies and tag him with the murders. The records indicated that Skywarp felt that he did not have work because he stole whatever he needed. The benefits of being a teleporter. The ability of the teleporter was very rare and Darkstar knew only of one other, the first Seeker Cumulonimbus. Skywarp fit the Decepticon code, a little cleaner than his friend, Thundercracker, although his laziness was a possible hindrance.

And then There was Starscream, the youngest of the three. He was sparked in Vos - nearly a million years after the city fell. An "orphan" of sorts; he was an abandoned hatchling left to survive on his own. He had no real future and his chances of survival were slim to none, and yet, in spite of all odds, he rose from the wilds of Cybertron to become a highly educated, intelligent citizen and very skilled in the arts of survival and hunting. A scientist, graduate of Iacon University and recently thrown out, with all of his degrees stripped. This was an interesting development. Starscream did not indicate on his application he was thrown out and not technically a legal scientist.

Initiated a second search, this one accessing the University of Iacon's records. This search required some hacking, which Darkstar was able to do. The Autobot school had not updated its security protocols yet and probably would sometime soon. Once he obtained access to the University's records he found out that Starscream had been, until recently, a Master of Geology, Chemistry, Biology and Astronomy. He had left with Skyfire, a PH.D. of the same subjects. Skyfire and Starscream had been on a geological study of a primitive alien world where Starscream had returned alone. The allegations made against Starscream was based on his report that Skyfire had gone missing and he had searched to no avail and returned home alone. The survey report was filed under Starscream's name yet they felt the story was deeper and that he murdered, then left Skyfire on the planet to advance his career. Nevertheless, the council stripped him of his rank and privileges. Darkstar realised that this is what pushed the young scientist to the Decepticon's War Academy and not the Autobot's Academy. The young Seeker was quite potentially an Autobot sympathiser.

'An interesting grouping of backgrounds,' Darkstar thought as he glanced through other files and records, then opening the academic studies selected by each candidate.

Skwarp has yet to decide on what his studies were going to be. Darkstar pegged him at failing miserably or barely passing. Academics do not make a warrior though. They can be an advantage, but they could also lead a warrior to think. Skywarp did not seem to be a real thinker- he seemed impulsive.

Thundercracker had finalised his choices, but he had tentative courses, maths, literature, history as well as a mechanical engineer as an elective. Thundercracker selections suggested he was the thinker and potentially the one who would question orders.

Starscream was hell bent on his sciences with divergence into basic medicine. Darkstar wondered how effective a fighter a scientist would be. Scientists were not considered a huge threat on the battlefield, yet this scientist had a history of survival. Also, Starscream appeared to not give up on things easily. He lost his title at the University - an Autobot based University, yet it did not stop him from trying again from a Decepticon School. He was seemingly setting an example for the other two, who he appeared to only have just met. Starscream may be a scientist, but he seemed to have a drive to be in control. This could mean he was a potentially dangerous individual- depending on how he directed his drive and potential ambition. His reversal of the Insignia was a daring move in itself, even for the well thought out reasons he had given for it, it could still be an Autobot insult and he managed to get two others to go along with it. Starscream's motives were not precisely clear to him, he could be a problem, or he could very well be genuine in his desire to become a Decepticon. The truth would come out, hopefully, in this meeting. The young Seeker had clearly lied when he said he wanted to have a "change of pace." Omitting the fact that he had actually just been thrown out of the university yesterday evening. Starscream was willing to bend the truth to spare himself humiliation.

Darkstar wrote down notes on each of the recruits and marked it in their file. His stylus hovered over the black mark check box and he decided against it. No, the inverted insignia was not necessarily worthy of a black mark immediately, he would see what these three could do. Succeed or washout.

There was a tentative knock at the door and the three Seekers filed in, led by Starscream, tailed by Skywarp.

Darkstar glanced at the three as they stood to, what one could consider, attention. He glanced at each one as they stood wing to wing, they were uncertain of what was about to happen and were trying to hide it. He gestured to the bench along the wall, indicating to the three to take a seat. They did so, shuffling uncomfortably.

"You three have chosen to stand out, and I have chosen to notice," He started. "I have polled the hall of records to see what background information I can get on each of you and I found some interesting data. Thundercracker is the head foreman for the construction of VOS, Skywarp is a murderer and a theif, although the bodies have not been found, he has the ability and inclination to commit this crime and Starscream," he pondered on allowing Starscream to keep his dignity or challenge it yet he chose to air it out to his 'friends', "was stripped of his degrees and thrown out of an Autobot University in Iacon only yesterday. Thundercracker here, it seems, is the only one who has decent credentials." Thundercracker looked surprised, Skywarp shrugged and indicated he didn't care and Starscream optics burned brighter, his face darkened with embarrassment and his mouth firmed in an angry line as a flash of hurt followed by rage flickered across his face. That stung.

Darkstar observed each one for their individual reaction. He had anticipated these sorts of reactions from each Seeker. Thundercracker was humble, Skywarp didn't care and Starscream was seething with barely controlled emotions.

"You three are here for your own reasons. I reckon that Skywarp is here because war gives him a chance to do what he enjoys- and that is to cause chaos and kill. Thundercracker is here, because Skywarp is his friend and likely was talked into it. And Starscream is here to make a point against those who have wronged him. Am I correct?"

Skywarp and Thundercracker said nothing and Starscream spoke up, and his emotions finally rolled out and he spoke his mind. "I am here because this is where most of my kind has come. I was not "born" an Autobot as you are attempting to imply, but I was accepted into their University, because Vos, for some reason, refused my application. Slag, we didn't even have these Autobot, Decepticon, labels before I left Cybertron for that water-logged-semi-frozen-mud-ball which ruined my life. I came back home only to find out my home city is in "Decepticon territory" and my School is in Autobot Territory, and my home was sold off by the state. As you can see, I am considered Decepticon by Iacon's shallow standards because they threw me the frag out. And you Consider me Autobot because I went to an institution that is based in what is now considered Autobot owned land. Do you know what I really am? I am neither. I am not an Autobot or a Decepticon. I am a Seeker."

He pointed to his inverted insignia. "That is my true faction. I joined the Decepticons because this is where my people are and I wish to stand with them, as opposed to against them." Starscream's voice was hard, and he had both hands on Darkstar's desk and he leaned forward into his officer's face. His wings were wide and flattened against his shoulders. The posture was challenging and had Darkstar been any other Decepticon, the Seeker probably would have been eviscerated right then and there. Skywarp guffawed and Thundercracker rumbled nodding his head in agreement to Starscream's pride of being a Seeker. "My dishonour at the hands of Iacon is of no one's concern but my own. I will be a Master of sciences, just you watch, and If I have it my way, I will become a PH.D. Like I had always intended." He pushed himself back into an upright position.

Starscream's wings had flicked backward as if ready to fight. Every pulse in his body was ready to strike the officer, yet he had somehow managed to restrain himself from his impulses. Darkstar nodded in approval. The Scientist was a fighter after all. If anything he had extreme loyalty to his own kind 'his people' as he called the Seekers. And the insignia he pointed to, he saw that as a Seeker emblem not Decepticon? It was possible to use the same symbol differently to denote something else, as it was to use the same colours in other positions on a flag or banner to represent different towns or territories. Darkstar wondered if that could catch on with other Seekers- if it could become symbolic of the kind. There could be power to it. The Seekers were in need of a leader.

"As I said, you three will be on watch tonight, from Midnight until 4am, you will be meeting with Sergeant Riftwing; he may have some training for you. After that, you will refuel, and then take a rest period before you rejoin your unit in your boot camp training."

Skywarp whined, and Thundercracker groaned. "Yes, sir." Starscream said, pulling his left hand, made into a fist, to his chest in the standard salute. "Anything else?" His tone was eerily calm after his outpouring of emotions.

"That will be all you three, dismissed."

Starscream waited for Skywarp and Thundercracker to make their exit before leaving.

Darkstar wrote his observations down on the file along with a final note in Starscream's sheet. 'Survival of Academy is not expected as the cadet is easily baited. However, it was noticed he was restrained toward an officer. Time will tell if he will tell if he can survive.' Darkstar frowned and closed the folder then put them away.

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Sergeant Riftwing was a black and dark green Seeker, he was large, usually large, a lot like Darkstar. He studied the three Seekers as they entered the Watchtower. "So you are the 'unique' ones. He grabbed each one and looked them over, pulling up their wings as if to check for flex, their heads for marks, their surfaces for scars.

"For a scientist, you bear a lot of marks, Starscream is it?" Rifwing observed. "Want to explain their history?"

"You know my profession, but not my name?" Starscream was unimpressed. "My scars are my business, their history is private and no, my life was not always posh and perfect." Again the Seeker was highly defensive, his wings flattened to his shoulders as a defensive mechanism. A posture that attempted to make his small figure look larger next to his superior.

"I see," Riftwing replied. "Well, to the task at hand - Guard duty. We will supply you with hand weapons, but these must be returned complete with any spent cartridges or unused ammunition. No one on campus is allowed firearms until they reach the final advanced levels. You may choose to use melee weapons such as swords, daggers and knives. But firearms are off limits outside of guard duty, or simulator training, unless approved by special grant. And you three were hand selected by Darkstar to take this early step. You will be attending boot-camp with the rest of the recruits, but you will be entering level two as soon as that session is done, the others will be entering level 1. Consider your cry of defiance with the inverted insignias noted and answered."

Skywarp groaned and Thundercracker shot Starscream a fiery glare. Somehow the scientist got them thrown to the wolves sooner and they would not have the break in period that others would have. Starscream ignored the glares from his comrades and focused on Riftwing. "So, this is a bit more than punishment for any perceived signs of defiance, but extra-curricular training. Am I correct?"

The deep green Seeker nodded. "Of a sort," he agreed. "We typically choose three individuals out of a unit to act as officer cadets, but we need to train them up first. Then we hope they survive the advanced training."

"Very well," Starscream responded. "Then let us begin our training."

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Day two at the CWA

The three Seekers were tired when they were forced out of their bunks to attend the first training classes. Unlike what Darkstar had informed them, they were forced to join in with the others immediately. Skywarp was irritated as the pit for having been awakened. Starscream was used to late nights and early rises and Thundercracker, he wasn't sure about Thundercracker. The blue Seeker looked grumpy as if he needed an early morning stimulating energon to kick Start his day. But as forewarned, they were led into a lecture hall, each given a paper and stylus to fill out the forms of their final wills.

Starscream glanced up from the papers he was filling out. Who would he leave his stuff to? It was mostly "junk" by everyone's standards. Some scientific equipment that likely would do him no good in this line of work. Scientific books and journals, his private journal and log outlining his life history from the day he could write. Skyfire was the only one he would have left anything to and he didn't have that friend any more. Starscream sighed. Journals to the Hall of Records, Equipment to the War Academy science wing, and the state. It was really a simple task for him. He had no one in life to leave stuff too. Most of what he owned was already absorbed by the state when he went missing.

He glanced at the other two sitting next to him. Skywarp was busy drawing in the corner of the page with, "I leave Thundercracker everything." written in the space below his name, rank and serial number in large sloppy letters. Thundercracker on the other side had written out things in more detail. He clearly had a residence that he shared with Skywarp. He had friends he was leaving behind to join his insane friend in their quest to find military glory. It had to be a close friendship if he would join because of a friend. He flipped the page over to indicate completion then stood up and stretched walking over to a line of book shelves. There were several books, History of Modern Military Tactics, The Ancient Wars, Psychological Torture methods, Three Hundred Wounds you will never want to get. Starscream grabbed the Ancient Wars and the History of Modern Military Tactics off the shelf and brought them over to his desk and started to read.

He awoke later when Skywarp jabbed him in the back of the head, and none too gently, with a pen. "We're going to eat, you coming this time?"

Yawning and with a nod, the Seeker stood up taking the books with him. "I better this round- especially considering we'll be fighting for our meals soon enough."

"Yeah, no thanks to you and your dumb reverse-the-badge idea."

Starscream shrugged, "you decided to get it that way. Not my fault you could not say no." And with that the Seeker stole from the room to join the bulk of the group heading toward the mess hall.

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Month six at the CWA

Starscream's breaths came out in ragged gasps as the other Seeker pinned him to the ground and closed his hands tightly around the youth's throat in an attempt to throttle the life from him. Starscream attempted to thrust the energon he had stolen at his attacker in an effort to make him stop. The other started to lift and slam Starscream against the ground, his vision started to darken as he was losing consciousness. Suddenly there was a blast of cold air and a shimmer of violet light and shadowy figure appeared just over them and wrenched his attacker off. There was a sickening snap of metallic tendons and plates and the other dropped lifelessly beside Starscream.

The Seeker tensed up, expecting to be next then he realised that he himself was being picked up carefully. He was still very much afraid as his vision was still hazy. His hands pushed at the arms that restrained him he stopped struggling as soon as he felt a strange intense coldness. He could no longer feel the hands that held him, he could no longer feel if he was moving or not and there appeared to be no air to inhale. He attempted to scream but there was no sound. When his optics finally cleared he could see nothing. He wondered briefly if he was actually dead and gone into oblivion. He was still silently screaming when the pair had finally re-materialised in a different location. He could feel the arms that held him, there was warmth in the air, and his voice emitted a strange strangled shriek of surprise as he was dumped unceremoniously onto his bunk.

"I told you I should be the leader of this trine," Skywarp's voice came. Here I am savin' your sorry aft."

"You-you-teleport?" Starscream managed. "That's extremely...rare"

"Yeah, I should kill you now for knowing my secret. But, I was gonna tell you soon anyway. So, why were you takin' on that guy?" Skywarp asked, tossing Starscream the purloined energon he had retrieved.

"For the Energon, It was for Thundercracker, he said he was feeling ill..." Starscream tucked the cubes away into his foot locker, he would get it to the blue Seeker as soon as he was done with his courses. "I overheard that mech, talking about a cache they had procured...enough energon to feed us well and to teleport..."

Skywarp cocked his head a little confused. "Yeah...we just discussed that, Screamer. You feelin' okay?"

"Yes, I am...I think we have a small mission we can do...hang on, you just killed someone didn't you?"

"What of it?" Skywarp asked, rubbing his palms against his leg.

"Doesn't that bother you?"

The dark Seeker snorted. "No. You think I'd be here at a war academy if it did?" Skywarp shook his head. "Look Screamer, it could have easily been your death. Doesn't that bother you that you might be the one dead this instant? I saved your life... but you could have saved your own if you'd just get the steel ball bearings to fight for it." Skywarp admonished, he seemed genuinely concerned for his trinemate. "I ain't gonna be there every time you get your science fanatical aft in the scrap pile. You're gonna have to undoom yourself and you need to think is it gonna be me or them. Because this is war, you either shoot or be shot. You said there's a cache?"

Starscream nodded, "Yes, but we ought to act fast, they may move it."

"Where? Specific co-ordinates X, Y and Z vectors or clear description." Skywarp asked, sounding almost intelligent.

"The third tower by the range, there is a hole in the roof, they have it stashed there."

Skywarp nodded. "I know this area," he wrapped his arms tightly around Starscream's shoulder and teleported them to the location the other Seeker had described. It was a metal roof with some plates that had come loose, Skywarp pulled back on a couple of the tiles and it opened up wide enough for a Seeker to step through. They peeked inside the hole and grinned broadly there was a huge pile of cubes. Standing, waiting, calling out to be taken.

"They musta been stockpiling for a while." Skywarp observed. "Gonna take at least two trips and we'll get caught a second time around...."

"We can compress them," Starscream said.

"Compress them? Whadda you mean by that?" the dark Seeker asked.

"Energon cubes of this type can be compressed to about a third of their size."


"Easy," Starscream said as he wriggled into the hole "Just like this." He pressed his hands downward adding even pressure to the cubes, they shimmered and darkened to nearly violet as he did. "It's now very portable, and highly concentrated."

"That's neat," Skywarp agreed. "Science stuff eh?"

Starscream shrugged slightly. "Believe it or not, science has its merits."

"Oh scrap, Screamer, they're coming!" Skywarp pointed out the door as three heavily scarred Seekers approached the cache. He grabbed half the pile and thrust the other half at Starscream he then ensured his wing overlapped and touched his partner's as they teleported to their barrack. Skywarp flung his empty foot locker open and dropped the cubes in carefully, taking the stack from Starscream then piling a blanket on top. "I will find a proper place for these later."

Starscream turned to face the wall. The multiple teleports finally took their toll. His fuel tanks, unsettled by the unusual mode of transit, kicked into reverse and he heaved what little he had left in them out. Skywarp watched both grossed out and concerned. "When was the last time you ate?" the dark Seeker asked.

"Two and a half weeks ago; I think," the younger Seeker replied as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He felt groggy and sat down on the end of the bunk.

"And you can go a month or so depending on your activity level.. and we're very active...moron... are you tryin' to kill yourself? Little wonder you got your aft handed to you." Skywarp looked around and took one of the flattened cubes and pushed it into Starscream's hands. "Thunder's down and you're heading that direction. You said we stick together and we survive... we're not working as a team."

"Yeah, sorry, I got a huge aft workload and I keep having my meals stolen from me or when I arrive there is none left to eat."

"Idiot, why didn't you say so? I could've grabbed you something had you asked. I'm a perfect mess hall bully." He opened the locker and took out a cube and handed it to Starscream. Thundercracker walked in looking weary and Skywarp thrust a cube at him as well. Starscream took the cube and started to gulp it down. He said nothing but ate with the enthusiasm of a starved beast. "You both think I'm the dumb one, but you know what? If I'm hungry you're gonna know because I'm not gonna go hungry quietly. Had I known you guys were starving yourselves... Sheesh, and you say I'm a moron." Skywarp watched as the two ate and quickly regained their strength.

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Month eight at the CWA

Word had soon spread around that Starscream was not a real fighter and that he had to be bailed out from certain death by one of his allies. This marked the red Seeker as a target for increased harassment. It also became noticeable to the others that his team appeared suddenly well fed, and this became the ire of the team who had lost their cache. Skywarp had since shifted the energon into a location that he and the team could get into and only by the skill of a teleporter. This made him invaluable to his trine.

Starscream was on his own working on some projects for his academics. Skywarp found the sciences a bore and disappeared to see what stuff he could steal. Thundercracker was busy on guard duty having been singled out for being caught fighting, by Darkstar.

Alone in a study hall with a number of the other overachieving students, Starscream realised he was being watched. He glanced up expecting to see the scrutiny of Darkstar when he realised it was the Seeker who called himself Bloodlust and his team mates, Deathwing and Darklight covering the exits. These were the former owners of the cache he had stolen and they were looking hungry and entirely pissed off.

"You have something that belongs to me, Scientist. I suggest you return it." He threatened bringing out a nasty looking blade.

Starscream's optics brightened as they fell on the blade. "I-I-I do?" he asked, his voice indicating fear. "What w-would that be?" He stood up from his seat and backed away from the approaching cadet.

Deathwing laughed from the door he was covering. Darklight drew a blade as well.

"About seventy-five energon cubes, enough for my team to last us three months. Where are they?"

"Well...I really don't know where they are..." this was an honest answer. Skywarp did not let him or Thundercracker know where the cubes were and as far as Starscream could tell when they got into the storage, it was heavily shielded or deep below ground. There were no clues on the wall to indicate the presence of any exits. As far As Starscream could tell by the room, it was possibly an empty dead zone within another structure. Wasted space, that had become useful.

"You're lying!"

"You'd have to ask Skywarp because it was his plan to hide them... he didn't even tell us where."

Bloodlust lunged at Starscream with his blade, Starscream jerked back out of the way, tripping over a table onto the floor. The Other students backed toward the walls out of the arena. "You're pathetic and you call yourself a team leader... you couldn't lead retro-rats to a dump," Bloodlust threw a fist at Starscream it was the first time the Seeker realised that the mech had implanted pointed-knife like rivets into his knuckles making this fists into deadlier weapons. It struck his chest, shattering the glass sending Starscream flying backward into a row of bookshelves. "That's for Razorwire!"

"Oh, is that his name? I couldn't ask him at the time, and well, I couldn't really after either." Starscream said with a jibe. In spite of being injured the Seeker was back on his feet with grace. He was not hungry this time. He was alert and full of energy. Bloodlust practically flew the remaining distance to Starscream and lunged once more. This time ready for the attack, Starscream grabbed the mech by the wrist, twisted his arm to the side and forced him to drop the blade. He then smashed his forehead against the other warrior's head and brought his knee up to the canopy and shattered the glass then pushed him back over the tables.

Darklight could not resist attacking Starscream from behind. He left his post at the door and leapt on the back of the young Seeker and brought his blade to bear against the youth's neck. "Tell us or you'll die."

"If I die, then you won't get the answers you want...." the blade pressed more firmly against his throat.

"We'll kill your teammates," the other threatened.

"If I am dead, it won't matter to me what you do with them," Starscream replied with a sincere sounding level of coldness. He gasped in pain as the cadet's blade was pushed into the softer plates of his throat. He could feel fluids starting to seep out of the wound and onto the knife.

"Tell us now," Bloodlust demanded, having regained not only his bearings but his weapon too. He nodded to Darklight who withdrew his blade then replaced the point of his own knife into the open bleeding wound at his opponent's throat.

With optics bright and wide, Starscream whispered, afraid to move his jaw too much... "I really don't know..."

Having the Seeker pinned with the dagger, Deathwing felt confident in joining his team mates. Darklight and Deathwing each grabbed Starscream's arms and Deathwing jerked the Seeker's head back exposing the neck so that Bloodlust could more easily kill him. This opened the current wound, enabling the fluids to seep out more quickly.

As Bloodlust raised his blade to strike at the throat, Starscream offlined his optics and focused on his extremities, he emitted the EMP through his arms. The two warriors dropped to the ground. Surprised by this, Bloodlust, paused in his strike and this gave Starscream enough time to grab his own dagger and thrust upward into the chest of his would be killer with the advice Skywarp had given him several weeks earlier. "I ain't gonna be there every time you get your science fanatical aft in the scrap pile. You're gonna have to undoom yourself and you need to think is it gonna be me or them. Because this is war, you either shoot or be shot." Starscream's blade sank into the spark as he hissed in response to his own pain, from his bleeding throat, and anger. He twisted the blade then withdrew it then kicked the dying Bloodlust over. He turned to the two unconscious Seekers and contemplated letting them live, then he realised that they'd only come after him. Without hesitation and stoked on the electro-adrenaline flowing through his systems, he quickly killed the other two by embedding his blade into their sparks. He watched as the colour faded from the chromoderm cells.

Starscream staggered back away from the three bodies at his feet and promptly felt his tanks kick into reverse and he threw up as he realised he had killed not one, but three people. He was not sure what to think. He sank to his knees slowly as he realised he was also bleeding out steadily, from the wound in his throat.

Several students left the resource centre and returned with Darkstar. The Sergeant hurried to the side of the bleeding Seeker, and grabbed him in his huge arms and hurried him to the medical Bay. The other cadets did not seem surprised about Darkstar's concern, But it also had not gone unnoticed that Starscream and his trine had somehow become a "favourite" of his.

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Silver Snake

Month eight at the CWA

The medical centre was quite large, very modern with all the latest technologies. It in itself was also a training centre for cadets who wished to explore the medical field. The walls were light steel grey and the ceiling white with bright lamps embedded into the surface, shining down like twinkling stars. The floor was ebony black-flecked with pearl white flakes. The walls of the halls were clear with signs, small monitors or data boards in slots with information detailing the patients within. Near the junction of the main admitting area, was a seating area for those waiting to have their injuries attended to, or people who were awaiting the recovery of their friends. The signs on the walls made a clear statement that no weapons, of any type, would be tolerated. The medical centre was a safe zone.

Security personnel stood inside a booth where the visitors and patients would surrender their weapons, sign a piece of paper, take a tag and leave it there. It should not have been a surprise to Thundercracker that the weapon detector went off when Skywarp tried to pass through to the waiting area. Skywarp chuckled nervously as he was hauled to the booth again by the study looking Grounder and was threatened with imprisonment at the brig for two days, or he could relinquish the weapon. Skywarp chuckled nervously saying he had forgotten that he had his energy blade- since he used his hands more for killing than any tool. Thundercracker planted his face into his palm and left his wingmate to deal with security while he looked up the whereabouts of Starscream.

Down the hall, Thundercracker found Darkstar leaning against the wall. Darkstar glanced up at the approaching Thundercracker.

"He's going to be fine," Darkstar said to Thundercracker as the other neared.

"What exactly happened?" the blue Seeker asked. Skywarp hurried along, finding his friend finally.

"Starscream was attacked in the resource centre by three of the teams who's energon you stole. Starscream apparently refused to say where it was and then, quite surprisingly, killed all three."

Skywarp guffawed and Thundercracker rumbled. "I knew he had it in him!" Skywarp exclaimed.

"How bad is he injured?" Thundercracker asked, putting his hand on his overly jubilant wingmate.

"Minor really. They managed to cut his throat, nicked a main energon line - he could have bled out. But he didn't." Darkstar looked fairly relieved.

"How did he...?" Skywarp asked curiously.

"Kill them?" Darkstar finished. "The kid apparently has a rare defensive mechanism... Electro Magnetic Pulse- but he has to be in contact in order for it to be effective. He neutralised two, killed the third, then finished off the two he neutralised." Darkstar shook his head rubbing his arms. "It's a very rare trait. Well, anyway, if you two are going to be here, I am heading back to my office. Have Starscream come to me when he's released. I have to speak to him in private." Darkstar gave the two a curt nod and left without any other word.

"A rare trait!" Skywarp repeated to Thundercracker. "Did you hear that? Starscream's an electric eel."

"A Silver Snake," a medic said as they exited the room with the charts in hand. "Surprisingly dangerous for his looks." they said as they trotted down the hall into one of the offices. One could only presume they were finishing off their work.

Skywarp and Thundercracker peeked into the door. Starscream lay on the repair table, optics shuttered. Another medic disconnected him from the monitor system. His throat had been welded and a nanite rich patch was placed over it to speed up external repair. Internal injuries were likely fully healed over due to their reasonably minor nature. The crystalline-glass of the canopy had been removed and replaced. The colour seemed more vibrant amber than it had been before. Skywarp had been eyeing up one of the machines, fingers itching to poke at the button when Starscream groaned and finally came to life.

"Good going screamer, I hear that you undoomed yourself all by yourself!" Skywarp said, his jubilation not yet having waned.

"Must...must you continue to call me Screamer?" Starscream asked with a long hiss. He glowered darkly at Skywarp and at his wingmate, Thundercracker.

Skywarp looked pensive then cocked his head toward Thundercracker, "What was it that the medic called him?" he asked his friend. "That new nickname, Electric Eel?"

"No, Skywarp, that was what you called him... they referred to him as a Silver Snake" Thundercracker supplied.

"Right, Silver Snake, like that instead? You've got yourself a real pit name," Skywarp smirked.

"Silver Snake? Why-what? No. Don't call me that, and why Silver Snake?" the Seeker yawned and rubbed at his throat gently.

"I dunno... maybe it's because you look like a harmless Silver Grass Snake, then struck like a Sonic Canyon Viper. Too bad I missed it. But you just made a name for yourself as a killer." Skywarp made a motion of a viper attacking its favourite prey- the bronzed eared retro-rat.

"I didn't want to have to kill them..."

"Nonsense! You did it and you did it with flair!"

"I did not want to have to do it..."

"Yeah, you keep saying but you'll get used to it; you know? It's you or them. Remember that. When it comes to such a fight either you die or they die. It's why we're learn to survive. Those guys misjudged a scientist...heck I misjudged a scientist..." Skywarp rambled. "You know, for a geek, you aren't half bad."

"Thank you Skywarp," Starscream replied, frowning. He knew what his wingmate said was true.

"Sergeant Darkstar wants to see you when you're released," the blue Seeker said after Skywarp's nattering finally died off.

Starscream groaned in dismay. He would likely be given more tedious Guard shifts with Riftwing or Stellardrift.

"Guess what, Screamer, it's on the news, the war has finally started. Isn't it exciting?!"

The younger Seeker optics brightened in surprise. He figured he should not have been surprised as he was, in some aspects he had hoped it would not happen, yet it finally has. War. He knew if he survived the academy would see combat. At that point his life expectancy would be dramatically shortened as a result. He turned away looking at the machines that were pushed against the wall. He felt displeased. "Yes, Skywarp, this is exciting."

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Month eight at the CWA following Morning

Starscream had been released from his visit with the repair bay and made his way to the office of Sergeant Darkstar. He was not moving quickly, his mind was troubled with the concept of having just killed three of his kind and at the same time, as much as he did not want to admit it to others, he found it somewhat satisfying. He had hunted before - pretty much as far as he could remember, he had needed to hunt to survive. He used simple weapons, a crude knife or a slingshot. Technology he had obtained, yet he could not recall how he had obtained it. So hunting he was good at. The idea of killing someone who was intelligent at his level - or at least intelligent rankled him. Particularly someone who was on his side. It likely would be a different story if it was someone on the enemy's side.

He approached Darkstar's door and hesitated, then knocked lightly.

"Enter," responded the resonant voice of Darkstar.

Starscream entered and stood to attention executing a neat salute. His posture and manner was improving along with most other warriors, Even Skywarp's. It took repeat after repeat and endless hours of drill executing what one would consider simple motions until they could all move as one machine.

"At ease, Cadet Starscream," the Sergeant said. Starscream relaxed a little but remained standing firm. The Sergeant gestured for the Seeker to sit and Starscream did so, glad to be off his feet. His head was still a bit foggy from whatever they used to keep him out as they repaired his injuries.

"You made your first kill yesterday, or should I say kills. Congratulations. And you used your close combat training skills for the first time in a real situation." Darkstar had the Seeker's file open, it was becoming a thicker file, several pages of handwritten notes, reports, annotations and grades."

"I did," Starscream replied darkly, settling in.

"You do not seem pleased with your advancement from mere scientist to warrior?" the older flier observed, sounding puzzled.

"I question the need to kill those clearly on our own side. I find it wasteful."

"Yes you would question it, but even a thinker like Thundercracker has defended himself with lethal force. You do not comprehend what the method of our madness is?"

"No sir, I really don't...But I get this distinct feeling that it's something I should have figured out..."

Darkstar Nodded. "Indeed you should have. It's a simple logic that you have been using from days before you entered the civilised world. Even days after. Survival of the fittest. The weak will perish allowing the strongest to thrive."

Starscream cocked his head and he was starting to see the logic.

"The Decepticons are founded on a gladiatorial hierarchy. In order to advance you must eliminate the one ahead of you. There are situations where the one ahead of you is taken out by other means, and this can either mean instantaneous promotion if you are the only one suitable, or the position is thrown open to contest - where multiple suitable candidates can fight until either death or concession to obtain the position. This method of advancement was laid down by Megatron himself. He only wants the best of the best in his army. He only wants the best of the best in command of his units. This method, seemingly cruel, weeds out the weakest warriors and allows the strongest to fight. The Autobots will fill their ranks with whatever can hold a weapon, but they will loose a lot of people because they chose to allow the weak to fight with the strong. This taxes the abilities of the strong fighters having to protect these liabilities and as a result they will themselves perish. In our way, that team decided you were a weakness that had to be eliminated. You proved to them and many others that you are a lot stronger than you appear, and certainly more cunning. I will admit I did not expect you to survive this long."

He realised it should have occurred to him that the faction would favour 'natural selection'. Starscream sat silently contemplating the words long after Darkstar had finished. He considered the initial 'lack of confidence' the Officer had in regards to his abilities. Scientists are routinely considered 'soft'. The Gladiatorial Hierarchy made sense as did the method of promotion through 'natural selection' He pondered how far he could go, to the top? The Seeker glanced upward as if looking to the highest ranks. It was a huge distance from the very bottom. He somehow doubted that he'd even try. Each fight could end in his own death. He shook his head bringing himself back down to the present level. The task to rise through the ranks was daunting and quite frightening.

"So, we are promoting 'infighting' to a degree to maintain the strength of the military as a whole?" the Seeker asked finally.

"In essence, yes. There is more logic to the system here at the War Academy than you see, Starscream. The insufficient food supplies encourage thinking outside the box. It could be murder to get what you need, Skywarp has already done this. It could be stealing a cache and hiding it only where a Teleporting Seeker can go. The academy has no other teleporting students, but other teleporters do exist within the military. Your choice of allies was excellent even if you disliked them initially. Your Trine, as you have been calling it, has been noticed. Your kills today has been the discussion of the faculty. So far you have been the only Seeker who has managed to take another team entirely on their own. Remember- think outside the box."

Darkstar allowed Starscream to consider the words and without the other adding his own comments, the Sergeant continued. "We decided to allow you to carry weapons as a signal of your advancement," Starscream's head jerked up in surprise. "However they will be wired into your natural system of EMP, it will allow you to focus the charge at a distance, but there is a catch. It takes several minutes to get a full charge, its medium range and has an effect on your quarry for roughly two minutes. I am giving this to you because we neutralised the EMP's normal deployment through body contact." Starscream opened his mouth to protest. "Before you argue the point, three medics lost consciousness after attempting to repair you. The defensive mechanism was still activated"

Starscream cocked his head again. "But you were the one who took me to the repair bay, how is it you were not affected?"

"I use EMP's myself and as a result am resistant to anything but the strongest electromagnetic bursts." Darkstar pushed a pair of arm mounted rifles toward the younger Seeker. "They'll clasp onto the port on your arm and interface with your systems that way. Once charged they will remain charged for a short period after they are disconnected. SO either vent them or use them."

The red Seeker took the rifles in his hand. They were as long as his arm were and had a rotational pivot at the hub where the connector joined the main body of the weapon. This allowed for free movement. He then tentatively connected one to his left arm and shook his head as his systems detected the new hardware and downloaded the required software into his system. Almost as suddenly as he had connected it, a new display appeared over his field of view. It gave him instant readings on the function of the weapon, its charge and any abnormalities. He connected the other one up, and it popped up on the heads up display. The weapon pivoted and moved to mental commands. He realised triggering it as well would take a focused thought command. "This is wicked," he said smiling.

"I am glad you like it. Riftwing will assist you in learning how to use the new weapons. You are to report to him immediately. You are dismissed."

Starscream stood up and saluted then left the office to locate Riftwing at the guard tower.

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Month eight at the CWA Same Day Afternoon

Excitement over having new equipment all but overwhelmed Starscream as he paused briefly in the hall to take a closer look at the weapon's interface. Not only did it give a detailed status of the weapon, it outlined what the power level was set at: Minimum. It also appeared to have features that were either locked or were upgradeable. It appeared to be capable of firing energy bolts but only if it had the right programming, access and, he quickly determined, power couplers. He was not sure if he could get it to work, but he figured he could give it a try. Although the academy rules which were laid out some months earlier explained that cadets could not bear firearms unless they were granted special dispensation. Did he have this special dispensation or did he not? He doubted he had any special grant as this was using his natural abilities - making them easier to manage and safer for others. Starscream was not sure he liked that idea fully. His natural abilities have protected him from certain death. Without it, he wondered how much more danger he would be getting into.

After a few moments of hacking, he managed to open up and access the program of the weapon's charging system skimmed over the code. He noticed a dampener line with settings set to minimum charge and a time limit. He was right, it was locked. However, now he had it opened he could adjust the time sequence and reduce the charge time. Also, the trickler was hampering the speed of charge. He simply deleted that line to allow the weapon to draw power quicker. He then glanced over the code that dictated how the charge affected his targets. It was set to two minutes and he left it. It was apparent that the length of the effect was paired with how much charge was used. The longer his prey was rendered inert, the longer it took for the recharge as well as how much of the charge was used initially. So the shorter time benefited him the most as he would be able to get a couple shots before needing to fully charge the weapon up.

He glanced about and realised he spent a bit too long studying the systems when he really needed to get to the officer for training.

"Sergeant Riftwing?" he called as he entered the guard tower. Yet there was no answer. He walked in and the room was silent, no one was on duty. He tipped his head slightly. His systems prickled as if he brushed past a low level electromagnetic field. "Riftwing...are...." Suddenly a huge weight dropped on him from above and sent him crashing to the floor. Starscream panicked and scrambled, his fingers clawing at the pavement unable to move due to the weight on his back. He felt the prickle of a blade in the centre of his back just over his spark chamber.

"Darkstar advanced you..." A voice whispered harshly in his right audio, "I was against the advancement; you are still too much of a passive scientist than a warrior. If I were your enemy this knife would have been driven through your spark and you'd be lying there dead." Riftwing stood up and gave Starscream a solid kick in the side before helping the young flier up. "You have the toys, but you don't know how to use them, that's why the old boy sent you here."

The young flier's optics brightened at such an off handed nickname. He felt a little shaken, his side aches, but the older flier meant him no lasting harm, just a lesson.

Riftwing merely laughed at the Seeker's bewilderment. "We're the oldest Seekers, Cadet. That's why they have us training here. We know our stuff and we know our kind." He circled Starscream looking the cadet up and down at the newly attached rifles. "Your problem was, you had ample time to get them charging, but you did not allow it to access your rectifier chip. Had you been ready or had even an iota of a warrior's impulse, you'd have nullified me when you detected me. And I saw that you did detect me- this is good, you are developing a sort of Seeker 'sixth sense' but you are still a novice. This is why I was opposed to pushing you up. Next level they involve themselves frequently in pit fighting. Some may be calling you a Silver Snake, I heard that silly name, but you really only killed that team off more by luck than judgement." Riftwing looked directly into the youths optics. "You nearly were killed."

"Now for the lesson," he started, "As a Seeker you should be aware of the true sensitivity of our wings. The slightest touch can send shivers down your nervous systems and wake up the most primal urges. But that aside, if you use them properly, you can sense the environment around you. Heat and Cold air tells you the density of what you are flying or walking through. Prickles of static can indicate nearness of energy sources, the pulsation of an EM field indicates another living creature nearby. The strength of these invisible signals can indicate size, distance and speed. Grounders lack this and have envied the true sensitive nature of the wings. Grounders therefore lack the 'sixth' sense that we have been gifted, and believe me it is a gift." The older Seeker grabbed a chair and shoved it directly at Starscream then he used both hands to thrust the youth into it.

The green flier continued to walk around the other as he spoke. "Wings have a super dense network of nerve cells. This is why damaging the wings can be incredibly painful." Riftwing grasped Starscream's wing-tip and gave it a sharp squeeze. The younger Seeker jerked his wing back in an abrupt reaction; it stung. "Attacking a Seeker's wing can often paralyse him with pain - depending where the strikes are made. This is why, we, on an instinctive level, draw our wings back during conflicts so as to limit the area which can be attacked. You could call our wings our greatest weakness, as it is also our greatest strength. We try not to announce this to others."

Riftwing swung his fist at Starscream to punch the air-foil. Starscream reacted instantly and grabbed the balled fist and twisted the hand back as he did the warrior the other day. "Hit me again, and that will be the last thing you do," Starscream hissed. The young flier's reaction was instinctive, fast, and it surprised the elder. He had not expected such a lightning fast reflex.

"Are you suggesting you could kill me?" Riftwing challenged.

The rifles whined to life as they suddenly drew energy from the power-chip, the charge filling faster than initially designed. Starscream had taken another look at the charging code while Riftwing had discussed wing sensitivity. He decided to change the trickler setting to allow a near instantaneous charge. He had not discovered any flaws to this idea- yet. "Try me," the youth hissed.

"You have...been playing I see."

"Only a little," Starscream smiled slightly. "I am also an explorer. I like to look at things, poke at things, uncover and discover things. No stone is left unturned. I dislike 'games' so please stop with the pointless attacks and get to the meat of the lesson. Teach me to use this weapon, before I uncover all its secrets you would rather I not find about." Starscream stood up and he kept the weapon trained on the other.

Reaching out, Rifting pushed the weapon's muzzle toward the floor. "Well spoken, cadet. We shall," he said as he guided the Seeker toward the firing range.

The range they went to was not the standard firing range for normal practice, with hard metal dummies, or paper targets. This range was a slightly more advanced training facility with machines rolling around. It was partly holographic, and partly real. Tall background structures represented cities, not ruins. Targets would fly around the buildings, or the ground ones would roll on wheels or treads, some of them walked awkwardly on two or more legs. They had one thing in common, they were armed with a nullifying device of their own and were primed to take out any designated "enemy".

Their nullifying device did not render the opponent unconscious, only briefly paralysed as the game recorded the "kill". Strikes were counted depending what region they hit. However, electro-magnetic pulses would cause system wide shutdown wherever they struck."

Riftwing watched as the young Seeker observed the area and the mechanisms. He could see that the cadet was analysing the layout and the machines. His optics narrowed as he focused on distant targets, he did not miss a single one. The question he had was could the Jet actually take them out?

"There is a point system here, for your method of attack. Since your weapons will render the device inactive immediately you will score five points. However any strike against you, wings or head will remove five and four points respectively, chest and back strikes will remove three points, while arms and legs will remove two points. There are twenty machines here, waiting to 'Kill' you. You need to be fast on your feet and use your weapons carefully. Seeing how you have managed to hack the charging mechanism, the arena has been modified to include a feedback misfire. There will be a random number generated for each burst of weapons fire to determine if your weapon 'over charges and misfires' The chance is quite low, but possible. You will lose ten points."

"Hmm," the Seeker mused. He did not like the penalty against his weapon. "If it is likely to happen, why include a penalty chance... Which to me sounds like it's just added in to increase game difficulty and risk. Anyway, if it happens then I will have my arm blown off and well, there you have it... ten points, an arm and return to the repair bay." he reasoned.

The older Seeker shook his head. Darkstar had told him that Starscream was a thinker, quick, analytical and keenly observant. Traits of a scientist that generally did not go well with a regular soldier. Darkstar suggested Starscream could have been more suited to being an commanding officer of a unit - if he could survive. As it stood, Starscream had far too many issues regarding inflicting harm. The triple kill the day before came as a surprise as he, Stellardrift or Darkstar doubted Starscream truly had it in him.

"So... this is a hunt?" the young Seeker asked. "where I am as much prey as they are, and I have more enemies and no allies."

Riftwing nodded, "it's a hunt."

"Sounds a bit fun, I can ask a couple questions?"

"If I can answer them I will," the other replied.

"Once I nullify them, do I need to kill them, or will they remain offline. Or more to the point, am I allowed to break your stuff? And I trust flight is permitted- should I choose to."

Riftwing had not considered it even though Starscream had recently decided to kill after he had rendered the opponent safely neutralised. However it was based on the grounds that the opponent had to die because of retaliation. These machines did not harbour the Seeker ill will... they would likely stay down. However if it was a real situation, Starscream might want to ensure they were down for his own protection. "I'd prefer if you did not break the equipment, but that said, you never know what is going on in your enemy's mind. You may decide to show him mercy, and hope he will not attack you again. Or you may decide to kill him quickly and keep yourself safe from retaliation. In the end what you do is your decision, it is war... And, if you break the toys, they can be repaired by the works department. Also yes, you can fly, do be warned though, it is too tight in here for safe flight."

Starscream nodded. "Excellent. Then, let the hunt begin!"

Riftwing seemed a bit taken by Starscream's enthusiasm and tone of delight. He seemed oddly confident for one who disliked the act of killing. Perhaps the youth was coming out of his shell.

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As soon as the simulator gave Starscream the green light, he was off, wings swung back and running for cover. His head swivelled around as he took in the location of every mechanoid in the area. He mentally counted them and noted how many were missing. There were thirteen he could see and that meant seven were missing. 'Good.' he mused to himself as his weapons hummed to life. He slipped his hunting knife into his hand as well. If his emp weapons....he rumbled to himself He had to come up with a catchy quick term that made sense. 'Null rays... ' he thought. If his 'null says' were fated to have a critical fault because of one line of code altered, he could 'break the toys' by using other methods.

He crouched with his back to a building that had an overhang. He knew he was protected from behind and above. So his only concern was from the front or flanks. His peripheral vision was not the best, as it wasn't in most of his kind. Seekers were designed as predators, not as prey. However he focused on what his wings could feel, and what sounds he could hear.

It reminded him of when he used to hunt the fields around Vos in his earliest days. He, surviving on his own from the time he broke from the pod, usually most Seekers would have a caregiver to raise a hatchling to maturity, yet, he had, for some reason, been neglected. Hunger drove him to rely upon the basic predatory instincts that he had been sparked with. Things that moved could be eaten and energy drawn from their structures. Initially it was a messy affair, where he wrestled with retro-rats or petrol rabbits, relying upon his light weight and agility to chase them down. He had to rely upon opening them up with his hands and tiny, but sharp teeth. Like a can opener in a can, he would cut through the softer metals of the unprotected undersides, find the creature's fuel tank then drink it down. After that he would consume anything else that he deemed edible. As time went on, he figured out how to make basic weapons. His first being a simple shiv made out of a scrap of metal then a crude slingshot. The slingshot proved useful for lobbing rocks or metallic objects at prey knocking them out. The shiv worked by killing it so he could eat with less struggle and stress. He was, by his very nature, an accomplished hunter and survivor. The officers were grossly underestimating his abilities considering him only a scientist... it was clear to him they did not know him all that well. He really only had issue with killing what he saw as an ally as opposed to a foe or prey.

The first machine appeared to his right; it was a flier. The Seeker grabbed a large pipe and swung it at the machine, smashing it across the optic lens, and sending it crashing to the ground. He leapt out of his shelter to take the knife and drive it into the machine and twist it. Other machines having located him by sound and motion, homed in on his location. They started to discharge their weapons. He dodged the rays as he could see them, but one tagged his shoulder sending him spiralling into a wall. His right arm was numb and not responsive. He grunted and used his left to aim and fire. The Machine dropped. Behind him was a light whir, small, delicate like a metallic mosquito. He realised that some of the attackers were small the size of insects. This would make sense. Cybertronians came in all shapes and sizes. Some were as small as rats while others were enormous cities that could house thousands of averaged sized people. He smacked the tiny insect with his hand, closing his fingers and crushing the machine. Looking toward Riftwing unapologetically, this machine would not be repairable.

Several minutes had gone by as the Seeker had taken out three more fliers and one large ground pounding tank. He had been hit four times twice in the shoulder, once in a wing and once on his chest. Each time he brought an enemy down, he drove his hunting knife into the optic. It would become expensive for the Academy in repair bills, but he had to be sure they would not come after him when he thought he was safe. The hunt continued until he had most of the grounders neutralised. The problem he had was the final insect sized target. It was tiny and darted quickly behind cover when he brought his weapon to bear. The knife it could track and evade. He huffed then dove under cover avoiding a volley of the more stinging shots from the insect. He pulled out his slingshot and smiled. Quickly he loaded it with the small crystal-like stones. He stood up and drew back on the band and tracked the insect. He released and the tiny crystals spread out in a scatter formation and those that hit the insect, they triggered a chain reaction and the remaining crystals exploded which vaporised the tiny machine.

"Game." the computer intoned. "Starscream 58, Game 42. Cadet Starscream wins."

"Barely won," Starscream hissed in response to the computer. He disliked how 50 - 50 the results were.

Riftwing looked miffed. "You damaged each and every one of the drones..."

"You did not say I could not when I asked," he replied. "That was why I asked, if I could."

"You destroyed the Micro's," the older Seeker hissed as he picked up fragments of the tiny fliers.

"They're too fragile to use in combat with a being my size. You want them kept around? Have them fight micro-raptors- not me," the Seeker replied coolly.

"You were supposed to use your EMP's," Riftwing pointed out, he was clearly frustrated with the young cadet.

"You said my null rays were unsafe. I used them as minimally as possible. I realised the more I used them the better the chance I would have for your penalty, therefore I thought outside the box and used a few things I had on me. And judging by my score, one "misfire" I would have lost."

"Yes about that, what was that primitive hand held thing you used?" Riftwing held his hand out.

"Only if I get it back." Starscream replied cautiously. "I call it a slingshot." He took the weapon out as well as a crystal. The weapon was modern, unlike the weapon he used as a fledgling. This weapon was made of titanium alloy with rubberised bands that were well attached to the fork. Starscream watched Riftwing for an assurance of it's return. It was the closest thing he had to a fire-arm. He was worried it would be confiscated as a result.

"Fine, you will get it back," the other assured.

Starscream handed the slingshot over and Riftwing turned it over in his hand looking at the simple, but effective design. "Where did you get this from?"

"It's not a firearm. And, I made it and don't...really remember how I came up on the idea. But it's a good survival tool. It has served me well," the young flier explained.

The older Seeker turned the crystal over in his hand. It shimmered, it glowed and it had a faint hum from the vibration of barely stable energon. "The ammunition you used, what were those?"

"Semi-stable crystallised Energon. I distilled them, then condensed them into crystalline form."

"Now tell me, how does a scientist come to own these sorts of things?"

"How little you know of me, Sergeant Riftwing, I was not always a scientist, I was a hunter. Believe it or not, I have killed many things, hundreds of things. I am not new to taking a life but I do not usually take it out of malice or hate, but mostly to live another day. I'd explain it to you, but I am here to learn about the null rays. I was not expecting to run the gauntlet of stupid machines; using weapons I am already skilled with. As for the ammunition, the science here wins- my knowledge of sciences is what created them, which so many consider a weakness has proven, in this case, to be a benefit. But these do not have to be exploding crystals." Starscream held his hand out for the weapon and Riftwing returned it. The young flier grabbed a few stones off the ground. He placed the stones in the pouch and aimed it at a glass globe lamp. Pulling back on the thong he released it. The glass globe shattered and rained down on the ground. "Now if you are done exploring my current skill set, please let's explore these new null rays."

"Null rays is it?" the older flier asked with a quirk of his optic.

"I figured it was less of a mouthful than an EMP weapon."

"Hmmm. Slingshot created for survival, well necessity is the mother of all invention and they say if there is a will, there is a way, that's what I think anyway." Riftwing rambled. "You return here with your trinemates tomorrow and you can continue your exercises. Keep in mind YOU are the one advanced to the next level, not the whole group."

The red Seeker rumbled and nodded, "is there a reason for this 'division'?"

"Yes, Starscream, there is. To command, you need to have a superior and a subordinate. You consider yourself the leader of your group, yet you do not set yourself apart like you should. You need to consider that friendships will be the death of many good commanders. And you will find in time that it is lonely at the top for a reason - a very good reason. Friendships can be a critical and exploitable weakness. To target your friends your enemy can weaken you and ultimately destroy you. This is why the greatest commanders never allowed themselves to be clouded by pointless emotions such as love. Though, this is not to say you can't or shouldn't have liaisons or allies. These can be useful and to your advantage, but it's something you need to consider. You may need to sever these relationships and contacts if you want to truly advance. You think about this, Starscream. You are dismissed."

Starscream came to attention and then left the guard tower. He glanced at his feet pensively thinking of Riftwing's words, and thinking of the game. He barely passed that game and now they are driving a wedge between him and his friends- putting him a head of Skywarp, a warrior who has done more kills in the past few weeks than Starscream had ever. And it all came down to three kills at once. He did not like the direction this was going. He also did not think Riftwing liked him much. He did wonder though, would friendships have to be severed in order to advance? He did not think it would be overly hard, after all he was generally an abnormality of the Seeker community- a loner.

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